Sweetcheeks VII: Little Darlings

Debra Fran Baker

dfbaker@panix.com


"Jim, you have no business being here on your day off. And what the hell are you carrying?"

Jim looked at the object hanging from his arm. "A basket. Isn't it darling?"

Blair grinned at Simon's glare. "It's...lovely." Blair had to agree. Jim had spent an hour the night before weaving ribbons through it and tying them just so on the handle. "What the hell's...Jim, that blanket just moved."

Simon walked over and pulled the yellow baby blanket off the basket. He blinked at the roiling mass of mewling fur. "Kittens. Those are kittens."

"Oooh. Nothing gets by *you*, hon."

Jim set the basket on his desk. Immediately, everyone in Major Crimes crowded around to look at the little things.

"Why are there kittens in my squadroom?"

Jim shot Blair a look. Blair just grinned at him, and picked up one of the tiny creatures. "It's *all* his fault. He wants to toss those sweet, innocent babies out into the cold world, away from the *only* home they've *ever* known."

Blair leaned over and kissed him. "Poor Jim. It's time to let them go. They'll be *fine*." Jim looked at him again.

"Cruel. Heartless." Jim picked up another kitten. Like the first, he'd tied a ribbon around its neck. This one was pink. "Isn't he, little girl? Big, cruel Blair."

Blair handed his kitten to Taggart. "You sounded very different six weeks ago."

***************

"We have to go camping more often, sweetcheeks."

Blair nodded. "Oh, yeah. Just you, me and your clothes." He grinned, hoisting the bags of laundry to his shoulder. "Only *you* would bring a wardrobe to the mountains."

"Just the bare essentials, darling. And I didn't wear them all *that* often." Jim smiled at him. He had the tents and other gear piled neatly around the car. "I'll store this away for you if you'll be an angel and take the clothing upstairs."

"Dibs on the shower!" Blair sprinted off for the elevator, not waiting for an answer. The loft smelled a little funny, but he figured it was just stuffy and damp from disuse. He left the bags by the bathroom, where he'd sort them later - including a pile for dry cleaning.

He peeled off his own clothing and turned on the shower, adjusting the temperature until it was just short of scalding. As much as he enjoyed getting clean and warm, he rushed through it. Jim would be upstairs soon, and Blair was starving. The sooner they were clean, the sooner they would eat.

He was just tying his bathrobe when Jim walked in. He walked out of the bathroom, toweling his hair.

"Chief, darling, you look delicious like that." Jim pulled him close for a kiss. "Mmm. You taste delicious too...but is that a new shampoo? It's rather...musky." Jim's nose wrinkled.

Blair sniffed again. "That's not me. I'm using the same old shampoo. I think it's coming from my old room."

Jim closed his eyes. "Yes. It's stronger in that direction...do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"A...squeak of some kind. Movement." Jim pulled out his gun. "Stay behind me, sweetie."

They cautiously moved to the french doors. The scent was more powerful here. Blair could see Jim pinch his nose. And, yes, there was some sort of sound. He nodded at Jim.

"Police!" Jim burst into his wardrobe, his gun at the ready. Blair followed behind to turn on the lights.

It was impossible to see if anyone else was there with all the clothes rods, but Jim shook his head. "I can't hear another person. But that smell...it's coming from my dresser."

"So is the noise. Your underwear drawer is open." Blair went over to it. He reached in, but jerked his hand away when he was attacked by a cat's paw. A cat's paw with all the claws extended.

"I think we have a guest, Jim."

"Not in *my* underwear drawer."

"'Fraid so." Blair carefully opened it wider and looked inside. There was a beautiful tortoiseshell cat in a nest of white silk boxers and designer t-shirts. And she was very clearly in labor, because there was at least two babies lying next to her and another on its way out.

"Jim, come see."

"Oh, icky. I'm going to have to get those dry-cleaned."

Blair rolled his eyes. "Jim...it's a miracle here. Isn't it wonderful?"

"She's simply ruining my best boxers...but...oh, look at those kittycats. They're so tiny."

"You want me to get them out of there?"

Blair grinned at him.

"Evict *babies*? How could you be so heartless? No, mamacat can stay there as *long* as she wants. Yes, you can, yes." Jim was actually cooing at her as she licked her newest kitten.

They stood watching as mamacat delivered five more babies. By then, she was used to them, and let Jim stroke her and then remove such of his expensive underwear as she wasn't using for bedding. Jim didn't even mind that his nose was running and his eyes were tearing.

