Title: Though The Years Are Many
Author: Blueeyedliz
Rating: PG/13
Warnings: Some bad language, Dean's occasionally inappropriate sense of humor and violent scenes.
Word Count: 10,608
Disclaimer: I know nothing.
Summary: Set mid season one. Sam suffers a vision in a library and everything goes south after that. Hurt/comfort fic with oodles of Sam whumpage and a side order of protective!Dean.
Author's Note: Written especially for Twinny as part of the 'Summer of Sam Love' fanfic exchange over on LJ. Huge thanks to Gidgetgal9 for the truly kick ass beta job, to Yasmine32068 for being a brilliant alpha reader, to annj g80 for her very kind hand holding and to silvi hc for her incredible art (which can be seen over on LJ). Any suckage is my own.

Though The Years Are Many

The North Beach Public Library in Calvert County, Maryland is a whale of a build. With its entirely over the top entrance—all white Roman columns and graceful archways—it dominates the street it stands so proudly upon.

The library's large echoing rooms are flanked with endless rows of shelves, all full to bursting with books. It's the kind of place which is Dean's worse nightmare brought to life because it doesn't have computers or free Wi-Fi for Sam's laptop. It doesn't even look like the kind of place which could claim to have electricity or running water.

There are four librarians, all of them women and the head librarian—a fierce little old lady with piercing blue eyes and thin white hair pinned up in a tight bun, which kind of makes her look as though she's balancing a ball on the top of her head—wears a particularly stern expression. Her glare is unquestionably more dangerous than Medusa's.

Sam's faced a lot of terrifying things in his life. Poltergeists, black dogs and a really ill-tempered sprite—that was causing havoc in a downtown Boston bowling alley—to name only a few but the head librarian is scary. She is without doubt one of the most fear-inducing things Sam's ever encountered. It's probably the fine wispy black hairs protruding from her chin that clinch it.

Dean's meant to be checking up on a witness from their latest hunt. It's not an after-care service the Winchesters normally provide but the witness in question is a waitress from a local diner who was epically freaking out last night when she saw the brothers exterminate a particularly ugly Spirit Taker. One who was dragging some poor guy out of his car right there in the middle of the diner parking lot. The waitress—Katie? Cathy? Cindy? Whatever!—is hot. Hot enough for her to register on Sam's broken radar anyway and he knows that Dean's probably more interested in getting jiggy with her double D's than actually inquiring about how well she's recovering.

It's midday and Dean was meant to pick Sam up from the library over twenty minutes ago.

Sam walks slowly through an aisle. One finger running along the row of books at eye level, tracing over dusty fragile spines as he reads the titles. There's nobody else in the mythology section and it's no real surprise because Sam knows libraries and it's the romance novels which usually garner the most attention. The tackier the cover the better—or 'the more tits and ass the better' as Dean would say.

Sometimes he has to work his way around a white faced Goth searching for a copy of the latest Ann Rice novel in the horror section but mostly, Sam's alone and he likes it that way.

Down at the front of the library there's a small collection of tables and chairs where visitors can sit and read away their afternoon. There are a few college-age students huddled around one table that is covered with books and Sam guesses they are studying for their finals without really giving the books they are pouring over too much attention. He's more interested in the students themselves.

They all seem to be around his age and its strange watching them, like staring through a window at a scene from his days at Stanford. The only female in the group is a tiny brunette who instantly reminds Sam of Lisa Rubenstein, a doe-eyed girl with a friendly smile who sat behind him in his Political Science class.

They'd started talking when Lisa let Sam borrow her text book. He'd been busy working double-shifts at the on-campus coffee shop to scrimp together the cash to buy his own copy at the time, so to say he was grateful for her kindness would have been an understatement. Lisa was one of the few people who Sam met during his first lonely year at Stanford that he allowed to get close to him. Not that he ever told her the truth about his family but he cared about Lisa enough to make the effort to surreptitiously sidestep any questions about his background, rather than lie to her face.

He remembers all too well using the libraries at Stanford for cramming up on his studies when the dorm became too crowded and noisy, and Sam's room-mate from hell insisted on playing Eminem at a volume only fully appreciated by dolphins and other marine mammals.

Sam's always enjoyed the research side of being a hunter, hell, besides hanging out with Dean it's the only side of hunting he's found worthy of his enjoyment. He likes to settle down with a book, feel the firm weight of knowledge in his hands, wondering what secrets it will have shared with him by the time he's finished reading.

Most of the supernatural books found in libraries like this one are pure hokum. 'The Mammoth Book Of Haunted Hotels,' which is basically a directory of places with faulty wiring and 'Monsters of the World,' with a whole chapter dedicated to numerous photographs of a polystyrene model which faintly resemble a Diplodocus bobbing around on the surface of Loch Ness like an over sized rubber ducky.

Sam rolls his eyes and moves on down the aisle. It takes a bit of searching but after a good half hour of scanning the shelves he spots something which makes his visit worthwhile. Standing on his tip-toes, his fingers curl around an old hard-back book entitled, 'The Evil Sacrament'. Yahtzee.

The book is practically falling to pieces in his hands, it clearly hasn't been booked out in a long time. Sam's read it before, he remembers leafing through it at Pastor Jim's place in Blue Earth and it's a rare find. One which will no doubt prove a useful addition to the Winchester research collection.

Sam takes a quick look around, eyes tracking the elderly head librarian who must be completing her tenth circuit of 'library patrol' as she all but virtually goose-steps her way down the center of the building. The book is slipped quickly inside Sam's rucksack and he zips his bag closed over the old tome.

Stealing bothers Sam on some base level but he's long accepted it as a misdeed committed for the greater good. It's the same with the way he's reasonably okay with the credit card fraud, the hustling and the general code of deception his family live by. When Sam was twelve and at the age when he was questioning everything, including his family's ethics, Dean summed the situation up perfectly. "We do what we have to, to save lives and kill evil shit." Although that might seem pretty rudimentary justification, it came from Dean's own lips and anything that involved crossing the line into criminality was tolerable for Sam after that.

Job done, Sam decides to sit outside in the sun and wait until Dean sees fit to turn up with the Impala. It's a long walk back to the motel and Sam knows he'd probably sweat enough to fill a swimming pool if he attempted the walk in this heat.

