Gimli was awoken by the sound of something scraping the window besides the bed. He tried to ignore the sound, but it persisted. Perhaps it was a branch or something, he reassured himself, settling back down to sleep again.
His eyes shot open. There were no trees tall enough to reach his window on the third floor.
He cracked open his eyes, a fear taking hold of him. Gimli knew that he should not have let himself be talked into watching that horror movie so close before bedtime. No matter how unscary they might be, for several days after watching any, he would be paranoid and prone to nightmares.
Taking a deep breath to gather his courage, he stole a brief glance at the window. To his horror, there was a blurry outline. There was something there.
His heart beat wildly in his chest. He wouldn’t be able to sleep until he knew what it was. With shaking hands, Gimli fumbled on the nightstand for his glasses. He placed them on his face and took a deep breath before looking back towards the window.
A small pear shaped object was there by the window. But even with his glasses, he could not make out what it was from this distance in the dark.
Sighing in resignation, Gimli slid out of his warm bed and took a couple of cautious steps forward.
The thing, whatever it was, moved.
Gimli let out a scream, scrambling back onto his bed.
It had moved! It had fucking moved! That could not have been his imagination. Some creature was clearly trying to break into his room and devour his soul.
Perhaps I am exaggerating a little, he told himself. Even still, he could not look away from the window. That thing was out there. Gimli knew that unless he could close the blinds, he was never going to be able to sleep. He would spend all night wide awake, making sure that whatever foul thing it was out there, that it stayed there. He didn’t dare chance that it might break in.
He reached under his bed, trying to find something to close the blind with, that would allow him to do it without having to get close to the window. It would still bother him that the thing was out there, especially if it was going to keep making that awful sound, but at least he wouldn’t have to know it was watching him sleep.
The only thing remotely suitable Gimli found under the bed was a wooden ruler. It would have to make due.
Gimli crawled to the closest corner of his bed, reaching towards the looped cord of the blinds as far as his arm went. He could reach the edge of the cords, but he couldn’t quite hook the ruler between the two strands.
He leaned a little further off the side of the bed, feeling himself just barely able to maintain his balance. He managed to knock the end of the ruler against the cord several times as he tried to angle the ruler just right. The cords swung, but wouldn’t quite cooperate.
Giving one last effort to his plan, Gimli rocked his weight forward as he swung the ruler forward. The ruler slid between the two ends of the cord. Success! But gravity had finally caught up with him, sending him slipping off the end of the bed.
He landed on his back. The blind was halfway down on one side, but still completely up on the other. He blinked up at the blind in frustration. Then in his peripheral vision he saw it. The head of the creature turned to look at him, its eyes glowing in the dark.
Gimli hurried to right himself, the adrenaline racing through his veins and sending him to his feet with superhuman speed. He snatched up the ruler and brandished it like a weapon.
A soft mewl came from the creature outside.
Gimli lowered the ruler. He approached the glass cautiously and squinted at the thing, face to face. Looking closely he could see that it was, in fact, a cat.
Gimli felt completely ridiculous for the fear that he had had and the absurd way he had been acting as a result. He was never going to allow Fíli or Kíli talk him into watching anything even resembling scary again. He had been terrified of a cat! His earlier fears were replaced by embarrassment. At least no one had been there to witness any of it.
It meowed again, even more pitifully this time than the first, running its claws along a pane of window glass. The resultant note hit some frequency that set Gimli’s teeth on edge.
“Alright, alright! I’ll let you in,” said Gimli as he straightened the blind, reached up, and unlocked the window. “Just stop making that awful noise.”
As soon as the window was open enough to fit through, the cat slipped inside. Gimli closed and locked the window, then turned back to see that the little beast had gone and stretched itself out comfortably on his pillow.
“Can I at least have your name before you steal my spot in bed?” asked Gimli, in a voice of false anger.
As if it understood him, the cat replied with a short mew.
“At least you’re honest,” said Gimli, chuckling. He went over to the bed to observe his new guest. She had long white fur all over, except for grey coloration around her face, paws, and tail. If he remembered correctly, it must mean she was some sort of Persian. He didn't know too much about cat breeds, but the long fur and foreshortened facial features seemed indicative of such a breed.
