A/N: This was written for the hiatus challenge on Supernaturalville. We were given a banner prompt and told to set the strory in season three. You can see the banner on the home page of Supernaturalville if you're curious. If I tried to explain it, I'd probably confuse you or me or both. :)

This story takes place immediately after Fresh Blood. I think it's a pretty big departure from the type of stuff I normally write. Looking back over my fics, I don't think I've ever wrote an actual hunting fic. I did lots of research on various things and watched season three again just to make sure this whole story would fit into the timeline according to the conversations Sam and Dean had about Dean's deal. But yeah, it's definitely outside my comfort zone. Thanks to Tree for issuing the challenge and making me think outside my little box and thanks to my daughter, Jennifer, for her mad beta skills.

Dean glanced at his brother in the passenger seat. Sam's gaze was focused on his lap where his hands were resting. Dean could only imagine what was running through his brother's freaky head because he sure knew what had been running through his.

How certain are you that what you brought back is one hundred percent pure Sam?

"Dude, you okay?" No response. "Sam?"

"Huh?" Sam continued to stare at his hands, his frown illuminated by the soft glow of the dash light.


Sam's head jerked up, eyes full of guilt. "What?"

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, sure." Sam slumped against the seat, yawning. "Actually, I'm kinda beat. Think we can stop soon?"

"Sure, Sammy." Dean gave him a long sideways glance and Sam sighed loudly.

"Dean, don't look at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like I'm a freak, okay?

"I'm not looking at you like anything, alright? Chill out, princess."

Dean muttered a few more less than flattering words under his breath and avoided the overwhelming desire to really look at his brother. What the hell was he supposed to think? Gordon had become obsessed with hunting Sam, convinced he was some kind of evil monster. That by itself could be chalked up as a figment of Gordon's sick, twisted mind but two days ago he had watched his little brother garrote a super vamped out Gordon with a piece of razor wire that in all reality should have caused Sam to lose his hands but he'd only suffered a few minor cuts.

You think something's wrong with my brother?

No. Demon's lie. I'm sure Sam's okay.

Dean ran a weary hand across his face. God, Bobby, I hope you're right.

Dean was tinkering under the hood of the Impala the next morning when Sam came stumbling from the motel room, wiping sleep from his eyes.

"Morning, sleeping beauty."

Sam yawned and scratched absently at his stomach, peering over Dean's shoulder. "I do something wrong yesterday?"

"Nah." Dean wiped his oily hands on the shop towel he'd fished out of the trunk. "I was just checking the oil."

Truthfully, he hadn't been able to sleep much last night. On one hand, he was worried about Sam and whether or not something might be wrong with him and on the other hand…well, on the other hand there was hell. Every day that passed was a day closer to the end of his deal. He hadn't wanted to admit he was scared but Sam had figured it out anyway. He didn't want Sam figuring out that he was also afraid for him. What if something really was wrong with his brother and he was getting ready to leave him all alone?

"So, you ready for some breakfast?" Dean slammed the hood of the Impala closed.

"Sure, as long as it's not cheeseburgers again."

Dean managed a grim smile. He had been packing them away lately but he figured why not? There wasn't going to be any bacon cheeseburgers where he was going.

Dean speared a sausage with his fork as Sam turned the laptop monitor in his direction.

"You got something?"

"Maybe. Read this and tell me what you think."

Dean scanned the article from a southern newspaper, chewing thoughtfully. He swallowed the sausage, reached for his coffee and realized Sam hadn't touched his breakfast.

"You gonna eat that?" Dean pointed his fork at the stack of pancakes.

Sam shoved his plate across the table. "Not really hungry. Knock yourself out."

Dean's eyes narrowed. "You sure you're okay?"

"Dean, I'm fine." Sam's eyes wouldn't quite meet his across the table. "Quit asking me that."

"Okay, grumpy pants." Dean returned his gaze to the laptop screen. "So, what do you think this is? A vampire?"

Sam shook his head. "No. I mean, it's a bloodsucker, definitely, but it's been attacking in broad daylight. Check out the eyewitness account."

Dean searched the article until he found the description given by the eyewitness. "Dude, no way!"

Sam grinned. "I think it is."

"Wow!" Dean couldn't help but be a little excited; it was just something in his blood. "You think it's really a chupacabra? I mean, dude…..we've never run across one of those before."

"I've heard there's a first time for everything." Sam closed the laptop and shoved it into his bag. "Hurry up and finish your breakfast."

"You itching for a hunt, Sammy boy?" Dean tossed some bills on the table and followed his brother to the door.

