All The Better To Hunt With- Chapter 1

Don't own 'em, just love 'em, wish ta hell I worked for Kripke

wWw

When Dean comes back from purgatory he feels he has a chance to use his experience there to become a better hunter, make something good out of a bad situation and Sam can relate. But Sam has been there and done that and only his experience can save Dean from going down that dark road too.

wWw

It was the moment of truth, Sam stood in front of the tile wall in the same warehouse that he'd been to before when he'd attempted to stop Cas from opening up the gate to purgatory. Only this time it was he that was going to open 'er up again.

He dipped his hand into the bowl of blood that sat on the makeshift alter and turning to the tile on the wall painted the sigil onto it. He fought to slow his breathing down, it was nerves and he couldn't afford to make a mistake or get distracted at the moment of intent. It had taken months for the next lunar eclipse to configure with the right astrological alignments and if he screwed up now Dean would be stuck in purgatory for...( Sam shuddered to think of his brothers odds of even still being alive)...Focus!... too long, if he missed this chance...Dean would be stuck there TOO long.

The tall man blew out a puff of breath to steady himself then picked up the amulet from the alter. He studied the gold face of the demigod charm with awe and shook his head. 'Always knew you were good for something' he thought. It was the same amulet he'd given Dean when they were kids. The one his brother wore every day after that. The one he'd taken off his brothers body after the hell hounds ripped him up, the one he'd worn, guarded and protected until he could return it when Dean came back from hell. The one he'd retrieved from the trash bin after his brother, in a lapse of faith, had tossed it away.

Sam kept it hoping to give it back to him one day. It was no coincidence that it was also the one power strong enough to bring his brother back from purgatory. He blew out another steadying breath, dipped it into the blood in the bowl, then he inhaled and slammed his palm holding the bloody pendant against the sigils center praying the invocation:

"From darkest night and distance far, this light, this beacon shines it's flame.

"It calls the ones who wore it to it's light, it calls them each by their names."

"DEAN!" Sam shouted, "CASTIEL!"

The moon's eclipse was nearly perfect and as Sam spoke their names the wall began to shimmer in a feint blue light so he picked up the pace of the invocation.

"They are bound by it, in faith and blood."

The blue light formed a swirling shape over the sigil and began to spin faster and faster.

"I call upon the power of this charm to seek them out and bring them here, DEAN! CASTIEL!"

The room became cold and clammy as if it had it's own weather front.

"I AM the rightful one to make this claim. I AM the link that binds these two."

He noticed a sudden pressure change in the room, it made Sam's ears ache so bad he had to shout the last at the top of his lungs.

"I CALL THEIR RETURN, BY THIS AMULET WHOSE POWER CALLS THE SOULS THAT BORE IT-DEAN! CASTIEL!"

He felt the wall soften at the spot he touched and he struggled not to get sucked into the eerie blue light spinning over the bloody sigil.

Suddenly the pressure expanded, he was thrown backward and heard a loud pop then the room was plunged into darkness.

But not before he felt two distinct thuds fall near the wall. The sound of the weight of two dropped bodies hitting a concrete floor.

wWw

Sam scrambled along the floor on his hands and knees to find his flash light, he grabbed it and shone the bright beam back against the wall.

It revealed two sprawled forms laying on the floor. They weren't moving.

It was hard to make out any distinct features until suddenly Sam recognized one was wearing a trench coat. "Cas!" He shouted and ran over to the familiarly attired man on the floor. 'No blood stains." thought Sam and then he realized that the man laying further away had to be his brother. "DEAN!" he shouted louder and rushed to the side of the other prone figure.

The flashlight highlighted the man's crumpled form in stark light and dark shadows. He looked like a homeless guy, clothes all in tatters, stains like blood covered them, they were torn with jagged rips along the pants legs and jacket... and his hair was all wrong. It was long, matted, almost as dark as his was and the face wore a disheveled beard. Sam strained his eyes at the man's face and reached out tentatively to gently touch his cheek when the eyes in the face opened wide revealing a familiar hazel green and both men startled and drew apart.

The new arrival sprung himself up into an aggressive crouch and swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet, hands ready to fend off any punches. His eyes squinted against the beam from Sam's flashlight and then he...growled. He goddam GROWLED!

"Easy," Sam said by way of trying to calm him, "It's me, Sammy...you're home."

The feral form stopped swaying and squinted back. But didn't respond with any recognition yet. The man blinked around at the darkness and spoke, "CAS?...You with me?"

Sam turned the flashlight back to shine on the angel on the floor and started to say, "Yeah, Dean he's right here..." When the man jumped him. They wrestled a while on the hard concrete, bumping into tables and rolling in the shards of glass that still littered the floor.

"Quit it Dean, it's me!" yelled Sam to his brother. He was rewarded with another growl and a bite to his arm.

"OW! Goddamit Dean!" And Sam quickly broke free and shined the light fully square in the face of his disheveled brother. Months in nothing but utter darkness had made Dean's eyes light sensitive and he backed off blinking furiously, and holding up his hands against the offensive brightness. "Take that effin' light outta my face and we'll talk." he finally said.

"Fine!" Sam yelled back. He hadn't known what to expect but never guessed Dean's reaction would be this. So he backed up, focused the light at only the Dean's feet, until he felt his back hit the wall and Sam reached behind himself for the emergency power switch. Suddenly the room was bathed in dim light from the track lighting over the exit signs.

As soon as the muted light filled the room Sam watched his brother move cautiously to their friends side and kneel down.

"Cas?" Dean repeated his name, "Cas, you with me?" And Sam watched as Dean ran his hands expertly over his inert form in the well practiced triage their father had taught them as boys. "No broken bones." He announced and then gently tapped the angels face. "Wake up Cas, come on, no time to lie down on the job now."

Sam noticed the tone of Dean's voice was the same one he'd heard many times addressed to himself when he was injured. It was urgent, not panicked but firm and insistent, which meant Dean wasn't liking how long it was taking their friend to wake.

"I have a med kit just over here." Sam offered.

"Bring it." His brother said.

Sam placed the kit next to his brother's right hand and Dean fished out the camphor vile, broke it and held it underneath the angels nose. The strong scent made both brothers noses wrinkle but had no effect on the still man between them. Then Dean grabbed a blade out of the kit and the suddenness of the move made Sam pull back.

Dean noted that and nodded at him. Sam watched as his older brother pulled back a bit on one of his shredded sleeves and ran the thin blade along the pale skin of his forearm until a small rivulet of blood swelled in the cut. As soon as it formed he held his arm in front of of the angel's nose. After months of attacks on them the angel had become conditioned to full alert at the slightest whiff of his charges blood.

First there was a frown, then their friends eyes snapped open and he was on his feet so fast both brothers had to jump back.

He was about to touch Dean on the forehead to angel port them to safety when Sam grabbed his arm before his fingers could reach their mark.

The angel stood wild eyed for a moment then, blinked and said simply, "Sam?"

Which earned him the widest grin Sam remembers smiling since that time he presented his brother with the rainbow colored slinky. "Yeah, Cas it's me. You're home, you're both home."

"Sammy?" Came Dean's shaky voice and his brother stepped closer. "Is zat really you?"

Sam's smile faltered a bit, he dropped the arm of the angel and moved toward his brother. He replied, "Dean..." it came out small... almost like a prayer.

Only then did the feral look go out of his brothers eyes and they softened to their familiar sparkle. The two men stepped into each other's arms and hugged so hard it nearly busted a few ribs.

"I didn't think I'd ever..." Sam huffed out as he bent over his brothers broad shoulders. Dean didn't have the same bulk that he'd had before, he was leaner, almost rangy and because of that Sam hugged him a little harder. The conditions must have been bad for his brother to have dropped so much muscle mass.

"I always knew you'd do it Sammy, I never lost hope" Dean breathed into his ear. The months of being on the run, never being able to rest and constant hunger caught up with the older hunter. And as the relief of being back on Tera Forma washed over him, Dean's legs got weak.

"Whoa, bro" Sam said as he felt the full weight of his brother lean into him. And that's when he noticed the smell. A strong pungent musk permeated his brothers tattered clothes. He grabbed a better hold and straightened up lifting Dean back to a standing position, "lets get you back to the motel and...get you...uh... cleaned up."

"What you are smelling likely saved your brothers life." provided the monotoned voice of their angelic friend. "It is the urine of a Quandrack." Cas explained. "They are exceptionally strong and voraciously hungry. Even the Alphas fear them."

Sam stepped away from the hug and moved over to the angel...sniffing as he approached. "You don't...you're not..."

Dean offered, "Smelly? Ah no, Cas's vessel regenerates itself if even a drop of rain gets on it so he's as spiffy as the day we got dragged in there."

Sam glanced at his brothers bedraggled condition and it pinched his heart.

The angel shrugged and said, "I collected the urine and camouflaged your brother's human scent with it every two weeks or so. The other denizens gave us a wide birth if they picked up our trail. For the most part it worked fine to avoid their contact."

Sam asked, "For the most part?"

Dean shot an angry glance at the angel.

Cas turned to Dean and explained, "It was a mistake to use urine from a female that one time."

Dean snapped back, "Who was in HEAT!"

Cas rebutted, "I was not familiar with the mating cycle of a species that only exists in a dimension closed off to angels since the beginning times."

"Well that "mistake" nearly cost this little hunting party of two- one hunter!" Dean rolled his eyes, "And just when I thought things couldn't get any worse being in purgatory." he shuddered.

Sam suppressed his smirk at the frightening image and patted Deans' shoulders saying, "Well, you're home now so lets get us all back to the motel and cleaned up and we'll...um...all feel better- ok?"

Dean nodded and was about to turn when he asked, "What are you drivin'?"

Sam shrugged and answered, "The car?"

"My baby?" Dean growled.

"Yeah, I kept it clean...didn't add any 'improvements'..." Sam placated.

Dean put up his hands and said, "Then no."

"Why the hell not?" Sam said in exasperation.

"I'm not gonna stink her up on my first..."

"Date ?" Sam supplied snidely.

Dean glared at him saying, "Laugh it up chuckle boy but I don't want my 'inconvenience' to sully her pristine interior!"

Sam put his arms up in the air and turned helplessly toward Cas.

The angel sighed and said, "I believe I have enough strength to get us both to the location of the motel if it is not too far."

"Fine!" Said Sam, "It's just the next town over, The Blue Bird Inn, room 247- around the back, second floor. I'll meet you there with some food."

"Mexican!" Said Dean, "God, I've missed real food... and Pie!"

Shaking his head, Sam huffed a laugh as Dean's smiling grin grew wider. But before Dean could say another word Cas reached out his hand and with a touch on his forehead, and a rustle of wings Cas and Dean were gone.

wWw

When Sam finally got back to the motel Dean was still in the shower. He found Cas sitting on the end of the one of the beds clicking through the channels of the TV. He was clicking by each one so fast Sam couldn't even make out any images.

Sam smirked as he put down the bags of food on the small table that defined the eating area and asked him, "What no porn?"

The angel frowned, "Is that all you Winchesters watch when you are not killing monsters?"

Sam sputtered, "Neo..not all the...we don't...some motels don't even have..."

The angel looked up at him and smiled.

"You were joking...then...right?" Sam asked shyly.

"Yes, I believe your brother would have said, " 'Gotcha!' at that moment."

