There was something special about the Harvest Moon. At home in Georgia, it was still hot and sweltering. But in New England, the air was starting to become crisp with the promise of fall in the air. Pumpkin spiced lattes were back in season. The atmosphere felt like it was charged with magic. Bitty chuckled a bit to himself. Technically, it was. His family in Georgia wanted him home to celebrate the equinox with them, but he couldn’t help but want to stay in New England this year and enjoy the magic of the fall.
He didn’t have a coven to celebrate with so far from home. That didn’t matter much in the long run. As long as he observed the holiday and celebrated to his satisfaction, it would suffice. His magic tingled beneath his skin as he looked up at the full moon. Bitty drew in a deep breath and let the power of the harvest moon and autumnal equinox flow through his body and down to the earth. The light and magic was dizzying. It sparked off his skin and danced along the ground like fairy lights. He settled back into his body and let the magic fade. Grinning to himself, he uncast the circle and started walking back to campus.
Just as he stepped across the uncast remnants of the salt circle, he heard a small mew . Bitty crouched down and looked for the source of the sound. It took him a few moments, but there was a small orange cat that looked like it had been through the wringer. It’s fur was damp and patchy, and it was holding its front paw delicately and avoided setting it fully on the ground.
“Hello there, sweetpea.”
Mew. The cat looked up at him with wide green eyes and gently licked its paw.
“Awww, does your paw hurt? Can I take a look at it?”
The orange cat hobbled forward a few steps and carefully held out its wounded paw.
Bitty examined it and immediately saw the problem. A small fish hook had pierced his foot between the pads. It didn’t look like it was all the way through and it wasn’t bleeding. “Well, that’s quite a problem we’ve got there. Do you mind if I carry you back to the Haus so that I can take a better look at it? We might have to go to the vet if it’s serious.”
Mreow. The cat nuzzled his hand with its head and held still.
“You know, if I wasn’t past the age of a familiar bonding with me, I’d assume that’s what this was.” Bitty picked the cat up and cradled him against his chest. “You aren’t a lost witch’s familiar are you? If you are, I’d better find them to make sure they aren’t in trouble, too.”
But, he got no response from the cat beyond a very tired meow.
Bitty was surprised at how well the cat held still for the long walk back to the Haus. By the time he rounded the corner of his block, the cat was sound asleep and snoring. His heart melted. He didn’t know cats could snore so loudly. Every once and awhile, it would let out a high-pitched whistle through its nose. It took all of his willpower not to coo and disturb the cat’s much needed rest.
He grew concerned when he got within four houses and realized that the lights were on in the Haus. It was very late. Which meant that there was something going on that would likely be loud and could alarm his feline companion. He placed a protective hand around the cat and held it tighter to his chest to prevent it from jumping out of his arms and hurting its paw further.
Bitty opened the front door to find the entire Haus and several of the frogs sitting in front of the TV in silence. This wasn’t good.
Chowder looked up at Bitty, eyes damp. “Oh my goodness, Bitty. Have you heard?! Kent Parson has gone missing. The police are involved. All of his belongings were just sitting in the middle of the Bruins parking lot. They haven’t given any updates, but they said it looks like he might have been abducted!”
Bitty’s jaw dropped. How on earth did one of the most famous hockey players on the planet get abducted from a secure parking lot without anyone noticing? He kept the orange cat tucked to his chest and whispered to it, “Can you keep calm while I talk with the guys? They won’t hurt you, I promise.”
Kent blinked slowly up at the guy whispering. He didn’t care. He just needed to sleep for a million years. His ears twitched when he heard his name spoken. He twisted just enough to peek out from the arms that were carefully holding him.
The news came back from commercial break with a dramatic BREAKING NEWS banner in all caps and bright red letters.
NHL CAPTAIN MISSING IN BOSTON
After the Las Vegas Aces vs Boston Bruins game yesterday night, the captain of the Las Vegas Aces mysteriously vanished. His bag and equipment was found abandoned in the parking lot. When security footage was reviewed, it clearly shows Kent Parson leaving the building and a large man following him out. The man’s face is obscured, but it appears that he puts something over Parson’s face and drags his limp body out of view.
