With all the excitement of the upcoming western episode in the air I was inspired to write about Winchesters on horseback ...
So step this way for Sam being clever, Dean being obnoxious, adorable horses, a chupacabra, bucketloads of angst, Bobby being awesome, oh ... and a coconut.
A FOUR LEGGED FRIEND
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Humour
Word Count: approx 22,500
A Chupacabra hunt deep in the mountains proves to be a challenging time for the boys, not least of all getting there in the first place ...
Disclaimer: Don't own the boys, want, but can't have.
"You've got to be friggin' jokin'."
Dean stared at their mode of transport with poorly disguised horror; "Sam; tell me you're not serious?"
Sam shrugged. "Dean, we're never gonna get through that mountain track in all that dense forest in the Impala."
Dean's mouth worked but nothing apart from incoherent squeaks and spit came out.
The two horses standing either side of Sam stared back at Dean from under long coarse lashes with equal disdain. The tall slender chestnut snorted loudly, spraying Dean's face with a warm mist of grass scented spit.
He glared at Sam. "I'll walk."
Sam shook his head, "we can't walk all the way there with all our stuff," he pointed to the massively bulging saddlebags strapped across the haunches of both horses.
Dean stared at the bags, shaking his head to clear his thoughts; "what the hell is all this friggin' crap? "
Sam looked around shiftily, "well, there's our duffels, all the water and provisions, our weapons, our tent, our books and laptops, our …"
Dean cut him off with a raised hand; "tent?" His glare darkened as he folded his arms across his chest. "Do you mind explaining why we need a tent?"
Sam looked down and drew lazy circles in the gravel with his foot, "um, because it's a good two days trek along the mountain pass to the region central to most of the Chupacabra kills, an' there's no motels or any sorts of buildings between here and there."
Dean's brows knotted into a constipated frown; "an' when were you planning' to share this little pearl of wisdom with me?"
Sam smiled weakly; "it must have just, uh, slipped my mind."
Dean rubbed a hand across his clammy forehead, "this freakin' day's just getting worse… do you know how much I hate camping?" he spat, "sleepin' out with the bugs, pine needles in your butt cheeks, peein' in friggin' bushes …" he sighed; "anything else you wanna tell me about this damned field trip? You wanna hunt raccoons an' eat their spleens or something'?"
Sam rolled his eyes, shaking his head, "nah you're okay; I brought burgers, we can make a fire and cook them instead; not as chewy as raccoon spleens."
Dean knew this was a lost cause and wilted. He looked at the barrel chested dun horse that stood in front of him, knock-kneed and splay-footed, it eyed him suspiciously from under a profuse black forelock.
Sam handed over the reins gesturing towards the saddle; "we'd better get going, dude."
Dean took the reins with a sigh.
Pulling their horses round the brothers swung up into the saddle. Sam's long leg swung freely over his mount's muscular haunches, and within moments he was perched comfortably in the saddle looking down on the spectacle beside him. Dean appeared to have lost his momentum halfway over. He dangled, one foot in the stirrup, the other knee wedged between the cantle of the saddle and the saddlebags strapped over the ample dun hindquarters beneath him. He grunted and cursed as he tried to heave himself all the way over.
The unbalanced horse swung round and barrelled backwards into Sam's tall chestnut, confronting him with the unlovely close-up of his spreadeagled brother's denim-clad ass clinging crookedly to a broad dun rear end like a monkey up a stick.
"Frig, frig, friggin' keep friggin' still ya freakin' assbutt sonofabitch fleabag …" The muttered oaths became more and more colourful as Dean managed to haul himself into a vaguely upright position despite the uncomfortable shuffling and prancing of his horse. He clumsily gathered up the reins and wheeled the recalcitrant horse round so he was facing Sam's grinning face.
"What?" he snapped.
Sam nodded, "elegant, dude, real elegant …" he sniggered.
"kiss my ass," came the ingracious response.
"It was so close to my face just then, I could have!" Sam's grin widened.
Dean spent the next few moments fidgeting, adjusting straps, shortening stirrup leathers, and engaging in a long and thorough rearrangement of his underwear that made Sam feel highly uncomfortable, until eventually the brothers and their mounts were able to set off at a casual pace along the muddy gravel track.
"So how did you learn to ride these things?" Dean asked, swaying uneasily with the movement of his chunky mount.
"Jess;" Sam replied, "her uncle kept horses and she used to love to ride them, so he taught me so we could go out together."
Dean snorted. "Never appealed to me; I like a mode of transport that doesn't have a mind of it's own," he muttered. The stocky dun snorted and flicked it's ears disapprovingly.
