It was a quiet, almost nonexistent sound, but both Natsuo and Youji heard it. It came from behind Soubi's closed door, followed by a low shushing sound that was unquestionably from Soubi. The two children looked at each other, their eyes meeting in wonderment. Together they crept towards the door and sat at it, listening closely with their cat ears strained.
Natsuo's hand quickly covered Youji's mouth before he could ask the question burning in his mind. A low laugh was heard, obviously Soubi's again and then the turning of pages. Soubi usually had the door to his shut whenever he read. The Zeroes knew better than to bother him while he was reading. Of course, they knew this from experience. The last time they had barged in on Soubi while he had his door shut he had yelled at them and thrown them out in a way that would be very painful for a regular person.
That was the first time and the last time they had gone into Soubi's room while he wanted them out. Despite the high risk of being thrown out into the cold winter afternoon, Natsuo and Youji were seriously thinking at it now. Neither one of them moved, knowing that if they made a single sound, Soubi would know they were right outside his door. They thought briefly of calling Ritsuka, since Ritsuka was the only person that pervert Soubi would let into his room at a time like this.
This time a purring sound followed the muffled noise. This made it clear to the two dumbfounded boys that Soubi was either keeping a cat from them from them or he was doing things to Ritsuka, who might have somehow snuck in, and was making him mew and purr like a kitten. The sound of the man chuckling was heard and even more purring.
Finally, the curiosity got the best of both boys and Youji turned to Natsuo, flashing a mischievous smile at him. Natsuo nodded, the more reserved boy standing with his partner. Youji started to open the door as carefully and quietly as he could. Once he had gotten it open to a small crack, he jumped back, probably expecting Soubi to attack him. No other sound was heard, other than the continuous purring. Soubi had seemingly not noticed.
Despite the small crack, Natsuo and Youji still couldn't see anything except the painting that Soubi had hung in his room. Youji pushed the door lightly, causing it to swing open a bit more. They both prayed that it wouldn't make a creaking sound as it did and they got lucky.
What they both saw shocked them. Soubi was laying on the bed, looking half asleep. He lazily stroked the small black kitten curled up on his chest. The young kitten purred loudly, kneading the fabric of Soubi's shirt. It looked no more than a couple months old. A large, complicated looking book rested on the bed next to him, lying open on a page close to the end. The kitten let out another high-pitched mew and rubbed its head against Soubi's chest. Soubi laughed again, scratching its head behind its ears happily.
Natsuo and Youji nearly burst out laughing. They had never seen Soubi acting so happy and intimate around something that wasn't Ritsuka. He almost looked like the young, college-aged man that he was.
Suddenly, the kitten blinked its wide, violet eyes open and stared at Natsuo and Youji for a long moment before letting out a soft hiss. Soubi opened his eyes, too, a simple glance quickly turning into a harsh glare. He stopped lovingly petting the cat and gently lifted it off of him, only to have it immediately jump back onto him.
"You wouldn't let us have a dog, but you have a cat?!" Youji pouted. Natsuo and Youji had brought home a stray dog once, making Soubi furious at them for doing so. He had made them find the real owner after only a day or so of living with it. They had named it Ritsuka in hopes that Soubi would let them keep it, but they supposed it didn't help that it was a golden retriever and looked nothing like Ritsuka.
"I love cats," Soubi told them, sounding angry. The kitten mewled again at his defensive, firm tone and rolled onto its back, begging for Soubi's attention again. Soubi obliged, scratching its white belly-fur softly.
"Dogs are better," Natsuo put in, trying to defend his partner. He couldn't help but to think that the black violet-eyed kitten was cute, though. Even Youji would admit it was cute.
"Yeah," Youji was nodding with a deep-set glare on his face. "They're loyal and fun to play with. A cat can't play. It can't even attack anything."
"Not true," Soubi smirked. "I'll have you both know that this kitten is not declawed and is very possessive. Why do you think he hissed at you when you first came in?"
"Dogs are still better," Natsuo argued, not seeing how this small kitten could possibly attack anything. Dogs were fiercer and easy to train and able to play. The Zero boys preferred dogs, while Soubi seemed to love cats.
