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? my poor buddy'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 Dean;" 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, "and 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 going?" asked Dean hesitantly.
"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't know dude. For a start, that broken collarbone looks displaced, it might need to be reset, and I think you've done more than just breaking 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 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. Sam fiddled with the knot, "sorry Dean, you shouldn't have such a broad back, there's hardly any slack for me to tie it with."
Dean mumbled into Sam's shoulder, "you saying 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.
Reaching back into the first aid box, Sam 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 squirming 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 as he did so.
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.
Leaning in, Indiana 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 …"