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the new kitten

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“I hate you,” Gabi mutters, sweat dripping down her forehead, hair falling in her face.

Ángel perches carefully on the edge of the bed, well aware that Gabi has claws and is more than willing to use them. He already has fingernail marks in his palm from holding her hand. Two of Tony’s fingers are taped, but Tony doesn’t seem to care.

“Tony’s besotted,” Ángel murmurs. He holds out his hand, palm up, and Gabi places her own into it. Her breath is a soft shudder. “Tell me when you’re ready to be touched.”

Gabi grumbles, rolls her shoulders. “Fine,” she mutters. “Scritch me. I know you want to.”

Lie. Ángel knows she wants him to. He squeezes her hand, then carefully lets go, strokes over her back and up to the nape of her neck, scratching lightly. She lets her head drop forward and purrs.

He waits until her breathing eases before he turns his attention to Tony.

His husband. Father of their children in name, even if he’s technically the biological uncle of the newest addition to the Cruz & Mollicone family.

Tony sits in the chair, the tiny bundle cradled in one arm, a small pile of fluff curled on his lap. The pile of fluff hisses and bats at the infant’s feet, and Tony strokes soothingly across the cat’s back.

“This is your brother, Carina,” he murmurs. “This is Marco. He’s very small, and he’ll need you to protect him. He’s Lince, like you, so he’ll like knowing how you smell, and when you’re bigger, you can play together.”

“You would have had another kitten even if you’d found another surrogate,” Gabi says quietly. “I don’t doubt that any kid of yours would be Lince. You’re Lince, even though you’re not a cat.”

They’d talked about it, long ago when Ángel and Tony first started thinking about having kids. There’s no magic in the world that was going to give them children that were biologically part of both of them, but they wanted their children to have both worlds as their heritage. Cuban and Italian. Mage and Lince.

“Do you regret it?” Ángel asks. He’s wondered sometimes how much of Gabi’s complaining throughout the nine months was just Gabi, and how much was honest. He’s decent at recognizing a lie—they’ve always felt different in the way they stir the air. But sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Gabi huffs. “If I regretted it, I wouldn’t have done it.” She tilts, and Ángel gets an arm around her shoulders as she leans into him. She rubs her cheek on his shoulder, relaxes against him. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids again, and that’s fine with me, but I don’t regret Marco in the least. Although if you think you get out of running with me every morning until I’m back in shape, think again.”

“I don’t think you’re running anywhere for a little while.” Lince might heal quickly, but Ángel’s pretty sure that even his favorite cats won’t be out for a run right after giving birth. “And you could—”

Gabi touches his lips to cut him off. “Hush. We’ve talked about it, and we don’t want kids,” she says. “I’m happy being the crazy aunt to your brood, and helping you create that brood. Plus I get to be the crazy aunt for Hayley’s kids, and I’m pretty sure Stefano’s girlfriend is pregnant and he’s just not ready to tell us. There are more than enough kids in the Mollicone family without me needing some of my own.”

Carina mews and leaps down from Tony’s lap. She pads across the hospital room and looks up at where Ángel perches. He pats the bed, and Carina hunkers down, wiggling her bottom, tail flicking back and forth.

She misses on the first try, landing on the ground with all four feet splayed and her back arched as she hisses at nothing.

Tony’s laugh rumbles through the air. When Ángel meets his eyes, they both smile at their daughter’s antics.

Gabi pats the bed. “Come on up, Carina. Leap just a little higher and come nap with me.”

Carina meows loudly, and on her next attempt she catches the edge of the sheets, and Ángel helps her scramble up. She marches across Gabi’s legs and settles onto her chest, snuggling down close.

Gabi shoves at Ángel. “Leave me alone so I can sleep. Go see your son.”

Tony makes space on his lap, and Ángel settles in there. When he reaches for his son, Tony stops him, catches his hand and brushes his lips across the inked cat on the inside of his wrist. Ángel flushes and smiles, leaning in to rub his cheek along Tony’s before kissing him slowly.

“Not in front of the sister,” Gabi mumbles. “Or the kids,” she adds as an afterthought.”

“I remain eternally grateful that Helga broke down that day,” Ángel murmurs, pressing the words into Tony’s skin with slow kisses. “And that Sam sent me to the garage. I thought my world was ending then, and I had no idea what a great beginning it was.”

It’s been eight amazing years. Eight years together, three of them married. Two kids now, and Ángel kind of hopes there will be more eventually. And a house full of magic and cats.

Tony transfers Marco into Ángel’s arms. The infant is tiny—smaller than he remembers Carina being when she was born—but he’s perfect, with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes, and a little bow mouth that whistles slightly as he exhales in his sleep. When Ángel strokes his finger against Marco’s cheek, Marco leans into it, sleepily rubs his face along his fingertip.

Lince. Marco is most definitely a born cat.

Tony wraps his arms around them both, rubs his cheek against Ángel’s and purrs softly. “Everything turned out for the best,” he rumbles, and Ángel can’t argue that at all.

“I love you,” he murmurs, kissing Marco’s forehead, then Tony’s.

Carina mews her response, as Gabi mutters sleepily, “Shut up.”

“Love you, too,” Ángel calls quietly, and she grumbles her assent.

“I love you, too,” Tony echoes, and Ángel sinks into the embrace as Tony holds on tight.