This is for turlough and duoshingami both of whom encouraged me disgracefully.
Bob climbs aboard the bus and the first thing he sees is the kitten. It’s sitting in the middle of the table, looking tiny against the litter of empty drinks cans, its fur dark against the sheets of white paper as it bats at an uncapped pen with a tiny black and white paw.
He stares for a long moment, vowing to strangle Mikey --- because this reeks of Mikey Way involvement -- but still, somehow Bob finds himself moving closer, stepping over a trailing pile of clothes that make him sigh and make a mental note to bring up the bus rules again, because come on, people have to know clothes don’t hang on the floor.
Furtively, Bob looks around before crouching, forearms braced on the table as he looks at the kitten, which looks right back at him, before suddenly sneezing, kitten snot landing on Bob’s arm. He frowns, then rocks back on his heels, because while the kitten is cute from a distance, up close its fur is long and lank, and there’s something crusted on its back leg, and it smells like it’s been rolling in garbage --garbage that’s been left to rot for days. Which admittedly, isn’t that different from the stench of BO that lingers over the bus and his belongings like a persistent noxious cloud, but still, Bob isn’t going to get too close.
He stands and steps back so he’s resting against the kitchen bench, hip pushed against the edge as he observes. Watching as the kitten flops on its side and stretches one paw in the air, its black-tipped toes splayed, its mouth open wide to reveal tiny sharp teeth.
Which okay, he’d admit that’s cute – mentally at least, he’s not about to go around proclaiming his love for kittens – but it’s then the kitten starts to scratch, its leg frantically moving and all Bob can think about is fleas.
He’s scratching at his arm when he hears the high-pitched squeak. At first he thinks it’s coming from the kitten on the table, then he realises that the sound originated someplace low, like near his foot low.
Slowly, Bob looks down, and frowns when he sees yet another kitten. This one is all knock-kneed and has a whip-thin tail that droops to the ground, and when it stumbles into Bob’s foot and looks up, he sees its eyes are scrunched almost closed and ringed with an unbroken line of black.
Bob tries to resist. One kitten is bad enough, but two? Then the kitten mews, looking impossibly frail against the solidness of Bob’s boot.
“Hey,” Bob says softly, and before he can think things through, bends down and carefully scoops the kitten into his hand. It fits perfectly and looks up at Bob with those scrunched up eyes, then curls up, its black nose tucked against tiny pink paws. Despite himself, Bob has to admit this kitten is cute too, even if he can feel its fur, greasy and stringy against his palm.
Bob looks at the kitten, then at the table where the first kitten is playing with the plastic seal of a bottle lid. It flips the seal into the air, the kitten’s eyes huge as the seal skitters along the tabletop, and Bob can feel his mouth curling into a reluctant smile. A smile which is matched by thoughts of practicalities, because as much as Mikey protests, a tour is no place for pets, especially when they’re all living in such a small space.
The kittens will have to go. To a shelter, or maybe one of the local crew, but first, there’s no harm in giving them a bath – some of Ray’s special shampoo will work wonders -- or something to eat. Just to maximise their appeal.
Suddenly, the kitten on the table moves to the edge. Its ears are pricked up high and its whiskers are trembling as it strains its neck and looks up, meowing frantically. Suddenly understanding, Bob rests his hand on the table, and the second kitten stumbles forward, bumping into the drinks cans and tripping over pens until the first kitten runs close, sneezes, and presses its nose against the others neck.
They stand still, then flop down, their legs tangled, their noses close. If Bob thought that way, he’d say it was one of the sweetest things he’d ever seen.
Wiping his hand against his thigh, Bob sits and looks at the kittens, watching as they snuggle close, their feet twitching and their tails curling together as their eyes close and they slip into sleep.
It’s then that Frank climbs aboard the bus, mouth curled down and looking just that side of worried.
“Hey,” he says, looking along the bus toward the bunks, and the kittens purr, a rounded soft sound. “Have you seen Gerard or Mikey? Worm says they were talking to some weird looking woman, and no one’s seen them since.”
The kittens stand then, mewing loudly, and Bob’s stomach clenches as he takes in the uncapped pens – something Gerard would never do – the clothes and sneakers abandoned on the floor, and even as he’s doubting his own sanity, he’s kneeling next to the table, looking at the kittens and says, “Gerard? Mikey?”
It takes a surprisingly short time for Frank to believe that the kittens are really Ways. It helps that Mikey and Gerard – the human Mikey and Gerard – are nowhere to be found, and that the kittens are standing close, the thinner one looking blankly forward, staring into space, while the other twitches like its body contains an energy that’s bursting to escape.
In fact, Frank reacts like people turning into kittens happens everyday. Which is reassuring in a way, but it also makes Bob want to grab Frank by the shoulders and shake him hard, because people turning into animals is insane. Except Bob knows Gerard and Mikey, and he sees them in every move the kittens make.
