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To Catch a Cat

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Alphys had all she needed.

A bowl of milk.

A can of cat food. Not the cheap stuff, either, but real cat food, with flakes of tuna.

A laptop with a portable charger, so while Alphys waited, she could pretend she was grading papers, when really, she was just watching anime.

And a rather attractive cop on patrol for the night who would pass through her neighborhood a few times, keeping ne’er-do-wells away from her. That being said, this cop didn’t know she existed, as far as Alphys knew. Officer Undyne wasn’t native to this town like she was, and the times Alphys had seen her, she hadn’t said a word. She had been tempted to intentionally get a ticket just to talk to her, but didn’t want to mar her driving record for the sake of a woman. That would just be ridiculous .

And besides. Even if she did , (not that she thought of it often ), what would she say to her? “Hi, don’t ticket me because I think you’re cute and would like to date you?” Officer Undyne would laugh in her face and give her a yellow slip.

Alphys already was a social nobody, and the whole town knew it. They knew it so much that Officer Undyne would never knew she existed.

But hey, at least Alphys could feel safe in a dark alley at night. Alone.

Waiting for a cat that might not exist.

You’re pathetic , Alphys reminded herself. Absolutely pathetic. No one wants to be your friend, so you cling to the idea that Mew Mew exists.

She wasn’t thinking about the anime character, Mew Mew, of course. She was thinking about her cat with dubious existence. She had read on an internet forum that, if you’re poor (and, as a teacher, she was) and in need of a cat, feeding strays was a great way to do so.

The first night, she felt like an idiot, putting a saucer of milk out for a cat that may not exist, but the next morning, the milk was gone. Not in the way that would indicate evaporation, but completely licked clean, complete with tongue streaks. Of course, at first, she thought she imagined it, and the marks seemed a bit too large to belong to a cat, but she continued to put the saucer of milk out.

Eventually, it became cans of cat food, too. Cheap cans, initially, for she lived on a teacher’s salary in a small town, but those disappeared, too. Alphys lived in an apartment building with many other people, so it was possible that people were messing with her (and she often thought it, too, with how people laughed when she was sitting in that alley, waiting for the cat that never came), but she clung to the mythical Mew Mew.

And tonight, she’d finally have proof.

The first few hours were easy. She rewatched some of Mew Mew Kissy Cutie 2, then decided to catch up on some fan forums before becoming current on anime she cared less about. She worked on some gratuitous fanfiction of herself and the Unacceptably Attractive Police Chief, then closed the document quickly, looking around to make sure she didn’t miss anything going on in her surroundings.

She heard footsteps, then, and she slammed her laptop shut.

I’m going to die in an alley waiting for a cat while writing fanfiction.

The footsteps grew louder and were accompanied by a flashlight.

I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna die--

The flashlight met her eyes, and Alphys recoiled, trying to block the light with her hand.

“What are you doing at one am in an alley?” the person asked, lowering the flashlight.

Alphys lowered her protective hand, then gasped, clutching her laptop to her chest. The very woman she was just writing about, just fantasizing about holding her close with those muscular arms of hers, was standing before her, in full uniform.

Officer Undyne.

Alphys approximated a few vague noises and hand waves that made no sense. This was the first time Undyne ever spoke to her, and it was dark, and she was in uniform , no less. What was she supposed to say? How was she supposed to explain herself?

“Are you okay?” Undyne stepped forward. “It’s not really a normal thing, what you’re doing. You look really pale. What’s wrong?”

“Um! I’m waiting for a cat!”

Undyne froze. “A...cat? Is your cat missing?” She looked around the alley with her flashlight, eyes wide in alarm.

“Yes! I mean, no! I mean!”

She turned sharply, eyes on Alphys.

Alphys shivered. “I mean...I’ve been feeding a cat in this alley every day for the past month or so. I decided to try to capture the cat with some food and affection.” Alphys emitted a cough-laugh, a nervous sound that no girl would ever be attracted to. “Sorry, it’s not terribly interesting.”

“Are you kidding me?” Undyne grinned, her teeth glinting in the strange light of her flashlight. “I love cats!” Then her smile dropped to a grimace. “I’ve been patrolling around the rest of the town and it seems like nothing’s happening. As usual. So I could sit with you. If you like! I mean, I don’t want to intrude on your business.”

