(Notes: This is a stand alone story though it does make reference to previous events in "Sacrifice of the Heart" which is set in Season 2 after the episode Heart. Guess what I am saying is that you do not need to have read the first one to read this one. Doh! This story is set in Season 3 between BDABR and DALDOM)
Dean yawned, his powerful jaws opening wide to show large sharp teeth capable of crushing the skull of prey. He rose to all fours making his leisurely way out from where he lay concealed in a thick bank of brush. The sounds of a nearby river masked any minute sounds his padded feet made.
Twisting his neck first one way and then the other, he then stretched out his front legs and let his sharp claws dig into the soft dirt, his back arching until his rear legs were straight. He swung his tail lazily back and forth, luxuriating in the sensation.
Moist air traveled into his nose and lungs as he took a deep breath, all manner of information sparking in his brain as the input was torn apart into its component pieces. His ears swiveled to the left and right adding to the data. Even his whiskers played a part. The scent of cavorting spider monkeys about a hundred yards to his left mixed in with the cloying smell of overripe curuba. A lone manatee swam lazy circles in the river behind him. Birds of all types and colors filled the trees to his right, their early morning chatter filling the air. Trees, dirt, green, life -- all were catalogued inside his hunter's mind and divided between fun, food, and danger from what he could see, hear, and smell.
Just for amusement, he called out, the jaguar's unique cough rebounding around him causing the birds and other small creatures to scatter in alarm in all directions. None of them had previously caught his scent and therefore had no idea where he was.
Dean watched the chaos he'd caused with wry enjoyment until everything grew tranquil again.
He knew this was a dream.
Everything was too vibrant, too detailed to be anything else.
He'd had dreams like this before. Except then they hadn't been exactly dreams.
Months before he sold his soul in exchange for his brother's life, back when Sam was still struggling with the guilt and pain of Madison's death, an ancient woman had come to him. Without his knowing, she had placed one of her sons inside him, and he in turn had helped Dean cross back and forth between the land of dreams and reality, giving him the ability to change shape.
A lot of the details were fuzzy now, as if the memories were reclaimed when the parted veil between worlds had been dropped once more, their mission done.
Despite that, despite the fact Sam had been kidnapped and almost sacrificed to some ancient pissed off spirit, what Dean recalled most clearly about that time, about when he'd not been quite himself was that it'd been an utter blast!
Okay, except for getting Baby wet inside and making her stink like the insecticide infested Trinity River. That he could have done without. Even now, he wasn't sure the Impala had forgiven him entirely for that one.
So with his time on this earth as short as it was, this was a great dream to have. And he was going to milk it for all he was worth till the alarm or Sammy woke him up.
Choosing a direction at random, Dean took off, letting the low hanging leaves and wind sweep over him as he used the speed and power of his dark feline form to race through the jungle.
He could feel well honed muscles rippling as he dashed from tree to tree. His balance and agility as he leapt up to bank off a trunk or clamber up to a tree limb to leap into the air was amazing.
Only having Sammy out here with him, sharing this, could have possibly made it more sweet.
As if summoned by his thought, Dean suddenly sensed his brother somewhere off to his right.
"Sam!" He was surprised he could speak, but only for a moment. This was a dream after all. And all things were possible in a dream.
"Dean?" His brother came out on silent sandaled feet from behind a vine draped gigantic ceiba tree. Like Dean, he too was changed. His hair was long and deep black, falling to the middle of his back, his long bangs getting in the way of his eyes like always. The normal pale tint of his skin was gone, replaced by a milk chocolate tan. His garb was the same as the last time they appeared to share a dream together -- a rainbow colored belt and woven pants that didn't quite reach his ankles and was full of bright colors. A leather pouch was strapped to the middle of his chest and a jade necklace composed of carve animal faces graced his neck.
"Dude, I was just wishing you were here."
Dean saw his brother take a half step back as his face twisted with shock and surprise as he caught a look at him. "Why are you a jaguar?"
Dean's ears swiveled forward. "Cause it's my dream, Sammy. And in my dream I can be anything I wanna be."
"But, I didn't ask to be this." Sam pointed at himself, at his bitching garb.
"Hello! My dream. Mine, not yours. I set the rules." He slapped his brother with his thick tail to drive the point home. Sam hopped on one foot trying not to fall over from the force of it.
His brother's brows drew together, the edges of his mouth turning down. "Like hell this is just yours!"
Dean's ears flattened against his head, his tail swishing. "Okay…then if it isn't mine, you'll easily be able to beat me to that half fallen tree trunk way over there, right?"
"Oh, come on, dreams don't work that way and you know it."
"Chicken." Dean slapped the soft ground sideways, his claw sending clumps of dirt and leaves in Sam's general direction.
His brother waved a dismissive hand. "You don't know what you're talking about. As usual."
He sensed Sam getting ready though he tried hard not to look it. His brother was game. Awesome.
Dean tensed his own muscles in preparation. "Okay…ready, set…" He took off. "Go!"
"Dean, you cheater! You suck man!"
He laughed as he pelted through the foliage, sensing Sam coming right behind him. They wove through the trees, slapped by limbs and vines, neither letting anything slow them down. Bugs and small animals scurried to get out of their way rather than risk getting run over.
