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Nibbled to Death By Cats

Megan looked around G's apartment for the first time. She'd seen it from the doorway a couple of times, but hadn't been invited in until now.

The walls were lined with bookshelves. The ones closest to the antique walnut desk contained tall art and architecture books, and the subject matter tailed away into fiction as the shelves got farther from the desk. The bookshelves themselves were of multiple shapes, sizes, finishes, and apparent ages, though all of them appeared to be made of actual wood rather than the particle board that populated Megan's own apartment. A dark blue sofa, a substantial red easy chair, a black love seat -- all of similar Swedish make -- occupied the other side of the main room, surrounding a low wooden coffee table. The hardwood floor was covered by a number of overlapping rag rugs of different colors and designs. The small kitchen, open to the living room across a breakfast bar, had been done in dark walnut and glass and stainless steel. The bathroom was small, with a glass-doored shower and a garnet-colored rug on the black-and-white subway tile floor. The door that Megan guessed was to the bedroom was mostly closed.

"It doesn't smell of diesel fuel at all," Megan said while taking all this in.

"Just one of Simon's very little jokes," G said, taking off her black sportscoat. She loosened her pale green tie, which had an Escher print on it, the one with the waterfall. "Want a drink? I'm afraid I only have beer or whiskey."

"Beer, please," Megan said. Now that she focused more on details than on the overall impact of the room, she noticed that there were cats everywhere.

One enormous silver tabby, lounging across most of the loveseat, yawned at her most deliberately.

"Feel free to sit anywhere," G said, rummaging in the refrigerator. "And displace whichever kids are in the way."

"How many are there?" Megan said, bending down to offer her fingers to a friendly long-haired calico who was all but throwing herself at Megan's shins.

"Six," G said. "Used to be seven, but I lost my bad boy in the fall."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Megan said. The calico cheekrubbed her fingers thoroughly.

"Well, he was eighteen or so," G said, emerging from the kitchen with Megan's beer and a whiskey and soda for herself. "Had a good run. But thanks."

"Are you one of those people that cats just find?" Megan said, popping the cap on the bottle with her fingers.

"Oh, yeah," G said, throwing herself down on the loveseat next to the silver tabby and reaching out reflexively to scritch the top of its head. The tabby closed its eyes, flattening its ears and purring audibly. "This one's Evason, who walked in my door one day while I was wrestling with groceries and wouldn't leave. She was wafer-thin, poor baby, and her coat was all messed up with some sort of crud. I had to shave her and vet her, get one of her ears looked at." G displayed one ear where the tip had been torn. "She fights like a tom, y'see."

Megan sat down carefully on the red chair, making sure there was no bundle of fur in the way. The calico immediately leapt into her lap and began to stomp around on it, tail high and vibrating. "And this one?"

"That's Ursula," G said, sipping her drink. "She was the smartest of the bunch when I first got her. As she's gotten older, she's turned into an affectionate pest."

Ursula proved this by circling widdershins three times and then curling into an impossibly small, fluffy ball in the center of Megan's lap. Still purring.

"These are the two friendly ones," G said when Megan had looked around the room and noticed that many of the cats had evaporated. "The others take some time to get used to strangers."

Megan watched G for a moment, admiring the lean lines of the other woman's shoulders and throat, before saying, "Like you?"

G smiled lazily. "Like me. Like you too."

"Me?" Megan said. "I am friendliness and extroversion itself. I am the Welcome Wagon compared to some people."

"No, hon, that's Simon," G said, running a finger around the lip of her glass. "You use friendly to keep things from getting too deep."

"Who majored in psych here?" Megan said, perhaps a touch more edgily than she meant to.

G shrugged, taking a sip. "You only open up when you're chemically altered and pushed to it."

Another cat -- an extremely tiny cat with short golden fur and spattering of black spots -- materialized on the arm of Megan's chair. Megan glanced up inquiringly at G.

"That's Madame Blavatsky," G said. "She's the oldest, now Vimes is gone."

Megan offered her finger for sniffing, which Madame Blavatsky ignored. Madame B examined the vast tracts of available lap, trekked across it with aplomb, and curled up against Ursula, making an even tinier ball of herself.

"You're attempting to subjugate me with cats instead of booze," Megan said, mildly accusing.

"Maybe," G said, finishing her drink.

"What is it you want to know?" Megan asked as a vividly-painted tortoiseshell cat landed on the other arm of her chair.

"I don't think you said everything the other night about your whole spandex issue, and I'm morbidly curious."

Megan shot G an irritable look. The cat also ignored Megan's finger and made straight for the ensconced pair. "Why?"

G gestured to the cat. "Olamina," she said, by way of introduction. "I think that your story about your roommate is horrible and tragic, and I hope the bastard got it taken out of him in pounds of flesh. But it feels like it's only part of the story."

Megan stared in amazement as a lanky black and white tuxedo cat scaled her leg and hauled itself up onto her knee. Then she looked back at G. "It is only part of the story. Happy?"

"I named him Jazz because he had really good PR to convince me to bring him in," G said, nodding to the tuxedo cat, who arranged himself on Megan's immense lap so that he was somehow touching all three of the other cats.

"What?" Megan said, surveying the pile of cats.

"Never mind," G said. "No, it doesn't make me happy. But it makes me feel better that my instincts don't suck."

Megan sulked. She knew she was sulking. She didn't care. She drank her beer.

Madame Blavatsky abruptly poked her head up out of the kittenpile and viciously groomed her flank.

