A/N: Sorry for taking so long to update. Due to some MAJOR writer's block, then getting sick with something called a Pheochromocytoma that required numerous tests and finally resulted in a 5 hour operation and 5 day stay in the hospital over the Labor Day weekend, I'm finally up to writing a bit. I'm working on this story for the time as we recently lost both of my mom's cats to local Coyotes and before Easter I had put cat, Mouse down after almost 20 years of partnership so this story is done for her.

Conversations I've Had With My Cat

Part Two

Chet Kelly had been wondering about that notebook the whole time that Johnny had been off work. He knew he shouldn't have started reading it but he was a curious cuss by nature as his mother always said and often that had lead him to getting into trouble, but this notebook really had his curiosity up and he just had to talk to his friend about what he'd read.

Chet and Johnny sat around the table drinking coffee talking while Kel got breakfast ready. Once they'd eaten and Kel had left for work, John turned to his friend and shift-mate.

'Okay Chet, spill it.' John said sternly. His kitten, Whiskers, had jumped up onto the table and was licking a paw judiciously.

Chet fiddled with his silverware as he worked out how to brooch the subject of the notebook. 'Well, you see John it's like this…' He started then he noticed the kitten. 'I uh…' Whiskers was now paying rapt attention to Chet as he purred loudly to let both men know he was content in his world.

'Yeah Whiskers, this is a friend. His name is Chet and he works with me.' John introduced the man to the cat and smiled. 'He likes it when I talk to him.' He explained to his friend. 'Sometimes at night, when Kel is working late or I can't sleep, I'll lay on the couch with Whiskers here and we'll have a nice chat until I feel sleepy enough to fall asleep.'

'What happened to the other cat?' Chet asked.

'He's around somewhere.' Johnny said softly. 'He's still getting used to the new addition. Whiskers had a litter mate that came with him but sadly, she died two days after they came home. We buried Snugums in the back yard so Whiskers could visit his sister whenever he feels the need to commune with her.' Johnny talked about the kittens as if they were people.

'Uh Johnny, you do realize that they're cats, right?' Chet sat up in his chair and leaned forward with his arms on the table. 'I mean, they're not human.'

'I know that!' John exclaimed. 'Look Chet, I'm not an idiot.' He laughed. 'You see, it's like this. All animals have a sense of family, Chet. You just don't know it because you haven't been exposed to it because you grew up in a city and didn't have pets that were allowed to be natural.'

Chet gave Johnny a confused look. 'I'm not followin' ya here, Johnny.'

'I won't say it's simple, 'cuz it's not. But if you let your pet get in touch with his primitive side, he will take a step back, so to speak, to a time before he was domesticated and develop more familial habits with his kind and kin.' John sat back with a smile on his face.

'Where in the heck did you get that idea from?' Chet asked.

'I learned it from the Shaman on the reservation I grew up on, Chet. A very wise old man he was. His wife was also very wise and between the two of them I learned more than any old school ever taught me about biology, natural science, chemistry, and a whole bunch of other stuff that has actually saved my life a time or three.' John started massaging the kitten's back gently. This caused the kitten to start purring louder as he sprawled out on the table.

Chet thought that this was funny and started laughing. 'You gonna open a kitty spa when you retire?'

'Ya know, that's not a bad idea, Chet.' Johnny laughed too. 'All the pets in this house like to get a massage from me. Kel likes them too.' John winked.

'Now that I didn't need to know, Johnny-baby.' Chet stood and started walking around the kitchen. 'I kind of wanted to ask you something.'

'What's that?' John tilted his head as he looked at his friend.

'Well, when I was cleaning out your locker I came across your notebook.' Chet paused there to gauge Johnny's reaction.

John just continued giving the cat the massage. 'So?'

'I know I shouldn't have, but I started to read it.'

'I don't mind.' John said.

'Really?' Chet sat back down.

'Nah, I wrote that notebook a whole 'nuther lifetime ago, Chet. Back before California and the fire department. Hell, I wrote that back before I even knew what a fire fighter was.'

Chet sat there and thought about what his friend just said. 'You were abused by your uncle, weren't you?'

'For a while I was.' John admitted. 'But my mom got her act together and came and got me. She took me to live with her sister in Santa Rosa, California when I was fifteen. Mom saved my life then.'

