Milk
By Nemoinis

Lance turned into a cat on his eighteenth birthday. It should have been weird, but they'd all been warned, so it was no surprise the morning that Joey walked out with him in his arms.

A month - no more, no less, or so Lance had written in a note that came with the cat. There were also two dozen cans of tuna on Lance's bunk, along with a water dish, toys, and a list of things that they were not allowed to do with, or to, the cat. It had been addressed to Chris but directed towards Joey. JC had a note also, but it was the cat's registration papers, in case he got out, and a small brown collar with a tag on it declaring he was the property of Joshua Chasez and current with all his shots. They were vaguely annoyed with Lance's tendency to over plan, until Chris tossed a tuna can into the air and pointed out that they didn't even have a can-opener. Lance had tucked one into JC's envelope.

They passed the cat around; Chris thought that they'd have been able to tell it was Lance even if they hadn't known. He was big and soft, with huge paws and a slightly bent tail. The hair was the same, thick and long with blond tips and they both had the same slinky walk and stance. Of course, never mind the ice-green eyes, the delicate black line surrounding them or the left eyebrow that arched more than the right. He stared at each of them in turn and never blinked.

The first night they tried to run a series of tests to determine if Lance were still inside. After tallying the results, which Chris faithfully jotted on the back of a greasy hamburger wrapper, they determined that a) yes, their friend was still there, but really, he just didn't seem to give a shit and 2) you shouldn't feed french-fries with mayonnaise to a cat. JC rolled his eyes at everyone and cleaned up the mess while Joey put a giant star next to "6 - Nothing but tuna fish and fresh water" on the list. Justin was dry heaving in the bathroom, Chris making fun of him. Lance spent the night under the couch.

Joey was the first to discover that Lance the cat was much more entertaining than Lance the quiet kid from Mississippi. Two more items were crossed off of the list the next night and Chris forked over $50. Apparently, while a cat would drink Kahlua "1 - No alcohol", it could not be successfully coaxed into an empty pillowcase and carried around tied to the end of a broomstick without casualties. Joey helped Justin clean the bite, Lance spent another early evening under the couch, attacking the ankles of anyone who ventured near.

Finally, JC coaxed him out with soft noises and took him to bed, threatening to kill them all if Lance developed some sort of emotional stunting. He also highlighted "3 - Do not pick the cat up by the tail" and wrote 'NO' across it in two inch letters. Joey clapped his hand over Justin's mouth and solemnly agreed.

Eventually, even Lance as a cat became routine, which was its own sort of strangeness. Morning would find him sitting on the kitchen table, tail flicking impudently, staring at Justin eating his cereal. By the second week, Justin was leaving milk at the bottom of the bowl that Lance would lap up. After breakfast, the two of them would curl up on the couch and watch cartoons while Justin rubbed him behind his ears. Lance loved the Thundercats.

Shortly after lunch, he'd lie on Chris' lap, cleaning himself. Chris was the first to point out that Lance had really huge balls and then worried about it obsessively, wondering what it said about guy Lance. In one of his stranger moods, he joked about having the cat neutered and Lance had hissed, then scratched him on the arm. Chris sat and screamed about cat scratch fever, washing the tiny scratch until it was a swollen red and bled twice a much. Lance just watched, smiling in the way he and the cat had. They didn't have much to do with each other after that; Lance growled whenever Chris got too close.

Towards mid-afternoon, Lance would stroll to JC's bunk and stretch out on the sleeping man's stomach or thigh. Head up, sphinx-like, he'd watch them all through slitted eyes, kneading warm flesh with his sharp little claws. JC would moan softly and wake up just enough to get a hand free of the blankets and on to Lance's head. A few strokes and he'd be asleep again, leaving Lance to start his prickly wake-up call all over. Ever adaptable, JC learned to pet him without actually waking up. When Chris was bored, he'd walk his fingers up JC's thigh and giggle when JC patted his hand and murmured what a pretty kitty he was.

Evenings were usually Joey's. Regardless of what tortures he'd been put through, the cat always settled on the other man's lap, boneless and pliant. Joey would stroke his belly for hours, rubbing the silky hair absently while the movie droned on or Justin kicked Chris' ass at Grand Turismo. Or Lance would stretch himself across Joey's shoulders and chew on his sideburns, rubbing himself against the bristle, marking Joey as his own, while Chris preached about rabies and other dire feline maladies that Lance might have. On those nights, Lance slept in Joey's bunk, tucked into the space between Joey's knees and belly, his constant purring sounding like the distant rumble of a storm. Everyone slept better on those nights.

In Tampa, Justin brought out his amazing catnip string and they watched, amazed, as Lance lost his mind. The next morning, after cleaning up the broken glass and feathers from the pillow, JC almost added another rule to the list, but Lance hissed at him from Justin's arms. Eventually, they all took a turn with the string. Even Chris, with his sharp little noises when Lance got too close with his claws, joined in.

Time passed, as it always does, and one morning Lance was Lance again. But it wasn't quite the same. Somehow he'd lost that sweet, girly quality they teased him about when he first joined the group. He didn't shave as often, growing a bit bristly about the chin, and refused to re-dye his hair. It stuck out in little spikes, not so unlike the cat's, who seemed to have left the tiniest bit of himself behind.

Sometimes Lance moved easier, sexier maybe. Not so much that the fans would notice, but the guys all did. Like when he stretched before practice and his back seemed to arch unnaturally, or how he lounged on the couch like he'd lounged on Joey, splayed and limp. Other times they would hear him whispering sweet nothings to his latest crush and it sounded like purring.

But still, most of the cat was gone. Because he never licked at Joey's jaw line anymore and JC never found him curled about him in the afternoon either. Chris welcomed him back and they became inseparable once again. His mornings were never spent sitting at the table staring at Justin's cereal; instead he sipped black coffee while he read the Wall Street Journal, all before Justin even rolled out of his bunk.

They all asked if the cat would come back but Lance said no, and grew surly when they pestered him about it. Eventually, the cat parts of Lance simply faded into Lance and the only reminder of it all was a blurry photo, tucked into a drawer somewhere, of a blond cat with green eyes.

Still, sometimes Justin left a little milk in the bottom of his bowl.

Just in case.

Thanks to J and K.

Temporary Insanity