Cats and Wolves
Author: Sol aka Zefyr
Muse & Beta: Katikat
Pairings: 1+2, 3+4, 5+TBA... hehe.
Rated: PG or PG-13 at most
Warnings: Minor OOC due to AU situations; shonen-ai; fantastical animal/people mixes; gratuitous use of improper Gaelic; crazy adaptations of Siberian and Native American traditions.
Archiving: Please ask separately for this fic and one of us will get back to you, since it's a collaboration. Also found at www-geocities-com/ mystera_k... Replace dashes with appropriate punctuation.
Disclaimer: We don't own, but we're having fun anyway. No harm meant.
Summary: In a world of Creatures, Heero is a young half-Wolf who wants only to help his adopted brother, Wufei, find a good mate. Really. Trowa, a half-Jackal, helps, and it goes downhill from there...
This is a joint effort. KatiKat wrote the teaser, then I saw Asuka's art for the werepervs, and then I watched Cat People right after re-watching GW episodes 1-5, and the rest is history. The prologue (chapter 1) was written by KatiKat, and edited by Sol. The rest of the chapters are written by Sol, with beta comments and additional muse-inspiration provided by Katikat.
Many thanks, once again, to all the reviewers: Icy Flame, cryearthstearsfalltou, Morgan, Koyote, Patty 40, Maldorer, MayLin, and Kasifya; and to Valandra, who is now archiving this on her new site, and especially to KatiKat without whom this never would have happened and certainly wouldn't have been as much fun to write.
The house was only one room, and after moving back into it, Heero had often thought it was too small. When he'd been little, waiting for his father to come home from hunting, the house had seemed endless.
His parent's – and then later, just his father's - large bed sat in one corner, and his own child's trundle bed slid away underneath during the day. The four chairs were serviceable, despite the claw marks from his toes when his feet weren't long enough to reach the floor. The table was scored and stained from years of use, and the Bobcat-made rug lay on the hearth, same as it always had. A few pots and pans were hung by the fire, ready for the next meal.
The young half-Wolf sighed and dropped his traveling bundle on the table. Building a fire in the cold hearth, he made sure it was crackling nicely before he went back out to hang the deer he'd caught. After nearly twenty minutes of struggling with the slippery hide, he finally managed to get it over a low branch to dry. Next, Heero brought the deer meat inside. When he was done, he dismantled the drag he'd used to lug the deer meat and hide. Spitting the meat, he rested back on his heels, and absently groomed his bushy silver tail as he watched the meat sizzle.
He'd traveled before, to other Gatherings, but that was when he still lived with Jiarunn. After the last Gathering, when he turned nineteen, he'd decided to move back to his father's house, which had sat empty for ten years. Most of the linens and rugs had been moved to Jiarunn's when he took Heero in, and the old man generously gifted Heero with new household and bed linens. The only thing that still remained was the hearthrug, which had lain next to Heero's bed in the small room he had in Jiarunn's home.
The Wolf glanced down at his tail, stroking the fur, and tugging at the guard hairs as he cleaned his fur. It had taken several months, after his father died, before Jiarunn convinced the nine year old half-Wolf to stop running back to the house to look for his father. After that, Heero slept nearly every night curled up on the hearthrug next to his bed. By the time he was ten, though, he'd started sleeping in the bed, and hadn't slept on the rug since. His parents were dead, and he was going to grow up without them, but at least he had Jiarunn, Wufei, and Sali.
Heero sighed. In two days, Wufei and Meiran would come to visit him, as Wufei did after every festival. Meiran had insisted that she'd come along, and the half-Wolf found himself actually looking forward to the additional company. Carefully he leaned forward and turned the spit, checking the meat before settling back down, cross-legged, looking around the house as if with new eyes.
It seemed too big, suddenly. It was missing something, and he couldn't put a claw on it. Exhausted from the two-day hike back from the Gathering, Heero crawled over and dragged the blanket off the bed. Moving back to the hearth, he wrapped the blanket around him and curled up in a ball.
Within minutes, the only sound in the hut was the crackling of meat juices running into the fire, and the soft snores of a silver Wolf.
"Heero!" Meiran's shout was delighted, and she ran ahead of her new husband to pounce on the unsuspecting half-Wolf, who was stretching a hide. The frame twisted under his hands as the Jaguar-girl's arms latched on around his throat.
