Title: Without Penalties
Warnings: swearing, crack!fic
Author's Notes: many thanks to my very patient and understanding beta, who helped me make this into something not entirely ludicrous.
Summary: It figures that if Cas was going to get turned into a cute fluffy critter, it would be one that would screw with Sam's allergies. Hope you like it, piercingnisha!
Neurotic Author's Note: Okay, so apparently I am obsessed with giving Sam asthma, even if the prompt wanted Cas to be turned into a kitten. I insist on having my cake and eating it too!
"Cats know how to obtain food without labour, shelter without confinement and love without penalties."
~W. L. George
The first sign Dean has that there's any sort of trouble is awakening to the feeling of a slight weight pressing down on his chest, as though someone is leaning on their forearm there, or maybe settled a smallish bowling ball just above his sternum. What tips him off that something is wrong is that the weight is warm, and moving, and he opens his eyes to find himself staring into a pair of bright blue eyes positioned exactly a quarter of an inch away from his face, complete with damp nose and beige fur.
Instantly he's on his feet, knife grasped firmly in one hand, while the thing that was on his chest a moment ago is gone in a blur of brown-and-gold, smacking against the wall with an unearthly yowl. In one sinuous movement it rights itself, lands on all four paws, and sits on its haunches on the puke-green motel carpet. It glares balefully at him, blue eyes glittering, then deliberately turns to one side and runs a pink tongue along the fur over one haunch. It's a cat.
He feels like a world-class idiot.
"Dean, what the fuck?"
Sam is sitting up blearily, scrubbing at his eyes with the fingers of both hands, looking unaccountably like he did when he was a little kid, minus the swearing part. Dean instantly feels guilty for waking him: Sam's been getting even less sleep than he used to, and Dean remembers all too clearly how bad his own nightmares were when he got back from hell. A year and a half's worth of half-remembered torture and flashbacks, of screaming and thrashing in his sleep, of constantly waking up in a cold sweat, of being afraid to close his eyes. Sam's been keeping a tight lid on it all since he's been back, obviously trying to spare him the worst of it, but Dean can still read the signs well enough.
He points at the far wall. "There's a cat. In the room."
"What are you, deaf all of a sudden? Yes, a cat. What the fuck is a cat doing in here?"
Sam stares, and the cat stares back. "How am I supposed to know?"
"Weird shit always happens around you."
"Oh, like that makes sense," Sam snorts, eases himself carefully out from under the covers. "It must have snuck in somehow. Just put it outside."
"Mrrow!" the cat is obviously not on board with that plan at all.
Dean tucks his knife back in its sheath and looks dubiously at the cat, which is staring back at him with such intensity that he suddenly becomes uncomfortably aware that he's standing in the middle of the motel room wearing nothing but his boxers and a loose t-shirt. He feels vaguely ridiculous.
"Don't these things have claws?"
Sam glances over his shoulder, still sitting on the edge of his bed, gingerly flexing the knee that took the brunt of a fall during their last hunt. He's been limping badly for days, and no amount of ice or painkillers seems to do much good. He snorts.
"Dean, you've gone up against werewolves and wendigos and daevas, and you're worried about cat claws?"
"Hey, those things are sharp, you know!"
"Well, I can't do it. My knee is killing me, and besides, I'm allergic to the damned things. Just man up and deal with it," his brother sounds like he's trying very hard not to laugh.
"It's not fu —hey! Quit that!" Dean looks down to find the cat twining itself around his ankles, rubbing its head against his calves, purring loudly, eyes closed. He shoves at it with one foot, and it ignores him, thumping its head even more affectionately against his leg and nosing at him. Sam is laughing, damn him. "Damn it, Sam, quit laughing. Get off me, mangy fleabag!"
"It looks pretty domesticated to me. Siamese, by the looks of it. Maybe someone's pet from another room or something. Anyway, I'm going to take a shower while you deal with your new friend there." Sam pushes himself to his feet, winces and stumbles, catching himself on the night stand before he falls over.
"You okay?" Dean takes a step toward Sam, the cat momentarily forgotten.
"Yeah. Just my damned knee."
"It's not any better by tomorrow, we're getting it checked."
