Tuesday, April 5, 2016
TLR Chapter 62
A week after Castiel had been given into Shorty's care, he determined that the kitten was healthy enough to go home with Ryan, who was thrilled to no end. Normally, Ryan would have been at the range, but the thought of getting his kitten back was all he could think of, so Coral helped Aaron as much as he could while Ryan became reacquainted with his kitten.
Shorty helped Ryan put the kitten in his carrier and sent him on his way with a care sheet, orders to bring Castiel back if the wounds reopened or became infected, and a clap on the back. He knew that Ryan had been waiting impatiently for the opportunity to take his kitten home, and he'd laughed and covered his ear the day before when he'd told Ry it was time. Ryan had shouted so loudly and with such joy, all he could do was smile, even though his eardrum rang for an hour afterward.
When Ryan arrived at his bungalow, he found Mutt waiting at the door, a large bag in one hand and a big smile on his face. He'd been sitting on the front steps but got up and approached Ryan as the younger man, with a confused expression, walked toward him.
"Mutt? What are you doin' here and what's that?" He indicated the bag with his head as his hands were full with a cat carrier.
"I heard the good news about Castiel being able to come home!" Mutt grinned. "I'm just bringing him some welcome home presents."
Ryan bit his lip. "Oh...how did you know?" He asked as he walked toward the door, shifting the cage so he could open it.
Mutt laughed in a kind way. "I'm Mutt. I know all and see all." he replied mysteriously.
Ryan got the door open and set the carrier on the table, not sure just yet where to put it. He smiled at Mutt. "Well Mr. Mysterious, come on in."
Mutt smiled and entered the room. "There's an empty corner there," he offered. "You can put the carrier there and open the door. Give Castiel some time to get used to the place."
Ryan looked at the corner and tried not to blush as it was his "corner" He smiled to himself as then Coral couldn't put him in the corner and placed the cat carrier there and opened the door as Mutt had suggested. He hunkered down and called to the kitten, "Come on Castiel, come on boy." He wiggled is fingers in front of the kitten.
Mutt felt badly for Ryan when the kitten retreated to the back of the carrier. He could see Ryan's disappointment. A light went off in his head and he grinned. "Hang on, Ry. I think I've got just the thing." he said as he reached into the bag and pulled out a cat toy.
It was a string on a stick, and at the end of the string was a neon yellow length of a fuzzy material. He dangled the toy in front of the cage and laughed quietly when Castiel, at first cautiously, then more boldly, jumped out of the carrier and tried to catch the fluff which Mutt was wriggling across the floor.
Ryan bit his lip and watched as the kitten batted at the thing. He frowned slightly. "Let me try Mutt." He said, holding out his hand for the stick.
Mutt handed Ryan the stick and then reached into the bag for yet another toy, which looked like a mouse. "It's got catnip in it." Mutt whispered, as though Castiel would know what he was talking about. He tossed the catnip mouse toward Castiel.
Ryan wiggled the neon tuft in front of Castiel, but he attacked the mouse that Mutt had tossed to him instead. No matter what Ryan did with the toy attached to the stick Castiel ignored it for the mouse. "What did you do?" He asked Mutt a bit annoyed.
Mutt, completely oblivious to what had happened, shrugged and grinned. "I'd love to see what he would do if I emptied out the entire bag of toys." he laughed. "I was going to buy more but Jeff made me stop. As soon as I can though, I'm going to go out and get more for him. Nothing is too good for my little nephew." he joked.
Ryan looked at the bag of toys and asked, "What else do you have in there?" He tried not to show his annoyance at Mutt calling Castiel his 'nephew'.
Mutt reached into the bag and happily pulled out an assortment of toys, kitten chow, a package of training pads, two bowls and a length of blue ribbon, as well as a tiny flea collar.
Ryan frowned. "Umm...thanks Mutt...I think you'd better go now...Castiel needs his nap."
Mutt grinned down at the kitten and put the flea collar on the little mite, not without a bit of trouble. He then tied the length of ribbon to the collar and tied it into a bow which Castiel then began to chase after. "He doesn't look like he needs a nap, Ry. Look at him. I'll betcha he's solar powered." Mutt joked.
