First published in Blood Brothers 5. No real warnings, beyond first first season. I hope you enjoy it!

Crotalus Horridus

Chapter 1

"You have got to be kidding me!"

"Why?" Sam Winchester glanced across at his brother as Dean glared through the windshield.

"Because this kind of stuff just does not happen to me!"

"Why not? Last I looked, Dean Winchester was human."

"Ha, ha, Sam. Speak for yourself."

"All right then, I will." The younger hunter tried to keep in the grin that threatened to twist his lips and unleash a dimpled smile.

Silence. Then the sound of a hand striking the steering wheel. Hard. "God damn it!"

"Did you just hit your car?"

"Shut up, Sam."

"Your baby?" Oh, he just could not resist poking at Dean. And Dean thought Sam was easy to get going?

"Shut up, Sam."

"The apple of your—"

"That's it! You are soooo walking."

"Pfft. Seems I'm going to be walking anyways. Innocent, but still walking."

"What? You're going to blame me for running out of gas?"

"It is your car—"

"Sam."

"You are the one in charge of all things car—"

"Sam."

"You are the master mechanic—"

"I mean it, bro, you're getting this close." Dean held up his thumb and forefinger to show.

Sam ignored him. "The—"

"Okay. That's it! Out. Now!"

Laughing, Sam Winchester shoved open the heavy metal door on the old car and swung his long legs out onto the roadside gravel. Dean was already out and stomped his way around the car to meet him. Sam, still chuckling, stood up, towering over his extremely pissed-off older brother.

Dean was not happy. He paced a short path in front of Sam like a caged tiger. Apparently, even under his godlike, obsessive-compulsive mechanical care, the Impala had dared to break down. Well, really it was only the gas gauge. The thing was stuck at three-quarters of a tank when it was actually completely bone dry, leaving them stranded on the side of the road late at night on a barren stretch of highway. They were driving through West Virginia on their way to Pennsylvania, following another set of coordinates from their father.

"I can't believe it," Dean growled. "How could this happen?"

"Things like this happen all the time," Sam tried to placate the older man even as he wondered how far away they were from a gas station. He was pretty sure they'd passed one about twenty minutes ago.

"Not to me they don't," Dean denied, scrubbing a hand through his short hair in extreme agitation. He had to be exhausted, pushing them to get as far as they could tonight. "And not when it comes to my car." He rounded on Sam, eyes glowing in the dim lighting offered by the Impala's dome light. "What did you do?"

"Me?" Sam squeaked, not sure whether to be offended or honored that his brother thought he was somehow behind this. His own mechanical knowledge sadly lacked in comparison to the other men in his family. He was, in every way, the Winchester black sheep. "How are you blaming me for this?"

"Because I can."

It sounded lame, and Sam raised an eyebrow, folded his arms across his chest, and leaned back against the car. "Oh, really?"

"Really." Dean sounded very satisfied with himself and his stellar logic. Of which there was none.

"How do you figure that?"

"I don't have to explain myself!" Indignant, Dean stalked to the trunk and unlocked it. "I'm older than you so if I say you did something to my baby, then you did something to my baby."

As Dean fumbled in the back of the car, Sam shook his head in fond exasperation. "Unbelievable," he muttered, then raised his voice, "must be a nice world you live in, bro. Give me directions, I'd sure like to visit someday."

"Why?" Dean, obviously having found what he was looking for, slammed the trunk closed. "So you can mess things up there, too?" He held up a gas can.

Sam frowned, already knowing the container was empty. Refilling it on was their 'to do before next hunt' list. "That's not very full."

"Nothing gets by you, man." Dean shook it. No sloshing; it was definitely empty. "Here," he held it out to his brother, "Since you're so eager to go for a walk."

"I never said that." But Sam took the can anyway. He glanced around at the darkness. "Maybe we should wait until morning, though. Not sure heading off right now would be such a great thing."

Dean seemed to give it some consideration, then sighed dramatically. "Yeah, you're right. Might as well wait… And who knows? Maybe someone will be by before then and you can get a ride with them to the nearest gas station."

Sam looked at his brother in surprise. Dean was willing to let him go off with a stranger? Who was this masked man?

"Not that that would be such a good idea either," Dean finished, sounding more like himself. "You'd probably find the only pervert in the area, and end up locked away in his basement before first light."

"Gee, Dean, thanks for your concern," Sam said dryly.

His brother chuckled and moved to the back door. "I call the backseat. You can have the joy of pretzeling yourself around the steering wheel this time."

"That's not a real word," Sam corrected absently as he grimaced at the thought of his long body kinked up in the confines of the car. But he wasn't keen on sleeping on the ground either.

"I don't care," Dean informed him, vinyl squeaking as he made himself comfortable.

