Monday, February 1, 2010

Having Kittens



Title: Having Kittens

Author: Rolf

Couple: Rolf and Matthew (and the rest of the gang)

Warnings: None...well one. HORRIBLE bad joke. 


Author's Note: It’s taken over a year, ducking, to get this finished. I want to thank my GT for her quick work on fixing my errors. Anything that remains is my fault. And Ranger. The inspiration for this came when Anastasia first danced across the pages of Nick and Damien. (and we talked endlessly of the fun). Thanks. :{)






Matthew hung up the phone. The plans were set for Saturday night during the football game. 



**



After class on Friday, Matthew picked up Todd at his house and they headed to the local discount store. When they left with their purchases, they got a couple of strange looks, and two teenaged girls dissolved into a fit of giggles. Matthew let Todd get ahead of him and stopped when he got near the girls.



Todd turned around with a pained expression, as his package was so heavy. "Come on Matthew, I don't have all day!"



Matthew waved at Todd then whispered conspiratorially to the girls. "You shouldn't laugh. Can't you see the pain he's in?" He smiled back at Todd when Todd groaned, the package almost slipping. Matthew turned back to the wide eyed girls and said with a touch of sympathy, "It's been days…" He quickly caught up to Todd and the girls' laughter carried out the door to them. 



"What did you say to them?" Todd asked over the top of his warehouse-sized package of toilet paper. 



"Oh, I just told them what we were going to do with all that.” Matthew said, fighting back a fit of giggles himself. 



"I wouldn't go and spread that around you know. I don't know about you, but I DON'T want Stephen to get ANY idea about tomorrow."



"Like we'll see those girls again," Matthew said derisively. "Chill out, everything will be fine."



Todd bit his tongue. Trying to talk Matthew out of a plan once it was set up was next to impossible. 



*****



Eric was working, so Michael had an easy time getting his supplies into his car without trouble. He stopped by and picked up Chris. 



Todd picked up Matthew, and they drove to the local McDonalds to pick up Chris and Michael, since Todd had the biggest vehicle. They had all given the excuse that they would be going to the football game along with half the town. Instead of that though, they had plans to toilet paper two of their "enemies'" houses. They knew everyone at both houses should be at the game, so it presented a perfect opportunity for them. 



Todd drove by the first house, the more secluded one since it wasn’t completely dark yet. They saw only one vehicle at home, no lights on, and no one around at the neighboring residences. Todd parked around the corner and the boys all grabbed as much toilet paper as they could and set about their work. 



The house had two large trees, three smaller ones, and about a dozen bushes in the front yard. Matthew and company completely covered every bit of landscaping with the toilet paper. They also coated the guy’s car, which was parked at the curb. They used some shaving cream as glue, and left the car in such a state that its owner was going to have to cut through massive layers of the stuff to even get to the door handle. 



The guys all ran back and jumped into Todd's car, exchanging high-
fives and whistles all around for a job well done. They drove off quickly, admiring their handiwork. 



The second target of the night was a house in a gated community. Michael knew one of the gate codes that allowed them access. They drove to the back of the community to a large house set back off the road, screened behind a row of evergreen trees. 



The boys headed down the driveway and surveyed the house and yard, deciding that they were, in fact, deserted. They left the car in the drive and proceeded to get to work. 



"Matthew, over here!" Chris had found a short fir tree that they could easily decorate. 



"Shah! We don't need to draw any attention over here," Matthew hissed when he got closer. 



"Chill, man. No one's going to see us." Just then, lights approached the house. 



"Shit, hide!" Michael yelled, and all four boys dove for cover behind the nearest bush or tree. Each one prayed the car would continue down the street. 



The boys breathed a collective sigh of relief as the car rolled past the house. They got up on shaky legs and made a mad dash to finish their job. Once finished with the papering, they quickly slid into the car and got ready to leave. Just as Todd was ready to start the engine, he saw lights making their way up the street. 



"Shit, another car! What should I do?!?" Todd asked in near panic. 



"Just sit still. It'll go past, and then we'll back out and be gone. Don’t want them to see the license plate if they don't have to,” Michael said from the backseat. 



Everyone turned around and peered towards the street, certain the car would pass them by, while Todd kept his eyes glued to the rearview mirror. 



Panicked breathing could be heard until the car pulled into the driveway behind them. The three who were looking out the back quickly turned forwards and slid down into their seats. No one realized it was a police car until the spotlight hit the back window of the car. The quick intake of breath by all four boys would have drained the car of oxygen, save for a window that was left cracked open. After the loud whoosh, there was dead silence until they heard the officer's door open. Each boy in turn was CERTAIN that the curses he was uttering and hearing reverberate in his own head was audible to the others. The crunch of the gravel under the officer’s boots remained the only sound heard, as if the rest of the world had come to a complete stop. 



Michael slid down further in his seat and pulled his baseball cap lower over his head. Anything to do with the police was certainly going to get back to Eric, and that was something he didn't even want to think about. 



All four boys had their eyes straight ahead, wrapped up in their own thoughts of destruction, when the driver's door was opened by the officer, and a familiar voice barked "What the HECK are you boys doing here at this hour? Get out, NOW."



The stunned boys lost varying amounts of color in their faces as the voice registered as Eric's. Michael went white as a sheet, and had the most trouble opening his door before standing up on shaky legs that were barely holding him upright. 



"Over here." Eric motioned to the front of the car, keeping his eyes moving among the boys, none of who would raise their eyes to his. He waited until they were assembled before speaking. "What, exactly, is the meaning of this?" He asked, shock in his voice, as he gestured to the mess in the front yard. 



The boys all found very interesting things to look at by their feet. In answer, a couple of them shrugged. 



"Michael, would you care to give me an explanation?"



Michael knew that wasn't a kindly worded request that he could ignore if he chose to. He didn't know what to say, so he mumbled the first thing that came to mind: "It was just a game."



He quickly found out that he would have been better off not speaking at all. 



"A game?!?!?" Eric spoke forcefully, the officer's bark at perfect pitch. "Willfully trashing someone's property is a game to you?!?"



More blood left the faces, as the feet were shuffled in shame. 



"N… n …no," Michael stuttered quickly, trying to repair the damage his answer had wrought. 



"That's what you just told me!" Eric stared solely at Michael, while Michael stood and twisted his hands in his shirt, unable to bring his eyes up to Eric's. 



Todd jumped in, trying to salvage some dignity. "Sir?" He ventured, before quickly looking away from Eric as the eyes bore into his, shaming him immediately. "We didn't willfully trash this yard, we simply papered it." He ended quietly, realizing how lame that was. 



Eric stood, a stupefied expression upon his face. "That" he barked, pointing to the house, "is definitely trashing property. It is not funny. It is NOT a game. This homeowner would have been left with several hours of cleanup and had it rained, it would have only been worse. If the wind blew, it would have affected several other neighbors. What were you thinking?"



