A/N Special thanks going to my beta's katriel1987 for volunteering to complete the horrible task of turning my ramblings into something readable and to Merisha (who died several times from 'waiting'!) for the occasional gentle prod and providing the spit to make it shiny. Any mistakes are of course my own, due to my inability to stop fiddling!
DISCLAIMER TYPE THINGY:- Eric Kripke owns everything Supernatural. I'll put them all back when I've finished, I promise.
The Unusual Suspects
Delaware National Park
J. Winchester; Journal extract.
Tailypo – A dog-size creature, characteristically yellow-eyed with black fur. Hunts only at night, using its claws to skin its quarry. Not a demon or spirit, kill it!
"Shoot. Dean, for God's sake, shoot," Sam hissed, the veins in his neck standing out like steel cords, taut beneath his skin. Sam stared intently into the darkness, his eyes frantically searching for the first glimpse of the beast stalking him.
The rustling in the dense undergrowth grew louder as the creature closed the short distance between it and the young hunter whose scent filled its nostrils. Sam backed nervously away from the large dark shadow that gradually separated itself from the dark foliage.
"Dean?" Sam whispered urgently. "Anytime now would be really good!" Sam strained to hear an indication that Dean had heard his plea, not daring to take his eyes away from the ominous shape approaching out of the gloom.
"Just need one clean shot Sammy," Dean whispered calmly.
The hunters had been tracking the creature through the forest for the past three hours; they were both tired and hungry. Pride kept them moving; that and the fact that the creature had turned its attention from cattle, and onto human prey. But despite covering the ground as rapidly as they could, they didn't seem to be getting any closer to the beast. The forest, seemingly in a conscious effort to thwart their progress in the beasts favor, had been so dense in places that they had been forced to walk single file, taking turns forcing a path through the hostile foliage.
Dean had taken the lead fifteen minutes earlier, mumbling curses as he pushed his way through a particularly thorny patch of undergrowth that had scratched his skin and snagged his clothes. He had just stepped into a natural clearing when he had heard Sam take a sharp breath. Dean had swung around, raising his flashlight and gun. His brother was backing into the clearing; something was plainly wrong. Dean had swept his flashlight in Sam's direction, but he hadn't been able to see anything other than his brother. Then he'd heard what had alarmed Sam: the rustling of leaves and the faint snapping of twigs. The sounds revealed that their quarry had managed to circle them. They were being stalked from behind.
The night air was saturated with a heavy mist that hugged the ground, only reaching up to their knees, dampening not only their clothing, but the sounds of the forest. At least, sounds other than the stealthy footfalls which were probably fixed more in Sam's imagination than in reality, footfalls that now headed toward him without hesitation. Sam strained his eyes, relying on the wan illumination supplied by the moon, his only source of light. The flashlight he had been carrying now rested on the bottom of the nearby fast-flowing stream. He had dropped it when he'd slipped on rocks and drenched himself just ten minutes earlier. And if that hadn't been enough, he'd also lost his gun, leaving them taking turns to share Dean's. His brother had tried hard not to laugh at him, but had anyway, a true laugh that Sam would have been delighted to hear in normal circumstances. Circumstances that didn't include Sam freezing his ass off, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a forest, being hung out as bait.
Sam finally caught his first glimpse of the creature. The moon's eerie, luminescent glow reflected in the creature's yellow eyes as it edged closer. A low growl rumbled from its chest, and Sam felt it reverberate through his body. The darkness slowly coalesced into the form of a large black dog that slunk ever closer.
Sam slowly backed away from the creature, which was rapidly crossing the clearing in which he stood. The animal paused and raised its head, its nose twitching as it sniffed the air. It lowered its head once more and began inching forward, it ears lying flat on its skull as it watched its prey. The hound was large; with its head raised it was almost eye to eye with Sam. It was now close enough for Sam to see the greasy sheen of its black coat and smell the aroma of damp dog.
"Dean!" Sam whispered desperately. "I really think you should be killing something soon." Sam was beginning to panic. God, how much closer? he thought. It was bad enough seeing the luminescent eyes; he could now see the Tailypo's teeth, scratch that, the Tailypo's big teeth, as it bared them menacingly at him.
