Chapter 1: New Arrivals
David looks tired.
When David dragged himself into the office that morning, Don took one look at his haggard face and bloodshot eyes and said, “Damn, David, you look just like Amita did last time I saw her – but you don’t have a newborn at your house.”
“Actually,” David said as he slumped into his chair. “I have six.”
David rubbed his goatee, which was not nearly as neat as it usually was. “Know how Matt’s allergic to cats?”
“Ri-ight,” Don said. “That’s how we got Dragon.”
“Well, I guess kittens don’t have as much, um, allergens, and so Matt talked me into fostering kittens for the local shelter. We have six two-week-old kittens that were found abandoned.”
“Kittens?” Don said with a smile. “Six?”
“Yeah,” David said ruefully. “We have to feed them every two hours with formula from an eye dropper, keep them warm, and even, get this, massage them so they’ll go to the bathroom.”
“Wow,” Don said. “Sounds like a lot of work. Just like a new baby.”
“At least they grow up faster,” David said, rubbing his eyes now. “At nine weeks, they’ll go back to the shelter to get fixed then adopted.”
“Seven weeks … Think you’ll be able to give them back to the shelter or are you gonna end up with six cats?”
“No way,” David said firmly. “I told Matt that if one of the kittens seems to be less allergy-causing than the others – some random cats are just naturally less allergenic – that we could keep one but would have to get rid of it if he started having ‘colds’ again.”
“Hey, Sinclair,” Granger said heartily, giving David’s shoulder a shove. “You look like crap. Been out partying all weekend?”
“Be gentle with him,” Don said with a grin. “He’s just adopted sextuplets.”
Chapter 2: Two Words
David defends his behavior.
“Sex-what?” Colby asked.
“Sextuplets,” Don laughed. “David and Matt have adopted six baby kittens. Apparently, they have to be fed every two hours.”
“Wow …” Colby frowned. “So who’s feeding them now?”
“Matt,” David answered. “He’s working from home for a few weeks – talked Perris into working full-time on that search database algorithm thing that he and Charlie cooked up.”
“So it’s your job to take care of the kitties while Matt sleeps at night?” Colby asked.
David shrugged. “Pretty much.”
“When do you sleep?”
“Um, in between feedings.”
“That can’t be good,” Don said. “You’re not getting your REM sleep or whatever.”
“It’s not for long,” David said. “Matt picked them up early Friday morning. They’ll only be on the every two hours feeding for a little while then we can go to every four hours then four or five times a day.”
“Let me guess,” Colby grinned. “Matt talked you into it. He just looked at you with those big eyes, said ‘Please, David’ and you caved.”
“You know,” Don said to Colby, just loud enough for him and David to hear, “It’s always the players that fall the hardest.”
“Dude,” Colby grinned. “You are so wrapped around his little finger.”
“I am not,” David said huffily.
“Yes, you are,” Colby and Don chorused then laughed.
“Oh, so it was your idea to get a second cat,” David said to Don, then turned on Colby. “And you sometimes act like a mother to your absent-minded genius.”
“I do not!” Colby protested.
“You do,” Don said. “Because otherwise he’d be wandering the city, naked and mumbling to himself.”
Colby snorted. “Maybe you’re right.”
“God,” Don groaned. “What happened to us?”
“Two words explain it,” David said.
“‘True Love’?” Colby said.
“Nope,” David’s teeth flashed in a grin. “Morning Sex.”
Chapter 3: Old Cats and New
Colby and Don debate old cats and David talks about new.
Old Cats and New—
“Hey, Nena would love to help you with the kittens,” Colby said.
“Are you crazy?” Don asked. “She’ll want to keep all of them.”
“Not if she understands that they aren’t available,” Colby said, then added with a wink towards Don, “Besides, it already feels like we have two cats.”
“They aren’t over that often!”
“I think Nena believes that they’re her cats.”
“Humph,” Don said grumpily. It wasn’t his fault that Monster and Dragon considered the Eppes house part of their territory, just connected via car. Territory that needed to be patrolled.
“Umm, it wouldn’t be a good idea for Nena to help with the kittens, anyway,” David interjected.
“Why not?” Colby said, bristling. “If I say that she can resist—”
“I didn’t mention that we started with seven,” David said quietly.
Colby blinked. “Oh?”
“Yeah, one died on Saturday, and there’s another that we don’t expect to make it through the day today. Kittens without their mother have a high mortality rate, especially ones that started out as poorly as these guys. I think there were actually ten in the original litter.”
Colby grimaced. “You’re right. I wouldn’t want to subject her to that.”
“It’s one of the hazards,” David said unhappily. “They warned us to expect it. We’ll be lucky to end up with three or four when we’re done.”
“Ouch,” Don said. “I wouldn’t want to subject me to that.”
“It’s been harder than I thought it would be,” David admitted. “You get attached to them quickly. But we’re not even naming them yet. Their feeding chart and bottles just say ‘One’ through ‘Seven’ – it was ‘Six’ that died Saturday.”
“Ouch,” Colby agreed.
“Hey,” David said with deliberate lightness. “Think I can get paternity leave?”
“If I have anything to say about it,” Don promised.
Chapter 4: Meal Time
Matt takes a break from work.
The mesmerizing pop rhythms of Splashdown wound through the room, flowing along with the characters on the large LCD computer monitor. Matt’s fingers danced over the keyboard, bringing a complex SQL statement to life.
A soft bong sounded as the message ‘Feeding Time!’ flashed on his screen.
Sighing, Matt finished the rest of the line he was typing then sat back and stretched. At least this made him take regular breaks, something he often forgot in the heat of the flow. David had gotten on his case more than once for not eating when working.
