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a question answered

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Harry’s just finished his 2 p.m. stretching routine—and he’d not fallen off the dresser once, thank you very much Liam—when out of the corner of his eye, movement catches his attention.

The blinds aren’t been pulled up much which is a bit unusual; Nick must have been in a rush this morning because he knows how much Harry loves to sit there. It’s a bit wonky though, this particular bedroom window, with a tendency to easily unlatch. It’s been permanently sealed now, however, after the second time Harry had fallen out it whilst napping.

Another movement and Harry shakes away the memory of rubbish bins and painful, smelly landings, moving closer to check it out. There’s just enough space from the sill to the shades that Harry only has to flatten his ears a tiny bit to fit his head through. He hums in satisfaction.

It’s the same cat as yesterday, he thinks. That, and the day before.

Harry narrows his eyes, pressing closer to the window. Yes, definitely the same cat.

Even from this distance, Harry can tell he’s agitated. Tense enough that a backfire from the street has his tail straight up, bristled and bushy. He calms after a minute and sits back down, staring up at the kitchen window.

He can see the other cat’s ears perk up and as Harry watches, the cat pushes up on all fours and takes a step towards their building. He turns away almost immediately though, and stalks back around the corner, his tail whipping back and forth furiously. Harry’s own tail does the same, a softer, sympathetic motion. He waits, knowing what happens next.

Sure enough, the stray comes slinking back into the alley and over to his regular spot.

It’s most curious, Harry admits. He suspects this cat has something to do with Liam’s accident, even if Liam’s not said a word about it. Thinks he might also be the “visitor” they’d had a few days back — that one Liam wouldn’t stop talking about, working himself into a frenzy of anxiety. Harry had to spend the rest of the afternoon reassuring Liam that Nick wasn’t going to leave them. Liam’s still very excitable when something has got him wound up; it can be a little exhausting.

Still, Harry hasn’t been able to resist Liam’s earnest eyebrows. Not since the minute Nick set the puppy down nose to nose with him a year and a half ago.

The cat outside jerks to attention, drawing Harry’s notice again. Further down the way, Harry can see a second cat entering the alley, grey and rail-thin. Harry only has a moment to appreciate its gorgeous markings before the first cat is gone, out of the alley in the blink of an eye.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Jumping down from the dresser, Harry leaves the bedroom. After a quick glance in on Liam—still sleeping thankfully—he heads into the kitchen. It’s a short leap to the counter and the window above the sink. When he gets there, he finds the grey cat sat in the very spot the first cat had occupied before running away. He’s not seen Harry yet, this new visitor, still looking in the direction that the other cat disappeared.

“Friend of yours?” Harry asks.

That gets the cat’s attention, head whipping around. He doesn’t say anything though and Harry adds, “He’s been skulking around for a few days now.”

That makes the grey frown and even from here, Harry can tell he’s confused. There’s worry there too, in the tense line of his back, the tiny curve at the end of his tail.

Harry’s not certain he’s ever going to get an answer, when the other cat finally speaks.

“Any reason Louis’d be hanging around here then?” he asks instead. The rough vowels on the soft, smooth sound of his voice surprises Harry. He looks over Harry, seemingly unimpressed, and adds, “Not his usual type of place, this.”

“Louis,” Harry murmurs, thinking about the shaggy brown coat, the way he’d been alert and sharp. It fits, Harry decides. He ignores the grey's attitude, curiosity getting the better of him.

“Louis,” he repeats louder, getting the other cat’s attention. “Louis was probably here for Liam.”

“Liam?” The grey is wary, and more than a little puzzled, Harry can tell. But there’s an undercurrent of something else there as well, something that goes with the slight sneer as he watches Harry. Jealousy.

Harry grins.

*

“Li,” Harry purrs. He rubs his cheek along the bridge of Liam’s nose, then across his cheek and under his ear. “Come on, Liam, wake up. We’ve a visitor.”

When he glances over at Zayn—the name given rather reluctantly after Harry had shown him the small ventilation window just narrow enough for the cat to wiggle through—he’s lost any earlier arrogance, and is just sat there watching them with wide, confused eyes.

Harry’s words seem to work; Liam can never resist the the thought of visitors. He snuffles a little, blinking his eyes open, slow and still drugged from the pill Nick gave him before leaving this morning.

“Hazza?” Liam rumbles.

He starts to move towards Harry, only to let out a whine a second later as his leg shifts. Harry purrs louder, trying to distract Liam, and runs his tongue over the top of his head until Liam settles again. It’s then Liam seems to notice the other cat.

“Whoozzit?” Liam asks. His eyes flutter shut and he lets out a sigh. “S’pretty. Like you.”

Harry grins at the way Zayn ducks his head at Liam’s compliment, whiskers twitching.

“A friend of Louis’,” Harry tells him, laughter evident in his voice.

That grabs Liam’s attention and he does his best to lift his head, eyes open and trying to focus. “Louis? He’s okay? He made it across, right?” Liam drops his head back down and leans into Harry, murmuring, “I didn’t mean to, I swear,” into his fur. Harry bumps his head against Liam, reassuring.

“Made it across?” Zayn frowns. Harry notices he’s moved up next to Liam, the tension in his back less now as he stares down at the wounded dog. “Made it across what? Didn’t mean to do what?”

There’s curiosity in his words, urgency as well, but the questions are without censure, asked in a quiet, intense voice. Still, Harry can tell Liam feels guilty, not moving as he mutters, “My fault.” A heavy sigh, then, “S’my fault, shouldn’t have made him run away.”

“Why would that be your fault?” Harry purrs, voice soft.

“I just wanted him to see,” Liam mumbles. Harry can tell he’s exhausted, physically and emotionally. He’s not going to last much longer, the drugs in his system stronger than his will right now.

“See what?” Zayn asks before Harry can get the words out.

“That not everyone leaves,” Liam says around another yawn, eyes closed again. “That everyone deserves a home,” he adds, drifting off a moment later.