Klaus went with Five to buy the first cat.
It was his genius idea to help Five acclimatise to 2019 and feel better after the narrowly-avoided apocalypse. In Klaus’ experience, cats fixed everything.
So he took Five to the store, helped him pick out a tiny black kitten, and paid with some cash he’d found in Reginald’s office.
Then they went home.
Due to a series of unrelated events, Klaus did not tell anyone about the kitten for a week. In that time, Allison had taken Five to get the second.
In her opinion, owning a pet would give Five some comfort; he was very attached to the family, and the family was often not in the same place. Despite coming back together for the apocalypse, they regularly went weeks without being all in the same location, and Allison, who was still struggling with her divorce and custody arrangements, was often not even on the same coast.
So she took Five to a local shelter and bought the tiny black kitten he liked the best.
It wasn’t Diego’s fault that he didn’t know about the other two kittens. It honestly hadn’t come up by the time he had the idea. He’d taken in a cat of his own some months earlier, a mangy little white thing he called Dory, and considering all the time Five had on his hands, Diego thought Five could find the same happiness with a pet for himself.
He’d considered just presenting Five with a cat, but decided instead to let him choose his own from a litter a friend of a friend was giving away. Five barely spoke at all in the stranger’s apartment, but he chose a little black kitten all the same, and Diego decided it was a job well done.
Vanya simply couldn’t have known about the three kittens Five already owned, especially as he hadn’t volunteered the information himself. She simply met up with him after rehearsal and asked, “Do you want a cat?” and Five had shrugged and said, “Can I have a black one?”
Vanya and Five walked to a tiny little pet shop wedged between two giant department stores, and Five picked out a little black kitten and took her home.
Luther, of all the siblings, should have noticed the four cats in the mansion. He and Five were the only two that lived there full time, and yet somehow, he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a cat. Let alone four. So when he suggested it over breakfast, he had no reason to believe he was adding to the stash of kittens Five had been keeping in the guest rooms.
Luther wasn’t sure where best to get a cat, so he Googled it and took Five to the shelter nearest the mansion, where Five picked out a little black kitten and asked, “How’d you come up with this idea, anyway?”
Luther thought about it and replied, “We all talked about it a few weeks ago. That maybe you could do with some company.”
“We?” Five asked.
Luther nodded. “Allison, Diego, Klaus, Vanya and I. We haven’t discussed it since, but I thought it was a good idea—”
“It is,” Five interrupted. “A good idea. It is.”
So they took the little black kitten home, and when they stood in the foyer, Five knelt down to open the cat carrier. The kitten stepped out carefully, eyeing her surroundings, before hesitantly making a wide circle of the foyer. Then, she darted down behind the stairs and almost immediately reappeared on the side.
“Wow, speedy little thing,” Luther said.
Five nodded, smiled, and collected the kitten up into his arms.
“Thanks,” he said earnestly, and then vanished into blue light.
Five saw no reason to inform his siblings about his five cats.
He eavesdropped when they discussed his new cat, and somehow none of them gave enough away to let the others know that they had each taken Five to get a pet. When they spoke of Dolly – as that’s what Five had each informed them the cat was called – they talked about her being tiny and black and very, very quick.
This was because Five occasionally forgot to shut the door of the guest bedroom, and that meant Dolly and her four siblings kept getting out.
In fact, at this exact moment, he only knew where three of them were. It was a big house, after all.
The cats were named Dolly, Alan Turing, Ada Lovelace, Archimedes and Fluffy.
Dolly’s favourite toy was the little red laser, and Alan Turing loved lounging around on the cat tree. Ada Lovelace was constantly at the scratching post Five had installed after she tore up the bed leg, while Archimedes and Fluffy scrabbled around, chasing each other through the house.
Five saw nothing wrong with his set up, except perhaps the need to close the guest room doors more often so his siblings didn’t find out about his four extra cats. He liked them a lot; loved them, even.
The kittens were curious and energetic, and Five found a lot of his pent-up panic and worries melt away when they climbed across his legs and snuggled under his arms while he read. His siblings had been right, in the end; having a cat did him a lot of good.
Having five did him even more so.
Which got him thinking: if five cats made him feel this happy, what if he had more?
Vanya knocked on Five’s bedroom door and waited as he opened it just a crack.
“Didn’t you hear Mom call you for dinner? We’re waiting.”