Looking the cat over, she seemed to be well fed and her coat, meticulously brushed, had a sheen of pampering. This was no stray. Gimli had decided based on her behavior, she must be the princess of her house. It was clear from looking at her. Despite that, however, she wore no collar.
“Did you give your last master the slip then?” he asked. “Too much salmon not enough caviar?”
“Mrow,” said the cat.
“Bet you thought you could make it better on your own out there. But tonight is a very chilly night, huh?”
The cat kneaded Gimli’s pillow and then curled up there.
“Alright, I suppose I will let you stay tonight. But you better not have gotten any fleas,” warned Gimli.
The cat made a soft huff.
Well, if nothing else, the cat certainly had personality. He had never been allowed to have a cat growing up, because his father was highly allergic. Maybe this was Mahal’s way of finally giving him the opportunity to have a pet of his own.
Gimli gingerly scooped the cat into his arms and got back into the bed. She protested wildly until he set her back down on the bed besides him. He smiled as he laid down and set his glasses back in their spot on the nightstand.
“You can share the bed, but I get the pillow. That’s the deal, okay?”
The cat made a small noise and went and curled up at the back of his knees.
“I wonder what your name is,” wondered Gimli aloud.
A long mewl from the cat was his answer.
“Well, sadly I don't speak cat, so I'll have to give you a temporary one.”
He thought for a moment. “Hrm, let’s see. You’re a very smart and seem to understand what I'm saying, too. I think I’ll name you, Arod, after that old TV show with the talking horse.”
The cat made no answer of protest, so Gimli gently reached out and stroked her head. Arod began to purr and Gimli leaned back and went to sleep.
When Gimli awoke in the morning, there was a large weight on his chest. He sat up to see what it was and heard a piteous cry as Arod rolled off of him and onto the mattress.
“I'm so sorry, Arod! I had forgotten all about you,” Gimli apologized, giving her a reassuring pet after she had righted herself.
Arod made a trilling sort of noise that Gimli didn't know cats could make. Then she hopped off the bed and went to sit expectantly by his door, waiting patiently for him to follow.
“Ah, I bet you're hungry,” said Gimli, “and no doubt need to find a litterbox as well. Or maybe you can go outside?”
Arod made a loud meow and began to scratch at the door.
“Alright, I got it. Let me just get a shirt on.”
Arod did not cease her meowing and Gimli hoped his housemates wouldn’t mind since he hadn’t had the chance to tell them just yet. His keeping her was temporary, of course, but he’d have to let them know. He’d send them both texts, since Fíli would be at the gym and Kíli was likely still asleep.
Someone had cared for Arod before she came to him. So Gimli was determined to take good care of her until then, so he could return her happily to her owner.
Gimli opened the door and Arod dashed ahead, making a beeline straight for the stairs as though she knew where to go in the house. Then again, maybe it was just the smell of the bacon Fíli must have made before he went to work out.
He followed her into the kitchen and looked for something suitable. In the refrigerator he found some chicken from one of Fíli’s after workout salads. Gimli shredded that up with a fork and put it on a plate for her and gave her a dish of water.
There was a loud noise from upstairs and Arod ran and hid between the counter and refrigerator.
“It’s okay, that’s just Kíli waking up. You’ll get used to it.”
Arod did not move.
He tried to coax her out, but to no avail. It seemed a good opportunity to talk to Kíli about the cat.
Leaving her to come out on her own when she was ready, he climbed the stairs and knocked on Kíli’s door.
“Go away, Fi! I’m still asleep.”
“Gimli, actually. I just wanted to tell you before you got up; I found a stray cat last night and she’s eating in the kitchen. I’m gonna make a quick run to the store and get some supplies, then I’m going to start working on getting her home,” explained Gimli.
“A cat? As in the furry creature?”
“Yes, as in a pet cat. I’ll be back in about 20 minutes, so try not to scare her too much, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah,” agreed Kíli. “Thanks for letting me know.”
