To Love a Stray Ch. 05


"Malcolm," Micah growls in warning and I recoil back against the lounge. He looks at me levelly and shakes his head slightly, "I wasn't growling at you," he tells me gently.

"You're getting cranky and I'm the smallest and weakest near you," I whisper scared.

"Ok, foods getting cold. Let's eat before it goes completely cold," Micah announces as he moves away from me. I hurry to my feet and move away but he has already headed for the kitchen and I am left standing in the lounge room alone while the toms return to the kitchen. I hear the sounds of food being dished out and the appetising aroma of roasted meat wafts into the lounge room, I move hesitantly over to the door into the kitchen and watch uneasily. When Micah turns around he has two plates of food and I am quick to return to my seat on the lounge when he heads into the lounge room. He grins when he sees me watching him hopefully and carries the two plates of food over and places the smaller of the two on my lap.

"If you need help cutting anything up let me know," he offers.

"I'll manage," I snap slightly before stabbing a roast potato with the fork on the plate. I survey the food on the plate critically as I chew on the potato, the roast pork looks moist and tender while the roast vegies are nicely crisp.

"Hallo I'm Timny," A dark haired young tom introduces himself as he settles himself on the floor against the wall several feet in front of me. I put my fork down and gather my plate closer to me as I eye him suspiciously and he motions at his own plate.

"Do you like crackling? I see you didn't get any, you can have some of mine if you like," He offers as he manages to spear a piece with his fork to hold it out to me. I eye him for a moment before reaching out and taking the piece of crackling with my good hand putting it straight into my mouth before he can change his mind. Timny smiles widely and turns back to his food. I turn my attention back to my food and dart quick glances around at the new toms.

"How long has Rosy been here?" The tom standing near where Edwin is seated asks between mouthfuls.

"Rosy's been here a week tomorrow but she was here about a month ago. Dwayne, Alex, Sam and Mitchell found her when they were after that group of strays that were setting up their own territory on the outer boundaries of the clan territory." Micah explains.

"Why didn't you stay here back then and how did you get back here?" The tom asks.

"None of your business," I promptly say not liking his prying. This gets the odd laugh from the others and he grins at me.

"Spirited I like it,"

"Malcolm shut up and eat," Edwin tells him. We all settle down to eating and as everyone becomes busy with their own food I start to relax, I keep darting quick looks at the three strangers as I mentally sort their scents out of the rich cocktail of the air. I am chewing steadily on the last slice of meat when Micah stretches and looks my way, I notice he has finished his food and I frown slightly but I am too full to worry he might take my remaining food.

"Had enough to eat?" Micah asks quietly and I hurry to finish the last few scraps on my plate.

"Yeah," I say as I nod and start sucking the last of the meaty flavour off my fingers. Micah takes my plate as he gets to his feet and pauses to glance at me.

"Go wash your hand," He tells me sounding slightly annoyed. I shrug lightly and get to my feet to do as told, I listen carefully while I wash my hands but I am unable to hear the general conversation over the running water.

When I return to the lounge room Edwin is sitting where Micah had been sitting and I notice Micah is busy in the kitchen putting all the cooking dishes together on the sink. I glance back at Edwin and he looks my way and flashes me a smile before turning his attention back to the Mortal Kombat game being played by Malcolm and Timny, I hesitate a moment then sit down where I was before.

"Hey Rosy, you thirsty?" Steven asks and I glance his way with a frown, he is walking in from the kitchen carrying two bottles of flavoured milk one is chocolate the other strawberry.

"The strawberry milk please," I say with a wide grin. Steven hands me the bottle of milk, I eye it a second before turning to Edwin and allow him to take it to open it for me.

"You really like your strawberry milk don't you," Edwin comments as I drink the milk eagerly.

"Mmm it's good," I tell him with a smile.

"You look like you're in a good mood," Edwin comments quietly. I glance at him from the corner of my eye to find he's watching me, he smiles when I look his way. He leans towards me slightly as he reaches out to stroke the back of my uninjured forearm from wrist to elbow with his fingertips and when this gets no rebuff he lightly places his hand on my stomach. I glance up from his hand to his face and find him watching his hand sit on my stomach with a rapt expression on his face.

"Hey Ed, what you doing?" Malcolm asks as he glances our way.

