A/N: This came out of prompt to write some crack centered around kudzu. If you're not an American or from the South, you may not know that it is an invasive plant that is trying to eat us all. And 'yes' there is such a thing as a kudzu festival. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Disclaimer: Don't own Supernatural, not making any profit.
~ Prologue ~
Jeanie was impressed. She'd been coming to the Kudzu Festival every year since she was a little girl and this year's was the best by far.
Thanks to a company named SucraCorp, this time the festival was bigger and better than ever. They even had a few kids' rides and free face painting. As a single mother, anything free was good in her book.
"I don't like it," her eight-year-old daughter, Katelyn, whined as she stomped along beside her.
The kid was ramping up to full-throttle brat mode again and Jeanie was quickly losing her patience.
"It's the worst ice cream ever! It tastes like tuna fish. I'll die if I have to eat it."
Jeanie shot her a withering glare. "I don't care. I told you kudzu ice cream wasn't gonna be any good, but you pitched a God-awful fit for it anyway. I'm tired of it, Katelyn. People are starving in this world and you waste enough food to feed half of them. You're eating it!"
Ugh. Now she sounded exactly like her mother. This must be what karmic payback is like.
"Fine," she sighed in exasperation. "Go throw it away."
Jeanie watched as her daughter practically skipped toward the overflowing trash can with her half-melted treat. Several stray cats also watched with great interest and one skinny orange tabby was even brave enough to rub up against Kate's leg. It was obvious where this was headed.
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell her not to do it. Ice cream was sure to make those cats puke and poop everywhere. But it was hot, Jeanie was tired, and those weren't her cats.
They were strays and they looked tough. They could probably stomach things your average house cat couldn't. Besides, they looked hungry and maybe the two dollars she'd spent on that crap wouldn't be a complete waste.
~ Cat Scratch Fever ~
Dean didn't look up from the laptop screen when he sensed Sam sliding into the other side of the booth.
"So, guess you're surfing for Dick again," his brother remarked.
The statement was meant to sound like a joke, but Dean could sense the barely concealed worry in his voice and he wasn't in the mood for it. He was already ill enough from being in a friggin' Starbucks, since they were the only place around that had 'free' wi-fi. The catch being, you have to pay five bucks for one stupid cup of coffee in order to use it.
The chick behind the counter had looked at him like he was some sort of weirdo when he ordered plain black coffee. She couldn't understand why he didn't want a mocha-frappa-what-the-hell-ever.
He felt a little guilty about it, but he still pulled out Bobby's old flask and tipped a good bit of its contents into his overpriced coffee. Sam frowned right on cue.
"Dean. It's barely noon."
Instead of responding to the subject at hand, Dean turned the laptop around so that Sam could see the screen.
"Found us a lead."
His brother's frown only deepened as he read the article in front of him.
"You sure you haven't had too much of your special coffee?" he asked with a raised brow after skimming the story. "A rash of people calling in sick and quitting their jobs in some podunk town doesn't exactly scream 'lead' to me."
Dean spun the laptop back around and quickly typed in an address.
"Ye of little faith," he quipped as he turned the computer back over to Sam, who somehow managed to look even more constipated now that he was looking at the new website.
"Seriously? A kudzu festival? Why would anybody have a kudzu festival? That stuff's a menace. What's that-"
"Just shut up and look at who sponsored it."
Sam returned his gaze to the screen, his eyes narrowed when he spotted the banner across the top of the webpage. "SucraCorp. You don't think…?"
"Oh yeah. I think. That festival happened a week ago and that's about the time half the town decided to opt for early retirement."
Dean leaned over and clicked on the link for the festival's 'Kudzu Country Store' so that Sam could see the menu offerings, which included kudzu cake, ice cream, sandwiches, popcorn, and various other junk. All made from the invasive plant.
"How much you wanna bet that our good friend, Dick, generously provided them with all the extra ingredients they'd need to make all that crap?"
"It's another turducken sandwich experiment," Sam concluded.
Dean drained the last of his coffee in one swallow. "Pack it up, Sammy. We're headed to Blythewood, South Carolina."
