Catch a Tiger by the Toe

Warning: This story is about as realistic as porcupines wearing spandex doing an Olympic figure skating routine to Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.

"And to my nephew Charlie I leave, not only my home here in South Bentley Bay, but my most prized possession- socks."

I raise my gaze from the freshly mown lawn just enough to give an incredulous look in my grandfather's direction.

Socks? Really? My uncle, my famous, rich uncle, left me socks? Okay, so he left me this mid-sized mansion, too. But socks? "His most prized possession"? Socks? I feel so lame now.

Oh, well. At least I beat my cousin. All she got was a pony and some money from her late father.

But suddenly I tune into the rest of the gathering around my deceased uncle's porch. Everyone's whispering, pointing at me...and then a scream shatters the silence.

Suddenly, I find several hundred pounds of wiry muscle and black and orange fur launching themselves at me. I'm knocked to the ground in seconds, my breath forced clear out of my chest.

A big, pink, wet something swipes across my cheek. I open my eyes and try to scream, but I don't have enough air to do so.

There's a fucking tiger sitting on me.

Wait a second.

A tiger?

The tiger has a blue collar on. A star-shaped silver tag dangling from the collar reads "Socks".

What the fuck. My uncle owned a tiger.

And he gave it to me in his will.

Does he really think his twenty-two year old nephew has the mental capacity to care for a wild cat? Is that even...fuck, is that even legal?

I try to ignore the people around me as I push the tiger off of me. It sulks to the side and trots along beside me as I approach my grandfather.

"Hey, Grandpa," I say uncomfortably. "Are you serious? Uncle Stanley really left me a...tiger?"

Grandpa nods and looks nervously at the tiger. Socks.

"It would appear so." Grandpa presses a folded paper into my hands. "He left you a note."

I unfold the note and begin to read.

My uncle must have been insane.

The note doesn't even explain why he gave me Socks. It just explains how much tiger chow to give Socks at every meal. And apparently Socks is potty trained. And the fucking tiger sleeps in the living room, on the rug, near where he eats.

What the hell is going on?

I look down at Socks. His yellow eyes are wide and focused on me. He shakes his head a little, and the silver tag on his collar jingles. Hesitantly, I reach out a hand and stroke the soft fur of his head.

I'm petting a tiger.

Socks licks my arm, and I yelp when the rough tongue scratches my arm wetly again. Holy fuck. That tickled. And kind of made me want to piss in my pants again.

"So, what's your story, buddy?" I ask Socks, sitting down in one of the chairs on the lawn. Socks presses his lean body against my leg and purrs softly. "What do you like to do? You ever go on walks?"

Socks tilts his massive orange head to the side and fixes his eyes on me again. If I was a piece of meat, I'd be down his throat in a minute. The look is terrifying.

Remind me again why I'm doing this?

Fuck, why did my uncle have to die?

The members of my family are slowly starting to dwindle away from the house after the rest of my uncle's will is read. A few people linger, but for the most part everyone gives Socks one frightened look and leaves.

I can't say I blame them.

When it comes time for bed, after I've moved the majority of my belongings into the mansion and out of my old room in my parents' house, I stare at Socks.

He stares back.

"Um." I clear my throat. "So, do you, like, need anything? Your water is full...I fed you...do you want me to read you a story or something?"

Socks just watches me, his tail swishing back and forth on the floor.

I immediately feel even more ridiculous. Did I really just ask a tiger if it wanted a story read to it?

Although I'm pretty sure everyone is a sucker for Winnie the Pooh.

"All right." I take a step back from Socks. "Well." He stands up and takes a thudding step towards me. "I'm gonna...go...good night."

I run from the room, not even caring that "food moves".

Once I'm safe in my bed, my head under the covers and the light off, I breathe a sigh of relief. That is, until a heavy weight lands on my bed. I scream and throw the covers off.

Socks is on my fucking bed.

"Get off!" I yell, my voice unnaturally high. "I don't want to sleep with you!"

Socks lays down and rests his head on his front paws.

Okay. Sleeping with a tiger in my bed is so petrifying, I can't even think straight.

And all night, I don't get a wink of sleep. Not with this thing purring softly as it watches me.

I'm so fucked.

In the morning, I leap out of bed, throw on clothes, and jog down the block to town so I can get some coffee. I don't care that I'm in torn jeans and an old P.E. shirt from high school. Being with a tiger is scarier than facing angry businessmen at Starbucks.

Sort of.

