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Title: Rule of the Jungle, Chapter 1 (Part 1) (Nanowrimo story 2008)
Author: Layla V
Pairing: Brian/Justin
Fandom: Queer as Folk US
Time-line: Post-513 future
Summary: Justin thinks he knows Brian. But there are some things which can still surprise him to no end.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just love them very very much


"Rule of the Jungle, Chapter 1 (Part 1)"



Feline Intervention


Present time

It wasn't enough that Justin wasn't around to give Brian his morning blowjob when he woke up because the all-knowing agent had demanded he be in New York for most of the week, and which meant that Brian now had to go without the patent Justin Taylor blowjobs and rimjobs and handjobs and their more than memorable fucks for four fucking days—because no anonymous mouth or ass could be the substitute for that.

It wasn't even enough that Brian had to drink coffee that tasted like shit because someone had forgotten to do grocery shopping last week and now Brian was out of that special blend which the gourmet food store on Trenton specifically exported from Brazil and which Brian had gotten addicted to over the last six months since Justin had started frequenting it, and as a result, he was going to have to wait until tonight when he would replenish his supplies—himself.

Nope, none of that was enough. Because if someone had thought that was the whole of it, they'd have been dead wrong. It was just the beginning. And it was all Justin's fault.

He clicked on speed-dial as he backed up the ugly ass, totally unwieldy, and embarrassingly purple SUV –who drove purple SUVs?—and then sighed when he got the voicemail. "You know this wouldn't be such a hassle--" He scowled into the phone. "--if you'd fucking take care of your stupid car yourself instead of leaving everything to me." He paused a second and then huffed. "And the fact that you had the gall to take the Bentley to New York while leaving this ugly piece of shit at home is grounds enough to file for divorce." He gritted his teeth. "The ‘vette's leaking oil and I have no time to call the mechanic because I'm running late for a meeting, and it's all because of you. Call me back, twerp." And he snapped the phone closed.

There, he felt better already.

But it didn't change the fact that he was driving to Kinnetik in an ugly ass, purple SUV. He gripped the steering wheel hard and told himself to not think about it. It was just a stupid car, a means of transportation, and apparently Justin loved it because it provided him with ample space to move around his huge canvases between the gallery and the House. So, yeah, Brian ought not to feel so uncharitable towards the piece of junk vehicle. It was a fucking Japanese car. It couldn't help being so ugly.

As he crossed the interstate and entered the city limits, he noticed the Starbucks on Bennett and for a second mentally debated stopping for a low fat latte. Then he looked at the time on the digital clock on the radio and decided he'd rather send the new copy boy to grab one from across the street from Kinnetik. He had a strategy meeting at ten.

His mind on the upcoming Steirenberg campaign, the scenery a blur outside the window, he was at Liberty Avenue and turning into his street soon enough. He drove through the gates at the garage Kinnetik rented down the road, and as he swung into the row that led to his designated corner, something skirted from between the rows and jumped in front of the SUV – and he pressed the brake pedal hard as the SUV screeched to a halt.

"What the fuck!" Brian stared through the windscreen, his heart thudding in his chest. For a few seconds, he stayed unmoving, then he turned the key in the ignition and switched off the engine. He opened the car door and stepped out, his eyes darting across to see what exactly it was that had stepped in front of the car. He walked in front, then looked between the row of the cars parked. There was nothing there.

Shrugging his shoulders, he started for the door again when he saw movement in the periphery of his vision and before he could put his foot down, he saw something jump from between the rows and come scurrying towards him. It was merely a split second between the moment he felt the thing brush against his legs, and the recognition of what the thing was hitting him, as he stomped down on the yelp that threatened to come out of his mouth – and would've embarrassed him even in the solitude of the quiet garage.

"FUCK ME!" He stared in disbelief at quickly disappearing backside of the large white cat that ran between two cars and then turned around to peek at him from behind the tires.

"Meow."

"What the hell are you doing here?" He asked the cat and then heaved in a big sigh. Why the fuck was he talking to an animal? He watched the cat watching him suspiciously for a few second before darting back in the shadows and disappearing. He threw up his hands. All right. It was just a cat. As long as it didn't jump in front of the car again, he was not going to worry about it.

He moved towards the door again and reached for the handle when there was a sound of scurrying feet behind him and he turned back just in time to see the white cat entangling itself with a large black counterpart as a loud, screechy catfight ensued right in the middle of the cemented path.

He watched disbelievingly at the snarling, screaming, yelping cats as his ears picked up the sounds of other feline denizens voicing their dissent at the feud from all corners of the garage. He looked around and picked out little furry shapes scampering between cars everywhere. Big cats. Small cats. Black cats. White cats.

What the hell was going on here? It seemed the place was packed with animals. And when did it happen? When he left on Friday, everything was quiet and normal. Only now it seemed the world had either shifted on its axis or he'd made a turn into an alternate universe where the Kinnetik garage had turned into Zoo Central over the weekend. Okay, it was only cats but it definitely seemed like two, three, maybe even four different cat families were occupying the space. And frankly, he didn't think a parking garage was the safest place for small animals. What if they started hopping in front of moving vehicles? No, no way. This was no on at all.

