Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Supernatural, and I am making no profit from this story.
When it came to school, Sam tried sticking to the rules, but when it came to hunting, his dad and brother had told him on several occasions that saving lives was more important. So, when he'd spotted the book in the reference section, he'd barely hesitated before sneaking it into his backpack—Mrs. Queen wouldn't let him check out a reference book, no matter how much she liked him. His plan had been to read it as soon as he left the school, but Dean had been missing…Then, afterward, he'd felt like he was tip-toeing around the subject.
Despite what he said in the woods, Dean refused to talk about the bear when they made it back to the Hester home. It was fully dark by then, and even though it wasn't even seven yet, Dean had gone to bed, not giving his brother a chance to ask his questions. Sam knew when he was being blown off, but instead of demanding answers, he decided to get some on his own.
At the Hester house, the boys didn't have to share a room, which was cool, even if that mean Sam was stuck in Ed's daughter's old room—still a pepto shade of pink, despite the fact that she hadn't lived in it for years. Sam had played quiet until the couple went to bed, then turned his lamp back on, reading in silence for the next few hours.
The book was about animal folklore, and it had no place in a tiny library in an equally tiny county school. Sam had been in enough school libraries to know as much, so he couldn't help but wonder if maybe the book had been bought with the Belgreen Bear in mind. If the spirit had tried to reach out to other students in the past, then maybe someone else had caught on to the fact that it was a spirit. Only, if that was the case, why didn't Mr. Hester tell their dad the school had a supernatural problem? And why didn't the spirit hurt more people over all this time?
Why had it picked Dean?
Sam lowered the heavy book down on this bed and wiped the sleep out of his eyes. His vision was getting too blurry to read, but that was okay since he'd already long-since finished the parts on bear lore—there was way more than he expected to find. Too much. Sam didn't know how much was make-believe or just based on old religious rights and how much was useful. There was so much on shamans and bear celebrations and totems…The stories about the Finnish honoring and sacrificing bears was just weird, but Sam didn't know if any of that was actually helpful. Dad had never even mentioned there being animal ghosts before...Did salt even work on them like it did other ghosts?
Sam's eyes shot to his window seal. Mrs. Hester had just smiled awkwardly when the boys had laid down the salt lines, but she hadn't disturbed them, as far as he knew. He felt a chill run over his skin—he hadn't checked Dean's room, and his brother had looked too dead on his feet to look himself.
Sam crawled out from under the throw blanket, tossing his steno-pad onto the folklore book, his sock-clad feet nearly silent as he slipped across the room and out the door into the hallway. He craned his neck, looking for lights down the staircase, but Bernie and Ed were still in bed. Dean was just one room down. He winced when the door hinge whined and snuck inside quickly, in case the old people checked out the sound.
He half expected his brother to be awake when he shut the door behind him, and the apology was almost out of his mouth before his eyes adjusted to the darkness and saw that the lump on the bed hadn't even twitched. Sam snapped his mouth shut again, and stepped up to the closest window, checking the salt line—untouched.
He made a face, mentally chiding himself for being so paranoid, and then turned back to his brother. Dean still hadn't moved, but he had made a sound, just enough to announce that he was still in the bed. It was a soft whistling noise.
Sam followed the stream of moonlight back to the side of the bed—it was a big mattress, bigger than the doubles most motel room had, but his brother was curled to one side, as if he still thought he was sharing with someone. Normally, Dean liked to sleep on his belly, but he was propped up a bit on a stack of two pillows instead, his head tilted back, as if he were trying harder to breath, and his cast-clad arm laying across his stomach.
He looked pale. Sam knew that was a stupid thought, since it was too dark for him to really tell, but that didn't stop him from shivering. Before he realized what he was doing, he reached out, putting his fingertips against Dean's forehead. His skin was clammy, cool, not hot, but Sam didn't feel any relief because that pitched whistle had sounded again, from between Dean's lips.
His brother was wheezing. It was getting worse, the "bear sickness"—Sam didn't believe for a minute it was anything else. Right then, he wanted to shake Dean awake and demand to know what had happened out in the woods, but he didn't. Instead he walked to the foot of the bed and crawled into the wide open space on the other side.
Dean still didn't stir, and Sam settled in beside him, staring at his brother's profile set aglow in the moonlight.
