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I MADE A DELICIOUS. There are, like, nine bookmarks on it. BUT IT WILL GROW. This is really exciting for me because bookmarking the fics is forcing me to comment on all of them. So.

Also I wrote some comment fic for [livejournal.com profile] provetheworst's prompt, and it kind of expanded without my consent, and now I am posting it in a separate entry. I am a problem-solver!

Title: hundreds of cats (I am the most original, shut up.)
Pairing: Jon/Ryan
Wordcount: 3,000
Warnings: None!
Summary: For the prompt: Write about cats. Hundreds of cats.


It’s not like Jon set out to live in Bumfuck, Nowhere. It just kind of…happened. But most of the time, after the insane bustle of Chicago, Jon doesn’t mind it. Most people even tell him it suits his temperament, and Jon finds that he’s pretty okay with that. Jon’s pretty okay with most things here. The (only) bar isn’t too much of a dive, and the scenery out here is fucking amazing. With the advent of the Internet, it’s criminally easy for Jon to sit back on his ass in this tiny dot of a town and act as a freelance photographer for three different magazines.

Yeah, Jon would say he’s pretty happy with the way things have turned out. Life is quieter around here, and Jon likes that. It makes him even mellower than he usually is. So when Clover and Dylan practically ram the door open in a frantic rush to get in, Jon doesn’t get alarmed. He doesn’t even mind the mud that Clover tracks in, or the way Dylan is still screaming like a banshee (complete with hair sticking straight out).

Then he looks outside.

There are…cats. Hundreds of cats. Different breeds, different sizes, different ages, all roaming around his yard. Jon closes his eyes, squeezes them together, and then opens them again. And they’re still there. Well, fuck.

Jon is a cat person. He is pretty much the cat person. He loves the stupid animals. But this—this scene in front of him—is too much. Even for him. And from the way Dylan and Clover are behaving, it’s too much for them, too.

Resolutely swinging the screen door open, Jon walks out with a purposeful stride.

Then he turns around and goes back to get his flip-flops.

And his sunglasses.

***

“The cats? Oh, I have no idea where they came from. Just showed up this morning. Isn’t that nuts? They’re awfully adorable, though,” Mrs. Jones tells him, juggling her toddler in one hand and a half-folded romper in the other.

“Them nasty things are leaving crap all over my yard, young man! In my roses! My award-winning roses, Jonny, you know the ones I’m talking about. You go on and set this straight, now,” Grandma Carver admonishes, shaking her cane at him. “What’s that? Speak up! You want to know where they’re from? Now how am I supposed to know that? I don’t even have my dentures in, much less my bifocals. For goodness sake. Kids these days. Sweet Lord, there goes another one in my roses.”

“It might look like I am awake and talking to you, Jon, but I am actually asleep. In my bed. Because it is nine in the motherfucking morning.” And Tom slams the door. Then he opens it again. “And tell those damn cats to shut the hell up. Fuck my life.”

Susie rolls her eyes at Jon. And then she rolls them again. Or maybe it’s a twitch. “Just think about it, Mr. Walker. It’s not that difficult. The cats are new on this block. What else is new on this block? Maybe your neighbor who just moved in a few days ago? God. I hope I don’t get stupider as I grow older.”

It’s a pretty productive morning, at least for Jon.

And now he’s standing in front of 1308 Honeysuckle Lane, hand poised above the badly painted door. It’s purple. The house has been lying empty for years, some dirt-cheap fixer-upper that never enticed any buyers. Until now.

Jon hadn’t actually seen his new neighbor when he or she moved in, but no one could miss the sounds of construction emanating from the place at all hours. It looks like the new occupant installed some window shutters, too. They’re lavender.

Feeling slightly stupid about it all, Jon knocks. And knocks. And knocks.

Finally, the door creaks open slowly, like its hinges have just woken up and are rather grumpy about the whole affair. A small brown head sticks out.

“Yes?” the guy says. “What is it? I’m kind of in the middle of something, so it would be better if you came by later. Unless you’re a Jehovah’s Witness. Then I’m going to be busy forever. Finding eternal salvation and all, you know. It’s a full-time job nowadays.”

“Um,” Jon says.

The guy’s eyes narrow on him, but on some point slightly lower than his face. Jon looks down self-consciously.

“On second thought, you should come in,” he says. “I’m Ryan Ross, by the way. George Ryan Ross, technically, but I go by Ryan. That’s an ugly cardigan you have on there. Is it for sale?”

