That Darn Cat

Author:  Orrymain and special guest co-author, Mama Bear!
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - March 5-6, 2011
Spoilers:  None
Size:  22kb, short story
Written:  August 3,5,9,11, 2006  Revised for consistency:  September 5-7, 2007
Summary:  Jack continues to have the family's zoo adore him, whether he likes it or not.  This time it's Mittens at the center of the fray.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, QuinGem!

That Darn Cat
by Orrymain and Mama Bear

“Dad, have you seen Mittens?” Little Danny asked as he hurried into the kitchen, his eyes searching the room even as he had made his query.

“No, Son, not since last night when she was trying to help me read the paper.  I'm sure she's around here somewhere taking a nap,” Jack responded.

“I've looked everywhere, Dad; I can't find her,” the young boy whimpered sadly as he looked under the table for the feline.

“Sproglet, cats are great at finding hiding places.  When she gets hungry or wants to play, she'll find you,” the silver-haired man spoke calmly.

“Okay,” Little Danny sighed, nodding as he turned around and slowly walked away.  Then he brightened and turned back towards his father, saying, “I forgot to check the library.  Maybe she's there.”

Jack smiled, certain that his young son would find the missing cat.  Once the boy was gone, he returned to his task of preparing lunch.

~Darn cat follows me everywhere; I'm surprised she's not here, waiting for a bite of my salami.~  Jack stopped what he was doing, suddenly feeling paranoid.  He looked around suspiciously, half-expecting the cat to pounce on him or the snack he was preparing.  ~Hmm.  She's hiding somewhere.~

====

A few minutes later, the youngest male Munchkin returned to the kitchen and, with tears in his eyes, reported, “Dad, Mittens not in the library, either.”

With the sub sandwiches almost done, Jack stopped making the ham and cheese sandwiches he was currently preparing.  He picked up his son, carrying him into the living room and sitting down on the couch.

“Dad, I called 'n' called for her.  I look ev'where.  She not come,” the Munchkin cried into Jack's neck.  “Bij 'n' Katie always come when I call them.”

“Little Danny, I'm going to tell you something my grandmother used to say. The difference between cats and dogs is, when you call a dog, he comes right away.  A cat takes a message and gets back to you later.  She's taking a nap, probably about chasing some big dog,” the father mused.

“You really think she just sleepin'?” the weeping child asked through his tears.

“I'm sure of it.  Cats spend most of their day sleeping.  Aren't you the one who told me that?” Jack asked as he pushed back the boy's shaggy hair.  “She'll find you when she's ready to return your message,” he reassured as he wiped away the tears.  “I'm *positive* that when she's done with her nap, she'll find you.”

“Okay, Dad,” Little Danny sniffled one last time.  If his dad told him everything was okay, the boy was determined to believe it.  Scooting off his father's lap, he said, “I'm gonna go play with Jonny.”

“No running,” Jack called out as the boy hurried to join his brother in the recreation room.

Jack returned to the kitchen to finish making the sandwiches, thinking, ~I'm sure that darn cat is just sleeping in a cubbyhole somewhere.~

====

After dinner, the entire family was in the rec room, watching “The Incredible Journey” on the big screen television.  Jack and Daniel were seated on one of the sofa sectionals with Daniel cuddled up close to his husband, his head resting on Jack's left shoulder.

Jennifer was sitting on another sectional with Jenny in her lap.  Aislinn was seated next to them.  Jeff was stretched out on the floor with his head on one of the large, comfortable pillows.  Lulu was lying next to him, while Chenoa and Jonny were sharing another floor pillow.

Brianna and Little Danny were seated on ottomans on the right hand side of the room, Ricky was lying on a blanket in front of his fathers, while David was sitting Indian-style against another sofa sectional.

Bijou and Katie were snuggled close to Ricky, while Calico was curled up on Jack's lap.