Five nodded. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
He went to shut the door when Vanya yelped, “Stop!” The door froze and Vanya swooped down to pick up Dolly, standing in the doorway. Dolly didn’t even seem phased about her impending doom and Vanya breathed a sigh of relief.
Five held out a hand and Vanya handed the kitten over. She didn’t understand entirely why he kept his cat locked up in one room, but Diego had agreed with Five, saying that she was too small and the mansion was too big to let the kitten wander by itself just yet.
Five bent down to place the cat back on the floor behind the door before straightening and repeating, “I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Alright,” Vanya said. “You mind if we start without you?”
“That’s fine—oh, fluffy, sweetie, what are you doing?”
Vanya followed Five’s gaze to the doorframe, where Dolly was sitting once again. He scooped her up and Vanya smiled.
“Looks like she’s trying to get out.”
Five shot her a smile before the door closed. Fluffy, sweetie, she thought. That cat had been a good idea after all.
Klaus placed Dolly on the counter while he made a sandwich. After a while, she whined to get down, so he helped her onto the floor, before turning back, picking up his food, and turning towards the table.
Klaus frowned; the cat was gone.
Then he jumped out of his skin. A meow sounded from behind him and he span to stare at the kitten on the counter.
“How the hell…?” Klaus helped Dolly down again, and took his sandwich to the table. “I thought she couldn’t get up there,” he said to Ben, who was lying on the table with his eyes closed.
“Hm?” Ben asked.
Klaus waved a hand. “Never mind.”
Dolly sat on Luther’s lap while he read, sprawled out across the sofa. Without the moon base or the impending apocalypse, days were a lot longer, a lot slower. He was thinking of taking up a hobby or two to give him something to do. But for now, he scratched gently at Dolly’s back, smiling at her soft purrs, careful to keep his touch light.
After a while, Dolly stood and stretched over his thighs, before jumping onto the floor and vanishing under the sofa. Only a second later did she leapt up onto the back of the couch, and Luther reached out a hand and lifted her back onto his lap. She was a very fast cat, they’d all noticed; tending to disappear and reappear out of nowhere at all.
Dolly settled back on his lap and Luther went back to reading.
Allison stopped in the foyer, frowning at the three massive bags of cat food sitting at the foot of the staircase.
Five appeared in a burst of blue light, leaning over the stack.
He span, eyes wide, before spotting her and relaxing. “Hey, Allison.”
“What’s with all the cat food?”
Five glanced back at the bags and shrugged. “Got carried away,” he said at last. “I think I bought more than I need.”
“You don’t say.”
“It’ll last, so it’s fine. I’m just gonna take it upstairs.”
Allison nodded slowly. “Are you sure you don’t want it in the kitchen? Dolly could start eating in there rather than in your room.”
Five hummed. “She’s tiny,” he decided. “Easily losable. I like to keep an eye on her—”
There was a meow from the top of the staircase and both Allison and Five looked up to see a black kitten sitting on the landing. Five sighed and blinked up to the landing before scooping up the kitten.
He held Dolly up to his eyeline and told her very seriously, “How are you supposed to invent the sphere if you keep wandering around, huh? Let’s go.”
After he disappeared, Allison considered what she’d seen and then promptly walked away.
When Diego began his nap, a single black kitten was laying on his chest. When he woke up, there were five.
“What the fuck,” he muttered, carefully manoeuvring the cats as he sat up. Yeah, he hadn’t imagined it. There were five identical kittens, each black as night. “Uh… Five?”
Diego looked around then called for his brother again. When Five didn’t answer, he instead shouted, “Luther? Klaus? Are you here?”
There was a beat before he spotted Klaus in the foyer. “Yes, brother of mine?” Klaus replied, wandering over.
“Uh—how many cats does Five have?”
Klaus frowned. “One, obviously. Lil’ Dolly. I think that’s short for Delores, but I’m not gonna ask him. Why?”
Diego nodded him over. “Because I think he has more than one cat.”
Klaus blinked down at the huddle of kittens in Diego’s lap. He was constantly moving them and keeping them together in a group as they each tried to wander off. Five black kittens.
“No no no,” Klaus said. “I was there. He bought one cat.”
Diego paused. “What do you mean you were there?”
“I mean I took him to buy the cat at the pet store.”