"Didn't he tell you?" Steven asks slight surprise in his voice, "Rosy's pregnant,"

"Really?" Malcolm exclaims as he gets to his feet. I watch him nervously as he approaches and he comes to a stop not far from me smiling as he watches Edwin touching my stomach. I notice Timny and the other tom behind Malcolm and I tense as I glance around nervously.

"Just give Rosy a bit of space and time. She has a bit of trouble with strangers and being touched," Micah orders quietly from behind the lounge and I turn my head to look his way with relief.

"But Ed's touching her!" Timny protests.

"Edwin has been around Rosy for a while," Micah says evenly.

"Edwin move," Steven orders and Edwin moves his hand from my stomach and gets to his feet and moves away allowing Steven to sit beside me. I flinch and grimace as he places his hand on my stomach, I stay still for a few moments before a whimper escapes me and I push his hand away nervously. Steven continues to sit beside me for another minute or so but he is wise enough not to push me and gets up to leave fairly quickly. Edwin sits back down beside me and I glance at him nervously but he smiles encouragingly at me.

"I haven't introduced my team have I? That's Malcolm, Chris and Timny," Edwin names his work mates. I glance at each one as they're introduced and match their faces and scents to their names.

"You going to say hallo to them Rosy?" Micah prompts me.

"Hallo," I mutter before looking away to avoid their eyes.

"See that was nice and easy," Micah tells me softly, he glances at the three toms his brother has just introduced me to. "Rosy has been living the life of a stray up until very recently and meeting someone new has been ... a challenge,"

"How can she have been living in our territory for as long as Jasper claimed and we not know about it?" Malcolm demands and I move uncomfortably.

"That I am not sure of," Micah admits. I think of the specially made mixture of body gel, body oils, shampoo and conditioner as well as the herbal drink I usually take each day. When all are used my scent becomes almost totally undetectable and I can even be in the same room as a werecat and not be detected by smell. I glance around to find Pete watching me thoughtfully and I look away hurriedly, I push my hair back from my face and fidget on the lounge in the uncomfortable silence.

"I need to rest," I whimper as I glance towards the bedrooms

"Doc said you need to shift today if you can," Micah tells me.

"No! No! I can't," I deny in a rush.

"That's bullshit! She supposedly has been a cat for eight or more years and she can't shift! She'd be dead by now for sure," Malcolm says in disgust. "She's jerking you about."

"She can and does shift she just has never been taught how to control her shifts so she can't shift at will," Micah explains to Malcolm, "And if she gets a bad scare she changes so fast it's dangerous."

"Well then we should be able to talk her through a shift," Edwin cuts in.

"No!" I protest as I get to my feet and edge towards the door that leads towards the bedrooms.

"Just one of us then, who ever you prefer." Micah tells me gently.

"No, no I'm not being naked near any of you!" I say in a panic and rush for the door. I hide in Sam and Mitchell's room dragging a blanket from Mitchell's bed for the comfort of his scent.

"Rosy? Rosy? I know you're in here. You might as well talk to me because I'm not leaving until you do," Micah warns from the doorway.

"I don't want to talk to you!" I protest unhappily.

"Well you either talk to me or you talk to Wade, your choice." Micah tells me firmly as he walks around the ends of the beds to look down at me where I sit huddled against the wall.

"How about you sit up on Mitchell's bed and I'll sit on the other one," Micah suggests.

"I want Mitchell," I say unhappily without moving.

"Ok. You're scared and not sure of what's going on and what is expected of you, I get that." Micah says gently as he settles himself on the edge of the nearest bed and looks down at me. "You're scared of us knowing how long you've been a were cat is that it?"

I hesitate for several moments and give a slight nod, glancing at him nervously.

"You've found some way to hide your scent?" He guesses and again I give a slight nod, "Will you tell me what it is?" He asks gently.

I look at him frantic with fright and shake my head, "No, no,"

"If I leave you alone in here will you try to shift? You can come out to the lounge room when you've shifted if you like but several of us will have shifted as well, just incase something makes you panic." Micah tells me in a soothing tone.

"I'll defend myself!" I say with fear as I scoot backwards along the wall away from him.

"I guess we will have to accept that but remember, we don't intend to hurt you or force you to do anything you don't want to." Micah explains patiently. I am painfully aware of him watching me for several minutes before I give a slight nod.

