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Caramel M.

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“I need your help.”

Renee sat bolt upright in her bed, “Andrew? What is it what’s wrong?”

“Calm down, Renee it isn’t lif- or I guess it is...just...come over.”

He doesn’t give her anymore after that, just hangs up. Renee’s heart hammers in her chest as she throws the blankets off of her legs. Andrew could be lying in a ditch and say it wasn’t a big deal, she couldn’t trust his definitions. He sounded calm, that was something that kept her from outright panicking.

She pulled on some pants and a coat and got to Andrew’s apartment as quickly as she could.

She tried to ease the racing of her heart as she knocked on his door, as calmly as she possibly could. She could hear movement, so he wasn’t bleeding out and dying at least.

That doesn’t mean someone else isn’t, though.

A thud sounded through the wood before Andrew pulled it open. She scanned him immediately looking for wounds.

She was surprised by what she saw as he pulled her inside.

He was bloody but it wasn’t his and it wasn’t overwhelming, he had scratches and was more than a little rumpled. But he didn’t look too panicked.

“Andrew?” She finally found her voice.

“I don’t know what to do beyond what I have. He wants my head on a platter and wont let me near him anymore.”

“Who…?” She asks as he leads her into his room and lays on the floor. She lays beside him and stares under the bed with him.

Under the bed looking not well but not too dangerously bad, was a cat. He was probably a very lovely cat, Renee could hardly tell with the darkness under the bed and all his matted fur, but she saw the problem immediately.

“Did this just happen?” She asked as Andrew sat up and watched her. She watched the cat relax just a bit with him gone. Huh, interesting.

“Heard the fighting and looked out the window to throw something at ‘em, then all I could was that asshole fighting much bigger, meaner cats. I’ve never seen a cat almost get it’s paw ripped clean off before.” Renee could tell he was a little shaken. It was a testament to his kindness to see that he had gotten down there and saved the cat instead of just let it get torn apart.

“The eye?” She asked as she tried to coax the cat out. He only hissed and swiped at her. She followed Andrew’s lead and sat beside him facing away from the bed.

Andrew shrugged, “Didn’t see, too far away to notice if it’s always been gone or one of those cannibal cats took it.”

She could only nod. They sat in silence for a good while before Renee spoke up, “Do you want me to help you clean up? While he adjusts to us?”

Andrew grunted an affirmative and the two began to clean in silence. There was a lot of bloody spots and smears spattered throughout his apartment, he had a towel thrown onto his counter that was the most bloody thing there. She assumed it was because that’s what he used to grab the cat outside.

By the time the rooms were clean and the blood was gone and she had persuaded Andrew to let her clean up his scratches they could both hear too heavy footfalls and an odd gait coming from his bedroom. She could see the tension leave his body as his eyes focused on the cat.

“Don’t stare,” She said softly. He huffed but listened and instead looked to her.

“Your hair looks like shit.”

Renee laughed softly and finished putting a bandage over his cuts, “I’ve been meaning to ask if you wanted to help me color it this weekend.”

Andrew hummed and swayed his feet, “I could be persuaded.”

She knew that meant yes. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do it herself, but when they had first met so many years ago now Renee noticed how he would stare at her hair. She would never forget the glimmer in his eye when she asked if he would help her.

It’s a bonus he’s actually very good at it.

They sit together on the couch while they watch the battle-worn cat wander the apartment. Renee can see he’s got a broken tail as well as everything else. She notes all the bandaging Andrew had done. She can see he focused on that front left paw. She could tell something pretty drastic would have to happen to it.

“What are we going to do with it,” Andrew asked at last as the cat looked to them, slowly trusting them.

“Take him to the vet once they open, and see what we can do. You did good Andrew.”

He didn’t respond, just held his hand open and she took it. He gave it a gentle squeeze and they watched the cat get acquainted with the space and them until the sun rose.

“Go get dressed, i’ll see if I can wrangle him,” She gently nudged him to his room. He hesitated only a moment then was gone.

She looked to the cat, who was staring at them now from across the room. She slowly slid to the floor, “Hello sweetheart.”

