Jonathan arrives at Coors Field listening to a rambling voicemail from his husband. Eli had suffered through his dentist appointment thinking he felt rotten from lack of sleep but he's apparently developed a cold overnight that's gotten progressively worse through the day. Eli's accent is thicker and more syrupy than usual and he keeps straying off topic and making nonsensical non sequiturs. Cough medicine always does some really odd things to the man. Jonathan tucks his phone into his pocket with a chuckle when the message abruptly ends with “M'kay, thassit, loveyoubabybye.”
He can hear people behind him, recognizes the voices of some of his teammates. He hears his name and then a burst of laughter. Scowling, he halts and turns around to eye them, glaring when they laugh even harder. Then he notices them pointing and he wonders uneasily if maybe he accidentally wore those jeans with the rips over his thigh and right below his ass that Eli just won't let him throw away.
Fortunately, it is neither of those. What it is is a small orange cat with stubby legs, tail waving slowly as it blinks up at Jonathan. He's not sure why it's so funny. Spinning on his heel, he heads inside, ignoring the laughter. People in Denver are crazy and he doesn't like them. He gets more indulgent smiles when he enters the clubhouse and when he looks down, the cat is still with him.
“Bring us a mascot, Sanchez?” Rutledge drawls. Jonathan grunts and flips him off.
“I do not know where it came from.”
“It started following him in the parking lot.” Pomeranz chimes in, grinning at Jonathan as he scoops up the cat and tickles it between the ears as he follows Jonathan to his locker. It purrs and bats one tiny paw at Pomeranz's wrist, which Jonathan will grudgingly admit is pretty cute. “The door shut, it looked sad so... I let it in and it ran until it caught up with him.”
Jonathan just eyes him. “Why did you do that?”
“It was funny and maybe if you had something to keep you entertained, you wouldn't be so miserable all the time.” Pomeranz says, and he still sounds amused but he also looks a little concerned, like he really cares about whether Jonathan is happy or not. It's a pretty good feeling. “You gonna keep it?”
“Why would I keep it? It's a stray. We need to take it back outside.” Jonathan answers and the look Pomeranz gives him makes him feel a little like a dick. He reconsiders before deciding to do what Eli would do. “Okay, we find someone to take care of it until after the game and then I'll take it to a shelter or something. Or maybe someone around here will take it.”
Pomeranz seems happy enough with that answer and hands the cat to Jonathan. He sighs and stares at the animal before carefully depositing it in the bottom of his locker. It looks around, looks up at him and promptly curls into a ball on a discarded shirt and starts snoozing. Jonathan shakes his head and changes for the game, speaking when he's spoken to and managing a few smiles at the good natured ribbing about his 'new friend'. He looks down at the cat again.
It's adorable, true. He is so screwed.
Dressed, he scoops the creature up and cradles it against his chest before setting out in search of someone who will take it off his hands for the duration of the game. Various women employed by the organization coo over him and pet the cat. They only marginally lose interest when they see his wedding ring. Betty, an older woman on the cleaning staff who reminds him of his mother-in-law, pinches his cheek and agrees to take the cat for a few hours. He hands it over and she plops it on top of her cart. The cat gives a distressed mew as it disappears from sight.
“You're a monster. A heartless monster.” Rutledge states solemnly. He's standing next to a giggling LeMahieu. They usually don't talk to him and he wonders what's suddenly changed.
Later, in the dugout, he's sitting next to Pomeranz and since he's one of the few people Jonathan has really talked to, Jonathan asks him. Pomeranz stares at him.
“I don't know if you've ever been told this, but you're kind of a scary bastard. Really. You scare people. Nobody knew what to say to you. You always look homicidal.”
“I do not!”
“Maybe not when you're on the phone. That's the only time I've ever seen you smile.”
After the game, Betty is waiting by the clubhouse. He barely gets a chance to tell her thank you before the cat is springing at him, claws digging into his hoodie at the cat pokes it's head into his hood, mewing and licking at his neck. The warm and fuzzy feeling makes the laughter of his teammates and the sacrificing of his dignity totally worth it.
He stops at Wal-Mart on the way back to the apartment for supplies for the cat, which rides in his t-shirt with it's head hanging over his collar. The employees seem too amused to say anything about an animal in the store and he rewards that concession by taking a picture with the cashier when she asks. At the apartment, he sets the litter box (which the cat immediately climbs in and uses, gross but a good sign) up in the bathroom, sets out food and water and goes to crawl into bed and watch Chopped. He's done his good deed for the day, he's earned some lazy time.
Scott Conant is complaining about a chef using raw red onion when there's mewing and a scratching noise, the blanket shaking. A moment later a small orange head appears over the edge of the bed and the cat scrambles up his chest, laying down and staring at him with round eyes. Jonathan smiles in spite of himself, tapping it on the head with a finger. “You are cute, I will give you that. Evil too. Eli's going to laugh at me... what do I call you, hmm?”
The cat, apparently uninterested in a moniker, curls up on his chest and goes to sleep. He's still thinking on it when his cellphone rings. Eli. Jonathan grabs the phone.
“Are you still stoned out on cough medicine?”
“No.” Eli mutters and Jonathan can practically hear him blushing through the phone. “I was almost falling asleep when I got to the park so I didn't take any more. Didn't wanna fall asleep in the dugout.”
“Take it. Now. I want you better before Thursday.”
“M'kay. Hang on a second.” Eli answers, and there's a gulp and then a shuddering gag that indicates he's done as he was told. “God that's disgusting. I don't want to hear you complaining tomorrow if I fall asleep on the phone. Are you in bed?”
“Yes. I'm not alone either.”
There's several seconds of silence before Eli speaks up in a dangerous tone, “Oh really?”
And people say Jonathan's a jealous bastard. Jonathan decides to spare him the blood pressure spike.
“A cat followed me into the stadium. I was going to just take it back outside and leave it there but Pomeranz implied that would make me a dick so I got someone to watch it for me during the game. I was going to take it to a shelter.”
“It really liked me. And that kind of made me want to keep it.”
“Good. You need a friend.”
“That's what Pomeranz said. He also said that some people haven't talked to me because I always look homicidal and they're afraid of me. The cat kind of ruined that for me.”
“Again, good. You need to... y'know I love you but you really need to stop the bear with a sore paw act and get to know people. Who knows how long you'll be in Colorado and wouldn't it be easier if you at least had someone to get a beer with after games or something?”
Jonathan's not going to reward that with an answer. Instead he drums his fingers on the cat's body. It stretches out full length before winding back into a ball again. He grins. “What do I name it?”
“What? I'm not naming it that. Who names a cat that?”
“If it was good enough for Shakespeare, it was good enough for a cat.”
“I don't like Shakespeare.”
“... fine.” Jonathan answers. He looks down at the cat again. “Mercutio. That's your name. Do you like that? Don't blame me, blame your other dad. Oooh, purring. I guess you do like it. Well, suit yourself.”
Eli is laughing, happy and sleepy and Jonathan smiles to himself. “You're adorable.”
“Shut up and go to sleep, you're getting stoned again, I can tell. Nothing you say can or will be taken seriously.”
“Mmm. Am I waking you up again?”
It's become a habit, Eli calling Jonathan to wake him up instead of Jonathan using an alarm clock. The phone calls usually last less than a minute and it's sappy but he loves it. “Please.”
“M'kay. Love you, g'night.”