All recognizable characters belong to Kirpke and the show. I do have a cat, however.

Sam found himself increasingly frustrated with Dean. He loved his brother to death (not that he would actually admit it), but sometimes he was just impossible. Ever since they had gotten back from the hunt Dean had dubbed the "ghoul-pire" hunt, his older sibling had seemed moody and was casting glances at Sam from the corner of his eye. He would still act normal, grilling burgers and vegetables and working on the Impala (which he had yet to get back "into shape"), yet Sam could feel his unease and hear his puffs of breath as what he was holding back threatened to spill forth.

He opened another ancient-looking tome, this one written in Hebrew. While he himself wasn't proficient in the ancient language, he was getting better. It was appearing more and more likely that this was the only way they were going to find all their answers on the Darkness. The ancient Israelites were the closest to the original lore, and there were bound to be a few legends that the early Catholics had deemed unworthy (or too fantastic) to translate into Latin. Even if they weren't the entire truth, perhaps they could still provide clues…

Sam remembered his dream well. His father/not father had told them that they were the only ones who could stuff the proverbial genie back into the bottle. He only hoped that they would be able to. What the reaper had told him back in the hospital still sent chills up his spine. He couldn't let that happen to Dean.

The hunter was suddenly aware of another presence at his back. Sam jerked in his seat and turned around to find Dean frozen a few steps away from him, his eyes big and round and…way too innocent. Sam frowned; a bored Dean was a dangerous Dean. Maybe he should have made Cas leave his room.


"Yeah?" Dean straightened up quickly, keeping one hand behind his back.

"What are you doing?"

Dean smiled. "Nothing; can't a guy check up on his little brother?"

"Yeah, right," Sam raised an eyebrow skeptically. "So; what's that you've got behind your back?"

"Uh, nothing," Dean said, flashing a smile Sam recognized as Dean's attempt at being charming. Unfortunately for him, Sam was immune.


There was a huff of air as Dean turned around, bringing his hand to the front too quickly for Sam to see. "I'm going to start lunch." Sam got up, his annoyance at his older brother's attitude coming to a head.

"Oh, no you don't," he said, resting his hand on Dean's shoulder. Suddenly, quick as a flash Dean came around and brushed his fist against the back of Sam's neck. Something small and warm and furry tumbled down Sam's back and tiny paws dug into the cloth of the T-shirt he was wearing underneath. "What in the—!"

Dean burst out laughing, his guffaws breaking the silence that had pervaded the bunker earlier. Sam felt his face turn red as the thing scrambled around his torso, frantically shaking his shirt and swiping his hands across his back and chest. Finally, something small thunked onto the ground and Sam caught a flash of brown out of the corner of his eye as whatever-it-was ran under a bookcase. Dean was still laughing as it disappeared, his face red and tears coming out of the corners of his eyes.

Dean had not quite found his voice, laughter still shaking his frame, but he still managed to make out a few words. "Oh, man, you should have seen your face!" He chortled again. "It-it was priceless!" Sam stood with his mouth open, surveying his brother.

"Did-did you drop a mouse down my shirt?"Sam asked, incredulously. Dean burst into another roar. "Dude, I thought you hated rodents."

"Wasn't a mouse, Sammy," Dean made out. "I found it in the Impala. Must've hitched a ride from Quaker Valley."

"And it survived? In our car!?"

"Look, it's just a chipmunk, OK? I didn't even know it was in there until I got to fixin' the hood. I think it was living off of a bag of chips from when I had black eyes."

"Dude, that was over a year ago." Dean shrugged. His laughter had died down and his face was returning to its normal color. It was good he was at the point where talking about being a demon didn't make him flinch every time it was mentioned.

"Guess I missed a few things. It's like Baby consumes all our stuff, or somethin'."

"Yeah, or something," Sam returned, skeptical. "Besides, chipmunks are practically striped mice with fluffy tails, and just as destructive. You need to catch it before it destroys anything in here."