"Of course you don't," Sam snorted, but climbed back in the car. He left the can on the gravel outside, then slammed the door closed, knowing it was going to be a long night.


Dean came awake with a start. It only took a second to orient himself and he paused for a moment, listening for whatever it was that had woke him up. He didn't hear anything.

It was still dark, but morning was the earliest start of pink on the horizon. Another hour and they could walk out, if someone didn't drive by before then. Not that Dean had ever really had the intention of letting Sam go off by himself.

He frowned. Actually—he sat forward leaning over the front seat—he didn't hear anything. And that included Sam.

"Sammy," he growled low in his throat, swiveling around and then huffing in relieved exasperation when he saw his brother's broad back standing by the rear of the car. He knew from Sam's stance exactly what the kid was doing.

Chuckling as he resettled on the seat, Dean remembered how frustrated their father would get with a young Sam when the poor kid needed a bathroom break. Seemed some days they needed to stop almost every hour. In the kid's defense, Sammy did drink a lot of juice. And although their old man knew what it would mean for making good time in the long-run, he never refused Sam a drink when the little moppet said he was thirsty. Must have been those damn puppy dog eyes, Dean mused, closing his own. There was a time even the great John Winchester wasn't immune.

Dean found himself wondering what was going to happen when he and Sam found their father. What would John's reaction be to seeing his prodigal son after so long? What would Sam's be?

Dean was just starting to nod off again when he realized his brother hadn't come back inside yet. Heaving a sigh, he sat back up and looked out the window. There was nothing worse than almost being asleep when a heavy car door was slammed. Not that Sam would be so inconsiderate but, even if he tried to be quiet, the car was noisy.

His brother was still standing at the back end of the car. No one takes that long to whizz. Huffing another sigh, Dean rolled down the window a crack and hollered over his shoulder, "Yo, Sammy, zip it up, man, and come back inside."

"Dean," Sam's voice came back quiet but strained, "shhh…"

"Shhh…?" Indignant, Dean started to reach for the door handle but Sam's next words stopped him.

"Snake."

Snake? With the window lowered slightly, and now that he was listening, Dean heard it and felt all the blood drain from his face. Rattling.

Oh crap. A rattlesnake. And his brother was outside with it.

This was so not good.

"You okay?" Careful to keep his voice low and calm, Dean moved slowly to see if he could get a better look out the back window. He was worried that too much noise might spook the reptile into striking, and since he had no idea where the creature was in relation to his brother, Dean knew he needed to keep things quiet.

"For now," came Sam's equally subdued answer.

"What do you want to do?" Dean deferred to his brother. He tried to ignore the sound of the angry rattling of the obviously very pissed-off snake.

"Uh-" Didn't sound like Sam had come up with anything yet. Then his brother – 'cause he was Dean's brother after all – offered lamely. "Not get bitten?"

Dean stifled a snort. Yup. His kid. "Okay then…" He tried to keep his voice soothing even as his heart pounded in his chest. And just how good was snake hearing anyway? "What are you wearing?" A pregnant pause made him wince. "I mean on your feet, perv." He tried to remember but wasn't sure if Sam was still wearing his sneakers or if he'd changed into his boots sometime during the drive. Normally, that was not a big deal—except when preparing for the possibility of a snake-bite. Please, say boots, please, say boots.

"Boots."

"Good, boots are good." And boy, didn't that just sound lame? "Can you see the snake?" Dean was rapidly trying to put together a plan to kill the creature.

"No."

Of course not, moron, it's like five in the freakin' morning and we're in the middle of nowhere. Dean hated feeling helpless. Taking the back roads really sucked when things like this happened. Not that things like this happened much, but with Winchester luck, other things like this happened. In the realm of their normal, snakes weren't much of a factor unless they were being worshipped, possessed, or morphed into. How messed up was that? And where was the traffic? Didn't people in this fair state go to work in the morning?

The rattling became more frantic.

"Stop moving," he warned his brother, figuring Sam must have done something to set the snake off.

"Not moving." Sam's voice was almost a whisper now, reed thin with fear.

Dean felt something cold clamp down deep in his gut. It twisted at his stomach and slivered bile up the back of his throat. There had to be something he could do.

Suddenly there was a sound of flurried movement: scuffing boots, a sharp curse—

Then Sam cried out.

"Sam!" Dean yelled, throwing himself from the car, knowing his brother had just been bitten. In hindsight, it wasn't one of his brightest moves, but the sound of Sam's pain provoked Dean on a visceral level. Even breathing wasn't as automatic. "Where is it?" he demanded, his keen eyes scanning the murky dawn as he crouched down beside Sam. His brother was on the gravel next to the rear tire, hunched over and grabbing at his leg.

