Puss in Boots

By Princess Artemis

© S.D.Green, 2001, except for the Square bits.

---

The man had a hatchet.

Looking down at the little boy hiding in the corner of his parent's room, the man reached a blood-soaked hand down to grab him. But he paused, and stroked the boy's head with a laugh instead.

"Mew...," the boy whispered, then began crawling on all fours, back and forth, against the murderer's legs.

He laughed again, setting down the hatchet, then picking up the little child in both hands. The boy bent his arms in front of him, letting his hands hang loose. His hazel-green eyes looked up at the man with a strange glint. He actually looked happy. "Mrowr."

"Got me a little kitty, eh?" The murderer looked around, and thinking to himself that perhaps he would only take two tonight, he lifted the little cat over the bed and set him down amongst the dismembered remains of his parents. Then he scratched the boy behind the ear, eliciting a contented purr.

"Meow."

There were no witnesses.

---

22 Years Later

"This...is an outrage!" Cait Sith hollered at the top of his robotic lungs, his voice reverberating in the room they were staying at in the Kalm Inn. "Y'all have ter fix me!"

"Cait," Vincent replied quietly, "It's just a tear in your fur."

"Right. You're a robot, you shouldn't be so concerned," Tifa added.

To the humans it did appear to be nothing more than the outer cloth covering of a robotic cat torn slightly, exposing some of Cait's inner workings. But to Cait, it was just as bad as if Tifa were wandering around with her already small tank top hanging off her body by a thread. He felt thoroughly exposed. "I am so sorry y'all humans don't see it from my side. I'm practically nekkid here!"

"Look, we'll have Cid fix you as soon as they get back from the Chocobo farm," Tifa returned.

"NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"

"Fine!" Tifa shouted in return, "I'll just borrow a stapler and STAPLE your fur back together!"

Cait's jaw dropped, exposing his small, dagger-like canines. "You...you!" Then he leapt for Tifa's throat, all claws extended, intending to scratch her into oblivion.

Vincent caught the furry feline projectile mid-flight in his artificial hand. When Cait turned his hissing, spitting visage upon the ex-Turk, Vincent suggested, "Perhaps we can call Reeve. I'm sure he can fix you."

Cait Sith visibly relaxed. "Yeah...we can do that."

While they were talking, Tifa sneaked out, fed up with Cait's whining. After all his spying and backstabbing, she wasn't in the mood to feel sympathy over his ripped fur. So she wandered downstairs and silently lifted a stapler from the unoccupied front desk. Palming it behind her back, she ascended the steps and returned to the room.

Vincent was on the PHS calling Reeve's office while Cait glowered and tried his hardest to get his little red cape to cover the hole in his fur. Tifa would wait for an opportune moment....

---

It took Reeve a few hours to untangle himself from all his commitments before he could make his way out to fix Cait. So by the time he arrived at Kalm, it was already late at night.

Tifa heard a knock at the door, so she opened it and let Reeve in. "Hello," he said calmly, in a formal tone, "It's nice to finally meet you."

"Likewise," Tifa stammered. She was a little surprised; she wasn't sure what she was expecting...perhaps someone more...snake-like...or backwoods inbred. But Reeve looked rather pleasant, clean, every inch the handsome executive, but not at all like a spy. She watched him as he walked in and introduced himself to Vincent; then it dawned on her that she'd seen him before. He was the Head of Urban Development...the only one arguing against the President's plan to crush Sector 7 under the plate.

After introduction, Reeve was all business. "So where is Cait Sith? I would like to get started as soon as I can so that Shin-Ra does not miss me."

Vincent motioned silently to the robot cat and the cave moogle leaning against the wall. As Reeve walked over to the toyasaurus, Tifa felt a pang of guilt; she had managed to staple the irritant's fur together earlier, but Cait hadn't woke up to react to it. And seeing the human behind the puppet...well... It didn't make her like Cait or Reeve any better; he was still a kidnapper and spy, and very fortunate Barret wasn't around, but it gave her a bit of perspective. She never considered what Cait did in the Temple of the Ancients as anything particularly sacrificial, since it was a robot Reeve sent in.

Reeve sat down, then lifted the shut down Cait reverently and began examining his fur. "Where is this tear?" he asked as he looked himself.

Tifa shuffled her feet, not wanting to say anything at all. Vincent, ever helpful, stood and pointed the tear out to Reeve without a sound. Reeve looked at it for a second without reaction. Then he held up his robot and looked at the two AVALANCHE members. "What...is this?" he said very carefully, holding up a bit of stapled fur.

"Um...I kinda...sorta...got irritated with Cait and stapled his fur together," Tifa confessed.

Suddenly Cait Sith activated himself. "I can't believe you did that! How could you!" he screamed, grabbing the stapled fur and looking at it in shock.