This was the last time Parson was seen. The team noticed him missing when he failed to show up to the hotel for curfew check in. It is not unusual for the captain to socialize after a game with the opposing team’s leadership group, which is why it took so long to realize something was wrong. The Las Vegas Aces have issued a statement requesting any information of the whereabouts of Kent Parson. If anyone has any knowledge of the abduction, please call the Boston Police Department at (617) 343 -4633.
Bitty stood in stunned silence with the rest of the boys. This was earth shattering news. Who would have the guts to abduct the captain of the current Stanley Cup champions? And how did they do it without revealing any identifying features?
Kent really didn’t know how to communicate his problem to the witch that found him. If you had asked him just 72 hours ago, he would have laughed if anyone suggested magic was real. He only had the vaguest belief in hockey superstitions as it was. It was only out of respect for the older members of the Aces that he even kept with the traditions, even such well-loved traditions as not shaving during the playoffs. So being grabbed in Boston and ending up as a cat in the woods outside of Samwell, Massachusetts was mind-boggling to say the least.
Now, he had to figure out how to tell the guy that found him who exactly he was. He was thankful that he was safe in a shut bedroom. Still with the random fish hook in his paw. How did that happen anyways? Everything was a blur past leaving T. D. Garden. He brought his paw up to his face to inspect it. It seemed to have missed the pads and anything vital. Carefully, he tried to lick it and see if it would wobble loose. Nope! No, that was a bad idea, definitely was not a good feeling. He couldn’t help the yowl that escaped him.
“Bitty! The cat is screaming. Is it okay? Should I make sure it’s not hurt?”
Kent could hear a muffled voice reply. It sounded like it was coming through several shut doors. He had to give it to cat ears for being extra sharp.
“His paw is hurt. I need to take a closer look at it, but I want to make sure I have the right stuff for it. And a mitt to prevent from getting bit. I’m not really looking to have to go to the doctor for an infection tonight.”
“Should you take it to the vet?”
Several thumps of cupboard doors closing filled the gap in conversation. “It’s going on midnight, Chowder. The only vet offices open are emergency ones. And that’s more expensive than I can do. I’m going to just take a look at where it’s lodged and see if I can get it out without much fuss. If it’s in a bad spot, I’ll clean it, wrap it, and take him to the vet in the morning.”
The door creaked open and Bitty entered, arms full, cradling various medical supplies. “Okay, let’s take a look at this paw.”
Kent dutifully held his injured paw out for inspection. Perhaps that was not the proper thing to do as Bitty seemed momentarily startled by the action.
“Well, that just confirms it. You have to be a familiar. Some poor witch is probably going out of their mind looking for you.” Bitty took the paw and spread it out to see exactly how deep the hook had gotten itself. “Looks like you are lucky. It’s between the toes and didn’t go all the way through, just stuck in the skin.” He gave Kent a stern look and addressed him directly. “Now, you promise me that you won’t bite or claw me and I’ll get this out quick smart and you’ll be good to go.”
Kent slowly nodded his head and forced himself to hold still. He couldn’t stop the noise he made, though, when Bitty pulled the hook free.
“Good boy. I’m assuming you’re a boy. I must admit that I didn’t check. No blood, even. Just a snag. I’m going to clean it real quick with some saline and hydrogen peroxide to make sure nothing nasty got into it. Try not to lick it and aggravate it, okay.”
Kent just tilted his head. He wasn’t stupid. Although, now that Bitty mentioned it, the instinct to lick his paw was rather intense. He mentally shook himself. He wasn’t a cat. No matter what he looked like at the moment. This whole day had been weird. Or several days. He just wanted to sleep forever and wake up to realize this was just a really bizarre dream brought on by exhaustion.
Kent examined his paw and nuzzled his head into the still slightly open hand. This was nice. He clambered onto Bitty’s lap, spun around a couple of times, and settled into a ball. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep with a gentle hand trailing down his side.