"Gone," Sam gritted out. "Son of a bitch! That hurts!"

Dean didn't ask how his brother knew the creature wasn't a threat anymore; he just trusted Sam. "I bet." He patted the kid on his good leg, then rose and had the trunk unlocked and open in one fluid movement. He needed better lighting than the Impala's dome light could give, so he snatched the powerful Maglite from their supplies, his quick mind already frantically searching through the first aid training Dad had given him on treating snakebites. The one thing he kept coming back to nauseatingly was that the victim needed a hospital. Immediately. Rattlesnakes were nothing to be messed with. They were going to need help on this one.

Turning on the light, Dean made a quick scan of the area. No sign of the snake and no rattling. Good. He crouched back down in front of Sam and didn't like what he saw. Sam was already pasty white and sweating. That wasn't good. Shock was going to be a real issue.

"Let me see," Dean demanded gruffly, worry hardening the tone.

Sam looked up at him, hazel eyes blown with fear, and swallowed hard. "It got me," he whispered, his hands still firmly clasped around the lower part of his leg.

Dean felt his mouth go dry. He offered an apologetic smile; it was weak at best. "I know, kiddo, but I still need to see."

Nodding jerkily, the younger man let Dean push his hands out of the way. Sam's head audibly thunked back against the car and he groaned softly as Dean shone the light over his leg.

"Careful," Dean muttered as he frowned and fingered the tears in his brother's jeans. The snake had gotten Sam midway between the ankle and knee. Just above the low boots the twenty-two-year-old was wearing. "Don't need a concussion, too."

"Not gonna matter," Mr. Doom and Gloom moaned. "Venom'll get me first."

Dean looked at him sharply. "Hey!"

"Sorry."

Sam didn't sound sorry, but Dean let it pass as he carefully tugged up the leg of his brother's jeans and got his first good look at the wound. It looked bad. The fangs had gone in deep, cutting two very round holes through Sam's jeans and into his leg. Dark blood welled from the puncture wounds and the area around it was already starting to turn red. It looked painful. Regardless of how much Dean teased him to the contrary, Sam had a very high tolerance for pain, and right now the kid was hurting as he hissed and writhed, the heel on his good leg digging a trench in the roadside gravel as it stretched out, bent back up and stretched out again.

"Sam, stop moving." The more his brother moved, the more quickly the venom would get to his heart. Using one hand to keep Sam settled, Dean fished for his cell. They needed a hospital, and with the Impala out of gas, they were going to need outside help getting there.

He waited, looked at the bright little display, cursed, waited, looked at it again, then groaned.

"What?" Sam demanded. He'd stopped moving, hopefully remembering the same training Dean had, and was watching Dean as if his whole world depended on it. And in a very horrific way, it did.

"No signal," Dean was forced to admit. "Shit."

Sam stared at him. "We need a new wireless plan," he stated blandly.

Dean snorted. "No shit, Sherlock."

"I'm being serious."

"Yeah, well, so am I." Dean continued to scrutinize the bite. Old wives tales claimed that he could try to suck the venom out, but more modern and less barbaric medical advice said that would not be useful. Besides, the whole idea of going vampire on his brother's leg just struck Dean as being wrong. Very, very, wrong. "Hang on," he said, ignoring the look Sam shot him as he was once again on his feet, kicking himself for not grabbing the first-aid kit when he'd grabbed the light. Hindsight was twenty/twenty.

Quickly pushing things aside, Dean pulled out a tensor bandage and knelt back down by his brother, passing Sam the kit to hold on to. "We need to wrap it," he explained as he rolled the bandage around Sam's leg about three inches above the bite. He tightened it just enough to make an indent but not enough to cut off the flow of blood. Sam passed him a second bandage and he did the same thing about three inches below the bite. "This should help keep the poison localized."

Behind them, the sun was slowly rising, making it easier to see what was around them as the darkness gave way to murky light. But it didn't really make things better. The car was still out of gas, no one had come by since they'd been stranded, Sam was injured, and the cell phone had no reception. If the snakebite didn't get treated soon–

Dean didn't even want to consider it. That was not going to happen. There was no choice. As much as he hated to consider it, Dean was going to have to leave Sam to get help.

"You're gonna have to leave."

It scared Dean how in tune Sam was with him sometimes. But then, considering they'd been raised by the same man with the same set of priorities—okay, well, mostly the same—and had similar practical thinking, it only made sense. If their roles were reversed, Sam would have been thinking the exact same thing Dean was: they were in over their heads and any acknowledgment less than that would not only stupid, but also life-threatening.

"I know," Dean agreed. He glanced up at his pale-faced brother, trying to determine if Sam was looking any worse than he had a minute ago. "How you feeling?"

