Of Cats and Cavaliers
Disclaimer: We own nothing, Joss Whedon and Rachel Vincent own everything. We just play. Except, Nellie is mine. Really. He is.Important
: This story is set to allow anyone to add chapters. Please don't.
This story is a collaboration between me, Faithunbreakable, and Anneliese. The setting is supposed to give us both equal access to the story but if you're not us please do not add to the story
. You're not supposed to. We just couldn't think of a better way to pull it off. Again: Do not add chapters to this story, please
A/N: Now that that's out of the way, we both read the book and we both wanted to fic it something bad. So we did. As it stands, we'll both write single loose ficlets that will, at one point, make a more or less coherent story. We try to make it so you can understand the story if you haven't read the book but, honestly, the book needs to be read. It's just that good. And now...
+1, Of Cats and Cavaliers
Anne shook her head jerkily as she relearned to breathe on top of a broken crate. She could think of at least three things that were wrong with that. She liked stars, she really did, but not when they were dancing and blinking in front of her eyes like crazy. And shaking her head didn’t really help. Things were a bit easier in the breathing department. It only took a few harsh and flat pants for her lungs to remember how they were supposed to work and a quick probing of her ribs informed her that nothing was broken.
Anne 1, wall 0. The crate dug into her back painfully and she just knew
that dozens of tiny splinters had pierced through her shirt and buried themselves in her in skin, leaving her with the feeling that someone had taken a cheese grater to her upper back and shoulders.
Great, just great.
The stars faded to dull background illumination and with a resigned sigh and a sharp intake of breath as she moved, Anne rolled to her feet. Or at least she tried. She’d sort of forgotten about her ankle. Which was probably sprained, if not broken. Damn it all to hell and back, was there no justice in the world? And no, she totally didn’t need an answer to that. She tried again, succeeding this time and getting vertical but the whole clinging to the wall like a drunk thing? So not of the good.
She turned around. The…thing, whatever it was, was back on top of Cindy. It, the thing, had looked human at the beginning of their little get together in the dark alley they were currently residing in. Latino. Probably South American from the few chunks of almost-but-not-quite Spanish she understood. He, because it was definitely male, was short, stocky, dark haired and altogether too scruffy to follow into any dark places. Obviously, no-one had told Cindy that, though.
And then he had changed, shifted, become something else. Something that looked like a panther, was strong like a werewolf, and totally out of control. It was almost funny, actually, Anne decided. The evening had looked like it might almost be fun before it had gone south of shitty in less than five minutes.
Her shift at the diner ended early, before sunset and she was happily strolling toward her hole in the wall apartment for some canned cuisine and a lumpy bed when that girl, Lilly came after her, calling her name. She ignored the skinny blonde, intent on enjoying the last rays of daylight, a luxury she usually didn’t get because she worked from dawn till dusk with two twenty minute breaks spent in a dingy backroom that she was sure had last been cleaned around the time Elvis died.
And then Lilly did it. She called her by her name. The other
name. The nasty one. Okay, so that wasn’t part of the almost good evening she was having, but it wasn’t too bad because Lilly swore on her pinkie finger not to tell anyone, even her cute junkie boyfriend. She asked Anne to come with her to a rave in someone’s basement and Anne, feeling a bit adventurous because of the sunlight on her face and the knowledge of having escaped the backroom and diner for the day, agreed. She didn’t really want to go, mind you, but she didn’t have anything against going and while three months ago a broken-mattress-and-cold-ravioli-exile had seemed just punishment for her sins, it was a bit old now.
She knew she was healing and while she hated it, it was inevitable. Surviving was what she did, who she was. A broken heart wouldn’t kill her, unfortunately, and so she agreed to go to a party with Lilly. Because she was seventeen and not dead.
Lilly of course, dumped her ass as soon as the junkie-boyfriend showed up but that was alright. Lilly had a tendency to babble. The only babble Anne liked these days was her own, thanksalot.
She found Cindy at the bar, looking a lot like Anne figured she herself did; out of place and very carefully not having too much fun. They talked some and laughed a bit together. It was nice. And then Lilly came back and dragged her onto the dance floor for a whole three songs. Not that Anne would have known there were three songs. It was kind of hard, she found, to separate one techno tune from another. When she came back, Cindy was on her way outside with a short Latino who just happened to set off Anne’s long forgotten and deeply hidden Spidey Sense.
