"What's wrong Vila?" Jenna asked him.
"He's named it Anna," replied Vila, referring to Avon's name for his new kitten. Though Avon firmly denied any ownership; the kitten seemed to have decided that he best fitted the role.
"I suppose that's better than calling it Servalan," said Argus wryly. He would do that just to annoy me, thought the rebel leader. Avon had been doing that a lot since he started getting better. Argus was sure the Avon was trying to see how far he could push him.
You don't know me very well, Avon, thought Argus. I do not lose control. Which is fortunate for you.
= = = = = = = = = =
Once the kitten had recovered sufficiently, Avon was determined to drop it off at whichever planet, station or inhabited asteroid they came across next; but for some reason he had not managed to do it yet. They had visited at least four populated worlds since then. Each time he found a logical reason why the kitten had to stay.
The little creature was now curled into a ball on his lap while he worked at a computer terminal in his cabin. It was a light brown bundle of short fuzzy fur; with a white tummy and a small white spot on its rump.
As part of his kitten routine and because it was conveniently on his lap, Avon examined the small animal. He put his hand on the creature's head. No fever. He felt for the wounds. Almost fully healed now. Unlike me, he thought ironically.
The fur felt soft as he examined it. He vaguely remembered that the condition of the fur in a cat was an indication of its health. As he felt the fur, he tried to remember what the indicators were. Is it supposed to feel like this? His analytical mind was trying to rationalize the feel of the fur as he began petting the kitten.
The normally thorough Avon had not yet consulted ORAC as to the essentials of cat care. His mind was still not reconciled to the fact that the kitten was not going anywhere. Taking that step would seem to be an admission that it was staying.
The kitten purred contentedly. The sound of the purring and the feel of the soft fur under his hand were soothing. Avon's mind had been assaulted for so long that this sensation gave him something he desperately needed but would never admit he needed.
The galaxy did not seem such a terrifying place with the kitten on his lap.
Now why did I get that impression? It does not make any logical sense, thought Avon. This small creature has no impact on the disposition of the galaxy. Even though his examination was over, he didn't stop petting it. There was a slight smile on his face now; though he would insist that he was only concentrating on assessing the kitten's physical condition.
= = = = = = = = = =
"This is too much," said Argus.
"What is too much?" Reya asked. She was appearing displayed on his private vidcomm in his cabin.
"He wants to make a stop at the next commercial centre now," Argus told her.
"You really must give me more details Argus. Who are we talking about?" said Reya.
"Avon. He says the kitten needs proper cat food," said Argus. "He says ORAC told him that it needs a balanced nutritional diet in order for it to recover fully. But we're in the middle of a mission." There was great frustration in his voice. With Reya, he allowed himself to express how he felt.
Argus suspected that ORAC and Avon were ganging up on him in order to make his life miserable.
"You did make a commitment Argus," Reya reminded him. "And the kitten appears to have helped Avon."
Reya reflected how adorable he was when he did that; he sounded like he was growling. Have to stop thinking like this, she reminded herself. It's too easy for this to develop into other thoughts; which we can't do anything about.
"Will it be much of a detour if you did stop at a commercial centre?" Reya asked. She tried to help him put the problem in perspective.
"Then what is really bothering you?" she asked.
"I will not have the ship taken over by something that can fit in the palm of my hand," Argus protested.
Ahhh. It's a power struggle. Reya sighed. You're very clever Avon.
She knew this was something the two men would have to work out on their own.
"You're being illogical Argus. How can a kitten take over the ship?"
"You don't know. You aren't here. He's even got a water bowl for it on the flight deck when he's at his station. I will not have animals on the flight deck!"
"Maybe you can ask him to lock it in his cabin when he's on duty?" suggested Reya helpfully. Really Argus. You can't let a little thing like a kitten get the better of you.
"I tried that," said Argus. He was sounding very frustrated now. "He started panicking and acting like he was losing his best friend. I didn't dare push it after that." The last thing he needed was to have Avon collapse again. Having a kitten on the flight deck was already bad enough.
Avon claimed to not remember the incident afterwards; Argus was certain that he was detecting smugness in the analyst's attitude now.
"Maybe he can put it in a cage?" Reya continued helpfully.
"That's really helpful," said Argus sarcastically. I can just see his reaction to being asked to put his kitten in a prison.
"Don't be that way Argus," said Reya. "I'm only trying to help."
"Yes. I know. I'm sorry." Argus took a deep breath. "I suppose it could be worse," he said. "Although at the moment I can't imagine how."
"Are you always this grouchy when you don't get your own way?"
"I am not being grouchy. And it's not a matter of not getting what I want. It's a matter of operational efficiency. And cats on the flight deck do not contribute to efficiency."
Being an ex-Federation military commander, Argus did not like personal considerations on the flight deck. Working with the civilians on the Justice and the rebel alliance groups, often taxed his patience.
"I wish I could help," Reya told him. "But I've run out of suggestions." She understood his frustrations, being a military commander herself.
"I know what might help." He grinned at her. She knew what he was thinking; it did not help that she had been feeling the same thing.
"Behave yourself dear. Remember, you have the mission to think about."
I have to behave myself too, she thought. She missed seeing him without his shirt on; missed feeling his lean and muscled body against hers.
The change which had resulted in the deepening of their relationship was too new. They were both finding separation difficult; even though it was their own priorities which did not allow them to be together.