"Just a little closer, Sam," Dean said coolly, as though he had heard Sam's thoughts. He needed to make sure the bullet hit the creature's heart and killed it outright.
The black dog stopped, no more than twenty feet from where Sam stood. Its lips quivered and curled back from its fangs as its yellow eyes stared unblinkingly at him. It gave another low guttural growl, and glistening saliva dripped from its fangs. Sam was under no illusions; he knew it was perfectly capable of covering more than that distance in one leap. He wasn't completely sure whether it was the cold that seeped into his body from his wet clothing, or the hound that wanted him for dinner, that was causing the slight shake in his legs at that moment. Whatever had caused the wobble instantly vanished when the Tailypo crouched down and readied itself to pounce.
"Down, now!" Dean shouted as the hound launched itself into the air, heading straight for Sam's head.
Sam dropped to the ground, rolled onto his left side, and curled into a ball. His arms immediately covered his head in a protective motion. If Dean missed, the black dog would be on Sam in seconds, tearing at his throat.
The bullet from Dean's Glock slammed squarely into the center of the Tailypo's chest. The hound yelped as the bullet tore through its skin and muscle, smashed its ribs, and exploded its black heart.
The bullet's velocity threw the animal back, and it fell heavily onto Sam's legs, trapping them under its weight. The hound died on impact, but its nerves continued to fire, causing the creature's legs to spasm and thrash. Its long claws raked at the leaf-strewn ground and scraped across Sam's jeans. Its own blood had erupted from its throat and now covered its jaws as they snapped open and closed, biting at the air.
Sam remained still for the few seconds it took for the creature to stop twitching. Then he sat up, twisting at the waist so he could prop himself up on his arms. Sam's right leg lay over his left, hampering his efforts to free himself. Burrowing his heel as deep into the ground as possible, he pumped his right knee up and down, hoping to dislodge the dead weight that still held him pinned to the ground.
"Dean," Sam said, turning his head to look back over his shoulder. "If you're not too busy, I could use a little help here!" He raised his eyebrows at his brother, who didn't appear to be in any rush to help him.
Dean sauntered towards Sam, the handgun now pointing at the ground. He grinned when he saw Sam's unsuccessful efforts to free himself, and then moved to help his struggling brother.
"Hey Sam, I bet..." Dean began, laughing.
"Dean," Sam interrupted quickly. "I swear to God, if you try to crack a joke about dogs I'll..."
Sam's words were cut off when the forest to their left exploded in a tumult of leaves, twigs, snapping teeth and claws. A second Tailypo thundered toward them from a few feet away, its eyes blazing yellow as it let out a blood-curdling howl.
Dean stood immobilized, for a fraction of a second before twisting his torso around and simultaneously raising the handgun. The shot rang out, and the hound's rear end slewed away from the hunters as the bullet tore into its hindquarters. The hound yelped in pain, but did not falter in its charge. Dean pulled the trigger a second time, but he was out of time and space. The hound was upon him, and the bullet ricocheted into the trees.
Dean's reflexes saved his arm as he twisted away from the hound's jaws, which snapped shut on empty air where his limb had just been. The hound steamrolled onward. Its massive bulk slammed hard into Dean's side, knocking him off his feet and sending him sailing back into the rough undergrowth at the edge of the clearing.
"Dean." Sam yelled in alarm, hearing Dean's grunt of pain as his brother landed some distance behind him. Sam felt air stir against the back of his neck as the hound, still running, passed close behind him.
Dean hit the ground hard on his back, his breath left in a whoosh. The gun slipped from his grasp, the jolt of landing shaking it from his grip. Dean didn't stop to pull air back into his lungs; his brother was unarmed and in danger. He shot upright, giving no consideration to whether he'd been injured or not. He swiftly looked into the clearing, and pulled in a sharp breath when he saw the Tailypo pass his brother's back and slow to a stop.
"Sam, look out!" Dean shouted. Not waiting for a response, he scrambled to his hands and knees and fumbled through the foliage, searching for the gun that had to be close by.
Sam heard Dean's warning and threw an anxious glance to his right. The hound had stopped in its tracks and was now turning around to face him. Sam leaned forward, pushing and kicking as hard as he could at the carcass trapping his legs, but it was hopeless. He just didn't have enough leverage to move its mass.