Shaking off Lilly’s hand, she followed them outside, too late. They were already gone. Darting into the nearest alley, she quickly searched it, top to bottom before jogging to the next dark alley mouth and the next and the next, looking for Cindy and her scary date. She found them on them almost two blocks from the party and much too late. Cindy’s pants were gone, her shirt was torn and there was blood. Blood in places Anne didn’t want to think about. So she didn’t, letting something else take over instead and jumped the monster that liked hurting defenceless girls. See how it liked one who hit back.
But she hadn’t trained on over three months, hadn’t hunted anything bigger and more dangerous than a fly and she was out of practice. Besides, she kept one eye on Cindy the whole time, straining to hear the girl’s fluttering heartbeat.
She landed a punch, reeling a bit from the shock that raced up her arm. Retaliation came swiftly, knocking her off her feet for the first time. She landed on Cindy’s left arm, scrambling to get off it and back to her feet immediately. Meanwhile, the bad guy had raced to the end of the alley, as far away from her as possible and started…changing, shifting. Bones elongated, limbs shrunk, facial features shifted and fur burst out of skin. It looked painful.
It also looked like it left him defenceless for the moment. She looked around frantically for any kind of weapon. Dumpster, newspapers, trash bags, wooden crates that didn’t look sturdy enough to support yesterday’s garbage much less function as a weapon. Nothing useful. Nothing she could use to smash this fuckers head in for what he’d done. Damn.
Plan B it was, she decided. A quick look told her that Evil and Ugly was still busy changing into….Geez, he was becoming a kitty cat. She sprinted over to Cindy, looking her over carefully, trying to decide where she could touch the unconscious girl without causing additional damage. If she could at least get her out on the street, someone was sure to call 911. One less thing to worry about. One less thing to concentrate on. It was no use. There was nowhere she could grab Cindy without causing damage so she simply hooked her forearms under the other girl’s armpits as carefully as possible and started pulling her toward the mouth of the alley.
She heard the low growl too late, turned too slowly and caught the full brunt of enraged cat-something. She flew backwards, slamming into a wall and then crumbling on top of a crate, pulverizing it as stars bloomed in her vision and her ankle twisted the wrong way.
And that’s how she’d gotten to the here and now. It couldn’t have taken her more than ten seconds to get her bearings but the damage the thing had done in that short amount of time was gruesome. Cindy’s heartbeat had fallen silent, faded from Anne’s acute hearing. The girl was dead. Her chest was a gaping wound, ripped open by claws and teeth and that thing
was…it was feeding.
Anne felt as pure and undiluted fury overrode her momentary grief. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t known Cindy very well. Nor did it matter that she’d found the girl nice or that she’d almost managed to save her. What matter was that the monster that killed her would die. By Anne’s hands. Because that was what Anne did. She killed evil. She hunted down the monsters and made them pay for every little girl they had ever dragged into a dark alley. It was her job.
B…-Anne ground her teeth together against the pain in her ankle and pushed off the wall. The werecat, she was pretty sure that’s what it was, hadn’t noticed her yet and she intended to keep it that way. Slowly, silently, she snuck up on it until she stood about six feet behind it on the right, wishing for a crossbow or at least a decent knife. As it was, the piece of broken crate she was clutching in her hand would have to do.
Bu…-Anne took a quiet breath and flung the piece of wood against the wall in front of the catman as hard as possible. As intended, it jerked its head up and toward the sound and Bu….-Anne used her chance to close the distance between them and deliver a vicious kick to the things neck, sending it reeling for a second before it spun to face her, fangs bared and claws scraping against the concrete.
Actually, she decided, the thing was kind of pretty. It looked a bit like a jaguar. Only bigger and a lot stronger. And a killer, of course. It leapt at her and she ducked, sweeping its hind legs out from under it as it landed on the splintered crate. It yowled in pain as wooden splinters dug into its front paws from the unexpectedly rough landing but didn’t pay much attention to it. Buf….-Anne barely had time to avoid the second attack and the third one caught her, one set of claws ripping her shirt at the shoulder, taking her to the ground.
For just a moment the stars were back. Then they faded and for a ridiculous moment she frantically wished them back because the Technicolor image of spitting mad catman in front of her was a lot worse than stars. The catman’s full weight landed on her chest a split second later, making her wheeze.
