Takeshi thinks of himself as a dog person, not a cat person. Really he does. Dogs are simple: all they want is to love you, and for you to love them. Easy. Everything else, throwing sticks and scratching ears and rubbing bellies, that's gravy. Takeshi gets that.
He honestly can't explain, therefore, why everything he owns is covered in cat hair. At least, not in any way that makes sense in normal person terms.
"This cat," he tries, waving his hands through the air. (Little drifts of cat hair float around him, fine and black.) "I don't even know where it came from."
And it's true: one morning Takeshi opened up his front door and there it was, crouched on his mat, sleek and black and completely feral. The first thing it had done was flatten its ears back and hiss at him. Then it had laid open a set of parallel scratches along his ankle as it had zoomed past him into the house, where it promptly took up residence on top of his refrigerator and hissed at him some more.
It's one of the most bizarre things that has ever happened to Takeshi, and it appears to be a settled thing: he has a cat now, a psychotic little thing with eyes so pale they're almost grey, and his feelings don't seem to enter into the matter at all.
Probably, he thinks, probably it's a good thing he's kind of a dog person in his soul, the way his cube neighbor keeps telling him he is, because otherwise he can't imagine putting up with this.
All cats are psychotic, or so his cube neighbor assures him. Tsuna should know; he's got a cat of his own, all long silver-grey fur and huge green eyes and enormous territory issues. Every time Takeshi goes over to Tsuna's place to watch the game or something, it tries to piss in his shoes, and it doesn't seem to bother the damn thing whether Takeshi is wearing them or not. Tsuna says he found Gokudera soaking wet and yowling piteously when he was a kitten and still small enough to fit in his cupped hands, and, well, Tsuna. Tsuna's got a soft heart already. Not like he'd be a match for a bedraggled kitten.
At least Tsuna's furball is affectionate to him, Takeshi points out. He really can't say the same for his own four-legged interloper. The cat—Takeshi hasn't tried naming it yet; he's pretty sure they don't have that kind of relationship—treats Takeshi's house like its own personal kingdom and Takeshi like he's the barbarian horde who has overrun it. At least, that's what Takeshi assumes. It prefers the high places like his refrigerator and the bookshelves and the stairs, and lurks there, waiting for Takeshi to wander past so it can take potshots at his head.
Takeshi has stocked up on antiseptic and band-aids, since it doesn't seem like he's going to have a lot of luck training the cat out of swiping at him whenever he goes past. But the cat has already trained him in how to duck.
There is a part of Takeshi that wonders why on earth he hasn't actually called animal control to deal with his new feline overlord, but if he's honest with himself, he knows that's not actually going to happen no matter how much time he spends painting antiseptic across his battle scars. For one, he's not honestly sure that any animal control officer can actually deal with the little black demon, and for another, well. You hear stories about what happens to strays and how most shelters don't have the resources to rehome the cute animals.
There's not a chance in hell that anyone in his or her right mind is going to adopt this cat. Or that the cat in question would let itself be adopted, for that matter. So there's that. Takeshi can admit that he's probably just as big a softy as Tsuna is, and the cat stays. Takeshi buys a litter box and litter and a little plastic shovel to scoop the litter, a bag of jingly toys shaped like mice, and a bag of cat food.
And another bag of cat food when his feline prissiness turns its little black nose up at the first bag. And then another bag when the second offering finds no favor either, then a series of tins of wet food when Tsuna suggests that might go over better. Then Takeshi starts to get worried because the little black terror won't eat any of those either and he honestly isn't sure how long a tiny, skinny black cat can go without eating before things go horribly wrong. He's not sure what happens to a guy if it turns out that he's such a bad cat-servant that he lets a stray starve on his watch because he can't figure out which brand of cat food is the right one, but he's pretty sure it's bad karma or something.
Then the cat steals the salmon filet right out of the skillet while he's fixing his dinner, and Takeshi decides that maybe he doesn't care about his karma so much after all.
The cat leads him on a merry chase while he tries to get his dinner back, round and round the kitchen and living room until Takeshi realizes that even if he did get the damn filet back, it would be covered in cat hair and cat drool and the heavens only know what else. The cat retreats under the couch with the spoils of its victory and Takeshi calls out for pizza, which he eats with his feet propped up on the coffee table while the cat growls contentedly over its purloined salmon.
The cat does it again when Takeshi tries to make himself some tonkatsu, and again when he tries to do a bit of beef stirfry, and meanwhile the dishes of stupidly expensive wet food go ignored, drying out slowly until Takeshi gets disgusted and scrapes them into the trash. The point couldn't be clearer, but Takeshi fights it for a good week before he gets sick of having his meals spoiled or stolen and just starts buying extra. He passes the stuff the little demon won't touch on to his neighbor, who has a cat of her own, and hopes at least her cat will deign to eat it. (He has his doubts; he's seen Chrome's cat out and about, slinking along the fence with a pair of mismatched eyes and a plumy tail rippling in the breeze, and if ever there was a cat to rival the resident demon for ponciness, this one is it.)
The first night he shares out a bit of beef with the cat, he drops it onto a plate and puts it in the corner of the kitchen. The cat watches him do it from the top of the refrigerator, eyes narrowed to slits, but Takeshi puts the rest of the beef back into the fridge and goes into the other room.
He doesn't hear the cat jump down from the fridge—it never makes any noise unless it wants to—but a little later, when he goes in to start his own dinner, the plate is clean, and the demon doesn't steal the rest of his meal. So Takeshi guesses that's something, anyway.
If this were some kind of heartwarming television special or something, the food thing would work out to some kind of truce or be the start of a feline-bald ape mutual non-aggression pact, but the cat doesn't seem to know anything about narrative conventions. Not, Takeshi thinks, inspecting the latest damage from a flying attack—the cat had dive-bombed him from the top of the stairs, bounced off his forehead, and then fluffed out to twice its actual size before tearing around the apartment and disappearing under the couch—not that this cat would give a damn about narrative conventions, even if it did know anything about them.
The best he can say is that they've got kind of a détente about dinner. Kind of. The little terror mostly leaves him alone while he's fixing his own meal, though not always. Sometimes it tries to steal Takeshi's meal too, despite the fact that it gets its own share of undressed meat or fish, whatever Takeshi is having himself. It seems to have a thing for teriyaki, go figure.
