Notes: This is Alfred's side of Anniversary. While this isn't the sequel I promised, it does belong to that universe. I HIGHLY recommend reading that story first.
For as long as he could remember, Alfred always wanted a cat. Growing up, he'd quickly become disillusioned with dogs, especially since his cousin had a massive Great Pyrenees named Bear that never cottoned to Alfred. His parents hadn't allowed cats either since his mother was allergic. After he'd come out as bi and they'd thrown him out, however, the point became moot. When he got to his new city, he had planned to get a cat. But then the only place he had managed to find to rent didn't allow cats or dogs. For awhile, he was satisfied with the massive goldfish he bought that he affectionately named Mr. Whale. After Mr. Whale died though, Alfred had been at a loss.
It was bad enough when Tolys had moved out, but without even the companionship of a goldfish, Alfred started to look for reasons to stay out late just so he didn't have to go back to his lonely apartment. He had almost given up hope until one rainy afternoon he'd managed to hear a soft cry over the swish of traffic. He had only paused at the entrance of the alleyway for a second before plunging inward to find the source of the distressed calls.
That was when Alfred had found the cat; the poor thing was sprawled out in the middle of a mud puddle, partially propped up against a trash can. Its fur was soaked and heavy, revealing the emaciated body beneath it. He would have thought it was dead already if it had made another croaky meow. It was such a sad, pitiful sight that his heart had nearly broken right then and there.
"Hey," he murmured, crouching down so that his body blocked some of the rain pouring down upon it. "Hey there, little guy, you okay? You still alive?"
To his surprise, the cat actually managed to move, although he could only barely lift his soggy head up. The broken mewl it gave him seemed like answer enough. It was alive with enough strength or will left to notice his surroundings.
It would have been worse than a waste to just leave the cat there to starve to death. It would have been a tragedy, a crime, and Alfred could have never lived with himself if he had just walked away. Quickly, the framework of a plan flew together in his mind and he carefully ducked down closer. While one hand unzipped his coat, his other arm slowly eased the creature up off the ground. After the hell it had been through, Alfred tried to be as gentle as possible as he slid the cat into his coat, letting the sopping wet animal curl up into his side.
He worried the whole way home about the animal's lack of a reaction to his running to his apartment; it didn't even stir when he had to creep through the hallways. When he finally got to his apartment, Alfred practically tossed the door open—it banged hard against the wall, prompting a shout from Sadiq next door about keeping the noise down—and flew to Tolys's old room, scrambling for the spare blankets and towels that Alfred had shoved into the closest the last time he had to clean the place.
After settling the cat in to the mounds of blankets, he tried to be careful as he rubbed it dry. Its coat was white with a brown patch on the tail and an eye. Alfred was instantly smitten.
"Hey," he tried, running his fingertip against the dome of its head, "you still with me, buddy?"
It hadn't responded to his cajoling so Alfred tripped over himself in a race to the cupboards. Tolys might have been the one to cook while they roomed together, but Alfred had always had a weakness for a good tuna sandwich and always kept a can or two on hand. After a frantic search, he dug out a few cans and raced back to the room.
The cat hadn't moved at all from the blankets. Alfred wasn't sure if that was a bad sign or not, but he prayed for a miracle as he pulled open a can.
His luck held out—the moment he shoved the can beneath the cat's nose in the hopes the smell would be enough to revive it, the cat twitched and opened its eyes. Alfred barely had time to heave a sigh of relief before the cat nearly attacked the food. "Oh good, you're awake! I hope that means you'll be alright after all," he laughed, petting the cat.
It was a tough creature, no doubt—it had nearly starved to death, but here it was, awake and alert, chewing down food like tomorrow. It wasn't wearing a collar, so it didn't have an owner, at least not anymore. Who would ever throw out such an adorable thing was beyond Alfred, but as he ran his palm over its head and down its back, he knew he certainly couldn't.
"I'm not supposed to have pets, you know, but how about a deal? You take care of the mice around here, and I won't tell the landlord about you. That cool with you?" he asked, easing himself down to join the cat on the floor.
He wasn't entirely sure if the cat had heard him or had merely glanced up at the movement, but then Alfred matched gazes with those massive emerald eyes. He'd never seen a cat with eyes that color before—he'd seen kitten blue, warm hazel, rich brown, and washed out green. But that cat had dark, rich green eyes like a forest of leaves, large and beautiful. And, to be perfectly honest, Alfred had always been a sucker for green eyes.
And then the cat shocked him again by nodding, like it actually agreed. The student could only stare in surprise for a moment before laughing. "Oh-ho-ho, I got a smart one on my hands," he chuckled as he scratched the cat's (tiny and cute) ears. It closed those wide, beautiful eyes and sat there for a moment like it was enjoying the attention. "Heh—well, don't you worry, little buddy, I'll take care of you."
He meant every word. The next morning, Alfred visited every pet store he could find, pestering all the employees until they pointed out the best—and most expensive—cat food there was to buy, grabbed whatever toy he thought it might have liked, and bought a bed that seemed to be about the right size. The only thing he had forgotten to get was a kitty litter box, but to his shock, it turned out he didn't need to. When he walked in, he'd gone into the bathroom to go to the toilet only to find it already in use—the cat stared up at him with wide eyes as Alfred gaped at it.
