Kirkland wasn't quite sure how he'd gotten here.
Well, he was sure how he'd gotten here here, as in Chris Tasker's bedroom here, but the circumstances leading up to it were a bit of a blur.
There'd been this tournament, widely publicized with sponsor deals and obnoxious advertising, where they'd paired up teams of differing ranks and types by audience votes. And Team Tigers had signed up, because the sponsors had included a ramen company, and Team Lightning had been attracted by the twenty percent rank points bonus the Commission had offered. And then the viewing public had thought it would be just hi-freaking-larious to pair a winning three-feline team with, as the host had put it, the fuzzy wuzziest team of kitty losers ever painted bright yellow. Kirkland didn't like being called fuzzy wuzzy, even if he supposed his coat was fuzzy.
Chris had liked his coat. She'd stolen his coat off him a few times (not that it had taken much convincing), and she'd called it handsome and winsome. "I'm pretty sure it's nothing to do with winning," Omari had said when Kirkland asked him what winsome meant, but they'd actually pulled together and reached a close second place. It took a lot of teamwork, if you could call a lot of him and Jack shouting at each other while the Taskers made most of the plans teamwork. Team Tigers had helped! They could follow a battle plan no matter what the host said about fuzzy or wuzzy, follow it a whole lot better than Kirkland could follow his train of thought right now.
The bit where it got weird was that their teams had actually started hanging out each third Friday of the month, and that Chris had actually called him, him specifically, over tonight. That had him at a loss for words, much as Chris' words over the vidphone had left him with a loss of blood to areas like the brain. The brain made words, right?
"Um," he'd said, closely followed by "okay". She must have found that charming.
Maybe, thought Kirkland as he knocked on the door to her room (before realizing it was the slidey kind and he should be hitting the chime), maybe she had a fetish for coats. He left his on just in case, and just in case it was all a joke and she was waiting in there hoping to film, like, Team Tigers stars gone wild, naked clips now on ZiTube.
Maybe she was just trying to annoy Jack. He could totally go for that. He could totally annoy Jack all night long—
Ah, the door had opened. He deduced that, as Chris was lounging on the bed and he was standing, it was probably best he walk towards her. He gulped and stepped forward what he thought was a big enough step. The door didn't close, and he shuffled a few inches closer. Nope. Closer still, and nope. He leaned a tiny, teensy bit more forward and it whooshed shut what felt like just behind his ears, nearly trapping his coat and making him jump.
"The door's a bit tricky," Chris said.
Kirkland waited for either the videorecorder or the nudity, wriggling uncomfortably as Chris frowned. It wasn't a good sign when that happened when your pants were still on. Well, it wasn't a good sign when they'd just come off either. Her clothes were still on, too, but there weren't very many of them...very much of them? Hm. Well, many-or-much of her clothes mostly amounted to a t-shirt. It was very boobs. Um, pink. Pink that showed the outlines of lace under it.
"For goodness' sake—" Chris finally beckoned, bringing her fingers to her lips afterward and blowing him a kiss. "Come here, tiger."
That was cheesy, but Kirkland liked cheese. Cheese was good. His halted motion towards her turned into an eager skip (a gentlemanly, ferocious tiger skip! surely!) and finally more of a dive.
Okay, he tripped.
He hit the bed and kept going in a rumpling fwiiip of sheets he now knew were silk, flailing in a too-late attempt to stop his skull hitting the headboard with a far more noticeable thud. The mirror formerly balanced on the very edge of Chris' dresser fell to the floor moments after, a final crunch-tinkle insult on top of onomatopoeic injury.
"Ow," Kirkland said, still not a man of many words and now rolled up and half upside-down. "Ow. I guess that's why it's called a headboard."
Chris laughed. Hopefully she was being charitable enough to not to laugh entirely at him.
"Don't worry, I've got enough bad luck for nine lifetimes," he said, rubbing his head and waiting for what passed for his wits to return.
"It was my mirror, though," Chris said, pouting just a little, and Kirkland got back up (reluctantly, and carefully, and not without getting tangled in the top sheet) to clean the safety glass fragments off the floor. A gentlemanly, ferocious tiger was not above picking up after himself, even when he'd much rather be having fun.
