In A Cat’s Eyes

by Ms. C. Mouse

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/17476.html)

In a cat’s eyes, all things belong to cats. – English Proverb

Bobby checked his watch again. Damn it, why couldn’t the last fifteen minutes of his shift pass by at a decent pace like the rest of the day? Tired of the long hours of catering to customers, he looked forward to going home so he could take off his uniform and change into some shorts. It wasn’t that he disliked working at the grocery store, or working in general, but it was summertime and he would have preferred to be out with his friends.

In all honesty, the job was a self-imposed burden. He wanted to make sure he had enough money to spend on the clothes he liked to wear when he went back to school in September and not just make do with what his parents were willing to buy for him.

As soon as his relief arrived, Bobby left the check-out counter and breezed down one of the brightly lit aisles that led to the back of the grocery store. After darting through a pair of swinging doors that were marked “Employees Only”, he crossed the storage area and entered a narrow hallway that lead to the small, windowless box that was called the employee break room. It really was just the place to clock in and out. He shoved the door open with a sigh. Inside the room there was a plastic table with two chairs set beside it, but not much of anything else. A fine layer of undisturbed dust coated the floor under the table because no one ever spent any time in the room when they had a chance to take a break.

Whispers drifted through the open door. Bobby hesitated and looked at his watch once more when he saw the assistant-manager, Mrs. Stratton, standing in the room. Even though Bobby had worked for eight hours, it was possible that she might ask him to stay longer. He didn’t want any extra hours, so he had an excuse prepared: dental appointment. But Mrs. Stratton was not alone.

Bobby didn’t recognize the gray-haired man talking with Mrs. Stratton. They were standing very close to one another, like lovers. Quite uncharacteristic of Mrs. Stratton, who usually insisted on speaking an arm’s length away from the person, regardless of if the person was customer or employee. Was the man flirting with Mrs. Stratton? He held her hand against his chest as he leaned in, his mouth positioned by her ear. And he was whispering to her, although from what Bobby could hear it didn’t sound like he was speaking English. In fact, it almost seemed like, in the most illogical way, that the man was growling at Mrs. Stratton. In his other hand, the man loosely gripped a number of papers.

Bobby had an uneasy feeling as he took in the whole scene, even though he wasn’t sure why. He told himself to stop overanalyzing the situation and just get the hell out of there. This would be the perfect time to leave, while the assistant-manager was distracted.

Neither one seem to notice Bobby as he walked past them, though the man drew the assistant manager closer to him, his deep growls increasing in volume subtly. However when Bobby glanced at Mrs. Stratton’s face, the word hypnotized came to mind. Her glazed eyes and slack jaw did little to improve her features, giving her a faraway, alien look. Bobby looked away quickly. She was panting in rhythm with the stranger, seeming distressed or maybe aroused. That thought was enough to make Bobby shudder. He really didn’t want to think about a woman, who was the same age as his mother, being aroused.

Suddenly he realized what was bugging him. The man was a bully. Bobby was certain of it. The growl was surely a menacing noise, and Mrs. Stratton must be paralyzed with fear. Having always been one of the shortest boys in class from grade school to high school, he had dealt with more than his fair share of bullies. As he assessed the situation again, it became increasingly apparent to Bobby that it could be nothing else but harassment. He decided right then that he should speak up Getting picked on or seeing someone being picked on by a bully always made him angry enough to fight, and needless to say that had landed him in trouble on many occasions. As much as he disliked Mrs. Stratton, he felt the need to save her. It only seemed right.

“I’m clocking out now, Mrs. Stratton,” said Bobby, as he put the stress on the word Mrs. His tone of voice was louder and deeper than it really needed to be in such a small room; nevertheless, it brought about the desired results. Mrs. Stratton shook her head and stepped away from the man. She slowed her breathing, but left a lingering hand on the stranger’s chest, as if reluctant to leave his embrace. Bobby started to second guess his thoughts. Maybe she was just an old lady trying to get laid. “I have a dental appointment today, so I can’t work any extra hours,” he added, just in case his actions brought on her wrath.

Mrs. Stratton blinked at Bobby as she pulled her hand free from the man’s grasp. She appeared bewildered, running her fingers through her short, dark hair. Little strands stayed erect as she released her hair, making her seem even more aroused. Bobby tried to make eye contact, but dropped his eyes when Mrs. Stratton looked at him. He became increasingly uncomfortable. She kept swaying, as if she was having trouble keeping her balance. “What…oh, yes…that’s okay. I…we have plenty of people for the afternoon.” She cleared her throat, although her voice continued to sound a bit raspy. “Robert, did you see the lost pet flier that Mr.…?” She paused, momentarily regaining that lost look. “I’m sorry. I forgot your name.” Bobby noticed that she avoided making eye contact with the man and that she was blushing, which wasn’t typical behavior for her.

“Please call me Felix.” Bobby was surprised by the man’s deep, smooth voice, sexy by movie star standards. There was also an accent that Bobby couldn’t place. The voice matched the tones of the “growls” Bobby had thought he’d heard. He felt his own face start to heat up. It was no wonder that Mrs. Stratton wasn’t her usual take charge, confident self. “Thank you for allowing me to place the flier here,” said Felix, touching Mrs. Stratton’s arm lightly. She started, shying away from him. The obvious attempts to catch her gaze again, met with failure.