The bear had picked out a few other students, just a few over the years, and they'd gotten sick, but Sam wondered why the spirit had picked them. Sam thought maybe it had to do with the bear totem, what the bear represented…Strong of heart, strong of will. Maybe that's why it had chosen his brother, because he was strong. Or maybe because Dean needed to be strong again.
Sam let his eyes drift shut, forgetting the question and its answer.
John had learned a lot about building proper funeral pyres over the past decade. It was a scary skill, one used by madmen who wanted to get rid of evidence in entirety, not average American dads, but it was a skill, nevertheless. The secret was knowing the proper ingredients for a long burning, hot enough flame. John was making sure he followed his own instructions to a T this time.
The skinwalker, because that's what it was in essence, despite its fancy Aztec title, had been a bitch to put down. He'd spent a full night, into early morning, chasing it down and being chased down until he got it positioned into the trap he'd laid for it. From there, it was a matter of making sure his aim was true enough to knock it off its feet and putting his machete to good use. It wasn't until he'd already worked the cat's head from its body that he realized it was male.
And the proof that it wasn't just a panther came away on his hands in the form of big clumps of fur that sloshed off with the hide, revealing tan, human flesh beneath. He didn't want to be around when it finished shedding completely. He didn't want to see the person who'd done this to themselves. So, he'd worked like a man possessed to get the pyre ready. It was more effort than he usually used on supernatural creatures, but it was important to destroy it completely, not just because of its power…His boys were just a few hours away, and if this turned out to be an upstanding member of the community, then the police would be on him, the stranger, before he could get out of town.
"Dad's comin' home, boys," he said, hoping the promise found them. It was time to face them in person, make sure they were okay. Be there for them like he so often wasn't. Maybe it wasn't too late to fix this one thing.
He turned his back on the ashen, smoldering remains of the Nagual, and hopped in the Impala, ready to break the speed limit to get back to his motel and pack up. A few hours of rest and he'd head north and take advantage of Bernie Hester's cooking.
He remained completely unaware of the creature hunched low in the high, dead grass against the drive. But it watched him carefully, hearing his parting words for what they were—the oath of a father. She understood his need to return to family well because she herself was a mother, and a teacher, for the Nahuales talent was one learned from the generation before. Much as a hunter's skills.
She prowled up to the pyre as if its scent stung her nose. The herbs the man had used wouldn't allow her to paw through the remains of her son. She let out a high, whip-lash cry, and turned her gaze back to the path the car had driven down.
She had killed in anger before, when those people had promised to take away her land, but never had she felt true rage until now. She would follow this man, find those little hunters to which he returned, and she would carry their spirits in the pit of her belly. Then, perhaps, their father would understand her pain.
The moonlight fell at his back, casting a shadow across his features. But the ghost stayed in place, staring inside his home as if it were new to him. Dean could feel his gaze, even if he couldn't see it.
Dean, back pressed against the wall, choked the sawed-off in his arms, prepared to use it, but he knew that it wouldn't be necessary, not from inside the semi-circle. He was safe here; his father said he was safe here, and Dad's word was without dispute.
The whispering voice belonged to a young man. Which fit the story. Dad had said the ghost would be a boy, a Will Whitfield, dead for a decade, and that if Dean were there in his house, as bait, he'd be drawn out. Dean's job was simple: stay put. Once the ghost appeared, it would be too distracted by the temptation of a new victim to realize John was out in the woods, digging up the box of baby teeth the Whitfield boy's mother had buried out back before her own death.
It, the box of teeth she'd mentioned in her journal, was supposed to be a tribute to her lost son, a child who'd burned to death in the house that had once stood in place of her new home, and even though Dad hadn't said so, Dean figured the woman knew her son had stuck around. Maybe Will hadn't killed before because he'd been satisfied with her presence. Maybe that's why he kept taking children now, so he wouldn't be so lonely without his mother there to play with him. Maybe he thought if he killed enough, one of them would stay with him.
The thought made Dean sick to his stomach, but he took a calming breath, kept his stance strong. A hunter wasn't allowed to waver. Dean knew it should frighten him, being alone in the old house, being bait, but somehow it was a comfort to know that Will Whitfield was here instead of out there with his dad.
"Dean, is that you?"
The voice was clearer, less hushed, and Dean's heart leapt up into his throat when the question sunk in. The figure in the doorway took a step forward, confirming what Dean had feared. The face, streaked with moonlight, was pale, but alive, and wearing a bemused smile.