Sam looked down and nodded, his dimples deep from the smile. "He would have and ...you did." Then he walked over to the angel and said, "Thanks Cas. Thanks for keeping m'brother alive all these months. I know it couldn't have been easy."

Cas stood up and replied, "You are welcome Sam." He returned Sam's smile saying, "It was not...but having him there with me made the time there tolerable because he gave me purpose."

"Not to mention adventure," Sam smiled back.

"I was hoping not to have to mention the adventure part." the angel dead panned.

Sam huffed a laugh, "now you know how I feel."

"He is a stubbornly brave man your brother." Cas revealed. "More times than I care to count he would put himself between myself and danger even though he knew I would be the one least hurt in the confrontation."

"Old habits die hard." Sam explained.

"Keeping him from doing just that was how I spent most of my time." Their friend sighed. "But now that he is back in your good hands I must take my leave."

"What? No!" Sam said, "You just got back!"

"Yes, and thank you Sam," replied the angel, "But if what I witnessed as I channel surfed your TV is any indication of what has been happening in your world then things have degraded even further since I left heaven and I must return to do what I can to make things right and face my punishment for what I did to cause it."

Sam lowered his voice lest his brother hear, "Cas...you could be killed!"

"It is a possibility, but staying away...running...letting you and you brother hide me would bring the inevitable down on your heads as well and I can't have spent all this time trying to keep the both of you alive just to have us all die in one fell smiting that is meant for me." The angel smiled sadly put his hand on Sam's shoulder and told him, "Tell Dean I'll return as soon as I can do so safely."

Sam couldn't speak very loudly, his throat was suddenly all choked up, "Yeah," he nodded, "Yeah..sure I'll do that."

There was a rustle of feathers and suddenly Sam was alone with the word, "Bye" still on his lips.

wWw

Sam turned toward the bathroom door and wondered how he would tell his brother that the angel who had constantly saved his life for all those months just left with out saying goodbye to him, when he noticed the dirty...and smelly pile of clothes on the floor with the note "burn these" sitting on top.

'Hmmm.' Sam thought. 'Maybe 'adventure' had been too kind a word.' But as he double bagged the offensive wear he noticed the blood stains around some of the larger rips and shuddered to think of the corresponding new scars Dean must have.

He was just about to go out the door to the motel dumpster when Dean came out of the bathroom clad only in a towel and followed by a cloud of steam that billowed after him.

Sam couldn't help but do a triple take at the sight.

His brother had taken the time to shave the beard off but his hair remained long. He couldn't ever remember seeing his brother with long hair. Dean had always worn his hair above his ears, 'high and tight', and now it was below his jawline... it made him seem edgier some how.

The second thing Sam noticed was how thin his brother had gotten. Dean's once plumped muscles had the lean look of a person whose life had been spent doing hard labor with little food.

And the third thing Sam noticed was that there were no scars. Sam glanced down at the bag he was holding and back at his brother. How could it be? Some of the blood stains had been huge indicating massive trauma, yet here he was before him, thin but whole.

As soon as Dean caught the scent of food he moved over to the bags on the table, bent his head low over them smiling his happiest grin and inhaled the delicious aromas. Then the smile faltered and Sam was shocked to see his brothers eyes brim with tears. Dean quickly wiped his eyes glancing nervously over to his brother of saying, "You don't know how much I missed being able to just eat!"

Sam assumed his brother's back woods training had been the only way he'd gotten to eat. That while over there he'd had to catch and prep everything before chowing down and said, "Missed drive thru's that much huh?"

"Missed food.' Dean said.

Sam's brows pinched together in confusion.

And Dean's his face clouded over again, "Everything I ate was somethin' I'd just killed coz it was trying to kill me first. Not that I had much appetite after..."

"Monsters? That was all there was?" Sam asked. Then his eyes grew wide as realization dawned and he swallowed deeply.

"I dunno," His brother answered. "At first I just torched the bodies," his face began to crumple again, "who knows if it kept them from coming back...then...I just got so hungry." Dean hung his head. "I tried not to think if it had been human before...But I just couldn't...then one time Cas just reached into the fire and grabbed out a hunk of meat and shoved it at me. Told me that I was die'in, that I had to eat or I'd be too weak to fight off the next one. Still... I never thought of them... as food."

Sam's eyes began to fill too, "They thought of you that way, they were monsters Dean...just monsters."

Dean looked up and blinked back the stupid tears that were forming again as he sadly smiled, "could've turned myself into a vegetarian..."

Sam sighed and said softly back, "Then you wouldn't have been you and I'd have to throw holy water on you to make sure it was."

"You would wouldn't ya?" Dean wiped at his eyes and a corner of his lip quirked up.

Sam drew himself up to his full height and said, "Damn straight, I learned from the best!"

"Atta boy." Dean said softly back then he added, "Dude bring me m'duffle so I can wear something that doesn't stink of monster whizz?" and then began to rummage through the bags.

"Yeah, sure," Sam said, still amazed at his brother's condition. He lifted up the bag of clothes and said, "Uh, I'm gonna toss these out first."

Dean nodded back at him with a mouthful of burrito.

Sam was about to turn to go when he looked back and asked, "Dean, I thought I'd have to do triage on you coz as I packed these up...they're...they're destroyed... but you're..." he gestured up and down at Dean.

"M' mer'fect," Dean mumbled around his food.

"Yeah." Sam agreed, "not a scratch."

Dean gulped down his mouthful and said, "There were plenty of 'scratches'... and bites we got hunted from the moment our feet hit the ground. But Cas always seemed to be able to angel-port us away before the fugleys could deliver the killing blow. Then once we gained some high ground he'd patch me up." Dean paused then added with sarcastic huff, "Couldn't do anything to patch up m'clothes," he flashed a quick smile, "Told me his vessel was an accountant's not a tailor's...hehe, but he kept me from havin' to walk around holding my guts in with m'hands more than once."

Dean took another bite and asked, " 'ere i' as?'

Sam stood for a moment like a deer in the head lights then answered, " he was watching some TV then said he had to leave. He told me he'd be back as soon as he could."

Dean frowned and swallowed asked, " You didn't let him watch porn did you?"

"What! No!" Sam sputtered." He was watching some TV and said he had to go and check back in heaven." And Sam waited for his brother to explode.

But Dean didn't. He chewed thoughtfully for a moment then said, "He talked about returning as soon as we got back. We'd be holed up somewheres, a cave or deep woods blind or even up in the trees if the branches were big enough to hold us while I slept, and we'd pass the time telling what'd be the first thing we'd do once we got back." Dean paused and frowned. "Cas always said he'd check in with heaven, like he had to...which I totally understand coz he really screwed the pooch what with the civil war and leviathan thing..." Sam watched his brother stare into space as his voice tailed off. Dean blinked the memories back and then cocked his head to one side, "Me, I always talked about what food I'd first eat." And he put the last bite of the burrito into his mouth and shrugged.

The side of Sam's mouth quirked up into a crooked smile, "Just food huh?"

Dean slid a sideways glance to his brother, "Well, I might have mentioned missing a chance to kick your sorry a** again in pool."

"Just food, me and pool?" Sam teased.

His older brother huffed, "You can't bring up the subject of women to a guy can't remember bein' laid!"

"Yer right," Sam said holding his hands up in mock defeat, "... that would be rude...so no mention of pie?" Sam asked.

"Of course there was PIE!" Dean snapped back. Then his face clouded again.

"He said he'd be back as soon as he could, Dean." Sam tried to offer.

Dean had moved on to the fries and nodded back, "I'm sure he will if he's able."

wWw

Sam came back into the room and dropped Dean's duffel on to the bed closest to the door then turned his own attention to the food while his brother changed. A few minutes later Dean came out of the bathroom in his first clean T shirt and sweats since his "unscheduled trip" and threw himself onto his bed announcing with a smile, "There is a world of difference between going commando because you have to and going because you want to."

"Did not need to know that." Sam snarked over his back as he piled food onto his own plate.

They sat up and watched more of nothing on TV. It was a great way for Dean to unwind, to get back some of the feeling of 'normal'- at least what passed for normal in their lives. But soon it was nearly morning; and after Sam had laid down all the salt lines his exhaustion finally caught up with him. "Hey," Sam mumbled, "I gotta crash, I'm beat."

"Sure, Sammy," Dean replied from his bed, a tired smile on his face, "you've had a busy day." Fact is, he couldn't stop smiling and even though his cheeks were starting to hurt just a little he was grateful for that pain.)

Sam pulled his clothes off and crawled into his bed by the bathroom door but when he reached for the pull chain to the light on the shared night stand Dean's hand moved fast to stop him. "Dude!" Sam jumped at the suddenness as his brother's hand clamped onto his.

Dean let his grip on his brother's hand relax then drop, "Lemme have the light on for a little while longer, I just spent months in the dark and it feels good to be able to see everything in the room ok?"

Sam tried to keep his face blank but his heart pinched again as he realized once again what a nightmare it must have been for Dean to have been surrounded by pitch dark all the time and to only have the sounds of prowling monsters to go by for directions of escape.

All The Better To Hunt With- Chapter 2

wWw

It was well past noon when Sam finally woke. Dean was still sleeping. Sam moved quietly as he ever did to slide the bedding off himself and make his way into the bath room with out waking Dean. But as soon as he pushed himself up from the bed the mattress squeaked and his brother was up like a shot and ready to fight.

Dean was squinting his eyes like he'd done last night in the flashlight beam only this time he was blinded because of the daylight in the room, even with the curtains drawn it was too bright for him.

"Dean! Dean! It's me Sammy...your home, man, you're ok..." Sam told the panicked man on the other bed.

He watched Dean shut his eyes tightly against the light and loudly sniff the air, once... twice, before his shoulders relaxed and then turned to face Sam on the bed, his eyes still closed, "Sammy? Where are we?" he asked.

Sam made a move to reach out to him but the bed squeaked and Dean pulled back. He stopped moving and said, "It's ok Dean, we're at the motel...remember? You're back."

"Yeah...yeah...I get that." Dean said, keeping his eyes closed, as he pulled himself up to rest his back against the head board of the bed. "It's too damn bright in here, can ya get my sunglasses from m'duffel and pass 'em to me?"

"Sure, no problem man." Said Sam as he retrieved the glasses and handed them over.

Dean put the shades on and sighed. "Soooo much better dude."

He heard Sam snicker.

"What?"

"You look like Tom Cruise did when he played that douche Rock Star last summer!" his younger brother teased.

Dean ran his fingers, like a comb, through the long hair on the top of his head then shook his hair out and said, "Rock Star huh?"

"Douche Rock Star" Sam corrected.

"Whatever," He smiled as he rolled himself out of the bed, "at least now we could pass for some of the guys we've had on our credit cards."

Sam played along. "I'm not knocking the new look...washed up musician is very in now."

"Yeah, enjoy it while it lasts Samantha," Dean said as he grabbed clothes out of his duffle for the shower, " there's only room for one girl in this family and getting a haircut is the first thing on my list after breakfast."

Smiling Sam shook his head then yelled at the closed bathroom door, "Hey, don't use up all my shampoo Deanna!"

wWw

When they were ready to head out to local diner Sam passed the keys over to Dean and watched soberly as his brother went over the Impala like a pilot giving his plane a flight inspection.

