Author's Note - This is a sequel to my first story, Adieu to the Zoo. Please read that first or you'll be confused : )

Purrs & leopard kisses to everyone who reads/reviews.

*Internal Dialogue Guide*

Vince - italic (no speech marks) / The Brain Cell - italic (single speech marks)

Howard - normal (no speech marks) / Head Cell - normal (single speech marks)

Keeper

Howard Moon awakened with a light heart and without bothering to put on a robe, headed directly for the living room. There he would find, he hoped, the rare creature who with that dazzling smile, that wriggly nose, those deep blue orbs; made every day of Howard's life special.

'Forward today, aren't we?' teased Head Cell.

"I have to be sure. I can't lose him again."

'Should have kept him close then.'

"He isn't ready," Howard scolded. "And I gave Naboo my word. Bollo too."

'Those two aren't worthy of your word.'

"Boo's not so bad. He does help me sometimes. Bollo... well, the feeling's mutual, but we can live with each other. We have to."

Putting Bollo firmly from his mind, Howard grasped the door handle; then hesitated. His chest was exposed. Those questing fingers, inquisitive lips, the purring. Howard almost swooned. When Vince purred, it was far sweeter even than jazz.

'Howard... Howard... Howard...'

"Right. Stop stalling, Moon."

He went in.

The Noir lay on the couch, still deeply asleep – and purring. Howard stood over him, spellbound. He knew that one stroke of the head, one kiss of the nose, just one little tickle of the toes...

'How daring.'

"I am a gentleman, Sir. I am NOT tickling his toes."

'Pity.'

"At least not yet."

So...?

"Well, I..."

Pop. A mini monster appeared on the arm rest above Vince's feet. It had pink, bubbly skin, a moustache and a jaunty hat. It stared at Howard.

"Um... maybe I'll just let him sleep. No work after all."

Charlie continued to stare.

"I'll get dressed. Check the kitchen. Good plan."

Howard fled from the room.

o - o

"Hey, Noir."

Vince's purr changed to a growl.

"Now, don't be hasty," Tony urged.

Howard and I can sort ourselves out, thank you.

"No. I need You to help me."

Help you how?

"I'm trapped. Get me out."

No.

"Please."

Where?

"Below you. In a cupboard, I think."

I'm not sure I should. I'll ask Howard.

"But..."

GO away.

Unwilling to be punched again, Tony severed his link.

'You really should learn to block,' lectured Brain Cell.

I'm too curious.

'He's a rapist, remember?'

Yeah, but... I don't knowHe didn't

'get the chance.'

No. But if he knows somethingbut why wouldn't Boo have told me? I'm confused.

'You've better things to concern about.'

Vince returned his thoughts to Howard, wondering what he dared do on waking.

How can I not get carried away? He's so... so... manly. I'd kiss him all over if he let me. And I'd love to snuggle up in bed, but... even when we were infants, he never allowed me. He only had one teddy, Julian. He never had him in bed though. Julian was always at the foot. If I had a nightmare, Howard would lend Julian to me. That's the closest we ever got.

o - o

Howard carefully laid out all his clothes on the bed.

"I have the full spectrum of brown," he said proudly. "Not that Noir eyes ever appreciate the subtleties. Of course, if I wear an Hawaiian shirt, he claims they hurt, the little tit. There's no pleasing him."

'Ha.'

"Not that I'm Trying to."

'Course.'

"Hmmp. It was a lot easier when I could just pull on my Zooniverse jacket." He'd left both of them in the suitcase, but now he took them out and compared them fondly. "Vince always got into trouble for his violations of school uniform. He'd get sent home or put in detention. At the zoo though, nobody cared. Especially not Fossil. But who else would be insane enough to hire him?"

'Or indeed you.'

"Alright. I deserved that."

'Yes.'

Howard grumbled as he refolded the jackets and put them back in the case.

'So what Are you going to wear?'

He compared colours and textures before selecting a sky blue shirt, scattered with sunshine yellow. Then he pulled on beige trousers. After spending more time on hair and ablutions than strictly necessary; even borrowing Vince's mirror for a final check, Howard was ready to wake his kitten.

'Toes or nose?'

"We shall see, Sir."

In between Howard and the couch was a full grown bubble gum beast – just staring.

"Don't kill me," the maverick begged. "I've so much to give."

Charlie smiled, although it looked more like a snarl. He slithered forward.

"Howard."

"Yes, Sir?"

"Thank you."

Howard tried to stop trembling.

"You… want to…thank me? Why?"

"You saved Vince. You're good Keeper."

"Thanks, but I… he…"

"Loves you. It's eternal, Howard."

Howard turned bright pink and got the Chokes. Charlie launched a tendril of gum that wrapped around the Keeper's wrist.

"He may fly high, he may fly far, but when he falls… you, Howard, you…will be the man he needs. You."

Howard could not take this in.

"Me?"

Charlie released him and just looked.

"Me?"

"You Give far more than you know. So don't be afraid. He'll come back."

"Always?"

"Forever."