It is impossible to predict the day when the world will change forever because days, no matter how significant they will be by the end, will always start out the same at the beginning. A regular day will only ever be a regular day until it's seen through to the end.
Castiel's world consisted of darkness and a cage: six sides of rusted bars. One beneath his feet, one above him and four surrounding him. The smell of eroding metal, excrement and fear were a constant aroma in the only home he had ever known. Castiel had never been outside of his cage and he wondered, whenever the door to the Basement opened and light was allowed to seep into the room along with fresh smells he had never scented before, what life was like beyond the confines of his cell. What was life like beyond the darkened depths of the Basement?
He had heard bits and pieces from his neighbours. He had heard that there was a "sun" and "grass" and "trees" and that the "sky" was "blue". All of these words he could only ever use vaguely because he didn't know firsthand what they were. He had no idea what some colours were. Certainly not the bright and beautiful shades that a few of the inmates described. He knew red because that was the colour of blood but he didn't know blue. He wanted to see blue. Anna had told him once, before she had died of an infection in her hip, that he had bright blue eyes, the bluest she had ever seen.
He missed her.
Unlike Castiel, Anna had been born outside of the Basement and knew what the rest of the world was like and she had suffered more because of it. Anna had known what she was missing, she had known what it was like to be truly happy and what it was like not to live in fear and hopelessness and worry when she would next have a meal or a drink of water. Castiel didn't. A good day for Castiel was a day his stomach didn't scream in agony for the lack of food and his body chose to wallow in exhaustion instead.
He fidgeted, the sharp bars digging into his shoulder as he tried to get some sleep. The last time he had shifted into his human form was two days ago, the same time he had last eaten, but he was too tired to try. He simply didn't have the energy.
He wasn't sure how old he was and he didn't know his life expectancy but lately, Castiel had had the impression that he wasn't going to last much longer. He could feel it; a weakening that was bone deep, an exhaustion in the throbbing of his heart.
He was tired.
So tired . . .
The orchestra of barking, screeching and whispers suddenly ceased and it was so deathly quiet that, for a moment, Castiel wondered if he had passed out but then came the sounds of footsteps. More than one set too, on wooden floorboards. Strange; it wasn't feeding time.
Castiel's head lifted, his weak neck straining to hold it up. The door to the Basement swung open allowing a shaft of light to filter down into the disgusting depths of darkness and hopelessness. The inmates were still, silently waiting for whatever was going to come. The silence was complete. Not a sound or even a whimper. They smelled the change.
"Fuck!" yelled someone dressed in black at the top of the stairs. "It reeks down here! Bring some flashlights!" The woman called.
Castiel shifted, dragging his elbow underneath his worn body to get a better look over the mountains of cages. He heard curious whispers of, "A stranger! Stranger," throughout the Basement.
The woman crouched as he surveyed the area from the top step. Her blonde hair was tied in a ponytail and she had something covering her nose and mouth. "Fuck me . . . guys get down here! If you thought that was bad you won't believe this."
More footsteps and two more strangers appeared cursing also. A blinding beam of light traversed the room, the brightness catching on the cages and the luminous eyes of those peeking out between the rusted bars. Castiel was one of them.
The inmates were deathly quiet—change was not always a good thing.
"I hope he burns for this," said a male voice, full of hate and loathing.
"How many are there?" said another male voice. This one was calmer but the disgust was still evident.
"Can't tell, a hundred? Two?" said the woman.
There was a sigh and then, "Alright. Let's get these guys out of here ASAP. Sam, get the others and call Tessa. Tell her we're coming in with at least two hundred. Jo, help me find a light that works. There's got to be a main switch down here."
The two made a sound of acknowledgement and set off on their tasks. The noise in the room steadily began to rise again. More human voices now, pleas for help, could be heard over the racket of barks and yelps. Castiel was the only one who remained still, watching as the man and the woman negotiated their way through the masses of cages.
"Dean, I think I've got it," called the woman from the other side of the room. "There's a switch here but whether it'll work or not . . ."
"Give it a go," the man, Dean, said.
Castiel didn't hear anything but he sensed a vibration and then suddenly the room was washed in bright fluorescent light.
Blinking away the extra moisture in his eyes, he squinted up at the lengthy bars of light lining the ceiling. It gave him a headache so he turned away, searching for the strangers.
"Oh, man, there're three dead over here," said the woman.
"Take as many pictures as you can, I want to nail this fucker to the wall."
The man called Dean drew closer. He was leaning over a cage with his back to Castiel, sunglasses sitting on top of spiky dirty-blonde hair. The muscles of his broad shoulders and back shifted under the t-shirt he was wearing which was plain black with a picture of an eagle and lettering underneath. The woman was wearing the same. Castiel wanted to know what the words said but he couldn't read.
