John has to be at work by nine. So he wakes up at four. Lafayette rolls over. Burrowing his head in his pillow so he didn’t have to listen to John getting up. He hates John’s schedule and everything that came with it. Doesn’t mind the kiss John gives him on the cheek before he heads out on his pre-dawn (bullshit) run, though.
John’s got a system in place. Wake up at four. Run for two miles with Bert and Ernie. Check on Milch and Satan. Feed them both. Then come inside and feed the dogs before taking a shower. Getting dressed. Making breakfast. Eating, and leaving. He always stops in for another kiss. Bringing Bert and Ernie with him so they can jump on the bed and leave hair everywhere.
No matter how many time Lafayette tells them to get off, they don’t listen. They just curl up in tight balls and go to sleep on John’s pillow. Occasionally muddying the sheets from their run. Which means Lafayette has to do laundry when he gets up.
Between four and seven-thirty, Lafayette dozes. Refusing to get out of bed just yet, but hyper aware that John’s gone. When he doesn’t hear the front door open when it should, and the dogs don’t get in the way like they always do, Lafayette gets up. Peers out the window to look over the property.
There’s a light on in the barn. Shadows moving this way and that. He can see Bert sniffing at a fence post. Ernie not too far behind. If John hasn’t left the barn yet, something’s caught his attention. And he’s going to be late.
Sighing, Lafayette drags on some clothes. Descends the stairs and makes his way across the gravel drive. Bert rushes towards him. Mouth spread wide in a big toothless grin. One good eye wide and affectionate. Lafayette pats him on the head. Doesn’t bother calling Ernie over. Ernie’s John’s through and through, and Lafayette isn’t interested in playing sides right now.
He left the cookies in the house anyway.
Stepping through the barn door, he looks about. Spots Milch in her stall head ducked too low to see above the partition. John’s kneeling down in the stall entrance. Knees pressed in against the cold concrete and hay. He’s murmuring quietly.
The way he does with everyone on this farm. (“Everyone,” John insisted. “They’re independent spirits. Not things. ” Lafayette doesn’t have it in him to argue.)
“Mon amour?” Lafayette asks, drifting closer. “You’re running late.” He peers over John’s shoulder.
There’s a…cat? In John’s lap. Milch’s nose pressed against it’s back. Nudging it occasionally. “Where’d that come from?” Lafayette asks next. Still waiting for a response. John’s got scratches on the back of his hands. Blood dripping onto the hay. He never notices when one of the animals hurt him. Lafayette’s half convinced he doesn’t feel it.
Years of practice getting hit, John sometimes needs someone to point out injuries. Ridiculous child. Stroking the cat’s fur, John’s got it trapped by the nape of it’s neck. “Yeah I’ll call in,” John says. He never calls in. He’s obsessive about going to work.
Hell, his director threatened him with a year’s sabbatical if he didn’t take some time off eventually. John hadn’t been impressed. Had even gone so far as to remind the man of the important research on the cuttlefish John’s been conducting.
Because there’s important research on cuttlefish to be had. Clearly. Lafayette rolled his eyes when John told it to him then. He’s rolling his eyes now. “Reeeally,” he drawls.
“Milch found her.”
Lafayette sighs. Settles in next to John. Peers down at the cat. It’s a small little thing. Abandoned most likely if mama’s not around anywhere. Lafayette can’t remember seeing an adult cat anyway. It’s mean as a snake, so it’ll fit right in with Satan. Though it seems to arc into Milch’s nose. Seems to meow and purr at the cow like it’s imprinted.
“What are we calling this one?” he asks. Bert farts exceptionally loudly. His tongue rolls out of his mouth. Panting. Drool slides from between his teeth. Ernie starts lapping it up.
Somewhere, on the other end of the farm, Satan is ramming his horns into a fence post. Showing off how menacing he is. They’ve collected a strange assortment of live ins. John’s even got a snapping turtle in the back pond. One that comes up for carrots and treats.
Lafayette’s long since given up complaining about them all. He’s sufficiently outnumbered.
“Don’t know yet,” John hums. “I need to get her to the vet. Check her out. Probably has FIV.”
“Most strays do.” He coos at the kitten even as it bites into his thumb. Drawing blood. Milch larps the side of the kitten’s head. Smearing fur up its face. Squishing its eyes together. John smiles.
“Always knew Kitty’d find her way into your heart,” Lafayette teased. Leaning over to kiss John’s cheek. John tilts his head into it. Smiling faintly as Lafayette stands up. “I’ll feed the dogs.”
He whistles, this time making sure Ernie’s coming, and starts making a mental list of what they’ll need to get.
Food. Blankets. Dishes. More vet bills.
C’est la vie.