DUCKING THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF LOVE

Lesson 7: Never take you eyes off your Kitten

Don't you growl at me mister!" Callie snapped at the big tom then quickly gave her son a warm hug and kiss. "Now you be good for daddy," she said, setting him on the floor again then turning to glare a warning at her husband, "I told you last month, I had a meeting of the council and the doctor's office had changed Brendan's appointment. You have to take him so stop complaining. I will see you later." With that, she picked up her briefcase and went out the door.

Feral stood staring at the door a moment before turning his gaze downward to his son...who was no longer there. He blinked and quickly looked around.

"No..." he bellowed as he just managed to catch their one year old from pulling a lamp to the floor. He swoop his son up into his arms and admonished him with a "...no touch..." with which his son blithely ignored him, giving his father a broad grin instead.

Feral sighed. Brendan was a curious kitten...always needing to touch and investigate anything and everything he saw. It was exhausting keeping him out of trouble. Since he was, fortunately, ready for work, he carried his son to the door, gathered his kitten bag then left for work.

At the office, he was a bit hamstrung trying to kittensit until Brendan's appointment in an hour and a half and getting some work done. He'd long ago made sure he had a playpen on paw and stored nearby for this occasion. With Sgt Fallon's assistance, Brendan was situated near his father's desk with toys and bade to play and stay quiet for a bit...Feral had no real hope his son would obey since he was far to rambunctious but it seemed this morning the kitten was willing to play for a bit.

Hoping it would last, Feral quickly dug into the reports on his desk that required his immediate attention. It stayed quiet for quite a while, so Feral didn't look up from his work...a cardinal sin for a parent as he was to learn some minutes later.

Sgt Fallon came striding in with more reports in his paw when he noticed something amiss. He looked to the side of the Commander's pedestal to the playpen then quickly looked up at his superior. His mouth dropped open when he noted Feral was still working diligently...kitten free...jerking his attention back to the playpen to see if his eyes had deceived him...nope...there still was no kitten there.

"Sir! Where's your son?" He blurted urgently already beginning to search the area around the desk.

"What?" Feral asked, looking up and frowning then turning his attention to the playpen himself. Gasping in shocked dismay, he blurted, "Kat's Alive! How the hell did he get out of there?" Leaping from his seat, he joined the sergeant in searching his office.

The office had very little in it and was large but no where did they see the kitten. Feral didn't recall the door being open or had it been?

"The door...was it cracked open when you came in?" He asked Fallon, anxiously.

His assistant frowned in thought then shrugged helplessly. "Honestly sir, I'm not sure if it was or not. You think he went out?"

Feral didn't answer at first as he made another hurried pass through his office...looking behind the sofa, the office plants, under his desk, then in the bathroom...no kitten.

"That's the only place he could have gone," Feral finally said, racing for the door and stepping out into his reception area.

His secretary looked up in surprised concern at the Commander's urgent and frantic expression. "Sir, what's wrong?"

"My son has escaped his playpen and is no longer in my office," he said grimly as he and Sgt Fallon quickly made a search of the area.

"Oh no!" She exclaimed in dismay, "I'm sorry, but I didn't see him, sir," she said, pushing back from her seat and looking beneath her desk then her computer area behind her...no kitten was there. She joined them in searching the whole floor.

In minutes, the entire floor was searching for the kitten. Sgt Fallon stopped by a phone and alerted the entire building to join in on the search in case Brendan had managed to get on an elevator to other floors.

If anyone had stepped into Enforcer Headquarters right that moment, they would have been curious and confused to witness officers and admin rushing about searching near the floors for something.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

At about the same time, Jake and Chance had arrived at the Enforcer Building to lodge a complaint with Feral, in person. He'd made some rule changes for the salvage yard that made it tougher for the guys to run their garage and fulfill their obligations to the enforcers.

After reading the missive they'd received yesterday evening, an incensed Chance had insisted they go see Feral the next morning to make him see reason and to get him to rescind the order.

They'd entered at street level and walked through the lobby, frowning a bit in confusion at the strange search going on before grabbing an elevator to the top floor. When the doors opened, they were greeted more of the same searching though quieter here. Many were calling out a name and searching close to the floor and in small hiding places.

"Hey, isn't that the name of Feral's kitten?" Chance asked his friend.

"I think so and by the looks of things, the little guy has managed to elude his father's not so watchful eye," Jake observed.

The pair stayed close to the wall to avoid the hurrying people. As they moved toward the Commander's office, Jake caught sight of something small disappearing through a distant doorway further down the hall.

