To Love a Stray Ch. 11 Pt. 01


Jazzy gives an insistent snort and sniffs Rosy. Realising she wants me to know something I get to my feet and walk over to sniff Rosy, she flinches away with a frown and a glare. But not before I catch the scent of Connor Stephan, Kell Lancaster and an underlying cinnamon sweetness.

"Oh by the way Micah, Belladonna Stephan said to say hallo," Rosy's words fill me with embarrassment. What had Donna been saying to her? Had she told her we had nearly had an understanding prior to an engagement?

"Donna, Celeste, Larnie, Lotty and Adriana said to say hallo," Rosy is talking softly to Jazzy and it hits me that Rosy probably doesn't realise we are loosing Jazzy. That Doc holds no hope of her recovering from her illness this time.

The evidence of the strange ailment is horribly clear. Her laboured breathing and the way her heart beat, already frighteningly weak and irregular, is steadily getting worse.

I watch as Rosy and Jazzy seem to draw comfort from each other. I realise that they both know. My heart is breaking a tiny piece at a time as Doc comes into the room. Jazzy is too weak now to change back into human form and I am aware we will be forced to cremate Jazzy in cat form, unable to bury her beside our brother.

"Why don't you change to be with her?"

I glance towards Rosy startled by her words. Why hadn't I thought of that?

"My daughter is still on heat! Your brother is not going to get another chance to jeopardise her health," Wade tells Rosy angrily as he forces her out of the room.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Rosy is apologising, clearly wanting back into the room and I get to my feet to try to reason with Wade.

"Shhh," Doc snaps.

I turn my head and watch as he repositions the stethoscope, shaking his head slightly before standing up from kneeling beside Jazzy.

"If I didn't know better I'd say there was some kind of growth in her heart causing a partial blockage," Doc mutters.

Jazzy yawns and I realise that Wade removing Rosy from the room has upset Jazzy. She is too weak; I don't want her to waste what strength she has fretting for Rosy.

I glance past Wade and realise Rosy has left, I move to stand in front of him and Wade frowns as I catch hold of his arm to stop him brushing past me.

"Wade, let Rosy come back in. Let Jazzy have some time with Mitchell ... this time," I can't bring myself to voice the horrible truth. "Don't deny Jazzy that. Just let her be happy. If it means Mitchell changing to a cat, if it means Rosy being in here ... let Jazzy have what she really wants."

I can feel the tears well in my eyes and see them reflected in Wade's eyes now that he is aware I know the truth. He gives a brief nod and I move past him and go looking for Rosy. I pass Sam in the hallway. Near the front door Chris, Timny, Malcolm and Steven pause as they glance between me, and the door I just came out of.

"How is she," Steven asks quietly.

"Doc's in there at the moment. Jazzy just keeps getting weaker," I say hollowly. "She changed to cat form for some reason and now she can't make it back." I swallow hard and look away. When Jazzy dies I want to be able to bury her, not cremate her, I know she'd hate that.

I realise the others have left and only Steven is still with me.

"How are you holding up mate," he asks gently.

"I think about the same as all of us," I say and give a bitter laugh. "Staying strong until that last little fragment falls and nothing standing is left."

Steven doesn't say anything, he simply hugs me tightly and I hold onto my best friend as if he can keep the inevitable at bay. I want my sister with me, not for what time she has left but for years and years.

"I need to go and find Rosy," I say huskily as I push away from him, a small laugh escapes me as I remember her smell. "Rosy is coming into heat. I smelt it on her,"

The sound of a car starting as we head for the quarters makes me look, as everyone should be inside.

"Damn it no Rosy," I yell angrily as I spin on one foot and head for my car as she sends gravel flying out behind the car.

Steven is right beside me as I reach my car and I slide across the bonnet as I use the quickest route to the driver's door. My car roars to life and I jam the car into reverse swinging around backwards in a large arc. Tyres squeal and gravel sprays wildly when I change to first gear. I breathe a sigh of relief as Dwayne's four-wheel drive appears at the start of the drive way but Rosy avoids it with surprising skill and then she is speeding out onto the highway.

I stop just outside the driveway, I am breathing heavily as if I had just raced here on foot as I glare after the fast disappearing car. I pull my phone from my pocket and hit autodial for Wade without taking my eyes from where the car has disappeared from sight.