Despite the soreness of his paws, Castiel rose to his feet, tilting his head and watching the stranger. He sniffed the air hesitantly. Dean's scent was easy to pick out. Like the distinctive colour of a splodge of blood on a white wall.
"I've counted six dogs, fourteen cats, a goat and two wolves so far," said the woman. "It's like a goddamn zoo."
"There's a snake over here," replied Dean, still hovering by the cage near to Castiel. "Looks dead." He shook his head. "We should have got here sooner."
Castiel shifted his weight, the rough, scratchy bars pressing painfully into his paws.
Eventually, Dean turned around, eyes snapping instantly to Castiel who simply stared out at him inquisitively. He had never seen a human so well kept before. Or so handsome. And he was handsome. He had attractive eyes and lips that were quite plump. His jaw was straight and defined with no hint of a beard. Castiel had only ever seen men with facial hair.
"Holy shit," Dean gasped, walking towards his cage. Castiel padded towards him too.
The tiredness, hunger pangs, aches and the overall pains littering his body were momentarily forgotten as Dean looked in at Castiel merely a foot away. His eyes were coloured. Not a shade Castiel had seen before. He liked it.
Dean's face was close to the bars but Castiel didn't mind. There was something about him that he liked. Something that smelled warm and . . . cosy and not at all threatening. Anna had described it before, the word 'home', and Castiel wondered if that's what home would smell like.
He felt his head tilt, staring with unwavering interest at the man beyond the rusted bars.
"Jo, you won't believe this," said Dean over his shoulder.
"There's a white tiger here."
"You're kidding?! Is it alive?"
"You bet your ass it is. Shit, it's young too. Just a baby." Dean leaned in, close, and Castiel was overwhelmed by the prettiness of his face. "Hey there, little guy." He stuck his fingers through the bars. Castiel tentatively snaked his dry tongue out to lick one. The man smiled.
With a tool of some kind, he wedged it between the door of Castiel's cage and the bars and applied pressure. It popped open, rust showering over his face.
For the first time in Castiel's life he saw just a section of the world without the accompaniment of bars. On ungainly legs he rushed to the opening, not caring about the pain steam rolling through his frail body and leapt, paws splayed into the air.
Warmth captured him.
Castiel blinked and he found himself in the strong, secure arms of the man. "Cool it, kid," he said around a smile. "You don't want to step on this floor, it's disgusting."
Delicious smells filled his nose. There weren't words to describe how wonderful the man smelled. Castiel looked up at him. His back curled naturally into the crook of Dean's arm. Paws hung limp near his whiskers.
Dean's smile softened. With his thumb and forefinger he massaged Castiel's paws gently. He rubbed the tender pads of his sore feet with his irresistibly warm fingers and Castiel melted under the attention. It was such an exquisite feeling to be touched, to be held.
A strange noise erupted out of Castiel. He felt it deep in his throat and it increased the longer the man stroked him.
Then the woman appeared at Dean's shoulder and grinned down at Castiel. "Oh my god, you are the most adorable thing I've ever seen." She touched his furry cheek. "Can you understand English, huh?"
Castiel hesitantly nodded.
"That'll make things easier," she murmured. "You'd better put him in one of the clean crates."
"I don't know about that. I think we should just lead them out one by one. Doesn't seem right to stuff them back into cages," said Dean.
"But some of them might be . . ." she glanced at Castiel. "Aggressive."
"We're here to free them." Dean's eyes stayed on Castiel's. He had such pretty eyes. "Not lock them up again." His arms tightened around Castiel.
The gesture caused something to stir inside him, an emotion he had never in his life felt. Like almost everything he had experienced since Dean had come to Castiel's cage, he couldn't explain it but he wasn't afraid. The man was safe.
"Do you know what today is?" said Dean, leaning down. His face was very close to Castiel's. "Today is the day your life is going to change forever."
Castiel's ears twitched, he gazed into the man's beautiful eyes. His eyes were shiny. Castiel could see himself reflected in their depths and was surprised to catch sight of his blurred appearance.
"I'm going to take you outside now. Where the grass is," murmured the man. "Have you ever smelled grass? Smelled how sweet it is? You're going to feel it under your feet and then you're going to look up at the sky. The sky is so blue. So fucking blue. Like your eyes. And you're going to forget this place and all the bad shit that happened here. You're never going to see this place again. You'll never be hungry or thirsty. You're going to have friends and home and a life of your own. You're going to live."
Castiel's world had consisted of darkness and a cage but upon leaving the Basement in safe arms and tasting his first breath of real, fresh air, his world became as limitless as the sky.