Both Tifa and Vincent looked confused. Vincent asked, "Reeve, why...are you using Cait?"

But Reeve said nothing; rather he looked at his well-manicured fingernails with a sort of blank, bordering on sad expression in his green eyes. His mouth was moving as if he were muttering to himself.

Cait roared, "Have y'all no respect fer yer teammates?! I would never staple y'all together when yer was needin' to be Cured!"

All thought of Reeve was forgotten when Tifa heard the cat's backwater accent and affronted tone. "Cait! You're a robot! Why does it matter?!"

"After all I done fer y'all...I sacrifice myself to get yer Black Materia, and this is the thanks I get!"

"I can't believe this! You're a toy! You were replaced within seconds!" Tifa shouted back.

If a mechanical cat can become livid, Cait Sith did so. "I am not a toy!"

Tifa stomped a foot and turned to Reeve. "Why are you doing this, Reeve?! Just fix it for goodness sake!"

Cait was about to leap for Tifa a second time when the movement pulled at his torn fur, yanking out a few staples. There was an electrical current that went through Cait's fur, and the movement and the staples caused it to short. Suddenly the cat was twitching on the ground, with faint bolts of electricity arcing from his small form.

As soon as it happened, Reeve pitched forward with his arms outstretched and fingers extended like claws. He hit the floor and sprawled out for a second, making a noise very like a hissing cat, then was still.

Tifa looked down at him in surprise and confusion. Vincent got up and examined Reeve for a moment, to see if he had possibly hurt himself.

The executive stirred and waved Vincent off then sat back on his haunches. He began smoothing his hair by licking the back of his hand and drawing it across his head. After a few moments to preen, he looked over at Tifa with a decidedly displeased expression. "I can't believe you did that," he said, his cultured voice suddenly acquiring a distinctly uncultured twang and a higher pitch.

"Huh?"

"You stapled my fur."

"What are you talking about? I'm sorry if it was such a big deal, but Cait's just a robot, right?"

Reeve glared death at Tifa. "Y'all have no idear, do you? You really don't know a thing."

Vincent sat down again and asked slowly, "We are confused, Reeve."

"Yeah," Tifa said as she too sat down. "This is really confusing. I didn't mean to offend you. Reeve."

"Reeve," the executive snarled, "is not offended, not so much as I am anyway." When his statement was greeted by nothing but confused blinks, he continued. He twitched his nose, then with a sigh, crawled over to the stuffed moogle and sat on its head. "I guess I might as well enlighten y'all, since yer clearly thick as posts. Maybe you'd gain a little bit o' respect fer yer resident magic cat."

Tifa opened her mouth to say something, but Reeve waved his hand and pinned her with an angry stare. "You need ter shut yer yapper fer a bit and let me talk." Tifa's face grew red, but she said nothing, just looked back with some heat of her own.

After preening for a moment, Reeve looked over at the two companions and said, "Maybe y'all didn't know this, but Reeve is a little sick in the head. And I don't blame him, not one bit. He don't remember where I came from, and that's the way I likes it. 'Cause I saw some things, let me tell you, they'd turn yer hair white." He looked across his small audience, and seeing that he had their attention, he continued. "I saw some things that'd break a little boy inter tiny little bits. Now I'm goin' ter tell y'all some things y'all can't tell Reeve. And when I say 'can't tell', I mean it literally. He's incapable of hearin' these things, on account of that's why I'm here. I'm here to see the things Reeve can't see and know the things Reeve can't know."

Vincent added quietly, "You really are Cait Sith, aren't you." He was not unfamiliar with the idea of being more than one single entity, but he had never been more than one person.

Reeve nodded. "We is all one, but we ain't neither in a way. Reeve's got whatcha call 'multiple personalities'. There ain't a lot of us, not like some poor bodies out there. There's only three of us, just me, Reeve, and Mog. Mog don't talk much tho'. I been the brains o' the operation, Mog here," at this he patted the moogle's light pink fur, "he's the brute strength. But Reeve is...he's Reeve. I can't never say nothin' bad about him; he's smart enough and his heart's in the right place. Sometimes he thinks I was just an imaginary friend that got a little less imaginary, and sometimes he guesses closer to the truth. He knows I let him cut loose so he can be a good, calm executive without goin' any crazier than he already is. I betcha somma you could use a bit o' me in yer lives." The last he said with a crooked grin. "I'm a little bit more unrestrained id than lotsa y'all can handle at once, ain't I."