The last thing he heard before he drifted off was Bitty quietly talking to himself. “I’m going to have to call Mama. I could have sworn I was past the age for getting a familiar. Maybe she’ll have a suggestion for how to find who you really belong to. Is it selfish to hope that you don’t belong to anyone and will stay with me?”
Kent really needed to get on with trying to get Bitty to get him back to human. It was fun wandering around the Haus and getting into various cupboards. Chowder had an unhealthy obsession with the Sharks. He understood that it was his childhood team, but there were only so many times Kent could stand listening to all of the ways Joe Pavelski was the best person on the planet. Sure, he was a fine human being, but a guy could take but so much.
On the upside, it did help with the hockey team giving him a name. And it wasn’t really objectionable. Because they rescued him right as they found out of his disappearance, they decided to name him after himself. However, like Pawvelski, just slightly off. He was currently dubbed Kitt Purrson. If it wasn’t such an inconvenience being a cat stuck in a college hockey house instead of on the ice in Vegas, he’d find more humor in it. Hell, if he ever managed to get back to normal, he’d probably laugh his ass off. It was definitely his sense of humor.
Okay. He was doing this. Bitty’s laptop was flipped open, but he had to somehow get it to turn on. It took far more effort than he was willing to admit to get the power button to depress and flash on. He had memorized Bitty’s pin number. Thankfully it was just numerical digits instead of anything complicated with capital letters or special characters. He guessed it was his mom’s birthday. It certainly wasn’t his own. He pawed the numbers in and watched as the lock screen disappeared. Ugh. Now to get a blank document open and to type out a message. This was going to take forever to manipulate the mouse.
Slowly, and very clumsily, Kent fussed with the laptop and managed to get the document open and type a few words. Somehow he had gotten the caps lock on, but at this point, he really didn’t care.
NOT CAT. AM KENT PARSON.
Yeah, that would have to suffice. Now, to take a nap in that delightfully enticing sunbeam.
He had no idea how long it took for Bitty to come home from classes, but he was aware of having to roll on the bed several times to keep his position directly centered in the warm beam. He blearily looked up as Bitty wandered in and dropped his bag on the floor. “Hey there, Kitt. How ya doing? Is that a good bit of sun?”
Kent yawned then rolled back to his feet and stretched.
“Ah, yes. Such a hard day sunbathing. I’m going to make some pumpkin pie to take my mind off my French exam.”
Kent was not going to let him go downstairs and ignore his laptop for the whole night. Nope. This was getting done today. He grabbed Bitty’s sleeve and yanked it towards the laptop.
“Do you - hey wait - what are you doing?”
Okay, he still wasn’t getting the message. He dropped the sleeve and pawed at the black screen. Naturally, he pushed too hard and it tilted backwards.
Yeah, yeah. He didn’t mean to. He sat and looked Bitty in his eyes and blinked. “Mreow.”
“I promise, I won’t get so sidetracked by baking that I forget to study. Goodness, you really are bossy. I hope your witch finds you soon.”
Kent snorted at him. It was difficult enough to write the note, now Bitty wasn’t even going to read it? Not on his watch. While maintaining eye contact, he walked over the keys and sat down squarely on the keyboard. “Mew.”
“Wow. Just wow. Okay, move your rear. I’ll pull up the study guide. Will that make you happy?”
Kent didn’t care about the study guide, but whatever worked. He knew he had gotten the message across when Bitty gasped. There it was. He pawed at Bitty’s arm and meowed again.
“I - what - what happened?!”
Kent would have rolled his eyes if he could have. He settled for glaring.
“Right. Magic. Well, this is a fine predicament you’ve gotten yourself into. What witch did you piss off this badly?”
Kent picked his paw up and licked it. He had no clue. He hoped he found out, though. The level of vengeance he’d wreak would be whispered about in locker rooms for generations.
“I guess I should study up on reversal spells. This one is very thorough.”
Kent figured that was good enough and settled back onto an empty spot on the desk. Time to resume his nap.