He heads straight for the main exit. As he reaches the table where the students are still studying, the brunette looks up and catches his eye. She twirls a curl of hair between her fingers and gives him a smile. It's a signal which could translate into a lot of different things but in Dean's language it would probably translate into I'm going commando, wanna peek?

Sam returns the smile, ducks his head and keeps walking. It would be a way to pass the time, a welcome distraction if he perhaps stood around and flirted harmlessly for a while but Jessica's loss is still painful, a burn which has left scars. The memory of her murder is fresh enough that even showing a faint interest in someone else aches like betrayal.

Gripping his rucksack strap tightly, Sam's almost home free when a wrinkled prune hand takes hold of his elbow and everything around him suddenly explodes into white light and pain.

Sam's knees go weak and buckle. He falls, his chin clipping a corner of the table as he goes down and his tail end is painfully jarred when he lands sprawled on the unforgiving tiled floor. Yet the only thing San can focus on is the fact that his head hurts as though his brain is trying to claw its way out of his skull.

"Honey, are you okay?"

"Hey, kid?"

"Somebody call an ambulance!"

"What's the matter with him?"

"I don't know. Should I hold his head?"

"I think he's having a fit, oh God, call 911!"

"Christ! Check he hasn't swallowed his tongue, he looks like he's choking."

Sam's faintly aware of the sound of voices all around him, shrill and panicked but all he can do is squeeze his eyes closed against the white light which is trying to swallow him whole and then it happens...

Holy shit, not here, not now. Please.

~0~

Disjointed voices continue to fill Sam's ears even as the white fades away to be replaced with a scattergun of images as clear as though he were watching them on a 50" HD plasma screen.

Sam sees an ocean, green and blue. He sees a house on a cliff, a large oak tree surrounded by wild flowers in the garden. He sees a girl skipping rope, scrapes on both her bare knees. He sees the girl walking out of the garden, alone. He sees the white gate close behind her, a barely audible snick as the latch catches. He hears a woman calling out "Anna," nightfall is drawing in. He hears the little girl's voice, scared and distant, screaming, "Mommy."

It's relentless, both the images and the pain. Pain which radiates from his head through his entire body. Even his teeth ache as he grinds them together.

Sam keeps his eyes closed, tugs hard at his hair, arches his back. There are hands touching him, restraining him and he wants to scream out for Dean but his teeth are clenched tight, his jaw locked.

It's all closing in on him. Blood crowds his vision but not his own. It's the little girl. The little girl is being slaughtered. Torn into pieces by someone, something, with red eyes and sharp white teeth.

Sam knows this story well; he's seen this movie before. Different variations with the same theme. Another monster, another victim, same end result.

It doesn't comfort him at all to realize that this is another one of his freaky ass psychic visions. The child's murder hasn't happened yet and everything he is seeing is what will come to pass if he doesn't get there in time to stop it.

A house on a cliff overlooking the ocean? It could be anywhere and he's been too late before. He can't handle another innocent person's death on his conscience. There's wetness on Sam's face, either he's crying or his nose is bleeding.

The images slowly fade into nothing and the hands gripping his arms—holding him immobile—become more solid, more substantial, as he struggles to surface out of his vision and back into reality.

The more Sam fights his way free, the more he becomes aware of the fact that he's lying on his belly in the entrance to the library. His right cheek pressed forcibly against the cold floor. His pants are tugged down, just a little and there's a sharp sting in the soft flesh above his ass and then nothing.

Nothing.

~0~

The EMTs finish loading their new patient onto a gurney and Mike Cowley, the most senior technician in the small three-man team, turns to address the few people who have gathered to rubberneck.

"Is anyone with this young man? Anyone know his name?" Mike asks, rubbing at a bruise on his shin, a souvenir he's earned while trying to stop the thrashing kid from hurting himself.

Nobody steps forward with any information and Mike gives his colleagues the nod to start wheeling the kid out to the waiting ambulance. The patient is only young so it's heartbreaking that he's going to Montgomery General but Mike deals with heartbreak on a regular basis and when on duty he's learned to keep his emotions at arm's length.

He leans over the unconscious young man and checks his breathing, satisfied that it's unobstructed. At least the kid is resting peacefully now because he's clearly sick and was frantically raving about dead children and monsters when they first arrived on the scene. His breathing was verging on hyperventilation and he was in danger of going into tachycardia but the situation seems to be under control now. Even though it took enough sedative to knock out at carthorse to take the kid down.

Mike checks the kid's pockets, hitting the jackpot when he finds a cell phone. He knows exactly what he's looking for because the young man had been asking for someone called 'Dean', his softly pleading voice gradually sinking into slurred mumbles as the drugs kicked in.

Mike would bet good money that Dean is this kid's family. He scrolls through the contacts, dials the first and only Dean on the list and holds the phone to his ear. This part is always one of the hardest.

~0~

Dean is running late as he drives towards the library where he'd arranged to pick up Sam. Cindy Pinkerton saw to that.

She was happy to see Dean again, even after the terribly upsetting attack she'd witnessed the night before. Dean was equally happy to try and help her forget her traumatic experience by giving her a few new and highly more pleasurable memories.

Ones which involved vodka, lime, salt and Cindy's belly button.

At least until Cindy's huge boyfriend came home and then Dean made a hasty exit through the back door. Still, he got out of there without some redneck trying to beat him to a pulp so no harm, no foul.

Cindy seemed suitably convinced by Dean's story that the Spirit Taker was in fact an escaped orang-utan from a nearby safari wildlife park and Dean came away with her phone number and a promise for another hook up the next time his 'animal control team' were passing through town.

It never ceases to amaze Dean how civilians are so readily accepting of such blatant lies. To mistake the Spirit Taker for an orang-utan you'd basically have to be Mister Magoo but Cindy believed him because the reality was just too plainly horrifying for her to handle.

Dean's contentedly tapping his fingertips against the steering wheel as he pulls the Impala to a halt, double-parked in a loading zone directly out front of the library. Impatient green eyes searching the sidewalk for his giant freak of a little brother.

Sam's nowhere to be seen and Dean huffs out an angry breath. The library is huge and it'll take him ages to find Sam if he actually has to go hunting around for his brother in there. Instead he roots in his pocket and digs out his cell phone. His first attempt goes straight to voicemail.

"I know you're probably getting your geek thrills on in the library that ate all the other libraries but get your butt out here, Sammy. I'm hungry."