"I don't think I want to," he said jokingly. This interaction with her was helping him calm down and gain some perspective. He realized that part of his frustrations might not have anything to do with Avon or the kitten at all.
"I miss you," he told her. And the feel of your body, he thought. Amongst other things. Argus wished that they were not so many star systems apart and getting further apart by the minute; or that the teleport could operate over longer distances. Maybe I can get Avon to work on that. It would be a useful operational ability.
"I miss you too Argus. But you have to focus now."
"I guess the kitten isn't so bad," he conceded. "At least it's quiet. And as long as it helps the crew."
= = = = = = = = = =
Avon's recovery was painfully slow and there were many setbacks. At times it seemed that the kitten was the only living thing he allowed near him. It made very few demands on him and gave no judgments; it always treated him the same regardless of what happened. And unlike the other members of the crew, apart from Argus; it was not prone to overly sentimental attacks of sympathy. Avon hated the looks of concern he got from the others whenever he suffered a setback.
The kitten appeared to like him; and everything he did seemed to fascinate it. Of course this had no impact on his attitude towards the kitten; or so he liked to think.
Avon had fewer instances of the panic attacks he often suffered after he was rescued; but when he had them, the kitten would look at him with its mysterious eyes and nuzzle his hand, wanting to be petted. The sound of its contented purring and the feel of the soft fur under his hands would calm him in a way that all the numerous and varied efforts of the others did not.
The kitten seemed to know instinctively when he needed it. It didn't matter where the inquisitive creature was in its exploration of the ship; it always appeared when it was needed.
Avon would never admit he needed anyone or anything; but he did find it an odd coincidence that the kitten would always be there whenever he was about to suffer from a panic attack. Sometimes he did not even see it enter the room. It just seemed to appear.
He was coming to expect its presence now.
It seemed that the length of the attacks was also decreasing. Avon did not know whether it was because of the presence of the kitten or not.
It may be a fruitful avenue to explore. Whether there are therapeutic benefits to having a kitten. His thoughts had nothing to do with profit potential. He would never do that to the little creature.
= = = = = = = = = =
"I don't think your kitten likes me," Vila complained to Avon one day. The thief had been trying to entice the little creature with a tidbit of meat but the kitten had sniffed at the offering, snarled at him and stalked away. Vila could have sworn that it sounded like a much larger cat.
"It is obviously an animal of intelligence and discernment then," remarked Avon. The analyst was starting to find himself warming to the little bundle. It might actually improve the intelligence quotient of this ship, he thought.
Even though the kitten liked to perch itself on his operations console; it seemed to know instinctively how to keep out of Avon's way. The kitten carried itself with great dignity and poise; which was something Avon appreciated. It was somehow flattering that of all of the people on the ship, it had chosen him.
Not that flattery is anything I pay attention to, thought Avon.
Even though it was Vila who had brought the dying kitten aboard the ship in his kit bag; the tiny creature had decided that it liked Avon best.
The kitten had refused to allow anyone except Avon touch it while it was recuperating from its near fatal wounds. The analyst had reluctantly agreed to take care of it; especially after Argus had said, "If you really think you're not up to it, I'm sure Vila will be glad to volunteer."
Avon thought that Vila could barely take care of himself; to inflict him on the poor kitten was a cruelty even a detached person could not ignore. So he had agreed; and added the kitten to his daily routine.
Argus had reluctantly allowed the kitten to stay onboard while it healed. It had seemed heartless not to take care of the poor creature since it had inadvertently saved their lives on their last mission.
For Avon, the kitten was becoming a familiar and comforting presence even though he rarely paid any attention to it. The kitten seemed to be content just being with him; and did not require much maintenance or attention; other than a bowl of food and water every day.
Cally had volunteered to help with the kitty litter; something which Avon steadfastly ignored.
The little creature appeared to like Avon; and everything he did seemed to fascinate it. If anyone tried to disturb Avon when he was working, the kitten would glare at them in warning. It considered anything Avon did as being too important to be interrupted.
Although it slept in Avon's room; the kitten only curled up beside his bunk. It never tried to crawl in with him or even try to get on the bed; which Vila had thought strange behavior for a cat. But it seemed to know that Avon wouldn't like it.
Avon had accidentally dropped a towel by the side of his bunk one day and forgot to pick it up. The kitten immediately claimed it for its own and would sleep on it at night. Avon decided that since the kitten respected his territory; he would do the same for it.
"It's not a cat, it's an alien," Vila had said one day when the kitten still refused to acknowledge his repeated attempts at friendship. "Or maybe Avon programmed it. I wouldn't put it past him."
To Vila's consternation, the kitten always snarled at him whenever the thief came near Avon's console on the flight deck. Vila complained bitterly at the ingratitude of dumb animals.
Avon had thought it an ironic attitude considering the source of the complaint.
When Avon and Argus were having an argument, the kitten would sit quietly and glare at the rebel leader. It appeared to make the normally tough man nervous to have a small bundle of fur glaring at him.
Avon found it amusing.
It was also gratifying that the kitten always seemed to stand by his side in any disagreement with the others. You are a smart little creature. Even if you are only a cat, Avon thought. If only the others were as sensible as you are. I might keep you, just to annoy Vila and Argus, he thought.
Yes, that would be a good reason.