Location unknown
Time unknown

The world snapped painfully into focus when Dean raised his head to take in the world around him. He was disoriented and his head hurt like hell. Apart from that he had no idea where he was and only vaguely remembered being clobbered over the head with something pretty damned heavy.

It took him a hell of a lot longer to assess his situation than it normally would and he vaguely considered that he had a concussion and therefore found it hard to focus on anything but the thudding in his head. His eyes focused reluctantly while his mind sluggishly tried to identify the odd smell in the air.

The identity of the smell snapped into his head the very second his eyes finally focused. Hay. The smell was that of sun-warmed hay. In some small way it worried him that he knew that smell, but his attention was quickly drawn away from that to the barn he was in. Sun beams were filtering through cracks in the wooden walls. There was hay on the floor and bales of hay sitting around in piles. And he wasn't alone. There were people in this barn.

He squinted, trying to focus on them, which made his head ache worse. There were about ten men and women spread out over the barn and all of them looked tough. Before he could gather the threads enough to make sense of this, a hand grabbed the back of his neck painfully hard.

"Look who's awake," a voice drawled from behind him. The owner of both hand and voice stepped around him, releasing his neck, and the man eyed him critically for a moment. "I was beginning to worry Bill had hit you too hard, Winchester."

Dean made a face. "Don't think we've been introduced," he managed and shifted his weight. He was standing, but not of his own volition. His hands were suspended above his head from a rope that was tied to one of the many crossbeams supporting the walls and roof of this barn. His boots were gone and so were his socks, which made this a less than warm experience. On top of that, he wasn't wearing his t-shirt, shirt or jacket any more either.

"I'm Andy," the guy said. He wasn't pretty. He was about twice as old as Dean, tall and wiry, and a nasty scar was marring his right cheek.

"Well, hi, Andy," Dean countered and forced himself to focus on the guy without flinching. "Now, what the hell do you want from me?"

Andy smirked, which did little for his looks. Mainly because his eyes remained cold. "Oh, it's not really you we're after. You're just collateral," he said and looked pleased when some of the others chuckled in reply to his words.

Dean sent a quick glance over the assembled posse while things started to click into place. "Collateral?" he asked nonetheless.

"We're after the demon kids," Andy agreed and stepped away from Dean.

His reasoning skills weren't up to par just yet and it took him a moment to realize what this guy was talking about. At the same time it solidified his belief that these people were hunters. Despite the agony this caused in his head, he still narrowed his eyes at the guy. "Demon kids?"

"Oh, come on, Winchester. I know you're not that stupid," Andy said. "We're after the freaks like your brother. And you're here to help us lure him in."

Ten men and women, all hunters, were after Sam, and most of them were at least twice their age, which meant they had been at this for a while. Dean swallowed, then focused on Andy again. "I'm not helping you," he growled.

"Oh yes, you are," Andy said with conviction. "I know it must be tough to have a freak like that for a brother. Can't be easy, knowing that your kid brother will be the destroyer of the world. Along with all the other little freaks running around out there. But don't worry. We're the cleaning squad. We'll rid you of the responsibility of keeping him out of trouble." Andy stepped closer again, grabbed his chin and forced his head backwards. "Where is he?" he asked quietly.

Dean met his gaze dead on while his mind was working overtime. These bozos had grabbed him, but had apparently been unaware of that Sam was in the area. All he could hope was that the only reason for that they knew what he looked like was from the FBI database or some such thing. Sam still wasn't listed there, only mentioned in connection with him, and there was no picture of him, which gave Sam a fighting chance, but Dean had to even the odds. "Don't know," he pressed out. "We split up about a month ago."

"Really?" Andy asked, not sounding convinced. "I'm told you two stick together like glue."

"And who'd you hear that from? Your fairy god mother?" Dean countered.

Andy smirked. "Funny, Winchester. I heard you were strong on sarcasm," he said. "Good thing for you that I've got a sense of humor. Others might take a comment like that the wrong way."

Dean sneered. "Well, in that case I'm sure you know what you can do with that, right?" He shifted backward a little and realized at that point that his feet were freaking tied to the floor. He glanced down himself and muttered a halfhearted curse. "You must be pretty scared of me to tie me up like this," he said and looked up to meet Andy's eyes again.

"Scared?" Andy asked and grinned. "No, little man, we're not scared of you. We've just been told that you're one hell of an escape artist. Don't want you running off until we've got your brother. So, once again. Where is he?"

Dean stared at him. "Once again, Andy. I don't know," he countered.

"Too bad. If you'd played ball, we wouldn't have to do this," Andy said and stepped back. One of the other guys, a tower of a man, stepped forward while cracking his knuckles.

Dean eyed him, then glared at Andy. "I fight demons for a living, you moron. You think I'm afraid of that meatball?"

"Maybe not afraid, but perhaps Bill can loosen your tongue a little," Andy said and took another step back. "All you have to do is tell us where he is. That's all we want from you."

And Dean just continued to stare at him. "Yeah, well, that's the one thing you won't get from me," he countered, then focused on Bill when he stepped forward.

