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A Friend Is A Friend, No Matter How Small

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The stand-off reminds Stiles of his elementary school dances, when the boys were still intimidated by girls and girls thought boys had cooties. Only instead of boys and girls, it's boy and kittens; two extremely anxious, excited three-year-olds and five adorable but indifferent kittens. And then there's seven-year-old Nik, sitting in the middle of the room, doing his best impression of a storm cloud, glaring daggers at everything in existence.

Stiles sighs.

"Remember to let them come to you," Derek murmurs to the twins, the pair of them nearly vibrating now, their eyes big as saucers.

The problem is, the kittens are too busy exploring the new-to-them room to pay any attention to the twins. There are pillows and toys to investigate, a sprawling cat tree to climb, and dust bunnies that need slaying. Stiles makes a mental note to talk to Scott about how well (too well) he's decked out the practice's new playroom.

In an attempt to get the ball rolling, so to speak, Stiles plucks a wand of feathers from the toy basket and hands it to Nik. "See if you can't get their attention."

Nik's eyebrows furrow deeper and Stiles swears he can hear teeth grinding. "I still don't know why I have to be here," he grumbles. "I've already learned how to be nice."

"We want you to set a good example for your brothers," Derek says again. For the seventeenth time. Stiles is keeping count.

Stiles nods. "You know how they are with cats." Nik winces.

It's not that the twins hate cats, it's just that Stiles' dad's neighbor has two, and they have no interest in the twins at all. So, naturally, the boys spend every waking moment at their grandpa's house trying to earn Frodo and Samwise's love. The familiarity of it would break Stiles' heart, if it wasn't also hilarious.

There are five kittens in all, four of them a patchwork of tortoiseshell, the fifth a dainty marmalade. They stick together for the most part, sneaking furtive glances at the strangers across the room. Nik tries his best to catch their attention, but the kittens aren't having it. The marmalade finds a warm sunny spot on a plush pink pillow and plops its little butt down, eyes slitting almost shut, but open enough to keep watch over the humans. The others surround it after a few minutes, until the whole pile of them looks like a mutant sunflower.

Stiles gives Derek the why us look. Derek sighs.

The twins squirm in their respective spots — Logan in Derek's lap, Drew in Stiles' — and their hands clench and unclench, their little bodies leaning forward to be as close as possible. Not like a few inches will make a difference when the kittens are on the other side of the room, but whatever makes them feel better.

It's Derek who breaks the silence, leaning into Logan's ear. "If you go slow, like how you are with the puppies, you can walk over there and pet one."

Logan's face twists like he's just been told it's Christmas and Easter and his birthday all on the same day. He shoots up so fast he wobbles on his feet and Derek's hands grab for his hips before Logan can work up a full-tilt run.

"Slow," Derek says again, with a little bit of Alpha gravitas in the tone. Logan nods, his mouth set in a firm line, and makes his move. He walks like he was taught for John and Melissa's wedding: take a step, pause. Take a step, pause. Stiles is too proud to laugh.

The kittens perk up with each step closer; first their eyes blink open, then their ears start twitching. Their heads pop up when he's about five steps away. The ones farthest from him look the most annoyed, their fuzzy butts starting to round up, their tails still except for the tiny tips snapping back and forth.

Logan drops to his knees, the puddle of kittens within arm's reach, and extends one finger forward. The marmalade's head is the closest, its pink nose working overtime, eyes narrowed. The time it takes to sniff Logan's finger seems interminable, especially given the fact that nobody moves, not even to breathe.

There are two precious seconds where the kitten almost taps its nose against Logan's finger, but doesn't quite come close enough. Logan takes it as welcome anyway, and leans forward, finger heading for the patch of fur between the kitten's ears. The kitten, of course, is nowhere near ready for that and lets out a hiss, its fangs bared, ears flat against its skull. Logan doesn't react quick enough to prevent getting chomped on, and with a squeak, he shifts into his wolf form, throwing the room into a frenzy of howling, mewling, and startled flailing.

By virtue of being quicker and free of an excited toddler, Derek gets to Logan first and scoops him up by his fuzzy belly, free hand smoothing over Logan's head and along his spine. Stiles has to take a minute to appreciate the adorable: his perfect, precious wolf cub dwarfed by Derek's sturdy hands, the tiny, plaintive howls Logan's trying to eke out. The kittens' echoing mewls are the icing on the precious cake.

In his own lap, Drew has shifted, too, and his scratchy howls echo his brother's. While Derek tries to soothe Logan, Stiles tucks Drew close to his chest and buries his nose in the downy fur of Drew's neck. It's more to hide his smile than anything; he's sure laughing at his son right now won't help matters. Nikolas is cackling enough for the five of them, anyway.

"Enough, Nik," Derek rumbles once he has Logan calm. Nik's laughs taper off and he squirms closer, until he's pressed to Derek's side, tweaking the tips of Logan's ears to keep his attention away from the kittens. Not that it'll do any good. The kittens are alert now, and very interested in this strange new development. The marmalade creeps closer in a wide arc, taking Logan in from as many angles as possible. Nik, noticing this, continues to distract Logan with first his finger, then his hoodie strings. When the kitten is within arm's reach, Nik gets both hands around Logan's belly and turns him around.

"Look, Lo," he says, hushed. Logan stills in a heartbeat, ears pricked, his wiry tail standing at full attention. He looks ready to bolt, but Nik has a good grip on him, careful yet firm, and the kitten continues to close the distance.

With each new step, Drew struggles in Stiles' arms, all four legs flailing for purchase. His whines are raspy little things, designed to melt a grown man's heart, but Stiles holds his breath. Derek holds his, too, as the kitten makes nose-to-nose contact with Logan.

Logan freezes. The whole room seems to, even the rest of the kittens. Nik is on the verge of smiling and Drew is halfway out of Stiles' arms, and that's when Logan realizes the enormity of the situation, stretches his neck as far as he can, and gives the kitten's face one good swipe with his tongue.

Stiles isn't sure how things devolve from there. At some point, two more kittens descend on Logan, which gives Drew the motivation he needs to break Stiles' hold and join his brother in mortal combat. At the same time, the remaining three kittens pounce on Nik, lost in a fit of giggles, and turn him into their personal jungle gym-slash-boxing ring. Stiles pulls out his phone and hopes the battery lasts long enough to get his blackmail on video.

At one point, Scott pokes his head in to see how things are going, but Stiles is too busy watching Derek tickle a kitten's tummy to answer.