“N-no. I took Five to my friend’s house where he chose a kitten from her cat’s litter.”
Klaus and Diego stared at each other.
Klaus announced, “I’m calling Allison.”
“I took Five to the shelter to adopt Dolly,” Allison said over the phone. “Why?”
“Phone Vanya,” Klaus said.
“Hm? Why do you ask? Alright, okay—yeah, I bought the cat for him at a pet shop my friend recommended. It was really cute, he just made a bee-line for the black cats—”
“Luther, I swear to God—”
“There’s a shelter like two blocks away,” Luther said, standing over Diego and the pile of kittens. “I took him there.”
Diego stared at his brothers. “We each bought him a cat.”
“And he didn’t tell any of us,” Klaus replied.
The siblings converged on the mansion foyer in under an hour. The kittens were passed out between the group, so Diego could stop herding them like sheep, and then they went as a group to visit Five’s room.
Only, Five’s room was empty.
When he didn’t reply to their knocks, they let themselves in to find an empty room of cat toys and trees and scratching posts. What was always a fairly uncluttered room was now a mess of bowls and brushes and assorted plastic bags of cat hair.
“What reeks in here?” Vanya asked, pulling a face as she stepped around the room.
“It’s the litter box under the bed,” Allison replied, just as distastefully.
“Hey, guys?” Luther nodded them over to the side board. “Why are there way more than five food bowls here?”
The siblings were silent, then Diego sighed heavily. “He’s become a crazy cat old-man-trapped-in-a-child’s-body.”
“That’s a lot more snappy than lady,” Klaus agreed.
Five was missing five kittens. He separated the remaining cats into groups, counted again, and frowned. Five kittens in a mansion would not be easy to find. He just had to hope they weren’t together; so long as they were alone, he could keep up the ruse with his siblings. Their communication skills as a family were not yet well versed enough to actually figure out that they had all taken him to get a cat.
“This is fine,” he told himself. “This is fine.”
He wasn’t missing Dolly or Alan Turing or Ada Lovelace or Archimedes or Fluffy. He could tell them all apart, and those five were sitting on the bed in the guest room he had renovated for the cats. He checked them off on his clipboard of cats. He counted again, just in case.
He was still five cats down.
That’s when Klaus opened the door and started laughing uproariously.
“Klaus why are you laugh—oh, my God.”
“I can explain,” Five said.
His siblings stared at him from the doorway. They also stared at the cats.
“Can you shut the door first?” he asked. “I don’t want any of them to get out.”
Luther shut the door and Five gave his siblings another look. “Oh! Good, you found them. I was starting to worry.”
Allison didn’t move a muscle as Five took the five kittens from their hands and placed them down in a group on the floor. He picked up a clipboard and made five ticks.
“Five,” she said, very slowly. “Why do you have fifty cats in this bedroom?”
“Fifty,” he snorted. “There’s only forty-one.” Allison couldn’t remember how to breathe. Or blink. Or comprehend the English language. “Thanks for finding Hamlet, Buzz, Abraham Lincoln, Cleocatra and Purrito. They missed roll call.”
“Roll call,” Vanya whispered. Allison wanted to cry.
“Five,” Luther said. “I think we need to talk about you owning forty-one cats and not telling anyone.”
“Maybe we should also discuss you owning forty-one identical cats so we wouldn’t notice you had so many,” Diego added.
“While we’re at it,” Klaus hummed, “perhaps we should talk about the cats’ rights violation that is keeping forty-one cats in a single larger-than-average bedroom.”
Five was keeping his cats. All forty-one of them. He could tell them apart and had named them all. They were his.
His siblings could pry Dolly and Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace and Archimedes and Fluffy and Hamlet and Buzz and Abraham Lincoln and Cleocatra and Purrito and Cindy Clawford and Marshmallow and Peanut Butter and Turbo and Bacon and Boots and Bubbles and Kermit and Catzilla and Clawdia and Rum Tum Tugger and Big Boy and Jiggles and Meaty and Old Deuteronomy and Toast and Tink and Chairman Meow and Jet and Phillip and Gus: The Theatre Cat and Jimmy Con Queso and Bagel and Black Coffee and Emmy and Patrick Swayze and Luna and Knives McGee and Chopin and Ben and Number 8 out of his cold, dead hands.
But he agreed that they might need a bigger space to live in, though.