I skid into the coffee shop, panting and throwing sketchy looks over my shoulder every so often. For all I know, the tiger followed me.

I twitch a little when I see something orange flash by the window.

Oops. Just a car.

"You being stalked or something?"

I jump and spin to face the cashier. Baby blue eyes and a smile meet my gaze. His right cheek has a dimple from the way his mouth curves up more on that side as he smiles. His wavy, dark brown hair looks soft enough to touch. One lock of his hair curls adorably over his right eye.

Oh my god.

I think I just met my dream guy.

"Uh."

I gawk at him some more.

"I'll take that as a no." He raises his eyebrows, writing me off as crazy as he picks up a Sharpie and a cup. "What can I get you?"

"Um. Just a mocha, venti. I don't even care. Something with caffeine." I look over my shoulder again. When I look back, I notice a girl wearing a tiger-print jacket in line next to me.

I twitch again.

"Hey, you okay?" dream guy asks. "I said that'll be three bucks."

"Oh. Right." I hand him a five and wait anxiously for my change.

Damn, I wish I could actually try to have a conversation with this guy. He's fucking gorgeous.

I wait by the counter as my drink is prepared, and once it's handed to me I hop nervously from foot to foot, chugging it.

The line dwindles out, and eventually the morning rush stops. I tap my fingers rapidly on the counter as I wait for my fourth mocha. I feel like I'm about to have a seizure. Damn caffeine...

"Hey." Someone taps my shoulder. I turn to face the cashier. "Seriously, are you okay? You've had four coffees and you keep acting all shifty."

"Oh. I, uh, I'm just avoiding someone," I reply, my voice jittery and fast. Don't give me coffee.

"Oh yeah? Who?" the guy nudges me and laughs. "Crazy ex-girlfriend?"

I take another sip of my mocha and inhale deeply. "Nah. No girls for me. If you know what I mean."

"Oh." He nods, and then his eyes widen and his face lights up. "Oh! I guess it's my lucky day."

I stare at him. "Are you hitting on me?"

"If you want me to be." He shrugs. "Though I've never hit on a crazy person before."

Frowning, I put down my coffee. I'm pretty sure that it's not doing anything but make me more anxious, which is definitely not a good idea.

"I'm not crazy. And my name's Charlie, by the way." I hold out my hand for him to shake.

"I'm Tyson." He smiles crookedly. "So, why exactly are you spazzing?"

"Just so you know, I'm not usually this much of a slut," Tyson gasps, his hands sliding up my shirt and his nails digging into my skin. "But you're really, really hot."

Our lips collide for the millionth time, our tongues tangling in the mess of heat and strange lust.

"S'okay," I mumble, my fingers undoing the buttons on his black shirt and pushing it off of his shoulders. "I'm just glad you're going for me, what with me being crazy and all."

Tyson groans when I flick my tongue over one of his nipples. "Oh, yeah. Why exactly- ahh!- were you being all weird? You never really told me."

I ignore him and instead silence him with another kiss, pressing him back down onto his bed.

Okay, so maybe this is kind of a hoe move. Picking up the cashier at Starbucks and getting ready to fuck him in his house a mere two hours later?

Oh well. I don't care. Anything to forget about Socks.

Oh, shit.

Socks!

"Where're you going?" Tyson asks groggily, sitting up when I roll out from under the covers and try to find my clothes. "Can't you stay for a little bit?"

I glance at the clock. I left home about three and a half hours ago. I managed to drink four mochas and have sex with the cashier that I ordered them from.

And in that time, Socks has probably been starving and possibly ransacking my house.

"I'm sorry, but I really, really have to go," I say, my voice pleading. "I swear, I wouldn't just leave if it wasn't an emergency-"

"Uh huh." Tyson laughs hollowly and pulls his own boxers on. "Sure."

"No, really, Tyson." I look around desperately. My eyes land on a stack of Post-it notes, and I eagerly grab one and a pen. "Here's my number. Call me later. I'd invite you over to my house, but I kind of have an unruly guest that I doubt you want to encounter. But seriously. Call me in, like, half an hour. We'll figure something out."

Tyson takes the paper from me and sighs. "Fine."

He looks so sad, I almost want to forget about Socks and go for round two with Tyson and then take him out to a late lunch or something. But no. The fucking tiger needs care.

I kiss Tyson one last time and then run out of his house, sprinting towards the nearest bus stop and taking the bus to the stop closest to my new house. Once I'm there, I enter the pass code for the front gate and run inside.

Socks is waiting patiently at the front door.