He jumped back into the car and turned the key into the ignition. Then he pressed his hand on the horn and kept it down until he got the cats' attention and then with his foot over the brake, he crept forward inch by inch, blasting the horn alternately, until the cats had cleared the path and he could safely turn into his parking space.

He was positively in a snit by the time he walked into Kinnetik and as soon as he stepped into his office, he asked Cynthia to send Ted in.

Who seemed far too cheerful for Brian's liking for a Monday morning.

Ted smiled at him as he waltzed inside his office. "What's up, Bri?"

He stared at Ted stonily as he sat down. "Theodore, did you know there's a fucking wild life infestation on our premises?"

"Wild life infes..." Ted looked confused as he stammered. "What wild.... Brian what are you talking about?"

"Did you happen to take a look into the garage this morning? It's turned into a fucking zoo overnight." Brian sneered at his friend. "I want you to call the animal controls gentlemen to take care of the situation right fucking now or you're fired."

Ted stared at him. "What, those little kittens and their mom?" The stare turned into a smile as he slowly chuckled. "They're adorable, Brian!"

"There's not just one cat mom involved." Brian pressed his lips together. "It's a whole fucking community living down there."

"But they're still adorable."

"They won't be so fucking adorable after they've been flattened by one of the company cars because they've been scampering around all over the fucking place." He huffed. "Not to mention Justin will blow a gasket if I got any blood on his newly conditioned tires, even though it would be fine payback for the fact that I've been forced to drive that piece of shit car here this morning."

Ted looked horrified. "Christ, Brian. Don't kill any cats, okay? They're innocent, they haven't done anything wrong." His eyes round with fear, he implored Brian beseechingly. "I know you hate Justin's car but that's not the animals fault. So please don't drive over any little kittens, all right?"

Jesus. Now they thought he was a monster who killed little furry critters. And he was the one who'd taken so much trouble today at making sure he didn't run over any stupid screeching, fighting felines.

Ted was still looking at him closely. "Why are you driving Justin's car today anyways, what's wrong with your car?"

At the reminder of his predicament this morning, Brian felt the mutinous anger return. He straightened in his seat and stared Ted down even though the other man was standing in front of him. "Nothing."

"Are you sure?" Ted asked. "I know the ‘vette has been giving you trouble for a while now but that's what old cars do. I can call your mechanic."

What the fuck? The insults kept coming and coming. Brian pressed his teeth together until he felt them clanging together. "I can call my mechanic. You call the animal control."

Ted probably noticed the murderous look in his eyes because he slowly backed away from the desk. "Right. Sure. I'll call them right away!"

"Good!" Brian nodded once, his voice even. "And before you leave. The ‘vette is not an old car. It's a classic car. Thought you'd know something about classics, Theodore, considering how you pride yourself on being such a connoisseur of classical music."

"Of course, Brian." Ted nodded rapidly as he moved towards the door, his eyes wary of Brian as if he was afraid he was going to jump from behind the desk any moment. "You're right as always. It's a classic car." He gave him a small smile, his eyes twinkling, and then he blurted out. "Classically old."

"GET OUT!" Brian snarled.

But Ted was already gone, the door closing behind him, the sound of his chuckles fading with his departure.

Damn. When did he stop being intimidating to Theodore Schmidt? And Jesus. As if he'd intentionally kill an animal. Did they really think he was such a scrooge?

He picked up the phone and called the mechanic's shop to tell them about the oil problem with the ‘vette and they assured him they'll pick up the car within the hour. He checked his email – there were none from Justin but then he hadn't really expected any, they'd spoken at length on the phone last night – and answered a few urgent ones before Cynthia called him in for the meeting.

They spent an hour going over the strategy for the Steirenberg campaign, which was a medium sized cosmetics company out of Albany looking for a marketing makeover. Willow Schwarzberger, the young new assistant art director he'd hired three months ago to oversee the small to medium-sized accounts had some good ideas and he went through the boards her team had created and by the time the meeting ended, he was feeling better about the day's prospects.

That changed, when less than an hour later, Amanda, his new assistant appointed by Cynthia, called to inform him of his first appointment's arrival.

Brockman Meathouse. The CEO was a burly, middle-aged man named Wilbanks T. Brockman, a horse-racing fanatic from Philadelphia who'd inherited his grandfather's meat processing business thirty years ago. The man was such a dedicated gambler, not to mention a complete pain in the ass, that Brian knew the meeting discussion would equally encompass brainstorming on the latest ad concepts the Kinnetik team had developed for their new processed meat products, as it would Wilbank's routine blatherings about which horse he thought would win the Kentucky Oaks event in February. Brian had no fucking interest in horse-racing, but for a three million profit, he'd gladly put on his happy face and talk about horses for as long as the client wanted.

