"Cats are traditionally legwarmers," Charles informs Raven each and every time she starts in on him about how he needs something to keep him company. "The purpose of a cat is to sit on one's lap so that one may pet it. In this situation, the cat would be rewarded for doing something that is of no use to me. I would have to feed it, water it and clean its litterbox, all for nothing."
He should have known that Raven would find a way around this absolutely bulletproof logic. Yet still he's surprised the day Raven walks in with a long-haired orange cat with a facial expression that suggests that a. it is about to yark up a hairball, b. said hairball consists entirely of the hairs Charles picks off his pillowcase in greater numbers each morning that goes by, and c. Charles' hair is not at all appetizing.
"Raven, really," Charles says, as she plops the cat into his lap. "I don't know what you expect to -"
As Charles speaks, the cat wiggles its hiney, jumps atop the back of his wheelchair, then drapes itself across his shoulder.
"- accomplish here."
The cat makes a 'prrp?' sound and begins to purr, then to knead the area above Charles' collarbone with its paws.
"I hate you," Charles says, which is not at all what he meant to say, which was 'Your little scheme isn't working, now get this horrid fluffy thing off of me.'
Raven does not look at all ashamed of herself; rather the opposite.
Charles means to wait to scritch the cat's neck until Raven leaves, but when it screeches an unholy cat-sound of protest into his ear he isn't given much of an option.
“It’s a cat, not a mortgage,” Charles complains to Raven. He can’t believe this paperwork; he can’t imagine he’d need as many references if he were applying for a position in the CIA. “And what’s this about a home check? Do these people actually mean to inspect my apartment to decide if I’m fit to own a cat?”
Raven rolls her eyes at him. “There’s usually an interview over the phone first, and then you have to physically visit the shelter. You’re getting off pretty easy here.”
“…Well, that’s appalling. How do you know I’m not some cat serial killer who only weaseled my way into your good graces so I could get my hands on this poor, innocent creature without first taking the battery of psychological tests that would turn up my murderous tendencies?” The poor, innocent creature in question makes a horrible screech in Charles’ ear, again; evidently she doesn’t care for the way he talks with his hands if it means he neglects to scratch behind her ears. “And what’s with this ‘no declawing’ clause, am I actually expected to abide by that?” He doesn’t have the first intention of mutilating her, no matter how many holes she pokes in his shirt with this kneading his skin with her claws out business, but Raven is awfully big on the animal rights stuff and deserves to suffer at least a little bit for putting Charles through this. “What if she claws me and I don’t notice? I could get cat scratch fever, Raven. I could die.”
Charles feels pretty pleased with himself for that one until Raven hands him a pair of cat nail clippers.
The cat’s name is Mimi. Charles wants to rename her Folly, but Raven swears she knows her name, that changing it now would only confuse her. After a week or so Charles is relatively certain this isn’t true, but by then she even looks like a Mimi, so he can hardly change her name on her now.
Mimi likes to roll around in the litterbox directly after Charles changes the litter and does not have any sympathy for Charles’ opinion that he does not wish to pet her five minutes after she does so. Mimi frequently runs into the corner of the kitchen cabinet in her haste to be fed. Mimi adores catnip, but being stoned makes her rather more manic than usual, and, Charles suspects, causes her to see ghosts. Mimi prefers her water fresh, right as it comes out of the tap, and so Charles is forced to learn to tolerate the ever-present drip-drip-drip sound that results. Mimi has a minutely different screeching sound for all her many needs, and Charles soon comes to differentiate between all of them.
Charles doesn’t realize how totally she has taken over his life until the day he’s out on a date with a very nice fellow who happens to mention off-hand that he is deathly allergic to cats.
“I’m afraid this can’t go anywhere,” Charles says apologetically, and spends the rest of the evening watching the History Channel with Mimi on his shoulder, brooding over how long it’s been since he’s gotten laid and wondering why he couldn’t have at least waited to say anything until tomorrow morning.
One day, Charles wheels down to the laundry room in his pajamas to check his mail and spends three-quarters of an hour talking cats with the very handsome stranger he spies sitting in the corner with an issue of Cat Fancy.
Actually, it’s more like talking cats to, rather than with, as Charles does the vast majority of the talking while the stranger does the vast majority of the smiling and nodding. He has a very nice smile, and so Charles reacts in the same way he normally does to men with nice smiles who are pretending to be interested in what he has to say: he rambles, on and on. The only difference is that the subject matter has changed from genetics.
When Charles looks down at his wristwatch and realizes he’s been going on about catnip brands for at least ten minutes, he realizes several other things too: he is officially a crazy cat person now. And he is never going to get laid again.
“You must be bored out of your mind,” Charles says. “I am so sorry for holding you hostage with my cat stories.” If you can count fifteen minutes’ worth of monologue about which is the best cat litter as a story, that is.
“It’s alright,” the stranger says. “I like cats. I have a cat. His name is Flipper.” He makes this last statement with a sort of hopeful expression, leaving Charles to guess at exactly what sort of reaction he wants.
"Why is your cat named Flipper?”
Which is evidently the correct one, as the stranger grins, wide. “Because he has flippers.”
At some point between leaving the laundry room and entering Erik’s apartment, they exchange names, which means Charles can stop trying to make out the little type on the Cat Fancy address label.
“Flipper,” Charles says in awe, when Erik sets the aforementioned into his lap. Flipper is enormous, white with black markings that give the appearance of a helmet and cape. His front paws appear to be fused together with only two toes apiece; some sort of birth defect?
Please be gay, Charles thinks, imagining how it would be to have someone with whom he could make very offensive wheelchair jokes in public, the sort of jokes that make everyone around them visibly uncomfortable (though unwilling to say anything once they spot that it’s Charles making them, which is perhaps the most hilarious thing in the world). Raven only rolls her eyes when he does it, or pretends she's not with him; a man who’d name his deformed cat Flipper would probably participate. Oh, what dirty looks they could get from little old ladies.
“Listen, do you want to go out sometime?” Erik says a moment later.
Thank you. Thank you, Charles thinks.
When Charles gets home the following morning with black and white cat hairs all over his shirt, Mimi makes a new sort of screeching sound that very clearly states that she is fully aware he has cheated on her with Some Other Cat.
“You’re going to have a stepbrother,” Charles informs her, figuring it’s best to go on and start getting her used to the idea, on the off chance this goes anywhere.
One day, Charles says, “My sister wants to know if we’d take on a three-legged cat. What do you think?”
Erik grins. “Tripod.”
“…I love you,” Charles says.