Sam limps into the bathroom, forestalling any further attempts at conversation, leaving Dean alone with the cat. Dean stares at the cat, the cat stares back, sitting on its haunches at his feet, the tip of its tail flicking. It's a pretty cat, he thinks, whatever his opinion is worth. All golden fur with a chocolate-coloured face and paws. The tip of its tail is the same dark brown, and its blue eyes stand out in sharp contrast to the rest of it.
"How the hell did you get in here, anyway?" he asks. "Window's locked, and so's the door."
"Whatever," he stalks to the door, throws it open. It's raining outside, and a gust of wind sends the spray right into the room, covering him with cold droplets. He curses. "Go on, out!" he points.
The cat is unimpressed.
"Out!" he repeats, more forcefully. The cat gets to its feet, stretches in a way that looks really damned satisfying, then launches itself at him, indiscriminately using its claws to scramble up his leg, then his torso. "Ow! Son of a —get off! Get off! Ow!"
He flails at the cat, overbalances as it climbs right into his face, and just manages to catch himself on the wall, sliding down it right onto his ass on the floor. He finds himself with a face full of cat, glittering blue eyes staring right into his, so intense that it feels like the creature is looking right through into his soul. In fact, it's a lot like looking at—
The cat licks the tip of his nose, its tongue scraping against his skin. "Oh, eww! Cas, if that's you, quit it!"
The cat unhooks its claws from his shirt and drops into his lap, sitting daintily on its haunches and gazing up at him, head tilted to the side.
"What the hell, Cas?" he flaps a hand vaguely.
"Okay, okay, I get it: cat. No talking," he mutters, clapping the same hand over his eyes in a gesture of surrender. "I don't believe this."
The bathroom door opens, revealing a very wet Sam wrapped in a towel, hair dripping onto his shoulders. He's holding onto the door frame for support, his knee obviously swollen and interesting shades of red and purple. His whole body is covered in bruises in various stages of healing, looking very similar to Dean's in fact. Poltergeists are kind of unforgiving that way. Sam's carefully not putting any weight on his leg, holding the towel closed over one hip with his free hand.
"You okay? I thought I heard yelling. Dean?" he stops short, staring at his brother sitting on the floor. "Uh, any reason you're sitting there with the door open?"
"I was trying to get the cat outside, but..."
Sam smirks. "But?"
He makes a helpless gesture. "I think it's Cas."
Sam blinks. "You think what's Cas?"
"You're kidding me."
"Do I look like I'm kidding?" Dean wishes his voice hadn't risen several octaves to be so perilously close to a squeak, but apparently you can't win 'em all.
Sam's about to answer when Dean sees his expression change abruptly, features going slack, eyelashes fluttering. He whips his head to the side and stifles a sneeze into his hand. "Uh, God. That didn't take long," he grumbles. "Can you at least close the door, if the cat's going to stay? It's freezing in here."
"Okay, Cas. Get off so I can shut the door," Dean nudges the cat, which oozes off his lap and settles on the floor, looking offended. He hears Sam stifle another sneeze as he shuts the door on the rain outside. "Gesundheit."
"Whatever. How do you know it's Cas?"
Dean points to where the cat has turned to stare intensely right at Sam. "That's how."
Sam looks back at the cat, then nods. "Point taken. But seriously, I thought he was all mojo'd up again, or whatever. New and improved, complete with angel upgrades. Oh God," his breath hitches again and he clamps his fingers over his nose, stifling another sneeze.
"Gesundheit. Seriously, Sammy, is there anything that'll make you stop stifling? You're going to rupture a blood vessel one of these days."
"Shut up," Sam's already sounding congested, his eyes red and watering. "You didn't answer my question, anyway. How come Cas got turned into a cat if he's so much more..." he hesitates, pinches his nose harder, "uh... more powerful than he was?"
"Dude, how am I supposed to know? He was fine yesterday!"
Sam sniffles, shakes his head. "I'm going to find some Benadryl."
He shuts the bathroom door firmly behind him, leaving Dean alone with the cat once more. He can hear his brother's only partially-successful attempts at keeping his sneezes stifled, and grins at the cat. "You'd think he'd be over that whole control-freak thing by now, but you'd be wrong. Even locked in the bathroom he's still stifling."
The cat begins assiduously grooming the tip of its tail, pointedly not commenting on what he's just said. Yes, definitely something Cas would do. He's pretty sure he's not imagining the exasperation in the cat's body language.
