Mr. Zeppelin Boots was a big red tabby cat with his tail and one paw tipped white. He curled on Sam's lap in the boys' bedroom.
"I wish all his feet were white," Sam said.
Sam was the youngest and knew how to scratch his neck just right so Mr. Zeppelin Boots forgave him for the comment and snuggled. But there was nothing wrong with any of his majestic feet, thank you.
"Nah. He's alright." Dean said. "For a cat." He reached over and pulled at Mr. Zeppelin Boot's white paw. "Ow!" Dean said. "The damn cat scratched me."
"He doesn't like having his paws pulled, Dean." Mr. Zeppelin Boots purred heartily to let Sam know he was right and he approved of Sam's censure of his brother. Sometimes, Dean needed discipline.
"Whatever," Dean said. "Just keep him out of my bed."
"He likes sleeping with you."
Dean huffed and flopped onto his mattress. "He keeps it up, I'll toss him out the window." He shut off the light.
Mr. Zeppelin Boots wasn't worried. Dean would never throw him anywhere. He waited until Sam's hand stilled on his neck and Sam was sleeping soundly. He stood and stretched his front paws and his back; he extended his tail out behind him and flipped it back and forth, back and forth, before he jumped the gap between the beds.
Dean was turned away on his side. "Go away," he whispered. "You're supposed to stay with Sam. You're his cat."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots batted him with his claw to show his displeasure. Sam belonged to him, not the other way around. Dean belonged to Mr. Zeppelin Boots, too, and needed to learn that. Right now, though, Dean was ignoring him. Mr. Zeppelin Boots extended his claw on his white paw and gave him another tap.
"Stop it, you stupid cat," Dean said and flipped over towards him. He waved his hand. "Shoo! Go away."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots did no such thing. This is where he slept. Dean would have to get used it. Besides, Dean slept better when he was curled at his side and Mr. Zeppelin Boots was not unkind to his subjects.
Dean cursed him under his breath. "Why won't you stay with Sam?"
Mr. Zeppelin Boots spent the evening hours on Sam's lap. And Mr. Zeppelin Boots divided his time between his boys. Nights and mornings were Dean's time for attention. He rubbed against Dean's side and purred.
Dean sighed. Mr. Zeppelin Boots purred until Dean's breaths became even and his body relaxed.
In the morning, Mary cracked the door open for him. She was tolerable in that way. Mr. Zeppelin Boots squeezed out and inspected his house. He jumped over the salt line across the threshold of the back door, ran out for his business in the yard, and hurried back inside keeping the lines intact.
John sat at the kitchen table. "Hey, cat," he said. "Have you been keeping an eye on the boys?"
Mr. Zeppelin Boots had. He waited for John to throw him a scrap.
The man peered at him, curled his lip, and tossed him a crust of toast. "Don't tell Mary."
No. Mr. Zeppelin would keep the toast to himself. He waited by his bowl. Dean stumbled into the kitchen a moment later. He rubbed his eyes, grabbed the milk, and filled it.
"Don't give the cat milk. He's getting fat." John said. "And he has a perfectly good water dish and bowl of cat food."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots yowled. He was not fat. He was robust, fuzzy, and magnificent.
"He likes milk," Dean said.
Mr. Zeppelin Boots purred and lapped up his milk. He loved milk.
"See. And if he's fat, it's because Sam keeps giving him cheese."
Yes. Sam was a good human. Cheese was delicious.
"And I only fill the milk twice a day." Dean said.
"Your mother fills it twice, too."
"Huh, well, the cat's a sneaky bastard," Dean said and sat at the table. "So how'd he get the bread?"
"Must've fallen on the floor," John raised his paper. "I expect you to behave today at school, Dean," he said. "I know this is an adjustment, I know it's not easy, but you gotta stop getting into trouble."
"Dad, I'm telling you, it's not my fault."