Gimli set up the water and food towers, a litter box, and the small collection of various toys he had purchased. He looked at his efforts with pride. Not bad for a temporary setup he thought to himself.
He went to where Arod was sleeping by the window and began to stroke her back. “Wake up, sleepyhead. I've purchased you some little things to make your stay more comfortable until we can find your human.”
Arod lifted her head with a puzzled meow, looking about. Seeing it was Gimli, she nuzzled his hand.
“Come, now. Have a look at what all you have to play with,” Gimli said, shaking a plastic ball with a bell inside.
Arod stretched, then went cautiously to some of the toys, giving each one a dainty sniff before she approached the next. Gimli held his breath, hoping she would like one of them.
She stopped at a fluffy mouse toy and picked it up in her mouth. Gimli was thrilled.
Then Arod went and carried the mouse over to the water tower and deposited it there, walking back over to several other animal shaped toys and repeating the process.
Gimli wasn't sure what this sort of behavior signified. Was this good? Was this bad? Did she dislike the toys or the water? Maybe she was just bathing them?
“Don't drop your toys in the water, Arod. How are you going to play with them? Or drink your water?” Gimli lamented, running to grab a towel from the bathroom. He fished each toy out and dried it off in turn.
Arod watched him with great fascination, purring.
“You just wanted me to wash them then?” he asked, looking down at her.
“Mrow,” she chirped jubilantly.
It would be just his luck to have to take care of a finicky cat. “If I give these back to you, you need to promise me that you won't just go putting them right back into the water, okay?”
She tilted her head to the side, staring back at him.
Gimli sighed and set down a single toy, cognizant that Arod may very well return the poor thing to the water dish.
She sniffed it, then went and laid down by a ball with a feather attached at one end. She batted at it insouciantly. Gimli breathed a sigh of relief and concentrated on finding his phone. As much as he was prepared to care for Arod, he knew he should make an attempt to get her back to her owner.
What if she belongs to some small child who misses her terribly? thought Gimli. He would be heartbroken were their positions reversed.
He snapped a couple of photos of Arod and transferred them to his computer, where he printed out a small flier with her photos. He also included where he found her, his contact info, and a photo of himself holding her for size comparison. He could put the fliers up around the neighborhood and take others to the local pet shops and animal shelter, to leave in case anyone came in looking for her.
“Alright,” he told her, hefting his backpack over one shoulder and the fliers under his arm, “You behave yourself while I'm away. And stay away from Kíli's room, there's no telling what terrible things you might find in that mess. Including Kíli,” he added with a laugh.
She meowed and he gave her a quick scratch under the chin. She purred.
He walked out of his room and down to the front door, Arod following him close on his heels. “No, no, you have to stay here,” he tried to explain as if she were an unreasonable child. “I'll be home within four hours or so.”
Arod mewed, tilting her head to the side inquisitively.
Gimli held her back with his hand as he slipped quickly out the door and locked it. From behind him he could hear her crying at the door. It was such a pathetic noise he pushed open the mailslot.
“Go and play with your new toys. I`ll see you soon.”
After finishing his classes, he left a few fliers at pet shops, the shelter, and even a couple of the popular coffee houses. No one he spoke to seemed to have any knowledge of her. He hoped that in the days to come that perhaps her owner would see a flier and contact him.
As Gimli unlocked the door upon returning home, he heard the meowing again. “Yes, yes, I`m home, Arod. Back up and let me in.”
He opened the door with some difficulty. The cat was leaning against it and was physically being moved out of the way by his opening it. He chuckled. She must have just been so happy to see him. He reached down to pet her and she jumped up to rub her face against his hand.
He didn't know much about how cats dealt with the passage of time, but if it was anything like dogs, then it was little wonder she was so exultant to see him.
“Let`s see what treats we have for you today,” Gimli said, walking into the living room and sitting on the end of the couch, placing his bag in his lap. Arod came and sat expectantly by his feet and meowed again.
Gimli looked down at her, then slyly back to his bag. “Hmmm…”
“Might have something of interest here….”
