A Stray No More
Disclaimer: It's Maki Murakami's sandbox; I just play in it. I don't own the rights to Gravitation and I'm not making any money from it.
Summary: The further adventures of the bedraggled kitten Shuichi rescued from almost certain death in my story Stray. This story can be read independently, but it may make more sense if you read the other story first.
A/N: A big thank you to my beta HawkClowd!
The next morning, Shuichi was still miffed that the stray kitten he'd rescued had interrupted them twice and left the crook of his arm sore and half-numb after sleeping there all night. Having a cat was turning out to be a bigger inconvenience than he'd expected.
However, even though he considered Eiri's assurances that cats were natural voyeurs just another example of him messing with Shuichi's mind, he didn't seriously consider getting rid of the cat. He still wanted to keep her despite his brave words about taking the cat to the animal shelter.
Eiri called Mizuki after Shuichi left for work. As usual, he got her voicemail instead. He left a message and sent an e-mail:
Shuichi rescued an abandoned kitten yesterday. Do you know of any vets nearby to whom we can take the kitten for a checkup?
About a half an hour later, he received a reply.
Congratulations on the new member of your household! I use Dr. Eisuke Hamada, whose office isn't far from your apartment.
The e-mail included the vet's address and phone number, and sported one of those ubiquitous and annoying smiley face emoticons at the end. Eiri gritted his teeth and responded:
Don't congratulate me yet. Shuichi told me he was taking the cat to the shelter once it was in good shape, although I suppose I shouldn't count on it.
The information will come in handy, though.
Mizuki chuckled at Eiri's almost-but-not-quite thank you and responded:
How much would you bet that the cat will become a permanent addition to your household? The royalties from your next book, maybe?
Anyway, you're welcome!
This message was also adorned with a smiley face. Convinced that she knew how much that kind of shit annoyed him, Eiri decided to ignore her message and hope she'd leave it at that.
He wanted to call the vet right away and make an appointment for the earliest available slot so it would be over with, but he needed to check Shuichi's schedule to make sure that he could go, too. Taking the cat in was his idea in the first place; he needed to take responsibility for seeing that she received proper veterinary care if he wanted to keep her. It shouldn't be Eiri's job.
It was possible that Shuichi had told Eiri his schedule – Eiri didn't retain such information, preferring to use his memory for more useful things, like the plot of his latest novel – but since he didn't remember one way or the other, he'd have to ask Shuichi. He'd love to call the studio and insist that they put the pink-haired idiot on the phone right then – or better yet, ask someone like K, who probably knew the band's schedule off the top of his head – but no one was going to interrupt whatever the band was doing and drag Shuichi to the phone just so he could get his question answered right away. Calling Shuichi's cell phone wasn't any better an alternative; he left it on at all times, including during recording sessions, and if Eiri happened to interrupt one, Tohma would fly into a rage. As far as he was concerned, Eiri should know better than to trust Shuichi to turn his cell phone off when leaving it on would interfere with the delicate process of coaxing a good track out of him and the band. As unfair as it was, he had a point.
With that settled, he went back to writing. The first time the cat knocked his marked-up manuscript off his desk, it was kind of cute. The second, third, and fourth times, not so much. He started muttering "fucking cat" under his breath. After that, he tried to keep her off his desk, but met with little success; instead, she pawed at that funny-looking screen on top of it. This elicited a shove and "damn cat."
When he returned after leaving to get a snack and take a peek at the TV, she was curled up on his chair, acting as if it belonged to her - as she probably thought it did. She bared her sharp little teeth when he went to pick her up, so he tipped the chair until she either had to jump off or get dumped on the floor. She hissed and growled as she ran to the corner to sulk. "Fucking cat," he said out loud, no longer bothering to say it under his breath.
He knew that the cat was just being a cat, not deliberately malicious, but the end result was the same. The last straw was the cat digging up the ficus tree's soil in order to use it as a litter box when she had a perfectly good litter box in the bathroom. He tossed her out of the office and slammed the door shut so she couldn't get back in.
