Chapter 7

Sam came to the door at Dean's yelled "SAMMY!" He opened the door wide for Dean to enter with an exhausted, sleeping Tayen in his arms. Sam was shirtless with a compression bandage wrapped around his bicep.

Sam followed Dean to Tayen's bedroom where he laid her on the bed and removed her shoes. He went into her bathroom and got Dean a cool washcloth for her bruise. "She okay?" Sam asked his brother as Dean gently bathed Tayen's face.

"She's exhausted. She lost her best friend tonight Sammy."

"What?" Sam asked incredulously.

"A black panther named Naira. The cat killed Matthew to protect Tayen and earned a knife to the gut." Dean sat back on his heals and brushed Tayen's hair back off her forehead with a gentle caress. "I promised her I'd go back for the cat."

"Did you get the amulet?"

"I will. We'll put Naira to rest then send the warrior packing. I don't think we'll have any more trouble from him with no one to pull his strings."

Dean grabbed a saddle blanket off the chest at the foot of the bed.

Sam stood. "I'm going with you."

Dean shook his head. "No, your arm. Stay with Tayen. I don't want her alone."

"Okay Dean." Sam acquiesced. "I'll stay with Tayen." Dean left the room, grabbing salt, a shovel and the gas can from the Impala before heading off into the woods.

For the second time that night Dean used the moonlight to follow a haphazard trail through the forest. He made it back to the cavern in a half hour, his heart making his steps heavy. Inside the cavern the big black cat still lay where he'd left her. The image of Tayen saying goodbye flitted across his mind. He knelt by the cat and looked at her somehow peaceful, intelligent face. "You were as strong as she is." He wrapped the cat in the saddle blanket after pulling the knife from her body. Hefting her, Dean carried Naira outside and laid her on a large flat rock near the entrance to the cavern.

Dean went back inside and dragged the murderous Indian from the cavern, not really caring how he was treated. Dean pulled the warrior's amulet from his neck He dug a shallow grave and put the Indian's body inside, and poured gas on the body. Then as he salted it liberally he pulled matches from his pocket. Looking down at Matthew's body, Dean felt anger surge through him. "You're not good enough to waste a Zippo on, you sonofabitch. Dean flicked a match over the coarse paper on the edge of the box and dropped it on the gas soaked fabric of Matthew's shirt. His body began to burn and Dean stared into the flames for a second before remembering the amulet laying near the panther on the rock.

He had another ritual to complete before he could take Tayen's companion to her to be put to rest. Dean moved to the rock and lifted the heavy amulet, which glinted with the rising sun. Dean cleared the leaf litter from a spot on the ground about a foot square. He laid the amulet on his knee and drew two circles, one inside the other, in the black dirt with his right forefinger. He picked the amulet up off his knee and placed his now dirty finger over the wolf's heart on the amulet. He motioned with the amulet in both hands to the four winds and laid the amulet in the center of the two rings. He pulled the sage from the pouch around his neck and then his lighter from his pocket. Taking the small handful of corn from the pouch he put it near the sage. He lit the sage and laid it to the north of the amulet on the bare ground. The sage burned; releasing an aromatic smoke. As the smoke rose Dean dipped his right forefinger into the cooling ash and touched the fine gray ash to his own forehead, chin and cheekbones.

Dean saw the spirit appear before him, tomahawk and bow resting in his belt and on his shoulder. The spirit remained passive as Dean completed the ritual, lifting the amulet from the center of the rings and passing it from right to left through the smoke. He stood from where he sat on his knees and held the amulet out with both hands, one below and the other closed over the amulet. He gestured again to the four winds and opened the covering hand, offering the amulet to the warrior.

The warrior's spirit solidified long enough to lift the amulet from Dean's hands and hold it how Dean had. The warrior gestured to the four winds and placed the amulet over his head. As the amulet rested against the translucent image the warrior wore, he nodded once and began to fade away. Dean returned the nod and watched the warrior fade as the sun rose, bathing Dean's face in its glow. The warrior disappeared, now at rest forever.

The flames that had consumed Matthew's body had died to a low flickering glow. Dean picked up the shovel again and filled in the hole that would hide the ash of an evil man forever. He returned the leaf litter to an undisturbed state over the shallow ash filled grave.

Dean moved to the saddle blanket laden body of Naira and picked her up. He began the slow walk back through the forest to Sam and Tayen, returning her lost friend to her.

Dean walked out of the woods to find Sam and Tayen sitting together in the sun. Sam had made a pyre near where Tayen sat. A torch was burning, stuck in the ground near the pyre. Dean wordlessly put Naira's body on the pyre. Tayen stood from where she was and pulled the blanket away from Naira. Taking a deep breath, she pulled a piece of black cloth from her pocket. She unwrapped the fabric and showed them a band with two eagle feathers on it. It was intricately beaded in reds, blues and blacks with a white bead border. Tayen gestured to the four winds with the eagle feathers before wrapping the band around Naira's front feet.