Mrs. Stratton glanced at her watch. “Oh my, look at the time. I should have been out front ten minutes ago. Robert, please show…Felix the way out when you leave.” Without waiting for a reply, she dashed through the doorway. Bobby watched her retreat with both relief and amusement.

“Such a loud little monkey,” said the man, “although you do have potential.”

He looked up sharply to find Felix smiling at him. Perfectly straight teeth formed a superstar smile to go along with the sexy voice. The man’s eyes were an incredible shade of green and Bobby had to grudgingly admit to himself that he too might have taken an interest in the guy if he hadn’t seen him putting the moves on Mrs. Stratton. He turned away, trying to ignore the man’s snide comment. He didn’t care what the geezer thought about him, he told himself. Bobby was slightly puzzled at how much the man’s remark had disturbed him. He shook his head sternly, clearing away the thought. So the guy was attractive and had women falling at his feet; nonetheless Mrs. Stratton was the mother of one of his friends and Bobby didn’t want to see her get hurt by some idiot.

As he ran his time card through the scanner, he glanced at the flier in the man’s hand. Bobby was shocked when he recognized the orange tabby with the big, golden eyes. “I’ve seen that cat,” he blurted out. He immediately wished he had kept his mouth shut. But the man looked at him with renewed interest, silently urging him to disclose further information. “It’s been hanging around my parents’ house for the last three days.”

“You are certain? There’s a reward if you find him.” Now Bobby was interested. The money would allow him to take more days off work, let him spend more time with his friends. The idea was intriguing. He nodded.

Now the tall, lean man was standing too close to him and holding on to Bobby’s arm tightly, though trying to maintain a casual attitude. He felt the man’s eagerness, an inexplicable hunger. That was too much for Bobby. Once again he sensed that this person was a threat and he shook Felix’s hand off forcefully. “Don’t touch me again,” he hissed, backing away. It was then that Bobby noticed some scars and bruises on the man’s face. He also realized Felix didn’t appear to be very old, despite the gray hair. In fact the gray hair was really more of a silvery white color. The smooth skin around the man’s mouth and eyes made Bobby rethink Felix’s age. If he had to guess, he would say the man was in his mid to late twenties, but no older than that. Bobby felt vaguely attracted once more. He squashed the feeling by replaying the incident with Mrs. Stratton again.

Felix didn’t show any signs of being the least bit intimidated by Bobby’s warning. “Jinx is a valuable show cat. He ran away when a thief broke into my apartment and attacked me. I would be very grateful if you returned him.” Felix was now gazing intently into his eyes and Bobby was alarmed to find that he couldn’t look away or move his own feet. “Jinx likes hamburger. You might be successful if you tried tempting him with some.” Felix blinked, and Bobby felt his frozen limbs relax. He rubbed his eyes, feeling slightly dazed. Felix’s hand brushed against his belly as the man leaned down to whisper in his ear. “You don’t seem convinced. Would a different reward bring you around?”

“No,” Bobby said, “I need the money.”

“Yet you’re reluctant. Perhaps an additional reward? I really do value my cat.” Bobby remained silent. “Perhaps a companion?” Felix suggested.

“I don’t want a pet.”

“A pet? I think he’d be offended if he heard you refer to him as a pet.”

Him? Bobby’s stomach clenched. It wasn’t a secret that he was gay although his parents never wanted to discuss it. They hoped it was just a confused phase he was going through. He even had friends at school who knew he was gay. Yet it was truly disturbing that this stranger could read him so easily. And it was even more disgusting that the shit-bag imagined he could be inspired by such an offer. Simply because he wanted to keep his job, Bobby didn’t punch Felix in the nose. But the temptation was there, and Bobby had to fight hard to resist it.

“I know the way out,” said Felix, as he turned to face the doorway. Bobby followed him, making sure that the silver haired man didn’t take anything or bother any of the other employees. As soon as they were both outside the store, he watched for awhile as Felix sauntered off towards one end of the mall. The whole time he wondered if he should call the police and warn them about the man’s suspicious behavior. Yet what could he offer as proof that Felix was dangerous? He was only going on a gut instinct and that didn’t count for much. It was probably best if he just let the whole matter go unreported. He didn’t even know the man’s last name. Besides, the man didn’t know where he lived, so he’d probably never see him again.

He thought about the lost cat and decided that he really did want to find it, if only to keep it away from Felix. That was, without doubt, a crappy attitude and he understood that resorting to such an action would get him in trouble if he was caught. Yet Bobby was certain that Felix wasn’t revealing the whole truth about the cat. Maybe the guy actually had a fight with his girlfriend or partner over who owned the cat. Or maybe Felix had stolen the cat, and was taking advantage of the kindheartedness of people as a way to retrieve it. In that case, Bobby reasoned, he should definitely keep the cat out of harm’s way.

Once Felix was out of sight, Bobby trudged to the far end of the parking lot and opened up his car to let out the heat that had built up during the day. Bobby wished for the millionth time that summer that there were some trees planted around the parking area for shade, but in the worst tradition of old strip malls, the area was paved and sterile.

Despite the sunshade that was resting against the inside of the windshield, the inside of the car was still miserably hot. The heat was a suffocating pressure and sweat covered Bobby’s face as he sat down in the driver’s seat. His slacks absorbed the heat like a sponge, and soon Bobby felt like he was sitting in a puddle. After folding up the sunshade, he closed the door and started the engine. The pathetic air-conditioner didn’t do much to cool the interior of the car. Bobby was thankful he didn’t have a long drive home.

