Natasha had never really bothered with the question whether Liho was a male or female cat. After all, it wasn’t even her cat to begin with. Just a temporary guest in her life and her empty apartment. Something to fill the small hole of loneliness she would never admit even existed.
So she didn’t have a clue about what was going on when she was greeted in her apartment with tons of mewing noises. She barely had one cat, she had been away for weeks and this was definitely weird.
She gripped her Glock and peered carefully around the corner. Nothing unusual, except that James’ leather jacket was here but not his shoes. Anyway, that didn’t have anything to do with the several mewing noises …
Natasha fumbled her phone out of her pocket, her fingers trembling. James picked up after the third ring. “Nat?”
“James?” Natasha took a deep breath. “Did you let the cat in this morning?”
“Uh,” some shuffling noises. “Yeah, I figured either me or you would be back soon enough. Why?”
“I think,” Natasha broke off. “I think it has babies. Kittens. Tons of kittens.”
The noise just didn’t stop. It was like a dozen voices and when one fell silent, another took its place. It made Natasha extraordinarily nervous.
That was also why she jumped when a key turned in the lock of her apartment door. Of course it was only James. Just her nerves.
“You still in the hall?” he asked with amusement in his voice, closed the door behind him and put his bag down. Then he went over to hug her. “How are you?”
“Still in the hall,” Natasha murmured against his shoulder.
James pulled back, grinning. “Why? You have kittens?”
Natasha groaned and turned around. “Not funny. What the heck am I supposed to do?”
“Well, standing in the hall won’t solve anything.” James picked his bag up again. “Why don’t you just go in?”
Natasha bit her lip. “When they see me … won’t they, like, think I am their mother or something? Stick with me and that stuff?”
“Relax, their eyes are still closed,” James replied casually. “Kittens open their eyes only after a few days.”
Natasha raised an eyebrow. “Which you know because…?”
James grinned. “I googled on my way here. Anyway, I’d rather worry about their mother.”
“True, if I had baby cats, I wouldn’t let us anywhere near them.” Natasha sighed. “Okay. Let’s take a look. You first.”
James visibly bit back his comment about “Ladies first”, instead moving around the corner into the living room. Natasha followed him with due distance.
Liho was lying right in the middle of the carpet and oh god, they were cute. Four little kittens cuddling around her warm body, with their eyes closed, like James had said. Still pretty hairless, but cute.
Natasha realised that she should have rather worried about her own commitment to these felines than the other way around. How could she let them go ever again, when they looked so helpless?
Liho, in the middle, was watching the intruders wearily, but also with pride. She looked tired. Hell, she had to be.
“Oh God, I need to take a photo,” James whispered.
Natasha stabbed him in the side. “Don’t you dare.” It felt like he would disturb this sacral moment. Like in a church.
Liho had apparently decided that they meant to harm and moved her babies to her own belly. These blind creatures were pushed around helplessly. They couldn’t see anything, probably their other senses were also pretty dull, but they definitely felt the warmth radiating from their mother and they instinctively understood that their mother wanted to suckle them.
“Congrats, Barnes,” Natasha breathed now. “You let a highly pregnant cat into my apartment and didn’t even notice.”
James didn’t answer but squatted instead, looking at this beautiful mother cat and her wonderful kittens. Liho watched him as he carefully moved closer, always telegraphing his movements. She let him come reasonably close before hissing.
“She trusts us,” James stated, still speaking in a hushed voice. “Otherwise she wouldn’t have come here to kitten.”
“What on earth are we supposed to do with them, miliy moy,” Natasha muttered back. “They can’t stay here. We don’t have time to care for them. We’re not even home most of the time.”
“We don’t need to care for them,” James reminded. “She does. Liho does. We just need to feed them. I hope.”
Natasha sighed deeply before crouching down next to him. “God, I didn’t sign up for this.”
James grinned and sat back on his feet. “Yeah. Guess we’re stuck with them now.”
There was not much they could do, at least not initially. They put bowls with cat food and water in different corners of the room, because Liho never drank in the same spot as it- she ate. The kittens needed the milk of their mother, so she needed to be strong.
Like anyone would do, they looked up all of the stuff on the Internet. Clint had a dog, but they knew nobody who had a cat. Though they could call T’Challa, but they were too tired for pranks.
