Jim woke to find a hand-sized patch of warmth nestled between his shoulder blades, light as a sunbeam. Fur and purr, pads and paws --
"Sandburg," he hissed, trying not to make too much noise. "Get this thing off me."
The kitten had been resident in the loft for a week, or, as Jim liked to put it, seven days too long. Its green eyes had stared coolly, appraisingly at Jim on the first night, even as it shivered artistically in the cupped palms of a besotted Blair, a waif-like scrap of dusty black, soaked with rain and bleeding from one ear.
Game on, sucker, the stare had said. Say goodbye to being the most important person in his life and hello to second place. Oh, and by the way? Small is cute, so tell that panther lurking behind you to stop swishing his tail, unless he really wants to send the message that he's a great big pussy.
Jim had steadfastly ignored the kitten after that, taking no part in choosing its litter tray, food bowls, cushion, brush -- God, how could one kitten need so much? He hadn't fed it, petted it, spoken to it, or acknowledged its existence, apart from one brief, savage encounter fought behind Blair's back at the breakfast table when the demon spawn had leaped up high, snagged the last piece of bacon from Jim's plate -- from his plate -- and made off with it.
And now it was on him. Touching his bare skin. He shivered and the kitten stretched and rolled, thistledown fur stroking lightly over Jim's back. He could feel every hair, bright with life, silky soft. How could something so fierce -- Jim had retrieved his bacon at the cost of a deep set of gouged scratches across his hand -- feel so damn sensual?
The kitten rolled onto its stomach, stood, and began to walk around on Jim's back, small paddy paws pressing in light and firm, a feline version of a massage.
Unwillingly, grudgingly, Jim allowed himself to enjoy the sensation, his second call to Blair a muted whisper, the whimper of pleasure that followed much louder.
Down his spine, balanced perfectly, round in a circle at the small of Jim's back where the sheet was bunched, and back up to Jim's shoulders again…the kitten paraded solemnly, a soldier on guard, and then settled down to go to sleep.
Jim suffered that for a while, beguiled by the purr, three times the size of the kitten, a reverberating rasp, and then began to feel restless. His back was sweaty, he needed to take a leak, and -- oh. Oh, this wasn't good.
He tried everything to prevent it, but some physical reactions are unstoppable. With his face crunched up and his eyes watering, he buried his nose in the pillow, but the explosive sneeze, triggered by floating fur, was spectacular.
Claws, needle-sharp, sank into Jim's flesh and the kitten went from purring somnolence to a whirlwind in the space of a shocked, outraged second.
Jim screamed and bucked up, trying to shake the kitten free, the claws raked skin as the kitten scrabbled for purchase on his squirming body, and Blair -- finally -- came running up the stairs, just in time to capture the kitten as it swarmed up his leg and into his waiting arms.
"Jim," Blair said reproachfully and the kitten cried out plaintively. "What did you do to him?"
"My back," Jim said in a pitiful whisper. "My back."
A painful interlude with antiseptic ointment dabbed on bleeding skin followed. Jim enjoyed being cosseted, but the baleful stare of the sulking kitten distracted him. It hadn't appreciated being scolded by Blair, even though the rebuke (Oh, you're a bad kitty, aren't you? Ess oo are. A bad, naughty kitty to scratch Uncle Jim that way. Aww, look, Jim, he's washing his ears; how cute is that?) had been delivered in an indulgent purr Blair saved for the kitten.
"We still haven't named him," Blair said thoughtfully.
Jim had tried. Apparently, 'Sonofabitch' and 'Damned Cat' weren't suitable.
The kitten met Jim's eyes and began to lick its bottom just because it could.
"Show off," Jim muttered.
"No," Blair said firmly. "Let's go with Fluffy."
Fluffy? For the first time in a week, Jim laughed. It was a hollow, bitter, ironic laugh, but Blair, oblivious, beamed, scooped Fluffy up and dropped him down onto Jim's lap. Horror kept Jim completely still. His lap. With only a thin sheet between claws and some of his favorite body parts. Was Blair insane?
"I knew you'd like him once you got to know him," Blair said.
Jim glanced down. Somehow, he'd started to stroke the round head, his fingers finding places to skritch gently. Fluffy was purring forgivingly, sheathed paws kneading his leg.
He stopped and a half-closed green eye gave him a piercing stare, only closing fully when Jim went back to stroking.
Sucker, Jim heard, but it was said with a certain affection. Blood had been shed, propitiation was in progress; all was right with the world.
I like dogs best, Jim thought back rebelliously. Dogs. Woof, woof.
Fluffy dug his claws in reproachfully and Jim sighed. At least he didn't have to walk the damn thing.
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