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never change your spots

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Gabe's beautiful when he's a cat.

Pete thinks Gabe is pretty beautiful as a person, too, but the first time he comes around a corner and runs into Gabe fully-Shifted, all sleek fur and muscles and white fangs under a curled lip, he trips over his own feet in shock. Wow. Just...wow. That is a beautiful cat, with Gabe's clothes folded neatly at its feet, about two inches from Pete's nose when he hits the ground.

Gabe removes and folds his shit before he Shifts, Pete thinks distantly. Of course he does. Not that Pete expects to ever do anything with this piece of information, since he just fell over on the ground and is lying there like prey, so most likely Gabe's cat is going to eat him.

Hopefully Gabe will be super-bummed when he Shifts back and someone lets him know what the cat did. Maybe he'll make Midtown release an EP in Pete's honor, or something. Do a benefit concert for people stupid and clumsy enough to get eaten by their Shifted friends.

He's mentally picking out his ideal set list for his own memorial concert when he realizes he's still alive, and that the cat is standing over him, purring and chirping like a kitten. When he looks up, the cat bats gently at his shoulder and then licks a broad, warm stripe across his face.

Gabe's cat likes him. Pete did not expect that.

**

He really did not expect that the cat might consider him to be its kitten. He can't think of any other explanation for why whenever Gabe Shifts, his cat form comes looking for Pete, herds him into a corner until he sits down, and then wraps itself around him and purrs like crazy. If Pete tries to leave, he gets swatted. Once he even got grabbed by the back of the neck. That was a fucking experience. Teeth against his neck, the low heat of Gabe's cat growling against his skin. Fucking trippy. Exciting.

(He got turned on, a little. He did not tell Gabe that when he Shifted back.)

Rob assures him that Gabe's cat does not give anyone else the kitten treatment. Pete thinks about that a lot when the tour's over and he figures he'll never see Gabe or Gabe's cat again. No more soft fur or bright eyes. No more warm and protected. No more bass riffs, no more purring.

He tells himself you can't miss what you never really had and goes home to Chicago.

**

Despite the rumors, he was not chasing Shift. He really wasn't. He didn't know the girl had a cat at all, when she picked him up and took him home.

When he woke up in a pool of his own blood with the wound in his neck already healed over...well, yeah, he figured it out then, and maybe he was a little bit giddy along with the scared shitless, but he hadn't been chasing it. No matter what the fucking Rolling Stone interview would say a couple years down the road. It was an accident.

**

His cat is dark and sleek, less spotted than dappled, shadows-on-shadows in panther fur.

It purrs in his head all the time, except when he's scared or angry. Then it growls, and flexes its claws, and he can feel it in his hands and arms. It's fucking amazing.

It doesn't mean he's never afraid, but he's never alone. That's something.

**

He sees Gabe again on Warped. His cat doesn't purr; it trills, a sound in the back of his head he didn't even know existed, one that makes his whole skull vibrate and ring. Heat shoots through his veins and his bones. He wants to show his neck. He wants Gabe to show his neck. He wants wants wants wants.

He doesn't even know what all of the images in his head are, but he pops an instant boner, so that gives him the general idea.

He launches himself onto Gabe's back, wraps his arms and legs around him, and bites the curve of his neck into his shoulder just as hard as he can.

"Ow! Motherfucker!" Gabe curses and spins, hitting at him.

Mine, Pete thinks, and his cat roars.

**

A panther and an ocelot don't have much to say to each other. They shouldn't even cross territories, really. They might be from different continents, actually? Pete or Gabe should, at some point, look that up.

Gabe's cat plants its paw firmly on top of Pete's cat's head, holding it still to be groomed all over. Pete's cat submits gracefully, waiting its chance to return the favor.

Then they'll wind their tails together and sleep in the sun.