G got up and made herself another whiskey and soda, then settled back down next to Evason, black-denim-clad legs stretched out in front of her. She unfastened the top button of her white shirt.

Silence stretched out between them. Megan shifted her weight a little in the chair.

Madame Blavatsky glared up at Megan. Her outrage was mitigated by the quarter inch of pink tongue still protruding from her mouth.

Megan sighed and skritched the tiny kitty head with one large finger. Madame B permitted the familiarity with imperial tolerance.

"My roommate's boyfriend was a member of one of the campus superteams. And so was my girlfriend." Megan drained the beer bottle and examined the label. "The whole team, in fact, except the nerd no one liked, was captured and mind-fucked by a supervillain, though no one realized it except the nerd, who left the group and was never heard from again." She looked at G. "He was dead, of course, but no one knew that at the time."

G looked like she was sorry she brought it all up. Megan was pleased, and noted the little viciousness in herself for later self-recrimination. Or possibly sulking.

"Except that the supervillain didn't actually do anything to them, just told them they'd been mind-fucked, and they all took it as permission to be villains," Megan said, rubbing her forehead. "Tanya broke up with Boyd and I broke up with Annette the same night. Tanya and I'd talked about it, and we both decided to be done with them, because they were being abusive fuckheads. A couple days later, Boyd came and cut Tanya to pieces and left her for me to find. I'm harder to cut up or blow up or whatever. So Annette started to stalk me. And gaslighted the hell out of me."

G fetched another beer for Megan and sat back down. "I'm sorry." G rubbed Evason's undamaged ear and didn't look up at Megan. "I shouldn't have asked. I was being a jerk."

Megan shrugged, drawing evil one-eyed glowers from Jazz and Olamina and Ursula. "I suppose I could have fixed the whole thing by telling my mom, who would've called the Gold Stars, who would've called the Berkeley groups together, et cetera, et cetera. It would've been too late for Tanya, and I was being stubborn and vengeful."

"What happened in the end?" G said, apparently deciding to cut to the chase.

Megan stroked Jazz's long back, which made him stretch out longer and curl his toes. "Mom figured out I was in trouble. I still don't know how, or everything she did behind the scenes. But half of them got away, Annette among them. I stopped getting creepy emails from her after Mom changed all my email accounts and phone numbers and put some sort of electronic trackers on things. Boyd is in prison. New Alcatraz, the orbital place."

G nodded and looked like she was about to say something.

Then an enormous black cat landed with a thud on the chair behind Megan's head. It walked onto her shoulder. She could hear a deep rumbling purr resounding from it.

G smiled, the lines around her mouth lending her face the character that Megan really couldn't get enough of watching, and got up. "That's Uhura," she said, walking into the kitchen. "Staying for dinner, I hope?"

Uhura stepped down from Megan's shoulder to her chest, then settled herself on the shelf of Megan's bosom, paws tucked under. Megan had to put an arm up to keep her there, and Uhura blinked enormous yellow eyes at her. The purr rattled through Megan's ribcage.

"I guess so," Megan said, and was promptly distracted as the cats all chose that moment to stretch and rearrange themselves.

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Date: 2012-01-27 07:58 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Uhura and Vimes? A geek after my own heart. Are the other cat names references, too?

Date: 2012-01-28 04:10 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Yes, they're all references. I'm so glad you're enjoying the story! I'm loving all the comments!

Date: 2012-01-28 05:06 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
All the references, for the interested:
- Evason, for Janet Evason from Joanna Russ' The Female Man
- Ursula, for Ursula K. LeGuin
- Vimes, for Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books
- Madame Blavatsky
- Olamina, for Lauren Olamina from Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
- Jazz, for Melissa Scott's novel The Jazz
- and, of course, Uhura, from Star Trek

Date: 2012-01-28 11:55 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I googled them and I could *not* find anyone except Madame Blavatsky!

I'm glad that Ursula is a tribute to LeGuin. She's one of my favourite authors of all time.

I'm gonna have to read all the others now.

Date: 2012-01-30 04:12 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I highly recommend pretty much anything Melissa has written. One of the books she wrote with her late wife, Point of Hopes, is shortly to be rereleased by Lethe Press, so you'll be able to get hold of it. Her other books are mostly out of print (though she's also currently working on a series of Stargate: Atlantis books, if you're into that series), but worth hunting for.

I love Octavia Butler's work, but it can be heavy. I listened to the audiobook of Parable of the Sower and was OMG jumpy and paranoid for WEEKS afterward, but it was a brilliant audiobook (read by Lynne Thigpen).
Edited Date: 2012-01-30 04:13 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-02-26 07:33 am (UTC)
sepdet: Samhain worshipping the veggies. Oooommm. (Okay, yes, catnip was involved.) (Default)
From: [personal profile] sepdet
That's a simply amazing number of cats. Meanwhile, the conversation is ... ick. The fact that people thinking they've been mindfucked choose to become villains, as if they've always wanted to be and now have an excuse, is creepy as heck, and sounds alarmingly plausible.

P.S. I know somebody in a previous chapter had the Dowager Duchcess' monster cat, and now I've forgotten whose it was. Compete with claws. (Madame Destiny?)

ETA: And I think this is where I add the bookmark for the night, but I will keep going. I'll be taking the iGeek with me so that I can read after grandma's asleep.

And... HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (It's still your birthday here for another 20 minutes.)
Edited Date: 2012-02-26 07:38 am (UTC)


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