C gets an unexpected visitor.
A cat fell out of the network while Gingetsu was out. C caught his breath and stared, ripping off his headset guiltily. I didn't do anything! /he said to the disapproving Two-Leaf his mind had helpfully conjured. /I don't know what happened!
The frazzled creature glared at him and spat, obviously unconvinced. It was throwing off sparks. It was a chimerical thing, more metal than fur, but... fur/. Real fur, that was sticking up every which way and singed on the ends. It smelled completely horrible. The cat twisted around and began giving its shoulder long, raspy-sounding licks with a pink tongue. C was quite overwhelmed. A /living thing. A real cat.
It probably felt at least as uneasy as he did, C thought, watching this strange arrival groom itself, stopping frequently to lick the air in distaste. C turned the headset over nervously in his hands, and dropped it when the cat, having decided he was not to blame for its unexpected new surroundings and fur slicked-down to an acceptable standard, stalked forward with an imperious air and jumped onto the table beside him. It sniffed his glass of water, seemed to consider the matter for several long moments, then began lapping at the water.
C cautiously reached out and touched the cat. The metal stung his hand when he brushed it, but the cat turned and pushed its head against his hand until he rubbed its soft ears. It purred. C was enchanted. He scratched under its chin, and it rubbed its head against his hand some more.
He was looking through Gingetsu's sparsely furnished kitchen for something to give the cat when it froze and swivelled its head around to stare at the kitchen door. A moment later, they heard the apartment door open and close. Gingetsu was back.
"Lan. Are you hungry?" asked Gingetsu, entering the kitchen.
"Um." C looked down at the cat twining around his ankles. Gingetsu followed his gaze and stared at the cat. The cat stared back. He returned his attention to C. C thought it quite wonderful that there was something Gingetsu couldn't stare down.
"What is this?"
C blinked. "It's a cat."
"Thank you for the information," Gingetsu said. C thought Gingetsu was going to say more, or perhaps wanted C to make a reply of some sort, but he couldn't imagine what, and he waited expectantly for clarification until Gingetsu shook his head and looked at the cat again.
The cat miaowed. "Can we give it something to eat?" he asked. The cat blinked slowly in agreement.
Still frowning, Gingetsu opened the refrigerator and poured out some protein drink in a dish, which he handed to C. C set it down in front of the cat. The cat sniffed the offering and sneezed. "You can't keep it," he said, and C nodded.
"It should go back to its proper place." The cat exchanged wary glances with Gingetsu. It did not seem to want the protein drink, which C thought was quite wise of it.
"It doesn't have clearance," Gingetsu said, at length.
The weight of his words was worrying. "Can it tell where it has been?" C thought fleetingly of the headset in the bedroom that linked him to the network.
"Probably not. Can you check the mechanical components for transmitters? Its owners may be keeping track of it."
C thought it should have occurred to him to do so. "It is a valuable thing," he agreed, reaching in to examine the workings. He felt bad.
"It is a precious thing," Gingetsu corrected him. C didn't quite understand the difference, but just then, he found a recording device and rewrote the memory. Gingetsu looked the cat over when C was done, and gave it a tentative scritch on the chin. "Let's send it home, then."
Prompt by Veszelyite: Gingetsu, Lan, Xiao Mao leader's cat.