All four young men were trying not to cry and no one had the voice to speak. 



"We don't have all night." Eric finally spoke. "Is there anything else I need to know?"



Michael and Matthew both began to fidget, knowing there was more but unable to say it. 



Eric saw the warning signs from his partner. "Michael, tell me right know."



Michael sighed inwardly with relief since he knew he had no choice but to speak; outwardly, however, it was a sigh of fear, as he knew what the confession would lead to. 



He spoke quietly. "We did another house tonight."


"What?!" Eric asked, again in disbelief. 



"We TP'd another house, sir."



"Every last ONE of you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves,” Eric said. "Look at me when I'm speaking to you." Eric waited until their eyes were raised to his. He looked each boy in the eyes as he continued speaking. "This is simple vandalism, something I didn’t expect from any one of you. You did a fine job of trashing the yard in the dark; now get to work cleaning it up. All the paper should be put into the trunk. I don't want to hear a word from any of you. Is that clear?"



The boys all nodded in assent.

“Get it cleaned.” the boys went to work quickly, cleaning up most of the mess they had made. Eric went back to his car and called in and closed the file on the possible vandalism call he had responded to, and then proceeded to catch up on his paperwork for the evening. 



When the boys were mostly done with their cleanup, only having left what was tossed high into the trees, they congregated around Todd’s vehicle, and stood in worried silence until Eric got out of his car and walked towards them. 



Eric had a pen and paper in his hands. "Looks like you got the worst of that cleaned up. Thank you. Now I'd like for the four of you to pen an apology, sign your names, and post that on the front door.” He handed over the paper and pen to Michael, who turned and placed it down on the hood and quickly, wrote out the required apology and signed his name. The pen was passed around to the others, and each signed his name. Michael then gave the paper to Eric, who approved it and handed it back. 



Michael ran it over to the door and stuck it to the glass so as not to remove any paint. He slowly made his way back to the somber group. 


"Michael, into the front seat, now." Eric said.

Michael went over to the squad car and slowly slid into the seat, closing the door quickly.

The other three were left wondering what was going to be said.

“Todd. You are to take Matthew, then Chris home, and then go straight to your house. Your partners are eagerly awaiting your return. I suggest that you don't keep them waiting a second longer than you must."



Three stomachs collectively hit the ground, as each had visions of his return home. They slowly got into the vehicle, and pulled around the circular drive and out of the neighborhood. Matthew slumped down
in the front seat and uttered a despondent "Fuck". That was the only word said until they pulled up to Chris's house and he got out.



"Good luck," Matthew and Todd said, as all three spotted Joseph, holding the door open for Chris, a very displeased look on his face.



"You too," Chris mumbled before walking up to Joe.



Todd stopped at Matthew's next. The porch light was on, but there was no sign of Rolf.



"You going to be okay?" Todd asked.



"Yeah. You?"



"Yeah."



Matthew got out of the car without another word, and slowly walked up to the front door. He opened it quietly and shut it behind him, trying not to be too loud. His mouth was completely dry, so he thought he'd walk to the kitchen for a drink. He stepped quietly in that direction, until Rolf's voice sent him to the ceiling.



"Have a seat please, we have a matter to discuss." Rolf said sternly, having been reading a book in the living room.



Once Matthew peeled himself off the ceiling, he changed direction and headed into the living room. The audible click of Rolf's book closing caused Matthew to catch his breath.



"The football game, how was it?" Rolf asked, as if they were having a lovely conversation over tea.



Matthew immediately knew Rolf was very upset, as both of them knew he hadn’t gone to the game. The first thing that flew to Matthew's lips was a smartass reply, but he managed to choke that back, knowing it wouldn’t help. He simply sat, staring at his shoes. Rolf surprised him; without saying anything, he pulled him to his feet.



Matthew quickly put a hand back to protect his bottom, but was further surprised when he was pushed into a sitting position on the floor, in front of the TV. He remained in shock, unable to say anything, as Rolf stuck a tape in and turned it on.



"You WILL sit quietly and listen," Rolf said.



Matthew looked quizzically at Rolf, then moved his eyes back to the screen when the picture flashed on. He cringed when a purple dinosaur appeared and began singing about loving each other. He rolled his eyes and started to ask Rolf exactly WHAT was going on.



"Watch the screen and DON'T say a word, Matthew," Rolf said.



Matthew turned back to the screen and tried not to scream as Barney continued singing.



"Matthew. MATTHEW CHRISTOPHER."



Matthew blinked back to reality and looked at Rolf with a stupefied expression.



Rolf sighed. "Eric told me basically what happened. I want to know what you were thinking."



"I…we…well….we thought it would be a funny joke." Matthew stuttered quietly, knowing that was no excuse.



"A joke? Trashing someone's property is a joke to you?!?"



Matthew cringed as that was the second time this evening that he had heard that comment. He was quite ashamed of himself. "I'm sorry!” he spat in frustration.



"Of that, I'm none too sure. But we'll work that out later. You’ve got exactly fifteen minutes to get ready for bed, then you will plant yourself in the office corner to think though this evening.



Matthew slowly stood up, knowing Rolf's word were final. Each step he took upstairs left his stomach further and further behind. His shower wasn't enjoyed, and he managed to drop everything at least once before he was finished. He quickly brushed his teeth and went into the bedroom to slide on his shorts and t-shirt, knowing he wasn’t going to be wearing the bottoms for long. He slowly made his way downstairs and had to walk past Rolf to get to the office. He turned his eyelashes on stun, adopted his puppy dog face and waited a moment to get Rolf's attention.



Rolf looked up from his book and had to hide a smile. His lover could look incredibly adorable when he was in trouble. Rolf couldn’t speak, just raised his hand and pointed towards the office.



Matthew started to speak but stopped when Rolf gently said "Go on.” He dragged his feet into the designated corner and leaned his head against the wall. All senses were now tuned directly into the man
two rooms over. Once he realized that Rolf wasn't going to come in immediately, he slowed his breathing down and his thoughts wandered to his friends. He wondered if they were all simultaneously staring at the corner, or if anyone else had already been spanked.



Matthew heard a creak of the chair and caught his breath. No footsteps followed, so he relaxed again. He felt exactly like prey. Every fiber of his being was centered on the hunter, his entire LIFE centered around the hunter and what he was going to do.



Ten minutes later, Matthew had had all the fun he could stand in the corner. He started to move about and huff loudly, trying to get pity from Rolf.



Rolf had been keeping an ear open for Matthew, and knew when he started to hear him, that the corner had served its purpose and could only get Matthew in more trouble if he left him there any longer.
Whatever thinking Matthew had done was finished now. He stood up, closing his book, and walked down to the office.



