Oh, My Ears and Whiskers
Therefore I'm Mad
Spoilers/Warnings/Pairings/Disclaimer – See first chapterItalics - Singing=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*= Chapter 3 – Oh, My Ears and Whiskers =*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=
Ethan was deep in a scrying trance, watching gleefully as the Hellmouth was overrun by his unleashed spell, when a prickling sensation of being watched shook him from his meditative state. His astral essence flowed back down the thread of energy tying him to his body, the feeling of observation growing stronger as he approached his physical form, abandoned in the ritual room he'd set up in his costume shoppe. The mage was concerned to sense a presence tainted with chaos magick near his prone and quite helpless flesh. His modified transfiguration spell had been enacted on such a massive scale that fail-safes and personal wards against attack were impossible. Anarchy was a dual bladed weapon, striking back at the user as often as it was successfully wielded and on this night he was as vulnerable to his creations as any other target.
He quickly realigned his drifting spirit into his body and opened his physical eyes, finding himself nose to nose with an intruder and staring deep into brightly burning xanthous pupils from mere inches away. He watched, spellbound, as a long slow blink slid a nictitating membrane over the large eyes. The dilated and cat-slit sulfur irises eclipsed his entire field of vision and he could see flecks of brown and incandescent light flickering deep in the delicate stroma. The bright yellow color registered in his mind and his first thought was that he was about to be bitten by a vampire, but as instinct made him reel back from the danger, he realized that wasn't the case. Crouched in front of him and leaning deep into his personal space was one of Giles's kiddies, the Slayer's little friend who had bought prepackaged cat ears, inspecting him curiously.
The former teenaged boy seemed to have cobbled together a new identity that wasn't one of the pre-planned personages the brit had deliberately stocked, the only items he recognized from his wares being the ears and tail. Ethan was delighted to note that whatever the costume had been based on, it was a creature of power. He felt it's strength and puckish nature flowing in the air around the boy, mixing with his natural aura rather than simply suppressing or overlaying it. How perfect. He found himself mentally praising the creativity of the youth in designing his own costume. Ethan couldn't have done much better himself.
The boy was likely to retain some form of after-effects from the spell, even when Ripper, inevitably (and likely prematurely) ended his fun. It was fitting that the spirit possessing the boy was both highly powerful and mischievous, much like it's magical creator. The boy's loyalties might even change after all-hallows eve ended. At the very least he would end up a good deal more pernicious than Ripper's strict Watcher persona would be comfortable with. The boy would be lost in a world of moral grays where 'Giles' had spent the last twenty years desperately trying to paint everything in nicely segregated black and white tones. Ethan smiled at his guest, he sensed no malicious intent, merely eager inquisitiveness and the familiar duality of childishly condescending amusement. This was a fellow son of pandemonium.
When the creature saw that it had his attention it shot him a dazzling smile full of abnormally whitened teeth that glinted merrily in the candlelight. "How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreads his claws, and welcomes little fishes in, with gently smiling jaws!"
He thought the capricious feline might be praising him on his spell-work, but the comment seemed open to interpretation."'I didn't know that Cheshire-Cats always grinned; in fact, I didn't know cats could grin.'" He quoted back without hesitation, he may prefer his life of flaunting authority, but he was still well educated. "Louis Carroll. I always liked him, writing total drivel and making scholars fall all over themselves trying to divine the deeper meaning behind it. A grand prankster after my own heart, assuming I have one. There's been some debate on that score."
"I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole - and yet - and yet - it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tails, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought!"
"So, you're self aware enough to sense the spell and know that you aren't supposed to be here, then?"
The cat creature nodded briefly and turned away from him to inspect the altar and bust of Janus that was pulsing with energy and had radiant green eyes bright enough to match the humanoid Cheshire-cat's own. The boy peered curiously into the younger male aspect's eyes undeterred by the power radiating out of the statue, his ears perked forward in focused intent, then, abruptly losing interest, he slank smoothly in the way of cats everywhere around to the other, older facet with a flourish, his long tail trailing behind him. "One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter. And now which is which?"
"Janus." Ethan agreed, coming to believe that he could understand the creature's meaning, even if his words were unclear. What a wonderful child of anarchy, even simple conversation was confusing and wrought with discord. "God of beginnings and ends, gateways, the transition from past to future, the middle ground between youth and adulthood."
"And the lost boys refused to ever grow up."
