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A Cat Tale

An experiment goes awry, Mulder gets a pet, and Krycek gets an arm. Fifth season. (Illustrated)


Disclaimer: The X-Files belong to Chris Carter and 1013. No infringement intended.

a cat tale

Alex Krycek lay on the hospital bed, blinking in the glare of the light shining in his eyes, his right hand twitching nervously, wondering for the thousandth time whether he was making a terrible mistake. Not that he could back out now, even if he wanted to—the Consortium doctors had been unpleasantly eager to have the opportunity to experiment on him, and he was now securely bound to the bed, with heavy leather straps around both ankles, across his midsection, and around his wrist. They’d even fussed rather pointlessly over not having a left wrist to bind into the restraint on the other side, though he was quite clearly not going anywhere, despite the unfortunate necessity of using three-point restraints rather than four. At any rate, he wouldn’t even be here, stark naked, tied up like Hannibal Lector’s little brother in this strange laboratory like something out of a Hammer film, if not for the missing arm, which this mad experiment was meant to restore to him.

Surely he was mad to think there was the slightest possibility that this would work—or that he was even likely to survive the experience. Still, when they came to you and told you they thought they could grow your arm back for you, and that whether or not it worked they’d pay you many thousands of dollars for the opportunity of experimenting on you, and when your patron and protector had just been blown up, leaving you on your own among people who’d tried more than once to send you on ahead of him, you weighed your chances and decided that, while there was a good chance you’d end up dead if you agreed to the experiment, there was an even better chance you would if you didn’t.

And he was utterly sick of waking up from dreams in which his body was whole, to discover that the ugly, useless lump of scarred flesh where his left arm should have been was what was real after all.

So here he lay, naked and scared and helpless, waiting for them to do god-knows-what to him, and hoping that whatever luck had kept him alive this long would hold just a little longer.

* * *

At the side of the room, a small black and white cat tiptoed among the flasks and bottles on the counter, delicately dipping its front paw into one of the flasks, then lapping at the liquid with its small pink tongue.

* * *

They hadn’t told him anything about how the experiment was supposed to work. As long as it did work, he didn’t really care. But he was very good at keeping his ears open, and from various small details overheard and tucked away, he surmised that it had something to do with DNA—injecting him with DNA of some sort that would take over his body, regenerate his arm, and then fade quietly away, leaving him just as he was before, except for having all his parts intact. He didn’t really want to think too closely about it—the only creatures he knew of that could regenerate limbs were primitive things like starfish, and he wasn’t all that eager to be a starfish, even if it meant getting his arm back. But what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, as long as he came out human at the end. And most likely all the injection would do was make him sick to his stomach, anyway.

He heard a man’s voice say, “Shoo!” and a tinkle of glass. He heard muttering voices and small sounds of lab equipment being used. Then one of the doctors stepped into the pool of light around Krycek’s bed. He held a frighteningly large hypodermic needle in his hand.

“I still wish there were some way to restrain the regenerated arm,” grumbled a voice from the shadows.

“Never mind,” said the doctor at Krycek’s bedside, with a strange, grimacing smile. “If the process works—well, who knows? None of these restraints may be of any help.”

Krycek didn’t like the sound of that. But one thing was sure—the restraints would work just fine as long as it took for the doctor to use that hypodermic.

Which is just what the doctor did.

* * *

The two Consortium doctors sat at subject’s bedside, waiting. The subject lay unconscious on the hospital bed, twitching in his restraints. So far, there had been no change, and the doctors were growing impatient. Something should have happened by now.

Glass tinkled over on the counter. The black and white cat froze where it stood, its large golden eyes glowing in the dark. Thick liquid oozed down the side of the counter from an overturned flask.

“Damn it!” the taller of the doctors said. “Will you get that cat out of here?”

The other man jumped up and hurried over to the counter, which of course startled the cat into dashing away, upsetting several more jars and flasks as it ran. Both doctors then charged into the chase, spending several fruitless minutes darting all over the room before opening the door and chasing the cat out. Glaring at each other, they turned back to their patient.

The hospital bed was empty.