Dean checked the shine on his baby's sleek black body, opened the passengers side door and checked the dash for douchery like IPod jacks or CD players, he checked the glove compartment for GPS devices and found only the standard non-traceable maps. He was about to shut the compartment door when a glint of gold caught his eye he reached in and pulled out the amulet.

While Dean had been going over the car Sam had stood a few paces away, watched and waited. He'd expected Dean to go over the car with white gloves so he'd washed the necklace off with holy water and placed in the glove compartment for Dean to find during this black cord loosely wrapped around Dean's fingers as he held it up to the light. At first Dean had a look of surprise on his face and a beginning of a smile but then he sighed, closed his hand over it and hung his head.

"You thought it was worth nothing" Sam said, "but with out it I never would have gotten you back."

Dean's brows pinched together and he asked, "You found God?" Because the amulet was supposed to detect Divine presence and it hadn't done that when Cas had needed it to.

"Not exactly," Sam smirked, " It's power found you...and Cas and it was strong enough to reach into purgatory and draw you both back to it."

Dean opened up his hand and looked down at the ugly little gold charm that he'd worn around his neck for years. "But I don't have 'divine presence', Cas maybe but not me!"

"I dunno Dean," Sam shrugged, "you are a vessel for Michael, Cas is an angel and you both did act on God's behalf to stop the apocalypse. Even I wore it when..." and Sam looked down, "when you were ...gone." His voice grew softer as he added, " and as a vessel I did my bit to stop the apocalypse too."

"But it didn't "glow" when either of us had it on" Dean insisted.

"I don't think it was supposed to." Sam explained "At least not literally, the spell I worked to get you back spoke of Divine light, like it was some beacon that recognized every soul that had worn it. It's power bonded the wearer to it and it could seek them out, draw them to it."

Dean looked back down at the amulet. "It GPS'ed me. Huh."

"Yeah, I guess it did." Sam nodded.

"You gave it to me as a protection charm." said Dean.

"Back then I wanted more than anything for you to just come home after every hunt." Sam replied. "I believed it would keep you safe."

Dean chuckled, "It would've needed to be a lot bigger," he smiled and opened up his arms wide, "like shield size." Sam laughed and then Dean joined him both of them knowing how true that was!

Sam then bit his lip and took the amulet out of his brothers hand and draped it over Dean's head saying, "It might not be able to protect you or find God but at least it will keep you coming home..."

Dean looked at his brother whose eyes were beginning to fill and looked down again at the charm around his neck, touching it he looked back up to his little brother and with a hitch in his own voice told him, "Thanks Sammy I promise I won't throw it away again."

"Better not," smiled Sam or I swear to God I'll put a tracking chip in your a**."

Dean's eyes widened then he glared at his little brother hissing "You wouldn't..."

Sam laughed out loud and quickly slipped into the passengers side, closed the door and yelled through the glass, "Thought you were hungry?"

Dean went around the car to the drivers side muttering about 'no respect for elders' and when he slid into the drivers seat told Sam, "Just for that I'm ordering extra onions on everything...including my pancakes!"

wWw

When they entered the diner, nobody noticed Dean for wearing his sunglasses indoors, it was just finishing the lunchtime rush and that left some booths available. Sam scoped out the seating while Dean sniffed in all the delicious aromas. Sam gave his brother a little pat on the shoulder and nodded to their left at an empty booth and they started in that direction.

Suddenly Dean froze and sniffed the air again. He grabbed Sam's jacket and looked over to a guy at the far end of the counter just finishing his lunch.

Sam worriedly looked around but could see no danger. He whispered to Dean, "What is it?"

"They're here Sammy, that guy is a Chomper." And Dean eased himself between the counter and his brother as they walked by.

When they sat down in the booth Dean whispered, "I can smell 'em" they smell like...where I was, I think it's only one though."

"I didn't smell anything," Said Sam looking around.

"I never could before," His brother said, "but I'll never forget that smell it's like swamp water and rotted trees everything stank of it over there."

"Huh," mused Sam.

They watched as the man paid his bill and followed his gaze as he eyed a woman who'd just gotten up to leave. They knew a predators behavior when they saw it. Sure enough the woman had barely closed the door of the diner behind her when the man got up and followed her out. The brothers looked at each other and Dean nodded. Then they eased up out of the booth and casually strolled out too.

The Diner was on a main drag but had an alley that ran behind it, with all the street noise it was hard to hear but Dean picked up the sound of running footsteps and dashed down the narrow way with Sam right behind him.

That's when they both heard the woman scream.

It came from a blind corner in the alley and as they rounded the bend they interrupted the Chomper grasping the struggling woman by the arms as he was about to bite off her head. The creature turned to them and said, "Oh, good a main course after this appetizer."

Dean grabbed a loose plank from a busted pallet and plunged the pointed broken end into the creatures ribs with the full force of a body lunge. It was enough to make the Chomper loose his grip on the woman who broke free and ran screaming back up the alley. The enraged creature reached around with one hand and pulled the plank from his side then rounded on Dean who dodged the first grab the leviathan made for him.

As Dean dodged Sam pulled a long blade out from under his coat and deftly swung the blade of the sword through it's neck cleaving the head from it's body in one smooth arc. The head bounced one way and the body slumped to the ground from where it stood.

Both brothers panted and looked across it to each other in the sudden silence.

Dean licked his lips and smiled at his brother, "Damn, you've gotten good with a short sword Sammy!"

The pallet plank Dean had thrust into the guys chest would have killed a normal man but was only a distraction for a leviathan. "And your pretty good with...uh...pine" Sam observed dryly.

"Nah, I was just setting 'im up for you to hit 'im outta the park Bro." Dean panted.

"So," Sam asked as he picked up a rag and cleaned his blade, "Breakfast?"

"Don't we havta pack up the head and dump the body else where?" asked Dean.

"Nope, not anymore," Sam said adding, "Watch."

As Dean looked on, the head and body of the leviathan began to bubble into a pool of black goo that melted back into the ground. Dean's eyebrows went up and his mouth formed a little "O" in amazement.

"Ever since you iced Dick killing the rest of them has been permanent." Sam explained. "You still have to chop off their heads but they die the first time and..." he gestured to the bare ground, "There's no clean up."

"Well, whadda know?" Dean said softly.

"Let's get back to the diner," Sam said as he cleaned and holstered the sword back under his jacket, "I want to hear more about this heightened sense of smell you have."

wWw

They walked back into the eating establishment and Dean felt that he was riding on a surreal high. He and Sam had just successfully killed the un-killable and now it was Miller Time! He looked around and all the other patrons in the place were just going about their regular lives, eating their lunches, discussing business or shopping plans completely oblivious to the deadly threat that had sat amongst them just a few minutes ago. Dean stole a glance at his brother as they made their way back toward the booth, 'Even Sammy hadn't known' and that thought chilled Dean to the bone coz it could just have easily been his little brother that the monster had tried to cull from the herd.

As if his brother was reading his mind the first thing Sam said when they sat down again was, "Dean, every spare minute I wasn't researching for a way to get you back I was a full time Bigmouth exterminator."

"And it shows!" Dean said smiling proudly back at him.

Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head then continued, "I learned more about their hunting habits and tactical approaches to killing them in the months I was alone than the whole year we first learned about their existence. But I never came across any literature that said they gave off a signature 'smell'.

Dean shrugged and looked at him with raised brows, "I dunno what to tell ya...they do... and I can smell 'em."

The waitress came by and took their orders and as soon as she was out of ear shot Sam said, "Do you think it has anything to do with having been over there? A kind of sensitizing to their natural habitat?"

"Natural habi-wha? Dean blinked.

Sam huffed in frustration, "Their place of origin." he explained.

Dean frowned as he considered the thought, "So, you're saying that they carry the stink of purgatory with them because it is a part of them?"

"Simply put...yeah." Sam agreed. "I wonder if all of Eve's children have a similar scent?"

"Thank god I didn't run into that bitch while I was there," Dean shuddered, "One dose of 'Khan Worm' is enough to last a man a lifetime!"

Sam picked up his coffee and raised it as if to toast in agreement, Dean lifted his and they gently clinked the rims of the cups together, then took a sip.

The waitress delivered their food and both brothers began to eat in contemplative silence. Each thinking it was good to have saved the woman's life and both pondering on what the circumstances of the hunts success meant.

wWw

When they got back to the car Dean looked in the mirror, he studied his new appearance, the dark glasses and longer hair would have made anyone who'd known him pass him on the street without a second glance. "Hmmmm." he muttered.

"What?" Sam asked.

"Nothin', Dean answered as he turned the car on and pulled out of the parking spot, "just look so different."

"So, want me to look out for any passing barber shops?" Sam asked suppressing a grin.

"First lets pack up and put some distance between us and the portal to monster land." Dean stated.

Sam shrugged and said, "Sure, we're in no rush, I don't even have a new hunt for us."

"Good," Dean said patting the dash, " be nice to do lot of nuthin' and put some miles on my baby."

wWw

They had gone about 300 miles north east when they pulled into sea port town with plenty of tourist stops and motels to chose from.

Sam had been googling motel offerings on the road when he came up with one called Picture Lake Motel. It was centrally located to down town and within 'Easy Walking Distance' to the Standish Diner-famous for it's Pies!" That was all Dean had to hear.

However, when they pulled in to register they found out that there was no lake- you had to picture it, the pool was closed for repairs but the rent had been lowered because of the 'inconvenience' so they took it. They paid for a week and planned to lay low and take it easy.

"Man," Dean said as he stepped inside the room and saw the theme of the decor, "Somebody sure likes seagulls!" He tossed his keys onto the night stand, put his duffle onto the bed and started to do a mental count of the number of sea birds painted on the walls, printed on the curtains and proudly displayed on the lampshades.

Sam moved past him to drop his own duffle down onto the floor and poked his head into the bathroom, then shouted back "You should see the shower curtain, it's goin' to feel like you're in the movie "The Birds" when you take a shower " and grabbing one of the clean towels he tossed it to Dean. It had a seagull embroidered onto it and it's expression looked angry.

"That's just creepy" frowned Dean. To which Sam grinned.

After settling in they took the short walk ( as promised) to the Standish Diner. The food was as close to homemade as the boys could hope for and the pies were so plentiful that Dean had one slice of peach and a slice of rhubarb for desert. He proceeded to tell Sam around a cheek full of pie, "I figure if I have two slices a day I'll get to have each type they serve by the weeks end!" Sam shook his head, passed him a napkin and rolled his eyes. He had to admit it felt good to see Dean happy again. And he marveled with gratitude and not for the first time, that it was always the simplest things that made Dean happy.

It was getting to be dark on their walk back to the motel. Sam thought it might be nice to check out the pier nearby and Dean found that once the sun began to set he could take his dark glasses off and see comfortably.

As they walked past a small park Dean heard munching sounds and movement in the bushes. He grabbed Sam's coat with his hand and put his finger to his lips, they stopped walking and listened. There was a tense moment and then a rabbit hopped out from under cover and dashed down a hole nearby.

Sam looked at Dean incredulously, "Tell me you didn't hear that?"

For a moment Dean looked like he might be embarrassed then he swaggered a bit and said, "I was paying attention to my surroundings...unlike you touristas!"

Sam raised an eyebrow at him.

"Ok, I just saw the movement from the corner of my eye is all." Dean fibbed.