Ryan grit his teeth and said, "Mutt...he's my cat...I wanted some alone time with him...I wanted to buy him his first toys..get the hell out!" He pointed toward the door angrily, his green eyes sparking.
Mutt's eyes grew wide in astonishment. He wondered if he'd crossed the line by buying the kitten some toys. "I was just trying to be helpful, Ry." he said softly as he got up from the floor and walked out, making sure to close the door gently.
Ryan, still angry, picked up everything Mutt had bought, tossed it all back into the bag and put it in the kitchen trash. The stick with little piece of tuft hung over the side of the trash, which Ryan hadn't seen in his upset to get rid of the things. He got hold of Castiel and took off the ribbon and the flea collar and tossed them into the bag as well.
The kitten scuttled back into the rear of the cage while he watched Ryan throw the items into the bag in the trash. He saw the enticing fluff dangling, but was too worried to chance moving out of the cage with the man nearby.
Ryan flopped down on one of the kitchen chairs sulking.
When Castiel noticed the man was still and quiet he edged out of the cage and then ran for the dangling toy batting at it and meowing.
Ryan couldn't help himself and shook his head at the kitten. "All right." He said grudgingly and retrieved the bag from the trash, placing it on the table and retrieving the toy and dangling it for Castiel to play with.
Ryan settling down now that it was just him and Castiel played with the kitten wiggling the catnip spiced mouse, teasing him with the neon colored tuft and the other things that Mutt had brought. He had replaced the flea collar and the ribbon which caused Castiel to try to bat at it causing Ryan to laugh at the kitten's antics.
Coral walked in just then with a smile on his face. He could hear Ryan's delighted laughter from outside. When he went further into the house his eyes widened. The floor was covered with an assortment of cat toys. Two bowls, one overflowing with water, were on the carpeted floor. An obviously used training pad was on the floor as well. He shook his head in amazement. At least the cat had tried to make it to the training pad, it seemed.
"What on earth is all this?" he demanded.
Ryan looked up startled. "Umm...cat stuff."
"I can see that." Coral replied somewhat angrily. "I meant, what is it doing all over the floor? This is a kitten, there are only so many toys he can play with at one time!" Then something occurred to him. "What... how much did all of this cost, Ry?!" he asked as he took in the sheer amount of stuff that was scattered around.
Ryan put the kitten in it's carrier and closed the door, kicking cat toys out of the way. He turned on Coral with green eyes flashing. "He's my cat and I can have all the toys I want for him!"
"You can have all the toys you want for him." Coral repeated calmly. "However, this cat is your responsibility, therefore all of his stuff is your responsibility as well, which means that all of this mess had better be cleaned up. Now!" he ordered, a little less calmly.
Ryan glared at Coral. "Why don't you just go take a nap so you won't be so cranky? I'll put the stuff away when I'm good and ready to!" Ryan turned away from Coral and went back to wiggling his fingers through the cat carrier door at Castiel.
Coral took a good look at Ryan's face and saw the shuttered expression he'd come to recognize when Ryan wasn't telling him something. He also knew that Ryan was a lousy liar and couldn't maintain eye contact when he had something to hide. Top senses tingling, he knelt and turned Ryan toward him, forcing the younger man to look at him. "Why don't you tell me what's wrong, Ry, and then maybe we can work the problem out."
Ryan shook his head. "There's nothin'."
"I know you're not telling me something, Ry. Let's both make things easier by you telling me what's wrong." He narrowed his eyes and took Ryan's hands in his, checking them for more scratches, thinking that perhaps Castiel had gouged his hands and he was afraid to tell. Seeing the skin nearly flawless other than the marks left by the old scratches a week earlier, he turned Ryan's face to his and asked again, "What's the problem, Ry. Talk to me."
Ryan's green eyes flared once more and he spat out. "Mutt!"
Coral frowned in confusion. "Mutt? What does Mutt have to do with anything?" he asked quietly.
Ryan shrugged and turned away once more. "Nothin'...never mind."