"I'm not gonna let you off the hook every time you call me Dad. You know that, right? It only works the first twenty times or so."
"So I guess I'm not your favorite today, huh?"
Mr. Zeppelin Boots peeked up at John. Words like those usually made John's face fall and his voice go cracked. Today was no different.
"Dean, you've got to get it through your head how much you mean to me," John said. "Hell, son, if that demon had wanted to play for my soul, I would've been game as long as it meant keeping you and Sam safe."
"Especially Sam, huh?" Dean looked like he wished he hadn't said it, like it had just slipped out. Mr. Zeppelin Boots jumped in his lap and rubbed his nose against his chest. Dean made a half-hearted attempt to dislodge him, but Mr. Zeppelin Boots knew it wasn't what he wanted and latched onto Dean's shirt with his claws.
John dropped the subject. "So why is this detention not your fault again?"
Dean cleared his throat. "The history teacher is a witch. I'm sure of it. And she has it in for me."
"A witch?" John said. "That's the excuse you're going with?"
"Someone keeps stealing the rabbits from the biology department. Rabbits and witches don't mix."
"Well." John motioned to Mr. Zeppelin Boots. "Witches like cats."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots turned to him and yowled. He was no witch's cat. He was a hunter's cat.
"Don't say that in front of him Dad. It's not right." Dean sounded rightfully offended. Dean twisted so he could look in Mr. Zeppelin's eyes. "You hate witches, don't you, boy?"
Mr. Zeppelin Boots purred.
"And you know he hates witches how?" John said.
"He tried to scratch out Ms. Bryant's eyes when Sam brought him to school for Pet day."
"Ms. Bryant, the history teacher?"
"The witch," Dean said. "Zep is a hunter. He knows these things."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots swatted Dean's arm. He preferred his formal name.
"You're no weak ass cat, are you, Zep?"
No. Mr. Zeppelin Boots was a robust, hunting cat. Since Dean understood this, Mr. Zeppelin Boots decided to reward him by allowing him to use his nickname without censure.
"Just because he brought you a dead pigeon, doesn't make him a hunter."
"One, I sure as hell didn't want to get home to a dead pigeon on my bed. And, two, I'm telling you, she's a witch and Zep knows it."
It was true that Mr. Zeppelin Boots didn't trust her. If she tried to come after any of his humans, she'd be dealing with twenty-five pounds of snarling orange fury. Mr. Zeppelin Boots protected his subjects. He meowed mightily to show his ferocity.
John sighed. "That cat doesn't like Bobby, either. He almost clawed out his eyes when he came to visit you boys."
"That's different. Bobby is a dog person," Dean said. "Zep can't help not liking him. They're natural enemies."
"Right." John sipped his coffee and peered at Dean. "You really think your history teacher's a witch? And I don't mean a new age witch or a Wiccan. I mean an old school dark witch?"
"That's what I've been trying to tell you, Dad. My bet is she's a rabbit killing, kid maiming, demonically powered witch. Word in the halls is four kids last semester died in freak accidents."
John got serious. "Maybe I should check it out."
"Check what out?" Mary came in the kitchen. She paused and stared when she saw Mr. Zeppelin Boots. Then she averted her eyes from his grandeur, grabbed the milk, and filled his bowl. "What did you want to check?"
Mr. Zeppelin Boots did not particularly care for Mary. She had never shown any inclination to pet his soft, luxurious fur or scratch his delicate ears. He kept her for the milk. She did fill it twice a day. And the boys liked her.
John ruffled his newspaper. "Dean thinks his history teacher's a witch."
"Seriously?" she said.
John nodded. Mr. Zeppelin Boots meowed.
"Well. We'll have to handle that," she said and sat.
Sam walked in the room a moment later. He was dressed and alert. He sat at the fourth chair, took a deep breath, and laid a black leather case on the table.
"Sammy? There a reason you have out your silver coins. I thought you had them hidden in the closet." Dean said.
