The Little One was different.
He found me.
He was a tiny ball of mud that barely looked like a kitten when he found me. I washed him and considered what to do with him - I already had Tasha who did not regard other living creatures with favor and certainly was not interested in sharing her human with another cat. And yet. He was so incredibly adorable and loud and adorable - and he'd followed ME. He'd picked me. I decided that I couldn't give him up.
Even if it meant no peace in the household for a couple of years.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
I gave him a nicely evil name, Asmodean, since he'd wormed his way into the household, and an internet pseudonym, the Little One, since he was a very small kitten. Right from the beginning, he was more of a dog than a cat - he followed me around like a puppy, played fetch, and was incredibly friendly - some critics said overly friendly - to anyone who entered. He had an underappreciated habit of just sitting on people when not headbutting them.
He also loved to play, and jump, and leap - I've never seen another cat make some of the jumps that he did, which had the tendency to startle visitors and board games. And one - only one - bad habit; he was convinced, despite all protests to the contrary, that computer and laptop keyboards were designed to be cat beds. As I explained once, years back, one of my pet peeves as a writer was how much time I had to spend removing him from the keyboard. He added a good ten pages of random letters and symbols to my Tor.com post on Toy Story just last week.
His first bad moment came when Tasha died. She may have hated him, but he loved her, and also, I realized, he'd never been alone. He did not like being alone at all. So I acquired the Grey One and told him that she was his kitten. They took me literally; I've sometimes been allowed to pet the Grey One, but she was always his cat, not mine.
When I got sick, he was the best thing ever.
He knew something was wrong when I first moved up here, and got quiet and even friendlier, if possible - I think he was afraid that I would leave him behind. Despite his usual vocal objections to car rides, he was completely silent on the way up. The moment we let him out of his carrier, he went for me, and stayed beside me. He didn't quite have the Grey One's unusual gift for knowing exactly when my blood pressure dropped, but he did know that he could get on top of me, and I could scratch his chin, and that was important knowledge. He rarely left me alone for an instant, and I needed that.
I was up in Columbus when we moved to this house According to my brother, he freaked out and headed straight for a cabinet as everything was moved out of the apartment. He was the last thing to leave, primarily because he didn't want to leave the cabinet - I think because he was afraid he would never see me again. When I came to the house a few days later, he went NUTS and clung to me for the next several days.
And that was our interaction for the next several years. He slept with me, watched TV with me, leaned against me or slept on me or slept near me when I wrote or read, listened to every telephone conversation. He sat at the window, watching me leave on the trike or in someone else's car, waiting for me to return.
He did start to slow down, just a little. He stopped leaping to the top of the bookshelves - something he used to be able to do from the floor, and could still do from the TV stand, and did a few times after we arrived here. As he started having a few problems jumping to the my bed, which is a bit high - he could make it, but he kinda had to claw the arrival - I got him a set of little kitty stairs, which he liked. He could still jump on the couch, and did that without a problem. In the past year or so, he tended to stay on my bed a little bit more. But every time I thought, ok, he's slowing down, he'd surprise me by jumping to the window, or dashing through the hallway, or indulging in his loud, raspy, purrs. When he made it to the age of 17 this fall, I thought that I was going to be lucky enough to have him for a few more years.
Yesterday morning, he was at the windowsill, watching the cardinals. Late yesterday afternoon, his back legs visibly gave out. He struggled for a bit. An hour or so later, he was back to walking, and paced the hallway, but he seemed a bit confused and disoriented. He stared at the litter box for a bit, and then - very unusually - refused it (though he used the easily cleaned tile floor.) Then he seemed better and came back to the bedroom. I brought him some tuna fish, and it took him a moment to realize what it was, and eat it. He wandered a bit more, but kept stopping and staring at corners, or looking confused.
I probably should have taken him to the vet right then, but....I don't drive, and we don't have a 24 hour vet that I can reach via mobility scooter or trike. He seemed to recover a bit in the evening; I had him on my lap as we watched Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. But he was also incredibly quiet. Much later, I found him in between the TV stand and the wall, head on the speaker, the other cat watching him. I picked him up and he flopped against my chest immediately.
I don't think either one of us slept well - I know I didn't. At about 4 am, he started seizing. He got better after I held him again. I managed a bit more sleep. By the time I woke, he was seizing again.
He was in bad shape when we reached the vet.
We didn't even have time to put him to sleep. He died while I was slowly rocking him, wrapped in a towel, back and forth, wrapped in a towel. I'm not sure he even knew I was there, but I hope he did.
He was the hands down best cat I've ever had, more than a cat, a friend.
The Grey One is sleeping curled up in the sun, nearby. She's been watching me off and on since I got back. I think she thinks I can still bring him home.
I want to fill this with funny memories, but my heart is too full right now.
Bye, little cat. You will be so, so missed.