JAG and it's characters aren't mine, I'm not making any profit off of this, just having a little fun. Hope you find it fun, too.
I knew she was trouble from the first moment I laid eyes on her. I knew that I should have turned around and walked away.
But I didn't.
What would you do, if the main man in your life wanted to bring another woman into the picture? Could you really break his heart by refusing?
And why am I talking like an old dime store detective novel?
It all started innocently enough. It was a Monday morning. There was a hint of spring in the air…not enough for full-fledged spring fever or to risk leaving the house without a jacket, but enough to give hope that another blustery winter might be breathing its last.
The Admiral and I were wrapping up our regular morning meeting where we discussed the progress of current cases and assignments. I must admit I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Admiral Chegwidden seemed satisfied by my performance as his chief of staff, and he is not an easy man to satisfy.
He made a few more comments, then closed the last file.
"That looks like everything, Colonel," he concluded, finally looking up at me.
"Yes, sir," I said as I stood. "I'll get started on this right away," I told him, indicating the notes I had taken during our discussion.
Before I could turn to leave, he called out to me.
"One more thing, Colonel," he added, reaching for another file. "It appears that you have quite a bit of leave time accumulated."
I wondered where this could be going. "Yes, sir. I suppose I do."
"Any plans to use it soon?"
"Not really," I shrugged.
He looked at me over the top of his glasses. "I would strongly suggest that you start to use some of it soon. Take it from someone who's been there, you don't want to find yourself in a position where you suddenly have to take a whole week off. I think it would probably be easier to take it a day here and a day there."
I managed not to sigh, though I knew that the term 'strongly suggest' could more accurately be interpreted 'order' when it came from an admiral in the US Navy.
"I'll do that, sir," I told him.
He wasn't letting me off that easily though.
"How about next Friday?"
"Friday?" I gulped.
"Fridays are usually pretty quiet around here. Take the day and enjoy yourself. Get an early start on your spring cleaning," he encouraged.
I tried hard to come up with some reason why I couldn't take that day off, but my traitorous mind refused to present one single, believable excuse.
"Yes, sir," I finally acquiesced. "Friday sounds good."
"Good. That's settled then. I'll have Tiner put it on the books." He nodded to dismiss me, then turned his attention back to his desk.
Over the next two weeks, I hoped and prayed desperately that something would happen so that I wouldn't have to take the day off. The truth is, I don't particularly enjoy days off.
I really enjoy my work, and I'm good at it, if I do say so myself. I have the respect of my coworkers and I feel like a success.
At home? At home, I'm alone, constantly reminded of the complete and utter failure of every personal relationship I have ever been involved in since the day I was born.
I mean, look at me. What is the first relationship a child ever has? The one with it's mother, right? Well, my mother walked out when I was just a kid. I've spoken with her maybe a half a dozen time since then. I currently have no idea where she even is. What does that say about my relationship abilities?
When Friday rolled around, the weather was a perfect match for my mood. It was dreary and drizzly, a misty fog forming halos around the lights. I still had no real plans for the day, but I could cross nude sunbathing and a Potomac swim off the list of possibilities.
Jingo finally wandered in to the bedroom, gently nuzzling my hand before pulling the covers down. I guess it was time for me to get up.
"Hey, boy," I asked him. "How would you like an extra long walk this morning? I don't have to go to work, so we can head for the park and let you look for squirrels to chase."
He barked happily and I rolled out of bed, quickly pulling on a sweat suit and running shoes. I grabbed a light rain jacket, my keys, and his leash, and we headed out, the big hound prancing happily along at my side.
When we reached the park, I unsnapped his leash. He looked up at me a moment, confusion on his face. Our morning runs were usually hurried and didn't involve removing the leash. After some petting and a few encouraging words, he finally loped off to explore the trees and bushes. I kept a close eye on him as I did some stretches and pondered what to do with the rest of my day.
Let's see…there are always the museums…the shopping mall…or I could simply spend the day vegging with a good book and a cup of coffee.
Jingo's excited bark drew my attention back. He was under some bushes and was eagerly digging through the collected leaves. When he finally turned towards me, I could see something small and furry hanging from his clenched jaws. He started towards me.
"No, Jingo," I told him sternly. "Put it down."
There was no telling what kind of dead varmint he had found and I certainly didn't want him bringing it to me.
He stopped, but didn't drop it.
"Put it down," I told him again.
He finally did, but then lay down next to it, looking up at me and whining softly. I recognized the hurt look in his eyes. He thought I was rejecting his gift.
I sighed. After some of the things I had done for my country, I supposed I could spend a few moments holding a dead squirrel for the one man in my life who hadn't broken a promise to me.
I knelt down in the damp grass. "Okay, Jingo, bring it here."
With a wag of his tail, he jumped up and carefully retrieved his burden. When he proudly placed it in my outstretched hands, I realized two things.
First of all, it wasn't dead. I felt the thing move slightly. As visions of rabies shots ran through my mind, it raised it's head and I had my second realization.
It was a cat.
A little, tiny, kitten, barely as big as the palm of my hand.
Jingo licked it carefully and then looked up at me again. It was the same look that little AJ gives me when he asks if he can 'dwive you caw.' That's the look that usually ends up with me sitting and holding him in my lap as he spins the wheel of the corvette and makes engine revving noises.
"Oh, no, Jingo," I told him. "We can't possibly keep a kitten."