“I’m Jon,” Jon introduces.

“That’s nice. Is it for sale?”

“No,” Jon drawls out. “Why do you want it?”

“Brings more authenticity to my image,” Ryan says briskly. “But you’re right. It’s probably too big for me.”

“Image?” Jon says, still trying to catch up. He hasn’t felt this lost since first arrive in Bumfuck.

“You know, the classic archetype.” Ryan cocks his head at him. “I’ve been scoping out this place for ages, looking for the right niche to fill. I feel like that’s really important in small towns like this, you know? You have to have your place.”

“And what niche, exactly, are you filling?” Jon asks.

“Crazy cat lady,” Ryan says, matter-of-fact. “I’m doing pretty well, do you think? At least in the animal area. I’m still working on other parts. Like clothing. Are you sure that ugly cardigan isn’t for sale?”

“That’s what I came here for, actually,” Jon says quickly before he gets sidetracked again. “The cats. They’re everywhere, man. They’re driving my own cats insane. You can’t just let them run amok. It’s, um. It’s irresponsible. And stuff.” Jon rubs his hand across the back of his neck, trying to look like someone who knows about responsibility.

“But if they’re not outside, then they’re inside. And they shit a lot. That’s the thing that surprised me about cats. They’re so small and clean. But they shit a fuckton.”

“I think you just have a fuckton of cats,” Jon says. “So you have a fuckton of shit. It accumulates.” Jon cannot believe he is standing here discussing the mathematics of cat shit with someone who is clearly at least slightly imbalanced. Only in Bumfuck, he supposes.

But Ryan’s nodding, thoughtfully. “Yes, that might be it.”

“Where did you even get all these cats?” Jon asks. “You just got them this morning, yeah? Can’t you just…”

“I can’t get rid of them!” Ryan says, looking scandalized. “It would completely compromise the integrity of my image. Presentation is everything. A crazy cat lady without cats is nothing!”

“At least you’ve still got the crazy part,” Jon mutters. Ryan pretends not to hear.

“And besides, I can’t possibly send them back to the shelter. That would be cruel.” He sniffs.

“You have to at least keep some of them inside,” Jon says, quite reasonably.

“Thank you for your opinion,” Ryan says. “But I have to practice talking to my cats now, so if you don’t mind…”

Jon takes the hint and leaves. Jesus Christ.

***

“I’ve decided to take you up on your suggestion,” Ryan says gravely to Jon after he opens the door.

“What?” Jon asks, taking another swig of his evening beer.

“The cats,” says Ryan patiently. He’s wearing a brown hat with a feather and a slightly too small shirt with a floral pattern. Jon tries not to feel charmed.

“You’re taking them inside? That’s great!” Jon raises his beer to Ryan in a toast, but Ryan doesn’t budge. “Um. Is that all?”

“I have a lot of cats, Jon,” Ryan says.

Jon looks at him. His eyes are very brown.

“I can’t possibly catch them all by myself,” Ryan continues.

Oh. Jon fights an urge to beat his head against the doorframe. Of course.

“So what are their names?” Jon asks. “What should I be calling for?”

“I haven’t named them yet. Here, kitty!” Ryan calls.

Oh, God. Jon takes a deep breath, cracks his knuckles, and starts after the nearest calico.

A few hours later—most of which consisted of Jon actually catching the cats and Ryan just running around, long legs kicking up awkwardly—Jon is carrying two reasonably cooperative cats in his arms, his shirt has hundreds of tiny, gaping holes in it, and there’s a long gouge up his calf. Life is great.

And then he sees Ryan, and his mood brightens considerably.

Ryan’s bending down in some really tight slacks, coaxing an all-black kitty closer. The kitten just keeps batting at Ryan’s hat, though, claws fully extended and dangerously close to Ryan’s eyes. Finally, she snags the feather and brings the hat down, where she immediately starts gnawing at the brim contentedly.

“No!” Ryan yells at it. “Bad kitty! Very—very bad. Stop it! That was vintage, you know. Oh, Jesus.”

“Cat’s got good taste,” Jon notes, smiling helplessly.

“No!” Ryan says loudly, and Jon really can’t tell if he’s speaking to him or the kitten.

Still grinning, Jon bends down and easily grabs the hat away from the kitten with his free hand. He deposits the hat on a suddenly speechless Ryan’s head, and scoops the recalcitrant kitty up. She mrows contentedly in his hold, and Jon rubs his cheek on top of the her head with sudden affection. This kitty’s got some brains.

