LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

To Trap A Kiss by LannaLlamas

At Least There's A Cat

A/N: So my fat fingers keep accidentally hitting the delete button on my stories. I've made it a resolution to stop viewing this site on mobile since I'm so clumsy with it! After some revision, I'll add them again. Have this soon-to-come story, though, in the meantime.


~•~


A quarter past one, the shelter was uncharacteristically empty, save for the volunteers and the employees. Brad quotes the storm raging outside for the absence of adopters and visitors. Though the shelter may be absent of humans, it was still the furthest thing for quiet. The cat ward was bustling with mews and yowls, some of the older felines jump and cry for comfort as the lightning bolts outside. Brad's duty for today was to calm the animals, make sure none of them had a heart attack from the thunder and lightning. Easy done, he says to himself, cats are easier to look after than the dogs. They don't knock you over when the lightning strikes like the pit bulls do.


One cat cowers in fear from the noise outside. She was an older cat, just came in from a cruelty rescue last week. Brad's real job here was to socialize the abused animals, get them prepped for being adopted out. It was hard, emotionally, but it paid well and had such a heartwarming outcome. He unlocks the pen where the older cat grovels from the storm. She wasn't accustomed to humans, not after the situation she came out of, but for some unpredictable reason, she willingly comes to Brad. Begging for comfort, beseeching for a calming hand. She freely allows him to pick her up and lead her towards the play area. Most of the time, the cats are able to freely roam around here, but because of the storm, it was the best option to keep them caged up.


Her paws hit the cold tile floor, her feet carry him anxiously back to the safety of her handler, Brad. He outstretches a hand and combs his fingers through her manecoon fur, idly untangling the few straying knots that dot the landscape of her skin. Our grooming ward sucks, he tells himself while picking yet another clump of hair from her skin, we should just use the money and take them somewhere good. The cat yowls just loud enough for him to hear, conveying the distress she's in from the forced groom and the anxiety of the storm.


"You're okay," He tells the feline, "Calm down, Crookshanks," That was her name, Crookshanks. The vet's daughter named her that, an ode to the matted hair Hermoine's cat had too. She finally settles down, though she still has a tense aura to her. Regardless, she kneads into Brad's legs before laying in his lap, "There you go," He tells her again, "You're gonna have a home in no time." He wanted to believe it himself, but the fact was that the abused cats were least likely to find a home. Especially given her age. He hoped she'd find her forever home soon.


He opens his phone and clicks the notepad app. One thing he did with every new cat that came via the cruelty program was write a little half-thought poem or skit in memory of them. He had about fifty writings in the notepad app, all of which are from the cats that have mostly been adopted out. He begins to write one specifically for Crookshanks. White fur like freshly fallen snow, red irises that shone like rubies in the dark. Tell me your secrets, Crookshanks, tell me. Tell me the cruelty of man, the unlovability of others. Tell me your lies and truths, tell me what you hold dear. Tell me, Crookshanks, will we ever be forgiven? As if on cue, the cat meows absentmindedly, causing Brad to snicker lowly to himself. His free hand paps her head before writing one final line underneath the poem, you cannot know love until a cat has wished it upon you.


Thirty minutes till two, now. The lonely clock in the cat ward ticks silently, vying for a chance to stand out against all the other noises of the shelter. The door opens to the cat ward, quietly and just barely noticeable. A man walks in, lanky and slumped. Wet and depressed. Looks worse than the weather outside. He was a local and a fairly frequent guest here. Every Thursday, every week. Every day at the same time, thirty minutes till two. His name was Chester, Chester Bennington. Brad memorized it from the sign-in book at the front desk. He comes to see the cats every week, comes to play with the cute kittens and pet the older of the ward. His black boots shuffle on the rug just by the door to let off the muddy water on them, then he goes about looking in the cages.