Dean decides to wait ten minutes tops. He drinks a whole bottle of luke-warm Coke and eats half a bag of Funyons. Irritation bubbles in his gut making itself more prevalent than his rumbling stomach. When ten minutes have dragged by, Dean sucks Funyon dust from his fingers and stomps out of the car, wiping sticky hands on his jeans as he strides purposefully into the building.

"Excuse me, 'Mam?" Dean says to the head librarian who is sitting behind her desk. He instantly backs away a few steps when she turns fierce blue eyes on him. "I'm looking for my brother. Giant kid with crazy hair? Dresses like a lumberjack?"

The old woman's eyes narrow and she actually sniffs the air in-between them with a look of distaste on her face. Dean's scrunches up his own nose perturbed as she gets out of her chair and stalks away without so much as a word or a backward glace. "Thanks for nothing, crazy lady." Dean mutters, watching her disappearing out of sight.

"Hey? Uhm...Did you say you were looking for your brother?"

Dean turns around to be greeted with a petite brunette girl. She's clutching a book to her chest, which is obstructing Dean's view of the goods, much to his dismay. "Yeah, Sam. You seen him?"

"Cute guy, kinda built too?"

Dean pulls a faintly disgusted face, "I guess that sounds like him."

"I'm sorry but I think your brother might have been taken to the hospital."

"What?" Dean's already letting his eyes rake the room, scanning what he can see of the aisles of books because she's got to be wrong, what trouble could Sam have got himself into in here? "Which hospital? What happened?"

"Montgomery General, it's...it's a psychiatric hospital over on the other side of town."

"Psychiatric?!" Okay, now Dean feels justifiably freaked out.

"I mean, your brother's clearly not well. He had some sort of breakdown. They called the paramedics and they took him away. You're Dean, right? Yeah, your brother was asking for you. They tried to phone you."

"Hell, nobody phoned me." Dean pulls out his cell and quickly checks it. No missed calls. Unless....Dammit! Unless there was no cell reception at Cindy's apartment in the valley. Of course there had been a couple of things, a couple of big things, keeping Dean preoccupied from checking his cell signal at the time.

Dean slips his phone into his back pocket and counts down succinctly from ten. He doesn't want to lose his shit and get himself into trouble, although the distinct desire to rip the head off of whoever has carted his brother away is undeniable.

The girl rolls her tongue piercing between her teeth, a nervous habit Dean supposes as he watches the slip and slide of gleaming metal disappearing back inside her mouth.

He kissed a girl with a tongue stud once, it was working for him too until she chipped his tooth with it.

"Thanks for your help." Dean says over his shoulder. He's already walking away, trying to plan how the hell he's going to get Sammy out of this one.

~0~

A breakdown? Breakdown? Dean's trying to drive while keeping one eye on the road and the other reading the directions scribbled across the inside of his palm in smeared blue ink. Most of his brain isn't focused on checking road signs anyway, it's struggling to grasp what could have happened to Sam.

Has Sam been under a lot of pressure lately? Check. What about stress in the workplace? Check. Troubled family life? Check, check, check.

Heck, neither of them has exactly been leading the Life of Riley, what with a dead girlfriend and a missing father on their minds twenty-four-seven but fuck, could Sam have had a real breakdown?

Dean thinks of his level headed, geek of a brother and can't believe it. Won't believe it.

Losing Jessica knocked Sam for six but the kid has been coping. Not exactly dealing per se but Sam's been talking, eating, researching and bitching all in typical patented Sammy Winchester fashion.

What if Sam's been keeping everything pent up inside, until it finally just exploded out of him like a shaken up bottle of soda? It makes Dean uneasy to try and acknowledge that that is what could have happened but they've spent a long time apart while Sam was away at Stanford, maybe he doesn't know his brother as well as he thinks. What if he's been missing the signs all along?

Shit.

~0~

"Doctor Dean Hindler, here to see a patient." Dean glances down at the clipboard he's holding, pretends to scan his paperwork which is actually a take out menu from a local pizza place. He runs his finger down the list of specials, stabbing his finger at the 12" Hawaiian. "Yes, it's right here. I need to see a Mr. Sam Cooper."

The receptionist makes a call and after a ten minute wait, an attractive slim black nurse steps into the waiting room. The nurse eyes him carefully, her brow furrowed and Dean plays his hidden card, the best 'come hither' smile his face can muster.

It's pretty much his saving grace when he's dealing with the female of the species because, when all else fails, Dean's smile has been known to get a girl out of her panties in eight minutes flat.

"Mr. Cooper, I understand you're worried about your brother but I can get a doctor down here to speak to you. In the meantime, Sam's not allowed any visitors for the next forty-eight hours and no visitors means...you're not getting in to see him tonight."

Dean gapes. Does he have 'brother of Sam' tattooed on his forehead? He's almost tempted to find a mirror so he can double-check. The nurse smiles and lifts up the large plastic bag which she's carrying in her hand.

The bag is clear and Dean instantly recognizes Sam's silver cell phone swimming around inside, amongst a few other odds and ends; loose change, a condom still in the foil, a brown leather wallet, a half-eaten Granola bar. It's all definitely Sam's shit then.

She reaches inside and rescues Sam's wallet, rifling through it she slips out a discolored photograph from in-between the crumpled dollar bills. Dean swallows loudly. The photograph is of him and Sam, taken around thirteen years ago on a beach in Florida.

Trust Sam to be a sentimental pain in Dean's ass and keep it for so long.

It had been a bank holiday weekend and a rare day of R&R. Dad had snapped the shot himself while his sons were messing around in the water, happily kicking sprays of ocean foam in each-other's faces. They're both wearing their swimming trunks in the picture and the way they're frolicking in the surf means this nurse is obviously working her way towards becoming the next Miss Marple.

"I've been his doc a long time and we're close, is all." Dean says laughing nervously. He's clutching at straws, he knows he's been busted.

"I'm guessing you're about fourteen or fifteen in this photo, which means you got your doctorate pretty young there Doctor Hindler." Her eyes soften as Dean sags, flopping down onto the nearest chair. "Listen, you're not the first family member who's tried to trick their way into seeing a loved one. The separation is harsh on everyone concerned but I promise you its entirely necessary if Sam's going to get well again."

"There's nothing wrong with my brother."

