Enter the Cat Ch. 02


His voice trails off and he glances towards Marissa and Jazzy clearly not comfortable with naming the horror all females can face at the hands of strays and outlaws. Doc moves to the bedside and Mitchell steps back but stays in the room watching as Doc begins by taking her pulse.

I watch as Rosy stirs slightly and realise she must be aware of the activity around her as she fights to regain consciousness and open her eyes with a whimper.

"I'm going to sedate her lightly," Doc says. "It will make treating her easier."

"All of you can leave now," Marissa says firmly as she waves towards the door.

"Can I stay and help Mum?" Jazzy asks hopefully.

"No Jasmine, we can not be sure she isn't going to attack you when she comes around. You are smaller than her and everyone knows strays can be pretty vicious at first until they learn we are not about to hurt them or torture them in anyway," Wade says firmly.

"But Daddy!" Jazzy protests.

"Rosy isn't vicious," Mitchell protests.

"No she isn't," both Sam and Dwayne agree.

"Scared, yes," Sam says. "Obviously starved for company and kindness."

"And she seems to loose control of her change if she becomes too upset or too scared," Dwayne admits.

I leave the room reluctantly and watch as Marissa shuts the door closing us all off from what is going on in the room.

"Who will teach Rosy how a clan works?" Mitchell asks. "I think she would listen to me," he adds hopefully.

"She doesn't even seem to know the basic facts on how being a werecat affects an individual -- metabolic rate, disliking physical contact with strangers," Sam says quietly.

"She has already formed a bond with Mitchell, and to a lesser degree with Sam," Dwayne informs Wade.

Wade leads the way to the kitchen and helps himself to a mug of coffee before glancing from one person to the next, making eye contact with everyone in the room.

"We can't just make sure she is back to full health, has a job and a home, and knows the basics of how to co-exist with humans as a werecat like we do for toms. No she-kitt would be safe from stray toms and rouges or outlaw cats outside of a clan."

"Firstly, Jazzy will go and visit with Stephan and Abby Willoughby until we can be sure that this ... Rosy isn't a threat. Once Rosy is well enough, she can be moved to the quarters so she isn't around Marissa. I will not take chances with my wife's safety. All of you warriors should be able to defend yourselves if necessary."

"Most importantly, Rosy should be given lots of special care. After all that she's been through at the hands of the strays, she will need space and time to understand the ways of a clan. She is not to be reprimanded in any way. She is not some stray male werecat to be made follow the rules. It will probaly take a long time for her to learn the rules but we can't help that," Wade announces firmly.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea Wade," I say. "She needs to learn the rules right from the start. Yes we can be extra patient and gentle with her but she has to have firm and definite boundaries," I tell him.

"No," Wade says forcefully. "I will not have her more traumatised than she has already been. You know as well as I do strays pick up on dominance and are scared of the more dominant warriors. Rosy must not be exposed to too many rules. She will need to be allowed to learn the ways of the clan at her own pace and not be forced to follow them by the dominant warriors. We do not scare our she-kitts."

"She is not a child to be sheltered and protected from everything. She needs to learn for her own protection," I argue. "She'll have to learn what she can and can't do, what is proper and acceptable behaviour."

"I am sure Sam and Mitchell will be capable of giving her gentle guidance as needed," Wade says with a glance between the two toms.

"She already knows Pete Willoughby quite well and has met Steven and me. He can come here. I am sure she will take help from an old acquaintance much easier than a new one," I point out to him.

"With two warriors not working I should imagine you will find yourself too busy to be spending time with a stray, regardless of the fact it is female," Wade says dismissively.

I open my mouth to speak but Wade slams his fist down on the kitchen table. "You are to keep well away from this she-kitt. I will be obeyed on this," Wade snaps harshly. "And shouldn't you be more concerned with spending time with Donna Stephan than a stray?"

Donna is suddenly called to my attention and a sinking feeling fills my stomach as I realise that somehow I have gotten myself into a very uncomfortable situation -- courting and practically engaged to Donna and now strongly attracted to another she-kitt at the same time.

"You and Donna?" Dwayne asks and I glance his way.