Sam huffed and as they continued their walk he fell into thought, 'Still it was a pretty small animal and Dean had practically been on point, like some kind of hunting dog.'

He'd been watching Dean closely since he'd gotten him back and filed this episode away as another reason to do a little more research.

Sam knew full well that there were no precedents for most of the crap that there lives took them through, no psychological protocol for 'getting over' being in hell or coming back from purgatory. He knew first hand that the only way he'd been able to hold it together after 'the wall' fell was through the efforts of his brother. But Dean had had the unique perspective of being the only other man to have gone to hell and back, so he knew what to look for through his own experience and knew what would sooth the stress and nightmares the best.

But Sam was clueless about purgatory. His brother seemed to have some lingering side effects like the bright light aversion and more acute hearing and sense of smell but Sam thought, 'couldn't all of that be because of the sight deprivation he'd experienced over there? When one sense is lost the others kick in to compensate?' Finding no ring of truth with that logic Sam searched his gut, 'Or was there more to it than that?'

When they got back to the motel Dean opted to hit the sack early and Sam took that opportunity to search their online library. It was Bobby's last gift to them, he'd compiled and downloaded most of his arcane books. And now they had a portable research center at the touch of a finger.

Sam had been at it for hours and was about to quit until tomorrow when he ran across a rare treatise from the middle ages about a town so over run with werewolves it was considered to have had a "Curse of Purgatory." He read about how an isolated monastery whose monks, desperate to banish the evil from there midst, practiced a rite that they said allowed them to discern those afflicted with licanthropy. They did so by taking the curse upon themselves. What they did was once they found a wolf that was said to be a shapeshifter they killed the wolf and then ate of it's flesh and that gave them a heightened sense of smell so that they could find others equally cursed and thus rid the scourge from the villages. Once all the werewolves were caught and killed the monks stopped the rite themselves lest their own souls be in danger of becoming more beast than man and doomed to purgatory forever.

Sam's eyes widened. Could that be it? Was that it? Was it what Dean had been forced to eat that was causing the symptoms he was going through? Then he sighed and thought morbidly, "Well, they say you are what you eat." Sam quietly closed the laptops lid and frowned as he looked over at his sleeping brother. Those thoughts turing over in his head as he slipped into a fitful sleep.

wWw

The next morning Sam as usual was the first one up. He tip toed around the room, trying to be as quiet as he could lest he wake his brother up since Dean had become such a light sleeper. But he was able to get in the shower, get dressed and get out the door to go to the coffee shop nearby with out Dean doing more than stir once or twice.

When he came back he thought for sure the sound of turning the key in the lock would be enough to wake him, since his hearing had been so sensitive but he found Dean in the same position, stretched out on his stomach, arm under the pillow as he'd been when he'd left.

So he tested a theory and closed the door with a little extra force-'THUNK'

Dean instantly went rigid, rolled out of the bed and to his feet, eyes wild and clutching the Bowie knife as he faced the offending sound.

"Dude!" Sam said with raised hands, "Just making a coffee run." then smiling he lowered the hand holding the cup and offered the coffee to his brother.

"Jeez!" Dean said lowering the knife and grabbing the cup, "Don't sneak up on me like that...I thought...for a minute...I was back..."

Sam felt a pang in his heart, the test had been a bit cruel, like making a paper bag pop behind a Vet who'd just returned from war but it showed him that his brother's reflexes where back to normal, not crazy sharp like they'd been a few days ago.

"Sorry," he told Dean. "But it's good to see you're getting back to your old self."

"Whadda ya mean by that?" Dean said as he put the knife back under the pillow and sat down on the bed.

Sam crossed the room to pick up his laptop and opened it up. "I mean you've been real jumpy since you got back. Understandably..." he added. "But a few days ago you wouldn't have been able to see in daylight with out your sunglasses on, you 'SMELLED' a Chomper,tracked him like a blood hound so we could make the kill. And last night you could hear a rabbit munching grass!"

Dean sipped his coffee. "So what are you saying Sam?" a little heat entering his voice, " I'm not normal?"

"No..yes...I mean not really ab-normal..." Sam tried to placate, "just Super-normal."

and he hit bookmark to the page about the monks.

"Be honest, you know you've haven't been feeling like yourself, the light, the sense of smell and the hearing...I was doing some research last night and I think I know what it is...was.

Dean lowered the cup and leaned forward to read the page Sam brought up on the computer screen.

He scowled and looked up to his brother, "Whaddaya sayin' Sam that I'm cursed?"

"No...no...not exactly." Sam rushed to say as he turned the computer around so he could read it. "But this lore about the monks states that after they ate the cursed wolves flesh they had those traits too."

Dean's face began to turn green and he put the cup down. "What I...ate?"

Sam thought for a moment that Dean looked like he was getting woozy but then the older Winchester gripped the bed. "Are you sayin' because I ate monster meat I became like one of them?"

"Yes, er...no...not exactly," Sam stammered, the monks needed it to help them locate those people that had already been turned to beasts."

"But they ate a wolf..."

"Right."

Dean's complexion got greener as his voice got louder, "What I ate had been people once... are you tellin' me I was some kinda cannibal?" He seemed like he was about to launch himself off the bed to dash to the bath room when Sam put up his hands and firmly stated, "NO,I'm not saying THAT Dean. What you had to eat was the only food around and it was... it was the beasts that lived there. They were monsters Dean. What they might have been when alive is anyone's guess but in purgatory they were monsters. ok?"

That still didn't look like it settled too well with his older brother but at least Dean stayed on the bed. Sam watched him put his head down and lick his lips in that way he does when he's nervous. The younger Winchester was always proud of how quickly his older brother could process a turn of events. And news like this had no precedent for how to process it.

"Look, the lore also said that as soon as the monks stopped eating the flesh of the cursed they went back to being..."

Dean turned his head up to one side and glared at him, "Normal?" he ground out between clenched teeth.

Sam sighed. Then took a breath, "Yes. You've already got the proof of that happening."

"Whaddaya mean proof?" Dean asked.

"Well, just this morning when I got up you didn't wake. I was as quiet as I could be but you didn't stir like you did a few days ago, even though I took a shower, got dressed...even left the room and none of that woke you."

Dean kept scowling but quirked up one eyebrow.

"And look at you!" Sam added, "you're not squinting, you can see me perfectly with out wearing the shades."

Dean glanced over to the drawn curtains then got up off the bed and drew one back. The light from the sun hit him full in the face but he barely winced. He let the curtain fall back and turned to his brother, "So it's out of my system?"

"Appears so." Sam answered.

"So no more being able to smell what we hunt?"

Sam shrugged, "Nope, we'll just have to depend on research and stake outs as usual."

Dean went back to the bed and grabbed his coffee from the nightstand and said, "Well as much fun as that was it's good to be back...all the way back." And then added "I don't ever want to question the food I eat again!"

Sam smiled at that.

All The Better To Hunt With- Chapter 3

wWw

They had been regulars at the diner so Dean could finish his quest of eating every pie they offered and it had been great not to have to bolt the food down just to get back on the road again. They were even considering staying a little longer when they got a call from a hunting acquaintance that changed their plans.

Sam's phone rang as they walked back to the motel and he picked up and froze, "What? Lucius slow down!" Sam yelled back into the phone.

Dean knew this guy and Lucius didn't panic easily. "What?" Dean mouthed to Sam.

"Ok...ok...so you're sure? How many do ya think?" Sam's face showed fear and he blew out a long whistle. "ok, send me the stuff you got and the co ordinates. Yeah, bye"

Sam clicked the phone closed and turned to Dean. "Remember those Shape shifters that had a plan to turn on their families and change them all overnight?"

"Yeah." said Dean, "I thought we stopped that one."

"Well, apparently it's back on." answered Sam. "Come on we gotta head out, it's going to go down in four days and we've gotta get to Cincinnati."

"Why Cinci?" asked Dean as they picked up their pace.

"The shifters want to have the first wave get on flights and go to other key cities" Sam began, "make it look like they're visiting families and that way they can spread..."

"Just like a bird flu epidemic." finished the older Winchester.

wWw

Sam dashed about the room stuffing clothes into his duffle and packing everything he could see as quickly as possible until he noticed his brothers pace slow down.

"What are you forgetting?" Sam asked of him.

"Nothin' " his brother answered while seeming to still be distracted.

"Well, come on." Sam nodded to Dean's open duffle, "we've gotta meet Lucius in few hours, hurry up and finish packing would ya?"

Dean glanced back at him and nodded back, "Sure." as he picked up his pace.

The ride in the Impala should have been noisier but with so much on their minds both boys traveled in silence preferring to let the music fill in the quiet between them. They were a few hours out of their rendezvous place when Dean turned the music down.

Sam immediately looked over to him. "What?"

Quietly Dean said, "Sammy I've been thinking"

Sam thought, 'never a good opening line from M'brother.' but said, "Yeah?"

"This is a big deal, if we're gonna stop this thing we've gotta hit 'em hard and fast, they can't know what's commin' "

Sam's brow wrinkled and he said, "Obvious much?"

Dean sighed, then added, "It's going to take too long even with the intel Lucius gave us to do stake outs to figure out who all the Shapeshifters are, let alone who their leader is."

"It's always worked before, " Sam countered.

"We had more time last time." Dean rebutted.

"So what other options do we have?" Sam asked.

Dean paused and stared down the long open road before them. "It would save us a lot of time if we hunted down one before we got there...and I got prepared."

"What do you mean Dean?" Sam asked with dread.

"I could always dose up on the 'curse' get my senses up to Spidey level and sniff 'em out as soon as we landed at ground zero." his brother explained.

Sam's eyes widened and he immediately turned himself to face the the road too. He swallowed once, then twice to try and loosen the tightness in his throat. He couldn't, wouldn't let Dean do this to himself. "Dean, no." he whispered out.

Dean put the blinker on and pulled the car slowly to the side of the road. As the car was coming to a stop Sam whipped his head around and nearly yelled, "Forget it Dean!"

Dean's voice was much calmer, "You said yourself that the effects were temporary..." he started.

"Those texts were hundreds of years old!" Sam argued. "There's no records to look up if there were any further side effects...physical or..." he let the religious implications linger, unspoken between them.

"Those monks would have splashed the gory details all through their religious texts if the "curse'd gone wrong coz that kinda sh*t was their tabloids and they loved to scare the bejeezus out of the locals with that crap." Dean countered.

"Records can get lost." Sam rebutted. "besides we'd have to find and kill a shifter in order for you to..."

"Have monster bar-B-que." Dean added.

"Dean, please" Sam begged, "they were the spirits of monsters where you were, they were monsters all of them, but here...it'd turn back...it'd be..."

"I know Sam," Dean said softly, "It'd be human."

wWw

The argument wasn't over...not by a long shot. Dean sighed and turned the car back on to the road and they continued on in the night. They were nearly at the exit when a dark shape jumped the guard rail and dashed across the road in front of them. Dean hit the brakes and swerved the car to miss it.

But it was like every accident you see in your nightmares every moment seemed to slow down. Dean was aware of Sam putting his arms out to brace himself against the dashboard. He felt as if he were standing up on the brakes, putting his whole body weight onto the peddle to stop his baby right. the. f*uck. now!

