“No,” she began, “And you sure don’t act like one. I would like to know what idiot started these ‘stories’, and what evidence they had. Nobody should be able to label one color of neko as evil, dooming them to be hunted down their entire lives without even a chance to prove themselves!”
“Superstition, I guess,” he yawned. “But I think, that when humans started domesticating nekos, the black ones wouldn’t have any of it. Who just lets strange creatures wander into your territory and act like they’re more powerful than an agitated cat with human intelligence?” His fangs were showing, but he didn’t really care. Thorn got up and repositioned himself at the base of the nearest window, crossing his arms and staring at the nature inches from him. “Just ‘cause I have fangs and claws doesn’t mean I use them to kill... unless... it’s food.”
Sera turned and watched him move, her eyes following him to the window. "That would make sense, but still. I've only known you for six hours? You're not at all what superstitious suggests." Duh, he wanted to point out. They suspect a killer, but I'm a coward. "People are so stupid sometimes."
After a moment of silence, a peaceful silence that ended far too soon, she added, "Thanks. For saving me. You scared me, jumping in front of a knife like that. I don't want anyone to die because of me."
Thorn managed a chuckle, then turned from the window to look at her eyes. “Jumping in front of a dagger is nothing compared to the other stuff I’ve healed myself from.” He ran a hand across his mouth, mimicking a cat grooming itself... he didn’t actually lick his hand. Another yawn escaped him. “And even if I’ve been here for six hours, I was unconscious for three of them -“ the bed looked soft as his attentive red-brown gaze fell on it. The neko was more tired than usual. In three seconds, he went from the window to the bed and curled into a ball, fast asleep the second he closed his eyes.
What a cat.
Then why did he like being pet, though he’d never admit it? Now that the desire had been fulfilled, Thorn subconsciously begged her not to stop. His purring intensified momentarily as she scratched his ear. It was peaceful here, and he felt... safe, something he hadn’t felt in a whole year. Was this what being tame was like? Stop it, Thorn, he hissed in his mind. You're not tame, and you can never be tamed to fit the humans' specifications. Their nekos are bred to be the complete opposite of you. I shouldn't like this... but I do.
As the seconds stretched into minutes, his body became colder - and when cats get cold, they find the warmest thing they can and lay on it... which would be... the nearest human. To cats, humans were the equivalent of a hot water-bottle... whatever that was. It wasn't long before Thorn found his head on Sera's lap. So... warm... he thought, purring. He had that weird desire to be pet by this human again. What was with him? More importantly, what was with this girl? One simply cannot tame a wild neko in six hours. Sera had to be different. That was the only explanation.
Cats are actually social creatures, despite what myths have led us to believe otherwise. The life Thorn had wasn’t one that the so-called ‘neko experts’ considered healthy. A little guy like him shouldn’t be alone - he was just barely old enough to not be considered a kitten and he was a mere 4’11, though he claimed he was a solid five feet. That made him feel vulnerable in ways he didn’t understand.
"Sera, who are you talking to?" came an unfamiliar voice from the entrance of the room.
"Mom!" Sera's voice made his dream end. "This isn't what it looks like!"
Thorn, feeling the sudden increase in Sera’s heartbeat opened his eyes, saw the other human, and his eyes grew wide, narrow, and glowed. His entire body tensed, ready to bolt, as he wasn’t as strong a fighter as he was a healer. The scent of anger rolled off the human in waves - Sera’s scent betrayed fear, as did Thorn’s. The boy’s claws came from his fingertips as he sprang from his position, backed against a corner and ears lowered. I’m gonna die, I'm gonna die - his mind raced with that thought in time with his quickened heartbeat.
"Sera! Get behind me. Now." the strange human ordered. At first, she didn't move. The older human repeated herself. "Now!"
The girl flinched and obeyed, but it didn't mean his heart didn't feel any less sad by how easily she left his side.