"OK, fine, mom. I'll catch the critter, and then I'll make lunch. And yes—" he cut Sam off just as he was about to open his mouth, "I'll wash my hands first. OK?"

Sam nodded, wondering where the sighs from earlier had gone. It was like Dean was trying to get them back to normal again. Maybe he was. "OK, fine. You're such a child."

"I was going to take care of it anyway, Sam. I just wanted to have a little fun first."

The younger brother rolled his eyes. Sometimes it seemed as if he were the older sibling. "Dude, you're not a cat. You don't play with your catch before you get rid of it." Dean flashed a grin at him, and went to looking for the rodent.

Sam sighed and turned back to his research. Though he was loath to admit it, it was nice to have a bit of a break from the lines and the symbols and the awkwardness of reading from right to left. He had two books he was using to translate, one to get down the pronunciation of the symbols and the other to look up what each word meant. Slowly, he was beginning to understand more and more of it, but it would take time. He had half-considered taking the text to a professor at a university, but he had no idea what was on the manuscript and wasn't sure if he could trust just anyone. Besides that, it had been a while since he had learned a new language.

It was lunch time, and Dean had still not caught the chipmunk. Instead, Sam found himself drawn into the kitchen with the smell of melting cheese and mayonnaise. And was that…tuna? It appeared Dean was making some version of toasted cheese sandwiches with tuna filling as well. Instead of catching their free-roaming rodent.

"Uh, Dean? What are you doing?" Sam asked, already feeling a little grumpy. The Hebrew was older than he expected, and all the work he was going through was giving him a headache. His throbbing temples pulsed in a rhythm that would go well with some of Dean's music, and, though he was glad for the break, he was more than a little irritable.

"Uh, making lunch?" Dean said, as though it were obvious.

"I thought you were going to catch the mouse first."

"Chipmunk, Sammy. Chipmunk."

"Fine. I thought you were going to catch the chipmunk first."

"Thought I might wait. You want cheese on yours?" His older brother flipped one of the sandwiches and set it on a plate. The cheese and tuna actually did smell pretty good…

"Wait, are those pickles in the tuna salad?" Flecks of light green could be seen in the tuna mix, peeking out at strange intervals.

"Yeah." Dean must've noticed the disgusted expression on Sam's face because he grinned. "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it."

"So, you've been experimenting in the kitchen instead of catching the rodent. Do you realize all the valuable stuff we have in here? What if it starts tearing into the tomes?"

"It won't right away," Dean defended. "Don't worry; I'll gank the little monster before supper. And yes, I did wash my hands before beginning to cook."

Sam had no idea why he kept pressing. Maybe it was the fact that his head was pounding. Maybe Dean's nonchalance was getting to him. Maybe it was because Dean had made a high-calorie comfort food instead of Sam's health-conscious fare. In any case, he shook his head. He was going to have to cool down, headache or not.

"I think I'll pass on the cheese."

Dean took a deep whiff of his sandwich. "Mmm, you have no idea what you're missing." Sam rolled his eyes and set the table, pouring milk in his glass. Dean also had tomato soup going on the stove, and instead of cheese he put a leaf of lettuce on Sam's sandwich. Soon they were sitting down, Dean making ridiculous noises over his meal. A comfortable silence settled at the table. The headache was lessening and Sam was beginning to feel contrite.

"Listen, man, sorry about nagging you about the chipmunk. I know you'll catch it sometime," Dean finished his sandwich and finished off the last spoon-full of his soup.

"Nah, don't worry about it, Samantha. Nagging is kind of a chick thing, any-who," Dean smiled at Sam, which only grew wider at the expression the younger had unconsciously put on. "Besides, as long as we're taking out the little stowaway, we may as well have a little fun with him first."

Sam huffed. "Isn't that a bit morbid, Dean?"

"What? Fun is fun is fun is fun."

Sam finished his sandwich now. "I thought all that brutality stuff was gone with the Mark." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Sam regretted them. Dean stiffened almost imperceptibly, his previous malady a touchy subject. Maybe he was over the demon-thing, but the Mark had proved almost destructive, and Sam thought he saw a flash of guilt in his brother's eyes. "Dean, man, I didn't mean…" Dean got up from his place and took Sam's dishes.

