The cat purred, looking up at the girl.
Epsilon: "You're all covered up in snow! The heat transfer has to be...hmm..."
She bent down and rubbed under the cat's neck, feeling for tags or a collar but finding none.
Epsilon: "You don't have anywhere to go, do you? Want to come back home with me?"
It purred again, rubbing against her hand and legs, so she picked it up, standing. She thought that James wouldn't even notice if she brought home a stray, and there was just something about this cat. She felt almost as if she'd known it her whole life, but that was silly, because she'd only met it just now.
Epsilon: "Here you go, little guy. I guess you need a name if you're going to stay here, huh?"
She sat back on her heels, regarding the small feline thoughtfully.
Epsilon: "Well, you're black, but not quite. Just slightly off, especially those markings around your face. It makes you hard to see, as you just blend into the shadows. Hmm, Shadow, I like that name. What do you think?"
The cat butted its head up against her hand, only relenting when she gave it a gentle scratch behind the ears.
Epsilon: "Alright, Shadow it is then. Come on inside, let's get some sleep."
Soon it was time for Omicron to start high school. James, as usual, was being petulant.
James: "I don't see why you need to go out and get a cake and all that. It's a bit much."
Epsilon: "Oh my god. Look, if you're not going to eat cake, then go do the laundry or something."
James: "Fine, I will!"
His two children just ignored him. Who knew what he was yelling about this time? It was probably something entirely ridiculous.
James: "I am never doing laundry again, do you hear me? Never!"
Omicron: "You know, I think it's probably bad luck that you found a black cat in the graveyard."
Epsilon: "Don't be silly, there's no such thing as bad luck. That's just superstition."
Omicron: "Whatever. I've got to go, I need to sign up for my after-school activities."
Epsilon: "What are you taking?"
Omicron: "I was thinking art and drama."
Epsilon: "That sounds fun. See you later."
James was growing older as well. Determined to drag the center of attention back into himself, he threw his own birthday party. He sent out invitations to all of his old friends and bought a cake, but only one person ended up coming; he was pretty sure he hadn't even invited her, actually.
James: "Get. Out. Of. My. House."
On Snowflake Day, Epsilon and Omicron woke up early to get the most out of the festivities.
When the festival opened, the siblings were waiting, ready to try some new activities. Epsilon strapped on some ice skates and headed for the frozen pond.
Omicron was more ambitious in his choice of winter sports. Despite his sister's cautions that he couldn't even walk ten feet without tripping over nothing, he found himself drawn to the snowboarding half-pipe.
Omicron: "You're so weird, do you know that?"
Epsilon: "Of course I do. We should be getting back home, prom's tonight."
Omicron: "I'm still not sure if I want to go."
Epsilon: "Of course you do. Alpha said she always regretted not being able to go. You'll have a good time."
That same night, the night of the old solstice, an envoy sought an audience with an ancient king.
~ * ~
And so the "panther" is revealed...to be a housecat. Sorry for the lack of scale context in the picture I ended the last chapter with, I didn't even think of that when I posted it.
James is an elder now. He's certainly having a bit of a rough time of it, but it's kind of his own fault due to that attitude.
I don't know why everybody is making grim reaper snowmen. It was totally creepy. And please ignore the outfit stupidity - Omicron and Epsilon kept trying to change into their everyday outfits when at the festival.
I just noticed when writing this that there were a few pictures where I forgot to put the walls up. Ajsgjerwh >_<