Brad picks up Crookshanks and stuffs her under his arm while he stands up to greet the man. She meows happily at the affection causing Brad to wonder if hugs affect cats the same way they do humans. You know, the oxytocin release—the warding off depression aspect of them. Cat had to benefit from that, too, Brad supposes. He pushes the thought to the back of his mind, though, as he steps beside Chester. Tear marks burn his skin—or maybe they were from the rain—Brad didn't know, Brad didn't ask. It wasn't his place to know.


"Hello," Brad greets him. Fuck, Brad, you made him jump. Chester turns slowly and smiles obligatory, his lips are tense with an obligation. The water lines down his cheek fire up, bringing forth the notion of tears again. Tears, Brad repeats in his head, cats heal tears. That's why he comes every Thursday, "You need some help looking around?" You know the answer to that question, dumbass. It was protocol, though. He had to ask every guest that. Even Crookshanks rolls her eyes at how much of a bore he is.


Chester blinks slowly, probably to push away the few lingering tears that still straddle his eyelids. His smile brightens elegantly at the familiar face. Brad was always the one to greet him every Thursday, an introductory smile must work wonders to boost one's confidence and mood. Maybe there was a deeper connection that made the two smile so fearlessly at one another. Brad's stomach unconsciously pulls itself into knots whenever he sees Chester around here, the butterflies residing deep inside flutter happily at his closeness. Maybe it was just the man's beauty that caused it. His jawline could cut me, Brad internally tells himself, an idle finger runs across his own jawline, trying to mimic the chiseled curve of Chester's own. His eyes were the prettiest brownie color. Intoxicating, makes me so hungry for something I cannot have. Brad blinks. What is wrong with you. Did you really say that? Crookshanks pulls him into reality by forcefully scratching at his cheek. A hiss stings his throat as a crimson lash just barely comes to the surface.


"Are... are you okay?" Chester asks by pointing to the new gash on his cheek. Brad nods absently, he holds a finger up to excuse himself. Chester raises his eyebrows to tell him that's he's excused. Brad quickly goes around the kennels and locks Crookshanks back in her assigned cage. He wags a finger at her for scratching, but he can't stay mad at her. Then, he dashes back over to Chester's side, sinking in on the euphoria of being so close to him. Chester smiles again, the same bright dumplings that shine from his lips, "Can, uh, can I play with this kitty?"


The cat he was referring to was the three-legged kitten named Jax. The fur on his face had been nearly rubbed clean, a side effect to his massive flea allergy; his stub for a leg stuck out the wrong way, and both tips of his ears were missing and stubbed. His fur was chocolate in color, with a few white patches here and there. The vet said he'd been scarred in those places and the fur never regained its true color. Poor babe, Brad tells himself whenever he walks near this kennel. No one wanted him, no one was going to come to get him. Why did Chester want to play with him of all the cats here? Good, Brad thinks, he needs some loving today, anyways. His thoughts echo in his head as he unlatches the lock to the pen. Jax enthusiastically jumps into Chester's awaiting arms, his outward nub paws at the man's face. So cute, the words spin in his head, they're both undeniably cute. Brad is still coming to terms with his unconscious feelings for Chester.


"Is he uh... is anyone else looking to adopt him?" Chester asks with soft breaths. He's answered with a gentle shake of the head. Brad mouths 'no,' as if his words would crush poor Jax's feelings. As if he would even understand. He leads both Chester and Jax towards the play area so they can get better acquainted. The cat eagerly jumps out of the man's arms and begins to paw at the loose mouse toys and hanging pieces of strings, "Shame. He's very cute," Chester says as he watches the kitty play and dance around, "Maybe he'll find a home soon." Hope. That's all that kept humans together sometimes. It was the stitch on their seams, the last embers of a dying fire. Hope. That's the emotion that Chester whole-heartedly conveyed openly. Hope.


"I hope so," Brad speaks quietly as he sits adjacent from Chester, "He's been here awhile. Poor thing," Jax was the lovey-dovey essence of any animal. He just needed someone who was looking for personality rather than looks. The cat grabs one of the mouse toys in his mouth and giddily brings it back to Chester. His hobble was unbearably cute. He owned his disability, wore it so well. Didn't feel so ashamed about it, "He's pretty old. Been here for almost a year."