Buf…-Anne, no Buffy, damnit! Buffy brought her arms up automatically to protect her face and started bucking, trying to throw the thing off. No such luck. Changing tactics, she shoved her arms between the catman’s front legs and then jerked them apart, ruining its stance and rolling them both at the same time. One punch in the nose gave her enough time to scramble to her feet yet again. She needed a weapon, for Twinkies’ sake! And fast!
An almost inaudible scraping at the mouth of the alley cum war zone made her jerk around without thought. Standing there, only twenty feet away, she could just make out the silhouette of a big man against the light of the street lamps.
Then the catman’s claws sunk into her back. She was flung to her knees, gritting her teeth in agony as one set of claws, she could feel every single one of them, struck right below her neck, tearing skin and muscle for what felt like miles and miles until pure animal instinct kicked in and Buffy reared up and back, twisting on her knees so the catman hit the dumpster with a dull thud. It roared into her ear, but wrapped its limbs around her in a display of cattish flexibility, claws still sunk into her back to the hilt.
She threw herself back against the dumpster again and again, using every ounce of her supernatural strength and finally, dazed, the catman let go. Ignoring the searing agony in her back and arms she spun, grabbing the thing, one hand on its throat the other hooked into its mouth between sharp canines. She wrenched her arms in opposite directions until the sharp snap of breaking bones echoed from the walls and the catman went limp.
Panting with relief, she let go of the corpse, falling backwards to land on her ass. The pain in her back, instead of subsiding slowly as her slayer healing kicked in became harsher with every passing second until Buffy was sure she was going to pass out. Which, you know, was kind of bad considering there was a dead werecat and a dead…Cindy, she’d almost forgotten about Cindy. She jerked around to look at the girl’s body and yelped as she noticed the silhouette had moved into the alley and was kneeling next to Cindy, checking for a pulse that Buffy knew wasn’t there.
The last thing she noticed before the world went fuzzy around the edges was the strange look the newcomer gave her as he looked up. After that there was only, blissful, pitch-like, really-dark-closet-at-midnight black
“Ouch.” That was the first thing out of her mouth upon waking to find herself…where exactly? She kept her eyes carefully closed, just in case. She was on her stomach, in a bed. Her back….she flexed a few muscles…still hurting like a Cor….bitch, but bandaged. She also seemed to be alley-grime-free. She inhaled carefully and relaxed a bit. No hospital smell. No hospital was always of the good. Except…if she wasn’t in a hospital, where was she?
She tensed again when she heard an intake of breath and then, “Relax.”
The voice was soft and deep, like a hot cop of coffee and no more than three feet away. Buffy cracked one eye open. In hindsight, keeping her eyes closed to feign sleep after she’d already announced herself by muttering seemed a bit dense. Oh well. She had been out of the whole kidnap and torture business for a while, hadn’t she? Not her fault she was out of practice.
It was the guy from the alley, the one who’d come at the end of the fight, and checked on…
He shook his head. Buffy nodded. She’d known that. But denial wasn’t just a river in Egypt. Besides, who knew where Egypt was anyway? And,…she’d kind of liked Cindy. She had a tendency for liking people who were going to die. Or maybe she had that backwards and people died because she liked them. Either way, a girl was dead. But she wasn’t. She had to remember that.
At least, not yet. But then, the mysterious guy next to her had checked on Cindy, right? And he’d patched her up and put her in a bed. Beds were not exactly evil uber-lord standard equipment. Except when they wanted to seduce the damsel in distress. But…nah. Also, he sat between her and the door. And she was too beat to fight her way to freedom. She’d have to play nice for now, she decided. He didn’t look all that threatening.
“Where am I?”
“A motel room.”
She raised one eyebrow sceptically. He had stunning green eyes, for an old guy. Honestly, he was at least fifty. And no matter what TV tried to tell people, salt and pepper was soo not sexy. “A motel room where?”
He snorted and that, too, was a nice sound. “Los Angeles, California. At least you’re not stupid.”
If she hadn’t been lying down and aching like no-one’s business she would have bowed. As it was, the eyebrow hitched a trip even farther into her hairline. “I got another smart one coming for you,” she finally drawled, possibly imitating Spike just the tiniest bit and purely by accident, really.