**Danny, what is with these cats?  Last night Mittens wouldn't leave me alone while I was trying to read the paper, and tonight this furball thinks I'm a cat bed,** Jack communicated to his husband while motioning to the sleeping cat.

**You know you love them, Babe.  They know it, too, despite your griping,** Daniel responded, smiling at his husband, who was now petting the purring feline in his lap.

**I do, but that's our secret, Angel.**

**To be honest, Jack, I don't think it's much of a secret, but if it makes you feel better, your secret is safe with me,** the younger man promised.

~I wonder where Mittens is.  She should have shown herself by now,~ Jack pondered silently.

====

“Bedtime,” Daniel called out after the dishes from their nightly ice cream treat had been loaded into the dishwasher.

“We'll be up soon,” Jack added as the kids headed upstairs.

“Come on, Girls,” the younger man called out to the beagles.  “Check out the weather, and let us know if you plan on sleeping in the house tonight,” he said to the two dogs as they ran by him to the patio door to take care of 'business'.

Jack chuckled, “Daniel, when's the last time the girls slept outside?”

“Hmmm,” Daniel thought.  He laughed, “They like being inside with us and the brood; they don't stay out at night that often since the Munchkins were born.  Be right back.”

Chuckling, Jack looked over the room casually for any trash that the kids may have missed.

~Hmmm, Munchkin in crisis,~ Jack thought, surprised to see Little Danny staring at him from the ottoman he'd been sitting on earlier.

“She's still missing, Dad,” Little Danny spoke softly.

Jack walked over and knelt down, making sure he had a smile on his face.

“Where is she?” the little boy asked anxiously.  “Maybe she got out.  She might be lost.  I'll bet she's scared.  What if ...”

“Use common sense, Little Danny,” Jack interrupted, wanting to stop the boy's vivid imagination from killing off their beloved cat.  “Our house is protected.  Daddy and I always know if someone opens a door or window because they all have alarms on them, right?”  After the boy nodded, he continued, “So, we know she's here somewhere.  She's probably just tired from following me around all the time.  Yesterday, she was practically in my hip pocket every second of the day.”

“Hey, what's going on?” Daniel asked, re-entering the room and sensing something serious was happening.

“Daddy, I'm worried 'bout Mittens.  I still haven't found her,” Little Danny sniffled, getting up and running to Daniel.

The archaeologist immediately picked him up, looking over at his husband, who stood back up.

“I told him Mittens is just hiding somewhere in the house.  When it comes time to feed her in the morning, she'll be front and center,” Jack promised as he looked at their son.

“Dad's right, Sproglet.  Both Mittens and Calico have disappeared before,” Daniel reminded.

“Not this long,” Little Danny pointed out.

“If she hasn't surfaced in the morning, we'll do a family search before we go to the air show, okay?” Daniel asked.

“Thanks, Daddy,” the boy said, hugging Daniel.  “I go right to sleep, so it'll be morning faster, 'n' we find her,” he added as he squirmed out of his father's hold and hurried upstairs.

The two men automatically began to walk towards each other as they watched the boy flee from their sight.

“He's really worried,” Daniel sighed.  “He's doing that half and half speech, not certain if he wants to be grown up or a little boy.”

“Danny, we're not missing the air show,” Jack stated sternly.  “The Blue Angels are going to be there, and we missed their show last year.”

“Don't worry, Love.  Mittens will show up,” Daniel assured, giving his husband a quick kiss before heading back to the kitchen.  “I'm going to start the rounds.  Make sure to let the girls back in.”

“Like I could forget,” Jack replied with a grin.  He sighed once his lover was gone; then smirked, “If that dang cat has gone AWOL and makes me miss that show, I'll ...”

“Daaaaad ...” Little Danny interrupted, suddenly appearing downstairs.

“Hey, I thought you were going to bed?” Jack asked.

“I am, but I forgot give you this,” the boy genius responded, running up to Jack and giving him a giant hug.  “Thank you for looking for Mittens in morning.  I love her, Dad.  I no like it when she hides.”

