A/N: -pokes out head- Um, Hi! I'm back from the depths. Of what, I do not know. All I'm here for is to finish this sucker out. I got other stories I'm starting to post up now, including a new one for Trigun. Kuroneko-sama hog-tied me down until I finished this chapter. It's been over a year and a half in the making, so I hope you enjoy it! -NB-

Disclaimer: Own Trigun, I do not. The song 'Jailhouse Rock' by Elvis Presley does not belong to me. Added characters are of my own doing, and therefore, belong to me.


Stray Cat Strut

By: Neptune Butterfly

Ch 6: Jailhouse Rock

Sharon leapt out of her chair and off the stage as soon as applause filled the room. Before she could forget she yelled out a thank you to Sean then ran into the hall towards the back door.

Miss Laura attempted to catch the teenager's attention, but she just flew past the bar without a glance. "Oh why do I bother!" The woman threw her hands up in the air.

The wind howled outside as the sandstorm reached full force, but even through the thick flying dust he could hear her quick footsteps coming growing louder through the door.

"Ryan! Ryan!" Sharon felt like she just stepped into a wind tunnel as she rushed out into the alley. The strength of the wind nearly knocked her over, but she managed to stand her ground and continued calling out for Ryan.

A hand grabbed hold of Sharon's arm and pulled her over to the side of the building. Instead of hitting the wall she landed against a cloaked body. Arms wrapped around Sharon's waist, and she panicked for a moment before she recognized the face under the hood.

"R-Ryan... What are you still doing he--"

"--Will you wait for me?"

Sharon wasn't sure if she heard him right. "W-what?"

"I'll have to leave for a while after I finish my assignment, but I'll come back if you're willing to wait for me." Ryan's gentle blue eyes peered out from underneath his hood full sincerity.

Sharon could only stare into them. The couple stood close to each other as the wind whipped their coats around and blasted in their ears.

All she kept thinking was if this was a joke. But that just can't be.

"I-I thought you said it would be too dangerous."

Ryan tightened his hold around Sharon's waist bringing her face closer to his. She had to push against his chest to keep from getting too close. "I'm willing to risk it," He whispered. "You're such an amazing person, and you've done so much for me. I figured that I better take this chance before its too late."

Sharon couldn't breathe. Her face felt hot from the intimate contact. There were barely two inches between their noses. It was amazing that she could find air to answer him. "Can I have a little more to think about this?"

"I'm afraid I need an answer now. I might not be coming back tomorrow."

There was a sense of desperation in the young man's voice, as if this really was his last chance for happiness. He lifted his left hand to wipe the hair from the brunette's face and protect it from the flying dust.

After a moment of verbal silence Ryan closed what little distance was left between to offer his ultimatum.

-----

The insurance girls carefully balanced loaded trays all the way to the bar counter. Meryl wore a disgruntled look as her eyes followed Sharon out of the room. "I swear, if she keeps doing that, somebody's gonna notice!"

"Are you sure you don't want to tell Vash and Mr. Wolfwood in case something goes wrong?" Milly asked.

"Yes, I'm sure." Meryl turned her attention back to her tray. Mr. Kuroneko was licking one of the plates. "Oh no you don't mister!" She picked him up.

"Mr. Kuroneko!" Amy scolded as she ran up to Meryl. "You know better than that!" She took the kitty into her arms. "C'mon. Alicia's got something to show ya."

Her friend popped up beside her with Miss Charlotte at her feet, blonde braids a little more frayed than usual. "See!" She showed the stuffed toy.

Milly noticed the odd stitches on the tail. "Um, what happened to it?'

Amy pointed to the spot while she held on to the cat with one arm. "See that? Stupid Troy pulled it off, but we fixed it now."

Mr. Kuroneko sniffed and Nyaood approvingly.

"Y-you know, he didn't actually pull it off on purpose." Alicia said quietly.

Amy couldn't believe what she was saying. "You're ACTUALLY defending him?" God, Alicia, how could you? He's such a jerk!"

"BUT HE DIDN'T MEAN TO--!"

"--All right!" Meryl had enough. "You two stop it! Go sit down somewhere and stop chasing those cats or you'll break something else!"