Takeshi's getting sick of this, and neither Tsuna nor Chrome has any advice for what he can do to stop his feline overlord from its depredations. (Their mutual suggestion had been a squirt bottle filled with water. Takeshi buys one, even fills it and sets it on the counter, but the second he reaches for it the cat makes such an unearthly sound that it fills his soul with foreboding and he decides that he'd rather live and order pizza again than find out what the cat would do in retaliation for a face-full of water. He can't help thinking this was the correct and proper decision.)
But enough is enough. One Tuesday night he decides that the cat is just going to have to make do with its rightful share of the stirfry beef, and waits for the cat to do its crouching panther, thieving feline routine. The cat gives him a suspicious, slit-eyed look as it lurks on top of the fridge, but Takeshi is waiting for it. He catches the little monster mid-leap, scruffing it and holding it at arms length. It howls like all the demons in hell, and for a second Takeshi worries that he's hurting it. Then he sees the rage on its face and realizes that no, that's just fury and injured pride and a whole bunch of really sharp claws he's holding.
He's committed now, though, so he holds the cat up and says, enunciating as clearly as possible, "Stop. That."
The cat lays its ears back and hisses. It makes a try for his nose, probably to claw it off, but settles for raking his forearm instead.
Takeshi shakes him, gently because he's not a monster no matter how irritated he is. "I said no."
That just gets him a growl, something that sounds rather like a fuck you, ape to Takeshi, but Takeshi holds firm. If he loses this battle, he's lost the war and might as well deed everything over to the four-legged fury and call it done.
"I mean it," he says. "Knock it off, or so help me, it's nothing but store-brand kibble for you from now on."
He's come to this, he thinks, bargaining with something whose brain is approximately the size of a walnut. How on earth has he come to this?
But the cat, heaven help him, the cat honestly seems to be considering it. It stops growling anyway, though its ears are still flat against its skull.
Takeshi holds it up for a bit longer, staring at him (not nose-to-nose, because he still values his eyeballs too much to let a cat claw them out). "We got a deal?" he asks.
Later, he swears up and down that the cat pointedly looked away from him and sniffed, but Tsuna doesn't believe him.
He just wishes that were the only time he ever holds a conversation with the cat, but honestly, it isn't. It's been a long time since Takeshi has lived with anyone, and maybe that's why he starts talking to it while he's making his dinners of an evening.
"Yeah, so I keep telling Tsuna he should just man up and ask Sasagawa out," he says, slicing up the carrots for the soup he's got in mind for the evening. The cat is sitting on top of the refrigerator like some kind of statue, tail curled around its paws and its eyes watching every move Takeshi makes. "It's not like we don't all know that he worships the ground she walks on."
The cat is about as impressed by this as it ever is, which is not at all. It yawns, showing off pink gums and sharp teeth, and sniffs.
"Yeah, that's what I think too, but he starts hyperventilating any time I try and talk him into it." Takeshi throws the carrots into the pot with the onions and celery and sets the lid in place. "I keep telling him that if he doesn't step up, someone else is going to ask her out first, and then where will he be?" There's stock in the freezer; he ducks the swat at his head and retrieves it. "That's right, crying at home with that furball of his. Exactly. And how pathetic would that be?"
His feline overlord blinks, once, and licks at a spot on its shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah," Takeshi says. "That's my point exactly, I'm definitely the right person to judge. I should know."
He'd swear that if the thing could have, it would have rolled its eyes at him then. But then Takeshi gets out the stew meat and parcels out its share, so it jumps down, swipes at his toes in passing, and crouches over its dinner, so Takeshi guesses the point stands.
The weather starts getting cold in earnest, cold enough that it reminds Takeshi that he's been meaning to do something about the house's insulation and crappy old windows for a while now. The cat actually deigns to descend from its favorite perches and takes up residence on top of the heat registers in what Chrome tells him is actually the official, approved kitty-loaf position, paws tucked in beneath it and tail wrapped around it. Takeshi prefers to think of it as the position of concentrated feline evil, because the cat gives him persistently evil looks any time Takeshi passes through.
"Don't look at me," Takeshi tells him. "I'm not the one who came up with winter."
The cat just growls at him.
"Besides," Takeshi says, "it'd be a lot warmer in here if you weren't hogging all the heat." He tucks his blanket around himself to demonstrate the point, but the cat just lays its ears back, unconvinced.
"I'm just saying," Takeshi says, slouching lower on the couch and changing the channel, looking for something to watch.
That it's gone and turned cold and the cat has taken up residence on the heat registers makes for a temporary cessation in outright hostilities; Takeshi guesses that the cat would rather be warm and comfortable than licking blood off its claws. Which, hey, fine by him, he's not complaining at all. And really, he'd just be kind of creeped out if it responded to the chilly weather the way Tsuna's cat does, which is to crawl inside Tsuna's sweatshirts. It makes Tsuna look simultaneously like he is pregnant and like he's grown a second head just below his chin, because (of course, this all makes sense as Tsuna explains, and Takeshi is nice enough that he waits till Tsuna's out of earshot to laugh) Gokudera needs to be able to see what's going on.
Cats, Takeshi thinks, tossing back his beer. Cats must make you crazy. Dogs would never do such a thing.
Then one night it gets really cold—like, meteorologists on the news talking about record-setting temperatures and the stores packed with people buying all the toilet paper and groceries they can carry and a distinct aura of doom hanging over everybody cold. Takeshi admits that the meteorologists are not wrong. It is pretty freaking cold, even after he turns the heat up and puts all the blankets except one on the bed. He resolves that he's definitely going to start asking around about contractors first thing in the morning and wonders why hot water bottles ever went out of fashion until he finally warms up and drops off to sleep.
When he wakes up, he's confused by the weight on his chest at first. The blankets...? he wonders at first, brain muddled by sleep, but yeah, no, he's got enough blankets piled on the bed that he can barely move, but this is a peculiarly dense kind of weight.
He starts to move, flailing a hand out into the icy air outside his blankets, and something growls at him. It's a primal sort of growl, the kind that reaches right down and takes hold of the brainstem and says Freeze, ape.
The adrenaline wakes him up the rest of the way and he realizes that he's nose to—call it posterior—with the cat, which has assumed the kitty-loaf position on his chest and is apparently quite content to be there.
"Huh," Takeshi says, because this is the closest the cat has ever come to anything like sociability. But considering how cold it is, maybe he shouldn't be surprised that the cat has decided that the blanket he left on the couch is inadequate.
It's two in the morning and adrenaline rush notwithstanding, Takeshi's not thinking too clearly, which is why he drops his hand onto the cat's back. It has extremely soft fur, silky under his fingertips, and he falls back asleep petting it without quite allowing himself to think about how strange it is that he's doing so without being eviscerated for his temerity, or that there's the faintest of vibrations under his hand, like an unvoiced purr.
