Just some cute Jaydick fluff! As always, I own nothing! Thank you for taking the time to read!
("Mow" in this context is pronounced as though to rhyme with "wow" or "plow" instead of "low".)
"Oh, sir—please, don't—"
Jason's head snapped up and around as the door swung open behind him, but the vet tech's words caught in her throat as her eyes flashed over the scene before herself.
"Is there a problem?" Jason's eyebrows quirked in concern down at the dishwater blonde, but her eyes stayed glued to the cat faced belly-up in his arms as her own brows furrowed in confusion.
The Wayne boys had been helping out at a charity event for one of the animal shelters associated with a foundation that Bruce had set up in Damian's honor, and Jason had slipped into the back room for a moment of quiet while the rest of the boys "schmoozed" and "flirted with the customers" up front. Despite the improvements upon his and Bruce's relationship, Jason still preferred to stay out of the public eye, and Bruce hadn't fought him on that. Jason had been looking around amongst the houses and the shelves for something—more toys for the cats to play with out in the display enclosure, Jason vaguely remembered—when he'd noticed one of the cats balled up in her crate and went over to investigate.
The cat had been weary at first, mow-ing at Jason warningly and backing up towards the farthest wall of her crate until Jason had finally been able to coax her out, but she'd warmed up quick enough, and it hadn't been long before Jason had gotten her twisted over onto her back in the crook of his left arm while his right hand tickled and petted at her belly.
"I—um—no," the lady eventually answered, her eyes flicking up to Jason's before falling back to the cat. "There's not a problem. It's just…she typically doesn't allow anyone near her. She's scratched two of our techs bad enough that they've needed stitches, so we typically just leave her alone unless she needs some kind of medical care… That's why she's been in here and not out with the others."
"Huh," Jason let out a confused sort of huff as he looked back down at the cat in his arms. She was a tiny little thing—barely eight pounds if Jason had to guess—but she'd taken well enough to Jason, and her green eyes sparkled against her long black fur as she looked up questioningly at Jason. "Well, she's been fine with me. Isn't that right, pretty girl? You've been just wonderful to me."
"What's her name?" Tim stepped around the woman from where he'd still been more or less standing in the doorway to cross over to Jason's side curiously.
"Jingle Bell," Jason answered as he shifted so that Tim could hold a hand up for her to sniff at. The cat had obviously tensed in Jason's arms, twisting and craning her neck in order to watch Tim, but she still reached out to sniff tentatively at his fingers once Tim lifted them close enough. "But I think she and I both prefer Bells."
"That's cute," Tim smiled, eyes continuing to scan over Bells' tiny body as he reached around to tentatively scratch at the back of her head. Bells flinched at first, as if she wasn't sure what she was supposed to do, but eventually she settled back down into Jason's arms and at least let Tim continue what he was doing as the two talked over her stomach. "What happened to her leg?"
"Her name tag says she was a stray, so I'm guessing they had to take it when she came in," Jason mused, his eyes falling down to the healed over scar where the cat's back left leg used to be. A smaller scar stretched over her ear and pulled it a centimeter or so shorter than the other one, but other than that, her skin seemed unmarred, and Jason had become quite good at detecting such things on small animals and children.
"We did," the tech confirmed, stopping to lean against the wall of houses a couple of steps away with her arms folded across her chest. Bells stiffened and glared at her over Jason's forearm, but quickly relaxed again at Tim's baby talk while Jason turned his attention to the tech. "We're not entirely sure what happened, but we think some gang found her somewhere and threw a rock at her or something. Everything from her hip down was crushed, so the vet went ahead and took it. We had to keep her shaved for about three months while she healed because she wouldn't let us near enough in order to keep her brushed, but she's filled in pretty well since then. Thankfully, as long as there isn't a human attached to it, she actually likes her brush and will do most of the work herself if you clip it to a pole or something where she can get to it. I've never seen her interact with another human this way before."
"Jason tends to have that affect on animals," Tim's grin was wolfish as his eyes flicked up to Jason, and Jason rolled his eyes at the horrible pun before he turned his attention back towards the tech.
"Do you guys have any idea how old she is?"
"It's hard to say, but our best guess puts her somewhere between two and five," the tech answered. "We've had her for about ten months total, not including her first month or two of recovery, and she showed no signs of having had any kittens when we spayed her, but with her being as small as she is, it's hard to tell. Other than the leg, and the malnutrition, she was in pretty good shape when a Good Samaritan brought her in to their Vet. So far nobody's had any kind of interest in her because she's reacted so negatively to any kind of human contact, but none of us have the heart to put her the transfer list either because she's so healthy. As long as we leave her alone, she really doesn't make a fuss, but even with your family's backing, we only have so much space and so many supplies."
"Understandable," Jason hummed, his eyes flashing back down to the cat in his arms as she gave up on Tim's affection and went back to batting and nibbling at Jason's fingers, because no matter how much he or others might not like it, what the tech said was true. Not everybody could be saved, not even all of the innocents. "Has she ever been socialized with other cats or dogs?"
"Cats, yes; dogs, no," the tech answered, as she reached up to scrub a hand over her face. "I mean, all of the animals kind of get exposed to one another around here, and we bring puppies in to play with the kittens all of the time, but she's never shown any kind of interest in getting anywhere near them. Elder cats have gone better than younger ones—pretty much anything that chooses to stay to itself and leave her alone is preferred—but I've never seen her go after another cat before, at least not unless they were trying to mount her… I take it you have other pets at home?"
"Just a couple of Shepherds, a mutt, and a Rottie…"
"My goodness!" the woman's eyes opened wide in surprise, and Jason couldn't help but give a wolfish grin of his own as he went on.
