Operation: Space Cat
Written for @kiiyudono
Everyone turned to follow Allura’s line of sight to Hunk, who was standing in the doorway of the common room with an absolutely massive cat in his arms.
“It’s a cat!” Lance said in delight.
“Well, what looks like a cat,” Pidge corrected. “We found him on the rescue mission.”
Allura turned her glare to Shiro, lifting an eyebrow for an explanation. He shrugged, a sheepish smile on his face. “Uh…I said we could keep him? Didn’t see any harm to it. Plus, he is kind of cute.”
The cat in question purred loudly, flicking it’s reptilian tail in delight. It most closely resembled a Maine Coon cat from Earth, save for the tail, similar to a small alligator’s, and the ears, which were wider and much longer than a normal cats, to the point where they flopped like a rabbit’s. The ears were prehensile, as was the tail, and the whole animal was a dark green color. The only reason they had found him in the first place was because of Hunk’s headband, dangling in the wind as they searched the ruined city for survivors. Apparently space cats enjoyed dangling strings just as much as Earth cats.
“No harm to it?” Allura spluttered. “There are mice on this ship!”
Pidge held up her hands in a placating gesture. “No, it’s okay, we already-”
“Absolutely not! The survivors have been moved to a camp on the other side of the planet, they can take care of him. But I don’t want that cat on my ship!”
She spun around and stomped out of the room and the paladins slumped, turning to look at the cat. The purring had died to a small thunder instead of a full on storm, and the big blue eyes that gazed up at them were almost somber. Lance sighed and scratched behind the animal’s ears. “Sorry, Perce.”
“Perce?” Keith asked.
Lance glanced up at him, a smile flickering on his face. “Um, yeah? Like Percival? Come on, tell me this cat isn’t a Percival!”
Keith scoffed. “Um, no? He’s totally a Magnus!”
Lance wrinkled his nose. “You can’t be serious.”
“Guys,” Shiro interrupted. “Please. You heard Allura, we have to take him back to the villagers…besides, he’s definitely a Grendel.”
“What is this, English class?” Pidge demanded. “Look, I’ll take him down in Green and we can drop him off, be back here in a couple minutes.”
She held out her arms and Hunk deposited the cat into them, the whole team cracking a grin at the sight of Pidge carrying an animal that was almost half her size. She turned to head for the hangar, the cat’s rumbling back to jet plane level, and then glanced back, shifting him in her arms. “And his name is Alvern.”
The group followed her out, protesting that Alvern was a stupid name, leaving Hunk to stand alone with a bewildered look on his face. “I wanted to name her Denver,” he muttered to the empty room.
They were halfway to the camp when Pidge threw her hands up and halted Green mid-air. “Do we have to take him back?” she whined, turning and running a hand over the cat, who was curled contently around Pidge’s headrest and licking at the girl’s cheek.
Shiro bit his lip, fingers twitching at his sides. “Well…Allura really seems to think-”
“Shiro, please. We looked him up, we know his species doesn’t eat live prey! The mice were why we checked that in the first place, remember?”
A smile started to creep over Lance’s face. “What if we pretend to take him back?”
All eyes turned to him and his grin grew. “My siblings and I did that once with a stray kitten back home. We found him on the road, but our mom didn’t want any more pets, so we had to sneak him into Isabel’s room. We kept him a secret for months.”
“And how did that turn out?” Keith asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Lance imitated the gesture with a smirk. “Just fine, actually. He’s our parent’s favorite cat now.”
Hunk shrugged. “I’m sure we could hide her long enough. I could probably find something safe to eat, and there’s some bigger rooms downstairs in the base of the castle that no one ever goes into.”
Pidge hummed thoughtfully. “We already have a ton of stuff for Kaltenecker that we could use for like, bedding and litter and stuff. If we put him close enough to Kaltenecker, we could even just sneak out his used stuff with hers.”
Hunk frowned. “Uh, guys-”
“Perfect!” Lance declared. He spun on Shiro, clasping his hands together and sticking his lower lip out. “Pleeeaaaassssse Shiro?”
Pidge imitated the motion, and Hunk smiled warmly. Shiro studied them all before finally looking to Keith. “Keith? What do you say?”
Keith glanced down at the cat and gave a fond grin, scratching it behind the ears. “I say…Magnus and Kaltenecker will be pretty good roommates.”
“We are NOT calling him Magnus!”
The amount of times they almost got caught by Allura with the cat (whose name had still yet to be agreed on) was almost comical.
One moment, Lance would be playing fetch with him down the hall, and the next, Pidge would be sprinting around the corner, gasping about Allura coming their way. The first time it occurred, they got him hidden within seconds and were leaning over Kaltenecker’s pen as Allura came around the bend, smiling and waving innocently while she walked past. The second time, they actually had to hide him in Kaltenecker’s pen. The third time, Pidge had to go about jabbering to Allura so that she wouldn’t glance down and notice the alligator tail peeking out of Lance’s jacket.