They're both pretty embarrassed by it the next morning when they wake up, what with the cat doing one of those feline things where it makes like it has no spine and so is all twisted up back to front, paws in the air and nestled right into the way Takeshi has curled around it. It's definitely purring and Takeshi's definitely got his hand on its stomach, where its fur is thick and softer than down. They spend a horrified moment staring at each other before the cat wraps itself around his hand and makes a spirited attempt to disembowel it before hissing at him and performing its vanishing act.
"Right," Takeshi says to the chilly morning air, trying to staunch the blood flow. "Let us never speak of this again."
Eventually the bleeding slows down and he musters the will to haul himself out of bed to get ready for work.
His feline overlord stays scarce, even after he gets home from work with a splurge purchase of filet beef and while Takeshi is searing it in the skillet. He tries not to feel weird about missing its predatory stare from the top of the fridge and leaves its dinner on the plate in the corner of the kitchen like usual. It's not his fault if the cat is embarrassed by waking up in a compromising position. Really it's not.
All the same, he feels better later on when he sees a black shadow slink along the floor as he's watching some mindless television before bed. When he goes to put his beer bottle in the recycling before heading up to bed, he sees that the plate is clean and can't help smiling.
It's still weird when he goes up to bed and finds that there's a hollow in the bedclothes, one that's lined with fine black cat hair and perfectly shaped to hold a curled-up little black demon. This is new, he thinks, looking down at it.
Better not to question it, though. Cats are baffling enough as it is without trying to suss out their psychologies.
They're both careful not to make a big deal out of the fact that it happens again—the act of the little feline menace taking up residence in Takeshi's bed at night, that is. If they don't talk about it, Takeshi reasons, it's not official. Besides, the cat is clearly just using him for his blankets and body heat anyway, much like it's using him for his opposable thumbs. This isn't any kind of pet-owner thing at all. That would just be silly. Takeshi's had far too many close encounters with his feline roommate's sharp, ivory claws and teeth to make that mistake. What it is is this: Takeshi's clearly some kind of indentured servant or priest or something, responsible for making regular blood sacrifices and scooping out the litter tray, and occasionally providing body heat and tummy rubs. No big deal.
And actually, it's not, which is the funny thing.
"You know," he says one night, watching the television and not the tip of the black tail that's twitching in his peripheral vision, "this is probably the most straightforward relationship I have ever had."
The cat doesn't reply, though the tip of his tail flicks back and forth twice in rapid succession.
"Yeah, I know," Takeshi agrees, because it is kind of funny. And not. "So, hockey or basketball tonight?" The question nets him another tail twitch and a growl. "Right, hockey it is. I don't know why I even bothered asking." There's not enough fighting in basketball for the cat's taste.
He switches the channel and settles back against the cushions, careful not to disturb the furball perched on the back of the couch. They watch the game in relative peace, right up until it goes into sudden death overtime, and the cat has to vent its excitement by wrapping itself around Takeshi's head and chewing on his ear. But other than that, it's peaceful enough. Pleasant, even.
Probably that's weird, but if it is, Takeshi finds that he doesn't much care anymore.
He's just on the verge of deciding that being owned by a cat isn't really a terrible thing—might even be kind of nice—when the cat discovers the existence of Chrome's cat. It might be more accurate to say that they discover each other in a revelation of mutual loathing, but either way it's the end of peace as Takeshi knows it.
It happens sort of like this: Takeshi is enjoying the prospect of a lazy weekend morning and the arrival of spring and the cat is drowsing in the morning sunlight that streams in through the front window. Chrome's cat slinks by, its long fur rippling with each careful step it takes. It carries its tail like a banner over its back and meanders along Takeshi's front window. It pauses there and looks in, surveying Takeshi's sloppy morning attire (boxers, t-shirt, and most importantly of all, the coffee mug full of life-giving nectar) with a disdainful, heterochromic stare that Takeshi privately thinks is the creepiest thing ever, though he would never tell Chrome so.
Then it catches sight of Takeshi's feline overlord and pricks its ears forward in evident interest. It lifts a paw and lays it against the glass. It doesn't make any sound, at least not that Takeshi can hear, but all of a sudden the cat goes from being a placid, unconscious curl of fur on the floor to a puffed-out, hissing, yowling ball of utter fury that throws itself at the glass, battering it relentlessly in its determination to destroy the interloper.
Takeshi watches and listens in amazement, pretty sure that the cat is doing the feline equivalent of cussing out Chrome's cat and all its forebears back to the first generation. Or something. Whatever it is that cats say to each other.
Chrome's cat listens attentively, watching the feline hellion having the absolute frothing fit on the other side of the glass. If Takeshi doesn't know any better, he'd be ready to swear that the damn thing is laughing at them both.
Hell, it probably is.
It lingers for several minutes, then flicks an ear and strolls away, flirting its tail through the air and sniggering the whole way, Takeshi just knows it. The cat doesn't stop yelling until it's been out of sight for several minutes, and only then does it flop back down into its sunny patch, panting and still growling at a barely audible level.
"You tell him," Takeshi says, unable to help himself. He's still snickering five minutes later as he paints the scratches on his ankles with antiseptic, because it was totally worth it.
It's still pretty much the end of a peaceful existence as Takeshi knows it. The cat loses it every time it sees Chrome's cat in the yard and takes to patrolling the windows and glaring out them like a tiny, grim sentry. Chrome's cat seems to think this is the best new game possible. It haunts Takeshi's yard, wandering along the windowsills and lounging on the branches in clear view, smirking as the little fury yowls its outrage to the heavens.
"You know he's only doing this because he likes the way you react," Takeshi points out in a (futile) effort to defuse the situation and to ensure that he won't be woken up in the middle of the night by another episode of the cat dancing on his chest in a full-bore, claws-extended hissy fit. Again. "If you just ignored him, he'd get tired of this and leave you alone."
The cat gives him a look of flat annoyance and hisses like a pissed-off teakettle with anger issues.
"There's no call to be so rude about it," Takeshi says, offended. "I'm just trying to help."
He even goes so far as to say something to Chrome about the whole thing, rubbing the back of his neck and apologizing for the trouble of asking her to keep her cat out of his yard. She's just as apologetic: "I would, but he has a mind of his own." She's got the interloper cradled in her arms. It gives Takeshi a look of supreme satisfaction and yawns. "Mukuro's an escape artist, really. I don't even know how he gets out of the house. I'd swear he can teleport through the door."