And he saw all so clearly the image in the headlights of a brown furred beast impossibly large for a dog as it made it's flight before the bumper. And the look in it's eyes as it saw the car close in was unmistakably intelligent. It knew it wasn't gonna make it but it was driven by instinct to try.

And then the "THUD-THUD."

A piercing howl filled the air, followed by the squeal of the brakes and smell of burnt tires the car finally stopped and suddenly time snapped back to real life speed as the brothers looked at each other.

Shakily Dean restarted the car, slowly drove to the side of the road and said, "Was that?..."

Sam took a breath and answered, "I dunno, we'd better check." And they both got out to see what kind of animal they'd just hit."

There in the road lay the body of a large dog. As the boys approached it seemed to shimmer in and out of shape until they got right up to it and watched in morbid fascination as it changed into a middle aged woman.

Suddenly in the distance an agonized howl filled the night air. The hairs on both Sam and Dean's body rose up and they understood that the cry was from this shifters mate.

It wasn't safe for them to be there. They had to salt and burn the body fast before the others in the pack found them.

Dean looked up from the corpse and said, "You know what we have to do..."

Sam looked from the body to Dean and nodded.

wWw

As the pyre's flames died down Dean plunged his knife into the carcass of the former beast carved off a hunk of flesh and let it drop onto the paper plate he held in his other hand.

He swallowed hard shook his head once to try to keep the 'I'd really rather not do this!' expression out of his eyes as he stared at the steaming flesh on his plate. The look was not lost on Sam as he stood stoically nearby.

Then with sigh and a frown of disgust Dean cut a slice off and placed it into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed and cut off another slice placing it in his mouth, it only took a few minutes when he began to gag involuntarily, dropped the plate and everything came back up along with his lunch.

Sam watched with tears in his eyes. It killed him to see how hard this was for his brother. To know Dean had done this with every bite back in purgatory and now he was reliving the worst part of his nightmare again here. "Dean," he said, "just stop...you don't have to do this."

Dean finished dry heaving and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. He glared back up into Sam's eyes. "I do Sammy." he said firmly, "There's kids involved, families, I have to or it will be a blood bath if I don't give 150%." His voice then softened so that Sam could hear the plea for understanding in it, "Doncha see?" Then his eyes began to fill. He coughed to clear his voice then told Sam, "fetch me the whiskey."

Sam got their bottle out of the car and Dean took a huge gulp. He nearly heaved that back up again too. But after closing his eyes and taking some deep breaths he brought the bottle back up to his lips and let a smaller amount of the amber fluid drain down his throat. Then he sighed and picked up his Bowie knife once more and cut off another hunk of meat. This time he took smaller bites and followed each one with a slug of whisky.

As he swallowed another bite and looked at Sam's tear stained face he tipped the bottle up for another shot and said, "S'ok, Sammy I understand that this is how the Scot's choke down 'Haggis' their national dish. And offered him a weak smile.

Sam could't stop the stream of tears but nodded back so Dean would know he understood that it was supposed to be funny.

It didn't take much before Dean began to notice the effects. And he waved the bottle off that Sam offered him again. "I think I'm good." he said.

They stayed only long enough for the coals to turn black then they buried area, said some words over the grave and headed on to their meet up at the rendezvous site.

All The Better To Hunt With- Chapter 4

wWw

They were surprised to see how many hunters Lucius had gathered up. And when introductions were going around Dean got a whiff of something familiar from one of men.

He pulled Lucius aside and asked him, "How well do you know that guy Johnson?"

"Uh, he's new, " joined up shortly after I began to recruit for this big job.

"Well, I don't mean to cast aspersions on your friends but I got a bad vibe offa him."

Lucius shot a glance over to the man standing around Sam and back to Dean. "If you don't think we can trust him I'll go tell him to sit this one out." And started to move but Dean put his hand on his shoulder saying, "Don't, it'll just spook him."

Dean looked over at the group of men and then said quietly to Lucius, "We got a little more intel on our way over," leaving out how they knew, "and learned that hunters groups were being infiltrated."

"Jeeze!" exclaimed Lucius and raked his hand through his hair, "how we gonna be able to know who to trust?"

"Tell you what," Dean said, "you have him come with me and Sammy and we'll go ahead and scout the area, that way if he pulls anything hinky we'll know and you won't have to worry about the rest of the team being compromised."

"Good plan," the hunter agreed, "you keep me informed with anything you see-alright?" He assigned them their area to patrol and turned to give out the others their assignments.

"Copy that." Dean acknowledged. "Hey Sammy!" Dean waved at his brother, "It's you me and Johnson tracking the west zone. Lets move out!"

Sam nodded at Johnson and the three men headed toward the western suburbs.

As soon as they were out of ear shot and eyesight of the others Dean rounded on Johnson and took him down to the ground in a wresting hold.

"What the F*ck!" yelled the man squirming beneath the older Winchester.

Dean pulled the guys arm back at an odd angle just enough for the man to cry out and said menacingly into his ear, "I know what you are." The man went still. Then said in a shaky voice, "I...uh...I don't know what you're talking about man, I'm a hunter just like you!"

Sam stood over the two men on the ground with his gun trained on Johnson and told him, "You've never met a hunter like him before." And Johnson turned his head as much as he could to see Dean.

"No, and I've met some crazy *ssed hunters before too," he ground out, "but you two are certifiable!"

Dean pulled the arm he was holding a little tighter and Johnson froze, "So tell me 'Mr. Johnson' who let the dogs out?"

Sam added, "coz we think you know them personally."

Johnson stayed still but continued to argue, "I don't know any dogs, I'm just here to hunt shifters, man!"

Then Dean surprised both Sam and the man he was holding by emitting a low threatening growl in the mans ear.

Johnson whined like a cornered cur and Sam's eyes widened at the unnatural sounds coming from both the man and his brother.

When Dean spoke again his low voice barely balanced on a growl, "Tell me Johnson, who's your pack leader in this operation?"

"Who are you?" the frightened man whined in Deans grasp.

"Consider me your reaper!" Dean snarled. And even as he was getting closer to breaking the will of the man on the ground he was also freaking the hell out of his brother.

"Don't!" Johnson begged as he tried to curl in on himself under the older Winchesters weight, "I give!, I give! The pack leader is in this zone, 232 Chestnut Ave., I was supposed to lure you to the house and we'd turn you or take you out."

"Good boy." Dean said as he loosed his grip on the mans' arm then with deadly precision snapped the mans neck. The body's shape began to change as Dean scrambled to get off and the boys stood looking down in amazement at a total stranger that now lay on the ground. Dean moved first and started to take the man's jacket off and pulled it over his shirt, "Sam, swap shirts with him."

Sam balked at the desecration but Dean explained, "Look they're gonna smell the salt and the lighter fluid that our clothes reek of. If I can smell it you can bet they can. And because of that they're able to track all of the other hunters every move so we gotta use some camouflage if we wanna get close." Sam frowned but saw the cunning of that ploy and nodded in agreement. They swapped out the clothes and hid the body then moved on toward the leaders house. Dean taking point and sniffing the air.

They hadn't gone far when they noticed their first dog. It was a golden retriever tied to a run in the back yard of the home as they were crept by. The dog went crazy, barking and pulling on his leash. Sam started to bring up his gun but Dean put his hand out and pushed the muzzle down. He whispered, "It's just a dog." And they silently crept past.

They hadn't gone far when they saw the next animal... it was like no dog breed that ever existed. It was tall like a wolf hound but rangy like a grey hound and it noticed something was up at the same time they spotted it.

Dean silently gestured for Sam to flank it and the younger man dropped back to circle around behind the beast. And Beast was the only way to describe it. As Dean watched the animal began to change, teeth becoming fangs and claws becoming talons. But the most chilling thing was the unmistakeable glint of intelligence in it's eyes.

Dean moved slowly behind a tall screen of bushes that separated him from the shifter. From that vantage point he could see the creature looked to be torn by the two sets of scents in the air. It looked over to where Sam was moving and then sniffed the air in Dean's direction. Dean purposefully stepped on a dry branch on the ground to draw it's attention from Sam. And it took the bait, in two great bounds it reached the older hunter snarling its deadly intentions.

There was a muffled shot from behind it and the beast wailed once and dropped only a foot away from Dean.

The body shimmered and returned to that of tall thin man who Sam and Dean then rolled into the bushes.

"Do you think that was the pack leader?" Sam asked as he kicked leaf litter over the body to conceal it.

"No, that was just a scout," Dean answered. "He didn't smell like a leader. He's probably sent out a number of scouts to test our numbers and to thin us out. Let's keep movin' toward the leaders house."

All the Better to Hunt with -Chapter 5

wWw

Some background:

As Dean and Sam made their way toward Chestnut Ave, Lucius's men were encountering more of the mutant shifter scouts of their own. The men had fanned out armed with rifles and handguns all filled with silver bullets and equipped with silencers. As they put down the shifters they encountered, other hunters went around to collect and dispose of the bodies. It was a well organized operation of hunters brought in from around the country all working together.

It used to be that most hunters never knew many others, it was a tight lipped, closed community. Word would get around that certain run down booze joints would actually be secret watering holes for hunters to swap tales and gather intel but most never knew how many more like them were out there.

The Leviathans changed that.

The systematic killing spree they launched against all hunters at first decimated the hunting community. There were so few left it seemed as if they had been all but wiped out. But hunters are a tricky lot, highly skilled in subterfuge and keeping a low profile. All the Leviathans succeeded in doing was to drive them further underground and force them to close ranks and get organized. It could be said that if it were not for the Leviathans hunters would not have turned themselves into the 'Special Ops' elite fighting force that they are today.

As a result, the days were fast disappearing of solitary hunters spread thin over vast sections of the world. More and more there were secretly located dispatch units that co-ordinated hunts. They saved time, they maximized the kill ratio and it protected hunters lives. Loosely using the FBI and CIA as a model; Research hunters, fashioned after Bobby Singer, acted as operatives who kept their eyes open. If they suspected someTHING was harming the locals they supplied fresh intel to their district chief who contacted dispatch to send in available 'active' hunters. By rotating skilled hunters out into the field as partnered teams it meant that no one man had to do his own research and watch his own back. And it increased the odds that one or better yet both would survive to hunt again.

In the real world there never had been many hunters to begin with because it takes a long time to learn all the skills to be a good hunter. Since no boot camp was ever organized experience had been most hunters teacher. And experience doesn't grade on the curve, it's pass =you live. Or fail =you don't. And unfortunately all hunters eventually fail. And those losses leave a gap that takes a long time for another hunter to fill. By maximizing the talents of hunters still out there the few that remained were able to fill those gaps until their ranks could expand. At least that was the protocol they used now.

B.L.- Before Leviathans any attempts to diffuse a major threat to human life like this plan the Shape shifters put together would have been impossible with just a handful of men and little or no intel. Todays new hunting approach had Lucius's men meet the enemy with a surgical strike worthy of any black ops. It had to. And as usual all while the civilians around them slept and the world moved forward unawares.

However the advantages this new approach to hunting brought with it special dangers to hunters that had any kind of secrets to hide. Sam knew full well what a little underground gossip amongst hunters could do to make their lives more dangerous, like, when he was trying to quit his demon blood addiction and one hunter thought it was better for Sam to stay drinking the foul stuff. And then there was the situation with Roy and Walt. Neither Winchester wanted to have to explain why after Walt had shot both of them at point blank range they had still been able to check out of that motel room later.