Liho was suckling her four kittens and nudging them back to her body when they tried to crawl away and always watching out for them. It was a small miracle to witness this amount of motherly care.
They found a box and put some pillows and blankets into it to make it cosy. It was a big box, big enough for mother cat and her kittens. Liho watched them carefully but didn’t say anything.
Of course she didn’t. She was a cat, after all.
Then they went to bed. After all, Natasha still suffered from her jetlag and the shock of being at least partially responsible for four little kittens. Only because James was way too lenient with the cat and let her in if it only made pretty eyes at him.
If she did. Dammit.
Anyway, there was not much they could do now. The apartment was heated, food and water were provided, a place to sleep was set up. What else was there to do?
Natasha was lying awake, thinking about exactly this question. James was breathing against her neck, probably asleep. She was tired as well, but she couldn’t fall asleep, not with all of these worries going around in her head.
She highly doubted that she would make a good mother. James wasn’t exactly father material either. Thousands of terrible things could happen to these innocent animals and even if they didn’t, they would probably starve while Natasha and James were busy preventing these terrible things from happening. Their life just didn’t allow for such a responsibility.
The problem with responsibility was that you couldn’t push it away that easily. For now, they were stuck with these kittens, just as Liho was. They would have to see what they could do.
Natasha woke up because James was shuffling around in their bed. Groaning, she felt in the direction of his shoulder to grab it and to stop its movements.
His shoulder was lying perfectly still.
The movements were on top of her, through the blanket, like little fingers. The room was too bright to see anything as she carefully opened one eye a little bit. She only squealed when she caught sight of something furry.
The noise jolted James awake but Natasha was preoccupied with the four damn kitten on her. Liho was lying at her feet and stared at her unfriendly, daring her to move. Natasha’s heart was beating like a drum.
“And you always say the cat doesn’t like you.” James stretched out so he could reach Liho and scratch her behind the ears. “She even brought you her babies.”
“It doesn’t like me, just look at the way it’s staring at me,” Natasha responded but gave up when Liho started purring.
“She,” James reminded with amusement in his voice and laid back. “Well, they definitely found the warmest place in the whole apartment.”
“Great,” Natasha remarked sarcastically. “Now I can’t get up anymore.” Two kittens were lying on her shins, one on her thigh and one had even advanced up into her lap.
James grinned. “Why? You need anything?”
Natasha sighed deeply because she didn’t, but just staying in bed made her nervous as well. He knew that, of course. “Guess I’m fine.”
“Good,” James agreed, rolling onto his side and kissing her. “Just try to sleep. It’s not even eight yet.”
It was almost eleven when Liho finally decided it was time to get up. Of course, she dragged her babies along. She wouldn’t let them out of sight for a second.
“Looks somewhat brutal, hm?” Natasha remarked, finally sitting up.
“Carrying them by their neck?” James guessed and propped himself up on his elbows. “Yeah. But I guess she knows what’s right and wrong.”
Natasha rubbed her face with both hands. “Well. What’s the plan for today?”
James grinned and kissed her shoulder. “Well. You need a shower.”
Natasha sighed and leaned against him. “How about we just lock ourselves up in the bathroom and forget about the rest for a while?”
“Sounds great.” James climbed out of bed. “I’ll just see whether the cat needs anything, gimme a minute.”
Natasha sighed and sank back into the pillows. “Your priorities…”
“Hey, I’ll totally take care of you in a minute.” James winked with the promise.
He actually joined her in the bathroom later. Not like she had any doubt about that. “Locked the door?”
“Yeah.” She could see James through the glass of the shower, getting rid of his clothes.
“Let me wash first,” Natasha demanded, rinsing her body of the sweat and dust of an accomplished mission.
“Take your time,” James murmured while sliding in next to her.
“Always,” Natasha purred.
“You sound like the cat,” James remarked with amusement, running his hands over her bare skin. “And oh, you’re wet.”
Natasha snorted. “You say that every time.” She turned around so she could wash her hair. “That’s pretty common for people in the shower, you know.”
James grinned. “Yeah, tell me when you’ve finished.” He winked at her. “Getting wet.”