The next time he left the office, he opened and shut the door quickly in case she was lying in wait, but as it turned out, he didn't see her anywhere nearby. After searching the rest of the apartment, he found her curled up on the bed on his pillow, which now had plenty of loose fur stuck to it. After getting the coffee that was his original reason for leaving his office, he returned relieved, but also a little annoyed, and shut the door behind him. Closed out of the room she'd played in the day before, she spent the rest of the day sleeping and exploring the rest of the apartment.
Eiri was also intrigued about her changing eye colors. When he'd picked her up to toss her out of his office, her eyes were yellow, but he could have sworn that they had been green earlier. He decided to ask Shuichi if he had noticed it too. He had hesitated to bring it up earlier, not wanting to give Shuichi a reason to mock him.
Over dinner that night, Eiri told Shuichi, "You need to clear some time in your schedule to take the cat to the vet."
"Aw, Yuki! You're not coming with me?"
"Of course I am, dumbass. How do you expect to get there? I don't think you want to walk around Tokyo with a cat under your arm." That reminded him that they probably needed to get a cat carrier, too.
"But you're going to come in with me, right?" Shuichi wailed. "I don't know anything about taking a pet to the vet!" He stopped wailing and giggled at the unintentional rhyme. "Sorry."
"It's no different from going to the doctor's," Eiri said, exasperated, "other than the patient is an animal, not you." He thought about it for a moment. "I take that back. It's exactly the same."
Point scored, Eiri's features softened. "Yes, I'll come in with you. That way, at least someone will remember what the vet says." He smirked. Shuichi made a face and hit him on the arm – not hard, but enough to make his displeasure known.
"I'll check with the powers-that-be tomorrow and make sure to leave some time for it," Shuichi promised. "I'll call you when I have it all worked out."
"Okay." Eiri hesitated for a moment. This was a perfect time to ask about the cat's eye color, but it still felt like a foolish thing to ask. But he was no wuss, and if he was going to ask the vet about it, he should know beforehand whether anyone else had noticed it.
Eiri steeled himself and asked, "Have you noticed anything strange about the cat's eyes?"
Shuichi looked up from his plate. "What do you mean?"
"Her eye color."
"Oh." Shuichi considered that for a few seconds and said, "I've noticed that sometimes her eyes change color."
"Change color how?"
"Most of the time they're green, but sometimes they're gold. Why?"
"I've noticed it too, but I thought I might be imagining things."
"I'm glad that I wasn't imagining things! I was beginning to worry that maybe something was wrong with my eyes."
"Maybe not your eyes, but your brain," Eiri wisecracked as he carried the dirty dishes to the sink.
"I heard that!" Shuichi said, pouting for effect.
Shuichi called Eiri from work the following day. "I spoke to K and Sakano, and I've got Wednesday morning blocked out. I don't have to be at the studio until one in the afternoon."
"Do they know not to change plans on you at the last minute?" Such things had happened before, playing havoc with doctor's appointments and the like.
"I explained why I needed the time, and they understood. Turns out that Michael and Judy have a cat back in LA, though from what K said, Ark usually takes it to the vet. Sakano owns a cat, too. Well, actually, it's his mother's cat. I didn't know that he lives with his mother, did you?"
Eiri rolled his eyes at the flow of information pouring out of Shuichi's mouth. "No, but I don't know these people as intimately as you do."
"Do not!" Shuichi said indignantly. "You're the only ... Never mind."
To cover the awkward silence, Eiri sighed and said, "It means that you're closer to them than I am, that's all. Weren't you paying attention to vocabulary lessons in school?"
"You've seen my grades. I didn't care about anything but my music then."
"And how are things different now?"
The pitch of Shuichi's voice went up an octave. "Because I love you, and you're as important to me as my music, silly!" He grinned. Considering how much Eiri disliked talking about the softer emotions, he asked questions like this more often than one would expect. From that, Shuichi concluded that his professions of love were exactly what Eiri wanted to hear, even if he couldn't bring himself to reciprocate.
Eiri called the vet's office the next morning hoping that he had openings the morning that Shuichi was available.
"Our only opening is at 9 a.m.," the receptionist said. "Is that okay?"
Shuichi left for the studio around that time, but it was earlier than Eiri was usually ready to face the day.
"We'll take it," he said reluctantly. It wasn't like he had any choice in the matter anyway.