Sam smiled, "it's not so bad, you've just gotta get inside their head, treat them so they respect you." He reached forward and patted the chestnut's neck; "we should call them by their names," Sam added, "they're used to hearing the sound of it, so it'll make them feel more secure".
He patted the placid chestnut again, "the farmer that I hired them from likes to name his horses after film characters; this is Indiana."
Dean rolled his eyes, "an' what's this fat thing called? Jabba?"
Sam grinned, "no, that's Hannibal."
Dean stared. "Hannibal? Freakin' Hannibal - what does that make me? Clarice?"
Sam shrugged, "I just told the farmer you've never ridden one before and that's what he gave me. Don't worry, if I wake up in the night and find you've been skinned and dismembered, I'll know who to blame!"
Dean snorted, and leaned over Hannibal's head; "Yeah, well, you try anything, you fleabitten hay bag, I'll kick your mangy fat ass!"
As if on cue, Hannibal lifted his tail and demonstrated exactly what he thought of his rider's threat.
The two horses meandered through the dark forest canopy, their steady gait beating out a slow, gentle tattoo against the uneven gravel track. The early evening sunlight filtered through the mass of trees, dappling and mottling across their backs, flickering shadows across the brother's faces as they chatted amiably along the route.
They discussed the hunt at length. The chupacabra had been responsible for a spate of gruesome livestock deaths around the mountains; mainly sheep, but also a few cattle and a couple of ponies which grazed around the mountain tracks. A couple of hikers had turned up dead - eviscerated in fact, and a third unlucky dude had been mauled by 'a hairless kangaroo creature with a wolf's head, red glowing eyes and big, big claws'. He was currently convalescing from his ordeal in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.
As the shadows lengthened, and it became harder to see where they were heading, they decided to set up camp while where was still a scrap of daylight in which to erect their tent and, with perfect timing, they found a small clearing beside a shallow stream where they could refresh the horses and low hanging trees where they could tether them.
Erecting the tent had proved to be a lively, frustrating and vocal exercise. It stayed up on the third attempt, having collapsed on the first and been kicked over on the second. Throughout, Sam was treated to a running commentary of how much Dean hated camping, how much he ached, how sore his ass was, which parts of his body hurt the most, and which parts had lost all feeling, including one part which Sam really didn't want to hear about.
Dean's mood lifted noticeably once Sam lit a fire and the burgers appeared. Relaxing with a bag of chips, he even began referring to Hannibal as his 'fat buddy'.
Satisfied and rested, the Winchesters sat quietly round the little fire tin staring lazily through pitch blackness into the dancing flames. Comforted by each others' company and the warm night breezes which carried the scents of Pine and Wintergreen, they soon found that the merry crackle of the fire, and the soft whittering of their tethered horses was lulling them both into a droopy eyed torpor, and sleep was soon beckoning.
Two pairs of long-lashed liquid eyes watched through the darkness as the tent zipped closed and quivered as the two occupants wrestled and squirmed their way into their sleeping bags.
"Shift over Sammy, you great freak, you're squashin' me…"
"Stop moanin', you've got plenty of room …"
"I can't freakin' move, I feel like a friggin' maggot trussed up in this thing …"
"Yeah, dude, whatever …"
"Jeez, Sam - I'm so gonna ache in the morning …"
"My ears are aching now …"
"An' I still can't feel my …"
Sam drifted awake to birdsong, blinking against the dawn sunlight which filtered through the green ripstop of the tent's walls.
He inhaled deeply of the moist closeness which results from two warm, respirating bodies sharing the same cramped, waterproof space; and shuffled out from under his sleeping bag.
They just didn't make sleeping bags for people of his dimensions; It had taken him all of one minute to realise he had exactly zero chance of fitting even two thirds of his body inside it, and had eventually unzipped it all the way round, laying it over himself like a quilt. Dean, being no willowy little thing himself, had also swiftly realised that broad shoulders and sleeping bags don't go well together. He had ended up untidily sprawled half in and half out of his.
Sam pulled on a pair of sweats as quietly as he could so as not to wake the comatose figure beside him. Dean lay on his back, his head canted towards Sam, soft snores emerging as breathy whistles between his teeth. His hand rested across his midriff, unconsciously kneading the fabric of the sleeping bag in tandem with the gentle rise and fall of his chest. Sam grinned; right now, Dean certainly didn't look anything like someone who hated camping with a vengeance.