"Would you like help taking the bandage off your arm?" He asks gently.

I shake my head as I look down at my arm, "It'll give yous some time before I can change," I whisper unhappily.

"Steven, Edwin and Pete in cat form?" Micah asks softly. I glance at him startled that he would give me any choice, I think about it for a moment and nod. I sit where I am nervously for a few minutes after he leaves before I unwrap my wrist and undress nervously. I sat sitting on the floor out of sight as I close my eyes and try to concentrate like Mitchell had told me. Nothing happens and I squeeze my eyes shut tighter trying to concentrate, imagine. Frustration grows and I become aware of my need to shift, pain rages through me like fire and suddenly I scream as my body feels the explosion like pain.

I yawn and flex my whiskers before licking my injured pastern above my tingling paw, I work my way down to lick between the toes and clean the claws before heading for the door on three legs. I hesitate as I reach the door into the lounge room but the others are standing back watching for me expectantly. I move into the room sniffing the air cautiously, I flick my ears back and forth nervously as I take in the mixture of human and cat smells.

"Hey there Rosy," Micah says softly as he squats down on one knee, I lift my head and watch him with interest before moving forward to sniff at the hand he extends. Finding his scent to my liking I move forward and rub my head against the point of his knee and allow him to scratch behind my ears and run his hand along my side as I move past him. I stop as I see the three big black toms and press my ears back against my skull as I hiss in fear, I can feel my fur stand on end and I lash my tail from side to side in agitation.

"It's okay Rosy; remember I said Edwin, Steven and Pete would be cats." Micah reminds me softly.

I keep well clear of them as I move around the room sniffing Malcolm, Chris and Timny as I pass them. I stop as I stand across the room from the cats and lift my head to sniff yet again. There are no betraying traces of rage or lust and I lower my head as I move towards them, I stop just beyond the reach of Steven who is standing slightly in front of the other two and strain my head forward even as I lean back onto my haunches. I sniff noses with him cautiously before slowly easing into a normal stance and glancing past him at the other two, he whines to get my attention but I step forward cautiously as I watch the others with interest.

Edwin purrs as he moves forward and pushes his head against my shoulder ignoring my warning hiss and I sniff towards Pete with real interest. Pete moves towards me and lifts one front leg to hook it over my neck and pull it forward down over my head. Edwin rubs against my side from shoulder to hip and I turn towards him to greet him as he turns and comes back towards my head. Steven moves forward to push his head in my way and I move to rub my shoulder against his head as I twine among the three toms. Someone begins grooming me in the hard to reach spot between my shoulder blades and I start purring as I lower my head and nearly close my eyes as I give myself over to the pleasure of their attentions.

"Want to come over here and hop up on the lounge?" Micah invites from where he is seated comfortably on the lounge. I make my way to where he sits, Edwin is by my side trying to claim my attention and get me to return to the mat where all four of us cats were settling down in a heap to relax and curl up for a rest.

Micah pats the lounge beside him and I sniff the material experimentally, Edwin whines beside me but my instinct as a cat is to curl up beside the most dominant tom in my presence and that happens to be Micah. I hesitate a moment then hop up onto the lounge on my good front leg, pause a moment and carefully step up with one back paw at a time. I stretch out on the lounge and make myself comfortable, my nose only a few inches from Micah's thigh. His hand rests on my head gently scratching behind my ears and through the fur along the line of my spine. I lift my head and look towards the doorway as I hear faint footsteps, a few moments later both Steven and Edwin look towards the door and Micah sits up more alertly at their reactions. I recognise the footsteps as belonging to Donovan and lower my head to rest my chin on my front legs once again.

"Hey Micah! Micah Dad sent me down here with a..." Donovan starts yelling as soon as he gets inside the building.

"Quiet down Donny, and don't run." Micah warns with one hand resting on the top of my head. I hear him approach the lounge and smell him as he leans over the back of the lounge.

"Oh hi Rosy, what you doing?" Donovan asks with interest.

"Doc wanted Rosy to shift and shift back to try to help her wrist. Rosy has just been out here getting used to being around others in her cat form," Micah explains patiently to his brother.

"Dad said to tell you Don Curtis is sending his two oldest sons and their top two warriors over tomorrow evening to discuss a problem they are having on their western border," Donovan tells his brother.