Takeshi wouldn't put it past the little bastard, but at least it was worth asking. "Thanks anyway," he says and leaves it at that. He goes inside, where the cat has finally exhausted itself and is a limp, panting puddle of fur on the floor. Takeshi shakes his head. "Looks like the two of you are just going to have to learn how to get along."
The growl that answers him probably translates into With my last breath I spit at thee and mine accursèd enemy, bald ape! Or something like that. Loosely, of course.
When it all finally comes to the crisis point, Takeshi can't help blaming himself for what happens. The weather turns warm enough to open the windows, which he does in order to catch the cross breeze and keep the house cool enough to be livable. He doesn't think anything of it, at least not until he hears all holy hell break loose upstairs, things crashing to the floor and thumping and thudding like a herd of enraged elephants stampeding and above it all, a duet of feline rage.
Once he gets upstairs, the situation is easy to read: the screen hangs loose from the window and there are two black cats twisted around each other, doing their mutual best to exterminate one another in the ruin of the spare bedroom. There's hissing and spitting and hind feet raking bellies and heads and blood, which is what shoves Takeshi out of his moment of paralyzed shock and into doing something to intervene.
The only thing he can think of to do is try and separate them somehow, so he gets a glass of water from the bathroom and tosses it on the tornado of black fur and growling. It startles them enough that they break apart for a moment, stiff-legged and hunch-backed, yowling their rage. Takeshi swears in spite of himself. Chrome's cat has long, thick fur that seems to have protected it from taking too much damage, but the feline overlord is in much worse shape. One of its ears is tattered, one of its eyes is closed, and not all of the wetness soaking its fur is water.
Takeshi takes his life into his hands and scruffs them both, holding them well apart until he can thrust Chrome's cat back through the window and drop it on the branch that gave it access to the room in the first place. The cat growls and twists in his grip, dead set on going after its hated enemy even after it's been removed from his sight, like it's not even aware of its injuries.
But Takeshi is, and has a large enough brain to be very worried by them. Hurrah for evolution, he thinks darkly, and wrestles the cat into a towel, burrito-style, to keep it still while he pages through the phonebook to find a vet that has emergency hours on Sundays.
The cat does not take kindly to its confinement. "Knock it off," Takeshi tells it, cringing inside at the sealed eye and tattered ear. The cat just flattens its good ear back at him. "Oh, shut up, you have a brain the size of a ping-pong ball, what do you know about necessary medical care?"
He just gets hissed at, quite rudely, for that.
The cat doesn't stop struggling against its towel burrito even once as Takeshi calls around, first to a number that rings and rings and rings without anyone picking up, then to a clinic whose receptionist is sympathetic but tells him they're going to be closing before long, before he finally reaches someone who tells him that they'll be happy to take on this emergency. "Great," Takeshi says, relieved, and tells the guy he'll be along right away. He looks down at the cat and says, "All right, cat, time to visit the vet. Won't that be fun?"
The cat makes a spirited attempt for his throat, but the towel burrito foils that and reduces it to angry howls. It would be a nice change not to be bleeding, if only the circumstances were different.
The cat keeps up its complaints all the way to the vet, sitting in the passenger seat of Takeshi's car and pouring out a steady stream of growled invective that no amount of human reasoning can quell.
At least there's one point they can both agree on: Chrome's cat is an utter bastard.
It's Sunday, which is probably why the clinic that agreed to see them is nearly deserted. It smells of disinfect and, faintly, animals, and it turns out that the friendly guy Takeshi spoke to over the phone is the vet himself. He's sitting at the front desk when Takeshi comes in, legs propped up on the desk and absolutely the largest cat Takeshi has ever seen in his life sprawled across his lap in fluffy mackerel tabby glory.
Takeshi's feline overlord, clearly a victim of its own heroic self-delusions, erupts into immediate fury upon spotting the other cat. The other cat cracks open its eyes and glances at the towel burrito that Takeshi is juggling. It rumbles once, dismissively, before yawning and showing off a mouthful of fangs.
The cat stops and seems to reconsider the wisdom of antagonizing that mountain of cat, showing the only trace of common sense Takeshi has ever seen it demonstrate to date.
The vet chooses that moment to intervene. "You must be Yamamoto!" he says, cheerful, and lifts the cat from his lap. He offers Takeshi his hand, which Takeshi shakes once he's juggled the feline burrito into the crook of his arm. "Dino Cavallone. Come on back, let's get him looked at."
The giant cat of doom takes Cavallone's seat and shows off its fangs again in another yawn as Takeshi walks past. The cat vibrates in his arms and Takeshi sighs. "Don't even think about it, he'd eat you for lunch."
The feline overlord grumbles at him for that, but quietly. Pro forma, Takeshi thinks.
That's pretty much the last thing the cat does quietly for the next few minutes. No sooner does Cavallone show them into an exam room and say, "Put him up here on the exam table and we'll have a look," than it decides it's not going to suffer any such indignity and goes berserk. The exam room turns into a tiny pocket of hell as the cat tears around it like a terror (or, Takeshi suspects, maybe in terror) while the two of them try to catch it again. That's a comedy of errors in itself. By the time he gets the cat more or less wrapped in the towel again, Takeshi's head aches from knocking against the wall and Cavallone's head (twice).
"I think a bit of a sedative is in order," Cavallone, glasses and lab coat all askew, says.
"Maybe," Takeshi agrees, over the sound of the feline overlord's strenuous objections. "And one for the cat, too."
Cavallone laughs, makes sure he's got a good hold on the cat, and goes out. He returns quickly and Takeshi does his best not to feel like an utter traitor while he holds the cat still for the injection.
The cat swears at them both right up until the sedative takes hold, and trails off into unconsciousness with a final sleepy mutter as its good eye closes.
"Well," Cavallone says, watching it with a clear look of respect, "he's a fighter, isn't he?"
"You have no idea," Takeshi says, right from the bottom of his heart.
Cavallone laughs again and reaches for a file, flipping it open. He uncaps a pen and holds it poised over some kind of intake form, one that's blank as far as Takeshi can tell. "So, what's his name?"
"Uh." Takeshi looks down at the feline overlord, sacked out in a pile of towel that's seen better days. "He doesn't—I just call him cat, if I call him anything at all." Anything that was repeatable in polite company, anyway. He rubs the back of his neck. "Guess I never did get around to giving him a name. He's not a pet, he just lives with me."