“Me, either, Son,” Jack admitted, hunching forward and placing a kiss on his son's neck.  ~Crap, I'm going to miss the air show.~

====

Jack and Daniel entered their bedroom after tucking in all their children.  As they got ready for bed, they talked about the missing family member.

“Danny, I really don't want to miss the air show again,” Jack whined for the hundredth time.

“Again?” Daniel questioned, although he knew they had missed similar events in the past for one reason or another.

“Need a reminder, Angel?  Dress blues ring a bell?” Jack lovingly recalled with a seductive tone.

There were a couple times in the past when Jack had made plans to go to air shows and had then missed them because he'd been wearing his dress blues prior to getting ready to leave.  The outfit had an aphrodisiac effect on his husband, one the older man was actually proud of.

“Hmmm, you and your dress blues,” Daniel sighed, a sappy smile on his face that quickly turned into a wanton leer.

Those were the last words uttered by either man before they both fell asleep, except for the occasional 'yes' and each others' names as they fused their bodies into one.

====

Jack was the first one up the next morning.  After getting dressed, he went downstairs to the kitchen, hoping to find both cats waiting for their morning can of food.  The felines tended to be early risers, just like the Air Force general, so in spite of his and Daniel's best attempts to make 'cat feeding' a chore for the children, it was usually Jack who made sure their ocean fish feast was prepared.

“Morning, Calico,” Jack greeted, bending down to pat the tri-colored cat.  “Do you know where Mittens is?”

“Meow,” Calico replied and then rubbed against Jack's legs.

“Great!  Now I'm having a conversation with a cat,” Jack muttered as he reached into the cabinet for a can of cat food.

After feeding Calico and leaving Mittens' dish empty until she was found, Jack checked the tank and fish feeder.  That was normally Brianna's duty, but he liked to check up on it from time to time, just to be sure since the tomboy was still learning about proper tank and fish care.

~Danny doesn't do well when the fish die of anything but natural causes,~ the general lamented.

Jack didn't have to worry about the girls, since Bijou and Katie had a dog feeder that they'd used from the very beginning.  Both beagles paced themselves properly with their dietary intake, which a big relief to their 'parents'.

Knowing the brood would want to join the search for the missing cat, Jack decided that a breakfast of Froot Loops would suffice.  He took out five boxes of the multi-colored cereal and put them on the table in the hospitality room.  He then put out thirteen bowls and spoons.

“Any sign of her?” Daniel asked, walking into the hospitality room just as Jack finished setting the table.

“No,” Jack answered.  He then lamented, “I'm going to miss the Blue Angels, Angel.”

Daniel nodded as he replied, “There's always next year.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the older man sighed.

“Uh, I guess we're having Froot Loops?” Daniel questioned, observing all the boxes.

“The sooner we find that darn cat, the sooner I don't have to think about that darn cat,” Jack snarked.

Daniel laughed, “You love that darn cat.”

“Daniel, don't get me started.  Where could she be?” Jack wondered, walking over to the cabinets and opening them, though he knew it would be a fruitless endeavor.

“Anywhere,” Daniel answered, looking around.  As he headed for the ottomans in the rec room to open them up, he said, “Remember that time when we left the door to the kitchen cabinet under the counter open slightly, and she crawled into the towel drawer?”

Jack chuckled, “When we found her, she looked at us like we were stupid for disturbing her sleep.”  He sighed, “I guess that's why I'm doing this,” as he closed the last cabinet in the hospitality room.

~I hope she's just sleeping somewhere.~  Not finding anything in the ottomans except for the floor comforters and TV trays that belonged inside of them, Daniel yawned, automatically heading for the supply of Starbuck's coffee.  “At least the children weren't here to know we'd misplaced her.”

“Another five minutes and they would have been,” Jack pointed out about the past event.  “And we didn't misplace her, Danny, she hid from us.”