The nurse smiles at Dean's confirmation of his relationship with Sam. "I'll call the duty doctor down to speak to you. Sam is still being assessed but he's here because he was deemed to be a danger to himself and others. He needs to be here." She picks up the phone on the reception desk and Dean has no choice but to sit back and watch her dial.

~0~

"Paranoid delusions?" Jesus. Dean's been around this guy for all of ten minutes and already he wants to grab him by his revolting brown striped tie and swing the guy around the room with it. "My brother's not...." insane.

"Denial will only make things harder for Sam, you need to be supportive."

"You need to shut your mouth before I knock your teeth down your throat."

Doctor Baker stands up, coughs into his fist and then holds out his hand for Dean to shake. "I think we'll end our meeting here, you're clearly upset."

"Upset? I'm fucking livid. My brother left our hotel this morning to go to the library and now you chuckleheads have him locked up."

"This isn't a prison. This is a medical care facility."

"You've got bars on the windows and locks on the doors and I'm telling you now, if Sam could, he'd have walked right out of here already."

"I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"I'm not going anywhere without my brother."

Doctor Baker readjusts his glasses and scowls. Dean's on the sidewalk a few minutes later, a bruise on his neck from where a beefy orderly grabbed him and grazes on his knuckles from where he made certain the same beefy orderly didn't try to do it again. Threats to phone the cops were made and only then did Dean leave, swearing loudly as he went.

Frustration boils in his gut, curdling the squirty-cream he'd been licking off of Cindy when...when he should have been on the road going to fetch Sam.

It's been four hours since Dean arrived at the library to pick up his brother. If Sam were okay, he'd be out of the hospital by now. There's not a lock that kid can't pick, Sam's as resourceful and as skilled as Dad trained them both to be.

It all points to one thing, that something bad has happened to Sam but a mental breakdown? Dean won't let himself believe it. No, something else has to be going on here.

He stares up at the building, notes the security measures in place. The CCTV cameras, the heavy-duty doors with multiple-locks and then thinks on something he can't see.

Sam.

He doesn't know how he's going to do it but if sheer determination counts for anything, this should be a cake walk.

~0~

The nurse pushing the trolley laden with the night-time dosage of meds is filling in. It's not her usual shift but she owed Nicola a favor so here she is, dishing out pills to the patients on the third floor, on her day off.

The third floor is used by the hospital as a type of mini Crisis Stabilization Unit. It's where the more unstable patients—the ones with suicidal tendencies, violent behaviour and especially short fuses—are housed. All the patients have their own single occupancy rooms and aren't permitted to use the hospital's communal areas, like the dining room and TV room.

Room 119 has a new patient, Sam something. Angela re-checks her sheet, Sam Cooper.

He's apparently borderline schitzo but still being held under evaluation so for the time being he's resigned to third floor status. Nicola glances down at her watch and frowns when she spots one of the interns, Luke Parker, ambling along the corridor towards her.

"Cutting it close, Luke, get a move on. I've got another floor to do before I can take my break."

Luke smirks but doesn't quicken his pace. He peers through the window set in the center of the door, seeing only a shock of dark hair sticking out from underneath the blankets piled on the bed. "Newbie?"

"Yeah."

"Do you think he'll be much trouble?" Luke's a big guy, two hundred pound of prime Maryland muscle but the patients here on the third floor are pretty unpredictable and that can make them dangerous. Still, Luke's well trained and proud of his good record.

"I heard they had to sedate him to bring him in, he's pretty strong apparently. Took three guys to hold him down. Do you want me to see if they can send someone up here to give you a hand?"

"I've seen his file, he's just a kid. I can handle him." Luke grumbles. Not exactly thrilled about having his ability to do his job questioned, he quickly unlocks the door with a key attached to the bunch worn at his hip.

He pushes the door open and walks over to the human-shaped mound of blankets on the bed. "Careful. The shot of Lorazepam they gave him might be wearing off; he'll be pretty groggy and disorientated." Angela says as she looks over her trolley for the right bottle of medication.

Lorazepam? This should be easy! Luke gently pulls back the top blanket, fully expecting Sam to be comatose but instead he is greeted with a pair of wide panicky hazel eyes set in a handsome young face. "Easy there, fella. We've got to give you your happy pill now so how's about you play nice and take it like a good boy, huh?"

Sam's head is tail spinning, his vision graying in and out. He wants to grab onto the sides of the bed for support because he feels like he's going to tip out at any moment. He doesn't know where he is or where Dean is but he knows he's in trouble. He can barely move his arms. None of his limbs seem exactly keen to respond, in fact, his entire body feels deadened but somehow he still manages to jerk himself away when Luke reaches out to grab his chin. "Come on, kid. I don't want to make this hard on you."

He reaches for Sam's face again, Angela already standing behind him holding out a chalk white pill with a small cup of water. Sam bats the hand away and as Luke tries to pin his shoulders down onto the mattress, Sam whines low in his throat, a small frightened noise and does the one thing he's been raised to do when cornered; he fights back.

Luke staggers and lands heavily on his ass when Sam's flailing fist connects with his face. "Get some restraints in here. Damn it, I think he broke my nose."

Angela runs to the door and yanks it open, yelling sharply down the corridor, "Code red in 119!"

~0~

It's almost midnight when Dean finally finds himself on the right floor of Montgomery General. Sam's room is the last door on the corridor; of course it's the last door because the gods of good fortune clearly love the Winchester family lots and lots already. Every day is practically a hearts and flowers love in with Lady Luck.

Dean decides good fortune can kiss his ass and the only luck he's getting is the kind he makes for himself.

He's inside the building and that's a minor miracle in itself.

He badly grazed his knee shimmying over a wall, his pants are ripped in the seat where they caught on some rusty looking barbwire, he received a mini electric shock disabling an alarm and he's broken his favorite lock pick.

Dean mentally strikes Montgomery General and all the assholes who work here off his Christmas card list.

The corridor is empty. Dean's already found an overweight security guard asleep in a break room on the ground floor and the nurses' station is deserted so they're probably doing their nightly rounds. Nevertheless, Dean's not exactly out to enjoy a pleasant evening stroll here. He doesn't have much time.

"Hey, Sammy? You in here, bro?" Dean can hear the unsteady tone to his voice as he presses his face against the tiny window set in the center of the door. Someone is crying softly a few rooms away. These places always creep Dean out and knowing Sam is locked inside one of these rooms creeps him out all the more.