* * *

It was late when Fox Mulder got home, as it often was these days. With the X-Files at last reopened, and the remnants of his burnt-out office to be salvaged, there was a lot to do. He was yawning as he dug in his pocket for the key to his apartment door, rubbing his eyes with his other hand, already feeling himself in his bed. He found the key and shuffled closer to the door—

His shoe hit something soft. Something that yowled and leapt and skittered across the floor, and stood with its back arched and its green eyes flashing at him from across the hall.

Mulder yelped, swore, and leaned heavily against his door, heart pounding wildly, adrenaline shocking him wide awake. He stared back at the outraged black bundle of fur that had been curled up at his door.

It was a cat. Black as night, except for its huge green eyes, and just as frightened as he was. Mulder knelt down, slowly, and held out his hand to the creature. “Hey there, fellow. I didn’t mean to kick you. I didn’t see you down there. What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you around before.”

The cat slowly unruffled, and took a step forward, sniffing at the air several inches from Mulder’s outstretched hand.

“It’s late, fellow. You’d better get home.” No collar, but it was a healthy-looking beast, obviously well-fed. Somebody would be missing it.

The cat took the last step, and its damp nose touched Mulder’s fingers. Apparently, it liked what it smelled—it promptly walked up and rubbed against his knee, purring loudly.

“Hey,” Mulder grinned, stroking the cat’s soft, plush fur. “So you’re a friendly guy, after all. Well, I’m sure you’ve got a home to go to, so get along now.” He picked up the cat and moved it a few feet towards the stairwell, and gave it a gentle push on the rump.

The cat turned around and sat, curling its tail around its feet, regarding Mulder with its liquid green eyes. Well, it would leave when he was gone, Mulder thought, as he got to his feet and unlocked his door. He was already dismissing the cat from his mind as he pushed the door open.

Then there was a streak of black at his feet, as the cat dashed through the door into his apartment.

* * *

“Hey!” Mulder followed the cat into the living room. “You don’t belong here. You have to go home.”

The cat sat on his couch as if it owned it, looking up at him calmly.

“Come on, fellow, don’t give me grief. I’m tired.” He reached out for the cat, which slithered out from under his hand, darted across the room and came to land under the desk.

“So it’s like that, is it? Well, don’t expect anything to eat. And don’t piss under there, either.” Mulder plumped down on his couch, too weary to play chase-the-cat. He sat, loosening his tie, watching his uninvited guest.

So where did the cat belong? He knew all his neighbors’ cats—there was the fat orange tabby that lived down the hall, and the shy gray cat on the first floor. The people across the street had a calico cat that sat in the window like an ornament. He’d never seen an all-black cat like this in the neighborhood. It was a new resident, or it had strayed far from home. And how had it gotten into the building? The front door was kept closed, and even if it had slipped through with one of his neighbors, as it had slipped in here, there was still the elevator to contend with, or two flights of stairs, with more doors on each floor. Maybe it belonged to some guest in the building, and had gotten out of its apartment.

The cat crept out from under the desk, and began cautiously to approach the couch.

“It’s okay, fellow, I haven’t got the energy to kick you out tonight. Tomorrow I’ll ask around, and put up some flyers, and see if I can find out where you belong. I’m sure somebody’s missing you.” Mulder held out his hand again, and the cat hopped up and plopped itself into his lap, and began to wash its front paw.

Mulder smiled, stroking the cat’s soft fur. Its body was warm and comfortable in his lap. It would be nice to have a pet, he thought. Well, of course, he had his fish, but you couldn’t cuddle a fish in your lap. He liked animals, dogs and cats, but he’d never tried to keep one, assuming he’d be unable to take care of it properly, since he traveled so much, and spent so many long evenings at work. A dog, definitely, would need more attention than he’d be able to give it, but a cat? Cats didn’t mind being on their own so much, did they?

“Look at me, you’ve been in the house less than five minutes and already I’m thinking about keeping you.”

The cat purred, reaching out its front paws to knead at his shirt.

“You’re shameless, aren’t you, fellow? Are you a fellow?” He turned the cat around and lifted its tail, to find two neat, round balls, covered in soft black fur. A fellow, all right, and one that had so far escaped being neutered. “Good for you,” Mulder said softly, letting go the cat’s tail and patting his rump.

The cat turned several times in his lap, small paws digging into his thighs, as if plumping up Mulder’s lap to his liking. Then he flopped down, curled up tight, and began to purr again.

