Cruel

People were running around in a panic, seeking shelter from the cold drizzle that was steadily growing to a full-out storm. A few drunkards were openly cursing at the dark and heavy sky, as if their slurred profanities would somehow convince the clouds to fuck off somewhere else. Angelino paid them no mind, keeping his head down as he made a beeline for Rios Rosas; apparently his usual bus had decided that the gloomy weather was a valid reason not to do its freaking job.

Yup. Out of all the shit happening daily in this nuthouse of a city, rain was the thing that gave the drivers cold feet. Fucking lazy cunts.

So there he was, walking home under pouring rain like an idiot. He snickered; on the bright side, they wouldn’t be as many thugs as usual on the way. Maybe he could get to his flat without getting his ass handed to him by some fuckwit who didn’t like his face. Deep into his own muttering, he didn’t notice the flash drowning the world in white for a brief moment, and thus nearly jumped out of his skin when a loud cracking sound assaulted his eardrums a few seconds later. Biting back a startled yelp, he looked up; the sky was so dark and low he could barely make out the top of the building he was walking past, and an ominous rumbling made his throat close up with unease.

Thunderstorm. Fuck. As if this day couldn’t get any shittier.

The hybrid gritted his teeth and picked up the pace, his already damp clothes sticking uncomfortably to his skin; he just wanted to go home dammit, why did bus drivers had to be such a pain in his-

Another flash made his eyes widen, his stomach coiling in fearful anticipation. Okay, okay, maybe it won’t be so bad, maybe it won’t be too loud-

CRRRRACCCKKKK

“AH, FUCK!”

He couldn’t help his body curling in on itself, his arms flying upwards to cover his ears and push, push, push against his skull, like it’d block out the sound if he squeezed hard enough. He couldn’t quite make out the sounds that were leaving his mouth right now, but it probably wasn’t glorious.

God, he probably looked like a lunatic.

He shook himself out of… whatever this was, and broke into a sprint. Okay, so lightning didn’t strike twice in the same place right? So the next ones would have to drop further away, and by the time they got close again he would be home! He let out a nervous giggle. Yep, seemed legit.

And so he ran for a few minutes, barely dodging a few irate passerby and the occasional tipped-over trash can, his worn shoes threatening to let him slip on the wet pavement any second.

The halfling had began to see Hotel Guadalupe peeking out from between rooftops when something stopped him dead in his tracks. He slowly turned to the right, the weird, high-pitched noise sending an unfamiliar tingle down his spine. He blinked owlishly; there was something down that alleway, something…

That noise again. He cocked his head to the side as he felt something flimsy brush at the edge of his awareness.

Cold.

Pain.

Cold.

He shivered, equally from the cold and the intrusive emotions he was getting from… somewhere. Eyes wide, he took a few steps towards the back of the alley, where a large, mostly burned down trash bin stood. The pressure in his head was growing, his pitch black skin prickling with goosebumps-

Wait.

He froze, a horrible suspicion worming its way in: the last time he felt something like this, it’d brought him hell. Getting ambushed in his own apartment and hunted down and kidnapped and beaten and brainwashed and nooooooope. Nope. Not today brain, not dealing with your shit.

Another noise, shorter and closer. Sounded like… a sneeze maybe? Lino’s brow furrowed as something wiggled in the half-melted heap of trash; Whatever it was sounded harmless enough, but he had learned not to trust anything in this hellhole. Still, he couldn’t help taking a few more steps, and before he knew it the thing was right in front of him.

“Nice job dumbass. What happened to ‘don’t ask questions, don’t get involved’?”

He chuckled in disbelief -he was so gonna get himself killed one of those days- and stood on his tiptoes to peer into the bin. And- yep, that uh, that was a cat alright. Definitely a cat. Not a weird tentacle monster or -hell no- a rabid dog. Juste a tiny, pathetic-looking cat.