"Yeah what's wrong," Wade asks.

"Rosy just stole your sports car and hightailed it out of here," I say without preamble.

"Damn! I can't worry about that now," Wade says and I hear a door shut quietly. "Can you call Edwin, let him know he needs to come home. Call Baxter Barnes too would you, I could do with my old friend here."

"Yeah, will do." I say and grasp the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger as I close my eyes. I can feel a headache building behind my eyes as I close the phone and take several deep breaths. It will be good to have Baxter here. He had been more like a father to me than Wade had been during my teenage years and when I had started training as a warrior.

The call to Edwin is quick and to the point, Wade says come home. Jazzy is sick again and Doc doesn't hold out any hope she'll recover.

I already have what I'll say to Baxter worked out in my head when I press the autodial button that will call him. Jazzy is dangerously sick and Wade needs him. I hear the click as the call is answered and his deep familiar voice.

"Baxter speaking, that you Micah?"

"Yeah," My voice chokes up and I am forced to swallow before I can continue. "Come back to the compound, we need you. Jazzy ... Jazzy is dying, Rosy just stole Wade's car and took off God knows where ..." I choke up and no further words can make it past the lump in my throat.

"I'll be there," Baxter says reassuringly. "Just hang tough for a few more hours."

I feel Steven's hand on my shoulder squeezing it hard and I bow my head as I close my eyes. I lift both hands and bring them down hard on the steering wheel as I take out my pain and frustration on something that won't feel pain.

My world is disintegrating; nothing makes sense anymore. Why does someone as young and vital as Jazzy have to die? Why does Rosy choose to runaway when I need her with me?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The sun sinks below the horizon I slow as I fumble for the headlight switch. I turn them on and concentrate on which roads to take as I speed through the countryside. It is well into the early hours of the morning when I slow the car to turn down a familiar street and slip the car into a dark building out of sight before turning it off and getting out. I slip along in the shadows and find the key in its normal place to let myself into the building. Once inside I make my way to the office and turn on the computer waiting impatiently for it to load. I snag a drink from the fridge and a packet of biscuits from the staff room cupboard before sitting myself at the computer and search through old files.

The drink and biscuits are long gone when I find the file I half remembered seeing once. I am reading it intently when the light in the room is turned on and there is the sound of someone clearing his throat angrily.

"Now why doesn't it surprise me it is you who tripped my new silent alarm?"

I turn around to smile weakly. "Hallo Unca Dunka."

"I take it it was you near on eight months back who broke in and stole some drugs," he tells me sternly. "And here I was believing your Dad raised you better than that!"

"I only took what I believed I needed and only because I was desperate," I say contritely.

"What are you after this time," he asks sternly.

"Information. I need information so that maybe I can help someone," I say faintly.

"What? Speak up child," he snaps impatiently.

"Information. I need information so that maybe I can help someone," I say firmly.

"Let me guess. You are looking up the Black Panther I treated ten or more years ago," he states firmly. I am silent from shock and Don Caruthers takes the chance to sit down in the chair opposite me.

"I know what your mother was. I can guess what you have become, what you were meant all along to become. Can you tell me the symptoms you are experiencing," he asks kindly.

"It's not ... shortness of breath, heart palpitations, all the general symptoms of congenital heart failure but it sounds like there is some kind of blockage in the heart. It goes in cycles, every five or six months as if ... as if whatever is causing the blockage goes away," I say quietly.

"You've never been sickly," Don Caruthers states.

"It's a little girl. She is about eighteen but looks like she is twelve or thirteen. She is the only daughter in a family where girls are so rare they are worth more than all the gold in the world. And if she dies it is going to tear the heart out of one of the most wonderful people in the world ... it will hurt a lot of good people but several people who have been so very good to me," I tell him taking care to remain facing him as I speak clearly despite the tears that start down my cheeks.

"Now if you had been talking about an exotic cat I would have hazarded a guess of heartworm. A rare thing but possible by what you described - if we had been talking about a relative of your mother," Don Caruthers says gently.

"How would I go about treating her if I could get to her," I ask.

"You need a vet, a vet you can trust with the secret they have kept for you all your life. Someone who loves you as if you were the daughter of his nephew."