Blair took the time to call a friend of his who bred cats for instructions on care and feeding.

For the next six weeks, mamacat and the kittens lived in the drawer, which Jim placed on the floor of his wardrobe.

That was fine as far as it went. They installed a litter box on the porch, and got special cat food for mamacat and later for the kittens as they were weaned.

They were utterly adorable babies. Blair was the first to admit it. They came in all four colors - white, black, orange and tortoiseshell. And mamacat, once she'd had a chance to gain some weight, was absolutely gorgeous.

Yes, Blair liked the family just fine.

Jim, however, went bonkers.

He spent all his time on the floor watching them and cooing over them, asking them to "Come to Auntie Jim." Not that they did, but he'd just pick them up anyway, handkerchief held to his nose.

Blair, for his part, sometimes played with them, but mostly sat back and watched Jim bond with them. He told himself this was a bad idea, since he knew they probably couldn't keep mamacat, let alone eight kittens, but Jim was enjoying himself too much.

He knew they were in trouble when Jim watched the vet like a shark when the kittens went in for their shots, and he visibly cringed when Blair made an appointment to get mamacat spayed.

And now it was time to give them away. He already made arrangements to give mamacat to a children's home, where a gentle, spayed adult cat was welcome. Jim had protested a bit, but he knew that with their schedules and Jim's sensitivities, they really couldn't keep a pet, even one as self-sufficient as a cat.

The kittens, though, were another story.

They had to go. Blair knew it, Jim knew it in his head. And they were weaned now. It was time to let them go. But even when Jim decorated the basket and tied bows around the kittens, Blair knew he was putting up a brave front.

And now here they were, standing in Major Crimes with a basketful of kitties.

"This is not a home for wayward pets, Sandburg."

"Nope. That's Jim's underwear drawer. Here, Simon. Have a kitten." He handed Simon the tiny white tom he'd been holding. Simon glared at him, but the little thing curled into a circle on his hand. So, unable to resist, he skritched him. And the tom must have purred, because Simon lifted his hand to his ear.

That seemed to be signal for everyone to take a kitten. Megan cooed over a little orange lady who happened to match her sweater and Rafe and Henri could be seen bending over a tortoiseshell who looked just like mamacat.

"What are their names?"

"We didn't name them."

Jim glared at Blair.

"*Mr. Cruel* wouldn't let us name them."

"We're giving them away. It would be wrong." Privately, Blair wanted to agree.

But one of them had to be strong, and Jim had crumpled right away.

"How many of these are you giving away?"

"*He* wants to give *all* of them away." Jim snapped his fingers.

"We *can't* keep them. You already spend half the night wheezing."

"I'll get catshots."

"James, do you think I'll let you get allergy shots *again*?"

Blair still had nightmares about the first time they tried that. Jim went into anaphylactic shock in the doctor's office and needed to be hospitalized. And no allergy medication really worked for more than a day or two.

"Oh, please. I'd be just *fine*. You are too protective, darling." He nuzzled one of the kittens just to show. Of course, he immediately started to sneeze. Blair grinned, took the tiny black female away from him and handed him a handkerchief.

"Case closed, man. Okay, who wants a baby? We promised one to Miss Mellie. Otherwise, they're fair game."

"I'll take this little one." Simon glanced at the tiny white purring bundle on his shoulder.

Megan took her orange lady, and soon most of the others were adopted. Mellie had asked for a kitten in "basic black", so he saved one little guy for him.

Jim sniffed when they left, still carrying the last kitten in the basket.

Blair turned back to take one more look at Major Crimes, with seven kittens sitting on shoulders, in baskets and on Simon's shoulder. For the moment, it was all smiles and joy there. He nudged Jim to look.

"See how happy you made them, James?"

"You think my babies will be okay?"

"I think our babies are where they belong."

Jim smiled and gathered Blair into his arms. "I'll miss them terribly, but...darling, they all look so happy. Thank you for making me do this."

Blair smiled. "I'll miss them, too." He stood a little on his toes and kissed Jim's lips. Jim sighed and pulled him closer.

"I love you, darling."

"I love you, too. Let's get Buster here to Miss Mellie."

Blair grinned, pulled out of Jim's arms and made for the stairs.

"You rat. You named him!" Jim couldn't run with a basket full of kitten, so Blair made it safely to the stairs, where he stood laughing.

Hopefully, Buster would work for Miss Mellie, too.

Copyright 2000 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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