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And Does She Ever Say Thank You?

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“Logan?”

 

He grinned reflexively into the phone, cradling it close even as he let himself sprawl out on the couch.

 

“Damn.  I know that tone of voice,” he said teasingly.  “Someone needs an errand boy.  How come I got the short end of the stick?  Can’t you bug Wallace?”

 

“Wallace is involved in some mysterious basketball team bonding ritual.  I decided I really didn’t want to know more.”

 

“So I was your second choice?” he asked, feigning shock and disappointment.  His eyes traced imaginary patterns in the ceiling as he waited for her to respond.  Somewhere upstairs a vacuum cleaner started.

 

“Logan.”  She could put more annoyance in two syllables than anyone he’d ever met.  “Can you just come over?  Please?  I need a big strong man here.”

 

“Great, I’ll call Biff down at the lumberyard.”  Nothing but silence on the other end.  “Veronica?”  Still no response.  “You do know you can’t pout through phone lines, right?”

 

“Then how did you know what I was doing?”

 

Good point.  “Oh, I have many talents,” he said airily, one arm gesturing grandly, performing for the empty room.

 

 “So I’ve heard.”  He smirked but she continued before he could offer to demonstrate any of them.  “Please?”  She was pouting all right.  He could see the expression on her face as clearly as if she’d actually been there.  He heaved an exaggerated sigh.

 

“I’m on my way.”

 

***

 

She was waiting outside for him when he pulled up outside her apartment building.  She rushed up before he could even get his damn machine in park, and he wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or worried that she was so anxious to see him.

 

“So what seems to be the problem,” he said lightly as he turned to study her.  With Veronica he could never be sure if she’d need a hand-holder or an accomplice.  She was a mess – dirt streaked her jeans and shirt and her hair was coming down – and he bit back a concerned inquiry.

 

“Good, you’re here.”  She beamed at him, seemingly unaware of his worry, and he allowed himself to relax.  Ladies and gentlemen, feel free to go back into banter mode.

 

 

“What was your first clue?”  He quirked a grin at her.  “Love the look by the way.”

 

She glanced down, looking vaguely surprised by her own state of disarray, but didn’t miss a beat.  “Well, we don’t all make it our mission to personally keep the hair gel industry afloat.”  She gave him an exasperated look.  “Will you come on please?”

 

He allowed her to pull him towards her apartment building, but instead of leading him toward the interior of the complex, she headed off to the side of the building.

 

“Ooh goody.  A field trip.”

 

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say ‘goody’.”

 

She stopped near the far corner of the complex and knelt beside a rather bizarre assortment of objects – a broom, some work gloves, a flashlight, and a cardboard box.

 

“Let me guess.  Low rent scavenger hunt.”  She glared at him briefly, before returning her attention to whatever it was she was doing.  She switched on the flashlight and aimed it into the storm drain, which he hadn’t bothered to notice.

 

He knelt beside her in an attempt to figure out what on earth she was looking for.  That was when he heard the mew.  A pair of eyes blinked at him out of the semidarkness, and he felt an extreme urge to giggle.  His badass detective girlfriend was doing a kitty rescue.

 

Veronica turned to him.  “Can you hold this and keep it trained on her?”

 

“I can see why you needed me here.  It does really take a ‘big strong man’ to hold a flashlight.”  Veronica ignored him, pulling on the pair of work gloves and lying flat next to the drain.  “How do you know it’s a she?”

 

“I don’t” she said, her voice muffled as peered into the drain, one arm groping for the kitten.  After about five minutes of effort she withdrew the arm and sat back on her heels, her face a mirror of frustration.

 

“It’s no use, my arms aren’t long enough and she keeps retreating to the far corner.  You’ll have to do it.”

 

“I will?”  He wasn’t exactly relishing the thought of crawling along the ground and grabbing something that would probably tear his hand to ribbons.  Even if it would earn him her gratitude.

 

She gave him a pleading look.  “Your arms are longer.”

 

“Veronica-“

 

“Logan, it could die down there.  What if there’s a storm?”

 

“Yes, because southern California is known for its rain.”

 

“It could starve.”

 

“If it gets hungry enough it’ll come out on its own.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

She was glaring at him, but it didn’t completely mask the softhearted worry she so desperately suppressed on a day to day basis.  He rolled his eyes and agreed, and in that moment it was worth it for the look of overwhelming affection she shot him.

 

She stripped off the gloves and handed them to him before taking up the flashlight.  He lay flat on the ground and cautiously stuck his arm into the storm drain, only realizing too late that he was going to get the same damn streaks of dirt on his clothes.