They discovered early on that he actually liked food goo, and thus Percival-Magnus-Grendel-Alvern’s pen became the dumping ground for all the uneaten mush they could sneak away from the table.
None of them could agree on a name, so they took to calling him “GAMP” whenever they were together and their own personal names when they were alone. Hunk thought this was absolutely ridiculous, for a multitude of reasons, but he decided to sit back and play along, see how long it would take someone to notice.
Coran discovering Gamp’s existence was completely unsurprising; he took it well, especially when the paladins raced around showing him that Gamp didn’t eat mice, that Gamp was actually friends with the mice. The man agreed not to tell Allura, on the condition that the paladins didn’t let the cat take away from their responsibilities.
The biggest problem, however, was not Coran, or food, or even Allura.
No, Gamp wasn’t house trained.
Honestly, he had no reason to be, having been an outdoor cat in the village he had lived in, but the first time they discovered this, it was because Pidge took a very nasty spill upon walking into his room.
They covered the entire floor in hay and straw after that, pulling from Kaltenecker’s supply, but Lance informed them that they had to train him at some point, or else he would never learn.
Thus began the trials of “House Train a Space Cat Before He Pees Somewhere Allura Can Find.”
They tried everything from treats to toys to compliments to get Gamp to go to the bathroom in his designated corner, but no matter what they tried, that darn cat would find the time to go pretty much anywhere but the spot made up for him. It was irksome, to say the least, but they kept at it for days on end, finally seeing progress when they tried to lure him in with Hunk’s headband.
Hunk wasn’t too pleased about his headband being used as a cat toy to potty train with, but it was better than cleaning and replacing an entire roomful of hay every two days, so he let it go.
Of the paladins, Gamp seemed to like him the most. Whether it was because of his headband or his perfect scratches, Hunk wasn’t sure, but it was gratifying to walk in alongside the other four and have her race to him. The others got used to it, teasing Hunk about being a “mama lion,” and would set to cleaning up while he distracted her. He’d leave eventually, because he did feel bad about hogging what they considered a group pet, but for the most part, if he was in the room, Gamp was with him.
It happened one day while Hunk was busy helping Coran and Allura install some new bits and bobbles to the control panel in the main room. He was on his back, practically inside of the machine, when Lance came sprinting in, Pidge directly behind him.
“Hunk!” the teen yelped.
Hunk smacked his forehead on the inside of the console, groaning and rubbing his head as he scooted out from inside. “Lance, what’s-?”
“It’s Alvern,” Pidge whined, and it was then that he noticed both of them were on the verge of tears.
Lance didn’t argue about the name, which was how Hunk knew it was serious. “He won’t move, and we can’t get him to eat, and I don’t know what to do. We never had this problem with our cats!”
They all froze and turned to Allura, whose arms were crossed over her chest. A frown rested on her face. “Did I just hear what I think I heard?”
Lance huffed. “Yes, we kept the cat, yes, we know it was against the rules, but it doesn’t matter, he’s sick, Hunk! And he likes you best, so I don’t know, we thought maybe you could help!”
Hunk stood up and dusted his hands on his pants. “Yeah, okay. I’m coming.”
He ran out alongside them, Allura and Coran on their heels, while Lance and Pidge rambled about his symptoms. Hunk had a pretty good idea about what was going on before they got there, just based on the last few weeks, and it was only confirmed when they turned into the room.
Gamp was stretched out along the hay, his maw resting on Keith’s thigh and his eyes shut. His ears twitched weakly under Keith’s fingers and Shiro was pacing in the back of the room. Both froze when they spotted Allura, but then Keith’s eyes flickered to Hunk’s pleadingly.
Allura glanced around the room as Hunk moved over to Keith, her gaze landing on Coran with suspicion. “You knew about this, didn’t you?” she demanded.
Coran gave a sheepish shrug. “To be fair, Princess, he doesn’t eat mice. Plus, he helped them bond!”
“He’s a girl.”
Everyone whipped around at that, jaws dropping as Hunk ran his hands delicately over the cat’s body. He peeked up at the silence, eyes twinkling and lips curved upwards. “I tried to tell you guys like, seven different times. She’s a girl.”
Lance clapped a hand to his forehead. “How did we miss that?”
Hunk shrugged and shooed Keith away, continuing his rub down and letting Gamp lick his hand halfheartedly. “I did a little more research than just what her species eats.”
Everyone glanced down, toeing at the floor, and then Shiro froze. “Wait, wait…you’d only be telling us that if-”
One week later found each of the paladins, plus Allura and Coran, cradling their own mini version of the officially-named Denver, all of them satisfied with Hunk getting to name the mother so long as they each got to name one of their own.
“I’m gonna name you Malulu,” Allura cooed to the one she was holding, grinning in delight as the baby licked her nose, tail whipping back and forth.
Keith, who was lying on his stomach alongside Pidge and Lance watching their space cats trip over their too-long ears, glanced up with a lifted eyebrow. “Thought you didn’t want any cats?” he teased.
Allura flushed and cuddled Malulu closer. “I take it back. I want all of them.”