"I'm just…I'd rather stay busy is all, okay?" Sam's face clouded over and Dean wondered once again if there was something Sam wasn't telling him or if his little brother was just in angst overload.

Dean rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Alrighty, then. Let's go bag ourselves a chupacabra."

"I already told the cops what I saw." The farmer leaned against the fence as the horse on the other side nudged him gently through the slats. "They didn't believe me, think it was a bear. Ain't been no bears in these parts in years and they shore ain't been none what looked like the monster I saw."

"We're not really cops, sir." Sam had put on his best I'm-a-good-guy-tell-me-everything-you-know face.

"Well, then what are ya?" The man produced a lump of sugar from his pocket and offered it to the persistent horse.

"We're specialists. You know, kinda like Mulder and Scully." Dean gave the man a wide smile and motioned toward his brother. "He's Scully."

"So you're FBI?" The man gave Dean a doubtful look.

"Sir…..Mr….." Sam consulted his notes. "Mr. Jenkins, we're specialists like my partner says. You have to ignore his lack of professionalism. He's new and we're doing our best but you know….."

Dean rolled his eyes as Mr. Jenkins turned his full attention to Sam. Why was his little brother so good at this? It had to be those damn puppy dog eyes that practically oozed sincerity. He really needed to practice that in the mirror but then again, it was just one more thing he wouldn't need where he was going.

"….best damn horse I ever had." Dean focused once again on the case at hand. Mr. Jenkins was rubbing the horse's nose fondly. "Clara here is a good horse but my Jasper was one of a kind and that sonuvabitch monster took him down like it was nothin'."

"Can you describe what you saw, Mr. Jenkins?" Sam had his pen in hand but they already knew what they man was going to say.

"Well, I was behind the barn and I heard Jasper scream something awful. I came running around here and I think Jasper was already dead. I thought the thing was tryin' to eat him so I ran inside and got my rifle." The older man's eyes grew misty as he thought of his beloved horse. "By the time I got back the thing was runnin' away, only it weren't really runnin'….more like hoppin'….ya know? Like one of them kangaroos? But it weren't no kangaroo, shore as I'm standin' here. It had these scaley looking fins all down its back and it had the biggest claws and teeth I ever seen."

"Did you shoot it?" asked Dean.

"Yeah, I tried but it was damn fast and almost out of range by the time I got back outside."

"And your horse was dead."

The man gave Dean an incredulous look. "Yeah, my horse was dead. Ain't that why you came here in the first place?"

"I was just…"

Dean saw Sam bite back a grin as the man dismissed his question with a wave of his hand. "Yeah, yeah. New guy, I know. So, yeah, my horse was dead, all the blood gone. Weirdest thing I ever seen in my life. But not nearly as bad as what happened to the Burdock's down the road a piece."

Sam flipped back through his notebook. "They lost their son, right? Michael Burdock?"

"Yeah, it was a sad thing. Happened 'bout a week after my Jasper." Mr. Jenkins took out a handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. "Poor family. They left town and I don't know if they're ever comin' back. Can't say I blame 'em. How do ya go on with your life when you lose someone like that?"

Sam's face grew dark. "Honestly, Mr. Jenkins, I don't know if you can."

Dean pulled the car into the parking lot of the Tree Top Motel, the only motel in the small town of Snyder Junction. He was still wondering where the junction was as he'd seen nothing except the one road that split the town in half. The motel, post office and weather beaten church were on one side of the two lane blacktop with a mom and pop place and a small grocery store on the other side. A few houses stood within the town limits but other than that, there was a fat lot of nothing.

"What do these people around here do for fun?" Dean gave the town a second glance as they climbed out of the car. "I mean, seriously. There's not even a bar."

Sam was staring off into the distance as if he too might be looking for the bar but Dean knew his brother better than that.

"So, you're perfectly fine, huh? No reason for me to keep asking you?"

"Look, I don't want to talk about it, okay? Talking isn't going to change anything."

Dean could see tears starting to form in Sam's eyes.

"Sammy, what the hell is wrong? You've been like this since…." Dean thought back. "Since Gordon."

Sam shook his head, turning away from his brother.

"Whatever it is, you don't have to deal with it by yourself." Dean gripped his brother's shoulder and felt Sam trembling. "Sammy?"

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, a surefire sign he was trying to get his emotions under control, and then looked evenly at his brother. "Yes, I do, Dean. I have to learn to deal with things on my own."

"Come on, Sam. That's bull crap and you know it."

"No, it's not, Dean. You haven't left me any other choice. And I don't want to talk about it anymore."

