An odd jingling near his seat had Vin flying to his feet.
"What the hell was that?" he asked, looking for the source of the sound. And why can't I place the damn sound?
"What the hell was what?" asked Ezra, having not heard anything.
Vin looked around as he stood in the Southerner's living room, trying to hear the sound again. "I thought I heard something… weird. Like a bell or something." Vin turned in a complete circle where he stood, and slowly sunk back down to the sofa.
"A bell?" the southerner asked, smiling. "I think you're losing it, Vin."
Vin shook his head once, dismissing his thoughts of odd bell ringing fairies or some such nonsense. "Shut up Ezra."
Vin looked sharply at the southerner, who sipped at his drink without a care in the world.
"You had to have heard that!"
"I heard nothing. Maybe you should get your hearing checked." Ezra smirked as he sipped his drink again.
"What's going on?" Vin asked, skeptically.
"Nothing, I assure you…" That damned smirk again.
Vin felt something touch his leg… something hairy. Pulling his feet up in surprise, he not-so-calmly asked, "What the fuck?!"
Ezra outright laughed. Placing his drink on the coffee table, he reached down and grabbed the hairy offender, placing him on the couch between the two men.
"Ez, is that a—?"
"It's rather obvious what it is Vin." Ezra stroked the hairy assailant as the bell on its neck jingled merrily.
"When the hell did you get a kitten?" Vin asked as he put his feet back on the floor and turned to pet the tiny creature. The kitten turned to Vin and squeaked a tiny meow as Vin stroked its head. "He's cute," Vin said through a smile that only kittens can bring out in even the toughest of men.
"Long story," Ezra replied cryptically.
Vin looked at him quizzically. "Long story? When has that ever stopped you?" Vin picked up the kitten and cradled it like a baby. Scratching its chin, he spoke sweetly to it. "Hi there…" The bell on its collar jingled as Vin scratched. "You're so cute, yes you are." Vin looked up from the contented little face to see a disbelieving look on the face of his friend. "What?" he asked.
"Nothing," Ezra tried to hold back the smile that threatened to break through at his friend's behavior with the tiny animal.
"Come on Ez, you know that this face melts you too…" Vin held the kitten under its arms, its rear end dangling precariously over the sofa as it was thrust into the southerner's face. It squeaked a tiny meow in protest.
Ezra just smiled in return as he petted the small dangling kitten.
Vin pulled the baby cat back to the cradle of his arms and asked, "What are you gonna call him?" He pet the kitten's belly, peeking as he did so. "Her."
"I don't know yet. I don't know if I should keep her." Ezra finished his drink and put the empty glass down on the coffee table.
"Why not?" the Texan asked. He was taken with the little thing.
"I don't know if this is the best home for her."
Vin looked up at Ezra and smiled one of his lop-sided smiles. "Ez, it's a cat, not a kid. She'll take care of herself mostly."
Ezra stared at the fuzzy bundle nestled in the crook of his friend's arm. The tiny paws enveloped Vin's hand as it lay on the kitten's chest. The kitten was starting to fall asleep.
"'Sides, you already got her a bell…" Vin added, knowingly.
Busted. And he knew it.
"So where did you get her?"
The rain had seemed endless. Pelting, driving rain… the type you would envision when someone starts a story with 'It was a dark and stormy night…' Definitely not the type of weather one should be out in.
When the rain had finally subsided enough to improve the visibility to a couple of feet, Ezra headed out. All of Team Seven had been gathered at the Saloon after a long week. A week that had ended rather anticlimactically with a meeting about expense reports. It was literally painful. Who ended a week with the most boring meeting possible? Was it punishment? Was it karma? Was it 5 o'clock yet? Was it Miller Time?
After several rounds of cheer, they all broke up their gathering heading for dry land. That or home, whichever was closest. Ezra intended to get home, get dry, and get to sleep. Boring weeks could really take it out of you worse, sometimes, than a week of excitement. The way sleeping too much makes you tired. Go figure.
The smooth ride of the Jag made Ezra appreciate the vehicle every time he drove it. It was a spectacular machine. Ezra wasn't sure of real jaguars purred, but if they did, they would sound like his Jag. Puurrrrrrrrr.