“Y-you’re not intruding!” Alphys stammered, scooting over so Undyne could sit by her. “It’s...kinda lonely, sitting by myself.” Dammit, Alphys, you can’t just say you’re lonely. You’re gonna come across as desperate, and girls don’t like desperation!

“Aw, I’ll keep you company! You can keep me company, too!” Undyne leaned an arm against one knee and extended the other leg. “What’s your name?”

“A-Alphys.”

Something changed over Undyne’s face--the face of recollection. “Alphys, Alphys. Where have I heard that before…”

“Um, I’m one of the only teachers at the school.”

Undyne quirked an eyebrow. “I remember now! The human Dreemurr kid asked if I knew you. I said I’d tackle you if I found you! And I’m a woman of my word!”

“T-tackle me? Why?”

“Who cares!” And she pounced.

It was everything and nothing Alphys had expected. From all her long hours fantasizing about those muscular arms of hers, she knew she’d have a firm grip, something reassuring Alphys had always dreamed of. But she didn’t imagine she’d be tackled by her in the first fifteen minutes of them meeting !

Undyne was a careful assaulter, which surprised Alphys. She put a large, protective hand behind Alphys’ head before impact, so when she hit the ground, she leaned against Undyne’s hand, never touching the cement. Undyne crushed her in a hug, not feeling malicious at all, and making Alphys genuinely laugh for the first time in what felt like months, years even. Not a shy giggle, or a nervous cough, but a laugh from the bottom of her heart, a blossoming feeling spreading across her chest and arms.

“Well,” Undyne said, helping Alphys up to the bench, “I see why Kris recommended you for the tackling! You’re soft and adorable!”

Alphys was fairly sure about the soft part, but wasn’t so certain about the adorable bit. “I...I’m not sure about that, Offi--”

“Just Undyne is fine.” For emphasis, Undyne took off her badge and tucked it into her pocket. “I’d rather you see me as a friend than an officer, eh? Might help you relax.”

“Why would you...want to be my friend?”

“Well, for starters...you’re cute, you’re funny, you like cats, and you’re up weird hours, like me! Although, normally, I’m not on night patrol. The entire police department’s been coming down with that flu that’s been going around, and I’m the only one that hasn’t gotten it yet, so I’m here all night. Might as well make a friend while I’m here!” Undyne gave her a full-faced grin, the normally-threatening teeth looking friendly and warming Alphys’ heart.

“That...really means a lot to me, Undyne. I’ve...only had one other person hang out with me here, and that was during the day.”

“Eh? Got someone special?” Undyne shoulder-bumped her and wiggled her eyebrows.

“No! It was Kris!”

“Oh. Well, never mind then! But is there someone special?”

“No! Wait...why would someone spending time in this alley mean ‘someone special?’ You’re hanging out here, and we’re...friends, right?”

“We can be whatever you wanna be.”

Alphys blinked. “You’ve...never met me before.”

“It...doesn’t feel that way, though. Does it?”

Alphys frowned, turning away in thought. “Maybe in...a past life or something?” Alphys managed a nervous smile.

But Undyne was right. Just what was it that was so fascinating, so alluring about her? It wasn’t just that she was muscular or tall or illegally gorgeous , but hearing her voice, laughing with her...it all felt so... familiar .

“Maybe.” Undyne turned away, her yellow eyes lost in thought for a bit. Alphys desperately wanted to know what went through her mind then, but being that they did indeed just meet, Alphys didn’t know if it was awkward or not.

So she remained in awkward silence.

For a while, they listened to the night noises of the alley, the occasional alley crittery scurry by, with Alphys standing at the ready to meet her cat, only to be disappointed.

“So, what’s the cat’s name?”

“Mew Mew,” Alphys said quietly, suddenly finding her hands rather fascinating.

“Like a cat meow? Mew?”

“No!”

“Like the Pokemon?” Undyne’s face broke into a mischievous, sideways grin.

“No, but that’s good, too! I named her out after Mew Mew from...Mew Mew Kissy...Cutie…” Alphys’ voice trailed off as she realized what a nerd she sounded like.

“She? The cat’s a she?”

“Well...honestly, I don’t even know if it’s a cat at all. It could be a prank. But I’m here to find out today.”

Undyne nodded. “And if it’s some punk playing a prank, I’ll throw em.”

“You’ll...throw them?”

“Yeah! I’m great at throwing people!”

“Wh-where will you throw them?”