And he almost did. The meeting went on for forty-five minutes longer than the hour he'd allotted for it, and by the time he got rid of Wilbanks, and grilled his creative team for the mistakes they hadn't made which had caused the fat ass to be too fucking happy to stay longer than he should've, Brian had a throbbing headache pounding in his temples.

When the phone rang, he had just gotten rid of Ted who had been waiting all morning with a stack of forms for him to sign. "Kinney!" he said gruffly, his head spinning as he sank into his chair.

"First off, we're not married so you can't divorce me. Second, why the hell is it my fault that the ‘vette is leaking oil and you didn't notice it until this morning when you tried to take it out of the garage?"

He could hear the smile in Justin's voice. And that made him smile, the ache behind his temples easing instantly. "Because, how the hell am I supposed to notice things in my car when I'm busy taking your car for repairs three times a fucking month."

"Christ," Justin exclaimed. "I just asked you once, just once, to take it for getting the brakes adjusted and you make it sound like it's such a fucking big deal."

"I think you're forgetting the one time when I had to get out of my meeting with Leo Brown when you called to tell me the front fender had gotten loose," Brian snorted, "because you'd smashed the car into a garbage can."

"I didn't smash the car, some lunatic threw the garbage can out in the fucking street right in front of me at the last moment." Justin sounded exasperated, just as he had when he'd called him three months ago. "How was I supposed to get out of the way at the last moment?"

Brian laughed. "Of course, it's a mystery why these things only seem to happen to you. Remember that time you called to tell me that you were stranded in the middle of nowhere when the car had stalled because you forgot to get the oil changed."

"You make it sound like it gives you trouble all the time."

He could almost hear the pout in Justin's voice and that made him smile harder. He leaned back in the seat, getting comfortable. "It wouldn't give me any trouble at all if you would take care of your crappy car yourself."

"It's not a crappy car." Justin sounded irate. "IT IS THE CAR. It's a great car and I love it to death, so I will not listen to you verbally abusing it for no reason."

Brian chuckled. "Yeah. That's why you took the Bentley to New York with you, isn't it? Because you love your car so much. So you left this piece of crap for me to drive around?"

"It's not a piece of crap," Justin insisted. "It's hip and stylish and you obviously are too ignorant to realize its ultimate beauty."

"Sunshine, you wouldn't know hip and stylish if it came and bit you on your very fine ass." Brian grinned. "Admit it. Your car is one ugly piece of junk."

Justin harrumphed. "You mean as opposed to the ancient relic you drive that belongs in a museum."

Brian shot up in the seat. "WHAT?"

"Nothing." He heard the hearty chuckle at the other end. "A joke, Brian. It was a joke."

"It's not funny," he growled. "And it was not a joke." Two insults in one day was not acceptable.

"Well, I thought it was hilarious, but I take it back." Justin sounded gleeful. "Now don't grumble."

Brian huffed. "I do not grumble."

"Please!" Justin's voice was teasing but soothing at the same time. "You have grumbling down to a fucking art form."

He shook his head and then let a small smile creep into his voice. "Well, who would know art better than Justin fucking Warhol."

"Ha ha. Very funny," Justin said. "Well since you do have the bigger car with you today, would you please, please, please get my three canvases from the gallery on your way back home tonight? I told Larry you'll pick it up during the week and the gallery will be closed on Friday for renovations when I come back."

He scowled at his computer screen as he answered, "Fuck you. I'm not your chauffer. Ask someone else to do your bidding."

"Brian."

"No, Justin, I am drowning in storyboards for Intrepid Designs and Brockman's fucking Meathouse up to my fucking eyeballs---"

"Brian."

"---I won't have time to go anywhere else other than the lunch meeting I have with the Intrepid CEO and---"

"Please."

"----! Argh. Christ." Why did he do that? Why did he use that tone with him? Fuck. He knew why. Because Brian couldn't fucking refuse him anything when he used that tone of voice. "Fine, but I'm not going there myself. I'll send someone to pick up the paintings and bring them to Kinnetik," Brian grounded. "God, you're infuriating."

"Yeah, I know." Justin chuckled. "I love you too. See you on Friday. Bye."

"Bye." Shaking his head, Brian put the phone down and leaned back in his seat.

For a quiet few minutes, he allowed the little buzz he always got after he got off the phone with Justin to infuse his senses. Damn, it was going to be a long four days until he got back on Friday. Ever since Justin had relocated back to Pittsburgh, it had become harder and harder to separate from him, even if it was for short business trips every now and then. After being away from him for so long, having him back in his bed and in his life on a permanent basis was enticingly addictive. Brian missed his smell, his taste, his voice, his touch every minute of the day he was away from him. He knew it was ridiculously lesbianic but he couldn't help feeling this way. And he knew he was totally fucked because he didn't even mind the fact that Justin was very well aware of his embarrassingly sentimental leanings.

The quiet lasted until Cynthia came in to remind him of the lunch meeting with Intrepid's CEO and that she'd booked a table for two at the Benihana Japanese Steakhouse. He asked her to call a cab for him as well since there was no fucking way he was going to go meet a client in that purple monstrosity.