Gimli produced the bag of treats that were supposed to be good for dental health and promised to be the “Purrrrfect treat for your feline friends!”.
He shook the bag and watched her attention grow, her eyes widening in anticipation.
Gimli pulled out a treat and held it in the air above her head. “What do we say before we eat?”
To Gimli`s great surprise, the cat sat up on its hindquarters, put its paws together as if in mock prayer, and meowed.
He gave Arod her treat, but it had thrown him a little to see her act like that. He had just imagined that right? There was no way a cat would literally be begging for food. Could there?
Her watched her crunch away at the snack as though she hadn't done anything remarkable. She meowed for another.
“Here you go,” said Gimli, putting down a small handful for her and then deciding he shouldn’t focus too hard on her new found talent. To take his mind off things he watched the TV. He set his bag aside and laid down on the couch, remote in hand. He had become a sucker for a reality show about incredibly wealthy people trading lives with the lower class.
He couldn't explain why he enjoyed the mindless program with its predictable situations and the over dramatization of every little thing that happened. But it helped him unwind after his classes and helped him focus later on his assignments.
He must have dozed off at some point during the show, because he work up later when Fíli came home.
“So here's our little guest,” Fíli said, fondly, coming over to pet her where she laid curled in Gimli`s lap. “She's really taken to you, hasn't she? You said you found her just last night?”
“Yeah, outside my window. I`m sorry I didn`t ask before I let her in, I was just worried with the cold,` Gimli explained, feeling a little bit guilty.
“As I told you in the text, it`s perfectly fine. Ki and I both wanted pets growing up, but mom never thought we were responsible enough.”
“I wonder why,” teased Gimli, who had always had good badinage with his distant cousins. His own family hadn't wanted him to move out on his own, but they conceded when he told them he would be living with Fíli and Kíli.
Fíli laughed. “Thanks,” replied the blond, sarcastically, but his tone was matched by his beamish smile. “Any luck tracking down her owners yet?”
Gimli shook his head.
“Well,” said Fíli, “it hasn't even been a day. I can't imagine someone wouldn't want to get her back.”
“My thoughts exactly,” replied Gimli, shifting her so that he could sit up and make room for Fíli on the couch.
The two of them watched the soccer match when it came on, taking turns giving Arod pets and scritches as they watched, lest she begin to fuss.
“I think she`s training us, the spoiled brat,” said Fíli during a commercial break.
When Kíli came home from work later on, Arod stretched out across all three of their laps, purring as she had another pair of hands to provide her affection.
When it was time for dinner, Gimli set out a dish of food for Arod and went to the dining room to eat.
Arod let out a loud cry.
“You don't want to be alone, huh?” asked Gimli, picking up the dish and carrying out with him. He set it on the floor by the table.
She immediately began to cry again.
“What's upsetting the princess?” asked Fíli, carrying out the big pot of pasta he’d prepared for dinner and setting in on the table.
“I thought maybe she didn't want to eat alone, but now she's complaining again.”
“Maybe she wants to eat at the table with us,” joked Kíli.
“Hell, it's worth a shot,” said Fíli. “I don't think I can take much more of her fussing.”
Gimli pulled out a chair and set the dish on the table.
Arod jumped up into the chair and sat patiently, watching the others.
The three men looked at each other.
“Did that just work?” asked Gimli.
“I… I think it might have?,” replied Fíli in disbelief.
“Dude,” Kíli said, “your cat is fucking weird.”
“Yeah, sometimes I think she understands what I'm saying,” Gimli admitted.
Fíli sat down at his seat at the table. “She must be incredibly well trained. Maybe she's a runaway celebrity cat.”
“Yeah! I bet you're right, Fi! She got tired of the limelight and decided to try living like us peasants.”
They all laughed and sat down, piling their plates with food.
Gimli turned to watch Arod. As soon as everyone had their food and began to eat, she started to eat too.
Gimli laughed. “Arod has better manners than your brother does.”
“True,” said Fíli and Kíli at the same time.
They all burst into laughter.
Almost two weeks had gone by with no word from any owner.