"DEAN!" Sam shouted desperately. "Shoot, goddammit."
Dean's fingers scrabbled desperately through the sodden piles of leaves. Shit, where the hell is it! he thought frantically. He couldn't find the gun. His fingertips touched something smooth and round, and his hand, seemingly of it own volition, closed over the egg-sized stone. The hound was less than ten feet from where Sam lay struggling.
Pulling his arm back, Dean threw the stone as hard as he could at the abomination threatening his brother. The stone struck the hound's side with a wet-sounding thunk and bounced off. The creature's head whipped around to find the source of the attack. It paused momentarily, staring balefully in Dean's direction, seeming to contemplate whether or not the man kneeling at the edge of the clearing was a significant threat. It dismissed Dean's presence and turned back to the prey already brought down by its mate.
Sam's world contracted; consisting now of the small space that existed between him and the creature, and his thundering heartbeat. Only feet away, the hound's rancid breath filled Sam's nostrils, and his throat constricted as he snatched short, painful gasps of air.
Sam threw himself back onto his side, and crunching his body into a ball, he once again raised his arms to cover his head, in preparation for the mauling.
Letting out a roar, Dean scrambled to his feet, his arms flailing as he tried to distract the creature from his brother. A dull pewter gleam from the forest floor caught his attention. There on the ground, partially obscured by leaves, lay the handgun. Without pause Dean grabbed the weapon, aimed it at the black dog, and squeezed off two rapid shoots.
The bullets hit their mark. The first missile entered the creature's stomach, and the second penetrated high on its back, shattering its spine. The hound flung its muzzle into the air, letting out an unnatural howl. Its back end, now completely useless, collapsed to the ground.
Dean was already running toward Sam when he saw the hound's rear legs give way. It was falling toward his brother, and it wasn't dead!
Sam shifted slightly. He'd heard the shots, heard the gut-wrenching scream from the hound, and both heard and felt something heavy hit the ground. He began to uncurl and removed his right arm from his head in order to sit up. He was vaguely aware of footsteps running toward him.
"No, Sam," Dean shouted in panic when he saw his brother move. The creature, driven by pain-induced fury and not comprehending its own mortality, bore down on its prey.
Sam, hearing Dean's panicked tone, flung himself back to the ground.
Dean stopped in his tracks. He didn't dare try to shoot while he was running, particularly with the hound so close to his brother. He raised the gun and pulled the trigger. The bullet struck the hound's chest, passed between its ribs, and lodged in its lung. Blood exploded from the beast's muzzle, but it was undaunted, and Dean watched in horror as it clamped massive jaws down on his brother's forearm.
Sam screamed in agony as the hound's teeth tore through layers of clothing and pierced his skin. The hound's jaws continued to crush his forearm, sending waves of pain shooting through his nerves and into his brain. Sam heard the roar of a gunshot and felt the hound shudder as another bullet tore into its chest. Sam gasped in pain as the jolt caused the hound's teeth to grind into skin and muscle. The pressure from the jaws remained constant, and Sam could feel the warmth of his own blood running down his arm, in stark contrast to the cold wetness of his clothes. The hound seemed to be pushing down onto Sam rather than attempting to tear off the limb. Even in his pain-filled state, Sam hadn't expected that.
Dean was almost close enough to reach out and touch the beast that still clung to his brother's arm. The creature was hanging onto life as stubbornly as it was holding onto Sam's arm. The hound's head now lay across Sam's side, pink froth bubbling from its nose as blood leaked from its lungs. Its front legs trembled with the effort of remaining upright. Its eyes blazed yellow as it sensed Dean's proximity, and it issued a wet-sounding growl. Dean hesitated, unsure what he should do. He couldn't shoot directly into its heart, because its head was in the way. He didn't know what would happen if he shot it in the head. What damage would its jaws do to Sam if the bullet caused a spasm? That might happen no matter where he shot it.
Dean pointed the gun at the creature's side, angling the barrel so that the bullet would enter behind its scapula and, hopefully, hit its heart. Sam groaned in pain, and Dean, as though in reply, pulled the trigger.
Dean kicked the hound hard in the side as its forelegs collapsed. The hound fell to the right in slow motion, its jaws still tightly clamped around Sam's forearm.
