Velita the First
Velita the First was the first cat that Maran and Nanatu adopted after Nanatu's decision to temporarily return to Araki. Velita was a stunning black and white cat with some of the largest paws a person had ever seen. He primarily used those paws to scratch at his parents' bathroom door and swat at their feathers. He also prided himself on his ability to catch mice and sucker even the most hard-hearted of sailors into sharing their snacks. Many cats would come after him, bearing the same name, but he would always have a place of honor in the hearts of his owners.
Nanatu comes home and announces one day, “I want a cat!” The lump on the couch that is Maran underneath the blankets is quiet. “Marie?” “… What do you want one of those for?” “They’re cute.” “Get some fish,” Maran replies, gravely contradictory. “They’re cuter and come in a lot of colors.” “We can also get you some fish, sea-man, but I want a pretty calico cat.” An argument is had, that inevitably ends in plans to get Nanatu a cat. Oh, no. Not by her own merit, of course not, but because she calls Jon. “Hiya, Jon!” “What are you calling Jon for?!” Maran asks, the picture of a harried husband. “Do you and Harper like cats?” Nanatu ignores him, the picture of a determined wife. “Yes!” Jon replies, happily. “I love cats! I was a vet before I retired, and cats were…” Nanatu allows Jon to reminisce about the cats he has treated, even though she knows that he was a vet and has heard most of the stories already. “So," Eve drawls, indicating that she's changing the subject. "I guess we’ll start living together next month, huh?” “Yup,” Jon agrees. “Would it bother you if your dad and I got a cat?” “Not at all!” Jon replies, instantly and with pleasure, and just as quickly suggests a shelter. When Nanatu hangs up, she declares, “I win.” "You bitch!" "Come again?" Nanatu replies with a sharp smile. "Fine!" Maran groans, kicking off his blankets. "Fine, you win. Let's go get your clown ass a damned cat.” "Wait, now?"
"Sorry, we don't have any calico cats right now..." "Aw..." "No calico cats?!" Maran whoops in victory. "I'm free!" "... But I can gladly show you our current residents!" the shelter employee offers while giving Maran the stink eye. "Yes, please." Maran dutifully follows behind his wife and the shelter employee, embarrassed now at his performative outburst in front of a stranger. Almost at the end of an otherwise politely short tour of the shelter cats, one of the kittens that Nanatu approaches hisses like its life depends on scaring her. Nanatu trills, reflexively. The hiss becomes a meow. "Prrt? Prrrrrrrt?" Nanatu replies, automatically. The kitten charges up to the cage, revealing its adorable black and white face. “Aw, I see someone’s a natural cat mama!” “Wait, what? What did I do?” Nanatu asks, alarmed while the employee lifts the kitten out of the cage and hands it over for her to hold. Maran stands back, sideswept and red-faced. "So fucking cute," Maran whispers to himself, hands over face while he gets ahold of himself enough to join the fray. Curious, Maran mimics Nanatu's trills. The kitten climbs up his thankfully sleeved arm to sit on his shoulder to inspect him closer. It must like what it found, because it purrs with its wet nose in his ear. “I’ve got a name for her,” Nanatu says. “We haven’t agreed to adopt her.” “… That’s a male kitten,” the shelter employee interrupts, apologetically. “Vela is our last name,” Maran supplies. “A-ha! Never mind, how cute!” Maran huffs and puffs, but his heart melts. Wife and cat see right through it. Then, Velita bats at one of Maran's hair-feathers. Nanatu rescues him, and they both note the feather toy hanging from her cage with dread for their future. They go home with a kitten, who instantly claims his spot of honor between them in bed that night.
Jon hugs his father tight. "Hi, captain." "That's dad when we're on land, Jonny," Maran rumbles, hand reaching up to hold the back of Jon's greyed head. They sway together, in the same way Maran would rock Jon back and forth in his arms when he was a child. "Grandpa!" Harper whines, having enough of their hugfest. "Where's Velita?!" "In the car with Nana," Maran sighs. "Oh, right!" Jon gasps and parts, relief and happiness in his eyes making Maran dizzy with grief over lost time. "Show us the way, dad, I assume she'll stay in your room for a few nights while she settles in..." "I assume you mean the male cat and not my wife?" Jon rolls his eyes. And so, Velita takes over the show.No one was more excited for the move into the new house and the new aquarium than Velita. After all, he 1) had doubled the number of laps he could sit in overnight and 2) had always wanted his own personal television that played the cat entertainment channel all day long. While he would only tolerate sleeping in bed with Maran and Nanatu at night, his parents, he also adopted Jon and Harper into his feline heart. Jon was a sucker for giving him snacks and knew just where to scratch him. Harper, meanwhile, played with him the most. They'd spend nearly an hour together every day, both entranced by Velita's feather toy that Maran repeatedly hid behind Harper's back and Harper religiously replaced behind Maran's back in kind.
Harper tears through the living room and out the door before Jon can finish the sentence: "Harp, want some lunch?" Jon sighs. Kids, always in a rush. Instead of chatting with Harper, he hums to himself as grills his daily, fresh fish lunch. Something tugs at his pant leg. "Almost done, Velita," Jon hums, a smile now tugging at the corners of his lips. "You know the rules." He meows, doing his best impression of a starving stray, until Jon settles down in his sunchair. Jon pats his lap. "C'mere." Velita jumps on his lap. In exchange for pieces of his lunch, Velita 'allows' him to scritch behind his ears, just where he likes it .
.He hated the water at first, but quickly found his sea legs as he prowled the ship hunting for mice and snacking sailors. During this same year, Velita and the female, full-time ship cat had kittens. The mother and four kittens were spread out amongst the crew at the end of the season. Harper chose one kitten to bring home with him and named her Velita the Second. Velita's daughter and protégé followed the family home on land and aboard the ship season after season. Most importantly, however, Velita the First was there for Harper in the roughest years after his father's death. He missed Jon, too. He understood about as well as a cat could possibly, or enough to vacate his well-worn spot between Maran and Nanatu to permanently join Harper's side.
Velita curls up across Harper's chest. Harper meant to relax and fall asleep to Velita's comforting weight and idle purrs, he really did. He scratches behind Velita's ears and dissolves into tears instead. Velita waits to lick the salty evidence of Harper's outburst from its fur until after Harper falls asleep.
.Every cat owned by Maran and Nanatu, even hundreds of years later, will trace its ancestry back to Velita the First and the female shipcat.