Chet smiled. 'Is she still alive? I know your aunt is, 'cus you talk about her all the time.' Chet wanted to know if his mother was still around.

'Yeah, she and my aunt still live up in Santa Rosa. They're planning on moving down here to L.A. in a few months though to be closer to me and Kel. Kel found them a small duplex that's relatively cheap so they'll have room and a yard for their gardens. They both like to plant flowers and vegetables.' John sighed. 'Mom's only forty-nine, Chet. Remember, I'm not as old as you old farts at the station are.'

Chet let out a loud snort. 'Ain't that the truth. Does Roy know about your mom?'

'Yeah, but for some reason, my mom doesn't like Roy.' Johnny shrugged. 'I wonder if mom knows Roy's mother-in-law.' He shrugged again, 'Hmm oh well. Ya can't win 'em all.'

-E!-

Kelly Bracket was sitting at his desk twiddling his thumbs. He too had found the notebook and was wondering how to approach his young lover about it. The two had a pact that they would keep no secrets from each other and at this moment he was feeling like that was what Johnny had been doing all this time. Keeping a very big secret from him.

Sighing, he stood and walked over to his bookshelf. He pulled down a book he had meant to have read by now but had kept putting it off, now seemed to be not only time to read it, but almost too late. He sat back down at his desk and opened to the first page and began reading. He was half-way through the third chapter when his phone rang reminding him of several patients he had to see and that he still had afternoon rounds to make before he could go home and hopefully get back to his book. He made sure to tuck the book away in his briefcase so he wouldn't forget it when he left for the day.

While he was on rounds he found a few minutes to talk to his favorite nurse, Dixie McCall, head of the Emergency Nurses and all around nice gal.

'Hey there, handsome,' Dixie smiled as she saw Kel walk up to the coffee pots sitting behind the nurses' station. 'What brings you to my neck of the woods?'

'I have a question to ask you and I need you to keep it just between us.' Kel poured both of them some coffee then looked at the blonde nurse with a serious expression. 'I'm not sure how to handle something and I think what I need is some advice from someone who's - I don't know, been there I guess…' Kel drifted off as he looked around trying to figure out what he wanted to say in the best way.

'Try just saying what's on your mind, Kel. You know that works wonders for me.' Dix gave Kel's arm a gentle squeeze. Even though their romance ended two years prior, their friendship hadn't and in fact it had seemed to have grown stronger and deeper over the years. 'Is it about Johnny?' Dix hazard a guess.

'In a way, yes.' Kel sighed, 'Can you come over tonight? Have dinner with us? Maybe with you there, I'll grow some balls and be able to talk to John and get what's on my mind off it and become less of what John is calling a grumpy bear.' He tried to smile but it didn't reach his eyes.

'Sure Kel, just tell me the time and I'll be there.' She smiled and gave the man a gentle hug. 'I so love you guys, you know that, right? I don't like it when you're hurting or upset about something. If you do decide to talk to me before dinner, you know where to find me.' She watched as Kel headed back to the elevator and his last two patients that he had admitted that morning and needed to check up on before his shift ended.

-!E!-

1954
Montana
Gage Family Ranch

Roland Gage was hopping mad. His nine-year-old nephew was late coming home from school for the third time in a week. He was really beginning to regret taking in that boy. But as his mother had told him, family is family no matter where they come from. So, after his sister had died from the 'flu, and the boy's father had disappeared one night on the reservation, he had done his family duty and taken the boy in. Now, it didn't mean that the boy had to have a room in the house, so he slept in the wood shed until it was winter, then he slept in the cellar where the temperature was a constant forty degrees year round. It also didn't mean he had to have the newest of clothes or shoes or the same food his family ate, so he gave the boy the hand-me-downs from his older boy, Billy, and he got his meals after the family was done eating if there was any left, if not, he would get a sandwich or a bowl of cold cereal for dinner if he had all his chores and homework done by that time. The boy didn't as often was the case, so young John went to bed hungry most nights and woke up cold and achy most mornings wanting nothing more than a hot bowl of oatmeal or a plate of eggs he could smell his aunt May cooking on the stove when he entered the house for his morning meal and to get his school clothes and shoes as well as his books and homework.

'Did you get those horses fed and out to pasture, boy?' Roland called out to the boy as he sat at the table eating his breakfast.

'Yes, Sir.' John said quietly. 'They're all out, the stalls are clean and have new straw, and the water's been replaced in the trough.'