"I can take you there but I don't know if they'll let me near her. I stole the Alph ... I stole a car to get here and there will be some mighty pissed off people there. They'll probably drag me off, lock me up and throw away the key," I say with a nervous laugh.

"In front of a human," Don Caruthers asks doubtfully.

"They'll tell you they're calling the cops on me probably..." My voice trails off as it sinks in he is willing to help. I nod as I wipe at the fresh rush of tears. "Just help her. Promise that if I can get you to her, you'll help her."

"I promised your mother long ago I would do all I could to help you when the time came for you to go back to where you belong," he tells me gently. I watch as he starts collecting drugs from his drug cabinet and gathering what he thinks he might need.

"Have I missed anything do you think," Don asks.

"One of those injections to prevent cats getting pregnant when they're ..." I stop in embarrassment. "Providing it can be given up to two or three weeks ahead of time and still be effective. Females cycle like normal cats and ..." I look away in embarrassment.

"I understand what you mean. Your mother made sure we knew what we would be facing when you got old enough to attract boys. But I don't know of anything I would say could be safely used," Don Caruthers says sounding worried.

"Well then we need a dart gun and some bad ass drugs," I mutter to myself. He mixes several different drugs and fills syringes and gets an eerily familiar gun from the locked drawer of his desk. I eye it uneasily and move away. I hear him laugh and I glance his way apprehensively.

"It looks like you been on the wrong end of one of these," Don Caruthers comments dryly.

"One or twice," I admit.

"If you are coming into your oestrous then you need to consider if you really should go there if there will be male cats around," Unca advises me in concern.

"I can't not help," I tell him unhappily.

"Well come on. Time is vital," he says and I follow him outside. "We'll take my vehicle. Someone can come get the vehicle you 'borrowed' later. Directions please."

I give him clear directions as I settle into the passenger seat and close my eyes; I have been awake since the early hours of the morning two days ago with only a few hours sleep.

"We should get there somewhere around mid afternoon," Don Caruthers tells me.

"Would it be possible to delay it until after dark," I ask, "I don't know how they're going to react to me bringing you there," I admit. "The cover of darkness may just give us a few seconds advantage before they realise it's me."

"You're scared of these people," Don Caruthers says gently.

"I'll show you something but you have to remember it wasn't these people who did it - just others of our kind," I mutter hating calling strays my kind. I turn my back to him and pull my shirt up over my head exposing my back, thankful I am not wearing a bra. I hear his sharp intake of breath and go to pull my shirt down but he places a hand on my shoulder halting my action.

"You look like you've been mauled by a big cat!"

"If things go pear shaped I won't be waiting around for them to get hold of me. They won't do that to me but I believe I will be locked up and they'll claim it's for my own good. If things go bad, once I know you're safe, I will be out of there as fast as I can go, and if I am in the vehicle with you the vehicle will be stopped," I turn around to tell him.

"Well why risk going back at all," Don Caruthers asks.

"Because the guy who loves this girl means a lot to me," I mumble.

"What? Look at me when you speak girl," Don Caruthers scolds me.

"Because the guy who loves this girl means a lot to me," I repeat as I look at him careful to annunciate properly.

"You're in love with a guy who is in love with someone else," Don Caruthers wants to know.

"When Jeddah left her husband, she left her two young sons with him," I tell him.

"And this girl is the girlfriend of one of your brothers," he guesses. "You're risking this for your brother."

"And Jasmine, Jazzy. She's the most wonderful girl," I say quietly.

"Okay, after dark it will be. How many are likely to be there," Don asks.

"Too many but I have to chance it," I say as I curl my legs up on the seat and scrunch down to try to sleep. I hear Don Caruthers mutter something about always seeming like a cat but I am already nearly asleep and I shut my eyes.

I doze fitfully through the trip, waking often to look around warily and stretch before going back to sleep. When Don stops on a secluded road I get out of the vehicle and walk behind several trees to relieve myself before walking back to the vehicle.

"I'm going to grab a couple of hours sleep," Don Caruthers tells me.

