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Watch Out For Woodchucks

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"Hey, hey, hey - give me fries!" Dean eyed his brother, who was eating across from him, well, that was putting it too kindly, he was stuffing his mouth with a salad as if he couldn't get enough of it - simply because it wasn't enough for a growing giant like Sam. Dean wouldn't enlighten his brother to that fact but it didn't make it any less true.

Sam had very clearly not spoken, all the same.

Dean cast his gaze about the table in the park they'd chosen across the street from the restaurant Sam had chosen. There wasn't anyone around, well, anyone human - a squirrel was slowly creeping toward them, bright eyes giving him away under the shadow of a tree. Dean's lips quirked and he shook his head, going back to his fries and hamburger with pie.

"Jerk!" Dean caught the flash of a furry tail raised as the squirrel scampered away. He just about choked, he looked to his fries, then to the squirrel, and his thought was - no way.

Sam didn't notice that Dean left a fallen fry under the table, but as they walked away, Dean swore he heard a "Hey, hey, jerk - thanks!".

Dean had never credited himself with much of a imagination, and who needed one when Dean did what he did? The things he hunted killed people, they were the stuff of imagination's nightmare. Still, hearing animals talking was a bit of a stretch, even for Dean, so he looked it up - and got telepathic communication, horse/dog "whisperers", and animals talking who weren't animals but something else, and "Talking Animals" a radio show.

Dean was most suspicious about the whole talking-animals-that-are-not-animals bit. Dean tried to put it out of his mind, going back to the hotel and all set on getting some sleep and putting the uneasy day he'd had behind him. Then the yowling started.

"Oh, it's hot, I'm hot, your hot, baby, baby, ohhh, I want your pussy, come on baby, come to me, and I'll come on you!"

Dean's eyes opened wide and he lurched out of bed to the door, because he just had to see if that was real. There was no one out there but a orange tabby, his tail raised high and rubbing his cheek against the low stone wall that surrounded the hotel.

"Hey, buddy, you mind?" The tom had caught sight of him, and hissed, ears laid back on his head.

"You've got to be kidding me." Dean muttered, but the cat's ears twitched.

"Don't like it? Scat!" The cat growled, front paws stretching out as if to pounce.

"Oh, I don't think so - I rented this room first." Dean yelled back.

Yelled loud enough that Sammy had woken up, was watching him from his bed.

"Dean? Alright there?" Sam called, amusement and worry wrestling to win over in his tone of voice. Dean closed his eyes, took a breath, and when he opened them, the cat was watching him with new interest.

"It's free land, baby, and baby, damn - you can hear me!" The cat's tail lashed, it pounced to get a running start - a running start toward Dean.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." Dean muttered, watching the cat come towards him, he froze in the door not sure if he should shut it or stand there and see what happened next.

What happened next was that Dean let the cat in.

"Damn, this place is a dumb - how much did it cost? I bet you just got ripped off." With a flash of tail, the cat went under the bed, Dean's bed.

"Damn-it, Sam, turn the lights on, there's a cat in here." Dean couldn't believe this.

"What?" Sam sounded baffled as he obeyed, switching the light on as Dean went down on his hands and knees by the bed.

"Come here kitty, kitty." Dean demanded, only to have bright yellow eyes look at him as if he were kidding.

"My name is not 'kitty, kitty', it's Cataclysm, you know, like the disaster?" The cat, Cataclysm, retorted with a sniff.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever cat-a-clysm." Dean managed to get a grip on the tom's tail, and with a hiss and swipe of his claw, Dean jerked and cursed as those claws dug in painfully.

"Fuck!" Dean yelled, backing away to shake his hand as if it would rid him of pain.

"Dean." Sam had gotten down on the floor beside him, with a roll of his eyes to see Dean's scratch.

"It's just a cat." Sam stated, clicking his tongue and wiggling his fingers as if he had something in them, luring 'cataclysm' out from underneath the bed with ease.

"Oh, you're nice." Cataclysm purred when Sam scratched his wicked ears. Carrying the cat to the door and setting hims outside.

"Hey, you're not going to leave me out here, are you?" Cataclysm wailed from behind the door. Dean flinched.

"See?" Sam demonstrated clasping his hands and whipping them as if they were dirty.

"Yes, yeah, very good college boy." Dean muttered, crawling back into bed, determined to ignore cats that called themselves cataclysm and were probably more rightly named then they knew.

"Hey, Dean, I'm sorry okay, my name isn't cataclysm, it's Tommy, I just...just wanted to impress you, you know? People like you are really rare and special, and I'm...not."

Dean decided he hated cats. They made him feel guilty.

"Sam." Dean called to his brother in the next bed.

"Yeah?" Sam answered, amusement still dancing in his voice.

"We're going to go visit Bobby, okay?" Dean rarely told his brother what they were going to do without Sammy having his say-so, but Sam was pensively silent. Dean didn't like it, and knew that Sam was guessing something was wrong.

Dean closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. In the morning he found that sometime during the night pretending to sleep had turned into true sleep, they went through the morning ritual of cleaning up and packing up, and on the doorstep was Tommy waiting with perked ears and a hopeful expression.

"You're going somewhere? Where is this Bobby? Does he have a dog?" Tommy trotted behind Dean, and Dean didn't have to turn around to hear Sam choking on his laugh.

"Something you want to tell me Dean?" Sam asked, teasing.

"Sam, I can hear this cat talking to me, it really isn't the best time, okay?" Dean had had enough, and if Sam hadn't guessed what was wrong he was a idiot. Or Dean had gotten too good at hiding things from his little brother, and that was just sad.

"We're going to Bobby to fix me, alright? And yes, Tommy my boy, there is a dog there and he's big and mean and going to eat you if you come with me." Dean told Tommy, firmly shutting the trunk before the cat could think to jump in.

