A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

By Cybra

A/N: Okay, if you've read my only Gundam Wing fic "A Different Perspective", you'd know that I can come up with some pretty strange stuff. Well, my muse has given me an idea for some more pretty strange stuff. Technically, it's a crossover but at the same time it's not. Anyway, enjoy!

Disclaimer: Hey Arnold! is Craig Barlett's, not mine. The cat in this fic is basically Rita of Animaniacs fame minus Runt but not really. You'll see in a minute. Well, I don't own the original Rita either, but this version of her is mine! BWAHAHAHAHA!

Humans. Such hypocrites. An animal rights activist could be shouting for the end of animal testing one minute and then scaring a stray dog away from a possible meal the next.

In my opinion, they all can curl up and die.

"Grandpa! Grandma! I'm home!"

Well…almost all of them can curl up and die. I know one human I want to see survive.

I rise lazily to my feet and stretch out my body. (I can't make it seem like I'm too excited to see him!) Yawning, I look up towards the human entering the family room of my home.

He's a blonde human boy with an odd-shaped head and the most incredible green eyes I have seen in a human. There are times when he looks almost feline with those eyes.

Oh. I haven't explained who I am, have I?

Originally, I was known simply as Gray, a name I received on the mean streets of this city from the color of my fur. I'm a mostly all-gray cat with a white underbelly, large white paws, and a long ropy tail that ends with white on the tip. My left ear has two bite marks in it, scars from fights with other cats for food. The only thing that makes me special is my own green eyes.

I watch as he looks around, searching for his grandparents. His eyes light on me, and he smiles. Then he kneels down and holds out his hand. He knows who's in charge of this situation. I pause for a moment for feline image purposes and then begin to rub against his hand, purring loudly. He scratches my sweet spot (underneath my chin), and catnip could've never taken me to this part of Cat Heaven.

I still remember the night I came to this place. It had been totally by accident, and I hadn't thought that anyone – animal or human – would help me…

~@~

I mewed pitifully, the pain in my right foreleg growing worse by the moment. I staggered along, trying to find a meal and a dry place to sleep. The rain was pouring all around me, and mud splashed over me whenever the cars sped by.

I almost collapsed, unable to go any further than the edge of Vine Street. Inwardly, I acknowledged that I was barely one year old and I was going to die. Perhaps it would be better this way. At least I wouldn't have to suffer another day, not knowing if I would see the next.

"Poor kitty…"

I looked up weakly to see two green eyes looking down at me. The blonde boy gave me a sympathetic gaze and kneeled down beside me, getting his clothes dirty.

The boy was no older than six years old. That's the age where innocent tugs on the tail are long gone and the age when just plain malicious acts on any creature are committed have mostly become the norm.

I shied as best as I could and tried to slink away, but my body was too weak. All I could do was mew piteously…which humiliated me.

The little blonde watched me for a moment, the rain falling on top of him, until he seemed to make a decision. He removed his sweater and leaned forward.

"I won't hurt you. I promise."

I don't know why I trusted him, but there was something in his voice that made me hold still. I stared at him wide-eyed as he gently coaxed me into his sweater, being careful not to harm the foreleg I was favoring.

Once I was comfortably situated, he walked through the rain – risking every human disease caused by being cold and wet – and returned to his home at a boarding house I had passed many times during my past searches for food.

"It'll be okay, kitty," he murmured. "Grandma and Grandpa will make you feel better…"

I simply mewed once more. Such gentleness from a child as young as this boy I had never expected. Was he waiting for the right moment to strike?

He stared at the door for a good minute, suddenly realizing that he couldn't open the door with a cat in his arms. I would've laughed if I hadn't been so tired. At the same time, I wondered what he was going to do. Immediately, I assumed he would set me down first.

He did nothing of the sort. He brought his foot back and kicked the door gently but firmly and called, "Grandma! Grandpa! I can't get the door open!"

Immediately, an old man came to the door and looked down at the boy and I. His mouth dropped open as he began, "Short Man, what're you – ?"

"He was hungry, Grandpa," the boy pleaded. "I couldn't just leave him! He probably would've gotten run over!"

Mentally, I corrected him that I was a "she", not a "he". Still, I forgave him.

An old lady joined the boy's grandpa. "Oh, dear. C'mon, Kimba, let's get this little lion cleaned up!"

His smile was a mile wide, and my eyes were wider than ever before.

Whether he knew it or not, he had saved my life. If I hadn't been run over, I would've starved to death. It had been slim pickings lately.

So, they gave me a bath (which I hated and loved at the same time) so that they could finally see my original fur color. After the bath and I was dry, they took me to the boy's (Kimba's?) room and wrapped up my injured foreleg, the boy holding me and softly talking to me as his grandpa did the deed. (I hate to admit it, but I yowled and hissed to high Heaven while they did this.)

More importantly, they fed me.

I kept watching the boy out of the corner of my eye as I ate greedily. What was he waiting for? An invitation? Why didn't he just get it over with?

When I had finished, the boy and I faced each other for several minutes, neither of us doing anything.

