Jesper startles awake to the sound of a loud curse and a sudden weight on the bed beside him. It’s still dark, very dark, and he never usually wakes up in the dark unless he’s had too much to drink and desperately needs water. He’s stone cold sober, though, and his hands fly out to either side of him in the hopes of catching his bearings faster, or maybe even finding the comforting weight of his fiancé.
That isn’t what he touches.
His hand smacks against something hard and flat, that jostles when he bumps it. He’s confused, mostly wondering when Wylan became a wooden crate, before he hears it. So quietly, so faintly, so definitely from the thing next to him.
He hears -
It’s easy to shoot upright to sit like he didn’t just wake up; he was never difficult to get up in the morning. He does, then, and that’s fine, but whatever is next to him makes his eyebrows furrow because -
It’s a box of cats.
The lantern they keep at the side of their bed switches on. There, standing on the other side of this box of cats - they’re all fluffy little things - is his fiancé. He’s still in the thick sweater he wears around the house on the coldest of winter days, and his pyjama pants with his fuzzy knitted socks, and that explains absolutely fucking nothing about the box of cats he’s placed into the bed beside Jesper.
Jesper stares. Wylan stares back. One of the cats makes another soft noise.
“Okay,” Wylan says, finally. “I can explain.”
Jesper raises an eyebrow. He hears something rustle and looks down to see a cat, grey and squirmy and rascally. It’s begun to escape up the sides of wooden slats, seeming more acrobatic than Jesper knew cats could be. He nudges at its tiny paws until it collapses back into the box. It seems fine.
“Wylan, what the fuck?”
Wylan groans, and drops to sit down on the bed next to the box of cats. It tips only barely, and Jesper sees some of the cats slide towards Wylan. He puts a hand on the box to keep it steady because the cats are fine, he supposes, but not when they’re loose in his bedroom. The little grey one is already trying to work it’s way back out of the box. He wonders if he should name it after Inej.
Assuming they keep it.
“I wanted tea,” Wylan starts, “But everyone had left for the night, so when I went downstairs-“
“It’s one in the morning,” Jesper groans.
“I wanted tea!”
“Where the fuck do the cats come in?”
“I’m getting there,” he whines. He sounds so petulant. His hand is still resting on the crate, and Jesper tries to focus on that. He is so confused. “So I was making tea, but then I heard a noise and when I opened the kitchen door-“
“There were cats.”
“There were cats!” he says. Jesper nods.
“And why are the cats here?”
Wylan rolls his eyes. He is honest to Ghezen pouting.
“It is winter,” he says, once again overly petulant. Jesper blinks, waiting for him to go on. Wylan gestures to the cats like that explains everything. “They’re babies! I couldn’t leave them.”
“They’re troopers,” Jesper says. “They can get through more than a cold night, love-“
“Jesper,” he whines, again, dragging out the last curling syllable at the end of his name. Jesper sighs. He can’t say no to Wylan when he whines but Saints.
“You want to keep the cats.”
“Of course I want to keep the cats!”
The problem is that Jesper cannot for the life of him find a reason to say no.
Their house is more than big enough - if anything they’re more at risk of losing the cats inside it, with how many rooms they have. They have the money to get them each prime cuts of meat, or whatever else it is cats need, probably including a dedicated member of staff tasked only with catering to their fluffy little desires.
He doesn’t even dislike cats. He’s decidedly neutral to anything fluffy with four legs. What he is not neutral towards is the man he asked to marry, who he loves, who he adores, who he intends to stand up with in front of all of Ketterdam and promise to do everything in his power to make his life better. To make him happy. He hasn’t made that promise yet, but all Saints. He still feels that ache to give him everything, burning desperately in his bones.
He glances in the crate. Half the cats are looking up at him like they think he can do a damn thing, half look like they’ve never had a thought in their short little lives. They also look, as far as Jesper could see, like the leftovers. It feels horrible to say, but none of them look like siblings, and none of them look to be fighting fit. The tiny calico with orange and black patches all along her back is far too skinny. The black and white one looks almost too round, but might be missing teeth. Even the squirmy little grey one with too much fur that seems dead set on wriggling out onto his lap doesn’t look like prime show cat material, and that’s only the three at the top of the pile. There are a handful more, indistinguishable with all the fur and fluff.
“Wy, they’re a mess,” he says.
“I know,” Wylan sighs. He’s frowning. He taps his fingers against the edge of the crate, eyes fixated on the mess of fluffy limbs. He looks at them with so much fondness in his eyes, but he still has that look Jesper has seen before. It’s like he’s steeling himself for disappointment.
Jesper feels a little part of him melt.
The grey one finally succeeds in scrambling out of the crate, flopping down onto the blanket beside Jesper’s thigh.
“This one is a little bastard,” he says, pointing to it. When he does, it tries to bite him, and he yanks his hand back, tutting at it. He scratches its forehead until it settles and presses its face against his hand.
“I know,” Wylan says, again. He’s smiling a little bit, finally.
For the love of every Saint, he thinks.
“I suppose we have the space,” he says, which is an understatement. “Saints know we have the money to feed them.”
There’s a grin spreading slowly, cautiously, carefully over Wylan’s face. Hopeful, very hopeful.
“Yeah?” he says.
“Yeah,” Jesper replies. The grey one has settled, pressing its furry little body against his leg. Saints, he already feels his heart swelling looking at it.
“So does that mean…”
Jesper sighs one last time, but knows there’s a smile starting to cross his face. Ghezen, he’s a pushover.
“Call it a wedding present.”
Wylan’s grin grows so wide it hurts to look at, and he makes a delighted, excitable noise. He’s leaning in and reaching to hold Jesper’s jaw and kiss him before he even realises what’s happening, gasping out too many I love you I love you I love yous as he goes to hug him except -
Jesper Fahey was not expecting a lapful of cats at one in the morning when he fell asleep, but that’s what he gets. Wylan makes a noise, pulling back but not letting go and oh, Saints, now the kittens are loose. One shoots for the foot of the bed, and another flops onto its back, disoriented by the press of Wylan’s knees making the mattress dip.
“Oh, no,” Wylan murmurs. Jesper laughs, hand caught on Wylan’s wrist, for as long as it takes for him to realise the cats are getting out of control. Then he tugs his arm back, already starting to attempt to corral the cats back into their crate. He looks like he’s struggling, half flustered already, and Jesper can’t help but laugh.
He looks at Wylan - wrangling kittens in his fluffiest pyjamas in the very depth of night, on a night when he should be sleeping - and smiles. He adores him. He’s going to marry him.
He genuinely doesn’t know if he can wait.