"How polite," she cooed. "Though do be careful on your way back. Concussions aren't the fun kind of pain."
Kirkland pondered what one might do that counted as the fun kind, and sat down, perhaps a bit quickly. He folded his legs like he was trying to look very casual and not like he was now extra eager to get to the parts where things other than sheets hit the floor. "Right. Um. So. Pants. I should take them off?"
"Most people prefer to," Chris said, and shrugged, loose pink shirt moving smoothly with her shoulders. She even shrugged gracefully, and he couldn't even manage getting into bed. "Do you want help?"
He should have been discouraged by her having to ask, but about all Kirkland could think of was her hands (in particular, as applied to him, and particular parts of him), at least until she licked her lips and he started thinking about other ways to take clothes off instead—
"Yes. Yes please," he said, and in his eagerness to scoot toward Chris while he already had a hand on his belt buckle and one of his boots was (as he was to discover too late, like the silk) stuck in the decorative bed skirt, he somehow more ended up on the floor and listening to Chris giggling.
Kirkland hated silk, he decided, as he kicked off his boots and got started on the pants himself. Chris was probably laughing too much to be up for the sexy kind of undressing now, and besides, with how this was going if he tried to get back up he'd probably trip on his pants too.
"A do it yourself kind of man instead? Ah, I like that too," she said as he finally gained the confidence and free ankles to stand. And then—
"Oh! How adorable!"
"Adorable?" Kirkland looked down. Adorable was not quite the word he'd been looking for while standing in front of a woman at attention and wearing only his now-unzipped team coat.
Chris smiled and pointed further down, to where he'd tossed his boxers so they still dangled over the corner of the bed. She leaned past him, seemingly unfazed by her near brush with his mostly-nudity other than giving the trim at his coat's waist a casual eying-over while he stared at what she'd stripped down to herself. It was lace, all right, pretty flowery lace almost the color of the shoulderpads on his Saber Tig...
...Saber Tigers. He'd worn the boxers with the Saber Tigers. Chris held them aloft between two fingers while stretched out in front of him, her pale green eyes sizing up the tigers' little sequin eyes and the glitter hearts surrounding. There was a lot of pink, a lot brighter than her shirt had been.
Kirkland mentally thanked Omari and Lineback just so, so much for that time they went gag gift shopping drunk and their stupid smart asses had thought those boxers were the greatest thing ever. First he'd had to explain his new underwear (and that he didn't have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, or any kind of lover-friend and certainly not anyone who could help make grandkids who would have given him something so ostenaci...ossen...tacky) in front of his mom and four aunts and uncles and assorted when his family dropped by for the holidays, and now—well. At least Chris thought they were adorable.
"Are you going to keep your socks on?" she said, rummaging in her nightstand's drawers for the sorts of things one needs before rummaging in others' drawers.
"Socks?" Oh, he'd left those on too. (She hadn't said anything about the coat. Maybe it really was that and not Jack?) He stood on one foot, tried to pull the first off, and it stuck. So his feet sweat when he was nervous, so he was nervous. He was so close to—the sock gave in, suddenly as socks do, and came off fast enough to unbalance him back ass-first into the dresser. It had pointy knobs.
Maybe not a lucky coat. Maybe a cursed coat?
Chris tossed him a condom, and Kirkland settled at last on lucky coat. Definitely lucky.
"Aw, hell," he said, though, after a few seconds. "The little tear here thingy won't tear."
"I can get it," Chris waved finely manicured fingernails in contrast to his...well, he bit his nails. It worked. "Kirkland, don't use your teeth!"
"But I'm a Tiger!"
"You're a dweeb," she said with sincerity, as foil dangled from his jaws. Er, lips.
"Never met a wrapper yet I couldn't open with these fangs."
"Fangs leave puncture wounds, pussycat."
"Oh. Right," he said, as she handed him another, already opened. Right, he just had to think less with the cock he was holding and more about using his fine piloting-honed reflexes to—whoops. The condom snapped back, somehow acquiring the vengeful speed of a catapulted rubber band and the trajectory to—
"Fuck, my eye!"