"A year?" Chester repeats the words with a whisper, his jaw lay open as he finishes the words. His vision zones out, focusing on nothing in particular. He blinks fast to unclog his eyes, they focus back in on the three-legged cat that was fighting for his attention, "How'd he lose his leg?" He asks suddenly. A stray finger points towards the nub on Jax's front half. Brad sucks on his teeth, chewing a piece of skin near the front part of his mouth while he tries and remembers the situation Jax came in as.


"Dog fighting," The words are put out in no uncertain terms. Jax was only one of the surviving cats from the dog rink. All the rest had been adopted out already, though, leaving him a lone survivor, "He had a leg comin' in, but... had to go. Was pretty bad," There's always worse cases, always will be. Part of this job is to keep emotionally stable when dealt with these things. You can't be adrenaline-fueled and panicked when handling these animals, "He's a-okay. Healed and ready for a home. He looks kinda ugly but... it's the personality that matters." Personality, the words echo in his head. He wants to get a better look of Chester's personality, the soft smile that rests so sloppily on his lips brightens the whole room. It can only be a small reflection of what his personality is


"Fuck," He swears, "Excuse my French," A small fit of laughter follows from each of them. Brad looks over at Chester, who's still locked on with Jax. He studies his face, each little blemish, and mark. The dark bags under his eyes, the scarred pimple on his nose. Though they were blemishes and gross marks, Brad couldn't help but think he was beautiful. The naturalistic beauty of his brown eyes, the way he wears his laugh lines so proudly. He blinks hard as Chester catches him staring, "I know we... we see each other a lot but this is kinda the first time we've... actually talked," He admits sheepishly, "You're... Brad, right? I'm Chester—"


"I'm Brad, yeah," The words are dreamy, feeling like clouds on his tongue. Maybe these hormones have got him strangled again, "You're here every Thursday, right?" You sound like a creep. Brad bites the corner of his lips, his teeth are rough enough to draw blood. Anxiety. It really changes a person, "That makes me sound like a stalker— It's just... I see your name in the ledger a lot."


"You've got the right man," Chester simpers, flashing yellow stained teeth. There's a certain rot in his grin where cigarettes have sat eatingly on his lips, "And it's not stalker-y... if that's a word," His lips upturn in confusion and a pinch of disgust, "I come every Thursday... after my therapy appointment. The cats are... I dunno... healing," Now the tear trails make sense, "Today I really needed to play with the kitties." Brad watches as Chester picks up the disabled cat and plops him down in his lap. They begin to mitt with each other, Jax extends his nub and Chester would pinch it softly between his fingers.


Twiddling his thumbs together, Brad wonders why Chester decided to open up to him about this. Maybe he trusted him? Maybe he just didn't care. Brad wasn't sure what to think, but he knew that his heartbeat fluttered with every word. Whether it was from anxiety or anticipation, that was left up to debate. The cat picks up the same mouse toy again, but this time he hops over and places it at Brad's feet. He stares blankly for a moment or two, letting his thoughts slowly sink down the drain before reentering reality. He takes the toy and chucks it across the room, Jax happily runs around to find it.


"Cats are healthy for the soul," Brad says, "Especially ones like Jax. They've seen enough pain... It's healing for both the pet and the handler," Animals were different from humans. Emotionally, spiritually. They can have the life beaten from them but still give unconditional love. It was something too cruel, too forgiving. Humans aren't as emotionally open like that, "Just so you know, he's got a discounted adoption price—"


"I don't have room for a cat right now," Chester admits with soft words. Brad's mouth parts in an O, his vision runs cold and stale as he begins to slowly dissociate. It was a cruel reality, knowing that some of these cats were going to spend the rest of their lives here at the shelter. Brad opens his palm and Jax headbutts his open hand. Soft purrs and mews stand out childlike against the sound of the pouring rain and lightning strikes, "I'd love to, he and I... we're two peas in a pod. Both of us have shitty upbringings, but we'll live prosperously."