'Good, you did it on time too, I see. You can have something to eat this morning. Hurry up, you got fifteen minutes to eat and get ready for school, I'm not waiting for you.' Roland continued eating his breakfast and reading the morning paper. He watched his nephew out of the corner of his eye as the young boy sat at the far end of the kitchen table and ate the bowl of cold cereal his aunt had set in front of him.

John looked at the bowl and ate as fast as he dared, having choked on a few occasions and had the remaining food removed from his place resulting in him either going to school hungry or to bed hungry. After finishing the cereal and milk, he rushed to the laundry room where his school clothes were kept and quickly dressed and smoothed out his curly hair. He pulled on his shoes and grabbed his book bag and headed out the back door to run around to the front of the house where his Uncle was sitting with his kids in the truck waiting for John.

John climbed in the bed of the truck and sat down just as his uncle started the engine and threw the truck into gear almost tossing the small boy out of the bed.

The ride to school was uncomfortable for the boy as it seemed his uncle hit as many ruts and potholes as possible. John hung on as best as he could and sighed in relief when he felt the truck turn into the school's parking lot.

As the truck came to a halt, John jumped out and ran as quickly as he could to the building, not saying a word to his uncle. He didn't look back for fear he'd be hit or yelled at by either his cousin or his uncle. Once inside, the youngster headed for his classroom where he sat on the floor outside the door until the bell rang.

-!E!-

Brackett/Gage Home
Antelope Valley, CA

Kel walked around the kitchen putting the finishing touches on dinner while John entertained Dixie in the greatroom using the cats.

'Those are the cutest kittens I've ever seen.' Dixie laughed at Whiskers who was trying to chase Mouse out of her hiding place.

'Mouse wants absolutely nothing to do with Whiskers at this point and I can't say that I blame her, really,' John grinned then took a swig of beer before he spoke again, this time to the cats, 'Mouse, you know you can't hide all the time. You gotta come out and eat and use the box. You silly cat.' He reached into the "Kat Kondo" and was promptly scratched and met with a loud growl and hiss. 'Yes, ma'am!' John shrank back to the laughter of Kel and Dixie. 'That damn cat is gonna really hurt someone some day.'

'Not her fault her home was disrupted.' Kel said as he entered the room. 'Dinner's ready.' He added.

They all went to the table to eat and continue their conversation about the cats that were a big part of the family life.

Once the meal was finished and the dishes were in the kitchen, Kel brought out pot of coffee and a plate of John's favorite cookies and led them to the great room where they sat and chatted.

'Kel,' Dixie started, 'You said something earlier today that you wanted to ask me something?'

'Yes,' Kel looked from Dix to John, 'actually, I need to ask John something.' He pulled in a deep breath and blew it out slowly not really wanting to ask but needing to know the answer, 'I uh… I read your journal John and wanted you to know that I'd done that.'

John smiled, 'That's what's been buggin you all day?' John threw his arms around his lover and gave him a kiss. 'Oh Kel, when will you learn that I hold no secrets when it comes to you.'

'But you were keeping this from me, by not telling me that you were abused as a child by your Uncle Roland…' Kel broke off.

'Kelly Brackett, I was not hiding anything from you.' John said sternly. 'I just didn't tell you everything about my childhood because I didn't feel it was time to tell you. When you found my journal and read it, it became time. All you had to do was ask.' John gave Kel a squeeze, then looked at Dixie. 'See what I have to put up with?'

They both laughed as Kel mock frowned. 'Why I never…'

'Why not?' Dixie asked. 'I'm sure if you asked he'd provide.'

John couldn't control himself anymore, he fell off the couch in a fit of laughter like he hadn't had in a long time. He clutched his ribs protecting them as best he could. Kel sat there blushing as many shades red as he could turn, his Irish getting the best of him. Dixie enjoyed the whole scene. She walked over to John and knelt next to the man and patted him on the shoulder.

'You gonna live here, love?' She said between laughs. She then looked at Kel, 'Get over here and help your man up!'

Kel knelt down and helped John back up to the couch. 'Come on Johnny, let's get you seated more comfortably.'

The rest of the evening passed with the three friends talking candidly about John's childhood and what had happened to the young man while he lived with his Uncle Roland. By the time Dixie left, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

-!E!-

TBC...