Fíli, Kíli, and Gimli had all settled into their new routines with a cat in their lives. Fíli fed Arod in the morning when he got up to go to the gym and the four of them ate dinner together in the evenings Kíli washed the food dishes and ensured that the dry food and water towers were always filled. Gimli, being the one that brought her into the house, was on litter box duty. And of course, everyone took turns brushing her long hair, which tangled easily.
With three people to take care of her, she almost always had someone at home and she stopped being quite such a fuss when one of them might leave. Gimli realized, it felt good to have someone that was always happy to see him when he got home from class or work. It felt like a real home with the four of them.
“You let my cat escape!” exclaimed a man`s voice from the television in the next room, where Gimli had left his favorite reality show on. He had gone to make a sandwich during the commercial, but had clearly taken to long.
“He's a $35,000 purebred Silver-point Himalayan! Do you have any idea what this is going to do to his contract with Maximilian Cat Food?! I never should've let Father agree to this asinine program!”
Gimli registered the similarities of the tirade to Arod and came back into the living room, the jar of mayonnaise and knife still in hand.
There was no picture of the cat on the screen, but Gimli wondered idly if that was really too much of a coincidence to be true.
He looked at where Arod slept blissfully unaware of what happened around her, curled up on Gimli’s black coat.
He sighed, heading back into the kitchen to finish making the sandwich. He was going to need to buy a refill on the lint rollers.
Gimli got to the front of the line at his favorite coffee house. He was so exhausted from that early and excruciating philosophy class he just hoped that the caffeine would be enough to rejuvenate him so he could drive home.
“Could I get a coffee with a double shot of espresso, please,” he slurred at the barista, rubbing the bridge of his nose below his glasses frames.
“Sure thing,” said the man taking his frequent buyer card and stamping it. “Say, are you the one that found the cat?”
Gimli opened his eyes further. “I am, as a matter of fact. Did you hear anything from the owner?”
The man smiled a little too widely to make Gimli feel comfortable. “That’s fabulous! You know, it turns out that it is my daughter’s cat. She’s been missing him so badly since he disappeared. I felt so silly not remembering that she had gotten him. I had only seen him when he was a kitten so I didn’t think about it until she called me this week to see if I could help her track him down.”
Gimli smiled, politely, but in the back of his mind something was telling him that there was something amiss. ‘Sure. Just, uh, give me a call on the number on the flier and we can talk about it.”
“Sure, sure. So glad you stopped in,” the man said, his eyes glowing with delight. “Coffee’s on me for helping my daughter out.”
Gimli felt super uncomfortable the rest of his time waited in the coffee shop. He hurried out, glad to have his coffee and some peace. In the end, however, the espresso tasted bad just from the experience he had had.
He dumped the rest in a trash can his the way into the grocery store.
“Excuse me, sir,” said a woman, approaching him with a flier in hand.
“Yes?” he asked, not used to being stopped by strangers.
She showed him his cat flier. “Did you find this cat?”
Now he knew that coffeeshop owner was lying. “I did,” he reported, feeling good to have finally found her rightful owner.
“Oh! Thank goodness! You know, I’ve been ever so worried since he slipped out the backdoor. I noticed his collar was missing in the photos. Did you find that too?”
Gimli shook his head. “I’m afraid not, mam. But I live close by, so just text the address to my cell number, it’s on the flier there, and I can drive him to your place.”
“I can just follow you home. Maybe now? I just need to see him right now,” said the woman, a basket full of groceries on her arm. There was something not quite right about her impatience to get Arod back. And she also seemed to think Arod was male? Not that Gimli had really checked that thoroughly, mind you, but he was pretty sure Arod was female.
“Well, I am afraid I have to get to work after this,” he lied, just wanting to be able to get some things from the store and go home before he could prepare to say goodbye. “But uh, if you contact me I can give you the information.”
The woman grabbed his forearm. “Are you sure you can’t take me now? I mean, you’re here in a store. If you had work, wouldn’t you be there? Are you lying to me to keep my cat?” her voice kept rising steadily to more crazed heights.