Then slowly, tentatively, he reached out a hand…and simply held it out.

Cautiously I took a step forward, not sure if I was ready to completely trust this human yet. I craned my neck and sniffed his hand.

You can tell a lot about creatures from their scent. I could tell the boy was unique by his scent. It was neither musty nor earthy nor sweaty nor wet like water nor was it any other smell I knew. When I was through checking off what the smell wasn't, I found myself at a loss of something to compare it to. All I know is that his scent is uniquely his, just like he is unique among all the humans I've met.

After a few moments of my sniffing, I rubbed a little against his hand. Slowly, carefully, he began to scratch behind my ears, a smile forming as I began to purr. Gently, he stroked my back, and I began to enjoy his touch more and more. His fingers found their way under my chin and he began to rub there. My purring grew so loud that he laughed a little.

"You like that, kitty?"

I purred as loud as I could. Oh, yes! I enjoyed it very much!

He pet me for several more minutes, still smiling, until he pulled his hand away. I looked up in surprise as he suddenly covered his mouth and coughed.

I then remembered how he'd removed his sole source of warmth in order to keep me warm while he carried me. I immediately felt sorry for doubting the boy's intentions and limped closer to him. (My leg was still bothering me.) I flicked out my pink tongue and licked his arm.

He giggled as I continued to clean him as best as I could. I gave him my best feline smile as I continued to clean off the mud. About a minute into it, his grandparents returned from downstairs.

"Well, Short Man, the boarders are out of the bathroom. Go take a hot bath. We don't want you getting sick," his grandfather ordered kindly.

"Yes, Grandpa." He looked back down at me. "What're we going to name him?"

"'Her'," the old woman corrected. "She's a young lioness, Kimba. Can't you tell?"

He smiled. "Sorry." He scratched behind my ears again. "What do we name her?"

Silence reigned for several minutes. Their silence was contemplative while mine was in stunned amazement. They were giving me a name!

They were giving me a home!

The boy glanced at a picture of him, his grandparents, and another family. It had to be a few months old. Several of the humans in that photograph wore country-style clothing. I could see several corn stalks in the background.

"How about Rita? After Aunt Rita?" he suggested.

"Good idea, Short Man!" the man I had begun to think of as "Grandpa" praised. "Now, why don't you let Rita get used to this new place while you clean up, hmm?"

"Okay, Grandpa." He left after hugging his two guardians and disappeared from the room.

The old man turned to his wife. "Not a bad idea to let him keep this one. She seems to like Arnold a lot."

"What lion wouldn't like Arnold?" Grandma asked.

Arnold. So that wonderful child's name was "Arnold", not "Kimba" as the old woman called him several times.

"…Right, Pookie. Well, we'd better bring up the spare litterbox so she doesn't have an accident." The old man turned to go, but turned back around to scratch my ears. "Glad you'll be stayin' at the Sunset Arms."

~@~

I have lived here at the Sunset Arms for three years of my life, and I've loved every minute of it. I don't mind the fact that I have to share the place with other cats (all of which adore Grandma), some dogs, and a pig named Abner who thinks he's a dog. I don't even mind most of the boarders. They leave me alone, I leave them alone. (Oskar doesn't seem to understand this, so I have to give him a few "reminders" every now and then.)

I'm still trim, but not scrawny like I once was. I still have all of my claws (there was a pitched battle over that).

And I still adore the child who saved my life.

Nobody knows it, but the animal world knows quite a bit about this boy. Stories from Lockjaw and Big Caesar and other animals tell how he'd saved them in one way or another. Some creatures spend all day telling each other the stories of the human who should've been born as one of us animals. (It's a pity, really. Still, he does a lot of good…even if he is a human.)

Arnold scratches behind my ears, still looking around for his grandparents. I twist my head to look at the coffee table. He follows my gaze and sees the note.

"Hold on a second, Rita," he says apologetically. "I think that's for me."

He walks over to the table and picks up the note to read it. I already knows what it says. The boarders are off doing whatever they do while Grandma and Grandpa are out shopping. The note claims that someone will be back in two hours. (Knowing that estimate, it should be read as "At least two hours after you find this note".)

He sighs as he finishes it, crumpling it up and throwing it in the trashcan. He doesn't even comment "Two points" like normal. (Whatever that means! Some human thing.)

I start to purr comfortingly as I try not to look too worried. He's upset.

"I guess it's just you, me, and the others, Rita."

He adjusts his backpack and begins to walk up the stairs to the second floor. I race ahead of him and wait down the hall underneath the trapdoor leading to his room. He reaches up and pulls on the string to open it.

I follow him up the stairs and into his room. As he sets his things down at the desk, I hop up onto his bed, waiting. He turns to face me.

"I don't get it, Rita. I just don't get it."

I give him my best sympathetic look as he walks over to me. I may not be able to speak with his words, but I can listen and speak with my actions.

He flops down on his knees beside the bed, arms folded on the covers and his head on his arms. He's looking in the direction of his shelves but not looking directly at them.

