When Todd first walks into his shared dorm, he is instantly greeted by a very distinct feeling of unease, and immediately feels his body begin to tense. To make matters worse, Todd had only ever felt like this in his and Neil's room on their very first day; making him feel like something was seriously wrong... again.
He was getting ahead of himself! Typical. Ever since the winter, Todd had always been filled with extensive worry for his roommate when he wasn't near- even more so than before. But, in his defense, Neil had spent the weekend away at a family gathering (which he had talked to him about with dread for several weeks leading up to the event), and Todd worried if his friend would be able to handle it.
"Neil?" He called gently as he crept slowly to his bed where he places his overnight bag, filled now with clean laundry from his parents house (Todd didn't see any point in siting alone in their room all weekend while Neil wasn't there, so he had gotten his mother to pick him up for a few days). His dearest friend was no where to be found, though Todd was sure he had arrived before him, for his books had been placed back beside his typewriter, and it appeared he had already begun unpacking.
Upon further investigation, Todd had found the window to be wide open, letting in a gentle breeze that was so typical of late March. Delicate voices of their younger peers participating in sport in the yard below where they had -presumably- resided since their release from chapel earlier in the day.
One small bowl had also been gingerly placed beside the radiator, hidden from the door by Neil's bed.
In that exact moment, Neil reopens the door with a giddy "Oh Todd! Good! You're here!" as he bounced over to him, with something clearly hidden under his sweatshirt.
"Can you keep a secret?" He whispers.
Todd was speechless, what ridiculous stunt had Neil pulled now? Sometimes, Todd felt as though the other boy was taking "carpe diem" a bit too seriously, and was closer to a whooping than a free mind. Although he did enjoy the the way that Neil's crazy shenanigans never ceased to pull Todd out of his shell, and help him be more spontaneous, and make new friends, memories, and have new experiences. He somehow manages to give a slight, though hesitant, nod.
Gently sitting down on his squeaky cot, Neil slowly begins to lift his sweatshirt to reveal a small, black kitten -no more than just a few weeks old- that then proceeds to let out a small yelp as it hops down from his captor's lap, and onto the perfectly made bed below.
For a moment, Todd just stares, unknowing how to react. Finally, he sighs "how-?"
"I found him down on Sequoia-" Neil starts, patting a spot next to him on the mattress. Todd is so mesmerized, he hardly noticed himself taking Neil up on his offer. "I was walking home, and I heard the most tragic cry from the...?" Neil waves his hands around a bit, unknowing the name of the spot, "...shoulder?"
Todd knows exactly what he was talking about. Sequoia was one of the main streets that ran through town, and the only one that goes far into the outskirts, and leads directly to Welton. Meaning, after a ways, it becomes mostly just trees and weeds. On both sides of this road, there is a long ditch (filled mostly with just rocks) that follows the entirety of the street. Neither of them really knew what it was for, they had just assumed it's only purpose was to be filled with snow when the roads were plowed in the winter. And to harbor abandon cats, apparently.
"How did you even hear him from your bike?" Todd wonders aloud.
"I was walking today." his boyfriend replied simply, causing Todd to wonder why he walked his bike back all the way from his parents house, or why they didn't bother giving him a ride. Neil tried to reassure him that it was his choice, and that he wanted to enjoy his walks before it began to get too hot out. Todd then briefly scolds him for not wearing his jacket (since it was quite cold out), but gives up his argument when Neil gushes on about how it reminds him of Todd, and how he would have loved taking the time to enjoy the scenic route with him. They weren't really arguing, anyway.
"Well so, when I got down to the edge, I didn't see anything at first!" Todd mindlessly scoots closer, "only after five minutes of creeping around, I had just about given up! Then, I nearly stepped on this poor guy on my retreat!" He places one hand on Todd's knee, and the other under the chin of the unnamed black cat.
"How-" his original question comes back to mind, "you can't honestly-" Todd stutters for a moment and sighs, trying again much slower, "How do you expect to be able to get away with keeping a kitten in your room?"
Oh yeah, thanks for the reminder he thinks. They're both toast if they get found out, "What if we get caught? How will we explain an animal? Cigs are one thing, Neil, but this? This- this is a whole living creature!"
"I know, isn't it brilliant!" Neil sounds as though he's never seen an actual animal before.
"We'll burn that bridge when we get to it" he tells him with a gleam of mischievousness in his eyes that never fails to instantly fill Todd with adoration.
They lock eyes momentarily before Todd picks up the cat in one swift motion, and begins to walk about the room with him pressed against his chest. Neil has just about melted by the time Todd inquires, "and just what are we going to feed it, exactly?"
"Todd!" Neil gasps, "you can't just call him an it! His name is Walt!"
He doesn't hesitate to release "Walt" when Neil plucks him from Todd's arms.
"Alright" he accepts after a long pause, "but we can't keep on calling him Walt!"
When Neil sends him a confused look, Todd just gestures dramatically to their windowsill where sits a small, single flower with three purple and yellow petals that resides in a tin cup (the kind one would take camping).
Both boys remember the day they rescued Walt from a crack in the sidewalk very clearly. It had been Neil's first day back "after the play". Neil fleetingly feels ashamed at how he failed to recall such a pivotal moment in not only their relationship, but his recovery.
If Todd notices Neil's brief change in emotion, he doesn't comment. He also realizes there is no way to talk him out of this. Ever since his return, Neil's tendency to hyper-fixate on things has only gotten more intense. Todd typically tries not to argue because he knows it's some sort of coping mechanism (or something?) but there are sometimes situations when he has to help the other boy loosen up for his own benefit (like making a stack of books perfectly aligned, or wrinkles when he's making his bed). Now was not one of those times.
"Well then, what do you suppose we call him?"
Todd lets his eyes wander their tragically bare room, hopelessly looking for inspiration for a name for their newest roommate. Maybe a character from a book he'd read recently? Dorian, perhaps?
"Hey!" Neil pipes up, "How about Oscar?"
It was perfect. Both Todd and Neil had taken an interest to the works of Wilde as of late. Todd recently acquired an older copy of The Picture Of Dorian Gray, and had shared it with his boyfriend. They had both been so fascinated with it's subtext, that Todd began to look further into the details of his life, learning why his works were -tragically- banned from their school, which also had caused a momentary crisis in Todd's mind about his future and his relationship with Neil (he ended up concluding that all he wants for his future, is to have Neil in it.) Meanwhile, Neil became more and more interested in Oscar Wilde's work as a playwright. In fact, they were both in the process of trying to convince the primary director of Henley Hall's plays to allow them to do Salomé in the fall.
With one hand on his boyfriend's shoulder, Todd crouches down, "So, Oscar-" he pats the kitten's head, "what exactly do you eat?"