Joly blinked at Laigle. “There’s something in your coat sleeve,” he said.
The thing in Laigle’s sleeve mewled piteously and thrashed its tail as Laigle fished it out. It was revealed as a small kitten, only scarcely old enough, in Joly’s opinion, to be taken from its mother. It was all black save for patches of white on its feet and a little white spot near its nose. Laigle had to hold the kitten close to keep it from escaping as he presented it for Joly’s inspection. “Behold, mon Joly, I have brought you a soul mate.”
Laigle had joked often enough that Joly has the soul of cat, but he’d never approached it so…concretely before. “Where did he come from?” It was always a good idea to ask, where Joly’s friends were concerned. Especially Bossuet. He might be a stolen pet of a minister, or a witch’s familiar, or simply the most ill-tempered feline his friend could find.
“My drinking friend Pierre’s cat had kittens. He’s been trying to sell the litter off as rat catchers, like their mother, and this one was the last of the lot. It seemed no one wanted a beast of his color.” Laigle scratched the kitten under its chin in obvious sympathy. It squeaked happily back at him.
“So you bought him?” Joly did have something of a problem with rats. It wasn’t bad idea, come to think of it.
Laigle laughed. “Lord no. As though I had the money! Pierre was going to drown the poor fellow as an omen of bad luck. I told him that as a fellow omen of bad luck I objected on principle, and that if he proposed drowning unwanted nuisances he might start with himself.”
“Did he follow your programme?” asked Joly. He held out a finger cautiously and the kitten sniffed it.
“Alas, no. He condescended to baptize me with a glass of wine, and we agreed that was drowning enough for one night.”
“And he gave you the cat?”
Laigle gave an airy shrug. “I took the cat; he did not object. The legal grounding is tenuous but precedent is ample. Therefore on this rock I will build my church, and in my church I will place this cat.”
“I’m going to have to take bigger rooms if you want to make my apartments into a Basilica. Especially if you keep bringing back new parishioners. I don’t suppose this one pays rent?” The kitten was rubbing against his fingers with remarkable enthusiasm, and Joly couldn’t help scratching it lightly behind the ears.
“No,” replied Laigle, “but I dare vouch that he will work for his bed and board. So you see that he is already an improvement on other of your tenants.”
“Never.” Joly knew he was blushing, a bad habit of his he had yet to find the nostrum to cure. “What could be worth more than your companionship?”
When Laigle smiled – really smiled – it was like sunshine, like a warm cup of tea, like a new discovery that made the whole order of nature clear. “Why, yours, my dearest friend.”
Joly decided to hide the growing redness of his face by pulling Laigle into a kiss. After a few moments Laigle began to laugh, and to breathlessly pull away. The kitten had climbed up the front of his shirt and was stubbornly butting its head against Laigle’s neck. “It seems I have aroused jealousy!” he declared cheerfully. “Didn’t I tell you he was to be your soulmate?”
Joly knelt down to look the kitten in the eye and affected a serious expression. “I’m sorry,” he announced solemnly, “but the position of soulmate is filled.”
“Nonsense,” said Laigle. He held the kitten in check and kissed Joly again. Joly melted happily against him and let himself be thoroughly kissed.
“Is it possible for you to be loved too much?” Laigle asked quietly after the kiss was through. “I think not.”
Joly hummed contentedly, in no mood to disagree.