"So what happened to you?"
Dean rolls his eyes. "I get it, you can't talk. Can't you, I dunno, pantomime or something?"
He heaves a sigh, then in spite of himself reaches out and rubs his index and middle fingers between Cas' ears. The cat purrs, leans into his touch with a blissed-out look on its face, and he grins. "You like that, huh? Just like any other cat."
Sam emerges a few minutes later, a box of tissues tucked under one arm. His hair is still damp, his t-shirt clinging to him a bit, his jeans slung over his arm, otherwise clad only in his boxers. Dean frowns, realizing that probably means his knee is too swollen to pull even the loose denim over them. Sam limps back to his bed and stretches out, wincing as the movement jars his knee, drops his jeans unceremoniously onto a nearby chair. Cas takes the opportunity to stretch out, bumps the top of his head affectionately under Dean's chin, then leaps onto Sam's bed and clambers into his lap. Sam hisses through his teeth as even the slight weight of the cat makes his leg throb, and he stares down at Cas, looking a little panicked.
"Uh, Dean? A little help, here?" he glares when Dean starts giggling instead. "Fine. See if I help you next time you're in trouble!" he turns aside to stifle a sneeze into the crook of his elbow. "Cas, can you may-maybe stick close to Dean for now? Please?" he keeps a hand under his nose, breath hitching.
The cat ignores him, purring loudly, and rubs all over Sam's clean t-shirt, leaving a trail of caramel-coloured fur behind. Sam opens his mouth to protest, and succumbs to a sneezing fit instead, both hands cupped over his nose and mouth, eyes streaming. The cat arches its spine, hissing at the disturbance, and Dean decides the joke's gone on long enough. The last thing they need is for Sam to have an asthma attack on top of everything else that's going on. He gets up from his bed and scoops Cas up by his midriff just under his front legs, back legs dangling stiffly, toes splayed, tail lashing.
"Okay, that's enough Cas. We need Sammy to be able to breathe, right? Otherwise, we won't be able to fix you."
He dumps the cat back onto his bed, ignores the glare of doom Cas directs towards him at being thus manhandled, and spares a glance for his brother. "Sam? You need your inhaler?"
Sam gets the fit under control, snatches up a tissue to blow his nose, congestion taking hold. "Doh, I'b okay. We deed to fix this, though. I like Cas, but I dod't thigk I cad haddle buch bore of this."
"D'you take the Benadryl?"
"Yeah, but it hasd't kicked id yet," Sam says, his voice muffled by a second tissue. "Besides, that stuff puts be od by ass."
"Right. Well, it's not like you're going anywhere any time soon with your knee in its current shape, but we need to fix this anyway. I mean, Cas is cute like that and all, but he can't stay a cat."
Sam sneezes into yet another tissue, crumples the first two into a ball and tosses them into the trash can between the two motel beds. "Ady ideas?"
"Nope. For all I know, he turned himself into a cat on purpose for some reason."
Sam laughs. "I thigk that's 'cat' for 'Hey, I'b sittigg right here!' or sobethigg."
"Did you piss off a witch or something? I know it's not anything we did, for once. The last few hunts have all been spirits and poltergeists."
"There was that black dog, too," Sam points out.
"Not helping, Sam. Besides, black dogs can't turn people into anything, let alone mess around with angels like this. Whatever this is, it has to have some pretty serious juice."
Sam stifles a sneeze with a tissue. "We should call Bobby. He bight have sobe lore or sobethigg."
Bobby, as it turns out, isn't much help. Mostly, he sits at the other end of the line and laughs so hard that Dean imagines he can hear the tears leaking from his eyes.
"Bobby, damn it, this isn't funny!" he snaps.
"Mrrow," Cas agrees from where he's lying on Dean's bed, paws tucked primly under his chest.
"It's a little fuddy."
"Not helping, Sam!"
Eventually Bobby manages to calm himself down to an only slightly hysterical wheeze. "All right, I'll take a look, see if I can find anything. You boys close enough to come by?"
Dean throws a dubious look at Sam, who's blowing his nose, hunched over on the bed, his good leg tucked under the injured one. "Maybe tomorrow. Sam's hurt his knee and I don't think a car ride's gonna do him any good." Not to mention that having Sam trapped in a car with a cat is tantamount to a death sentence unless they can get their hands on some really good antihistamines.