"Fuck, I'm so sorry!" I frantically pour food into the big rubber dish that he eats out of. "Please don't eat me, please don't...ahhhhh!"

Socks licks my arm as I pour the food. I was pretty sure he was gonna eat me. Jesus.

Once Socks is happily munching away on his balanced zoo diet, my phone rings. I eagerly pull it out of my pocket, hoping that the number on the screen is Tyson's.

"Charlie?"

I sigh in relief. It's Tyson, thank God. I was afraid he might just write me off as a good-for-nothing asshole and not call.

"Hey, Tyson," I say into the speaker, smiling a little. "Look, I'm so sorry I had to leave so suddenly...is there some way I can make it up to you? This wasn't just a one-night- one day?- stand, I swear."

Tyson sighs on the other end. "Yeah. I know. Um, I've got plans until about three, but do you want to get dinner tonight or something?"

I nod earnestly as I reply, "Yeah. Sounds good." Then, lest he ask where I live and find out about my tiger, I add, "I'll pick you up. How about five?"

"Sounds good." He coughs awkwardly and then continues, "Uh, if you don't mind me asking, why did you have to leave my place so soon?"

I laugh nervously and say, "Uh, I...okay, honestly, I just got a new...pet, and I forgot to feed him."

Even through the phone, I can tell how much he lit up at the mention of an animal.

"Really?" he asks, his voice squeaking slightly. "That's so sweet of you. Being that dedicated to your...what is it, a dog? Cat?"

I look at Socks, who's busily licking his paws. He is pretty cute, I have to admit. And now that he's eaten, he seems less likely to eat me. Is it weird that I'm actually getting a little attached to this huge feline?

"Cat," I answer finally. "A really, really big cat."

"Aww. You'll have to let me come over and see him. I'm a total animal lover."

I twitch again. "Uh. Yeah. I'm sure you'd love him."

I'm halfway through a sandwich when I hear something clang outside.

Then, a yell of "Free the tiger!" echoes across my lawn.

Oh, fuck.

I pop my head out of the window only to see a group of about thirty people with picket signs parading in front of the gate of my new house. I can't see the signs from here, but I bet they have a bunch of bad animal rights puns on them.

Some more protests from the group reach my ears, so I close the windows. Not sure what to do now, I look at Socks. His yellow eyes are fixated on the window, and his tail is twitching slowly back and forth.

A lightbulb sparks above my head.

"Hey, Socks," I say, squatting down. "Do you wanna go chase some people? Huh?"

He stands up and stalks over to the door, suddenly going motionless. I enter the pass code for the gate into the keypad by the door. When I see the gate start to open as I watch through the window, I open the front door and let Socks out into the yard.

He takes off, tearing across the lawn towards the gate. The protesters scream, and some of them drop their signs in their panic.

Ha. They care this much about animals, yet they run screaming when they see one?

Socks' powerful body is seriously about to plow through the crowd, so I yell, "Hey! Socks! Come here, boy!"

Socks nearly skids to a stop and turns, trotting back towards the house. He rubs against my side when he reaches me.

"Stay," I tell him, feeling a little foolish for giving the command to a frickin' tiger. He obediently lies down and watches as I walk across the lawn.

"Would you all mind getting out of here?" I call. "This is private property, you freaks."

"Holy fuck- Charlie?"

I look through the closely-packed group as I try to identify whoever said my name. Who the hell do I know that would protest me keeping Socks? I mean, everyone I'm close to already knows that I own Socks now, so they wouldn't take part in-

"Tyson?"

Tyson steps awkwardly out from behind a woman with frizzy blond hair. He rubs his neck and then crosses his arms over his purple shirt that has a green paw print on it.

"W-what are you doing here?" he asks me weakly.

"I live here." I jerk my thumb over my shoulder, pointing at the mansion. A few of the protesters scoff and throw me dirty looks, but right now I only care about the confusion on Tyson's face.

"You...you're Stanley McKenna's nephew? The one he...left his pet tiger to?" Tyson whispers, his voice shaking.

Oh, god. I can't believe I picked this guy up, fucked him, and am now facing him as he protests my new pet tiger.

I really seem like the most horrible person ever right now. At least, to him I probably do.

I nod slowly, cringing and waiting to be attacked.

"Why don't you put that poor animal into a zoo where it can be cared for properly and given a suitable habitat?" a woman calls from the middle of the crowd. A few others answer her demands with choruses of "yeah!" and "let him go!" and other similar interjections.

"Look around you. Does he look like he's being mistreated?" I snap.

