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Vechs the tabby cat had been a curiosity since their first rather painful meeting, though he hadn’t had much time to ponder about him due to more pressing matters at hand. The cat usually sat on Zisteau’s shoulders; if not, he was tormenting some other poor soul.

Once, Kurt had been very surprised when Vechs pounced on Zisteau while the latter was asleep; a pounce like that had once woken him from a deep sleep. Zisteau did nothing more than tuck Vechs deeper into his arms and keep sleeping, as the cat purred happily.

Kurt had asked Beef about it before; apparently it was a stray that had followed them on board from the stop where they’d picked up Zisteau. The cat had taken to Zisteau since, and Zisteau was the one who could tolerate his shenanigans the most.

“That cat is evil,” Beef had warned, although he looked amused. “Give him a wide berth if you can.”

He was sitting in the sickbay for a customary bandage change with Jsano when the cat ambled around the open door. The cat sat politely by until Jsano finished wrapping him up, then pounced on his lap when Jsano started packing.

“Polite today, aren’t you, Vechs?” Kurt scratched him hesitantly behind the ears.

“Just in the sickbay,” Jsano said. “He caused a major mishap here once when Z was here with me and Z got mad. You’re free to go, by the way.”

Kurt made to stand, but Vechs dug his claws into his thighs. “Um—I may have another wound for healing already.”

Jsano looked around, then went to stick his head out the door and yelled, “ZISTEAU, GET YOUR CAT OUT OF MY SICKBAY!”

Instead of the footsteps he expected to hear, Zisteau simply yelled back, “VECHS, GET OVER HERE, I’M WEARING SHORT SHORTS!” Kurt couldn’t help but shudder at the mental image, earning a hearty laugh from Jsano. It seemed to work, however; Vechs leapt off his lap and headed slowly for the door. Kurt followed him, hoping to hide him embarrassment from Jsano.

Zisteau was hanging around by the bow in thankfully long shorts that fell to his knees, now trying to calm down a hissing Vechs. He picked him up by the scruff of his neck and placed him on his shoulder.

“Smart cat, isn’t he?” Kurt said.

“Too smart for his own good,” Zisteau muttered, absently scratching under his chin. Vechs chose this moment to hop down and curl around his ankles, mewling adorably. Kurt watched as Vechs went over to him and sniffed his ankles. When he started pawing at his leg, he winced.

“He wants to get up on your shoulder,” Zisteau said, almost mechanically. He looked surprised. “Or at least, that’s what he does to me. Do you mind? He can scratch your leg off if you don’t.”

“I like my legs, thanks,” Kurt answered immediately, not sure if Zisteau smirked as he bent down to pick up the cat by the neck and gently placed him on Kurt’s shoulder. Vechs yawned contentedly and nuzzled into him, touching his wet nose into his neck. Kurt shuddered at the feeling, not used to the intimacy and close contact, even though it was just a cat.

“Looks like he’s there for the long haul,” Zisteau said quietly, his eyes trained on the cat. “He usually sleeps for one to two hours then he’ll leap right off.” A slow smile spread across his face as he turned his eyes to Kurt. “You’re the first person he’s liked as much as me,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Yay?” Kurt tried to get used to having a cat on his shoulder, shifting his weight and trying not to disturb Vechs. Zisteau smiled and reached out to pet Vechs; Kurt blushed and bristled at the contact, no matter how indirect. He could have been the one getting tickled.

Vechs purred contentedly, unaware of what was happening.

That night in their room, Vechs hopped up to Kurt’s lap as he was getting ready to go to bed. Kurt sighed. “Uh, Z…”

“Mm?” Zisteau looked over his shoulder at them. “He probably wants to sleep on your hammock tonight.”

“Now that, I am uncomfortable with.” He’d only recently started to get used to sleeping shirtless for the sake of his scars, and even then he still felt conscious, although Zisteau was the only one who saw or knew. “Can’t you persuade him?”

Zisteau thought for a while, then took off his shirt too. Kurt fought down an urge to look away modestly as Vechs leapt over. “This hellcat,” he said lowly, as he laid down to let Vechs tuck himself into his bare chest, “is a freakin’ pervert.”

Kurt nodded, unsure of what to say. It took a while for him to take off his own button-down, trying not to notice the way Zisteau opened his eyes when he did.

BONUS: “…although Zisteau was the only one who saw or knew.”

“You know,” Etho yawned, “bunking with Pause and Beef is bad for my sleep cycle. What with the whole shirtlessness thing too…”

“Mm. Took Kurt a while to get used to sleeping shirtless with me around, even with his scars.” Z looked over and saw Etho smirking, and processed what he said again. “God damn it, Etho.”

“I said nothing!” Etho snickered, biting his lip to keep from laughing as a long-sleeved Kurt threw them a brief, curious look from where he was standing with Beef.

“If you tell anyone I will send Vechs after you,” Zisteau threatened. “Including Pause and Beef.”

“Aye, aye,” Etho said amusedly, waving him down.