That night after dinner, Eiri asked point blank, "Are you planning on keeping the cat?"
Shuichi hemmed and hawed at first but finally admitted, "I don't want to give the cat up."
"So are you going to pay for the cat's food and vet bill?" Eiri asked.
Shuichi hadn't really thought about it. He'd already started to think of her as their cat, but he was the one who had rescued her. Besides, he'd promised Eiri that he'd take care of the cat. So he reluctantly said, "Yes."
Eiri looked as smug as the cat did. "You should name her, then. Do it soon because the vet's office will want to know her name. Besides, if you wait too long, she's going to think her name is 'Fucking Cat'."
"Yuki!" Shuichi wailed, but he snickered as well. He had already started thinking about names, anyway. "How about a name based on the way she looks? She's got orange and gray fur on white. Hm. What about 'Gray'?"
"How original," Eiri said dryly just as Shuichi muttered, "No, too obvious. What about 'Ivory'?"
"Since she's multicolored, it doesn't make much sense to name her after only one of her colors," Eiri pointed out.
Shuichi thought some more. There was this anime Peach Girl, which he'd seen a few episodes of when his sister watched it. Momo, or Peach Girl, was a social outcast whose skin was tanned since she swam outdoors a lot because she was on the swim team. The cat had marks like peach blossoms on her body. Maybe they could call her that.
"What about Momo?" he said.
"Peach?" Eiri said. "I suppose the name would work for a girl. But what if she's a boy?"
Shuichi shrugged his shoulders. 'Momo' was a girl's name, but 'Peach' could describe a male cat with orange markings. Besides, Shuichi had faith (though possibly an unreasonable one) that Eiri had the cat's sex right. "I don't see why we can't still name the cat Momo."
"Fine. If you want your cat confused about his sexual identity, it's your problem."
Shuichi giggled. "Cats don't have sexual identity problems."
Eiri rolled his eyes. "I was being ironic, dipshit, but as usual it sailed right over your head."
Shuichi ignored that last remark. "So that's taken care of. Hey, Momo!" he said as the cat walked toward them. The cat passed by as if she hadn't heard him.
The issue of the cat's name dealt with, Shuichi went back to the question of ownership. "Don't you want her to be our cat? To be something we share?"
"You picked her up and brought her home, so she's your responsibility. I'm willing to help since we had cats around growing up and you didn't, but you need to learn to deal with this shit yourself."
Shuichi sighed. He knew Eiri was trying to get him to be a responsible pet owner, but he sometimes seemed unsupportive.
"That reminds me. We need a cat carrier to take the cat to the vet's."
"I thought you just said the cat – I mean, Momo - was my problem."
"She is, but how are you getting to the store to buy a carrier, you dope? I'll have to drive you. I might as well come in and help."
Shuichi nodded. "I guess we'd better shop for one some evening during the week. We're more likely to be recognized and mobbed on the weekend when more people are out shopping." It was dawning on Shuichi that pet ownership was about to become part of the neverending media coverage of their relationship, with tabloids vying for the honor of being the first to feature a photograph of their new kitten and magazines running 'name Yushu's cat' contests. He added, "Tohma's reaction surprised me. He said that having an animal to take care of would be good for you."
"Maybe he was talking about you," Eiri retorted. Shuichi didn't say anything further, but it had been odd the way Tohma's eyes had lit up and how he had complimented Shuichi for being so open-hearted as to give a stray kitten a home. Shuichi wondered if Tohma was perhaps more interested in how his good deed could be turned into useful publicity for the band.
They bought a cat carrier the following night. The girl at the cash register recognized Shuichi and squealed at the news that he'd taken in a stray kitten, but promised to tell no one. Eiri smiled, but he didn't believe her.
When they went to bed that night, Momo curled up on the corner of the bed and studiously ignored what was going on. Shuichi didn't say anything or try to kick her out. Eiri was grateful that Shuichi was beginning to learn to live with a furry voyeur.
The morning of the appointment dawned. Eiri found it difficult to get out of bed, but after many annoying reminders from Shuichi and a quicker than usual breakfast and shower, he was ready more or less on time. He knew from experience how difficult it could be to catch and stuff a cat into a carrier, so the night before he had left the carrier and several large towels near the cat's bowls. After Momo finished eating, Eiri grabbed Shuichi and dragged him to the kitchen to help capture her. The cat was checking out the underside of the refrigerator, possibly to see if there were any mice - toy or real – hiding there.
