Final Spirit: I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were soooo interested in the furballs. Here you go, no tease this time. And I liked your idea so much I used it here, hope u don't mind!

Adara-chan15: Aaaaaw, no funny? tear S'ok, I update anyway. :D

Mystery: sniff ...glad somebody appreciates my sense of humor...;)

Aciel and CrazyDisaster: Yep, I'll go in with you and buy some stock in aspirin, too.

Windyfontaine: Now, whaddya wanna shoot me for? I can't write with a broken wing!

GuestTypePerson: Thank you for defending my person (places GuestTypePerson in front of Windyfontaine's 'bang') Whew, that was close!

A/N: Oh yeah, I made a boo-boo. In the last chapter I made Sam's eyes brown, when in real life they're blue/green. (Blame it on Wendigo-I swear his eyes were brown.) So for this story, let's just keep the continuity and pretend, 'k? K.

Chapter 7: Snakes & Snails &...Kitty Cat Tails?

For a long time Sam Winchester swam in the murky darkness of unconsciousness, drifting from memory to dream, through nightmare past hallucination. For a long time he wandered through the halls of his mind, searching the corridors of his subconsciousness for a way out of the unending blackness that surrounded him. For a long time there was no light in his darkness.

oooOOOooo

Dean paced the hotel room. Eleven steps from door to Sam's bed. Eighteen steps from door to bathroom, twelve steps from side to side. Sixty-three steps from door to car, sixty-three steps from car to door, eleven steps to Sam.

He went through the motions endlessly in the four days Sam lay unconscious. The first day was filled with constant monitoring. After cleansing the third bite Sam had actually stopped breathing for a full 30 seconds, and Dean's heart raced double time as he sought for the pulse in his brother's neck. When Sam gasped for breath, Dean's heart seemed to stop. He had worried immensely while he continued to wash and bandage the wounds, because Sam just didn't stop shivering the entire time. By the time he had placed the last piece of tape on the last gauze pad, the shaking had subsided a bit, but peace still seemed to elude him. Gently, Dean had wiped down Sam's face, neck and chest with warm water to rinse off the sweat of his ordeal. Then he pulled the covers over his brother's body and sat back to watch over him.

He checked Sam's vitals every hour that first day. Respiration, pulse, pupil reaction, temperature, and even blood pressure with a new fangled wrist bp monitor that he had 'borrowed' from one of the last hospitals they had been in. Although Sam's fever started to climb slightly into the dangerous zone, after a night of cold compresses and alcohol baths, his temperature finally settled at 100.8.

The following day was much a repeat of the previous, endlessly checking Sam's progress, or lack thereof, and trying to catch a few hours of sleep here and there. Though Dean usually haunted whatever various and sundry grocery stores, diners and greasy spoons the current town had to offer, this time he subsisted on whatever room service had, for two reasons. The first, obviously, was that he couldn't leave his brother, even for a little while. The second was that after the fire in Haven's Rest he didn't want to attract any undue attention, and he had to admit, the 67 mint-condition Impala had a tendency to attract a lot of it.

Over the next two days Dean grew increasingly distressed and started to second guess himself on whether he should just throw cation to the wind and take Sammy to a hospital. There had been no indication of wakefulness or response of any kind, and Dean began to wonder how long Sam could go without substantial fluids. He continued to try to get some water into his baby brother, and even managed to succeed sometimes. He would open Sam's mouth and place a spoonful of water on his tounge, then hold his mouth closed and stroke his neck, letting the natural swallowing reflex take it from there. A few times Sam choked on the liquid, but Dean kept trying and got better at it.

Although he was heartened that Sam seemed to swallow a bit of water, it all paled when he continued to lay on the bed, as white and still as a corpse.

oooOOOooo

Dean jerked awake, hand automatically grabbing the butt of the pistol on the table in front of him and flicking off the safety before even raising his head to find out what had awakened him. He glanced around the hotel room taking in every familiar detail from the faded taupe carpeting to the faded nature painting on the wall between the beds and even the faded light from the bedside lamp. Then he noticed it.

Sam had moved.

Dropping the gun onto the table, he ran over to the bed and knelt down beside it, laying his right hand softly on Sam's wrist (automatically checking his pulse) and the other on his cheek, turning his head slightly.

"Sam? Sammy? You in there, bro?" he whispered, putting his right hand on Sam's forehead and smoothing back an errant lock of soft brown hair.

Sam's eyelids fluttered, and Dean could see the eyes jumping back and forth.