Bobby's still chortling under his breath. "You boys get up here as soon as you can, then. I'll call if I find anything, meantime."
They spend the rest of the morning going through the few books at their disposal, and sharing the laptop between them, trying to figure out just what the hell might be powerful enough to turn an angel of the Lord into a cat, with no success. Whatever this is, it's apparently a little outside of their pay grade, or at least something they've never run into before. Cas sits on his lap for most of the morning, eyes closed, purring happily, kneading Dean's thigh with both front paws with the same blissed-out look he had when he got the top of his head scratched. He ignores Dean's yelps of pain when he gets too enthusiastic and lets his claws out of their sheaths, digging them through the thin denim like razor-sharp needles.
After lunch Sam sends him out for supplies. "We deed cat litter," he tells Dean between bouts of stifled sneezing, and grins at the horrified looks he gets from both his brother and the cat. He may be an allergic mess, but he's obviously getting a kick out of the situation. "And cat food, and defiditely bore Bedadryl. We're albost out."
Dean heaves a sigh. He's the obvious choice to go out, since Sam can't even fit his pants over his knee. He tosses another cold pack at his brother. "Right. Wrap your knee, already. It hurts me just to look at it. Try not to die while I'm gone. Cas, stay away from Sam so he can breathe. God, when did this become my life?" he directs the question at the heavens as he fishes his keys out of his pocket on the way to the Impala.
He spends a little more time fetching supplies than he'd planned. For one, they need to re-stock the first aid kit, and now seems like as good a time as any, since they won't be going anywhere for at least a couple of days. For another, the clerk at the pet store is really cute, and he finds he doesn't mind listening to her telling him all about the wacky antics her cat gets up to. He even gets her to laugh by describing his own cat-induced pratfall earlier that morning.
"Wow, your Cas sure sounds like he's a devil!" she says, giggling and twining a strand of brown hair around one finger.
"He's an angel, actually."
She giggles again. "Aww, that's so cute!"
He doesn't bother correcting her. He gets her number more as a way of proving to himself that he still can, then loads two disposable cat litter boxes in the Impala, along with a bag of cat food, two bowls (hydration is important, the clerk informs him), and a couple of plastic Ziplock bags. One has a bunch of jingly cat toys in it, and the other is filled with organically-grown catnip, which sounds a lot like something a hippie would smoke, but he's willing to take that risk. He makes one last purchase, sniggering to himself, and slips it into his pocket. It'll be a surprise.
His brother isn't anywhere in sight when Dean manages to open the motel room door, juggling most of his purchases in one hand. "Sammy?"
He barely manages to clamp down on the momentary oh-God-Sam's-missing panic that threatens to well up in his chest, and, looking more carefully, finds Sam sitting on the floor next to the bed by the window, his back propped up to the wall, legs stretched out in front of him to form a 'V.' He hasn't even managed to put his pants on, although his bad knee is firmly wrapped.
"Hey, Dean!" Sam grins at him, and Dean winces at the hoarse wheeze he can hear in his voice. "Check it out, Cas knows how to play fetch!"
Dean nearly trips as Cas winds his way through his ankles, purring, and drops what looks like a crumpled paper ball between Sam's legs. Sam picks it up and tosses it as far as it'll go, and the cat goes scrambling after it. He picks it up in his teeth, trots back, tail held up proudly, and drops it once more. Sam laughs, or rather wheezes in amusement, and tosses it again. Dean rolls his eyes.
"You sound terrible."
Sam nods, then turns to cough in his sleeve. "He's really cute, though."
"Uh-huh. Not as cute when you stop breathing."
"I got my inhaler," Sam pulls it out of his pocket and waggles it meaningfully, before reaching down and tossing the paper ball again as Cas brings it back, meowing insistently.
"Any particular reason you're sitting on the floor?" Dean dumps his purchases on the bed, decides the cat litter can stay in the car a few extra minutes.
Sam coughs again. "Couldn't bend down from the bed. Hurt too much. This is pretty comfy," he lets his head thunk back against the wall, eyes heavy-lidded, and Dean grins.
"Oh my God, you're stoned. How much Benadryl did you take?"
His brother grins lazily at him, then makes a pinching motion with his free hand. "A little bit more. 's helping." As if to prove himself wrong, he turns aside to cough convulsively into his elbow.
