"But why Daddy?" Brandon pouted from the backseat, where he was seated beside his kitty, on his way to daycare. Cleo hid in the back of her carrier, and released another pained yowl, as she had been doing the whole trip.
"Because we don't want Cleo to have babies." Matt struggled to explain spaying a cat to his six year-old son.
"But, what if she wants to have babies?" The little boy's expression was very serious now, concerned as he was for his pet's well-being.
"Bran, she'll be fine." Matt had been arguing the same points for a week now, after they made the appointment for her operation, scheduled today.
"What if she wants to have babies Daddy? Won't it make her sad if she can't?"
"What makes you think she'd be upset if she can't have babies?" Honestly, sometimes he couldn't figure out where his son got these ideas from.
"It makes Mommy sad." Brandon said it so matter-of-factly, Matt nearly swerved off the road.
"Uh, why do you say that?" It was true, they'd been trying for two and a half years to have another baby, with no success. It hurt them both, though Emily tended to put most of the blame on herself, no matter what he told her.
"I heard her talking to Aunt Lia, and she's sad Daddy. She said you are too." The little boy's stressed voice matched his face scrunched in worry.
Matt felt a sweat break out on his forehead. There were so many things he loved about his wife that he would love to have passed to his child, but seriously, did he have to get her intelligence?
"That's true buddy, me and Mommy want to give you a little brother or sister, but it's different with Cleo."
"Because she's a cat," Matt tried, unsuccessfully judging by his son's unconvinced expression. "Okay, if we let her have babies, we'd have to give them away eventually, and don't you think that would make her sadder?" Oh, for god's sake, please buy that, Matt pled silently.
Brandon bit his lip, pondering this, turned to the little cat, and back to the front of the car. "Okay."
Matt sighed in relief. Next time it was Emily's turn to have one of these discussions.
Over the last four months Cleo had become a important part of their family, and had grown a bit too big to hide in Matt's shirts. She had grown into her ears slightly, but her eyes were still big as ever, and her longish fur had become ever longer. She had also learned the hard way that a closed door meant that it was not a good time to snuggle with Matt and Emily. One night, eager to take her place snoozing against them, she'd pushed the not quite closed door open a smidgen, and skulked in, only to find that the bed wasn't quite stable. Her owners were moving around rather enthusiastically, and nearly quashed her when she tried to jump up on the bed. She discovered those nights were best spent on Brandon's bed, even if he did tend to squeeze her a bit tightly.
Otherwise, the little calico was spoiled rotten with treats, toys, frequent combings, and whatever lap she wanted. Emily even had yet to find any surprises on the floors or furniture. She was an energetic kitten and could keep up with Brandon easily, and hadn't scratched or bitten him yet. But, her clear favorite among her new family was Matt. Spending her first couple weeks cowering in his shirts in fear created a bond, and the kitten frequently squeaked at him for attention. This of course, amused Emily to no end. One night Matt didn't come home until the early morning, a negotiation keeping him out, and Cleo had cried at the door half the night, clearly worried.
Emily just had to share this with all their friends, as she had the first picture she took of Cleo in his shirt. Lia and Cheryl cooed, while Frank and Duff laughed at him. Matt rolled his eyes and struggled to explain that she was just scared, and found him less threatening than an off-the-wall six year-old. His rationalization just made the guys laugh harder. Macho man negotiator snuggled up with a tiny little kitten.
"Em, you are not going to believe what Brandon said to me this morning," Matt announced, walking into the office after dropping off Brandon at daycare and Cleo at the vet. They'd decided he would do drop-offs and arrive a little late, and she would leave a little early to do pick-ups.
"Is he still worried about Cleo?" She asked, halting her conversation with Lia and Cheryl.
"Oh, not just Cleo."
Wrinkles of confusion formed in her brow, as she tried to figure out what he meant to no avail.
"He's worried that if Cleo can't have babies, it will make her sad, because it makes you sad." Their friends knew they had been trying to have another baby, and couldn't, so he had no problem discussing it in front of them.
"That is too cute," Cheryl told him.
"That is maybe the sweetest thing I ever heard, he's worried about you," Lia cooed at Emily.