"No, it's alright," Dean said, his voice sounding slightly stiff. He flashed a smile at Sam, but this time it was a little strained. "I'll take care of the dishes after I catch the chipmunk." Dean dumped their bowls and plates in the sink and then made a beeline for the hall.

"Dean—" Sam got out of his seat, intending to follow his brother.

"I've got catch-'em-alive traps in the room. We can let him free if you want." The door slammed shut with a resounding thud that seemed to echo through the bunker. Sam practically ran up to the door, wanting badly to apologize.


Suddenly there was a bright light under the door, so bright that Sam had to shade his eyes.


Ruling was hard. Raising a girl was even harder. Crowley was in desperate need of a release. If the one didn't drive him crazy, the other would leave him foaming in a padded room. He needed time off. He didn't have the luxury of a vacation at this moment in time, but maybe a night out. He smirked at the last-minute substitute in front of him. Once he was done with the spell the animal would be gone and the real mischief could begin.

Heart pounding, Sam reached for the doorknob as the light faded. He opened the door…and no one was there. Dean wasn't there: he'd disappeared into thin air. "Dean!" he yelled, as if his brother could still hear him. His stomach dropped. He shouldn't have said what he did. If he hadn't…

Sam's eyes blurred, but he swallowed his distress and tried to clear his head. He had to find Dean, he had to know…

"Dean." It came out as a whisper. No. He would find him. He would get him back. He would—

Sam's thoughts were cut off by a soft call. At first he thought it was a pained gasp, but then he realized it sounded more like a hiss. What in the…? His eyes rested on the source of the sound, a furry creature sitting in the middle of Dean's bed in a Dean-sized depression. Its green eyes were wide with terror and its tarnished-gold fur was raised on its back. It backed up a little as Sam approached and held out his hand, non-threateningly. The feline paused and went to smell Sam's hand. When the hunter didn't hit it, it gave his fingers a tentative lick and backed off.

Sam stood frozen as the cat looked up at him, imploringly. There was a flash of light, Dean was gone, and now there was a cat in his room. Dean didn't like animals, period. Now there was a cat in his room. Dean wouldn't even let Sam bring a golden retriever into the car, probably the friendliest animal alive. Now there was a cat in his room. The only time Dean had ever allowed an animal into his personal area as when they were on a case and he could actually talk to animals. Now there was a cat in his room.

The cat meowed again, this time sounding more annoyed than anything. Sam's mouth went dry and his thoughts went a million miles per minute. He looked at the feline a little closer, taking in the cautious grace, the dangerous aura, the dark ochre fur and the green bordering on blue-hazel orbs. "Dean?"

The cat mewed, and then purred as it rubbed briefly against Sam's hand. Dean. Dean had been turned into a cat. Dean was a cat. Currently. In his room. In the bunker. Sam felt something akin to panic begin in his gut and took a deep breath. Now was not the time to go crazy.

So instead he yelled. "Cas! Cas!" He heard hurried pounding as their resident angel left Sam's room, still holding the laptop in one hand and pulling ear-buds out of his ears. It was slightly bizarre, and threw Sam off as he watched their technophobic friend act completely at home carrying the device.



Cas looked into Dean's room, and one of his eyebrows rose. Probably something he'd picked up from Dean. At least he hadn't gotten Sam's disgusted look, yet. "Is that a cat on Dean's bed?"

"Uh, yeah Cas, about that…"

"Dean doesn't like animals."


"Dean doesn't like cats. At least, I don't think he does. They cause an allergic reaction in him."

"Yeah, Cas—"

"Do you think we should throw it out?" the cat gave a low growl at the angel and its eyes narrowed aggressively.

"CAS!" Sam was panting from the effort it took to yell, from the fear, and from a tiny bit of hysteria that was creeping up on him. "Cas," he continued, much quieter. "I think Dean is the cat."