Dean fishes his inhaler from where it's dropped on the floor and hands it to him, waits until his breathing sounds less desperate. "Uh-huh, I can tell. I brought you the extra-strength stuff," he drops the box of Benadryl Nighttime he bought in Sam's lap. "When's the last time you had your scrip filled?"
Sam tosses the paper ball again. "Dunno. A month ago? It's fine. I barely need it, unless I'm cat-sitting. And how often do I do that?" he wrenches aside to sneeze wetly into the same elbow. At least that answers Dean's earlier question about what it would take to get him to stop stifling. Apparently the answer is to get him really baked on Benadryl.
"Cas, give us a minute, would you?" Dean rolls his eyes. "Come on, Sasquatch. It's not good for you to be on the floor. Up you come!" he shoves his hands under Sam's armpits and hauls him bodily to his feet, ignoring his hiss of pain, then leverages him back onto his bed. "I got you something better than a crumpled piece of paper, anyway, and it means you won't have to bend down all the time."
"A surprise?" Sam blinks at him, slurring his words a bit, and gives him a pleased smile. Definitely baked. At least he's not as badly congested anymore. "For me? What is it?"
Dean grins wickedly, and pulls a tiny laser pointer out of his pocket. "Cat toy."
Sam frowns a bit. "It's not good for cats," he objects. "I read somewhere it fries their tiny predator brains 'cause they can't catch the light."
Cas jumps up onto the bed and drops the paper ball onto the covers. Dean shakes his head. "It's not a regular cat, Sam. Cas' brain will be just fine. It's either that or you screw up your knee even more. You keep busy, and I'm going to take a look at it again, okay?"
Sam nods, sneezes wetly into a hastily-grabbed tissue, then picks up the laser pointer. "Hey, Cas," he croaks. "Feel like a new game?"
"I can't believe he's letting you get away with all this undignified crap," Dean gently unwraps the elastic bandage from around Sam's knee, probing gently at the injury. Sam flinches a bit.
"I think he's having fun."
"I think you're having fun," Dean corrects.
Sam coughs, grins even more widely. "Not mutually exclusive."
The cat is staring dubiously at the laser pointer in Sam's hand, but when Sam flicks it on, its gaze immediately goes to the red dot on the bed cover, tracking it. Sam moves the dot a little, experimentally, and Cas reaches out a paw and swats at it tentatively. The dot moves along the bed, and soon the cat's tail is lashing, and Cas is coiled on himself, ready to spring. A moment later and Sam directs the laser pointer at the far wall, and the cat has launched itself full-force at it, landing against the wall with a resounding thump. For a few minutes Dean even forgets to check Sam's injury, too busy splitting his sides at the sight of Cas getting increasingly frustrated at his inability to catch the elusive red dot. After yet another fruitless twisting lunge, Cas lands on all fours on the floor, panting, his fur standing on end. He turns his head to glare at Sam and Dean on the bed, blue eyes glittering, and chitters angrily. Sam is laughing so hard he's wheezing and has to take another hit off his inhaler. Dean rubs between his shoulder blades.
"What the hell kind of sound is that for a cat to make?"
Sam makes another strangled choking sound that's trying to be laughter. "An angry one, I'm guessing." He puts the laser pointer away. "Sorry, buddy," he says to Cas.
Dean goes back to examining Sam's knee, murmuring an apology under his breath when his brother flinches, forcing himself not to pull away from Dean's touch. "Shit, Sam. It's not normal that this isn't getting better."
Sam leans back on the bed, eyes closing. "It's not that bad."
Dean snorts. "Sure. You're staying off it the rest of the day, too, and if it's still this bad tomorrow, I'm definitely taking you to the nearest clinic."
"Mrrow!" Cas gathers himself, coiled like a spring, then leaps lightly onto the bed just as Sam starts coughing again, and Dean scoops him up into his arms.
"Okay, Cas. You're staying away from Sam until he can take some more Benadryl. Why don't you come hang out with me? I have another surprise for you."
Cas wriggles in his arms, then clambers up to cling to his shoulder, tail lashing from side to side for balance, and peers down curiously at the ground while Dean goes to pull the rest of his purchases from the Impala and brings them back to the room.