Emily was slightly speechless for a moment, they had never even mentioned they wanted a baby to Brandon. "Why does he think that?"
"He told me he heard you and Lia talking. You were sad, and said I was sad."
"What did you tell him?" She was still trying to wrap her mind around how Brandon managed to pick so much up from the snippets of conversation he heard.
"That he's right we do want a baby…but that Cleo would be more upset if we let her have babies, and then took them away. He seemed satisfied by that," he reassured Emily.
Emily shook her head, the corners of her lips turned up slightly, "god Matt, what are we going to do with him?"
Matt help up his hands, "don't ask me, he got his brains from you."
"Has he asked you two where babies come from yet?" Cheryl wondered.
"No, but he probably will soon though," Matt answered, his face paling slightly at the thought.
"Don't even think that Matt, I'm not ready to think up an answer for that yet."
"Well, we could always say the stork brings them." He shrugged, resigned to the impending conversation.
"You really think Brandon is going to believe that?"
Matt laughed, "probably not."
Later that day, Emily went to pick up Cleo from the vet. She had called that afternoon to make sure she'd gotten through the surgery fine, even if it was a procedure they'd done a thousand times. According to the vet, Cleo was fine, the perfect patient, and at that time, still in a drug induced sleep. Emily and Matt still worried though, they gotten attached to her quick, as had Brandon.
"Hi, I'm here to pick up Cleo, we dropped her off this morning to get spayed," she explained to the receptionist.
"Okay, let's see…the bill is $79.15, and I'll just go grab her." She smiled and took the case Emily offered, as the negotiator pulled a credit card from her wallet.
Minutes later the receptionist returned with the calico kitten, and handed her off to Emily, so she could run the card.
"Hey Cleo," Emily greeted her, opening the cage to pet her.
Cleo glared at her, and stayed cowered in the back of the cage. Emily reached her hand in, but the cat swatted it away, and continued to glare, betrayal burning in her eyes. Emily just shook her head, and closed the cage; in time Cleo would forget her anger, and remember who feeds her.
She signed the receipt, collected her card, and left the vet's office, on her way now to pick up Brandon.
Cleo was silent the twenty minute drive to the daycare center, seeming to give Emily the silent treatment. Emily peered into the backseat, and checked on her before walking into the daycare.
"Hey Alicia, how was Brandon today?" Emily asked, grabbing his things from his cubby.
"A pip, as always." She smiled, and offered a sympathetic look, "but there is one thing you should know about."
"Oh yeah?" Emily didn't like the sound of that.
"Well, during outdoor play, he came over to us, wearing that very serious expression he sometimes gets, and asked us where people get babies."
"Yeah, said he wanted to get one for his Mommy and Daddy, because they want one, and can't have one."
Emily covered her mouth, a slight blush appearing on her cheeks, trust a child to spill personal information.
"We told him that he really needed to talk to you and Matt about that."
"No problem…we didn't realize you and Matt were trying for another baby?"
"Yeah, have been for a while, doesn't look like it's going to happen," Emily answered quickly, signing Brandon out, and avoiding eye contact. After two and a half years of disappointment, it was very painful to talk about with all but their closest friends. They'd pretty much given up anyway.
"Mommy, Mommy!" Brandon cried at seeing her, charging right up and grabbing her legs.
"Hey sweetie, did you have a good day?" She squatted down to look at him.
"Yeah, made glitter pictures at school today!" His dimples shown through his huge smile.
"That's great, did you get to take it home?"
"No, they have to dry…Mommy? Is Cleo okay?" His expressive eyes dimmed slightly, his brow furrowing in concern for his kitten.
"She's fine, in fact she's the car waiting for us."
"Yay! Yay!" His eyes lit up again, as he grabbed Emily's hand, and proceeded to drag her out the door.
"Bye Alicia!" Emily called over her shoulder, half laughing at her son.
Emily got him settled in the car, before squatting once again to look at her. "Can you do something for me buddy?"
He nodded enthusiastically, pulling his attention away from Cleo, who sat unhappily in her cage.
"Since Cleo had to get an operation, her belly is very sore, so no picking her up for a couple days okay?"