There's a body laid out in a bed which is pushed up against the wall. The figure looks so small that for a moment Dean doesn't think it possibly could be Sam. Dean leans in closer and what he sees chills him to the bone. It is Sam, Sammy and he's in fucking restraints.

It's the exact kind of nut-house padded straps you see in the movies. The way Sam's long arms are locked down tightly on either side of his torso, it looks more like a form of medieval torture. It makes him wonder how bad things must have gotten for them to have felt it necessary to contain his brother in this way. The cold leaves Dean's body as the blood in his veins starts to boil.

Dean jimmies the lock with his second favorite lock pick in seven seconds flat. It's his personal best.

He approaches Sam slowly, even though his instincts tell him to charge inside and tear the room apart. Dean's not oblivious to the fact that Sam hasn't said a single word yet. Not even in response to the sight of his big brother, dressed head to toe in black, breaking into his room in the middle of the night like the kick ass ninja Dean likes to think he is.

Dean crouches down at the side of the bed, putting his hands on Sam's knees. Sam's eyes are wide open but glazed, his lips parted, air wheezing in and out.

"Hey, Sammy? It's me, Dean. Can you hear me? Hey? Focus on me." Dean reaches out and wipes a trail of dribble from the corner of Sam's mouth without giving the fact he's basically getting 'Sam drool' all over his hand a second thought. "Wow, they really pumped you full of the good stuff, didn't they?"

Dean cups Sam's face with both his hands, searching for a sign of light, of life, behind the dulled eyes but his brother's face remains blank and it's so unnatural that Dean feels sick. "I'm going to get you out of here."

He unfastens the last strap on the restraint holding Sam's right leg and runs his fingers over the skin on Sam's sad bare feet. It's a tender, silent moment that Dean only allows to last for a heart-beat.

~0~

The escape is easier than the break in. Even with a Sasquatch-sized brother hanging limp as a noodle over Dean's shoulder. Rent-A-Guard is still catching up on his beauty sleep and Dean hears an approaching nurse gossiping loudly to her colleague, which gives him a heads up on which way to run—or lollop because Sam looks as skinny as a rake but he's actually a heavy bitch.

They're in the Impala, screeching away down the street in under ten minutes. Sam propped against the passenger side door and Dean driving with his foot slammed down on the gas hard enough to make the wheels smoke.

Talk about trying not to gain any unwanted attention, jeez...but Dean just wants to get Sam the hell away from that God-awful place as fast as possible.

Dean drives around trying to find a new motel, somewhere not too far away because he wants the chance to check Sam over properly and that's his number one priority but he also doesn't want to end up staying too close to the motel they were in last night. The one they could be traced back to seeing as the hospital has the same false names Dean used at check in.

Dean talks as he drives. It is something he's always been good at, telling stories. He brings to life tales about times spent hunting with Dad and funny anecdotes from when they were growing up. He tells the one about the Nair he put in Sam's cherry vanilla scented girlie shampoo and that one time Dad ended up in the emergency dental surgery after he tried to pull a bad tooth using string and a door handle, even though Dean had told him that sort of thing only actually works in cartoons and comic books.

While Dean talks, he occasionally reaches over to card his fingers through Sam's dishevelled sweaty hair. Too worried to give a hot damn about brotherly boundaries and the amount of ragging Sam will give him when he finally wakes the fuck up.

But the deal is that Sam is awake. Eyes open and staring but not seeing. It's like someone's kidnapped his brother and left a Twilight Zone pod-person behind. "Hey Sam, what did one saggy tit say to the other saggy tit?"

Sam stares vacantly at a green smear of bug splatter on the windshield.

"If we don't get some support people will think we're nuts. Get it? Yeah, I know it sucked but you're a tough audience."

Dean glances down at his watch. "Few more hours and those drugs should be out of your system, right kiddo?" Dean doesn't like operating on guess work alone, not where Sam is concerned. When it comes to his brother, he wants cold hard facts.

He'll feel much better about everything when Sam is himself again, then they can talk, figure this mess out...

"Son of a bitch." Dean slaps his own forehead. He feels stupid, Abbott and Costello stupid.

A vision.

Sam must have had a vision in the library. It's funny how the most obvious answer can be the last thing reached. Unexpected relief washes over Dean and he finally lets himself take a breath without an ache in his chest.

Sam continues to stare, oblivious to Dean's eureka moment. It's going to be a long night.

~0~

It's somewhere depressingly close to 2 AM and they're booked into a seedy by-the-hour motel room on the outskirts of North Beach.

Dean's dozing in a chair, fitfully waking up every twenty minutes or so to check on Sam who's lying on the bed. Dean's just coming out of an all too brief but yet still thoroughly agreeable dream that involved the centrefold from this month's issue of Busty Asian Beauties when he notices that Sam's eyes are starting to crack open and he's blinking like he's attempting morse code by way of his eyelids.

Dean quickly gets out of his chair and leans over the bed, putting himself directly in Sam's eye line. "Hey, Rip Van Winkle, you're awake." It takes some effort but he manages to perch a wan smile on his lips.

Dean waits for the usual little brother come back but instead Sam's pupils swell to the size of saucers and he rises up off the bed as though several thousand volts of electricity have just been shot through him.

Sam screams and Dean's surprised enough that he's almost tempted to start screaming himself.

He scrambles forward, cradles Sam's head in his hands and starts a steady mantra of "shhhh it's okay, everything's okay," but Sam's lost to whatever terrible things he's seeing. The cords in his neck are standing out, his feet kicking weakly, hands clawing at the mattress.

This is definitely a vision, Dean recognizes the signs. The sudden focus that is present in Sam's eyes while they avidly track something Dean can't see—but this is much more intense than any vision Dean has watched Sam suffer through before.

If truth be told, this whole episode is starting to scare the bejesus out of him.

Maybe it's the drugs messing with his brother's body chemistry but Dean's not so sure. He crawls onto the bed. Fitting himself into the space between Sam and the headboard, he hauls his brother against his chest. Holds him through the tremors and prays for it to end soon, for both their sakes.

~0~

Sam was lost. Floating in space; weightless, deaf and blind but now he can see and feel and hear—and it's like he's drowning in the deluge of sensations.

The images are back and are as sharp and as transitory as his last vision. The cliff, the house, the girl skipping rope.