“In the dumpster, probably, where they belong.” Undyne chuckled, amused with herself. “But Mew Mew Kissy Cutie? What’s that?”

“It’s my...favorite anime! I have both seasons and the OVAs on my laptop, i-if you’re already gonna be hanging out! We...I mean, I can show you, if you’d like! But if you don’t, I totally understand!”

Undyne put one of her giant hands on top of Alphys’ head. “Alphys.”

Alphys blushed and tried to duck away, but Undyne was firm, and she was quite enjoying the touch. “I mean, I guess it’s a bit ridiculous, plot-wise, but it’s a guilty pleasure, a-and--”

“Alphys.”

“And it’s really cute! And full of adventures a-and social c-commentar--”

Alphys .” Undyne patted her head indignantly before holding her face in both hands. “I would love to sit here and watch Mew Mew Kissy Cutie with you.”

Alphys felt her entire body flush. “R-really?”

“Yeah! If I can’t live out an adventure, might as well watch one, right?”

Alphys nodded, her grin widening. “Okay! So I’ll start you with the first release…” Alphys opened her laptop and realized, eyes wide, that she hadn’t actually closed the fanfiction like she thought , but rather minimized it.

“What’s that?”

“N-nothing!” Alphys stammered, trying to right-click on the minimized window to close it before Undyne could read it, but ended up left-clicking instead and expanding it.

Undyne cleared her throat. “ After stripping off her armor, the fish warrior whisked the royal scientist off her feet, carrying her to the bedroom--”

“D-Don’t read this!” Alphys slammed on the x in the top corner of the screen rapidly. If she blushed any harded, she’d probably literally die. Undyne, the fish warrior herself (or how Alphys saw her) was reading her royal monster AU of herself and Undyne about to be rather explicit , and Alphys wanted nothing more but to dig a hole in the ground and bury herself alive in it.

The document finally closed.

“Aww,” Undyne protested, “I wanted to know what was beneath the royal scientist’s labcoat! It was just getting good!”

“No! It w-wasn’t getting good! Let’s just! Watch anime!” Alphys carefully file-searched for the actual Mew Mew Kissy Cutie, trying to dodge any folders that would be of interest to Undyne; specifically, the explicit ones.

But as soon as the opening started (and Undyne not-so-subtly placed a hand behind Alphys, partially to protect her from the hard bench, but also in a sort-of-flirty way, or so Alphys hoped), they heard footsteps.

Alphys hit the spacebar to pause. “What was that?”

Undyne withdrew her arm and stood, flashlight at the ready.

There was some yelling in the distance. “Yeah, you better run off! Go be a pussy and run away from everything, as usual! And don’t bother coming back when it gets cold!”

The footsteps grew louder and faster, with some quiet, mumbled swearing.

A louder voice followed. “FUCK YOU, SUSAN!”

The footsteps got faster, until a figure ducked into the same alley Alphys and Undyne were in.

Undyne landed the flashlight beam on the figure.

“S-Susie?” Alphys stammered.

Her eyes weren’t visible through her hair--which Alphys always found to be a mystery, since she didn’t know how Susie could see --but something about her seemed less belligerent and more desperate and sad, like a cornered, wounded animal.

Undyne approached her, setting the flashlight down. Instinctively, Susie put her hands up. Alphys covered her eyes partially, scared that the two were going to fight, but instead of patting Susie down, Undyne moved her bangs out of her eyes.

Shit , that looks rough. Are you okay?”

Alphys couldn’t see what happened to her face, but she did hear a strangled noise coming from Susie.

“Where are they?”

“You really can’t...get involved. If they get arrested, then I’ll...I’ll be on the streets again.”

“You won’t be on the streets. Aren’t you eighteen now?”

“Yeah, but the system doesn’t care about us once we’re adults. They abuse us until we’re old enough to rot by ourselves.” She emitted a bitter laugh.

From her papers, Alphys knew Susie was a foster kid. She’d been in her class, a senior twice in a row for struggling with school so much, but she was so terrified of her that she hadn’t thought about questioning her.

“Which street did you come from?” Undyne asked, her voice going from sympathetic to professional, almost to the point of aggressive.

Susie remained silent.

“Susie, I’m trying to help you.”

“Since when have cops ever tried to help?”

“I can be different than them. I’m in charge now.”

Susie sighed, then told her the street name.

Undyne turned to Alphys. “I’m gonna go take care of her foster parents. You two just...stay here, okay?”