Slowly beginning to unzip the tent, Sam cringed; why the hell did they make tents with the noisiest zippers in the world? He paused and held his breath as Dean stirred, the rhythm of his breaths hitching as the rasp of the zipper briefly disturbed him. When Dean squirmed a little further down into the rumpled bundle of nylon around him with a soft murmur and his breaths evened out again, Sam quickly drew the zipper the rest of the way up and clambered out of the tent.
Sam stood in front of the tent, bending deeply into a stretch, enjoying the early morning breeze cool and refreshing across his bare back after the stifling atmosphere inside the tent.
Pulling on a T shirt, he slipped into his unlaced sneakers and walked over to the two horses, petting them enthusiastically. He pulled up fistfuls of grass to tempt them as they affectionately butted and nuzzled him before leading them to the stream to drink. When he was satisfied the horses were well refreshed, he led them back, tethering them to another tree to avail themselves of the lush greenery beneath it, and strolled back over to the little soot blackened fire tin, still sitting where they had left it the night before. Lighting another fire, he placed a small pan of water on top of it. He was ready for a coffee.
Sitting cross-legged on the soft, dew-cool grass, Sam watched in contented silence as his little fire fluttered and fizzed, boiling the water for his coffee. He watched the hazy sunlight filter through the trees, coating the world around him in pale dappled light. Closing his eyes, he listened to the birdsong, the soft susurration of the forest around him, the champing of the horses as they grazed in the long grass around them, and smiled broadly. He guessed this was as close to heaven as he was ever going to get.
His reverie was suddenly disturbed by indications of life in the tent behind him, and he heard the zipper being tugged clumsily upwards. Turning, he was suddenly transported from the idylls of this Garden of Eden to gruesome reality as a hollow-eyed, stiff-legged figure half stumbled, half crawled from under the tent flap and staggered to something resembling a standing position with a wet cough and a scratch of his ragged head.
He stared at Sam with a vacant blink; the trademarked look of someone still hovering between sleep and wakefulness, and busily scratched his groin through his threadbare boxers.
Sam sighed, and looked back to the little pan as the water bubbled to the boil. "You wanna think about putting some pants on?" He muttered, "we are out in the open here - any passing hiker could see you like that and be scarred for life."
"Sammy" croaked Dean in wide-eyed distress, ignoring Sam's concerns about his state of dress - or lack of it; "can't friggin' move." He shuffled forward, and Sam bit his lip to keep from laughing. "Ev'rythin' hurts … ev'rythin'," he groaned piteously, "I-I can' straighten up."
"You're just a bit of saddle-sore," Sam grinned airily, "it'll pass."
Dean limped stiffly toward Sam, kneading his stooped back, his poor legs operating in different time-zones. "I can't wait for it to pass …" he whimpered, "I hurt in places I didn't even know I had."
"You're just not used to it; horseback riding's a great all over workout" Sam smiled, offering Dean a coffee: "you'll feel like a new man afterwards."
"I feel like I've been run over by a friggin' German panzer division; that's what I feel like ..." Dean's voice rose in volume and pitch.
"An' my ass; Oh God, Sammy; don't even get me started on my ass …"
"I had not intention of doing so," Sam interrupted, passing Dean a cup of coffee and hoping it might steer the conversation in another direction.
"My ass…" Dean continued, clearly wanting nothing more than having someone 'get him started on his ass'. "It's friggin raw; feels like it's been skinned," he moaned.
Sam chuckled, "I remember when I first had a go; it does chafe a bit."
He closed his eyes and concentrated on sipping his coffee when he immediately knew it was the wrong thing to say.
"Chafe?" Dean winced as he lifted his arms to plant them on his hips. "Chafe? Dude, it feels like full-on nuclear fission going on down there."
He staggered, John-Wayne fashion towards the log where they had sat the previous evening, and leaned heavily on Sam as he timidly lowered his tenderised rump towards it. Groaning and grumbling, Dean puffed and panted as every strained and stretched muscle in his body protested with the movement, causing Sam to have a sudden, fleeting and highly disturbing image of his brother giving birth.
He shook his head to clear his mind and was confronted with the sight of Dean once again lavishly scratching his nether regions.
"Dude, Sam groaned, "what's with the scratchin'?" He wrinkled his nose in disgust, "give it a rest, already."
Dean scowled, "can' help it." He fidgeted uncomfortably, rearranging his boxers with, it seemed, limited success; "wen' out for a pee in the night, and …"
Sam shrugged, "what?"
"Friggin' nettles," snapped Dean irritably; "didn't see the damn things in the dark."