Matthew's heart began to flutter when his movement had the desired effect, and Rolf was on the way down the hall. The corner changed completely upon hearing the footsteps. No longer was it a boring place to be, it was now a safe haven, and Matthew longed to stay until the danger had passed.



Rolf entered the room and pulled out a chair. "Come here, sport."



Matthew slowly turned from the corner and approached Rolf.


When Matthew was close enough, Rolf snagged a wrist and pulled him down onto his lap. The younger man immediately buried his face into the neck, and held on, tears threatening.



Rolf wrapped his arms around Matthew and took a minute to enjoy the closeness. Then he pulled Matthew's face gently up, to look into the bright, beautiful green eyes. "What possessed you to do such a thing today?" he asked quietly.



Matthew tried to answer with a shrug, but Rolf was having none of it.



"Matthew."



Matthew looked down before mumbling, "It was just a game."



Rolf pulled Matthew's chin back up. "Littering is not a game. That was pure mischief by a group of young men with entirely too much free time on their hands. I don't know who came up with that bright idea, and it doesn't matter now anyway. You know better than to act like that, period."



Matthew's eyes were full, and two tears slipped down his cheeks. "I know. I'm sorry," he said, wiping his face with the back of his hand.



Rolf kept Matthew's chin up. "You should be ashamed of yourself. You acted like a hoodlum. And you could have very well been charged with criminal mischief by ANY officer on the force. That's something that will stay on your record and it doesn't matter how small, it’s still there. You're very lucky that it was Eric that found you."



Matthew disagreed immensely, but now was not the time to divulge that little tidbit of information. He shook his head yes.



"As I said, it seems that you have a little too much free time on your hands. That's changing. Tomorrow, you and the rest of the chain gang are going out and cleaning up the mess you made of the first house. You'll spend the rest of Sunday here and trust me, you’ll not get bored. The next four weekends you'll be volunteering eight hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday. We'll choose a charity this week."



"Rooooolf!" Matthew gave a strangled cry. "It's SUMMER!"



"You should have thought about that before pulling this stunt." Rolf set Matthew on his feet. "Drop your shorts," Rolf said, without missing a beat.



"Please, I -"



"This isn't up for discussion. Now, Matthew."



Matthew fumbled with his shorts, too upset at himself and his predicament to argue any further.



Once Matthew had his shorts down, Rolf gently pulled him across his knees. He locked one arm around Matthew's waist, and brought his hand up and quickly dropped it down upon the white flesh.



Matthew jumped, the sound of the slap almost as intense as the pain that radiated from the handprint left. Matthew gulped and tried to keep himself from crying.



Rolf's hand rained down again and again, turning the once white flesh a dusty shade of pink. He continued the spanking, each slap turning the color a deeper red.



Matthew only lasted about a minute. He was upset with himself, and Rolf was making quite certain that he wasn't going to be sitting comfortably for some time to come. After a few half hearted attempts
at asking Rolf to stop, he gave into the sobs freely. The sobs
escalated with each spank, particularly when Rolf's hand connected to
the soft fleshy area where the thigh meets the buttock.



Rolf stopped when Matthew's cries signaled he didn't need to
continue. He gave him just a moment to collect himself, before
turning him over and helping him to balance on his leg.



Matthew collapsed against the neck, sobbing uncontrollably. Rolf
cooed gently at Matthew, rubbing soft circles on his back. Within ten minutes, the cries had quieted into hitching breaths. Rolf helped Matthew to his feet and settled him upstairs.



Matthew sulked quietly, then soon fell asleep. All too early the next morning he was shaken awake.



"Come on Sport, up and at 'em," Rolf said after kissing Matthew’s forehead.



Matthew rolled away from Rolf and tried to pull the covers up.



"No, you don't," Rolf said, pulling the covers back down.



"Noooooooo," Matthew said, kicking and trying to pull them back up.



Rolf's tone turned up a notch. "You have a cleaning job to do. Get-up and hit the showers. NOW."



Matthew gave up the fight and rolled over to sit up. He gasped and stood up quickly, wishing he'd skipped the sitting up part, rubbing his still tender backside. His lip fell out into a pout as he made his way around Rolf and into the bathroom. When that elicited no response, he sucked it back in and jumped into the shower, willing the hot water to wake him up.



As the water pelted down, he slowly came to his senses. Thinking over the coming morning, he groaned inwardly. Even though his friends had probably suffered the same fate as he had last night, he still didn't like to be around everyone when his backside and pride were still damaged. And having Rolf there to supervise wasn't going to be too much fun either. Unfortunately, there was little say he had in the matter. He slowly rinsed the soap from his body and emerged from the shower, gently toweling off and checking out the damage in the mirror. "Good thing I don't need to wear my swimsuit,” he thought as he brushed his teeth.



Matthew got dressed in his sweat pants, choosing the least restrictive underwear he could find. He headed downstairs to breakfast, none too excited about the bowl of cereal that greeted him.



Breakfast was a quick and rather quiet affair, Matthew not daring to complain at the moment. When he was finished and had put his bowl in the dishwasher, he went out to get the trash bags Rolf had requested and put those in the back of the truck. Rolf joined him a moment later and they pulled out to pick up the rest of the guys.



They stopped first to pick up Chris.



He walked slowly down the steps and got in the back seat.



Rolf caught his grimace as he slid in and buckled up. "Good morning," Rolf said as he backed out of the driveway.



"Morning," Chris said quietly in return.



Neither Matthew nor Chris spoke, knowing how the other must be feeling. It wasn't even eight a.m. yet!



Rolf picked up Michael and Todd as well, and they arrived at the scene of the first crime right at eight.



"THIS is what you did to the house?!?" Rolf asked in disbelief.



All four boys had seen their handiwork in the early morning light, and each slid further down in his seat, shame clearly evident on each face.



Rolf turned around to face all four. "Alright then. It looks like you have your work cut out for you. It's early; people will still be sleeping. You are each to take a trash bag and work quickly to cleanup every scrap of paper out there, and check the neighbor's yard to make sure none was blown in that direction. There is to be absolutely NO talking, and if I have to say ANYTHING to anyone, so help me, I'll blister your butt in the middle of the street. IS THAT
CLEAR?"



Rolf's threat hung in the air like smoke in a bar. NONE of the boys doubted he'd do what he said. Each muttered a muted, "Yes, sir,” before Rolf said,
"Then get to work."



The boys gratefully stepped out of the truck, eager to catch a breath of air outside, as the oxygen seemed to have been sucked from the inside of the vehicle, AND to get off their butts and onto their feet. They each grabbed a bag from the back and started the cleanup process.



