S. T. Farnham
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and various corporate entities own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not me, unfortunately.
Spoilers: None to speak of.
1: The Cruel Tutelage of Miss Kitty
Xander and Willow had been strolling through Cuyahoga Valley National Park for most of the afternoon. Near sunset, Willow said, "Let's take a break Xand, there's a bench just off the path."
They walked a few feet off the trail and found that they had a view of one of the more secluded valleys in the park. Since they were looking out between trees and bushes they probably could not be easily seen, should anyone else wander by.
"Hey look," said Xander, "there's Miss Kitty Fantastico, just down the hill! How did she get this far from the house?"
"Yeah, it is her! And she's got kittens," observed Willow.
"Well would you look at that! Does that mean we have to change her name to Mrs. Kitty Fantastico?"
"Ummm, no. More like Slut Kitty; look at those kittens Xander, I'd say she had relations with at least three different tomcats for this litter. Maybe more."
"What? Cats can do that? Kittens in the same litter can be from more than one tomcat?"
"Yeah, you want a short lecture on preestrus and estrus and fertility in cats and the goddess Bastet and..."
"No. But thanks for the offer."
"Oh," Willow replied, disappointed but not surprised. "Hah, it's a good thing that human females can't have multiple sires in the same litter, huh?"
Xander laugher, "Oh boy, and wouldn't that cause problems!"
Willow chuckled appreciatively. "At least as far as I know," she added cautiously.
Xander asked, "Hey, what's Miss Kitty doing? Look she caught a mouse! Now what's she – oh, now that's really cruel."
"It's nature Xander, that's how cats teach their kittens how to hunt and kill. It may look cruel, and I'm sure the mouse is under a great deal of stress..."
"That's what you call it? Stress? I'd call that terror-stricken."
"Well, yeah, but kittens have to be taught to kill, and this is how they do it."
They watched as Miss Kitty dropped the unfortunate mouse, still very much alive, in the middle of the circle of kittens. No matter what direction the mouse darted, a kitten blocked him, knocking him back to the center with clumsy paw swipes. Finally, momma cat jumped in the middle and held down the mouse with her paw. Then one of the kittens, more adventuresome than the others, crawled forward and, under the watchful eye of Miss Kitty, ripped the mouse's throat out. Then the kitten started to eat the raw mouse. After several bites, Miss Kitty offered the dead mouse to the other kittens.
"Ewww," said Xander, "that was horrible."
"Yes, but necessary. How else are the kittens going to learn how to kill mice?"
"Isn't it instinctive?"
"Apparently not. Although I suppose a hungry enough cat might be able to figure it out even if it hadn't been taught, assuming it recognized a mouse as food at all."
They leaned back into the bench and looked out across the small valley. Willow said, "At least we're far enough away so we can't hear them ripping the flesh off little mousey."
"Thanks for the imagery Will." After a pause he continued, "Hey look over there." Xander pointed towards the far end of the valley, "Isn't that Buffy and a gaggle of junior Slayers?"
"Yeah, I wonder what's going on?"
"Well, I guess they're going out on patrol."
"Little early, don't you think? The suns just barely gone down. It's still plenty light out, but I suppose it's technically dark enough for vampires to come out of hiding."
"Uh," Xander asked nervously, "there aren't any vampires in this park, are there? I mean, they usually hang out in cemeteries, or downtown, or by the waterfront."
"I don't know. What's Buffy doing?"
"I can't tell, she disappeared into that gigantic drainage pipe sticking out from the other end of the valley."
"Huh! Lookitthat! She found a vamp! She's dragging it back to the other Slayers."
"Oh I see, she's giving the junior Slayers hands-on experience with a real vampire."
They watched as Buffy dumped the undead creature in the middle of a circle of Slayers. He was obviously terrified as he darted this way and that but found his every path blocked by a young Slayer who batted him back towards the center.
"Oh jeez, I just had a major wiggins," said Xander.
Finally, Buffy jumped in and gripped the young vampire by his hair and twisted his arms up behind his back. One of the junior Slayers came forward with her stake held awkwardly, and ran it through the vamp's chest.
"Hell, you and me both Xander."
The youngster missed the heart, and the next Slayer took up a stake, she didn't miss.
"Nature really is cruel sometimes."
"I don't think I'm ever going to look at kittens the same way again. I mean, they're real cute and all, but inside beats the heart of a killer."