"Really" Cat and Sammy echoed each other, then Sam eyed the cat while the cat eyed Sam.

"Yes, really - Sam, will you get in and drive - cat - you stay." Dean opened the passengers door and got in, so Sam would know he was serious. Sam put his bag in the back, and then got behind the wheel. Tommy hopped into Sam's lap by the open door, walking carelessly to cross into Dean's lap.

"I'm not scared of any dog - I'm coming with you, people like you need me." Tommy told Dean firmly as he settled into Dean's legs, those evil paws were needing into his thigh, a silent threat against removing him.

"Dean?" Sam asked, eying the cat nervously.

"Just drive." Dean hissed from behind gritted teeth, Tommy purred.

Dean was never so glad to see the sign that proclaimed Singer Salvage Yard, and Bobby's mutt Rumsfeld barking at them from his chain. Only this time Dean could hear what Rumsfeld was saying.

"There back, back, back - hey, is that a cat?" Dean closed his eyes as Tommy got his face though the window, sure to be the cat-equivent of sticking out his tongue.

"Hey dog, look - dog on a chain!" Dean batted Tommy away from the window long enough to get out, watching with a feeling of amusement as Tommy sauntered up to Rumsfeld, just out of reach of the dog's eager leaps.

"Serious now, you can't reach me, listen up, that man - the short one, he's mine, and he can hear us, so don't you bad-mouth me!" Tommy declared, Dean could only roll his eyes and go meet Bobby at the door.

"Good to see you boys." Bobby told them with a warm half-hug over their shoulders.

"Liar, you wanted to invite your lady friend over!" Rumsfeld claimed, which Dean wished he couldn't hear.

"Bobby, hey, so what's the word out about talking animals?" Sam greeted, getting strait to the point.

"Oh, don't tell me...?" Bobby trailed off, eying Sam as if he could see the demon blood in him.

"No, no, this time, it's Dean." Sam was quick to explain, grinning.

"I've got a headache." Dean told them, and Tommy and Rumsfeld went oddly quite, watching him with something like awe and amusement. Animals were always amused around Dean, it seemed to him.

"A headache?" Bobby frowned in puzzlement.

"From them." Dean gestured toward the cat and dog.

"Talking?" Bobby asked with a wary sympathy, Dean nodded.

"Well, at least this isn't the first time." Bobby muttered, and Sammy caught what he said, pulling him aside as Bobby started back into the house to probably get some book to start some spell that would stop all this.

"What do you mean, isn't the first time?" Sam demanded, where Dean would rather not know if he couldn't remember.

"Dean had something like this happen when he was a kid, we guess it's from his mother's blood - but it went away." Bobby answered easily enough.

"We're hunters, we can't hunt if what's strange is supposed to have our backs." Dean didn't know why he said it, but he had to because it was what his dad had told him, once - a very long time ago. Bobby nodded with sympathy, but Sam's eyes were wide.

"Is that why that demon blood freaked you out?" Sam asked, but Dean shook his head.

"Anyone would freak, Sam." Dean eyed the animals watching them - no, watching him. Was it just his imagination, or was there something like sympathy in their eyes?

"You just about threw me out of you life, Dean. That's overreaction, or, or trained." Sam's words tore a whole in Dean, and Sam's eyes went wide with realization, fists clenching with accusations he would never get to voice.

"He told you that this, hearing animals, it was... was evil, like what we hunt, didn't he?" Sam demanded, and when Dean didn't answer, it was answer enough. Sam stormed away, leaving Bobby in his wake.

"Can you fix it, Bobby? Fix me?" Dean asked, his voice carefully void of what he felt.

"Dean, there is nothing about you that needs fixing - you're daddy was a fool to tell you that hearing them makes you any kind of monster." Dean turned away and walked out the door before Bobby could see his tears.

Tommy did, and so did Rumsfeld butted his head at Dean's thigh with a whine. Dean sat on the porch stairs, Rumsfeld against his legs and Tommy claiming his lap and purring for all he was worth, Dean didn't know how long it took before Sam came out to see him. Not that Dean blamed him.

"So, we're both freaks." Dean said first before Sam could do something chick-flick.

"Yeah." Sam said with a grin and a surprised laugh.

"Hunters can understand demon blood, Sam. I'm sorry for everything, sorry I never told you that, that I was wrong." Dean started, determined to finish it. Sam was silent.

"But me? There was a reason dad did what he did, with me, but it's come back and doesn't seem a way to get it to go away - I don't even know if I want it to, you know? So I'm going to split, pick a city and settle in, you can hunt - or not, but I'm not risking something in me twisting up when you might need me most. I'm not turning into a monster you have to put down, Sam. I'm giving up hunting." There was a stillness from his bother that Dean almost tempted to look, to see if he was still there. He didn't, but when Sam spoke there was no question he had heard and stood there beside him still.

"Dean, hunting is a part of who you - we - are, you can still hunt, even with...talking animals. I'm not hunting without you." Sam hesitated then, unsure how to say more.

"He's right you know, you'd be like a cat putting away claws or teeth, you could still hear and see and feel people hurting, you'd just wouldn't help them, and what kind of cat does that?" Tommy asked, peering up at Dean.

"No cat at all." Dean muttered, and Sam said nothing but did look to Tommy as if expecting the cat had talked to Dean.

"If you want to see if you can still hunt, that this talking to us can only help, there is a banshee in town if you're up for it." Rumsfeld told him with a rolling tongue grin.

"There is a banshee in town, think I'm up for it?" Dean's question was for both his brother and the listening animals, but Dean had eyes only for Sam's small nod of approval.

"Watch out for woodchucks!" Rumsfeld barked after their heels, as the brothers and the tom cat headed for the Impala. From the window, Bobby smiled.