He is born in the middle of the litter, but he's the smallest. His siblings clambour over him to get to their mother's teats, and he fights as well as he can. He usually gets to eat along with the others, with enough shoving.
By the time he can see and hear, they've established a pecking order and lost two brothers. His mother has striped fur, light and dark brown, with almost caramel highlights, and most of his siblings have the same markings. He doesn't. The oldest is black-and-white, and the one older than their sister, but the others have brown stripes like their mother. He looks at his paws and sees splodges of brown stripes, islands in white fur. He isn't like any of his siblings.
When he asks his mother why, she answers, "Your father is black-and-white, like your oldest brother. You're the only one who has both our markings." She washes his head and he doesn't ask anything else.
A time comes, when they know what the sandy box is for and can eat solid food, when their mother gathers them together. "Children, soon the family who lives here will separate you. That is the way of humans, and you mustn't be too upset."
"I want to stay here," their sister says, "with you."
"They may keep one or two of you," their mother says, "but it is up to them."
He gets used to human speech, understanding tone and what certain sounds signify. They don't communicate in the usual ways, no smell or touch, and nothing other than sounds, that he can make out. He soon learns that his mother's name is "Ess-ter" and that people are coming to see them.
"Mom, can I keep one?" asks the smallest human, who smells often of sweat and activity and other humans.
"If that's what you want," the human mother replies.
Humans start arriving. They call the human mother "Missis Lockwood" and the boy "Tyler". Tyler plays with the sister while other humans come to look at them all. A human woman takes the oldest away, calling him "Finn". Two humans play with them, all but him, for a while. They leave with the other black-and-white. They call him "Kol", which somehow suits him.
Tyler plays with the ones left. The sister and older brother get bored, but the middle one doesn't. Tyler dangles string for him, and laughs when he pounces on it. "I want this one," Tyler says, to his mother.
"That's the runt," the human father says.
"Well I guess no one else will want him, then," Tyler says. The string goes slack, but he still chews it. Tyler turns back to him. "I think I'll call you Klaus," Tyler says.
Klaus looks up at him, happy with the sound of his new name, and mews a thanks. His mother had warned him before the humans came that he was too small to really be wanted by anyone, but Tyler wants him.
Humans come to take Klaus's other siblings away; the sister gets named "Rebekah" and the brother "Elijah", and then Klaus is alone with his mother and the Lockwoods. Esther spends most of her time outside, but Klaus prefers exploring under Tyler's bed and in his closet. There are spaces small enough for Klaus to squeeze in and hide, waiting for Tyler to come looking. They play that game until Klaus is too big to fit in the most unlikely places, and that's when he discovers hunting.
Their father taught them, one afternoon in the back yard. A huge black-and-white tom called Mikael, he drilled them mercilessly on catching, evading, killing, chasing, selecting prey. Finn excelled, but there was no joy in his kills. Klaus did all right, but his siblings got all the praise. Mikael called him "boy" and "runt" and didn't show him anything. Elijah and Rebekah were the ones to help Klaus that day.
With no one to look over his shoulder or pounce on his prey if he takes too long, he begins sniffing out rodents and looking for birds. At first, he's over-eager and pounces before he should, sending starlings fluttering into the air, and mice scurrying where he can't reach. It's fun nonetheless, and he explores further and further from the Lockwoods' house.
When he's nine months old, he's hunting near a stream when he becomes aware of another kitten hunting the same prey. Klaus stands his ground, but the other kitten pounces and gets the bird; Klaus jumps on him, and they roll over, tugging the bird in opposite directions.
"It's mine," Klaus says, with his whiskers and his tail.
"I got it first," the other kitten says, tail flicking against Klaus's.
They both drop the bird and glare at each other, circling. The bird lies there for a moment, then launches into the air. Klaus doesn't bother watching it go; all he can see is the other kitten, who is looking back at him. Their tails are both puffed, backs arched, but they're not hissing.
"Whoever gets the next one," the other kitten says, "gets to hunt here."
"Deal," Klaus agrees. He catches a whiff of a vole, and runs off to follow it.
The other kitten brings down a sparrow from mid-air, and Klaus abandons the search for the vole to stare in awe as the kitten drags the sparrow, one wing damaged, over to him. "There," the kitten says, dropping it. The sparrow tries to get up, but its wing won't flap. "I win."
"That was amazing," Klaus says, sniffing at him. "How did you do it?"
"Practice," the kitten says, like it doesn't matter.
"I'm Klaus." He sniffs along the kitten's back, and the kitten starts sniffing at his.
"I'm Stefan." Klaus is getting information from his back, from his tail; Stefan lives with three humans and one cat, his brother. They're both ginger tabbies, and Stefan has green eyes. One of the humans has a familiar scent.
