Disclaimer: I don't own Oliver and Company.
Summary: Having a family to go home to, especially after a long winter night, was one of the best things a cat could hope for.
Authors Note: Oliver's a teenager (whatever actual cat age that'd be) in here. He's had plenty of time to grow into himself and learn his way around. I can't help but love the idea that Oliver learned to juggle being a thief and a house cat a bit as he got older, and took a part of both lives with both of his families. I'm corny like that. =)
It was cold.
Not wow-I-need-to-start-breaking-out-my-coat cold. It wasn't even the water-freezing-into-ice type of cold. No, it wasn't like that. He wasn't that lucky. Instead, It was wow-my-whiskers-have-frozen together-and-I'm-slowly-sinking-into-a-state-of-hypothermia cold. And while he was aware he wasn't going to actually get hypothermia, he couldn't help but feel that his whiskers had frozen onto his face as he curled up into an even tighter ball to retain warmth.
It was wow-my-whiskers-have-frozen together-and-I'm-slowly-sinking-into-a-state-of-hypothermia cold and he was sleeping in an upturned, metal, trash can.
While not exactly proud of his decision, he had been smart enough to pile the snow in the front to cut off most of the freezing chill, and he was proud of that. Stretching out - and wincing at both the pinpricks in his limbs and the cold brushing against his warmer legs-, he yawned, retracted the limbs, and set his chin on his crossed front paws and stared at the muted colors of the snow pressed against the dark inside of the trash can.
It was official. Winter sucked.
...Well, that was a big fat lie. Normally he loved winter. Making snow angels, having snow fights, celebrating the holidays with the others, it was any cats dream. However, due to the fact that the family were snow birds with a habit of going to warmer territory during the winter and the fact that he wasn't aloud in their winter abode (their might have been an incident including a brunch that he may have crashed, and he might have... tossed a live lobster into a guests lap (by pure accident, of course!), and he may have attacked the owners dog when it tried to chase him... it'd been a long night.), he tended to live with Fagin and the others during this time instead of going to the pound where he'd end up making more enemies. Fagin's home, while still poor and in tatters, was surprisingly warm during the winter months, and cool in the summer. A natural, lucky phenomenon that he usually made sure to take advantage of during the sensitive months he spent away from his owners. Key word; usually.
Living with Fagin also brought in the usual dangers of living with a homeless man with bad luck such as himself; gangs, theft, the odd night at the pound, etc. Stealing, he was okay with- he wasn't the best at it, but he could keep up with the pros and not get left behind. He had a collar, so his stays at the pound were few and far between, even if they usually were wrought with violence and fear. He was even okay with fighting any enemies that came their way. Again, he wasn't the best at it (he wasn't the best at most things that came with living on the streets, if he was honest with himself), but he was good enough to make it in a fight with most dogs, and that was all he needed.
But none of that was worth squat when you lost your house. Losing your house was like... losing your house. You lost the roof over your head, your dignity, and what ever reputation you may or may not have. It was like killing three birds with one well-aimed stone. Feeling the urge to snarl at nothing, he rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling of the can. He blinked, tired but way to cold to sleep properly.
Jenny would be home tomorrow, he reminded himself. He could sleep then. He just had to survive the night. The long, long, freezing cold night. He groaned and rolled back onto his side and forcibly shut his eyes.
After a few minutes of restless shifting around, he finally gave up on the notion of sleep and stood up. Stretching with a large, rather overdone, yawn, he clambered to the entrance and began digging his way out. The snow made his paws cold and dampened his fur as he pushed his way out into the cold alleyway. Shaking away the moisture as best his could and frowning when more snow plastered to his fur, he padded off to the nearby abandoned wood crate. He'd volunteered to take the can, mostly because he preferred cold metal to splinters, whilst Dodger and the others (minus Einstein and Fagin, both of whom had crawled under a well-lit porch) had holed up inside. The front was bare, giving them no relief from the horrible cold.
Dodger lifted his head as he came closer, an eyebrow raised. He groaned. "I think my whiskers are frozen."
"Alright, that's it." The dog stood and stretched, turning back to the other inhabitants of the crate. "I say we go get our home back. Who's with me?"
Only when the last animal disappeared into the night, tail between his legs, whimpering loud enough to alert anyone within a mile of his presence, did he finally let the ridge on his back fall flat and let his claws slid back into his paws as he plopped down and licked a cut on his paw.
His ear was bleeding a bit, and his paw had a cut on it, but otherwise he was fine. One of the many advantages of being small, he decided, was that it was hard for anyone to actually hit him.
"You okay?" Dodge brushed by him. He seemed fine on the surface, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if he was bruised and bleeding somewhere and he just hadn't noticed it yet.
"Yeah, I'm fine." The dog left it at that and went to check on the others. Gathering himself onto his paws, he slowly made his way out to the docks, giving Tito a small lick as he passed, the having passed out the moment the last dog ran. The snoring dog didn't twitch, and he rolled his eyes as he snuck out the door to sit by the frozen water. The cold felt good against his heated fur and the cuts, and for the first time that night the cold felt like a blessing rather than a curse.
The snow had stopped falling and the breeze had softened, pushing his ears and whiskers back as he closed his eyes in a small moment of content before he reached down to bathe the ruffled fur on his chest.
"Brr." Dodger shivered as he plopped down next to the cat. "Why're you out here in the cold?"
"No reason." He bent down to scratch an ear before setting his back paw down with a shrug.
"Isn't your family supposed to be home today?" Taking a quick glance around, the young cat vaguely noted that the sun was just above the horizon, signaling the new day.
"Yeah, looks like it."
"You might want to head home, then. Surprise 'em." He opened his mouth to protest, but Dodger shook his head. "We're fine here, kid. All we need is a good nights sleep."
"Well... alright, if you say so. Night." He stood and shook his fur out before silently making his way down the familiar streets and alleyways of New York, marching to a rhythm few ever truly heard.
Jenny rounded the corner of the hallway into the kitchen. Oliver sat on the table-top, straight as a board, his tail firmly wrapped around his sides. She jumped. His ear was bleeding a bit, and his paw had a small bit of dried blood on it, but otherwise he looked normal. "Oliver!"
He purred as she pulled him into a hug, nudging his head under his chin. Setting him down, she checked his injures before reaching down to scratch behind his good ear. "You don't seem to hurt, thank goodness. Did you have a good time at Mr. Fagin's?"
He purred louder, curling closer to her chest. She chuckled. "That's good. Come on, let's get you fixed up. It's way past our bedtimes." He smiled and licked her check, his collar tag shining in the light.
Having a family to go home to, especially after a long winter night, was one of the best things a cat could hope for.
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