Cavallone must be a hell of a poker player; he keeps a perfectly straight face. "Of course. And how old is he?"
"I… don't know?" Takeshi confesses, realizing that he is the worst cat servant ever. Cavallone raises his eyebrows and that leads to explaining how the cat just moved itself in last year, and no, he's never had the guts to wrangle it to a vet's for shots for fairly obvious reasons. And then—"Oh God," he says, horrified. "No, uh—if he wakes up and finds his balls missing, he will kill me in my sleep."
Cavallone laughs like he thinks that's a joke. "All right," he says and puts the file away, turning to the cat itself. He runs careful fingers over it, exploring the damage and sucking in air through his teeth. He glances at Takeshi. "This could take some time. If you'd prefer to wait out in the front…?"
"No," Takeshi says. "I'll stay."
Cavallone nods and Takeshi stays. Bears witness, sort of, while Cavallone cleans some of the blood out of the cat's fur, trims it up in some places and just shaves others so he can sew up the lacerations. Once he gets down to business, Cavallone ignores Takeshi's presence altogether and talks to the cat instead, little snatches of conversation narrating what he's doing even though the cat's a limp puddle of fur on the stainless steel table. He makes quiet, worried sounds over the eye, but finally says, "I think we'll be able to save it," which is good. There's a lot less he can do about the ear, but even Takeshi can tell he's doing his best.
He finishes it off with the shots that Takeshi has neglected and sets down an array of bottles, pills and drops for the eye that herald whole new worlds of pain in Takeshi's future. There's also a cone, because apparently sometimes cats will try to chew their stitches out.
"He really is going to kill me while I sleep," Takeshi says, surveying all this plus the shaved places in the cat's fur. Cavallone laughs and finds a bag for the medicine as Takeshi bundles the cat back into the towel.
He follows Cavallone back out front to settle up, and sees that the gigantic tabby has been joined by another cat, this one long and skinny and silver-pale, with slightly darker markings on its face and tail and paws. The tabby has it pinned in the chair and is washing its ears. Both cats ignore the humans altogether. "Bring him back in a week," Cavallone says while Takeshi is trying not to make faces over the bottom line as he hands over his credit card. Cats aren't just weird. They're expensive, too. "I'll take a look at those stitches and see how they're coming along, and I'll want to follow up on the eye." He runs the card and hands it and the receipt back to Takeshi, and reaches over to rub the cat's head while Takeshi is signing his name. "He'll probably spend the next few hours asleep, and then groggy while the sedative wears off."
And then... Takeshi winces. "And then the fun begins, yeah."
"Yeah." Cavallone passes a card across the desk as Takeshi gathers up the bag and the cat. "If you have any questions in the meantime, give me a call."
Takeshi nods, tucking the card away in case he needs it, and takes the cat home, resigned to a future that's going to include a lot of feline-induced anemia.
He knows he ought to take advantage of the cat's temporary quiescence to get the place cleaned up and interloper-proofed, but for some reason he doesn't. Instead he sits down on the couch and settles the cat in his lap, a tiny bundle of fur that weighs next to nothing, and turns the television on with the volume down low.
Later on, he'll go around the house with a screwdriver, making sure that all the screens are solid in their frames, and he'll clean up the mess and the blood in the spare room, and he'll throw the bloody towel into the wash. But that'll be later.
For the time being, he sits on the couch and rubs the cat's good ear gently, flipping through the channels and only half-watching what he finds. He dozes for a little while; when he wakes up, he sees that the cat has its good eye cracked open, watching him. Takeshi doesn't say anything, but rubs his thumb back and forth at the base of its ear.
After a moment the cat kind of sighs and closes its eyes again.
The vet must have hit it with some pretty good drugs, Takeshi thinks, and pays no mind to it when the faintest of purrs begins to rumble in the cat's throat. That's just the sedatives talking, and besides, he heard somewhere that cats will purr when they're injured. It makes them feel better.
He hopes it does, anyway, and stays put for a long time, watching crappy Sunday afternoon television and stroking the cat's fur.
It's kind of nice, even if the cat has to be medicated to its eyeballs to make it possible in the first place.
Giving the cat its meds turns out to be just exactly as hellish as Takeshi expected it to be. The cat is not the slightest bit interested in having drops put into its eye or in taking any pills whatsoever, whether they're wrapped in a bit of sliced ham or buried in a pellet of cheese or smeared with peanut butter or shot down its throat with the medicinal equivalent of a pellet gun, all of which Takeshi tries in increasing exasperated attempts to give the cat the damn pills. Teensy little brain notwithstanding, the cat isn't at all stupid and learns remarkably fast. Medicine time turns into a battle royale of wits and wills and blood.
Takeshi is depressingly aware that he's losing this battle. He just hopes that whatever antibiotics he does manage to get down the cat's throat will do it some good, and that the cat's energy for fighting him on this point means that it's doing okay.
He does, however, win the fight over the cat's stitches. "Stop that," he says the first time he catches the cat twisted up like a pretzel so it can worry at the stitches on its side. The cat, of course, ignores him. "No, seriously, I mean it. You keep bothering those stitches and I will put you in the cone."
The cat lifts its head and gifts him a look of flat disbelief.
"Oh yeah?" Takeshi says. "Go ahead. Try me. I dare you." He waits a beat for effect and adds, "I'm sure the neighbor cat will think that you look very fetching in it."
The cat is good, very good—if Takeshi hadn't been watching for it, he would never have seen the fraction of a second of pure feline consternation that threat elicits. Then, with all the dignity of the ages gathered around it, the cat straightens up and folds its tail around its paws and affects an attitude of never having even considered bothering its stitches in the first place.
"Yeah," Takeshi says. "Just you remember that. Those stitches stay in until the vet says they come out, or it's the cone for you."
He must manage to be convincing, because the cat leaves them alone, though he wears a perpetually disgruntled expression over it.
Still, Takeshi is glad when the vet calls him in the middle of the week to check in on the cat's progress. It's good to have an opportunity to vent to someone who understands—Cavallone clearly being a fellow who knows what kinds of fun pilling a reluctant cat can be. "You'd think he'd be more grateful I didn't get him fixed while I had the chance," Takeshi tells him, brooding on his wounds and his wrongs.
Cavallone laughs so hard that he snorts. "But you're forgetting the moral outrage that you would have even considered such a thing."
Which, okay, there is that. In any case, eventually Takeshi gets around to telling him that the cat's wounds aren't showing any unusual redness or swelling and Cavallone sets up an appointment for Monday evening so he can check the cat over and take the stitches out if everything looks okay.
