Chris gets Spock because Phil says it's get a pet or he calls Una, and Chris swore up and down to her that he would be fine, he was almost done with PT, it was her last tour, and he was doing great with the cane. He hadn't expected how quiet it would be, is all.
Chris goes to the shelter and among the rivers, the rampages, the floods of animals of all ages and colors and sizes, he sees a half-grown black thing with ears like Batman and old-soul eyes. Someone has put a bandanna around his neck, an affront to his dignity he is too good natured to take offense to. Chris sits down on a chair next to him and after a minute the dog invisibly slides closer to him, one shockingly delicate paw resting on Chris’s shoe, as if the dog is saying, “Please don’t go.”
He takes Spock home. He and Spock go for long walks together -- long for Spock, short for Chris, actually. Spock just runs up and down and around Chris as he marches grimly through his prescribed one half mile out and one half mile back. It’s nice. Phil gives Chris a ball-thrower and he throws balls for Spock to chase.
Spock hates festive seasonal bandannas with a passion, but Chris is a horrible person and the way that Spock paws at the red bandanna festooned with candy canes and dogs wearing santa hats and text bubbles that say SANTA PAWS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN and then regards Chris like humans are everything wrong on the planet is funny as shit.
“Uncle Boyce is coming,” he tells Spock, because Spock hates Phil for no reason that Chris can tell. “And Leonard! Won’t that be fun?”
Spock’s ears go flat against his head.
Chris chuckles, evil, and scruffles the nape of Spock’s neck.
He gets up on a groan, grabs his cane, and goes to fill Spock’s bowl. The shelter has no idea where Spock came from, but he’s obviously spent time hungry; he licks the bowl out every meal like he wants to get even the last taste out of it. It’s cute in a way that makes Chris want to find whoever abandoned Spock and punch them in the face.
It takes a minute to process as he turns around with Spock’s organic semi-soft food, but -- there’s still food left in the bowl. Chris blinks at it, blinks over at Spock, who is obliviously chewing at an imaginary flea on his balls, and then dumps out the leftover food and pours new in. “You’re getting spoiled,” he says, aloud, “was it not fresh enough?”
Spock picks up the festive seasonal bandanna and carries it delicately over to his potty pad, putting it down in the center.
Next day, Spock leaves almost exactly the same amount, and Chris frowns at the bowl and then his dog, who is now chewing a dried pig’s ear because Leonard might actually hate Chris’s sanity. Spock had a lot of treats yesterday, because Leonard also thinks that if he bribes Spock enough he will do the thing with the paw, and Spock chooses to let him believe this is a possibility as long as Leonard offers him liver bits for pretending he’s thinking about going though with it. Spock only does the thing with the paw for Chris, small children and the people at the retirement care place he and Chris go to (so Chris can tell Phil and Una he’s not moping around the house and Spock can be adored as is his lawful right).
So he leaves the food there, because what the hell, Spock might get hungry later. It’s not like he’s starving or anything.
The third day, he adds in a little of the gravy that Spock loves best, and watches in blank horror as Spock leaves a little of it left over again. Chris has no idea what the fuck is going on. It’s the gravy that Spock likes. He should be all over that like a black furred vacuum, and yet!
The fourth morning, he gets up and realizes that while Spock left food in his bowl, there is no food left in it now. Spock sleeps beside Chris in a way that Una is going to hate when she gets home, but fuck it, his wife is in Iraq and if he wants to let his dog sleep with his head on a pillow like a civilized person, he can. He’s got six months before he has to break it to Una that she’s been ousted.
He looks down at Spock. “Huh,” he says. Chris woke up a couple times during the night with his damn leg, and Spock hadn't as much as flickered an ear at him the entire night.
Spock looks back up at him.
“I wish you could talk,” says Chris.
That night Spock leaves the green beans (Spock loathes green beans, but Chris keeps offering them partly because they're full of fiber and he is apparently the dog parent who takes a tender interest in his dog's shit -- and partly because it's hilarious to watch Spock lick them clean and leave them in a tidy pile on the side of the bowl) but also a bit of his food. His favorite part, no less, so Chris googles MY DOG IS ACTING REALLY WEIRD LIKE HES ON A DIET and then checks Spock's nose and ears and feels his stomach for hard spots or hot spots, and even lifts Spock's lips to check his teeth.
Spock puts up with this for five minutes and then retreats under the coffee table, where he beetles his eyebrows at Chris like he just wants to know why humans are always so crazy.
"Why are you doing this to me?" says Chris. "Are you doing this on purpose? Do you and Phil make lists of things to drive me up a wall? Is that it?"
For a minute Chris swears to God Spock looks like he's going to answer, but instead he wiggles out from under the coffee table and brings Chris his squeaky hedgehog. His gross, slimy squeaky hedgehog. Chris sighs.
That night he decides to hell with it, if Spock is feeding the local raccoon tribe or something he'd better figure out where the hell Spock is letting them in.
It’s three o’clock before anything happens. Chris’s leg is driving him crazy, and Spock has gone so far as poke his head out the bedroom door and look at him disapprovingly. He’s sleepily considering just giving up and calling the vet in the morning, even if they will assure him that they admire his devotion to his dog child, and even if they make half-serious jokes about kidnapping Spock and forcing him into slavery as an office dog.
He hears a scratching sound at the window, and looks up as the screen is pushed open and a skinny shape drops down. Chris sits up and squints.
It’s a cat, a skinny thing with a matted coat and a stringy tail. It slinks up to the bowl and Chris can hear it eating as fast as it can. Chris spares a second to wonder when the hell Spock found time to befriend the thing, but he clicks his tongue encouragingly. The cat looks up, ears flat, body tense. Chris hears Spock’s nails clicking on the floor, and Spock pokes his nose on Chris’s thigh before ambling over to the cat and nosing over it. The cat lifts its head and sniffs back.
“Hey,” says Chris softly, “hey, who are you?”
It’s hard to move carefully with his damn leg, but he manages to get over to the cat without spooking it badly. The cat holds itself still, pressed up against Spock a little.
“Ugh, Spock,” says Chris, “you are the most spoiled animal.”
Spock drops his muzzle down over the cat’s back, huffs a breath that makes the cat’s fur stick out in clumps.
“What the hell is that,” says Leonard, pointing at the cat. A month of good food and sleeping partly on Spock and mostly on Chris’s face has made Jim -- he just looks like a Jim -- sleek and plush. He’s a lot more energetic than Spock had ever dreamed of being, and he likes to play a game where he waits until Spock is napping and then takes a running leap onto his head. As cats do, apparently.
“Spock’s pet cat,” says Chris.
Leonard stares at him.
“Hey,” says Chris, spreading his hands. “I just live here.”