"Cas? Can you hear me?"
No response, mile long stare.
Nothing. He doesn't even blink.
"Can you give me something here? Anything?"
Castiel twitches, the tip of his tongue appearing, pink and wet.
A curious white paw bats at Dean's nose.
"Oh he's definitely gone." Dean moves away from the kitten, which rolls onto its back, almost crushing it's miniature black wings. Sam looks down at the little white cat, happily nuzzling into the stained motel bedspread.
"At least he's not dead?" he tries.
"He might as well be, he's not Cas, that's for damn sure."
"He might be." Sam shrugs. "Just a little more...kittenish."
"And they say you're the smart one." Dean sits down on the other bed with a thud. "He has no idea who we are...or that he shouldn't be a cat. Right now he just knows your hair is fun to play with and his idea of heaven is a huge can of tuna.
"Well he still has wings...so I guess he's an angel, at least."
"A cat angel." Dean points out. "Don't think he can show his tail upstairs for a while." The cat twists into a crescent, feet paddling the air as it stretches, tail lashing, eyes slipping closed and soft mouth curving into a cattish smile. "Not that he seems to mind." He rubs the kittens belly with the pads of his fingers, the cat writhes happily. "Do you, Cas?" The cat purrs like an engine.
"I'll look out some lore, this can't be the first time this has happened."
"Seriously? Because a lot of the crap that happens to us seems pretty unique – we should have something named after us." Dean rubs more forcefully at the soft fur and loose skin of Castiel's underbelly, the kitten's head presses into the bed and it purrs louder. "You know, when the angel that brought you back from hell shows up and then turns into a kitten? That's the Winchester Effect. Otherwise known as 'just when you think it can't get weirder – it does."
"Right" Sam says absently, opening his laptop and starting it up. "When you're done, uh, rubbing Cas? Could you go to the library for me?" Dean whips his hand away from the kitten as if it's suddenly white hot.
"Why did you have to say it like that?" The cat rolls onto its front with a soft mewl, and if Sam were a paranoid person he'd say it was glaring at him. "Now it's all...dirty."
"Sorry, when you're done petting the angel you recently tried to get laid." Sam pulls an innocent face. "Could you go get some books, anything on transmography, transformation...trans-whatever, cast a wide net."
"You'll take care of Castiel?" Dean grabs his car keys and heads for the door, a whumf of air against his neck almost makes him jump, which would have dislodged the kitten from his shoulder.
"Huh, I guess he can still teleport." Sam goes back to his laptop. "Good to know."
The kitten digs its claws into the leather of his jacket, head held curiously high.
"Mow?" Its tail twitches at the back of Dean's neck.
"You're coming with me then? Great."
Castiel is a lot easier to be around now he has whiskers. Dean decides this after half an hour in the library, perhaps because his cuteness has increased with his amount of legs. The cat can sort of fly and, tired of being ignored while Dean scanned the shelves it's begun to flutter after him, batting at his hair or softly head butting him. Dean pets him absently every time he comes into reach.
He takes his stack of books to the end of the aisle and tries to persuade Castiel back into his pocket. The kitten hovers lazily in front of his face, blue eyes fixed on the end of Dean's nose.
"Hey kiddo." Dean almost draws his gun, almost. The only thing that saves Gabriel is the fact that Castiel apparently likes the idea of having a small, chipper perch, and has immediately gone in for a landing on the shorter man's head. "and hello Castiel" Gabriel looks up at his own forehead, feeling the kitten resting on his head. "What did I tell you about humans? Never grateful. Save the world, get cat-ified."
"Moooooow." Cas says, which means nothing in particular but could be interpreted as 'I agree they are most perplexing' or 'Brother I tire of your cynicism' or 'Your argument is invalid but your head is comfy.'
"Mmmmhmmm" Gabriel raises an eyebrow. "Say, Dean, why is my brother still a cat? Thought you and wonder-moose would have found the witches by now."
"Killed by a demon" Dean glares at him. "But you could help out you know, trickster powers and all."
"No can do. Also I kind of like him this way." Gabriel plucks the wriggling kitten from his head, holding it in front of him as its tail lashes. "He's travel sized and less depressing."
Two things happen then, the first is that Castiel apparently can understand what Gabriel's saying, or maybe just doesn't like him, so he bites the angel with his tiny white teeth and hangs on for dear (or at least, sort of inconvenient but ultimately fine, he supposes) life.
The second is the brief flash of light that engulfs kitten and archangel, leaving behind one very surprised (and still transformed) Castiel, one pile of clothes and...
"Great, it's contagious." Dean curses, putting the kitten gingerly in one pocket and thrusting the squirming hamster into another.
Back at the hotel Sam gets to hear the story of Gabriel's transformation while Dean dumps the tiny, brown, and stupidly fluffy hamster into the cage he had to shell out for on the way back. Gabriel snuffles at the dried food mix, wrinkles his nose and a few cornels of candy corn appear amongst the wood shavings.