Ethan looked at the cat in bemusement, watching it poke at the flame on one of the ceremonial candles without seeming to incur any burns. "Well, that's interesting. From Wonderland to Neverland, Carroll to Barrie. You're aware of the spell and have begun breaking through the magicks on your own. Fascinating."
Rather than responding, the cat's large pointed ears swiveled suddenly to point at the storefront. A moment later Ethan heard the door open with a jingle and footsteps enter the store. He wasn't surprised at all to hear Ripper calling out, "Hello? Anyone here?"
The ex-demon summoner turned devoted chaos mage dearly wished to see Ripper's reaction to the transformation of the boy, but it wasn't to be as the young redheaded part of the Watcher's brood saw her friend through the curtains. "Xander? What are you doing here?"
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, because I'm not myself you see." With a wave and a twirl the Cheshire-cat possessed teen vanished, leaving Ethan to face Ripper's wrath on his own. The chaos mage smiled, the boy had truly become an ideal acolyte of disquiet. He wondered what would be left of the creature when the spell ended, wishing he could be there to see it.
Drusilla had chased off all of the minions to the far reaches of the factory, frightening them with her good cheer. She hummed a discordant song, one part dirge and two parts the faded memories of her mother's favorite lullaby, as she twirled around a table deep in the heart of Sunnydale's defunct shipping factory. The long table had been set with nearly a dozen place settings, of all different styles and sizes. A large, chipped, forest green ceramic mug, stamped with the words "Espresso Pump" loomed over-large on it's delicate bone china saucer, while a delicate iridescent champagne flute was flanked on either side by a half crumpled Styrofoam cup stained with coffee residue and a 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' shot glass.
"Everything must be perfect. The children scream songs of mice and toy soldiers that grow bigger and false faces that don't come off, but when the midnight hour strikes, the coach turns back into a pumpkin and the Masquerade will be over." She shifted the beer stein in front of her to the left an inch and surveyed the table proudly. "The tea! Mustn't forget the tea. Loosed leaves pluck-pluck-plucked from the trees because papa likes it fresh. Kept always in the tin in the cupboard behind the sherry. But Daddy shattered the cupboard, smashed the sherry, crushed the tin and ground the tea to dirt beneath his boot. Shouldn't have invited him in. Tried to warn them. Told them all. Shouldn't ever invite them in, they are messy, horrible visitors and they don't like tea… but it is a host's duty to serve the guests their favored drink."
She moved into the shadows under the metal walkways lining the old assembly room. The freshly killed body of a young blonde man hung limply from a girder. His throat had been cut and slow, fat drops of blood rolled down his face, catching gently in his eyelashes before dripping down into the cheerful floral printed teapot that had been placed on the floor. Drusilla swiped a finger across one bloody cheek, slicing the skin open with her razor sharp fingernail, and popped it in her mouth, rolling the digit around her tongue considering the flavor. "Weak tea is a sign of poverty or intended insult. We shall have none of that here." She glared into the dead teen's death-glazed eyes. "You bring shame to a centuries old tradition of hospitality. Daddy shall whip you when he returns, and granmummy's voice shall become shrill. The party is all ruined, and the bridesmaids cry over their dirtied dresses and wilted flowers. What do you have to say for yourself?"
The rope creaked slightly as the body spun slowly, presenting the illusion that the boy was hiding his face away in shame. "Colonists only drink coffee? How awful!"
She cocked her head to the side listening to the silence around her, before smiling and patting the body on the cheek. wiping away the blood that had pooled in the dip of the eye socket. "Well, that's easy enough to fix. No need for tears." She retrieved a small, crushed cardboard box labeled 'Tea Sampler' and plopped a bag of Black Cherry Berry, one of Vanilla Chai and a third of Peppermint into the teapot and stirred it with one of the limp hands hanging nearby. She wiped the bloody hand over the boy's lips, poking his fingers into his mouth, "That's how you're supposed to make tea, silly."
She carried the congealing, flavored horror to the table and began pouring large messy globules of gore into the arranged drink-ware. "More sugar, Miss Edith? One lump or two?" As she served all the settings, she placed squares of sugar randomly in the various cups with delicate silver tongs, some ended up containing more sugar than blood.