Sam stomped into the motel and Dean had the feeling he was in for a long night spent with a brooding little brother. Once again he wondered why the hell this town couldn't have just one friggin' bar.

Early the next morning Dean drove the car onto what looked like an old logging road. The road was halfway between the Jenkins farm and the Burdock place. Dean pulled the car just far enough off the main road to stay hidden from prying eyes and shut off the engine.

Sam immediately jumped from the Impala, heading toward the trunk to gather weapons. Dean sighed as he watched his brother in the rearview mirror. Sam had been nothing but extra moody this morning and it was sucking all of the fun out of their first ever chupacabra hunt.

Dean joined his brother at the rear of the car, popped the trunk open and surveyed the weapon cache. "So, what do you think we should take? Do we even know for sure what will take one of these things down?"

Sam glared at him as if he was pissed he had to respond to the question. "I couldn't find anything for certain in the lore."

"Oh, so you can speak this morning."

"Go to hell, Dean."

Dean knew Sam didn't mean the words, not for a second. It was something they'd said to each other almost since Sam had been old enough to talk. Just something one brother said to the other when one was being an ass. Now those words had a whole new meaning altogether.

"Dean…..I didn't…"

There were those damn tears again and Dean couldn't have been angry, even if he'd wanted to. He had done this to Sam. He had put him in this position, not once thinking about what it would do to his little brother when Sam had to let him go.

"Sammy, I know, okay?" He offered his brother a weak smile. "But we're having a talk once this hunt is over. Whatever is going on with you, I want you to tell me."

Sam nodded as a tear slid from his eye. He quickly swiped his arm across his face and reached into the trunk, pulling out the machete that had belonged to their dad.

"That your weapon of choice?" Dean rummaged in the trunk until his hand closed around the Colt. "I think I'll take this. You've got your gun, right?"

Sam patted the small of his back. "Right here."

"Yeah, me too." Dean poked around in the trunk one more time. "Do you think we need anything else? I just feel like we're missing something."

Sam shrugged. "Silver, maybe?"

"My gun's loaded with silver." Dean gave an uneasy laugh. "I think I might be a little nervous actually. Chupacabras aren't something you see every day."

Sam actually smiled. "And everything else we see is perfectly normal, right?"

"You have a point." Dean checked the rounds in the Colt. "You ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

Dean searched his brother's face and saw it was true. Whatever was bothering Sam, he had pushed aside for the moment. Now he was all hunter, ready to kill one evil son of a bitch.

They moved stealthily through the thick undergrowth, only communicating via hand signals or looks. It was one of the advantages of knowing each other so well, Dean mused. Of course, knowing his brother as well as he did was how he knew Sam was tormenting himself over something and Dean didn't think all of it had to do with his deal. Something had happened with Gordon. Dean was sure of it.

The ground had a gradual incline and Dean was thankful he'd left his jacket in the car when sweat began to roll down his back. It was unseasonably warm for late November and the air around him was as dense as the woods. They may have parked on a logging road but it had been a long time since this area had been cleared of anything.

A twig snapped to their right and Dean gave Sam the signal to circle around. He noticed Sam sweating profusely and wondered why the hell his brother had worn a jacket and two shirts. At the rate Sam was sweating the chupacabra would smell him a mile away and god forbid if Sam was gassy….they would be goners for sure. Dean smothered a laugh as he watched Sam disappear from sight. He poised behind a tree, waiting for whatever was hiding behind the thick screen of red cedars to show itself.

It seemed as though he had been waiting forever when the silence was shattered by a blood-curdling screech. Something was moving through the woods at an alarming rate and Dean hoped to hell he was fast enough to shoot it. He moved farther away from the cover of the tree and aimed at where he thought the chupacabra was going to emerge. He knew Sam would have fallen back to avoid being in the line of fire but what he didn't anticipate was the creature bounding over the tops of the line of trees.

"Son of a bitch!"

Dean scrambled backwards as the monster crashed to the ground in front of him, the stench of sulphur strong in its wake. Dean had time to see a forked tongue snake out from between enormous fangs before he was tossed through the air, landing heavily against a large tree stump. Sam appeared shortly after, kneeling beside him as he struggled to regain his breath.

"Hey, you okay?"

"Holy hell! Did you see that thing?"

Sam pulled him to his feet and Dean winced at a pain in his side. "I think I cracked a rib."

Sam gave him a concerned look and then grabbed the Colt from his hand. "Wait here."

Sam raced off in the same direction as the chupacabra before Dean's mouth could even form a protest.

Damn it, Sammy. What the hell are you doing?