"Don't tell me to never mind, Ry. If it upsets you I want to hear what happened. That's the only way we can work out the problem. He didn't hurt Castiel in some way, did he?" Coral asked, even though he knew in his heart that Mutt would never deliberately harm an animal. He had a vivid picture in his mind of a still and silent Mutt sitting like a statue while rabbits and birds milled around him, nibbling at the food that he'd scattered nearby.
Ryan began angrily, "I went over to get Castiel, when I got here Mutt was sitting on the step with a large bag in his hands looking smug. When I brought Castiel in he told me right away what to do...put him in the corner, then started pullin' out toys to play with him...called him his nephew! Castiel went after the toys and Mutt. He didn't want anything to do with me! I told Mutt to get the hell out and then took everythin' and threw it in the trash, but Castiel went over and started playing with one of the toys that was sticking out and hanging down. I took the stuff out of the trash and then began to play with him...Coral, I wanted to be the one to buy him what he needed!" The last coming out as a wail instead of an angry shout and tears began to fall.
Coral put an arm around the crying man and used his free hand to scratch his head in thought. "So basically what you're telling me is that you didn't buy any of this stuff for Castiel before you brought him home, you felt hurt that Mutt thought ahead and knew what to do, for the fact that Castiel seemed to prefer to play with him than you at first, and then topped it off by cussing at your friend and kicking him out of the house. Did I leave anything out?"
Ryan bit his lip, sighed and then nodded. '"Yeah...I guess that's it in a nutshell."
"You yourself said that you can have as many cat toys as you like, so I don't see where Mutt buying toys is an issue. The second thing you have to remember is that Castiel is your kitten. You're going to be able to play with him all the time. Mutt will only see him now and again. As far as Mutt calling Castiel his nephew... I used to call my sister's dog my nephew until she actually had a baby boy. He didn't mean to hurt you by what he did. The only thing I really have an issue with right now, Ry, is your treatment of Mutt when he was only trying to be a good friend. Do you think you behaved in a proper manner?"
Ryan ducked his head said quietly, "No, I behaved badly."
"So what can you do to make things up to Mutt? And how do you think I should handle this?"
Ryan said, I suppose I should apologize to Mutt and you can decide."
"All right then, Ry. Here's my decision. You and I are going to go to Mutt and you're going to apologize to him. He, in return, will get to decide your punishment." Coral said mildly.
Ryan's green eyes widened. "Mutt...he...well...umm...that's not fair!"
Coral raised his eyebrows and looked down into Ryan's eyes. "Do you think what you did to Mutt was fair?" he inquired easily.
Ryan bit his lip and looked down and said quietly, "No Sir."
"Then I suggest that you call Jeff's house and see if Mutt is home and available. We'll go over, you apologize, and we'll leave it up to Mutt. Up. Dial. Now."
"Yes Sir." Ryan said quietly and called Mutt's number. He waited anxiously for Mutt to answer.
"Jeff here." came the voice on the other end.
Ryan swallowed as Jeff answered, his mouth dry. He cleared his throat. "Umm..Jeff, this is Ryan, may I speak to Mutt if he's there?"
Jeff frowned though Ryan couldn't see it. "Does this have anything to do with why Mutt came home nearly in tears? Would you like to tell me what happened? I couldn't get the story out of him. He kept insisting it was allergies."
Ryan bit his lip and said, "Can I just talk to Mutt please?"
If Ryan could have seen the expression on Jeff's face at that moment he would have most likely spilled the whole story. As it was, Jeff muted the phone and called to Mutt.
"It's Ryan. He sounds upset and he wants to talk to you. Are you going to tell me what's going on now?"
Mutt made a face but came to the phone. He unmuted it and answered, "Yes?"
Ryan asked, "Can I come over to talk to you? I owe you an apology." He said quietly.
"You've apologized." Mutt said coldly. "No need to come over that I can see."
"Matthew!" Jeff hissed warningly. He put the phone on speaker despite Mutt's protests and listened to the rest of the conversation.
Ryan's green eyes began to fill with tears. "P-please M-Mutt?" Ryan begged, tears in his voice as well.
Mutt glanced instinctively at Jeff who nodded emphatically. He sighed and said wearily, "Yeah, come on over."
