Episode One

     
 

 

On Earth

His leg still ached.

But this time it seemed to be a different ache, higher up, in the thigh rather than down in the calf. It would be, he realized, where his real leg ended.

And the new, artificial leg began.

He opened his eyes, jumping slightly at the sight of sapphire blue eyes staring down at him. Ki, he thought in relief, then realized that these eyes, while set in the sable mask of a Siamese, were more round then Ki's and the body laying sphinx-fashion on his chest was shorter and tubbier.

"So," he said to the cat on top of him. "They have before and after cats?"

"I never thought of it that way." Stienbeck's voice came from his right and he turned his head carefully to look at the man, sitting comfortably in a chair nearby. "That's Ki's sister, Tia. Ki's down inspecting your new leg. He does that with every patient."

"Has he disapproved of any yet?"

"Not yet. But I suspect it's only a matter of time."

"Not this time, I hope." McQueen raised his head to look down his body, his heart jumping at the sight of two leg-shaped lumps under the covers. Well, two leg-shaped lumps and one cat-shaped lump directly between them. Now that he thought about it, he could feel fur along the inside of his left leg. "Will that leg be able to feel?"

"It's possible." Stienbeck stood. "Some patients do report some feeling in their limbs but. . ."

"You don't know if it's true or just wishful thinking."

"Right." The doctor pulled up the covers from the bottom of the bed and Ki's head popped up to glare at him. "Don't glare. I have to check the leg. I am the doctor, you know."

Ki 'yroww'ed at him and laid his head back on the new leg, purring. He looked quite happy with it.

McQueen wasn't sure he was. All he could see was bare metal where his leg had been. It made him more then a little queasy.

Stienbeck seemed to know what he was thinking. "The artificial skin will be going on in the next couple of days. It'll look better after that."

"I hope so. How soon can the therapy start?"

Stienbeck dropped the sheet with a grin. "You know, you could try relaxing a little. This is probably the only vacation you've had in years."

McQueen threw the doctor a stern look, somewhat spoiled by Tia gently patting his chin.

"I've work to do." He said between clenched teeth. Under the sheet, Ki was trying to push a paw under his knee and had managed to find the ticklish spot there. He jerked his leg in warning and two feline forelegs abruptly wrapped themselves around the leg. Sharp teeth bit him.

"Hey!" He sat up to glare at the lump, ignoring Tia as she tumbled awkwardly into his lap. "He bit me!"

Then he glared at the doctor, who was laughing so hard that he had to hang onto the bed rail. "He bit me." He repeated.

"Well, you moved." Stienbeck finally managed to gasp. "And he doesn't like that. You're suppose to lie perfectly still so he can be comfortable."

"Well, to hell with that." McQueen grunted. Picking Tia up, he set her to one side then threw the sheet over her. Ki blinked up at him, looking remarkably innocent considering that he still had his legs wrapped around McQueen's calf.

"Move it!" he barked.

Ki stretched, rolling over onto his back between McQueen's legs. He didn't look very impressed.

Steinbeck was snickering again and McQueen briefly considered throwing something heavy at the man. Of course, there wasn't anything heavy within reach so he briefly considered throwing a cat at him.

"Well?" He demanded.

"What? Oh, therapy. Your therapist will be coming this afternoon to start working out the schedule. In fact, she should be here soon."

There was a sudden thump at the door.

"Oh, that could be her now, kicking at the door. Excuse me." He walked to the door and swung it partially open to talk to whoever was on the other side. McQueen heard the murmur of voices but ignored it as he tried to convince Ki to get down. It wasn't working.

"Never try to outstubborn a cat." A voice from his past came from the door and he froze briefly before raising his head to look at the now open door.

"Amy?"

Yes, it was Amy, the woman he'd once married. She hadn't changed much. Her blonde hair was cut surprisingly short and she wasn't as tall as he remembered, but then he realized she was wearing practical flats rather than high heels.

"Ty." She said, looking as uncomfortable as he felt. "You've meet my cousin, Dale." Amy slapped the chart she held into Stienbeck's stomach. Hard. He didn't seem to notice.

"Cousin?" He raised an eyebrow in mild surprise.

"Yes, well. You never met him because he's the black sheep of the family. He got that title for telling his parent off in the middle of his eighteenth birthday party. At the top of his lungs. In public."

"Ahhhh, but I cherish the memory." Stienbeck grinned.

"I bet." If Stienbeck's parents had been anything like Amy's, McQueen wished he'd been there. He glanced at Amy. "You didn't know I was here."

"No, I didn't you were here." She sent a glare toward her cousin. "If I had, I would have come visit sooner."

"You work here?"

"I hope so." Stienbeck said, stepping out of Amy's reach. "She'll be your therapist."

"Oh?" Amy had been a therapist when they married but had lost many of her clients. At the time, she'd said it hadn't mattered.

If Amy knew what he was thinking, she didn't let on. "I like the work. . ."

"She gets to bully all the military men who come through." Stienbeck added.

"It does have it's moments. Let's just say I treasure some of the memories."

McQueen eyed his ex-wife. He had been thinking of requesting a different therapist to save her feelings; now he was wondering if he should request another therapist to save his life. He started to lay back then realized Tia had appropriated the pillow.

"Move or I'll lay on you." He half-snarled and the cat looked at him, obviously weighing the possibilities. After a moment, she stood, stretched and moved to one side, all the while giving the impression that the move was all her idea. McQueen settled back.

"When do we start?" He asked, ignoring Tia as she walked over him and settled on his stomach.

"Tomorrow." Amy said, all business now. She looked over her shoulder at her cousin, now slipping out the door. "We're going to talk later."

"I was thinking the same thing." McQueen said.

"You have to catch me first." He pointed at Amy. "I could always outrun you." He looked at McQueen. "And I've got a good six week before I have to worry about you." Then he was gone, the door swinging shut behind him.

"I'm trying very hard not to like him." McQueen said and Amy laughed.

"He's very likable but sometimes he can be very irritating." She sat down in the chair next to the bed. "I wish you'd met him before. I think. . ." She stopped abruptly, looking not at him but at Ki, elegantly emerging from under the sheet.

"If you'd had him to talk to during our marriage, it might have been easier." McQueen finished.

"Yes." She paused, still watching Ki. "He was always the rebellious one. He left home, worked his way through medical school, made himself rich and famous without any help from the family. From anyone." Amy looked at him. "I was never that strong."

McQueen looked at her. "You are now."

"Am I?"

He smiled slightly. "If you're bullying military men, you are."

Amy finally looked at him and smiled back.

"And," he added dryly. "You have a chance to bully me, which should make you very happy."

Amy blinked at him in surprise then laughed, eyes dancing. "You could be right there."

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