"Man, I knew you here! I was riding my bike past and saw your dad's car, so I figured—"
"Chris?" Dean shook off his shock, carefully stepping over the salt line to grab his friend's arm. Christopher stared, still confused, and jerked out of his grip. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Why do you have a gun?" Christopher asked, softly. Fear lit his eyes as he stared at the weapon. "Why were you sitting in the dark with a gun?"
It was wrongly placed, his fear, but Dean didn't have time to explain that to him. He lunged forward, grabbing a handful of the boy's t-shirt and yanking him closer."Chris, get over here, now!"
For a split second, Dean thought Christopher had tugged free again, but then he realized that it wasn't his friend moving back. Something had shoved him. Before he could react, the shotgun was wrenched from his grip by an invisible force, and Dean flew through the air, the force slamming him back into the wall he'd been perched at for an hour. The plaster on the wall cracked, softening the blow, but it held no grip on him, and he fell straight onto his outstretch arm. There was a snap and give at his elbow, the sharp pain graying his vision.
Dean cried out, barely recognizing his own voice, but it was swallowed, the sound of it, by a fresh scream. Ignoring the throb in his arm, he looked up, frozen as he watched a spray of blood land on the floor, right outside the curved line of salt.
It was too late. Too late to make a move. Too late to save the day. Too late to do anything but just lay there.
Dean closed his eyes, wishing he could un-see what the ghost had just done, needing to forget that look of horror on Christopher's lifeless face. He let out a sob of anger, cradling his arm, and sucked in a few scattered grains of salt. But the world around him went quiet.
This wasn't what was supposed to happen next. Dean could remember every second of that half hour he'd spent behind the salt line, waiting for the ghost to finally explode into flames, for his father to come back, for Christopher to pull himself off the floor. One of those things never happened, but the rest… The time in between was not quiet. It was full of wet sounds and laughter from Will Whitfield. The ghost never stopped begging Dean to come out, to come join him... and Christopher.
"We could be friends…"
But, the memory broke away there, and Dean blinked up, seeing himself still in that house. Empty of the dead and any evidence of their existence. The floor was still lit with the moon's glow—no...not moonlight. Sunlight. White and distance. It was morning light shining in past the curtains.
It took him another moment to realize he was in a bed in the Hesters' home, not on the floor of the Whitfield house.
Throat aching, Dean tried to swallow and couldn't. The sensation of choking sent a shiver down his spine, and he slipped out from under the covers, finding his feet and stifling his wheeze with clenched teeth. He glanced back at the stack of pillows, noticing another form in the bed. Sam lay there, still asleep, mouth agape, too-long bangs almost covering his closed eyes.
Dean hadn't remembered him coming into the room.
He ran his hand down over his face, trying to push down the pressure building in his chest, in his throat, behind his eyelids. It didn't help. A streak of tears slid down his cheeks, unhindered by the anger they brought with them. He stared out the window beside the bed, looking to the woods, but no one was looking back.
Christopher was dead. Christopher was dead, and it was his fault. Even his dad thought so.
Dean wanted it to go away. All of it.
An ache ran up his arm, reminding him of how pathetic he'd felt, laying there, just staring at his friend's body, unable to help. Fifteen, grown, and a hunter, but he couldn't do a damn thing right then. The cast was constantly reminding him: He was weak. He was broken.
Without another thought, he raised up his cast and slammed it down on to the window seal. The back of his forearm hit the hard edge, sounding with a dull thud, and the plaster cracked but didn't crumble like he'd hoped. The blow jarred his fractured bone. Dean winced, biting his lip at the pain, but slammed it down again, until he could hear another crack. But, it stayed in place.
He was too weak, too weak to break it. Too weak. Not strong, no matter what the stupid bear—
Sam was up in a shot, scrambling across the bed to push his brother away from the window. Dean gave him a shove back to the mattress, scratching at the bandages to try and find a hold. A rip sounded, but the cast remained in place.
Sam's eyes widened. "Dean, you'll hurt your arm!"
"I want it gone," Dean growled, frustrated. "I want it off. I fuckin' hate this!"
Sam reached out, grabbing Dean's good wrist with both of his hands. Dean moved to shake him loose, but hesitated, seeing the wide-eyed expression on his brother's face. Fear. Dean knew that look well by now. He stopped, catching a breath he hadn't realized he'd lost. His chest ached. His whole right side ached. The weariness that had dropped him earlier was back again, tugging at his eyelids.