"I won't be far," I promise before fading into the shadows and finding a tree, a tree I can perch in a fork of or lay along a branch. I settle in the fork of the tree and close my eyes as I listen intently the wind blows only sweetly scented air to me from across a freshly mown hay field. I rest in the tree but don't stay there long before sliding down and quickly stripping to change and hunt. It doesn't take long to gather enough mice and rabbits to satisfy my appetite and I manage to surprise several plump bush turkeys in the brush near some trees.

I am sitting on the ground near the passenger door when Don Caruthers wakes and I stand up to peer in the window at him, "I'm ready to go anytime you are. I don't feel too comfortable this close to their home," I say quietly.

"I need to take a walk before we go," Don Caruthers tells me as he gets out of the vehicle and heads towards the trees. I don't tell him he hasn't gone far enough to be out of my hearing so I turn the radio on and fiddle with it on a very low volume for the few minutes before he returns.

"All set," he asks.

"Let's get started. The sooner we do the sooner it's over," I say pulling my hooded jacket on and flipping the hood over my head before reaching for his spray on deodorant and using it liberally.

All too soon we are turning into the driveway of the Williamson compound and I nervously scan the grounds as we drive towards the house. I point the way not wanting to speak and possibly alert any of them to my presence. I see Pete's car parked near the quarters and when Don Caruthers comes to a stop close to the footpath, I am quick to follow him out of his side door grabbing the extra equipment as I go.

I see Steven, Sam, Malcolm and Chris come out of the quarters and head our way at a human pace. A quick glance towards the house shows lights come on at the front and I grab hold of Don Caruthers' arm and urge him forward.

"Excuse me! This is private property! I'll have to ask you to leave," Sam calls and I feel Don Caruthers hesitate a moment.

"Well excuse me, young chap but I have been asked to come here," Don automatically uses his 'professor voice' and I grin to myself as the four hesitate for a moment. The front door of the house opens and I shiver as Micah, Dwayne and Edwin come out of the house.

"I'm sorry sir, but I believe you have the wrong place," Micah says firmly and Don Caruthers stops.

"No he doesn't," I say as I push my hood back and slip one hand into the box that contains the dart gun. I don't miss the low growls that come from the three toms in front of me and even though I move uneasily, I set my face into serious lines as I shake my head at them.

"You've got a hide coming back here after stealing my car," Wade growls low in his throat as he walks through the door behind his sons. I jerk in fear but step forward so I am between them and Don Caruthers.

"We think we know what's wrong with Jazzy. All it will take to know if we're right is to look at some blood beneath a microscope," I say firmly despite the quiver of fear in my voice.

"You can't go near her," Micah warns and I hear the unspoken warning that she is still in cat form.

"Did I hear you say you think you know what is wrong with Jazzy," Marissa asks as she steps out into sight.

"Marissa, go back inside Darling. Let us take care of this trouble," Wade tells her gently.

"Rosy! What have you done," I hear Sam's worried voice close behind me and I pull the gun from the box and point it towards Micah, Dwayne and Edwin as I glance over my shoulder at Sam. I hear Marissa's frightened gasp but don't take my attention off either set of toms.

"Put that down Tawny," Don Caruthers tells me sternly. "Your Dad would be spinning in his grave if he knew what you're doing!"

I turn my head so I can see Unca if I was to look his way, but I don't take my eyes off Sam and the others or those on the other side of me.

"No, he'd be crawling out of it to kick my butt if I didn't try to do the right thing. You know that Unca. Sam, this is my uncle, Donald Caruthers, my Daddy's uncle. Unca, that fellow," I motion towards Sam when Don Caruthers glances his way worriedly. "Is Sam, my oldest brother. Now enough introductions - I want to see Jazzy. Correction, I am going to see Jazzy," I say firmly.

"I don't think this is such a good idea Tawny," Don Caruthers tells me in a whisper.

"Oh shit Rosy! Tell me you didn't," Sam begs and I have to clamp my teeth together not to respond to his anguish.

"Tawny didn't have to tell me a thing, I already knew. Some years back now my nephew called me out to his place saying he had acquired an injured animal. It turned out to be a shape shifter of our legends. I treated Jeddah. I delivered her daughter months later and treated my nephew's child as she grew up. I never revealed this secret that was not mine to speak of. We, our faith, we have our own traditions and respect others as well," Don says as if his honour has been questioned.

"You said you think you know what is wrong with Jazzy," Marissa asks tearfully.

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