Clint eased up on the hold he had on the bundle in his arms. It began to wriggle ever so slightly, and after a moment, a tiny little head emerged from beneath one of the jacket’s folds.
Link to chapter 1 is here: https://nuwandasnicket.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/bacon-chapter-1/
Tony peered through the glass window of the front door, watching Clint scurry up the path with a bundle clutched close to his chest. He pushed the door open, holding it for Clint.
“Thanks.” Clint brushed past Tony and into the house, glancing around. “Where should I…”
“Probably in the bathroom. You said he was muddy, right?”
Tony could hear a mournful meow emerge from the coat bundled in Clint’s arms as they made their way down the hallway and into the bathroom. He shut the door behind them. “Okay, let’s get a look at this kitty.”
Clint eased up on the hold he had on the bundle in his arms. It began to wriggle ever so slightly, and after a moment, a tiny little head emerged from beneath one of the jacket’s folds. This time, the meow was more inquisitive, though it still had that sad, woe-is-me edge to it.
Tony felt an overwhelming flood of love wash over him. He sensed Clint watching him and looked up, meeting Clint’s eyes with a smile. “Yup. Definitely Bacon.”
Clint laughed. “I thought you’d agree.”
Tony held out his arms. “Can I see him?” With a nod, Clint held him out, and Tony very carefully took him from Clint’s arms. There was a moment where the cat clung to Clint’s jacket, afraid of yet another change in his situation, but once he was in Tony’s arms he seemed to settle down again. Clint smiled as he watched Tony stroke the cat’s mud-matted fur, softly shushing him.
“I’ll start the tub.”
“Once you get it to a good temperature, you should probably turn it off.” Now Tony was swaying with Bacon in his arms, the way one would lull a small child to sleep. “If we carry him towards running water, he might get scared. Easier to put him in the tub and then turn on the water.”
“Good plan.” Clint turned the water on and set to warming it.
“I wanna see these feet of yours.” Tony carefully took hold of one of Bacon’s paws, tugging it from where he had it tucked beneath him. “Oh my God!”
Clint grinned. “Huge, aren’t they.”
“They’re enormous!” Bacon had “double-paws”….rather, where normal cats had five toes up front, he had seven, so it looked as if he had thumbs, or was wearing mittens.
Bacon didn’t seem to know how to feel about all the attention. He batted at Tony’s hand. Tony only laughed.
“This is just like how I first met Muffins.” Tony had stuck a finger in the cage at the shelter, trying to pet Muffins, and Muffins had swatted at him. Now here was Bacon, swatting at him just the same way. But neither time had it been done in a mean way. It looked like Bacon and Tony were off to a good start.
Smiling, Clint turned off the water. “Water’s ready.”
“Okay.” Tony held up Bacon as he headed for the tub, cooing to him, “come on, Bacon, do you want a bath?” Clint had to stifle a laugh; Tony looked at him. “What.”
“You. You’re ridiculous.” He held out his hands.
“Am not.” Tony very carefully handed Bacon off to Clint. This time the cat didn’t fuss almost at all. “You’ve got the soap?”
“Okay. Let’s do this thing.”
Tony crumpled up a sopping wet towel. It was the third one he had used. “Well that was fun. Let’s never do that again.”
“Fine by me.” Clint finished drying off his own hair. How such a small cat managed to get both men soaked from head to toe was absolutely amazing, and the bathroom was a mess.
Tony threw his towel at the laundry basket. It missed by about a foot, landing in a sodden heap on the floor. Clint glanced at Tony, arching a brow.
“Don’t you do it,” Tony warned. Grinning, Clint went ahead and threw his own towel. It landed perfectly in the basket. Tony glowered. “Brat.”
Clint laughed. “You love me.”
“I do.” A mournful meow directed their attention downwards, where a wet cat paced back and forth, staring up at them as if to say “how could you do this to me??” Tony chuckled. “Bacon, we tried to dry you off. You weren’t exactly cooperative.” The cat’s only response was another long, drawn-out meow. Tony laughed. “Yea, yea, I know. We’re torturing you.” There was a knock on the door. “Perfect timing. That must be the vet.” He looked to Clint. “Can you watch him? Make sure he doesn’t make a run for the door.”
“Thanks.” Tony headed to the front door and sure enough, it was the vet. “Hello, sir.” He offered his hand. “Thanks for coming all the way out here.”
“Oh, it’s no problem at all.” The man glanced around the room. “Where is the animal?”
Tony gave a jerk of his head in the direction of the bathroom. “This way.” They headed down the hall and were met halfway by Clint, a wriggling cat in his arms. Tony couldn’t help a small laugh. “Here he is.”
The vet smiled. “So I see.” He gently scratched Bacon behind his ear, though how he managed that one Tony would never know, and looked up at the two men. “Do you have a place we could do this? Somewhere with a table?”
“Right this way.”