Amy glared at her cousin for a moment then stomped off to the kid's section. Alicia's eyes were tearing up.

"Don't worry," Milly said. She gave the girl a gentle push. "How 'bout you go sit with Mr. Vash and Mr. Wolfwood for a while."

"...m'kay..." Alicia began to cry while she walked off.

The little brown fur ball beside her hesitated, then decided to go off towards the hall where Sharon disappeared a couple of minutes before.

Meryl sighed and picked up her tray. "C'mon, Milly."

-----

Ryan braced against the wind as he stepped back out into the empty street. His cloak blew about making it even harder to keep balance. He had to find his way back to River Pass before his prolonged absence became suspicious.

Somehow, the moons managed to shine through the thick dust and cover the town in a faint eerie glow. The few lights that were left on didn't help much. People walking by were nothing more than fleeting shadows to the eye.

A group of those shadows clustered together near the end of town, right in Ryan's path. As he slowly made his way towards them, he realized they were all wearing the same black cloak he was. It was the mark of the Ruckus Boys. Ryan stopped in his tracks. 'Weren't they supposed to leave after scouting the place out?' He thought.

Before he could find an alley to disappear in, the group began to disperse, some coming in his direction. Ryan held on to his hood as he ran in between two buildings fighting the sand and wind while attempting to navigate the narrow streets.

He had to find a place to hide and fast. The sound of footsteps bounced off the walls making it difficult to tell which direction they were coming from. Ryan did his best to steer clear of the saloon. As long as he didn't go too far to the right he was okay.

Something bid from the left hit him hard in the shoulder causing him to fall on all fours.

"Hey, watch where you're going you a--, well, well, well. It's the little rat." The boulder of a man picked Ryan up with one hand and called out, "I found 'em, Boys!"

Ryan slipped out of his cloak and stumbled down another alleyway. More footsteps and now shouting echoed throughout the cluster of houses. Going in deeper and deeper, it became easier to see and move about. He didn't bother to pay attention where he was going anymore just so long as he was far away from their voices.

After the shouting had died down and making a few random turns Ryan headed for the town's square again to find the marshal. He couldn't go back to the gang now. Their plans obviously had changed somewhat and the fact that they were out looking for him now meant that someone had tipped him off to Antonio their leader. Ryan questioned himself; just how long did they know?

A fist came flying out of nowhere, knocking Ryan onto his back. What little he could see swirled around him and he closed his eyes. He received another punch in the stomach and a couple of kicks on the side. Ryan didn't bother to look. He could already tell that most of the men had caught up with him.

They laughed and enjoyed using him as a punch bag. The men repeatedly picked Ryan up just so they could knock him down again. All Ryan could do was hope they never find out about what the marshal had planned for them.

-----

"Alright, now's your chance Sean." Lee winked at him.

His friend eyed him suspiciously. "So, what ARE you gonna sing while I make a complete fool of myself?"

"Don't tell me," Eddie jumped in, "Something Elvis would sing right?" He knew how much Lee idolized the old earth singer.

"Well," Lee flipped his white-blonde hair, "They don't call me Lee Presley for nothing!"

"They call you Lee Presley because THAT IS your name," Sean said. "All you need is a dye job and a change of eye color and you'll look like 'em too." He looked over to Layla's table where she was having a lively conversation with Vash and Wolfwood and a red headed waitress. "Just don't make a complete ass out of yourself, OK?"

"Don't worry, Sean," Lee patted his right shoulder, "Just make sure you don't trip over yourself."

"I'm not a terrible dancer."

"Maybe so, but you're smitten. Love can make even the most graceful being a stumbling fool."

Sean glared at all of his band mates in turn. Brian, who had been quiet the whole time, just smiled and shrugged. He sighed. "Alright. Wish me luck." He straightened himself up and made his way to the stairs.

"I'll only give you a minute! We gotta keep the party moving!" Lee called to him. "Alright. Eddie do you know where my jacket is?"

There was a lot of loud laughter in the room now that everyone was finishing up dinner and beginning to drink heavily. It was also more crowded because of more people coming in from the sand storm. Though fights rarely broke out the saloon, Donavan and the sheriff were keeping at least one bleary eye out for trouble. Donavan kept his mostly wherever Angela went. If she did notice, she didn't let him know it.

