A/N: This story is set within the Pranks universe, but given the odd format of it, it works fine as a standalone, and you don't have to read any other Pranks stories first for background.
This one is for all of the reviewers who have ever commented on Belle. It was specifically a review by paulac that I was reading some months ago when my muse suddenly offered this idea and locked onto it, but several people have mentioned liking the cat, so that could well have been just the last "I like Belle" thought in the accumulating pile that tipped the balance over for my muse.
See, folks, THAT is another reason to review. An author sometimes gets ideas, even whole other stories, from something a reviewer has said, even from what the reviewer thought was a plain, vanilla sentence without anything special about it. If you want your favorite authors to keep writing, reviewing them can quite literally assist to keep the stories rolling out. My muse is unpredictable, but things that definitely came up in reviews that she returned to sometimes several stories down the line have included the wish for Cuddy to enter therapy herself, wanting Wilson to get with somebody, and wondering if Mark Jensen would return in a more expanded story line at some point after his initial introduction at the infamous wedding reception where House first met Patrick Chandler. I cannot make suggestions to my muse, but she has shown on multiple occasions that she does remember things mentioned earlier and sometimes chooses to work with them. And this little bite came to me full blown WHILE I was first reading a review, in that same exact moment. Just because several people had said they liked Belle; nobody had actually suggested writing from her perspective, but it was the review that definitely gave me the idea. Never underestimate your power as a reviewer.
Enjoy this little one shot.
It's a very confused household at times.
Of course, they are people. Allowances must be made in dealing with them. Still, you would think some things should be easy, such as names, for instance. Apparently, they don't really know each other's true names and have several that they pick from at random. For example, he is called Greg, Dada, House, Dr. House, Shut Up, and Hell No. He even refers to himself in different ways. He'll be talking to her in one moment, then answer the phone in the next, and his name has suddenly changed. She goes by Lisa, Cuddy, Mama, Dr. Cuddy, Cuddles, Patty, and Selma. The girls I'm pretty sure are named Rachel and Abby, because those come up by far most often, but they, too, are called other things and even call each other different things at times. Marina (one of the rare people whose name everyone seems to know without question, even though Abby can't quite say it right yet) even gets confused and calls them things like Precious.
Another person who seems fairly firmly named is Wilson. On rare occasions, he will become Jimmy, James, or Doctor, but most of the time, he is Wilson. The woman with him is Sandra, and nobody ever calls her anything else. She's very organized; she and Marina have their acts together better than the others around here. Recently, she and Wilson picked up a human kitten somewhere, and they came over with stories of how they brought him home. Even his name isn't set, though. They probably call him Daniel most often, but there are plenty of other versions, and Marina even confused him with the girls once and called him Precious. I suppose they haven't decided on a final name yet. It seems like it's been long enough, and that should be a priority, I'd think. But again, in dealing with people, you have to cut them some slack. Other species simply are not up to feline standards.
Speaking of human kittens, it's utterly ridiculous. Like all kittens, I was scampering around and learning to play by six weeks. I heard Sandra and Wilson say the other day that Daniel was now two months old. They even sounded proud of that. The kid can't do anything. He just sleeps and messes and cries and eats and sleeps some more. He doesn't even try to walk, much less run. He has no idea what his legs are for. No concept of the litter box. I tried to show him how to play once, and not only was he oblivious, but Wilson got mad at me. Well, excuse me for trying to correct his deficiencies. Point taken; don't try to educate the poor, slow, behind kid when he visits. At least he's not around much. Maybe that's why they brought him home, because they felt sorry for him. Rachel and Abby are making progress incredibly slowly, too, although of course, since they live here, I take my role in their training more seriously. At least they are better than Daniel, by this point anyway. Abby was even worse than Daniel when they first found her and brought her home, and it's taken very hard work on my part to get her progressing, I can tell you.
I am Belle, and I insist on that, most of the time, anyway. He does call me Cat once in a while when he forgets my name, but since he tends to forget my name when his leg is hurting more than usual, I make allowances. But really, Cat? Show some imagination.
Greg (I'll call him Greg; it's that more often than any other name, at least) is my favorite, of course. The reason for that is perfectly logical to a cat. He likes me best of the household. Not that he actually comes out and says that, of course, but all the subliminal signals and the body language are unmistakable. He's just the kind who doesn't say what he likes a lot, but really, he shouldn't have to. People miss so much about each other by not opening their eyes and reading the body language.
