Sekai ichi "Cat"sukoi

Chapter Thirty-Six: Flash


In the back of Sato's pet shop a pair of large tufted black ears peeked out from beneath a cheerful blanket decorated with multi-colored flamingos. These same ears twitched with irritation before their owner was even fully conscious.

Yokozawa was roused by the noise of someone coming into the back of the shop. Whoever the hell it was seemed to be making far more of a racket than was necessary. The big black neko growled low in his throat. He scrunched his eyes and pulled his sheltering blanket tighter.

He'd been awakened briefly earlier, when Sato had come to prepare the rest of her wards for their day out in the shop. Yokozawa was grateful when she didn't ask for his assistance with the chore, now that Kiku was gone. After pulling his pillow over his head to drown out all the cheerful chirping of Sato's new kittens as he waited to be forced back out on display himself, Yokozawa had fallen back into his troubled slumber.

"Yokozawa-chan…"

Hearing Sato's soft call, under his blanket, Yokozawa frowned. His tail was now fully awake and switched with displeasure at being summoned. Yokozawa bit back a groan at how it ached: this appendage always felt his hangovers much more acutely than his head ever did.

At the familiar discomfort, he remembered the bottle of whiskey he'd gotten from Kiku. Yokozawa's eyes began to sting.

Takano rejected me outright… Permanently… He left me here to rot and adopted that fucking Onodera.

Recalling the reason for his liquored binge, the sudden pain in Yokozawa's chest made that of his tormented tail pale in comparison. However, whether it was the alcohol or the fact his life had seemed to end in that instant, the big neko could recollect little else of the previous evening.

"Yokozawa-chan…"

Sato called again from the door of the noir neko's run. Getting no response she turned looked up at Kirishima who was standing beside her. The shopkeeper had actually tried to wake Yokozawa earlier to help with the morning's prep. However, even though she had the control to his shock collar with her, the deep growling groan her petition had elicited had caused her to retreat.

She smiled nervously at Kirishima.

"Ah, Kirishima-san, perhaps you might want to come back and gather your new neko a bit later." Sato dropped her already hushed voice down to a whisper. "I think after last night Taka-chan is very likely feeling unwell and apt to be rather unruly."

Kirishima looked from Sato to the ridiculous flamingoed blanket at the back. The colorful birds seemed to be dancing as the fabric shifted with the petulant undulations of Yokozawa's tail.

"If you don't mind, Sato-san, I'd like to take him now if I could."

Kirishima didn't think it would do his new neko any good to sit around in a kennel all day brooding over his broken heart… hangover or not. "I plan for Yokozawa to work with me. And I think that a productive distraction from his discomfort right now might do him more benefit than harm."

Recalling the timbre of the big neko's earlier growl, Sato shifted uncomfortably. Ever-perceptive, Kirishima knew that for some reason the prospect of approaching the Yokozawa hybrid this morning unnerved her.

"I know that you must be very busy, Sato-san; it being the weekend, and so close to Christmas." Kirishima gave Sato a warm smile. "If it would help, I'd be happy to get him up and ready to go myself."

"Oh, no, Kirishima-san…" Sato was tempted by the offer, but it didn't seem propitious to have a customer ready his own pet.

"Actually, I would be most obliged… You see, Sato-san, I think Yokozawa and I had a bit of a rough start last night and I think I'd like to introduce myself to my new pet properly."

Sato's eyes widened at the tone of the editor's voice. When she glanced from the large lump at the end of the run back to Kirishima, he winked at her. With this, Sato thought she understood his intentions completely: she knew all too well, how many owners "introduced" themselves to their new hybrid pets.

While she didn't usually allow for such antics to take place under her roof, she ran a respectable pet shop, not some "breeding" brothel after all; she thought she might make an exception in this case.

She'd speculated for months that the Yokozawa needed a good mounting. Perhaps it would settle the black neko down and improve his mood. Even if it didn't, Kirishima-san struck her as the kind of man who could handle himself. And with the Yokozawa's disposition, it would be best for the big neko to understand who held the position of dominance in the household he was going to.

"Alright, Kirishima-san," Sato agreed at last. "I'll be out front if you need me."

She readied herself to head back into the shop, but then suddenly paused. She reached into her smock pocket and withdrew the remote for Yokozawa's shock collar. Sato turned back and offered it to Kirishima with both hands.

"You might want to take this."