Mulder smiled. Wouldn’t it be nice to be this uncomplicated? To be able to just jump into a warm lap of one’s choosing and settle down in comfort, and never worry about appearances or the complexities of human relationships? He sighed, letting his tense muscles relax, running both hands over the cat’s body. His visitor was a sturdy fellow, solid-bodied and heavier than he looked, with a round face and big round green eyes. There was nothing angular about him; he was all smooth contours, from his small round ears to his thick round tail. There was something vaguely familiar about him—the strong body with its round contours, the big green eyes, the determination with which he insinuated himself into Mulder’s life—but Mulder couldn’t quite place it, and he was too tired now to worry about it.

And it was past time for him to be in bed. Mulder yawned, and scooped the cat off his lap, and pushed himself to his feet. “I hope you’re not a cat-box kind of guy. ‘Cause I don’t have one.”

The cat gazed at him reproachfully, but Mulder had the feeling he was more upset about having his warm lap taken away from him than he was about the possible lack of toilet facilities. Which could be a cause for alarm, especially with an unaltered male, but there was nothing Mulder could do about it now, other than toss the cat back out the door and leave him to wander the halls all night, so he’d just have to hope his guest had manners. Maybe he should give him some water to drink? But that would just exacerbate the litterbox problem. Tomorrow he’d give him water, and whatever he could find in his refrigerator that resembled cat food (which unfortunately described a lot of the food in his kitchen), and take the cat outdoors when he went out for his morning run. And he’d have to stop somewhere for cat food.

In the morning. Tonight, he was so exhausted, he could almost swear there was something unnervingly human about the way the cat was gazing at him with his big green eyes.

* * *

His intention was to take the bed for a change, and leave the couch for his guest, but the guest had other ideas. Determinedly under foot, the cat accompanied him to the bathroom, meowing until Mulder gave him water to drink from a cupped hand (and giggled as the cat’s rough tongue tickled his palm), and then into the bedroom, and right under the covers to curl up snug against the small of Mulder’s back. And Mulder told himself it wasn’t worth the trouble to dislodge him, as he drifted off to sleep, smiling softly to himself.

* * *

Mulder dreamed about being a cat. He trotted up to Scully, trying to lick her hand, but that awful little dog of hers took off after him barking, and he hissed and ran away. Then Skinner had him on his desk, holding him by the scruff of his neck, earnestly and firmly telling him serious things, none of which his cat-mind could understand. He crouched there, holding himself stiff, his tail twitching angrily, growling under his breath. You have to let me go, he wanted to say. I have to fight the bad guys. Nobody can do it but me. But all that emerged from his throat were unhappy mrreaows, which Skinner ignored. So he jerked loose from Skinner’s grip and ran away again, leaving Skinner swearing and rubbing the scratch on his hand. You can’t own a cat, he thought as he ran away. We belong to ourselves.

Then he was running at Alex Krycek, teeth bared, hissing, prepared to leap at that hated face, to scratch and bite and claw. But Krycek was a cat, too, back arched high in the air, black fur standing on end, green eyes flashing. Back off, the Krycek-cat hissed. I can beat you with one paw.

What do you want? Mulder demanded. Who are you working for this time?

I work for myself, Krycek-cat replied haughtily. No one owns a cat.

You’re evil. A creature of the devil. A witch’s familiar.

Who, me? There’s nothing evil about me. I clean up the vermin, that’s all. I get my paws dirty so the Big Men don’t have to. Look to yourself, Mulder. Whose familiar are you?

No! Mulder yowled, and launched himself at his enemy….

* * *

He woke suddenly, in a tangle of damp, sweaty sheets. He fought them in panic for a moment, then relaxed, letting the sleep-threads dissipate. What a strange dream! He wasn’t used to having bodies in bed with him. Not even small cat bodies. Lord, where was the cat? He hadn’t rolled over on top of him, had he? He didn’t feel the cat anywhere near him. Probably the beast had run for cover when Mulder had started to thrash about, and was hiding under the bed. He rolled over onto his back, stretching his arms out beside him—

And touched a hot body. All right, no problem, the cat was right there—but somehow that didn’t feel quite like a cat. Remnants of his dream, he told himself, but a wave of sick uneasiness washed over him. Sturdy body, round face, big green eyes, small round ears—oh god. Krycek. That was who the cat reminded him of! But it was absurd, it was just a lost cat that had wandered up to his apartment and for some reason attached itself to him. It was just a damned cat….