For instance, nobody in the house except for me realizes exactly how much his leg is hurting at any given moment. It's always hurting significantly, but it's definitely worse at times. The other people, though, don't get it. Lisa tries, and she knows that his leg hurts, but I can tell that I'm several jumps ahead of her on measuring the current level. She has to work at it. The girls have been told to remember, and they try, too, but things fly right over them unless they are so blatant anyone would get it. Rachel especially is like a kitten who keeps getting into things and not really paying attention to her surroundings. If she had whiskers, her mother ought to trim them to teach her to be a little more attentive while exploring and not get lost in herself.
But back to Greg's leg, Lisa or once in a rare while somebody else will try sometimes to grab hold of it when it's hurting badly. This actually does make him feel better if done correctly. I learned that quickly, of course, and position myself just right for warmth and kneading. But I read his feedback perfectly, being a cat. They don't, and sometimes even in trying to make him feel better, they hit a spot wrong or use too much pressure. He tries not to react to this, and a lot of times they don't even realize. But I do. I've even tried to instruct them some, but I don't think the lessons were appreciated. If they would just start noticing things more, the lessons wouldn't even be needed.
I'll never forget the first time I saw Greg. I was about eight weeks old when my littermates, my mother, and I were caught and taken to the building of cages. There, people came in all the time to look at us. I am very beautiful, if I do say so myself, so naturally, they all noticed me. When I overheard one of them talking about taking me home, I realized what was going on, and from that point, I conducted my own interviews. I had as much right to a vote in who took me home as any of them did. Again, being a cat, I read people flawlessly, so the ones who weren't worth wasting time trying to train were quickly eliminated, as were the ones who brought along untrainable children. I am willing to put serious effort into my duties of educating humans, but some cases are simply hopeless from the start. I quickly learned that if I expressed my opinion firmly and unmistakably, making my point, so to speak, even the clueless humans would get the message, return me to the cage, and move on. Thus, in spite of my indisputible pulchritude, no one took me home for a few weeks.
Then they came one day. Lisa likes to think she's the one in charge and making decisions, and he likes to let her think that most of the time. So he held back while she bustled around from cage to cage wondering points like which cats would be patient with kids (depends on how trainable the kids are) and would we shed. What kind of a stupid question is that? Of course we shed. Honestly, people don't realize how much they shed. There's people hair laying around houses, too, just like cat hair. But it's harmless. Their own shedding doesn't bother them, so why should ours?
Greg was hanging back, leaning on his cane, although I knew immediately even without that obvious clue that his leg was hurting. He let Lisa shop around and compare kittens on her multipoint checklist, but the whole time, he was watching. He's like that. People will think he's not paying attention. Any cat would know otherwise. He was surveying each of us himself, and he didn't miss much. I took one look at him, and I thought, now here is a human with possibilities, somebody worth spending time and effort on. Some of the other kittens ran up to the doors or tried to show how they could play. I just stayed back a little, but I let him know that I was watching him, too, and that caught his attention. He finally limped over to my cage, opened it, and said, "Come here, Cat." I stayed put, letting him know my independence. He appreciated that and grabbed me himself, but gently. His hands have a gentle touch. Lisa finally finished her multipoint checklist and said, "Well, what do you think, Greg?" He told her, "Just go ahead and pick one. It's your choice. I'm staying out of this. Seen one kitten; you've seen them all." Of course, he said this while holding me and scratching my ears. What was she supposed to say? Even a human can pick up on a subliminal message that obvious.
So they took me home. They hadn't found Abby and brought her home yet, so it was just Rachel at first. I do clearly remember that it was Lisa who tied a ribbon around my neck and stuffed me in a box with holes, while Greg said that was demeaning. I appreciated him even more for that. Rachel got this odd idea that I was her kitten, as if anybody could own a cat anyway. But even though she's as bad as a whole litter herself - maybe she was a singleton? - she is trainable with diligent effort. So I settled into my duties as best as I could, teaching her how to play, teaching her how not to grab, staying out of the way when she was too much, and singing her to sleep for naps. Also, of course, trying to help Greg's leg and singing for him, too, when he's tired and worried. Then Abby came. She was much worse than Daniel at first, and I was disappointed, but I'm proud to say that after almost two years of effort, she is coming along nicely and in fact has more promise than Rachel, no doubt because she benefited from my instructions all along. Rachel already had some problems ingrained before I got here.