"Hey, buddy, I think I saw the runaway, follow me," Jake muttered as he hurried down the hall, Chance on his heels.

The room turned out to be the copy machine area. Stacks of boxes were against the wall on the right, a long sorting table was in front of them, then there were the copy machines themselves on the left. A couple of tall trash cans stood not far from the door.

The pair split up by mutual consent and searched the room. Chance looked behind the trash cans and boxes while Jake went over to the machines. There were four of them...two in front...a walk space and two in the rear. One of the machines in the rear nearer to the back wall had a repair kit sitting on top of it. He went around the first ones and moved closer to that one. It's front doors were closed.

Jake had a suspicion, though, so he went to the machine and opened the doors, there curled up inside and looking around was a small dark brown kitten wearing a blue jumper with little bears on it and tiny tennis shoes.

The kitten grinned up at him, his tiny paws covered with printing ink and nose with a dot of ink dust on it.

"Ah...so there you are, you little rascal. Come on, let's get you out of there and back to your papa, hmm..." Jake coaxed while reaching in to gently lift the messy kitten out of his hiding place.

"You found him. How the heck did he get in there," Chance wondered, grabbing a rag and beginning to wipe the kitten off.

Jake nodded at the tool kit. "I'm guessing the door was left open for repair and he found it, climbed in, closing the door behind him. Pretty adventurous for a kitten this age."

"He sure is. Don't envy Feral around this little guy," Chance chuckled, giving the kitten a scratch behind its ear making him laugh and hum with pleasure.

They walked out of the room with the kitten in their arms.

"Hey, Commander Feral! Yoo hoo! We've found what you're looking for!" Chance shouted loudly, causing everyone within earshot to halt in their tracks or look out doors at them to stare at them.

Feral practically exploded out a far door, hurrying up to them, a mixed look of relief and disbelief at who had found the kitten on his face.

Jake smiled as he handed over the kitten to its anxious father. Feral searched Brendon quickly for any injuries then hugging him close before staring at the pair.

"Thank God! I was going nuts trying to find him. He shouldn't have been able to climb out of his playpen..." Feral babbled, still upset at losing his son and very relieved at having him safe again.

"Looks like you have a very gifted kitten there, Commander. A greater watch is going to be needed to keep this little guy safe from himself," Chance snorted, amusement glinting from his eyes. His ire with Feral softened by how freaked out the father had been. Feral had obviously been terrified and he felt sorry for him. A missing kitten was a parent's worst nightmare.

"Thank you. But where did you find him and why are you two here?" Feral asked as he turned to return to his office, the pair following him.

"We needed to talk to you about something and I spotted this little guy going into the copy room. He hid in one of the machines and got rather dirty," Jake answered easily.

"He isn't normally here but he has a doctor's appointment in half an hour so I've got to get him cleaned up. Talk to me while I get this done," Feral said as he walked into his office and made for the playpen.

Beneath the pen was a portable changing tray that sat across the top of the pen when needed. Feral set his son in the pen then pulled out the tray and snagged the diaper bag. Lifting his son again, he set the kitten on the tray and began changing him.

Jake explained about the order they'd received, told him how much trouble it would cause them with the garage and asked for it to be rescinded.

Feral was finishing his task by the time Jake had his say. He frowned as he picked Brendan up and turned to the pair.

"I never made such an order. I suspect it was Steele and one of his efficiency stunts. Did you bring the order with you?" He asked.

"Sure," Chance said, pulling it from a pocket of his jeans and handing it over.

Feral looked it over though Brendan made it difficult as his tiny paws tried to grab it. "No, I didn't do this. Consider it rescinded."

"Not to be a bother and knowing you're a bit distracted right now...," Jake said cautiously, "...but could you just annotate that so we have proof in case your second tries to cause us trouble again."

Feral rolled his eyes but knew this could happen, so he went to his desk, wrote a quick note and signed it then handed it back. "Have my secretary make a copy of that for me before you go and thank you again for finding my son."

"Hey, you're welcome, glad we were on hand to help," Jake said, smiling at the kitten before the two left.

"You have been a really big problem today," Feral chided his son but Brendan just looked sleepy eyed at his father. "Let's just keep this between you and me, heh? I don't want your mother to be upset," he murmured, gently swaying his son to sleep before laying him in the pen until it was time to leave.

He stared down at his son and murmured to himself, "Furlong was right, you are a pawful but I love you to death anyway."