Heartworm

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In all fairness, Alex mused, the other boy had been justified in getting angry and being less than polite. The poor thing had seemed flustered enough as it was anyway – his standing there, watching like it was a circus (which it kind of had, if he was brutally honest) had been borderline cruel. And he hadn't helped the situation by his actions, either...

It had just been so funny! He, Alex, had been drawn to the 'scene' because of the unmistakable, incessant mewling of what could only be Mrs. Johnson's litter of kittens, and when he'd arrived at the scene, the reason for the chaos had become apparent. Standing right in the middle of her perfectly-watered lawn stood a boy, slightly shorter than himself, with dark hair, looking positively bewildered as he struggled to balance two kittens bundled in his arms, with a third attempting to scale his leg, and yet another trio battling the dustbin that now lay toppled over near the mailbox. None of them was silent.

Alex had watched, a growing smile playing onto his lips of its own accord, as the other boy attempted to move, earning him an even louder yowl from the furball on his leg. He'd fumbled to get it off, but this in turn displeasured one of the kittens he'd been cradling, and he winced as it drew its nails across his forearm to convey the same.

"Hey, come on! Cut me some slack here!" he'd protested.

Of course the cat hadn't understood him, but it had chosen precisely that moment to leap off him – presumably no longer happy with its 'captor' – disturbing his balance and causing him to drop its sibling in the process.

"Hey! I just got you off there!" the boy had grumbled again – and this was the point that he realized he had an audience.

Their eyes had met, then the catsitter flushed visibly, turning away quickly, clearly embarrassed.

Which was when Alex had realized two things – one, that he'd been staring, and two, that it had been with what was now a full-blown smirk on his face. That more than accounted for the other boy's reaction.

"I'm sorry," he'd called out, "do you need any help?" he'd started to cross the street to access the lawn, but just as he reached close enough to be within earshot, the kitten on the boy's leg mewled loudly in response to the boy's attempt to get it off, and Alex had laughed.

"I'm fine, thanks," the boy had snapped, pointedly turning so that his back now faced Alex.

Alex had felt bad then. "Here, let me." He'd mumbled, approaching the mess, and carefully picked up the little one that had been on its way to pounce on the tail of his companion's jacket. It protested, clawing at him in resistance, but Alex had been unfazed.

"I think it'll be easier if you just put a bowl of milk out here." But as soon as the suggestion had passed out his mouth, he knew he'd made a mistake – his voice had sounded unnecessarily, unintentionally condescending – and surely enough, the other boy's face had snapped up to look at him straight in the eye.

He'd responded without missing a beat. "Thanks, genius. Think you can help me out by telling me what you think those are?"

Alex had followed the direction of the cat-sitter's pointed finger, and seen the troughs – plural – of milk already laid out.

"Oh."

"Yeah." And then the boy had turned his attention back to the litter, and spoken again, softly, half to himself. "I think they're just restless because their mom's at the vet's." After which he'd softly stroked the head of one of the kittens, then stood up and disappeared into the house without uttering another word.

He'd emerged a few moments later, with a few soft toys gathered up in his hands.

Alex had simply watched, intrigued, impressed, as the boy put the toys down and proceeded to firmly, albeit gently, pick up each of the protesting kittens one by one and place them near their milk and toys. Within minutes, they had been pacified.

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