'Lets face it', Sam reasoned, "all hunters, at some time in their life of dealing with the supernatural had found themselves in a situation where in order to survive and get the job done, they needed to blur those lines of civil morality.' Whether it was performing a black rite to get intel from a demon or baiting a trap with not so willing bait to catch a monster, most hunters lives were full of compromising situations. 'But,' thought Sam, 'the Winchester family had had more than their share.'

Consequently, Sam and Dean had been making it a habit to keep a low profile amongst other hunters. And although Sam'd agreed to Lucius they'd pitch in when they could he knew all too well that if any of them got wind of Dean's most recent 'acquired skills' it would put his brother's life at risk because he'd appear to be, in the other hunter's eyes, something that should be hunted as well.

All the Better to Hunt With -Chapter 6

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Suddenly, Dean silently gestured for them to halt. His heart had begun to beat faster as he smelled and heard an approaching threat. Sam stopped in his tracks, holding his breath until he got the signal to move forward.

Dean stood just a few feet in front of him and in the dim light of the moon Sam could see his brother's head tilted back as he sniffed the air. Dean turned to face him and Sam could see alarm in his brother's eyes.

He gestured 'fall back!' and they ducked into the nearest alley. Seconds later a pack of the mutant scouts rounded the block and the boys had to find cover fast. They hid behind some large crates and an open dumpster. As the dogs moved by one of them morphed back into human form and commented, "We meet the others and then finish this sweep to keep 'em distracted while the Boss leaves town. Remember it's turn or take out. No one get's out human ya hear me!" And then he morphed back and joined the pack of scouts as they made their way to where they would meet up with the others.

Dean quietly crept out from cover and eased himself to the edge of the ally, every one of his sense on high alert. He listened for a minute and then sniffed the air. Sam kept a close eye on his brother for any further sign of alarm but when Dean's shoulders dropped from their tense position he relaxed a little himself, knowing the immediate danger had passed.

The older Winchester spun around and started to look over their cover area, tipping crates up to read them and then began to rummage through the dumpster. "What are you looking for Dean?" Sam asked.

" For anything that could be used as a weapon to take out the bunch of them before they spread out." He replied. "Hey, there's a lot of broken booze bottles here."

"It's a war zone Dean, there's going to be casualties." Sam answered with a smirk.

"Shut up!" groused Dean.

"Hey, what if?" Sam held up one of the empty bottles and mimicked throwing it as a grenade.

Dean face broke into a grim smile.

The alley they were in was between an office supply store and a Bar. Dean broke into the bar and Sam broke into the store, the first thing the younger Winchester grabbed was a back pack. They each quickly gathered the supplies they needed and then scrambled up the fire escape to the roof. Sam hunkered down and assembled the homemade incendiaries while Dean made his way along the roof tops to pick up the trail of the pack of shifters.

To Dean every whisper of the wind carried an image on it. "More of them...there are more of them" the message seemed to say. He peeked over the edge of a roof top and watched as small groups of shifters moved like migrating birds all heading in one direction. He matched their pace from his higher vantage point until finally the smell of many of them grew stronger as he approached the roof top of an abandoned warehouse. He couldn't see how many were gathered there but by the way the hair was standing up on the back of his neck he knew there were many!

He quietly turned and made his way back to Sam as quickly as he could.

Sam was just finishing up the last of the bombs when Dean came up to him so he asked, "Did you find them?"

"Yeah, plenty of 'em," Dean shook his head wearily, "Their having a freakin' town meeting in a warehouse about five blocks from here."

Sam's shoulders slumped, "So...They're inside."

"Look, this could still work if we can find backup from some of the hunters on the ground." Dean said adding, "follow me up along the roof tops so I can show you which warehouse."

They quickly made their way back, both of them keenly aware of the time because they did not know how long the shifters would stay grouped together like that.

When Dean and Sam approached the roof top next to the warehouse Dean sniffed the air again. He got the same sensation down the back of neck as before, it told him all the shifters were still in there. Dean nodded downward at the darkened building below them. Sam followed his gaze and shivered as a chill ran down his spine because even without Dean's acute sense of smell Sam had felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise too and thought, 'Must be human response to a large presence of shifters.'

"Sammy," Dean whispered, "What zone do you think we're in now?"

"I dunno Dean," Sam hissed back, "we left ours three blocks ago."

Dean got up from his crouch and paced the perimeter of the building, sniffing along the way. The language of the breeze told him that besides the stink of shifter was a smell as familiar as his own wafting up from down below. Sam watched him testing the wind then saw his brother freeze a moment. Sam got up and in a crouch carefully made his way toward him. "What'd you pick up?" he asked.

Dean smiled, "The Calvary." he answered and pointed to a corner about a block away. There, just rounding the darkened street, was Lucius and his squad of hunters.

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Sam turned toward Dean and said, "I got this, you go hunt down the leader and I'll help Lucius take this group out."

Dean paused and looked at the men in the distance then over to the warehouse below them. He hated to leave Sam's side in a battle but he knew he could trust his brother to get this done and he knew that only he could "sniff" out the Shifter pack leader before he made good his escape.

Dean put his hand up on Sam's shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze saying, "Don't die."

Sam nodded back at their familiar parting words and added "You either."

Then they separated, Sam heading north, bringing the bag of incendiaries so that Lucius and his men could get the jump on the pack of shifters and Dean heading west to hunt down the pack leader.

All The Better to Hunt With- Chapter 7

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As the group of hunters patrolled mid block one of them saw an alley coming up and noticed a shadow begin to loom from it as they approached, he started to raise his rifle up but before he could fire Lucius grabbed the muzzle of the gun and pointed it to the ground. He'd recognized Sam just in time.

Sam heard the scuffle and came into full view slowly with his hands up. He said quietly, "Lucius? It's me Sam Winchester."

Lucius responded, "I can see that, where's Dean and Johnson?"

"Dean's ok, he's following a lead on the Pack Leader." Sam answered then added solemnly, "Johnson...wasn't Johnson."

"Damn!" hissed Lucius. And the other men looked at each other and then to the ground.

Sam looked around then said quietly, "Let's get out of the open." And motioned them back into the alley. Once in the relative safety of the alley Sam lied to cover for his brother and told them that he and Dean had "interrogated" the shifter posing as Johnson and found out about a shifter meeting taking place in the nearby warehouse.

"I made up these explosives but I'd only be able to take out a few of them," he told Lucius. "And there's no telling how long they'll just sit there all together before their meeting breaks up."

Lucius nodded adding, "Once they disburse we'd loose 'em in the city and enough of them could get out and put this plan in motion."

Sam looked around to the other men, "Do you think if we could block the exits and station ourselves just so... we could fire bomb the interior and you could pick off the ones that tired to escape?"

Lucius looked at his squad and saw determination in their faces. He nodded back at Sam and said, "Just get us there."

And the little band of humans moved silently out toward the warehouse.

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Meanwhile, Dean climbed back up to the roof tops and ran quietly along each testing the air for any shifter scent as he went deeper in to the western zone. The recon in the night air was exhilarating to him he couldn't remember when he felt so alive. If anyone had looked up from street level his darker than black shadow was just a fleeting movement as he ran swiftly along the crests of the buildings.

Just as he was about three blocks away from the end of the western zone he picked up the scent. He stopped in his tracks and listened as he drew in gouts of air. The impression he got made him think, 'Definitely an alpha scent but mixed with the tang of fear.' and he turned to face in the direction of strongest smell. The wind was blowing the scent around but Dean zeroed in on the location and climbed down to street level.

He made his way carefully along a row of town houses in this upscale neighborhood. Until his keen hearing noted a disturbance up ahead so he crept along the granite stoops toward the sound of voices. As he got closer the voices became more raised in panic coupled with the sounds of car doors slamming shut. "Shit!" he hissed realizing the pack leader was being whisked away to the airport by his entourage.

Dean flung himself back against the the wall of the building and raised his rifle. As the first car passed him he aimed and took out the driver. The car swerved wildly and hit one of the traffic light poles at the intersection. But while that was taking place he caught the scent he was looking for as the second car tried to turn around and flee the accident so he opened fire on its tires.

The two tires facing him blew out and it's driver hit the brakes trying to gain control as the car swung to the right. As soon as it stopped people piled out in a rush morphing as they ran.

Dean was faced with three shifters ready to give their lives for the man still in the car and they were too close to use his high powered weapon. The intensity of the situation caused an involuntary growl to escape his throat as he dropped his rifle and pulled out his gun and silver knife.

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Lucius's squad, lead by Sam on point kept themselves tight to the buildings as they crept toward the warehouse. But something was niggling at the back of Sam's mind about what Dean had said, 'We reek of lighter fluid and salt, if I can smell it, you bet the shifters can too.' Sam sighed he knew this many hunter's scents could give away their position and spook the shifters out of the warehouse before they could get into position to trap them. And he squinted at the signs of every business that they passed while he struggled with what to do.

Suddenly he saw a sign coming up and he had an idea. It was a pet store, closed for the evening and easy to break into.

"Uh, guys...we need to make a quick stop for camouflage" he whispered.

Only a few of the men protested, but when he explained that this was just like deer hunting and they needed to mask their scent they got the idea.

Lucius summed the plan up, "It takes a dog to hunt a dog." and gave an approving nod and wink. Each of the men then took their jackets off and rubbed them all over the puppy's to pick up their scent much to the dogs delight at this unexpected extra attention. After applying the 'camo' they snuck back out again and silently headed over to the warehouse, taking positions under the windows, by the main doors and a few of them stationed themselves on several nearby roof tops.

Sam had given each man on the ground one of the incendiary bombs and instructions to toss them into the windows on the count of thirty.

Half a minute later there was the sound of crashing glass and howls of pain as fire and the staccato of bullets rained death on the unnatural creatures inside.

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The sound from the warehouse carried for blocks and the shifters facing Dean were suddenly spooked by the death howls that reached their ears. Even Dean's skin goose bumped at the noise.

Two shifters stopped in their tracks and glanced at one another. The third sprung at him in attack.

Dean shot the mutant scout point blank in the head and it fell at his feet. Just then the other two leapt as one at him. He got one shot out and winged the scout on his right but had to turn to slash the foreleg of the other as it sailed at him from his left. The silver cut bubbled, wounding the attacker enough cause him to limp as it landed.

But even though both scouts were wounded they closed in, circled him like hungry wolves, looking for an opening to attack. Dean was forced to slowly spin around to keep his eyes on them, knife raised and gun cocked while a low feral growl rumbled from his chest and joined the growls of the mutants surrounding him.

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Back at the warehouse it was all happening so fast. Partially turned shifters with burning fur burst through the doors and windows and were mowed down by automatic weapons, all loaded with silver ordinance. Those whose fur was only smoking tried to sneak past their writhing brethren only to be picked off by snipers stationed on the roof tops.

Sam was one of those snipers.

The blur of action kept him firing at any shifter that tried to make a move on the hunters on the ground. He fired to the left, saw movement and fired to the right. Then in a split second had to aim and shoot over the heads of the men near the rear entrance as several mutants rushed past them. It wasn't going to be enough to disrupt this plan, they had to wipe out as many shifters as possible to end future organized attempts like this one ever happening again. And with that determined thought he wondered how it was going for his brother in his search for the Pack leader.