"Meiran, do not strangle my brother," Wufei called, but his tail was swinging happily around his ankles as Heero disengaged from the girl's hug. "Heero, don't you ever relax?"
"I am relaxing," the Wolf warrior replied, leaning forward to rub noses with his foster-brother. "I wasn't expecting you until sun-down."
"We made good time, but we would have made better if that husband of mine didn't walk so slow," Meiran said, looking past the Wolf. "Oh, this is your house? I love it." Without a second word, she headed through the open door to investigate.
"Walk slow?" Heero raised his eyebrows, and the Jaguar swordsman shrugged. "How's married life treating you?"
"I haven't decided yet," Wufei muttered. "I might still kill you for doing this to me."
"I'll keep that in mind." The Wolf dodged his brother's half-hearted strike, and grinned, his tail wagging. "Hungry? I was about to start lunch."
An hour later the three Creatures were settling down to eat. The two quiet Creatures were amused by Meiran's persistent questions about the trundle bed design, the spices Heero selected, the bed linens, the shutters laying in the yard to be fixed, and a hundred other things.
"Wife, you need to slow down," Wufei finally interrupted. "You're not even letting him answer the first one before you have twenty more."
"I need to know these things," she retorted. "How am I going to be a good Chief if I don't know what it takes to run a house?"
"You'll be a good Chief no matter what," he replied, but the irritated tone was softened by the way Wufei's ears were tilted forward. There was a hint of a purr in his voice, and Heero did his best to keep his face straight as he studied his bowl of stew.
Meiran made a face and switched topics abruptly. Turning to Heero, she raised her eyebrows and leaned forward, resting her chin on the heel of her hand. "So, whatever happened to that Fox?"
"What?" Heero choked on a bite of vegetable, and took a swig of ale before looking at the young Jaguar-girl suspiciously. "I don't know. He...the Coyotes left the Gathering early."
"Well, everyone knows that," she replied haughtily. "Good thing, too. The River Bobcats were steaming mad when they found out." She giggled and rolled her eyes. "But I thought you two were friends."
"We...I guess." Heero shrugged, and stood up. "Are you still hungry? There's more stew in the pot."
Behind him, Wufei glared at Meiran and shook his head. The Jaguar-girl frowned. She noted Heero's stiff back as he leant over the fire, then gave her husband a sad look. Wufei shook his head a second time, and the girl pursed her lips, finally nodding.
The next day Wufei and Meiran left after breakfast to go see Jiarunn. Heero headed to the old Creature's house once he finished his morning chores. Jiarunn lived on the other end of town, where the mountainous region leveled out enough for a few small fields. Heero's trip took him down the rocky path, past several other outlying homes, and into the town proper. The single main street had small stone buildings flanking the road, most standing two stories high, their jumbled roof lines crowding out the day's clear blue sky. In the center of town, the road widened into the Moutain Wolf commons, where people met, festivals were held, and the younger Creatures generally hung about and made nuisances of themselves.
The half-Wolf swished his silver tail around his legs and ducked his head. He ignored the six or seven Wolves sitting around the center fountain, and started walking faster when he heard a girl's voice calling his name.
Growling under his breath, Heero stopped not far from the fountain just as someone attached herself to his arm. Looking over, he saw Relena's sky-blue eyes cheerfully regarding him, and he scowled.
"Get off me, Relena," he said, trying to shrug her off. "I'm busy."
"Oh? What are you doing? Going somewhere?" She smiled, matching his long stride easily.
"I'm having lunch with Jiarunn, my brother, and my new sister."
"Lovely! I'm so glad you asked me along!"
Heero stopped in his tracks and turned to face the girl, his voice a low growl. "I did NOT ask you along, and I do NOT want you to come. Go away. Leave me alone. Go bother SOMEONE ELSE!" The last words were nearly a shout, and Heero caught a quick glance of Relena's shocked face before he turned and stalked off.
Her voice trailed behind him, unexpectedly cheerful again. "I'm sorry you're in a bad mood, Heero...I'll make it up to you later with a nice venison stew..."
You can make it up to me by leaving me alone, he grumbled silently. His ears were flat on his head. His head was down and his dark brown thatch of hair was in his eyes, so he barely registered the Creature stepping in his way. They bumped into each other, and Heero pulled back, startled, to see deep gray Bobcat eyes watching him, amused.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"You're Heero," the Bobcat-girl said, and twirled a wrist cuff around her index finger. Her hair was blonde, and nearly to her knees.
