Felix looked up from his mother’s dog-eared copy of The Three Musketeers to see a small orange tabby staring at him quizzically, peeking around the end of a row of bookshelves. “How did you get in?” He looked towards the front door of the library, but it was closed. Shrugging, Felix picked his book back up. “You figured out how to get it, you can figure out how to get out,” he muttered.
By the time Felix looked up from his book again, the cat was gone. He was surprised to find he was a little disappointed, although he knew the librarian would never allow a mascot. On the other hand, the librarian seemed content to let his summer intern manage things most of the time, and the place was usually pretty quiet-the cat could have stuck around for a few days before being discovered, Felix guessed. Not that he needed the company.
Felix got back to his apartment to find that his boyfriend had let himself in. “Mom sent this over,” Nino said, shoving a steaming bowl of Mrs. Lahiffe’s home cooking into Felix’s hands. “She’s worried you’re going to starve now that you’re living alone.” Nino picked up his own bowl, already nearly empty Felix noticed, and sat back down at Felix’s small kitchen table. “Good day at the library?”
“Same as every other day,” Felix said, joining him. He briefly considered mentioning the cat, but decided against it. Nino had already dragged him to the local shelter twice ‘just to look’, and Felix didn’t want Nino to get the wrong idea. “A few teens looking for their summer reading assignments in the morning, and then nobody else all day. I’m basically being paid to read. It’s my dream job. How was your day?”
“Busier than yours.” Nino hesitated. “I might see what shifts are available in August, maybe-“
“No,” Felix interrupted quickly, tired of the argument already. “You’re going to Marrakesh.”
“It wouldn’t kill me to miss one year-“
“You told me it was your favorite trip every year growing up, and you’re worried you won’t be able to visit as often after you graduate. Don’t waste a year on me.”
“Nothing spent on you is a waste, Felix,” Nino said softly.
Felix flushed. “You know what I mean. Six weeks isn’t that long, and Adrien’s still in the city-“
“-juggling full-time superheroing with a degree, you two haven’t seen each other in almost two weeks-“
“I like being alone!” Nino started. “Really,” Felix added, more calmly. “I’ll be fine.”
Nino pursed his lips for a moment, then dropped the subject.
The next day, Felix found the orange cat sniffing around his packed lunch in the employee room at the back. “How did you… oh, whatever. Nino’s mom always sends enough food for a week, I was probably going to throw half of this away anyway.” He opened his bag and pulled out a piece of chicken. “Do cats like spices?” The cat ate up the piece of chicken eagerly, then began to lick Felix’s fingers. “Don’t push it.” Felix pulled his hand away and began to eat his lunch. “I bet you have twenty places on this block alone you show up at to beg for lunch. The really good food is a few kilometers west, though.” Felix picked up his book. “I can’t read this around the other library science students,” he told the cat a few minutes later.
Felix showed the cat the page he was reading. “Dog-earring books is sacrilege. It’s Mom’s copy. She was a little more, uh, aggressive, about loving books.” Felix pointed to a line that his mother had doodled half a dozen hearts around. “This book was her favorite. Heroes, intrigue, adventure.” Felix frowned, then turned away from the cat and went back to reading.
By the end of the week, the cat was in Felix’s lap any time he sat down for more than five minutes at a time. The fur had made hiding the cat from Nino impossible, and of course Nino had immediately asked if it had a collar, if Felix was going to bring it back to his apartment for the weekend, if Felix had named it yet.
“I can’t name you,” Felix murmured, scratching the cat’s head idly as he read. “Height of arrogance, naming a cat. You’re already somebody else’s. You just come here to mooch.”
The cat purred happily in response.
“Yeah, I hope you’re happy,” Felix muttered. “Now Nino won’t let up about me getting a fleabag of my own. Not that I would,” he assured the cat quickly. “I’m not a cat person. Present company excepted. Anyway, none of the shelter cats like me. It’d be selfish to stick one with me. Nino won’t listen.”
The cat’s claws began to extend and retract. One caught on a thread of Felix’s vest, but Felix kept on scratching behind the cat’s ear all the same.
“Wouldn’t kill your owners to get you a collar, though, would it? Cat by himself off adventuring in this city. They ought to be more careful. Adventurers don’t always come back.” Felix reached another dog-eared page, another passage about honor and daring that a young Emilie had apparently adored, and he slammed the book shut abruptly, startling the cat off his lap. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I have books to shelve.”
By the time Felix finished his task, the cat was gone once more.
Felix stopped by the pet store on his way home and bought a collar. It didn’t make the cat his, the cat probably wouldn’t even come back, but. Well. If it did, and if it stayed still long enough, Felix could make sure that he’d get a call if the cat got itself into too much trouble. Better yet, maybe its owners would see and call the number on the tag so Felix could give them an acerbic piece of his mind.
“Tag machine’s to the left,” the clerk told Felix, handing over a large token. Felix walked over to a machine with a large touch screen and began to follow the prompts.
Frowning, Felix skipped the first step, entered his phone number and address, and pressed DONE.
Felix rolled his eyes, but didn’t hesitate before typing in D’ARTAGNAN.
“Ooo’s a widdle pwecious kitten? Yes he is! Yes he is!” Mrs. Lahiffe cooed as Nino carried in the orange cat.
“The lady at the shelter said he doesn’t like too much attention,” Nino reminded his mother, as the cat wriggled from his arms and immediately ran under the Lahiffe couch.
“That’s my first grandbaby, Nino,” his mother said with a mock pout. “It’s my job to smother him with attention.”
“How much longer is it staying here?” Chris asked, annoyed.
“Oh, I’m gonna tell Felix what’s up in a day or two,” Nino said, “and then he’ll move in with Felix.”
“Sure about that?”
“Yeah, definitely,” Nino said. “Those two are perfect for each other.”