"Okay Mommy, did they give her medicine to make her feel better?"
"They gave her something at the Vet's office, so she's okay now."
"And, she'll be better soon?"
"Yes sweetie, real soon, but for now you have to be really gentle with her. You remember we talked about that?"
"Yeah, I'm good at being gentle, right mommy?" After two weeks of scaring Cleo, he'd finally learned how to go easy with her, and had been very proud of himself.
"Yes, you are, very good. Now, you want to go see Daddy and all your aunts and uncles?"
"Yeah! Yeah!" He cried, practically jumping in his seat.
Emily closed the door and got into the driver's seat, and pulling away from the daycare, back toward the Bureau.
"So, Miss Alicia told me you had a question today?" Might as well get it over sooner than later, she thought.
"Yeah, where do people get babies? I want to get you and Daddy one."
Emily grinned at his innocence. "Well, that's very sweet Bran, but only Mommies and Daddies can make babies."
"How do they make babies?" He wore his serious expression again, the one he always wore when he was trying to understand something.
"Well, they have to love each other very much, and all that love makes a baby." There, that sounded pretty good, not really a lie either.
"But you and Daddy love each other very much, how come you can't make a baby?" He was nibbling his lip, confusion painted on his face.
"We did make a baby though, we made you." She glanced into her rearview, smiling at him.
"But, how come you can't make another?" The kid just didn't miss a beat.
"Because…" Oh, how was she going to explain this? "Sometimes it just doesn't work," she sighed.
"But why?" And, the endless unanswerable questions begin.
"It's just one of those things, Brandon." At that moment both mother and child were nibbling their lower lips, painting a picture any geneticist would appreciate.
"That's not fair." He sat back in his seat, a deep pout forming from his lips, as his eyes wandered to the window.
"No, I suppose not. But, you know what?"
He looked forward again.
"You are all we really need."
Brandon sat silently for a minute, pondering his mother's words. "I love you Mommy."
"I love you too, baby."
"Aunt Lia!" A little boy with messy black hair, and a huge dimpled grin ran at her, and jumped into her arms.
"Whoa! Hey Brandon, you're getting too big for me to pick up," Lia laughed as she set him back on the ground.
"Aunt Lia?" He asked, as Emily finally caught up, resting the carrying case with Cleo inside on her desk. Cheryl glanced in the cage, saw the cowering kitten, and feeling sorry for her, opened the latch. She stuck her hand in half way to let Cleo sniff it, and allowed the no longer angry cat come to her. The kitten rubbed against her hand, and Cheryl laughed as she began stroking her fur.
"Yeah?" Lia squatted down to talk to answer Brandon.
"You and Uncle Duff love each other a lot, right?"
"Yes, we do. Why?" She wasn't sure if she liked where this was going.
"Are you and Uncle Duff going to make a baby?" The child had impeccable timing. Lia's jaw hit the floor, followed shortly by Cheryl's, and Matt's, who'd just walked in with Duff and Frank. Every ounce of color drained from Duff's face, as Emily covered her's in horror, and Frank burst out laughing.
"Uh Brandon, that's between Uncle Duff and Aunt Lia," Matt hushed his son.
"Daddy!" He threw his arms around his father's neck, as Matt bent to pick him up.
"Sorry guys," Emily told Lia and Duff sheepishly. The couple had spent the last few years breaking up and making up, until Duff finally ended the cycle with an engagement ring. They'd only been married about a year, and were taking things very slowly.
Lia shook herself out of her shock, "don't worry about it."
"You alright man? You look like you might pass out?" Frank asked Duff, still laughing.
"Yeah fine," he nodded absently, color beginning to return to his face. Lia shot him a look that suggested she was as freaked by the idea as he was.
"How's Cleo?" Matt turned to Emily, who still looked a bit mortified.
"She fines physically, not really happy with us though." She commented, just as they turned to see Cheryl still petting the now purring Cleo.
"Well, I suppose she isn't mad at everyone."
"Hey Daddy, that's what we can get Aunt Cheryl for her birthday, a kitty!" Brandon squealed in excitement.