No time to dwell on that, as the scary human turned her attention back on him. "Get out of my house, you... neko. I will not have a dangerous, untamable murderer under my roof!" His ears moved downward as her voice rose, him starting to shiver. "Sera! Why did you let this... this thing close to you?! Did it hurt you?" She merely glanced at her daughter before casting an evil stare at Thorn. "This creature is from the deepest depths. You can tell because his fur is black - burned in the eternal flame. From the underworld it has come, and to the underworld it will return!"
She threw a hairbrush at him. He braced for impact, but it never came.
Sera had stopped it. "No! No, mom! Thorn isn't a monster, he's my friend! He wouldn't hurt anyone, and he certainly didn't hurt me - and he's staying for as long as he needs to. Until the forest grows back. So get used to it." With that, the younger human turned to him, worry clear in her eyes.
Get out of my house. Burned. It. Dangerous. Murderer.
Those words made the misunderstood neko shed a tear, then another until his cheeks were wet with them. Was he... crying? He’d never done that before. Where did Sera get her kindness from? How can she dare to stand up to the one who birthed and raised her? Why couldn’t every human be like her and not instantly jump to the assumption that his fur color symbolized a monster? With a broken voice, he questioned the human: “Where? Where would I go?”
"Anywhere but here," her voice was flat, hands balled into fists.
Another tear fell. “If I leave, I’ll just doom myself to an early grave.”
When he next blinked away tears, mother and daughter were in the exact same pose. "Mom, stop." it was Sera who spoke. "I'll say it one last time - Thorn is not a danger to us. He's staying. He's mine."
The moment of silence felt like ages. The stranger closed her eyes, exhaling. Then, she opened them again, and huffed. "Fine, Sera. But there will be rules. He is pretty much your cat now, after all. He must be civilized, no pooping on the carpet. He must clean up after himself. He can’t eat any birds or tear up any furniture. That’s all until I come up with more.
Sera gave a beaming smile, rushing forward to hug the woman before walking back over to Thorn. “Thanks, mom!”
“You’re welcome. Oh, and he is not sleeping with you in your bed,” she finalized, exiting Sera’s room.
“Of course not,” Sera spoke after her. Once her mom was downstairs, a frown crossed her face and she stooped to pull the crying neko into a hug. “I’m sorry, Thorn.. It’s just that my father worked with scientists that researched nekos, so she spent years listening to his information on how dangerous worst ones were. They usually happened to have black fur.”
No birds? Somehow that restriction made his heart sink further. Even the extremely scary human that was Sera's mother couldn't stop a hunter from hunting forever, and the mention of birds as if they were sitting ducks... That sucks. Thorn put his face on her shoulder and let her shirt dry his tears, wrapping his arms around her. The mere warmth of her embrace made his racing heart slow, until it was back to what nekos considered 'normal', which was, of course, five-and-a-half heartbeats faster than a human's. How? What was with this human? How could she calm a wild neko with just a hug? "My hair was soft, wasn't it?"
"I didn't know you were awake. But yes, your hair is very soft."
She was suddenly warmer, but he didn't question and secretly liked it. "I wasn't awake. I just sense everything when I nap, including when someone pets me," though I've never been pet a day in my year-and-a-half of existing before that. Humans confused him, but he was probably just as confusing to them. Could she really tame him? No, not completely - he didn't get that type of feel from her. She did claim me. Guess I'm hers now. After a while, a thought came to him. "You want to pet me again, don't you?"
"Cool... do you want me to pet you again?"
He shrugged, an actual, real smile on his face for a split second. Thorn pulled himself from her embrace and sat beside her. A tiny little blush came to his cheeks, another thing he’d never done. It’s gonna keep those finches alive longer, I guarantee that. Can’t say how much longer, but longer than they will be otherwise. “Only if ya stop asking for my permission.”
“Well,” she responded, standing and reaching over to ruffle the neko’s soft black hair, “I’m assuming that’s a yes.”
The rest of the day passed with no interruptions, and to Thorn's relief, no uncalled-for yelling and claiming he was a satanic creature from the underworld by Sera's mother. Night came on fast, and while the girl slept, for the longest time, he couldn't, and stared out the window in peaceful silence before finally drifting off and landing on the floor with a soft thud, sleeping curled in a ball against the wall. He could hear himself purring as he woke the next morning.