This caused the angel to pause. "What?"

"The cat. I think that's Dean."

"Why, what happened?" Sam felt shame creep into his face and swallowed.

"I may have made a remark…at lunch…I may have said something that upset Dean." The cat snorted and began to groom itself.

"So he turned into a cat?" Castiel asked with a furrowed brow as he peered more closely at the creature.

"Yes! Well, no, but," Sam sighed and took a deep breath, "I followed him to his room. When I got to the door there was this light and next thing I know I open the door and a cat's there."

"And you think this is Dean." It was a statement, not a question. Sam nodded mutely. He could feel the shock beginning to wane, but it was still there. "Was he acting strangely before this?" Sam nodded again.

"You think that may have something to do with why he turned into a cat?"

Castiel shrugged. "I don't know. I've never dealt with transformations before. You weren't hunting were-cats recently?"

"No, they're generally harmless. Besides it's daylight and the lunar cycle's all wrong."

"Oh, it's daylight already?"

"Cas…" Sam reached a hand up and massaged the muscles between his brows. He dropped his giant palm and looked forlornly at his smaller brother, even if he was longer than the average cat. "Can you change him back?"

For the first time the angel looked truly contrite. "Sam, I…" he shook his head. "I don't know if I would even be able to do it if I was at full capacity. I've never studied transformations before, and I am not even sure if I wouldn't make a mistake. Besides," the angel bent down and the cat recoiled slightly before sniffing his hand and deciding to let him come closer. Castiel briefly rubbed his neck under his jaw and then reached around and pulled something off the creature. "I think this may be a bit more than I can handle." Dangling from the angel's hand was a long piece of twine, and tied to it was a lock of dirty-blonde hair that Sam had missed before, as it had blended in with Dean's new coat. Sam shakily reached out a hand and took the charm from his friend. A spell…witchcraft…it was the only thing that made sense. The tabby got up off his rump and stretched, his hind legs shaking a bit as if trying to shake the last of the spell from his fur. Sam watched as his brother jumped off the bed and shook himself, looking up at Sam and mewing irritably.

"I'll figure this out Dean," Sam promised, bending down next to him. Some of the animal instincts must have transferred as well, because Dean was avoiding eye contact but pressed into Sam's large hand as he held it over his furry face. A rumbling purr sounded, and Dean continued to push into his younger brother's touch. The hunter's hand trembled as he pulled the string and Dean's hair closer to his body. A cat had a surprisingly short life-span. Sam swallowed against the thought and straightened. He would save his brother. That was the only option. "Alright, Dean," he said unsure if he would still be able to understand him or not. "You can go do…whatever it is that cats do." There was a purr in response and the pressing of the trim but healthy body against his legs made it hard for Sam to leave the room. "Uhh…"

Cas set the laptop and earbuds down on Dean's desk and sighed. "It may be that his human side is suppressed due to the transformation. Not just physically, but also…instinctively. He may remember you and me through sound and smell, but he won't be able to interact with us the same, or recognize what we are saying. However, some of his…self is so ingrained into him that even the transformation can't change how he feels. He already likes you better than me. He may naturally know you are his brother, and he may still harbor the same sibling instincts toward you."

"So…what do we do?"

"I would suggest we look for a counter-spell. Perhaps in hoodoo, though I am not sure…I guess we should try all avenues. The utilization of DNA is common to many forms of magic, so it may take a while to find the right solution." Sam felt his stomach drop and bent over to pick his furry brother up. Dean growled at him when he tried, though, so Sam took his hand away. He didn't really want to get scratched. His brother may not have outright attacked him, but he was by no means tame. He didn't know if he could keep Dean this way any longer. Cas must have seen something in his expression, because his voice softened. "I'll help too, Sam. I won't quit until we get Dean back to Dean." Sam saw the sincerity in his friend's face, and relaxed. They would figure this out. His brother would be OK.