She nodded, “Here it comes: It’s bad form to stand by and watch a girl get the shit beat out of her by a freaky catman.”
He conceded her point with a nod and a brief lowering of his pretty-boy eyes. Here was a nasty scar on the side of his throat. “I wanted to help but I was too surprised to see you fighting back.”
“Well, what’d ya expect me to do? Lie down and ask to be ripped apart, pretty please? Sorry, not my style.” Se flexed the sore muscles of her back again, trying to figure out if she could take the guy if it came down to it. Ouch, damn it, she hurt. The wound should have healed at least some by now, but it hurt worse than when she’d gotten it. It was probably infected. Great. Just great. Couldn’t anyone cut her any slack, ever? What had she been in her last life, a cannibal? Child eater? Serial killer? Emo kid?
He shook his head, leaning back in the rickety chair he sat in. “I’ve been hunting the…man you fought for months. He was a,” He hesitated for a moment, as if trying to decide how much to tell her but in the end he just said what she already suspected, “A rogue werecat. I was shocked to see a teenage girl not only fighting him, but winning. They are stronger than humans, you know, and a lot faster. You shouldn’t have stood a chance.”
Buffy was only listening with one ear. The rest of her mind was focused elsewhere. Werecat, emphasis on the ‘were’ part. Claw marks that didn’t heal properly. Did that mean…?
He stopped talking, looking at her in surprise as she struggled to sit up, clutching a pillow to her bare chest. She didn’t even care that an old man had stripped her. Much. She frowned as her body protested her movements but ignored the pain in favour of turning a beseeching gaze on her saviour.
“I’m gonna be one of…” She’d been about to say ‘them’ when he moved his head just a fraction of an inch to one side and his eyes caught the dim light through closed curtains in a funny way. A way no human eyes could have. But the catman, his eyes had done the same trick. She cocked her head to one side, cursing cosmic karma and finishing with a belated, “…You. I’m gonna be like you, aren’t I?”
There was a long stretch of silence before he nodded, eyes big and sad. At least someone felt bad for her, Buffy thought, half hysterical. This was so typical for her. She became the slayer, burned down a gym, moved to the hellmouth, fell in love with An…with a vampire, got eaten by a giant demon and the list just went on and on. Nothing ever went right for her. Getting scratched up by a werecat? It didn’t even make the top five anymore. At least not yet. Maybe when the bubbly spurt of hysteria inside her chest burst and reality came slamming back into her. As it was, she just giggled, clutching the pillow tighter.
“I’m sorry. I really am. If I’d been a bit faster…”
She shook her head, stifling her giggles for the moment. “Second rule of slaying. You save as many as you can. No more. If I’d been faster, Cindy wouldn’t be dead. But I wasn’t and…”
A strange look crossed his face as she trailed off. He looked at her for a second before opening his mouth but Buffy cut him off, a new thought crossing her mind.
“Hey,” she chirped as the slightly panicked giggled came back. Boy, if Giles could hear her now. Brave Buffy, brave. “It could be worse.”
She grinned broadly as the first tear slid down her face. “It could have been a werewolf. And those are really kinda butt ugly. Cat doesn’t sound so…” She slapped a hand in front of her mouth to keep from wailing like a child lost in the woods. Why did it always have to be her? Why did she have to kill Angel and save the world and become a monster? It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair.
Her saviour had his arms around her before she knew it, whispering soothing silly things in her ear, holding her until her hiccups faded and her tears dried on her face, spent.
It took what seemed like hours but eventually, she wiped her face on her pillow and mumbled, “I’m sorry for blubbering all over you.”
He shook his head, offering her a tissue. She blew her nose gratefully as he offered, “It’s alright. I’m Nelson, by he way. Nelson Sanders.”
She looked around for a trash can but found none. In the end, she shoved the Kleenex under her thigh and wiped her hand on her pants before holding it out in greeting. “A…Buffy Summers. That’s me.”
He smiled gently at her, his big frame dwarfed by his bigger grin. “Cat is definitely better than werewolf. For one, we aren’t tied to the moon. Also, no silver allergy. And no-one knows we exist so we’re left alone, mostly. And we build prides, families with an alpha and his mate.”
Slowly, Buffy felt herself relax. She’d survive this. She always did. And she’d always sort of liked cats.