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Full Moon Rising

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        Ace's head was hanging out the window when he pulled into the lane turning into the little gas station. He was about to turn in when the vehicles in the lot suddenly started flying out. "Damn humans," Ace muttered underneath his breath. "Never watch where they're going. Good way to kill somebody."

        He sat still in the turning lane as vehicle after vehicle sped by. Some of the drivers blew their horns and others shouted words that he could not make out for the pounding headache makers they called music. Finally, in exasperation, Ace gave Spike the wheel and hefted himself up into the driver's seat. Turning his back to the window, he dropped his striped pants and let them all know exactly what he thought of them.

        When at long last the lot was empty save two stationary cars, Ace pulled his pants up, zipped, refastened his belt, and sat back down. His hands grasped the wheel, but Spike chattered at him. The monkey told him, in no uncertain terms, that Ace had had his fun and it was his turn. Let him spook whatever human idiots remained in the lot. Besides, Ace had been driving for hours. When was he going to give him a turn?

        With a shrug, Ace laid back in the seat and only worked the pedals as Spike drove their battered car into the parking lot. Ace waited a few moments, but no pointing, screaming, or hollering humans appeared. When Spike spoke up in disappointment, he lovingly ruffled the fur on top of his head and told him, "That's all right, boy. You'll get 'em next time."

        As he straightened up and his head became level with the open windows once more, a scent caught his nose. He sniffed and then sniffed some more. His mouth watered. His hands itched for play. "Somebody's playing," he declared in his trademark slow, dramatic, and mischievous way, "with catnip!" His eyes bugged as he popped the door open, slipped to the edge of the car, and stood up, still sniffing the air frantically.

        Who would be playing with catnip here? Was there a cat somewhere who needed help? But they couldn't possibly need too much help if they had catnip. Surely this wasn't one of those rare locations where catnip grew wild?

        A sudden bark caused Ace to stick his head back into the car. "Yes?" he asked, looking at the Great Dane in his backseat. "What is it?"

        They exchanged a few barks, and Ace looked to the car parked in the next parking space. "My, oh, my, it is!" he exclaimed, a dangerous light coming on in his brown eyes. "It is a tiger!"

        Who would have a tiger here? he wondered as he jumped out of his car, leaving the door hanging wide open. Had the innocent animal been trapped overseas and brought here to be the pet of some rich snob to make them look cool, or were they indentured to another, far worse kind of slavery?

        But as Ace drew nearer to the tiger, he realized two things. One, the big cat was smiling and, though his eyes were partially glazed, he either was not in any danger or did not recognize the present danger. Two, the delightfully intoxicating scent of catnip was coming from the sleek, black machine the tiger rode in, a vehicle, Ace was quickly realizing as he examined it more closely, the likes of which he'd never seen before.

        He could see other animals in the car now, as well. A parakeet and parrot were dancing in the rear view window, fluffing out their feathers and showing off their best maneuvers. A raccoon had draped his tail through one of the hand holds and was swinging from his tail, his velvet, black paws reaching through the air for nothing in particular. Something green with a shell swam in a bucket of water behind the passenger seat; Ace hoped it was only a turtle. A couple of squirrels and a chipmunk were busy digging into an ashtray container, pulling out nuts, and stuffing their little mouths full. A golden Labrador lay curled in the back seat, appearing to somehow sleep through the raucous all the other animals were making.

        Ace had almost reached the tiger when a gnashing mouth of sharp, glistening teeth flew at him. He jumped back, more out of surprise than fear. He heard a voice calm the dog, who he could see was a poodle as he settled down, and his eyebrows shot up. He smiled. Of course, only one other besides himself would have such a menagerie!

        "Hi there, friend," he greeted the tiger, choosing to ignore the car's driver for the moment. He let the great cat sniff his hand before stroking his head. The tiger bumped his head against Ace's hand, immediately seeking more of his gentle touch.

        "What di ye want, Ventura?"

        Ace looked up and into the emerald eyes reflected in the side mirror. They seemed to glow with a fury that he met with a huge grin. "Ah, Kat! Beautiful, wicked Kat!"

        "I'm nae giin' tae ask ye again, Ventura. Tell me quick 'fore'n I lose me patience."

        {Patience? What patience?} Ace thought, but he bravely met the surly tone with his most charming smile. "Is this a private party or can any one join?"

        "Who said it 'twas a party?" she growled, and he knew immediately he'd chosen the wrong line.

        A puff of smoke exhaled from the car, and Ace felt a stab of disappointment. "You smoke?"

        "Ye t'ink I need tae ask yer permission, boyo?"

        Ace grimaced. He was coming close to working up the wrong kind of fire out of the beautiful redhead.

        "No, I . . . " He inched closer to the tiger, knowing she'd never throw fire at him if he was close to an animal. "I . . . hum . . . "

        "Spit it out," she hissed, her eyes flashing.