"I'll grab the cat," Eiri whispered. "You hold the door to the carrier open and close it once she's inside."
"Okay," Shuichi said dubiously as Eiri picked up a towel. Eiri hoped Momo wasn't paying attention to what he was doing and if she was, that she hadn't yet figured out what the presence of a towel meant.
He walked toward the cat, grabbed her, and wrapped her in the towel. She howled and struggled.
"Put the carrier on the table," he told Shuichi. Eiri thrust Momo in the opening. Shuichi was in such a rush to close it that he nearly pinched Eiri's fingers. As it was, he caught the cat's tail and had to open the door slightly to tuck her tails in. Momo howled even louder.
"Damn it, you're not supposed to close the door on the cat," Eiri yelled. Shuichi looked at him, tearing up slightly, and Eiri remembered that he was supposed to be encouraging responsible pet ownership, not discouraging it.
He rubbed Shuichi's shoulder. "Forget it. You're learning. I know you didn't mean to hurt the cat."
Shuichi absorbed his apology – or at least as close to an apology as he was likely to receive - in silence, tears drying on his cheeks. He stood stone-faced long enough to make Eiri worry, then shrugged his shoulders and turned away to take a final sip of coffee and pick up his keys and backpack. When he turned around, he looked more or less normal (for him). "I'm ready," he said.
Eiri picked up the cat carrier. Momo had settled down, bored now that she had nothing left to fight anyone about.
Shuichi locked the apartment door behind them. "Get my car keys for me," Eiri muttered. With his hands full holding the carrier, he wasn't able to retrieve his keys. Besides, making Shuichi fish around in his pockets was a favorite source of amusement.
Shuichi patted and dug around in several likely and unlikely spots, pretending not to know where Eiri kept his keys, before fishing them out of Eiri's right-hand pants pocket. Eiri felt himself respond to Shuichi's touches, but the weight of the carrier and thinking about the cat helped focus his mind elsewhere.
Eiri slid into the driver's seat and started the car before he realized that Shuichi had sat down in the passenger's seat with the cat carrier on his lap rather than stowing it in the back seat where it would be out of the way and safer. "You should put that in the back seat," Eiri said, annoyed.
"But this way I'll be right here to keep her calm," Shuichi argued.
Eiri snorted. In his experience, not much short of a heavy duty tranquilizer kept a cat calm while in a moving vehicle. "She'll be safer in the back." And the further away from him she was, the less distracting her yowls would be, but he didn't want to tell Shuichi that. It didn't fit with the cat-loving image Shuichi had constructed.
Shuichi sat sullenly and made no move to do the sensible thing and put the cat in the back, and Eiri gave up, not wanting to make a stink about it. The sexual excitement Eiri had felt when Shuichi had explored his pockets had vanished entirely. It was just as well; driving through the congested Tokyo streets was tough enough without worrying about a hard-on as well as a scared and loudly mewing kitten.
Shuichi did his best to keep the cat calm, but it was a losing battle. The endless mewling was harder for Eiri to take because it was practically right in his ear. Shuichi pushed his fingers through the holes in the carrier and wiggled them so Momo could bat at them. Eiri figured that Shuichi's method of keeping the cat occupied would work only until the kitten's claws grazed the tip of Shuichi's finger, and then it would be Shuichi's turn to howl.
Since the finger play wasn't working, Shuichi began singing – lullabies, thankfully, not Bad Luck songs. That didn't seem to work any better. Eiri was therefore treated to a cat-and-Shuichi serenade. He had to concentrate even harder on the traffic and try to push back the incipient headache that he felt coming on.
When they arrived at the vet's, Eiri looked for a parking space after letting Shuichi out, holding the cat carrier. He was relieved to spot a small parking lot on one side of the building, saving him from having to circle the block looking for a place to park on the street.
By the time Eiri had parked, Shuichi and the cat were nowhere to be seen. He went inside and spotted Shuichi at the front desk. He hung back and listened to him speak to the receptionist.
