To Love a Stray Ch. 03byMygypsy©
I hold the game controller and wriggle with excitement as I play against Sam but the car I am in control of hits the sidewall and erupts into flames. I groan in disappointment as game over flashes for me and Sam goes on to cross the finish line first.
"Winner!" Sam yells as he waves his controller in the air.
"My turn!" Dwayne yells and looks at me in surprise as I hand over the controller without complaint.
"It's making my shoulder hurt," I explain.
"You want something for it?" Sam asks as he looks at me from where he is seated on the floor at the other end of the lounge I am stretched out on.
"It only really hurts when I move my arm about," I explain.
"I can get you some of the pain tablets Doc left here for you," Dwayne offers from the floor near my good shoulder.
"I'll give you a foot rub," Alex offers from where he sits on the lounge with my legs across his knees.
"Rosy said no touching remember?" Mitchell reminds Alex from the armchair beside him.
"Yeah, yeah," Alex groans but doesn't argue. He might not be allowed to touch me but my feet and ankles are touching him.
"We're out of chips," Sam announces holding up a large bowl that had held corn chips.
"You guys got any fruit?" I ask as Mitchell gets to his feet, takes the bowl and heads for the kitchen.
"Healthy food is bared from the quarters," Mitchell yells back to me.
"You got any ice-cream then?" I inquire.
"Ice-cream we have. Hope you like either triple choc or vanilla," Mitchell yells again.
"Vanilla will do," I decide.
When Mitchell returns with more chips he has a large bowl of ice cream for me and I balance it on my stomach as I eat it. I place the empty bowl on the floor out of Dwayne's way and settle down to watch Dwayne and Sam racing their cars. I yawn several times and turn onto my left side. My eyes begin to drift closed after a short while so I settle myself more comfortably and close them.
"Must you boys have that game so loud? You didn't answer me when I called from the back door!" The scolding female voice wakes me abruptly and I open my eyes in alarm, Dwayne's head is right in front of me and he is turning his face towards me quickly.
"Ah Mum," There is a note of caution in his voice as he stares into my eyes.
"Where do you lot have that poor girl? I've bought her lunch out here for her," the female voice continues on.
"Rosy is on the lounge and you just woke her up," Sam says very softly.
"Oh dear! I'm so sorry!" The sound of her voice and footsteps move around above my head and I tense as I hear movement within inches of me.
"Hallo Deary, my name is Marissa. My sons and their friends tell me your name is Rosy. That's a beautiful name." She exclaims brightly.
I turn my head slowly to look her way and she immediately picks up on my stress. Her sudden caution triggers my hunting instinct inside me and I narrow my eyes as I look at her assessingly.
"Oh did I surprise you? I didn't mean to. I just thought you'd like some nice freshly caught fish with your salad for lunch. I know these boys don't keep anything but frozen junk food here," Marissa explains brightly even as she takes several slow steps to the side further away from me. I blink several times breaking my stare, I realise my sudden aggression is unwarranted but still it is hard not to glide off the lounge in a stalk. Slowly I look around at the silent toms to find they are all tensely watching me aware of my simmering aggression and I blink several more times.
"Did you say fish?" I ask faintly turning my gaze back to Marissa.
"Some nice steamed rainbow trout," Marissa confirms.
"Hmmm," I murmur.
"I'll just leave it on the kitchen table and one of the boys can bring the plate back to the house later," Marissa decides and heads towards the kitchen. I follow her movement with my eyes until she is out of sight and then I listen as the plate is placed on a wooden surface.
"I'll leave you youngsters to your game then," Marissa calls brightly and I can hear the strain in her voice. When the door shuts behind her I hear the toms around me give sighs of relief and I take a deep breath as I realise I had stopped breathing.
"She doesn't mind me being here?" I ask uncertainly.
"Mum is happy to have you here," Dwayne reassures me. "I didn't mean to stare at you."
A direct stare is generally a sign of aggression or dominance. I shrug lightly and roll onto my back before easing into a sitting position once again.
"Do you have a toilet here?" I ask.
