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Everybody Wants To Be A Cat

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Neko hadn't asked if Leon could visit the home of her foster parents, not when there were children and witches around. So instead she, Leon, and Erik had set up a meeting at one of the many West End cafes whose owner owed their life and sanity to their local hero team. That meant a private party room and discreet service. Once they got there, anyway. 


In the back of Erik's car (which gave them privacy for the trip to the cafe), she took a few pictures with her phone, smiling at herself in a way that showed just a little bit of her pointed front teeth. She hadn't loosened up as such in the space of the last few years - not really - but she'd let down the mask that she'd spent her first year at Claremont hiding behind. Owain had been the same, right down to admitting to Erik the summer before that he thought he might be gay.

But Neko certainly wasn't that, despite what was apparently an active and voluble queer fanbase. She'd talked about her Claremont boyfriend a few times and Erik had seen pictures, but she'd never actually brought him home. But they'd been together for the last two years, and now that he had graduated - well, now was a good time. 


She wasn't bothering with illusions in the privacy of the car. Her tail was curled up behind her and expressive ears up and perky atop her head, eyes glowing a little in the light as she looked up at the rearview mirror. She was wearing a bright floral yukata and would have looked a creature from another world if she hadn't been living in Erik's house for two years - or typing on her phone with one hand. She hadn't always been able to do that! 

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Strictly speaking 'Erik's car' wasn't; growing up in the city he'd taken transit far more often than getting behind the wheel himself but with an ever expanding gaggle of youths in tow it had become more and more of necessity. Fortunately Talya seemed forever able to produce the correct vehicle for any occasion and this navy blue hybrid probably hadn't even seen use as a getaway car. Less fortunately he was being reminded why he did his best to avoid driving in Freedom City traffic: knowing that there was a fairly high chance of having one's parked car used as a projectile in a metahuman brawl seemed to encourage a recklessness the swordsman was much less comfortable with when not moving under his own acrobatic power.


"Oh, smart, you'll beat us to the same red light by a whole five seconds, you @#$%," he muttered to himself as an aggressive ride share cut in front of them. He glanced at Neko's reflection in the rearview and cleared his throat. "Getting there, cuchillita." His cream coloured henley was much less flashy than her yukata even if rolling the sleeves up past the elbows revealed a few criss-crossing scars on his forearms. A pair of rings hung from a leather cord around his neck and a short trimmed beard framed his lopsided smile, a darker shade of his dusty brown hair. "So... meeting the boyfriend, kind of a big deal, yeah? Am I supposed to be like the cool, fun foster dad here or did you want more of a hardass, shovel talk sort of thing? I never get to do that with Raina. Really, any guy who doesn't do right by her, that's their funeral."


He was only partly joking. As much as she'd gotten more comfortable within her small circle of trust Erik understood that Neko liked to present a calculated appearance based on the situation, an impulse he knew something about himself. If she had a particular way she wanted the interaction to go then he was along to do whatever he could to make it happen. The kid deserved to have some of the adults in her life in her corner.

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Leon paced the sidewalk outside the apartment building where he shared a little two-bedroom with his best friend, Luke Landers. The neighborhood wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It was one of those refinished buildings from the 60’s that straddled the border between Southside and the Boardwalk. The exterior had been cleaned up, the old architecture on full display and looking well cared for. Just ignore the bars on the lower windows. Of course, the only reason they were able to get it was because Luke’s parents had co-signed for the boys.


“Hello Mr Espadas.”

“Good afternoon Mr Espadas.”

“Hey Mr E!”

Leon groaned into his hands. What was wrong with him? Why was he nervous?

He’d been running around like a damned fool, playing hero for, what? 3 years now. And before that he was a thief with a significant record. Of course that was sealed now that he was a legal adult.

He’s faced villains, monsters, dimensional travel… Hell the only thing he hadn’t done was actually go out into space. Of course, that was only because Coach Razorback had him cleaning the trophy hall after a particularly messy prank in his Junior year when that field trip came around. 


Leon shook his head. Now wasn’t the time for that. He had to focus on this. He really wanted to make a good impression. Neko had made the arrangements at one of those quaint little cafes in the West End. He hadn’t actually been in those neighborhoods much, maybe a few times in passing before he ended up in Claremont, but really since that he could recall.


He hated to admit it to himself, but he was afraid of making a bad impression with her folks and they would convince her he wasn’t good enough for her. And the thought turned his stomach.


He glanced at his reflection and second guessed his attire. Leon had seriously considered using paper for his shirt like he usually did, but Luke had talked him out of it. He straightened up and brushed off his slim fit buttoned shirt. It was half black and half black & red. It was a new shirt that he had legally purchased, along with the new jeans and sneakers.


He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself before they arrived.