"It was nice of him to call and check up on you," Takeshi tells the cat, though not with any real conviction that the cat cares about such courtesies. "Don't you think?"
It's getting close to pilling time, however, which is probably why the cat just ignores him. Takeshi gives up on that particular conversational gambit and girds himself for battle instead.
Besides, whatever the cat thinks about it, it really was a nice thing for Cavallone to do.
Takeshi catches up with Chrome over the weekend. He's outside mowing the lawn when she comes home from the grocery store, and she pauses on the sidewalk to say hello. One curious glance at the scratches that decorate his arms is all he needs for an opening. He explains their provenance in loving detail, and Chrome is appropriately embarrassed. She apologizes profusely for her cat's behavior. "I'm so sorry," she says, "I had no idea—I won't let it happen again, I promise you."
Not that Takeshi figures that will work, or that it fixes much, but Chrome brings him a pie the next day, and a catnip mouse for the cat—peace offerings to atone for her own cat's appalling behavior. Takeshi absolves her of her cat's sins and has a slice of pie while the feline overlord gets completely stoned.
It's better than television. Way, way better than television—the cat sniffs at the mouse, initially disinterested in prey that can't flee, and then takes a second hit, a longer one. Takeshi can practically track the catnip beginning to work as its pupils dilate and its eyes go glassy. What follows is a half hour of the feline overlord rolling around on the floor, clutching the mouse in all four paws at once and occasionally licking it with long, loving swipes that sound like wet sandpaper on concrete. It culminates with the cat staring into space, swaying slightly and sneezing in a way that's clearly the feline equivalent of saying duuuuude.
He unashamedly harshes the cat's mellow by taking advantage of its bliss to medicate it while it's too stoned to mount a coordinated defense.
"Don't look at me like that," he says afterwards, rubbing its ears in apology, careful of the tattered one. "It's only for a few more days. I'll buy you a fresh mouse then and you can enjoy it without being molested, I promise."
The feline overlord signals its acceptance of these terms by wrapping itself around his hand and gnawing on his knuckles.
Doing the towel burrito thing again for the follow-up visit seems ill-advised and perhaps déclassé, so Takeshi borrows a cat carrier off Tsuna. He suspects that the smell of a strange cat in his carrier will drive Tsuna's cat more nuts than usual, which is almost reason enough to do it in itself. It's kind of petty as revenge goes, but so is peeing in Takeshi's shoes, which doesn't seem to be stopping Gokudera.
The feline overlord is much less enamored of this bit of revenge. Takeshi finds himself wishing for a third arm yet again as he tries to get the cat into the carrier. Or maybe what he needs is some kind of giant funnel or something. "What, are you part octopus or something?" he demands as he tries to get the cat through the little door.
What the cat yowls back at him would definitely be unprintable in a family newspaper.
"Just remember this the next time it seems like a good idea to get into a brawl with another cat," Takeshi says, shoving it inside at last and slamming the little mesh door shut before it can escape. The cat hisses at him through the mesh, poking a paw through and swiping at him. "Oh, please. I think we both know who started it, even if it was provoked. You could have been the bigger man, you know."
The cat doesn't let him hear the end of that until they actually get to Cavallone's clinic. The hours listed on the door say that it should have closed half an hour ago, but the door is unlocked and Takeshi goes in.
The front of the place is deserted except for the skinny, pale-furred cat from his last visit. It greets them with a yowl that Takeshi suspects could probably shatter glass. It summons Cavallone from the back like magic.
He lights up when he sees Takeshi. "I thought it was just about time for you to be stopping in."
The clinic cat yowls again, something that sounds derisive. The feline overlord chimes in, too, snaking its paw through the carrier door and making a determined, though futile, attempt to say hello to the other cat with its claws.
"Enough," Cavallone says, addressing his cat. "I see them." He smiles at Takeshi, apologetic. "Siamese, you know. They're very talkative. And opinionated."
"Hadn't noticed," Takeshi says.
The Siamese just yowls again and stalks away, jumping up to the window set high on the wall and staring out into the street.
They share a glance of mutual understanding—cats—and Cavallone chuckles. "Well, anyway, come on back. Let's see how those wounds are doing."
Takeshi follows him back to the same exam room as before and sets the carrier on the table. Before he opens it, he stoops down so that he's on the cat's level (though not close enough that the cat has even a hope of going for his eyes) and says, "Look, behave yourself. The nice vet here is going to look at your stitches and maybe take them out for you. At least pretend you're civilized for him, will you?" The cat growls at him. "Oh, please, you know exactly what I mean by that." Another growl and a pair of narrowed eyes from behind the wires. "What do you mean, what's in it for you? What, we're talking bribes now, is that how it is? Really, now."
Cavallone starts coughing into his fist—well, Takeshi tells himself that's what Cavallone is doing. It's a sop to his dignity now that he's bargaining with the furball for good behavior. He finally haggles the cat down to a salmon filet of its very own and shrugs at Cavallone as he stands up. "He drives a hard bargain."
"So I gather." Cavallone is still grinning when Takeshi finally unlatches the door. "But who am I to say anything, if it works?"
The cat steps out and gives him a flat glare. Takeshi just shrugs at it and says, "Any port in a storm."
The cat mostly behaves itself, though it wears a put-upon expression as Cavallone pokes and prods it, but even the promise of a salmon filet isn't enough to keep it from swatting the guy when he goes to take its temperature. But, honestly, Takeshi can't really blame him for that. He'd be offended too, if it were him. "And you didn't even buy him dinner first," he says, while Cavallone looks at the scratches and the cat growls.
"How boorish of me," Cavallone agrees. He shakes his head. "I suppose we'll just skip that part of the exam."
Damn straight, says the flick of the cat's tail.
Cavallone makes thoughtful sounds over the stitches, but finally says, "I think these can come out."
Which is great. Even the cat seems to agree, because it stays still when Cavallone goes for the surgical scissors and only mutters a few complaints as he tugs the sutures loose.
All in all, it's a pretty successful trip to the vet, and that's even before Cavallone helps him stuff the cat back into the carrier and says, "So, I was wondering." He's not quite looking at Takeshi and he's fiddling with his pen as he asks, "Do you think you might like to get dinner sometime?"
Whoa, Takeshi thinks, surprised at first—whoa, the vet has been flirting with him. The really handsome vet, now that he's thinking about it. Huh. Didn't see that one coming.
"Sure," he says, because damn, really, it's been a while. Why not? "How does Friday look for you?"