"Holy crap, you're toilet trained?" he blurted in shock before laughing. "Coolest cat ever."
Well, it hadn't seemed so amused—the minute it was finished, it jumped down and hid under his bed. No amount of coaxing could convince it to come out, and it actually hissed at Alfred when he jokingly told it that it could at least come back to flush the toilet.
"I don't get it—you're pretty as can be, toilet trained, and totally quiet," he mused later on, petting it. "Who would throw out an awesome cat like you, huh, buddy?"
The cat surprised him by shuffling closer and then hopping into his lap. Alfred had grinned in pure delight as he scratched a spot on its back that made it shiver each time he touched it.
"Aww, well, don't worry, buddy. I think you're perfect," he paused and then grinned. "Even if you do have the bushiest eyebrows ever."
The cat let out a throaty hiss and raised one of its paws up, claws extended, like a warning. It was enough of one for Alfred.
"Whoa, whoa, okay, easy, Sylvester," he cooed, raising his hands defensively. "I take it back—your eyebrows are cool too."
He wasn't sure, but he was pretty sure the cat snorted at him as it curled its paw back up under its body. Alfred grinned and leaned down to press a kiss to each brow in apology. No sooner had his lips touched the cat's brow then did Alfred feel it stiffen and suddenly he had a cheek full of scratches while the cat bolted to hide under his bed again.
Life continued on like that for awhile—Alfred would buy overpriced food, and the cat, which refused to be named, would allow Alfred to pet, play with, and love on it. With little to no contact from home since Matt was really the only one talking to him anymore, and his friends all off living lives of their own, the cat was a welcome distraction from his loneliness. There was nothing better than coming home after a rough day of school or work and finding the cat sitting there, waiting for him. He would pick it up and press his face into its side, breathing it in until at last he could find his smile again. The first time he tried that, he was half sure the cat was going to savage him. Instead it—a he actually, Alfred checked once and ended up with a mauled hand for his troubles—watched him, head cocked to the side and eyes wide, as he smiled up at it.
Finally, he had a reason to go home at night. It was wonderful, even if weird things started to happen, like his magazines lying around in the middle of nowhere, or his television bills suddenly going up. Having a cat turned out so perfect, Alfred could only really remember yelling at him once.
He had brought Oz over, talking about the football game they'd seen just the Friday before, and he had smiled up at Oz, who had really, really nice green eyes as well, only just a few shades brighter than the cat's, when suddenly Oz yelped. On his leg was the cat—biting and clawing like it was possessed. Alfred had stared in dumbstruck horror, but Oz, who knew a thing or two about animals, quickly reached out and snatched up the hose attached to the sink before turning the water on the beast. The cat let go with a surprised yowl and crashed into a set of cupboards.
Alfred nearly fell over himself trying to help his friend but the other man took the attack rather well. In fact, he seemed almost amused as he patched himself up. The conversation, and the mood, was unsalvageable after that fiasco and while Oz's goodbye was cheerful enough, Alfred groaned in frustration before stomping back into the kitchen.
The cat was still there, huddled up in a corner; when it saw him coming, it hissed and raised a paw in frank agitation. Well, that makes two of us, Alfred had thought unsympathetically as he quickly snatched it up by the scruff of its neck, just missing being sliced up by claws. He picked it up but only managed a loose grip on its bottom half as it yowled and tried to sink its claws into any flesh it could catch. He all but hurled it into the spare bedroom and slammed the door on him, kicking a corner in frustration.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" he snapped as the cat lunged at the door and began to hiss again. "You completely ruined that—I won't blame him if he never wants to come back."
It answered him with a furious growl. Alfred kicked the door again and turned on his heel to find something else to focus on.
It wasn't until he was already in bed did he realize that the cat had no place to go to the bathroom except the floor. He huffed and rolled himself out of bed before wandering out of his room and over to the spare one. He paused at the door, feeling ridiculously like he was trying to patch up with a lover after an argument. He almost even knocked on the door before rolling his eyes at himself and turned the knob with a sharp twist of his hand.
"You better not have pissed or shit in there," he called in. There was no answer, and for a moment, Alfred felt a sliver of worry creep into his heart before he remember what it had done to his friend. He turned and went back to bed.
It was two nights later when he awoke from his doze abruptly as he felt a gentle shove at his back. He squinted through the dark to find the cat, head bowed like he was ashamed, standing next to his side. By then his anger was gone, so all he did was roll over a bit and reach out to drag the cat to him. It allowed the manhandling and settled in against his side, letting him pet it again.
"You done sulking?" he drawled. The cat growled softly for a moment but then rubbed his head against Alfred's arm. In spite of himself, Alfred had to smile. "Yeah, well. Me too, I guess. I'll forgive you—this time. Don't do that again, okay, peepers?"
It sounded like the cat huffed at him, which Alfred just decided to take as an agreement.
After that, the cat rarely had a problem with visitors—actually, he seemed quite taken with Kiku, especially after Alfred caught his friend letting the cat lap up his tea. That problem solved, everything seemed once again downright perfect up until the day Alfred woke up and found a naked man in his bed where he had fallen asleep to the cat the night before.