"Yeah sure," Sam answers getting to his feet. He frowns at me when I would swing my legs off the lounge and scoops me up in his arms. When Sam carries me back from the bathroom Mitchell and Alex are microwaving some kind of frozen food containing cheese and Dwayne brings my plate of food from the kitchen. I settle myself on the lounge and begin eating my meal. The fish is cooked to perfection and breaks into flakes as I pull it apart with my fingers. The guys are still eating when I finish my food and I swing my feet down to the floor.
"Stand up and I will tell Doc you haven't been doing as you're told," Sam tells me sternly without looking my way. I am about to argue but close my mouth and look away as I lift my feet back onto the lounge. As annoying as I find their hovering I am aware that the toms are only trying to do their best to look after me. I don't protest as Dwayne takes the plate from me and places it with the ice-cream bowl. I look around the various cases full of different games noticing that they do indeed seem to have every action game available. The satisfaction of a full meal settles on me and I stretch lazily then yawn, I blink several times as I realise that my eyelids are getting heavy and I give a soft sigh.
"You ok? Anything you want?" Mitchell asks.
"I think I might have a sleep."
"We'll keep the noise down for you," Sam informs me.
"Hmmm," I murmur and lay my left arm across my eyes. Already my mind is getting sleep blurred and I yawn again.
Movement, quiet voices and something else I can't be sure of wake me and I open my eyes groggily. I see a silhouette beside me as I realise someone is grasping my wrist. I jerk my wrist free with a defensive growl as I scramble to move from my prone position. A strangled cry comes from somewhere close and I recognise Alex's voice as I recognise he is in pain and fury rushes through me blotting out my pain as my body shifts. I land on my four feet between Alex and who ever had been touching me. My tail is lashing from side to side in my fury and I snarl a warning as I feel my fur stands on end.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," It's Doc's voice and I recognise his scent as my cat brain registers his words. Multiple scents of fear, panic and alarm register and I shake my head and snort through my nose. The strongest smell comes from behind me and I look over my shoulder to find Alex on his side on the lounge clutching his groin region.
"I think one of your feet ground into something tender," Doc tells me. I mewl at Alex apologetically and turn to nudge his shoulder with my nose. He groans and gives me a weak smile showing he understands my intent but I know this doesn't lessen his pain. I take a deep breath and freeze as my brain registers new scents. I lay my ears back against my head and growl a low warning as I slowly swing my head to take in the three forms behind the lounge. I instantly recognise Micah's large physique and I am quick to identify Steven by his scent but it is the first time I have seen Pete while I am in my cat body and it takes me a few seconds. Clearly Pete is just as stunned by my appearance as it takes him several seconds to speak when he opens his mouth.
"Tawny! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself!" Pete exclaims. I roar at his use of my name and whirl away from him. I spy the large window beside the TV that is open to the evening breeze and race for it. Insect screen shreds beneath my front claws and I am leaping out the window forgetting I am on the second floor of the building.
I try to brace myself for my landing but when my front feet hit the ground pain blazes through my injured shoulder and I shriek in pain as I hit the ground on my chest. I force myself to my feet and run.
Pain is my friend as I flee - it fuels my flight keeping me going when I would have stopped. I am panting and limping heavily when I slow to a walk deep within a small forest. I find a thick bush near the roots of an upturned tree and study it carefully before slinking into its shelter. I turn my head and begin to clean the fresh blood from my shoulder wound, the damage seems to be slight and the bleeding has already stopped. I pause in what I am doing and rotate my ears slowly. Distant sounds reach me and I become aware that clan cats are hunting me once again.
My first instinct is to flee but the slight pain in my shoulder reminds me of my injury and I crouch in my hiding spot tensely. I listen to the search alertly but no one comes near where I hide as I watch the shadows slowly change position. I become aware of the stirrings of hunger and sniff the air intently. I haven't heard any sounds of pursuit for quite some time but I know that doesn't mean no one lurks out in the night searching for me.
I creep out of the hiding place and stop to sniff the air cautiously before moving off slowly. Half an hour, two rabbits and nearly a dozen mice later I come across a small creek I am sure I leapt not long before hiding. I lap water thirstily and raise my head with interest as I notice a sleek body moving lazily in the water. I gather myself carefully and remain motionless as I watch the fish swim slowly, a pause in its movements and I pounce with a large splash. I lift my head high and snort water out my nose as I clamp my jaws around the wriggling body. I leave the creek with high steps and bound onto a grassy bank where I stand on my fish with both front feet prior to ripping a large bite of flesh out of it.