Angelino groaned; this was stupid. This whole situation was fucking stupid, he was standing in an obviously cut-throat alleway in a middle of a storm because he heard a dumb cat meowing. Said cat -merely a kitten really- was still whining, not moving from the mostly-deflated tire he was laying against, the stains of dust and oil practically invisible amidst its inky black fur.

Lino tilted his head; that thing didn’t look so good. Its fur was matted in most places and sticky with oil and blood, yellow eyes wide and unfocused. Its little chest rose and fell rapidly, harsh little puffs of air leaving his struggling lungs.

It was small. Probably a runt.

The little circular dents in its side made Lino shiver in sympathy; that looked like a dog bite, a pretty nasty one at that. “Damn. Sorry buddy, that must hurt like hell.” he mumbled, absentmindedly tracing his fingers along the scar on his left hip. The only response he got was a weak meow.

The pressure in his mind was receding, but it didn’t qualm his nervousness in any way; instead, a growing sense of dread filled him as the creature in front of him moved slower and slower, his meows getting quieter, few and far between. Angelino wasn’t naive: that kitten was dying, alone in a trash bin, in the pouring rain. The weather had gotten colder in the few minutes he’d spent on that alleyway, and given the tremors shaking the hybrid’s body, the hypothermia would probably finish it off before the blood loss would.

It was sad, yes. And unfair. But life in DMC was cruel like that, that was a fact Lino had accepted a long time ago. He wanted to tear his eyes away from the tiny twitching body before him, turn back and run home to relative warmth, and dryness, and Vinz who’d probably finished his shift at Pipo’s by now-

Another meow. That one was longer, louder that anything that had come out of the cat’s mouth until now. The half-alien was jerked away from his reverie, only to be pinned into place by an impossibly bright yellow gaze, tired and desperate and terrified. He felt his breath hitch as the world around him lost its focus.

He was cold, and alone. The warmth and scent that he had learned to associate with safety were gone, and everything around him smelled bad. He laid prone against something hard, letting out quiet little whines. He was hungry. Where was home? Where did the nice voice go, the one that always made him feel happy? He wanted it back…

“Mama…”

 

***

 

Vinz stood in the doorway, his second favourite El Diablo t-shirt on and an unimpressed look on his face. He took a deep breath and pinched the area above his nasal bone. “Lino. What in the actual fuck.”

His roommate smiled uneasily. He was absolutely soaking wet, a little puddle of rainwater already pooling underneath him, and he bored the same expression he had whenever he’d seen one of his roaches die. His arms were tightly wrapped around his midsection, full-body tremors shaking up his limbs. Between that and the slight blue tint of his skin, Vinz was concerned.

“Hey. You mind letting me in? I’m freezing my ass off here.” the hybrid asked.

The hothead raised an eyebrow, but moved over to let him through. “No shit. I’ve been home for hours, the hell happened? I was starting to think you got jumped on the way here.”

“Nah.” his best friend drawled, walking past the door and into the living room. “Buses stopped working so I had to walk, that’s all. It sucked though.”

Vinz winced, closing the apartment door. For anyone else, it would’ve been a mere annoyance. But for Lino… he shook his head, resisting the urge to fuss over his friend. “Yeesh. Good thing it wasn’t snowing. There’s still some hot water left if you want to get warmed up.”

Angelino just hummed distractedly, still clutching his arms against his chest. He looked distant, and to Vinz that could usually mean one of two things: either he’d somehow gotten hurt and was trying to hide it from him, or alien stuff was eating at him. In either case, it was bad. But Lino would immediately shut him out when he prodded him about it, so he kept a comfortable distance. “So uh, that’s it then? Nothing else happened?” he asked, keeping his tone as even as possible. And that’s when the hybrid to face him, pearls of rainwater still dropping from his soaked green hoodie, with a very strange expression on his face.

Huh. Was that shame? …Sheepishness?

“Weeeeellllll… kinda? It’s not bad though, really.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake, just spit it out. What did you pull this time?”