Right now Angela was at Vash's side trying to politely excuse herself. The gunman was insisting that she bring him and the priest something to drink. Remembering what had happened earlier when he downed a glass right before he danced with Meryl, she didn't want to let him get too drunk again, though she was amazed at how quickly he sobered up after the incident.

"I'm sorry, Vash. I think you should wait a little longer before you have another. Mrs. Johnson wants me to make sure nobody gets too sick around here. It's not very late, and you already threw up once."

"Aww C'mon. Pleeeaaase?" Vash clasped his hands together a begged like a little kid.

"When did that happen?" Layla asked.

"Not long before you came in. He did one too many turns on the dance floor with the short insurance girl and took off like a bullet for the bathroom before he could say anything to her," Wolfwood chuckled. "Just give me a refill, Angela."

The waitress nodded and walked towards the bar leaving the Typhoon to pout.

Layla laughed. "Wow, now why does that not surprise me?" All the myths surrounding the legendary Stampede had slowly began to crumble the moment she met him. This just added to the growing list of misconceptions about him.

"I did too say something to her!" Said Vash.

"Like what?" the priest asked.

"I-I u-umm, s-said that I-I had fun, a-and t-that she w-was a-a good d-dancer," Vash stumbled on his words all embarrassed.

"Aww, that's so sweet!" Said Layla.

"How about you then?" Vash turned to her, "I'm not too bad myself." His grin was almost too big for his face. Wolfwood rolled his eyes.

Layla was taken a little off guard. "Me?" She did say she'd think about it. "Umm, well..." If only she had a chance to dance with Sean first.

"Excuse me."

Vash and Layla turned their heads.

Sean seemed a little fidgety which was very unusual for him. He could be a smooth talker with any girl except her because he knew Layla wouldn't buy it. She just doesn't seem the type. Now if only he could say something else.

"Yes?" Asked Layla. Sean was just staring at her.

"Uhhh, um," 'Why are you taking so long idiot! Just ask her!' "They're, um, about to, uh, do there, uh, last song, um, before, um, karaoke hour starts, so, uh, I just, uh, decided to, uh, come over and, um, I was just, uh, wondering if uh, you would, um, like to, uh--"

"--Yes, she'll dance with ya!" Wolfwood felt like he needed to help the poor guy out.

"Wolfwood! I asked her first!"

"But she didn't say yes, Needle Head!"

Layla could see Lee at the mic wearing a purple jacket over his green shirt with his bright orange tie loosened up even more. Andy Johnson was back up there helping them out again, this time on the other guitar.

"Will you dance with me?" Sean finally got the words out. He held his hand out just as music start.

Two twangs on the guitar were by two beats on the drums. Lee's legs swiveled with the beat while he managed to hold his guitar.

Layla looked back at Sean and smiled. "Sure."

Two more twangs followed by two more beats, then Lee started to sing, happy to finally see his buddy leading the girl to the dance floor.

The warden threw a party in the county jail,

Prison band was there, they began to wail

Everyone quieted down and looked at Lee. Angela stopped right in front of Donovan's table when he heard him. "Oh my God," She laughed as she saw him looking more colorful than ever.

The band was jumpin' and the joint began to swing,

You should've heard those knocked out jailbirds sing

Let's rock,

Lee's legs were moving in odd directions with the beat. Eddie came in on the piano. Milly stopped to look as well and poked Meryl in the back. "Oh, Meryl, look! He dances just like my little big brother!"

Everybody, let's rock

Everybody in the whole cellblock

Just dancing to the jailhouse rock.

Just outside the back door, Sharon listened, still a little stunned by Ryan's kiss. She wished she could just run back in and watch Lee dance like his idol just as he did a while back before the Ruckus Boys attacked the plant. If only she didn't feel so terrible about telling Ryan that she couldn't wait. As much as she wanted too, she couldn't.

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone,

Little Joe was blowin' on the slide trombone,

Through the wind and sand blowing about her, Sharon heard a loud crash like somebody hit a bunch of trash cans. She ran off to see who it was. Just ahead she could see a group of shadowy figures surrounding another one crumpled on the ground by the cans she heard.