As he walked out of Kinnetk to get into the cab, he found the sky surprisingly overcast, the dark clouds having seemingly sprung out of nowhere, hiding the sun behind their thick, smoky shroud. By the time, he reached the restaurant, it was beginning to drizzle. And when Shane McDermott walked into the sushi bar and headed for his table, the man had his umbrella out and it was already dripping. The lunch meeting went on till late afternoon and by the time it ended, it was pouring cats and dogs. The two men shook hands on their exchanged ideas on the graphic design company's marketing campaign and Brian promised to call McDermott the next day with the timeline for the proposed mockups and storyboards.

When the client had left, Brian called another cab and told Cynthia, he was going home and told her to give everyone else an off as well. The thunderstorm had come out in full force and he preferred to be on his way home early rather than get stuck in traffic in the middle of freezing rain. Justin's paintings could wait another day.


***


As he stepped out of the cab in front of Tolstoy's Art Gallery on 57th, Justin looked up at the darkening skies and felt a frown form on his forehead. The weather forecast had been for sunshine all week so it sucked that it seemed like a freak rainstorm was on its way. Oh well, having lived in the City for so long, he was perfectly aware of the fact that neither rain nor snow would keep New Yorkers from going about their everyday tasks so it was unlikely his already set up meetings with the contacts were going to suffer due to the bad weather.

Thunder rolled in the skies above but Justin had already seen Thomas Flanagan waving at him from inside the glass doors, so he paid no heed to its call. He had his mind on the job he'd come here for.

Besides, it was far too early for him to have a clue yet.


***


The heavy rain continued through the evening and the night, and well through a big chunk of the next morning, until it slowed to a trickle at about noon – thus, allowing Brian to call up the art department and order them to show up for work if they hadn't already, as they had work to do. He was beginning to think he'd have to sign up for the cab service on a permanent basis at this rate, since the rain had sadly hampered the corvette's timely return and Justin's ugly car was still in the office garage.

Once everyone had shown up, they gathered up in the board room and worked up the preliminary timeline for Intrepid's campaign. Once that was through, Brian made the call to McDermott to bring him up to date and attended to the other matters at his disposal. He fielded three phone calls from Michael asking him out for drinks night out at Babylon on Wednesday, a tofu special dinner at the Stepford's neighborhood on Saturday and a meet up at Woody's later than night to whine about his new ex-cashier stealing inventory from the store–without committing to any of them due to his workload. He further managed to evade one family dinner invitation from Deb for the twenty-eighth of the month because he and Justin already had plans to go to Chicago on a business-cum-pleasure trip on the same day, and half-heartedly listened to her accusatory complaints about abandoning the family and taking Justin along for the evil ride. He answered Gus's email about his school trip to a water theme park last week with a phone call which went on for half an hour he was more than happy to spare.

Then he called Justin to ask how his meetings with the galleries had gone and ended up having sizzling hot phone sex at four o'clock in the afternoon and that was another half hour very happily spent. Before hanging up, he extracted a confirmation from Justin that yes, he was still coming back on Friday and that they'd re-enact their over-the-phone adventures in the purely physical at that point. The talk with Justin also reminded him about the paintings that had been delivered the previous day and were now sitting in the board room, so he asked the copy boy to put them in the SUV so that they wouldn't be forgotten.

After that, he got so busy going through all the files Ted had left on his desk and the overseas calls he had to make that it wasn't until he heard thunder rolling outside his window that the realization hit that it was after seven and the office was nearly empty. And the rain had come back once again.

He slipped on the raincoat, grabbed his laptop case and the umbrella and after bidding farewell to the security guards, made for the garage. The rain was coming down in torrents and the water was freezing cold and he barely managed not to slip as he got to the car and inside.

He drove slowly out into the street and although the traffic was light due to the storm, the visibility was for shit for the same reason and for a moment he considered stopping by the loft to wait out the rain. Then he remembered Justin's paintings on the backseat and knew he couldn't afford to leave them out in the SUV for the night as the humid, wet weather would screw up the paint even through the wrappings.

So on he drove towards the House, the wind-shield wiper his one true friend besides the bright front beams, as the rain came down in cascades and the storm thundered overhead. He must have been more than halfway between Pittsburgh and Murrysville when he heard it.

The tinny sound of a small animal crying.

For a moment, what he was hearing simply didn't register to his senses. It must be the sound of the rain, he thought. The thunder was playing tricks with his ears, he decided. He drove another kilometer, content in his denial, but when the sound came again, this time louder and more persistent, he stopped the SUV at the side of the road, turned on the small light on the car ceiling and turned back in his seat to look for the source of the sound.

For a second, there was nothing. And then Brian heard it again. A pathetic little mewl coming from behind the wrapped up paintings lying on the backseat, rising in alarm and then subsiding.

"What the hell!" he said to the paintings.

"Meow meow meow," came the answer.

Brian swore under his breath. There was no way. No fucking way! Almost cautiously, he reached for the paintings and slowly lifted them up off the seat and there he saw the culprit. A tiny, wet, scraggly little kitten hunched between the extra foam wrappings lying on the floor, shivering with the cold as it looked up at him with round, fearful eyes.