So entranced with the machine, Ezra almost failed to notice the sinkhole that had apparently opened up in the pavement before him. Stomping on his brakes, the Jag quit its delicate purr and stopped. Even though the driving rain was letting up, now not so much in sheets or buckets, it was still coming down at a good clip. Ezra got out of the car, flipping his collar up and turning on his hazard lights as he did. Approaching the edge of the impressive sink hole, Ezra looked in. It was only about two or three feet deep, but was about as wide as a yard or so. No one was stuck in it, nobody was encumbered by it, and the Jag now blocked it from any further accidents. Pulling out his cell phone, Ezra turned back to the Jag and called it in to the local police to that they could cordon off the street and notify whoever it was they notified for sinkholes.
Not entirely knowing why he did so, Ezra found himself looking at the end of the alley facing the driver's side of the car. Two glowing eyes shone back at him from an otherwise empty box sitting on top of a trash barrel. Finishing his phone call, Ezra trudged towards the creature. 'Probably something wretched, like a raccoon or something,' he thought to himself. But still he was drawn to it. The shining eyes blinked once, twice, and the head housing those eyes cocked to the side, curious as to its new visitor.
Coming closer, Ezra could see a small kitten huddling in the box, looking cold and miserable, head cocked slightly like a puppy would do upon hearing "cookie?"
"What have we got here?" Ezra soothed as he squatted down and came to eye level with the small critter. What was it about animals that could make the southerner place his face at the only egress of a box that housed an animal capable of defending itself with sharp claws? Sad little eyes. That's what.
"Come here you…" Ezra said as he slowly reached into the box, finding a tiny wet head that welcomed the affection. Scooping the kitten up and scanning the area for any other lost soul, Ezra pulled his jacket open and tucked the wet kitten inside, then shuffled off to his car to wait for the cruiser that would be coming shortly.
Once back in the driver's seat, Ezra turned the heat on to help warm himself and the small furball. The kitten was young. Not newborn, clearly, but probably should still be with its mother. "Where did you come from?" Ezra asked the kitten in a gentle voice, not expecting an answer. Holding it under its arms, he raised the kitten to be eye level with him. Its green eyes looked at him curiously. Its wet fur clung to its small frame, making it look very much like a wet rat. It was black and white, but had some patched of orange tabby mixed in as well. Ezra held it to his chest, offering as much warmth as possible. "We'll get you home and dry…"
Once the cruiser had arrived, Ezra resumed his drive home. The kitten squirmed and squeaked, not liking the car ride at all. More than once, Ezra wondered why he had picked up a stray, a stray who could be infested with fleas and god knew what else, but the poor thing deserved a warm reprieve from its cardboard shelter.
Pulling into his townhouse's driveway, Ezra killed the engine and gathered the now slightly less wet bundle of fur under his jacket and dashed for the front door. Entering and closing the door behind himself quickly, he headed for the kitchen. He placed the kitten on the counter, and it shook like a puppy, trying to rid itself of the excess water bogging down its fur. It then sat and started to lick itself free of the remaining water, starting with its tiny front paw.
Once he was sure that the kitten wouldn't try to base jump off the counter the minute he turned away, Ezra removed his jacket and slung it over the back of one of the kitchen chairs. Looking back, the kitten was fully engrossed with its own foot. Ezra shook his head slightly, and turned to see if there was anything to feed the little critter. Finding only a can of tuna, he opened it and presented it to the preening feline. Still licking one of its feet, it turned its eyes towards the offering and halted its licking. Sniffing the air, obviously interested, it forgot to suck its tongue all the way back into its mouth, leaving the tip of the rough pink muscle visible. Ezra chuckled. What a silly little thing.
Finding a clean dishtowel, Ezra gave the fluffball a quick onceover, ridding the kitten of whatever excess water he could. The kitten paid him no mind, having found the tuna and started feasting. Tuna apparently tastes better than feet.
"So you picked up a stray?" Vin asked to clarify.
"More or less," Ezra conceded.
"Coulda just said that," Vin added, chuckling. The kitten was out like a light in his arms, and he was enjoying the feeling of her sleeping.
"I suppose I could have." Ezra smiled at the little thing.
"So what's her name?" Vin asked, looking up from the small fluffball sleeping contentedly on him.
"I don't know yet. I've been calling her 'kitten'," Ezra answered.
"She'll outgrow that quick," Vin stated.
Ezra smiled. "How about Tye?"
"Found her in a ty-phoon."
Vin nodded as he kicked the name about in his head. "I like it." Smiling, he added, "It's better than 'Trashcan.'"