Sebastian heard the glass smash. It sounded like an accident - non-accidents were usually prefaced by at least a bit of angry shouting. This time the shouting came after.
“No! No Tiger!” Jim's voice was tense and afraid. That damned cat was getting into everything again. He never should have kept that thing.
“Sebastian!” Jim yelled from the kitchen. Sebastian would have heard him if he’d whispered - their flat was far too small for that kind of yelling.
“Do I need to call a vet?” Sebastian asked, looking up the closest one on his phone.
“I don’t know,” Jim said, walking over to Sebastian’s couch with his small cat in his arms. “I think she walked through some glass.” He held her like a baby, cradled in one arm. The other hand held her front paws gently away from her, but she kept fairly still. Shock? Sebastian thought he could see sunlight glinting off of something in her paws.
“Okay, I’m calling the vet.”
The closest vet was a six-block walk away. The afternoon was chilly; Sebastian had his motorbike jacket on, Jim had the hood up on his black hoodie. Tiger was zipped in the front of Jim’s sweatshirt, curled into his chest for the warmth. She was surprisingly docile and calm after her injury, though her meows sounded stressed. Sebastian thought they looked nearly sweet.
“Sometimes I hate this fucking cat,” Jim said, and the sweetness melted. He held her gently through his clothes though, and Sebastian knew that what he said was a lie. He threw his arm around Jim’s shoulders to keep him warm.
They walked into the shop and Jim went to check them in. It had been an emergency appointment - Sebastian was glad (for his own sake mostly) that they had an opening.
“Mr. Moran,” the vet (Amy, her name tag said) greeted when she saw Jim with the orange tabby. Sebastian had explained the situation over the phone.
“Jim,” he corrected. Mr. Moran, Sebastian thought looking at his lover. That was kind of nice.
“Well, Jim, I hear she has some glass in her paws?” the vet asked, handing Sebastian a clipboard to fill out their information. Contact info, cat health info. He left the form fairly bare. He only put down his cell number, not their address, and left Tiger’s info nearly empty - they still didn’t know much about her after all.
“Amanda,” the vet called into one of the examining rooms. A small ginger woman poked her head out. Amy turned back to Jim. “You can just follow Amanda in there.”
The room was small - maybe large enough for Amy the vet, Amanda the tech, Tiger, and Jim. Sebastian had to squeeze in behind Jim. Jim pulled Tiger out of his sweatshirt and handed her to Amy, not wanting to put her on her feet on the table. The vet examined her paws quickly before giving some quick instructions to Amanda.
“This isn’t too bad, but I’m glad you brought her in,” Amy said soothingly, as Amanda ducked into the back room for supplies.
“I accidentally broke a glass, and she just got curious,” Jim said, sounding anguished.
“It happens to the best of us,” Amy said, nodding. She set Tiger down on the small examining table and she stayed docile and sad looking.
Sebastian watched as Jim played the vet. He knew that Jim was worried about that fucking cat, but Sebastian also knew when Jim’s charm was real and when it was fake, and he was laying it on here. Sebastian wasn’t sure why he thought he needed to fake it - his real concern would have been more than enough for Amy to trust him.
Amanda brought back a pair of tweezers, some bandages and some anesthetic wipes.
“So what’s going to happen here,” Amy said as she glanced briefly at the spot on Jim’s hip where Sebastian’s hand was resting and smiled, “is that Amanda will hold Tiger down firmly but carefully, and I’m going to get all the little shards out from her paws, okay?” She really was being quite sweet, but Jim still twitched when she brought the tweezers close to Tiger’s paws.
Amy flicked her gaze from the cat, past Jim, and onto Sebastian. “And maybe you’d better hold onto him,” she said, in the most professional way something like that could be said. Sebastian wrapped his arms around Jim’s shoulders, pulling him close, and rested his chin on Jim’s head. He could feel Jim’s entire body tense with each movement of the tweezers. His hands came up to Sebastian’s arms in order to have something to grip.
Tiger mewed pathetically.