Dean tugged at the collar of his shirt. His tie was strangling him. A suit was definitely not the most comfortable attire in the heat of South Carolina, but he and Sam both agreed that posing as investigators for the CDC was the best cover.
So far their field work had provided them with more questions than answers. None of the people who'd suddenly quit their jobs appeared to be ill and they didn't exactly have the same burn-out attitude shared by those who ate the turducken sandwich. Most importantly, only a few of them had even attended the Kudzu Festival.
At the moment, they were interviewing Mrs. Wanda Morris. She was a middle aged bookkeeper who had suddenly decided her responsibilities at home were too important for her to waste time with a job.
The strange thing was, she was a widow and her kids were all grown. She did have cats though. Lots and lots of cats. So far, cats were the only thing any of these people had in common.
"I'd offer y'all some tea," she said apologetically, "but it's time to feed the babies. They get cranky if I'm not right on time. Don't you, Lady Meow Meow?" she cooed to the huge white Persian wearing a pink collar studded with rhinestones.
Dean exchanged an amused glance with Sam, who observed conversationally, "That's a very pretty cat, Mrs. Morris. You seem to really have a… um… gift for dealing with animals. How many do you have?"
The lady glanced around her kitchen at the dozen or more felines that were gathered around her with a brow crinkled in thought.
"I'm not sure," she answered, sounding a little surprised at her own answer. "Until last week I only had Lady Meow Meow and Miss Fluffypants," she said as she pointed to another large Persian, which was gray and also wore a sparkly collar. "Guess I just decided to open my heart to some strays," she concluded with a smile.
The other cats definitely weren't as well groomed or quite as fat as the Persians, Dean noticed. The orange tabby in particular was looking pretty rough. Half of one ear was missing and its fur was patchy.
Maybe he was paranoid, but he'd almost swear that their eyes all had this freaky glow when the light hit them. There was no way there were actual laser-cats in the world. Some things were just too weird, even for them.
"I don't mean to be rude," Mrs. Morris drawled sweetly, "but like I said, I need to feed the babies and after that it's tummy rub time. Busy, busy. So, if y'all don't have no more questions…"
The lady's hint to get the hell out was further emphasized by a hissing, spitting kitten that jumped up on the kitchen counter and sat just inches from where Dean was standing.
"Holy shit!" he yelped when the little fur ball lashed out with a paw and scratched the top of his hand.
Now he felt like a giant dumbass. It was a just a tiny black kitten with white patches on its chest and feet. It couldn't have been less terrifying if it tried.
"Mittens!" Mrs. Morris scolded as she reached for a spray bottle and promptly aimed a few squirts of water in the kitten's direction. Mittens tore off running with its tiny ears laid back. It obviously didn't like that at all.
"I'm sorry, honey," she called after it, sounding a bit desperate. "Mama can't let you be ugly to the guests."
"It's not a problem, Mittens," Dean heard himself calling out in a tone of concern that almost matched crazy cat lady's.
The woman picked up a can sitting on the kitchen counter. "I better open him a can of tuna," she said as she dabbed at her teary eyes. "Poor baby's all tore up now. But, I really am sorry he did that," she added sincerely.
Dean waved a hand and shrugged. "Ahh… it's nothing. Just a tiny scratch. I'll be fine. I just hope the little guy'll be okay."
What the hell was that? That little shit just scratched him for no good reason. Why was he suddenly so worried about it being traumatized by a squirt of water? It was past time for them to leave this freak show behind, and thank God Sam seemed to have the same idea.
"Thank you for your time, Mrs. Morris. We'll just let ourselves out," his brother announced with a smile, but Dean doubted she even heard him over the hum of the electric can opener.
Dean was stretched out on the motel bed with his new friends – a scraggly looking yellow tomcat and a fluffy, cream-colored girl cat.
"What should I name her, Sammy?" he asked as he rubbed his knuckles against the underside of the fluffy female's jaw. She really liked that move. He always did know how to make the ladies purr.
"How about Mistress Kitty VonCuddles?" his brother deadpanned. "Seriously Dean, doesn't this seem a little strange to you?"
On some level, Dean realized that this entire situation was completely batshit. He really did. But he just couldn't seem to care. Right now he was too focused on finding one of those little laserlight pen thingies for the kids to chase around. Maybe he could use the scope on the sniper rifle? That could work.
