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**********


With a confident bounce in his stride, Dean rounded the corner of the lions den and cut a direct path to the nearest zookeeper. He knew the suit and tie drew attention to him, but Dean needed to look official. The man pushing a broom around the edge of the pathways glanced up, then paused as Dean drew closer. “Excuse me, I’m Agent Berard. I’m an Animal Environment Specialist,” Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out his free-for-all badge and flipped it open long enough for the man’s eyes to rest on it for a second before he snapped it closed and smoothly placed it back in his pocket.


Propping his hands on the top of the push broom after wiping at his forehead, the male tilted his head slightly as he looked at Dean. “I’m Jacob. What can I do for you Mr. Berard?”


“I see your giraffe is acting strange.” It was the only lead-in Dean could come up with, and from talking to other zookeepers last week—animals acting strange seemed to be common around here. Jacob turned to look into the enclosure, nodding his head slightly. Dean let a look of surprised bewilderment cross his face behind the keeper’s back before stepping alongside to look into the area. Narrowing his eyes slightly, he glanced at each animal in turn. “What’s the story?”


Jacob gave a quick sideways glance at Dean before leaning heavily on his broom, one arm lazily resting on it so he could point to one of the largest giraffes that was standing in the sand. Dean thought it was the same one he’d seen standing in the sand before, but all of them were tall and spotted and pretty indistinguishable. “That one was brought in a few days ago. He—“


“Wait,” Dean tossed a questioning look at Jacob, “Just brought in?” Dean frowned . He’d never thought about it, but it didn’t seem like it would be a common practice to bring in an animal in and see no new signs or fuss over the new addition to the exhibit. “Do animals frequently get brought in?”


“Not usually, no. And...well...” Jacob glanced behind him, then side to side before leaning towards Dean slightly. “Technically he’s not new...escaped an hour before he was caught again.”


“Jacob , do animals escape often?” When Dean got a hesitation as a response, he nodded and reached into his jacket for his notebook and pen. “Where was the giraffe found?” he asked as he scrawled Jacob’s name down.


“A few miles from here, on the edge of town, I heard. Somewhere near Harlton and Tavel road, out by that rundown motel.”


Dean’s pen stilled on the paper and he stopped breathing for a fraction of a second—long enough to make Jacob turn to look at him. Giving a minute shake of his head to clear his thought, Dean swallowed and forced his voice to be steady when he asked the time of day it was caught. That answer didn’t make Dean’s concerns any less. Just before Dean had woken--just before Dean had discovered Sam was missing. He had to be on the right track. “Alright, and just one more question Jacob; have any of the animals been acting out of sorts since then?”


Straightening up and giving his broom a tap before adjusting his hat, Jacob shrugged. “Just the one we caught. Stress from being out in a strange environment, y’know? Hasn’t left that patch of sand for at least a day. Occasionally he’ll move, but he only goes one or two steps in either direction but that seems to be his new preferred spot.” Apparently taking Dean’s word on it being the last question, the zookeeper began brushing up the pathway and headed off.


Grasping his notebook in one hand, and shoving his other hand into his pocket, Dean strolled a few steps, watching the ‘stressed out’ giraffe. Perhaps it was the sun playing tricks, but he was pretty sure the giraffe was watching him too. Then he caught a glimpse of the sand and how it was ruffled too neatly to be random. Flicking the notebook open and clicking his pen on, Dean set to drawing what he could see. When the pattern jumped out at him, he stared at it. Dean glared at the giraffe, second guessing the ‘sun playing tricks’ thought. “Sonovabitch.”


Swapping notebook for phone, Dean was stalking away towards the exit and was halfway there by the time someone answered. “We have another one Bobby. Miss Nut-ella must’ve been in on the circus too. I don’t know what’s going on, but Sam must have gotten a lead he didn’t have time to share, because there’s a devil’s trap with a giraffe itching to get out.” Sliding smoothly into the impala, Dean roared the engine to life as he listened to Bobby before responding. “Of course I checked, nothing in the motel, nothing in the car. I’m going back tonight after closing. The Friendly Giant’s gotta have Sam somewhere.” The cell phone snapped shut angrily before flying onto the passenger seat as Dean tore out of the parking lot.


**********


It had worked. Sam wasn’t sure how long it had taken Dean, but there was the face of his brother, focused and intense as he scaled the fence. Dean froze when a guard turned to swing her flashlight over the surrounding area, sure that she heard a noise. Time had lost its meaning other than day and night since Sam realized that despite how tired he would be, he would only sleep for about ten minutes at a time. He’d fallen asleep when the zookeeper was feeding the den of lions across the walkway (and whose idea was it to put the predator and prey habitats so close together?), and when he’d woken up, the same zookeeper was still there, just finishing up. From the previous day’s feeding, Sam knew that he only spent a few minutes in proximity with them, clearly terrified the lions would eat him.