“When did you get so patient?” Natasha inquired, ignoring her fluttering stomach.
“Probably when I got soap into my mouth the last time.” James didn’t sound too fond of the memory. He raised his hands in the small space in front of him. “I really don’t need to repeat that.”
“Well, lucky you…” Natasha cleaned her hair from the shampoo. “I’m done.”
“I wonder why Liho’s not sterilized,” Natasha suggested, rubbing her hair dry. “Don’t you do that to all female cats?”
“Well, if she has someone to take her to the vet,” James reminded. “Other than us. Why didn’t we take her to the vet?”
“My commitment issues, I guess.” Natasha inspected her unshaved legs. “And I neither wanted to ask the vet nor determine by myself what sex my cat is.”
“Your cat?” James repeated grinningly.
Natasha rolled her eyes and threw the towel at him. “Our cat. There you are, that’s even worse.”
“That’s not worse, that’s better,” James corrected and went over into the living room. “Shared responsibility. ‘Sides, should I say you need a new carpet or we need a new carpet?”
Natasha cursed in Russian. “You let her in, so that’s definitely on you-” She broke off because a blind kitten bumped into her leg. And then her phone rang.
Sighing, she nudged the blind kitten towards the living room door while leaning over to grab her phone. “Yes?”
“Romanoff,” Hill greeted briefly. “I need you in Mali.”
“Can’t,” Natasha replied, trying to steer the kitten away from the door frame. “My cat has had babies.”
There was a long moment of silence, which Natasha used to just pick that stupid fur ball up and carry it into the living room. “You have a cat,” Hill stated, in the same tone that she would use for There has been an alien attack in California or I need you to overthrow an African government.
“Yeah, sort of.” Natasha dropped the kitten into the box. “Anyway, I’m kinda busy.”
Hill sighed exasperatedly. “Well, I suppose I can find someone else. Barnes with you?”
“Yeah, he’s taking pictures,” Natasha confirmed. James, who had been lying on the floor and arranging the kittens in the most photogenic manner possible, looked up. Hill, she mouthed at him. “I’m sure he can send you some.”
“At least someone’s taking care of that,” Hill replied sarcastically, ignoring the offer entirely. “Call me when you’re back.”
“Will do.” Natasha hung up. “So… what the hell are you doing?”
“Taking pictures, as you said.” James raised his phone again. “I need something to send Steve. And Sam. And T’Challa. And…”
“Okay, I get it,” Natasha interrupted. “And why did you say we need a new carpet?”
James pointed at a wet spot a few feet away from her before continuing to take photos enthusiastically. Natasha cursed. “Shit, we forgot the litter box.”
“Not sure they would have used it.” James sounded completely unaffected and didn’t even turn.
Natasha sighed. “Well, that’s gonna be fun. I’ll make breakfast.”
“Pancakes?” James suggested, lowering his phone and smiling like the dork he was.
“Over my dead body,” Natasha told him coldly, turning and walking into the kitchen.
“Steve asks if we need help,” James told her over breakfast (fried egg, since she had her way this time), still writing on his phone. “Do we?”
“We don’t need help,” Natasha stated decidedly. “We need someone who has an actual idea what he’s doing.”
James chuckled, stuffing some egg into his mouth. “Also, Clint wants to come over and hug the kittens to death. I thought he was a dog person, but it appears that he’s actually a cute animal person.”
“Thank God for that discovery,” Natasha muttered under her breath.
James picked up on her tone and put his hand on hers. “Hey. What is it?”
Natasha paused for a moment, eyes on her empty plate. “Hill had a mission for me, in Mali. I turned her down.”
“Well, ask her if she found someone else,” James suggested. “If not, you still can go. I’m fine on my own.”
It didn’t even sound accusing, not the slightest bit, but Natasha didn’t need solutions, she needed support. “She’d call if not. I still feel bad for it.”
“You were on a mission for several weeks, prior to this,” James reminded, interrupted by Liho jumping in his lap. “Oh, hello. Aren’t you supposed to look after your kittens?”
Natasha smirked and put some egg on her plate, watching the cute pair. “Looks like she can’t miss out on the opportunity to steal your breakfast.”