Before Vincent or Tifa could comment, Reeve continued. "Anyway, I was born on account of Reeve's parents...now don't go thinkin' they did somethin', 'cause they didn't. They was good people; I wish Reeve could know about them. But he can't...on account of if he did, he'd be wonderin' where they are. His grandma and grandpa did good with him. See, his ma and pa was brutally murdered when Reeve was four. But he wasn't there. I was. I was the one that defended Reeve...I was the one that kept him from gettin' killed. And I was the one that murdering bastard sat in the middle of what was left o' Reeve's parents. I guess he found it amusin' ter see me happy as can be after seein' all that, purrin' and mewin'. Maybe he thought I was crazy and set me there to make me crazier." Reeve tapped his forehead once and added, "But I was smarter 'n him. I'm a wily magic cat, and I can pretend ter be pleased as punch, without a care in th'world for to fool stupid people."

Tifa grimaced at that. She'd had no idea that Cait Sith was anything more than a part Reeve played to be the better spy. But the bit about fooling stupid people didn't sit well with her...and she wondered what happened to the murderer. Reeve saw the look and grinned a Cheshire Cat's smile.

"Yeah, and I fooled you n' Spike too. I'm the best fer such things, because I don't have many scruples and I am wilier 'n a fox. Didn't y'all know I'm the king of cats? I'm the Puss in Boots...which happened ter be, fortunately fer Reeve, the story he liked the best in the world. Maybe if it'd been something else, I woulda been too, and maybe Reeve'd need more of us than he has. But I protect him good as anything, and he knows it. He knows he's lucky ter have me. He knows it coulda been so much worse, that he coulda broke in so many pieces no one'd ever be able to find them all."

For a moment Reeve made a motion something like cleaning his whiskers, then he crawled down from atop the moogle and stretched out on the floor. He laid on his back, holding his arms bent at the elbows and letting his hands hang loose, just like a cat would. Looking like he was about to settle in for a long nap, he added, "Now y'all better remember this, and have some respect fer yer friend the magic cat. And you be nice ter Reeve, or yer gonna have to answer ter me. I ain't gonna ferget that I told you all this. It's just time fer my nap...and I don't like usin' up Reeve's time. I likes my cat body better." Then he wiggled a little and seemed to fall asleep.

Vincent stood and went over to the robot body, picking it up carefully. Then he sat it on Mog's head and covered it with a towel, tucking it in over its shoulders like one might a young child.

Tifa sighed, feeling worn out. Everyone had his or her stories, but it wasn't uncommon for her to forget that. She would have never guessed that Reeve's was so serious...he and Cait had never been much more than a traitor and a faceless Shin-Ra bastard before. And now... If nothing else, she would be careful to remember that there was a man behind Cait's cat face, and that the cat meant a lot more to him than just a mask to wear.

After several minutes, Reeve stirred, blinking his eyes. He looked at his hands, and with a knowing sigh, he straightened them and sat up. Then he stood, dusting himself off for a second. "I'm sorry. When Cait shorted, the implants I use to control him crashed also. I will bring you a new Cait first thing tomorrow morning."

"Thank you," Vincent replied. "It was good to meet you, both of you."

Reeve nodded just slightly, his lips pressed in a thin line. "It has been...some time since that last occurred. Cait is more comfortable as a cat, the way he should be." Then the executive walked out of the room as quickly as he could without looking like he was running. The door clicked closed behind him.

Tifa looked over at Vincent, somewhat confused. "Why did you say that? Couldn't you have let him get away without mentioning...that?"

Vincent closed his eyes and answered slowly, "He has been with us long enough to know I do not speak hastily. Perhaps it is hard for him to know that Cait Sith manifested the way he did, and to know he may very well have told us things he himself cannot hear. I meant it merely as a suggestion that I respect them both, and I think he will realize that. If he does not, I don't think Cait will hesitate to ask."

* * *

When the authorities arrived, it took them seven tries before even one could enter the room without becoming violently ill.

Finally, one did, one who saw the little boy amidst the gore, who saw the little boy looking at a blood-soaked book, slowly turning the pages. He went inside as fast as he could, snatching the boy off the bed and running him outside.

Out there, he set the boy down while the other cops radioed for backup and the paramedics. He looked in the boy's hazel-green eyes and said, "You'll be OK, we'll take care of you."

The boy mewed once, surprising the cop, but then surprised him more by saying, "I know. I's a smart kitty cat...I's gonna tell what da guy looked like, so you catch hims."

Flabbergasted at the four year old's clear speech, the man asked, "You know who did this? You could describe him?"

With a cat's grin the boy answered, "Yeah, I's a magic cat. I called and you came, but hims thought I's just a regular kitty. But I's a smart kitty cat."

"Wow...I guess you are. What's your name?"

"I's like in the book." The little boy held up his blood-covered book, showing a picture of a black and white cat with red boots and a little gold crown. "I's Reeve, too."

The End