Dean glanced over at his brother and caught him doing the same as they came within ten yards of their goal. Dean let his claws flex giving him just that extra bit of traction as he poured all he had left into a last sprint. He almost collided with Sam as he too shoved into overdrive.
Happier than he'd been in a damn long time, Dean pushed off with his back legs and leapt the final two feet up onto the moss covered trunk using his claws to bring himself to a stop. "Hah! You wuss!" He let his long body slump against the crinkled bark, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. "I win!"
Sam stared up at him, half bent over with his hands over his knees, gasping for air. "Only…cause…you…cheated…looser." He allowed himself to drop down onto the forest floor to rest.
Dean could only chuckle to himself, spent from the run as well, though he'd never admit it.
"What is that?"
Dean rested his chin on his paws and gazed down at his brother. "What's what?"
"Can't you hear it? It's like a low keening sound." Sam's head tilted slightly to the side, his eyes closed, brow furrowed in concentration.
Swiveling his ears in the same direction, Dean stopped panting so he could hear better. At first there was nothing there, but then he heard it. A far off sound, rising and falling, almost like a wail. "That's wicked strange, dude."
Sam rose slowly to his feet. "I think we should check it out."
"What for? This is just a dream."
His brother shook his head. "There's more to it. Could be something important."
Giving him the feline equivalent of a shrug, Dean came up on all fours. "Sure, what the heck." He jumped down from his perch then butted Sam at the hip with his head to get him moving. "Lead on, dude."
Sam pushed at his side with his foot to get Dean to back off then set off in the direction of the sound.
The jungle grew thicker around them, the strange cry weaving in and out of their hearing. Then a path seemed to part before them out of nowhere as if rolling out to show the way. Trading glances, they decided to follow where it led.
After a timeless distance, the path broadened into a small clearing. A growing pool sat in the center of it, a woman sitting with legs to the side at the shore, her tears adding to the water. Her arms where wrapped around her swollen belly – she was with child. As they stared, a wailing cry issued from her lips, her face and hands rising toward the darkening sky above. Her skin was dark with the reddish tint Dean had come to associate with the Maya. Though her eyes and nose were swollen from crying, he had the feeling she was attractive in her way. Her long hair fell in ringlets past her shoulders.
In the middle of the pool, despite the canopy up high hiding the sky from view, shone the bright face of the moon.
"Excuse me, miss?" Sam took a half step in her direction.
Dean took a deep breath, getting the scent of her. She smelled alive and healthy, and strangely like cinnamon.
The girl seemed totally unaware of them. Dean decided to come a little closer. Sam followed. They ended up standing right beside her, but it was as if they didn't exist.
His brother tentatively reached out to touch her shoulder.
A voice echoed out around them before he could complete the gesture.
"Ba'ax ka wa'alik, warrior and shaman. It has been many cycles since we last met."
Dean sniffed the air, his ears shifting position as he tried to figure out where the speaker was hiding. He picked up no scent that shouldn't be there, no sound but the disembodied voice, nothing but the jungle around them.
He glanced at Sam and saw his brother pointing at the water, at the image of the moon. Inside it was the shifting face of a woman, one moment young, another old, then somewhere in between. It was a face he recognized. It was the same woman he'd met in Dallas, the one whose son had merged with him for a time.
"Ix Chel!" Sam recognized her as well.
"It is good that you remember, for once more I am in need of your assistance."
Dean felt his pulse quicken. He owed her. Despite the fact they'd helped her out before, what she had done for Sammy, what she'd helped him get through, it was something he could never repay. "Just ask and I'll do it."
"Dean!" Sam's scathing look insisted he should have waited to hear what she wanted before volunteering. His brother just didn't understand. He owed her. They would have done the Dallas job whether she'd asked them to or not. It didn't count.
He stepped into the water, his whole concentration on the moon floating there. "I'll help."
"She is the one who needs you. She has called to me in her despair and I in turn have called on you." Ripples across the surface of the water changed Ix Chel's face back and forth between a woman, a jaguar, and a serpent. "Find her. Help her if you can. What has been taken is very precious and must be saved."
"Do you know where she is?"
The ripples increased and the image of the moon faded to be replaced by another. This one showed a broad road, a small white sign showing it was route 3, and a larger marker in green reading Merrimack population twenty seven thousand.
"She's in Merrimack?" What kind of a name was that? Who would name a town after a happy truck?
The image faded.
"The knowledge of the past is inside you. Let the Words guide and help you. Let Their power flow through you. What has been yours once can be yours again. But you must hurry. Time is short."
The image of the moon returned to the water and glowed brighter and brighter. Its light bathed them where they stood and seemed to go through and around them, filling them, until it was all there was.
Dean's eyes snapped open. He was human, lying in bed, in a dark room smelling faintly of cigarettes and stale beer. And he'd just taken a mission from a moon goddess.
He sat up and out of the corner of his eye saw his brother do the same. They turned toward one another in the semi darkness.
"Dude, we got a job!"
"Crap." Sammy's brow furrowed, his lips growing thin. "Not again."
Dean felt the exact opposite, growing excitement racing through his veins. He'd never thought he'd get this opportunity again. He raised his right fist above his head and pumped it several times in the air. "Yes!"