The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang,

The whole rhythm section was the purple gang.

Let's rock,

Thinking maybe it was some people who stepped outside to fight, Sharon yelled, "Hey! What's going on he--" But she stopped in her tracks as soon as she realized who these men were.

"GET OUT OF HERE! RUN, QUICK!" The figure on the ground yelled out painfully.

Everybody, let's rock

Everybody in the whole cellblock

Just dancing to the jailhouse rock.

Back inside, Lee moved across the stage shaking his legs and swinging his hips around. His blonde hair swung around his face. While everybody in the saloon had their eyes on him, he kept his eye on his friend on the dance floor. Sean appeared to be loosening up a bit. Lee smiled to himself.

Number 47 said to number 3,

You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see

"Well, looky what we have here boys." The group of men stepped closer towards Sharon. She was too stunned at the moment to realized she needed run.

"SHARON! I TOLD YOU TO RUN!" That was Ryan lying on the ground.

I sure would be delighted with your company

Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me

Let's rock,

She turned on her heels and headed for the back door of the saloon. The sheriff and the marshal had to be notified immediately. But because of her delayed reaction she didn't have a chance. One of the men grabbed her arm and held it behind her as they covered her mouth.

"Hey where you going, sweetheart? You'll miss all the fun we're about to have!" Said the man.

Everybody, let's rock

Everybody in the whole cellblock

Just dancing to the jailhouse rock.

"LEAVE HER ALONE!" Ryan attempted to get up, but one of the other guys knocked him back down. He received a kick in the legs in return.

"Why you--!" The man Ryan kicked and another standing beside him flipped him over and held his arms behind his back to tie them up. Ryan's bloodied face was rubbed into the ground collecting dirt.

Sharon was hauled back over to the group while she kicked desperately tried to squirm out of her captor's arms.

Sad Sack was sitting on a block of stone

Over in the corner weeping all alone

"Where do you think we should put these two?" Asked the man holding onto to the girl.

The one tying up Ryan pulled him up when he was done. "Just follow me. I know the perfect place for this squealer!"

The Warden said: Hey buddy, don't you be no square,

If you can't find a partner get a wooden chair

Let's rock,

The gang drag the two down a ways behind the stores that lined the square to the back of a long building with a line of bar-covered windows. The biggest of the men, whom Ryan first ran into, rammed his foot into the old wooden back door. The rusty lock on its handle didn't resist and easily broke apart.

"I think you two will feel nice and cozy in here. Everybody's gone for the night and by this time tomorrow, there won't be any need for them to come back, heheh." The others laughed as they pushed Ryan and Sharon through the door.

Everybody, let's rock

Everybody in the whole cellblock

Just dancing to the jailhouse rock.

Everyone in the saloon was totally unaware of anything going on outside or to the fact that more people were coming inside than there ought to be. All eyes except for those dancing were on the band and especially Lee, who twisted his body wildly across the stage during the instrumental break.

Eddie went nuts on the piano bobbing his head and thumping his heel as his hands flew over the keys. His black square-rimmed glasses sat on the tip of his nose.

Layla and Sean were breathing hard by now. Sean was surprised at how well she could dance with those heavy travel boots on. They were even bigger than his. It made him wonder what kind of work she was into to require so much travel. Her boots were well worn and had traces of mud on them. There weren't many places you could go on this planet that was wet enough.

'Okay, why am I looking at her feet?' Sean looked up hoping that his partner didn't notice the prolonged stare at her footwear. Come to think of it, he never asked Layla what she did.

Halfway across the room Angela tried catch a glimpse of them dancing. There had been a recent influx of people so there were more standing than sitting at the moment.

Milly came over with a tray full of drinks ready to serve. "My, it feels like a cushion-pusher in here! It's so hot!"

The redhead giggled. "You mean a pressure-cooker. I knew that the place was gonna be packed tonight, but there must be a lot of travelers that got caught in the storm. Where's Meryl, by the way?"

"Oh, Miss Laura just asked her to help clean up the kitchen, since she can't find Sharon anywhere."

"She's gone AGAIN?"