"Should hamsters eat candy corn?" Sam wonders aloud, prompting the tiny animal to stuff his cheek pouches full in case an intervention was in the offing. Castiel circles the cage, mewing plaintively.
"Yeah, you should be sorry." Dean snaps, dumping a plastic dish onto the table top. "Eat your tuna."
"Ok so...don't get bit, don't let them go near anyone else...that's the plan?" Sam stabs a few lettuce leaves and tangles them into his mouth.
"Yup, and keep researching to get Cas back...maybe Gabriel too."
The hamster hops into its wheel and runs, sending the whole contraption squeaking loudly.
"That little bastard knows exactly what he's doing." Dean growls, looking thunderous. Castiel jumps into his lap and starts trying to wash his wings, lying on his back and wriggling, paws catching at the tip of the longer black feathers and dragging them over his soft belly. Dean holds one wing steady and Castiel sets about licking it free of dust.
"If he cleans any more than that...I may not look him in the eye for a while." Sam mutters, going back to his laptop and cracking open the first of the pile of books on the desk.
Gabriel squeaks through the night and when Sam gets up to take his wheel away he somehow manages to conjure four female hamsters and a disco ball.
Sam will never forget the noises.
The next morning he's lying in a new wheel wearing a tiny red smoking jacket and his water bottle is filled with vanilla mocha chino.
"It's like he doesn't even care." Dean watches the hamster stretch and snuffle around for a while before he wiggles his nose and poofs up a miniature stack of pancakes.
"Probably his dream existence, no responsibility and hedonism on wood shavings." Sam closes the last book and rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. "There is nothing here...where's Cas?"
Dean jerks a thumb at the standing lamp in the corner.
"He's nested. I hope you weren't attached to that shirt."
"Great...we've got to get to Bobby's, even if he can't help he should at least get to see this first hand, he missed all the other weird stuff that's happened over the last few years."
Dean agrees and takes their bags down to the car. When he returns the maid has already gone into their room and Sam is engaging her in conversation whilst distracting her from the winged cat happily snoozing in the light fitting.
"Awww...he's so cute!" she wiggles a finger at Gabriel through the bars of his cage, as if sensing female company the hamster trots in her direction. Sam has never seen a rodent smirk before, and never wants to again.
"Dean! Hey, I was just saying to Annie here that we're checking out." He waves a hand at Castiel meaningfully and Dean picks up the kitten, who goes limp compliantly. With Castiel safely in his pocket he turns back to find that Gabriel's cage door is open.
"Friendly little guy isn't he?" the maid is giggling, Sam is looking horrified, and a small lump is moving around under the maids uniform, traversing one arm before heading speedily for more interesting areas. She titters. "That tickles." Dean just raises his eyebrows and makes a run for it, leaving Sam to negotiate the release of an archangel from the woman's cleavage.
In the car Dean manages to get Castiel to perch on the dashboard. Sam gets stuck with the cage on his lap, mainly because it kept sliding around in the back seat.
"I hate you" Sam mutters to the tiny animal. Gabriel looks genuinely sad, as sad as a hamster can look anyway. A small shower of lollipops fall onto Sam's head.
"I think he's getting cuter..." Sam muses, three hours and nine lollipops into the drive. "Do you think he's getting cuter."
Castiel unwinds himself and leaps lightly into Dean's lap, curling up there and purring like a maniac every time Dean drops a hand down to muss his ears or stroke his wings. Sam charitably doesn't mention the fact that Castiel is essentially nuzzling Dean's crotch, in the interests of road trip harmony.
Bobby greets them with a grunt and tries valiantly to not smirk at the sight of the Trickster and the Angel of the Lord (motherfuckers - fully implied) reduced to tiny, cute companions.
Sam and Bobby go to talk over the lore, leaving Dean alone with the transformed angels, which it turned out wasn't the best idea.
"Hey Sam, check this out." Dean drops the kitten in front of him and points at it. "Cas, sit."
Castiel sits, staring seriously at Dean's wagging finger.
"Roll over." Castiel rolls over.
"Dean he isn't a dog." Sam catches himself. "He isn't an animal, period!"
"Don't ruin my fun. Cas...play dead."
There's a blinding flash as the kitten flips onto its back, wings stretched out. When the light dims the cat is lying motionless, two tiny wing impressions burnt into the book Sam had been reading. Castiel opens his eyes.
"Mow" he rolls onto his front and looks up at Sam beseechingly.
"Ok...well in spite of that...I think we've found a way to fix this." He dredges up his note paper just as Bobby returns with the spell ingredients. A light dusting of seasoning and a Latin chant later, Castiel is once more enveloped in light. Only to emerge in exactly the same condition.
"Any other ideas?" Dean asks.
"Quack" Castiel says, then, "Quack?"