As he left the parking lot and entered the flow of traffic on the main road, his stomach rumbled. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich he had wolfed down during break several hours ago was only a distant memory. Although he knew there was fresh food at home and some leftovers from last night’s meal, he still headed for his favorite drive-thru. He wanted a hamburger and a soda.

#######

Bobby parked his car in the driveway of his family’s two story beige house. He usually had to park in the street to keep the garage accessible for the other two cars that his parents owned, but he would be at the lake by the time his mother and father returned from work. He looked around carefully before getting out of the car. The cat was nowhere in sight. Strangely, he didn’t feel a sense of relief. He found he was willing to search for it because he didn’t like the idea of the lost cat having to fend for its self and perhaps getting hurt or killed.

He removed his sweat-drenched shirt as soon as he stepped out of the car. It was a relief to finally be free of that awful polyester blend polo shirt and the stupid name tag that he was required to wear for work. After locking the car, he walked up the cement path that led to the house’s main entrance. The little patch of grass, shaded and cool, near the front door was the perfect place to relax. Bobby sat down, placing his shirt, his soda, and the bag of burgers next to him. At the drive-thru, he’d surprised himself by ordering an extra burger, plain. Driving home, he had eaten one of the other burgers, so he wasn’t as hungry as he had been fifteen minutes ago. Now he just wanted to rest for awhile. Yet even with the bag closed, he could smell the hamburgers and he hoped the scent of food would entice Jinx to come out of hiding if he was nearby.

Bobby stretched out on the grass and put his hands behind his head as he stared up at the clear blue sky. The cool grass tickled his bare back, but it was a welcome change to the stiff shirt he’d been wearing all day. Minutes drifted by. Bobby’s eyelids drooped lower and he considered taking a quick nap before meeting his friends at the lake. A nap sounded so tempting, yet he knew he should at least walk around the neighborhood one time with the bag of hamburgers before going inside. Yawning, he rolled onto his side so he could find a more comfortable position and was astonished to see that he wasn’t alone. The cat was sitting on the walkway, only a few feet from him. It stared at him with intelligent eyes, while its tail swept slowly back and forth. The movement was a little hypnotic.

Bobby wondered how long Jinx had been there. “Hiya, Jinx. Are you hungry?” He tried to keep his voice steady and low to avoid scaring the cat. The cat approached him and began to rub against the bag of hamburgers. “I think that’s a yes.” Sitting up, he opened the bag. The plain burger sat on top, readily available. He picked it up and removed the paper wrap before dropping the bun back in the bag. The wrapper, now folded in half, was his impromptu serving dish. Using his fingers, he broke the patty into smaller pieces. Jinx sniffed at the little mound of crumbled hamburger before starting to eat.

Bobby wiped his hands on a paper napkin. He watched Jinx nibble while he thought about what he should do next. He considered picking the cat up once it was done with the hamburger; however he had no idea about what to expect from Jinx. The cat could bite or claw him if it didn’t trust him.

It didn’t take long for Jinx to finish. Bobby tensed as he worried that the cat might run off, but his concern was quickly forgotten. Jinx jumped into his lap. He even placed his front paws on Bobby’s chest so that he could nuzzle his face. Bobby knew right then that he really did want to keep Jinx. Any thought of returning him to Felix were banished. He grinned as he smoothed his hand over Jinx’s back. The orange tabby was a real sweetheart and it seemed to crave attention as much as it did hamburger. He spent several minutes petting the cat and rubbing behind its ears. The cat stretched, extending its front legs forward, lowering its head and raising its butt in the air when Bobby touched the spot right on it back near the tail.

As Bobby scratched Jinx’s chin and throat, his fingertips brushed against the cat’s white collar. He had thought at first that the collar was made of plastic but when he touched it, it felt cold, like metal. Bobby ran the tip of his index finger around the outside of the collar and was shocked to discover there wasn’t any way to adjust or release the collar. That couldn’t be safe for the cat. As he attempted to slide his fingers under the strange collar, he found that he could barely manage to place one between it and the cat’s neck. That definitely was harmful; the collar would have to be removed. When he withdrew his finger, the cat shifted and a jolt of pain ran up Bobby’s arm. Bobby felt the collar sink into his flesh. Blood welled up from the gash on the tip of his right index finger and dripped onto the collar and the cat’s fur. The cat looked first at him, then at the blood on his own body, and began coolly washing itself, as though this were a natural occurrence. Bobby was still perturbed.

He grabbed more napkins from the fast-food bag and pressed them against his finger. What sick fuck designed that collar? He stood up as smoothly as he could so he wouldn’t scare the cat. Jumping out of his lap, Jinx circled around Bobby a few times before brushing up against his legs. There was no reason to panic or so he told himself as he scowled at the blood that was quickly saturating the paper. He wrapped one more napkin about his finger before picking up his keys and his shirt. Using his left hand, he collected the paper bag that contained the other hamburgers. He hurried inside to clean and cover the gash on his finger.

After he unlocked the door and pushed it open with his arm, he went into the kitchen, leaving the door ajar. He hoped the cat would follow him in. His mother kept a first aid kit stowed under the sink along with various cleaning supplies. He threw the bag and the keys on the counter before crouching down to retrieve the kit.

