To Love a Stray Ch. 08byMygypsy©
I watch in fear as Sam races towards where Micah and Edwin stand between the large brindle bull and Dwayne who is leading Justin to the relative safety of the undergrowth. I see Malcolm and Chris rushing towards where the bull stands raking at the dirt with his massive front feet; he bellows his rage and kneels to rub his head in the dirt as well. Robby and Mikkarl are racing towards Dwayne and Justin from different places while Steven and Timny are rushing to aid those facing the bull. I rush along the tree line to stand where Dwayne and Justin are heading; I rub my head against Justin's shoulder as he halts beside me.
Robby and Mikkarl take up a defensive position out from us while Dwayne and Mitchell race towards the others now gathered around the bull. I watch the toms fan out around the front end of the bull. Micah is directly in front of him and he roars his challenge at the bull making me shiver with a mixture of excitement and fear. I watch as the toms make quick lunges towards the bull, dodging out of harms way at the last second as the bull drops his head to meet them.
I quickly see how they work as a team, one or more distracting the bull as others dart in from behind or to the sides to try to deliver damaging blows. The bull goes down in one hind leg and I realise someone has hamstrung him on that side. He bellows his rage and pain before trying to charge forward at two of the toms only to go down as the other hind leg is hamstrung as well.
The bull is pulled to the ground and I quiver with excitement as his struggles quickly diminish. Justin whines beside me and I nose his shoulder but refuse to follow when he wants to move forward. Robby and Mikkarl have crept forward a good distance, but I wait for some signal or call from those around the bull. Micah stands up and looks towards us; he calls to us then drops his head to the carcass. I allow Justin to run ahead of me as we follow Robby and Mikkarl. I slow as we approach the kill and hang back as the other three rushes forward to join in the feast.
I eye the clan of cats eating their kill and crouch down nervously. I know better than to approach another cat's kill but I was called to it and I am hungry. Mitchell calls to me but I only whine and move nervously. Micah raises his head, calls and I cower to the ground. He advances towards me slowly and I hiss in fear but he merely lowers his head and sniffs towards me and calls softly. I wriggle on my stomach nervously as he nudges my shoulder gently; I crawl towards the kill and cower down once again.
Micah returns to the kill and eats several mouthfuls before looking at me and calling again. I creep forward a little ways and sniff towards the carcass but make no move to touch it. I watch as the others eat hungrily and finally I pluck up enough courage to sneak forward and grab a mouthful of meat and rip it free before retreating to gulp it down. I repeat this process several times until I gain enough courage to stand in place and eat several mouthfuls before retreating then returning for more food.
One by one the toms stop feeding and move away to clean themselves. I keep a wary eye on the others as I eat and when Mitchell comes over near me, I snarl defensively and back away from the kill. He moves away and I return to the kill to finish my meal. I am licking my muzzle when Micah heads my way and I cower away from him as he sniffs at me.
I cringe when he starts licking my shoulder and I hiss in fear. Chris walks over with a growl and Micah moves away to leave me sitting with Chris. I clean my muzzle and face before I lay down in the shade from a small bush and roll onto my back. I look at the toms lying around and roll onto my belly and get to my feet slowly. I move from one to another checking none of them are injured and smoothing rough fur here and there. Mitchell hooks a foreleg over my neck and I tumble down on top of him as he wrestles me playfully. Chris comes over and chews playfully on one of my legs while Mitchell pulls at another. After a few minutes we stretch out lazily and drift off to sleep.
I wake after several hours and sit up to look around. Micah and Sam are at the kill eating again and Malcolm, Dwayne and Steven soon join them.
When Chris wakes and returns to the kill I join them and soon everyone is eating again. This time when we finish there isn't much of the bull left and Micah moves off at a steady walk. I follow for a while before lying down once again. A demanding call from Micah has me on my feet and moving once again to catch up with them. The journey back to the quarters takes us time and we arrive to a dark building. The toms begin to shift back to human form outside but I head inside to the bathroom before shifting and claim the first shower.
I wrap myself in a towel before heading to Chris and Malcolm's room and pulling on clothes; I climb into bed and make myself comfortable to sleep off my two large feeds. I can hear the toms laughing and talking in the lounge room and lay listening to them. It isn't too long before a form appears at the doorway and I watch it uneasily.