Sam barked out an involuntary laugh, almost choking on his coffee, spitting the drink so far it was in danger of extinguishing the fire. "At least you got the feeling back …" he spluttered.
Dean absently kneaded one of his aching shoulders and glared at his brother's undignified mirth. "Finished?" He asked sourly when the breathless giggles had finally died down.
Sam shook his head and sighed, "dude, you're a real man of the Earth aren't you?"
Dean grunted as he took a sip of coffee; "when the human race takes the effort to invent a thing as useful as a city, it's rude not to take advantage of it," he replied earnestly.
Sam smiled, and tried hard to transport himself back to his brief moment of bliss before his world was rudely invaded by stiff muscles, skinned asses and … no, he scolded himself; don't go there with the nettles.
The brothers finished their coffee in a companionable silence which was punctuated by grunts and hisses of discomfort, along with the occasional colourful expletive every time Dean lifted the cup to his lips.
Eventually he spoke up … "so what's the plan Geek-boy?"
Sam shrugged; "I figured if we maybe picked up the pace today," he replied, "we might be able to get the chupacabra's hunting ground by afternoon." He shrugged, "you never know, if these things are as stupid as people say, we could have this job wrapped up by nightfall."
Dean wasn't keen on the phrase 'pick up the pace', not keen at all; but he did like the sound of 'wrapped up by nightfall'. 'Wrapped up by nightfall' meant heading back to civilisation, it meant a proper bed under a proper roof, four wheels instead of four legs, a cold beer, a hot shower, air conditioning, eating M&M's until you puke rainbows and a large hawaiian pizza with extra mozzarella.
Sam stood up and set to work tidying up their camp. Dean sighed; it looks like the decision was made.
In the time it took Dean to stagger into a standing position, rummage in the first aid kit for the antihistamine cream, apply said cream to his tender, nettle-ravaged parts, and wrestle himself into his clothes, Sam had already packed up the tent and was busy tacking up the bemused horses.
Struggling admirably to put his socks on, Dean slumped to frustrated and ingracious defeat when his poor battered back just flatly refused to bend that far. He sighed; his feet were just too far away; they were only the end of his legs, but they may as well have been in New Zealand for all the contact he could have with them.
Sam stood shaking his head; he couldn't watch the pathetic stretching, groaning, hopping and gyrating exhibition a moment longer.
He walked over, and without argument gently pushed his brother down onto the fallen log where they had sat to drink their coffee earlier and wordlessly slipped Dean's socks and boots on.
Standing back he checked out the camp. Tent was packed, camp was cleared, horses were fed, watered and tacked up. Sam was exhausted, he felt like he'd done a days' work already, but his biggest challenge was still to come.
Now he had to get Dean and all his aches, pains and itches back up in the saddle.
Hoisting his fractious and increasingly immobile brother back onto Hannibal hadn't proved as much of an ordeal as Sam had feared. Hannibal was far too occupied with a particularly delicious patch of clover to care much about the cursing figure, clumsily grappling his way up into the saddle courtesy of a brotherly leg-up.
Sam reflected as he nursed his aching jaw; a memento from where Dean's flailing boot had caught him a haymaker. He was sure he'd have an impressive bruise there by the morning, and he was quite sure a tooth was working itself loose too. Peachy, just peachy.
The horses maintained a lively pace; switching back and forth between a brisk walk and a leisurely canter as they progressed deeper and deeper into the mountain pass; the crunching of their hooves over the barren rock-strewn track, a backtrack to the intermittent conversation of their riders.
The Winchesters had been riding for a few hours and had lost track of how many miles they had travelled, but they were clearly deep into the mountains, and that meant they were close to the chupacabra's hunting ground.
Dean had spent the first portion of the ride complaining about his sore ass, unswerving in his belief that he was almost certainly going to need skin grafts. Sam noted, with relief, that he had finally gone silent on the subject. That either meant that his ass had gone numb under this morning's onslaught and wasn't hurting any more or that he had realised the whining wasn't achieving anything and had given up. What's more, Sam didn't care about the reason; he was just grateful for the peace and quiet.
As they continued, the pass wound deeper and deeper into the valley, the mountains looming up either side of them, bathing them in shadow and bouncing the echoing crunch of the horses hooves from side to side.
The lush vegetation of their morning's campsite had gradually thinned away, replaced by sparse brush and isolated outcrops of spiky gorse, which clung forlornly to the rocky foothills.
Sam's eye wandered, taking in the bleak moonscape; his mind occupied with thoughts of where they could camp and how they would feed and water the horses tonight. He pondered the hunt; the chupacabra could be anywhere so they needed to be prepared. His hand strayed down to grip the barrel of the rifle tucked securely under Indiana's surcingle.