Mulder took a deep breath and shifted onto his elbow to see whatever was in his bed with him.

* * *

It wasn’t a cat. At least, it wasn’t entirely a cat. There were patches of black fur here and there; distinct points on the ears; a short, stubby tail—but the rest of the body was human, male, and in distress. The man-creature was lying on his side with his back to Mulder, but Mulder could see his back heaving, sweat trickling down the sides, hear his labored breathing. The man’s body twisted, damp patches of fur writhing, muscles shifting and contracting under his pale skin, bones creaking and squelching as they lengthened and changed, as the cat-ness gradually gave way to man-ness.

Mulder reached out, put his hand on the man’s shoulder, and pulled him over onto his back.

Goddamn. It was Krycek. Krycek with traces of cat-whiskers on his upper lip, and sharp points on his teeth. Krycek with breath coming in hissing gasps. Krycek with wide green eyes hazy and dark with pain, and confusion, and fear.

“Krycek?” Mulder whispered, astonished.

Krycek’s troubled eyes slipped uncomprehendingly across his face. His only response was a distressed mew.

Still too much cat in him, Mulder thought. But he looked to be regaining his human form. No telling how long it would take; Mulder had no idea when the transformation had begun, so he had no way to judge how quickly it was proceeding. Of course, it was possible that his brains would be permanently scrambled by the experience, but, like a cat, Krycek always seemed to have nine lives, with a few still in reserve. Mulder had the feeling that before too long, Krycek would be back to his usual treacherous, murdering self.

In Mulder’s bed. Naked. With Mulder beside him. Also naked.

Mulder shot out of bed as if he’d been attacked by killer bees, scrambling for his clothes. Safely covered in jeans and a tee-shirt, he stood by the bed, still jumpy with adrenaline, watching the cat-man lying among the twisted sheets. There had been a short yowl of pain when Mulder jumped off the mattress, and a quickly aborted attempt to jump the other way, but now Krycek lay still, panting in distress, cat’s eyes flashing in consternation.

Now what? Mulder wondered. Call Scully? She could take a look at him, maybe make him more comfortable, get a blood sample that might give them some clues as to what had happened to him.

But already the cat fangs were were flattening into human teeth, the patches of fur were shrinking. By the time Scully got here, Krycek might well be fully human again, and all Mulder would have to show her would be Krycek naked in his bed. Yes, I was sleeping with him, but he was a cat at the time. Yeah, right, she’d believe that.

So he would just wait. See if Krycek come back to himself and see what he had to say about it all. And if he didn’t—well, he didn’t seem to be having any immediate crisis. Mulder could just haul him off to the emergency room if he didn’t come out of it in a reasonable length of time. Meanwhile, Mulder pulled the chair up to the head of the bed, and sat down, and waited.

* * *

And woke again, disoriented, still sitting in his chair with the night fading into morning, and the bed beside him empty. Silent as a cat he’d slunk away, and perhaps it was just as well—

But there was a noise from the front of the apartment, and what sounded like a cat’s meow, and Mulder jumped up, thinking, Oh god, what’s he gotten into this time? and rushed out to the front room.

Krycek was standing by the door, looking mostly human (but for small tufts of fur on the tips of his ears) and stark naked and rather distressed, scratching at the door.

Well. Still cat in mind, but human in body, and although Mulder had a perverse impulse to open the door and let Krycek out, he took pity on the poor man and took him by the shoulder and began to lead him toward the bathroom. “Come on, Krycek, you’re not a cat anymore. You don’t pee on the lawn, you use the bathroom. You know how to do this.” (And Mulder hoped to god Krycek did know what to do with the toilet once Mulder brought him to it, because damned if he was going to hold Krycek’s dick for him.)

In the bathroom, he pointed Krycek in the right direction and gestured towards the toilet. “In there, okay? Come on, Krycek, unscramble your brains.”

Krycek frowned for a moment, then there was a spark of recognition in his eye. Just a spark, but he seemed to know what he was there for. Relieved, Mulder backed out of the room and left Krycek to do his business.

