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The Cat's Meow

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Alexis is stretching on the corner of Schitt’s Road and Schitt’s Street, trying to decide whether to cut her run short and head to the café for a smoothie, when she hears it. She plucks her earbuds out and strains her ears to identify the sound, following the high-pitched mewing to a nearby shrub.

“Oh my god!” Alexis bends down to get a closer look at the tiny kitten cowering in the mud. “Um, okay. Oh my god, hi, kitty.”

The kitten is a dusty shade of grey with enormous green eyes. Alexis extends a hand, but the cat hisses and shrinks away.

“Mkay, um, it’s okay, kitty. Are you hurt?” The kitten blinks at Alexis and mews loudly in response to her question. “‘Kay, but I don’t know what that means!”

Alexis stands again and looks around, hoping to find someone else who she can pass this problem off to, but the street is annoyingly vacant this early in the morning. The kitten meows again, and Alexis tugs nervously at her earlobe. She’s never been good with animals. Now, she’s wishing she had actually read that rude book Ted had given her on caring about animals.

Ted would definitely know how to help this poor lil’ kitten, but Alexis isn’t sure of the etiquette when contacting an ex at 6:30 in the morning to rescue a baby animal. She’s pretty sure he’s returned from the honeymoon he went on after their super awkward breakup. To be honest, she’s still not entirely sure it should be considered a honeymoon when technically she never really said yes to his proposal, did she? Ugh, he’s still a vet and the best person Alexis can think of to handle a situation like this, so no matter how awkward it will be, this kitten needs Ted.

Alexis kneels by the bush again and reaches for the kitten, but it hisses again and extends its tiny claws.

“Ugh! Fine.” Alexis jumps to her feet and glares at the kitten. “If you won’t let me bring you to Ted, I’ll just have to bring him to you! Just, like, stay here, okay?” The kitten blinks slowly and lets out a soft mewl, and Alexis wonders if maybe the cat can actually understand her. “I’ll be right back, kitty!”

Alexis takes off running toward the vet clinic, preparing herself for an uncomfortable reunion with the sweetest man she’s ever met whose heart she had broken just a couple months ago.

The clinic’s door is already unlocked when Alexis arrives, so she rushes inside, heading straight for the exam room in the back. She taps on the filing cabinet to announce her presence, but stops short when a brunette woman turns around to face her.

“Um?” Alexis looks around the room. Everything looks the same as the last time she visited Ted here, except that is definitely not Ted. “Who are you?”

The woman raises a dark eyebrow. “You’re in my clinic. I think I should be asking you that question.”

“Your clinic?” Alexis asks. “Where’s Ted?”

“He applied to a program in the Galapagos. He’s going to be gone for several months, so I took over the clinic,” the woman responds, giving Alexis a scrutinizing look.

“He left?” Alexis twists her ponytail around her fingers and considers this. She had kind of hoped that she and Ted could eventually become friends again. She really did feel guilty about breaking up with him, but if he’s left the country because of her, that seems like a not-so-good sign. “And was he, um, happy about this decision?”

The woman narrows her eyes at Alexis. “It’s an incredible research opportunity. He was ecstatic.”

“Oh.” Alexis tries not to pout. Sure, she’s already dated and broken up with Mutt since their split, but ecstatic is a bit much. “Well, I’m so happy for him.”

“Why are you in my clinic?” The woman crosses her arms across her chest and stares hard at her. Clearly, she is not a fan. Alexis will just have to change that.

“I’m Alexis Rose.” She holds out her hand, palm down, to the woman, who reluctantly takes it. Alexis tightens her grip and tugs the woman towards her, flashing her best and brightest smile that Teen Vogue once called “award-winning.”

The woman’s eyebrows go up. “Ohh, so you’re the fiancée that dumped him.”

“Mmkay, there was actually a lot going on in my life, and I just wasn’t, like, in the right place to be engaged.” Alexis flashes another smile. “Anyways, it’s so nice to meet you, um?”

“Shannon,” she replies, finally cracking a small smile. It’s a very pretty smile. There’s a playful glint in her eyes when she speaks again. “So, Alexis, you planning on telling me why you barged into my clinic before business hours?”

“Um, what?” Alexis asks.

Shannon gives her hand a squeeze, and Alexis realizes that they have been holding hands for at least as long as that time when she and Keira Knightley almost kissed before some annoying paparazzo totally ruined the moment. Alexis shakes her head to clear her mind. Did she just share a moment with this cute new vet? Maybe her blood sugar is just low.

“Oh, um, oh my god, right!” Alexis manages to gain her composure again. “There’s this sweet little kitten that needs your help! I couldn’t bring her here because, um, she’s really dirty, and ew. Also, I’m not, like, super good with animals and she was kind of hissy, but I’ll take you to her. She looked really sad and scared.” She brings her hands up under her chin and does her best impersonation of the kitten’s big, sad eyes. “Poor thing.”

“Uh, well.” Shannon bites her lip and glances around the exam room. “Yeah, yeah, I guess I can go. The clinic isn’t opening for a little bit, so I’ll just grab a carrier. Hang on.”