After the first thirty minutes had passed without incident, Matthew whispered quietly to each of his friends in turn, finding out if their punishment also included charity work. Michael and Chris were assigned without discussion to feed the homeless. Todd had talked to Stephen and they'd decided the animal shelter was a good place for
him to spend his time. Matthew decided he too would like to put his time in at the animal shelter, since he loved cats as much as Todd loved dogs.



After another thirty minutes, the guys congregated around the truck with the trash bags all full. Rolf got out and did a quick inspection. "Matthew, Todd, take some of that paper and clean that car up a bit more." He turned towards the other two. "You two can get the trash stowed in the back, and take a seat."



"Do you -" Michael started to grouse at Chris until he was interrupted.



"No talking," Rolf said sternly.



Michael dropped his head and started to work on packing the trash into the truck.



Matthew and Todd quickly cleaned up the car and headed back and slid into their seats. Rolf turned around once all the door were shut. His icy blue stare nailed each boy in turn as he talked. "I’m certain that each of your partners made it perfectly clear last night how they felt about your behavior. I'd like to make something clear as well. If I *ever* hear of any of you being involved in something like this again, you'll hear from me. You may have thought this was just a game, but it's FAR from it. Aside from being childish, it’s pure and simply criminal mischief. NEVER again, am I understood?"




Rolf accepted the nods from everyone and retraced his earlier route, dropping the boys off at their respective houses. He pulled into the garage and parked the truck. "Get the trash ready to be put at the curb, then come inside."



Matthew worked the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday doing various chores around the house. Rolf's disappointment in his behavior kept him quiet and working hard. He went to bed Sunday at nine, feeling somewhat better about himself.



The rest of the week passed without incident. The two men discussed where Matthew thought he'd be better able to spend his time during the upcoming weekends. Rolf accepted Matthew's suggestion of working with Todd at the animal shelter with some reservations. He knew Matthew’s overwhelming love of animals and was afraid the stark reality of animal management might do more harm than good.



Saturday morning arrived too early for Matthew, but after a few grumbles he got out of bed and ready to head out for his first day at the shelter. Rolf picked up Todd and dropped the two young men off at eight, saying he or Stephen would be back at five to pick them up.



They worked the weekend without complaint, both of them going home and begging to be allowed more animals. Matthew in particular was persistent almost to the point of getting into trouble, wanting to take every stray home.



The second weekend passed just as quickly, but this time, Matthew arrived home on Sunday in tears. He'd overheard the Board's decision to turn away any new animals as they were currently at maximum capacity. Matthew knew that meant that those trying to give up animals would either just let them go, or take them across town to another shelter that didn't have a no kill policy. Both possibilities upset Matthew greatly.



Rolf comforted Matthew as best he could, pointing out that they could NOT fit any other animals into their already stretched household. He hoped that time away from the shelter would help as well.



The coming Friday, Rolf promised Matthew dinner and an early movie, as he was doing very well with his charity work and not complaining about his missed weekends.



For Matthew, a movie on a Friday night was a rare treat. He quickly planned on seeing the newest thriller with Harrison Ford, and dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant.



Rolf woke up on Friday morning feeling a little under the weather. He was determined to fight off whatever it was and downed two large glasses of orange juice before leaving for work. He kept his fluid levels high during the day. He went home at four after a full day’s work and decided to lie down on the couch.



Matthew bounded in at 5:30, ready to head right back out. His face fell when he found Rolf on the couch. "Are you not feeling good?"



"No sweetheart, I'm not," Rolf replied, sitting up. Once the pounding in his head slowed, he continued. "I don't think I'd be good company." When he saw Matthew's look of despair, he quickly said "Why don't you ask Todd to stand in for me? I know how much you were looking forward to this and it'll be my treat. What do you say?"



Matthew was slightly mollified by the offer. He'd prefer Rolf, but dinner and a movie with Todd would be fun as well.



"I'll call him," he said, heading out to the kitchen for the phone. Two minutes later the plans were confirmed.



Rolf had come into the kitchen to get some more hot tea. "Take the cell, and I expect you home no later than 10:30."

"But that doesn't give us time at the arcade," Matthew tried. "Exactly. You have work tomorrow, home by 10:30."



"Yes, sir," Matthew said, hugging Rolf. "Hope you feel better."



"I'm sure I will. Have fun," Rolf said as he put the kettle on to boil. "The PHONE," he said sternly as Matthew headed directly for the door to leave.



Matthew grinned sheepishly, taking the phone off the table by the door before heading outside.



Rolf warmed up some soup for dinner and started a load of laundry. After a few half hearted attempts at a second load, he gave up and headed to bed.



Matthew drove up at 10:30 on the dot, quietly headed upstairs and was in bed within fifteen minutes.



Rolf whispered goodnight before falling back to sleep.



Matthew shook his head in amazement at Rolf's ability to KNOW what time it was when he came in, no matter how long Rolf might have been sleeping, or how deeply.



Saturday morning arrived too quickly for Matthew. As much as he continued to enjoy the animals, he really disliked the early morning starts.



Rolf gently shook Matthew until he elicited a moan. "Get up sleepyhead, time to head to the shelter."



Matthew could tell Rolf was still in bed. Without opening his eyes he mumbled, "Why? You're not up yet."



"I'm not feeling well and think I'll sleep in a little."



"Not fair," Matthew said, trying to burrow under the covers.



"Matthew, please don't make me get pushy."



Rolf sounded pitiful enough that Matthew felt guilty and got up. He stumbled through his morning routine and went to kiss Rolf goodbye.



"Don't forget Todd, and come straight home," Rolf admonished.



"I will. Hope you feel better."



Matthew drove over to pick up a sleepy Todd, and the two boys headed to the shelter.



Matthew finished with his assigned tasks for the day a few minutes early and headed outside to wait on Todd. He casually glanced at a rough-looking guy who talked into the shelter with a box, then turned his attention to a hawk, slowly circling the hill across the street.



A couple minutes later, Matthew was startled by the slamming of the door as the rough-looking guy with the box exited the building. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the guy tossed the box down by the trashcan. He was cursing loudly as he got into his truck, spraying gravel as he left the parking area. Matthew's attention was drawn back to the box when he saw the lid open and two tiny heads pop-up. The heads were followed by the rest of each kitten as they both jumped out and headed in different directions.



Matthew sucked in a quick breath, heading towards the box at a fast walk. He didn't want the frightened kittens to run out into the road. He slowed down, talking quiet nonsense at them, trying not to frighten them into running further. He went for what seemed like the slower of the two and had just about reached it when the kitten took a hard right turn and tried to scale the fence around the trash bin. Matthew quickly tried plucking the kitten from the fence, but as soon as he got one paw off, another grabbed on with growing ferocity.



"Come on, little one. Let go. I've got you, and I need to help your litter mate."