Alphys wanted to say no, but she had to stay strong. For Undyne. And for Susie, who was clearly hurt. But it terrified her.

Once Undyne’s running sounds disappeared into the night, Susie crouched to the bowl of milk and cat food. “Hey, you got the good stuff this time.”

“The...what? Wait a minute, that’s not for you! That’s for--”

Susie cut her off with a laugh. “Man, I’m sorry. I should’ve told you that I was...eating your cat food. But I figured if you knew...you’d stop being the source of one of my only meals.” Susie tore off a bit of her coat and soaked it in the bowl of milk before bringing it to her eye, still a bit obscured by the light.

“So...it was you? The whole time?”

Susie made eye contact with her now, and Alphys gasped. There was a gash across her face, and from the deep black-and-purple around half of her face, even clear around the cloth, it was clear that Susie had quite the black eye, swelling as Alphys watched.

“Yeah. I came to this alley to hide from... them , and I saw a bowl of milk. So I used it for the bruises, then I drank it. The next day, I was hungry and gonna dumpster dive--your dumpster has the best food, by the way--there was another bowl of milk, so I just chugged that one. It became routine. Then you started including food and...I knew it was probably wrong, but I was just so damn hungry --”

“S-Susie,” Alphys stammered, cutting her off, “I live right above here. If you’re ever hungry, you can just...ask? You don’t need to eat cat food.”

Susie sat on the cement, hugging her knees. It was then Alphys noticed that her knees were scraped and scarred, too, through the holes in her jeans. “I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.” Susie’s good eye met Alphys’. “Besides, at first, I didn’t even know it was you, until I heard you talking about your stray cat to Toriel. I felt really bad not coming clean then, but…” She sighed. “You know how it is.”

“I don’t. Not personally, anyway. But...depending on how things go with Undyne and your foster parents, you can c-crash with me for a while.” Alphys gave her a little smile. “Frankly, you’ve always terrified me, but I want to help.”

Susie chuckled, the sharpness of her voice cutting through the air. “What doesn’t terrify you, though? I’m not that scary.”

Alphys choked on her own saliva. “You? N-not scary?”

“I’m not that bad!”

“Well, I guess you’re a bit less scary now. But you’re right.” Alphys sighed. Perhaps it was all the talking to Undyne earlier, but she felt a bit warmed up to socialization. “I am afraid of everything. I could learn a lot from you and Undyne.”

“Looks like we all need each other, then.” Susie’s good eye widened. “I didn’t say that. Forget it.”

“No! It’s okay to need s-support. Let’s go clean you up in my apartment while Undyne deals with them, okay?”

Slowly, Susie nodded.

“Besides, you need more than milk for wounds like that.” Alphys slid off of the bench and approached Susie. “What happened, anyway?”

Susie groaned and stood. “Foster parents just...like to jump to conclusions when it comes to their drugs. Sometimes, their conclusions are very sharp.”

“They stabbed you in the face?”

“Yeah. But I’m okay.”

There was a scream down the street, then the sound of “NGAAAAHHH!!!” and the crunching of bones.

“Looks like she’s got things handled, too,” Susie noted.

“Y-yeah.” Alphys shivered at the thought of being on Undyne’s bad side. “Let’s go inside, okay?”

“Okay.” Susie inhaled the milk from the dish. “Do you have more milk?”

“Inside, yeah. Do you want more?”

“No. I wanna help you catch a real cat, not just a street rat.” Susie followed Alphys up the rickety stairs to her apartment, their collective weight making the steps creak.

“Oh, there’s p-probably not a real cat out there. I’m just lonely.”

“Maybe there is. When I’m eventually outta your hair, I’d like you to not be alone.” As Alphys unlocked her apartment door, Susie added, “I know how...loneliness is.”

Alphys knew this, and felt immediately like a terrible person for not trying to talk to Susie sooner. She held the door open, and Susie took off her shoes and came in, eyeing the apartment.

“I...I’m sorry I didn’t try to help.”

“But you are helping. Right now. And that’s...really rad of you.”

Alphys closed the door behind her, then instantly regretted bring Susie into her apartment. Now she’s gonna know what a nerd I really am .

“You like Mew Mew Kissy Cutie?” Susie asked, motioning toward the various wall scrolls and art prints Alphys had collected from her various anime conventions in the big cities.

“Y-yeah! It’s my favorite!”