The half-Wolf nodded, peering at her with narrowed eyes.
"I'm Dorothy," she said, and smiled, but it wasn't the prettiest expression. "I see you're not fond of Relena, are you."
"I just want her to leave me alone," he said, his face twisting in a frown.
"You were the one chasing that Fox!" the girl said, a finger to the side of her mouth as if she'd just thought of the connection. "Did you ever pound him into the dirt for stealing whatever that thing was... a wrist-cuff? Or was it earrings..."
"Neither, and no," he replied curtly, then stepped to the side to go around her.
Dorothy sidestepped as well, placing herself in Heero's way. "So you just hung out with him all week to make sure he didn't steal again? That was gentlemanly of you."
Heero frowned. The Bobcat was obviously from the same school of obtrusiveness as Zechs, and he didn't want to be late for Jiarunn's lunch. The old man always served the best elk. The Wolf-boy stepped to the side again, and once again was neatly blocked by the Bobcat.
"Or maybe you were friends? That would explain it," she said, musing as though she had all the time in the world.
Despite himself, his attention was piqued. "Explain what?"
"Why the Fox was so disappointed when Relena told him to get lost. I bet that Fox liked you...that would be why he kept turning around and walking backwards as the Coyotes left. Probably hoped for one more chance to talk to you..." She shrugged, nonchalantly. "Foxes are such silly Creatures."
"Relena said..." Heero couldn't finish the question, his mind racing back to Duo's parting words. Something about telling my girlfriend, he thought, and the pieces fell into place: Relena had been talking to Duo, and after that, the thief was never around. The Wolf warrior growled, and gave the Bobcat a curt bow. "Excuse me," he said politely, and turned on his heel, heading back for the fountain.
Relena was chatting with two friends about the Gathering, and she turned as Heero approached.
"Heero! I knew you'd want me to---"
"I want you to leave me ALONE," Heero barked, continuing forward until Relena was forced to back up. When her knees hit the fountain, she smiled nervously.
"Right now, you're the one not leaving ME alone," she pointed out slyly. "See, I knew you liked me. You just won't admit it."
Heero stopped, his silver ears flat against his head as he bared his teeth. "I'll admit I didn't care one way or another. But when you mess with my friends, I definitely don't like you!" And with that, he shoved his paws against her shoulders, hard.
Relena fell backwards, into the fountain, with a splash.
Not waiting for her friends' reactions, Heero turned and strode away. He was looking forward to telling Jiarunn and Wufei about this, although he never would have thought he'd do something like that. Behind he could hear Relena's friends solicitously asking if she was okay, while her disgusted yelps and barks echoed across the town square. The silver Wolf ignored them all, but couldn't keep his tail from wagging as he headed down the road towards his old mentor's home.
Heero was sitting outside his house, wrapped in a blanket and watching the sun come up. The door opened behind him, swishing quietly as it closed again, and a bundle of bed linens sat down beside him.
"You're up early, brother," Wufei said quietly. "We would have stayed with Jiarunn, now that he has a spare room. You didn't have to sleep in the trundle bed."
The half-Wolf shrugged.
"You're still upset about what that Bobcat said," the Jaguar boy guessed.
Heero's ears went back, but he didn't say anything.
"You can't lie to me," Wufei said quietly. "And I heard the Coyotes inviting you, if you wanted to travel. Trowa has...and I know you're always excited to hear his stories about what lies outside our mountains."
There was no reply, and the two were silent as the sun crested the treetops. The hut's door creaked, and Heero stirred.
"I think your wife is awake," he whispered. "Maybe she's already noticing when the bed gets cold."
Wufei blushed suddenly, and Heero's tail wagged, hitting the Jaguar in the back.
"Stop that," the swordsman hissed, but his face was still a bright red.
"Recover yourself while I make breakfast. You can't leave without eating," Heero said, standing. Shaking out the blanket and laying it over his arm, he pushed the door open, stunned to find Meiran dressed and bustling around his house with an industrious air. Nervously the Wolf regarded the traveling gear laid across the table. "What are you doing?"
"Helping you pack," she replied smartly. "What does it look like?"
"But I just got back three days ago," he said, and then frowned. "And I live here. I don't need to go anywhere."