Sam cried out in pain as the teeth gouged and twisted into his forearm, and he felt himself being dragged forward and to his right. His vision was blurred by tears of pain, but he gradually realized that the hound had stopped pulling him, that it was no longer crushing his arm. Then Dean was by his side, helping him sit up and easing the tension on his arm, which was still held firmly in the dead creature's jaws.
Dean made sure his brother was as comfortable as possible before turning his attention to extracting Sam's arm from the hound's jaws.
"This might hurt a little, Sam," Dean stated as he stood near the creature's head, holding a sturdy-looking branch. Dean smiled at his brother and waited for Sam to acknowledge his statement.
Sam looked dumbly at his brother for a second before he realized that Dean was asking his permission. He nodded his agreement, but was feeling too nauseated to return his brother's smile.
Dean took the branch and stuck it into the creature's mouth behind Sam's arm. He glanced briefly at his brother's pale, dirt-streaked face and then pulled back on the branch as hard as he could. Sam arched up slightly, biting back a yell as pain lanced up his arm. Dean felt the branch begin to bend as he grunted and strained harder, he needed to get this damn thing off his brother.
Sam felt like he was going to puke, and Dean was making matters worse. The hound's head jerked and twisted as Dean fought to release his brother's arm. Just when Sam thought he was going to pass out, there was a sharp snap and he fell back onto the forest floor. His arm finally free.
Dean stumbled back as the jaws sprang open, not caring whether the snap was the branch breaking or the creature's bones. He saw Sam fall back onto the forest floor, gasping in pain. He moved quickly to the other hound that trapped Sam's lower body. Grasping the hound's legs, Dean heaved the mass inch by inch off his brother.
Sam lay still, fighting down the urge to puke. His damaged arm, lying across his stomach, felt like it was on fire. He felt Dean tugging at the hound covering his legs. The first sensation he noticed from that part of his body was cold. The creature that had trapped his legs had been keeping him warm.
Dean moved back to his brother's side. Sam was shivering and his eyes looked glassy.
"Sam!" Dean's worried voice brought Sam out of his stupor. "C'mon, let's get outta here." Dean helped his brother sit up, and then, supporting Sam, helped him stand. Dean desperately wanted to check Sam's arm, but it was too dark, he didn't have the medical kit, and Sam was shaking. Dean hoped that Sam was just cold and not going into shock. With his arm around his taller brother's back, supporting him, Dean guided Sam back toward the car.
Sam mechanically placed one foot in front of the other. Although he kept his injured arm pressed against his chest, it still throbbed with every step he took. His legs seemed ok, apart from being a little stiff, but he was grateful for Dean's support nonetheless.
"Not much farther," Dean said encouragingly. "Five minutes, and we'll be back at the car."
"Ok," Sam replied. "I think I'll be alright on my own now." He was beginning to feel a little better. The walk had warmed him up, he had stopped shaking, and he no longer felt like he was going to throw up. The pain in his arm hadn't eased, but he could cope with it.
"You sure?" Dean asked, looking doubtful.
"Sure." Sam nodded stoically. "Really, I'm fine." He smiled wanly at his brother, who was looking at him with a worried expression.
Dean removed his arm from Sam's back, but stayed close by his side, just in case.
Within a few minutes, they stepped onto a dirt track. The Impala, gleaming in the moonlight, was parked no more than two hundred yards away.
"We'll get that arm sorted out back at the motel," Dean said, shooting Sam a comforting smile as they approached the car. Dean dug the car keys from the inside of his jacket as he walked around to the driver's side. "C'mon, get in the car, Shaggy," he said with a smirk.
"Shaggy?" Sam asked, shaking his head and looking at Dean in puzzlement.
"Yeah, you know, hounds! Dogs! Scooby Doo! Shaggy!" Dean raised his eyebrows, still smirking.
"Oh, I get it. Like humor, but different," Sam said as he got into the passenger seat and slammed the door. He allowed himself a quick grin before his brother got in. Dean's sense of humor was a little obscure sometimes.
Dean's smirk vanished, replaced by a moderately hurt look.
"Wasn't that bad," he muttered to no one before getting into the car.