Kirishima set his bag down and hooked the hanger that held the suit he'd brought with him onto the mesh of Yokozawa's run before he stepped forward. He nodded and thanked her as he took the remote. However, as soon as the shopkeeper left, he eyed the little black box Sato had placed in his palm. Shaking his head, with a troubled sigh, Kirishima stuck the device in his pocket.

Beneath his blanket Yokozawa was trying to muster enough resolve to get up. As far as he could ascertain, however, there was really no reason to: his existence had become pointless.

"What the Fuck?"

Despite his intention to continue skulking under the covers, Yokozawa sat up suddenly when the blanket was pulled back and his eyes were assaulted by the fluorescent lights overhead.

The neko grabbed his head in his hands, as the quick shift in position sent his head spinning. His hangover-sensitive eyes squeezed shut as another brighter flash of light sent dark spots floating across his vision.

"God damn it…"

Yokozawa squinted and lifted his head slowly at the low chuckle coming from above him. Peering up, as his vision cleared he was startled not to see Sato, but instead a tall and incredibly handsome man. The guy was holding a cell phone and the light had been the flash from the phone's camera.

"You look surprisingly cute when you're hung-over."

The man extended his cell and Yokozawa found he was looking at himself on the phone's small screen. He was sitting, still-dressed in one of Sato's work aprons, the girly, flamingoed blanket draped over his bare legs.

Gray eyes shifted from the appalling picture to the man standing before him. Yokozawa took in the fellow's wavy chestnut hair and bright eyes. He was usually very good with faces, particularly ones as striking as this. Yes, the guy definitely looked familiar.

"Come on, Yokozawa. The day is wasting."

Dark ears flattened at both the familiar use of his name and the chipper tone of the man's voice. Then Yokozawa realized he knew who he was: the fellow was an editor at Marukawa for one of the house's premier manga-ka's.

Still this didn't explain what the man was doing here, or why he had taken it upon himself to waken him so rudely. Yokozawa was too mortified to be seen by a former colleague (as much as a neko could consider a human such) to spend much time pondering this. Instead, to cover his embarrassment, he immediately switched into an aggressive tone.

"What the hell are you doing? Are you some kind of weirdo, taking pictures like that?"

Rather than get angry man just smiled. "So, you don't remember me?" Kirishima clucked his tongue in pretend despair, though actually he was secretly pleased: if Yokozawa really didn't recall, this would give them a new start of sorts.

Taken aback by the response Yokozawa's aching tail curled uncertainly.

Kirishima's smile became slightly lopsided; even so, this didn't make him look any less charming. Yokozawa noted this and it pissed him off.

"I don't believe we were ever formally introduced at Marukawa. I'm Kirishima Zen… or more to the point, perhaps, I'm your new… uh… " Kirishima struggled to find a word softer than "owner."

"Family, I suppose, might be the best term."

"What?" Yokozawa had dropped his hands, but raised them again to press the throbbing that suddenly pummeled his temples. He wondered how in the hell this crazy guy had gotten past Sato-san and into the back of the shop.

"I adopted you last night. You don't remember that either?"

Seeing the stunned look in Yokozawa's eyes Kirishima chuckled lightly. "Though I suppose I can see how you might have forgotten; you were a bit 'affected' at the time."

Yokozawa's hangover-taxed mind struggled to process this information. He searched his memory, but once again came up blank much past the point of Kiku giving him the bottle of whiskey he'd bribed her to obtain for him.

"Why… Why in the world would you adopt me?"

The big neko was completely flummoxed. Yokozawa considered himself nearly impossible to place on his best day, let alone when he was under the influence of alcohol.

"Well, while you're cute when you're waking up, hung-over… Inebriated, aproned, and surly is even more adorable."

Kirishima flipped through the images on his phone. Yokozawa's poor eyes were soon accosted with another picture of himself. In this one he was wearing the same apron he currently sported and was angrily shying away from the camera.

"I have others of you I took after you passed out, but I think I'll save those to show to you later. Right now, we need to get you cleaned up. We're already getting behind schedule."

Yokozawa felt his stomach twist uncomfortably. Some of it, he was sure, was the after effects of the whiskey, but more than that, he was uneasy with the notion that he was now suddenly owned. By a man who had, no doubt, taken pictures far more embarrassing than the ones he'd just been shown.

This thought filled Yokozawa with dread. His black tail rattled tensely and he gritted his teeth again the pain.

"What exactly are we off schedule for… Sir?"

The "sir" was added for propriety, in case this Kirishima was indeed really his new owner. Yokozawa knew he should have probably addressed the editor as "master," but he couldn't bring himself to say it.