Gimli snatched his arm back. “Mam, I have to go.”
“But my cat!”
Gimli walked quickly back out of the store, he would just have to come back later.
A man holding a flier was walking towards him and he tried walking around the man, but his path was blocked.
“Pardon me,” said Gimli, trying to get around.
“You’re the man who found the cat, right?” asked the man, getting a little too close to him.
“Um, I found a cat. I’m going to take a while guess you’re about to tell me that it is yours?”
The man smiled. “Oh thank goodness! Did you find his collar too?”
“I have to get to work,” Gimli said, “I’ll give you a call about your cat later.”
Gimli pushed passed the man as the guy tried to follow him.
As he was reaching his car he saw two different women with the fliers, pushing each other to get to where he was unlocking his car.
He opened the door and got in, hearing their muffled voices asking him about the cat through the glass. He had to adjust his glasses from where they were askew from hopping into the car so quickly.
What was going on? Who was Arod? And why was everyone trying to take her?
He pulled quickly out of the parking lot, seeing the women rushing to get in their cars to follow him.
He called Fíli on speaker, knowing he should be home by then.
“Fíli, can you please do me a favor and find out what is happening with this cat?”
“Arod? She’s just here in my lap being sweet like always.”
“I’ve had five different people today tell me she was theirs and two of them asked about her missing collar,” said Gimli, as a car pulled up next to him.
A man leaned out his open window and yelled, “Are you the cat guy?”
“Holy shit!” he exclaimed a bit breathless and hit the gas as soon as the light changed. “They won’t leave me alone.”
“Was that a guy yelling at you in the car?” asked Fíli.
Gimli sigh. “Yeah. It’s fucking nuts. Can you please see if there’s anything on the news about it?”
“Sure. Still can’t believe someone was yelling at you in the car about a cat,” laughed Fíli in disbelief.
There was a moment of silence.
“Mahal’s balls and beard.”
“What?” asked Gimli.
“Just tell me!” yelled Gimli in frustration.
“You have the Maximilian Cat Food Cat.”
“The what?” Gimli asked.
“Shit! I have him! He’s sitting on my fucking lap like it’s fucking nothing,” cried Fíli, panic in his voice.
Gimli heard a disgruntled mewl from the other side of the phoneline.
“You mean like from the ads on the TV? I mean, I’ve seen them once or twice. But, it’s not such a big deal, right?” said Gimli.
“Yeah, it is!” cried Fíli. “He’s valued at like $200,000 and was last seen wearing a diamond studded collar. He belongs to the Greenwood family! You know the family. They’re the ones that own like half the city. Those Greenwoods!”
“Holy shit.” Gimli was dumbfounded. “What am I going to do?”
“You mean what are we going to do?” corrected Fíli. “And it’s obvious, we’re going to collect this $10,000 reward. We’ll split it, three thousand each for Kíli and I, and four thousand for you. That’ll take care of the last of my student loans and the last of your car payments.”
Suddenly everything made sense. The intelligence, the mimicking speech, the human like responses. As Fíli had said earlier, Arod was impeccably trained.
“I think you’re getting ahead of yourself here, Fíli. We have to find the real Greenwood family first.”
He heard some low muttering in the background of the call.
“We’re heroes. We’re going to be on TV!” he heard Fíli say to Kíli.
“Sweet!” came the reply.
“Alright, just hold on. I’m on my way home right now. Then we can make a plan,” said Gimli.
Gimli ran into the house before anyone else could see him. He was kicking himself so hard for having put a picture of himself on the flier. Why did he do that anyhow? It was a mistake.
“You made it!” exclaimed Kíli as Gimli locked the door behind himself. “Your phone went straight to voicemail, so I was starting to worry.”
“Yeah people kept calling me non-stop because of the flier, so I turned off my phone.”
Arod chirped and came to greet Gimli.
Gimli scooped the fluffy ball of cat up in his arms. “You, sir, have caused me quite the stressful day.”
Arod purred and rubbed his head against Gimli’s chin.
“And he’s too cute to be mad at,” Kíli replied.