"Dean. Do you even hear me anymore?"
"Yeah Sam," he sighed. "I hear you. What do you want?"
"Dude! You're acting like a lunatic. Since when do you bring stray cats to our room?"
Dean grinned and started to reply, but his brother cut him off.
"I'm serious, man. One more joke about pussy and I will lose it."
Sam had that pinched expression he always wore when he was stressed. Jeez that kid needed to relax.
"Chill out, Sam. Everything's cool." He leaned over to scratch the yellow tom on his lap behind the ears before continuing. "Just ask Rocksalt here. He's got no problems. Do ya, buddy?"
"I'm not asking that vicious little monster anything!" Sam raged. "Look at me, Dean. I need a blood transfusion."
Maybe Sam was a little scratched up. Okay, a lot scratched up. But he sure as hell wasn't going to die from it.
"Don't be so dramatic, Sammy. He was just playing. Come on."
"Outside, Dean. Now!" Sam demanded as he pointed toward the door. "Or I bring the flask in here."
"It'll be the last thing you ever do," Dean threatened in a low growl. "You know cats are extra sensitive to the presence of spirits. Bobby freaks 'em out. That's just cruel."
His brother stood there with his arms folded, lips pinched, and nostrils flared. The bitchface wasn't going anywhere until Dean stepped outside.
"Sorry, little dude, daddy needs to get up for a minute. I'll be right back," he promised as he gently eased a reluctant Rocksalt off his lap and stood up.
"Fine Sam. I need to get the laser scope outta the trunk anyway. Besides, you're harshing the vibe in here. The babies aren't a fan of all this aggression you've got goin' on."
"Is this some sort of intervention?" Dean asked after Sam practically pushed him into the car and Bobby promptly materialized in the backseat.
"What do you think?" Bobby grumbled. "You locked me in the trunk and now Sam tells me you're gonna quit hunting and dedicate your life to changing litter boxes. Don't you see anything wrong with that picture?"
"Not really," Dean replied with a shrug. "Dude, no offense, but you're dead. You've got no room to judge. Maybe I'm just seeing things clearly for the first time. Did you ever consider that?"
"No, you damn idjit, I didn't consider that. Dean, in case you ain't noticed… this whole mess has Dick Roman written all over it. You've got some wacky new form of cat scratch fever. You ain't acting right, boy."
Dean laughed. "Yeah, right. That's ridiculous, Bobby. If that was true, then Sam wouldn't be such a dick. He's been ripped to shreds and he still hates my babies."
"I don't hate 'em," Sam denied hotly. "They hate me! I haven't done crap to that ugly, yellow ball of fur in there, but he still keeps-"
"I think your brother's immune," Bobby interrupted. "Don't know if it's left over psychic mumbo jumbo or if it's just 'cause he's had so many different hands messin' around in his melon. Between Lucifer, Death, and Cas, it's no wonder he's cat-proof. It's gotta be a real mess in there… no offense, Sam."
Sam scowled at Bobby, but didn't let himself get sidetracked. No, dude was too focused on ruining the first good mood Dean had been in since… hell… he couldn't even remember.
"Dean," he said in his most reasonable 'you're a crazy person' voice. "We need your help, man. This is our first opportunity to get a real glimpse at what the Leviathans are trying to do. You're tuned in, so tell us… What are the cats planning?"
Dean considered his brother for a long moment. Sam was completely serious. It was hilarious.
"Dude! Are you even listening to yourself? The cats don't have some big master plan. They're cats! Whatever Dick was trying to do here, I'm pretty sure it didn't go the way he hoped. The only thing the cats want is to be petted, fed, and played with. They can't even agree on whether or not to kick all the dogs out of town. Believe it or not, some of 'em really like dogs. It's weird."
Bobby shook his head and sighed. Who knew ghosts could sigh?
"And you're not even worried that over half the town quit their job so they could rub tummies and roll balls of yarn around? Don't that even strike you as a problem?"
"They're cats, Bobby," Dean attempted to explain. "They're not exactly great strategists when it comes to crap like that. They don't understand the big picture. They're like little kids. They're just focused on what they want. That's why they need me."