Edited by Spacefurry
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Neko considered the question seriously, appreciating Erik's show of respect for her. A kind soul showing love for a stray waif and her foster brother was an easy thing in the Espadas household, but real respect was a rarer coin she prized. It was something Raina had helped her find about herself. "I told him to be on his best behavior. I will deal with him if he is not." She considered again, then said, "He works - hard so he does not seem like a hooligan." She'd found the word in one of the old books she'd read to practice her English and found it fit her tongue just fine. "If you give him the - hard hand, his back will go up. Give him the soft hand." She had plans if things went well, but there was certainly no use broaching them before she was ready. "He is not a hooligan anymore," she added, "he is nice. There he is!" she said excitedly. 


When the car stopped, she turned expectantly and smiled at Leon through the doors, waiting for him to come to her. 

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Leon took calming breaths, watching traffic pass. Maybe he should get a car.

But that would mean getting a license. And insurance. And car payments. And that would require an actual steady job, not the odd job he did here and there…

Geez, was he seriously thinking about getting a job? What had happened to him. To the carefree kid doing whatever he wanted, sticking it to the man?


An unknown car slowed and stopped in front of the building and Leon tensed instinctively. But when he spotted the familiar smiling face of Neko through the rear window everything else was shoved aside and he knew he was grinning like a fool.


Walking over to the car he smiled warmly at his girlfriend and leaned down.

“Hey pretty lady, going my way?”

He teased.

“Treat me right and I’ll show you a good time. Might even let you hold my hand…”

He grinned, but he suddenly thought he was forgetting something. It was about then he felt the attention of someone else and this attention shifted to the front of the car.

“And absolutely nothing else.”

He quickly added, his grin vanishing as he cleared his throat.


“Afternoon, Mr Espadas.”

He said trying to pretend he was just flirting shamelessly with the man’s foster daughter right in front of him.


Oh geez, Leon mentally facepalmed.

This was probably not the best first impression he could have made.

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Reclined to look over his shoulder to the back seat, Erik tilted his head to one side and raised his eyebrows. “Good recovery there, champ,” he congratulated Leon with a hint of a sardonic smile. The older man opened the driver’s side door and exited the car in a single, fluid movement, leaning across the roof of the car. “Relax. I’ll give you a critique on your game later, if you want. Rizz? Is that what it’s called now?”

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"Daikon-chan! Good afternoon," said Neko happily, smiling at the sight of Leon, her ears forward and relaxed. She watched his interaction with Erik, yellow eyes glowing slightly in a reflection off the back window. "He is fiiine. He treats me very nicely." She gave Leon a toothed smile that said You know you do before she settled back into her seat. "Erik has ideas how teenagers should court. You will like the restaurant; they have big American food." Neko had filled out during her time at Claremont, not so much growing fatter as fuller, having finally eaten well and regularly for the first time in a very long time indeed. It helped that she ran everywhere when she wasn't being escorted on a date. Her tail twitched at the tip and she licked her lips. 

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Leon eyed Erik across the roof of the car for a moment, before cracking a grin and chuckling.

“Ya it is, but if someone your age starts using it unironicly we’ll have to call an emergency teen council to change it.”

He teased to see how Erik would react. It was his way of gauging the older man.


Leon happily returned Neko’s infectious smile.

“Anything for my hime-chan.”

Leon opened the back door as Neko settled back into her seat. He slid in beside her, slipping an arm around her shoulders.

“I’m sure I will, you have excellent taste.”

He agreed, still smiling. Leon had to resist the urge to pull her into his lap and kiss her properly. Instead he leaned in and gave her a small lingering kiss on the cheek. 


Neko wasn’t the only one who’d change since arriving at Claremont. He had grown at least an inch or two over the last three years. He’d also put on a little more muscle using the school’s gym. It was nothing compared to his roommate, but Leon would swear the dragon-boy had an unfair advantage.


All in all, Leon was happy to cuddle up to his girlfriend and looked forward to having lunch with. He chuckled and joked.

“So, if lunch goes well, should I expect invites to family dinner?”

Edited by Spacefurry
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  • 2 weeks later...

"My idea's mostly home cooking and parkour but the one-liners are important," Erik defended himself with a sage nod. He barked a laugh at Leon's probing joke, more amused than the teen expected. "You picked the wrong foster parent if you're going to take shots at age." After a pause to reconsider, he allowed, "Or the right one, I guess, from a self-preservation angle."


The older man politely found something further down the sidewalk to occupy his attention while the teens shared an affectionate albeit chaste moment then swung himself back into the driver's seat with some reluctance. "It's not too far, thankfully. So, Leon, tell me about yourself."

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Neko gave Leon an encouraging toothed smile, even as part of her wanted to explain the narrative. Erik was generally clever enough to spot when even she lied to his face, but of course she'd learned from girlhood how to tell a story that was your truth, if not the truth of every man and goblin that listened to you speak. Everything will be fine. He will seem like a promising young man to Erik, the date will go well, and then we can begin what we need to do for the rest of our lives. She looked out the window and thought of the stories she'd told Erik about Leon, about how he was a boy who had been a criminal when he was younger but was on the straight-and-narrow now. All true stories, for what that was worth, even if she'd kept many of those truths to herself. All very small things. When you know what I know. 

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