 

“You know, when you called me over here I was thinking you needed help moving a bookcase or changing a tire or something, not that you were planning on rescuing wild animals.”

 

“This isn’t Croc Hunter.  It’s a kitten for God’s sake.  And you’ve never changed a tire in your life.”

 

He peered into the semidarkness.  The kitten had apparently gotten unhappy with events and was now crying its head off.

 

“It’s always the things that look helpless that are actually the most dangerous.”

 

“Only in science fiction movies.  Will you stop being such a baby?”

 

He reached out, but the kitten was having none of it and pressed itself against the wall and man this whole thing was ridiculous.

 

He wedged his shoulder into the opening and stretched as far as he could, eventually managing to grab it by the leg.  An action it apparently resented, given the needlelike claws that managed to make their way through the heavy work gloves and the increased volume of wailing.  He hung on grimly and dragged the animal out, inwardly cursing it and its progeny to the nth generation.

 

Veronica was waiting with a towel that she must have pulled out of the box, swiftly swaddling the terrified animal, speaking in the soothing babying tone of voice that she generally reserved for her dog.

 

Out of what he assumed was pure spite, the kitten calmed almost immediately in Veronica’s arms.    She was still speaking to it in that gentle, coaxing voice, and he took the opportunity to examine his hand which had started quietly throbbing. 

 

“Shit.”  No wonder it hurt – in addition to the pinprick marks where the claws had worked through the gloves, he had a hell of a gash on his wrist from the little monster.

 

Veronica looked up in irritation that quickly became sympathy when she saw his wrist.  Tucking the little hell beast into the cardboard box, she gathered the rest of her rescue arsenal and told him to follow her inside, heading around the corner past a pair of jubilant children who had just discovered how to fry ants.

 

Once in her apartment, she set the box on the counter, muttering soothing nonsense to the kitten, which had started wailing again.  It had an impressive set of lungs considering it could practically fit in his hand.

 

“Hey, I don’t want to interrupt the kitty whispering or anything, but can you point me toward the first aid kit?  I don’t want to bleed out all over this fine carpeting.”

 

His words were lightly barbed and she looked at him in surprise.  It was amazing how quickly she could make him feel like an ass.  He shrugged slightly in silent apology, even if he was still a little irritated.

 

She frowned slightly, but said only, “Sorry,” and he felt like even more of a jerk.

 

She took his good hand firmly and led him to the bathroom where she engaged in the most prolonged search for antiseptic he had ever seen, eventually locating it under the sink.

 

Her hands were careful, precise, as she bandaged him with an almost clinical efficiency, except he didn’t think it was customary for a nurse to slip into the patient’s arms afterwards.  If it was, he had clearly gone to the wrong hospitals all his life.

 

She leaned heavily against him, her head tucked against his chest, whispering the thank yous she never said out loud.  He wrapped his good arm around her tightly and just held her for a moment, before the noise of the cat pulled them both out of the embrace.

 

“I always thought cats were supposed to be quiet.”

 

“I think it’s part Siamese.  They tend to talk a lot.”

 

“Tell your dad he has my sympathies.  Between you and that cat he’ll never get a word in edgewise.”

 

She poked him lightly in the ribs then stepped firmly away from him.  She turned to head back into the living room when something seemed to occur to her, and she turned back.

 

“What did you mean before?  I’m not keeping her.  Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.  Backup would eat her alive.”

 

“So, what?  You’re taking it to the pound?”

 

She winced at the suggestion and he belatedly remembered she had good reason not to approve of the local animal shelter.

 

“I’ll have to put fliers up.  It’s possible someone lost her.”

 

“You realize that could take a week, assuming that someone didn’t deliberately throw it down the drain in the first place?”

 

Her eyes widened in shock, and he marveled that after everything she had seen she could still be so naïve.

 

“So?”  Her tone was defensive, and if she hadn’t felt protective about the thing before, she certainly did now.

 

“So what are you doing with it in the meantime?” 

 

The instant he said it, he regretted it.  She got that hopeful look on her face, and he could already hear the arguments she’d spout off.  He had tons of room, he’d hardly notice it, he had maids to do the work, and, after all, it was only for a week until they found someone to take it in.

 

Half an hour later he found himself heading back to his car, a cardboard box in his bandaged hands.  He stowed the box on the seat beside him before carefully pulling the little furball out.  It seemed complacent now, and curled up against him willingly.  He absently scratched it under the chin with his good hand.

 

Well, he could always say no to the next favor.