He looked across at Dean who appeared lost in his thoughts, rocking uncomfortably in the saddle, scanning the track dead ahead over the rhythmic nod of Hannibal's shaggy head as he clung grimly onto the horn of the saddle.
A heavy rustle suddenly shook the bushes ahead of them and the brothers glanced at each other, instinctively reaching for their weapons. As they did so, a young buck elk burst out from the brush; it's side gashed open, blood pouring down it's legs. It scrambled across the track ahead of them, running stiffly and awkwardly, as if only three of it's four legs were functioning properly.
Both horses squealed in shock and recoiled violently; Sam lurched, letting out an involuntary gasp as he was flung sideways out of the saddle. Landing heavily on his hip, he rolled back to avoid Indiana's stamping hooves, groaning as a bolt of pain shot through his thigh.
Hannibal had shied, also flinging Dean sideways, but committing the cardinal novice rider sin, Dean hung on grimly as the panic crazed animal wheeled and fretted beneath him.
"Dean, let go," Sam stumbled painfully to his feet yelling across to his brother, "jump off, Dean; jump off …"
But Dean was numb to anything except his panic at this unfamiliar and terrifying situation. His feet had slipped out of the stirrups and in an instinctive attempt to beat the pull of gravity, he flung his bodyweight forward, the horn of the saddle digging hard into his ribs as he tightened his grip around Hannibal's neck, his hands grabbing fistfuls of mane in a desperate attempt to stay on board. As his body slipped further and further down the side of the saddle, he tucked his legs up behind him, his feet gripping ferociously into Hannibal's sensitive flanks, distressing the frightened horse even further.
Hannibal tossed his head violently, yanking the reins out of Dean's hand and given freedom of his head, he took off at a frantic gallop.
"Dean…" Sam screamed after him, watching the bolting horse disappear along the track. He set off to run after it, so he didn't lose sight of Dean, but he could manage little more than a stiff-legged limp; Indiana trailed along behind him, trotting on the end of the reins that Sam had somehow managed to keep a hold of as he fell.
Hannibal, increasingly disturbed by his unbalanced rider, bucked and swerved sharply to free himself of Dean's desperate grasping attempts to stay on, and Sam watched in horror as Dean tumbled backwards across Hannibal's flank, slamming heavily into a large rock as he fell. The speed of the tumble sent him cartwheeling across the dusty, rock-strewn track, before coming to rest as a spreadeagled tangle of limbs in a swirling cloud of dust.
Half running, half hopping as fast as his rapidly stiffening leg would allow, Sam stared at the inert shape on the ground ahead of him, coughing on the drifting dust which hung in the air as he approached.
As he reached his brother, Sam dropped Indiana's rein, leaving the horse to his own devices. He dropped to his knees next to his brother, sucking in a gasp of pain as his hip screamed in protest.
Dean was conscious, but dazed; dirty grazes blackening his right cheekbone and jaw, caused by the roll across the ground Sam guessed. He was attempting to rise, but Sam placed a hand flat on his back to prevent it.
"Stay down dude," he said gently; "I wanna check you over first." He had noticed Dean was panting heavily, Sam wasn't sure if that was pain, adrenaline or any other, more concerning, reason.
He ran experienced hands along Dean's spine, pressing either side of the vertebrae, moving down from the nape of his neck. He could feel the muscles in his brother's back flexing as he tried to move, but the weight of Sam's hand prevented it.
Dean mumbled quietly, Sam could feel the breath rumble through his brother's hunched back and bent lower to hear what Dean had to say.
"S'my, where Han'bal?"
Sam shook his head, "don't know dude; he disappeared off down the trail."
"migh' get hurt…"
"I'm sure he hasn't gone far," Sam reassured his brother, "he's probably already found some tree to eat," he smiled, slipping a hand under Dean's chest, and helping him to sit up. He took note of a sharp hiss of pain at the movement.
It was then he noticed Dean's right arm, heavily grazed through his shredded jacket sleeve, cradled protectively against his chest.
Sam leaned in to support Dean's shoulder; "where does it hurt, dude?" His question more of a device to check Dean's responses than to actually get an answer. "Arm…" Dean whispered with a breathless flinch, looking up at Sam, "arm an' shoul'er…" Sam reached up towards Dean's right shoulder, but he saw the problem before he felt it; a ragged dent across Dean's collarbone.
"Crap" Sam sighed.