As he was opening the cabinet door, he heard the paper bag rustle and he glanced over his shoulder. The cat had come inside and was now up on the counter. Bobby immediately jogged back to the front door, closing and locking it. He was thrilled at how well this was working out. Because the cat was so beautiful and seemed to have a very good temperament, Bobby was certain his parents wouldn’t object to it being in the house. He would keep the cat in his room and take good care of it for a few days before deciding if he would return it to the man who claimed to be the owner.

When Bobby went back to the sink, he washed the gash on his finger with soap and warm water. A fingertip cut was such an annoyance because a bandage wouldn’t stay in place for very long and Bobby knew it would be irritating him tomorrow as he bagged groceries. The blood was flowing too quickly for one of those small, flesh-colored bandages, so Bobby picked up a two inch square non-stick pad, some gauze, and a roll of tape in an attempt to improvise his own bandage. His mother was a nurse and she had stocked the first aid kit with all kinds of helpful items.

Just as he finished wrapping his finger, Bobby heard the bag hit the floor. He turned to find the cat with its face and a front leg in the bag. It clearly wanted the rest of those hamburgers. Bobby laughed at its antics. It had been a while since his last pet and he really did miss having animals around the house.

He also knew the cat had other needs besides food. Taking a bowl from one of the cabinets, he put water in it. The day had been hot and there hadn’t been much rain lately, so it was possible that the cat was also very thirsty. As soon as Bobby set the bowl on the floor, the cat scampered over to it and began lapping up the water. “That’s a good boy, Jinx.” He picked up the bag and put it in the refrigerator.

Now that the cat was taken care of and his wound was bandaged, Bobby decided to figure out a way to remove that dangerous band of metal from around Jinx’s neck. His father had a box that was full of basic tools like screwdrivers and a hammer and other items that might be needed for simple repairs or general chores like hanging a picture. If he remembered correctly, the toolbox was in the closet by the front door.

Bobby lugged the gray metal tool box back to the kitchen and set it on the linoleum. As soon as he opened it, he found what he needed: metal snips. Bobby knelt down next to the cat. He wasn’t about to put the cat in his lap while he cut the collar because he sure didn’t want to get scratched if the cat panicked. He pushed the cat onto its side so its back was resting against his legs and he stroked it a few more times before positioning the snips. Jinx squirmed as Bobby held him down, but he did not try to escape. “Hold still, boy. This should only take a few seconds.” The bulky bandage around his finger made it somewhat difficult to hold the snips; nonetheless he managed to position the cutting tool properly.

As soon as the snips pressed against the metal, everything began to go wrong.

Yowling and flailing its paws, the cat began to struggle violently under Bobby’s hold. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The collar was beginning to heat up, just like the element on an electric stove. Bobby attempted to pin the cat’s hind legs with his shin. His left hand was between the cat’s front legs and his finger tips were touching the collar. Instinct and reflexes demanded that he let go, but Bobby knew that there was no assurance that the collar would return to normal. He would not give up. Adjusting the snips, he clenched his hand with the added strength that a surge of adrenaline provided.

The stench of burning hair and flesh stung his nostrils. “I will not let this thing kick my ass!” he snarled. The kitchen seemed to grow darker as all his attention focused completely on removing the collar. He no longer heard the cat or felt its claws rake his forearm. The pain was forgotten as he worked to save the cat.

There was a burst of light and Bobby felt the handles of the snips slam close in his aching hand. The cat twisted free and was out of the kitchen before Bobby could do anything to stop it. He wasn’t worried; he knew it couldn’t get outside.

His right hand was so cramped up that he didn’t even notice when the snips fell on the floor. Standing up, Bobby repeatedly scrunched his eyes as he stumbled towards the sink. Water sloshed onto his feet as he stepped on the edge of the cat’s water bowl and he almost slipped. Black spots kept dancing in front of his eyes. Pain was making him sick to his stomach, and he thought he might lose the hamburger he had for lunch. For a moment he wished his mother was home so he could just sit down and let her take care of everything.

Nudging the faucet handle with his elbow, he was able to turn it enough so that cold water began to flow. “Damn that hurts,” he groaned as he put his hands under the water. At least there was pain, which he hoped would mean that he would not have any permanent damage. Blisters were already forming on his left hand and his right hand wasn’t much better. There was also a series of deep scratches that ran from his wrist to the crook of his elbow.

Thinking of the cat distracted him for a little while. Jinx would need help also, no doubt. He could hear Jinx running about the house and scrambling up and down the stairs. A muffled crash reached his ears and Bobby knew the cat had knocked over something fragile. It was likely one of his mom’s figurines that she collected and he grimaced as he mentally deducted the money that was going to come out of his next paycheck.

He continued to listen over the hiss of the water. Now everything was quiet. He experienced a sudden urge to find Jinx and to make sure that the cat hadn’t collapsed, yet he was reluctant to remove his hands from the cool water. He thought about what had just happened. He looked at the collar lying on the floor and noticed that the white linoleum under it was now discolored. This was turning out to be an expensive day. It occurred to Bobby that Jinx might be aptly named and he began to reconsider keeping him.

“Where’s my cat?”

Bobby jumped at the sound of Felix’s voice, and started yelling obscenities. “What the fuck,” he cursed. Somehow the creep had followed him home without being spotted. And how had he entered the house? Bobby was positive that he had locked the door behind him. He turned and said, “Get the hell out of …” The words died in his throat when he saw Felix.