Gimli scratched under Arod’s chin “You can say that again. At least now we know why he is so spoiled. Living in a mansion.”
“I bet you have your own servants waiting on you hand and foot,” agreed Kíli, petting Arod’s head.
“The news had a number to call if you found the cat, so I gave it a ring. Apparently a lot of people have been making false claims because of the reward, but I managed to convince them that we were legit,” said Fíli, his expression grim. “I have the address and we’re suppose to bring him to the mansion by seven tonight.”
Gimli looked down at the warm creature in his arms. It had been an emotional rollercoaster with Arod, but he was really attached now. Part of him wanted to say that they should just keep the cat as their own. But he knew that a $10,000 reward was a sign that the owners wanted him back. Badly.
Still, Gimli thought to himself, if the owners seem at all unloving, I’m turning around and taking Arod back home.
“I don’t want to give him back,” admitted Gimli.
“I know,” said Fíli. “He’s been really awesome to have in the house. But you know, maybe we can all think about getting a cat after this. Maybe not one that costs more than the building we live in, but a cat.”
Kíli nodded fervently. “I am so down for a cat in this house again. We’ll pick out a cat from the shelter who needs a home.”
Gimli looked Arod in the eyes. “Well, this is it then, Arod. You’re going to have to go back to your mansion.”
The cat mewled and nuzzled his face again.
“I think I could cry,” said Gimli.
Kíli put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I think we all might.”
Gimli pulled up to the gate of the large mansion, Arod in a makeshift carrier made of a cardboard box on Fíli’s lap, and Kíli in the back seat.
“Press 9 to buzz the guard,” said Fíli, reading the notes he’d made earlier.
Gimli leaned over to the small keypad on the side of the wall and pressed 9.
“Who is calling?” said a woman’s voice.
“Um, this is Gimli, Fíli, and Kíli. We found Ar-- we found your cat,” Gimli said, kicking himself for the slip.
“Can you hold him up towards the camera, please?” instructed the woman.
Fíli opened the box and lifted Arod up from his nest of towels in the direction of the security camera.
Suddenly several flashes came from the bushes.
Without another word, the gate slid open.
Taking a deep breath, Gimli pulled through the driveway and stopped where a female guard stood by the door.
The three men exited their vehicle and Fíli handed the box back to Gimli.
He appreciated the gesture. Having been the one who had found Arod, Gimli wanted to be the last one to say goodbye. He was going to miss this cat.
“Please open the box, slowly, and show me the cat again,” said the woman.
Gimli opened the lid and she looked down. “Thran-thran?” she asked in a soft voice.
The cat sat up and gave a strong meow. A smile crossed the stern woman’s face.
“Sorry about the press out there. They’ve been hounding the household for interviews.” She opened the door to the house. “I’ll need at least one of you to leave your contact details with me before you leave.”
“A task I will be happy to take on,” said Fíli waggling his eyebrows at the guard.
Fíli rolled his eyes at his brother. “Incorrigible flirt,” he said under his breath.
“And then if one of you will come just this way, please. The master is anxious to see the return of his cat.”
Gimli looked to his cousins for encouragement and they smiled and waved him to go ahead without them. He followed the woman inside.
“He is home,” she said, to a tall blond man, sitting on a silk sofa, before bowing to go back out to where Fíli and Kíli waited.
Gimli stepped into the room. The man froze, halfway through standing when he saw the cat. “Thran!” he cried, and the cat leapt from the box and ran across the room, jumping up into the man’s arms.
“I have been worried absolutely sick! Father put in a police report and everything!”
The cat meowed, nuzzling the man’s face.
Gimli felt like they were intruding and turned to leave.
“Wait,” said the man.”Please don’t go yet. I still have your reward to give you.”
“You know, honestly, I’m fine just knowing that Arod’s happy,” said Gimli.
The man looked puzzled. “Arod?”
“Sorry, I didn’t have a name for him, so I called him Arod. You know, like the talking horse from that old TV show?”
The man chuckled. “Yes, I know the show. His name is Thranduil, actually. Although we usually just call him Thran.”