"Come on man, stop checkin' your eyelids for cracks. Time to wake up already."

Dean kept encouraging Sam to wake up, changing from sarcastic to pleading to impatient, trying to get his brother's attention.

Finally his diligence paid off when Sam's eyelids slowly blinked and lifted to reveal fuzzy, glazed eyes. He blinked tiredly at Dean as he tried to focus.

"Hey," Dean said softly, smiling, "Welcome back, Sammy."

He seemed to look crossly at his brother before muttering, "It's Sam," and falling back to sleep.

oooOOOooo

A few hours after Sam initially regained consciousness, Dean could hear him stirring again. Returning to his brother's side, he knelt and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. Sam tossed his head lightly, and he sighed as he opened his eyes.

"How ya feelin'?" Dean asked.

Sam licked his lips and replied, "Like I got torn apart by a pissed off demon and sewn together backwards by a blind comedian."

"Oh, funny. That's real funny you ungrateful little sonofabitch." Dean huffed.

Sam looked at Dean for a minute, then whispered, "Thanks."

Dean ducked his head and hid his blush by going to the table to get a bottle of water. He came back, set it on the bedside table, and sat on the bed. He slowly lifted his brother into a sitting position and slid in behind him, settling Sam back against his chest.

"Drink up, a little at a time," he said.

They sat like that for over an hour, Sam slowly sipping on the water as he gained a little strength; Dean holding on to his little brother and giving him all the strength he needed.

oooOOOooo

The following day Dean and Sam lay on their beds trying to puzzle out what had happened. Dean recorded ideas and notations in the journal as they bounced their ideas off each other.

Sam continued to improve as he began to eat the soup and bread that Dean had gotten for him earlier. He had a tendency to fall asleep at lulls in the conversation, so Dean kept close watch when Sam had a bowl of soup in his lap, ready to rescue it when it started to slip from sleepy fingers.

"So, Dean, what's your theory behind the cats?" Sam had a pretty concrete idea what they were, having thought about it almost constantly since he had seen Salem nod at him. Just thinking about that sly look made him shiver.

"Well...I don't really know. Were they manifestations of the husbands' spirits out to thwart their wives eeeevil plans?" Dean added a theatrical shiver to his voice and shook his hands at Sam.

"Wow. 'Thwart'. And you call me college boy?"

"Whatever, give me a better idea."

"Ok, I will. I think they were the spirits of the women themselves."

"How do you come up with that one?" Dean squinted one eye and looked confused.

"All right, bear with me here. You didn't witness some of the things I did, so hear me out before you call me nuts. First, there were three black cats, right?"

Dean nodded, obviously unimpressed.

"There were three followers; those I think were the three black cats, and the white one was Eleanor. When we first got there, I had nightmares of them. The few times I was in the suite, I woke up and Salem was hanging around, watching me. When he saw me, he left. I think he somehow stopped the nightmares while I was in the building."

"OK, I follow so far, go on."

"Then, they followed us into the room that night, and got into a fight with the white one. Last, they showed us, uh...me, where the bones were hidden in the walls."

"Yeah, but explain why that means they were the spirits of the Succubi?"

"I figured it out when the cats were done fighting. Right after the black cats fought off the white one, I saw Eleanor grab her chest and look at the other three in shock, as if they had betrayed her or something. I don't think Emma, Josephine, and Annabella really wanted to kill; they had been drawn into it, seduced themselves by the power of the Succubus. Part of themselves wanted nothing to do with the pain they were inflicting, so that part manifested in the black cats. Some part of Eleanor also recognized that and manifested itself in the form of the white cat, in order to fight them. The three together were able to fight her off and weaken her, giving them the chance to try to let me know where the bones were so we could defeat her. And them. In a way, they sacrificed themselves."

"Pretty theory, Sammy. Too bad we'll never know for sure," Dean said, rising to stretch. He walked to the window and looked out into the misty dusk.

There, on the hood of the black Impala, sat three ebony felines, all looking directly at him with phosphorescent eyes. As one, they jumped down onto the pavement, tails held high, and walked into the fog.

Dean blinked, and the fog was gone.

-fini-

...So there you have it. I thought there was more, but the cats apparently didn't want to spill all their secrets, even to me. Hope you all liked the ride, I loved writing it for you, and I'm curious to know what (if anything) you'd like me to write for you next. Give me an idea to kick-start my creative juices if you'd like, and we'll go from there.