        "I just didn't think you'd do anything that's bad for the Environment, that's all."

        She smirked around the cigar he could now see in her mouth. "'Tis isn't." She paused a brief moment before adding, "Nae that I need tae explain meself tae ye." So why was she? she wondered. Why didn't she just pull out of here with such speed that he was sent sprawling back on his rear end? She might crunch his feet underneath her tires. The thought should have brought a grin; it didn't.

        "How can it not be bad for you -- " he coughed quickly, knowing that was the wrong direction to take " -- for the animals? Second hand smoke kills."

        Kat drilled her fingernails against the car door, and Ace gulped as he looked down and saw tiny sparks coming off of them. Quickly, he tried to change the subject. "I smell catnip."

        "'Course ye di," she growled from around the cigar.

        Ace peered into the front seat in search of the nip. Several felines were rolling the dark substance in the passenger seat. Even her Captain, who he knew was the head of her animals just as Spike was his own leader, seemed rather lightheaded as he swayed back and forth on top of the seat.

        Kat reached up and pulled him down into her lap with gentle hands. "Easy, laddie," she spoke, and Ace couldn't help noticing the difference in her tone. When she spoke to him, she always sounded angry, fierce, ready and beyond willing to smite the world, but now, as she spoke to Captain, her voice was low, soft, and remarkably close to a purr. Her words shot straight to him, and Ace wished she'd speak to him like that just once as warmth filled his loins. She was a beautiful woman, strong, smart, and obviously so loving, so why couldn't she share just a bit of that love with him? Why did she have to look at him like she did every other human . . . and hate him just as viciously?

        Smoke exited the car again, and Ace leaned in to give it a testing sniff. "You're smoking catnip!" he exclaimed, and an abrupt bark of laughter greeted his ears. He smiled down at her from where he now stood just slightly behind her window, his hands still stroking the tiger as her own did the tabby tomcat in her lap.

        "I have tae give it tae ye, Ventura," she remarked, her tone finally losing some of her anger. "Ye're smarter'n ye look."

        "Thank you, ma'am," he said with a flourishing bow. With one arm still tucked underneath his bowed body, Ace looked hopefully up. "Can I have one?" Questions flew through his mind, as he found they often did when he was confronted with this remarkable woman, but he dared not speak any of them for he knew she'd never give up her secrets.

        "Why should I waste a cigar on ye?" Kat asked, her lips twisting into a sarcastic smile around her blunt.

        "Because I rescue animals too." It was the first thing he could think of and the only thing, he knew, that stood any chance of making her like him even just a tiny bit.

        "So ye say," she retorted, clearly unimpressed.

        "And so does Doctor Tregarde," he reminded her.

        "Aye, or at least, ye have 'er fooled."

        "She rescues too. I know you know that," he asked, "so why can't you believe that there's another person out here fighting to save them?"

        Kat finally turned to look up with a quirked brow. Ace gulped and prayed she wouldn't fireball him. "Ye've got th' wrong thing swingin' between yer legs tae . . . "

        "You've never known a good man?"

        She paused, mouth still open to condemn him.

        "You've never known of another man who loves animals, who would sacrifice his life to save them?" His fingers curled around the top of her car door, and for a moment, Kat's eyes seemed distant, as though she were a million miles away from the one spot they currently shared.

        He reached inside the car. "You've never known of a man who could . . . "

        Her hands trembled as she suddenly cranked the car. Her eyes were hard again when she looked up, but something seemed to lurk just behind them. Ace fervently wished he could somehow learn what that something was even as she snapped, "We've got tae gi." His hand was still on her door as she started to pull out.

        Believing she'd not hesitate in running over his feet, Ace reluctantly pulled back and watched her exit. She paused once she was out of the parking space and looked back at him. Her eyes still did not seem as hard or as fierce as they normally did, and Ace wished she'd let him in. He could prove to her that a man could be good. He could show her that a man could love not only animals but her, as well, and spend every waking moment of his life striving to protect them all. He could love her. He knew he could.


        His head snapped up at the sound of his name. "Yes?" he asked, the word a mere breath, and he kicked himself mentally for showing any sign of the emotions that were rolling within him, any sign of anything she'd take to be a weakness.

        She threw something at him. He caught it nimbly but did not look at it. He couldn't seem to be able to pull his eyes away from her emerald orbs, but then she turned away from him, as he reminded himself she probably always would, and peeled out. He watched her go, feeling utterly helpless, a feeling he hated more than anything else.

        Gradually, Spike's chattering called to him, and Ace looked down to see what he held. He grinned at the sight of the blunt and twirled it triumphantly around in his fingers. Maybe she did like him a little bit, after all! He gave his victory cry as he returned to his car but then quickly remembered he had no lighter and, with a sigh, trudged on into the convenience store.


The End

This Ace Ventura moment brought to you by Kat Lee.