“Oh no, that’s mine-” James tried to argue with the cat, but she licked over his plate anyway. He sighed. “Come on, Liho. You don’t even like that.”
Liho seemed to agree with him because she abandoned the plate and jumped onto his shoulder instead, making any movement impossible for James. “And there comes the rest,” he sighed dramatically.
Natasha watched two little kittens, probably smelling their mother, padding wobbly into the kitchen. “They can’t even walk yet. Shouldn’t they stay in the box or something?”
“Yeah, Liho, don’t you think you should stay in the box with them?” James accused, pulling the protesting cat off his shoulder and releasing her onto the floor.
Natasha got up to get him a new plate, but Liho was standing next to her immediately and begging for food. Groaning, Natasha dropped her head on the kitchen counter. “Imagine us with five of them.”
“I thought we would give them up for adoption either way.” James put his phone down and walked over to go feed Liho. “When they’re big enough, I mean. I’m pretty sure Clint would take one.”
“I’m not sure if giving Clint something living is a responsible thing to do,” Natasha reminded, pushing herself off the counter. “I think we should go with Thor.”
James grinned at the thought of the puppy-loving half-god. “Nice. Well, we still have lots of time to plan that.”
Natasha snorted. “And until then? Sit around and play good housewives?”
James pushed a strand of hair out of her face. “With you? I really could think of worse.”
It did, however, get worse when they attempted to have sex.
The mistake had probably been not to close the door properly, but really, who the heck had time for that. Also, they were a little distracted and unaware of their surroundings. A mistake.
Natasha screeched when Liho’s horrified face appeared next to James’ shoulder, staring at her in horror. The cat jolted, of course, jumping on James’ back. Then again, that was not really a stable place to sit, so she buried her claws in his naked back in order not to fall down. James hissed, trying to pluck the monster of his back, ultimately crashing down on Natasha, pressing the air from her lungs.
Liho, unaffected as ever, stalked over until she could glare at Natasha’s face, seemingly saying there are children in the room. Natasha just wanted to grab the damn cat and throw her against the door.
James lifted himself off of her now, still rubbing his back. “Sorry. I’ll throw her out and see if she needs anything.”
Liho, apparently satisfied, jumped off the bed and pranced to the door, tail up in the air. Two blind little kittens were rubbing themselves against each other, crawling over the floor.
Natasha fell back into the cushions and pulled the blanket over her bare chest, sighing. “I always knew you would leave me for the cat.”
Liho was out as soon as James pulled the door all the way open, but the kittens needed some encouragement. It was a lengthy process until they all disappeared into the kitchen or living room or wherever.
Natasha just laid there, staring at the ceiling and contemplating her situation. It couldn’t go on like this. One day with this feline plague and her nerves were already stretched thin to the point of snapping. She hadn’t signed up for this, she didn’t want it and if she had to deal with it much longer, she would snap sooner or later.
It took some time until James returned, locking the door carefully behind him. He slid behind her under the blanket, kissing her neck and running his hands over her sides. “So. Where were we?”
Natasha shook her head minutely, facial expression unchanged. James sighed but scrambled a bit away from her. “Okay. What do you wanna do?”
Natasha sighed, shaking her head again. “I need to get out of here. I should call Hill, see if she has a mission.”
“Oh, come on.” James sat up, running a human hand over her hair. “We’re free, for once. No missions, no reports, no briefings. Don’t let a stupid cat ruin that for you.”
It was true, they had by far not enough free days. Natasha smiled faintly. “Don’t let her hear that, or she’ll hate you just like me.”
James grinned. “Let her. And, you know, we don’t need a mission just to go out.”
Natasha laughed, pushing his hand away and the blanket down to her feet. “Well, we definitely need clothes though.”
Their missions took them to fancy restaurants and parties often enough, so now that they had the choice, they just picked up some ice cream and found a spot in the park. Spring was peeking around the corner and with it came the first faint sunrays. It was quite a beautiful day.
“So.” James had his head in her lap and she had her face turned towards the sky, eyes closed. “This whole thing is really freaking you out, hm?”
Natasha blew out the air through her nose. “It’s… I wasn’t prepared to share my apartment. And I also wasn’t prepared to be holed up there, with them, for several weeks.”