They still hadn't figured it out. It had been four hours, and Sam was starting to get cramps in his legs. The book in Hebrew which may or may not have had a clue about the Darkness had long been abandoned for books on transformation and transmutation. The bunker was a treasure trove of lore and information. It should have a solution. There should be a way to get Dean back. Sam just hoped the search for the cure of being a cat wasn't as elusive or as dangerous as the cure for the Mark had been.

He groaned and pushed the literature back. His eyes were tired, and he needed a break. The words were already running together. Cas was a couple of tables over, going through something in ancient Sanskrit. He hadn't found anything, either, but he was still patiently sifting through information. And even sick he seemed to be a lot more patient than Sam. "Hey, Cas? You need to take a break? Cas?" Sam looked up and realized the angel was asleep, one finger between a page in the book as if he'd been half-way through turning it. Sam frowned. He wasn't supposed to be sleeping. Even sick, there'd been no indication he was falling back on things he'd done while human. His grace was sick, he wasn't…

"Hey, Cas, wake up." Sam walked over to his friend and shook him awake. His friend drew in a breath and wiped his mouth.

"I wasn't asleep," he growled, and paled when he sat up. "I was just…thinking."

"You find anything when you were…thinking?" Sam asked.

Castiel cleared his throat and sat up straighter. "I looked at his ribs earlier when he was ripping up the newspaper. There were no more Enochian sigils on it. I think he'd be safe in the bunker without them, anyway…I don't know if they just didn't transfer over or…" the angel sighed. "I don't know. There isn't anything in here on transformations that would affect rib markings. But maybe they disappear if it is an entirely new body. I wish…but most of my studies were in sword-fighting and smiting, not magic."

"But you gave us sigils on our ribs."

Cas looked down. "It was a relatively simple task, and it was only slightly more complicated than what comes instinctively, anyway." He looked up again and smiled dryly. "I may have had to become more of a scholar when I decided to throw in my lot with you." He appeared to study the text closely while he said, "Balthazar taught me almost everything I know."

Sam cleared his throat and nodded. Balthazar had disappeared after Cas and his god-thing. Sam had a sneaking suspicion that Cas hadn't been himself when it happened, either. "I'm sorry." The angel swallowed and nodded.

"To be safe I placed more sigils on his ribs. He did not...react pleasantly."

Sam rolled his eyes and huffed. He could only imagine. "Of course not, Cas." Sam looked down at the scratchings that Cas had been attempting to decipher. "He probably didn't know what was going on." Cas nodded forlornly.

"I don't believe it endeared him to me anymore, either," he said, looking down at the four red lines stretching from the knuckle on the back of his right hand down to below his wrist.

"The scratches haven't healed yet, Cas," Sam said with worry. The angel shrugged. "And you were just sleeping. What's going on?"

"My grace is still trying to negate the aftereffects of the spell Rowena cast on me," he replied. "It has been…fluctuating. Sometimes it flares so strongly I'm afraid one of you will step in the room and get hurt, at other times it's so low that…" he shrugged and wiped some drool off the book he'd fallen asleep on. Sam blinked and nodded.

"Hey, Cas? Why don't you take a break?" The angel opened his mouth to argue, but Sam cut him off. "You're still sick, man. I don't want to have to chase after a cure for you, too." The lines around Castiel's mouth tightened imperceptibly, but then he nodded.


"You can take the one of the guest rooms. And maybe try to sleep? I know it's a human thing, but if your body can heal itself, then maybe your grace can get itself back in order."

"Alright. I'll try to get some rest. Get me if anything happens." Cas carefully pushed himself out of his seat and headed down the hallway where their rooms were. Sam listened as he passed his and Dean's rooms and went into the next vacant space. They hadn't really fixed any of the other rooms up, though Dean had put a nicer bed in one of them, and Sam hoped that was where their friend had gone. He stretched as he stood and went to check on Dean.

Almost three hours ago he had panicked when his older brother had gotten out of his sight. It had taken them a good half-hour of searching before he found the creature, curled up in his beloved Impala, fast asleep in the driver's seat. The passenger window had been open, and the afternoon sun had shone down through the skylight Dean had uncovered in the bunker garage, casting a warm rectangle of light in the driver's seat. His paws were covering his eyes, and it was almost cute. Sam had taken some pictures for blackmail, and had snickered to himself. He couldn't wait to see Dean's face when he saw himself. And Sam would make sure it was a when.