Greg once in a while stays out all night. Back when I was a young kitten, before I knew everything, I figured he was just out prowling. He is a tom, you know. My mother explained to me about them. But he never came back in seeming like he'd had himself a good time. I'm not sure exactly where he goes, but wherever, it often worries him. Not like Wilson. Now Wilson, I'm sure, goes out tomcatting. You can take one look at him and tell he's that type. Any cat would know. Greg says he has to go to work, but Lisa goes to work, too, Monday through Friday, on a regular schedule. It annoys her if it's not on a regular schedule, a point that I can appreciate as a cat. I've never understood why work is so different for him than for her.
Anyway, this particular day, Greg had been out all night. I knew this was Saturday, because Lisa didn't go to work, even though she got up as usual and exercised. She hadn't slept that well alone, either, although I did my best to sing to her. In fact, I wore myself out sleeping with her, so I went back to sleep on the piano bench cushion while she was exercising. I've never understood why she has to exercise in a specific place and time, either. If she'd take a few lessons from a cat, interspersing exercise throughout your day works fine and keeps you beautifully sleek and trim. No special designated effort is required.
Once the girls got up, sleep became much more difficult. Lisa was a little rattled, as she often is after Greg's been gone all night, but she did make breakfast while I explained to Rachel again about petting softly and not grabbing. Abby was glad to demonstrate. At breakfast, I went in with them, but other than Greg, they simply do not understand about dropping a bite now and then. Rachel drops one occasionally, but it's not intentional. He's perfect at it.
Lisa decided after breakfast that the girls needed a bath. This is yet another activity where things could be so much easier if they would accept feline instruction. No tub of water is required, and definitely splashing is not required. I am white, yet I manage to maintain myself flawlessly. A little effort and regular attention are all you need.
It was while Lisa was bathing Rachel that her cell phone rang. She jumped for it and said, "Greg?" and Rachel managed to escape. Rachel saw me in the doorway and started for me, and I decided it would be best to leave. Rachel alone is bad enough, but Rachel wet is even worse. I ran away to hide, which annoyed her, and she tried to find me until Lisa came to catch her. "Now, Rachel, you come back here. We need to finish up before your father gets home."
"Dada coming home?" Rachel is very distractible.
"Yes, he's coming home to see us for an hour or so and grab a bite to eat. You be nice to him. He's tired."
Rachel was taken back to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Abby had been walking around the living room. Abby's balance isn't that great yet, but she couldn't walk at all before all my work with her. She leaned over now and looked under the couch. "Belle!" she said, delighted to find me. The kid is observant. Rachel had galloped by several times without even noticing my location. Abby tried to climb under the couch herself, which of course didn't work, and I came out and let her pet me until Lisa suddenly realized she couldn't see her. Lisa worries about things. She thinks she needs to control the whole world. Abby heard her call and looked down at me, obviously debating about answering. I walked off, letting her know that she ought to answer right now, and she got the point. She answered her and was just starting for the bathroom when told to come there when the keys rattled in the door, and in came Greg.
Abby immediately turned around, of course. She ran up to him, and he picked her up and hugged her. He was very tired, and his leg was hurting more than usual.
"NO!" Rachel, freshly dressed, charged out of the bathroom. "I get there first."
Greg gave her a smile. "You didn't get there first this time. Abby was closer, so she got here first." He set Abby down and picked up Rachel. "Good morning."
Rachel looked down at her sister. "I can run fast, Dada. Like you."
"Yes, I know. But you didn't make it first this time. That's okay." He finally got Rachel put down, and Lisa took her turn greeting him.
"How's the case going, Greg?"
"No change. Not dying in the next few hours, at least."
She started for the kitchen. "I'll make you something. Maybe you'll have time for a nap."
"I took a nap last night. Several of them, in fact. I just wanted to see my girls." He limped to the couch, and Rachel and Abby piled on after him.
I jumped up and tried to position myself in the right part of his leg, but it was difficult with the girls in his lap, too. Rachel even gave me a push. "MY turn, Belle." She didn't realize what I was trying to do. I lashed my tail a few times.
Abby leaned against Greg from his other side. "Piano, Dada?"
He sighed. "Not right now, Abby. Maybe later." He was too tired for it.
Rachel put in her own suggestion. "You watch me run?"
He grinned. "Maybe in a little while. Let's eat first."
"Already ate," Rachel said. The kid just doesn't get it sometimes. She moved a little. I was progressively wedging myself into appropriate position, moving her over. Greg gave me a scratch behind the ears. He knew, at least. For a human, he's as perceptive as they come.