“You always share your apartment,” James pointed out, running a finger along her jaw. “With me. And Liho.”
“Well, you get less in my way.” Natasha grinned, stroking his hair. “And there’s a reason I named the damn cat after the embodiment of bad luck.”
“At least you gave her a name at all.” James leaned against her hand. “By the way… Sorry for letting her in. I should have noticed but I was kind of in a hurry.”
Natasha shook her head absentmindedly. “She’s better off in our apartment than somewhere in a dirty back alley.”
James chuckled. “Well, you’re definitely a cat hero now. If you want it or not.”
Natasha hit his shoulder. “Shut up. You’re the cat hero, you let her in after all.”
James surprisingly did shut up (pretty sure he just fell asleep). Natasha let her thoughts wander for some time before she shook his shoulder to wake him. “James? You took pictures, right?”
“Hm?” he groaned. “Yeah, yeah, the kittens. Phone’s in my pocket.”
Natasha jabbed his side. “This is a public place, idiot, I can’t just fumble around in your damn pocket.”
James grinned, apparently more awake now. “Shame.” He pulled out his phone, entered his code and handed it over to her. “There. You’ll find it yourself.”
They were outside, so Natasha had to turn the brightness of the display all the way up before she saw anything at all. The first thing she saw in the gallery was, however, a woman in a pretty low cut top. “James?”
“Hm?” He tried to catch a glimpse on the screen, ultimately sinking back into her lap. “Oh, that. Clint sent that. You can check.”
Natasha snorted, checking out of curiosity. In fact, Clint had actually sent the picture, subtitled in case ur dearest gf checks ur phone again. Natasha rolled her eyes. “How come I stumble upon these pictures all the time?”
“Easy, Clint sends them all the time,” James replied willingly. “You can check that as well.”
Natasha scrolled up the conversation a bit and was met with more pictures of semi-nude ladies. “Okay, I’m gonna have some words with Clint.”
“I think he finds it weird that I’ve never really been with someone except for you,” James mused while Natasha typed This is Natasha. You better watch out next time I see you. “Does it feel weird?” she asked.
“Not really.” James shook his head. “It’s like, people give way too much importance to stuff you have or haven’t done. Overthinking. They should focus on the really important stuff.”
Natasha smirked. “Which would be me, of course.”
James snorted. “Of course. Who else.”
Natasha went back to her original intention of checking out the kitten pictures. Two kittens were completely black, like Liho (terrible for photographing, they always were nothing more than a formless black spot), one was black and white (that one seemed to be James’ favourite, it was very prominent in his pictures), the last one was orange. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say this one’s adopted.”
“The orange one? Yep.” James grinned. “I’ve named it Thor. Sort of reminds me of him.”
“Thor’s not adopted,” Natasha reminded absentmindedly and went back to the other pictures. The Thor kitten was indeed slightly bigger than the others. “So, how do you call the others?”
“The spotted one is Sharon,” James explained, stroking her hand that was holding his phone. “Because it seems like the most adult and most gracious one. The black ones are Hawkeye One and Two.”
Natasha snorted. “That sounds more like your plan to get rid of them than like actual names.”
“It’s a good plan,” James defended, grinning. “By the way, we need to take Liho to the vet.”
“Yeah, I can do that.” Natasha put a purr in her voice. “If you watch the kids, honey.”
James chuckled. “Yeah. I guess that’s what we’ve become.”
When they came back to the apartment, Liho and the kittens were asleep in their box. Like the sneaky superspies that they were, they moved silently through the living room silently without waking anybody, closed the door silently, stripped out of their clothes and had sex equally silently. Maybe it helped that Natasha cuffed James to the bed and told him she would go if he made any noise.
The next few weeks, they were always woken by scratching at their door. Natasha took Liho to the vet (Yes, she was now aware that her cat was female, yes, she knew she should have brought it earlier, yes, she definitely wanted her neutered now). James got the litter box and also a new carpet, but kept the latter locked away until the kittens were house-trained. They had no fucking idea how to achieve that, still they somehow managed to do so before Natasha’s apartment turned into a complete mess.
