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by Apache

No Sexual Situations
No Violence

~ ~ ~

I've turned into a regular at the Raven. 

With the Inca on my tail more or less constantly, I hadn't done anything regularly except eat since maybe the sixteenth century. I'm starting to like it.  This means Tracy tracks me down there, Urs tracks me down there, Knight tracks me down there... but yeah, I'm starting to like it. People looking for me without any immediate intention to kill me.  A nice novelty.

So I didn't even blink when Nick Knight walked up and said 'hi.' I couldn't offer him a drink or anything, since he won't touch LaCroix's stuff, but I was more or less pleased to see him.

 When will I learn?

He was wearing a leather jacket, partially zipped, and he said "I have something for you," and reached inside it.

It looked like a bad joke from an old movie, the one where the dumb gunsel says in a gravelly voice, "da boss wannid me ta give ya this," and whips out a .45, but I didn't think Knight had that much of a sense of humor.  Then it occurred to me to hope like hell it wasn't going to turn out to be a note from Tracy Vetter... she shouldn't know Knight and I see each other, and I don't want to get notes from her anyway.  (So sure about that, are you, Jav?  well, maybe... but not with Nick Knight for the postman.)

That's all I had time to think, but even if he'd given me three guesses and waited an hour, I wouldn't have come up with this:

Knight hauled a little orange kitten out of his jacket and held it out to me.  My eyebrows climbed up to about my hairline.

"What is this?"

"A kitten," he said straightfaced.  "Immature feline?"

 I smiled.  There weren't any fangs in that smile, but I was starting to think about it.

"It's for you.  I -want- you to take care of it." 

"This is a joke, right?"

"No," he said patiently, "It's a kitten."

"Knight..." I started, and then thought better of it.  He's mixed up with mortals these days, so you have to allow for a certain amount of peculiar behavior.  "OK, how long?"  I was thinking it's some mortal's cat, maybe his doctor friend's, and he said he'd watch it and he's busy...

Wrong again.

"All its life," he said.  My eyebrows went up again, and he said, "its -natural- life."

I stared at him and blinked once or twice.  I didn't need to say anything; he knew damn well what I was thinking.

"You owe me, Vachon" he said mildly.

True.  I owe him big.  But he's calling that in for... a kitten? 

"You're serious," I said, still staring.  This goes beyond the bad influence of being tangled up with mortals.  This is nuts even by mortal standards.

He nodded.  Knight is nearly always so earnest it hurts me to look at him, and this was one of those times.  I've heard he can be entertaining, but as far as I'm concerned, that's still an unsubstantiated rumor. He seriously wanted me to agree to care for a kitten. 

"Fine," I said.  I took the little orange striped animal out of his hand, and stuck it inside my jacket, which I zipped to hold it.  The animal shifted a little, and I scowled.  "Deal's off if it scratches me."

"No, it's not," he ordered.  "You're going to take good care of it, no matter what."

"Hunh," I said noncommitally.  I stuck a hand inside my jacket to help the animal shift itself around.  It felt nice, actually... I like warm fur.  I stroked it a little with one finger and it started to purr... I could hear it.  I kept stroking, feeling its skull under the fur, the thin neck, the little ribs... and the more I explored, the more the kitten purred.

Knight smiled and left.

~ ~ ~

The kitten got past a major hurdle when I didn't just dump it on the way home.  I could have told Knight I'd dropped it... but I'm settled in Toronto, haven't had to lie or squirm or fight or fly out of anything for almost six months. So the cat made it home alive.

I put it on the floor at the church, and it started exploring right away.  It... I picked it up and checked.  A girl.  It made me smile:  it's Knight's way of having a laugh on me, giving me a female cat.  Well, he's right; I have a serious weakness for soft females.  I guess it crosses species lines.

I flopped in a chair and picked at the guitar for a while, playing bits of fandango, bits of Clapton riffs... nothing organized.  The kitten came over and tried to climb on my boot, reaching for the shoelace ends that were shaking as my foot tapped.  She swatted upward and then pounced and wound up trying to grip... my leg.

I reached down and picked her up.  "Don't push your luck," I told her.  "I don't let my girls bite *me*"  She dangled before my eyes, an ounce or two of living thing... I could hear the tiny heart, smell the blood... I smiled at her.  "My buddy Screed would *love* you, darlin'."

Now it was my moving hair that interested the animal, and she reached for it.  Too young or too dumb to know a predator when she sees one-- well, that's how I mostly like my women anyway.  And they do like to play with my hair... 

I parked the kitten on my shoulder, where she promptly tunneled under my hair.  I moved my head to rub along the soft furry side, and she started purring again.  She was small enough to curl up on top of my shoulder, and continued purring in the dark, warm place as I turned my concentration back to the guitar.  All I had to do was tilt my head now and then and rub, or even move my jaw a little, to get her to start purring again.  Ah, women...