Finally he was able to get all four paws unhooked and headed towards his truck, intending on putting the kitten safely in there before going after the other one. He kept his eyes on the second kitten and marveled at the colors. The one he was holding was white with a few brown spots, and the one on the ground had almost the exact opposite coloring—mostly brown with white spots. Just as he neared the truck, the brown kitten charged for the road.



"Shit," Matthew said softly. He couldn't yell, as that would keep the kitten running from him. He only had a second, and hoped his aim was good. He bent down quickly and picked up a good sized stone, throwing it at a spot about five feet in front of the fleeing kitten. His aim was true, and the stone landed about a foot in front of the kitten who was less than five feet from the busy road, startling it into running back the way it had come. Matthew decided quickly that he couldn't waste the time to put the first kitten in the truck. He brought the kitten up, nose to nose.



"PLEASE don't hurt me?" Matthew implored, before stuffing the kitten in his shirt and heading off to find the littermate.



"Buttercup, where are you?" Matthew found the kitten hiding under a car. He gritted his teeth as the kitten in his shirt got unhooked from the material and a couple of tiny claws poked him in the side. When the kitten mewled, Buttercup walked slowly towards Matthew’s outstretched hand.



"Come on. That's it. Come to me, you pretty girl. I'll take care of you." Just as Buttercup got within reach, Todd let the door slam shut behind him as he exited the shelter.



Buttercup side-stepped out of reach.



"Damnit!" Matthew cursedly quietly. He stood up when Todd yelled.



"Lose something?" Todd said as he walked over to Matthew.



"SHHHHH!" Matthew hissed, putting his fingers against his lips.



Todd looked quizzically at Matthew, then noticed some movement around Matthew’s stomach.



"Sister is under the car," Matthew said, pointing.



Todd walked quietly around the car and stood, waiting, as Matthew again tried coaxing the reluctant kitten from it's hiding place behind the tire. He figured he could help, and kicked hard, spraying a little bit of gravel.



Buttercup was startled and darted right at Matthew, who deftly caught her and picked her up.



"You didn't have to frighten her!" He said to Todd, looking the kitten over to make sure she was uninjured.



"What are you doing with the animals out here anyway? You KNOW we’re not supposed to remove them from the shelter."



"Some turkey tossed a box by the trash," Matthew said, turning to look at the box again. "You don't think...."



Todd and Matthew both walked quickly over to the box, Todd gently pushing the lid back down when a third kitten's head made an appearance.



"Let's get in the truck," Matthew said, wanting to get the kitten out of his shirt before he was shredded.



Todd followed Matthew and they both got in the truck, Matthew being careful not to squash the kitten in his shirt. Once both doors were closed, he let Buttercup go on the dashboard and gently removed her sibling from his shirt.



Todd opened the box and found not one, but TWO kittens inside. One was a mostly black tiger stripe, and the second was a mostly gray tiger striped.



"It's amazing to think these all had the same mother!" Matthew exclaimed, catching Buttercup before she fell off the dash, putting her in the box. "Where did the other one go to?" Matthew asked, looking around his feet.



"Try...look out!" Todd said, as the kitten jumped from the headrest, trying for Matthew's head. It missed that, but landed on his shoulder and dug in.



"OW!" Matthew said, as Todd laughed and pulled the struggling kitten from his shoulder.



Just as he was about to place the kitten in the box, Buttercup jumped back out and landed with a soft thud on the floor. "WHAT are we going to do with them?" Todd asked as Buttercup darted under the seat.


"We can't take them into the shelter. They obviously didn't accept them, and I am NOT taking them to the regular shelter. They'd be killed. We can't leave them here, so I guess we can each take two home."



"You KNOW Stephen wouldn't let me walk into the house with two of these, no matter HOW cute!" Todd said. "Besides, you're the cat person. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but"

"I know. Rolf has told me just about daily that I'm not coming home with ANYTHING that would need to be fed and sheltered, whether it had four legs, two legs or no legs," Matthew said, laughing. He sobered quickly. "But I don't have a choice, do I?"



"Maybe Rolf will understand that you'll only keep them until you find homes for them," Todd said, hopefully.



The two boys turned when they heard scratching, and watched as Buttercup made it to the top of Todd's seat. She took one swipe at Todd’s earring before Matthew could get her, thankfully missing it, but drawing a tiny spot of blood on his neck.



"Ow," Todd said, rubbing the spot. "Stephen will think I've been bitten by a vampire."



Matthew laughed as he put Buttercup back into the box, somehow managing to pat all four heads back down and get the lid down tight on the kittens. "Could you hold that shut?" he asked as he started the truck.



"Sure," Todd said as Matthew backed the truck out.



"Get your seatbelt on," Matthew said, holding the box lid down while Todd got the belt buckled. Once that was done, Matthew headed over to Todd's and dropped him off.



"See you tomorrow," Todd said, sprinting towards his front door. "Good luck!" He yelled as Matthew drove away.



Matthew somehow managed to make it home in one piece, even though more than half of his attention and one hand was on the box full of kittens. He pulled into the driveway, listening to the kittens mew repeatedly. He parked the truck, finding a book in the back to place on the box and cracked a window, intending to find out Rolf's mood and location before he decided what to do with the kittens.



He opened the back door and dropped his wallet on the shelf in the hall. "Rolf? I'm home." When there was no answer, he went looking for his lover. He found him asleep on the couch in the living room. He peeked in, saw no movement, and quietly walked back out and to the truck. Pulling the box out of the front seat, he headed up the stairs and opened the door, one kitten almost escaping.



"Get back in there, you little bugger," Matthew said, closing the
boxtop down. He got inside, the door slamming shut behind him. "Shit." When no sound or movements were heard, he cautiously walked over to the stairs, and headed down to the basement.



He went into the mostly unused storage room and closed the door behind him. He opened the box and all four kittens immediately hopped out and started exploring their new surroundings. The gray tiger must have felt he hadn't gotten his exercise early, as he galloped around the perimeter of the room, before scaling the back of a chair and stopping on the top, surveying his kingdom.



Matthew took several minutes to greet and meet each kitten in turn. Once that was done, he thought they'd all appreciate something to eat. He opened the door and had to catch the gray tiger on the third stair as he wasn't done exercising yet.



"Do you WANT to get caught?" he asked as he put the kitten back in the room and closed the door.



Upstairs, he quickly gathered some food and put it on a couple of paper plates and grabbed a bowl for water. He looked into the living room again, assuring himself Rolf was still asleep. Heading back downstairs, he almost fell, taking the last two steps at once. Thankfully he hadn't placed any water in the bowl yet. He quickly opened the door and put the food down against the opposite wall, the kittens quickly heading over to investigate and then eat.



Matthew headed out and got the bowl of water filled, returning to find two almost empty plates of food.



