Cat Herding (An Infinite Possibilities Sidestory)
Title: Cat Herding (An Infinite Possibilities Sidestory)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Summary: First, it snows. Then Sephiroth has to herd cats. Literally.
Notes: Follows several months after Infinite Possibilities ends. For taichara.
Sephiroth was glad he'd grabbed an extra blanket from the closet. He could hear the rain pattering against the window and the damp chill that had sunk into the cottage suggested the storm was far from over.
But it was late and he'd finished the book he'd been reading for the last couple of nights - a mystery he solved long before the protagonist - and short of getting out of his nice warm bed to dig around for another book, the best thing he could think to do was sleep.
He turned off the lamp on his bedside table, pulled the blankets up over his chest and shoulders and closed his eyes.
The rain didn't keep him from sleeping.
No, telephone. Wide-eyed, Sephiroth looked glanced around once to remind himself where he was and that the noise was only the phone, not anything wrong. Except it was early, and...
He scrambled out of bed, nearly tripping over his own feet all tied up in the blankets, and made his way to the kitchen. His caller was persistent, at least, which helped.
Sephiroth answered on the sixth ring. The phone was old and had been there - it had a patina of dirt and discoloration that no spray Tori gave him managed to touch so he'd just left it. He wasn't going to lick it, after all.
"Fin! Sorry, I know you were probably sleeping..." Tori's voice was apologetic. "But can you come into town when you can? Well, if you can?"
"If I can?" Bleary-eyed and trying to remind his body that he was not about to go into battle, Sephiroth was confused.
"I did wake you up," Tori moaned. "Go look outside, okay?"
"Okay..." The phone cord wasn't quite long enough to reach the window on the far side of the kitchen, despite the kitchen not being terribly large. Sephiroth clunked the receiver down on the counter and walked over to the window. At least the rain had stopped.
Instead, when he pushed the thick navy-on-the-inside-periwinkle-on-the-outside curtains apart, there was shimmering white.
"It snowed," he mumbled to himself before realizing he was half right. "It's still snowing."
He watched for a moment, enraptured, before remembering that Tori was waiting for him.
Sephiroth crossed back and grabbed the phone. "Why is it snowing?" he asked. They were in the deep south. Sure, it was the cool and rainy season but...
"It happens every few years," Tori said. She chuckled. "But no one in town owns a snow-shovel, so we mostly just wait for it to melt. However, I've already been informed that Ol' Lexei is short three white cats, there are all sorts of branches down, and there are several porches that could stand sweeping. For starters."
"Yes, ma'am," Sephiroth replied, echoing her chuckle. "Give me a few minutes to--"
He frowned. "Well, give me about an hour. I don't think I'll be able to run the bike, so I'll have to walk in."
"Thanks, Fin," Tori told him.
"No problem," Sephiroth replied. "Bye."
After hanging up the phone, Sephiroth made a quick circuit of the cottage to make sure there weren't any new leaks or anything else that needed his attention. But he'd gotten the place as tight as it was going to get and all his repairs seemed to be holding.
He raced through the shower and then ate a quick breakfast while still in his robe. At least he had good work-boots that would keep his feet warm and dry. His hair-- Sephiroth actually had to take the time to comb his chin-length silvery hair. He'd been getting his first tangles over the last couple of weeks.
It didn't seem right that he was actually considering getting it cut back to the steel-grey fuzz he'd had the year before. But Sephiroth was considering it... Mornings had certainly been less involved.
Sephiroth grabbed a couple of pairs of work-gloves and stuffed them in the pockets of his jacket. He would have preferred leather, but he wasn't going to be picky.
He'd never really been good at dressing for the weather.
"Laugh all you want," Sephiroth said to the wind as he stepped outside into the gently falling snow. He pulled the cottage door shut, turned, and nearly lost his footing on the layer of ice under the snow on his deck.
He almost expected to hear laughter.
The trek to town didn't take anywhere near as long as Sephiroth had expected. That or he'd been too busy looking at the snow on the trees or his own footprint trail leading back behind him. He tried to identify all of the other animal tracks he saw as well, but he knew he couldn't linger.
Sindi, bundled up for weather far worse, was out on the general store porch trying to sweep some of the snow off.
"Morning," Sephiroth called, raising a hand in greeting.
"Hey, Fin!" she replied, grinning. "I'll make you lunch if you finish sweeping for me."
Sephiroth chuckled. "I need to check with your mother before I make any deals, okay?"
"Besides, you're doing pretty good," Sephiroth noted. The store's porch wasn't icy, at least, which was nice. He stomped the snow off his boots on the mat outside the door and let himself in.
"Sindi? Are you done already?" Tori's voice called from somewhere in the back.
"It's me, Tori," Sephiroth replied.
"Oh, Fin!" Tori came rushing out, a large crate in her arms. "I was just digging out the sad selection of hats and gloves and scarves that I haven't needed to put out in... I don't know how long. But I can at least give you something to keep your ears warm."
She set the crate down on the counter and opened it quickly. And winced.
"I remember more of a diverse selection," she said before pulling out a handful of pastel knit hats. "But..."
"You've dressed me in worse," Sephiroth noted. He accepted a light red hat, however, when Tori offered it.
"I'm not sure," she mumbled. "This might be the worst..."
Sephiroth chuckled before making his way to the job board. He grabbed the cards that he already knew about and then looked at the others to see if anything was more pressing. He'd have a busy day, at least.
"I should probably see about the cats first?" Sephiroth questioned. He'd never seen the cats far from 'Lexei's place and likely they'd just holed up in the garage.
Tori nodded. "I think so." She smiled. "And come get Sindi if you need to do any roof-climbing. She's a good ladder-holder."
Sephiroth nodded, pulled on his hat, and headed back outside.