Brad wanted to hope it was the truth. Shelter life isn't prosperous nor loving. It was a prison, more or less. Maybe more like an immigrant camp. They've done nothing wrong, but the people here are only here to ensure they don't die. It's up to the adopter to provide the immense unconditional love. Hopefully, Jax would find his place soon. In a welcoming home.


"Well," Brad pops his lips, "I've got a feeling that he ain't going anywhere anytime soon. People think he's too ugly," Jax paws at Chester's idle hand again. He outstretched an arm and scratches the base of his tail. The cat looks like he's having a seizure, his head flails around and drool comes swimming down his chin, "That's his spot," Brad explains with a murmur of a giggle as Jax finally rides off his nonsexual orgasm, "He gets like that whenever someone touches him there. He's— He's a crazy one." As if on cue, Jax yowls loudly to gain the two men's attention again. He bats the mouse toy from one side of the pen to another.


Chester doesn't say anything. Not towards Brad. His eyes trail down and watch the cat that continued to play with himself. They lock eyes, Jax comes barreling towards him again and flies into his lap. His nub rubs against his stubble-ridden cheek. Brad murmurs a chuckle, it rumbles deep in his chest as he watches the two continue to bond. The reality sinks in though. Jax might be here forever. Jax didn't deserve this life. He deserved happiness. You can't guilt trip him to take Jax, asshat, Brad belittles himself, if it was meant to be, it'll happen. That was just another hurdle you have to get over when working at a place like this. He had to be emotionally strong, emotionally ready to deal with these animals.


"Is he good with other cats?" Chester asks with a crease of his brow. His bony fingers scratch the bottom of the cat's chin. Purrs echo in the cat's chest, shaking his very being with this newfound sense of love. Again, it was a miracle to see how forgiving animals could be. Brad folds his lips over each other repeatedly as he crosses his mind for an answer. Having to memorize the behavioral patterns of every animal was tedious.


"He's good with cats. Not the best but... he tolerates them," Given his past situation, it's a miracle that he's tolerant towards cats. Animals in situations like these are more forgiving towards humans than their own kind, "He's not good with dogs. I'm sure you can guess why," Both him and Chester nod slowly in understanding. Jax finally gets worn out from the half-hour of his play. He trammels into Chester's lap once again, but this time he stays put and slowly drifts into a cat nap. No pun intended, "He's a good cat though."


"Poor baby," Chester speaks down to the cat in a babyish voice, playful and cheery. Jax's purrs turn breathy and hard, his whole body vibrates with the force of his purrs, "One day. One day you'll have a home," He tells the cat, whose eyes are still shut in impending sleep, "I promise you," Again Brad wants to believe the words, but there's certain darkness in the back of his head that yelps negativity. Chester pats the cat on his forehead before finally letting him rest, "Sweet dreams, soldier."


The air grows quiet, except for the constant pit-a-pat of the storm outside the thick walls. Brad and Chester lock eyes for just a moment, then both immediately turn their cheek once caught. Stop it, Brad kicks himself internally, you're making this weird. He tells himself before looking heavenward. As if to avoid meeting Chester's eyes again, he idly counts the number of tiles on the ceiling. It was, truthfully, to keep his mind from wandering on the fact his heart beat a different way with Chester so close.


"This... is gonna sound weird but," Chester begins. Oh, you've done it now, Bradford. Brad slowly turns his cheek again to meet the sympathetic, anxious gaze of the man before him, "Can... Can I have your number?" Oh, Brad unconsciously hangs his jaw open in an O, this changes things. You've done something right for once. Chester bites the corner of his lip while Brad internally monologues to himself. He watches the way one eye of his closes deeper than the other when he smiles. How the laugh lines highlight the beginning of wrinkles across his cheeks. How his nose is slightly crooked. He didn't know why, but his internal monarch butterflies went crazy inside. The flap their wings and flutter all around.