"Were you hungry?" he asked, placing the water on the floor. The black tiger saw Matthew's necklace shining in the light and launched himself up the jean clad leg in front of him.



The jeans were tough and Matthew felt nothing. He laughed loudly until the kitten got a back leg anchored in his pocket and started up the shirt. "Ow, ow ow OW!" he said, trying to grab the kitten without ripping his shirt in the process.



Matthew sat and played with the kittens for about fifteen minutes before the floor creaked over his head. He scrambled to his feet and out the door, closing it firmly shut behind him.



"Matthew?" Rolf called from upstairs.



"Down here!" Matthew replied, bounding up the stairs two at a time.



"Hey sweetheart," Rolf said, catching and hugging Matthew, dropping a kiss on his forehead. "Why didn't you say hi when you came in?"



"I was going to, but you looked too comfortable," Matthew said, sliding out of the hug and walking to the refrigerator. "How are you feeling?"



"Not much better, actually. Whatever this is has got a firm grip on me."



"Drinking your fluids?" Matthew asked as he popped the top on a coke.

"

Yes, sir. Orange juice and water by the gallon," Rolf replied, getting another glass of water for himself.



"Been taking it easy all day? Resting, that sort of thing?"



"Yes, sir."



Matthew walked over to Rolf, putting the back of his hand along side of Rolf's cheek. "You feel a little hot to me. Have you taken something for it?"



Rolf couldn't help the sheepish grin that slid across his face, and Matthew couldn't keep the laughter from bubbling over.



"Oooohhhh," Rolf moaned at the end of his laughter, holding his head.



"Why don't you go take something for that. I can warm up your mother’s vegetable soup for dinner as easily as you can."



"I might just have to do that. Make SURE you put the burner on low?"



"I CAN warm soup," Matthew said quickly.



"Slowly. Please?"



"O-KAY," Matthew replied, a little more heatedly than he intended.



"Thank you." Rolf headed out of the kitchen and got some aspirin and settled on the couch.



Matthew pulled out the bowl and filled a pot with the soup. He put the pot on the stove and flipped the burner on, then turned it down. Since Rolf wasn't feeling well, he thought he'd try to do as he was asked.



While the soup was warming up, he grabbed some more cat food and ran it downstairs. He managed to get in the room without losing a kitten. As soon as he put the food down, all four kittens dove in and started to eat. Matthew sat back on the floor, watching.



He was startled when he heard Rolf on the stairs.



"Matthew!"



He scrambled to his feet and quickly exited the room, thankful that the kittens were still involved in their food.



"Yes?" He said, stepping to the bottom step.



"You're supposed to be cooking dinner. You don't leave stuff on the stove and disappear."



Matthew walked upstairs. "Sorry."



"At least it wasn't on medium or high. What WERE you doing, anyway?" Rolf asked, getting two bowls out of the cabinet.



"Just....I just thought I'd see what was on the news."



"Anything good?"



"No, just the usual bad news," Matthew said quickly. "What do you want to drink?"



"How about some hot tea? That might soothe my throat."



Matthew put the kettle on to boil and got himself out a coke to go with dinner. Once the pot boiled, he made the tea and brought it over to Rolf, who was already sitting at the table.



"You do sound pretty rough," Matthew said, sitting down.



"I'll be alright. Just another day or so of rest and I should be back on my feet. Want to curl up and watch a movie?"



"Yes. What's on?" Matthew said as he hungrily devoured his bowl of soup.



"I haven't checked the listings, but I think there were two or three we were interested in," Rolf said as he buttered a piece of toast.



Matthew finished quickly, the work at the shelter always leaving him with a healthy appetite. When he was finished, he jumped up and immediately started cleaning up.



"Thanks, sweetheart. I'll head on downstairs and check the listings, there should be a couple ready to start in under fifteen minutes."



Matthew just about choked on air as he realized the kittens were down there. "Well....uh....shouldn't we stay up here where it's warmer? I mean, wouldn't that we better for you?"



Rolf turned and couldn't help but smile at Matthew's over protective nature shining through. "I'd rather be downstairs under the covers. I’ll be fine." He headed down and turned on the television, checking the lineup.



Matthew stood frozen in place for a moment or two, until he realized that Rolf hadn't heard the kittens at all. He found his breath again and quickly finished up the cleaning and headed down.



"Matthew! Must you come down those stairs like a herd of elephants?"



Matthew quieted his steps and rounded the corner. "What's the choice?" he asked as he flopped into the recliner.



"We've got The Mexican and Tomb Raider."



"Lets go with The Mexican. I could use some comedy," Matthew said, stealing a glance towards the door where the kittens were. He couldn’t make out the door, nor hear any sounds. He started to relax and enjoy the movie, only taking his eyes from the screen a few times when he heard Rolf snore. Once he'd poked Rolf back to consciousness, he went back to watching the movie.



When the film ended, Matthew couldn't figure out a good reason for staying behind, so he preceded Rolf upstairs, hoping the kittens had all they needed for the night.



********



Rolf again woke Matthew up for his Sunday hours.



Matthew mumbled for a few minutes before he came to enough to realize he needed to feed and water the kittens before leaving. He quickly got ready and kissed Rolf goodbye before heading downstairs to grab a bowl of cereal for himself and something else for the cats.



He made another couple plates of food and carried those downstairs. He quickly opened and shut the door, finding the four kittens curled around each other inside the box. Once they heard the food they each hopped out to eat. Matthew refreshed the water bowls and cleaned up the mess that one of the kittens had made. "Okay, guys. I have to go back to work. I know, I know," Matthew said as Buttercup meowed. "I'd much rather stay here with you too. Now you have to PROMISE me to be quiet? Rolf is upstairs and he doesn't feel too good. He'd also be less than impressed that you were here. So be GOOD. I'll feed you when I return."



Matthew petted each head once before quickly heading out, pulling the door quietly shut. He looked at his watch and dashed upstairs, realizing he was going to be late to Todd's.



*******



Rolf got up a little later and tried to get some things done around the house. He lasted until lunch, when he decided to take some of the stronger drugs for a cold and lie down on the couch for the afternoon. He got a blanket and laid down shortly after taking the pills, knowing they were going to make him sleepy.



The kittens downstairs were just getting to the most active time of their day. The two tiger striped kittens were chasing each other and one hit the door as he tried to roll away from the other. The door hadn’t been completely shut and that small nudge opened the door. The black tiger stripe went out first, finding lots of new territory to explore. Soon after, the other three followed.



It only took about twenty minutes for them to tire of downstairs and find the way up. Buttercup was the first up the stairs, followed in short order by her three brothers.