“She didn't hide, Babe,” Daniel corrected as he prepared his favorite brew.  “We left the cabinet open, and she went exploring.  She found something soft to cuddle up on, and ...” he shrugged to complete his thought.

“Exploring?  Snoopy cat,” Jack muttered.  “Blue Angels -- crap!”

Daniel chuckled, knowing his husband would whine about missing the air show at every opportunity.  He also knew Jack was worried about Mittens.  His husband's pensive chocolate brown eyes gave him away.

~Whine all you want, Jack, but you love ... that darn cat,~ Daniel mused, a smile on his face.
 
====

After breakfast, the family divided up into three groups and searched their house from top to bottom.  They'd done these searches before, usually to find a wayward child who was hiding for one reason or another, but Bagel the bunny had disappeared a couple of times, as had Bogey the lizard, so the family was used to comprehensive search of their home.

Since Jack and Daniel had a very sophisticated alarm system with all kinds of warning devices on the doors and windows, they weren't usually worried about the children disappearing outside.  As for the cats, they were indoor creatures, only rarely going outside, and when they did, they were always under close supervision to make sure they didn't wander off.

When they were done, the entire family met in the recreation room, each sitting down on the sofa sectionals.

“Daaaaaddy, where's Mittens?” a very concerned and emotional Little Danny asked as he climbed up onto Daniel's lap.

“We'll find her, Sproglet,” Daniel assured as he held the boy close to him.

Jack frowned, shaking his head as he quietly reviewed the situation.

“Dad doesn't think so.  See?” Little Danny said, pointing at his older father's demeanor.

**Jack, careful.**

Jack straightened; then commented, “I'm just thinking, Son.”  He took a breath and widened his eyes.  He slapped his hands on his thighs as he stood up, walking to the center of the room.  “Okay, let's look at this logically.”

“Military time,” David commented, recognizing the tone.

“What do we know?” the general asked.

“Mittens gone,” Little Danny sniffled.

“Not gone, just missing,” Jennifer corrected with a supportive smile.

“We know she couldn't have gotten outside, not with all the alarms,” Brianna stated.

“That's right,” Jack acknowledged.  “Did we miss anywhere in our search?”

Jennifer responded, “We checked all the bedrooms, the storage room ...”

“The train room, the game room ...” Jeff added.

“Our dance studio,” Chenoa mentioned.

One by one, every area of the house was mentioned.  Nothing had been missed, not even the garage, including the rafters which Jack himself had checked.  The children all promised they had been diligent, checking under the beds, in the closets, and just everywhere a cat might get into.

“Next question.  Daddy and I have been home most of the time over the last couple of days, but was there any time when the doors or windows to any part of the house were open without our knowledge?” Jack inquired.

Lots of shaking heads gave Jack his answer.

“She hasn't gone outside,” Daniel remarked.  “She doesn't even like to be outside that much.”

“Callie likes to go outside sometimes,” Lulu mentioned, holding her cat close to her.

“She has to be somewhere,” Brianna noted in exasperation.  “Come on, think.  If she's not in the house, she has to be outside.”

“But we haven't been outside,” Jonny argued.

“No, we haven't,” Jack agreed.  “We've ...”

“Jack?” Daniel asked, seeing his husband suddenly freeze.

“Everyone stay right here,” Jack ordered as hurried up the stairs.

“Daddy, where is Dad going?” Little Danny sniffled into his younger father's shoulder.

“I don't know,” Daniel answered truthfully.  **Jack, where are you going?**

**I just remembered something.  Give me a couple of minutes to check it out,** Jack replied.

**Okay.**

====

Jack entered the bedroom he shared with his husband and went to the door leading to the roof deck.  As he climbed the ladder leading to the Aerie, their name for the upper roof deck that had been added during the renovation to the home in 2009, he heard a pitiful, “Meow.”

Smiling, Jack opened the case that he kept his telescope parts in.