Ryan whispered into the phone. "Thanks Mutt...Coral's comin' with me."
Before Mutt could answer, Jeff replied, "We'll be expecting you. Mutt can finally tell me what happened while we wait for you." he added, giving Mutt a meaningful look.
Mutt blushed slightly before saying goodbye and hanging up.
"Ryan said quietly, "'Kay." He disconnected the call and looked to Coral. He made sure Castiel was secured in his cat carrier and said softly, "I'm ready."
Ryan gave Coral a nervous look as they arrived at Mutt and Jeff's home.
Coral tried to smile reassuringly at Ryan before knocking on the door.
Mutt had just finished explaining the situation when there came a knock at the door.
"Sit there and behave." Jeff ordered before answering the door.
"Coral, Ry, welcome. Come on in gentlemen. We're in the kitchen. I've made some coffee if you'd like some."
Ryan looked at Mutt and said softly, "You can take Castiel if you like."
Mutt looked at Ryan as though he'd lost his mind. "Take Castiel. What are you talking about? Take him where?"
Ryan bit his lip. "To where ever you want him to stay while we're here." He told Mutt quietly.
"What... you love that cat. Why on earth would you want to give him to me? Look, I was upset, but not upset enough that I'd take anything that you love." Mutt replied, stuttering slightly as he tried to process what Ryan was saying.
Ryan gave Mutt a look. "Not to keep him, to put him somewhere safe for now while we visit." He clarified.
Jeff gave an audible sigh of relief. It had sounded to him also, as though Ryan had been offering Castiel to Mutt. Mutt made sure the kitchen door was closed, put Castiel's carrier down and opened the door before sitting back down at the kitchen table.
Ryan sat down at the kitchen table as well and smiled as the little kitten wandered out of his carrier.
"He's a real cutie." Mutt said quietly, a tiny smile on his face as he watched the little animal sniff at his surroundings.
Ryan glanced at the two tops and then Mutt. "Umm...Mutt I'm sorry I got upset and ordered you to leave earlier. Thank you for thinking of Castiel and bringing him all the stuff you did."
"Jeff told me I was probably hogging Castiel's attention and not paying attention to you. I meant well, but I wish we had a pet. I've been trying to get Jeff to agree to getting a dog... I guess I was just jealous that you got to keep Castiel." Mutt admitted.
"Dogs are..." Jeff began.
"A lot more work than cats. I know, you told me that a dozen times." Mutt replied sullenly.
"Would you like to rephrase that?" Jeff asked softly.
"Sorry, Chief." Mutt answered sincerely.
Jeff nodded and turned toward Coral and Ryan. "While the language that was used wasn't the best choice, it's all over and done with as far as we're concerned. I'm sure there was some consequence and Coral has handled everything."
Coral crossed his arms and leaned back against the chair before pinning Ryan with a look the other two didn't understand. Finally he looked at Mutt and Jeff and said, "I decided to leave his punishment up to you, Mutt. At least for the part that included you. He was rude and foul mouthed, and treated you in a way that no friend should treat another. So I'm leaving this part up to you."
Ryan cringed and looked down as Coral spoke.
Mutt and Jeff's eyes widened in surprise. Jeff recovered more quickly than his husband, who continued to stare at Coral with his mouth slightly open, looking for the right words.
"I... I... I don't know what to say, Coral. I... I... um..." he shrugged and looked at Ryan. "What do you think is fair, Ry?"
"It's not up to Ryan," Coral interrupted as gently as he could. "This is up to you. For how he treated you. How he spoke to you. Kicking you out of the house the way he did. What do you think is fair, Mutt?"
Jeff raised his eyebrows but didn't speak. He tried not to look at Mutt for fear his husband would feel pressured by him to make a decision.
Finally Mutt looked up and said hesitantly, "Well, I've been needing to check and tune up the golf carts. They need oil changes and... well, general maintenance. Ry could help me with that... when he's not working."
Coral smiled and looked at Ryan with brows raised.
Ryan continued to look down and then said softly, "Coral you'll have to care for Castiel...I apparently won't have the time."
