Ears flat against her head, Dorothy arched her back and sniffed at the noxious odors wafting up from beneath her. Disgusting squishiness was oozing
between her toes, and her voice was more of a growling hiss than anything else. "Explain to me again why we're standing in *this*."
Hilde bristled, doing her best to keep her feet balanced on the side of a large shaded pickle jar. She did *not* want to think about the odd dark stuff that
surrounded her. "Because it's dangerous out there," she reminded the pale female, her own voice a tad more patient. The large square thing reminded her
enough of an open cage to wonder exactly what part of this 'freedom' was supposed to be so great. But Duo had sworn they'd be much safer waiting here,
and it was only going to be a short wait. At least, he'd promised a short wait. The two cats had been gone for over twenty minutes. Feet landed on the jar
behind her, and Hilde let out a muffled rowl as she nearly pitched off the side. "Quatre! Can't you be still for a single minute?!"
Treize looked over from where he and Zechs had their own feisty friend pinned on a clear bit of black plastic bag. Quatre's head had fallen in a guilty pose
and Treize smiled lazily at him. "He's just excited," he commented. Zechs nodded knowingly beside him, and Treize rubbed his cheek against Wufei's growling
back. "Young ones have so much energy."
An unintelligible threat garbled from the smaller black cat, his face nearly buried in the black plastic, what with the heavier cats holding him down. White paws
resting just behind Wufei's ears, Zechs sighed, looking over to where Trowa was perched on a very narrow bit of wood. Whatever the brown cat was standing
on stood up nearly a foot above the rest of the mess, but there wasn't room for anyone but Trowa on it. That didn't leave much option for the energy-stricken
Quatre. The poor little yellow cat had been making quick, hopping rounds of the dumpster since they'd first jumped into it. Yawning slowly, Zechs caught
Trowa's green-eyed gaze. "There's room over here if you want to pin him next to us," he offered helpfully.
"Yes," Relena spat, bristling on a damp cardboard cereal box in the corner opposite the three males, "why don't all of you have a group orgy while we wait. I
can't *believe* I'm stuck here with *you*." Her pale blue eyes flew to the dark star-splotched sky, and she mewled mournfully. "I should be out there protecting
Heero from that fiend!"
"You aren't the only one who doesn't like being stuck here," Catherine muttered. She was curled on a moldy-smelling but somehow dry bit of cloth, and she
didn't bother to lift her head from where she'd hidden it in the curl of her front paws. "If he wants to run around like a kitten, let him. I don't even want to *hear*
Trowa going over there with *those* three."
Forcing his face away from the black plastic, Wufei managed a hiss. "You think *I* am to blame for *them*?!" he growled, his ears flattening against his head.
He could feel a tongue cleaning his forehead and he let out an infuriated cry, struggling to shove the two heavier males off him. In the end, he was left with no
option but to bury his face again. "Yrthnk mfnt tuh huvthese cits nme?!"
A low chuckle rumbled Treize chest and he nuzzled the stiff black shoulders held down under his paws. "You're so cute when you mumble."
Zechs smiled and lapped at the tip of one flattened black ear. "I agree." Sharp teeth managed to snap at him, but he shoved on his paws, pressing the
smaller cat back into a sedate position. Treize tipped an ear at him.
"Now, Wufei," Treize murmured, snuffling the black cat's stomach, "Don't make me force you to purr in front of the ladies."
Dorothy's ears flew back and she twisted her face away. "Oh please! Can't you two forget your libidos for five minutes?! You are *so* pathetic."
"For once," Relena sniffed, shooting the older cats a superior glare, "I agree with Dorothy. You are both immature and disgusting."
"Now wait a second," Dorothy scowled, her pale eyes narrowing on the honey-colored female. "I never said it was disgusting. Just inappropriate considering
we're all standing in this...guck. Besides that, we're supposed to be staying quiet so we don't attract any attention until Heero and Duo can find us a way out
of this city. It's dangerous out there."
"That's what Duo said," Quatre muttered, still hanging his head, "but we didn't see anyone. I don't know why we couldn't have all gone. I thought we'd have
room to run and...well, run. We've been in here for so long..." His pale paws were a shadowy gray, and he lifted one, wincing at the nasty stuff on it. That was
going to be very bad when it came time to clean it off. His ears and tail drooped lower at the thought. He should have just sat still like everyone else, even if
he *was* overflowing with nervous energy. Something landed next to him, and he flinched, turning guilty eyes up to Trowa.