It probably took longer than usual due to all of Bacon’s struggling, but they made it through the tests, and thank God, Bacon was clean. Tony felt an overwhelming wave of relief and excitement at the news, and he could tell from the expression on Clint’s face that the other man felt the same way. The two cats would be able to play together. This was all they had hoped for. They both thanked the vet profusely as he left, and Tony gave him an utterly ridiculous tip.
As the door shut behind him, Tony turned to Bacon. “Well, you’re all set, kitty!”
“We can buy toys for him, right?” Clint thought about that for a moment. “Or order them, probably. Then we don’t have to leave him alone. Can spend that time introducing him to Muffins.”
Tony smiled. “Yea. That sounds like a good plan. Jarvis?”
“Order some toys for Bacon, please, you know the drill. Also a bed and litter box…..some more litter, too.” He looked at Bacon and shook his head. “We’re gonna be using a lot more litter now.”
“Like it matters. The bots clean it all.”
“Yea, but they’re so messy,” Tony complained. Clint laughed.
“Hey, your fault. You made them.”
Tony glowered. “Yea, I did. And they’re awesome. So shut your face.”
Clint burst out laughing, holding both hands up in a sign of surrender. “Shutting it.” Bacon was pacing back and forth on the floor between them, looking up at them, watching.
Tony cocked his head as he regarded the cat. “….he looks like he’s waiting for something.”
Clint grinned. “Maybe he knows he’s gonna meet his new big brother.” The vet had estimated Bacon’s age at around 1 year, whereas Muffin was around 2.
Tony smiled. “I like that.” He leaned down, petting Bacon, scratching him behind the ear as the vet had. “C’mon, Bacon, let’s go meet your brother.” He scooped Bacon up in his arms, eliciting a surprised ‘meow’ from the calico, and they headed down the hallway towards the room that Muffins was shut in. “Okay, here we go.” Tony turned the doorknob, opening it a crack. Before he, Clint, or Bacon could make a move, Muffins came bounding out. Clearly he hadn’t enjoyed being shut up. But he stopped dead when he caught sight of Bacon, looking completely taken aback to see another cat in the house. Bacon looked equally surprised, jumping slightly.
“Do you think it’s too early to spring this on him?” Clint asked anxiously.
“Shhh,” Tony hushed Clint. “Just give them a minute to adjust.”
The two cats stared at each other. Tony waited for one or both to hiss. Generally animals didn’t take to each other right away, and cats especially could be tough. But no hissing came. Then Muffins stepped forward, sniffing the air, trying to catch the scent, and that’s when the hiss came, Bacon’s hackles rising ever so slightly. But Muffins wasn’t deterred in the slightest. He continued to move forward and then WHOMP. Bacon reached out and gave Muffins a smack to the cheek.
“Holy shit!” That one surprised Tony. “Bacon, you can’t do that! You’ll knock his head off with those huge feet of yours!”
Clint had been about to speak up again, concerned about integrating the cats, but Tony’s words made him burst into a fit of giggles which he would stoutly deny later. “You ass.”
“What.” Tony grinned. “They so will. Those things are HUGE.”
And somehow, amazingly, the smack to the face didn’t seem to have bothered Muffins. He reached out and swatted Bacon right back.
Bacon looked completely taken aback, staring at Muffins. The older cat simply sat, calmly regarding the smaller calico. After a moment, Bacon seemed to give. It was almost as if he acknowledged Muffins as an equal. And then Muffins stepped forward and nuzzled his cheek against Bacon’s. Again Bacon looked surprised, but strangely enough he allowed it, and after a moment the two were playfully tussling together.
Tony turned to Clint, smiling. “See?”
Clint was staring at the two, shocked. He turned to Tony, happiness overcoming his face. “Yeah. That…..wow.”
Tony chuckled. “Yea.” He looked at the cats, watching them play. “I’ve never seen two cats integrate so fast.”
Tony looked to Clint again, smiling. “Guess they really are brothers.”
Clint looked so happy. “Yeah.”
Tony moved to Clint, wrapping both arms around him. “I never would’ve thought I’d say this, but I’m so glad you were on that mission.”
Clint burst into laughter. “You’re right. I could never have imagined you’d say something like that. But you’re right. I never would’ve found Bacon otherwise. And now look at us.” He glanced at the two cats, still playing, and back at Tony. “Our own little family.”
Tony hadn’t thought his smile could have gotten any bigger, but it just had. “Yea.” His cheeks were hurting from smiling so wide. “Our family.”
And as he kissed Clint he thought, not for the first time and definitely not for the last, that he didn’t know how it could ever get better than this. But he knew it would. Clint always managed to make every day better than the one before it. It was a gift. Clint was a gift. The most amazing gift Tony had ever received.
Clint pulled away slowly, so much love in those blue eyes. “You happy?”
Tony smiled, stroking Clint’s cheek. “Never better.”