This time Sam sees her singing a nonsensical nursery rhyme as she follows the dusty winding trail that leads from the top of the cliffs down towards the beach. The crashing of the waves grows steadily louder the closer she gets to the shore.

The beach is deserted; all the vacationing families went home hours ago. The child crouches down to study a rock pool just as a large looming figure with blazing red eyes moves up behind her, blanketing her under its dark shadow.

The little girl is terrified, too frightened to do much apart from start to cry. She wanted to find some shells to make a necklace for her mommy. The creature tells her he has many pretty shells that she can use.

He takes her tiny hand in his and leads her away across the sand.

The images fade to black as she starts to scream.

~0~

Sam doesn't come around from his vision, utterly strung out he appears to have slipped straight into an exhausted sleep. Head and limbs lolling bone-less as Dean carefully lays him down flat and tucks the comforter around his lean frame.

It's bordering too close to complete unconsciousness for Dean's peace of mind and he paces the room agitatedly. Sam's not even twitching or snoring like he normally does when he's asleep.

Sam usually sleeps with his long legs akimbo and his mouth hanging comically open. Dean has enough cell phone photographic evidence to prove it too.

Dean doesn't even try to go back to sleep. Instead he settles at the table with a cup of strong black coffee from the percolator in the room and waits.

A few hours later, Dean's watching HBO, lounging on the bed by his brother's side. He has the sound muted so that he can amuse himself by dubbing the commercials but truthfully, it's for Sam's benefit and Dean knows it.

When Sam does finally wake, he does so in a way that reminds Dean exactly what his brother was like as a small kid. It's a lazily drawn out process. Sam rubs his eyes groggily with balled up fists, yawns and stretches his arms before a confused expression passes over his face and he instantly lifts his head from the pillow, seeking out Dean on instinct. Which doesn't take long considering, Dean's sitting right next to him. "D-Dean?"

Dean lets out a long breath. He wasn't sure what to expect but Sam recognizes him and that's a start. Everything else he can deal with later.

"In the flesh. So, you okay now or what?" Dean asks, taking a sip of his cold coffee in an attempt to mask the way his hands are shaking.

It's a little blunter than Sam probably deserves and he doesn't mean to come across as an insensitive asshole but a couple of times there during the night he'd been close to crying over Sam's insentient body and even short-lived contact with such raw painful emotion is guaranteed hell on earth for Dean.

"I—I had a vision."

"Is that a question?"

"No. I had a vision in the library, it's the last thing I remember that and...how much it hurt. Worse than any I've had before."

"Oh," that gets Dean's attention and he's back to feeling shitty and over-anxious again, "but you are okay now though, right?"

"Dean. We gotta—we need to go." Sam's suddenly wide-eyed and trying to scramble up out of bed like he's just heard the chimes from an ice-cream van.

His face is still pale and he's wobbly on his feet as he glances around for his duffle bag. "I don't remember booking in this room. Where the hell's my...." He trails off when he sees his bag resting on a chair, where Dean dumped it, and starts yanking out clothes, pulling on a pair of jeans and a crumpled tee.

"Go? Sam, you need to take it easy, you need to rest. You were in the hospital." Dean snaps, utilising his best 'what the fuck' face.

Sam frowns, brow furrowing as though he's trying really hard to remember but then it smoothes out again because he's clearly got bigger fish to fry. "I'll rest when we've saved the little girl," Sam huffs, struggling to stay vertical while pulling a pair of socks over his giant hobbit feet.

"What girl?"

"The one in my vision."

"Oh."

"So can we leave? Now?" Sam asks waving Dean's car keys in his brother's face like a baby's rattle.

Dean ponders arguing over the fact that a good few hours ago he was breaking his brother out of a mental hospital and a few hours less than that, he was almost blubbering like a girl because his mom's dead, his dad's missing and he couldn't stand the thought of losing Sam too.

Instead, Dean reaches for his leather jacket with a scowl and mumbles, "I haven't had any breakfast...can't we go play heroes after I've had my food? Honestly, people are so freakin' selfish."

Sam smiles at that, just a little and promptly shoves him out the door.

~0~

Sam talks Dean through his visions while his brother drives. The little he remembers basically equating to a huge steaming pile of next to nothing.

"A house on a cliff? Sure, I'll just tap that into the Sat Nav." Dean snarks, turning the car in the direction of Calvert Cliffs. It's around a thirty minute drive from North Beach and seems like the most obvious place to start but it pisses him off that Sam's visions are vague with a capital V. The damn things always scrimp on the little details.

Sam's face is still whiter than virgin snow and that kind of pisses Dean off too. "We should make a food stop. You haven't eaten anything, you could probably use some milk or something..."

"Dean, I'm not a growing boy. I don't need a glass of milk."

Dean scowls at Sam's long legs squashed into the passenger side footwell, "Thank God for that. You get any bigger and I'm going to have to saw the roof off my baby, that or tie you to the hood like a deer full of buckshot." Dean gives the steering wheel a pat, although it looks more like a loving caress. "Just for the record, if it happens, I'll be pumping for the latter."

"It had red eyes, Dean." Sam says, smoothly shifting the course of the conversation back to their new hunt.

"Red eyes? And here I was thinking Calvert County was a safe place to live since we sliced and diced the Spirit Taker. Red eyes? Well, that could be a manticore or a demon."

"Or a death harbinger." Sam adds, "Their eyes glow red when they take a life."

"Nice. Wonder if the end of their nose lights up too."

Sam stares down at the map open across his knees and traces the coastline with his fingertip. "We're going to have to walk for awhile to get up onto the cliffs." He says as they drive onto the main street of Calvert Beach.

"Oh well that's just wonderful." Dean isn't exactly a happy bunny at the prospect of some pre-breakfast hiking but he still starts hunting for a parking space.

~0~

"Over here! Here!"

Sam's waving his arms above his head as Dean jogs over to him. They've been following a path along the top of the cliffs for almost two hours and that's two hours too long in Dean's humble opinion. His feet ache, he's sweaty and he needs coffee. When he finally catches up with Sam, the grey cast to his brother's skin is even more severe in the harsh morning light and that instantly makes him forget his own grievances.

Not that he won't forget to make sure Sam buys him one of those over-priced fancy pastries to go with his cup of java.