Ryan’s watching them, and Jon quickly lifts his head up.

“Onward?” he asks, lifting his chin toward Ryan’s aubergine house.

“Yeah,” Ryan says quickly. “I’m pretty sure that’s the last of them.”

“Do you want, um,” Ryan says once they’re inside.

“Um?” Jon prompts with a smile. He leans against the counter comfortably and watches Ryan fidget. His brown locks are mussed, and he’s put the hat on slightly crooked.

“You want a drink?” Ryan finally says.

“What have you got?” Jon asks.

“Uh. Well, chamomile tea,” Ryan says, sticking his chin out.

“I get it. Crazy cat lady’s drink of choice, yeah?”

“Of course,” Ryan says, sharp. Then he bites his lip, and says, “I have some beer, too. I bought a six-pack yesterday. It was a momentary weakness, breaking character.”

Then he grins at Jon quickly, bright and sudden, and Jon can feel his lips pull up in an answering tug. There’s a tingle near his stomach as he looks at Ryan scurrying away to where he put the beer (because of course the lunatic hid it) and Jon smiles ruefully at himself. So that’s how it is.

“Sorry about your shirt,” Ryan says later as they’re nursing their lukewarm beers. Apparently they were behind some curtains.

“It’s okay,” Jon says easily. “I kinda like the rips. It’s very rugged, man in the wild sort of thing.”

Ryan’s quiet, and Jon can see him dart a glance at Jon’s chest before looking away again, skittish.

“So, does it rain often here?” Ryan asks after another silence.

“A bit. Why?”

“I was wondering if you knew how to shingle. Roofs, that is.” Ryan fiddles with the label on his beer bottle.

“As a matter of fact,” Jon says, and smiles.

***

The next morning, Ryan rushes over to his house, clothes in disarray and looking slightly panicked. “Do you know where I might be able to buy litter boxes? Um, in bulk.”

“Planning,” Jon chides, but he drives Ryan into town without another word.

On Tuesday, Ryan shows up, dripping, with a towel tied around his waist. Jon blinks hard and pinches himself.

“Shower handle broke off in my hand,” Ryan explains, glaring. “And the water’s still running.”

“Ah,” Jon says, biting his lip to keep anything else from coming out.

On Wednesday, Ryan wants some help planting a garden. “You look like you have a green thumb,” he says to Jon, voice accusatory like Jon enjoys murdering people instead of weeding.

On Thursday, Ryan doesn’t talk to Jon, but Jon does see him outside, speaking loudly to one of his cats.

“Fine weather we’re having, eh, Daisy?” Ryan says. “Um. Look at the blue sky. And that cloud, doesn’t it look like a pot leaf—hey, wait, come back! Shit.”

Jon turns away from the window, grinning madly.

Friday morning, Ryan knocks on Jon’s door insistently. Jon’s even beginning to recognize his knocking—staccato, impatient raps.

“Yeah?” Jon says, sticking just his head out. “What can I do for you?”

Ryan colors at the phrasing before crossing his arms huffily. “I was wondering if you had seen Daisy. She ran off yesterday, and I thought she would come back on her own, but…”

Jon slowly opens the door the rest of the way. “You mean her?” he asks, trying to keep a straight face and holding out the calico nestled in his arms.

“You—“ Ryan presses his lips together. “Yes. That is her.” He clips off the ends of the words, and Jon just smiles at him sunnily.

“She’s a sweetie,” Jon tells him, amiable. “Aren’t you, Daisy?”

The cat rubs her head against Jon’s shoulder, indolent.

“She likes you,” Ryan says grudgingly as they walk back to his house.

“Most cats do,” Jon agrees.

“Hmmph,” Ryan says. “Why didn’t you call me when you found her?”

“Well, I would have,” Jon says mournfully, “but I don’t have your phone number, you see.”

Ryan blinks at him, owlish. “So—“

“So could I have your number?” Jon tries to appear as nonthreatening as possible.

When they get into the house, Ryan grabs a slip of paper and scribbles his number down on it.

“Thank you,” Jon says.

Ryan looks away. He’s wearing several long, beaded necklaces around his neck. “Now that you’re here, you can help me clean the litter boxes,” he says brusquely.

“Sure. Anything for you, man.” Jon nudges Ryan’s shoulder, and his neck flushes a blotchy red.