"So what have my girls been doing today?" he asked. Rachel launched into a splash-by-splash description of the bath. Abby listened quietly, just snuggled up to him, and I managed with difficulty to finally get myself on the currently worst part of his leg and began to knead.
Rachel was just winding down as Lisa came out with a tray holding eggs and bacon. My nose twitched. Even aware of my important duties at the moment with his leg, I couldn't help it. "Okay, girls, you need to move off while he eats breakfast." Rachel and Abby reluctantly moved away. I stayed put, at least until Lisa unceremoniously picked me up and put me in the floor. "I said move, Belle."
I stalked off, tail upright, letting her know her offense, although the message probably wouldn't stick for long. I stayed gone a token two minutes until drawn back by the memory of the bacon. All of them were on the couch now, the girls in Lisa's lap, Greg slowly eating. I made a sneak approach under the ruffle to emerge just behind his right ankle, and he promptly dropped a small piece of bacon a few seconds later. I caught it in midair.
"Don't feed the cat," Lisa protested. What kind of a household rule is that? If nobody fed the cat, I'd starve. Well, I guess I could go mousing, but first, there aren't many mice in here, although I dispatched one once. But more than that, my important duties in training the girls and looking after Greg, plus resting up from those exertions, don't leave me that much spare time.
"She deserves a bite, too," Greg replied, dropping another. I purred my approval of this entirely reasonable statement.
Lisa shook her head and changed the subject. "Did you happen to run into Wilson last night?"
"No, he'd already gone home. Something new going on?"
"Sandra called last night for a chat, and she said that Daniel is growing."
"Well, of course he's growing. He's a kid. What do they expect?" Greg didn't really mean to dismiss it, though. I could tell from his undertones that he thought this was a great accomplishment himself. Again, I contrasted to my own kittenhood. He's growing? Wow, there's something to be proud of. Good grief.
Greg finished his plate and put it down on the floor, and I got in three good licks before Lisa picked it up firmly and departed for the kitchen. Rachel and Abby climbed back over onto him. "Take your meds, Greg," Lisa called.
He looked at his full lap. Just then, I jumped back up into it and pushed my way in. "Moving would be hard right now," he announced. "There are a few small obstacles in the way. Belle, I don't really think there's room for you."
That, of course, wasn't the right answer and only meant I had to make room. I burrowed between the girls, always heading for the right leg. There was a little air pocket there; they did try to remember to be careful with him. Greg grinned. "You don't care if there's not room for you, do you? You'll just find a way to wedge in anyway." He tensed up suddenly, his head jerking up. "Find a way to wedge in anyway . . . Belle, you're a genius!"
Well of course I am. I was glad to know he realized that, though. I finally achieved my perfect spot over his thigh, but he immediately shifted, disrupting the girls and me, fishing out his cell phone. He made a call full of long words that he sounded quite excited about being able to pronounce, and he had just finished it when Lisa returned to the living room with a glass of water. "Take your meds," she insisted. "Got it solved?"
He shifted left and right, fishing in his pockets, and I moved aside, tail lashing, as did the girls (only without tails). I would have had to use claws to stay with him during that maneuver. Helping him feel better would be so much easier at times if he would just hold still. He pulled out the bottles, something he does often, and got his pills. "Yes," he replied. "Belle solved my case for me."
Lisa rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. Glad it's over, though. You ought to take a nap for a few hours."
"We could go to the park," he suggested, but he was drooping. He gets like that sometimes. All the air suddenly goes out of him as the tiredness and pain hit him.
Rachel, of course, was all over that line. "Go to the park!" she approved.
"No," Lisa insisted. "Not now, anyway. Maybe this afternoon. You need to sleep a little first, Greg." That led to some protest both from him and the girls, but Lisa usually gets her way when she puts her foot down. No subtlety, but she does have determination. Greg did finally wind up in the bedroom, and she closed the door firmly, telling everybody to leave him alone until noon.
That didn't apply to me, of course. Once all the interference was gone, I jumped up onto the bed and positioned myself just right. He gave a drowsy sigh and reached down with a hand to scratch my ears. "Good cat," he said.
I turned up the volume for a few seconds to give him a slightly louder purr in response, although it really seemed like an obvious point to me. He quickly fell asleep to my singing, and I closed my own eyes. I had had a very tiring morning. Rest and recuperation were required.
Yes, it is a confused household. But on the whole, I think I'll keep this family.