With my meal finished I look around carefully before cleaning my face and whiskers thoroughly. I study the sandy bottom of the creek critically for a few moments before bounding into the water and splashing up a riot, I roll in the water wriggling on my back and sides to use the sand to clean my fur. A deeper area allows a brief swim before I climb from the water and shake myself vigorously.
With thoughts of home and my familiar bedroom come memories of Pete, Micah, Mitchell, Sam, Dwayne and even Alex. I growl in annoyance and turn back towards the way I have fled. I feel uncomfortable as I make my way almost reluctantly towards the buildings I only glimpsed vaguely in my terror-induced flight. I am still within the trees when I catch the first faint sounds of activity ahead. I slink forward cautiously and pause before leaping up into the branches of a sturdy tree where I lay down on a solid branch and watch the activity.
Two forms are packing things into a van while a third form is on hands and knees naked in the moonlight. I watch with interest as he shifts into a cat before loping off into the trees about half a mile from where I am. Somewhere in the surrounding woodland a cat calls and I prick my ears as I turn my head and look in that direction. I check where the breeze is coming from before dismissing the incident and dropping to the ground on silent paws. As I get closer to the tree line I realise that might not be the wisest idea to come out of the trees unexpectedly in cat form. I pause slightly back from the end of the shadowed under growth and lift my muzzle. It is the first time I have actually called to my kind and the mewling roar is strange to my ears. I hiss uncomfortable then tense as I swivel my ears around listening for any reactions.
A deep coughing roar comes from the depths of the trees as well as several rough growls and shouts from the clearing in front of me. I walk boldly out into the edge of the clear ground around the dwellings and stop as one of the people at the van begins rapidly throwing their clothes off before dropping onto their hands and knees. I stand up slightly on my hind legs as I raise my head and shoulders higher the better to see what is going on. Suddenly I am undecided wether to race forward and attack, turn and flee for my life or simply stand my ground.
The sound of someone or something crashing through the undergrowth towards me at high speed decides the matter for me as I turn to face the rapidly approaching cat with flattened ears and bared teeth. He bursts out of the trees several yards from where I walked out and stops in a spray of fallen leaves as he snarls a warning then begins to advance in a slow stalk.
I back away from his advance with a scared hiss as I keep glancing from one eye to the other trying to read his intent. The sensitive hairs on my neck warn of the silent approach of a cat from the clearing and I turn towards the trees and with three long leaps reach the base of the tree I was in and leap up into the branches once again. This time I don't stop on the sturdy lower and mid branches but climb high into the thinner branches until they start to bow and creak with my weight.
I cling to two different branches as I look down at the two below me. I recognise Steven by his scent but am unsure of the identity of the other. He smells remarkably similar to Micah, Dwayne and Alex so I guess he must be another one of the six brothers. They both are back out of range of my dropping down on them and Steven is even sitting on his haunches cleaning his whiskers as if nothing is bothering him. I watch them both for a few seconds before lifting my head to look out across the trees.
A few minutes and two more cats join Steven and his companion. I identify Alex and Dwayne by their scents and I watch as Dwayne circles out of range trying to get a good look at me. There are slight sounds of another approach and I watch as a huge cat comes out of the shadows. He walks to the base of my tree and looks up at me. I recognise Micah from his sheer size and he lifts his muzzle skywards before roaring. It's a long series of coughs that run into each other and I hiss as I leap into the branches of the neighbouring tree where I climb into its heights until the branches threaten to break. I'm starting to get really worried and scared that returning was a foolish idea and the sounds of more approaching cats only seem to confirm this as I find a reliable perch in the tree.
Two cats join those around the base of the tree and I look down worriedly. The slightly smaller cat moves to the base of the tree, and stretches up on his back legs reaching out with his front paws as if he is about to climb the tree. Micah growls at him but he ignores Micah and calls to me with a soft cry. I answer immediately as I recognise Mitchell instinctively. He calls again and I cry softly as I shift my position and move down into firmer branches. His next call has me climbing down to stop in the lower branches where I try clinging to a branch and leaning down to try and sniff his nose. I can't reach and give a soft cry.
