Feels like home

by laurel

Notes: part of the foursome series. Follows in order of appearance: A Christmas wish, a new love, that's what friends are for, Popsicle toes, twister, tangled up in blue, the list, the jazz singer, debut, meet the neighbors, war games, the art of seduction, summer's end, what are you doing new year's eve?, ruminations, in dreams, one martini, two martini, three martini, floor; the dinner party, fleeting moments, garage sale.

Written from Walter's POV. The cat was inspired by Amazon X's request for an Alex and green-eyed cat story. The fox and pig theory is from mystery writer Ed McBain's Matthew Hope series.

Archive: Okay to DitB, WWOMB, Full house slash, anyone else just ask first

There's something sinister about them. Their wildness shows in their glowing green or amber eyes and that slinking, silent way they have of moving.

That's why I'm a dog person.

The whole population can be divided into dog and cat people. Just like one of my favorite mystery writers pointed out that there are two kinds of faces in the world: fox and pig. I like those simple kinds of theories; nothing complicated and sinuous like Mulder's alien conspiracy. Though in the end he was vindicated.

I'd found out that Alex was feeding this feral stray that had invaded the neighborhood. He was very subtle about it too, waking after we'd all gone to sleep and sliding the glass door open to whistle to the cat, putting out plates of food and milk which he would whisk away the next morning when we weren't looking.

But I tracked his nocturnal wanderings one night and was puzzled by his activities. Naturally I'd assumed he was going out for a walk alone, after having trouble getting to sleep. He was plagued occasionally by nightmares and didn't like to take his sleeping pills or the pain killers he sometimes took for his arm very often.

He'd even named the damn thing. He called it Spooky. Mulder was going to love that.

I'd grown up on a farm, where the cats were there to keep the mouse population under control and the dogs served as companions or guards. We always had dogs and we gave them names. The cats weren't kept in high regard. Of course they were fed and neutered or spayed. We didn't want litters upon litters of unwanted, mewling kittens around.

The dogs had names like Roscoe, Buddy, Rex. The cats we didn't name at all. It's not like they'd come to us if we called, anyways.

Alex was rehearsing with the band when I told John and Fox about the new pet that Alex was keeping secret. John didn't much like the idea either. The black, slinky, tattered tomcat wasn't exactly cuddly. It hissed at everything and everyone it came in contact with. Excepting Alex, that is. Like me, John was a dog person. And it has nothing to do with his last name.

Fox was intrigued by Alex's attachment to the animal and went into a long explanation of ancient Egyptians' worship of the sharp-clawed kitty and then told us urban myths about breath-stealing cats and other weird stories.

I much less wanted to hear those kinds of horror stories than I wanted to acknowledge we had inherited a pet cat that would just as soon kill us in our sleep as stare at us with those brilliant emerald eyes it had in its skull.

We hadn't come to any conclusion except to confront Alex about his duplicity. I wasn't welcoming the confrontation. Alex didn't normally like to fight with us. Argue, yes; annoy and drive crazy, for sure; disagree, certainly; but not fight. He'd been driven to tears on more than one occasion by Fox's thoughtless words or my gruff attitude. But it had to be done.

Fall was well upon us. The leaves that were still on the trees were golden yellow and brilliant red but most of them littered our still green lawn and snuggled into the curb. How come the neighbors' leaves always ended up on our lawn? The question was rhetorical but wouldn't you know it, Fox launched into some kind of physics response in answer.

We had supper while the sun was still up. It got dark real early now that daylight savings time had ended. Alex and Fox loved it since they got an extra hour of sleep. Sleeping made me think of cat naps. Damn, I hoped that Spooky made himself scarce before Alex really took a liking to him.

We had leak and potato soup and ham sandwiches made with thick, crusty Italian bread. I used up the last of the salad dressing that Alex had mixed that week on the salad.

The amber light coming through the slats of the blinds was warming and welcomed. The sun catchers that Alex had painted and hung up in the window caught the sun so that the bubbles of paint glowed.

We left for the club after the apple pie, found a good table and ordered drinks. Fox stepped outside to call Dana and speak to Will. The kid was really starting to get around now and spoke mostly gibberish though some words were intelligible now. Fox was reduced to tears the first time he was called "dada". I myself had never been graced with children but John knew how Fox felt and they talked about kids for hours. It seemed that John's pain had eased a little with time and distance.

Alex and the band were greeted with cheers and applause. They were becoming well known to the regulars. They warmed up a few minutes and Alex adjusted the microphone and drank some of the herbal tea he liked to have on hand to lubricate his throat.

He briefly introduced himself and the band and they launched right into his signature tune. I found myself grinning like a lunatic at the enthusiastic reception to the quick paced song.