"I'll certainly help take care of Castiel, but he's your cat, and your responsibility, so you'll still be his main caregiver when you're not doing rounds or helping repair the golf carts."
Ryan nodded. "Yes Sir."
Jeff looked on curiously but didn't argue. It was the first time he'd ever heard of a Top giving a Brat the option to choose a punishment for another Brat.
"So... when is your next day off, Ry? We can start then." Mutt said with a little more confidence.
Ryan said, "My days off are Saturday and Sunday. I usually go out to the Shooting Range on Saturdays."
"Dang, and figures one of my days off is Sunday. So we'll make a day of it on Sunday if Jeff and James ok the OT. Jeff?"
"It's up to James of course, but I don't have a problem with it. Perhaps, if he doesn't have hours for OT, you two can take a different day off."
Ryan said with a bit of an attitude, "Whatever works for Mutt."
Coral cleared his throat meaningfully. "You're not out of the woods, little boy. Try that again without the 'tude."
Ryan turned to Coral. "Well if he's the one to punish me then he's the boss ain't he?"
Coral pulled Ryan to his feet and delivered several sharp swats to his boy's backside. "Now, lose the 'tude and try it again." he said calmly.
Ryan twisted and turned at the swats being applied to his backside. "Ouch!" He nodded when Coral stopped, tears lurking in his green eyes. "Yes Sir." He turned to Mutt. "Yes Mutt, Sunday will be fine."
Mutt and Jeff had looked away while Coral swatted Ryan. There wasn't much else they could have done to give the boy a little more privacy, but Jeff had to admit that if Mutt had sassed him like that, he'd have done the same thing, company or not company.
"Ok then. Meet me at the garage at 9am on Sunday and we'll get started. What are you, a medium?" Mutt asked, eying Ryan.
Ryan said, "Yes, I'm a medium."
"I thought so, you're about the same size as Adam. I'll get you one of his mechanic's jumpsuits so you don't get your clothes dirty. Um, just don't wear any good clothes, even the jumpsuits don't block all the grime." he warned.
Ryan gave Mutt a puzzled look. "Are we goin' to be jumpin' into a lot of grime?"
He turned to Coral. "I may need to get a parachute and jump boots even if Mutt's going to loan me a jump suit."
"You think that's funny, nimrod?" Mutt demanded angrily. "Being a mechanic is beneath your high stature as a security guard or something?"
Jeff stood up and put his hand on Mutt's arm, giving a befuddled Ryan a hard look.
Ryan sparked. "How am I supposed to know about this if I haven't done it before? Oh yes...I forgot I'm just stupid!" He rose to gather up Castiel and got ready to leave.
Coral put up his hands in a peaceful gesture and said loudly but without yelling, "Hush up, all of you!"
Ryan blinked back tears and sat, but kept Castiel in his lap petting the little creature.
Coral put a hand out to prevent anyone else from speaking and turned toward Ryan. He turned to Ryan and said as patiently as he could, "A mechanic's jumpsuit... it's just a one piece... coverall, not a suit for jumping in. You don't need a parachute, but you will need to wear your cruddiest boots or sneakers, and your oldest pair of socks."
Ryan bit his lip, not looking up at anyone else. "'Kay." He said quietly.
Mutt and Jeff exchanged worried looks, "This isn't going to turn out well." Mutt whispered to Jeff.
Unfortunately not low enough to evade Coral's keen hearing. Coral frowned at Mutt and said, "Ryan takes things very literally. I'd think after all the years he's been here someone would have known that about him. I'm kind of disappointed to know that's not true. You call him your friend but you hardly know him." he said, disappointment in his soft voice.
Mutt had the good grace to look embarrassed and he ducked his head a little before turning his eyes toward Ryan, looking up from beneath his long dark lashes. "You're right Coral. I'm sorry, Ry. You're not stupid. I mean, heck, if it were the other way around and you wanted me to help at the range, I'd be completely lost. I'm sorry that I hurt you."
"Whatever else he may have thought he shouldn't have called you a name." Jeff said, giving Mutt a gentle nudge with his hand.