Shannon pulls on a white doctor coat that is definitely doing things for Alexis and shoves a handful of cat treats into the pockets, which is less sexy, ew. She grabs a carrier and her keys and heads for the door. She raises an eyebrow when Alexis remains unmoving.

“Oh, right!” Alexis laughs. “Follow me, Shan.”

“Right behind you, Lex.”

Alexis bites back a smile. She normally doesn’t like nicknames until she knows someone better, but the teasing note in Shannon’s voice holds a hint of challenge that is undeniably piquing her interest.

“So, how long have you been a vet?” Alexis asks when it becomes clear that Shannon will not be initiating any conversation as they walk.

Shannon has shoved the hand not carrying the cat carrier deep into the pocket of her doctor coat, and she’s wearing what looks like a well-practiced indifferent expression. Alexis notices Shannon’s fingers fidgeting within her pocket. For whatever reason, Shannon is trying hard to appear disinterested and annoyed with Alexis, but it’s obviously a facade. Alexis moves closer, gently knocking their elbows together and smiling when Shannon shoots her a look.

“Just as long as Ted has. We were in school together.”

“Oh my god, I love that. So you two go way back.”

“Mmhm.”

Alexis waits, but Shannon doesn’t seem to have anything else to add.

“Well, Ted is such a sweetie. He—”

“Is that why you dumped him?” Shannon asks drily. Alexis suspects she may have her answer as to why Shan is not a fan.

“It’s super sweet that you’re protective of your friend, but I promise I did not mean to hurt Ted. I really—”

Alexis is interrupted by a loud mewling, and she realizes that they have already reached the kitten. Shannon promptly drops to her knees in the grass beside the shrub. Alexis wants to say something about how the grass is super muddy from last night’s rain, but Shannon really doesn’t seem to care about her jeans being ruined. Which is a shame because they’re actually pretty cute, and they make her ass look amazing.

Shannon has already managed to coax the kitten closer with a treat. She strokes a finger gently along the kitten’s back and is making soothing noises under her breath. The kitten is still skittish but seems to already be warming up to her. Alexis can’t help but be impressed.

“Is she, um, is she okay?” Alexis edges closer, peering down uncertainly.

“I’ll have to take a closer look back at the clinic,” Shannon says. “Doesn’t seem to be hurt at all, just in need of some TLC.”

Alexis breathes a sigh of relief, even though she doesn’t care about the kitten, not really. She just doesn’t want the poor little thing to be hurt. That’s all. She’s not really a cat person. Even though this one is kind of cute.

With some effort, Shannon manages to urge the kitten forward and into the carrier, where the cat immediately begins to yowl and scratch at the walls.

Alexis steps back in alarm. “Oh my god, what’s happening? Why is she freaking out?”

Shannon gives Alexis a wry smile. “Would you like to be trapped in a small cage?”

“Ugh, no. Been there, done that.” Alexis grimaces. “Speaking from experience, little kitty, you’ll want to save your energy for your escape. Screaming totally doesn’t help.”

Shannon’s mouth drops open and she gapes openly. Alexis squeezes her forearm in reassurance.

“Don’t worry, babe. Totally wasn’t a big deal. It was just a misunderstanding, really. Now let’s get back to the clinic, so Daisy can get some food and, no offense, but maybe a bath?”

“Daisy?” Shannon asks.

“You’re right, I’m not into it either.” Alexis frowns. “I was thinking something cute and flowery because obviously we can’t name her after a gross, ugly shrub! So we could just pretend she was found in a field of flowers or something a bit classier. Maybe Lily?”

“We could call her Rose.” The corners of Shannon's mouth twitch upwards slightly.

“Mmkay, no. We definitely are not calling her Rose!” Alexis shoves playfully at Shannon, pleased to have brought out her teasing side again.

“You really don’t have to come back to the clinic, you know,” Shannon says.

“Oh.” Alexis bites her lower lip. “Yeah, of course. I’m just kinda invested now, I guess. Unless you don’t want me to come, obviously.”

Shannon looks thoughtful. “No, it’s okay. You can come. I could use an extra set of hands when we bathe little Rosie anyway.”

“Um, I would normally be so down to help, but I just did my nails, so…”

Shannon laughs, and they continue walking in silence for several moments.

“Look,” Shannon says. “I’m sorry if I’ve been a little, I don’t know… short with you. I guess I kind of have a tendency to hold people at arm’s length, and you burst into the clinic acting like we were already friends, so it got my hackles up. But you seem… pretty okay, I guess.”

“Why do you want to hold people at a distance?” Alexis asks.

“It’s just easier that way.” Shannon huffs out a breath. “When you get close to people, you’re just allowing them to hurt you. Anyway, here we are.”