They made quick work of the kitchen, Buttercup using the chair as one-step to the table. Near one end of the table stood a box. She went to investigate it, knocking it over in the process. The Cheerios landing on the floor caused the other three kittens to scramble for safety, before they all turned to chase a stray cheerio or two. Buttercup leapt to the floor, sending the brother that looked like her opposite heading full steam into the living room.



Rolf cracked one bleary eye open when some sound awakened him. He had to blink as he could swear there was a giant killer dust bunny, white with brown spots, flying across the floor. When he reopened his eye, there was nothing there. He shook his head and snuggled deeper into the couch.



The kitten was crouched under a chair. He heard the other cereal killers in the kitchen and ran back to join his band of brothers.



His quick entrance into the kitchen sent Buttercup flying into the living room and up the chair. The sounds of her claws in the furniture awakened Rolf again. He blinked rapidly as the previously seen dust bunny flew across the floor, this time flecked with white instead of being mostly white.



Rolf sat up and rubbed his eyes, his head pounding. He sat quietly for a moment or two, waiting for any signs of movement or sounds. When none materialized, he rubbed his temples, thinking that the drugs were a little stronger than he liked. He opened his eyes one more time, making sure that nothing seemed out of the ordinary before he laid slowly back, pulling the blanket tighter around his shoulders.



The kittens left the kitchen and surveyed the rest of the house, coming back to the living room about an hour later. The black tiger stripe jumped up on the couch's arm and looked at Rolf's face. When Rolf didn't pet him, he put out a tentative paw and poked at Rolf’s hair. Rolf took a deeper breath and opened his eyes, jumping and letting out a startled yell as he was looking directly into some animal’s eyes.



The kitten jumped to the floor as Rolf sat up, certain his eyes playing tricks with him again. He could swear whatever that was just changed colors and jumped off the other end of the couch. He rubbed his eyes again, looking around the living room. Finally he gathered the strength to get up, intending to look under the couch and find out exactly what was going on. As he tried to bend over his head felt like it was going to explode. "Okay, we'll check that out after something hot to drink."



He walked slowly into the kitchen, groaning when he stepped into the mess of cereal on the floor. He wiped off his feet and put the kettle on before grabbing the broom and starting to sweep up. After one particularly hard sweep of the broom, Rolf spotted what he took to be a cat flying after a Cheerio that was rolling along the floor. The kitten, the white with brown spots went flying under the hutch and out of sight. Rolf stopped sweeping, his brain working in slow-motion. "Okay. That was a small white and brown kitten. I don’t OWN a small white and brown kitten." He put the broom down and headed for the hutch. Before he could get there, the kitten came flying out taking the turn into the living room at full speed, the back end of the kitten nearly passing the front end on the slippery floor. Rolf started to laugh when he realized that it was a BROWN and white kitten that just ran by. His smile slowly faded as he tried to get his fog surrounded brain to catch up to what his eyes were seeing. The colors were changing every time he looked. As he stood watching where the kitten disappeared around the corner, he jumped as something brushed past his leg and followed the same path, the second kitten not being nearly as coordinated. He finally determined there were two as the kitten picked himself up from the collision with the wall and carried on as if it were a planned maneuver.



Rolf's sense of cleanliness overcame his confusion with the kittens and he finished sweeping up the cereal, putting the box back into the pantry. He made his cup of tea and tried to toss his tea bag paper into the trash from where he sat at the table. He missed, deciding he’d finish his tea before he picked the paper up.



He was just putting the cup down after his first sip when he spotted the teapaper on the other side of the table. He blinked in confusion until a black, tiger striped paw sneaked from around the trash can to bat the paper a bit further. Rolf rubbed his temples, thinking "Now there are three?!"



He looked back down and saw the black tiger tackle the paper and knock it down the stairs and out of sight, the kitten gleefully following it.



Rolf quickly finished his tea, finding the upright position did nothing for his pounding headache. He found some Tylenol and took those, turning to put the mug into the dishwasher. He heard the unmistakable sounds of tiny claws catching in the carpeting on the stairs and watched as a tiny GRAY striped tiger head bobbed into view, carrying the teapaper in his small mouth.



Rolf could do nothing more than head back to the couch, wondering if this was all a dream. He'd just wait until Matthew got home to sort this out as his head was making any kind of coherent thinking useless. He didn't see any stray kittens on his way back to the couch. He breathed a small sigh of relief as he settled onto the couch, resting his pounding head on the pillow. He pulled the blanket up around him and was fast asleep within five minutes.



*******



"So Rolf REALLY didn't hear anything last night?" Todd as incredulously as they drove towards home after their shift.



"No. I was completely surprised, but I guess the kittens were tired and asleep. I thought I was going to DIE when he went downstairs,” Matthew said, laughing. "You would have if Rolf had found them!" Todd said, also laughing.

Matthew pulled onto Todd's street.



"So, what are you going to do?" Todd asked as he stepped out of the truck.



Matthew waited until the door was shut and answered him. "I really don’t know. I really don't."



"Good luck," Todd said as he turned to walk to the house.



"Yeah," Matthew said quietly, "luck is what I need, and LOTS of it.” Matthew quickly shut the window as the air outside was a little brisk. He pulled into his driveway just a few minutes later, trying to figure out ahead of time how to dodge Rolf enough to feed the kittens.



He opened the kitchen door quietly and stepped inside. He stopped for a few minutes and heard absolutely nothing. He thought now would-be a good time to quickly feed the cats and then go find Rolf. He got out some cat food and put it on another paper plate and headed downstairs. As he hit the bottom stair he gulped audibly. "Shiiiiiiiiiit!" he hissed as he saw the door was open. He quickly opened it all the way and as he feared the kittens were nowhere to be found. He nearly threw the food on the floor and frantically started looking around downstairs, trying to be as quiet as he could. When he had no luck, he climbed the stairs a little slower, his stomach feeling like he'd left it at the bottom. He took
a quick look into the living room, spotting Rolf asleep on the sofa. He nearly choked when he saw Buttercup curled up on the pillow directly in front of Rolf.



He walked softly over to Buttercup, willing her not to move or make a sound. He managed to pick her up without a sound and started towards the kitchen. He spotted the black tiger stripe under the chair and quickly tried to figure out what to do with Buttercup. Finally he just pulled open the door to the entertainment center and put Buttercup in there. He shut the door quietly and then bent down to pick up the black tiger stripe. When he got on his hands and knees, he noticed the other tiger wrapped up behind him. As he picked up the black tiger, he heard Rolf started to move. He looked around in panic, then put the black tiger underneath his sweat shirt, grabbed the gray tiger and stood up, trying to keep the gray tiger held in one hand behind him.



The black tiger walked around the inside of Matthew's sweatshirt band and ended up against his back. Matthew locked both arms to his side and a smile on his face.



"Hey Sport. How long have you been home?" Rolf asked sleepily as he sat up.