Cavallone's smile is blindingly bright. "Friday sounds great."
Takeshi walks out of the clinic grinning, and doesn't really notice how quiet the feline overlord is in its carrier.
It doesn't take him very long to notice that the cat is sulking: the cat stays away at bedtime. When Takeshi goes looking for it, he finds the cat lurking under the couch and gets growled at for his pains. "Well, okay, if you're feeling like that," he says, surprised by the hostility, and goes to bed alone. It's a change to have the bed to himself—amazing how much space one little cat can take up—and he tries to enjoy it.
The cat is still sulking when he comes home with the promised salmon and a fresh catnip mouse. Takeshi discovers this when he puts the salmon on a plate and the cat turns its back on it. "What the hell, cat?" Takeshi asks him. "We specifically agreed on salmon, you little freak."
The cat ignores him and stalks away, every inch of it radiating disapproval. Takeshi watches it go and makes his own dinner; after his meal, he wraps the salmon back up and puts it in the refrigerator for later, after the cat's snit has passed.
The catnip mouse meets a fate horrible to behold: Takeshi watches, discomfited, as the cat attacks it, disemboweling it in a gory festival of primal growls and flashing claws that scatters catnip and cotton fluff and cheerful red felt across the living room floor. "What on earth is wrong with you?" he asks, a little freaked out by this display of wanton viciousness.
The cat merely retreats to the top of the bookshelf to groom bits of felt out of its whiskers, and does not deign to answer.
"Look," Takeshi says on day three, when the cat still hasn't eaten its salmon, "are you all right? Is something wrong? Are you hurt?" He asks because the cat is still ignoring him, and, more importantly, has just ignored the way Chrome's cat spent several minutes rubbing itself against the front window in plain view. Takeshi is starting to be very, very concerned about the feline overlord. "Are you sick? You're sick, aren't you?" He fumbles for his wallet, where he stashed Cavallone's card on that first visit. "Hang on, I'm calling the vet—"
Nine hells' worth of demonic fury lands on his head in the person of one tiny, enraged cat. Takeshi goes down with a yell to match the cat's, because seriously, that came out of nowhere, what the hell, and the cat seems intent on clawing Takeshi's face right off his skull. "Ow ow ow, stop it, cat, owwww—!"
He succeeds in scruffing the cat, but even then it doesn't stop writhing or hissing at him. Takeshi holds it at arm's length, bleeding and bewildered. "What is wrong with you?" he demands. "Jesus, Cavallone is—"
The cat squalls at the name, literally squalls in fury, and Takeshi blinks. He says Cavallone's name again, experimenting, and the cat loses it again.
This is ridiculous and Takeshi says as much. "I know he's a vet and therefore you are, like, required to think of him as your natural enemy," he says, "but come on! He's a really nice guy."
The cat growls at him, both ears laid flat against its tiny skull.
Takeshi sighs. "No, seriously, come on, think about how he fixed you up. You should be grateful."
The way the cat swats at him suggests that it has no room in its heart for this concept of gratitude.
"Okay," Takeshi concedes, "I agree. The thing with the thermometer, that probably wasn't fun, but it wasn't personal. I mean, in the right circumstances, I assure you, that sort of thing can be kind of fun, but it wasn't that kind of context—"
The cat doesn't let him finish. It yowls, ear-splittingly loud, rakes its claws across Takeshi's wrist in dead earnest, and vanishes while Takeshi is cursing in surprise.
"Don't you think you're being childish about this?" Takeshi asks Thursday evening. The cat has broken its hunger strike because, as Takeshi has pointed out, even the best salmon won't stay good forever. It's hunched over its plate, sullen as a winter's day, and doesn't appear to be listening. "I mean, c'mon." Takeshi knows he's wheedling, and doesn't care. Much. "It's been forever since I've even had a shot at getting laid, cat. This is the best chance I've had in ages. You're not fixed, so you know what it is to have needs, right?"
The cat lifts its head from its dinner and gives Takeshi a look of utter contempt.
"Oh, now you're just being mean," Takeshi tells it. "He's a nice guy. C'mon, can't you at least pretend to be a little happy for me? Geez."
The cat bites him on the ankle and disappears again, going to lurk under the couch and growl whenever he comes too close. Takeshi takes this as a sign that no, the cat can't pretend to be happy for him.
It kind of pisses him off, if he's honest with himself, and it pisses him off that his feelings are hurt that the cat is being such a jerk about this—it's not like Takeshi hasn't gone out of his way to keep the cat happy and healthy and comfortable, right? And the cat is great company, for an irascible feline despot, but seriously, it's been ages since Takeshi has managed to be intimate with anything beyond his own hand, and there are some things a four-legged roommate just can't help out with.
Takeshi goes to bed still kind of annoyed, and wakes up before his alarm goes off because the cat is sitting on his chest. It stares at him in the grey light that comes before dawn, and Takeshi tries to process what's going on.
"Whuh?" he manages, the best he can do without a shower or coffee to help out.
The cat plants a paw on his chin, its claws the barest pinpricks against his skin. It's so bizarrely unprecedented a gesture that Takeshi just stops and stares at it.
Apparently the feline overlord finds this acceptable. It stares at him for a moment longer, then deliberately lowers its head, weirdness stacking up on weirdness, and rubs its cheek against Takeshi's jaw, first one side and then the other. Its fur and whiskers tickle and Takeshi is too baffled by this to do anything more than lie there with the cat's faint purr rumbling in his ear.
This strange ritual completed, the cat leaps off his chest and lands on the floor, soundless. Takeshi sits up and watches it saunter away. "What the—" he tries again, but apparently they're back to the silent treatment again, because the cat walks out without a backward glance or flick of its tail.
Takeshi starts his day in a thoroughly bemused frame of mind.
He showers, and dresses, and eats his breakfast with the cat lurking around, shadowing his every move. It's strange enough that Takeshi forgets about the previous night's irritation and puzzles over this instead, because it's remarkably weird, even after a week of baffling cat behavior.
"Okay," he says, finally, "I give up." He shrugs at the cat and puts his dishes in the sink, and takes the keys off the hook by the door. "I'm going to be home late tonight, don't forget—"
The second Takeshi opens the door, the cat zooms through it like a black rocket, ducking between Takeshi's ankles and running out into the morning sunlight. Takeshi's too surprised by this sudden turn of events to even think about reacting in time to stop its flight, and by the time he does, the cat is long gone. It doesn't even make sense. In all the months since the cat first invited itself in, it hasn't once offered to go outside, not even when it was losing its tiny mind over Chrome's cat being in the yard.