"Is that all?" Micah asks as Donovan begins scratching along my spine slowly working his way from just behind my ears down my back.

"No, he also said a couple of yous need to put the outlaw's body through the furnace,"

I hiss and leap from the lounge heading for the sanctuary of Mitchell's room, behind me I can hear Micah talking in a low angry voice but I don't even try to listen I simply don't want to know. I prowl around the bedroom too disturbed to shift back so I sniff every corner, every crevice to learn the secrets of the two who live in the room. I am lying on Mitchell's bed with my eyes closed trying to shift back when I hear the faint knock on the bedroom wall.

"Rosy? Can I come in?" Edwin asks and waits for nearly a minute before poking his head around the door when I don't answer. "Hey, Micah and Steven have gone out for a while. You okay?" I am touched by the concern in his voice and get off the bed to rub against his legs; he reaches down with one hand and rubs my side as I rub against him.

"Having trouble shifting back?" He asks gently. I bob my head and walk around the room before returning to the bed where I stretch out and watch him patiently. "Gee and I thought maybe you liked being a cat with me," Edwin teases me and I blink at him in surprise.

"I'll go and let you try to change back. But if you get lonely just come out to the lounge room but give us a call first okay," Edwin tells me.

I watch him go before resting my chin on my forelegs and trying to relax once again. A few minutes later my shift comes amazingly easy and I rest for a few moments on the bed before reaching for my clothes, I dress quickly as possible and pick up the bandage and plaster backboard for my arm before heading out towards the lounge room.

"Edwin?" I question softly as I stand nervously in the doorway. Edwin looks up distractedly from the game he is playing and looks at me a moment before he grins, "Looks like you managed it. Good one,"

"I can't do this ..." I hold up the bandage and plaster with my good hand for him to see, "... by myself,"

"Malcolm is the one to see, he's better with bandages then me." Edwin tells me with a glance towards Malcolm.

"Come on Stray, I'll fix it up for you." Malcolm says to me. I glance at Malcolm uncertainly before looking back at Edwin but he is already engrossed back in the game. I look around the room for someone familiar but not only are Micah and Steven not there but Pete is also not present.

"I promise not to bite," Malcolm tells me and I take several steps towards him uncertainly. My arm is aching and I know that the bandage and plaster backboard will afford me some relief, reluctantly I approach Malcolm and sit in the chair beside his. He has a gentle touch as he bandages the plaster backboard into place and I can already feel the relief that will come once I can sit still with it.

"Thank you," I whisper softly when he is finished.

"We help each other out around here Stray," Malcolm tells me. I give a nervous nod but stay perched on the edge of the chair instead of moving away, Timny looks my way and grins at me when I glance at him for a moment. I turn my attention to the game Edwin and Chris are playing and watch their progress. I become engrossed in the game and don't notice the time passing until Timny gets to his feet and stretches as he yawns.

"I'm off to bed. See you in the morning Rosy," Timny tells me. I glance at the clock in the kitchen and notice with surprise that it is after midnight, I get to my feet and head towards the bedrooms without a word to any of those left in the lounge room.

"I'm surprised she let you do her arm for her," I hear Edwin say as I reach the door to Mitchell and Sam's room.

"It looks as painful as hell," Malcolm says and I go into the room to climb onto Mitchell's bed.

* * * * *

The sound of masculine laughter wakes me with a start and I sit up in alarm, as I hear the sound of male voices I remember where I am and climb off the bed to go and see what the noise is about. I find Chris, Edwin and Steven in the kitchen starting to cook breakfast and I hang back at the door for a few moments waiting for someone to notice me, when no one looks my way I glance down at my feet nervously for a moment before looking their way once again.

"Good morning," I say faintly. All three toms turn around or look my way in surprise, all of them grin and Steven pulls a chair out from the table.

"Come sit down and keep us company while we cook breakfast Rosy," he invites. I hesitate for a moment then move to sit down, I can see the three toms are happy with this development and they turn back to their tasks happily.

"What do you want for breakfast?" Edwin asks.

"Food," I answer simply. Steven laughs at this and looks my way with a wide grin, "I'm sure we can manage such a ... complex ... order," he tells me and the other two laugh softly with enjoyment.

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