The cleaning goes by quickly, and Jon doesn’t even mind the work with Ryan next to him, handling the scooper like it’s a biohazard.

And if Jon takes a break in the middle to play with the cats, the kitties twining around his legs and climbing up to his shoulders and chewing on his hair, Ryan doesn’t complain. Especially when Daisy wanders by to snuffle at his feet.

***

“That’s where you’ve been this entire week?” Tom asks disbelievingly. “With the crazy cat guy?”

“He prefers crazy cat lady, to stick with the classic name of the archetype.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” Jon hides his smile behind the neck of his beer bottle. He is possibly not entirely successful.

“What do you guys do all day long? Talk to his fucking cats?”

Jon laughs. “When Ryan remembers to. Which is not often. It’s pretty cute when he realizes he hasn’t monologued at one of his cats in a while, he looks guilty as hell like he has some quota to fulfill, and he immediately starts...” Jon trails off self-consciously at Tom’s stare. “What, man?”

“Are you kidding me?” Tom asks, eyes wide.

“What?” Jon repeats.

“This is a thing, isn’t it? One of your projects. You’re fixated on him, yeah?” Tom demands.

“I am not fixated,” Jon says, rolling his eyes.

“No! You are! This is how you get, man, you get good and obsessed and it’s all you’ll think about. Remember that time in middle school when you found a lump on your chest, and all you would talk about for months is getting breast cancer and dying horribly?”

“We were never going to talk about that again,” Jon says, voice hushed.

“Desperate times,” Tom says, waving his cigarette at him.

“Christ, it’s not like that. Ryan’s just—he’s weird, but it’s part of his charm, you know? It’s…quirky.” Jon shrugs.

“Sweet Mother of Pearl,” Tom says.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jon says, kicking him. “Anyway, I have to go.”

“Where are you going?” Tom asks, eyes narrowing.

Jon flushes and rubs the back of his neck. “I have to help Ryan shingle his roof.” And then before Tom can make any more comments, he walks off.

“Fucking fuck,” Tom mutters, and ashes his cigarette. But there’s a smile playing around his lips.

***

It’s right after lunch, midday sun beating down on their backs as they work on the roof, when Ryan leans over and presses his lips against Jon’s. His lips are gentle and chapped and sun-warmed, and Jon is frozen in shock for a moment before he responds, leaning forward and tilting his head to deepen the kiss.

They stay like that, mouths moving tentative and slow. Jon feels like he can’t move any other limb of his body, or the moment will end. Or he’ll fall off the roof, either way.

Finally, Ryan breathes in deeply through his nose and pulls back, looking at Jon cautiously. His cheeks are flushed pink, and Jon’s positive only part of it is from the sun.

“So,” Ryan says.

“So,” Jon says. He smiles suddenly, eyes crinkling. “You want to maybe grab a drink with me sometimes?”

Then Ryan frowns, and Jon can feel his own smile falter.

“I don’t know,” Ryan says slowly.

“But you—kissed me,” Jon says.

“I’m pretty sure all crazy cat ladies are single,” Ryan goes on like Jon didn’t say anything.

Jon shuts his eyes. “Do you ever think that maybe crazy cat lady isn’t the only archetype you could embody? I’m sure Bumfuck has twenty other niches you could fill just as easily.” And which would allow you to date, Jon adds in his head.

“I don’t know,” Ryan hedges. “This persona took a lot of work.”

“You don’t have to switch it entirely,” Jon coaxes. “Just—adjust it. Slightly. What about eccentric heiress? You could keep your cats!”

Ryan’s nodding, deep in thought. “Like Paris Hilton.”

“Right! Uh, she dates, right?”

“You’ll have to help me find some cat-carrying clutches, though,” Ryan says solemnly.

“Yeah, I can do that,” Jon answers, smiling.

“You know what else?” Ryan says, looking abruptly very intent.

“What?”

“I hear Paris Hilton is also really easy.” Ryan moves toward Jon, purposeful, and Jon’s throat goes dry. Ryan swings one leg over Jon’s hip, reaching to touch Jon’s face, when he freezes.

“Daisy! No!” Ryan yells, looking past Jon and through the hole in the roof. “What have I told you about playing in the litter box?”

And Jon sits back and laughs.


End.

[livejournal.com profile] provetheworst, you should probably know that I listened to Justin Bieber THE ENTIRE TIME I was writing this. I don't know if that tells you anything. But it feels like the sort of thing I should disclose.
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