"My husband's a cop," his smile softened as he explained, fingers now scratching at the white strip of fur on a happily purring Bells' stomach. "Both of the Shepherds are former members of the K-9 unit, and the other two are rescues—the mutt from another shelter and the Rottie from a fighting ring. We've got two other cats, as well, but they mostly keep to themselves—bite at our toes and keep the back of the couch warm, but other than that, mostly they just…twitch their tails at us in bewilderment and lick the dogs' ears."
Weird as their animals might be, they were theirs, and a happiness bloomed in Jason's stomach as he thought about each one of them in turn and the small little family they'd all come together to form.
"Phew, buddy, that's a lot," the tech whistled in appreciation and maybe a little bit of disbelief when Jason was done. "You keep all of those in an apartment here in Gotham?"
"Yep," Jason nodded his head. "My boss doesn't mind having pets around, so I typically take one or two of the dogs into the shop with me while I'm working, and we've got a caged in balcony we'll let them out onto so we don't have to take them all of the way downstairs every time they need to go out."
"Plus, you bring them out to Uncle Conner's farm every once in a while," Tim added as he dangled a feathery thing in front of Bells' mesmerized eyes (something he'd pulled out of his sleeve when neither of the other two humans were looking, as far as Jason could tell).
"True," Jason agreed with a nod of his head, shifting so that it was easier for Bells to reach the toy with her outstretched claws. "And it helps that they get to go out to Grandpa Bruce's and terrorize all of the wild bunnies and dig in the flower beds at least once a week. Both of the Shepherds are older now, so they mostly just lay around doing nothing, but we make it work."
Jason used Bells' distraction to his advantage and quickly lifted her up and pressed a quick kiss to top of her head, beaming at the confused little "mow" she chirped up at him after he'd returned her back to her original position, more or less parallel to the ground.
"That is also very true," Tim gave an absent nod of his head in response to Jason's words, stilling the movements of his hand while Bells was other wise occupied, but resuming them once Jason's face was more or less out of reach of her claws. "You should take this little one home and add her to your brood…Jaxx and Annie would like her."
"Like Dick would let me bring another cat home," Jason snorted, refusing to even entertain the idea until his eyes flicked up to Tim's and he did a double take. "Wait—are you serious? Dick would never let me bring another pet home…not even one as cute as Bells here."
"Dick would let you get away with murder, if you wanted to," Tim rolled his eyes, and it was only Jason's surprise that they were even having the conversation in the first place that kept him from making some kind of derisive comment in response. Jaxx was his and Dick's Rottweiler and Allie was one of their Shepherds, and Tim's statement about how much they would like Bells was very true, even if Jason had refused to let himself think about it. "But, seriously, Jay—if you really like this girl so much, I really don't think Dick would mind. You've got so many little mouths you look after, one more this tiny really isn't going to make all that much of a difference, and you know he likes having them around just as much as you do."
"Well, yeah," Jason conceded, but he bit as his bottom lip as he contemplated the cat who was now looking up at the ceiling contentedly and purring like she was about to fall asleep, the feathers having lost her attention as they sat hugged between her front paws. "But…do you really think he would go for it?"
"I think it's at least worth having a conversation with him about," was the response Tim gave, and while his tone was calm and controlled, one look up into his eyes told Jason that Tim was certain that Dick would say yes.
"…Alright," Jason caved, Bells' half-closed eyes solidifying her place in his heart as he started rocking the two of them back and forth gently and thumbed gently at her fur. "But would you mind going and getting him for me? I think this will probably go better if he gets the kitty eyes as well, and we're not bringing another animal into the house that doesn't at least tolerate the two of us."
Rocky—their second Shepherd—had taken some time to warm up to Jason, and Jason still had the scars to prove it.
"Sure," Tim grinned, reaching up to scratch gently behind Bells' ear one last time before he stepped away. "I take it that's okay with you?"
"Yep," the vet tech nodded, pushing herself back up from against the homes. "I'll go with you—I need to get back out there, anyway. Are you okay with staying in here by yourself, Mr. Wayne?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jason nodded his head, meeting her eyes one last time before he shifted to watch Tim walk away.
"Alright, then," she followed behind Tim, heaving a sigh as she headed back towards the minor chaos that permeated the front room. "I'll go ahead and print the paperwork so we've got it up front if you're interested. We've still got another half-hour of the event left, but it sounds like you've already been through this, so that'll help speed things along."
"Thank you so much," the words didn't sound powerful enough to his own ears, but the lady smiled and waved over her shoulder, and then suddenly the door was clicking shut and Jason was left alone again—heaving a big sigh as he stared down at the little sleeping bundle in his arms and let his forehead collide with the nearest strip of metal in between the homes.
They were getting another cat whether Jason particularly wanted to or not and he would undoubtedly be the one in charge of dealing with the litter box.
*The 'name tag' Jason alluded to was the little descriptor plaque on Bells' cage that animal shelters typically have giving a brief synopsis of the animal's history, not any kind of an identification tag that she would wear on her body. It's a small thing, but I know a detail like that might bother me if I misunderstood it in a piece of work and wanted to clear the air before anybody had a chance to question it.
**The Shepherds referenced in this story are of the German variety, just to clear up any kind of confusion. German Shepherds are a common dog used in the states for both police and military work, but sometimes carry a bad reputation because of how often they are used in private residence defense and/or dog fighting (when in reality they are very loyal and loving). While there are many breeds of Shepherds both in the States and worldwide, German Shepherds are by far the most popular in the States, and it is reasonable that the Vet Tech would have assumed and understood that Jason was talking about German Shepherds given the context.