Kent wasn’t sure why they were doing this spell in the basement and in the middle of the night, but he wasn’t the witch so he didn’t much care as long as he was turned back into himself at the end of it. He dutifully sat in the middle of the circle of salt that Bitty placed on the cement floor and watched as he lit candles and incense. The incense was a bit strong for his nose and he struggled not to sneeze. He knew if he got started, he’d end up in one of those fits that the guys thought was the cutest thing they had ever seen. All it did was make his eyes water and set his whiskers twitching.
“Okay. Now, let’s get you fixed right up.” Bitty plucked him from the floor and began swaying with him and humming. Something was bubbling in the air. He could almost see the magic drift from the floor and waft through the circle. He reached a lazy paw out and stuck it in the middle of a purple sparkly swirl. His eyes dilated. Next Pride, he wanted to bathe himself in glitter this exact shade. He laughed at himself, expressing itself in flicks of his tail and whiskers. Yeah, Pride was in October in Vegas. He didn’t have much time to get ready for that. The season was already underway. But, they had a homestand coming up. He could put on purple glittery cat ears, and cover himself in glitter, and wear nothing but those booty shorts he saved for special occasions. Oooooo. A green bubble! That one was pretty, too. Maybe green and purple. That sounded pretty. The world grew hazy as the colors swirled through the air, and eventually, the world grew dark.
Kent was disoriented. The magic hung in the air and clung to his skin. His taste buds were overloaded and his nose was full of ozone. He ran a hand over his chest and it was the weirdest sensation. He half expected to feel fur, but no, there was just skin. Just skin. Kent sat up quickly and glanced down at his very naked body. “Where did my clothes go?”
“That is a very good question.” Bitty had his eyes carefully averted, a blush creeping up his neck.
“I guess it’s a good thing we did this in the basement and not in the woods. I really don’t need to be caught streaking after I’ve been missing for so long. They would never clear me to play again.”
Bitty chuckled. “Really? After all of this and that’s your main concern?”
“Well, yeah.” Kent tilted his head and Bitty could almost visualize him as a cat again, posing a question without saying any words.
“I’m more concerned about finding the witch that did this to you in the first place and stopping it from happening again. Or worse.”
“I don’t like the sound of worse. That was quite enough, thank you.”
“That’s my opinion, too. Why don’t we get you upstairs and see if there’s anything that will fit you.” Bitty tried not to let his gaze linger on certain parts of Kent’s anatomy, but he couldn’t help but comment, “I hope you don’t mind going commando. I don’t think I have any underwear that’s going to fit.”
“Oh?” Kent’s lips twisted up into a teasing smile.
“Hush. Your behind is very well-developed. I doubt I have anything that’ll go over it. But, we can try if you like.”
The Haus was quiet as they made their way up the stairs. Kent maneuvered through the hallways without the floorboards creaking or waking up anyone that fell asleep on the couch. He was rather proud of himself still managing to be silent without having four paws and a tail.
As Bitty closed the door behind him, he let out a little sigh of relief. “I have no idea how we are going to keep your presence here a secret.”
“We could just tell them to keep quiet. I’m sure they’ll listen to us.”
“I don’t really want to risk it. And besides, what type of story would possibly be believable about how I found you?”
Kent’s brow furrowed in confusion. “The truth?”
“Kent, sweetheart, no one knows I’m a witch. We keep that sorta thing under wraps. No one has any need to know about magic or witchcraft. And they certainly don’t need to know that I’m one.”
“Do you really not trust your team that much?”
“I don’t trust non-magical humans. You think the witch trials ended in the 18th century? They just went underground. And you never know when someone might be from a witch hunting family. They change their names every so often. You can’t just trust that because someone’s last name isn’t De Lancre that they are safe to let in on the secret.”
“That sounds … oddly specific. And really French.”
Bitty gave him a somber look. “It is.”
Well, Kent wasn’t going to push a clearly sore subject. “Is there any way to give me protection against this happening again? I don’t think I can clandestinely hide away in a college frat house until we figure out who did it.”