Dean blinked as his eyes watered in the settling dust, and he swallowed hard as Sam gently pulled down the neck of his T shirt to see the deep bruises already blossoming over and beneath the broken bone.
He closed his eyes, face tightening in pain, "need t'go fin' Han'bal…"
Sam shook his head, "he'll be fine; I'm callin' help first; I'll go look for him when it gets here."
"Won' get signal;" Dean gestured up to the mountains with his good arm, "mount'ns."
Sam's stomach lurched; he hadn't thought of that. He looked at his cell to see that Dean was right, there was no signal to be had at all. "crap again!"
Sam took a deep breath in an attempt to stay calm. First things first, he would need to make Dean comfortable; he could worry about what to do next afterwards. he rubbed Dean's back, "c'mon dude, I'll make you a sling and get you cleaned up." He easn't giving Dean a chance to debate the point.
It was then he remembered the first aid kit was in Hannibal's saddlebag.
"crap, crap, crap!"
He squeezed Dean's good shoulder, "dude, I'm going to have to find Hannibal and bring him back - he's got the first aid kit."
"I won't be long;" Sam added, "you gonna be okay?"
Dean nodded again and rolled his eyes, "yeah, I'll be fine", he snorted, still short of breath, "you just take care o' m'little fat buddy when y'find him; he's scared."
Sam grunted as he staggered to his feet, "I promise," he smiled, stretching his stiff leg to try to work some flexibility back into it.
"Your leg hur'?" Dean frowned when he noticed Sam's discomfort.
Sam shrugged, "nothing much - just a bit stiff…"
Dean's frown deepened, but he reluctantly realised he wasn't going to be getting any more information; "bring my M & M's - I wan' chocolate." He called hoarsely after his brother's receding back.
"Bite me" Sam yelled back over his shoulder.
"No, I wanna bite them…" Dean muttered, wincing as he tried and failed to shift his position.
Indiana, who had been paying no attention to the drama going on beside him, glanced up from the unappetising clump of gorse he had found and whittered softly to the injured man.
Sam had been walking about twenty minutes, using the exercise to try to ascertain the damage to his hip. He guessed it wasn't broken or dislocated, just heavily bruised, but that still meant he had inflammation, pain and immobility to look forward to.
He let out a deep sigh; of all the places to be stranded and injured. Damn Winchester luck, it couldn't be in a busy Main Street with a cellphone signal and a hospital half a mile up the road.
He was jolted out of his thoughts when he saw something laying across the track way ahead of him; he stopped, bemused, and squinted at the huge, pale brown lump.
As he approached, he realised with horror what it was that he was looking at and stumbled backwards, doubling over as he vomited into the sparse brushwood.
Hannibal's throat had been torn open.
Sam squatted on his haunches by the barren track, his back heaving miserably as he coughed out ribbons of bile and saliva into the sparse scrub around his feet, keeping his eyes tightly closed, unable to look at the horrific sight behind him.
Hannibal's glassy eye stared up at the sky through his long dark lashes; Sam reflected that his hefty dun bulk looked surprisingly flat, and … the blood. Oh God; Sam had never seen so much blood, gallons of the stuff soaking a massive black slick into the dusty ground around the corpse. The coppery stench of it made him gag
His breathing evened out as the nausea subsided and he spat the last dregs of bitter acid into the gorse at his feet, wiping his mouth with a shaking hand.
Sam felt tears stinging his eyes. The brothers had taken this job, it was their choice; they knew the risks. Hannibal didn't; he just went without question or pause where he was told and asked for nothing except a food supply and a bit of affection in return; and for his sterling efforts the poor dude was dead.
Rising on legs like water, Sam stifled a cry as his hip blazed with pain, and limped over to the corpse. He knelt back down with equally pained effort at Hannibal's back and buried his hand into the bushy black mane; "I'm so sorry, big guy," he whispered, tangling his fingers through the coarse black hair. "this damn thing is gonna pay for this; it's not going to hurt another living thing, I promise you that".
He ran the flat of a hand over the hard ridge of Hannibal's withers.
He shuffled along on his knees to Hannibal's haunches and began to unbuckle the straps securing the saddlebags. As he worked, he continued talking to the dead horse. "We're gonna find this freaky scumbag and we're gonna end it's miserable flea-bitten life, this is one Chupacabra that ain't ever gonna see …"
The words died on his lips as his eyes widened in horrible realisation.
The Chupacabra … SHIT! Sam remembered he'd left Dean, sitting alone back up the trail.