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It was a stand off. Dean was essentially pinned. And as the distant howls from the warehouse faded the Pack Leader chose his moment to make his escape. He opened the car door, slowly stepped out and turned to lock eyes with hunter his scouts had cornered. Dean saw the guy sneer at him, as if to dismiss him as already dead.

Then the Leader sniffed the air and his sneer turned into a scowl. As the two scouts picked up their pace around Dean the Leader made a slow approach, then stopped a short distance away and said, "You killed her...you killed my Evelyn. I recognize your stench from the pyre where you burned her body up."

Dean's eyes widened as he thought, 'No way... this guy is the mate of the thing we hit coming in here?' And sudden nausea made him swallow at the reminder of what he'd done next. To the shapeshifter it looked like the man's face showed fear, but Dean knew it was guilt.

The Pack Leader emitted a short bark and the two scouts stopped their circling and moved to stand with him. He growled, "He's mine, you can have what's left when I'm done with him." Then with a fierce roar he began to morph. His neck grew huge and thick as his jaws elongated to hold the rows of long teeth that began to erupt from the gums. The shoulders on the thing were enormous and the paws were the size of a lions all sporting claws the length of talons.

The two shifters on either side began to yip and jump about like Hyena's excited by the prospect of blood and Dean did not like the look of how eager they were lapping at their salivating jaws.

And then their eyes glowed red.

Dean's mind snapped, the sight of those red eyes brought all the horror of being stuck in purgatory back fresh in his mind and he went into a blind rage.

The ancient Norsemen had a class of warriors called Beserkers who would dive into the thick of battle with such fury as to be thought consumed by madness. And it was in that state of mind (or lack thereof) that Dean launched himself up at the Leader as it advanced on him.

He fired his gun at point blank range once, twice direct into the Leaders heart, the Beast stumbled but kept coming. Dean drove his knife up under the snapping jaws pinning them shut and as the body fell forward he climbed past the claws that tried to grasp him and down the shifters back toward the two scouts standing a few feet behind.

The mutant beasts yipped a mournful wail and turned to run. He shot one in the back of its head and the other, still limping from his previous wounds, through the middle of it's back directly into the heart.

As the body of the last shifter hit the ground Dean kept walking toward it firing into the morphing form until the "Click...Click...Click" sound from his empty chamber brought him back from the brink and he realized the gun was empty and that everything was suddenly silent.

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The warehouse was a smoking rubble, hunters stepped over bodies and put final muted rounds into any still twitching forms. Black smoke rose into the night sky and the smell of burnt flesh hung in the air. Sam nearly retched at the stink of it and the ugly memories it evoked of Dean's meal by the pyre.

As the first Fire Engine wailed in distant response Lucius's men began to scramble to remove the bodies from the burned out hull of a building. Sam felt his anxiety grow as he lugged the inert smoldering forms into the back of the truck the "clean-up" crew drove. Seeing that they were almost done he spoke to Lucius, "I gotta go find Dean." he told him.

"You need a few of the guys?" Lucius offered. But Sam didn't think he could explain Dean's escalated hunting skills. "Uh, no, I've got it covered." he said and headed back to where he'd last seen his brother.

All The Better To Hunt With- Chapter 8

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Dean looked around expecting sound, any sound but the only thing he was aware of was the rapid thudding of his heart as it teetered on the adrenaline rush from battle. His mind felt raw and numb at the same time and as he turned to go back he felt his steps seem shaky.

He took a couple of deep inhales and blew them out fast to clear the carbon dioxide from his lungs and help his heart slow. Then moved with careful steps to the intersection where the wrecked car was wrapped around street light pole.

A quick glance told him his shot had found it's mark as he noticed the body slumped in the drivers seat. But his second look was more disturbing. The passengers side door was flung open and only a little blood was smeared on the rise of the dash. Whoever had been in that seat had lived to escape. Dean looked up one length of the empty intersection and then the other. No cars, no foot traffic it was still too early for the city to be awake, that meant he still had time to finish the hunt.

He stepped over to the open door and inhaled over the smear of blood. He now also had the scent. Dean sniffed the air and locked in on the trail, the shifter was heading back the way he'd come...perhaps trying to make it to the warehouse to warn the other mutants. Where he'd run into Lucius's team...and Sam.

The older Winchester frowned and an unexpected growl burbled up from his chest. Dean picked up his rifle, took a moment to reload his gun and headed north in a silent jog.

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As Sam made his way back to the last spot he'd seen Dean before they'd separated he noted that the houses he passed were still dark and no one seemed to be stirring yet. But the farther he went the more he got the unmistakable feeling of being watched. 'Don't let yourself spook at every shadow, man.' He thought as he scanned the empty streets looking for any movement. He remembered the street address that Dean had headed to and kept his course to that.

He was well away from the scene of the fire now and began to notice that his clothes had the smell of burnt things, smoke and gunpowder still clinging to them. 'Gotta find a way to get this stink off me or I'll stick out like a neon sign- "Fresh Hunter-all you can eat!" So he began to look for something that could help him mask the scent.

A few more blocks away and he was standing in front of a side door that went to a thrift store, he was getting ready to break in and swap out his clothes when he heard the growl. 'Too late!' he thought, and turned to face in the direction of the possible attack.

He steadied himself, raised his rifle, and listened for the creature to come around the building's edge, when he heard an answering growl from above.

Sam spun around and aimed for the roof but couldn't see that far up into the darkness. Suddenly a blur came at him from his right and he knew he couldn't get his rifle down in time, so he braced himself for the attack.

There was a muffled "THUP" and the shifter's body was thrown to his right into the wall in a smatter of red, then slid bonelessly to the ground.

Sam stood frozen in place then slowly looked up. The shooter had to have been above him.

"Sammy...You ok?" A voice asked from the roof top.

"Dean?" he asked.

"Man you REEK!" came the smiling response.

"Yeah, playing with fire will do that." Sam replied back as he listened to the distinct sounds of his brother climbing down the nearby fire escape stairs.

Dean made the short jump from the last step and landed with an "Umph!" a few feet from where Sam stood. And as he walked up to him sniffed his jacket.

Sam laughed saying "Get off me!" and waved him away.

"So... you smell of the incendiaries, rifle shells...uh...burnt shifter and...is that...Puppy?"

"We needed to camouflage our scent before we got in close so they wouldn't spook. " Sam explained.

Dean gave him a horrified look, "You didn't...hurt...?"

"NO!" Sam balked, "I wouldn't...we found a pet store and rubbed our coats all over them is all...sheesh."

Dean smirked, "Atta boy, protect the innocent." and he thumped his hand a couple of times on his younger brothers back in praise.

Sam shook his head and sighed then fixed Dean with a long look, "Did you find the Pack Leader?"

The older Winchester turned and answered over his shoulder, "Yeah...hey, lets move out and see if we can make it back to the car before this place is crawling with first responders." Both brothers carefully retraced their way back through the city streets keeping a lookout for any remaining shifters and any local law that was stirred up by the fire.

They'd nearly made it back to the car but Sam wanted more of a description to how his brothers hunt went than just "Yeah." Usually when they went on separate hunts Dean wouldn't shut up about all the gory details and his brothers silence was pinging a little warning bell in his head that something might have gone wrong. So he brought the subject up again and asked, "How'd it go?"

The older Winchester didn't answer right away and that made Sam turn to look at his brother. "Dean?" he asked again.

Dean kept scanning the shadows as they walked then finally answered, "It was like that scout said the Pack Leader and a few others were about to take off in two cars, maybe to the airport, I dunno, when I caught up with them."

Sam became alarmed, he hadn't thought his brother would run into a group of them and have to face them by himself. He steadied his voice and asked "How many were there?"

"There were two in the first car and the Pack Leader had three with him."

"SIX?" Sam hissed, "You had to deal with SIX?"

Dean winced. He should have felt scared, he should have felt worn out by the memories but he didn't. At the same time he didn't want to think about how pumped up and alive he'd felt as he systematically took out the first car and then focused on the one with his target in it. 'But I am, I'm still freakin humming inside with energy.' he realized.

Sam stopped walking and stepped in front of his brother, "All dead?"

"Yeah, Sammy" Dean looked up into his eyes, "They are now, the last one was that shifter hunting you...they're all dead...now."

Sam felt his spine go cold. "That wasn't the Leader was it?"

"No, the pack leader was bigger and a whole lot uglier than that poor SOB." Then Dean turned to start walking again but Sam could tell there was something his brother wasn't telling him.

Sam stood behind him and said, "What is it?"

Dean turned around and spread his arms out in exasperation, "What is what Sam?"

"What is it that you're not telling me?" Sam ground out.

"What do you want me to say? HUH?" Dean answered back, "I found 'em, I killed 'em...mission accomplished!"

Sam squinted his eyes, "You just randomly bumped into them...is that what you're saying?"

Dean straightened his shoulders, he could tell Sam wasn't going to just let this go at that.

"Just like you randomly found me because I reek of...Puppy?" Sam said pointedly back.

Dean's lips flattened into a thin line and he glared daggers at the younger man.

"I wanna know what happened Dean!" said Sam loudly as he spread his own arms out. "Because Lucius offered to send a few men with me to find you and I couldn't..." Sam's anger bleed out of his voice and he looked down quickly, "I didn't dare take the offer...coz" then he looked back up defiantly into his older brothers eyes and said, "I didn't want them to see what you can do and put you at risk of them hunting you too."

Dean's eyes widened as the realization hit him. Sam had gone off solo to get him, because that was the only way he could protect him...and it had nearly gotten the kid killed!

All the Better to Hunt with- Chapter 10

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Dean looked down at the ground and mumbled, "You shoulda stayed with the rest , I woulda found my way..."

Sam waved off the trailed off response. Then asked his brother again in a softer voice, "I wanna know what happened Dean, I wanna know...everything."

Dean couldn't look into his brother's face but could tell by the slope of his shoulders and the loose way his arms hung by his side that the famous "puppy dog" eyes were being deployed to their full effect.

So Dean sighed. Even without seeing the expression in those eyes he knew their power was inescapable.

The older Winchester finally relented and grimly responded, "Yer right...I didn't just 'bump into' them...just like I didn't just find you." Dean looked up into the brightening sky, the night was over and soon the few visible stars would be swallowed up by the coming day. And while this pale light made him squint a little he stared none the less up at the sky as if the stars could give him the right words to say.

He looked down wearing a sad smile and shook his head. "You know I haven't felt so alive in since...well...never!" He glanced up at Sam and continued. I got back up on the roof tops and took off in the general direction to Chestnut Ave., figured it'd be faster to pick up any scent up there and...once I had the wind in my face...something just took over." Dean's smile widened and he became more animated as he told his tale. "It was like I could "read" the wind Sammy! I kept getting these images in M'head as I passed over every building and every street. I could "tell" how many humans were in each building, how many women, how many children. If some of them were sick, or scared or just plain angry. And when I picked up his scent...well, I just knew it was the Pack Leader by how he smelled like...authority." Dean paused and ran his hand through his long hair, "I could smell goddam leadership rolling off him like it was the stink of money!"

Sam watched as his brother's agitation began to rise.