"Is this your first visit here?"
"Yes, it is. This is the first pet I've owned," Shuichi said proudly.
"I'll note that on the chart so Dr. Hamada remembers to give you our new pet owner's packet. " She looked down at the chart. "Does the cat have a name?"
"Yes. It's Momo-chan."
She wrote it in. A Pekingese straining at its leash nearby let out a sharp bark. "Okay, you're all set. Please take a seat and you'll be called when the doctor's ready for you." She smiled at him.
Shuichi turned around and spotted Eiri. "There you are! I was wondering where you were."
They sat near the woman with the yippy Pekingese, who sniffed in Momo's direction. Shuichi held the carrier on his knees and cooed at the cat. She had quieted down once she was out of that nasty car.
"Momo?" a young woman in scrubs and holding a folder said. "Follow me," she added as Shuichi and Eiri got up.
Eiri let Shuichi lead. The woman led them to a small examination room with drawings of cats and dogs on the walls before shutting the door behind her.
"What do I do?" Shuichi asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Do I let her out of the carrier now, or wait?"
"Wait until the vet comes in. But you can put the carrier on the examining table. It'll make things easier."
"Okay." Shuichi set the carrier on the table and wiggled his fingers at the cat again.
Not long afterward, the vet came in. He was an older man with graying hair and a laidback demeanor. "So," he said jovially, "this is Momo."
The cat huddled in the back corner of the carrier and refused to come out. Shuichi tried to entice her out by waving his fingers at her, but she stayed put.
"Well, we can fix that," Dr. Hamada said. He started unscrewing the screws holding the carrier together, handing them to a nonplussed Eiri. Once he had removed all of them, he lifted the top half of the carrier off, placed it on the floor, and lifted the startled cat onto the table. "Stand next to her," he told Shuichi, "and make sure she doesn't jump off."
He examined the cat carefully and weighed her. "What a good cat!" he exclaimed. Somewhat to Eiri and Shuichi's surprise, other than wedging herself in her carrier and shrinking away, she was well-behaved. "This is her first exam, right?"
"As far as we know," Shuichi replied. "I found her in a bag on the street. Someone had left her there."
"Tch," the vet said. "It's terrible what some people do to get rid of unwanted pets." He lifted her tail and examined her carefully. "Well, the cat is female, as you suspected, and is probably nine weeks old. And she looks and acts healthy. So all I need to do is vaccinate her. You should also get her spayed when she's a little older."
"How old?" Shuichi asked.
"Oh, six months or so."
"You spay them that young?"
"We used to wait until they were a year old, but we discovered that it's safe to spay cats as young as six months old. That way, they're less likely to get pregnant in the meantime." He produced a needle and gave the cat an injection at the scruff of her neck.
"I have a question," Eiri said. "Her eyes seem to change color. Is that common?"
"Does it match changes in her mood?"
"It's not uncommon for cats' eye color to change that way. I'm not sure why, but it's useful as a signal that a cat is becoming more agitated. Just out of curiosity, how does her eye color change?"
"When she's calm, her eyes are green, but when she's agitated, they're yellow." All three of them looked to see what color her eyes were now. They were yellow.
"Well, I wish you and Momo the best," the vet said as he put her carrier back together. "Remember to bring her back in a few months to be spayed. We'll send you a reminder next year when it's time for her shots again." Dr. Hamada nodded and left the room. Eiri opened the door to the carrier and Momo scooted back in.
"Phew," Shuichi said on the way out, a packet of information for new pet owners under his arm. "I'm glad that's over with." Momo was meowing again, but the meows sounded happier. He bent over and spoke to her. "At least Yuki got your sex right, Momo-chan."
Eiri drove Shuichi to work and then headed home with the newest member of their family. Perhaps, he thought, after a year or so of making sure Shuichi took care of everything having to do with the cat by himself, he could give in and make her theirs officially. He already thought of her as belonging to both of them, but he wasn't ready to let Shuichi know that yet.
A/N: I have known, and been owned, by more than one cat with eyes that changed color based on mood. In the most infamous case, the cat's eyes were yellow or gold when she was calm and green when she was upset, but I thought that here it would be more fun if her eye color when she was upset matched Eiri's.