The cat tensed, just a bit but didn’t bolt or hiss. She took it as a win and slowly extended a hand. The cat met her eyes and they stared at each other for a long while. Then he stood and limped toward her. Just two odd steps and she felt the cool tip of his small nose against her fingers.

She didn’t move as he sniffer her hand and wrist. She felt him press his cheek to the side of her hand. Officially deeming her acceptable.

“We need to take you to the vet little guy. It isn’t going to be pleasant, but Andrew and I won’t let them hurt you. He’s a good guy, you know. He saved your life.”

“And he’s so grateful too,” Andrew said from his door. He slowly approached them, stopping another few steps away when the cat bristles. He crouches like Renee and copies her motion.

It takes the cat awhile before he approaches, but Andrew’s patience wins out. Renee watches as the cat repeats the process with Andrew.

“We’re gonna have to put you into a box, but I have blankets. It’ll be nice and homey. Just like you like,” Andrew said, a light jest from the cat’s previous situation as a stray.

He doesn’t make a sound as Andrew stands and gets a very well supplied box. He doesn’t fuss when Renee puts him in to it. He curls up in the soft warm blankets and lets them jostle him from the apartment to the car. To the car into the vet’s office.

The nurse looks up from the desk to them, to the box then asks all the questions. Renee handles them in a much more dignified and kind way than Andrew would have.

They sit together and the cat pokes his head out of the box to stare at the new place. He’s tense.

He reminds Renee of Andrew. Cautious and tense and hard to win over.

But worth it. She knows he’ll be worth it, that his life is worth it.

They’re allowed to pet him briefly, only a few strokes here and there before he becomes agitated and lays down once more. Then the vet comes and they’re given a lot of information.

He needs a cast. His paw needs to be amputated. His once-eye might be infected and he’s certainly harboring other infections in his battered little body. He doesn’t give a great prognosis.

“Take care of him,” Andrew says, “I don’t care what you have to do, just do it.”

The vet doesn’t seem convinced, but he doesn’t fight Andrew’s wishes. They have to medicate the cat before they take him back after the warning he’s very distrusting.

Renee pets his head softly as his little eye droops. Her heart feels torn when they take him to the back.

They go out to the lobby to wait. No matter how long they aren’t leaving him. Renee isn’t leaving him.

Andrew goes out to get them breakfast and much needed coffee. Something warm and just sweet enough for her, and a caramel concoction for him.

“You like the cat, don’t you.” He says after awhile.

There’s no point denying it, “I do.”

“Will you take him, after this is all over.”

She doesn’t even have to think about it, “I will.”

“Good.” Andrew says. She looks to him curiosity in her eyes. He only looks to her for a moment before looking ahead and to the silly cartoon playing on the small tv, “He needs someone like you.”

Like I did.

He doesn’t say but she knows.

She knows.

 

___

 

It’s hours before they get any news. The poor cat had to be shaved but he’s handling the anastesia well and the amputation was a success and his eye wasn’t as bad as they thought it was. His tail would heal but it would never be straight.

He would make a full recovery with the right care.

Renee could have cried. She did cry, a little when they brought the poor dear back out.

He was so woozy and sleepy. He loved being pet even if he looked a little silly now. Or maybe not. He kind of looked like a little lion. Renee’s heart soared as she looked at him, as Andrew drove her home.

“We can go out and get hi shit later, if you want.” Andrew said as he idled by her curb, “or you can get it yourself.”

“I would love to go shopping with you,” She smiled softly, fondly, “Thank you, Andrew.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You did.”

 

___

 

Caramel is his name. Caramel Macchiato, or Caramel M.

He reminds her so much of Andrew, pale color and fiery personality when he let you in. his damage and trauma not defining him.

“The M isn’t really Macchiato,” She says to Cari one night as he stretches across her lap and silently demands attention, “it’s a stand in for Minyard.”

Caramel purrs. Renee laughs. Andrew couldn’t have found her a batter companion if he had gone out and genetically engineered one. He was just what she needed and he needed her. She was more than happy to take on Andrew in cat form.

She loved him anyways, and Caramel was perfect.