There is meowing coming from underneath the hood of their taxi.
It is Cec who goes to look first, opening it up and carefully prodding around, setting the pieces aside with the ease an experienced man had. Bert watched with a careful gaze, focused on the way Cec's hands moved, as if the car was some sort of barely tamed beast. He knew those hands: it was the same touch Cec used to gently bring Bert down from a panic attack, the residue of shellshock still stuck to his psyche, refusing to leave: he had tried, but nothing short of a vice for alcohol seemed to work.
From near the oil tank, he produced, much like a magician would, a little black cat, all skin and bones and with the biggest, brightest yellow eyes, although those were thin slices if compared to its overblown pupils, two black pools that made it hard to know where the eyes begun and were the fur ended.
"Aw, hello there!" Cec said, in a gentle tone of voice, and Bert passed him a clean rag. Cec gently patted down the cat, meowing as if afraid, but it didn't seem to faze Cec. "Don't worry, it's going to be alright. We don't bite."
The cat meowed once more, tentative. Bert looked into the pieces of the car strewn on the ground with an order only Cec could understand, and hoped that they'd be able to put it together before the workday ended.
"I think it is hungry." Bert said, low tone, and Cec nodded, distracted. "Doesn't seem to have an owner, though."
Cec's eyes looked at him, and so did the cat, as if synchronized. Bert sighed, but it was a gentle one.
"Okay, fine, we can keep it."
Cec looked at the cat, and it looked back, meowing tentatively before smashing its little head against his hand, and Bert hoped that, with Cec distracted as he was, he didn't see the little smile he offered the other man. Cec passed him the cat gently, and Bert held it as if it was made of glass - it felt like it, at least -, continuing to clean it of the oil.
"What are we going to name it?" Cec hummed, starting to put back the car. Bert stared at it.
Cec smiled, a shit-eating grin Bert was most familiar with.
"Karl it is."
When he wakes up screaming, the afterimage of bombs falling still glued to his eyelids, Cec's hands bring him down from the trenches to back home, and Karl - still a little thing, still skin and bones no matter how much they feed it - purrs a storm in his lap. It's oddly comforting, if he's honest, and Bert wouldn't change it for anything.