"I don't think I could do that any way you'd enjoy," Chris said, her voice between laughter and a purr. "But as they say, I'll try anything once."
"There was a comma in that," Kirkland squeaked in indignation as she scratched him under his chin.
"All right, all right," she soothed, and kissed him above the wounded eye. "Come here and actually let me help you this time before you maim yourself any further."
"I'm not that useless!"
Chris raised an eyebrow, and when she reached for him he defensively covered himself with his hands.
"Well, not normally. I swear." Kirkland tried to get back the enthusiasm his mind and (more problematically) his body were rapidly losing, with his eye still running and the only thing throbbing being his head. "Look, maybe you could, I dunno. Tie me to the bed. Then I can't break anything."
"Ohh no, I don't want to be responsible for any more injury, not with that exhibition match coming up. You'd probably dislocate your wrists next."
"I don't need those."
"I would think you'd need at least one. For the joystick."
There was silence for a little bit, and then he started laughing. Chris joined in, and they both flopped back onto her bed with her still cackling and holding her sides.
"Ah, man. My everything hurts already," Kirkland admitted. "And totally not the fun kind of hurts."
"My gut hurts," Chris said, and in the sort of timing that had haunted Kirkland's evening thus far, his stomach growled in response.
"...can we get a snack, at least?"
She just laughed harder, and Kirkland might have sulked. He really might have, but his pride stayed wounded for about as long as it took him to reach the refrigerator and examine its contents. Chris took a slice of cheesecake and part of something chocolate and unpronouncably French, he took far more.
They sat down at the table next to Kelly, who stopped her game of solitaire to shift her chair over and take the cake slice from Chris...who sat in the chair farthest away, leaving Kirkland with the one that pinned him between them. He had the distinct feeling he was going to be tag-teamed gossiped about in short order, but who could care about that? Not him, not when he had enough food it took him both hands to carry.
Jack must have had a sixth sense for thievery, because he arrived about the time Kirkland sunk a fork into the parts of cheesecake still post-it marked with "do not eat" in handwriting the sisters had assured him wasn't either of theirs.
His cold eyes took stock of the table, laid out with playing cards and Kirkland's bounty of plundered leftovers. Of the sisters, still perched on either side of Kirkland and both far more clothed—Chris had substituted blue shorts and tank top for the pink shirt and lace. And of Kirkland, still stuffing his face and wearing only a coat and the world's most awful Saber Tiger boxers. Jack cringed when he got to those, and his gaze seemed to get stuck on "dear god, that's pink".
Kirkland just grinned. They'd gotten to bother Jack after all, and Team Lightning had the best fridge ever.
Jack took a while to look away, and by the time he did his left eye was twitching a little and the cheesecake was almost gone. He held his hands in front of him cupped in the way of a man who thinks he's too dignified for throwing them up in despair. "What are you doing here?"
"Eating," Kirkland said. "What's it look like?"
"In those...in...in your underwear?" Jack said. "Why are you in your underwear with the rest of my team? Shouldn't you be with yours?"
Kelly snickered from behind her cheesecake, and Chris took a bite of the French thing. Kirkland picked up an entire bowl of macaroni and cheese and dug in without answering.
"Why," Jack started again, punctuating the whys with shakes of his hands, "why, why are you in my kitchen?"
"It's not your kitchen, Jack," Chris said.
"It was my cheesecake! There was a note. I thought we had a deal!"
"You can have the rest of mine. It's only half chewed," Kelly offered him her plate, licking the fork clean first and setting it next to the cake.
Jack gave up. He turned round and exited with a briskly grumpy stride so fast his headband almost hit the doorframe, stalking back down the hall cursing tournament organizers and coats and Saber Tigers and the color pink. There was the sound of a door being slammed, and then it was quiet again.
"Success," Chris said, and she and Kelly high-fived each other. Kirkland cautiously held up his hands, and they slapped them too.
Success indeed, he thought. At least, until Kelly spoke up and he choked on his macaroni:
"So, Chris, how was he?"