[WIP] A Cat and Bird Story.

I am happy and tired and home! Travelling was a lot of fun, but an idea solidified in my mind a few days ago, and I have been itching to get it down. This is all very tentative, but all going well, this is a teaser for my next project. Meet Midas and Grim:

“You’re sure this is the right place?”

A dark eye glittered in the shadow beside me, as Midas turned his eye on me. Perched beside me on the rooftop, he blended almost completely into the night but I didn’t need to see him to know that he was side-eying me. Midas only ever looked at anything one eye at a time, tilting his head to get a good look as his other eye roamed watchfully. “I’m never wrong.”

As this was the truth, I let it pass uncontested. “If you say so.” I scratched lazily at my neck, considering the house.

“I do.” I listened to Midas shift. Another habitual gesture, Midas never stayed still for long, but it was my imagination that he didn’t like the house any more than I did. I smirked to myself. If it could ruffle Midas’ feathers, how bad could it be?
Very bad. My smile faded as I reflected that like him or not (and it was a very decided not, by the by), Midas had as much riding on our success tonight as I did. We couldn’t fail.

“I heard it mentioned that Tobias Lestrange is something of a poor relation.”

I snorted. “Very poor in that case.”

“Don’t be so quick to judge, Grim. There might be more to this than meets the eye.”

“What is there to see here? The house speaks for itself.”

We considered the house in silence. It was the runt of an unimpressive litter. The houses of Grovner Lane were all of a muchness in the dark, the gas lamps obscuring all the little contrivances with which genteel poverty disguised itself, but even my cursory gaze had spotted that the mat outside number eight was thinner, the curtains more faded than either of its neighbours.

“Poor,” I said. “And prideful with it. He’ll jump at the inheritance with both hands.” A growl rose up in my throat at the thought of it. To be on the brink of being cheated again …!

“There you go again, jumping to conclusions.”

“What else is there to jump at? It’s as obvious as the beak on your face!”

“There are many reasons Tobias Lestrange might prefer this address. Whitechapel was once quite fashionable, you know.”

“And now it’s fashionable with knife-maniacs. No one would live here by choice.”

“You know what the old man was like. Didn’t like his family but he’d be dammed if he let them disgrace them. He’d never let a relative of his come to this state through lack of options. No, Tobias Lestrange is here by choice.”

“All that proves is that the man is a fool.” I leaped down from the rooftop on which we lurked in one clean leap. “And the sooner we part him from his legacy the better.”

“Grim!” Midas hissed after me. “You’re too reckless! You must not fail — we won’t have another chance! Do you hear me? You must not fail!”

I didn’t let him know I’d heard him, padding with unhurried ease across the deserted street. That was one thing that the knife manics had going for them — they kept the streets clean. There was no one to protest as I flung myself down on the doorstep of number eight, spreading myself out over the thin welcome mat. The bristles were all but worn smooth. I inspected my nails, then settled back, affecting to sleep.

In the darkness I heard Midas sigh and permitted myself a slight smirk. Poor Midas. Always so eager to be doing something. He had no ability to sit and wait. Luckily, I had patience in screeds, especially when an ambush was involved.

The occasional quick footsteps of a harried pedestrian making his way homeward rose up out of the night, or slow clop of a tired horse pulling a cab behind him rose out of the fog, but Grovner Lane was a cul-de-sac and no one turned down it.

Midas shifted, I dozed.

Then the sound we’d been waiting for. A purposeful stride, heading directly towards number eight. I resisted the urge to look up. Instead, I heard the footsteps reach the steps and come to a halt.

“Well,” said Tobias Lestrange. “What have we here?”

I looked up at the man who we’d come to rob.

He was the old man’s relation, all right. Youth could soften the Lestrange brow and chin, but Tobias’s rich chestnut locks and rosy cheeks couldn’t hide them entirely. He had the old man’s mouth, a determined line that did not bode well for any who stood between him and anything he wanted. And then he smiled, kneeling to cuff me under the chin. “Who’s a pretty boy then?”

I relaxed. It was as I’d told Midas. The man was a fool. I shut my eyes, inclining my head into his touch and was rewarded with a deeper petting.

“You are a very handsome fellow, aren’t you.”

I let him pet me a moment longer, then stretched, getting to my feet.

Lestrange laughed. “You’re certainly not shy are you? Somebody’s pet, I shouldn’t wonder.” His hand settled on my neck. Feeling for a collar?

I wound myself ingratiatingly around Tobias’s feet, leaning against him as felt in his great coat pocket for the key. As the door opened before me, I sauntered over the threshold with casual grace. Easy. Just like I’d told Midas—

“Not so fast, you!”

I was not fast enough to stick my claws into the rug and prevent myself from being scooped up. A moment later, I had been ignominiously deposited outside the front door.

“Stay,” Tobias Lestrange ordered, and shut the door on me.

I blinked.

I needed a moment to digest what had happened. Me, who was accustomed to being treated with respect. Me, who had his own door, allowed to come and go at my whim! Me who was the old man’s favourite, me picked up and put outside like a — like a dog!

There was a strangled croak from the roof above me.

I growled. If Midas said so much as a single word, I would wring his skinny neck—

The door opened before I could make good my threat. A hand pressed down on my head, and as I arched up into it, something heavy was set on the step next to me. I thought to dart through the door but Lestrange had anticipated this. The door was shut before I knew it, leaving me alone on the step with a saucer.

Midas cackled.

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