Matt looked down at the covered basket under the desk. It was a good thing the kittens didn’t mind noise, because Matt wasn’t sure he could program without music. Pushing his chair back, Matt stood and did a few more stretches. It had been too long since he’d been to the dojo, also.
Yawning, he wandered down to the kitchen and began preparing the formula. Once the bottles were prepared and warmed, he wrapped them in a towel and carried them upstairs.
Trying not to jostle the bottles, Matt sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the basket.
He reached out his hand … then hesitated. It had been too recently that he’d opened the basket to find Four cold and dead, curled into the far corner of the basket, his littermates all as far from him as possible. It didn’t matter that Matt thought it was coming.
Clenching his jaw, he pulled back the blanket.
They were all still warm, still alive. The kitten called One was already lifting her white head with its one black ear, knowing she was first for feeding. She made a chirping noise and the rest of the kittens began to stir.
“Okay, guys,” he smiled. “Meal time.”
Chapter 5: Five Names
The kittens earn names.
Five Names –
Matt hadn’t planned on naming the kittens – he wasn’t keeping them, after all – but names began to creep in as they grew more active and showed individual personalities. The kitten called One became Alpha, since she was a little pushy and a good five ounces heavier than the rest. She was all white but for one black ear, one black paw, and a few spots of black on her back and tail.
Two was a tabby that liked to pounce on anything that moved, including human feet, vacuum cleaners and images on the TV. She became Hunter. But in her quiet moods, she was Cuddles, because she loved to be petted and sit on any lap available. If none was, she’d sit on any body part she could, even if she had to use claws to stay there.
Grey male Three became Digger, for his enthusiastic digging in the litter box, even when he wasn’t using it. He also burrowed under couch cushions, clean laundry, and David’s piles of FBI paperwork.
Number Five, another tabby, became Mortimer, since he seemed like a librarian, studying the world with great attention, but always from a safe spot.
Number Seven turned into Shadow. The tiny runt liked to hide, and since he was all black, was very good at not being located for a while. But when Matt woke up, he’d often find Shadow curled up in the hollow of his neck, Shadow’s little body barely registering as weight.
As the kittens grew older, Matt began to sniffle and he started on a prescription antihistamine. That seemed to help, but as the kittens neared their ninth week, and their return to the shelter, it got worse and David began giving him that stern look.
Soon the kittens were going to have to go.
Chapter 6: Problem Solver
Matt doesn't want to let the kittens go back to the shelter.
“We can’t just let them go back!”
“I knew this would happen,” David snapped.
“I know we can’t keep them,” Matt said, wiping his nose. “I just can’t stand them being in a little cage, hoping someone'll notice them before they get put to sleep.”
David put his arm around Matt, carefully avoiding squishing kittens. “They’re not going to be put to sleep.”
“They have to, sometimes. There’s too many cats. At least these guys won’t be making more unwanted cats. But if they don’t get adopted …”
“Matt,” David said firmly. “There’s no way we saved these guys’ lives to let them get euthanized.”
“Hey, we’re FBI,” David squeezed Matt’s shoulder. “We help people and solve problems. We can figure this out.”
Matt gave him a small smile. “Between my brains and your brawn?”
“How about your brawn and my brains?”
“Scary thought,” Matt shot back, his smile widening.
“I’ve got another thought,” David said, detangling himself from Hunter’s claws and pulling Digger out from beneath his T-shirt.
Free from those two, he wrestled Alpha for his phone and rescued Mortimer from a precarious perch. He was really going to miss these fuzz balls, but a healthy Matt was more important.
After a long phone call, involving lots of hold music and rerouting, David stroked Shadow who had curled up on his lap and turned to Matt.
“Okay, the rescue group is happy for us to find homes for the kittens, but all adopters will have to be screened by them. The kittens won’t even have to go back to the shelter except to get fixed. But we need to find them homes immediately, so they can leave here.”
“Okay,” Matt mumbled, snuggling Cuddles.
David gave a relieved nod. “Now … know anyone who needs a kitten?”
Chapter 7: Kittens for Sale
Matt and David find the kittens homes.
Kittens for Sale—
So began a campaign the likes of which the Los Angeles FBI Field Office had never seen. Matt and David had five kittens that they were determined to see placed in good homes. Anyone who showed interest was vetted as thoroughly as a Secret Service applicant.
They started with close friends. Charlie and Colby reluctantly turned down a kitten. With Nena in school and Alan working, there was no one to take care of a kitten during the day. They were warned, on penalty of flogging, not to take the question directly to Nena.
Don and Will said they’d already rescued a cat from David and Matt and two cats were plenty.
Megan said she’d like to, but thought that Larry would find a ‘domestic dependant’ too much of a commitment.
Thus they turned to the rest of the field office.
Mortimer went to Santos, a tech who watched the world with the same studying expression as the kitten.
Agent Jackson took Alpha – or rather Alpha took Agent Jackson, bullying her way into his heart. The normally-jovial agent quietly told David she was the first family he’d had since he’d lost his son.
Digger found a place with Monte, the building’s security guard, who turned out to be an avid gardener and messy housekeeper.
Hunter aka Cuddles went to the office admin with three active kids.
Finally, there was just one left – Shadow. As Matt lay in bed, he wracked his brains for any stones he’d left unturned. It had to be the right place, someone who could appreciate the tiny, timid kitten. As the runt, Shadow had been given the longest odds to survive, but he’d been a fighter.
The next morning, Matt woke to find Shadow curled up against his neck. And realized he wasn’t sniffling at all.