Angelino didn’t grace him with a response, slowly unclutching his middle and reaching into his hoodie’s kangaroo pocket instead. Vinz squinted; okay, so he’d found something. Hopefully it wasn’t a gun this time, Lino tended to get a liiiittle trigger-happy whenever he found one of those. He’d spent a whole week fixing up the ceiling that one time.

His roomate pulled the mysterious item out of his pocket, cradling it with surprising gentleness. At first glance it seemed pretty small, dark and furry-looking wait what. Vinz looked back up, his right eyelid twitching in disbelief. “Are you. Serious.” Angelino just shrugged, holding the little black creature in the crook of his elbow.

“Hey, don’t give me that look. It was cold and alone and pretty sure a dog mistook it for a chew toy or something.”

“You brought a fucking cat home.”

“S’more of a kitten actually…”

“How did this even happen?”

“I just told you…?”

The hothead groaned, his flames gaining a reddish tint. “Angelino. I tolerate your roaches cuz they saved our asses that one time, but this shit right there?” He flailed his hands around as his best friend climbed up the kitchen counter, reaching for the cupboard where they kept their meager medical supplies. “The fuck were you thinking? We got enough shit to deal with between the two of us, you really think we can afford a freaking pet?!”

The halfling gave him a Look™, gathering gauze and antiseptic while still cradling the kitten. Now that Vinz could see it for himself, it was strangely silent and still, and the dark patches on the bottom of Lino’s hoodie didn’t quite look like water to him. His dark-skinned companion took a deep breath and hopped down the counter. “I know. I know, okay? I know this is dumb Vinz, trust me on this. There was a freak storm, I was panicking like an idiot, and that thing was screaming its lungs out from the bottom of a trash bin. And don’t ask me why I didn’t just ignore it cuz I sure as hell don’t know.”

He held the furry thing out, urging Vinz to take a closer look. “Remember what you told me back then? What was it, ‘trash babies need to stick together’?”

The kitten twitched in his hands, its tiny mouth opening on a silent cry. Its pitch black fur was sticking out every which way, sticky with blood and other nasty street fluids, eyes firmly shut and tiny paws kneading at nothing. Lino sat down into already long-ruined carpet, starting to pour bright red disinfectant on cheap cotton balls. “So yeah, that one might kick the bucket before morning. Fucking dogs, man.” He absentmindedly scratched at his off-white scar. “But who knows, right? I think it’d fit right in with us.” he quietly stated.

Vinz stared at him for a few seconds, his hands picking at the hem of his second-favourite shirt. He eventually rolled his ethereal eyes, sighing. “Fuck it. I’ll get the towels.”

 

***

 

A tingling sensation near his nasal cavity brought Vinz back to the waking world. He curled up tighter in protest, clinging to the warmth in his limbs and the soft cotton in his head. Unfortunately the itch came back twice as strong and a sudden sneeze seized him up, waking him up for good.

Uuuuuugh. He was too out of it to feel it before, but every single inch of him ached. The day was off to a great start. He blearily opened his eyes, his sight returning as the two rings of light formed in his socket-

-and was greeted with a pair of slitted, wide yellow eyes peering at him from a mere inch away.

The hothead sprang up with a yelp, bumping his skull against the coffee table, because he was lucky like that. He sat up, crossed legged on the faded carpet beneath him. Right, he mused, rubbing his aching skull. Living room. Fell asleep on the floor. That explained why he felt like shit. He popped a few joints into place with a grunt and looked down at the source of his current misery.

The black kitten Lino had dragged home last night stood right in front on him, staring curiously at his flames. Most of its midsection had been wrapped in yellow-white gauze in an effort to stop the bleeding in his side, and while it obviously bothered it, the bandages seemed to have helped; the animal’s movement were slow and sluggish, but its eyes were bright and alert, and its fur, while still dirty, wasn’t matted or sticky with blood anymore. A major improvement compared to the state it was in the day before.