It took about fifteen minutes. Tiger kept her eyes fixed on Jim, while he kept his fixed on her paws, still flinching occasionally. When they were done, Amy returned Tiger to Jim’s arms, paws freshly bandaged.
Jim stayed in the examination room asking Amanda how to care for Tiger’s bandages while Sebastian and Amy went to the counter so Sebastian could pay.
“They have a special connection,” Amy commented, fingers clicking on her computer.
“She was supposed to be my cat, actually. Then she went and fell in love with him.” Sebastian glanced through the examining room door catching only part of Jim’s back. “I don’t blame her.”
“Sometimes you don’t get to choose who you love,” she replied, a shy smile on her face. Sebastian had seen the way she looked at Amanda. He and Jim were racking up some amazing gay sympathy points with her.
“Don’t I know it,” Sebastian said quietly, thinking of how he’d come to be involved with Jim - he literally had no choice.
“I’m just going to charge you for a check-up instead of an emergency procedure,” she said, and Sebastian handed over one of Jim’s solid black credit cards. “How old is she, by the way?”
“We’re not totally sure - she was a stray. About a year? When I got her fixed the vet said she must have had a litter of kittens when she was just a kitten herself - that’s why she’s still so small.”
“That sounds about right to me. She is quite tiny for a year. Is she still on kitten food?” She passed Sebastian the receipt to sign.
“Not sure,” Sebastian said, turning to shout to Jim. “Baby!” Jim moved to see Sebastian through the doorway. “Is Tiger on kitten food?”
Amy turned to speak directly to Jim. Probably a better tactic. “I think it might be time to graduate her to cat food. She doesn’t need the extra kitten nutrients anymore if she’s a year, and regular cat food is cheaper.”
“Thanks,” Jim said, his face strange with a smile. It was always weird to watch Jim act normal for other people. Or exaggerated for other people. He was such a cartoon for Sherlock Holmes, such a ham for these nice veterinary lesbians. Sebastian got the real Jim all to himself. For better or worse.
They walked home with Tiger tucked close to Jim again, Sebastian’s arm pulling them both close. Jim’s foot falls synced with his own, and through their clothing, he could feel a bit of calm coming off of Jim. That was nearly as unusual as a smile.
Jim looked soft today. Sebastian couldn’t really explain it. It had something to do with how his hair was clean and free of product, sticking out of the front of his hood a bit. He was wearing old jeans, and a v-neck white t-shirt of Sebastian’s that didn’t fit him well. His gaze lacked the intensity that it usually had. The injured kitten he clutched to his chest didn’t hurt either.
“You didn’t correct the vet when she called you Mr. Moran,” Sebastian said, broaching the topic carefully.
“Yes I did. I asked her to call me Jim,” he replied, eyes flicking from Tiger to the side walk and back.
“That’s not what I meant. You let her assume that Moran was your name, but she could feel comfortable calling you Jim.”
“Don’t be going where you’re going with this,” Jim said, shrugging Sebastian’s arm off his shoulder.
Sebastian persisted, putting his arm back where it belonged. “But Jim Moran sounds so nice,” he said, leaning to kiss the top of Jim’s head.
“Since when do I like nice?” Jim asked, as his voice turned to a tease, “And what about Sebastian Moriarty?” This was not a serious discussion and Jim intended for Sebastian to know that.
“But all of the domestic things are in my name,” Sebastian said, thinking of their bills and the veterinary paperwork he had just filled out. Jim liked to connect Moriarty to as few things as possible. “Moriarty is your empire. Moran is your life.”
“You think quite highly of yourself,” Jim said, actually sounding a bit pleased.
“Learned from the best,” Sebastian quipped back.
As they neared their building, Sebastian stopped walking, and pulled Jim around to face him. He supposed it was worth a try, right? “James Moriarty,” he said, sinking down to one knee.
“Not on your life, Bastian,” Jim said, and turned pouting, a little kitten lump protruding from his front, as he walked toward their door. Sebastian didn’t even get to finish.
He got back to his feet and headed after Jim. Tiger may soften Jim up a bit, but apparently nothing was going to soften him up enough.