"I've seen dogs," Trowa said slowly, his head lowered as he looked at Quatre's dirty feet. "It's a real threat. Even if there aren't many people out this late,
dogs are very real." The pale cat was looking at him, obviously sorry to have bothered everyone with his excitement. With a nudge to Quatre's side, Trowa
moved him over the filled garbage bag the other three males were on. Zechs smiled and moved his long white tail to make room for them, and Trowa pushed
Quatre into a sitting position. "Just wait a little longer. You'll have all the time in the world to run, I promise."
That sweet sentiment made Catherine huff against her paws. Not wanting to see anything if the two ended up being as bad as the other three, she curled into
a tighter ball. The little pale cat hadn't been in the shop for *that* long, but he'd definitely managed to tie her normally impassive brother around his pretty little
tail. While she wasn't exactly *against* the two of them, listening had a tendency to make her stomach churn. They were far too...sweet.
Quatre tried to sit still, but his heightened nerves made his fur tremble with the restrained energy. The reddish brown cat was crouched, staring at his dirty
feet, and he ducked his head, wrapping his pale blonde tail over the offending paws. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually been dirty, and he
couldn't help being embarrassed about it. Green eyes flicked up to him, Trowa's whiskers twitching in an odd look. The taller cat's head pushed between his
front legs, and Quatre jerked back with wide eyes. "Trowa!"
"No!" Hilde whimpered, ducking her head as well as she could on her precarious perch. "Not you, too..."
"Why are all the males like that?" Dorothy muttered, shaking her head as she turned her face away from the sight.
Trowa didn't comment, snuffling Quatre's fur for a second before twisting his head beneath one of the little cat's legs. It didn't take much to position a dirty
paw over his own legs, and he set to cleaning it with a pained but meticulous manner. The pale cat tried to pull away with evident embarrassment, but he
didn't get far before Treize so kindly lent a paw, turning so he lay half on Wufei, and half on Quatre. Trowa's ears tilted back a little at how comfortably the
brown cat's head was resting on the little blonde's back, but he didn't argue.
Fur rising in a mixture of mortification and sporadic anger, Quatre twisted his head back to glare at the heavy weight holding him down. It was bad enough
Trowa thought he had to clean him without Treize hanging all over him. Pale blue-green eyes narrowing, Quatre let out a tiny hiss. "Get off."
Hilde's dark head snapped around, her blue eyes very wide. "Did Quatre just *hiss*?" she asked, shock coating her voice. "Tell me Quatre didn't just hiss..."
"I don't know," Dorothy admitted, still not looking, "but it *sounded* like him."
"Of *course* he hissed," Relena spat, glaring at the group of males. "Who *wouldn't*, with *that* disgusting thing on him? I can't *believe* I'm in here with all of
Catherine groaned, throwing a paw over her flattened ears. "Don't tell me what they're doing, please don't tell me what they're doing. There's a *reason* I'm
not looking, so I'd appreciate not getting a verbal description of it."
Dark fur rising a bit, Trowa frowned back at the reddish female, his tail curling around his hind feet. "I'm not doing *anything*," he informed her,
embarrassment coursing through him.
"He really isn't," Zechs commented, looking up from the damp black head he'd mostly licked clean. "Treize is the one holding Quatre down. All Trowa is doing
is kissing his pretty little paws."
Catherine's wail echoed in the dumpster, her fur bristling in dismay. "I *told* you not to *tell* me!"
* * *
Clawless paws were kneading his shoulder blades, and Heero growled quietly, throwing a glare over his shoulder. "Exactly *what* are we supposed to be
There wasn't room for two cats to stand on the little cement section outside the window, but Duo had settled that easily enough. He'd simply hopped up
behind Heero, with his front paws resting on the darker cat's back. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but obviously it wasn't a position Heero cared for.
Whiskers twitching at the dark blue glare, Duo managed not to smile. He might have known the difficult cat wouldn't like being on bottom. "Sorry," he said
softly, tilting his head. "I guess I should have jumped up first, right?"
Something in the cat's twinkling violet eyes told him not to comment on that, and Heero's ears turned back dangerously. "Just tell me what you're looking for in
They'd been walking for quite a while, sticking to the shadows beneath parked cars mostly. But Duo had darted out across the sidewalk when he spotted the
bright sign hung before this building. Obviously it meant something to him, but Heero really didn't see anything inside that could possibly help them get away
from the city. There were a bunch of men in the cloudy room, but humans couldn't help. They were supposed to be *avoiding* humans.
"I'm looking for the right sort of person," Duo said, turning his eyes back to the room. "There aren't that many people in town this late, so it had to be a bar."
"A bar?" Heero's eyes narrowed when the longhaired cat nodded vigorously, those paws pulling at his fur. "Stop that."