“I tend to go for horror, but it’s pretty sweet.” Susie stuck her hands in her pockets and toed the carpet, adjusting a hole in her sock.

“You l-like anime?”

“Of course I do. Maybe if we’re...hanging out now, or whatever, we could watch some together.”

Alphys’ heart raced. Did she manage to make not one, but two friends? She couldn’t believe her luck. “I’d...like that. It sure beats watching anime by myself...in class...when I’m supposed to be teaching.” Alphys frowned. “Wait a second. You’re supposed to do homework.”

Susie snorted. “I’m supposed to do a lot of things.”

“I-I’m your teacher! And dammit, I’m gonna help you graduate.”

Susie flopped on the couch and removed the wool from her eye, wincing. Her eye was closed, a bit of blood mixed with milk seeping from the corners as the tissue around it swelled. “Nah. I was planning on getting my GED and getting the fuck outta this town.”

“W-well, that’s fine, too. I can help you study for that!”

Susie furrowed her brows, then winced at moving her face. “Really?”

“Yeah. I just wanna help people learn and move forward. If we’re studying a-and you decide you want to graduate instead, that’s good, too. I just want to help.” Alphys started to pace. “I’ve always wanted to help, really...I just didn’t know what you needed.” Alphys sighed. “I’m sorry. This isn’t a good time to be talking about all of this. Do you wanna...watch something? Get your mind off of things?”

Susie scooted over for Alphys. “Sure. That’s a good idea.”

Alphys turned on Mew Mew Kissy Cutie, in hopes that Undyne would come back and watch with them, but only a few minutes into it, she began to doze off. She felt Susie stand up for a bit and go outside--maybe for a cigarette?--then come back in and crunched on something in the kitchen. Soon, the weight of a blanket covered Alphys’ body, and she felt the slow, steady breathing of Susie, and she fell completely asleep.

A sharp knock on the door woke her up, but Susie, who she happened to be laying on, didn’t stir.

“Police,” came Undyne’s voice on the other side of the door.

Alphys yawned, tucked the blanket around Susie--who mumbled and rolled onto her side--and went to the front door.

“Hi, U-Undyne!” Alphys stammered, keeping her voice low.

“She crashed here?” Undyne asked.

“Yeah. I invited her.” Alphys stepped outside, hugging her arms as she shivered. “What’s going on?”

“Two things. First of all, Susie’s foster parents have been taken into custody by Yours Truly for possession of illegal drugs, being under the influence of drugs, and domestic violence. Which means that...Susie doesn’t have to deal with them anymore.”

“I figured you could do something.”

“I get shit done!” Undyne grinned. “And since Susie’s legally an adult, she can go wherever she wants.”

“I think she’s gonna stay with me for a while.”

“Cool. Which reminds me of the other thing...did Susie eat your cat food?”

“I don’t think so. I know she went outside, but she ate food I have here.”

“Come check this out.”

Alphys followed Undyne down the steps to where she normally placed the bowl of milk and cat food.

The milk was empty.

And so was the food.

“The milk was full when I checked on you guys around four am,” Undyne said, “And you were asleep.”

“You went in my apartment ?”

“No! I just took a quick sweep through. You were both asleep. I just wanted to make sure things were okay, y’know? Especially since Susie is pretty injured. You should take her to the doctor, by the way.”

Alphys was about to add that yes, she planned on taking Susie to the doctor, but she was interrupted by a soft mew.

A mew .

She turned to see a skinny, small white cat, bald patches in its snowy fur.

A cat.

“Oh my god,” Undyne whispered. “You did it.”

Alphys leaned to the ground and held out her hand. The cat arched its back for a second, then approached her cautiously, paws moving slow, teeth bared, ready to hiss at any moment.

“My door’s unlocked,” Alphys said, “if you wanna get some cat food for me.”

“I got you,” another voice said from behind Alphys.

Alphys turned to see Susie, her eyes covered beneath her hair again, holding an open can of tuna. She handed to to Alphys, and Alphys set it in front of the cat.

The cat began eating instantly, making almost horrifying sounds, as though it was starving.

“So there is a cat after all,” Susie said. Alphys could hear a smile in her voice.

“The real Mew Mew,” Undyne added.

Alphys was so happy she could cry. While the cat was eating, she reached out and petted its head softly.

“Welcome home, Mew Mew,” she said softly.

And it was then Alphys knew: if all went well, she’d never know loneliness again.