He sang quite a few older classics sung by famous crooners like Sinatra, Bennett and Como and modern songs that would join the legends of days gone by. In each set they included some eclectic numbers including some tunes the Cowboy Junkies had made theirs, including "misguided angel", which brought tears to my eyes and "sweet Jane", the always popular Joni Mitchell and some of Alex's favorites from Sarah Mclachlan.

They even included some jazzy re-arrangements of alternative rock songs. If Johnny Cash could remake "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, a palatable song (at least to my ears) and something so painful it hurt to listen to its heartbreaking lyrics, then it could definitely be re-tooled to suit the band.

After the break they played more contemporary tunes and ended with encores for "under my skin" and "fly me to the moon".

Alex came out of the lounge with a sweater over his button down shirt and I helped him with his coat. We said good-bye to the band and headed home.

John sat up front with me while Fox and Alex got in the back seat. Soon there were kissing sounds coming from back there. At the next red light I checked out the rear view mirror to watch them. My boys were kissing and nuzzling each other. Every time that Fox nuzzled into Alex's neck, Alex responded by showering him with kisses.

I turned the radio to a top forty station. They were playing the lost eighties, all that pop stuff I didn't much care for, so I dialed it to an easy listening station that was playing romantic love songs.

"Uh, there's something we need to talk about Alex," I started.

Fox pulled away and I saw the guilty look in his hooded eyes.

"Sure what is it?" He touched his lips. They were swollen with Fox's kisses. I saw him pick up Fox's hand and hold it. Alex is very affectionate and though he has a very healthy sexual appetite, he always enjoyed simply cuddling, kissing and holding hands, all those innocent pastimes.

"We, well, we know about your secret."

Alex's eyes widened. "Oh really?" His voice was neutral but had an edge to it and I found myself wondering if he was keeping other things from us.

"Yeah, at first we just thought you were having a lot of cravings for tuna fish, then I noticed you were getting up late at night after we'd all gone to bed and so I followed you outside and heard you calling for Spooky."

"You called it Spooky?" Fox asked.

I couldn't tell if he was amazed or pissed off.

"Oh, the cat. Right." He visibly relaxed. "It's just that the poor thing has been skulking around for weeks, scrounging for food and I put out just a little dish of food and some milk and then he was coming around all the time. He was skin and bones, so I couldn't very well just let him starve, now could I? Plus he was all chewed up from fights with other cats and probably dogs so I cleaned him up when he let me get near him."

That explained why the first aid kit was half empty.

"Why didn't you just tell us?" John asked.

"I don't know, I guess I figured he would go away after he'd had his fill, and then when I called to him, he would come right away like he knew his name."

We were all quiet.

"So it's okay that I keep him?"

"Alex, it's an alley cat," I protested. "He's wild."

"I've tamed him enough to get him to come near me. He's just not domesticated yet."

"Cats can never be domesticated. They will always retain a part of their wild heritage," Fox said. I glanced at him in the mirror. He was ruffling Alex's short hair. "Just like our Alex."

Alex grinned and gripped Fox's thigh, playfully trailing his hand up the inseam of his jeans.

"Say he does become docile enough to stay in the house, you will be in charge of taking care of him."

"That's right-food, water, litter box, the works. Is he litter trained?" John craned his neck back.

"He hasn't always been an alley cat. He's got a collar."

"Tag or something? Have you tried to reach its owner?" John asked.

"Hah, cats can't be owned," Fox jumped in.

"Not that kind of collar. It's a velvet one with this cheap little scratched locket on it. There's no identification or anything on it. Don't worry, guys. I will get all the supplies and food and I'll take him to the vet too."

"Well I guess that settles it. We now have a cat."

"You're not mad are you?"

"No sweetie I'm not mad. As long as he's litter trained and doesn't scratch up all the furniture or leave a ton of hair everywhere, it's okay," I reassured our little rat.

"I'll make sure of the litter training first. And I'll buy a scratching post and we've got a dust buster to vacuum up the hair."

"Now the only thing we need to worry about is Spooky jumping on our chests and sucking our breath out of our lungs," John joked.

I gave him a dirty look. Fox did not need any more encouragement.

As soon as we got home Alex went out back and whistled and called for Spooky. A black shape detached itself from the shadows surrounding the house.

Alex knelt down. "Come here kitty," he said in a sing-song voice and held out a plate of tuna.

The cat licked his chops, the pink tongue darting out, white teeth momentarily showing. He trotted towards the late dinner and after giving the food a quick sniffing inspection, began to eat.

Alex gave him a bowl of water then picked him up. The cat growled a little but allowed the touching.

I approached the cat after a few minutes of Alex petting him and with a slow hand began to rub his head until he relaxed.

"I think he feels like he's home now," Alex whispered. The cat nuzzled under his chin and purred louder.

Later tonight I was going to make our little rat make that same kind of noise.

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