"What?" Cheryl's head popped up from watching the cat, as the rest of the group broke out laughing. Matt and Emily had been trying to figure out what to get her the last two weeks.
"That's not a bad idea Bran, what do you think Cheryl, you want a kitten?" Matt teased her.
She smirked at Matt, "Yes."
Her friends all wore identical expressions of surprise.
"What? Trey is gone so often on business trips, I need some company." She had been married to Trey for four and a half years, and though she was crazy in love with him, the lawyer's frequent trips to visit clients in Northern California were starting to wear on her.
"You sure you wouldn't prefer a dog?" Frank asked.
"Why would I want a dog?" Cheryl didn't have the same issues with dogs as Matt, but wasn't particularly fond of the animals.
"Uh, cause they're man's best friend?" Frank's clear preference was for a dog, and the question seemed to throw him off.
"I'm a woman."
"Frank! Brandon!" Emily scolded him.
"Right, sorry. Dogs make better companions, they're loyal and affectionate."
"Really? I should have dated dogs instead of men in college," Cheryl smirked, and earned giggles from Lia and Emily, smiles from the guys, and a confused expression from Brandon.
"Why would you date a dog Aunt Cheryl?" He chewed on his bottom lip, struggling with the idea.
"It was just a joke Bran, I wouldn't date a dog."
"Oh…" He still didn't get it.
"Okay, so kitten it is," Emily brought them back to the topic. "You remember where that shelter is Matt?" she asked, still not quite believing that Cheryl wanted a kitten for her birthday, a request more likely to come from a little kid, like Brandon.
"Yeah-" He was cutoff by a ringing phone, as all six adults jumped to check theirs. Cheryl won, yanking the excited device from her pocket and answering in her traditional manner.
"Right, thanks," she answered before finally hanging up, and turning back to the group.
She looked at Matt and Emily, "who's on tonight?"
"That would be me," Matt told her, shifting Brandon to his other hip so he see her easier.
"Just got a call, I need you at Palmbrook School for Boys."
"The school for delinquents?"
"The same," she gestured to Brandon as a sign that she didn't want to talk in front of him. Emily grabbed him from Matt, and walked toward Lia.
"15 year-old boy got a hold of a gun somehow, and is on the roof of the dorms ready to pull the trigger. His twin younger brothers were sentenced there with him, and are on the roof beside him, crying. Grab your partner, we have to move now."
"Got it." Matt nodded, sent a page to Joe Binder, and went over to Emily.
"Okay Brandon, give Daddy a hug and kiss, and say goodnight, he has to work now," she instructed him, knowing he'd be disappointed.
"Why do you have to work now Daddy, you were working all day?" Brandon whined.
"You know how this works Bran, we have to work whenever a bad guy needs someone to talk to." So maybe a fifteen year-old high-risk suicide wasn't a bad guy, but Brandon wouldn't understand the difference.
"Okay…goodnight Daddy," he wrapped his little arms around Matt's neck, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Goodnight buddy, be good for Mommy tonight."
"I will Daddy." The child looked a bit dejected as he wandered over to Cleo's cage.
"Hey Brandon," Frank called him. "What do we do to bad guys?"
"Boom! Boom! Boom!" Brandon called gleefully, pointing his right index finger like a gun, in a routine the two had practiced often.
Matt and Emily rolled their eyes. "You're going to buy my son his first girly magazine aren't you?" Matt asked, careful not to say porn in front of Brandon.
"Unless you beat me to it," Frank grinned.
"Brandon sweetie, time for bed," Emily called softly to her sleeping son, before shaking him gently.
"I don't want to sleep Mommy, I want to watch the rest of the movie," he mumbled, groggily, blinking his eyes awake. She let him stay up late and watch a movie to make up for the disappointment of his daddy being stuck at work.
"You have school tomorrow, and I have work. Come on, into the bathroom, brush your teeth." She sent him scurrying down the hall, before going to check on Cleo.
She had not been a happy cat when they got home, contrary to the affection she showed Cheryl. She strutted angrily from her carrier, shot a glare at Emily, and hid curled up in the bottom of the bedroom closet. Cleo didn't even come out for dinner, intent as she was at making Emily feel guilty. Emily peeked her head in the closet, and seeing the kitten still passed out on the floor, left to go check on her son.