"Rosy? You asleep?" Sam asks.
"Come on come out in the lounge room. You can even have the lounge to sleep on if you want," he tells me as he comes into the room.
I hesitate a moment before pushing the covers back and swinging my legs over the side of the bed. I pull on an old comfortable pair of track pants over my underwear and straighten my t-shirt before following Sam out to the others. They immediately move off the lounge and I lie down on my stomach and look around at them as they settle themselves nearby.
"You've had enough to eat?" Micah asks as he looks at me.
"Yeah," I say and yawn. He laughs looking pleased and stretches his legs out making himself comfortable.
"I'd like to know what the hell that bull was doing there," Edwin says sounding annoyed.
"Some of us had better go check the boundary fences tomorrow, see if he got in that way," Micah sounds very relaxed.
"He made one hell of a meal though," Steven utters and the others laugh.
"Yeah, that he did," Sam agrees.
"Who made the kill?" I ask curiously.
"Both Sam and I took him down to be on the safe side," Micah tells me as he looks directly at me. "He was one big fellow."
"That was your first time you ate someone else's kill wasn't it," Steven remarks.
"Micah kept calling me to the food," I say defensively.
"If he hadn't one of us would have - being part of a clan means we look after each other," Mitchell says as he settles himself against the lounge and uses my side as a pillow. I feel someone touching my hair and lift my head to see Chris seated at the end of the lounge where he can touch me. The look in his eyes makes my breasts ache and a tingle start low in my stomach.
"That hunt wasn't anything like that red bull being taken down," I mutter as I remember the shear savagery of that attack.
"You have seen a red bull taken down?" Micah asks lightly.
"Pete, you and Steven were there, on the other side of the clearing watching. The wind was blowing across the clearing so it wouldn't have taken any of our scents to one of the other groups. I watched the strays all attack at once; Red Devil ground one cat into the dirt with his head before he went down." I hide my face in the cushion of the lounge for a moment before I lift my head once again. "I'd been out to help Donald Caruthers vaccinate those three bulls the month before. Red Devil was a big sook."
"Hell, we didn't even know there was another cat watching! And that bull took out another cat before he was pulled down a second time," Steven says as if he almost respected the fight that Red Devil had shown.
"No one was meant to know I was there," I snap, realizing what I had done and shake my head. "No one was meant to know I was there. I intended to hide my presence."
"What do you reckon the difference between the two kills was?" Micah asks and I think for a moment before replying.
"The strays did it for the thrill of the kill; it was all about bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed. Earlier was for food, carried out with skill and precision and humanity," I say firmly.
"Yeah that sums up what those strays had done pretty well. It's called bloodlust: killing only for the sake of the kill and the taste of blood, nothing else," Micah agrees.
"Yeah," Sam nods.
"I noticed you were smart enough to stand back and leave the kill to us," Edwin grins at me.
"Yeah, I protected Rosy. Or I would have if that bull came our way," Justin puffs his chest up proudly.
"Main thing is you followed orders," Micah says sounding pleased with his brother.
"Rosy was smart enough to know what to do. She didn't get in our way and didn't run off and disappear," Mitchell states. I roll onto my side and look at Mitchell. I can see the sadness in his eyes and realise it is because he doesn't know when I'll disappear next. I sit up and ruffle his hair fondly; I don't understand why I am so driven to be around him and Sam. I am not attracted to either of them the way I am to Chris and yet I feel more driven to stay with them. I have to wonder if it is because we are siblings.
"How long you going to be here this time?" Sam asks and I shrug.
"Don't know," I admit.
"You're going to be here as long as we got enough food to feed ya aren't you," Edwin teases.
"Talking about food, I guess we'll be eating beef until we get rid of all those cows," Micah announces.
"Why?" Justin asks.
"Even just two of us can handle a full grown cow, but put a calf at foot and it's different entirely," Steven explains.
"The instinctive need to protect its young," I say.
"Yeah and with you, Jazzy, Donny and ... yeah well we can't risk it." Micah says with a look my way.
"I don't need protecting," Justin refutes.
"He wasn't talking about you silly," Edwin says looking my way.
"Well I've always avoided livestock and intend to in the future as well," I say.
"Those cattle were bought for the sole purpose of eating," Dwayne says.