Cat sitting was by no means a full-time job, even though Hill appeared to think so because she didn’t call again, so they had plenty of time to do stuff. Really clean the apartment for once, test all of the newly opened restaurants in their neighbourhood, have lots of sex (quietly, because even if you lock the door, a cat scratching at it while you’re fucking is not something you want).
Thor cat was definitely the most adventurous one, though one of the Hawkeye cats had an incredible talent to fall off things (definitely Clint). Liho dragged it back to the box by its neck every time, yet somehow it always ended up on chairs or kitchen counters or the arm rest of the couch. The Sharon cat liked to appear out of nowhere when you least expected it, which was not as smart as it sounded because they almost stepped on it a few times.
“At least cats always land on their feet,” James remarked, picking up the black fur ball and putting it down in front of Liho, who had the scrutinizing look that obviously came with motherhood. Clint cat cowered at the sight and tried to get away, but Liho was faster.
“At least they see something now,” Natasha retorted, thinking about how blind Thor cat had bumped into her leg and almost into the door frame. “You know, Sharon cat needs a warning sign or something. Something flashy.”
James draped himself on the couch, watching the kittens and putting an arm around Natasha’s shoulder. “I’m gonna miss them when we give them away.”
“We’re not keeping them,” Natasha responded immediately.
“I didn’t mean that.” James sighed. “But… maybe a few more weeks?”
Natasha snorted, pushing herself up so she could climb into his lap. “Oh, James. They got you.”
James grinned, rocking his hips against her. “You know what I’m thinking? If that Hawkeye cat is Clint, then you are Liho.”
“Well, that would explain why she likes you so much.” Natasha trailed kisses along his jaw. “Though I should probably be angry with you for comparing me to that malicious cockblock.”
“She’s just jealous,” James teased, slipping his metal hand under her shirt to the small of her back. Suddenly, he jerked with his left leg. “Ouch. Sorry, Hawkeye cat is trying to pierce my foot.”
Natasha looked over her shoulder to find a black kitten glaring at her defiantly, its paw menacingly on James’ left foot. She grinned. “Is that one jealous too?”
“I’m not even sure it’s female.” James groaned, throwing his head back and trying to pull his foot away. “And it’s definitely too young for that.”
“We should check that soon, who’s female.” Thor cat was hunting a nail that was far too high for him to reach, Sharon cat was sitting under a chair, watching everybody, and Clint cat was still getting dressed down by Liho, which apparently included licking his fur clean. “Before they try incest. Heck, we should just get them all neutered.”
“If you go to the vet,” James agreed, amused. “Not too fond of doctors.”
“You think I am?” Natasha returned seriously. “Also, that woman thinks I’m stupid for not neutering Liho earlier.”
“Well, that was kind of… not thought through,” James admitted, choosing his words carefully. “Anyway. When do you think we can give them away?”
Natasha thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know. I think we have them for five weeks now, so maybe three more? If you want to keep them a little longer, that’s fine, but I kind of miss work.”
“Never thought we would have enough free time to miss it.” James shook his head. “But do you realize? Five weeks and the world is still turning.”
“Great, nobody needs us anyway,” Natasha snorted. “Didn’t get any messages from pissed super-colleagues?”
“Nope, they seem to do pretty fine without us.” James put a hand around her neck and kissed her mouth. “But I get it, being off duty for so long is kind of stressful.”
“Workaholic problems,” Natasha sighed. According to James’ cursing, Hawkeye cat was being mean again. “When I’m already there, I can ask the vet about when we can give them away.”
“You’re doing all the work again?” James teased, sliding his hand down to the curve of her ass. “Then I can watch them when you’re on missions. We just have to organize that but I don’t think they need someone all day either.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Natasha announced and slipped off his lap despite his protest. “Now let me call the vet and see when we can get rid of this plague.”
The cats hated being transported anywhere and to the vet, it was even worse. However, in the apartment they were easy to catch. Now that they were back, they were crawling over each other to finally get out of the basket and into the living room.
James had fallen asleep on the couch, a book directly laying under his dangling right arm. Natasha smiled and stroked his cheek. “Hey.”
James stirred, touching her hand but not opening his eyes. “You’re back?”
“Obviously.” Natasha pushed his legs out of the way and sat on the couch. “And I have to break it to you, your choice of names is terrible.”