The room went quiet.
"Dean…" Sam shook his head, processing that the storm was over. Slowly, he loosened his grip, letting his big brother's arm drop, but he stayed put, ever cautious. "Why'd you do that to your cast? Did you…I mean, does it hurt? Are you hurt?"
Dean felt like a rock was lodged in his throat. He couldn't speak. Couldn't explain. "Don't need it," he finally managed.
Sam sighed, stepping closer. "Did you see the bear again?"
It was like a slap across the face. Dean pursed his lips, annoyed. "It's not the bear, Sammy," he snapped. "That's got nothing to do with this."
"Dean, 'bear sickness'—"
"Shut up about the stupid bear sickness!"
Sam glanced at the door, warning him that he was being too loud, then shook his head. "Fine. But if that's true, why won't you tell me what happened in the woods, yesterday? You were gone for hours."
"I don't remember, Sammy. I just woke up out there and..."
"The bear left that welt on your stomach, Dean. Did it do anything else?"
Christ the kid was bossy. Dean shook his head. "Don't you have to get ready for school or something?"
Sam made a face. "It's Saturday."
Dean felt like they'd just gotten here; his days spent out in the woods were all a blur. Just as panic was about to sweep over him again, that warmth, like sunshine on his face, settled over him, calming him down. The bear was calling him. He understood that now. It wanted him outside, but this time it wasn't going to pull him out against his will.
Dean moved without looking his brother in the eye, ignoring Sam as he rattled off his concerns in that I'm-eleven-but-smarter-than-you voice he'd been perfecting, and pushed past to shove his feet into the boots at the end of his bed. His sweats bunched up above the cuff, but Dean didn't feel he had the time to change pants, or out of his t-shirt for that matter. After a second's hesitation, he reached into his near-empty duffel and found a sheathed, small iron knife to slide into the top of his cast.
"I'm going for a run," he bit, all he could manage while that warmth was pushing him forward, and stomped out his bedroom door. He could hear Sam scrambling to follow and picked up speed, taking the steps two at a time.
Dean was pretty sure Sam had shouted that last part loud enough for Bernie and Ed to hear, no matter where they were in the house, but, as much as he wanted to do just that, to stop and turn back, he couldn't. He refused, he refused, to break down in front of his little brother again—he couldn't afford to be that person, to be weak in his eyes.
Not weak. Strong.
Dean heard the message, but wasn't sure the lesson could take. Still, he didn't want to fight the warmth covering him, because it was so much better than the cold. And, hell, he wasn't even sure if he could fight it.
He ran out the front door, not feeling the cool air hit him, or hearing the sound of the Impala's engine as it rolled into the driveway. His focus was entirely on the forest ahead of him, on the spirit waiting just beyond, not the shadow who would follow him inside.
The scent of smoke was still on him when he turned into the Hesters' driveway.
John had meant to get a bit of sleep before heading back, but the coffee he'd put away during the hunt was still running through him, leaving him tired but too restless to take advantage of the few hours he had left in the motel. He'd expected the boys might still be asleep, since meds always hit Dean hard, and if his eldest slept through his usual morning training time, his youngest was sure to follow by example, so he was somewhat surprised to see the front door of the house open and Dean shoot out at a hard walk so quick it could have been a run.
John slid the Impala into park, brow raised in surprise when he realized his boy was wearing short sleeves—the air outside the car was as cold as a witch's teat—and there was something off about the shape of the cast on his right arm. Easing the door open, he stepped out of the car, but not quick enough. Dean had curved off toward the woods and disappeared past a wall of briars without ever looking up to notice his arrival.
Before he could question it, the Hesters' screen door snapped shut again as Sam rushed out, still in his PJs and an unzipped coat, tennis shoes untied and his hair a mess. The boy scanned the treeline, then noticed the Impala and ran down the front steps toward him.
John's exhaustion evaporated in an instant. That look of worry on Sam's face was never good. "What's going on, Sammy?"
"Dad, I think Dean's in trouble. Did you see which way he went?"
John reached out, grabbing his boy by the shoulders to keep him from taking off. "Why do you think he's in trouble—what happened while I was gone?"