"Oh...just a couple of minutes, why?" Matthew asked, trying not to grimace as one claw poked into his side as the kitten tried to get past his arm. He had to do a little wiggle to keep the gray from sliding out of his hand.



Rolf was too busy trying to clear his vision to see Matthew's jerky movements. "I just didn't hear you come in. You would not believe the day I've had." Rolf was in the process of massaging his hands over his head when he looked up.



At that moment, the black tiger stripe started with a short burst off-speed up the inside of Matthew's sweatshirt, climbing paw over paw, his back against Matthew's, scaling the shirt with lightening speed.



Matthew looked up in surprise as he saw the white and brown kitten on the back of the couch, highly interested in the fingers that kept tantalizingly appearing and disappearing in the head of hair in front of him. Buttercup pushed hard and popped the door open, jumping to the floor. Matthew dropped the gray tiger as his hands went to point out the kitten that had just leapt, intent on attacking Rolf’s fingers in his hair.



Rolf's mouth opened in a look of surprise as Matthew sprouted a cat head from his sweatshirt collar.



They both jumped as claws bit into the backs of both of their heads at the same time.



"OW!" they said simultaneously. Matthew bent over quickly to pick the kitten out of Rolf's head while Rolf picked up the black tiger from Matthew's head.



Matthew turned to try to pick up the kittens, but Rolf's hand grabbing the back of his jeans prevented that. He stumbled slightly backwards, falling heavily down onto the couch.



"Now, about my day," Rolf began, petting the kitten in his left hand, under the chin.



"Are you feeling better?" Matthew asked, trying to keep the topic off the kittens cavorting on the floor.



Rolf took a minute to answer. "Now that you mention it, yes I am. I’m sitting up without a splitting headache like I had earlier today. And now that I see my earlier delusions were in fact REAL kittens, I feel like my faculties are in good, working order."



"Delusions?" Matthew asked timidly.



"Yes, delusions. SOMEONE," Rolf said pointedly, "forgot to mention to me that we've inherited a few kittens. Imagine my surprise when I’m sweeping cereal up off the floor and something larger than a dust bunny scampers past, when I KNOW we don't own any kittens? Hmmmmm?"



Matthew blushed bright pink, his mouth working and nothing coming out.



"Not only did a kitten scamper past me and go out of sight, its colors changed markedly when it returned. Can you even GRASP what that did to my normally logical brain, especially when it was already clouded with cold drugs?"



Matthew risked a look at Rolf's face. He took in the stern set of the jaw. The tight lips. But when he gathered the courage to meet Rolf’s eyes, he was greeted with an unexpected sight. There was a glimmer of mirth right below the surface.



Buttercup took that moment to chase after a fly. She took two lunges towards the fly before her front claws got stuck in the carpet fibers. She did a gorgeous cartwheel and continued as if it were planned, bouncing up on the couch and launching herself without fear onto the drapes. She looked almost owl-like as her head swiveled to follow the fly's flight. Instead of dropping back to the couch, she sped up the drapes and stepped across the top bar, settling herself down on the opposite end to survey her domain.



Matthew burst out laughing, Rolf following suit.



"Did it explode?" Matthew asked between bursts of giggles.



"Did what explode?" Rolf replied.



"Your logical brain? I can't imagine your logical brain handling all that without a meltdown," Matthew barely got out between laughs.



Rolf cuffed him gently across the head. "I could have done without the mental Olympics, thank you very much."



Matthew sobered a little. "I didn't mean any of this to happen."



"What DID happen?" Rolf asked.



Matthew looked up with trepidation and spoke rapidly. "It was yesterday at the shelter they turned away the cats and the guy tossed them in the dumpster and one almost went in the road and I -"



"Slow down, Sport, slow down." Rolf put a hand on top of Matthew’s. "You were working at the shelter and these kittens were turned away? You know they can only handle so many, sweetheart."



"I wasn't inside, I didn't hear what was said. But the guy went in with a box and he came back out cursing. He tossed the box by the dumpster and just left. Two kittens came out of the box, Buttercup and -"



"Buttercup?"



"Yeah. That's her on the drapes."



Rolf shook his head. "Go on."



"She ran out, and her brother, the opposite one, tried to run across the road. I had to stop them. They'd be killed!"



Yes, you had to stop them. But sweetheart, we-"



"We CAN handle all of them!" Matthew interjected.



"Matthew, we can't. Four? No. We'll -"



"There IS no difference between two or four! They're brothers and sisters, they have to be. I can't let them die. I CAN'T!" Matthew ended in a screech of frustration and on the verge of tears.



Rolf took Matthew's hands in his. "We cannot be the rescuers of the world. We -"



"I'm not ASKING to be rescuers of the world!" Matthew said vehemently, standing up and scatting the two kittens on the floor. "I just want to save THESE!"



Rolf stood up, capturing Matthew by the waist before he could stomp off. He turned him around to face him. "You're getting on dangerous ground here."



"I don't CARE!" Matthew spat, trying to jerk away.



Rolf landed two swats in quick succession, causing Matthew to quit his struggling immediately and begin crying.



Rolf took Matthew's face in his hands and pulled it up. "Stop it. Right now," he said, not unkindly. "I haven't decided what we'll do, but it's not worth the tears now." He waited until Matthew gulped back the tears to continue. "Go on upstairs and get a bath. You smell like the shelter. We'll talk about it when you're finished.” He gently kissed Matthew's forehead and pulled him into a hug.



Matthew hugged back, hard, and then went slowly upstairs to get changed and take a bath.



Rolf watched as Buttercup took a flying leap, landing and bouncing high in the air on the couch cushions. On her second landing she pushed off and sprinted up the stairs after Matthew. He picked up a pen and paper and sat down to make a few phone calls.



The other three kittens had a confab under the chair. Once it was decided they were staying, they set about their assigned tasks. The black tiger stripe climbed Rolf's pants and settled down in his lap, purring madly. The gray tiger bounced into the chair and onto the table, playing with the pen as Rolf started to write. The white with brown spots started chasing his own tail, nipping in the air but never quite catching it.



Rolf tried several numbers with no success. Writing was next to impossible anyway as the pen and his fingers in turn were attacked with gusto. Rolf finally put the phone down and was ready to admit defeat. He climbed the stairs, all three kittens running with him, the black tiger having taken a liking to his leather slipper tie. When Rolf pushed open the bathroom door, he stood silently for a moment and watched Buttercup.



She was perched on Matthew's chest, gently batting at the bubbles that Matthew was blowing her way, not the least bit upset by the water lapping at her feet.



Matthew looked up at Rolf with the largest green eyes possible.



"I give up," Rolf said, shaking his head.



Matthew mouthed, "I love you."



~The End~

Copyright Rolf 2010


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