"This place is in ruins, there's no way someone lives here, Sam." Dean stares at the tumbledown building that once professed to be a real house and gives Sam an odd look as his brother reaches out to run his hands over the rough bark of a tall tree.

"I know but...look at this tree, Dean. I remember this oak from my vision. This is the right spot."

"Well, that makes no sense. It looks like it's been abandoned for a long time." Dean repeats, confused and frustrated. "I don't get it, man. Your visions don't usually give us much of a head start. If you're saying some red eyed dickwad is going to kill a little girl then it's surely gonna happen soon, right?"

"Dean..."

That's the only warning Dean gets as Sam grabs his head. Dean swears like a trooper and darts forward to make a clumsily grab for his brother when he drops like a stone. Rolling him onto his back, Sam's eyes are open but it's not Dean he's seeing.

~0~

The pain is white hot. Super nova in its intensity and Sam struggles to look beyond the pain and focus instead on what he's seeing. This time, the images are short and fast, as though Sam's trying to take a peek inside the windows of a passing speeding train.

He can see the creature, leading the little girl along the sandy beach towards the gaping mouth, which forms the entrance to a cave at the base of the cliffs.

The creature's eyes burning red are the only things distinguishable as the pair disappear together into the sinister darkness.

~0~

Sam's blank eyes fall closed and Dean sighs heavily. He readies himself to try and heave Sam to his feet but before Dean can do anything Sam's long body starts to shake, the shaking quickly graduating into convulsions.

Dean holds Sam's head, trying to stop it from banging against the stony ground. It's the longest thirty seconds of Dean's entire existence.

It's not the first time he's been genuinely afraid from Sam's life, undoubtedly not the last either but Dean still manages to almost bite his lip bloody as he helplessly watches Sam's arms and legs flop around. Jerky uncoordinated movements that are humorlessly reminiscent of the way Sam dances when he's drunk.

When the seizure is over and Sam opens his eyes again, he struggles feebly against Dean's restraining hand, which is preventing him from moving.

"Stay the fuck still." Dean spits out, angrily, as he checks Sam over. Only stopping when he realizes he doesn't even know what he's looking for. Dean finally relents and lets Sam sit up, leaning against him for support.

Sam looks like shit, worse than shit—more like shit that's having a really, really, bad day—and Dean is still clutching his cell phone in one hand, his thumb hovering over the 9. "It's stronger here Dean...So much stronger...There's..." Sam stops talking, eyes rolling back in his head to reveal bloodshot whites, he goes limp in Dean's arms.

Dean's almost earns himself a hernia from hauling Sam's heavy ass back to the car. He's had just about enough. Dean's the big brother and he's putting his big brother foot down. He drives back to the motel and deposits Sam on the bed, making short work of wrestling him out of his sweat-drenched clothes. Sam's breathing and pulse are both strong and steady, thank God but Dean still re-checks them several times just to certain.

Laying his palm on his brother's chest Dean watches the way it raises and falls, after a few minutes he shifts his gaze to Sam's lax face. Sam who, for all the crap life has dealt their family, still looks like a vulnerable innocent kid and probably will continue to do so to Dean, even when he's sixty—if they live that long.

~0~

Dean doesn't want to leave Sam alone but he seems to be doing okay right now and Sam is right about one thing, the visions are getting stronger. If the last one caused a seizure, fuck, the next one might go whole hog and liquefy the kid's brain.

Leaving sugary vending machines snacks, pain pills and a bottle of water within arm's reach of Sam's bed Dean reluctantly heads out again alone.

He has a hunch he needs to check out and this time, he's packing serious heat.

The library is next to empty but it's a Saturday so that no big surprise. Dean goes up the first person he finds, a middle-aged rotund woman stacking piles of books on the heaving shelves. "I need to speak to the head librarian."

"Look guy, I don't know how you found out but if you're after a story..."

Dean blinks, bemused. "I'm not a reporter." He says, carefully, hoping he's reading the situation right. "I just want to speak to the lady who was here yesterday, the one with her hair in a bun."

"That sounds like Mrs. Rollins but she wasn't here yesterday." The woman takes a moment to study Dean's appearance. His crumpled clothes, tired eyes and unshaven face. "Ahhhh, you're one of the students from the college?" Her faces breaks out in a mighty smile, "if Mrs. Rollins promised to help with your research then I'm sorry but you're bang out of luck...I might be able to help. What are you working on?"

"Uhm," Dean flounders momentarily before pulling off an impressive recovery, "I'm doing a paper on the history behind some of the oldest buildings in North Beach and I really need to speak to Mrs. Rollins about the library. She seems to have worked here a long time and probably knows all the answers to the questions I have." Like, what the hell happened to my brother when he was here.

"Mrs. Rollins is dead," the woman says candidly. Leaning closer she lowers her voice to a whisper, the gossip she's carrying around with her is clearly busting to break free. She glances around quickly as though checking that nobody else is listening in. "She hung herself in the library basement."

"When?" Dean chokes out.

"Last week. It was the thirty year anniversary of her daughter going missing. Everyone thought Anna had been playing on the beach and was washed out to sea when the tide came in. They searched but couldn't find her body and Mrs. Rollins never got over it."

"Was Mrs. Rollins cremated?" Dean asks, earning himself a questioning look, "It's just I'd like to go and pay my respects."

"Oh, no. She's buried in the cemetery right here in town."

Dean's fingers automatically curl around the cigarette lighter in his pocket and he nods his thanks as he makes to leave.

"What about your paper?" The woman says, brows knitting together as she watches him walk away.

"Huh...Oh, I'll wing it."

Come night fall, Dean's having himself a nice little librarian BBQ.

~0~

Sam's awake but still in bed when Dean gets back to the motel. It isn't a good thing because Sam isn't one to milk his owwies, the kid must be really hurting if he's not up and about. Dean throws a bag of donuts down by Sam's arm, glaring until Sam opens the bag and takes one. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I got hit by a dump truck but other than that, I'm doing okay." Sam sighs ruefully.

"So," Dean begins, "It turns out the North Beach Library is haunted, the head librarian hung herself out to dry in the basement. From what I've found out, it's pretty likely that her daughter is the little girl you've been seeing in your visions." Dean holds out a Photostat copy of an old newspaper article. The headline reads 'Reward Offered for Information On Missing Child, Anna Rollins.' The date on the article is, May 1976.