Duo blinked big eyes and leaned down against the dark cat, confusion passing over his face. "Stop what, Heero? Don't you want me to find a way out of here
for us? I won't look if you don't want me to." A low growl rumbled beneath him, but he pretended not to hear it, brushing his cheek against Heero's warm fur.
"If you have a better idea-"
"I meant stop playing with me," Heero hissed, his fur ruffling around his neck. "Just find whatever you're looking for."
"I wasn't playing with you!" Ears flattening briefly, Duo managed to frown in disapproval. "You don't think very highly of me, do you. Well, take my word for it,
Heero. When I *play* with you, you'll know it. I guarantee that you'll know it." The dark cat's nose was twitching, a hint of white fang flashing with the
movement, and Duo straightened quickly. "Hm, I think we might have a winner in there somewhere. The way I see it, it would be much easier to hitch a ride to
the country than it would be to try walking there. I know all about traveling, and there are far too many dangers for an alley cat. I can just *imagine* the
problems with *eleven*. What we need, is either a hick with a truck, or a cat-lover."
"You think you can get a *human* to help us?" Heero asked, disbelief making his fur still. "The entire *point* was to be free. You're going to get us locked up
"No I'm not," Duo sniffed, frowning down at the cat. Arching his neck, he snuffled into Heero's ear, knowing very well how much the male would hate that.
"Stop doubting me. Didn't I get you guys out of that shop? I know what I'm doing. We *have* to get a ride. If we tried walking there we'd get picked up and
thrown in a pound. Or if we managed to avoid that, all it takes is one determined dog and a blind alley. Not to *mention* the bored teenagers who just *love*
to catch cats and torture them in the sickest ways. Trust me, I'm not going to mess this up. I won't reveal myself unless I find the right type of person. And
then, I'll just play nice long enough to get us out of here. Once we're in the country, we hightail it to the woods and that's it. Freedom."
"How do you know if it's the 'right' person?" Heero glowered, his ears now flattened against his head. He wasn't angry so much as determined that he wouldn't
leave himself in a position to let the idiot blow in his ears again. He'd never felt *anything* so annoying as that simple move. Even having the irritating cat
massaging his shoulders was preferable to air blown in his ear.
"Well," Duo murmured, his eyes moving over the smoky bar, "like I said it's either a hick with a truck, or a cat-lover. Country people don't come to town this
late unless they're going to an all-night bar, as far as I know. But they're usually pretty easy to spot." The dark brown cat was frowning at him, and he nodded
toward the window. "See that old guy by the bar, the one without any hair?" Heero nodded. "He's a hick. Chances are he has a truck somewhere nearby
that we can jump into. If so, we won't even have to reveal ourselves. We just hide in the back and enjoy the ride."
"And if he doesn't have a truck?"
"Then he's out," Duo said, jerking his head so his whiskers brushed the glass. "But that's fine, too, because there's a cat-lover right *there*." He directed
Heero's gaze to a tall dark-haired man seated at a small table not too far from the window. The man in question was making an odd face, but Duo recognized
it as a pout. "He's our man."
"How do you know?" Heero frowned, staring at the human. The man was sipping something, and Heero's eyes narrowed as he shifted on the ledge. He had
to press closer to Duo, but he managed to see the other side of the table. "He isn't alone. Even if you're right about him liking cats, his partner might not."
Duo's ears edged back a bit as he looked at the other male, taking in his disapproving frown. "I hate to admit it, but you might be right. He doesn't look very
nice. I bet he's a dog-person." This human looked much younger than the other one, but his scowl was rather fierce. It made the marked 'cat-lover' pout
even worse. "But the cat-lover's older," he said hopefully, his ears easing forward again. "Just look, the younger one isn't winning against *that* pout."
"How can you tell he's pouting?" Heero hadn't spent much time actually observing humans, and he was confused by how easily Duo seemed able to read
them. "How do you know so much about humans?"
"I told you," Duo sniffed, staring at the two men, "I've been around. Those are our men, without a doubt." He blinked for a second, hesitating as he looked
down at the soft brown fur his paws were buried in. "Hate to let you go, but we'd better hurry. They may not stay much longer. You go get the others and I'll
stall them if they try to leave before you get back."
"What are you thinking?" Heero frowned, turning his head back on the bright-eyed cat. "They won't take all of us with them, even if that one *does* like cats."