Felix didn’t look the same. He still looked basically human but not like any human Bobby had ever seen. There were triangular ears peeking out of the hair on top of Felix’s head and short white fur covered his exposed body. His green eyes appeared larger or maybe it was because his jaw was somehow narrower. Long fingernails that looked more like claws jutted out from his fingertips.

Bobby stepped back and bumped against the sink. Had something happened to his eyes or brain while he was striving to cut the collar? He watched Felix’s tail as it waved back and forth at a rapid pace. Felix took a step towards him and one of his boots nudged the collar. He looked down. Seeing the collar, he smiled, looking up slyly at Bobby.

“You can see my true appearance, can’t you?”

Bobby wasn’t sure how to reply to that. Felix laughed and Bobby saw what looked like fangs in the creature’s mouth. Saliva dripped off them, reviving old memories of the horror movies he’d seen as a kid.
Felix snatched up the collar and metal snips. “Did you remove the collar?” Bobby refused to answer. “Of course you did. You’re so smart.” Coming from Felix, the compliment felt a little menacing to Bobby.

He wished he was somewhere else right now. Even work would be better than this; at the least, certainly less confusing. “The cat is somewhere in the house. Find it and get out of here before I call the police and report you for trespassing.” Bobby’s voice wavered, and he felt stupid after saying it.

Once again Felix laughed. “You’re turning out to be more useful than I imagined. And you’re amusing also.” He held up the metal snips and Bobby saw that the cutting edges were warped. Bobby was amazed that he had even been able to cut the collar and he could only assume that the damage had happened afterwards. Felix took another step towards him. His toothy smile was anything but reassuring. “Let me see your hands. I have something that will help them.”

Feeling cornered and desperate, Bobby looked at the knife rack that sat on the kitchen counter, but he doubted that he would be able to grip a knife at this time. His hands hurt too much. He decided to launch himself at the creature with the intent of knocking him down so he could run past him. Yet before he could do anything, he saw a bright flurry of color throw itself on Felix’s back.

There was hissing, snarling and more of the growls Bobby had heard at the grocery store. He realized that it was a language. A cat-creature with orange and white fur all over it body now had its claws pressed against Felix’s neck.

Eventually, Felix spoke English again. “Calm down. I wasn’t going to do anything to him, so stop acting like a maniac. Robert will try to run if you don’t relax.” Bobby had a feeling Felix had switched to English for his benefit.

The other creature growled in the unfamiliar language. Felix ducked his head submissively and backed up a few feet.

“How sad that you don’t even trust your own brother.” Felix actually sounded like his feelings were hurt. Yet Bobby was almost one hundred percent certain that it was all an act. “Unlike you, I’ve worked hard to gain rank and I certainly wouldn’t stoop to betraying you at a critical time like this. Besides, the other team members would kill me if I did.”

The orange and white creature nodded before looking over at Bobby. When Bobby saw the intelligent, golden eyes, he gasped. It was Jinx. All along he had thought he was helping a runaway cat and it turned out that he had released a creature. Nausea and pain made it hard to focus. He couldn’t believe he had been petting that thing and thinking about keeping it his room. Once again he tasted bile in the back of his mouth.

“What’s wrong? Do your hands hurt?” Jinx asked Bobby. When Bobby managed a nod, Jinx thumped Felix on the chest. Felix stumbled back, waving his arms to regain balance. He looked irritated, but didn’t comment. “Give me your jar of salve so I can take care of his wounds.” Jinx, completely naked, was now standing beside Felix. Jinx had silvery white hair like his brother; however, his hair was longer, spotted with orange, and looked a bit shaggy. Jinx wasn’t as tall as his brother either, or as wiry. And Bobby couldn’t help but notice that only a few places on the creature didn’t have any hair: the palms and fingers, the lips, the soles of the feet, and, most notably, the penis. Felix dropped a red orb in Jinx’s hand. “Just relax. I’ll heal your hands.”

Bobby shook his head. “Stay away from me, both of you. I’m going to call 911. So if you don’t want to get in trouble with the police, you and your brother better just leave.” It didn’t really matter to Bobby that they were standing between him and the phone. He held his hands up, palms out, to ward them off.

Jinx walked up to him and smiled as if he hadn’t heard a single word Bobby had just uttered. He grabbed one of Bobby’s outstretched hands and turned it so his palm was face up. He twisted the orb, revealing a clear gel in the hollow cavity. As Jinx smoothed the salve on Bobby’s hand, he chatted happily. “Because you freed me from the collar, I have passed my trial. Good fortune has blessed me and my clan’s team today. Felix never believed me when I said that someday I’d find someone like you who could remove the collar.” He shot a dirty look at his brother, who shrugged noncommittally. “But now everything has changed. When I complete the celebration ritual, I will have earned the right to return to the game. My team now has much better odds of winning.”

Surprised by Jinx’s disarming charm, Bobby felt himself relaxing. But even so, he had other things to do than entertain two oversized cats. He pulled his hands away, now slimy with gel, and realized his pain had receded. Bobby cleared his throat and interrupted the energetic Jinx.