So that's where he was headed now. The sun had since left the window, and though blue sky could be seen from the ground, a long shadow had been cast over the garage, so that it was now too dim to see. Sam turned on the light and blinked at the brightness, heading toward the Impala. "Alright, Dean," he said, approaching the vehicle. "I think you've slept long enough." He threw opened the door…

…And Dean was gone. Sam felt a very familiar panic rise in him as he'd lost track of his brother, again. Next time he was picking him up, claws or not. Sam spent nearly ten minutes looking through the garage before determining that Dean was no longer there. He was sure to shut the Impala's windows and the lights off before leaving, sealing the room behind him. He shook his head and headed to the kitchen. It was a little early for supper still, and he had a whole bunker to search. When he found Dean, he would lock him in his room. See how he would like to come back to shredded blankets and scratched furniture. Then he could tease his brother mercilessly about his antics and everything could go back to normal.

Sam entered the kitchen just as a loud clatter and the sound of something breaking echoed in the kitchen. He ran into the room and looked at Dean, who was vigorously licking up the remnants of tuna salad in the container that had held the filling and had knocked off a shot glass that had somehow made its way into the kitchen. "Dean…" he said, and two green eyes looked up at him guiltily. The cat scrambled off the counter and sprinted to the other room, knocking over the empty container and hiding under the table Cas had been studying at earlier. Sam found himself on his hands and knees calling to his brother, who was eyeing him with wide-blown pupils. "Dean, hey, it's OK. It's just me," he cajoled. He wondered why Dean was so wary of him, though he was a larger creature and his size may have been a bit overwhelming for such a small animal. The cat seemed to relax, and then hesitantly approached Sam. He rubbed against Sam's shoulder, and then looked at him almost smugly, Sam thought.

"Jerk," he muttered. The cat tossed his head and then sniffed at the air. He continued to smell around as he scouted out the perimeter of the room. Sam recognized that look. It was Dean in tracking mode; the careful padding, the inspection of the ground. What was he…? Suddenly his brother crouched down, ears carefully perked forward, listening for movement. Something about what he was doing made Sam hold his breath as well. He listened too, and then he heard it. Something was rustling around in the papers that had fallen under the bookcase. Suddenly the dark ochre paw shot forward and a small brown body tumbled out of the space underneath. Sam froze in shock, stilled by the fierce, yet graceful movements of his brother in hunting mode. The large paws batted the rodent around a couple times before Sam snapped out of it. "Dean!" The shout was a veritable roar and caused the feline to pause and look up as the rodent scurried to the cover of a deeper bookcase. Dean's eyes narrowed at him and he complained with an annoyed and angry meow. It was almost closer to a scold than anything. He finished with a low growl and turned around. Of course. Sam remembered he'd promised to catch the chipmunk before making supper. But that was before he'd turned into a cat. He wondered if somewhere deep down, Dean was trying to keep his promise. That didn't mean he'd let his brother violently kill the creature.

"Dean, you don't have to catch it before supper, you know," he said, but the cat ignored him. He was angry at Sam. Sam shook his head and stood up. "Fine. But I don't want it to be a dragged-out blood bath, OK?" The cat still hadn't given any indication of having heard him and snorted as it sauntered in front of the area where the rodent had disappeared to. He sat down on an open tome and began to groom himself. Sam sighed. "Alright…I guess I'm just going to…look for a cure for this." Sam sat down and sighed, running a hand over his face. He just hoped this wasn't one of those time-dependent spells, where the cure had to be administered within twenty-four hours or less. So far he hadn't found anything helpful; definitely nothing about a spell where the hair was tied around the neck of the victim. He groaned and got up for a bottle of water. Maybe he would think better with more liquid in his system.