He went into the kitchen to make coffee. It was still early, but he didn’t want to go back to sleep with Krycek wandering around his house, whether the man thought he was a cat or not. What in the hell had happened to him? Some sort of weird Consortium experiment, no doubt, but why a cat? And what was Krycek doing wandering all over D.C.? And whatever had possessed his little cat brain to come to Mulder’s apartment to hide out?

Although, come to think of it, if Krycek had meant to hide from his masters, what better place than Mulder’s? Who would think to look for him here? And who else but Mulder would react with anything less than sheer unadulterated disbelief and panic to a cat that abruptly began to turn into a man? Of course, that assumed that Krycek-the-cat had enough mental capacity to work all that out, which seemed doubtful. No doubt the cat had just managed somehow to escape his captors, and came here because it was familiar to him, and his cat-brain didn’t differentiate any further than that.

And he was going to be seriously shocked when he finally came back to himself.

* * *

There was a bump and a clink of glass from the living room. Swearing, Mulder left the coffeemaker and ran out of the kitchen—

To find Krycek standing in front of the aquarium, reaching into the water with one hand, snatching at Mulder’s goldfish.

“Hey! Stop that!” Mulder shouted, bounding across the room, giving Krycek one sharp slap across the butt.

Krycek jerked his hand from the fish tank and whirled around; his face a perfect feline picture of I didn’t do it. He stared at his wet hand as if wondering how it had gotten that way, and then sulkily rubbed his stinging butt.

Mulder felt his face turn red. Well, really, what was he supposed to do when the man tried to eat his goldfish? He took Krycek by the arm and led him into the kitchen, where he sat him down on a stool and told him firmly to stay there. Krycek didn’t look very happy about it, but he stayed where he was put, and Mulder returned to the coffeemaker. He’d get Krycek dressed, next thing—put a robe on him, at least; it was extremely distracting having him wandering around the apartment without a stitch on—but first, he wanted the coffee perking, and he wasn’t letting Krycek out of his sight again.

But when he took Krycek back into the bedroom to find some clothes for him, Krycek just yawned and crawled back into bed, curling up on his side like a contented cat, and went to sleep.

Just like a cat, Mulder thought. He’ll probably sleep all day. When he isn’t making a pest of himself. But then, he’d just gone through a major physical transformation, and must no doubt be exhausted. He needed his rest. Maybe next time he woke up, he’d be more human than cat, and at least Mulder wouldn’t have to keep him from scratching the furniture. So Mulder brought his coffee into the bedroom, and grabbed a book to read, and sat back down by the bed to wait.

* * *

Krycek slept for several more hours, during which time the last few remaining tufts of fur disappeared, and he gradually unwound himself from a curled-up cat pose to a sprawled human. Eventually, he rolled over onto his back, stirring into wakefulness, and opened his eyes.

Mulder watched the sudden realization dawn that he was in a strange bed; the shock when he turned his head and saw Mulder sitting there; the memories of whatever had happened to him flood back with hope and horror intermingled. Definitely human again—in the space of a few short seconds, a whole panoply of very un-catlike feelings and thoughts had chased across his face. It was like a light turning on behind his eyes: the intelligence, the raw cunning, as he sized up his situation and weighed his chances. Mulder was rather astonished at how relieved he was. Well, a small black tomcat was one thing—a large mostly human cat was quite something else again, and not a creature Mulder wanted wandering around his apartment.

Then Krycek looked down at his left arm. His green eyes opened impossibly wide, and his choked laugh was almost a sob. “My god,” he whispered, voice full of wonder. “It worked.”

* * *

There were just too many possibilities for Mulder to make any assumptions about that comment. “What worked?”

Krycek continued to stare at his arm, turning it this way and that, working the fingers of his left hand like claws. “My arm,” he said. “It’s back.”

All right, he might not be a cat any more, but he still wasn’t making a whole lot of sense. “And where was it before?”

“Tunguska, Mulder. They cut it off. Jeez, I was wearing a prosthetic arm when I was here last—didn’t you notice? What did you think I meant when I said I could beat you with one hand?”

“How the hell should I know? You had a gun in my face. I was distracted.” Mulder frowned. Things were taking a definite Alice-in-Wonderland turn. “So they turned you into a cat to grow your arm back?”

“A cat? I was a cat?” Krycek sat up, suddenly noticed that he was stark naked, and pulled the sheet up, blushing furiously. “Where are my clothes?”