“Thank you, Jinx. But you really need to leave before…before my parents get home.” It was a lame excuse, but he hoped it would be sufficient. Dipping his finger into the jar, Bobby applied salve to the burn around Jinx’s neck. Things were going to be okay. Soon the brothers would leave and everything would return to normal. “Sorry about your neck. Will the hair grow back where the collar burned you?”

“No, but it doesn’t matter. The scar will be a mark of honor for me.” Jinx beamed and turned to face his brother. He tossed the orb back. Felix caught it, scowling at Jinx’s smile. Bobby didn’t know why. Jinx said, “Go contact the other team members and tell them what happened. I’m going to get some clothes from Robert’s room.”

With an exasperated sigh, he said, “Call me Bobby.” He really needed to lose that stupid nametag. No one outside the store ever called him Robert. Felix scoffed at them and slipped out of the room.

Jinx grabbed Bobby’s forearm and dragged him upstairs like this was something they did every day. Bobby was amazed when Jinx found his room with no apparent difficulties.

“How did you know this was my room?”

“It smells like you.”

That made sense. “Shirts and pants are in the closet. Take what ever you like. My friends are waiting for me, so I’d appreciate it if you’d hurry up.”

“I want the slacks you’re wearing,” said Jinx. Bobby hesitated. They were his best pair of slacks. Then again, his slacks were a small price to pay for Jinx and Felix to disappear from his life.

“Okay. They’re dirty, but if that’s what you want.”

“And the boxers also.”

Bobby thought that was disgusting. “Take a clean pair of boxers.”

“No I want the ones you’re wearing. I like your scent. It’s actually pleasant for a human.”

Bobby arched an eyebrow at Jinx. “Whatever.” That had to be the strangest back-handed compliment that he’d ever heard. He opened the snap and unzipped his pants before stepping out of them and kicking them in Jinx’s direction. The boxers quickly followed. Bobby struggled to remove the wet socks that clung stubbornly to his feet. Once they were off, he tossed them into the laundry basket. He pulled open the top drawer of his dresser, but a tingling in his spine made him pause.

He looked up to find Jinx checking him out. It’s just normal curiosity he told himself. He wasn’t embarrassed to be naked in front of another guy. In fact he thought he was in excellent shape and it didn’t rattle him to shower at school after Phys-Ed. Yet there was something in the way Jinx was staring at him that made him extremely uncomfortable.

He was about to reach into his dresser for a clean pair of boxers when Jinx tackled him and the two of them ended up in a big tangle on the bed. “Get off me! What do you think you’re doing?” Bobby yelled. He realized Jinx was trying to pin him down and he used the techniques he had learned in wrestling and a few improvised moves to slip out of the hold. Yet he couldn’t break free with enough momentum to get off the bed. He tried to jab at the other boy with his elbow but Jinx was too quick and easily dodged the blows.

Jinx’s body hair was soft, which proved to be quite a distraction as it brushed over Bobby’s thighs and back. Bobby’s hips jerked reflexively when Jinx’s tail slid between Bobby’s legs and repeatedly brushed over his cock. A rush of heat flooded Bobby’s body, gathering between his legs. It occurred to Bobby that the damn pervert knew exactly what he was doing. Bobby was sure now that Jinx was just toying with him because the cat-like creature was much stronger than his first impression suggested. This only infuriated Bobby more. He didn’t like being picked on or forced to endure unwanted attention.

“Listen to me! I don’t want to have sex with you,” panted Bobby.

Jinx stopped what he was doing. Bobby was appalled to see that Jinx wasn’t even breathing hard after tussling for several minutes. He looked amused. “Did I ask you to have sex with me?”

“No,” Bobby admitted, trying to ignore the warmth below his navel.

“Ask me what I want,” Jinx whispered. He licked the tip of Bobby’s nose.

Bobby kept his eyes focused on the ceiling. He didn’t want to play games like this. “Look, all I’m saying is that I’m not interested in you. Non-con is wrong and besides I prefer to limit my relationships to my own kind.”

“Ask me what I want,” Jinx persisted.

The damn cat-creature seemed to have a one-track mind. “What the hell do you want?” he grumbled.

“I want you to touch me again, like you did outside.”

“No.”

“You didn’t mind petting me before.”

“I thought you were a cat!”

“That was due to your limited senses. I’m still the same.”

“No you’re not.”

“Do you deny that I attract you?” Jinx pressed a fuzzy leg between Bobby’s legs, nestling it in his crotch. Bobby suppressed a moan of pleasure. “Ten minutes of petting and then I’ll leave.” Jinx rested his head against Bobby’s chest. Bobby’s hand reached up to stroke Jinx’s long silvery hair before he even considered what he was doing. He pushed Jinx off and tried to scramble away.

“Damn, you’re annoying. I’m the one who freed you from the collar. You should be asking me what I want and then getting the hell out of here before whoever put that collar on you in the first place comes looking for you.”

Jinx chuckled as he propped Bobby in a sitting position against the headboard and placed some pillows behind his back. “No one forced me to wear that collar. I accepted it when I became old enough to join my clan’s team. That trial is only part of the game.” He touched his forehead to Bobby’s forehead for a few seconds before speaking again. “My team and other rival teams were sent out to look for me. I had to prove my cunning and endurance by evading them for as long as possible. Felix almost caught me, but an opponent showed up and attacked him and I escaped to make my way here.”

Bobby wasn’t sure that he understood even half of what Jinx told him. “Why do you do all this?”