Of course reluctant acceptance leads to more problems, like how to tell Ray, and how the hell can they perform when their singer and bassist have four legs and a tail? Something like that is impossible to conceal, and Bob pinches the bridge of his nose when he imagines the kittens on the stage, prowling and frolicking and tiny claws strumming at strings and he’s fighting the urge to giggle, because that would really prove he’s lost his mind.
“If you can understand me, meow once,” Frank says again, and he waits expectantly, like this is the time they’ll finally do as he says. They don’t, and he frowns as he sits back in his chair, looking dejected as he watches the kittens. The bigger one – Gerard – has found a stale cheerio and is nibbling delicately at the brightly coloured O. Mikey is staring toward the window, then suddenly collapses on his side and lifts one leg over his head so he can curl around and lick along his belly toward his tail, his nose pressed into the strands of trailing long hair.
“He’s always wanted to do that,” Franks says suddenly, eyes alight as he watches Mikey twist in place. “He tried once, but nearly brained himself on the edge of the coffee table when he overbalanced.”
Which is an image Bob didn’t want at all, and he’s moments from stuffing a sock in Frank’s mouth when he notices that Mikey has stopped licking and is looking at Frank, his distain obvious
“I think he understood me,” Frank says, and he laughs as he gently prods Mikey in the side. “Fucker, you could have said.”
Mikey looks at him for a long moment, then lifts up his leg once more, which says everything as far as Bob is concerned.
“What about you, Gee? You in there?”
Frank runs his finger along Gerard’s side, then pulls his hand back when Gerard sneezes four times in succession before looking at Frank with watery eyes.
“Do you think he’s got a cold?”
“How the fuck would I know?” Bob replies, hearing Frank’s worry and concealing his own. “For all I know he’s reacting to his own stink. They’re rank.”
Which is true, but Bob can’t help feeling guilty when Gerard mews softly and rests his head on his folded paws.
“We could give them a bath, see if that helps,” Frank says hesitantly, and Bob imagines that Frank’s having the same internalised issues about bathing Gerard and Mikey, even if they are in cat form.
“I’ve always wanted to get my hands on their hair.”
Or then again, maybe Frank’s a freak who doesn’t care at all.
If he’d ever thought about it – which he hadn’t – Bob would have thought bathing two tiny kittens would be easy. It isn’t at all. They hiss and spit and claw as Bob places them in the sink full of tepid water, and he swears when Gerard scratches at his arm. Eventually though, after a lot of shampooing and rinsing with clean water, Bob gently places each one on a waiting towel, two pitiful looking kittens who shiver as Frank takes Mikey and Bob, Gerard.
“There, that’s better,” Frank croons, and his expression is rapt as he runs the towel over Mikey’s neck. Bob understands how he feels, admitting to himself that it’s surprisingly soothing to move the towel over Gerard’s fur, carefully blotting him dry.
When they’re finished the kittens looks soft and silky, and Bob cradles Gerard on his lap as Frank stretches out on the floor, Mikey tucked between his chest and chin. He’s whispering something that’s making Mikey purr, and Bob would move closer, except Gerard sneezes again, and wipes his nose against Bob’s arm.
It worries him, because Gerard was fine before this whole transformation thing happened, and what if he’s contracted some feline disease? Because of all the ways Bob has imagined Gerard could die, cat flu has never been one of them.
“Fuck, we’re idiots.” Frank suddenly pushes himself up, Mikey protesting with a sharp squeak despite being still cradled securely against Frank’s chest. “Gerard’s allergic, remember?”
At first Bob doesn’t remember, then he does, that Gerard’s nildly allergic to cats, but Gerard is a cat, and surely he can’t be allergic to himself?
“It has to be that.”
Frank sounds relieved, and at first Bob’s relieved too, except Gerard being allergic to himself sounds like the beginning of some kind of joke, but the realisation that it also means Gerard is allergic to Mikey is nothing short of tragic.
It takes Frank about ninety seconds to convince Ray. It would have been less if Mikey hadn’t suddenly decided to chase after a fly, demonstrating unprecedented levels of Mikey Way activity.
But Ray is convinced and is soon sitting cross-legged on the floor, dangling a piece of string in the air and laughing as Gerard stretches upwards, his fur shining as he balances on two legs, his forelegs a blur of motion. Bob watches them as he chops up pepperoni pieces from a pizza. They’d tried offering cat food earlier; bribing some fans with autographs and pictures in return for a trip to a local store, but neither of the kittens would even look in the bowl. Not that Bob blames them, he’s never seen chicken that colour before.
As he carefully chops, Bob plots and plans, because while there’s no show tonight, tomorrow they have to perform, and right now that’s out of the question. It’s something he’s been thinking about for hours now, and his thoughts keep circling to the strange woman who Frank mentioned before, because it has to be her. She’s the one anomaly to this day – if you don’t count Mikey and Gerard suddenly being tiny, four legged and covered in fur, which Bob doesn’t, because despite how they look on the outside, they’re still them, Bob can tell. So it has to be her, and as he slides the carefully chopped pieces of meat onto a plate, Bob knows what he needs to do.