Kaila was eager to please, but incredibly dense. Still, she was trustworthy and Rowena doubted anyone else would be stupid enough to take on this mission. She didn't trust her enough for the book, of course, but for this assignment she was perfect. It would get the warning across to the brothers and might get the overeager kiss-up out of her way as well. Two birds, one stone as the saying went. Of course, if she did escape…

But Rowena wouldn't worry about that right now. Her primary concern was the Winchesters. If that ditsy New-Ager could manage to take one of them out (which she doubted), then good on her; she just might earn high favor in Rowena's eyes. It would make the witch's plot that much simpler. However, if not, they would still know she was out there and that she had not forgotten. Rowena was an expert at psychological tactics. After all, she had had years of practicing them on her son.

Castiel was startled by a sound. Not awoken. He hadn't been sleeping; angels didn't sleep. Confused, he sniffed the air. It was the closest human sensation he could associate with his grace, though he really couldn't pick up what the disturbance was by using the human sense. His grace was still weak, and the angel feared what could happen if one of these peaks went to low. Either end of the spectrum was bad, really. Too high, and his friends could get hurt. Too low, he could…extinguish. He really didn't want to do that. Luckily it seemed the fluctuations weren't as bad as they had been though.

The soldier blinked away the tiredness from his eyes, forcing himself to concentrate. What had been happening? Oh, yes; they needed a solution to Dean's cat problem. And not the allergies, either…

The sound came again, and caused Castiel to stiffen. As a human he had learned the hard way not to ignore his senses. They led to disaster more often than not, and he could not allow that. Especially when he knew it was his duty to guard Sam and Dean. Especially now that he was not at full capacity.

Even bottoming out, he could tell that the presence was evil. He got up quickly, tripping and righting himself in his panic as he tried to run out of the room. He had to warn Sam.

Sam could not find Dean. He couldn't find him anywhere. He had left for just one minute, one minute, and his feline brother was nowhere to be found. Panic and frustration ran rampant through his mind, but he forced himself to calm. It was OK. Dean had disappeared before, and he had been fine. He would be fine now. He just had to find him before dinner.

He was turning into the wing where their rooms were when he collided with Castiel. They both fell with an "oomph." Sam self-consciously stood up and offered his hand to Cas. The angel accepted the hand and Sam pulled him up.

Cas' gravelly voice was sounding even more gravelly than usual as he panted, "Sam, there is an evil in the bunker," he paused and coughed as Sam tugged on his coat sleeve.

"What!?" Sam felt the panic triple and his heart rate double.

"There is an evil—"

"Yeah, Cas, I heard you. We have to find Dean! He's completely helpless. I need to get the gun—"

"Oh, let's not get out the big-boy toys quite yet," a nasally voice pitched over the air. "I promise to play nice." Sam bent over to grab the knife in his boot, and Cas ejected the angel blade from his sleeve.

"Who are you?" Cas growled, holding the blade out in front of him.

"Look, it's nothing personal. I just want to get into the New Coven; I promise to make it as painless as possible." Her voice was even more annoying when she was trying to be placating. "I can wait until you're dead to take off your heads."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa; you're gonna do what!?"

"She just asked for your heads. I can even use a spell on you to put you to sleep first, if you want." The blond tilted her head, as if measuring them up. Bizarrely, Sam noticed in that moment that her hair was ridiculously straight.

"What's your problem!? You're trying to suck up to Rowena? You know she can't be trusted."

"Right, like you can be," the witch answered. "I heard all about the deal she made with you."

Sam sighed and lifted his hands. "Look, let's just talk about this, OK? Maybe we can come to an agreement. You don't seem like a bad person, but Rowena is far more powerful and dangerous than you know." For once the blonde seemed unsure of herself. Sam decided to press further. "You're safe with us if you promise not to hurt anyone. We can protect you from Crowley, too." The blonde bit her lip, and then raised her hands.

The furry thing was on the other side of the way, perched on a ledge. Its movements and sounds caught deep in his heart, his instincts honing in on the creature that smelled like food. He was a hunter, nothing more, nothing less. Thrill and desire and primitive ferocity built in his chest as he crouched down, bunching his muscles to pounce.