Socks is rolling happily in the grass behind me, his feet waving in the air. I smile a little and then face the crowd again.

A few people mumble awkwardly, and some of them even nudge each other and jerk their heads towards their respective cars. After some more persuading, I manage to get everyone to leave.

Everyone but Tyson.

He stands in front of me, the disappointment in his eyes clearly visible.

"Fuck, Tyson," I sigh, running a hand through my hair. "I...listen, I know you're probably pissed that I'm going against what you believe or whatever, but..."

"No, it's not that." He shakes his head, that one curled lock of hair swishing from side to side. "I'm just...I'm kind of mad at myself, to tell you the truth."

"Why?" I ask incredulously. "You didn't do anything. I'm the one with a tiger. I'm the one who slept with you this morning and didn't even stay."

Tyson smiles slightly. "I have to say, though I don't approve of the tiger, it was pretty sweet of you to ditch me to go feed him."

I ignore the twisted compliment and instead repeat, "Why are you mad at yourself?"

He shrugs, clasping his hands and twiddling his thumbs idly. "I'm mad because I'm judging you. I mean, I know we just met this morning, but I...really, really like you. And I know I'm part of all of these animal rights groups, but...I mean, you seem like a good guy, but I don't know if I can...be with you if you...have a tiger. As a pet."

My heart starts to deflate.

"Do you want to come meet him?" I ask quietly.

Tyson looks alarmed. "He, uh...is that safe?"

I nod, looking confidently over my shoulder at the tiger. Carefully, Tyson takes a step forward. I slip my hand into his, leading him over to Socks.

"Hey, big guy," Tyson whispers, kneeling down. The knees of his jeans are going to be soaked from the freshly watered grass, but I doubt he cares. Not while he's gently running his fingers over Socks, who lets out a soft growl of appreciation and lies down comfortably.

"He's kinda cute," Tyson says, smiling half-heartedly. "And your uncle just...left him to you?"

"Yeah," I reply weakly. "I swear, I didn't even know he had the thing. I didn't...ask for Socks."

"Socks?" Tyson's lips twitch a little as he tries not to laugh. "That's adorable."

He pets Socks for a few more minutes, while I watch him with a smile on my face. He really is my type of guy.

And the fact that he loves animals makes him seem even cuter, even though I've never really been an animal lover myself.

There's just something about Tyson.

I just hope he changes his mind about me. Because judging by the way he's smiling like an idiot at the tiger, his resolve might be slipping.

Maybe it's just my imagination.

"So," I begin, closing the front door as Tyson and I step onto the porch after putting Socks back in for the night. "I guess I'll...see you around?"

Tyson looks momentarily hurt, but instead of saying anything, he just scuffs his shoe against the tiles of the porch.

"Yeah," he finally agrees, sadness dripping from every letter of the word.

"Unless you'd prefer that I leave you alone because I won't get rid of Socks...?" I add, unsure as to what his pained eyes are trying to say. Truth is, I want to be with Tyson, but I'd understand if he didn't want to be with me because of what he believes.

Finally, though, he shakes his head. "Actually, could we still go out to dinner?"

That catches me totally off-guard, and all I can do is stare at him as he stands before me, biting his lip nervously.

"Are you serious?" I choke out. "But...but...what about Socks? Don't you, like, hate me for having him? Going against your beliefs and shit?"

Tyson nods, but then he shakes his head. He ends up just shaking his head in all directions before he finally tells me, "No. Well, obviously I don't like the fact that you're keeping him, but since I'm all about equal rights for people as well as animals, I don't think I should leave you just because there's one thing that puts me off. That doesn't seem fair. Does it?"

In truth, it does seem fair. I would totally understand if he left me here alone on my porch. I mean, if I fell for a child abuser, I wouldn't date him no matter what, simply because that goes against what I believe.

Sure, I'm definitely not going to abuse Socks- hell, he's grown on me even more in the past hour- but...seriously, I wouldn't date someone who I knew was doing something I didn't support.

But one look at Tyson...Jesus, how can I say no to that face? He's letting this slip because he wants to be with me. I might as well see what happens.

So I nod and take his face into my hands and kiss my weird new animal lover boyfriend.

A/N: So yeah. I had a dream that I had a pet tiger named T2 and I lived in Disneyland with him and the cops were after us and then I went down a waterslide with him. So I turned it into a slash oneshot.

I hope you liked it...yeah. It was about as realistic as a cream cheese wedding dress on a hot summer day.

View and review!

-Ryette