"I don't think the closet is really that secure," Sam said. He dropped his gaze to Dean's lap, to Mr. Zeppelin Boots, and raised his eyebrows. "I didn't think you liked him, Dean."
"He's attached himself to my shirt, see?"
Dean had the audacity to lift Mr. Zeppelin Boots up to show Sam where his claws were punched through the fabric of his shirt. Mr. Zeppelin Boots didn't put up with that type of treatment from anyone. He retracted his claws, jumped off Dean's lap, and sat with his back to him.
"You made him mad," Sam said.
"Geezus," Dean said. "Here, have some toast or something." A piece of buttered bread landed beside Mr. Zeppelin Boots' white paw. He nosed it. Yes. He would accept Dean's token of forgiveness. He sauntered over and rubbed against his ankle to let him know he was forgiven. It was always important for Dean to be told these things. Dean huffed and pushed him away with his leg but Mr. Zeppelin Boots was not offended. He knew it was for show.
He jumped up on Sam's lap. "Good morning, Mr. Zeppelin Boots." Sam said and grinned.
"Sam?" John said.
"Yeah, um, Dad?" Sam always sounded a little bit hesitant when he said Mom or Dad. Mr. Zeppelin Boots didn't know if that would ever change.
"What's with the case?" John said.
"Frank gave them to me," Sam said.
"We know, sweetie," Mary said.
"He told me they were really special and to keep them safe," Sam said. He scratched Mr. Zeppelin Boots' neck just so. "But I don't really think the closet is that safe." Sam swallowed and looked at John and then Mary. "I decided that I want you all to keep them."
"What?" Dean said. "Really?"
Sam looked pointedly at Dean, leaned in, and whispered. "They've got high enough points now," he said. He turned back to the others. "So, um, Mom, Dad," Sam said. "I want you to put them somewhere safe for me. Please."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots got bored after that. No one was petting him like they should so he got down and irritably stalked out to the front yard. He was cleaning his impressive feet when Sam, Dean, and John came out and went to the car. Mr. Zeppelin followed to keep on eye of them.
"The secret lockbox in the trunk is the safest place I know," John said. "And even when we have to leave in a hurry, the car always comes with us."
Sam seemed to contemplate it. "You sure it will be okay?"
"Come on, Sammy. The car's ten times the safe place the closet is," Dean said.
Sam reached in his pocket and pulled out his butterfly knife. "This and my knife are the two most valuable things I own," he said. He handed over the case slowly and put the knife back in his pocket. "You won't ever melt them down for bullets, right?"
"It'll be safe, I won't melt it," John said. "Why don't you go back inside and see if your mother can give you some more knife lessons before school?"
Sam glanced between John and Dean. "Okay," he said.
Dean looked at John miserably. John only sent Sam away when he wanted to talk to Dean about things Dean didn't want to talk about. Mr. Zeppelin Boots purred against Dean's legs so Dean would know he was here.
"I love you both, Dean. You need to understand that."
Dean fidgeted and looked away. "I know. Your favorite changes day to day, right? Not always Sam. You told me, I got it."
"But you don't believe it," John said.
"No, I don't think you do."
Dean was getting upset now. "I need to get ready for school." He moved towards the house.
Dean twisted around. "What? Why do you keep bringing this up? I don't care!" He crossed his arms. "I mean, come on, who's your favorite today? Sam just gave you his silver coin collection. I can't compete with that."
"I don't know," John said and stepped towards him. "Sounds like you may have found me a witch."
Dean snorted. "Yeah, that's as endearing as giving you my most prized possession for safe keeping."
John laughed and put his arm around his shoulder. "The problem we have here, Dean, is you're underestimating how much I love a good witch hunt."
"You can't be serious," Dean said.
"This pans out to be a real hunt, you're on top for the day."
Mr. Zeppelin Boots waited until they were in the house and out of sight. He settled beside the car. He would guard both the car and the coins while his humans were inside.