***

The motel outside Lovelock
Nevada

Sam paced back and forth, wearing grooves in the floor of the motel room while his mind worked overtime on what could have happened to his brother. Dean had been gone for over twelve hours now and wasn't answering his cell phone.

He had been out talking to people all morning, asking if anyone had seen anything, but nobody had. One girl thought she had seen Dean, but when he had asked her to describe him, it had become abundantly clear to Sam that she hadn't seen anything, but was only trying to be interesting.

For now, Sam had held off on calling anyone else, but he was getting very frustrated over not being able to figure out what had happened. "Dammit, Dean," he muttered, flipped his phone open and dialed Bobby's number.

"Sam, I still have nothing," Bobby said the second the connection was established. "I will call you the moment I know something."

"That's not what this is about, Bobby," Sam countered wearily. "Have you heard from Dean?"

This earned him a momentary pause. "What?"

"Bobby, Dean went out to get us something to eat and that was twelve hours ago. I haven't been able to reach him," Sam countered. "So, I take it you haven't heard from him?"

"No, I can't say that I have. Have you called Ellen?" Bobby asked.

"No, not yet. She's next on the list," Sam said. "I'm really worried about him."

Bobby paused before replying. "You don't think that he ..." he started, but Sam cut him off.

"No, I don't. He wouldn't do that. Whatever's going on, something's happened to him. He wouldn't leave without telling me," he said, a little unsure of the validity of that claim. He'd already had the thought that Dean would have gone after that damned demon alone if Sam hadn't caught on to his plans.

"Okay, I'm just saying," Bobby countered soothingly. "Call Ellen. And try calling Dean again. If you haven't heard from him in a few hours, I would start calling hospitals in the area. Did he take the car?"

"No, he was heading for a diner down the road I think. Not that far away. He should have been gone half an hour tops," Sam replied and sighed. "I'll try Ellen," he added.

"You do that. And keep me posted, Sam," Bobby replied.

"Will do. Catch you later," Sam agreed and hung up. He eyed his phone for a second, then dialed Ellen's number. It took a moment, but she finally picked up. "Hey Ellen. It's Sam," he said.

"Sam. Good to hear from you. How are you boys doing?" Ellen countered.

"Not too good right now. Dean's disappeared. I was just wondering if you'd hear from him," Sam countered, deciding that getting to the point right away might make a difference.

"Disappeared? That doesn't sound good. How long's he been gone?" she asked, thereby also telling him that she hadn't heard from Dean.

"A little over twelve hours. I've called him several times, but he's not picking up. And Bobby hasn't heard from him either," Sam said and sank down on the edge of his bed.

"I'm sorry, sweety. I haven't heard from him," Ellen replied, sounding truly sorry. "I know it's not what you want to hear right now, Sam, but have you tried the hospitals in the area?"

"Not yet," Sam said. It really wasn't a route he wanted to take, mainly because he didn't think Dean would be in any of the hospitals in the area. Something told him that there was more to this than met the eye.

"That might be an idea. I mean, if he's been gone for that long ..." She trailed off for a moment. "Is there anything I can do to help? Where are you right now?"

"Nevada. And no, not really. Whatever this is, I'm sure I'll hear from him at some point," Sam said and suppressed the need to sigh deeply. "If you do hear anything, please call me, okay?"

"You know I will, sweety. You just be careful, you hear? You're more at risk on your own," Ellen said.

"I know. I'll be careful," Sam promised. "Just promise you'll call me if you hear from him first?"

"I promise," Ellen said. "Be careful, sweety."

Sam flipped his phone shut and then just sat there. He felt miserable and angry and scared and most of all wanted to take it out on someone else. But there wasn't anyone around. "Shit," he muttered under his breath. What was the point of taking it out on others anyway? It wouldn't bring Dean back and Sam began to realize how much he really needed his brother around to stabilize him right now. The anger simmering under the surface was there constantly, but Dean's presence had so far kept it at bay.

He made a face while a thought slowly wormed its way into his head. Back when Max had threatened to shoot Dean to get to his stepmother, Sam had been assaulted by a vision of the event. Dean had been in mortal danger at that point and Sam had tuned into him. For a long moment he just sat and stared ahead of himself, then he closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath and emptied his mind of anything other than where Dean might be. He had no concept of how much time passed while he sat there and only thought of his brother, but eventually the characteristic escalating headache announced an oncoming vision. It wasn't something he relished doing because the pain was bad, but he realized that once he had kick-started the vision, he couldn't stop it again.

Images assaulted him in rapid succession of a group of people standing and sitting around on bales of hay in a barn somewhere and he saw Dean too. The condition his brother was in made him suck in a breath and the fact that two guys were taking turns at beating the crap out of Dean raised the level of anger he had felt before to dangerous new heights.

He fell out of the vision again when he fell off the bed. Clutching his head, in agony, he groped for his phone, flipped it open and managed to somehow dial Bobby's number before squeezing his eyes shut while tears mingled with the sweat covering his face. He was breathing hard, fighting back nausea.

"Sam? Did you find him?" Bobby sounded almost anxious.

"No ... yes ... I had a vision," Sam ground out. "I think they're hunters and they're hurting him. I ... I don't know where they are. Please, Bobby, if you know anything, you have to tell me."