After a moment of silence, he continues, "I do my best to help everybody, but today they decided that I needed to stay away from them. They wanted to handle their own problems. I mean, that's fine with me. I just offer suggestions on what to do, I can't tell them how to live their lives."

I nuzzle his hand, waiting for him to go on. This is how it is when he's upset: He'll talk, and I'll listen and wonder what I could do to make it better if I was human. His fingers begin to scratch my ears without him thinking about it.

"Well, it's the way they put it that got to me. They said I was interfering with their lives, that I was meddling and I couldn't keep my nose out of other people's business."

I feel my claws involuntarily slide out, ready to rip the offenders to shreds. Don't they see how they hurt him?

"Where does helping end and meddling begins, Rita? I don't know. I don't want to interfere if they want to deal with things themselves, but I still want to help them."

A saint. This kid is a living saint. Even Devotion and Communion at the church agree. The kid creates his own miracles for others and has the patience of someone who has all eternity to do what he does. There needs to be more humans like him in this world.

"There are days when I just want to stop doing this kind of stuff…"

My blood freezes. Please don't say that, Arnold! Animals and humans need more people like you in this world! People who can be lights in the darkness! People who can bring the hope of something better to the miserable!

"…but then there's another person in trouble, and I know I can't. It's my personal mission. Our world has so much hate in it, and I want to grow up and inherit a world where hate is in the past. If I can help just one person, I know that I've helped create a world with one less person who is consumed by hatred."

You do it every day, Arnold. Believe me, you do. Look at me. I would've grown up thinking that there wasn't a single kind soul in the human world if it hadn't been for you. I would've hated every human I saw.

That little kindness you gave me – the kindness of taking me in from the rain and giving me a home – went a very long way.

"The kids today told me to keep my nose out of their business and not to give them any advice. It really hurt when they told me to do that. I just want to help, not interfere. You know that, right?"

How could I not know it? You told me that yourself, and I trust you with not my life but my soul.

"So I left them to do what they wanted, and I did what they asked. I didn't give one ounce of advice to them. It was hard, let me tell you. I mean, Harold and Stinky were rigging Eugene's bike and I wanted to stop them, but they told me to leave them alone. Eugene got hurt afterward. Rhonda wrote fake Secret Admirer notes to Curly, and he found out and thought she really liked him. And that was only part of it! It was one big mess, and I wanted to help them out of it, but they wouldn't let me."

That's because they were morons, Arnold. They thought they could do what they wished and get away with it even though you'd told them many, many times in the past that life doesn't work that way. You knew better, and they didn't like it that you were trying to teach them that little fact of life.

"Finally, they came to me and started begging for help. They told me that everything was falling apart and they wanted me to fix it." He sighs. "I really wanted to, but I stopped myself. They had wanted to make their own decisions and hadn't wanted my advice, so I told them I wouldn't help. I guess I wanted to see if they really could work their own problems out like they said they could before."

It's a tough lesson they had to learn, kid, and I'm sorry you had to be the one to give it. "Be careful what you wish for" is always very, very hard lesson to give and to learn.

"So they went to Helga for help instead."

The Pataki girl? The one that constantly sneaks around the boarding house for one thing or another? They went to her? No offense to her, but those guys must've been desperate.

"Helga gave it her best shot…I guess…but everything got worse than before. Eugene got hurt again while Curly wouldn't leave Rhonda alone."

Serves them right.

"Everything got even more messed up than before. I finally gave in to helping them." He sighs. "I even had to make a list in order to get everything straight, it was so bad."

I'll bet.

"Well, everything got straightened out, and things were okay again."

Of course everything was right again. You put them that way.

"But I can't help but wonder…"

He pauses in scratching my ears. I wait patiently and purr as loudly as I can. It helps him calm down when he's upset. It's something Abner – that loyal but confused pig – could never do.

"I wonder if maybe I should stop for good."

I'm so shocked that I stop purring. You can't do that! It's not in your nature to turn a cold shoulder on someone who has something they can't deal with alone! Where will others look to for help?

"Sorry, Rita." He begins to scratch my ears again, and I remember to purr. "I guess I'm a little mixed up today. It feels better telling someone about this." He smiles at me once more, and my purring grows louder. "I really appreciate you listening."

Of course I'll listen.

Like I said before, that little bit of kindness you showed me has gone a long way.

Chester – one of the pigeons Arnold takes care of – once asked me this question: "Who heals the healer?"

As he turns to his computer and types in the password (his last name, something nobody really knows) I smile to myself. I know the answer to that question.

Whoever listens to him when he needs it and he chooses to reveal his problems to is his healer. I'm glad that I'm one of those trusted few.

I love him more than a pet can ever love a master, more than any female can love her mate.

He's a saint, an angel, practically a god to us animals just because of the kindness he has shown me and Lockjaw and Chester and Big Caesar and all those other animals.

We all love him.

I've said it twice and I'll say it thrice. Maybe this time, Arnold will be able to hear it and understand it this time.

Arnold, your kindness has gone a long way.