Bitty talked while he handed Kent some clean pajamas. “Yeah. I can make you a warding pendant. But, you’re going to have to keep it on at all times. You can’t take it off even to sleep.”
Kent couldn’t help himself. “That’s fine. It’ll be like having a piece of you with me all the time. I mean, since I can’t cuddle into you while you’re sleeping anymore.”
Bitty blushed and covered his face with both his hands. “Oh my goodness. You can’t just go and say things like that. You’ll make me catch feelings.”
Kent shrugged. “So? Maybe I want you to catch feelings.”
“You’re sweet, kind, caring. You are amazingly sexy. And have you forgotten that I’ve totally seen you without your clothes on?”
“I was hoping to push that bit to the back of my mind and never think about it ever again. But, no. Why would I get to hide my embarrassment from the multiple Art Ross and Rocket Richard winner and captain of the Las Vegas Aces?”
“Hey,” Kent dared to drift his fingers under Bitty’s chin. “You are very handsome. And you are deeply devoted to your friends, family, and team. You took in a stray cat, took care of it, and made sure that it was protected for a week. A week. No payback, no benefit. You just took me in and made sure I was safe. So, yes. I think you have quite a few enviable qualities.” Maybe the statement would have held more weight if he wasn’t wearing pajama bottoms with bunny rabbits on them, but he had the confidence to pull it off, if he did say so himself.
“I - that’s very sweet of you.”
Kent was a man of action. If words didn’t work, well, he’d gotten used to getting his point across without them this past week. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Bitty’s. He smiled into the kiss as he felt Bitty relax and push back against him, deepening the kiss. Their lips parted and Kent’s heart thrummed in excitement as their tongues met, gently working each other in confirmation of their shared desire.
Kent didn’t really want to pull away, but while he had known Bitty for a week, Bitty had only known him for thirty minutes. “You know, we are going to have to figure out sleeping arrangements. I’m not exactly able to curl up into a tiny ball anymore.”
Bitty slapped him against his pectoral. “I’m going to have my hands full with you, aren’t I?”
“I hope so!” Kent wrapped his arms around Bitty and dragged him into a tight hug. “You did say that you hoped you got to keep me. Remember?”
“I thought you were a familiar!”
“Does it matter if you still get to keep me?” Kent gave his best crooked smile and winked.
“We can try . But, I still have a year of college left and you live all the way out in Vegas.”
“Eh, I’m willing to make it work if you are willing to put up with my hockey bullshit.”
“I put up with your litter box. I’m pretty sure I can handle metaphorical bullshit.”
Kent pressed a kiss against Bitty’s cheek. “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up,” he muttered against Bitty’s skin. “Let’s never discuss the evil clay of doom again.”
Bitty laughed. “Oh, so now who’s embarrassed?”
Kent burrowed his head into the crook of Bitty’s neck. “Not fair! So not fair. I’m going to file a complaint with your coven. Can I do that? Is that a thing? I’d like to report you for animal cruelty.”
“I think that’s Animal Control.”
“Oh my god, you are even sassier now that I’m human. I can’t believe this.”
Bitty lightly shoved him towards the bed. “Go on. Neither of us are that big. I’m sure we can make it work. Goodness only knows that we’re going to need to figure out a story to tell the cops and your team.”
Kent yawned, the adrenaline from his earlier transformation back to human was quickly fading. “I figure I’ll just say that I was kept blindfolded and when I managed to get free, I found myself in an abandoned basement in the woods. A bit delirious and scared and I can’t figure out exactly where it was. I just hope they’ll let me skate instead of benching me for a psych eval.”
“You just spent a week as a cat. A psych eval is probably not the worst thing.”
“Yeah, but I have to admit, I ended up in the best place possible. And I was a very spoiled kitty cat.” Kent wrapped his arms around Bitty as he settled into place on the bed.
Bitty pressed back against Kent’s chest and tucked himself under his chin. “You’ll get no arguments from me, Mr. Kitt Purrson.”