"I'm sorry for that too, Ry. I just... I thought... you were making fun of me. So many people see 'mechanic' and think 'dumb'. I guess it was just a reflex."
Ryan looked up at Mutt through sandy lashes and said softly, "It's okay...no big deal." He sighed.
"Hey, we'll have fun on Sunday, you'll see. And it'll go quick. By the time we're done you'll know everything there is to know about the golf carts." Mutt said, trying to smile even though he felt like a complete idiot.
Ryan nodded. "Yeah and you'll find out just what a nimrod I really am."
"I'm really sorry about that, Ry." Mutt repeated. He felt badly that he'd called Ryan that name but he was also a little irritated that Ryan seemed unable to let it go even after an apology. "It's like you said, you never did anything like this before so how could you know? It's just second nature to me and I don't think about it anymore than I consciously think about breathing. Will you forgive me?"
Ryan said, "I forgive you if you'll tolerate me askin' stupid questions or actin' puzzled about things or sayin' things that seem...well odd." He glanced at Coral.
"Just remember that he's starting fresh. Clean slate. Be as patient with him as whoever taught you was. That's all I ask." Coral said.
"I'm sorry, Coral. I will. I just got defensive, I guess. Ry, we'll have fun, I promise. It's actually a lot of fun to get dirty without getting in trouble for it." he grinned at Jeff.
"Just don't track it into the house afterward." Jeff smiled back at the two boys.
"We're good then?" Mutt asked Coral.
"We're good." The large man smiled back. "Ry, you ready to go?"
Ryan nodded. "Yes." He cuddled Castiel and said, "Can you carry his carrier, I want to carry him home Coral."
Coral smiled down at his lover. "Yeah, I'll carry it. He's really taken to you, Ry. It's clear he loves you." he leaned down to kiss Ryan and said, "And it's easy to see why."
As they began their walk home, Ryan snuggled Castiel up to his face, breathing in the clean scent of kitten and enjoying the feeling of the soft fur. He became slightly nervous as Castiel began to climb his chest, and then smiled when the kitten, in his somewhat wobbly fashion, chose to perch on Ryan's shoulder.
Ryan altered his walk in order to give Castiel a smoother ride and the kitten curled his paws up beneath him and laid on Ryan's shoulder, little tail tickling the back of his neck. Ryan giggled at the tickling.
When they arrived home, Coral opened the door so that Ryan wouldn't have to jar the little critter from his obviously comfortable perch. "Time to put him to bed, and us too." he said.
Ryan reluctantly nodded and placed Castiel into his carrier and latched the door.
"It's been a long day, hon, and tomorrow is going to be longer." Coral said, turning off the lights and taking Ryan's hand to lead him upstairs. "Straight to bed, little boy, hear me?"
Ryan sighed. "Yes, but why will tomorrow be even longer?"
"Tomorrow is going to be longer because it's your day to help Mutt with maintenance on the golf carts... or did you forget that already?" he grinned.
Ryan wrinkled his nose. "Well I guess it's a whole lot better than a mouth soapin' and a spankin'."
"Oh, you're still getting those. But not tonight." Coral said, fighting back a grin as he preceded Ryan into their bedroom. He knew it was a mean joke to play but he couldn't help himself.
Ryan bit his lip and pouted while his green eyes went wide. "Yes Sir." He said dejectedly. "I guess I deserve that too."
Coral stopped at the door and looked fondly down at the smaller man. "Ryan, My Ryan, how I do love you. I'm not going to soap your mouth, or spank you unless you do something between tonight and tomorrow to earn one, and the best way to avoid that happening is to go to bed. Now my little Angel, get undressed, and let’s get some rest."
Ryan breathed a sigh of relief and did as he was told and undressed, got into his sleep clothes and slipped in between the covers.
Coral put an arm across Ryan and was soon deeply asleep. He didn't feel it when the slighter man wriggled out of his grasp and went back into the kitchen.
Ryan tiptoed into the kitchen cautiously unlatched the carrier and picked up Castiel putting him on his shoulder. He crawled back into bed and petted the kitten until it slept soundly on Ryan's chest. Ryan then fell asleep as well.