"Well, I'll be fucking damned," he said. And then took out his cell phone and pressed number 4 on speed dial. He was surprised when he got connected on the first try, considering the horrible weather. The call was answered on the third ring.

"Hello?"

"Theodore, I thought you said you called the SPCA."

There was a pause on the line and then Ted answered through static, his voice vary. "The SPCA? But I... I did, Brian. They came and took care of the problem yesterday."

He stared at the tiny white kitten – was that little black patches on its body, or was that mud? – and pressed his lips together. "You think so?"

"Yes. Why? Are there more of them around?" Ted asked. "I can make another call though I'm not sure if they'd come in this weather. Which reminds me, what are you still doing at the office? It's almost nine."

The sound of sneezing made Brian look up in surprise and he stared at the pathetic little creature sniffling in the cold in disbelief. Damn. He couldn't believe he had a kitten on his hands; a kitten with a cold. An actual cold.

"Brian?"

"Hmm?" He realized he hadn't answered Ted. "No, I'm on my way home now."

"Then why did you say that..."

"Nothing." Suddenly he wanted Ted to get off the phone and go do whatever the hell he was doing on this cold, rainy night. "I've got to go now."

"But Bri, are there more cats around?" Ted asked, his voice rising in alarm. "You didn't kill any, did you?" Jesus Christ! "Do you want me to call the SPCA now?"

"No, forget it," he dismissed him abruptly, feeling a little annoyed at the pointless insinuations. "It's nothing."

"Well, if you're sure."

"Yes, I am," he said. "Good night, Theodore."

The call over, he stared at the tiny kitten for a few more seconds and then carefully put the paintings down and turned around on his seat. He released the brake, pressed his foot on the gas and didn't let up until he was roaring through the rain as fast as he could with the current visibility. He tried not to pay attention to the mewling coming from the backseat as he drove through the rain and by the time he turned into his drive twenty minutes later, he could almost tell himself the he had completely forgotten about the cat.

Almost.

But as he parked the SUV into the garage, got out and turned the lights on, he was suddenly very much aware of the fact that he had brought home a kitten – even if it was by accident – from the garage at work and he was stuck with it for at least the night.

He opened the right side sliding door of the car and lifted the paintings again—once more exposing the small animal as it tried to tunnel in between the fallen wrappings, attempting to hide from him.

"All right, what have we got here." He reached for the little thing and the cat mewled as his hand reached out for it and he felt it try to twist out of his grip. He ignored its cries as his fingers closed around its small body. Jesus. It was so tiny. He carefully gripped it in his hand and pulled it out of the wrappings. And it was fucking dripping, he stared at the kitten in dismay. And Christ. Were those fucking ants clinging to the poor thing? "What the fuck are you doing here?" he asked the pathetic little creature mewling in misery. No wonder it had been crying. It wasn't just scared, it was hurting.

"How did you get in here in the first place, huh?" He kept his voice soft so as not to scare the animal unnecessarily as he reached over the backseat and into the cargobay opening where Justin kept his painting supplies. There, he found a piece of cloth that was probably meant as an emergency paint-wipe but would do as an emergency kitten-wrap for tonight. "Did you get in when they were putting the paintings inside? That's what happened, hmm? That's when you sneaked in." He folded the cloth carefully around the kitten, and then holding it against his chest, got up, grabbed his laptop and went inside the house through the garage door. He flipped on lights in the lobby and the lounge as he went to the kitchen and put his little bundle down on the marble top.

Then keeping his eye on his unexpected intruder, he went through the kitchen supplies drawers until his eyes went to the small kitchen tweezers. This was it. This was what he needed to help this little fella. He grabbed them, closed the drawer and then turned to take stock of the situation. He could see the kitten was antsy and curious of its situation, already trying to shrug out of the wrappings as it looked about its surroundings, with that curious twinkle you only see in feline eyes. He removed the cloth wrap completely, then holding the kitten with one hand, turned on the overhead lights, and bent down to work.

"All right, no need to be scared now," he said soothingly as he carefully picked at the ants clinging to the kitten's body with the tweezers. The animal mewled pityingly and he shushed it as he rubbed its head to restrain it from wiggling. Poor little thing. Caught in the middle of a rainstorm and attacked by these bad ass ants. "Don't be scared, okay? I won't hurt you," he said. "Where is your mommy, huh? Did the SPCA take her away? And left you behind?"

The whole task was done in a few minutes and then he grabbed some paper napkins from the shelf, wet them in warm water and tried to clean the kitten as best as he could. Until he was interrupted by another sneeze followed by a nasty little cough. And a miserable mewl of distress.

"Oh no. Still have the cold, huh?" he stared at the kitten, as his finger unconsciously stroked the soft white fur. "I'm sure that's nothing a little hot milk won't cure."