Vinz looked up; Angelino was still out a few feet away, his back against the bottom of the couch, fingers twitching every now and again. He’d probably wake up soon.

The kitten chirped, attracting Vinz’ attention again; it had taken a few hesitant steps towards him and was now sniffing his socked feet in earnest. He raised a brow ridge. “Dude, gross.” He stick his finger in front of the creature’s nose, watching it swipe harmlessly at it. The hothead snorted at its antics. He wouldn’t admit it, but he was glad. This little gremlin most likely would’ve died if not for them. He felt like they’d done something right for once, like they’d fixed something instead of fucking it up.

Not gonna lie, it felt pretty good.

“Didn’t know you were a cat person.”

Vinz huffed; Angelino had stood up from his previous curled up state on the floor and was approaching him, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. The hothead took his eyes away from the tiny panther attempting murder on his hand to peer at his roomate. “Tch, no way man. haven’t you heard? Cats are evil.”

“Can’t be worse than dogs.” the hybrid shrugged, plopping down next to him. “Also, don’t you do witchy stuff? You can’t do witchy stuff without a black cat, pretty sure that’s against witch law or something.”

“It’s Wicca. And I’ll have you know that’s a very insulting stereotype and I am deeply offended by that statement.”

“Aw, sorry bro. Guess you’ll have to spell it out for me.”

“Eat a dick, Lino.”

The hybrid just chuckled, reaching down to let the kitten rub its face against his palm. Vinz sighted. “Hey uh, this is nice and all, but we still can’t keep this guy. Pets cost money, in case you didn’t know.”

The cat gave Lino’s hand a raspy lick, before turning back to the skeleton to try and climb up his leg. Vinz glared at it, as if daring it to try and swoon him with its big round eyes and tiny wiggly ears and-

The feline clumsily slid off his pant leg and ended up on its back, tiny black padded paws reaching up at him. He would’ve bit his lip if he could. Dammit.

Angelino smiled. Vinz was so easy to read. “It’s fine. It’s just for a few days bro, just the time for this lil’ nugget to get its pep back. Don’t have to take her to a vet or anything.” He dig his fingers in their guest’s furry belly, wincing when razor-sharp teeth nipped his knuckle. Mh, maybe that was a dumb thing to do. Here’s to hoping the thing doesn’t have rabies or something.

“ ‘sides,” he added, “this one looks old enough to take care of herself, there’s plenty of mice in this shitty hotel. Cats usually go and do their own shit, you barely have to do anything. They’re like roaches, but fuzzier I guess. And before you ask, no she ain’t gonna eat my roaches. Told you before, they smart, they’ll stay clear of her.”

Vinz stayed silent for a few moments, then relented. “Fine,” he groaned, “we can keep it for now. Seriously though, only you could compare freaking roaches to a- wait, ‘she’? How can you even tell?”

“Dunno, i just kinda… know? Ooh, nice bunny kicks. Maybe she can be a wrestler one day.”

“So what, you some kind of psychic now?”

On top of everything else? Vinz wanted to add, but he didn’t.

Lino smirked, taking his hand away from the vicious beast at his feet. “Yeah, I can see into your mind, and what I see is disgusting. You got some fucked up kinks Vinny.”

The hothead flipped him off as the kitten climbed into his lap, successfully this time. “I call bullshit, I- Ow, claws. Ten bucks it’s male.”

“Whatever man, it’s your money.” the hybrid retorted, watching their protegee knead the front of Vinz’ shirt with abandon, the first hints of a purr leaving his tiny chest. The skeleton blinked, his head tilting to the side.

“…He kinda looks like you.”

“We’re not naming her after me, Vinz.”

“What, i’m just saying!”

The kitten yawned, curling up on a warm lap. In the end, they never settled on a name. Or a gender for that matter. They just started to call their new roomate different names every day.

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