"And as soon as I got his scent something just flipped on, like a switch and I was in full on hunting mode. I got down to street level and heard them get in the cars. It happened real fast, I aimed at the first one and took out the driver. The car crashed into the lights at the intersection." Dean started to pace as he relived the events. "The second car, the one he was in, tried to turn around and get outta there but I blew out its back tires. That was when the three mooks he was with came out of it to distract me."

Dean knew he was smiling and knew it was wrong by the look of worry on his younger brothers face but he was feeling the same rush he had with the event and retelling the tale was like he was riding a wave that he just couldn't stop.

"Did you get hurt?" questioned Sam.

"Naw," bragged Dean, "Two of 'em hung back coz they could hear your handiwork at the warehouse and it spooked them. The third was all business and he jumped at me first. I just blew him away. When the other two saw that they came at me and I winged 'em both, one with M'gun and the other with M'knife." And he posed on the sidewalk to demonstrate his awesomeness.

Sam just looked more worried.

"See, they thought they had me cornered," Dean continued, "So's their Boss could make his escape but..." And that was when Sam saw his expression change from pride to...regret.

"Dean?" Sam reached out and lightly put his hand on his brother's shoulder, "What... what'd he do?"

Dean looked down, stepped away from his touch and Sam watched as his brother pulled in on himself. Then the older Winchester glanced up and through tight lips told Sam, "He knew me Sammy. He could tell from M'smell that I was the one that killed his mate."

Sam's mind reeled as he relived the car accident they'd had on their way here, the screeching brakes, the smell of the burning pyre and Dean's meal to bring on the curse.

Dean's jaw clenched and his eyes became bright with unshed tears. "The bitch I hit was his mate, and I killed her and I ATE her Sammy! All so I could do this..." Dean shook his head in disgust and ran his hand down his face. "So he morphs and comes at me, and he's uglier and bigger than any fugley I've ever seen and you know what?" Dean asks practically vibrating with his own energy fueled rage.

"What?" Sam softly asks.

"I don't care! I don't care that I killed her, I don't care that I ate her I don't even F*CKIN" care that he's coming right at me because I'm looking past him at the other two I gotta kill next." The older Winchester took a deep breath then started again. "I walk right over him, climbed him like a mountain, two perfect shots right in the chest and one quick trust of the knife and those snapping jaws got pinned shut. Then I put down the other two. Took 'em out as they tried to run away."

Dean sighed again. "It was like I was this machine, I couldn't stop shooting until I heard the chamber clicking and then it was like I woke up..." He stopped and bit the bottom of his lip then glancing away he paused...for a long time then said softly, " my first thought was to find you...coz I was shakin' man. I wasn't feelin' like myself ya know? And I knew if I could find you I could...I could feel like me again."

Sam stood there shocked. His brother was all over the place emotionally, excited one minute and depressed the next, the brother he knew didn't do that and he didn't know what to say so he just whispered his brothers name, "Dean..."

The older Winchester waved the almost chick flick moment away and recounted the rest. "I...uh...started to head back and stopped to check out the crashed car, that's when I saw that one of 'em escaped. I figured it might head back to the warehouse and join up with the others so I tracked it back until it found..."

"Me" Sam supplied.

"Yeah." Dean finished.

Dean licked his lips and turned to continue on their way back, which Sam took as an indication that the conversation was over but it wasn't over for Sam. So within a few long strides he caught up with his brother.

"Dean...wait..." Sam said.

Dean stopped abruptly with a huff and turned in a p*ssed off manner to face him.

Sam noted the stance and it filled him with confusion he wasn't sure how to approach his brother now, as he thought, 'Did Dean blame me for being careless? So he blurted out "Look, I know I should have gotten rid of the clothes on me before I went back to find you but..."

"THAT'S RIGHT YOU SHOULD HAVE!" Dean shouted. And Sam stood back wounded.

Dean shook his head, his anger wasn't aimed at Sam and shouting at him was wrong and he knew it so he took a breath and said "If I hadn't been able to tract that shifter as well as I could...you'd be a dead man...or turned."

But Sam said, "Yeah...I KNOW but the point is..."

"The POINT is that me being under the curse was what saved your *ss. If I had just been me Sammy...the shifters wouldn't be dead, we'd all be in a world of trouble coz their plan most likely woulda happened and you...you woulda been..." but Dean couldn't finish the thought because it was just too unthinkable.

Sam swallowed a big "ULP". He suddenly knew what was digging at his brother's hide so. In a few days his brother would be back as the hunter he'd always been. Better than most the world has ever seen but only human. And tonights success had hinged totally on their being able to level the playing field and hunt the monsters on their own turf. And by next week the scales would be tipped back in the monsters favor again.

They reached the car, Dean opened up the trunk and they started to stow their gear inside it.

"Dean..." Sam said sympathetically, "When things get back to...uh...normal...let's just finish that R&R this interrupted...You know lay low and sorta regroup, huh?"

Dean pressed his lips together and shut the trunk a little harder than he had to, "Yeah, and then what?" he straightened his stance, "When the next crisis hits...and there always is gonna be 'a next crisis' I'm just supposed to go in guns blazing without being able to smell 'em or hear em' coming?" he waved his arm saying, "I'm just supposed to pretend that I'm doing the best I can do when YOU and ME know now I can be better. That we got a way to save more people...and I'm supposed to walk away from that?"

It was the "Save more people" argument that cut Sam to the core. It was the very same rational he'd given Dean when he was drinking demon blood a few years ago,because "it" had helped him 'save more people' too. Back then Dean had not accepted that as an excuse to join the monsters side and NOW it was his turn to bring his brother back from the brink of that argument, that mindset. Sam knew if anybody in this world could know what Dean was feeling right now...it was him. And he'd be damned if he let his brother run down that twisted path toward oblivion like he did.

"That's bullsh*t!" Sam exclaimed his mouth drawn in a fine line and his eyebrows raised, "and you know it."

Dean stepped up to him, their faces mere inches apart and said, "It's the truth!"

Sam huffed a breath and told him, "You know who you sound like?"

"Wha...who?"

"ME! two years ago." Sam ground out, "Back when I was drinking demon blood."

Dean flinched then shook his head and turned to go to the drivers side of the car, " It's nothing like that...you were.."

"Addicted?" Sam supplied, "...predisposed because of the demon blood already in M'veins?"

Dean looked down on the ground, he sooo did not want to go over that dark episode in their lives again. He still felt like he let his brother down by not picking up on it sooner, not doing something more than threaten and throw punches.

But instead he leaned on the roof of the Impala and said calmly, "Yeah, I guess so...but this is a choice Sammy. I don't have to stay in curse mode because I need it...I don't, but how can I live with myself knowing I got this new 'tool' that can help me be a better hunter, protect more people, stop more monsters before they harm any more victims, if I don't do it?"

"Because you know it will turn you." Sam said softly from his side of the car.

Dean scowled, "No it won't, the monks stopped and it stopped."

Sam sighed and stood to his full height, "But you won't stop."

His brother looked shocked, "Like hell I won't!"

"Dean, I know you." Sam pinned him with a knowing look. "You won't wait for a hunt to show up in the papers, for there to already be a body count, you'll want to be pre-emptive, to hunt them before they can find the first civilian."

"But wha..."

"But nothing," Sam interrupted. "You'll tell yourself that you have to be constantly on the alert. That wearing Sunglasses at night is an acceptable fashion statement. Maybe you'll start to keep a sample of shifter meat on you at all times, maybe start dosing yourself everyday to keep in top form..."

Dean looked down to the ground and away.

Sam winced, "Maybe you're carrying right now?"

His brother scowled back at him with his lips in a tight line and put his hands guiltily into his pockets.

Sam said, "You can't fool a former addict Dean, I've been there...done that." And he reached over the roof of the car with his hand out to his brother."

Dean just stood there looking back.

"Dean?" Sam said softly to his brother, "You once told me that 'If I didn't know you, I'd want to hunt you' and you were right. I wasn't fully me, I was crossing the line to "other"

Sam kept up the long stare. "The way hunting's changed sooner or later some hunter would get wind of your special skills...hell, we've got a lot to explain from only half the stuff we've been able to walk away from...and in just one night this sh*t's changed you enough for me to hafta turn down backup...'sides I don't want you to trade in your humanity for anything..." and then he added more softly, "I just want you to stay M'brother."

Dean sighed and scuffed the ground with his boot. Sam had a point. One heartbeat went by... then another. Then he pulled out the car keys and tossed them across the roof of the car to his brother's outstretched hand.

Sam instinctively caught them but flinched back fully expecting them to have been a packet of shifter meat.

"Whatzamatta Sammy?" Dean smiled as he made his way around to the passenger's side.

Sam scowled back at him as he walked to Drivers side, "I thought it was a piece of..."

"Oh, that's just gross!" Dean scoffed, "M'not that far gone."

"You can be a real jerk sometimes." Sam groused as he slouched himself behind the wheel."

Dean had a smirk on his lips as he slid into the passengers side seat, got the sunglasses out from the glove box and put them on. "Yeah, I know." He said smiling back at Sam. The younger Winchester just huffed and put the car in gear.

They'd put 'Cinci' a few hours behind them before finally Dean spoke again. "Sam, you were right back there with what you said about me wanting to be 'preemptive'." Sam gave him a sideways glance but kept his eyes focused on the road before him. "But... the whole time...it was like I had a tiger by the tail...I felt... like I could do anything...it was..."

"Powerful?" Sam offered.

"Reckless." Dean clarified. "Part of me does...did...see this as a new tool...but..."

"It's not worth it." Sam finalized, "Not if you're not you anymore."

"I'm still me." Dean argued.

"Yeah? Prove it." Sam replied back, "Give yourself a scratch with your silver knife and see what happens."

Dean grumbled beside him but reached down into his boot for the knife he kept stashed there, rolled up his right sleeve and pressed the blade down enough so it just broke the skin. "Crap." Sam heard him say.

The younger Winchester glanced over to see Dean pressing his palm over the wound and read a look of pain on his older brothers face.

"Did it burn you?" Sam yelped.

"No, but..." to Sam's horrified eyes it seemed like a fleeting look of shame crossed Dean's features.

"It hurt more than it should've."

"That's it!" Sam blurted, "You're drying out."

Dean gingerly rolled the sleeve back down and put the knife back into his boot sheath saying, "I'm not addicted...I'll test again against silver in a couple more days...when I don't hafta wear the sunglasses so much and M'hearing's more..."

"Normal." Sam supplied.

"Yeah, what ever that means... for us." Dean groused back.

A few minutes of silence passed between the brothers as they drove on then Dean popped in a cassette tape and began to hum along. He glanced over to his brother as Sam drove and noted the upside down "U" of wrinkles formed between his brows, a sure sign of Sammy in worry mode.

Dean smirked and hufffed. "What if it improved my singing?"

Sam's dimples began to show as he fought not to smile, "Not even...wait...no...nope not even then."

"So you want me to be just your plain ol'big brother huh?" Dean was stifling his own smile now.

"Just." Sam answered.

Dean tilted his head over to look at his reflection in the passengers side mirror and ran his hand through the long locks that still adorned his head adding, "then ya better find me a damn barber so I can ditch this douchy hair."

Sam broke into full grin then and things began to feel normal again between them.

wWw

There would be a rash of calls come in the next day about missing pets in the Cincinnati area. But the dog officers wouldn't be able to find any of them. And the world would never know just how close it came to the extinction of the human race.

The End

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