He took out a small bowl from the cabinet, poured some of Justin's full fat milk from the carton in the fridge into it – no need to inflict his low fat version on the animal – and warmed it in the microwave. Then he put the milk bowl in front of the kitten, and watched as it stared at him for a moment before going for a trial. Its little pink tongue came out tasting and soon it was lapping away happily, its sneezes forgotten for the moment.

As Brian watched the kitten feeding, his mind wracked over the dilemma of what he was going to do with it. He was obviously stuck with it for the night. He was sure there was a veterinary clinic close by where he could drop the cat on his way to work tomorrow. They would take care of the situation. They had to. Because there was no way he was going to be responsible for a pathetic little kitten. For more than one night, that is. Animals were absolutely not his thing. Not anymore. He hadn't wanted a cat since he was thirteen or fourteen when Jack and Joanie's razor sharp parenting skills had wiped out any childhood fantasies he may have had of keeping pets in the house. And it was for the best, really. Pets were messy.

Look at this one, for instance. Already spilling milk all over the counter and then looking up at him with its pathetic little face, trying to act so innocent, like it had never done anything bad in its short life—with its big, round black eyes and that pink little nose and the tiny flat ears. Ugh. Brian felt disgusted with himself. Why was he noticing all these things? He hated animals. Or at least he was supposed to because they were so messy and he just happened to like things neat and tidy and in order.

On the other hand, he also had no clue where Ted and the others got the idea that he was some cat murderer or something. Did he really act like such a nasty piece of work that they thought he would go on a cat-killing rampage at the first sign of little cats in his vicinity? Jesus. Some people had the tendency to over-dramatize every last fucking thing. Thank goodness Justin knew him better. Justin would never think of him that way. Nope, never. Brian was absolutely positive of it.

He was taken out of his thoughts when the kitten bumped against his hand and he saw that it had finished the milk. Lapped up every last drop of it from the bowl. And was it now playing with his hand? Really? Getting chummy really fast, wasn't it? Give a scraggly little kitten an inch and it thought it had carte blanche to test the sharpness of its tiny canines on your fingers. Well, at least it wasn't sneezing after every ten seconds anymore. He turned off the overhead lights, picked up the kitten and held it against his chest, waiting for it to sink its tiny claws into his shirt for support, and then went upstairs.

He realized the kitten needed room to sleep for the night. He had half the mind to lock it in the bathroom at the end of the corridor but then he saw its pathetic little countenance and decided against it. No point in leaving it to cry in a locked room all night. Instead, he went to his bedroom and dug out of a large shoe box out of the closet and lined it with one of Justin's ratty old t-shirts. He hated that shirt and he was sure Justin wouldn't mind giving up such an ugly piece of clothing for a sweet little stray kitten that he was sure to fall in love with. Not that he was going to meet the kitten. Because Brian had every intention of making sure it was out of the house by the morning. But still, it was the thought that counted.

Putting the cat inside the shoe box and strictly instructing it to stay put, he went through his evening chores of showering and changing clothes and hurrying down for a quick bite. When he came back, he found the cat out of the shoe box and playing with the shoes instead, but at least it was staying inside the room. So he grabbed his laptop and settled down to finish sending some emails he had left before. While he was doing that, it suddenly occurred to him that he didn't have a litter box. What if the kitten... had the urge to... to go to the bathroom? Damn. Why hadn't he thought of that before? He didn't want little kitten poops on his carpet.

He was up and hurrying downstairs within seconds, a sort of plan forming in his head. He grabbed a large plastic tray from the pantry, then went to the sunroom where Justin practiced his amateur gardening skills when he was in the mood and emptied a spare pot which had yet to be planted with seeds into the tray. Voila. He now had an instant litter box for the cat. This had the potential to be messy but it would work for the night. It wasn't like the kitten was going to stay for more than that. He brought the tray, now filled with soil, up to his bedroom and laid it on the bathroom floor—leaving the door open.

He turned to the kitten. "Do you see this?" he asked it.

The kitten, which by now had moved from the shoes to his socks, stopped playing for a moment and looked up at him questioningly.

"This is your litter box," Brian said. "For the night."

The kitten watched him in confusion. So he picked it up and brought it to the litter tray and sat it atop the soil. The kitten only looked flabbergasted.

He pointed to the soil. "You will use this if you want to take a piss or shit, all right?" he told the cat.

"Meow?" came the answer.

With an impatient sigh, Brian grabbed one tiny white paw between his fingers and made digging motions into the soil with it. "Like this," he insisted. "You will dig like this. Then you'll do your thing and then cover it like all civilized cats do, okay?"

The kitten sneezed.

Brian swore and sat back on his haunches. This was pointless. He left the kitten to its devices and watched it happily return to the sock, the litter box already forgotten. He had done all he could. He could now only hope that when the time came, the kitten's natural instincts will take over and it will do what it was supposed to do. In the right place. Without any spillage.

He washed his hands, turned down the lights, and went back to the emails.

He had work to do. He'll worry about the kitten in the morning.


***


The rain stopped sometime in the night.

But in one beautiful country manor in the suburbs of a small town in western Pennsylvania, the two occupants of the large house – both human and animal – were unaware of when that happened.

