Okay guys, so I'm back again. Things in my life are absolutely crazy right now and they won't be getting better any time soon, but I really miss writing fanfiction, so I'm going to take a new approach on it. I've always prided myself on my length chapters, never less than 5000 words or so, but if you want that length, you're going to be waiting months, and it stresses me out trying to add more and more and more just to get it to that size. So, here's the thing. I'm trying a new approach. I'm going to write until I feel satisfied, which will mean much shorter chapter, most likely coming out faster. I'm going for quality rather than quantity here, so I'm sorry for those who liked the longer length, but I'm kind of writing more for me than you guys right now. It's always lovely to hear your feed back though, so please don't hesitate to leave a review if you like it or even if you have an idea for the fanfic. I'm going to be trying this approach on all of my fanfictions for a while to see if it helps me with my writing.

Anyways – enjoy!


Written by Clarobell & Shiruji-chan

Revised by Clarobell

Chapter 1: Picking Up Strays

The morning air was frigid and biting. A light fog drifted in the air and a soft dusting of powdered snow coated the sidewalk. Shanks pulled his winter coat tighter around his body and blew into his gloved hands, trying to escape the icy nip in the air. Chunky puffs of snow floated to the ground lazily around him as he hurried home, eager to escape back into the warmth of his home. The streets were empty in the early morning, the odd colourful dots of children playing int he fresh snow speckled across the sidewalk. It couldn't have been later than nine, and he was on his way back from an emergency call out. He worked as a veterany doctor and living ina small town like he did, was often called out to tend to the pets of the townspeople being the only vet in these parts.

Originally, Shanks had lived in the city, miles away and across a large steel bridge. Being a skilled vet in both domesticated and exotic animals, business had been good. He'd worked hard for many years and finally saved enough to purchase a house in the smaller town he lived in now. The people there were friendlier, tight knit in small communities within the town,a nd it was no trouble to make house calls, it was just the walk home in the freezing weather that posed a problem. Normally he would take his car, but this call had been desperate, from a neighbour only a few blocks away with an elderly schnauzer.

The old dog's health had been waning, and Shanks had decided it would be quicker to run the distance than it would to clear off the snow and ice from his car. Sadly, the old dog's time was short, and other than a consoling handshake and the comfort of company, Shanks had been unable to offer the equally elderly owner any help. They'd sat together for several hours before the old schnauzer had slipped away, and after tending to the deceased pet and refusing the owner's money (he had enough of his own to live comfortably, and didn't feel right taking money simply for his time), he's set off for home.

It was such a soft noise, it was a miracle he'd heard it, but he paused and looked around in the thin fog. His eyes narrowed as he heard it again, coming from a small alleyway between a small fish store and a vacant building. The soft wail was something he's heard a thousand times before. An animal in pain. He walked briskly towards a group of teen gathered around whatever was making the noise. At first he thought perhaps they were just curious. Maybe a small animal had been struck by a car, or a cat attacked by a stray dog. One of the teens noticed his approach and shouted something to his friends, and within seconds, they'd scattered in different directions.

"Oi!" the vet called as he jogged a few steps and raised an arm as if to call them back, but as the dark, bundled figured darted away and out of sight he lowered it again and turned his attention back to the animal before him. A soft curse escaped his lips as he crouched down to the small figure nestled in the snow. It was a small cat, no older than eight months or so, covered in dirt and lecerations. Around the little creatures body was an assortment of stones and sharpened branches. The kids that had been huddled around the poor thing had, much to Shanks' disgust, probably been torturing it.

The most startling, yet probably harmless damage the teens had done was to dye the cats fur. It was still wet and bunched in sticky clumps, also stained in the snow around it. It was a dark green from what he could see, and he'd probably have to shave the fur if he wanted it's fur to grow back in it's natural colour.

Slowly, he lowered himself to a crouch and reached out to thumb at the kitten's head. It let out a weak growl at the action and Shanks' shushed it softly. And gently scooped it into his arms. The small body shivered like jell-o and flexed it's claws against Shanks' skin, the weak growl still rumbling from it's throat as it's emerald eyes, sharper than it's claws seemed to glare at him.

"It's alright now, kitten," the vet soothed, as he unzipped his winter coat and eased the weakened cat inside against his chest. "Let's get you home."

Shanks kept his pace brisk, concerned that there may be more damage on the little animal than he could see, and eager to remove the dye from it's fur and get it more comfortable and warm. It seemed calmed as he held his arms under it's body like a bed, and left it cucooned in the darkness and warmth between his body and coat. He smiled as he felt a faint purr rumble through it's body after a few minutes.

From the looks of it, the cat was a stray. It had no collar and was filthy. His brief obsevation hadn't shown Shanks much, but he's seen a nasty cut by the cat's hind leg on the left side. One of the teens had probably lobbed a stone at it to immobilise it and make it easier to catch. The tiny body had been unnaturally light,a nd Shanks suspected the animal hadn't eaten in a while. He would amke sure to right that.

Being a vet, Shanks often found and helped stray animals in the small town. He couldn't keep them all of course, but every now and again, he came across a 'special' animal. Even he didn't know how he knew they were special, but something about the animal just felt right, and when these 'special' animals found their way into his life, Shanks couldn't bare to part with them again. As he held the furry bundle against his chest, nestled in the darkness his coat offered, he couldn't help but smile. That familiar feeling crept into his body, flooding his veins and warming his heart.

"Another cat, eh?" he asked himself, quietly.

The creature squeaked softly at his voice, and Shanks shifted one hand from under the cat to pull his coat open at the top and look inside. Emerald orbs gazed at him calmly and he smiled. They certainly were something to look at; he'd never seen a cat with such green eyes. The cat's eyes narrowed at Shanks' lengthy look and let out an angry his followed by a throaty growl. Shanks laughed.

"You're a pretty mean one aren't you?" he grinned, "I'm sure you'll come around."

He released his grip on the neck of his coat, and let it fall back against his chest, once again leaving the little cat encased in the warmth inside.

"Well," Shanks smiled, "Looks like you're here to stay."

The kitten made no other noise as its eyes slowly drifted closed again and the tension in it's small body faded as it allowed itself to rest. Shanks' smiled warmly and petted the small creature through his coat as he felt it nuzzle closer to his warm body on the blustery day. He picked up the pace, eager to tend to his ne wlittle friend.

So there you have it. Shorta nd sweet. Next chapterwill hopefully be out soon.