"I'm not sure that is going to happen after seeing his reaction to Mitchell being near Rosy," Sam says in disapproving tones. "Well it was his inner cat's reaction actually."

"What," Wade demands with a look from Sam to me and back again.

"My cat wants Rosy. H ... heck I want Rosy," I admit tightly.

"Hmmm," Wade says thoughtfully. "You'll never be Alpha here over your sister's husband. Or would you want to be given territory to start your own clan with her?"

"I don't care about being Alpha! I just want her, " I say tightly.

"Does that mean we get to keep her forever," Donny asks with a thread of excitement in his voice.

"You're supposed to be in bed asleep!" Jazzy turns to our youngest brother with a frown.

"All the talking woke me up," Donny says with a grin. "So do we get to keep her?"

* * * * *

I watch the passing scenery out of the car window, barely aware of it as I recall the past two months. My life has taken several abrupt and crazy turns. First I met Tawny Caruthers and then Rosy, her werecat half -- and my entire life had been shaken to the core.

Then Donna, I still wasn't sure what I should do about her, but I knew that to continue on the current course, my turmoil would only become worse. My feelings for Donna haven't changed - I still admire and respect her but I can't stop thinking about Rosy.

I know Rosy is out there somewhere and I can only hope she is safe. Mitchell and Sam begged to go searching for her when she ran from the safety of the clan but Wade declared dragging her back would surely traumatise her more.

Forbidden by Wade to have much to do with Rosy, I can only wait and pray that somehow she will return to the clan or another clan will find her and take her in.

There have been several reports of a stray with a mottled coat, each time moving fast and freely, so we can only try to be aware of where she makes her home territory.

And here I am alone; well alone if I don't count Steven who is driving my car.

"Micah! Earth to Micah! Are you receiving," Steven asks loudly and laughs as I look his way with a startled snort.

"What," I ask irritable that I have let my mind wander.

"I said should we stop in at Nimbin? Check in and see what information we can get from there. It is within the area Rosy has been seen at different times, " Steven points out.

"What gives you the idea I was thinking about Rosy," I ask angry that I had been so transparent.

"I said do you think we should check in on Baxter Barnes and see how he is getting on? No one has checked on him for a good while," Steven tells me. "And you just sat there staring out the windscreen like a bull staring at a cow through an electric fence, wondering if it was on or not."

Baxter is an ex-warrior for the clan. He retired when he'd had a personality clash with Edwin soon after Edwin started training as a warrior. Baxter was not the only warrior who had left due to Edwin.

"Yeah we might as well. Be good to touch base with him and have a bit of a chat," I agree.

"We can let him know about Rosy and ask him to keep an eye open for her," Steven suggests.

"Would you like to tell the entire male population of all the clans?" I ask tightly.

"The more friendlies she has keeping an eye out for her, the better her chances of survival are," Steven says bluntly.

I don't respond to his remark. I know it is true but I dislike the idea that even just one male will get close to her without me there to watch out for her.

The road becomes narrow and winds through the tree covered hills the further we travel from the bigger towns. Nimbin is a small rural town and we drive along the main street before turning onto a side road towards where Baxter lives. His home is a small rustic building hidden behind several large Morton Bay fig trees. The area around the building is manicured lawn edged by well-kept gardens filled to overflowing with both flowers and vegetables.

There is much more than even a large werecat can eat so I know he is still selling his extra produce to the poorer families in the area at ridiculously low prices.

Last I heard, Baxter had been doing a lot of good by helping the poorer families in the area, and not only with near free fresh fruit and vegies. He was also quick to lend a hand with repairs or construction work when his human friends needed help. He had essentially exchanged a clan of werecats for a collection of struggling families.

A large bulky figure moves out of the shadows of a small shed on one edge of the garden beds, and I smile as I open the door of the car and get out to walk to the front of the vehicle.

"Hey Baxter," I call in greeting.

"Well Hallo. If it isn't one of the Williamsons," Baxter answers as he pauses to look me over. "I swear you get larger every time I see you Micah."

His handshake is firm and vigorous as he grins at me before turning his head to look at Steven. "You're not looking so small either Steven."