For one, the warm cozy corner of the room provided a safe haven after the wet, soggy ant-ridden ordeal of the last two days. For the other, it had been a long and busy day at work and the comfort of one's own bed was a genuine respite despite their public claims to the contrary.

Both dreamed of warm, comforting embraces in their own separate ways.

As the night turned chilly, the warmth of the bedroom kept them both comfortable, cozy, and sated.

After all, it was home. For both of them.


***


Brian woke up to the sound of purring in his left ear. For a few moments, he felt disoriented. Was he dreaming? What was that sound? Then his eyes popped open and he saw the small white face right next to his, round button eyes staring into his inquisitively.

He blinked at the kitten. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"Meow."

"Right." He sighed. "I told you, you could stay."

He got up and went to the bathroom but before anything else he checked the makeshift litter tray and was relieved to see that it had indeed been used. He looked back at the kitten who had followed him to the bathroom door and was now looking up at him expectantly, and bent down to pat it on its head in thanks. The kitten purred appreciatively.

As he was getting dressed, the phone rang. It was the mechanic telling him he was dropping off the corvette as the oil leak had been fixed. The day was turning out to be better than Brian had expected. He didn't have to suffer through Justin's ugly ass SUV for one more day. And the cat hadn't made a mess of things.

May be he'd feed it some of those cookies Justin stacked in the top cabinet in the kitchen because it had been such a nice little kitten. Yep, cookies soaked in milk. It might make for a nice kitty treat.


***


"What do you mean you don't have a place for a sick little kitten?" Brian stared at the girl standing at the counter of the vet clinic in consternation.

"We are really sorry, Sir, but we are absolutely full right now," the girl explained. "We can't accept any additional animals at the moment on a permanent basis."

He felt hope rise. "You mean you can accept them temporarily?"

"For a day at most," she said. "But you can't leave the cat until you have other arrangements for it to be taken care of permanently."

He looked at her in frustration. "So what am I supposed to do with it?"

"Maybe you can take it to the animal shelter on Mason's," she offered. "They might be able to help you."

Animal shelter. Sounded like a plan. "Fine," he said. "But at least give this little fella some medicine. It's been sneezing and coughing all night."

The girl looked at the kitten appraisingly. "Yeah, it's the weather. It seems to have been exposed to the elements. We can give you some medicine for it to give every four hours until the cold is cured."

He interrupted her. "I'm not taking care of it. That's why I brought it to you."

The girl looked at him and heaved in a long suffering sigh. "Right. Well, I could give him a shot for a quick measure."

"A shot?" A shot would hurt, wouldn't it? The cat was so tiny. A shot for such a tiny little thing? "Is that really necessary?"

"It's just an antibiotic." She shrugged. "It'll be quicker acting than the drops we would've given you but since you don't have time---"

"Give it the first dose of the drops." Brian stared at her. "I'll... I'll take them to the animal shelter tonight, and they can give it the rest."

The girl looked dubious. "Sir, I don't really think the animal shelter people will be willing to do that."

Brian said shortly, "Just do it."

The girl sniffed. "As you wish."

But he wasn't done yet. "And I want you to do something else for me," he said. "I want you to keep this kitten for the day. I have to go to work right now but I will come pick it up in the evening."

The girl frowned. "Sir, I am not sure if I can---"

"I'll pay you." Brian took out his wallet and unfolded several ten and twenty-dollar bills and handed them to her without counting. "And here's my card, it has my cell number on it. If I'm not here by seven tonight, you have my permission to bug me until I show up."

She stared at the money in her hands, then looked up at him. Then slowly, the wariness faded from her eyes. She shrugged. "Okay."


***


"Ah, the big boss finally chooses to grace us with his presence," Ted greeted him as he walked in the Kinnetik door, way past ten o' clock.

Brian went on the offensive right off the bat, which was the best way to keep Theodore Schmidt from sniffing into his business unnecessarily. "Where is the Henderson contract?"

Ted looked at him warily. "On your desk, Bri."

"And the changes I wanted you to make?" Brian stared him down.

Ted offered a slow smile. "Already incorporated and flagged for your easy perusal. I've already got all the changes confirmed from Henderson." In fact he looked a little too pleased with his work. "All it needs now is your seal of approval."

"Good." Brian breezed through his office door. "Your level of efficiency is increasing day by day, Theodore. Keep it up."

"High praise from the grand master," he heard Cynthia offer from her office.

Brian put his laptop case down and opened it. He had too many calls to make. Remson had called to tell him he wanted to meet up to discuss the promotion strategy for a new drug they were releasing next quarter and that he'd be in town next week. Brian turned on his computer, then picked up the phone to call his assistant to clear his schedule for next Tuesday. When he was interrupted.

"Oh Bri."

He looked up to see Ted had followed him into his office.

"What?"

Ted looked at him carefully. "About that call last night? I didn't find any cats in the garage this morning."

Brian stared at him a moment, and then shrugged. "And you won't."

"Then why did you call?" Ted looked perplexed.