"Dogs are too big and loud," Soubi dismissed easily. He was still on the bed, petting the tiny cat lying on him. "They bark too much and they're too obedient. Cats are much more stubborn and they stay small. This one will only get a little bigger and he'll stay cute."
Natsuo and Youji exchanged glances again, both thinking that maybe Soubi's argument about obedience went deeper than he let on. In the time that they'd been living with Soubi, they had come to think of him as some sort of parent, and therefore had begun to get to know him. They learned a little on his past and how he had been forced to obey everything his ex-master said. Maybe that was why he didn't like dogs.
"Does he remind you of Ritsuka or something?" Youji accused, staring at the kitten. It did remind him and Natsuo of Ritsuka with its black fur and wide violet eyes. "How long have you been hiding him from us?"
They were honestly both amazed that Soubi could hide the kitten so well. They didn't know how the cat hadn't showed up sometime. Soubi went out a lot, usually to Ritsuka's or to school, but Natsuo and Youji stayed home most of the day. They sometimes went with Soubi to Kio's or to the store, though that wasn't very often. They almost never went out alone.
"I take him over to Ritsuka's, since he was the one who showed me the stray cat who lived by his house. The stray cat had kittens, so I asked Ritsuka if I could take one home. He was worried the littlest one of the litter wouldn't make it, so I took him. The others were strong enough to survive," Soubi explained, not really sounding angry anymore. "It's been about a week or so now. I hate to, but I keep him in the closet when I'm at school, since I think you two would torture him if you found him."
Natsuo and Youji were wondering what they would have done if they had found the kitten in the house. It was probably a good thing that Soubi kept it in the closet when he was gone.
"Ritsuka really likes him, too," Soubi went on, affectionately petting the cat between the ears again.
"Well," Youji rolled his eyes. "You two can't have kids anyways, so why not substitute a cat?"
They expected a sharp glare to come from Soubi, but he just ignored the comment. "I've actually had other cats before," Soubi informed them seriously, grinning at their shocked faces. "They were mostly adult and kitten strays that I picked up from day to day. They're all gone now. I found people who wanted cats at the university. I'm going to keep Rit-chan, though."
Natsuo and Youji burst out laughing at the name. Of course. He had named the cat after Ritsuka. That was no big surprise, but it still made the Zero team laugh hard.
"Laugh all you want, but if you two ever barge in here again I'll lock you in the closet."
And with that the two children shut up, knowing that Soubi was completely serious. Soubi, smirking to himself, went back to giving his full attention to the cat that reminded him so much of Ritsuka.
"Can we hold him?" Youji asked after a few minutes of being completely ignored.
"Yes. Come here," Soubi sat up, beckoning the two over to the bed. Youji quietly padded over, Natsuo close behind him. "Hold out your arms," Soubi instructed, placing the tom cat in Youji's arms. "Support his head and back."
Youji fixed his arms so that he was cradling the small kitten like a baby. He stared down at it, amazed at how light and cuddly it was. The black fur was so soft, like the fleece blankets Youji and Natsuo slept with. Even though he couldn't feel heat, Youji wondered if it was warm. Natsuo was leaning over his shoulder, looking down at the kitten with the same expression of wonderment.
"Soubi," Youji started, not looking away from the light weight soft animal in his arms. "Is he warm?"
"Yes," Soubi's voice was gentle and he used a tone that he rarely did. He only used that voice when he was happy with the two tyrants and they were minding him for once.
"I wish we could at least feel heat," Natsuo stated almost absentmindedly. He carefully ran a finger down the soft white underbelly, stopping and pulling back suddenly felt the tiny thing's belly rise and fall with its breathing. He could also feel the fast paced heartbeat and the small purr vibrating through its body.
The kitten, Rit-chan, mewled with amusement as it raised both its front paws to bat at a piece of Youji's hair. Its wide eyes stared up at the two boys as it played with that strand of hair. Youji laughed at it, letting it play a little longer before handing it back to Soubi.
The man held it carefully and let it lay back down on his chest. Natsuo and Youji stood at the bedside a while longer, observing their new wonderful discovery before finally coming to their senses and leaving.
"Youji?" Natsuo said when they had exited Soubi's room and shut the door behind them.
"I think I like cats now."