Sam chewed his bottom lip, as if weighing his options. John didn't like that one bit, because it meant one of his boys had done something they'd probably get in trouble over. But he didn't have time to concentrate on that, because he saw where Sam's gaze had ventured, to the trunk. To the weapons—because Dean was in trouble.
John kept his voice even, despite the panic curling in his guts. "Tell me what happened."
Sam nodded to himself, standing a bit taller. "There's a bear spirit in the woods, and Dean's seen it a couple times. I think it's making him sick. And now he's out there, and it could get him, Dad—it could be getting him right now."
"Animal spirit?" John blinked, confused, but shook it off. "Grab the sawed-off, Sammy. You can tell me what you know on the way. We're going to get your brother."
It didn't take him long to find the bear, but by the time he did, he was out of breath. He wasn't sure how far he was from the house, but, at some point, he'd started to run, and not toward the school. He was deeper in the woods than he'd been those other days, when he'd wandered, searching for the spirit. The difference was, this time he knew exactly where to go.
The bear had brought him here for a reason.
Exhaustion left him quaking, ready to fall over, but he stood in place, watching the beast sitting in the small clearing. Its fur glistened in the bright sunshine—Dean hadn't seen it like this before, in the light. It seemed even bigger than before, even more intimidating and solid than a ghost should, but it cocked its head, watching him.
Dean took a step closer, until only about ten feet separated the two of them, and paused, staring into those warm brown eyes. "My brother says people used to call you Tuju. You were in a circus, right?"
The bear didn't open its maul, but a slight grunt of affirmation escaped. It pushed itself up onto its four legs, body swaying from side to side lazily as it took a step forward to meet him.
Dean's instinct was to run, but he stayed in place, swallowing hard as it closed the distance between them. "I think I know what you want now…But I don't understand why you chose me. I can't be what you want me to be."
The bear paused, cocking its head. Teach you.
"I'm really not a good student, dude." Dean tried to grin back. "Just ask any of my teachers."
Not hurt. Heal.
The bear lurched its weight back, pushing itself up onto hind legs. Dean stared up, wide-eyed, at the creature looming high, its maul now three feet above him, but before he could move back, massive arms wrapped around him. Dean pushed out, trying to get away from the bear before it could fall forward, but long claws tapped against his back, warning him to stay put. Dean breathed into the thick fur, his breath coming no easier than before. But then, maybe that wasn't what the bear was trying to heal.
Dean leaned into the creature, digging his fingers into its cool, matted chest as the memories flooded his mind, of Christopher. Of laying still. Of being useless.
Dean felt a tear roll down his cheek, and he slid his hand up between them, swiping it away. He squeezed his eyes shut and saw an image there, as if it had been burned into place, of Sammy leaning back onto the big boulder at their spot, a book tucked under his nose, a small grin on his face as if he had not a care in the world. Because he knew his brother was nearby.
"What if had been Sammy?"
Dean remembered asking that question, to himself, as he lay in the Whitfield house, staring at Christopher's body. His father had heard it and had looked down at him, angry. Because he'd probably been thinking it too.
But it wasn't Sammy. Sammy was still alive, and that meant Dean couldn't afford to be a disappointment. Couldn't afford to be broken anymore. Sammy needed him to heal; Sammy needed him to be strong.
The bear made a rumbling sound, like the idling motor of the Impala. It was pleased. Dean didn't know how he knew that, but he did. A moment later, Tuju took a lumbering step back and eased down onto all four paws again, still making that content sound.
Dean let out a shallow breath, feeling more awake than he had in days. His arm ached—Christ did it ever—and his chest still felt like it had taken a beating, but his head was clearer, focused. And then he froze as he heard a sound, the snap of a breaking branch behind him. He turned his head, half expecting to see Sam there, watching.
Instead, a big cat, a friggin' panther, at least six feet from head to tail, stood there, holding its head low between its shoulders. The fur of its coat was a deep, intense black but lightened in spots to form outlines of almost circular shapes, rosettes. Sammy had made him watch enough nature shows for him to faintly recognize the shape of its build, the cleft down its forehead, the flatness of its nose—it looked like a jaguar. Only jaguars weren't supposed to be in Alabama. And there was something unnatural about its almond-shaped eyes, something human about them.
It opened its mouth and let out a roar that was somewhere between a cough and a growl before its muscles went tight, preparing to leap.
"Shit…" Dean froze in place, carefully easing his short iron knife out of his cast as he tried to process that this wasn't some screwed up dream, but the cat wasn't waiting for his brain to catch up.