"Sure, uh," Brad is lost for words. He blinks hard as if he didn't understand the question posed. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why do attractive people make me so weird? Fuck—Too many thoughts bombard his head, vying for an equal chance at his attention. He whispers his phone number to Chester, letting his words fall sweetly like powdered sugar. Chester quickly enters the number into a contact file on his phone. Brad's phone suddenly vibrates in his back pocket.


Chester quickly turns his head away from Brad, but not before he's able to catch the childish grin blemished on his lips. Bad idea, Brad. He reaches for his phone, putting his finger on the home button to unlock it. Sure enough, there's a text message from an unknown number. He opens his instant message app, then clicks the notification. Hey, this is Chester, I'm not good with words but I want u to know that I think you're cute!!! The message reads. Three epilepsies appear underneath the message pop up as Brad reads it, he side-eyes Chester as another message appears. Wanna go out some time?


"Are you serious?" Brad asks with a blimp of a smile. His teeth tease alone the waterline of his grin, devilish and tempting. Chester stares up at him through his eyelashes, a soft bob of his head follows, "Well, the answer is yes. I'll go out with you," Chester sighs with relief, his head leans and uses the wall for support, "I'm free next Friday." Brad tells his newfound admirer, elicits a cheap smirk from the other.


"Next Friday?" Chester speaks differently. With a crooked tone, whispering through broken teeth. He did say he wasn't good with words, Brad, give him a chance. The internal monologue begins again, "As in... tomorrow or.... next week?" Oh shit, Brad tells himself, didn't think that through. He opens his mouth to correct and clarify what he meant, but before another word can stumble out, Jax yawns loudly. His breath stinks too. Both men crinkle their nose while lifting their chin high to avoid the smell.


"Next week," Brad whisks the words out, "If... If you're available," He sees stars in his newfound admirer's eyes. They glisten and burst at the seams, all filled with an overwhelming feeling of anticipation, temptation, perhaps fear. Fuck, his chocolate eyes are so delicious, Brad whispers to himself internally, that sounded too gay though, "Um... we could... go to dinner together...? I've got a car and—"


"That sounds lovely," Brad wasn't sure if that was sarcastic or not. Hopefully not, he tricks his brain to be more positive. Chester graces his hand against Brad's, though a bout of static electricity comes between the two. It even gives a small jolt to Jax, who was still laying in Chester's folded legs. Both of them share a look after they recover from their half-assed yelps and hisses of pain, "That was... definitely not weird in the slightest," definitely not some sort of sign either, "Well, uh, can't wait to see you again, Brad— I've... I've got to get home before the storm gets any worse."


As if prompted, Jax slides into Brad's crossed legs and lays happily. Chester leaves without another word, without giving Brad the chance to say anything back. Gone. Gone with the wind. Stolen my heart and head. Whisked then away. Bring them back, Chester, bring them back. Brad muses to himself before abruptly being stopped by his own head, you'd ought to stop this poetry business. You really aren't made for it. Jax looks skyward, meeting eyes with Brad. As if he could, it felt as if Jax was smiling up at him. Like a son to his father, like a dog to their master.


"Whadya think?" He asks the feline with a cheap tone, "Is it love or am I just wanting to get laid?" Jax mews a response, or seems to, anyway. He arches his back before striding away from Brad. His three legs carry him towards the cat toys and begin to paw and claw at them. With his only front arm, he throws the furry and sparkly ball towards Brad. It bounces off his shin and continues to roll around. The feline puts it in his mouth and carries it over to his handler, dropping it in between his legs, "I hope that's a good sign," Brad speaks again, "You're not very good at giving me some otherworldly signs here, Jax."


And the cat simply looks up with his jaundice and slime-colored eyes and meows. You can't know love until a cat has wished it upon you.

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