James cracked an eye open and grinned at her. “What’s wrong with naming kittens after your friends?”
“Oh, you know.” Natasha crossed her legs and watched the kittens crawling into the box that was way too small for all of them, but they still tried. “You should have checked first whether they are male or female. Thor for example is female.”
James threw his head back and laughed. “Oh God. Try telling him that.”
“Sharon cat is male,” Natasha continued. “Try telling that to Steve.”
James shook his head, chuckling. “Okay. But I got the other 50% right?”
“Well, you didn’t really decide upon a gender,” Natasha reminded. “But yeah, lemming cat is male and foot piercer cat is female.”
“At least something.” James sighed heavily. “So. When’s the party?”
That threw her for a loop. “Party?”
James chuckled and sat up. “And I thought you wanted to get rid of them. Well, I figured we should invite everybody over and have a kitten adoption party or something.”
“Everybody?” Natasha repeated wearily. This was beginning to sound scary.
“You know, Thor, the Hawkeyes, Sharon, maybe Steve and Jane,” James explained casually. “That was our plan, right?”
Natasha exhaled and rested her head against his shoulder. “Oh God. I almost thought you wanted to hold an extended-Avengers meeting in my apartment.”
James chuckled and patted her head. “Don’t worry. We couldn’t even squash them all in here, I guess.”
“With all the subgroups and fractions, I don’t think so,” Natasha agreed, relaxing. “But a few friends sounds nice.”
“I can handle the invitations and preparation,” James offered. “But you have to decide on the date. And, you know, actually be there, preferably.”
Natasha lifted her head and kissed him lightly. “I can do that, thanks. When are you ready for your eternal holidays to be over?”
They took their sweet time with setting everything up, probably longer than necessary. While the kittens were becoming less and less cute growing up, these fur balls were also kind of growing on Natasha. Really, time to let go.
Less clickering claws on the floor, less scratching at the bedroom door at the asscrack of dawn, less fighting over keeping your food cat hair-free. She never thought she would miss any of that. At least Liho was staying.
Surprisingly, they all had time at the chosen date, except for Thor, who had pressing matters in Asgard. Natasha suspected that Jane would have taken the cat anyway, so it didn’t really matter.
Clint and Kate were on the carpet in the living room, trying to entertain the cats with pencils and threads. Lucky had fallen asleep in the kitchen door, Jane petting his head. Sharon and James were sitting on the couch, debating Sharon cat’s surprising masculinity, and Steve was apparently joining Natasha in the kitchen.
“So.” He immediately came to help her at the slightest semblance of needing it. “You’ve been away quite some time.”
“I’m back in the field already,” Natasha reminded, washing the salad while he was looking around for a bowl. “But yeah, I did have some time off.”
Steve chuckled, squatting down and pulling out a plastic bowl. “Sounds swell. Did you have a good time?”
Natasha stared out of the window, contemplating the question. “I guess. But, somehow, I’m glad to be back at work. Staying at home is making me twitchy.”
“Bucky seems to enjoy it,” Steve argued. “He looks more relaxed than I have seen him in a long time.”
Natasha smiled to herself. “That, he definitely is.”
“You guys should host therapeutical kitten petting,” Clint announced, groaning when he saw the food Natasha was preparing. “Salad?!”
“There are kittens, what more do you want,” Natasha returned unapologetically, taking the bowl from Steve. “Also, if you thought I would spend hours in the kitchen cooking for you, you were absolutely mistaken.”
Clint shook his head dramatically and went to scratch Lucky’s ears. “How about pizza? Pizza dog likes pizza. Everybody likes pizza.”
Natasha decided to ignore him and turned to Steve. “Well, the time off has definitely been good for James. I guess he’ll come back when he’s ready.”
Clint was pouting because she was ignoring him, but he obliged when she shoved the bowl in his hands. Climbing over Lucky, he carried the bowl into the living room.
“Your apartment looks nice, by the way,” Steve complimented, washing his hands. “I think I’ve never been here before, actually.”
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Natasha agreed absentmindedly, listening to Sharon joining Clint’s complaint about her choice of food. When Liho came stalking into the kitchen, bowing her head almost like an invitation, Natasha allows herself a smile. “It definitely is.”