~ ~ ~

Over the next few days, the only problem the kitten didn't solve for herself was food.  I tried giving her some of what I drink, but the alcohol in it was wrong for her.  I felt bad the first day, since she clearly needed food; I would've given her a drop or two of me, but I was afraid of making a carouche.  I wound up buying milk and catfood at a convenience store right after dusk the second night.

Then I wound up making a second trip to buy a canopener, since I didn't particularly care for the experience of opening the catfood can with my fangs...

And there's no water here, either.  But she either found a source of water or got enough fluid from the milk, and she figured out a way outdoors because as far as I could tell -- and I can smell a few parts per million of *anything* for about a hundred feet -- there were no excretions indoors.  I appreciated that;  I've never housetrained anything, and I was glad she took care of it for me.

Then she decided to sleep with me on a regular basis. 

I rack out right around dawn; get up in late afternoon.  A  sleeping vampire is a very, very dangerous thing, because it is only one second away from being a wide‑awake frightened vampire.  Weight for weight, we're the deadliest form of life on this planet, and we're even worse when we're scared.

The kitten jumped squarely onto my face one morning, about a week into her stay.  I was airborne before I was even really awake, fangs out and reaching for anything alive.  The kitten was falling... she hit the floor on all fours, and didn't even hiss at me when I floated down next to her.

"Bad idea, kitty," I said.

She was growing, and the gray eyes weren't quite as clueless as they'd been when she got here.  I could almost believe she was thinking something back at me, like "Jump BACK, dude, it was just a snuggle."

We looked at each other.  Women always win with me, always.  I told her "OK," picked her up, and stretched out on the bed again with her about a foot away. 

Within seconds she got up and walked onto my chest, and then up to my face.  She tried to lie down flat across my mouth, but slid off into my hair, seemed to like it there, and curled up and purred right into my ear. Still purring when I got back to sleep.

~ ~ ~

It took a couple days, but we got to where she could jump onto my shoulders while I was asleep without even really waking me up.  She always headed for a spot next to my ear if I was sleeping on my back, or under my chin if I was on my side.  And once she settled, she didn't move.  I got used to waking up with an orange kitten in my face, and she always started purring the second she felt me stir.  It got to be a habit, moving a bit, and then lying there for a minute or two to listen to that purr, stroking her.  The cat was even reasonable about it the few times I brought Urs home for the day, and stroked *her*.

Urs purrs too, but that's another story.

 It was Urs who named her.  Urs, my very own child, is the most sentimental vampire I have ever met; she can barely bring herself to kill, and I think she's quit entirely now that the bottled stuff is easy to get.  Urs went crazy over the kitten.  The kitten liked her too; I would've preferred her to be cool, I guess, but like all women she's a sucker for a flatterer...  Nah, that's not fair.  Urs is a sweetheart, and the kitten noticed.

"What's her name?" Urs cooed, holding the happy kitty in her lap. 

"She never mentioned," I said.

Urs gave me a teasing smile.  "Just like you, Javier, to bring a girl home without asking her name," she said.  "But she deserves one... don't you, pretty girl?  Yes, pretty little orange girlie, *bella aranciona*..."  why Urs was cooing at a Canadian ginger tabbycat in Italian is anyone's guess.  Plus, do cats get diabetes?  This affectionate babble was way over my sweetness quotient-- but I liked "Bella."

Urs liked "Bella" too, so that was that. 

Then, one morning, no Bella. 

I'd been asleep for a little while, and no cat had jumped on my face or my shoulders.  It disturbed my sleep that it didn't happen--perverse, but that's attachment for you.  By about nine a.m. I was wide awake and irritated.  Was my cat out-- catting around?  I guess she was old enough, I can't say I'd paid any attention, but it seemed to me it couldn't be that long.... Knight stuck me with her in the late autumn, this was... some month with snow on the ground.  February.  Is that long enough for a cat to mature?  What do I know?  By eleven o'clock, I was just worried.

I went all over the church, listening for her, smelling for her... she wasn't indoors.  I burned myself prying a plank off a window to check how bright the sun was... really bright, damn, way too bright to risk dashing out and yelling for her... I got a big stripe of nuclear sunburn across my right hand, which started smoking.  I said a few curses I learned in Pizarro's army, and worried some more.

What could hurt my cat?  And when I thought about that, I thought... anything.  We're talking about five ounces, maybe half a pound, of twelve week old housepet, not a vampire.  When was the last time I cared about anything that fragile?  Even Tracy carries a gun.

Tracy.  The mortal.  Can go out in daylight.  Nah...  No?  How much do you like this cat, Jav?  How much does Tracy like *you*?

"Vetter   mmmmmmmmmm... " she was basically talking in her sleep, but woke up fast when she heard it was me. 

"I... need a favor."  These are not easy words for any vampire to say to any mortal, and from me to Tracy Vetter....

"Really?"  Yeah Trace, this is your supernatural snitch calling and I want you to come over to my vampire lair and look around outdoors for my cat while I'm stuck inside hiding from the daylight I haven't been able to face for the last four hundred and sixty‑odd years, whaddaya say?.... well, that's what it came down to.

