Playing for Keeps

Ed woke up to something warm and fuzzy nestled against his hair.

Argh, no ... Al, you didn't ... he thought with a purely mental groan (he hoped). He'd brought in another cat. He always did this during the rainy season, he thought irritably. Always.

It was purring.

Ed thought he should get up and take the cat outside, but he couldn't make himself do so, now. It seemed unnecessarily cruel to interrupt a purring kitten. It took so much effort to get them to that state.

And that was how Ed found himself laying as still as possible while an animal they couldn't afford to keep slept practically on his head.

He stayed like that for ... he didn't know how long. He drifted in and out of sleep, since, after all, his bed was still warm, and the kitten was like an insulator. He wondered why it had curled up near his head, and then remembered that the head gave off most of the heat coming from the body. So, naturally, that would be the warmest place. Al would have liked this even more. It was too bad the kitten wouldn't find Al appreciatively warm at all.

Finally, though, he thought he should probably rouse himself. Get some coffee and go to work. Take the kitten out and leave it shivering in the cold.


He lifted his head abruptly, and found himself looking down at a ball of gray fuzz. The kitten looked back up at him inquiringly, obviously wondering why Ed had so cruelly taken away his heat source.

"We can't keep you," Ed told the kitten.

The kitten purred seductively.

"No, I'm serious," Ed protested, with a glance at Al's bed. He wasn't there; he must've already gotten up.

The kitten sat up, still just looking at him, still purring.

Ed scrubbed at his hair. "There's no one to take care of you when we're gone on trips," he said, hoping it would listen to reason.

The kitten raised a paw and batted at Ed's nose.

"Gah!" Ed went cross-eyed trying to follow the kitten's paw, but then it rose up to sniff Ed's nose, and then laved it with a rough little pink tongue.

Ed was lost.

"Oh, damn you," he sighed, picking it up with both hands and lifting it to his face. The kitty bathed his face, its little internal motor still running, and Ed hid a smile against its cheek.

If Al saw his brother kissing a kitten from the doorway, he never told a soul.