"Trust me," Duo smiled, rubbing his face against Heero's neck. The dark cat tensed with a warning growl, and he pulled back, hopping to the sidewalk. "Just
go get them, and hurry. No matter how cute I act, I won't be able to stall them for very long. And warn them not to growl when they get here. We have to look
*cute*." Dark doubtful blue eyes blinked slowly at him, and Duo preened, lapping at a raised paw. "I bet you look great when you're being 'cute.' Can't *wait*
to see that."
Whiskers twitching, Heero finally settled into a glare as he hopped down from the window. Duo flicked his tail at him, and he sniffed. "Baka."
"Right," Duo smirked, jerking his tail away when he saw a hint of Heero's claws, "Hide behind the language barrier. I already told you, there are other ways to
communicate." The dark cat bristled, but he waved a paw at him. "Get going, we can 'play' later." For a moment it didn't look like Heero would go, but the
dark cat finally turned, darting off into the shadowy path they'd taken. Hopefully Heero wouldn't get lost. Duo's tail curled around him as he blinked at that
thought. Heero had better *not* get lost, or all those cats would be pretty angry about losing this chance. He'd never been around so many cats, but Duo
rather liked the idea of them needing his help. It made his fur bush up with satisfaction. A flick of his tail later, he hopped back to the window to scope out his
They really were rather pretty for humans, at least compared to the ones Duo had seen. The dark-haired one had bright eyes, a nice violet shade that
dozens of puddles had told Duo were the same color as his own. His hair wasn't that long, but it was somewhere near the shade of Heero's fur, a nice burnt
brown with hints of red mixed in. Tail curling around him as he settled against the window, Duo sighed. He'd never really appreciated human looks, but he did
like that one's hair. And he was confident the 'cat-lover' wouldn't mind him brushing against it as much as Heero did. That cat really knew how to play
hard-to-get. Thinking about his own flirtatious teasing on the way to the bar, Duo sniffed into a smile. He was going to get that cat, one way or another.
His tall target caught his eye, and Duo tensed for a second before relaxing again. The human was just getting another drink from the woman walking around
the room. She moved to offer something to the other human, and Duo's ears shifted back when the younger one scowled darker. That human was an angry
one. He could practically feel it in his rising fur. After a lifetime of avoiding that type of human, he could read them very well. The shorter human had scowled
since he first spotted him. Aside from that, Duo was actually surprised by the human's looks. He had the biggest eyes he'd ever seen on a human. They
were almost frighteningly wide, and a very bright green color that reminded him a little of Trowa. Some humans did have big eyes, but Duo had never seen
one with eyes that glowed so much like a cat's. It was unnerving. If the young human hadn't had hair the same pale honey color of Relena's fur, he'd have
been freaked out by the similarity to Trowa. He was thinking about those odd eyes so much that he nearly fell off the window ledge when they suddenly turned
to look right at him.
That wasn't supposed to happen! Duo's shoulders hunched, and he stared back at those unnervingly big green eyes, frozen in place. He hadn't meant for
either of them to notice him, but if one had it was supposed to be the cat-lover. This could ruin everything. His fur was rising with an odd creeping fear, and
Duo's ears flattened when the young human stood slowly, still staring at him. And something strange happened in those bright eyes. They sparkled. And that
seemingly permanent scowl smoothed away into a gentle frown. Duo blinked. Suddenly the human looked like a child, young and confused, and much less
like a cat-hating dog-lover. That rising panic eased, and Duo shifted on the sill, not sure what to think. The human had moved to sit at the bench next to the
window, with only the glass separating them. Despite his seemingly set plans, Duo wasn't sure what to make of it. Then the older, dark-haired human
followed, and Duo remembered the plan. The moment the violet-eyed man sat down, Duo switched into 'cute' mode.
Blinking soulful eyes at the tall man, Duo tilted his head, doing his best impression of a sad little cat all alone in the world. It wasn't much of a stretch, if truth
be told, but he rarely used the look. And even though it was just what he'd hoped for, Duo nearly winced when the violet-eyed man's face fell into a pitying
expression. Humans were so predictable. Sniffing as if the man were his long-lost owner, Duo touched his nose to the window, his tail high in a hopefully
hesitant manner. The dark-haired man's 'aww' reached him all the way through the window. Duo almost grinned. He was *definitely* a cat-lover. Getting into
the act, Duo brushed his cheek against the window, his complete adoring attention devoted to the man who looked about ready to jump out the door and
sweep him into his arms. Duo was so intent on the violet-eyed 'softie' that he nearly fell when a hand moved over the glass, blocking his view. He scrambled
for a second before he could catch his balance. The green-eyed one had interfered, and the strange human was staring at him, his narrow eyebrows lowered
in that same, curious frown. And somehow, Duo had a sinking idea the human could see right through him.
* * *