Clambering to his feet, Sam stumbled as he tugged on the saddlebags and their harness as hard as he could. When it became obvious that Hannibal's dead weight was trapping one of the bags and no amount of pulling was going to shift it, Sam unclipped it, releasing the topmost bag and, hoping against hope it was the bag that contained the first aid kit, he set off back down the track as fast as he was able, dragging the bag along behind him; He briefly stopped and turned, glancing back to Hannibal; "respect, big man; you're gone but not forgotten," he whispered sadly, then turned and broke into a hobbling trot; his fear for Dean a potent anaesthetic from the pain of his injured hip.
The saddlebag was heavy, an inert weight which slowed him down infuriatingly as he hauled it along behind him over the rocky path. He was edgy, on high alert for every unexpected noise that emerged from the undergrowth and the dark crevasses between the mountains; a rustle in the brushwood turned out to be a jackrabbit; a heavy cracking thud behind him, a falling branch. Sam's head flicked from side to side, his heart pounded in his chest as his overwrought imagination saw the Chupacabra, it's great slavering jaws and vivid red eyes at every turn. He raced clumsily onwards, his numb foot dragging along the ground; he had to get to Dean before the creature.
As he rounded the turn in the trail, a wave of relief washed over him when he saw Dean sitting, quietly, exactly as he'd left him.
Dean looked up he heard Sam approach; "hey, what kep'you dude? You an' Hanny been sharin' out my M&M's?" he asked, the attempt at bravado somewhat ruined by a strained hitch in his breathy voice.
He looked up at Sam and the weighty canvas bag dragging along behind him; seeing, as his brother approached, that he was shaking, flushed face glistening with nervous sweat.
"Dude, you okay?" he asked cautiously; his face paled, taking on a look of wide-eyed dread. " Where's Hannibal?"
"Dead…" Sam replied, red eyes still swimming with tears; the word came out as little more than a croak; "the Chupacabra got him."
Dean's face fell; "dead? the poor dude's dead? Are you sure?"
Sam nodded sadly, "It tore chunks out him, took most of his throat." Sam swallowed back a gag as he relived the terrible sight, "oh God, man; the blood, I've never seen so much blood; it was horrible."
Dean looked down into his lap. "My poor fat buddy … dead." He looked sadly back up to Sam, "We should've gone after him; if I hadn't fallen off him... "
Sam crouched down in front of Dean, grimacing as he forced his hip to bend. "Dean, don't think that way; it's not your fault you fell off when he bolted." Dean shook his head, slyly knuckling his eye with his free hand; "Poor guy, he didn't deserve that."
"I know dude;" Sam fussed over his brother, "but we haven't got time to sit here and mull over it; we can toast Hannibal's memory when we've got ourselves back to safety, but now we've gotta get moving." He scraped a shaking hand through his hair, "the buck, Hannibal; this damn thing's active, and it's hungry."
Dean nodded his silent agreement as Sam dragged the bag toward them and unbuckled it, shoulders slumping in relief when he saw it contained the first aid box; "I'm gonna make you a sling," he looked directly into Dean's face, "an' then, are you up to walking for a bit?"
Dean pressed his arm further into his chest, sucking in a sharp hiss of pain, and nodded unconvincingly. Sam's eyes narrowed; Dean's breathing was still compromised, and Sam didn't like the look of his ashen, hollow-eyed face at all.
"If this mangy sonofabitch can do what he did to a thing the size of Hannibal, we're gonna be no match for it in our condition." Sam continued urgently, feeling the need to reinforce the importance of moving on.
"Where we goin?" asked Dean "Just somewhere we can find a cell signal will be a good start," Sam replied, rifling the first aid kit; "we need to get you to a hospital." Dean shook his head, his speech coming out as staccato phrases between harsh panting breaths; "don' need hospital, we shoul' call Bobby first."
Sam produced a triangular bandage and flapped it open as he spoke, "I don' know dude, for a start, that broken collarbone looks displaced, it might need to be reset, an I think you've done more than just breakin' it, you're not breathing properly." He gently worked the sling up under the arm cradled tightly against Dean's chest; "I want you to get checked out first."
Dean huffed sourly as Sam tipped him forward so he leant against Sam's shoulder and reached round to tie the sling across his back. Sam's heart sank as he realised the fight about the hospital was over with barely a shot being fired. It was practically confirmation that Dean was in a bad way.
Dean winced, "not so tight, mutton paws," he snorted through a wince. Sam fiddled with the knot; "sorry Dude, you shouldn't have such a broad back, there's hardly any slack for me to tie a knot with."
Dean mumbled into Sam's shoulder, "you sayin' I'm fat?"