Without a word, he places the plate on the floor, and takes a moment to watch as Mikey and Gerard skid across the floor – in Mikey’s case literally as his feet splay outwards and he flops onto his back before standing, looking like he’d meant to do that all the time. They sniff the meat when they reach the plate, then dive in, their heads bent as they chew, standing close together, black fur and brown, an united force against the world
Bob slips out of the bus then, before they’re finished, determined to end this situation – now.
It’s the usual scene outside. Lingering smells of pot and fast food and buses parked in groups. Most are darkened except for the windows which suddenly brighten with light, silhouettes behind flimsy curtains hinting at people dressing or eating or just watching the world go by.
Bearing right, Bob approaches a group of techs. They’re sitting near a bus, light pooling out of the open door, beer bottles set on the grass at their feet, shooting the shit with easy mannerisms and sudden laughter. It’s a scene Bob’s lived thousands of times before, but when they wave him over he shakes his head and keeps walking.
In truth he’s got no idea where he’s going. The woman could be anywhere and the description of ‘strange looking’ is no help when every surrounding person could be described as weird. Strange is just a thing in their world, like having black hair or blue eyes and the enormity of it all is dawning crystal clear. Because kittens are okay, but Bob misses his friends, his friends in their own bodies, and if he misses them so much now, he can’t even imagine how much more it’ll be tomorrow.
It’s a depressing thought and Bob fights against the lead feeling in his belly by kicking savagely at an empty can, sending it flying into the darkness.
“You could take someone’s eye out doing that.”
Bob had thought he was alone, so the unexpected voice is a surprise, and he swears softly as he rounds the front of the bus. Immediately he knows he’s found the woman he’s looking for, not that she’s weird looking as such, dressed in a sensible tweed skirt and beige cardigan, her hair pulled back in a bun, to most she wouldn’t be weird at all. Here she sticks out like a sore thumb.
“Sorry,” Bob says, because despite this being as suspicious as all hell – finding her ten minutes after he first started looking in a deserted area shrouded in shadows, like that’s normal – she still looks like someone’s mom. Which makes bringing up the whole kitten thing problematic. He’d originally planned to deal with the situation with threats of bodily harm, but now he doesn’t know what to do at all. Bob hates that feeling.
“Your friends, they talked of change, of seeing the world through unjaded eyes. I gave them that; for a time.”
“Wait.” Bob holds out his hand when the woman makes to walk away. “You can’t just say that shit then go. They’re kittens.”
The woman raises an perfectly groomed eyebrow “As they essentially wished to be. I allowed them to experience life without the weight of past failures and constant temptation.”
Bob’s fingers curl, making fists as he fought against anger. “Turn them back. Now.”
“Demands get you nowhere, Bob Bryar.”
Which is something Bob doesn’t believe, but he remains silent as the woman rummages in her bag, before shutting the clasp with a snap.
“Despite what you believe, I’ve done no harm. Now go back, tomorrow is a new day.”
She leaves then, slipping away into shadows between bus and fence. When Bob follows, she’s already gone.
When Bob goes back to the bus he find Ray and Frank asleep on the floor. The tv is playing some movie, the sound muted, and Bob blinks against the light as he looks for the kittens, finding Mikey snuggled in the crook of Frank’s arm, Gerard wrapped in the tangle of Ray’s hair.
When he steps forward they both open their eyes, then run forward, crowding around his feet until he bends and scoops both up in his hands. They press together, looking at Bob with their huge eyes and Bob carefully wipes off the droplets of milk that cling to Mikey’s pink nose.
“I found the woman who did this to you,” Bob says, indulgently letting Gerard nibble at the tip of his finger. “You need to stop talking to strange women; I don’t want to see an alligator on the bus one day.”
In fact, Bob doesn’t want to see the kittens on the bus, he just wants his friends in their normal bodies. Not that he says that, but they still seem to understand, mewing softly as Bob moves to his bunk, feeling exhausted as he pulls the curtain aside, and lies on top of the covers. Gerard and Mikey settle down, a fuzzy warmth on his chest and Bob sleeps to a background of purrs and sneezes.
Bob wakes to pressure against his belly, his side, his chest. He’s boiling hot, and there’s something tickling against his neck. Opening his eyes he realises that it’s Mikey wedged at his side, his face pushed against the wall, and it’s Gerard blanketing him, his hair falling forward and drooling against Bob’s neck.
Bob can hardly breathe. The bunk is barely big enough for one, never mind three. Still, he doesn’t attempt to move, just lies quietly, smiling wide, because while Bob will admit that kittens are cute, they’ve got nothing on his friends.
Tags: my stories:bandom