He looked at me again and whined softly. I took a closer look at the thing in my hands. It was soaked and shivering, it's fur plastered against it's thin body, making it look even smaller. It's eyes were matted and runny with greenish mucus and as I pondered what to do, it sneezed. In spite of everything, though, it reached out a tiny paw and took a swipe at my hand.
"Still fighting, huh?" I asked it in amusement.
Jingo nuzzled it, then me, that pleading look still in his eyes.
"Okay," I finally relented. "We can't keep her, but we can at least take her to the shelter. We certainly can't leave her here."
Quickly, she was wrapped in the tail of my sweat shirt and we headed back home to retrieve the car. As we drove to the shelter, I glanced into the back seat. My dog was lying on the seat, the towel wrapped bundle of kitten sheltered between his front paws. To me, the small, muffled noises he made seemed almost comforting. Somehow, I found myself turning the wrong direction, heading towards the veterinarian's office rather than the animal shelter.
"Don't get any ideas, you two," I told them. "I figure the least we can do is to get her checked over before we drop her off at the shelter. After all, I barely have enough time for you, Jingo. It certainly wouldn't be fair to either one of you to take on a cat as well."
I explained the same thing to the vet, Dr. Rachel Carson, when we got there. She listened carefully and nodded in all the right places as she examined the tiny kitten under Jingo's watchful eye. He gently licked her and made sympathetic whining noises as they drew blood, took a stool sample, and cleaned gobs of black gunk out of her ears. While the technician went down the hall to the lab, the vet finally turned her attention to me.
"Actually, Colonel MacKenzie, it might not be such a bad idea to have another animal. As you said, you work long hours and often have to travel. Another pet would keep Jingo from getting so lonely when you're not there. It might also sort of give him a sense of purpose, since he already seems to feel such a responsibility for her," she told me, watching as the dog proceeded to give the kitten a thorough tongue bath, whether she liked it or not. When he finished, he carefully picked her up by the scruff of the neck and deposited her back in my lap.
Dr. Carson laughed and leaned over to give him the kind of scratch behind the ears that he absolutely loves. She did a quick, cursory exam, running her hands over him, checking his eyes and ears and asking about his general health as we waited the kitten's exam results.
Finally, the technician returned and handed the doctor several sheets of paper and a bag containing numerous bottles and boxes.
"First, the good news. The feline leukemia and feline AIDS tests are negative. Those are the biggies that we always worry about with strays," she told me.
"And the bad news?"
"Nothing really bad," she assured us. "Nothing that can't be cured with proper attention and medication."
She then proceeded to pull out bottle after bottle, carefully explaining each one.
"This one is for the ears. She has ear mites, and we have to get rid of those or they can end up causing brain damage. You put several drops in each ear and swish it around twice a day. Do it for a week, then stop for a week, then resume for a week and so on until the mites are gone. The same stuff is used on these bare patches on her fur." She pointed out several. "Those are caused by ringworm. Rub it on twice a day. Also, ringworm is highly contagious, so be sure you wash your hands carefully after handling her."
She kept going. There were drops for her eyes, an antibiotic for her respiratory infection, and two different medications for the intestinal worms they had found. In addition, she also had fleas, but at only six weeks, she was still considered too small for proper treatment for that.
"A good bath with Ivory soap, then comb her with a fine toothed comb," the doctor told me. "That's usually fairly effective until we can start them on the good stuff.
'Why did I ever get out of bed this morning?' I asked myself as I struggled up the stairs several hours later with a considerably lighter wallet, a bag of drugs that cost more than my last trip to the pharmacy, a book on cat care, a bed, a litter box and all the necessary accessories, a bag of very expensive kitten food that I was assured was the very best available, and more toys that little AJ has.
Oh…and a single tiny kitten snoozing away in a brand new pet taxi.
"And that," I told my partner and best friend, "is how I came to have a cat."
I sat back on my heels and put the cap back on the peroxide bottle while he examined the series of tiny scratches on his hand and arm.
"And a vicious one at that," he told me with a grin.
"I really need to trim her claws, but it's kind of difficult to do by yourself," I answered, giving him my very best wide eyed look.
"Geez. I wonder where Jingo picked up that look." He threw up his hands in resignation. "Just tell me what to do."
"Thanks, Harm. You're a great guy. I don't care what everyone else says about you," I teased as I jumped up to collect kitten, towel, and baby nail clippers.
He shrugged. "I can't have my favorite partner coming in to work all scratched up all the time."
I wrapped her in the towel, burrito style, with only her head and one front paw sticking out, then handed her to him. Jingo came over to watch as I carefully clipped the tiny but needle sharp claws, readjusting her towel after each paw was completed.
When we finished, she wiggled free and ran to the other side of the room to stare accusingly at us.
"So," Harm asked, "what are you calling the little fur ball?"
"JC," I replied. "Jingo's Cat."
He shook his head. "Who'd have ever guessed that the tough Marine Colonel would have such a soft spot for small, furry things?"
I think I showed admirable restraint by not throwing that comment back at him several minutes later when she climbed up in his lap and started to purr as he gently stroked her head.
I did, however, sigh. "Someday, Rabb, I'm going to meet another woman who's as immune to your charms as I am."
He grinned and looked down where JC rolled over to present her tummy for a scratch. "I doubt it, but you can always keep trying."
Dedicated to Misty, the inspiration for JC. As a tiny, sickly little fur ball, she charmed my hubby into bringing her home. Four months and many dollars in vet bills later, she's a normal, healthy, manic kitty who thinks she rules the house…and maybe she does…