“Figures he would have a grandiose name,” said Gimli with a laugh. “Only a cat could pull off a name like that. You can hear the caviar and him scoffing the other cats.”
The man looked taken aback. “He’s named after my father, actually.”
Gimli swallowed hard. That was not how he had imagined that would go. “I’m so sorry. I was just trying to make small talk. Please, you and Thranduil enjoy your reunion.”
“But what about your reward?” said the man, pausing in stroking Thran’s head.
“Really, I am just happy to see that he’s home safe and sound. Honestly, I’m going to miss the little guy.”
The man smiled, giving Gimli a look up and down. “Well, then you must let me at least treat you to a meal. Truly, I can’t send you back out without having given you something.”
“Thank you,” replied Gimli. “I expect that Thranduil will be joining us as well?”
“The cat or my father?”
“The cat,” said Gimli. “Although you can be sure, Mr. Greenwood, that I have no objections to your father being there.”
“Please,” said the man, “call me Legolas.”
“I’m Gimli,” he said, holding out his hand.
Legolas adjusted Thran so he was laying his body half over Legolas’ shoulder and half in one of his arms. “A pleasure,” he answered, taking the hand and shaking it.
“Well, uh, your guard has our contact info so.... I guess, just give me a call then.”
“I was hoping to invite just you, actually.”
Gimli flushed slightly at the look the man gave him accompanying the invitation.
“Um….” Gimli fumbled for a moment in his pockets for something to write on or with.
Legolas went to a desk and returned with pen and paper. “If you would be so kind.”
Gimli wrote his number and Legolas secured a silver collar with sparkling gems in it upon Thran’s neck.
“I thought the news said that he was last seen wearing the collar,” said Gimli handed the paper with his phone number back to Legolas.
“If he had the collar we could have used the GPS to track him. But father suggested that we lead people to believe he might still have the expensive collar on, in hopes that it would raise public interest,” Legolas explained.
“Well, it certainly did that. I was swamped with people trying to take Thranduil from me.”
“Well,” said Legolas, “I am glad you were able to bring him back safe and sound.” Legolas hugged the cat close to his chest.
Gimli smiled. It would be hard not having Thran around the house, but at least Gimli could be content in the knowledge that Than’s home was a loving one.
“Well, I better get back to my cousins,” Gimli said.
“Thank you. I look forward to meeting you again, Gimli.”
Gimli smiled and waved as he walked back towards the front door. “Same! Take care! And stay out of trouble, Thranduil,” he said, pointing a finger at the cat.
Gimli returned to his cousins and they headed to the car, flashes going off like a storm as large cameras reached over the top of the mansion gate for a glimpse of them.
They all got inside quickly.
“So,” said Kíli, “let’s see it!”
“What?” asked Gimli.
“He means the check,” said Fíli, rolling his eyes. “He’s convinced you wouldn’t have had our names put on there too.
“What?” asked Fíli.
“I turned down the reward,” Gimli confessed.
“You what?!” cried Kíli. “He gets to keep the cat and the money?”
“If you’d seen how much love there was there, you’d have done the same,” explained Gimli.
“Of course he was happy to let you go without having to give you anything,” sighed Kíli.
“Spit it out,” said Fíli.
“He’s taking me to dinner.”
“You’re going on a date?” asked Fii.
Gimli bulked. “Well, I wouldn’t say it was a date! I mean, it’s sorta a date, but not like a date date.”
“Maybe we can make it a double date!” exclaimed Kíli, pulling out a piece of paper.
“You didn’t,” said Fíli.
Kíli waggled his eyebrows victoriously. “I did!”
“I can’t believe you chatted up the guard,” sighed Fíli, disappointed.
“It’s not too late, brother, maybe there’s a sister or a maid we can set you up with.”
“I think I’ll pass,” said Fíli.
Gimli laughed at the mirth of the two brothers bickering besides him in the car. But in truth his mind was already back on the blond who had invited him to dinner.
“Legolas,” he breathed, enjoying the sound of the name on his lips. He was eager to see where their dinner might lead.