Dean could hear his brother crashing through the woods and wondered why Sam was being so reckless. If the chupacabra was waiting to ambush Sam, more than likely it would be upon him before Sam knew what hit him. Dean had no idea if a chupacabra was even capable of thinking like that or if it was more animalistic and would continue running as long as it was being pursued. Dean fervently hoped it was the latter.

Dean poked at his tender side, confirming what he'd already suspected. Definitely one cracked rib and maybe more. Not that big of a deal unless he had to fight that creepy looking overgrown lizard. He checked the clip of his gun, silver bullets gleaming wickedly at him. Tucking his left arm low over his injured ribs, he moved cautiously but quickly toward the sound of his little brother.

Dean was gaining on his brother when he heard Sam yell and then everything was silent. Automatically he started to call out but realized what a mistake that would be if the chupacabra was waiting. His life didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things but he had to make sure Sammy was okay. If he wasn't, well, the damn monster could have him. A few months early wasn't going to make any difference but Dean would definitely make sure that ugly ass creature went with him. He wasn't going to leave something like that roaming around to hurt anyone else.

He was approaching a small clearing at the top of the hill they had been gradually ascending but he couldn't see any sign of Sam or the chupacabra. The scent of sulphur still lingered in the air so the monster had to be somewhere close by. Dean checked the ground for footprints but the only ones he saw seemed to belong to his brother. He followed them to the edge of the clearing and found he was standing at the top of a huge drop off and right below his feet was the top of a tangled head of chestnut hair.


Dean dropped to his stomach and peered over the edge. Sam was precariously hanging on to the side of the bluff, the Colt still clutched in one hand.

"Sammy, what the hell happened?" Dean reached for his brother, ignoring the pain in his side as he stretched out his hand. "Never mind, just give me your hand."

Sam pushed the Colt into Dean's outstretched hand. "Take the Colt. We can't lose it."

"To hell with the Colt, Sammy!" Dean grabbed the gun from his brother and tossed it onto the ground behind him, then closed his hand around Sam's wrist.

"Hang on, okay? I'll pull you up."

Dean pulled on his brother's arm and an agonizing pain shot through his left side. His breath was coming in great gasps and his shoulder felt as though it was going to rip from its socket.

"Sammy, you got any kind of foothold down there?" Sweat ran into his eyes and he tried to blink it away.

"There's nothing, Dean." Sam glanced back at the long drop.

"Don't look down, Sammy." Dean strained again but he needed some kind of leverage just the same as Sam and there was nothing for him to use. Sooner or later, he was going to lose his grip on his brother.

Sam raised his dirt-streaked face toward his brother and in that one instant Dean knew what Sam was thinking.

"Sammy, don't you let go!"

Dean tightened his grip. Sam wasn't going anywhere…not without him.

Sam's eyes brimmed with tears. "Just let me go, Dean."

"Shut the hell up, Sammy. I'm not letting you go." His arm felt as if it was on fire.

"It's better this way." Sam slipped in his grasp.

"I said shut up!"

Dean heard a menacing hiss behind him just before something dug into the muscles on the back of his leg. Dean howled in pain and heard Sam shout his name. Whatever was slicing and dicing his legs was also pulling him backwards, away from the bluff. Dean managed to keep his grasp on Sam's wrist and haul his brother up over the edge.

Dean saw Sam hit the ground running, scoop up the discarded Colt and fire at whatever was making lunch meat out of his backside. Something thudded to the ground next to him and he tried to turn his head in that direction but found he was suddenly too tired to move. He felt his legs being wrapped tightly in something, then strong arms were around him and his head was resting against something that felt rock hard but smelled extremely familiar.

"Dean, hang on, okay?"

"S'mmy?" His brother's voice sounded for away. "You kill it?"

"I got it, Dean. Don't worry. Just stay with me."

"'m trying." Dean managed to raise his hand far enough to grasp his brother's shirt.

"You can't go yet, Dean, okay?" Sam's voice broke. "I'm not ready."

Dean felt a pang of guilt as he drifted off.

Kiddo, neither am I.

Dean felt something warm pressed against his hand and he forced open heavy-lidded eyes to find Sam asleep in the chair next to his bed, his hand clasped tightly around Dean's.

"Sammy?" Dean's voice was a hoarse whisper but Sam was immediately awake.

"Hey." Sam's hand tightened on his. "How you feeling?"

"Like I got attacked by a super freaky giant lizard." Dean motioned for the glass of water on his bedside table and Sam held it to his lips as the cool liquid slid down his parched throat.