"May the eagle's flight guide you to the land beyond, my friend." Sam stepped up and pulled the torch form the ground, touching it to the dry wood beneath the pyre. Heat rose along with blue sparks. No one spoke until the fire burned out and cooled. Dean led Tayen inside the cabin. Sam followed.

"Why didn't you show her to me?" Dean asked as Tayen sat wordlessly on her couch. "She was here when we were last time. You led me to believe you were completely unprotected."

Tayen looked in the direction of Dean's voice, still unaccustomed to not being able to see him. "Would you have believed me if I told you I could see through a panther's eyes as well as you can see through your own?"

"I'm sorry you lost her. She was strong. Now you're unprotected."

"Naira knew her time was drawing to a close. I knew it. She showed me."

"How?" Sam asked.

"She disappeared for a few days four months ago. When she returned she was slightly distant. Then she disappeared again four weeks ago. She wouldn't let me share her eyes. I think she gave me the same gift her mother did when I lost her. I think she left me my next companion."

"The cub wouldn't be old enough to survive would it?" Sam asked, remembering his college biology course.

"That's why I need your help. I have to find her. If I lose her I'll be in the dark for the rest of my life. I've only been able to connect with Naira's line. I've tried to reach other animals in the forest, even Naira's father, but it has only worked with females. Please, help me find her."

"We will." Dean assured her, standing from the couch and running a finger down her cheek. They went outside and Tayen followed, for the first time her steps slightly faltering. She stayed on the porch. Dean and Sam spread out across her ground and began the search, Sam taking off in the direction of the shed. He neared it and thought he heard something. He stopped in his tracks and listened. There it was again, a soft snuffling and a rustle.

He lay down on the grass and peered under the shed. A smile lit his features and he sat back on his heals. "Hey Dean!"

"Yeah Sammy?" Dean hollered from the other side of the grounds.

"I found her. I'm at the shed."

Tayen heard and her heart filled with hope that she would again see the sunrise with a companion at her side. Dean sprinted towards the shed to see Sam lying on his stomach, reaching cautiously under the shed. Sam pulled a snuffling bundle of black fur to him and looked at Dean. "Help me up, I don't wanna hurt her." Dean helped Sam to his feet and smiled at the mewling, clawing bundle as she showed the same spirit he knew her mother had possessed.

"She's beautiful." Dean said, smiling at Sam. He took the baby panther from Sam and walked to Tayen's side. "We've got her, Tayen. She's right here." Tayen reached a shaking hand out and touched the cubs head between her soft slightly rounded tiny ears. Yellow cat's eyes peered into Tayen's as she bonded with her new companion.

Tayen gasped and looked directly at Dean, a smile curving her lips. "She is Naira's daughter." Tayen took the cub from Dean's hands and raised her gently to the four winds. I seek the sprit's praise and grace for Donoma, daughter of Naira."

"What does her name mean?" Sam asked quietly.

"Donoma means "sight of the sun." Naira meant "big eyes." Tayen moved to Dean's side and kissed his cheek. Then she did the same to Sam. "Thank you for keeping your promise and finding her."

Sam cleared his throat nervously. "We should be going. I'll be in the car Dean. Goodbye Tayen."

"I'll see you again Sam." Tayen called as he walked away with a smile on her face.

"Thank you Dean. For everything." Tayen said, reaching out with the hand that wasn't cradling the purring kitten. She laid her palm on his stubble covered cheek. "I will see you again. Just remember I'm not unprotected. And you always have a place here." She said as she pulled her hand from Dean's cheek and placed it over her heart. Dean bent down and kissed her softly on the lips. He patted Donoma on her tiny, soft head and turned away, walking to the car. Halfway there he turned back.

"Tayen."

"Yes?"

"I know you're protected. I'll see you again."

Dean got in the car with Sam and his brother looked at him quizzically. "What, Sammy?"

"You cared about her."

"Oh, kill me now. No chick-flicks Sam."

"Dean, you cared about her."

"I do care about her." He rolled his eyes and shook off the admission. "Are we done?"

"Yeah, we're done." Sam looked at him again and smirked.

"What?!"

Sam pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and held it out to Dean. "You look like you face planted into an ash pile." Dean took the offering and wiped his face. Smirking at Sam he turned on the radio. Boston's Walk On filled the Impala with its beat. The guys had finally gone down the long road back to normal and made it back to where they should be.

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A/N: There it was people. Just me, dabbling in something from my imagination. I loved writing Tayen as much as I love writing Sam, Dean and Bobby. Please let me know if I did her justice. Hope you like the happy ending! Please, please let me know. Happy New Year!