"I notice you weren't backwards about having two large meals," Chris grins at me.
"I was hungry," I say and stick my tongue out at him. Chris laughs and steals a kiss.
"Hey some people are trying to digest a meal here," Steven complains and several others chuckle.
"So was your steak done to your liking Rosy?" Edwin asks with a wide grin.
"Sure was! Freshly killed and still running blood! Yum!" I say and laugh.
"How about we drag some mattresses out here and bunk down for the night," Sam asks. "We let Rosy have the lounge."
"Sounds like an idea," Micah agrees.
"You stay there Miss Spotty One and I'll bring a blanket and pillow out for you," Mitchell says as he gets to his feet.
I lay on the lounge, too comfortable to bother moving. The toms bring out an array of mattresses and put them on the floor of the lounge room dropping pillows and the odd blanket on them.
"Who wants a beer," Edwin asks as he heads for the kitchen.
"Got any bourbon," I ask.
"You like the hard stuff do you?" Sam asks as he heads to the kitchen as well.
"Either on ice or with cola," I tell him.
"You should stick with soft drinks," Mitchell tells me.
"Mitchell, I've been to a few college parties so I know how to handle my alcohol," I say dryly.
"What you just got drunk, not falling down drunk," Malcolm asks with a laugh.
"Neither," I growl at him without conviction.
When Sam returns he hands me a plastic cup half full with liquid and I sniff it before sipping it. The bourbon is of high quality and I let it trickle down my throat slowly enjoying the burn as it goes down. All of the toms have an alcoholic drink of some kind except for Justin who has a can of coke. The TV is turned onto a movie channel and I lazily watch it as I continue to sip my drink. When I put my empty glass on the floor Chris asks if I want another drink but I shake my head and make myself comfortable with the pillow and blanket Mitchell got for me. I soon grow drowsy from the combination of food and alcohol and close my eyes as I listen to the soft murmur of the toms as they talk.
"Whoever's closest to the switch turn the light off," Edwin says. "Justin's asleep so is Rosy."
"Not quite," I mumble.
"Warm enough?" Chris asks.
"You watch. Lover–boy is going to offer to warm her up," Edwin mutters to someone and I hear a smothered laugh.
"Not while her brothers and Micah are in the room if he has a lick of sense," Mikkarl says quietly.
"How about you lot shut your mouths before I do it for you?" Micah asks in a low dangerous voice.
The sudden rise of aggression in the room has me shivering nervously and I abandon the lounge to cuddle up between Mitchell and Sam. I feel Mitchell tuck his blanket around me and I snuggle up to his chest as I make myself comfortable.
"Hey Rosy, remember that's your brother not lover-boy," Edwin taunts me. I hear someone get to their feet then there is an audible thud followed by a second one and Edwin grunts in pain. I can feel Mitchell stroking my back through the blanket as if to stop me getting upset.
"You saved me the trouble Micah," Sam says beside me and I realise he is on his feet.
"No problems," Micah remarks and I hear him settling down on his mattress once again.
"You beat me to it as well," Steven mutters sounding unhappy about missing out on hitting Edwin. I hear several others settling back into their spots and smile to myself as I realise how many of them care about me.
I wake to the predawn light and I am startled to find myself looking at Sam's sleeping face until I remember the previous night. Carefully I ease from beneath Mitchell's arm and sit up to look around. The toms are scattered around the room on mattresses still asleep. I get to my feet and step up onto the lounge and jump over the back to land lightly on my feet with only the softest noise on landing. I glance back to make sure I disturbed no-one before heading for the toilet.
When I make my way out to the kitchen I begin getting the food for breakfast out to cook. A search of the pantry rewards me with several packets of plain muffin mix while a search of the freezer supplies mixed berries. I quickly make the muffin mixes and add the berries. A lack of cases for the muffin tins only slows me until I find baking paper and soon the smell of muffins cooking fills the kitchen. I start the first pan full of sausages and one of bacon before removing the first batch of muffins from the oven. I pluck the piping hot muffins from the tray and add more lining paper and mix before putting the tray back in the oven to bake. I manage to save the bacon and sausages from burning and put bread in the toaster before grabbing plates to put the nearly cooked meat on.