"Well it has been over two years since either of us has managed to get the time to visit," I say as Baxter heads towards his house.

"You'll stay for a cuppa and supper won't you," Baxter asks as he walks up the three steps and onto the small veranda. "A bit of werecat company would be a nice change."

"Well since you are twisting our arms ... why not," I answer with a laugh. It is good to be in the company of an old friend who I respect immensely.

"Haven't seen a she-kitt running about, have you Baxter," Steven asks.

"No, should I be watching for one," he asks as he turns to face us with a serious expression.

"There's a female stray running around out past Tabulam. Been seen as far south as Grafton, east to Coraki and up nearly to the Queensland border," I supply the information.

"Just of late?" Baxter asks.

"No, there have been sightings of a cat with a dappled coat for at least six to eight months. Rosettes under a dark coat, that's her. Runs like greased lightening," I say.

"Heard tell of that cat," Baxter says with a nod of his head as he fills his kettle and turns it on to boil. "It has outsmarted a few teams of warriors. Out runs and out lasts every team bent on catching it. A female stray you reckon?"

"Yeah a pretty blonde. Dwayne, Alex and the MacIntosh brothers found her locked in a cage by a group of strays. She was hurt pretty bad," Steven tells him. "She took off when Doc had her on the mend."

"There is a couple of stray toms I know of who usually manage to outrun clan warriors. They're not trouble makers - they just have no use for clan cats," Baxter tells us. "One of them died recently, just gave up trying to exist in two worlds. She could have been connected to him ... or then again she might have caught on real quick to keep away from stray toms."

"Turns out she lived next to Steven's brother Pete. She had some way to hide her scent. Pete said she'd been attacked and raped in her early teens, I think it was. Been shy of men ever since," I tell Baxter.

I watch as he stops what he is doing and looks at me with a serious expression.

"Poor thing," Baxter says with a frown.

"She lived next to Pete for close on three years I think it is, and he only just started to have questions about her," Steven says firmly.

"You boys should be out there trying to find her and get her into the safety of the clan," Baxter says gruffly.

"Wade said not to chase her," I tell him, "If we chance on her we can try to grab her as long as we're sure of catching her. Basically he doesn't want us to scare her."

"Heard rumours the clan had a she-kitt about a month ago. Someone told me Wade was being real soft on her and letting her make her own rules," Baxter says with a shake of his head. "A little she like that needs a firm hand, needs to know someone cares enough to see she learns."

"If she is the cat that has been around this long, catching her won't be easy," Baxter comments and turns the kettle off as it boils. "Still take your coffee the same way?"

"Yeah. So how have you been getting on around here," Steven asks as he pushes two more large mugs towards Baxter.

"Pretty good," Baxter acknowledges. "The kids from several nearby families have started their own gardens at home. We strike the seedlings here and I help them transplant them into their own gardens; teach them how to look after them. One boy is learning how to look after the fruit trees. He hopes to get a job in one of the plant nurseries when he is old enough to leave school."

"Families are on government payments?" Steven asks.

"I wish it was," Baxter says tightly. "One lot of parents spend all their spare cash on alcohol and the other lot buys drugs. Don't bother getting decent food for the kids."

"Why do you have to be the one to help," Steven demands, "surely there is some form of help available through human channels. Or just make the parents face up to their responsibilities!"

"All the children get for asking for food is a hiding," Baxter tells us tightly.

"Doesn't anyone in the community care?" I ask appalled.

"Lots care but it's too hard for them to do anything," Baxter tells us.

My coffee is strong and sweet - just as I like it. All of us sip the hot brews carefully as we move to an assortment of miss matched chairs in the main room. We sit around discussing a variety of topics from the warriors in the clan through to the run of wet weather we have had lately.

As night falls, Steven and I help put together a large meal of roasted chicken and small potatoes that are wrapped in foil and placed in the oven to bake while we gather herbs and salad greens from the garden.

Deciding against finishing the journey home tonight Steven and I toss our sleeping bags on the main room floor for the night.

The small town is surprisingly noisy and it is close to midnight when a timid knock sounds on the door. Steven and I remain silent as we listen to the young woman begging for food for her children, saying her husband had drunk all their money again. We get out of the sleeping bags and pull on shirts as Baxter lets the young family in and gets the remains of our meal from the fridge.