"I think your human knows my human," Klaus says, when they've sniffed out everything that's in their fur. "I've smelled her before."
"Oh." Stefan looks at him, washes his paw, and kills the bird just as it's struggling to get up again. It's a casual movement, shaking it to snap its neck, like it was nothing. Klaus has never felt like he wanted anything as much as he wants to be around Stefan. "Want to come over? We get milk."
Klaus goes with him to his house. There's a cat door in the human door, and he follows Stefan through it. Stefan's brother appears in the kitchen. "This is our house," he says to Klaus. "Get out of it."
"I'm just showing him around," Stefan says. Damon's tail doesn't get smaller, though his back lowers a bit. "This is Klaus, he's my new friend."
Damon regards Klaus with suspicion. "Don't get dirt anywhere," he says, disdainful tail twitch.
Stefan moves closer to Klaus and quietly communicates, "Damon's in love with Elena. He gets mad if I do anything that makes her clean more."
"I am not in love with her," Damon trills, tail flicking. "I love her like any cat loves his human."
"Most cats don't make sure their human doesn't have to do any extra work," Stefan says, pushing past him. Klaus follows Stefan out of the kitchen.
"Well then most cats suck," Damon calls after them.
"A word of advice," Stefan says, leading Klaus into the room with the big things humans sit on. "If you feel a furball coming on, run outside. Damon gets really, really mad if I don't."
"He's weird," Klaus says, and Stefan's whiskers move in a sign of affection. Klaus feels light, and skips through the room, hitting things as he passes.
Two of the humans come home and find them shredding tissues while Damon yells at them. "Stefan," Elena says, in that tone humans use when they're upset. "Don't do that." She takes the tissues from them, Damon yowling that he tried to stop them.
"Human's pet," Klaus hisses at him.
"And who are you?" Elena says, scooping him up. Klaus is startled by it, and struggles to get out of her arms. "No, come on, I have to put you outside. You don't live here." She carries him into the kitchen, puts him down by the cat door, and pushes him. "Go on. Go home."
Stefan runs in. "I'll see you tomorrow," he says, and Klaus indicates a yes and leaves.
They start hunting together, meeting part way between their houses. Tyler is out of the house for a lot of the day, so Klaus spends that time with Stefan, most days. They decimate the vole population in four gardens, and knock over flower pots, running from the jets of water humans sometimes throw on them. Klaus has never been happier.
He's known Stefan for a whole human year when Tyler moves out of the Lockwoods' house. He takes Klaus with him, carrying him in the box that Klaus yowls when he sees, because it usually means a trip to the vet. He hates the vet. This time, though, Tyler takes him to a new house, and when he gets there Klaus nearly claws his way out of the box in excitement.
"Whoa, calm down, I have to leave you in here for a few minutes. Okay, buddy? There'll be two other cats here, so play nice."
"Are you talking to your cat?" another human voice says. It's a male, a friend of Tyler's called Matt. Klaus has seen him a lot, but never really paid attention to him before. A lot of the smells in this new house are tied to him, though.
"Yes," Tyler says, "because I give a crap about him. I'm not ashamed of it." He's using a light tone, but Klaus has already tuned him out.
He can smell Stefan. "Stefan!" he yowls. He hears paws come running, and there's Stefan's face, peering into the bars of the box.
"Klaus?" he says. "What are you doing here?"
"We've come to live here," Klaus says, indicating Tyler.
"Oh good," Elena says, appearing in the doorway, "Stefan should stop pining now."
"Pining?" Tyler repeats.
"I don't pine," Stefan says quickly.
"Yeah, he's been hanging out with Klaus for months, and every time I make Klaus leave, Stefan sits in the window crying for hours."
"Not hours," Stefan says.
"Seriously?" Tyler is using the human surprised tones. "How come Stefan hasn't come over to my house?"
Elena shrugs. "Maybe Esther wouldn't let him. You did say she's territorial."
"That's the exact reason," Stefan agrees. Klaus is mostly just staring at him.
"Whatever, just as long as there's no cat drama," Matt shrugs. "We got the fridge set up yet?"
Klaus tunes the humans out and says, "Is it true?"
"I don't pine," Stefan repeats. "I may have missed you sometimes. A little. I'm really glad I get to live with you now. But I didn't pine."
"If you say so. Want to hunt in the garden?"
"Yeah," Stefan trills, happy.
Klaus settles onto his paws and waits for Tyler to open the door of the box. He's going to jump on Stefan and roll him over and scent mark him with his cheeks as soon as he possibly can. Through the box's bars, Stefan reaches out and touches his nose to Klaus's.
"Mine," Stefan says with his eyes.
"Mine," Klaus replies.