"Looks like you could do with a hand there," Steven says as he moves to check the sausages as I remove the bacon from the pan and start adding more.
"Thanks," I say and stand back to check on everything. Steven is busy removing cooked sausages and replacing them with uncooked ones and I turn my attention to the oven and decide the muffins need a few more minutes.
"Some of us are going to need coffee more than others this morning," Micah remarks as he sets about starting the coffee brewing. I grab us a muffin each and hand one to Steven and Micah before heading back to turn the bacon. Both of them are busy eating when I glance their way.
"Wow! Muffins!" Justin exclaims loudly as he grabs a couple and bites into one.
"Only one now and you can have more after breakfast, but I am saving some for Jazzy and Donovan if they come over today," I say firmly.
Sam takes the second muffin off Justin as he comes into the kitchen and he grins as he takes a large bite out of the muffin before he has the paper liner off completely. "Hmmm, 'ese err 'ood," he manages around a mouthful of food.
"Hey Rosy," Mitchell greets me with a cuddle before heading off to grab a muffin.
"I hope someone has started the coffee," Edwin mumbles as he stumbles into the kitchen looking more asleep than awake.
By now all of the toms are awake and filing into the kitchen as I remove the next batch of muffins from the oven and redo the last lot to be put in. Someone has taken over the bacon and I am able to put the muffins in the oven and help myself to a cup of coffee before standing back and watching the others dishing up breakfast for themselves.
"The muffins have never tasted this good when we tried to make them," Malcolm comments.
"It's all about adding berries or apple and cinnamon or pineapple and coconut or even chocolate chunks," I say as I stop sipping my coffee for the moment.
"You'll have to write down how to do that," Dwayne says.
"Or stay around and make them for us," Mitchell gives a cheeky grin but I see the worry I'll run off again beneath it. I snatch a piece of bacon off his plate and grin at him before moving to dish up my own food leaving my cup of coffee by the chair I plan to sit in. I keep glancing back at it nervously but force myself not to rush back and grab it in the middle of dishing up my food.
"You're getting a lot better with things," Sam comments as I slip into the seat between Mitchell and Chris.
"Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don't," I say and shrug.
"At least you're trying," Mitchell tells me.
"It's not about trying," I say. "It's knowing or maybe believing it's not going to be stolen. Or like at the kill yesterday, knowing I wouldn't be attacked and mauled for touching it," I explain.
"When we found you you didn't have scars as if you've been attacked before," Sam comments. I glance at the pink scars on Mitchell's cheek and forehead and turn my face so the light from the lounge room hits my cheek and I raise my hand and trace the faint fine line I know runs up the right side of my nose then across below my eye to nearly the outside corner.
"Skin glue and plastic skin from a vet does amazing things for wounds. There's a couple more but none have been serious because I never stay around long enough," I say quietly. I feel Mitchell's fingertips brush my skin as he traces the very faint line.
"You've doctored yourself?" Sam asks.
"I couldn't walk up to a hospital and say can you stitch me up because I got clawed up while I was a cat," I tell him evenly. I can almost feel their stress and worry and it actually hurts me they are worried for me.
"If you were here it wouldn't be an issue," Mitchell states and grabs hold of my hand. I try to jerk it away too agitated for the contact but he refuses to let go and I jump to my feet as I struggle to pull free. He stands as well and I attempt to back away from the table.
"You're our sister! We only want to look after you!" Mitchell protests, "If that bastard hadn't stolen you, you would have ..."
I turn my head to glare at Mitchell as I go still my temper flaring wildly, "Do not talk about my father like that!" I warn.
"He wasn't your father!" Mitchell yells back at me. It seems I am not the only one who has a temper.
"You will let go of me and I will go for a walk. You and Sam can come if you want but when I start talking you will shut up and listen because I am not going to hear you call my father another name without retaliating," I warn in a low snarl of a tone. I pull my hand free and head for the outdoors, not bothering to see if either or both of them follow me.
* * * * *
I sit on the fallen log and throw pebbles into the stream watching as the rings move out towards the edges of the stream.
"I always knew Harry wasn't my natural father. His mother was a Native American while his father was Jamaican and as he said he understood my soul. He taught me about the outdoors when he preferred motor racing. He went to every parent/teacher meeting no matter what. We hardly ever lived indoors and he taught me what I could