Steven and I find ourselves introduced to his visitors and we sit at the table with tired and hungry small children on our laps while they eat hungrily from the plates in front of them. It is close to midnight when we help get the small children back to their home leaving Baxter to see them safely inside before returning home.

Breakfast is enormous piles of thick rich American style griddle pancakes dripping in maple syrup, and we all eat hungrily before Baxter is ready to head to work.

"Well you've proven you still know where I live so don't be strangers," Baxter says gruffly as he grips my hand hard and shakes it vigorously, glancing between Steven and I.

"Micah might be a bit busy with Donna Stephan these days but I'll try to drag him away now and then," Steven says as Baxter shakes his hand.

"He might prefer to come here and keep an eye out for that stray kitt just in case she is in this neighbourhood," Baxter says with a crafty smile my way.

As we leave I notice Steven is clenching and unclenching his right hand and I can't help the laugh that bursts forth. "I guess Baxter is still testing us both out even if he is retired. My hand feels like it was caught in a vice grip," I tell him as I flex my own hand on the steering wheel.

Upon returning to the compound, the sight of Doc's car at the quarters makes me concerned; we only bother him with either serious injury or Jazzy if she is sick.

"Can't see the van Malcolm, Chris and Timny are using this trip. Pete's there," Steven says with a frown and a glance my way.

"Doc's car would be at the main house if it was Jazzy," I say but even voicing this does not stop the worry my sister could be ill once again.

Both of us are silent as we travel the last small distance to our destination. Steven turns the car off and I can hear the ticking of the cooling motor in the silence that descends. No normal everyday noises come from the quarters telling of activity within and the yelled call when it comes is from the direction of the large shed that contains the gym equipment over by the stone containment shed.

"Micah! Steven," Sam calls and I turn to face him as he walks towards us.

"Who's injured? And what happened," I demand as soon as he is close.

"Micah!" Wade calls and I glance his way to see him walking from the house at a brisk pace. "Sam go back to what you were doing."

Sam hesitates a moment, glances at Wade then back at me. "Later," is all he offers before heading back towards the gym shed and several dark silhouettes in the interior.

"Micah you will be expected to follow my orders exactly," Wade warns as he comes to a halt in front of me with a hard expression on his face.

"What is it? Who have we lost?" It is the only thing I can think of that would cause the deep stress lines on Wades face.

"No one is dead and hopefully not dying," Wade refutes. "Pete caught Rosy sneaking around on his land, managed to grab her by surprise and tranquillised her on my instructions to make transporting her here easier."

"It looks like she's been living as a cat since we last saw her and she was feeling pretty unfriendly. I had Doc here just to make sure she was okay considering the state of mind she was in when she ran away. Turns out the strays had her long enough to get her pregnant and she appears to have gotten hold of some drugs to rid herself of the unwanted kitt."

"Doc doesn't think she managed to do anything before she was caught but she lost control when Edwin had Pete try to get her to open up about what she remembers from just before she turned. She had a flash back of her attack as a child and changed involuntarily. The boys had had her in cuffs to try to encourage her not to try to escape and Edwin only managed to get one wrist free before she lashed out at him and Doc."

"From what Sam says, Doc is lucky Mitchell thought to grab one of the lounge seat cushions and drive her away from both him and Edwin before she managed to go after either of them a second time."

"Edwin's forearm was mauled to the bone severing an artery; Doc had minor scratches on one shoulder. Rosy has a crushed wrist and had a severe reaction to the tranquillizer that was used to subdue her. She has been very sick for the last thirty six hours but Doc says she is starting to come good now."

I stare at Wade in disbelief. "Didn't anyone think to let us know she was back?" I demand angrily.

"I forbade anyone telling you! I will not have you sniffing around after her and scaring her worse than she already was," Wade snaps in a voice hard with authority. "Both Sam and Mitchell have been doing quite well with her and now Edwin is managing to reach her. She does not need the pressure of someone as dominant as you interacting with her!"

"I have never scared a female intentionally or otherwise!" I deny outraged that he trusts me so little.

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