10 - What the Cat Saw

338 48 8

A dark shape rounded the corner, announcing its presence with a quiet 'mrrwl.' Nat glanced up and smiled as the tubby tuxedo cat approached. She held out a hand, and Fluff arched his back under it, running his sleek spine under her palm before turning and butting his head into her extended fingers. She took this invitation to scratch his cheek, fingers tickling at the white hairs of his chin, and he replied with a low booming purr.

This was when he was at his most affectionate: when it was just the two of them, falling back into the rhythms and routines they had built together over the years. He had not adjusted to the married life, and perhaps he never would. The thought saddened her.

At least he was not trying to drive Liz away, the way he had that college girlfriend. At least he was not tearing up Liam's things or leaving spiteful hairballs in the laundry basket. Given the option, his reclusive habits were vastly superior. He might come out of his shell eventually. Or, given his creeping old age, he might just retire as a cantankerous old man, and Nat supposed that would have to be all right too. 

Fluff, satisfied with the attention, drew away from her and padded out into the sitting room to investigate the new items they had brought inside. He rubbed his chin along the frames of the paintings that leaned against the wall, scenting them, claiming ownership of these new objects that had materialized. He moved, then, toward the door, and caught sight of the dog.

He went stiff, as if startled, his ears pinning back to his head, eyes going wide, pupils spreading to engulf his eyes. He froze, staring at the hound, and let loose a low growl. Nat had never heard him make a sound like that, not when a wayward alley cat would come up to the window, not even when Liz's family would come to stay in the guest room and bring their little terrier for the visit. 

Fluff's growl was like something from a larger beast, like a tiger distilled down into a tiny piebald form. His body flattened down to the ground, huge eyes turned upward to peer unblinkingly at the dog. He stayed that way for a stretch of several long seconds, motionless except for the reverberation of his throaty growl rumbling through his round body. 

Then, with a hiss, he darted away, running from the room. His heavy body fled in a series of thunderous footfalls that echoed down the hall.

A moment later, as if on cue, the front door opened and Liz entered, alone.

"Fluff met the dog," Nat said, with a smile. "Scared the shit out of him. He went running off down the hall like there was a real hound from hell on his tail." It was a funny story, like one of those videos of a cat frightened by a cucumber, but somehow it didn't seem as funny when she said it out loud. The smile faded.

Liz grinned back, though, and that was worth something. "What'cha working on down there?"

Nat blinked, then glanced down at the piles on the floor, the photograph in her hands. Her smile, this time, was unsure. "Oh. I was just looking through these boxes from the unit, trying to get some contact info for these people. In case they want their pictures back."

"Any luck?"

She shrugged. "Just some old bills and such. No idea if this address is up to date, though. I'll have to check online to see if I can find a phone number or a Facebook profile or something."

"Cool. Maybe if you find them, you can ask about the dog." Liz crossed the room, extended a hand and pulled Nat to her feet. Papers and photos fell as she rose up. "But tonight, as of right now, you are officially off work. Come on. I'm sore, and covered in dust, and very much in need of a hot shower." She hesitated, a sly grin crossing her features. She traced the curve of Nat's cheekbone with the pad of her thumb. "And a bit of company in that shower."

Natasha grinned back, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear with her free hand, entwining the fingers of her other hand with her wife's. They went, together, down the hall to the master bath, dropping clothes behind them like breadcrumbs left in a fairytale. 

The Hound {WATTY WINNER}Read this story for FREE!