"I just wanted to make sure you'd done your job." Brian sneered at him. "After all, if I won't do it, who'll keep a check on your screw ups?"

Ted laughed. "Well, in that case I must say I'm glad there were no screw ups about the SPCA thing."

Brian looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and then he smiled. "Me too."


***


"Can you fucking believe it snowed here in New York last night?"

Talking over the speakerphone, Justin sounded truly exasperated. And for good reason. It was fucking October. It wasn't supposed to snow in New York in October. "No kidding," Brian said as he clicked through the listings he'd found on an animal care website for shelters in Pittsburgh. He already had the address for the place in Murrysville but he wanted to make sure he had other options if that one didn't work out.

"Seriously," Justin went on. "I lived in New York for five fucking years and this was a freak snow storm if I've ever seen one in my life"

"Sounds freaky all right." There was one in Allentown. A couple in Bloomfield. One in Sheraden, but that was a bit out of the way for him. Oh, there was one in East Carnegie as well, which could be an option.

"So tell me you picked up my paintings."

Brian paused in his meanderings and leaned back in his seat. "I did. That very first day," he groused. "In the middle of the fucking rainstorm."

"Thanks." He could hear the smile in Justin's voice. "So, tell me what did Sanderson have to say about the ads? Is he signing up for the New Year campaign?"

Ah. The hick restaurateur from the south. William Sanderson – a multi-millionaire who'd inherited his family's considerable wealth and put it to good use by starting family diner type eateries in small towns across southern Oklahoma and then spreading them across the entire Bible belt in the south. Justin was interested in the account's progress because he'd watched the project since its inception and had given Brian a few very good ideas which had clicked with Sanderson. And because Sanderson himself was pro-gay. His son was gay, and so was his younger brother. Sanderson may have been a hick, but he was a hick who supported gay businesses and that made him a valuable client for Kinnetik and an interesting subject for Mr. Gay Vigilante from yesteryears.

"I hope so." Brian huffed. "He's calling me to his fucking hicktown in South Carolina or something the week after next. He'd better give me the whole damn national campaign after an ordeal like that."

"Oh, poor you." Justin chuckled. "How you suffer for your millions."

Brian straightened up and focused on his search results again. The East Carnegie one was definitely worth checking out. "You don't know the half of it."

"So what else is new?"

His finger moved on the mouse, slowly scrolling down as read the entry. "New?"

"Besides work," Justin said. "It rained heavily in Pittseburgh as well. There was no flooding of the basement this time, I hope."

Oh yeah, the Kinnetik flooding. The less Brian thought of that drenched weekend, the better. The cons of owning an office in an old building. But at least that was not going to happen again. "Nope. Not this time, I mean. The preventive measures we took paid off."

There was a slight pause in the conversation and then Justin asked, "You okay?"

Brian paused in his task and blinked as he stared at the phone. "Me? Why wouldn't I be okay?"

"I don't know." Justin tone was casual. "You just sound a little distracted." But Brian knew that tone of voice. This was Justin nonchalantly trying to sound nonchalant.

Fuck. Should he tell him or not? Was there even a point? He wasn't really thinking of keeping the kitten. He knew for a fact that it was only with him till tonight at most. It was absolutely going to be gone by the time Justin came back. Day after tomorrow. Justin was coming back day after tomorrow. Shit. It had to be gone by then.

Brian pressed his lips together and took a deep breath. "I'm fine."

"Sure?" Justin sounded a bit unsure and Brian hated that too. This was fucking insignificant. This was just a temporary thing which would be resolved by the day's end, and there was no point in worrying Justin. Not that a cat would worry Justin. At least he didn't think it would.

But still it was all pointless. It was all going to be over tonight, so no reason in telling Justin about it. Brian cleared his throat and said emphatically, "Yes, I'm sure."

"Oookay."

"Seriously," he insisted.

"Good."

"I just have a lot on my mind with all these accounts." Brian wasn't really lying. He did have a lot on his mind and on his plate and on his desk. "Sometimes I feel like I stretch myself way too thin way over work stuff."

Justin chuckled. "I could've told you that. You're a fucking workaholic."

Brian raised his brow. "Takes one to know one."

"Touché."

Yes. There really was no point in telling Justin anything, because Brian only had the kitten till tonight when he was going to go to the animal shelter and hand it over to them. Its cold was not cured yet but it wasn't that big a deal, surely. He was positive it was feeling better already since last night.

So, sooner rather than later, someone with far more experience with animals was going to be responsible for this little thing as well. Someone with far more time on their hands. Someone who actually liked cats in the first place. He was sure there were a lot of cat people in the world but he wasn't one of them. Cats were way too much work. Aside from the mess, they had the fucking audacity to exert their personality on the people they were around. He remembered the little demon's tomfoolery from last night and this morning. The way it explored his bedroom, crept up on his bed to sleep next to him, roamed around the fucking kitchen. Snooping into corners, and running into the lobby. As if it fucking belonged there.

There was no way Brian was going to take much more of it.


***

Continued in Part 2



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