"My vision was of the past? That's never happened before." Sam takes another bite of his donut, chewing slowly. "Jesus, Dean. Mrs. Rollins touched my arm, I remember now, in the library right before I had the first vision." Sam pinches the bridge of his nose. "Why didn't I realize she was a ghost..."

"All those books Sam, it's a wonder you remembered to blink. You were distracted." Dean says, making an on the spot decision not to mention the fact that he had a brief run in with the ghost of Mrs. Rollins when he was searching for his brother.

"Yeah." Sam says, thinking back to the students he had seen, the flashback glimpse of his own college days. Yeah, I was distracted. "I need to go back, to the cliffs. I get it now; I think I understand what's going on."

Dean makes a sound which is a cross between a strangled laugh and an angry grunt. "Like that's going to happen. I don't want you going anywhere near that place. You said your visions were at their strongest there."

"But that's the point. That's because that's where she wants me to go. It's what Mrs. Rollins has been trying to get me to do all along."

"Holy shit. You know where her daughter's body is, don't you?"

"I think so."

"Then tell me and I'll go check it out."

"I need to do this, please. I have to do this."

Dean growls, pushes himself away from the wall which he's been leaning up against. He can already tell that Sam's not going to back down on this one. If he was ever asked to describe Sam in one word, stubborn would be one of the first things to pop into Dean's head. It'd be right up there alongside bitch and girl.

It's infuriating because once upon a time Sam was a tiny shrimp of a kid who looked up to his big brother like the sun shone out of Dean's ass crack. If there was ever any danger, Dean would simply pick Sam up under one arm and carry him to safety. But now Sam's a behemoth who has to look down to see his big brother and Dean simply can't so easily sway him like he used to.

Hogtying the kid is always an option but more than likely to cause trouble so..."fine but if your head explodes, I'm going to scrape what's left up off the floor and take you to the emergency room."

"Thanks, Dean." Sam smiles softly, dimples making an appearance. Now that's settled, getting out of bed will be his first hurdle.

~0~

They find a small pile of human bones buried deep in the cave from Sam's vision.

Next to them are the bones of something which definitely isn't human. Something with an oddly shaped skull and huge conical canines. "You think this was its home? That it really lived and died here?" Sam says, hands running over what he assumes must be the creature's giant thigh bone.

"No clue. Maybe little Anna Rollins was a last supper of sorts. Either way there's nothing for us to kill and you know that makes me grumpy." Dean says barely suppressing a shudder. "Urg, last supper," he repeats, "that's just gross."

The creature Dean decides to salt and burn right where it fell, kicking the bones into an untidy pile and lighting them. He hurries out of the cave, coughing on the smoke from the small fire, to where Sam is waiting for him at the entrance. Sam has Anna's remains wrapped tightly in his coat, tucked securely under his arm. Together they make their way back up the steep path to the cliff top.

It's already late afternoon, the sun is a burnt amber ball hanging low in the sky and he doesn't feel like eating but Sam's stomach is complaining about the fact its only been fed a few mouthfuls of donut. He's still drained and weak and as they trudge along he begrudgingly half-leans on Dean's shoulder, in the unenthusiastic I'm fine and don't need your help Winchester way.

Digging Mrs. Rollins up isn't a complicated task considering the sun has long since set and it's pitch black by the time they find her plot in the cemetery. As it's a fresh grave, the earth hasn't even had the chance to compact properly, it's still relatively loose.

Sam sits on the lip of the grave, where he'd been relegated to look out duty while Dean did the digging. He reaches down, carefully handing Dean the bundle of Anna's bones and watches as his brother places them into the casket with Mrs. Rollins' semi-decomposed corpse. Dean hoists himself out and then unscrews the lid from the bottle of lighter fluid.

"Dean, no."

Dean shakes his head fervently, "What if she comes back. She hurt you, Sam."

"No. Please? They'll be at peace now. Both of them."

Dean scowls, a face like thunder perfectly matching his stern tone of voice. "Sam..."

"Please?" Sam's practically begging and as is almost always the way, Dean's resolve ultimately crumbles, dust in the wind.

Dean opens his mouth and snaps it closed again. He moodily starts filling in the grave and doesn't speak to Sam for the rest of the evening.

~0~

"Wanna stick around another day? I might do some surfing." Dean says over breakfast the next morning. He feels marginally better now that Sam is looking half way towards human again and has finally seen fit to gift Sam with his conversation.

The Impala is parked up outside of a local deli and they're both enjoying their food, sitting side by side in the car.

"You don't surf." Sam points out as he takes another sip of orange juice from the plastic cup in his hand.

"No but I can walk up and down the beach carrying a surf board, the chicks go crazy over that shit." Dean pulls his breakfast burrito out of his mouth and adds darkly, "And anyway, I don't let nasty ass spirits get away scot free either but hey, look at me now."

"Will you drop it already, I'm fine. No more visions, well, no more visions influenced by ghosts anyway."

"Glad to hear it."

"One thing though, I think it's cured my love for libraries." Sam says.

Dean gives him a comical double-take and starts the engine. "That's it; I'm taking you back to Montgomery General."

Sam reaches over and punches him in the shoulder, hard enough that Dean's arm goes temporarily numb. "Owwww, Jesus, I was only joking."

Dean turns the car south, towards the road leading out of town and hopes they beat the traffic. It's almost eight and soon the roads will be jammed solid with worker drones heading towards their respective nine to fives. Dean's actually eager to put North Beach in the rear view mirror.

Sam flips him the bird and clicks on the stereo, selecting a tape he knows is one of Dean's favorites. Dean smiles when the opening cords of AC/DC's 'Hell's Bells' bursts out from the speakers and just like that, just like always, they're back on the road.

~end~

Original prompt - Late season 1/early season 2 fic: Sam is doing research on his own in a library and has a vision. He is shipped off to the psychiatric ward for evaluation because of the weird things he mumbled/saw. Dean tries to get him out again; yet, it is up to the writer to decide whether Dean busts him out or Sam is set free for passing the exam. Bonus points for putting Sam in a straitjacket at one point.

Author's end note - I know some peeps are waiting on the last chapter of 'November Falls', I'm really sorry for the delay. Unfortunately my knat like attention span, 2 jobs, screaming toddler and perchant for starting way too many stories than I can handle, have conspired against me. I promise the story will be finished and won't fall into the fanfic black hole.