A/N: A bunch of people were demanding the return of nekomata!Kaito. I complied, but it turned out… a lot different from the cute-and-waffles oneshot I'd originally planned. Instead you get some nostalgia, a lot of background, and some rather obscure foreshadowing. It's also drastically short, as I felt this was the right length, in the end. There really isn't anything to add.
Dedicated most particularly, with my heartfelt excuses for the lateness, to Halfling Rogue, who reminded me neko!Kaito even existed oh-so-long ago, and to The Pen In Penguin, who's been… repeatedly… asking for more instalments this last month.
Disclaimer: I own a pair of cat-ears and a cat-tail. Everything in between is Gosho's. The title is taken from the same poem the quotation is from.
To-morrow, Yesterday, To-day
Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.
—W. H. Auden, Law Like Love
Wake up, his brother said once. Wake up. That's it. Open your eyes. Good. Stay awake. Yes, that's right, move your hands—fingers… good… that's very good. Look at me. That's right. This is me. It's good to see each other at last, isn't it?
When he slept, when he dozed off on the couch with fitful sneezes, he dreamt, sometimes. Often sleep was nothing more than a grey blur, static crinkling like aluminium on the edges of his conscience; sometimes he did not remember anything at all, and woke after hours with the asserted conviction that but a second had elapsed.
But sometimes he dreamt. And his dreams were wild and fruitful.
Hello. His brother's face had been huge, extremely close, with pools of water in lieu of his eyes. He had been so close he could discern every single pore, every single crease, every single hair of his eyebrows and every single eyelash; so close, so close he had shuddered and cowed, because this was his face, too. He had wondered if every single pore—and crease and hair and eyelash—were the same between them, if, should they link hands, they would fit more surely than the two halves of a sphere, the two parts of a whole. Can you hear me?
He liked to watch Aoko sleep. Aoko-at-night was never the same, while day-Aoko was one and whole, unchanging in her smiles and occasional exasperation; but Aoko-at-night was on this side of different, on this side of the water, in the sea that was her bed. Her face moved dreamlessly, little twitches of the mouth and flutters of the eyelashes, and sometimes—when he was lucky enough, and silent enough, and patient enough—he would hear the small noises she made as she dreamt, at last. They were sighs, and faint moans, and Aoko's hands gripped the bedsheets before they relaxed.
Kaito would watch, silent and still, back straight like an Egyptian cat, ears twitching in rhythm with Aoko's little pained night-noises. He would match his heartbeat to Aoko's shivers, and the soft of his palms to Aoko's biting fingers. He would stay, quiet, watchful, always.
His brother had laughed, then, and ruffled his hair affectionately. Don't I wish, cat-boy—I could show you around… it would be nice. We'd sit up with tea and talk all night long.
Yes, he'd liked to talk—hadn't he always? So beautiful, the words, shaping into thin air, like the paper animals he had shown him once, folded between bony, long fingers—shown him how to handle the creases, the colours and the words. It made sense. He would watch the paper animals for hours.
I'll bring you some paper next time, his brother had said, and then you can invent some for yourself.
Aoko always reached out first. Her fingers would be long and thin and soft, and startlingly cool, as they curled around his wrist. She would whimper, always, a quiet, broken sound he almost wouldn't hear at all, and pull slightly, with a gentle whine; and Kaito would unravel, would furl himself around her like a leaf, an immense autumn leaf, and bury his face in the crook of her neck.
He was heavy, surely, but Aoko never complained. They would smooth around one another's angles, when the hours crumbled into morning, together: their corners would not be so sharp-edged, and their bones would not be so funny, nor quite so pointy. They would fit like baby siblings, like cubs, like pups, with the soft murmuring fur of kittens.
He would sleep, at last, a sleep that was never so agitated as it was when he was on the couch's rough fabric. He would sink. He would be, unexpectedly, content. He would drown.
That's a scarf, his brother had said. It is soft, isn't it? And so red. Remember the girl I told you about, last time? she made it for me. She gave it to me.
He had run his fingers alongside the fabric, quietly fascinated. Everything had been so grey, here, so grey, only softened by the blues and whites of the corners. This had been something else. So beautiful. So bright. So red, his brother had said. So red, he had thought, and for some reason he had dropped the scarf to the floor, and stuck his fingertips in his mouth as though burnt.
It's alright. Oh, Kaito, Kaito, it's alright. C'mere. I'm not mad at you. Nobody's mad at you, not here. We love you. You know that, don't you? It's alright, I'm here. I'm here.
I'm here, his brother said, but his brother always left.
He would wake alone. He would wake, and panic blindly for a minute—panic, because he had fallen asleep into the soft of Aoko, and the soft was gone and Aoko was gone—but then he would smell the acre coffee, and the hot-buttered cocoa, and he would wander into the kitchen and drape himself around Aoko's shoulders.
"Hi, you," she would grumble, elbowing him in the ribs.
"Whassaaaaaaaat," he'd drawl out, and then, eyes lighting up, "Toast!" and chuckle to himself like a boy.
"Yes, toast," Aoko would groan. "Now go on, go. Set up the table, Kaito, and if you juggle with the glasses again I'll strangle you—quit that thing with your tail, it tickles."
And sometimes, right in the middle of coffee and toasting, between one bite of bread and another, Aoko would look at him—simply look—and smile so brightly Kaito just wanted to drop everything and tackle her to the ground with a hug. (And often did, too, breakfast and all the toast in the world notwithstanding—Aoko was better.)
When his brother had gone, Kaito would return to the paper animals. He would watch them, fascinated by their fragile flares and strange folds, as though they had fitted with the air. They had been beautiful, all of them, all paper wrinkles in bright colours, brighter than all greys and whites.
He wondered if they could think, if they could talk—if, should he turn his back on them for a minute, they would began moving, would bustle around their new-created lives, and, maybe, when he came back—they wouldn't even be there anymore, would disappear, would face, in thin air, as though they had never been there at all.
He wondered if they even knew they were paper animals.
End Notes: If this isn't background, I don't know what is. Also, remember Fishy Antics, the Little Mermaid parody I left unfinished last summer? I plan to complete it by June. Anyone who cares has every permission to whack me over the head if I run late. Thank you.