"Just call me Kirishima for now." Kirishima's face never lost its pleased grin. "And we're late for work. I imagine Henmi can't wait for you to get back. I hear that the sales department has been struggling in your absence."

Kirishima fought hard to keep from beaming at how Yokozawa's gray eyes popped at his words.

Yokozawa stared at the man before him in disbelief. Outside of Takano and Takano's cat, Sorata, work was the only other thing he'd really ever cared about. Despite the stress of it, he had loved being employed at Marukawa. The traveling life of a salesman allowed him to satisfy his wandering tom urges and though Henmi-san had been his supervisor, he had more or less been allowed to manage the department.

Though his heart was pounding with the prospect, Yokozawa quickly narrowed his eyes and his tufted ears flattened. He regarded Kirishima suspiciously. It was too good to be true… Yokozawa still couldn't fathom that Kirishima would adopt him, especially after seeing him drunk… but then to further say that he would be allowed to work at his old job…

There has to be a terrible catch here, somewhere.

Yokozawa had lived too long in his quiet despair to believe in such a stroke of luck, particularly for himself .

Seeing the neko's expression, Kirishima's own face shifted to a softer look. "You didn't exactly strike me as house pet material, Yokozawa. So, I called Henmi last night after I adopted you and spoke with him. You have your old job back, unless…"

Kirishima gestured to Yokozawa's apron. "Perhaps, you'd rather keep working here for Sato-san. She seems short-staffed and I have to say, you do look really cute in the uniform."

Despite still feeling slightly ill from his previous night's binge, Yokozawa rose from his futon. Though he still couldn't understand why Kirishima would want him, if he could go back to at least part of his old life…

He wanted to show his new owner he was capable. While he was still distressed with the shift in his fate, Yokozawa had no desire to linger in the pet store longer than he had to. Nor did he want Kirishima to come to his senses and change his mind.

Yokozawa scowled down at his apron.

"Excellent!" Kirishima smiled. "Marukawa it is!"

Yokozawa's eyes followed the editor as Kirishima stepped to the end of the run. He watched the man dig in his bag and pull out a bottle of analgesic and a bottle of water. His brow rose in surprise to see Kirishima also unhook a suit of clothes from the mesh and bring this back with him as well.

Kirishima handed the aspirin and the water to his stunned neko. "Take these and get some fluid in you. We might be able to grab something on the way for you for breakfast, if we have time." He held the suit out. Yokozawa recognized it as his own: one of the few he'd brought with him when he'd been transferred to Sato's from the pound.

"I came by earlier and got this from Sato-san. The dry cleaner next door was kind enough to do a rush for me."

Yokozawa took the proffered things from Kirishima. After quickly gulping down the analgesic with a fair amount of water he reached for the suit. His eyes moved over it wonderingly and his chest felt tight. He had not realized until this moment how deep his sorrow had been, knowing that if he was ever adopted by someone other than Takano, he would most likely never work again, or if he did, the chance it would be in sales would be remote.

After gently laying down the suit on his rumpled futon, Yokozawa turned back to Kirishima and bowed low.

"Thank you, Kirishima-san, for the clean suit… and for a-adopting me. I am in your debt now." As much as he tried to sound grateful, the noir neko couldn't keep his tone free from the deep agitation he felt. Yokozawa had always been averse to being beholding. Not that he'd had any say in this particular matter.

Kirishima was troubled by this response, and by the submissive flatness of Yokozawa's ears. He'd thought having the suit cleaned and pressed would please his new companion, not elicit a reaction like this. He tried to shift the mood with a tease.

"Well, I suppose I'm glad you feel that way." The editor retrieved his phone again. "Otherwise I was going to have to blackmail you with my pictures to keep you tied to me."

It perplexed Yokozawa that his new master would resort to extortion when there were much simpler ways to control him immediately accessible. One of his hands unconsciously drifted up and lightly touched the shock collar around his neck.

Seeing this motion and noting the questioning crook of his new neko's tail Kirishima glanced away. It was even more evident to him now that Yokozawa had a lot of healing to do.

"Ah, well, as for the suit; it's nothing really…and anyway, we don't want you smelling of 'pet store' your first day back at the office."

Yokozawa straightened and scowled at this comment. Sato ran a very clean shop, and he'd always found the notion that hybrids had a stronger odor than pure humans offensive.

"I suppose I best clean up then. Wouldn't want to trouble any delicate human noses."