Now it was dark and Dean was sitting in the tree staring at him. Sam was pretty sure that they locked eyes. He was thirsty as hell, hungry, and itching to scratch his neck but none of that mattered. Now he had to clue his, occasionally very dense, brother into the fact that Sam was the giraffe.


Standing in the Devil’s Trap (it wasn’t perfect, nor was it undisturbed, but Dean wasn’t close enough to realize that) and staring at Dean, Sam almost wanted to squirm under the intensity of Dean’s stare that was focused on him. He watched as Dean reached into his leather jacket and pulled out the tattered old journal that had become their life-saver. Words fell from Dean’s lips that Sam couldn’t understand, but he’d learned that he couldn’t understand any human’s voice anymore and had withdrawn into the knowledge that he’d never understand anything again. Not unless Dean found and could figure out how to fix him. It would be alright though, Dean would try to exorcise Sam, it wouldn’t work, and Dean would figure it out. He had to.


Dean began chanting, and something twisted inside him, but he realized it was just the intensity and anger in Dean’s eyes that was making Sam uncomfortable. He’d never been on the receiving end of such hatred and anger within Dean. An exorcism wouldn’t work on Sam, he wasn’t a demon. Tossing his head to the side as he stumbled out of the Devil’s Trap, and instantly Dean’s chanting stopped, and when Sam looked at him, he saw Dean’s dark, anger filled eyes had been replaced by shock.


If he didn’t move now, he wouldn’t be able to because Dean would regain his composure in seconds, and Sam needed those seconds. Two giant strides had Sam at his brother’s side, eye to eye with him from where Dean was perched in the tree. One of his hands was clutched to the branch for stability, and the book had fallen from his hands. Sam blinked, watching Dean with a fascination he didn’t think was appropriate for the situation, but how often is it that you literally get to look at your lover again for the first time, through new eyes? He was slightly blurred around the edges, but it actually made Dean look a little angelic, which was ironic due to the darkness that had been radiating from him when he was chanting.


A moment of what Sam had come to coin as giraffe ADD, hit him when he went to attempt to force his giraffe self to talk to Dean and instead his long dark tongue snaked out and wrapped around a branch near Dean’s head and pulled the leaves into his mouth. Sam wanted to be angry with himself for being distracted again, but the leaves were crunchy, and with their usual silky feel on his tongue... he just couldn’t do it. He did catch Dean’s wary glance though, and the uncertainty on his face was enough to make Sam forget he was a giraffe for a second, until he found his tongue snaking out again and swiping along the side of Dean’s neck and up his cheek.


Unsurprisingly, Dean shifted away quickly, turning to square his body towards the giraffe. “So you’re not a demon...or not one that can be trapped anyway,” he mumbled, and Sam nodded in encouragement before he realized that he understood Dean. Everyone else had been mumbled, or just a random noise but here as his brother....here was Dean and Sam could understand him. Something released inside Sam’s chest that he hadn’t realized had been slowly tightening with the fear that he was losing his humanity to a giraffe.


If Sam could understand Dean when he couldn’t understand anyone else...did that mean that Dean could understand him? “Dean, it’s me! I’m Sam!”


From the wince on Dean’s face and the way he cringed away, Sam’s enthusiasm came through nice and loud, but the words didn’t spark any recognition. Sam the giraffe, still sounded like a giraffe. Even though Sam’s head fell in disappointment, he still caught Dean’s quick glance to his duffel bag that was slung on a branch a few feet away. Panic mixed with adrenaline hit him with the realization that Dean’s eyes had grown dark again. Sam knew that whatever Dean was about to lunge for, wasn’t anything that would have Sam dancing in rainbows.


In desperation, Sam lurched his head forward and bit at Dean’s shirt, trying to keep him away from the bag without hurting him, just as Dean lunged for the duffel. Sam’s ears twitched as he heard a snap that was simultaneous with the sound of fabric tearing, and Dean was staring at him again. The button-down shirt covering Dean’s tee was missing a chunk of fabric, and something was caught in between his teeth, swinging. The amulet.


**********


Dean had needed to grab onto the nearest branch to prevent the eight foot fall to the ground when the giraffe had sprung at him and tried to tear his arm off. At least that’s what Dean would say if asked how the hunt had gone. Once steadied, realization quickly hit him that he was intact, and a hand flying to his chest confirmed the meaning of the cold that had settled into his bones. His amulet was gone. Instead of lying right next to his heart, where the gift from his brother belonged, the precious item was swaying from the giraffe’s teeth.


Now Dean was cursing as he grasped the branch with one hand, and used his free hand swiped at the necklace in a desperate attempt to grab it back, but the giraffe lifted its head just enough that it swayed out of Dean’s reach. Determined, Dean carefully brought himself to a crouch. Eyes narrowing with a hint of darkness creeping in at the edges, he shoved off, throwing himself at the giraffes head. He reached out in an attempt to grasp the necklace before thudding into the animal’s neck. Dean scrambled to hold on by grabbing at the giraffe’s short, coarse mane.