Shifty Henry said to Bugs for heaven's sake

No one's looking; now's our chance to make our break

Sharon and Ryan were thrown into separate cells side by side with only bars between them. A couple of the gang members padded them down looking for hidden weapons. Sharon squirmed as rough hands grabbed her in places she didn't want to be touched.

Ryan yelled at him to stopped, but got another punch in the face for it. The man searching him pulled out his gun hidden in his vest and also came across something pinned on the inside. "So the boss was right. You ARE a little weasel!" He ripped the star pin out and tossed it to one of his comrades.

Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said: Nix, Nix.

I wanna stick around a while and get my kicks

Let's rock,

"Make sure Antonio gets that. Who knows how much information he leaked to the feds." The man slammed the bar doors and lock them with keys one of the others found in the sheriff's desk drawer. "We won't be gone too long. We'll be back as soon as the boss arrives. Then he'll decides what to do with you then." All of the men ginned and chuckled.

Ryan felt panic rush up through his sore stomach and throat. 'He's coming now! Oh, shit! It may be too late!'

"See ya in a couple of hours, jailbirds!" The door was put back in place leaving the two alone.

Everybody, let's rock

Everybody in the whole cellblock

Just dancing to the jailhouse rock.

'All right, just a couple more spins and it's over.' Sean was getting nervous again and preoccupied himself on what to do after the dance.

Dancing to the jailhouse rock

He swung Layla out to his left. His palms were sweaty.

Dancing to the jailhouse rock

Then he swung her out to his right.

Dancing to the jailhouse rock

Sean tugged Layla back in too fast and she stumbled right into his arms.

The song ended with the whole room clapping and cheering for Lee who gave numerous dramatic bows. He looked for his friend on the dance floor. Lee found him not paying attention to anything or anyone except the girl he was holding. The blonde jump in excitement and rushed over to the piano to tell Eddie.

All Sean really noticed were her eyes. They actually looked purple in the saloon light. He loosened his hold and smiled nervously.

Layla looked down at her feet and moved her hair out of her face which was flushed from the dance. "Clumsy boots," She tried to laugh.

"You're pretty good even with them on."

She looked up. "Yeah, well, you have to have good coordination to handle wearing them." 'Why are we talking about my boots?'

"I guess I better go. We're starting karaoke in a few minutes. Do you have any plans of singing tonight?" Sean motioned an arm towards the stage.

Layla rose her hands. "It depends. I gotta sit down and catch my breath first."

"All right! I'll see ya up there later!" The guitarist bounded off to the stage steps as he waved at her. He didn't raise his foot high enough for the first step. It caught him off guard, but Sean managed to catch himself with his arms and push back up. Layla did her best not to laugh while she headed for her seat.

Lee was waiting for him at the top with a huge grin. "Graceful as a swan."

"Oh, shut up, Lee."

-----

It was too dark for Sharon to see anything in the cell. She could only hear the wind outside and the scratching of the floor as Ryan inched his way toward her. She repositioned herself and rolled toward him.

CLANG!

"Ouch!" The bars between them must have been closer than she thought.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. What about you?"

"Oh, you know, it's just part of my job." Ryan was being sarcastic. "I get beat up like this all the time."

"No, you don't." Sharon didn't like his mood.

"I know I don't! I'm really pissed off right now!" If he wasn't hurt so badly he would be screaming his lungs out. "This wasn't supposed to happen!"

"I know you don't want to hear this right now, but sometimes it does happen."

"You're right. I DON'T want to hear it right now!"

"I'm not the one you should be mad at!" Sharon tried to squirm away from the bars so she wouldn't be so close to Ryan's yelling.

"I have plenty of reasons to be mad at everyone right now!"

"Including me!"

"Everyone includes everyone!"

"Why?" She stopped squirming.

"Why did you say no?"

"What?"

"After all that talk about wanting me to stay when this is over, why did you say no when I asked you to wait for me?"


A/N: I love this story so much, though I haven't really shown it. I feel bad for anybody who's been waiting for an update. They're probably not here anymore, but I guess that's what I get for taking so long. Please review and tell me how I'm doing! -NB-

Next time: Chapel of Love