"How's it going Bran?"
He flashed her a huge smile exposing every one of his just cleaned teeth, and tossed his frog toothbrush back in it's holder.
"Good job," she high-fived him, something Matt had started with him, and followed him into his room.
"Can I wear my cars Mommy?"
"They need to be washed, how about your dinosaur pajamas?"
"Yeah!" He cried enthusiastically, grabbing the clothing his mother held out, and pulling his own off.
"Okay, how about The Velveteen Rabbit tonight?" She asked browsing his little shelf of books, stopping on his favorite book.
He bit his lip and shook his head, "the mouses."
"Mice sweetie," she told him, grabbing the Merry Mouse Book of Favorite Poems.
She didn't even get half way through when his eyes closed for the night. Emily slid the book back on the shelf, and yawned tiredly. How he had so much energy, she'd never know. Ten minutes later, teeth brushed and her own night clothes on, Emily fell into bed.
She grabbed her cell phone from the nightstand, and hit speed dial three, waiting less than a ring before the Analyst picked up her phone.
"Hey Lia, how's it going?"
"Messy, but there's progress."
"As it turns out the kid threatening to kill himself has been taking a lot of abuse from his fellow juvenile offenders, to protect his brothers. Messed him up pretty good, but I think he'll give in soon."
"Poor kid…are his brothers still up there with him?"
"Yes, but they are off to the side, with Duff, out of harms way. He was only too glad to get them safe, just wants to hurt himself."
"Matt's talking to him?"
"Yeah, and he's fine. This is a hard one, but he's keeping it together." These phone calls had become a tradition with the couple. Whenever one was negotiating, the other would call after putting Brandon to bed, and see how they were doing. If Lia hadn't been their friend, she might have found it annoying, but since she was, she just found it to be very sweet.
"I'll let you go then, goodnight Lia."
"Night," she replied, before hanging up. Emily tossed her phone back on the nightstand, and grabbed the book she'd been reading. Her eyes began to droop just before eleven, so she shut the novel, turned off the light, and shimmied under the covers.
The sudden darkness alerted Cleo, who blinked awake from her spot in the bottom of the closet to see what was going on. After realizing it was only bedtime, she snuggled further into the carpet, and closed her eyes again. She woke again moments later, by the nighttime chill, and knowledge that the carpet was only comfortable for so long. Deciding to forgive Emily, she crawled out of the closet and over to the bed, where she sat a minute staring up at the comfortable bed. Then she adjusted her position, and wiggled her butt in preparation for a jump. It hurt, and she was reminded why she was angry at the figure on the bed. Nevertheless, more in need of Emily's comforting form, than her grudge, she stretched herself to stand on her back legs. Her paws on the side of the bed, big eyes staring upward with a look of desperation, she cried loudly several times.
Emily stirred at the noise, and pulled herself up to look over the bed. There was Cleo, looking much the way she had the first day they got her, and Emily found herself as suckered by the adorable face.
"What's wrong Cleo, you want to come up?" She asked groggily.
The kitten mewed again.
"Okay, okay, come here." Emily lifted her on to the bed, careful to be gentle with her, and avoid touching her stitches.
Cleo sat on her feet, and offered Emily an accusatory look.
"I know, I'm sorry, it had to be done. I know how you feel, we didn't ask you if you wanted kittens in the future, and that's not really fair," Emily explained, projecting her own misery on the cat, who was likely just pissed because they let people cut her open.
"I'm sorry that you can't have babies anymore Cleo, I really am, I know how much that hurts," she whispered softly to the cat, stroking her soft fur.
Cleo's betrayed expression faded, replaced with a look of sadness, almost sympathy. She got back onto her feet, and went toward Emily's waist, turning twice, before curling up in the crook of her stomach.
Emily stroked her head a few more times, before finally resting back on her pillow, convinced that she'd been forgiven. She heard the cat begin to purr as her eyes were closing, and wished her pain would subside that quickly.
I got this idea while I was finishing up Cleo, and liked it, so I figured I'd write a sequel. Thanks for reading and reviewing!