"A cat and her kittens came tumbling in. With a rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach…
I saw you coming my Kitten." Drusilla turned to the iron stairs in the corner with a smile just in time to see her Dark Kitten appear out of thin air. But something was wrong. Her smile faltered and she moaned in horror, "It's YOU! No, No, No, NO. You don't fit. Miss Edith says that you are the wrong Kitten. The bright sparkly Cat has eaten my Dark Kitten. Long claws and shiny teeth." She snapped her fangs at the Cheshire Cat. "The Dark Kitten isn't for eating. Oh, spit him out. You aren't hardly dark enough. No room, no room!"
She spread herself out, taking up as much space around her lace covered table as possible and embracing her tea set protectively with her arms.
"The cat that catches no mice does not earn his keep. When you play with a cat you must bear it's scratches. Kittens may grow to become cats, but cats are kittens never again." She muttered as she guarded her silver tea tray and watched the Cat prowl around the room. He picked up one of the teacups and tilted his head one way and his hand the other as he inspected the contents.
"The drink of life can be potent if offered freely." Her remarked, turning the cup over and shaking it, without dislodging the sticky red mess inside.
"No tea for those with dirty paws. It's rude to invite yourself to someone else's party." Drusilla screeched as she lunged at the pink and purple Cat who had snatched up her Kitten's invitation in his absence. The brightly shining Cat disappeared from her raking nails and the cup shattered on the floor, a large red flower blooming across the concrete. Infuriated, she turned around to see that he had stolen her teapot and was pouring himself a steaming cup of lemon tea making her nose twitch with the sting of citrus. The Cat closed his eyes and took a deep breath of scented vapor obviously savoring it.
Drusilla saw her chance and crept toward him silently, but stopped short just out of arms reach. She turned to stare at the wall, squinting as if to bring something into focus. She pouted dramatically, "Alice has caught the rabbit. Silly Alice."
She turned back to find that the not-Kitten had disappeared, leaving her teapot sitting on the table. She snatched it into her arms, cradling it close and stroking it gently. "Once dark falls all Cats become panthers, dressing their claws in silence and prowling the darkness, but come the rise of the sun they are revealed as Kittens again."
Giggling to herself in joy, the mad vampress of Aurelius squeezed the teapot too hard in her excitement and the spout broke off, spilling bloody gore all over her hand and the floor. She brought her dripping red fingers to her mouth and sucked on them, lips smacking as she meticulously sucked the liquid off of each one. "Dark Kittens with silky fur need to be loved and cared for, and mean old nasty Cats can just go away and be forgotten."
She sang to herself as she swayed and stared off into space, seeing things no one else could."There were once two cats of Kilkenny.
Each thought there was one cat too many;
So they fought and they fit,
And they scratched and they bit,
Till, excepting their nails,
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats, there weren't any."
"How are you getting on?" Spike paused in his pursuit of the Slayer's group to watch as the cat-boy from before slowly materialized, smiling broadly at him. Oddly enough, he had a steaming cup of tea with him and he nonchalantly took a sip as chaos reigned around him.
"Couldn't stay away, pet?" The blonde passed him by and ran to catch up with his assembled mob just in time to see Angel and the magically hobbled Slayer hide away in a warehouse, while the largest and strongest of the hunters begin an assault on the reinforced door between them and their prey. The broody one was nearly silent, but he could hear the racing of the two human girl's hearts as the Halloween monsters battered at the hastily blocked door. One of them shrieked as the door shifted with a crunch, and began whimpering, he salivated at the thought that it might be the Slayer.
The cat-boy had finished his tea and was crunching his way through a large bite he'd taken out of the lip of his cup. His tail draped itself over his shoulder and hooked through the handle, attempting to pull it out of his grasp, but he paid it no mind, getting into a passive aggressive tug-o-war with his own rogue appendage almost absentmindedly. He was too busy watching Spike watch his minions. "There's no sort of sense in knocking, and that is for two reasons. First, because I'm on the same side of the door as you are: secondly, because they're making such a noise inside, no one could possibly hear you. There might be some sense in your knocking if we had the door between us. For instance if you were inside
, you might knock, and I could let you out, you know."
Out of the corner of his eye, Spike caught sight of the boy casually crouched on stack of wooden cargo pallets, staring at him in fixation, never bothering to blink his over-large eyes or shift his stance (aside from the casual disagreement over possession of his teacup, which saw neither side giving any ground.) "M'not exactly the type for manners and niceties. Not when violence and cruelty get things done so much faster."