"No, I didn't say anything about you being … oh, shuddup jerk."
Sam slowly released Dean's arm, and allowed the sling to take up the slack; "how's that bro'?" he asked. "S'kay," Dean whispered with a nod. Sam reached back into the first aid box and pulled out a handful of antiseptic wipes, and began to gently but efficiently dab it over the angry black grazes on his brother's cheek and chin, sighing as Dean grimaced, jerking his head away, "dude, knock't off; s'stings … s'cold …"
Sam treated Dean to a Sam Winchester special eye-roll, "Dean, suck it up, we haven't got time for this."
He continued working over the grazes, ignoring Dean's unco-operative flinching and hissing, gently but firmly lifting the layer of dust and grime out of them until they were both a clean, livid red. "I don't know when we're gonna get any medical attention; I wanna get these clean before infection has a chance to set in."
He handed Dean another wipe and instructed him to clean up the graze on his injured arm as he packed away the first aid kit, stuffing it untidily back into the bag keeping one nervous eye on their surroundings, twitching at every sound like a coiled spring.
Eventually packed up, he slung the heavy bag up behind Indiana's vacant saddle.
He realised that they had been completely neglecting Indiana who stood patiently, watching the activity around him through soft, enquiring brown eyes. Taking up Indiana's reins, Sam ruffled his muzzle sadly, "just you an' us now boy," he whispered softly to his placid friend. Indiana leaned in and whittered quietly, blowing hot breath into Sam's neck.
Sam poured half a bottle of water into a depression in the top of a boulder and allowed Indiana a short drink before leading him across the track and offering Dean a hand, pulling him by his good arm to his feet, gathering him in close, "c'mon dude; we gotta get out of this place before nightfall."
Dean stopped briefly and turned to look back up the path, unmoving despite Sam's urgent tugging. "I'm so sorry big dude," he whispered.
The brothers and their faithful companion made their way slowly and painfully along the track, supporting each other and their respective injuries, their battered bodies virtually holding each other up.
Sam continuously scanned the track ahead and behind, from side to side; he gripped the rifle in his hand ferociously, his every self-preservation instinct tingling as he listened to every sound which broke the silence; every rustle, every whisper of the breeze through the underbrush, every unforeseen animal noise that sent his pulse racing.
He knew the Chupacabra was a capable hunter by day, but lethal by night. The lore talked of hypnotic red eyes which glowed in the darkness, mesmerising their prey. Sam reckoned they had maybe three hours before dusk and knew they just had to be off this trail by then.
He checked his cell constantly as they limped along, every time willing those little bars that denoted a signal to appear, and every time his shoulders slumped in despair as his cell registered a complete absence of any link to the outside world. He gazed up at the mountains, still looming on both sides of them looking down at the dishevelled little party as they made their slow and precarious way along the trail towards what they hoped would be civilisation and safety.
Sam's agitated mind was a whirl. Should they have taken a guide with them? The farmer had offered the services of his son, but Sam had refused; 'know the track well,' he'd lied confidently. How in heck could he have explained to a guide that they were hunting a Chupacabra? A hairless kangaroo with the evil eye and a mouth like a great white?
He sighed; how long had it taken them to make it this far up the track from their camp? Five hours? Maybe six? But that was when they had been moving briskly on two healthy horses. He did the math, and it just didn't work; now they were moving at a snails pace, one of them could barely walk, the other could barely stand. They had no option; they simply had to find help. Sam took another glance at his cell and stifled a groan.
He suddenly became aware that Dean was leaning into him, heavier and heavier, his strides becoming shorter and shorter. He could hear Dean's distressed panting, and didn't like it at all; it had taken on a sharp edge, a kind of wheezing squeal.
He stopped, and looked down into his brother's grey, sweat beaded face with concern."Hey man, you need a break?" He asked softly.
"Don' feel so good," Dean whispered, slowly folding in the middle.
Sam gripped Dean's shoulders; "Dean, what's wrong, man … Dean?" he watched in horror as Dean's legs buckled beneath him and he sunk to his knees; "S'mmy … hur's"
Crouching down beside his brother, Sam shouted frantically; "Dean … DEAN…" He gripped Dean's shoulders, snaking an arm around his back to support him as he doubled over, gasping for air.
Sam laid Dean back on the ground, leaning him against a log and placed a hand flat against his chest, a soothing touch of comfort as Dean curled sideways, yawning helpless wheezing breaths.
His terrified eyes stared up at Sam. "S'mmy; help me … can' breathe …"
to be continued ...