While the giraffe seemed undisturbed by Dean clawing at its fur, gravity itself was against him, and he slid sideways off the large animal and landed on his back with a loud huff. With a groan, Dean raised himself up on one elbow as he lifted his head. Before he could move any more, the giraffe leaned down with its front legs spread in an awkward stance and its large nose nudged Dean’s temple. Dean pushed to his knees to get to his feet, but the giraffe nudging him made it difficult to stand.


Something slipped past his vision and thunked against his chest, and Dean froze. He blinked a few times before looking down at the amulet that was now resting against his chest where it belonged. Dean frowned as he looked at the giraffe. The giraffe had now settled into a laying position, watching Dean intently. Dean looked at the giraffe, then to the amulet, and back to the giraffe.


When the giraffe leaned its head forward and nudged at Dean’s arm until he moved it to the side a little bit, the giraffe’s black, coarse tongue lolled out and swiped at his inner elbow before it buried its nose in the crook. All Dean could do was stare as the animal nuzzled his inner arm. It was the spot that Sam always rubbed when Dean got too stressed out and it would relax him almost instantly. The pressure point was something only Sam knew about. And now, a giraffe that was taller than the others and had just given Dean his amulet back was nosing into Dean’s arm in a way that could only be called affectionate. Holy fuck.


“Sammy?!”


----


A half hour later, Dean had very little reason to believe that the giraffe wasn’t his brother. He’d asked as many yes and no questions he could think of that only Sam would know the answers to and poured holy water into his mouth. Not to mention about a dozen other obscure things he’d only ever heard myths of being a possibility to confirm possession.


Basically, it seemed Sam knew about as much as Dean did in regards to what was going on. Less even, because Sam hadn’t known about Naella making her suspicious rounds at the zoo. He did confirm, however, that the patch of fabric he’d found in the forest had indeed been from Sam, trying to leave a clue for him. Now he was pacing the motel room with Bobby on the line—after spending near half hour proclaiming his sobriety and sanity.


“Look, whether you believe me or not, humour me and give me something to try to get Sam back. I have no clue how to turn this Jumanji mojo off.” Snapping his phone shut, Dean tousled his hair, one hand propped on his waist as his eyes darted around the room. Taking three paces towards the bathroom, and then three more back towards the television, Dean cursed and grabbed his flashlight before beginning to scour the entire room for signs of witchcraft or hex bags.


**********


Sam eyed his enemy. They’d been in combat for ten minutes, and Sam couldn’t seem to get the upper hand...hoof. Circling once again, Sam tried kneeling on his front legs. Before he’d reached very far, he lost his balance and toppled sideways onto the sand. Tossing his head around until he stood up, he threw the dirtiest look he could muster at the water. With a giraffe huff, he walked over to the trees and chomped on them, thankful he could still convince something into his mouth—he wasn’t totally losing his touch. Movement beside him caught his eye, and his chewing slowed as he turned to look at what it was. One of the other giraffe’s had finally dared come close.


Watching this other giraffe, Sam forgot about the leaves as he realized the giraffe was heading to the water (that couldn’t be drunk). In fascination, Sam watched as the giraffe stood at the water’s edge, and carefully spread his front legs at an uncomfortable looking angle and was able to reach his head down to lap at the water. Excited to copy this stance, Sam sprang over towards the water, and quickly learned that a giraffe kicks with its back feet for defense. Sam, nothing; watering hole, thirty-two.


****************


“Of course I’m not shitting you Bobby! I don’t think an appropriate joke would be ‘guess what? The bag won’t burn. You don’t mind having a giraffe hunter travel with us do you?’ ” Dean trudged back and forth across the parking lot, staring at the pale bag resting in his hand. He’d taken it apart and tied it back together in hopes that just maybe that might help it burn. Of course not. The flames licked the fabric, and flowed around it as if the thing was made out of grease.


“Yeah, it’s got a silver coin sewn into the cloth. So?” Dean’s face scrunched up, neglecting to see why this was of any importance to Sam. Nothing was important unless it involved turning a giraffe back to a human giant. “It’s called a what-now? ... Genitor ex vestigium... And what exactly does that mean?”


Turning the bag over in his hands again, Dean listened to the Bobby’s explanation. Abruptly, Dean barked out a laugh that filled the still, night air before he coughed into his hand and forced a serious tone into his voice, despite the half-smirk he donned. “Right... How am I supposed to get a giraffe out of the zoo without suspicion? Not to mention convincing Naella to hand over her blood so we can actually burn the bag?”


The phone clicked off after a sharp reply from Bobby, and Dean blinked, looking at his before rolling his eyes and sliding into the Impala to gun her to life.


****************





~Part Three~
~Master Post~

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