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Cat's-Eye

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Disclaimer: Not mine.

 

Cat's-Eye

'Where's my dinner?'

He fixed Lewis with an accusing gaze. Lewis was late again, as he so often was when wearing these particular clothes, bringing with them this particular set of smells, car fumes and metal, plastic and a whiff of dead meat. And he was exhausted, as he so often was when all this happened. Monty had already lost one human and did not intend to lose another, so he applied himself to the care of this one, yowling on a more welcoming note now, walking his forepaws up Lewis' legs with the claws carefully sheathed. It must be a cold night outside, for the cloth was chilly under his pads.

Monty had deduced Lewis' name in the course of that bewildering day when his world had changed. So many people had called him by it, as he was carrying Monty in the cage through the big, brightly-lit building with its endless busy hallways. And Monty had had another name then, but he preferred this one, with its associations of quiet and steady affection. But food was uppermost in his thoughts now. He led the way into the kitchen, tail held high, and waited expectantly for his meal.

He was not disappointed. Lewis dumped heavy bags on the kitchen table, and attended to Monty's meal before doing anything else. 'Which do you want, fish or venison?'

Monty had no idea what venison was, but purred loudly and waited. Lewis seemed to take this as a decision, for he said, 'Venison, then,' and emptied the tin into the bowl. He stroked Monty's head as he put the bowl on the floor. It was most superior food, Monty realised approvingly; he'd have Lewis properly trained in no time.

Lewis was putting things away in cupboards, sighing to himself occasionally. He'd just put a covered bowl of his own food into the box that went 'ping' when there was a knock at the door and he went to answer it. Monty, though he had his head down in his own meal, already knew who it was; the man called 'James.' He had learned the sound of his footsteps in less than a month. He heard the door swing open, and there was a great whiff of the food they sometimes ate when James came round of an evening; warm and tempting. Monty left his own dinner and hurried out into the sitting room.

It had not been very long before Monty had established that James was a cat person. He was almost as good a provider of laps as Lewis, and could be relied on to administer a gentle massage if directed to do so. Now Monty wound himself around James' ankles, making it clear that he was welcome, and James stooped and tickled his ears, then unpacked boxes of fragrant and alluring food. Monty took up station beside the table, the boxes on much the same level as his nose, and fixed both men with a steady gaze as they ate.

He had noticed that Lewis was always more relaxed when James was around, even though James too was often tired and carried that same set of smells - as well as something else, a tang of burning and ash, which Monty had never smelled on anyone else. But around James, Lewis would laugh from time to time, and James would glance at him sidelong and smile, and by the end of the evening they'd be lolling comfortably at either end of the sofa, with Monty on one or other of their laps relaxing them still further with his purring.

He simply could not understand why James left at the end of these evenings, since he was obviously reluctant to do so and Lewis was always sorry to see him go. Even a dog could hardly fail to see that! But he always did his best to show them both that it would be a good idea for James to stay, by such methods as eating their leftovers with gusto, placing a paw on James' leg to hold him to the sofa, and giving him a disappointed mew when he left.

They were finishing their meal now, and Monty kindly cleaned up the boxes for them before leaping up onto the sofa between them. Here he arranged himself so that they could both stroke him, should they so wish.

But Lewis was talking quietly, wearily, and there were questions and frustrations in his voice. Monty heard him say 'the station'. That was the big building Lewis had taken him to, on that first day. And 'killed.' Like Stephen, then; Stephen had sometimes come upon him halfway through making a meal of a garden bird, when there was usually a remark of 'you bad cat' to follow. That was much more serious than a bird, though, and this sounded equally bad. James listened to Lewis and responded as calmly as he always did; and now and then he suggested something that made Lewis stop and look at him, and go off on another line of thought. He was almost as good at cheering Lewis up as Monty himself. Whenever this happened, James would take another drink from his glass and set it down, or slip lower into his corner of the sofa. Now Lewis was scribbling something in the little book (much smaller than the books which had been stacked in piles in his old home, but Monty knew they had much the same use.) James brought out a little flat box from his pocket that seemed to serve a similar purpose. He waved it under Lewis' nose, a teasing note in his voice as he said something about a blackberry. Why, Monty had no idea. It was nothing like the blackberries he remembered from the garden.

Lewis teased right back, and they both reached out to pat Monty at the same time. He arched up to suggest that he would like more, and their hands touched on his fur, but they both drew back; affronted, he jumped off the sofa and curled up in front of the radiator. Lewis tried to coax him back, but in vain. The warmth on his fur was rather pleasant, after all.

Their talk trailed slowly off, and Lewis brought the telly to life. They sat quietly for a while – it seemed to have a soporific effect on them – in fact they were probably dozing off, from the sound of their breathing. Next time Monty cracked open an eye, James had slumped sideways against Lewis, who was still just awake and looked sleepily amused. They were both happy enough. Monty abandoned the radiator, jumped to the table and then stepped delicately across to their laps to join them in their slumber. This was how it should be every evening.

He was half-woken out of a most comfortable sleep by James trying to struggle back to a sitting position, and made a disgruntled noise; there was a soft chuckle above him, and James stroked his back in apology. So he stretched out across both laps, to indicate that they should stay as they were.

James said something questioning, persuasive, and added, 'Monty says so, sir!' An honorific, that last word; he'd heard it at the station. Lewis answered with a note of worry; something about 'work' and 'Innocent'. That was the mature female who was boss of the station. She had ruled it with a firm paw. No, a firm hand. They talked on, back and forth, quietly, and Monty heard both their heartbeats picking up, the quick, light pulse of nervousness. Then James reached out a long arm over Monty's head, wound it around Lewis' neck, and brought their mouths together. They were kissing. Monty had seen it, years ago, in his old home. With these two it was as if they were both trying it for the first time, but surely that couldn't be the case? And now Lewis' arms went slowly around James, the laps broke into a tangle of legs, and Monty was tipped off onto the carpet. 'Hey!' But they paid no attention to him.

Ah, well. Sacrifices had to be made sometimes. He took himself back to his radiator, and not long afterwards, heard Lewis say, 'Call me “Robbie”?'

James tried it several times, with different intonations, as though he found it awkward. Lewis smirked at him in a superior manner, and abruptly James stood and pulled him up by the hand. Monty looked up at them, knowingly, from his place on the carpet. It was less urgent than some mating urges he had seen, but no less sincere, and sure enough James said, 'Come to bed, Robbie,' and they went off to the bedroom, and closed the door behind them.

'At last!' was Monty's mental comment. Honestly, humans could be so slow at times.

-x-

Soon after midnight, the radiator cooled down with a series of tiny pings. Normally at about this time, Monty would make his way to the bedroom to cuddle up beside Lewis, who, he thought, should be grateful for the warmth of his fur. The two of them had had enough time to finish whatever they were doing, surely? So he made his way along the hallway, stood on his hind legs to pull the door-handle down, pushed with both forepaws and padded over to the bed.

Good, they were asleep, in a bulky, quiet-breathing mass under the duvet. Arms around each other, by the looks of it in the moonlight that found its way through the curtains. He gauged the jump carefully. He could, at will, land with the lightness of a feather, or with the solid thud of a bag of groceries being dumped on the kitchen table. Tonight he almost floated up, picked his way across the rumpled bed, and settled down in a little dip in the duvet over their legs. By means of curling and flexing his spine, and a certain amount of shoving, he made it into a comfortable nest for himself.

Two warm bodies were much better to snuggle up to than one on a chilly night - and it was a cat's duty to look after his own comfort, as well as that of his human (or humans) after all!