Spike looked on incredulously as the feline finally yielded the victory to his determinedly thieving hind end and the purple and pink striped monstrosity curled around it's new acquisition smugly, the tip flicking energetically in self congratulation. The Cat took no notice and declared decisively, "No one shall be admitted without an invitation from the Queen."
With a protesting shriek of metal, the door caved in and Spike turned to the boy triumphantly, high on his nearing kill. "That enough of an invitation?"
It was almost anti-climactic how easy it was, Spike thought in dismay as the trick-or-treaters grappled Angel and the bitchy playboy cat-girl into submission before he'd gotten fully through the door. He walked straight through the redhead as she phased through the demon trying to restrain her and stood between the vampire and the completion of his hat trick of slain Slayers. The 'Lady Elizabeth' positively cowered as he stalked forward, scrambling away until her back pressed up against a forklift. She was crying so hard she had started hiccuping and her face had turned an unattractive shade of blotchy red. He allowed his fangs to drop and hissed at her in disappointment. "This is pathetic. I was hoping for more of a fight, the thrill of a challenging chase. I'm almost ashamed to be the one to put you out of your misery."
The overwhelming fear in her eyes was tempered with a glint of hope, but he dashed her raising spirits when he continued with a laugh, "Who am I kidding. I'm going to love putting you out of your misery."
"Spike! Don't!" Angel struggled against the large demon holding him back, his fists and arms held tight by muscular limbs encased in brackish black-grey scales. He flinched when the claws tightened on his shoulders, puncturing through the leather and biting into his flesh.
The blonde vampire ignored him and loomed over the noblewoman, dragging her roughly to her feet, making her cry out and cringe back, bent awkwardly over the operators seat. With a growl, Spike backhanded her, snapping her head to the side. He gripped her hair and shook her, "Quit your whining, Slayer. I'm being generous and letting you die on your feet."
"Xander are you crazy? He's going to kill her! Do something!" Willow screamed, doing her best to windmill Spike into submission but her flailing arms passed through him without causing so much as a flinch or shiver. The corners of her eyes glistened with unshed tears as she finally admitted to herself that there was nothing she could do but watch and collapsed to her knees, sinking slightly into the concrete floor. She turned imploring translucent eyes on the Cheshire Cat that had taken over her oldest friend and willed him to come to the rescue without hesitation the way he would have on any other night. "Xander, please…"
"But I AM crazy." The Cat just watched the unfolding events with a detached expression of interest, "You see a dog growls when it's angry and wags it's tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore, I'm mad."
Spike was distracted from his simpering meal when he felt a brief tingle down his spine and turned to find that his merry gang of demonic thugs had reverted to sniveling tots whining for their mummies. He felt the hair under his hand give way and pulled the brunette wig off of the Slayer. He could see the beginning of a smirk on her lips when a scream caught their attention. They both turned, frozen in their somewhat less than amorous embrace as they caught sight of someone who hadn't reverted to normal.
A still purple and animalistic Xander cried out in pain and grabbed his head in agony. His knees hit the concrete floor with a thump as he collapsed in on himself, his body curling protectively as he desperately clutched at fistfuls of his hair. The last thing Buffy saw as he faded out of existence was the purple leeching out of his hair and his ears and clawed fingernails receding. Then he was gone."Xander!"=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*= TBC =*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=
This chapter is dedicated to LLN who tried to bribe me into updating faster a few months ago with Femme!Xander goodness. Sorry it's shortish, but I wanted to get the Halloween episode over with and this was just too perfect a cliffy to keep going. Next up is the always awkward morning after stuff where I finally reveal how Catty the new improved Xander will be.
Ok, this chapter was weird. I was wrestling with my Spike!Muse since he apparently wanted to just sit this chapter out. Meanwhile, an Ethan!Muse, I didn't even know I had, moved in and set himself up in a way that forces me to write more about him later. Durned interloping drama queen of chaos. Then Xander!Muse decided that he just HAD to know what Dru!Muse was up to RIGHT NOW, letting Spike escape until the end of the chapter. It's a conspiracy. Neither the Dru or Ethan scenes were planned, they just sort of popped out. The 'tea party' scene ended up being a lot darker than I intended. Who let that dead body sneak in there? Bad dead body, now I won't be able to drink tea for a few days without getting icky feelings about it.Distribution: FFN (Lightning_Skies), Twisting the Hellmouth (LightningSkies)
Author has given no other permissions.
3,455 Words – 09/03/10