"She said you would try to convince me," the woman said. She muttered some words under her breath, and Cas was thrown to one side of the room while Sam felt himself pulled closer to the door, between an end-table and a bookcase. He struggled to free himself from her hold, but her witchery was much stronger than she appeared to be. She spoke another commandment, pinning Cas to the floor while she held Sam in place in the entryway. "Don't worry; it will all be over soon," the witch crooned, pulling back as energy built in her hands. Sam panicked, working against invisible force, and was glad for once that Dean was nowhere to be found. He was sorry, so sorry that he couldn't cure Dean, that he wouldn't be able to help him against the Darkness. He hoped that Cas would soon get his grace under control; maybe he could be there for Dean when Sam couldn't. Sam watched as her elbow came forward, and sucked in an involuntary breath. Just as she released, a furry blur streaked in front of him, intercepting the beam. "What in the…" Sam felt his stomach drop as horror coursed through his veins. No.

"No! Dean!" His shout became a curse, a prayer. Still and unmoving, not even twitching a muscle laid his brother. The small body was so still, so quiet. Sam felt his throat close up as it hit him; his brother was gone. There were no take-backs this time. The reapers had taken him for good. "Dean."

"Wait, that was Dean!?" The witch seemed finally to come out of her shock. The pressure holding Sam back dropped, but he could only stare at his brother's still body. "What!? How? I…I…Oh my frog, I killed someone. How could I do that! I…I didn't think…I mean, I never meant…" Sam ignored her rambling and bent down, trembling, kneeling next to his fallen brother.

"Dean?" He attempted to feel for a pulse, but he didn't know where to look for one on a cat, and he couldn't find one. "Dean!?" Sam was vaguely aware of Cas on the edges of his vision, coming forward slowly as if approaching a wounded animal.

"Sam," he said quietly. The woman was frozen still, as if unable to believe this had been her fault. Sam looked up, tears in his eyes. Suddenly the woman tensed.

"That's his magic," she gasped, her eyes big with fear. She began chanting, reaching into her purse for a pouch. Cas dove to catch her, but as she finished her incantation she disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Sam's vision was blurry as he looked up at his friend. The angel looked truly upset.

"Dean," the brother whimpered, bending over the small body.

"Sam?" the voice was clear, loud, and best yet, it belonged to his brother. The hunter felt his mouth go dry as he dared to turn around.

"Dean?" And there was his brother. He was alive and healthy, even if his clothes were dirty and torn in a couple of places.

"Sam, what are you doing? Are you…crying over a cat?" Sam could only sit, frozen with his jaw slack as Dean came closer, very solid and very there. The whites of his eyes were already turning red from cat dander as he looked around the corner of the doorway. Suddenly his hand darted out towards the bookshelf and he clutched his hand tight around a small, struggling creature. "Ha! Yahtzee!" he crowed, holding the creature up by the tail. A brilliant flash of teeth Sam never thought he'd see again lit up Dean's face. "Told you I'd get it before supper." He cocked his head, looking confused. "…Sam?"

The younger brother was finally able to find his tongue. "Dean, I thought…"

"What, that I was the cat?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. Dean frowned. "Dude, did you replace me with a cat?"

"What, no, I just thought…I mean…the chipmunk…the tuna…the playing thing…the attitude…the hair…and then the Impala…and the rodent before supper…and then taking the hit…"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on…what was that about the Impala?" Dean waved his hands, giving Sam a concerned glare as the poor chipmunk struggled to free itself.

"I…I just..." Suddenly Sam stood up and wrapped his arms around his big brother. "I'm so glad you aren't a cat."

Dean raised an eyebrow, patting the younger man on the back awkwardly with one hand until he let go. "So, you really thought it was me." Sam nodded, wiping an eye as he regained his composure. Dean grinned and motioned to the cat with his eyes. "You gonna give it a hunter's funeral?"

He never saw the punch coming.