“You didn’t bring any with you. You were a cat, you had fur.”

* * *

They stared at each other. “Okay,” Krycek said finally. “Shall we start at the beginning? What am I doing here? What happened last night?”

Mulder took a deep breath and nodded. All right, Krycek was the one who’d awakened to find himself naked in an enemy’s bed after having spent the night as a cat. He had to be even more confused than Mulder. “You were here at my door when I got home from work last night. Of course, I didn’t know it was you—I thought it was just some neighborhood cat that got lost in the building. I tried to shoo you away, but you ran inside when I opened the door and wouldn’t leave. I was too tired to chase you away, so I just went to bed. Then when I woke up early this morning, you were in the process of changing back. You wandered around half-cat and half-human for a while, then went back to sleep.”

Krycek shook his head slowly. “You know, I think I’m starting to remember it. Bits and pieces, anyway. It’s all so strange, I thought it was just dreams, but I remember looking up at you, like you were a hundred feet tall, and—” he glared at Mulder— “you kicked me.”

“Not intentionally. I didn’t see you down there. I don’t go around kicking small animals. Although maybe if I’d known who you really were….”

“And I remember….” He stopped, suddenly, his face going red again. Then he laughed. “I won’t tell anyone we slept together if you won’t.”

Mulder glared at him, his own face growing hot. “I liked you better as a cat.”

“Yeah, well, it had its moments. Thanks for the heavy petting.”

“And I think you’ve just about worn out your welcome.”

Krycek looked down at his naked body, covered only in Mulder’s sheet. “Happy to oblige. If you’ll just lend me some clothes…?”

* * *

Mulder went to his chest of drawers and began pulling out his least favorite things: boxer shorts with red Valentine hearts, a gag gift from Langly; an AOL tee-shirt he’d gotten as part of a promotion; a pair of socks with holes in the toes—all the while muttering to himself, “I should have just let you go when you were scratching on the door this morning….”

* * *

The two Consortium doctors stood disconsolately at the lab table, arms folded, regarding the rather strange-looking furry salamander scurrying around in a flat-bottomed glass dish.

“He should have been regaining human form by now,” the tall one said.

“And where did the fur come from?” said the rumpled one with the ink stain on his lab coat pocket.

“He has all four legs, though,” the tall one said hopefully.

“That’s true. Still. Not what you could call an unqualified success.”

* * *

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”

Both doctors whirled toward the doorway—where Alex Krycek stood grinning at them.

The doctors stared at each other. They stared at the furry salamander on the table. They stared at Alex Krycek.

“Well, if that’s our subject,” the tall doctor said, then gestured at the salamander, “what is this?”

“I’d guess it was the cat,” Krycek offered.

The salamander mewed.

“The cat?” the ink-stained doctor said.

“The cat!” The tall doctor glared at his colleague. “I told you not to let that cat run around loose in here! Now look what you’ve done! The process worked perfectly, but without our observations of the subject, the experiment is worthless. We’ll have to do it all over again.”

“We’ll need another subject,” Ink-stain mused, looking thoughtfully at Krycek.

Suddenly uneasy, Krycek began to back away from the doorway. “Sorry, guys. I don’t have any parts missing just now, and I’d kind of like to keep it that way.”

And quick as a cat, he was gone.

* * *

Mulder walked up the sidewalk to his apartment building, yawning, after another late night at the office. At the bottom of the front stairs, a small dark shadow dashed in front of him. He jumped back, sucking in air, Oh, no, not again! racing through his mind.

On the grass across the sidewalk, the neighbor’s calico cat sat on its haunches, regarding him with a superior air, and calmly began to wash its front paw.

Mulder heaved a sigh of relief. “Go home,” he told the cat.

Naturally, it ignored him.

He stared at it for a moment, then, sighing, knelt down and stretched out his hand. The cat sauntered up to him, sniffed his fingers, then rubbed its face against his hand.

“You know,” Mulder said, stroking the cat’s warm fur, “if he’d stayed a cat, I think I would have kept him. He wasn’t so bad, as a cat.”

The calico cat rubbed against his knee, then shook itself and trotted away, tail thrust jauntily up in the air.

Mulder stood up slowly. “Yeah, he took off, too. I suppose that’s just the way cats are.” Then he turned and went up the stairs into his building.


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