"Why they need you?" Sam prompted with a raised brow.
"Yeah, dude. They need me. I'm a responsible adult – sort of - and I can run credit card scams. I don't have to have a job to make sure they get fed and I can give them all the attention they want. It's the perfect situation."
"And what about Dick Roman and the rest of the Leviathans? Are you just planning on letting them take over?"
"So what if I am?" Dean countered. "I know you guys think I'm ready for electroshock therapy, but what does it matter? If it's not Dick, it'll be something else. The world is hosed, Sam. I'm done with it. I just wanna use the time I have left to play with some cats. I don't see a problem with that."
Sam and Bobby exchanged meaningful glances. It was like Dean wasn't even sitting there.
"It's time to bring in the big guns," Bobby said.
"Oh yeah," Sam agreed before he shut his eyes and bowed his head. "Castiel, this is Sam. We need your help, please. Dean's in trouble."
"He won't come," Dean said with a snort. "He's probably chasing bees around or some goofy-ass shit. Seriously, Sam, I need to get back inside before nap time's over. They might be scared if they wake up alone in-"
Cas appeared in the backseat beside Bobby. He had a bee perched on the tip of his nose. Add that to his psych ward scrubs and the dirty wrinkly trenchcoat and he sure looked like a big gun.
"Hello, Bobby," he said as he turned toward the ghost. "You are not looking well."
"Nevermind that," Sam said impatiently. "Dean, I want you to tell Cas what you plan to do with the rest of your life. Go ahead. Tell him."
Dean rolled his eyes. This was the weirdest intervention ever. "Fine, but you're getting the abridged version. I ain't got time for this crap. It's almost laser light play hour and I still need to get to the store for more tuna before they close."
Once he was finished, Cas appeared to be close to tears. 'Uncomfortable' was the word that immediately popped to mind.
"Dean," he said as he laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I think that is the most wonderful and incredibly beautiful plan I've ever heard. I am truly happy for you." He patted his shoulder and smiled dreamily. "Did I tell you that the male cat has barbs on his penis?"
"Whoa," Dean said as he pushed the angel's hand off of him. Talk about a reality check. "Okay. I admit it. You guys are right. I'm severely unbalanced right now. I should be in a friggin' straight jacket. We've gotta fix me… but we can't hurt the kitties," he added desperately.
If he wasn't convinced before, now Dean was 1000% sure that Bobby had connections everywhere. As it turned out, he knew of a hunter who'd retired to run a cat sanctuary.
The guy was about as charming as Rufus was when he first met him. Course, he was missing a leg and mostly deaf. That sort of crap tended to make a man bitter. But all the cats there looked well fed and happy with the paranoid old bastard, and Dean could be sure his two babies would be taken care of.
That was really all he cared about. So what if dude was crazy enough to make them all wear collars engraved with anti-possession symbols and various other protection charms. It made more sense to him than a sparkly pink collar.
As they headed back to the Impala, Dean had to fight the sting in his eyes. He'd miss those two, especially the one that hated Sam. It was too funny to see his giant brother flinch every time that cat's tail twitched.
Once back behind the wheel, he hesitated a moment before turning the key and heading back out on the road. After they'd put a few miles behind them, he finally broke the awkward silence.
"Sammy, don't tell anybody about this. Okay? It's kinda embarrassing."
Sam pointed to the variety of scratches that crisscrossed his arms and face. "Dean, I got my ass handed to me by a ten pound cat… more than once. I'm not telling anybody squat. As far as I'm concerned, none of this ever happened."
"Works for me," Dean agreed gratefully. "I'm just glad Cas was able to work his hippie-angel, Vulcan mindmeld mojo on all the cats. I really didn't want to have to blow away something named Miss Fluffypants. I'm a badass, but I have to draw a line somewhere. There are things you just can't come back from."
"Yeah," his brother agreed as he tried to fight his laughter and lost. "Oh man… Dean, you were gonna be a crazy, old cat lady. You were talking baby talk to that flea bitten alley cat."
"Bite me, Sam. I'm not even joking. If something else pops up once Dick's taken care of, I'm getting about twenty cats and my ass is retiring. Just watch me."