"Don't give me that," she retorted, getting in the taller Creature's face as she poked him in the chest. "You have an apology to deliver."
"I do?" Heero growled. "I am not sorry in the least for pushing Relena in the fountain."
"That?" Meiran rolled her eyes. "Not her, you idiot, that Fox."
"The thief?" The half-Wolf could only gape. "The half-Fox?"
"Why, was there more than one?"
There were soft padding footsteps behind Heero. "Meiran!" Wufei barked.
The young Jaguar-girl glared past Heero to give her new husband an angry look. "Don't give me that! You're as bad as he is!"
"Hunh?" The swordsman blinked. "What did I do?"
"No wonder you two are brothers," she spat, and went back to arranging Heero's traveling gear on the table. "You're both..." Meiran paused, trying to find the right word, and spinning as she said it. "Lunkheads! You're both...absolute lunkheads!"
"Wufei," Heero said quietly. "I take it all back."
"Too late now," Wufei replied, just as softly, but not sounding too upset about it. "Besides, I think she's right. Maybe it'd do you some good to get out and see the world."
"The world? Who cares about that?" Meiran retorted hotly. "He's pining over a Fox, and you've just sat around letting him be mopey. It's been unbearable, watching him brood. Now you know for a fact that it was some cheap Wolf-girl who screwed it up, even though the Fox said he likes you---"
"How do you know?" Heero was stunned.
"I was standing right there, you...lunkhead! It was my damn wedding!"
"Meiran!" Wufei sounded shocked.
"Fine, it was OUR damn wedding! Stop arguing with me!" The Jaguar girl stomped one foot for emphasis, and placed her fists against her hips. "Now you're going to pack your stuff, and we'll pack ours, and you can lock up here. You can take the south road down the mountain."
"Why that road?" The half-Wolf glanced at Wufei, who shrugged.
"Because the Coyotes are heading to the Plains, and that's west of here. If you take the south road, it meets with the western road at the bottom of the mountain."
"How do you know all this stuff?" The Jaguar-boy was baffled. "You've never traveled those roads."
"But your sister has, and Sali told me all about it on the way home." Meiran shook her head. "Now, come on, let's have breakfast and get packed. Heero has a long way in front of him."
Slowly the two Creature-boys nodded, sneaking hesitant smiles at each other behind Meiran's back. She snorted, as though she knew what they were doing, and they both quickly fell in line, helping her finish the last of the preparations. Heero made a quick breakfast, and packed dried meat and fruit for the trip. By mid-morning they were on the road, and even Meiran was silent, enjoying the fine weather of an early spring day.
At the crossroads, Wufei rubbed noses with Heero, and watched as Heero cautiously rubbed noses with Meiran, as though afraid the young Jaguar-girl would drop another spitfire attack on him. Then the half-Wolf shouldered his pack, nodded to both, and headed on down the south road. The new couple remained where they were, watching the silver tail wag until it dropped out of sight around a bend in the road.
A small paw slipped into Wufei's hand, and he looked down, startled. When he looked up, Meiran was still staring down the path, a hint of a smile playing on her face.
"Wife, you really didn't have to push him like that," Wufei reproved gently. "He would've done it eventually."
"No, he wouldn't," she said, but without a trace of defensiveness. "You two really are too much alike."
"Wait a minute," Wufei started to protest, but stopped when Meiran leaned forward and rubbed her nose against his.
"You are," the Jaguar-girl repeated. "Besides, he helped you, didn't he? And now that we're married, that makes him my brother. So naturally, I will help him, too."
Wufei glanced down the path where Heero had gone, remembering the light footsteps of the young Wolf as he set off to find his Fox-friend. The Jaguar swordsman smiled to himself, nodding at Meiran's words, and then glanced at his wife. She was tugging on his hand, and jerked her head in the direction of their own village. His smile grew wider, and he let her tug him forward. When he came alongside her, he glanced over, still smiling, and didn't let go of her hand.
~ fini ~
If there's a sequel, it'll be a few weeks. I have another AU in the works for when I'm done with Drums, and a comedy I've been planning for some time now. Before all that, I will probably take a week and work on some original fiction, just to clear my head between these stories and the next ones. Stay tuned, and once again, a big thank you to everyone who reviewed, encouraged, commented, and cheered. You make writing worth it.