Women.  Nothing like 'em.  Tracy said yes.

~ ~ ~

She was over in about half an hour.   "OK, what exactly am I looking for?"

"She's orange, about half-grown..."

The humor of it was growing on her.  "And when last seen, the perp was headed... what direction?"  she said in a very cop-like voice.

"If I knew..."

"OK, OK," she said.  "Tracy Vetter, Vampire Pet Detective, on the case.  She's the Napoleon of crime, Watson..."  She flourished her gun.

"Don't press your luck," I said.

"I'm not the one missing a pussycat," she shot back with a smug grin.  She used it as an exit line, and I entertained myself with fantasies of draining her while I waited for her to call.

Little mortal Tracy spent the whole day out there looking for the cat... she called two or three times on the cell phone, telling me where she was and that there was no sign of a cat, none of the neighborhood kids had seen a cat (in this neighborhood, no sensible animal would show itself to those kids... my kind of kids, actually).  I could hear the genuine regret in her voice, and remembered each time why I've always liked her enough to let her live, despite the danger it puts me in, and despite all our rules about how to handle resisters. 

She came back to the church about an hour before sunset, empty handed.  And completely filthy-- she must have poked into crawlspaces and air shafts and...  "I'm really sorry," she said.  "You know, I never knew you had a cat."

"Tracy, the list of things you don't know about me...."  The sight of her wrecked clothing and smudged face bothered me somehow, and I didn't dare be friendly to her, not now...

She got defensive: "Would fill the Encyclopedia Brittanica? Would reach from here to the moon?  Don't go all vampire on me... I'm just saying this perfectly ordinary thing."

"I want my cat back," I explained, and she understood.  Why are women so kind?  And this one's only had twenty-six years on the Earth-- her hair like golden flinders of straw I remember in the sunshine of haying seasons-- 

"She'll probably come home tomorrow," Tracy said.  "Try not to worry about it."  She got a little frown right then that I recognized:  she was reminding herself what I am, and what that means I've done for food over the last half a millennium.  And now I'm worried about a kitten?   Yeah, Tracy, the vampire is worried about a kitten...

She must have been in a mood to cut me some slack, because she walked over and gave me a little kiss on the cheek.  "If she doesn't show up, call me and I'll come back and look some more.  And I'll check with the RSPCA and with Animal Control, OK?"

When did mortals become complex?  I touched her hair, and she flinched away from me with her eyes full of curiosity and fear.  She left in a hurry, headed into the last of the daylight that would mean death to me, and means everything that life is to her...

~ ~ ~

Light a candle or curse the darkness?  Who cares...  when the sun set, I went up on the roof to stretch my senses out to try to find Bella. 

We don't use our full range of senses most of the time; we couldn't stand the noise, the stink, the distraction... the sounds of all those hearts beating all the time.  In an elevator with four or five humans, a vampire could completely lose it if he couldn't just shut down his perception of all that sweet, sensuous blood just inches away.  But now...

I listened with all my strength, all my delicacy, all my ability to discern prey, for the exact cadence of a little heart I knew well because I'd been sleeping with it next to my ear for months-- and I heard it.  Among birds.  Birds?

My cat was stuck in a tree.  It made me laugh, old vampire who looks like a young man on the bluegrey slate roof of a deconsecrated church in an old town on a new continent. Cliche city.  My kitten had climbed a tree and couldn't get down.  It made me absurdly happy. 

I flew over to her, just a block away, and perched on a good branch that put me eyelevel with her.  It was a stupid thing to do-- some mortal could have been looking out a window-- but what the hell, some days you're just reckless and destined to get away with it... and I was happy.

"Bella," I told the solemn grey eyes in the orange face, "we have got to stop meeting like this."

She yawned, like having me fly over to rescue her from a tree was something she sees every day.  Then she made an interrogative noise, like did I really want to discuss this here in public, or were we going to take it home and have it out in private like civilized people?

"Ven aqui, mija," I said, and as if she spoke Spanish, she walked onto my hand to be grasped and I took us both home.  Perhaps she liked being called my daughter-- she's heard me use it with Urs, I suppose, and knows it can't mean anything that would keep her out of my bed. 

I flew us in through the belltower, and down to the nave where we sleep.  "Incidentally, you're grounded," I said.  She got onto the bed like that was cool with her.  I flopped down, too, thinking I'd catch a few z's before going over to the Raven this evening, and then it occurred to me someone might like to know.

"Hang on," I told Bella, and rolled over to reach for the phone.  "Vetter," said the answering voice. 

"Tracy... I found her," I said.

And there was that voice, a voice that somehow even *sounds* golden blonde, happy for me, saying "oh, that's fantastic, I'm so glad," and meaning it.  Before I really thought about it, I said, "come over when you're done with work, and you can see her."  And Tracy Vetter, also a little too fast for it to have the ring of a considered answer, said, "Yeah, I'll do that.  See ya then."

~ Return to "Forever Knight" ~

~ Return to Apache's Archive ~



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