“There you are, you darn cat,” Jack scolded as he picked up the feline with the snow white paws and white belly, hugging her gently.  ~Glad no one else is here to see this,~ he thought to himself as he held the cat.

Mittens rubbed her face against Jack's chin and purred, happy to be out of the telescope box.

“Come on, Furball.  Little Danny is worried sick about you,” Jack said as he went down the ladder with the cat.

Jack patted Mittens and cuddled her until they got to the top of the stairs that led down to the first floor.  Then he held the cat out in front of him at arms length, like she was dirty, and he didn't want to touch her.

Mittens turned and looked at him, as if questioning the change in position.

“Hey, I have an image to protect,” Jack stated in his defense.

Mittens response was an understanding, “Meow,” but the look on the cat's face said, 'Oh, please, you know you love me, and so does everyone else'.

====

When Jack entered the rec room, Little Danny was the first to see him.  He had been watching the doorway since his dad had left.

“YOU FOUND HER,” Little Danny shouted as he jumped off of Daniel's lap and ran to Jack, taking Mittens and hugging her.

“Not too tight, Son.  She has to breathe,” Jack reminded.

“Sorry, Mittens, but I missed you so much,” Little Danny half cried as he held his kitty in his arms.

Daniel got up and kissed his lover, while all the kids gathered around Little Danny to welcome Mittens back.

“Dad, where did you find her?  We searched everywhere,” Jeff inquired.

“I told you guys how Mittens was following me all over the place the other day.  I just remembered that later that night, after you kids were in bed, I went up to the Aerie to put the cover over the telescope because it was supposed to rain.  Mittens must have followed me.”

“Covert Cat,” Jonny chuckled.

Jack coughed as he continued, “I opened the box, grabbed the cover, and then shut it without even looking.  She must have jumped in when I had it open.  At least there's a blanket in there so she was comfortable,” he explained.

“Sproglet, you'd better feed her.  I'm sure she's hungry and thirsty,” Daniel instructed his namesake.

“I'll help Little Danny,” Jeff offered, looking at his brother and commenting, “You can't reach the canned cat food.”

“Crap!” Jack suddenly exclaimed, looking at his watch.  “I missed the Blue Angels again.”

It had taken several hours, even with thirteen people and two beagles looking for the wayward cat, to search the entire house.  It was now after two in the afternoon, 2:00 p.m. being the time when the Blue Angels were scheduled to appear at the air show.

“Next year, Babe,” Daniel soothed, rubbing his lover's back.

“Yeah, right,” Jack groused.

~Or ... maybe sooner than that,~ Daniel pondered silently as a plan formed in his genius brain.

====

Shortly after ten that night, with all the Jackson-O'Neill kids finally asleep, Jack and Daniel settled into bed and began cuddling when, all of a sudden, they felt something jump onto the bed.

“For crying out loud, what is it with this cat?  Why won't she leave me alone?” Jack griped as Mittens curled up by his feet.  “How did she get in here, anyway? The door is closed.”

“She was probably hiding under the bed,” Daniel deduced.

“Why can't she go sleep with Little Danny or one of the other kids?” Jack complained in question.  When Daniel chuckled, he asked, “What's so funny?”

“Babe, please give it up.  I saw your shirt when you came downstairs after finding her.”

“So?” Jack asked.

“So,” Daniel answered.  “It was covered with fur.  You were hugging her.  Don't bother to deny it.  I know the truth.”

Jack grumbled, but then admitted, “Okay, okay, okay.”  As Daniel chuckled some more, the older man sighed, “I admit it.  I was worried about her.”

“And ...”

“And she is worth missing the air show and the Blue Angels for, but, if you tell anyone, I'll deny it.”

“My lips are sealed,” Daniel affirmed.  ~But, My Love, all the kids already know your 'secret'.~

With all the Jackson-O'Neills present and accounted for, Jack and Daniel fell asleep.  The last sound they heard was the contented purr of that darn cat.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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