She holds open the door to the clinic and gestures for Alexis to enter. Alexis had been so caught up in subtly studying Shannon as they walked that she’s surprised to already find them at the clinic. She steps inside and leads the way to the exam room. She watches wordlessly as Shannon places the carrier on the exam table and opens its door, resting a firm, but gentle, hand on the kitten's back to keep her from bolting. She sets a small bowl of food on the table, but the kitten appears too frightened to eat.

“Is she going to be alright? She needs to eat something! She’s so tiny.” Alexis approaches the exam table slowly, not wanting to alarm the kitten.

“She needs some time to adjust to her surroundings,” Shannon replies. She fills a small basin with warm water and dips a washcloth in the water. She gently washes the kitten, murmuring softly. “It’s okay, kitten. I’ve got you. Bring the bowl of kibble.”

Alexis startles at the request. She had been lulled into a sort of trance listening to Shannon’s gentle murmurs. She picks up the bowl, wrinkling her nose at the smell, and carries it over.

“Feed her a piece,” Shannon says.

“What? Right now?” Alexis frowns.

“Yeah, just hold out your palm, and let her take a piece.”

Alexis follows the instructions hesitantly, gasping as the kitten takes the kibble from her hand, her tiny nose sniffing around for more. She continues feeding the kitten a piece at a time as Shannon washes the dirt from the kitten, examining her for any signs of cuts or injury.

“Hate to break it to you, Alexis, but looks like little Rosie is a boy.” Shannon begins to laugh, and a warmth builds in Alexis’ chest at the sound.

“Wait, really?” Alexis looks closer at the kitten. Shannon has managed to wash several layers of dirt from his body, revealing white fur with streaks of black on his paws and face. “He’s not even grey either! He was under disguise!”

“Maybe he’s a better escape artist than you thought.” Shannon gives her an amused look. “A little Houdini.”

“No, we definitely aren’t calling him that.” Alexis shakes her head firmly. “I got stuck talking to Criss Angel at a party in Malibu once, and he would not stop talking about how much better than Houdini he was the whole night. It was really sad. And also super annoying.”

“Okay, Houdini and Criss Angel are both out, so what’s his name going to be then?” Shannon asks as she gently pats the kitten with a dry towel.

Alexis holds out another piece of kibble and examines the kitten as she considers. “Oh my god, you know who he reminds me of? My brother! He totally has my brother’s eyebrows, and David always insists on wearing black and white, even though it makes his wardrobe totally boring.”

The kitten suddenly bites Alexis’ fingertip, his tiny teeth piercing the skin.

“Um, rude!” Alexis yells, yanking her hand back to look at her injured finger. “‘Kay, he is for sure a total David.”

“You okay?” Shannon takes hold of Alexis’ wrist and peers at her finger. “Those little teeth can be sharp as hell.”

There’s a single pinprick of blood forming, but Alexis doesn’t care. Her attention is completely focused on Shannon’s hand gently wrapped around her own. There's a little furrow between her eyebrows that Alexis wants to smooth out with her thumb, and her lips are pursed in concentration. Alexis can’t seem to catch her breath.

“It’s fine, totally fine.” She takes a step back and tears her eyes from Shannon, forcing her attention back on the kitten now lapping eagerly from a bowl of water. “Um, so, what’s going to happen to baby David now?”

Shannon turns back to the kitten, but not before Alexis catches a brief flicker of what might be disappointment flashing across her face. She brushes her palms down the front of her coat and shakes her head slightly before looking back at Alexis.

“Are you really going to call him David?” she asks. “My brother would be so mad if I tried to name an animal after him.”

“Um, that’s kinda the point, Shan.” Alexis smiles. “David will be so pissed! I can just imagine the look on his face when I tell him that David loves to eat kibble. Ooh, or how David uses a litter box. He will use a litter box, right? Ted fostered these puppies once when we were dating, and one of them wore a diaper, which was not a cute look.”

“Does this mean you’re thinking about adopting the kitten? It kind of seems like you’re interested.” Shannon smirks.

“Oh, um, no, that’s not…” Alexis tugs at her earlobe and shakes her head. “I just want him to go to a good home. Maybe you could adopt him! And then maybe I could visit?”

“You want to visit the kitten, or you want to visit me?” Shannon quirks an eyebrow.

“Um, both?” Alexis takes a step closer.

“Hm, so, hypothetically, if I invited you over to my place for dinner, would you be coming to feed kibble to David, or…” Shannon moves closer, tilting her head back to hold Alexis’ gaze as the space between their bodies shrinks.

“Mm, we can hunny p put out some kibble in, like, a cute little dish for David, but afterwards, you and I could eat.” Alexis rests a hand on Shannon’s waist and sucks in a breath when Shannon’s hands land on her hips.

“Eat dinner, or…” Shannon raises a suggestive eyebrow, and Alexis cannot hold herself back any longer.

She closes the remaining distance to press their lips together in a slow kiss. Shannon’s lips are soft and smiling beneath her own. Alexis reaches a hand up to cup Shannon's jaw, deepening the kiss, and Shannon hums appreciatively. David the kitten meows softly behind them, and Alexis smiles, vowing silently to buy him the best damn kibble she can find. He deserves it.