Jinx shifted position with astonishing speed and was now sitting with his back cradled against Bobby’s chest. “It’s what we do. The women control the territories and the money and they raise the children. The men play the game. Rub my back and my neck and my ears. Ah! Right there is a wonderful spot. The team which wins may mate with the women. It’s the highest honor.” Jinx fell silent.

After a moment, Bobby thought he heard something like a cell phone vibrating on a counter top. “Are you purring?” Jinx’s head bobbed up and down, but he didn’t say anything as Bobby continued to run his hands over Jinx’s back and shoulders. A little while later he started massaging Jinx’s ears. Looking at the clock on the nightstand, he saw he was halfway through. “Five more minutes,” he told Jinx. Jinx leaned into Bobby’s chest and his long silvery hair tickled Bobby’s neck and shoulders. Jinx began rocking back and forth slowly.

Right then Bobby noticed that Jinx was masturbating. The purring turned to moans as Jinx’s hand moved slowly up and down his length. “I wasn’t able to do this during the trial. It’s so hard it hurts.”

Bobby couldn’t believe this was happening to him. “Idiot, a dry hand job is what hurts.” Bobby reached into the drawer of his nightstand and removed a small tube that was hidden under a pile of papers near the back. “Let me do this. You’ll be here all afternoon if you jerk off like that.” Bobby put a small amount of lube in his right hand and spread it around to warm it before grabbing Jinx’s cock. As he stroked Jinx, he convinced himself that he was only doing this to speed things along. He was certain that he would never have to see this guy again, so it really didn’t matter what happened. He desperately tried to ignore his own dick hardening.

“Tighter,” murmured Jinx. Bobby wrapped his left arm around Jinx’s chest to steady him while his right hand brought Jinx closer to climaxing. He listened to Jinx’s groans and he watched the creature’s face contort with pleasure. So it was not much of a surprise when Bobby’s cock finally reacted to Jinx squirming around on his lap. Jinx shouted, or maybe he growled, as he came.

Bobby held on with a light touch as Jinx’s body relaxed against his chest. Jinx let out a little sigh and nestled deeper into Bobby’s lap. There was now a sweet musky smell in the air that he hadn’t noticed earlier and he could feel Jinx’s semen dripping out between his fingers and running down his wrist. Bobby reached for some tissues. His own release was close as he attempted to push Jinx to one side so the boy could rest on the bed while he went to the bathroom to take a shower and finish jerking off.

He learned that Jinx had other ideas. Jinx swiveled about to face Bobby and rubbed his belly against Bobby’s cock. It was like he was being fondled with a fur covered mitten. Bobby hugged Jinx and thrust against him – to hell with pride and his statement about not fucking other species. His sex drive had taken over at this point and he wasn’t about to stop. He pulled Jinx close to him and lifted his hips, driving them into Jinx’s firm stomach. As Bobby thrust, Jinx slid further down, letting his fur run over Bobby’s dick. The movement sent jolts of pleasure through Bobby.

Jinx looked into Bobby’s eyes for a moment before lowering his head to Bobby’s chest. He licked Bobby’s tender nipple. Bobby squirmed. Jinx alternated licking and sucking the little circle of dark flesh. Bobby, attempting to retaliate, wrapped his legs around Jinx’s body and squeezed, increasing the pressure on his own dick. As he rocked back and forth, Jinx bit his nipple. The pain mixed with his pleasure, causing Bobby to yelp. Another lick morphed the yelp into a moan. He was panting and sweating and although he liked the feeling of Jinx’s body against his, there just wasn’t enough of the right kind of friction. He wanted something more. He wanted to put his cock in Jinx. But as the thought formed in his mind, Jinx pulled away.

He opened his eyes to find Jinx’s face hovering over his own. Those golden eyes were beautiful and Bobby decided that it wouldn’t be too unpleasant to lie here and gaze at them all day. Going to the lake with his friends suddenly didn’t seem all that interesting any more. Jinx was holding one of Bobby’s hands against his chest and Bobby could feel each rise and fall of Jinx’s steady breathing. It was almost romantic. Jinx looked at Bobby expectantly. He swallowed and bit his lip, fangs pressing into the flesh. “Can I—?”

“Yes,” Bobby moaned. It seemed Jinx wanted it too. “Do it.”

Despite Jinx’s surprised expression, Bobby waited for the moment when Jinx would lower himself onto his waiting cock. Instead, Jinx leaned forward and brushed his lips against Bobby’s. Just then a dark little doubt jolted what rational thought process was still functioning in Bobby’s brain. He remembered what he had seen in the employee break room as Felix leaned towards Mrs. Stratton.

It was all alarmingly clear in a split second. As Jinx breathed in, Bobby could feel his own breath being pulled out of him. It wasn’t until Jinx exhaled that Bobby was able to take a breath. This see-saw breathing didn’t hurt, yet he sensed that control was being stripped away from him and he began to fight to break this weird connection. He couldn’t speak. Turning away proved to be impossible. His body trembled as pleasure swallowed him up in a golden embrace, though an embrace completely different from what he had expected.

#######

“Is the ritual complete?”

“Yes.”