"A bit nauseous," the other man admitted, "and my leg is hurting like a bitch…but other than that, I'm okay." He looked down at the wound. Blood was still seeping down his leg and starting to darken the bandage already. "Do you think we should cover it?" Sam was already fumbling to open the lid on the kit.

"Yeah." Dean reached for a compress, then stopped and frowned. "Damn," he growled, and started to release the bandage he'd tied below the wound.

"What?" Sam's voice held an edge of panic. "What's wrong?"

"Need to clean it first." He left his brother to make his third trip to the trunk, inwardly cursing his lack of efficiency. Flipping open his shaving kit, Dean grabbed the small bar of soap and snagged a bottle of water.

"Make sure you wash the bite before you cover it."

Dean could hear the deep rumble of his father's voice as if the man was standing right next to him.

"Then get the victim the hell to the hospital as quick as you can."

Eyes burning at the memory, Dean yanked on a pair of latex gloves. Quickly, he lathered the soap up and then cleaned the bite, wincing at every little sound his brother made. The water washed the soap and blood away. Dean then gently patted it dry and fixed the compress over the injury. Through all of it, Sam hissed and jerked a couple of times but didn't say anything, and Dean wondered if his brother knew just how much he appreciated that. It was hard enough treating Sam without dealing with the guilt of hearing how much the treatment hurt.

"Okay," he nodded as he appraised the job, "that's it for now."

Sam's lips were pressed in a tight line. He didn't say anything, only tipped his head in quick agreement.

"Now comes the real fun…" Dean tried on a smile. "Getting you back in the car." When Sam looked like he was about to argue, Dean scoffed. "As if I'm going to take off and leave you sitting on the ground on the side of this godforsaken highway? Not happening, Sam. Let's get you situated in the back, then I'll go for help."

"Dean," Sam shook his head, "just go. I'll get myself back in the car. It'll give me something to do while you're gone."

Dean looked at his brother in disbelief. "Are you delirious?" He frowned and reached out to touch Sam's forehead. His brother drew back slightly, and Dean dropped his hand. "I mean, seriously, Sam. Is there something wrong with your thinking?"

Sam stared at him for a moment before he slowly shook his head. "I don't think so."

"Good. Then shut up." Dean leaned forward and grabbed Sam's arm to pull over his shoulder. "Let you do it by yourself? Yeah," he huffed out, slowly hoisting his brother to his feet, "I'll get right on that. What part of the-patient-isn't-supposed-to-move-around-much-because-that-speeds-up-the-time-it-takes-the-venom-to-hit-the-heart did you forget about?"

"Sorry," Sam groaned, his breathing heavy as Dean maneuvered him back inside the car.

"You should be," Dean grumbled, helping his brother scoot back against the far door.

Sam was too long to fully stretch out, but since the wound was supposed to be kept lower than the heart anyway, that worked out fine. Dean shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it at his brother to use as a cushion behind his head.

"Dude, I can't take this," Sam protested, even as he held the jacket tightly in his fingers. "You're going to need it."

"Not likely." Dean shrugged. "I don't intend to exactly mosey on down the road. I'll be warm enough." He scrutinized his brother one more time. "You got a knife?"

Sam held up a pocketknife. It was the small one he kept in his jacket pocket.

"Do you want a gun?" he asked, already making the move to grab one. He'd prefer his brother better armed.

"No. I'm good," Sam insisted tiredly, his eyes slipping closed. "Dean. Go. I'll be okay."

Dean was still hesitant to leave. He had no idea how long he was going to be gone or what might happen during that time. Hopefully, he'd pick up some cell reception close-by, but there was no way of telling. It could be a couple of hours before he got back to his brother. Damn it. Next time they drove somewhere, screw the chances of getting pulled over; they were picking a more popular route. He frowned. The kid's face was starting to look a bit clammy. "Hey, hey, you're not going into shock on me, are you?"

Wearily, Sam looked up at him. He blinked slowly then shook his head. "Go, Dean."

"Sammy…"

"I'll be okay," his brother repeated. Pain-laced hazel eyes locked onto Dean's. "I promise."

Dean's heart pounded. He did not want to leave his brother like this. But…. "Yeah, well, I'm holding you to that promise," he growled, then he turned quickly, grabbed the empty gas can Sam had left outside the car only hours earlier, and started out at a jog. He fought every instinct to look back, terrified that if he did, he'd never be able to leave.

"Be careful!" Sam's voice whispered after him.

Picking up momentum, Dean set his eyes forward and started running. Not a full out oh-my-God-that-thing-behind-me-is-going-to-eat-me pace, but a more controlled, distance speed he could keep up for miles. He had no choice. His brother's life depended on it.

TBC