Takeshi is late to work that day because he spends a long time walking up and down the street, peering into his neighbors' bushes and calling for the cat. He compounds his sins by using the company's resources to make a flyer that describes the cat, small and black, bad-tempered with a tattered ear and lopsided fur that's still growing back in, and puts his name and address and all his different phone numbers on there, along with the promise of a reward. Tsuna covers for him while he abuses company resources even further to run off a thick stack of copies.
Takeshi does it all with a kind of static crackling between his ears, hissing like a radio caught between frequencies. It's static because that's what he wants, static because that's easier than being worried (the cat is little and too fearless to be smart; the world is big and full of traffic and dogs and bigger cats and people who are thoughtlessly cruel to defenseless animals) or angry (he would swear the cat has done this purely to cockblock him) or hurt (hasn't he been a good enough cat-servant?).
The static is a lot easier to deal with.
Cavallone is nice about it, really nice about it, when Takeshi calls him to cancel on their date. "No," he says, "no, I understand—don't worry about it, we can definitely find another time. Just let me know when." And also, "I really hope you find him. Send me a copy of that flyer so I can hang it up on the door, okay?"
So Takeshi does, and rouses his boss' ire even further by cutting out at four to go hang up flyers. He plasters them on every telephone pole in a four-block radius of his house, and knocks on all his neighbors' doors to ask them to keep an eye out for the cat. Chrome is the one who suggests he call the shelter, so Takeshi does. The lady who takes his call sounds harassed, but she's nice enough to take down some details and his phone number and promise that someone will call if animal control brings in a cat matching the description Takeshi has given her.
She doesn't say how unlikely the chances of that are, but then, she doesn't have to.
He halfway hopes that the cat will be waiting for him when he finally gets home, but it's not. The house seems really empty as he trudges in, empty-handed and exhausted, and it's all Takeshi can handle to fix himself a bowl of cereal for dinner before he collapses into his bed.
The static buzzes in his ears until he falls asleep.
Takeshi spends the weekend alternating between wandering the neighborhood with an open tin of tuna and obsessively checking his voicemail for new messages, and not sleeping very well at all. He's still exhausted when Monday hits, for good reason. Tsuna takes one look at him when he comes dragging in and visibly makes the decision not to ask whether he's had any luck. He just grips Takeshi's shoulder and finds something neutral to talk about, something work-related that drags Takeshi's mind off matters.
And the cat stays missing.
Cavallone calls on Thursday to ask whether the cat's turned up, and says, "Let me buy you a beer," when Takeshi admits that it hasn't.
It's not the worst idea he's ever heard, so Takeshi says, "Sure. Sure, why not."
They meet at a bar they both know and Cavallone buys the first round. The way he looks at Takeshi says that he'd still be up for dinner or whatever, but Takeshi's still in that staticky place, not feeling it. Cavallone—"Call me Dino," he says—Dino seems to get that without his having to explain it and doesn't push it.
"I guess I should have known something weird was going to happen," Takeshi confesses, towards the end of the second round. "He was acting funny that morning."
Dino says, "Funny how?" and so Takeshi ends up telling him about the sulking and the cheek-rubbing and all the other weird things the cat had done. By the time he gets to the end of it, Dino is peeling the label off his third bottle and looks thoughtful. "He was marking you. With the cheek-rubbing. Like territory."
Territory. The cat's territory. "Right before running away." Takeshi rubs his forehead. It just about figures. The cat was a little asshole like that. "God."
"Yeah," Dino says. He glances sidelong at Takeshi. "You doing okay?"
The question punches through the static, all unexpectedly, and is sharp and merciless enough to drag the truth out of him. "I miss him." Takeshi stares at the bar, miserable in spite of every attempt he's made to keep the feeling at bay. "I mean, I'm a dog person, not a cat person, but I miss him."
Dino just nods, sympathetic, and flags the bartender for another round. When it comes, he clinks his bottle against Takeshi's. "Every time I've ever lost a pet, I tell myself I'll never put myself through that again. But I never seem to be able to keep that promise."
They drink to that, and Dino adds, "Guess they're still worth it, even so."
Takeshi thinks about that, some more of the static fading out of his head as he does, and finally says, "Yeah. Yeah, I guess they are."
It rains the next day. Every time Takeshi walks past a window, he looks at the water streaming down the glass and hopes that the cat is somewhere dry. It always had had an unholy dislike of the wet.
He takes a pass on Tsuna's invitation to come over for dinner with him and Kyouko and their cats—it's kindly meant, yeah, but the two of them are still in the honeymoon phase. It wouldn't be right to intrude on that. He picks up Chinese takeout on the way home instead, planning on finding something trashy to watch on television while he tries to remember what normal was like before the cat had invaded his life.
He's just settling into the groove of things—sweatpants and cold beer, lo mein and a crappy made-for-television sci-fi schlockfest—when someone knocks on his door.
For a second Takeshi wants to hope, but then his common sense reasserts itself. He wrestles his irrational optimism down again and goes to see who it is. Probably it's just Chrome wanting to check on him.
The guy standing on his doorstep is sopping wet, thin as a rail and showing it with the way his black jeans and t-shirt are plastered to his frame. His hair is fine and black and hangs into grey eyes, and Takeshi would be willing to swear in court that the tips of the guy's ears are the slightest bit pointed.
He's also wearing the single most disgruntled expression Takeshi has ever seen on a human face, a disgruntled expression that is absolutely, impossibly familiar.
Takeshi stares, knows that he's staring and isn't able to make himself stop, but perhaps he may be forgiven for it. "What—" he says, and breaks off when the guy holds out a piece of sodden paper.
It's the flyer, the one Takeshi has stapled to any surface that will take a staple, and when he looks up from staring at it, he sees that this guy is watching him, head tilted to the side in an attitude so familiar that it hurts a little.
It's not possible, but here they are. There's only one thing to do.
"You little asshole," Takeshi tells him and pulls him inside.
Later he will have questions—all kinds of questions, like how and why and no seriously, how the fuck and did you even realize how worried I was, you little monster, and about a hundred more on top of that (including now aren't you glad I didn't get you fixed?).
But that will be later.
Right now he wraps his arms around that thin frame, not caring that his own clothes are getting soaked through too, and holds on tightly as this impossibly familiar stranger rubs his cheek against Takeshi's shoulder and makes a quiet sound that's not at all unlike a purr.
So maybe he's just a little bit of a cat person after all, Takeshi decides, and finds that he's okay with that after all.