John's on doctor prescribed vacation for the next week. John's on vacation and the kid—his "substitute liaison," according to Manning—is either tripping over his own feet or staring at Hellboy's horns. Liz's flown the coop once more (something about "trying the real world out again") and Abe is somewhere in England helping on some case there and John is on vacation.

Hellboy crushes the last empty beer can and tosses it somewhere over his shoulder. Since he's still on the compound grounds, someone on clean-up will get it. Maybe. Squinting up at the stars, he starts plotting out some pranks for the agents, a way to keep them on their toes. He's detailing the third prank for the kid-liaison when he inexplicably hears John say, "Hellboy!" The sound is low down and just as he's wondering if there was something in that last case of beer, there's a tug at the bottom of his coat. Bewildered, he looks down.

There's a cat there, claws hooked on the hem of his jacket. It's a lanky tomcat that looks thoroughly miserable, soaked through and matted with dirt. Hellboy bends down and gently unhooks the cat. "Maybe I can sneak you in," he offers, reaching out to scratch the cat's chin.

The cat deftly avoids the touch and says, with John's voice, "Red, it's me. It's John."

Hellboy looks at the scruffy mongrel for a long moment and then starts to chuckle. "Why'd you get yourself turned into cat, Scout?"

John gives a plaintive miaow and then, looking distinctly disgruntled, realizes himself. "I didn't want to do this," he says slowly. "It just happened." He stops talking, almost suddenly, the big hazel cat eyes sticking on something past Hellboy; John crouches, pounces, and is off, chasing after something before Hellboy can even move. When Hellboy realizes that John is not coming back, he starts moving.

An hour later a muddy Hellboy is standing over a kitchen sink with warm water in it, holding a mud-matted John-cat in his arms. "You're getting a bath whether you want to or not," he warns and ignores the small growly noise John makes.

Another hour later, he realizes that he should have probably listened. The kitchen is filthy, he's somehow both soaked and dirtier than before, and there are faint scratches all over him. John does not look pleased, frantically licking at his paws. He grabs John, mutters, "You owe me for this big time," and stalks back to his room, intent on a long shower.

When he finally does emerge from his shower, clean, he finds John curled up on his pillow, sleeping. Three other cats are at the edge of the bed, eyeing him, but when Hellboy sits on the bed, they scatter. Looking at John, Hellboy debates for only a moment; then he recalls that this is actually iScout/i on his bed, not actually a cat, and petting is probably bad.

(If he wakes up in the middle of the night with John curled up under his chin and purring—well—he'll just make no mention of it.)

The next two days are spent in the library, skimming through every book that might have relevance. John can't even attempt to help, as his attention is completely shot. His time is spent between attempting to catch Hellboy's tail and sleeping. (At first, the whole tail-chasing thing was, by turns, hilarious and endearing, but Hellboy now has tiny cat teeth imprints all over.)

Hellboy tries, only once, to spend some time outside in the hopes it will calm the both of them. Instead, John spots something in a tree and is gone in a flash. Getting up the tree is not so bad, coaxing John out of the tree is bad, and climbing down the tree is very bad, but hitting the ground and feeling John still shaking in fear is the worst.

(The one good moment is when, back in the library, John curls up on his stomach and stays there, dozing. He butts Hellboy's hand and starts to purr when Hellboy scratches behind his ears. Hellboy keeps his eyes trained on the book he's holding and is thankful that Abe is not there.)

After those two days of research, Hellboy decides that a new route is necessary. He decides to call in a favor. There's a witch hiding out in the woods and she should at least be able to tell him where the spell came from. Hellboy steals a truck from the garage and doesn't bother to tell Manning, which he's sure is going to bite him in the ass later, but it'll be worth the look on Manning's face when he tries to explain that John was a cat. John spends the ride with his face pressed against the window, miaowing every once in a while.

When Hellboy gets to the right hut in the right place in the right forest, he stops. He wants to warn John about this witch, Titania, but John's tail is swishing and his bright eyes are focused on the scene outside the truck window. He has half of a thought of keeping John in the truck, but he knows John and he knows cats, so he gives the idea up, simply opening up the door instead. John disappears in the grass.

Titania, the old crone, comes out, points at him, and starts cackling. There's that and then there's the ten minutes of arguing with her and then another ten of bartering (he's glad he's had that blessed rosary in his pocket, as a just in case). She takes the rosary from him, eyes it, and goes, "Where's he at?"

Hellboy's cursing under his breath as he chases John down. Thankfully, John isn't up a tree this time and Hellboy manages to grab him and drag him back over to Titania. Titania takes one look at the mournful kitty face and starts cackling once more.

"What now?" Hellboy demands and lets John scramble down to the ground.

"That's the human I cursed last week!" Cackle, shriek, gasp.


John dashes away and is lost in the grass once more.

Titania stops her cackling long enough to explain, "Yes, yes. Came through the woods with you," she pokes him hard in the arm with one sharp finger, "last week for something or other and that boy—that boy!—he had all his thoughts and worries bouncing all over the place. It was so loud. I had to quiet him some way." She gives him a gap-toothed grin. "Make him a cat and all of those worries were gone."

He puzzles over that for a second, two, and finally asks, "And are you going to change him back?" He curls his fingers over the handle of the Samaritan.

She gives him a dark look. "Promise to fix what he's so loud about?"

This is Boy scout. Of course, Hellboy's going to try and fix the problem, whatever it may be. "Yeah, yeah," he grumbles and takes her cold hand in his for a binding shake.

A few feet away from them, there's a sudden whump. John, with ruffled hair and baffled expression, pokes his head up through the grass. "…Was I just chasing a mouse?" he asks faintly.

Hellboy turns away from Titania to go help haul John up. "Did you eat the mouse?" Hellboy responds as John stumbles a little.

John frowns. "I don't think I did," he replies.

They head slowly to the truck. The ride back to the BPRD is slow and silent, John simply looking out the window and Hellboy turning over the situation. When the ride is over, the truck back in the garage, Hellboy turns to John.

"So, according to the witch, you've been worrying loudly about something."

John gives him an incredulous look. "That's why I was a cat for the last week?"

"Yeah," Hellboy says. "Now, she said you need to fix whatever it is. Knowing witches, she'll probably turn you back permanently if you don't." When John stays quiet, Hellboy glances over. John's got a thousand-yard stare going, skin little pale, eyes a little too wide. Hellboy's thinking about saying his name, shaking him maybe, but the thought dies when John turns, leans in, and kisses him. After a too-short moment, John pulls back. The color has come back to his face in a flush and his gaze darts away.

"That's what I was worried about," he says quietly. "I just…I wanted…" This won't work. Hellboy grabs John and pulls him back in for another kiss. When they separate some long moments later, John goes, "Oh."

Hellboy grins. "I'm not chasing you up another damn tree, Scout."

"No more trees," John agrees and leans back in.