It was obvious to Kirishima that his words had irritated his new neko.

So touchy…

But he much preferred to see Yokozawa annoyed than sorrowful.

So cute…

A new frown formed on Yokozawa's face. He expected once again to be reprimanded for his insubordinate tone. Kirishima's reactions to his dark nature left him feeling confused and more than a little annoyed.

So weird.

Regardless of how irritating his new owner was, Yokozawa was anxious to get back to work, so he began to ready himself for his cleanup.

Kirishima felt his sly eyes grow wide when Yokozawa, without another word, untied the apron and slipped it off over his wild, dark head and a moment later the tank-tee beneath followed. Without looking at his new owner, Yokozawa bent and peeled out of his shorts as well: modesty was not a quality nurtured in nekos.

Besides, while the hybrid couldn't know what Kirishima's intentions were, he knew how things generally worked in pet/owner relationships and he would rather bare himself of his own volition now, than to have to strip down later at the man's order.

The usually playful editor had grown suddenly sober: while Kirishima had long found the sales neko intriguing, having Yokozawa so completely revealed before him was still a revelation.

The big hybrid had a wonderfully lean build, though it was perhaps a little sharper than it should have been. Yokozawa's long limbs were wonderfully muscled. All his pacing since his captivity had kept his calves and thighs tight. A daily regime of kennel exercises had done the same for his arms.

In keeping with his breed standards, Yokozawa also had a wonderful, thick triangle of black hair on his chest. Two points rested, one each, just over dark nipples. The third point fell in the center of his chest, between and just below his tight pectorals. Like an arrow, the dark patch of soft fur beckoned Kirishima's eyes downward.

So beautiful…

Additional fur traced a line, wisping down the middle of Yokozawa's otherwise smooth torso until it came to another lush patch at his groin. And nestled there...

So glorious…

Kirishima found himself wondering again, for the thousandth time since he'd found out Yokozawa's status, why in the hell Takano had never made a formal claim on such a magnificent creature?

Looking up, Yokozawa caught Kirishima's admiring expression and it immediately unnerved him. He felt his tail fluff in defense.

What the hell? You'd think the guy's never seen a naked neko before.

Acting far less disturbed than he felt, Yokozawa stepped away and picked up his bath kit. The noir neko was acutely aware that his new owner's warm eyes followed his every move.

So Annoying…

As he moved past Kirishima and headed towards the door to the shop's showers, Yokozawa noted that the editor's gaze never wavered. Just before he stepped out of the run, he turned and glared back.

"Why don't you just take another one of your damn pictures? It would last you longer!"

Yokozawa's eyes widened when a bright flash popped in response to his snarled reproach.

"Excellent idea! Don't mind if I do!" Kirishima met the flash-stunned, blinking gray gaze with a an equally blinding smiling.

Though his cheeks lightly flushed, Yokozawa said nothing in response. Instead he turned away with a snort of disgust and stomped off to the showers.

Kirishima chuckled when he heard his neko mutter the word "idiot," under his breath. The editor couldn't tell if Yokozawa was addressing him or himself. His mind didn't bother trying to find out, as it was immediately distracted by the image on his cell's screen: Yokozawa, naked, from the back. Head turned over his shoulder, the growl still visible on his handsome face.

More arresting than this, however, was the strip of black skin that coursed down Yokozawa's spine from his nape to the base of his tail. Crossing this, horizontally, were other black stripes of a similar width that extended out about four inches on either side, spaced at regular intervals from the top of the hybrid's shoulders down to just above his hips.

Hmmmm… I guess I'll have to check with Hiyori when I get home and find out from little miss cat encyclopedia if Yokozawas are descended from tigers.

Kirishima looked up after pressing save on his phone. He felt a new smile form on his lips as Yokozawa disappeared from his sight and into the shower room with an agitated swish of his fanned tail.

"It would certainly make sense," he murmured to no one in particular.

So fierce. Delightfully so.


I know it has been ages since I last updated. When I will update again, I cannot say.

Next chapter will involve almost all of the characters and take place largely at Marukawa, so get ready for all sort s of neko goodness.

Thank you for reading.

Also, I have recently opened a tumblr account under daniel-lazerus. All my stories from Don't Preach, Cerberus Revised, and Daniel Lazerus will eventually be posted there as a back up, in case FF does another purge. Please check me out there. It's actually a nice format and there are very few author's notes, so it's a pretty clean read. Hope to see some of you there.