"Great, now we have a broken cat." Dean scoops Castiel up and rubs his stomach. "What's the nasty giant done to you?"
"That should have worked" Sam consults his notes. "Oh...entrite, not enteray...bring Gabriel over here."
Gabriel backs into the corner of his cage but Sam still gets him with a good shot of the powder, he modifies the chant and peers down at the hamster. Castiel clucks impatiently and Dean strokes his back. Gabriel blinks up at them.
"Rawr?" he jumps at the full on lions raw, then darts around excitedly, "RAWWWWWWWWWWRRRR!" his new tiny lions tale lashing behind him.
"Like he wasn't bad enough?" Dean hits Sam on the back of the head.
For the rest of the night the radio plays 'Circle of Life' despite being unplugged and shot twice (by Dean and Bobby respectively) a tiny replica of pride rock has appeared in Gabriel's cage. Castiel is sulking in Dean's lap and glaring at Sam in between epic staring contests with nothing.
The next morning, after a fitful night of sleeping on Bobby's couch, Dean discovers that Sam has turned into a tortoise.
He strongly suspects Castiel of biting him during the night.
Thankfully Sam is at least easy to take care of, Dean puts his brother, curled tightly into his shell, on the upper level of Gabriel's cage with half a lettuce for company.
"This is getting ridiculous." He mutters to Bobby, watching Gabriel snuffle around and finally inside Sam's shell, to be greeted by his slowly protruding, mournful face. Castiel looks just a little too pleased with himself and Dean's worried that if this continues soon there'll be no one to fix this mess.
Castiel isn't the kind of cat you can stay mad at for long though, not that Dean had any more success with that when the guy was, a guy. He ends up petting Castiel for most of the day, researching one handed while Gabriel conjures various salads for Sam and Bobby alternatively looks up lore and drinks heavily.
Castiel finds his favourite spot in Dean's lap, spreads out and falls asleep, paws batting at imagined tiny archangels. This is a thought Dean will always deny having.
Gabriel nods off on top of Sam's shell, Sam munches some kind of Chinese greenery serenely.
"I've had just about enough of this." Bobby closes another useless book and sighs. "We're making ass-all progress and they're going native." Bobby flicks the cap off of a bottle of beer, it flies across the table and into Sam's cage. "Balls." Bobby fishes the bottle cap out, watched by Sam, whose mouth is still full of tiny scalloped leaves.
Ten seconds later – Bobby is a cactus.
Dean should have realised Sam would be one to bite, he'd seen him on demon blood after all. Bobby the cactus is small and potted, with two arm like protrusions and a lot of bristly, hair-like needles. On the pot is painted 'Welcome to Mexico, Idjits'
Dean waters the cactus with some of Bobby's whiskey and props it up on top of the TV.
He stretches out on the couch with Castiel resting on his stomach, wide blue eyes filled with nothing but contemplative interest.
"I'll fix it tomorrow." Dean promises. "Please don't bite me." Castiel beds down on his chest, purring like the tail end of a record.
Dean wakes up with a jolt in the middle of the night, thankfully not because he's been bitten. It's dark and for a second he forgets where he is. Castiel looks down at him silently, eyes almost luminous in the darkened room.
"Hi Cas" Dean looks up at him. "mind getting off me now?"
Castiel moves lightly from his chest to perch on the end of the couch.
"My apologies." He's sitting bolt upright as usual, but the whole 'naked' thing is throwing off the look.
"I'll find you some pants and we'll just never talk about it...sound good?"
Castiel doesn't get a chance to respond before something crashes across the room.
"and morning to you Sasquatch." Gabriel shoves Sam off of him, before spooning up in front of him. Dean is going to have to wipe the image of Gabriel and Sam, curled together in the ruin of the hamster cage, naked and speckled with falling sawdust, from his mind. Sam shoves listlessly at Gabriel, but neither of them make any move to..well, move.
Bobby pops back into existence, tipping over the TV and stumbling to his feet.
And that's more than Dean ever wanted to see, ever.
"So...everyone's back. Great." Dean shields his eyes from Bobby, and from Sam and Gabriel still curled up on the floor. Castiel is thankfully sitting on the couch, a plaid blanket across his lap. Dean drops down next to him. "Guess that spell had a limit."
"It would seem so." Castiel looks a little more sombre than usual.
"You telling me you're going to miss being a cat?"
"It was...liberating." Castiel looks at him and Dean can read between the lines. No one told Castiel what to do, no one made him make decisions, he had nothing and no one to worry about and there were people to take care of him.
And now he has nothing.
Dean does the only thing he can think of.
He threads his fingers into Castiel's hair and strokes him gently. Castiel's eyes close after a second and Dean pulls him into a loose hug, hand still petting his hair.
"Dean...seriously, be more gay." Sam yawns from Gabriel's arms. The archangel swats him and whispers something into his ear that makes Sam go strangely quiet.
Bobby goes to find more whiskey.