"So I got you some of that gourmet kitty crap, and it wasn't cheap so you'd better enjoy it," he admonishes, pouring the kibble into a bowl before setting up one of the disposable litter boxes in the bathroom.
He glances over at the bed, sees that Sam is drowsing, one arm draped over his chest, his breathing whistling in his throat. It sounds bad, but not so bad that it's going to take a trip to the E.R., which is a mercy. It figures that if Cas was going to get turned into a cute fluffy critter, it would be one that would screw with Sam's allergies. Being a Winchester automatically means you don't get any breaks at all in life. At least the Benadryl is affording him some well-deserved, if drugged sleep, and Dean draws the bedclothes up over him to stave off the chill in the air.
He pulls out the laptop, then retrieves one of the baggies he bought at the pet store, and dumps a pile of catnip on the floor before yanking off his boots and settling on his bed with the laptop to keep researching. "All yours, buddy," he says to Cas. "The girl at the store told me you'd love this shit. Ought to keep you busy for a while, anyway."
Cas alights from his shoulder and sniffs experimentally at the dried leaves, and Dean can swear that his whole body practically quivers. The cat rubs first his nose, then his head against the carpet, then flops over and rolls gleefully from side to side, tail lashing. When Dean next looks up from his research, Cas is lying on his back all four paws in the air, eyes at half-mast. He's kneading the air, toes splaying and contracting, purring so loudly he drowns out the sound of the laptop fan. Dean chuckles. It's dark out already, and it's started raining again, but the room feels cosy, unaccountably warm.
"Pretty awesome shit, eh Cas?" he says softly.
On the other bed, Sam stirs and shifts uneasily in his sleep, one hand plucking at the sheets. Then he twists on himself with a small moan, and Dean sees he's sweating, obviously in the grip of a nightmare. Another one. Shutting the laptop, Dean moves to perch on the edge of Sam's bed, unsure whether or not to try waking him. His own nightmares were never the same from one night to the next, and it was hit-and-miss whether he could so much as bear human contact after some of them, but there were some times that he'd wanted nothing more than to bury himself in Sam's arms and try to disappear. Sam twists on the bed again, and Dean is about to try waking him, when with a quiet "Mrrow!" Cas slinks onto the bed and stalks lightly between Dean and his brother.
"Cas, c'mon, this isn't the time."
Castiel ignores him and climbs right up onto Sam, settling high on his chest and nestling his head under Sam chin, purring. Dean is about to pull him off, worried that Sam's about to stop breathing, but he stops short when he sees Sam relax and settle back down, the lines of pain and anxiety easing from his face. Cas purrs even more loudly, kneading his forepaws into Sam's chest, and Dean feels a smile play about the corners of his mouth. Asthma or no, it seems like having a cat to cuddle is the remedy for all of Sam's ills. It's kind of nice, really. Still, what sort of big brother would he be if he didn't give Sam a hard time for this later? He reaches over to the night table, grabs his cell phone, and snaps a picture as future blackmail material.
He's about to get up and head back to his own bed when Sam stirs again, mumbles his name under his breath and gropes blindly for him with one hand. Dean looks down, hesitates, then covers Sam's hand with his own.
"Okay, Sammy?" he says softly, half-afraid to wake his brother if he's still asleep.
Sam's eyelashes flutter, but he doesn't open his eyes. "Don't go," he mumbles, laces his fingers with his brother's.
Castiel turns his head to look at Dean, blinking placidly.
"What?" Dean whispers fiercely. "He's already got you to cuddle, and you initiated it, so don't go telling me you don't like it. I don't do cuddling."
Dean stares flatly at the cat. The cat stares back. Dean sighs.
"Fine. I never could win staring contests with you anyway. If he wakes up, though, I'm totally blaming you for all of it."
He rolls his eyes, but stretches out alongside Sam, careful not to jostle him. The bed dips and creaks under his weight and he holds his breath, but Sam just sighs softly and shifts closer to him, his breathing loud but even in the quiet of the room. It's even warmer now, wedged close up against his brother, and Dean can feel the weariness of the past few weeks —hell, months— creep up on him. He closes his eyes, keeps his fingers twined with Sam's. A moment later he feels rather than sees Castiel move from his chosen position and come nestle between them, nosing gently at his chin before settling down.
The last thing he hears as he drifts to sleep is the sound of Castiel, purring contentedly.