As soon as its front paws left the earth, a wall of brown moved past his peripheral, its speed pushing him to the ground. He rolled out of the way just as the grizzly met the jaguar mid-jump, and the two beasts fell into a heap of fur and teeth and claws. Dean scrambled back up to his knees, but one of the cat's claws snagged the heel of his boot, yanking him back down to the earth. The jaguar let out a trebled screech a split second later as it was knocked aside by a heavy blow from the grizzly.
The bear opened its maul wide and let out a high, pulsing threat.
Dean watched the two tumble for a moment before the limping jaguar slid free of the fray, getting its distance in preparation for another attack.
The boom of the rifle came second to the spray of blood and gray matter from the side of the jaguar's temple. The cat stared at its prey a moment longer before it collapsed down onto the patch of grass, going still. A second later, Dean watched his Dad and Sam appear from the woods, John's rifle still raised in preparation to make a second shot. Dean followed his aim with his eyes and pushed himself up to his feet.
The shout, perhaps simply the shock of it, was enough to give John paused, and Dean shook his head, moving to step beside the grizzly. The creature was only just making it back up onto his legs, but it didn't move forward, only turning its head to stare from the newcomers to Dean.
"You don't have to shoot it," Dean said, holding a hand out to graze the bear's fur. "It's a spirit—it won't hurt it much, anyway. Not if you don't have its remains."
Dean was hoping his logic was sound, because he knew from the hardened look in both his brother and his dad's eyes that they were prepared to fire. He couldn't explain it to either of them. He couldn't get it across that the spirit wasn't trying to hurt him, so he didn't try. Dean turned back to the bear, frowning at the open expression on its face.
"Dean, get back from it," his father warned.
Sam lowered his weapon. "Dean...please."
"Listen—I know what you brought me here for," Dean said, hoping the words were too soft for his family to hear. "I know you wanted to teach me—Sammy's not the only one who knows how to research. I know what the lore is about bears. And about shaman. I understand, but I can't be what you wanted to make me into. Humans aren't supposed to..." His voice broke off, and he shook his head. "I'm a hunter, and I have a dad to teach me what I need to know. You need to move on. That's why you brought me here, isn't it? You were kept in a cage your whole life and now you need to be let free."
The bear grunted bowing its head against Dean's open palm and then stepping back out to the edge of the clearing. Dean followed it, hearing Sam and John behind him, keeping close. The grizzly kept walking, but its image faced away, disappearing into nothingness, and at that spot, Dean could the wide, decaying length of a fallen oak. Scattered around it were stained bones, a fanged skull propped against the wood, sunken into decades' worth of fallen leaves and displaced earth.
"There. He's there."
He felt a wide hand press against his back and leaned into his father's touch. "We'll need to burn it with the skinwalker."
Skinwalker, the jaguar…Dean heard a voice on the wind, telling him about balance, about good finding bad and bad finding good, about how choosing to be one would always lead to finding the other, but his family didn't need to know about the bear's final lesson, so he stayed quiet, simply nodding.
He felt his brother before he saw him, standing awkwardly a few feet away. "Are you okay?"
Dean smiled back at him, and Sam read the expression clearly, stepping forward to wrap him in a hard bear hug. It had healing qualities, he was pretty damn certain. Not that he'd ever tell his brother as much. "Enough with the girly stuff, squirt," he said, but didn't push him away.
"You're freezing, son." John sat the rifle down against the tree and slipped his leather jacket off, to wrap around Dean's shoulders. "Why don't you keep that—you've outgrown your old one."
Warmth, covering him, blocking out the cold. It wasn't the bear's doing this time, and he didn't need it to be.
"Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed"
Story End Notes:
*Bear vs. Jaguar—John Winchester wins. Take that Chuck Norris.
*So, I did tons of research on bear totems and spirituality, and barely used any of it. However, the lore on Nahuales (Nagual), I'd studied earlier for some original fiction I'm writing, which also pertains to the sightings of big black cats in the Alabama area. In cryptozoology, these types of cats are sometimes referred to as ABCs or Alien Black Cats ("alien" meaning that they aren't where they're supposed to be found, like other cryptids).
*As I told my writing buddy about writing for wee!Sam, "He's not an eleven year old, he's Sam Winchester. He's my Hermione Granger, my info-dump guy."