Chapter 10

The world is a different place in the dark. Nezu had long preferred it, but unfortunately humans were generally diurnal by nature. As a being who worked closely with humankind by necessity, he did have to put some effort into... accommodating their needs. Even if it was rather useful on occasion to find their alertness fading as his sharpened in the evening.

That didn't mean he couldn't take sometime to enjoy his own preferred hours. Not even the humans he worked with went straight to sleep when the sun went down after all. Sometimes, he just wanted to take a nice refreshing midnight walk without shoes. The one concession he would make to his comfort and not carefully selected human-approved appearance.

Koi interrupted his musings with a curious chirrup, slipping out through her cat flap to blink up at him with half lidded eyes that belied the alertness in her ears. Nezu blinked back and held out a paw in invitation. He wasn't opposed to company... especially company that wouldn't expect him to chatter. Words had their place in that humans rarely seemed to understand anything else, but it could be rather tiring translating everything into vocal sounds all the time.

Koi's silent footsteps as she padded to his side were... oddly comforting. It was the sort of night where the world felt like it should be quiet. The sort where his intellect was drawn away from the many cases and priorities he was constantly juggling to the sounds around himself, the breeze over his whiskers, and the scents on the air.

Which was of course when his feet managed to knock into a small stone and send it clattering across the path.

Koi stiffened before letting out a rumble of amusement. Nezu couldn't help but be rather pleased with himself. His investigations into feline language were starting to pay off.

Then Koi slipped away from him to pad in front, occasionally glancing back. Nezu... hesitated. She could be attempting to lead him somewhere but it didn't feel like that what was what she...

Oh.

He chuckled quietly to himself. Koi was treading very deliberately. The way her paws shifted and moved... He did his best to copy her and let out a grin as his steps became increasingly silent as they mimicked her movements.

This was very interesting.

Very interesting indeed.

Because those steps were not how Koi moved silently. They were adjusted to his own stiffer gait rather than her own flowing loose style. More importantly, the technique was effective and noticeably quietened his own movements.

Nezu felt an eager smile spread across his face as Koi looped back and nuzzled him. Koi understood the concept of teaching. Koi understood adapting lessons to individuals. Koi understood learning!

-/-

Aurora was feeling pleasantly tired when she and her Bear headed back to his rooms. It had been an interesting evening. Bear had caught on fast enough to the tweaks in his steps that by the end of the night they were having a great time play-stalking. And when they'd moved to the trees...

It had been a while since anyone had beaten her at stealth games, but Bear's natural habitat was definitely not the ground. He'd kept a careful eye on her, staying close as they crept higher. Then, patiently showing her how to test the branches she was moving on, letting her follow his steps as she scrambled up and down...

Trees were never something she'd put much effort into before. At school she hadn't wanted to risk a visit with the acromantula and after there was no point. The proud gleam in her Bear's eyes whenever she successfully copied whatever he was showing her though...

Aurora liked that feeling. Even second hand, the warmth and joy whenever she successfully managed what he wanted her to learn was genuinely enjoyable.

She wondered what he might try to teach her next... and if they'd get to go play again.

She hadn't had that much fun since... since school.

Since the Marauders.

She missed them.

-/-

Nezu was... reconsidering his plans to introduce Koi to the other teachers at this morning's staff meeting. It wouldn't have been too difficult to keep it calm and relaxing. She had met the majority of his teacher's already with her recent antics and had been relatively confident engaging on a one to one basis. A comfortable space to sit out of direct view and it would give her a chance to take in their scents without overstimulation.

That had been before this morning.

Aizawa had returned from his patrol and seeing his lights on in the pre-dawn gloom had dropped by. That wasn't unusual. Sometimes the man just wanted someone to bounce ideas off and Nezu tended to indulge his staff in such matters. Positive feedback in measured doses did wonders for employee morale.

Koi had seemed... listless. Aizawa had agreed, while she'd only been living with him for two days, this was the first time she hadn't come to greet the man.

"And she hasn't touched her food since last night?"

Nezu shook his head, steeping his paws in front of himself. The cat in question was curled up in her bed, not showing any signs of wanting to move. "We had an active hour of play, and she seemed perfectly happy then."

Aizawa frowned uncertainly. "It doesn't seem like tiredness."

"No."

The two males were quiet for a moment. "Usually stimulation helps in these circumstances. Did anything happen during... play?"

"Not that I noticed. She is an eager learner and was deeply engaged. I would dare say she was having fun."

"Learning?"

Nezu hummed. "We were practising climbing in the trees. At least she should not get stuck any time soon."

Aizawa grunted an acknowledgment, his eyes turning to the ball of fur that was Koi. Nezu took a sip of tea, considering the man in front of him.

"Tomorrow. She can join me in my office then."

As expected, Aizawa frowned at him. "And for the rest of today?"

"You could stay with her."

Aizawa looked thoughtful. "I suppose it doesn't matter where I take my post-patrol nap."

Nezu smiled, keeping his teeth covered except for the small hint of fang where it wasn't worth the effort. "Thank you Aizawa-san. Would you like a reminder for the morning meeting?"

Aizawa rolled his eyes as Nezu's smile grew.

-/-

Aurora came back to awareness when a particularly warm sunbeam crept over her paws and tickled her whiskers. She was vaguely aware of Sleepy Head unzipping himself from that sinfully comfortable sleeping bag from last night. She blinked out of her doze slowly, the heavy feeling from the end of last night a touch less smothering but it still stung.

Bear was awesome and someone who was most definitely firmly in the friend category now.

Sleepy Head was a master of pets and scratches and his sleeping bag was to die for.

Songbird had a great voice and energy.

Even the glass castle was a decent place and the ground promised to have (if not quite as deadly) just as much wildlife to... befriend... as Hogwarts had.

But it wasn't Hogwarts, and her new friends weren't her old ones, and realising that she had given up on getting back to them...

She just wanted to go back to sleep, to wake up later and find she was home.

Unfortunately, the sun was doing an annoying job of coaxing her awake and the part of her that was always moving, always pushing, always doing was getting impatient. The World waited for no Cat and she didn't want to think about it yet.

She needed a distraction.

Maybe she could follow Sleepy Head?