"Human lesson number one! The first thing you need to know is the types of gifts humans consider appropriate." Lynne turned her clicker on as she pulled out of the parking lot. "Mice and any other animals are a no-no— they don't smell very good."
"I'm right here, you know," Sissel teased. Lynne stuck her tongue out.
"Anyway, chocolates and flowers are traditional for Valentine's Day, but other acceptable gifts include money and jewelry. For girls, anyway. Or Inspector Cabenala."
"You keep mentioning that money thing," Sissel said. "What is it?"
"Uh, right. Money is what you use to buy everything else in the world."
Sissel blinked. "What does it do?"
"It doesn't do anything. You just… buy stuff with it." Lynne suddenly noticed the light coming up had turned red and slammed on the breaks.
"I don't get it. It's useless, but people give you food for it? And those other things?"
"Right," Lynne said. "Like flowers."
"What do you do with flowers?"
Lynne paused. "Uhh… decorate, I guess? Some people like the way they smell."
Sissel looked out the window, resting his chin on his hand. "I'd rather have food."
"Me too," Lynne laughed. "But don't look a gift horse in the— actually, idioms are probably a bad idea right now. Moving onto lesson number two!"
"Wasn't money lesson number two?"
"I'm the teacher, Sissel. Lesson number two, hand-holding! Humans hold hands sometimes to show affection."
Sissel cocked his head. "Why?"
"Uhh…" Why did human behavior make so much less sense when it was being questioned by a cat? "Because it feels nice, I guess. Also, when people hold hands in public, they're announcing their relationship to everyone around them."
Sissel perked up. "Like claiming ownership?"
"Um, kind of, I guess? Like announcing, 'this is a human that I love and want to protect.' Or something like that." Lynne turned the steering wheel, not looking over at the 'student' she was teaching, and then felt a hand on her own.
Oh. Okay, that was adorable.
"Not while I'm driving. It's kind of dangerous."
Sissel blinked and slunk down slightly in his seat, withdrawing his hand. "…oh. Sorry."
"But I appreciate the motion," Lynne added, smiling over at him. The green-eyed boy (she never really knew whether to refer to Sissel as a man or a boy— he seemed to go back and forth between the two) blinked and then glanced away.
"Um, lesson number three," Lynne said, clearing her throat. "Licking is definitely a no-no. We groom ourselves in the bath, remember? So, uh, no doing that."
"Baths are an atrocity that should never have been invented," Sissel muttered, staring out the window again. Lynne laughed.
"If you and Missile didn't get into so much trouble, maybe you wouldn't need baths so often. Remember the time you tried to teach him how to jump a fence and he ended up launching himself into the mud?"
Lynne saw a small, amused smile in the reflection of the glass. "Heh. That was fun."
"Anyways, it's cute when you two lick each other or us as animals, but you can't do it as a human. The human equivalent of that would be a kiss on the cheek."
Sissel turned, interested. "A kiss? I think I've heard Kamila use that word when Missile licks her, though."
"Well, yes, sometimes we call those doggy kisses. But a human kiss is just pressing your lips to someone else, usually on the cheek or the hand."
"What does it do?" Sissel asked curiously. "Doesn't seem like it'd get very much dust off."
"It doesn't really 'do' anything. It's just a way of showing affection."
Sissel huffed. "Why do you have so many behaviors that don't make sense? You give each other 'money' that doesn't do anything and buy useless items like 'flowers' with it, and to claim ownership of each other you have the strangest rituals."
"Lesson number three is that you have to stop using the phrase 'claiming ownership,'" Lynne laughed, "or people will take it the wrong way and call the police."
"Mr. Bailey hates it when people call him," Sissel noted.
"Yeah — ugh, hold on, crazy driver trying to merge," Lynne interrupted, pressing on the gas. People sometimes. They really did have strange habits.
Thankfully, they arrived safely back at the house before anyone could put another dent in the old, beat-up car. Lynne put the grocery bags on her arms and as she was walking up to the door, Sissel tugged on her sleeve.
"Yeah? You know you have to turn back into a cat before you go inside or everyone will freak out, right?"
"I know," Sissel said. Then, hesitantly, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Lynne's cheek.
"I'm happy you're my human," he blurted out. Lynne blushed and had to stop herself from 'awwwww'ing him away.
Instead, she teased, "Isn't Yomiel your human? Or Jowl, until Yomiel gets out?"
"They're both mine, too," Sissel replied. "You're all my humans. I own all of you." Then with a flash of blue, he turned back into a cat and darted inside as Jowl opened the door.
"Lynne! You brought the meats!" he exclaimed happily. Several men behind him echoed in chorus, "You brought the meats!"
"And it looks like someone else finally showed up, too," he noted, pointing to a flashy car that pulled up behind the others. "Late to the party as always, huh?"
"Yeah," Lynne laughed with a smile. She looked inside, where a chorus of what was probably a drinking song (with modified lyrics for the presence of Kamila and Amelie) was going around the table. Someone had opened up a box of cheap chocolate candy and was stirring it into their beer, almost undoubtably on a bet. And loud barking rose up as Sissel trotted over to Missile with the good news that there would be enough meat that people would feed them scraps under the table.
Lynne liked being a part of this family.
Even if the humans did act strange sometimes.