Mitchell calls again and I answer but he backs up several steps and I watch him for a moment before circling the trunk of the tree awkwardly on the branches.Finally deciding on a space I drop to the ground and flatten my body to the loose-leaf litter and hiss defensively. Mitchell calls softly and I wriggle forward slightly. He walks forward and sniffs at my nose and I stand to sniff along his jaw to his neck and shoulders. His shoulder brushes mine as he turns and his tail sweeps across my back. I try to follow him and Sam is there sniffing my shoulder and giving it a quick lick. Micah gives an almost purr as he sniffs near my nose before boldly rubbing his shoulder along my side. I shy away from the contact but turn so I can sniff at him as he moves along my other side.
Suddenly there are so many cats around me I can't tell one from another and I hiss in fear as I cower against the ground. Instantly Micah is standing between the toms and me growling a warning at them that has them backing off even as they sniff in my direction. Micah nudges my shoulder and makes a motion with his head but I am new to all of this and don't know what to make of his actions. He nudges me again and takes several steps towards the clearing. I slink after him several steps with my belly close to the ground and he mewls at me encouragingly, waiting until I get closer before he moves further.
Realising he wants me to follow I stand up and begin to follow him but when the others fall in behind me memories of all the times I've been chased surface and I bolt ahead to a thicket to circle and keep it between us. Micah turns his head and with a growl he has the others moving ahead until there is only he and I left.
I move out to follow him with any order from him and once clear of the trees he picks up his pace to a trot. I speed up to keep pace with him and the others break into a run in front of us bring the instinct to chase them raging to the front of my mind. I pick up speed as I fix my sights on the smallest amongst them and then Micah is at my side; his shoulder pressing against mine firmly as he turns me in a tight circle. I stop and stand alertly as he stands regarding me silently.
With the others nearly at the house Micah motions with his head and starts after them. I follow him and break into a trot like he does and I follow him to a door in the main house. He jerks his head at two of the toms that are changing and I watch them a moment before turning my attention back to him. He jerks his head at them again and I understand but I can't shift at will.
I sniff at his nose and tilt my head to the side but there is no way I can speak to let him know my problem. I watch as the two toms finish shifting and look away when I realise it is Sam and Steven. They both head into the house and I glance at Micah wondering what to do now. Shortly Steven returns followed by Wade and I cower against the ground in fear as the Alpha comes outside.
"Hallo Rosy. Just wait a minute or two and you can go inside." He tells me in a friendly tone.
"You remember the way to the bedroom you're in Rosy?" Steven asks and I give a small bob of my head. It seems like forever while I wait under the watchful eyes of Micah and Wade until Sam appears on the other side of the door and opens it.
"Go straight to the bedroom. Thank you Rosy," Wade orders firmly. I creep past him on my stomach and once in the door I bolt at almost top speed through the rooms. My feet slide on the tiles as I go around corners and I hear my claws scratching for traction as I run. I can hear someone behind me but I don't look back as I leap up the stairs. My back feet slide out from beneath me as I turn the last corner into the bedroom and I hit the floor hard.
I hesitate a moment before leaping onto the bed and at the last moment I duck beneath the side of the bed and crawl underneath into the false security of the dark. I hear heavy paws slow down for the corner into the bedroom and the owner comes to a halt inside the room. A low growl reaches my ears and I press myself down against the floor as I hear Micah take several steps forward. He sniffs loudly at the edge of the bed and a large paw reaches underneath the covers that hang down the side to scratch faintly at the floor.
"Rosy? Is she in here? I'm sure I saw her go in," Doc's voice is easily recognisable. Micah snorts loudly under the edge of the bed and I cower back against the wall.
"Rosy, you can come out. No one is going to hurt you," Doc coaxes. I watch as the large black paws move back to the doorway and after a few moments I crawl to the edge and look out cautiously. Doc is standing by the bedside unit and he smiles holding an empty hand out towards me when I stick my head out. I sniff at his hand before creeping out from beneath the bed. Micah comes forward and when he goes to rub his cheek against my shoulder I shy away from him.