Sam set the glass aside and Dean noticed dark circles under his brother's eyes along with a few days growth of beard covering his jaws.

"How long have I been here?"

"Three days. They've kept you pretty drugged up. The doctors kept telling me you would be okay but it was just….." Sam's voice grew quiet. "You were so still."

Dean could imagine how he had looked, lying there, unmoving and unresponsive in his drug induced sleep. Dean met his brother's eyes and knew Sam had been suffering way more than he had the past few days.

"Sorry, Sammy."

Sam shook his head. "Not your fault."

Dean wanted to say more, wanted to argue that yes, it was his fault. He was the one who had made the deal but he knew in his heart he'd do it all over again if it meant saving his brother's life. He just had to make Sam believe his life was worth saving.

Three days later, Dean was sitting on the edge of his bed waiting for the doctor to sign his release papers and watching his brother pace the length of the room. Sam had grown more agitated with each passing day but had been uncommunicative when Dean tried to talk about whatever was on his mind.

Dean glanced up as the doctor entered the room. "Hey, doc. Please tell me you're letting me out of here today. I'm tired of watching Sam walk a hole in the floor."

Sam stopped in his tracks and the doctor laughed as he flipped through Dean's chart. "Yeah, I think you're good to go but I wouldn't be giving Sam too hard of a time if I were you."

"Oh, yeah? Why's that?"

"If it wasn't for your brother you would have bled to death out there. He saved your life."

Sam stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him but not before Dean saw the pain etched on his brother's face.

The doctor raised his eyebrows. "Something I said?"

Dean shook his head. "No, doc. This one is all on me."

Dean found Sam leaning against the Impala, waiting for him. Dean limped his way slowly toward his brother, his muscles still tender from the chupacabra attack.

"Dude, you totally left me to check myself out."

Sam shrugged. "Not like it's the first time."

"Alright, Sammy. That's it. I've had enough of your damn moodiness. I told you we were gonna talk about this when the hunt was over. It's been over for a few days now, in case you haven't noticed."

Sam stared at the ground, moving a pebble around with the toe of his shoe. "Why couldn't you just let me go?"

"Why couldn't….?" Dean blew out a weary breath. "Damn it, Sam. Do you think I sold my soul just so I could watch you die again?"

"You shouldn't have sold your soul in the first place!" Dean saw a flash of anger in Sam's eyes but it was quickly replaced by sorrow. "It's not worth it."

"Sammy, what has gotten you so screwed in the head?" Sam lowered his eyes and Dean grasped his brother by the shoulders, forcing Sam to look at him. "Tell me."

"There's something evil inside of me, Dean. We both know it." Sam's eyes were pleading with him to just accept it.

"No!" Dean shook his head in denial. "We don't know any such thing. Why would you say that?"

"Dad said you might have to kill me, Dean! Gordon Walker spent months trying to do just that. He told me I should just kill myself."

"Is that what this is about? Something that psychopath Gordon said? I knew he had messed with your head but Sammy, you're not evil, okay?"

And looking into the troubled face of his brother, the doubts Dean had been having since bringing Sam back were suddenly gone. His brother wasn't evil. Different maybe, but not capable of the things Gordon Walker and even Dad had suspected. Sam was his brother. That was all.

"You have to promise me you're not going to even think about doing something stupid like you were thinking about doing the other day." Dean's swallowed hard. "I can't face this without you."

Sam gave him a puzzled look but remained silent.

"I'm sorry I put this on you, Sammy. I really am, but you are the reason I did this and knowing you're safe.….it's the only way I can face it. I can't stare down an eternity in Hell without knowing you're okay." Dean wiped his hand across his face. "So, are you okay, Sammy?"

Silent tears ran down Sam's face and Dean could see him mulling over everything he had said. Finally Sam nodded. "Yeah, I think I'm okay."

"No more crazy thoughts the next time I have you hanging over the balcony?"

Sam laughed. "Nope."

Dean plastered on his best smile. "Good. Because I'm starving."

"You just ate breakfast, Dean."

"Dude, that was hospital food. It totally doesn't count." Dean tossed Sam the keys. "Think you'd better drive, bro."

Dean studied his brother from the corner of his eye as they pulled from the hospital parking lot. Sam's dark moment had passed but another was looming large on the horizon for them both and Dean had to believe that when it came, Sam would be okay. His brother could make it without him. It was the only way he could face the hellhounds when they came. It was the one way to finally make his life mean something.

"No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions, not for glory, not for fame. For one person, in the dark, where no one will ever know or see." ~~~~J. Michael Stracynski

Thanks for reading!