"So? Do we have a deal?" Sindi questioned. Sephiroth shook his head.
"Sorry, Sindi. Your mother said I need to go look for Mister Alexei's cats. But if it keeps snowing like this, I'll give you a hand later."
He heard Sindi sigh loudly and exaggerated as he tromped down the steps and into the street. Half-expecting her to follow along, he kept his pace slow til he rounded the corner. But when Sephiroth glanced back, Sindi had gone back to sweeping.
Sephiroth heard Alexei long before seeing him.
"Kitty kitty kitty-- Kitty kitty kitty--"
"Fin!" Alexei came trotting around the corner of his house. "I'm surprised you made it in." He shook his head. "Those rascals were out when it started raining yesterday and I didn't worry too much, but they haven't come back and it's gotten too cold for their thin hides."
"I'm sure they're fine," Sephiroth replied, chuckling. "But I'll help you look. You've been all the way through the garage, right?"
Alexei nodded. "The whole house, garage, basement and under the porch, too. Not a single orange or blue eye to be found."
"Have you tried feeding them?"
"I've opened two cans of cat food, a can of soup for myself, and shook their crunchy bag around the entire yard," Alexei said. He frowned. "And I know they say white cats are deaf, but they've never not heard the can opener."
"They must have gotten closed in somewhere," Sephiroth commented, glancing around. "I'll see about checking all the other garages and sheds."
"Thanks, Fin," Alexei said. "I'll stay here in case they get back."
As Sephiroth knocked on doors and poked around in garages, he also added to his mental list of what he'd have to come back and fix. The snow had let up and looked almost like it was melting faster than it was falling, which he was quite thankful for.
By the time he got to Della's place, he was actually starting to worry. Her porch was clear - not from effort but direction. The snow simply had not fallen on it.
She answered a minute after he knocked.
"Fin!" Della still had curlers in her hair. "To what do I owe this fine surprise?"
Sephiroth smiled. "Not a social call, I'm afraid. I wondered if you've seen Alexei's cats around here."
"I saw them yesterday afternoon," Della said after a moment. "Before the rain started. I was re-potting a couple of plants."
"Did you have your garage or cellar open?" Sephiroth questioned.
"Not the cellar, but the garage," Della replied. "All my pots are in there."
"And probably three curious cats," Sephiroth commented. "May I?"
"I don't lock it," Della replied. "Nothing worth stealing in there, after all."
"Thanks, Della," Sephiroth said, giving her a little wave and making his way back off her porch.
Sure enough, three hungry odd-eyed white cats were waiting for him when he opened the door. They zinged past him in all directions, leaving Sephiroth to try to get them all back to Alexei's. Hopefully they hadn't done any damage or made too much of a mess. At least Della would know who to complain to.
As he walked, he caught sight of one or another walking uncomfortably through the snow. Sephiroth understood. He was officially fairly offended by the sudden change in weather, too.
Even though he was sure he'd failed at herding the trio back to Alexei's, they were all on the porch eating when he rounded the corner again.
"You work miracles, Fin!" Alexei cried.
"They were in Della's garage, 'Lexei," Sephiroth replied. "No miracles there."
"Let me make you lunch," Alexei offered and Sephiroth knew there was no point in refusing.
Not surprisingly, they had soup.
Midway through the afternoon, the snow had nearly melted and the temperature risen by enough that Sephiroth didn't need the light red hat. By dinner, he'd finished clearing porches, removed fallen branches, and completed several other small jobs.
He'd also checked by Alexei's to find the old man sitting on his porch, happily covered with cats.
In fact, it had been a good day. He couldn't complain. The walk back to the cottage wouldn't be amazing, but it wasn't really a huge inconvenience, either.
The walk back to the general store from his last job took him by the little stone shed that held the town's Lifestream spring. Sephiroth didn't think the snow would have affected it any, but he peeked in anyway. The shed had been a shrine at some point, Sephiroth had gathered, and much fancier until the years had dwindled it down and someone had tacked a tin roof on to make it look far less holy.
"I did not fall on my ass today," Sephiroth reported to the flowing green. "I attempted to herd cats. I found out that it can snow here and I did not feel unmanly while wearing an extremely pink hat."
While there was never an answer, Sephiroth always felt a little more peaceful after 'checking in'. At first he'd felt ridiculous. But now... Well, it wasn't like Aerith ever answered, after all.
He turned, looking around. There, in a dark corner, was a skinny calico cat with two spotted kittens. One of them was tottering towards him while the mother cat watched him cautiously.
He winced. This was not a job he could handle alone.
"Stay here," he told them, quickly darting from the shed.
Sephiroth needed skilled back-up. He went to get Sindi.
An hour later, Sephiroth, Sindi, the mother cat and both kittens were all in one corner of the general store while Tori fussed around getting food and water and a litter box together for them. As Sephiroth had expected, Sindi hadn't had any trouble carrying the mother cat back while Sephiroth plunked the kittens in his pockets. They were at least a couple of weeks old, which had made Tori wonder out loud if they hadn't all been left behind by one of the late-leaving summer folk.
"Okay," she said, leaning down with a bowl of food for the mother cat. "You can stay if you don't make a mess. Though we will try to find your owner."
"And if not, we get to keep them?" Sindi questioned, smiling a wide, hopeful smile.
Tori nodded. Sephiroth attempted to remove the kitten currently trying to climb his arm.
"Yes," Tori said. "But Fin gets first pick."
"Right," Sephiroth said. "Wait--"
"No take-backs," Tori said warmly and so quickly that Sephiroth knew she already had it on the tip of her tongue. She'd gotten him.
Though actually, he didn't think it was a bad idea.
He couldn't wait to tell Alexei.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!