A wet cloth ran over Bobby’s body. Bobby dragged himself into consciousness while being dressed by Felix and Jinx. “Why are you two still here?” He noticed with some amusement that Jinx was wearing the uniform from the grocery store. It didn’t look any better on him either. He tried to push the brothers away, but he didn’t have any strength. His body was relaxed and thoroughly exhausted. At least it wasn’t the same kind of fatigue he felt after hours of wrestling practice. And his mind was clear, or reasonably so. The memories rushed back as he realized where he was and what had happened. He glared at Jinx. “What the hell did you do to me?”

“I fed on your life energy so I could increase my strength. Many opponents will challenge me after today and I have to be ready to fight.”

Bobby didn’t want to hear anymore of that crazy shit. “You promised that you would leave after ten minutes.” He glanced at the clock. “That was more than thirty minutes ago. So hit the road and leave me alone.”

“You’re coming with me.”

“No. Not interested.”

“That’s what you said about the sex.”

“My parents won’t let me.” Even as Bobby said that he knew that Jinx wouldn’t buy that lame excuse.

“You are coming with me.” Jinx reiterated. He took hold of Bobby’s left wrist and raised his arm. “Do you remember what I said about the trial I participated in?”

Bobby’s patience was thin already. “Yah, yah, cunning, endurance. It was like a big game of hide and seek – so what.”

“That is only one part of the trial. Another aspect of the trial is the search for a spell breaker. He is not easy to find. The last one that was part of my clan’s team died many years before my grandfather was born. When a team has a spell breaker, the team becomes stronger and its social standing is improved. With a spell breaker, a clan has a chance of winning, of being able to mate, to raise strong children.”

“Great. Go find your spell breaker without me.”

Jinx squeezed Bobby’s wrist. A surge of warmth flooded his arm and settled in Bobby’s chest. When Jinx opened his hand, there was an intricate metal braid around Bobby’s wrist. “You are now part of my team, Spell Breaker. Not that you have much choice. The ritual binds you to me for life.” He pointed to some markings on the braid with a claw. “This is the clan’s name and this is my name. I am now the leader of the team because I found you.”

Bobby knew he was fucked. “All I did was cut the metal band with the snips. I didn’t break any spell.”

Felix spoke as he finished tying Bobby’s shoes. “The snips were ruined the moment the collar began to heat up. The collar is made by magic and can not be cut by any physical means. Your focus and the strength of your intentions broke the spell and revealed your identity. Our true appearances were visible to you after that.”

Bobby was about to lose it. “Why kind of stupid-ass job is that — to go around breaking magic collars?” he raged.

“Collars aren’t the problem anymore,” said Jinx. “It’s the traps that other teams set for us. Some of the trap spells can not be broken by counter spells. Using magic in that situation typically only makes things worse. The spell breaker is needed at that time.”

“But what if I can’t do it again?” Panic gnawed Bobby’s guts. “Hell, I didn’t even know what I was doing the first time.”

“Then you’ll have a very brief career as a spell breaker,” quipped Jinx, “and a very brief life.”

Bobby wondered if he looked as shitty as he felt.

Felix touched the silver braid. “He’s teasing you, Robert. You are a fighter and I have confidence in you. As you meet the other members of your team and train with them, your ability will improve.” He nuzzled Bobby’s cheek before lifting him off the bed. “The leader says it’s time to go.” Bobby was carried down the stairs and out the front door.

The driveway was empty. “What did you do with my car?”

“Sylvester parked it a few miles outside town after he cleaned up the mess in the kitchen,” said Jinx with an I’m-not-worried-about-it tone of voice that Bobby would come to hate. “You planned to go somewhere, so your car can’t be here if you’re not home.” Logical words, but Bobby still didn’t like what he was hearing.

A Cadillac with tinted windows pulled up to the curb and Jinx opened the door to the back seat. “Get in. We need to leave this area before other teams arrive.” Felix set Bobby’s feet on the ground. Bobby’s legs were wobbly and he had to hold onto the door to keep from collapsing.

“How long until I get my strength back?”

Jinx shrugged. “A few days. I took a little more of your energy than I needed so you wouldn’t do something stupid like hurting yourself or trying to run away.”

Felix walked behind the car and entered through the other side.

This wasn’t how Bobby had envisioned leaving home. He had planned to graduate from high school and go to college. And even though he didn’t rely on his parents all that much any more, he still didn’t want them to worry about him. It hurt to know that they would be looking for him and wondering where he was or if he was even still alive. He shook his head in disgust when he realized that he had only himself to blame for what was happening. Returning the cat to Felix while it was still just a cat would have saved him a world of trouble.

Jinx tapped him on the shoulder. It took a surprising amount of energy for Bobby to turn his head and look at Jinx. The boy smiled at him.

“It’s not all hard work and pain, you know. There are some perks.”

Bobby snorted. “Great. So I can go to one of your weird-ass stores and buy hamburgers laced with catnip, right?”

Jinx looked at him in surprise. “I guess you could. But the normal payment for a spell breaker is to repeat the celebration ritual with the leader.” Jinx thumped himself on the chest.

Bobby shook his head. “No. None of that crazy breathing shit.”

“The breathing—oh.” Jinx laughed. “Bobby. The ritual is sex.” Bobby stared at him in silence, speechless. “Get in the car, Spell Breaker.” Jinx did nothing to hide his amusement as he pushed Bobby forward.

Bobby slumped against the seat and Felix pulled him over just in time to avoid having Jinx sit on him. Jinx slammed the door into place as the car sped away from the curb.

Bobby had thought he was going to keep the cat. Instead, the cat kept him.

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