"I'll ask around. Someone's bound to know something. I'll call you back once I know more. Lie down or something, Sam. You sound awful," Bobby countered. Fortunately, he didn't take Sam's choice of wording the wrong way.

"Thanks," Sam whispered and hung up. The phone dropped out of his hand when he grabbed his head with both hands and groaned in pain. "Aw god." He wanted to lie down, to rest until this blasted headache disappeared again, but how could he? Dean was in trouble.

***

The barn
Location unknown

By the time they finally let off him, it had gotten dark outside and the barn was now lit by several gas lanterns. Dean was of the impression that they'd beaten the crap out of him for the better part of the day and he sure felt like it too. But as long as Sam was out of harm's way, he could take it. He didn't give a damn, even though he had wished more than once that they would just leave him the hell alone.

Andy grabbed his chin and raised his head, then made a face. "You don't look so good, Winchester," he said.

Dean made a halfhearted attempt at coughing, but decided he preferred the tickle in his throat to the stabbing pain of broken ribs when he did try to cough. "Speak ... for yourself," he managed to rasp and forced a smile onto his lips.

Andy sneered, then sighed and shook his head. "You're as stubborn as your old man, you know that? I know your dad. Good hunter. Not much of a people person, though."

"More ... than you," Dean rasped. He couldn't keep his head up when Andy released his chin, but that didn't matter much right now. He wasn't too far away from passing out and he figured he would be doing himself a favor if he just gave in to it.

Andy walked away and Bill took a break from bruising his knuckles on Dean's face, which gave Dean the opportunity to listen to the spread-out conversations. One in particular caught his attention and he managed to painfully raise his head a little to pinpoint the speakers, a guy and woman sitting not too far away.

"I don't like this," the woman said, her tone full of distaste.

"What's not to like? The only way we'll catch that monster is if he tells us where he is," the guy countered and glanced over at Dean.

"This is out of control, Barry. When did we become such monsters ourselves? Doing this? That makes us no better than them," the woman hissed.

"Chill, Cheryl. It's not like they're human or anything," Barry said, his tone overbearing.

"Screw this. I'm not going to be a part of this. This is insane," Cheryl snapped quietly and got up. "I'm leaving. I don't want to watch this any more. They're kids, for god's sake. Nothing but kids." That said, she grabbed a backpack sitting at her feet, threw it over one shoulder and then glanced over at Dean. There was compassion in her eyes, regret even, but that didn't really help him when she left.

Too battered and bruised to care much about anything other than keeping his little brother's location safe, Dean let his head drop and gave in to unconsciousness.

***

The motel outside Lovelock
Nevada

Despite his intention not to, Sam had fallen asleep anyway, but woke up with a start some hours later. It was dark outside. Bleary-eyed, he grabbed his phone off the floor and checked for messages, but there were none. "Damn," he muttered and brushed the fingers of one hand through his hair, pushing it back from his brow. The headache was gone and so was the nausea, but that didn't make him feel a whole lot better. Most of all he felt like tearing the damned room apart, but it would serve no purpose.

His stomach growled pitifully and he realized it had been a while since he'd eaten. Well aware that he needed to eat to stay focused, he grabbed his jacket, pocketed his phone and went out to find some food.

Once back in the motel room and still with no call from Bobby or Dean for that matter, Sam ate a little of what he had picked up and realized his hunger was superficial. He was too worried to eat, too angry to care.

Instead he paced the room while wrecking his brain trying to come up with a solution. He kept going over the vision, over what he had seen, and hoped that it would give him a clue as to where this damned barn was. But there was nothing. The whole thing was nondescript and could just as easily have been in Maine as in Nevada. It was impossible to pinpoint time or day in those visions. All he could hope for was that those thugs beating on his brother hadn't killed him yet.

Tired with worry and anger, he rubbed a hand over his face, dropped back down on the chair and pushed the remains of the burger away. "Where the hell are you, Dean?" he muttered and closed his eyes.

The second he did that, a stab of pain rippled through his head and he realized he was in process of getting another vision. It escalated and right before his sensory and auditory perception was taken over by the vision, he heard his phone ring.

Once again he saw the barn, the people standing and sitting around, and Dean dangling from a rope off to one side, either unconscious or dead. He couldn't determine which and it intensified the vision for some reason. One man with a scar on his cheek stood with a phone to his ear, looking annoying. Sam tried to take in as much as he could of the barn, but there was nothing distinguishing about it. The main entrance – double barn doors – were guarded by two armed men. Everybody was armed, he realized. And then Dean moved ever so slightly, shifting his head a little.

Sam caught himself on the edge of the small table before he could topple off the chair and winced at the shudder of pain rippling through his head once more. "Shit," he whispered, groped for the bottle of water and took a swig. His mouth was completely dry at this point.

Squinting because the light hurt his eyes, he glanced over at the bed and could focus on nothing else than lying down for a bit. Two visions this close together were not good for him.

Worried sick and completely destroyed by the vision's influence, he stumbled over to the bed and dropped down on it on his stomach. He groped for the light switch and turned the light off before passing out.

***