2: Miss Kitty's Camera
"Watchcha doin' Will?" asked Buffy.
"I'm makin' a camera for Miss Kitty Fantastico."
"Cats don't know how to use cameras!"
"That's why this one will be automatic. See, I found this Website that features a cat named Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee's human, an engineer, adapted this little digital camera to Mr. Lee's collar. Look at these neat pictures! There's this whole feline society out there under our noses! Cats, wandering cats anyway, seek out other cats! See, look at these pics, Mr. Lee came back with pictures of other cats! And snakes, and cars and unidentified stuff too, but lot's of pictures of neighborhood cats. So, I'm doing the same for Miss Kitty."
Buffy watched as Willow deftly soldered a little circuit board inside a camera no bigger than a small matchbox. After several minutes she said, "Well, I'll leave you to your project. See ya later."
Several days later Buffy plopped down on the couch next to Willow. "Say Will, how's the KittyCam coming along?"
"Oh it's done. Miss Kitty has come back with two hundred shots from today's journey. She's a real active cat, I've printed some of them, here look!"
Willow grabbed a folder off the coffee table. Several other Slayers gathered round and they all 'oohed' and 'ahed' over Miss Kitty's pictures. As predicted, there were an amazing array of other cats, all staring back at Miss Kitty, as well as small mammals, rodents, and snakes. Some dead, some being chased, some being eaten.
Buffy picked up one print and studied it closely. "Will, do you know what this is?"
"Not really, someone's garage I guess."
"Did you look at this? That's a stack of bricks. Not building bricks, but bricks of cocaine, or heroin, or something anyway."
"What?! How can you tell?"
"By looking at it. We'd better find the pictures taken before and after this one."
It took Willow no more than fifteen minutes before she had about twenty more shots printed. It was a chronological order of a cat's eye view: (1-5) approaching a house across a lawn, (6) an address number but no street name, (7-9) ducking under the garage door which was propped up about six inches, (10-13) a young couple engaged in cutting bricks of white powder with some other white powder, and (14-18) packing it in little baggies.
The next shot showed the guy noticing and turning to chase after the cat and the last shot was just a green blur as Miss Kitty made her escape across the lawn at high speed.
"Holy shit Willow! Miss Kitty Fantastico has bagged a major drug dealer! We gotta call the cops!"
"But, but, where is this house?"
"I don't know – but it's gotta be within Miss Kitty's walking distance. Anyone recognize the street?"
They all looked at the photos. Vi said, "Well, it could be a street about twelve blocks from here. I can't remember the name though. It's on the other side of that forested area behind us, not far as the crow flies, but miles to go around on the streets."
"Should we get involved? I mean, maybe we should just mail these to the police, anonymously, with general directions about where the house is? And let them take it from there?"
"Why?" asked Faith who had just wandered in, "We're not gonna let any fuckin' punk-assed druggies get the drop on us. This'll put is in good locally too. I say we take these shots to the cops and promise to testify if needed."
"Since when did you become law-n-order gal?"
"Hey, I paid my debt to society! And I never liked drug dealers anyway, not after my mom – well never mind that."
"Okay," said Buffy, "does everyone agree?" All nodded. "But, I'm going to ask them to keep us low-key, no need to get any publicity. I think they'll understand."
"I just hope they have better cops here than in Sunnydale."
"What police department has jurisdiction here, outside the Cleveland city limits?"
"I guess it'd be the Sheriffs department."
"Um, yeah, about that. They seem to be about as competent as the Sunnydale police, at least according to local blogs and rumors and stuff."
They sat silent for a few moments. Then Buffy said, "I know, call the Ohio BCI!"
"The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. If they can't handle it, they'll at least know who to call."
Willow picked up the phone and dialed. After a couple of rings it was answered, "Ohio BCI, how may I direct your call?"
"Hi, could you switch me to a detective or investigator or somebody who might want to look into illegal drug distributors?"
It took just a few moments and a few clicks until Buffy heard, "Agent Mankowski. What can I do for you?"
"Hi, uh, my name is Buffy Summers, I run a small specialized school here in Cleveland. We just recently got wind of someone near our school who is distributing drugs. Are you interested?"
"Yes ma'am. Why do you think these people are distributors?"
"I have photographic evidence. If you come out here so I can show you what we have, can you keep your visit low-key?"
"And what's in the pictures?"
"Stacks of bags of white powder in a garage."
"Your sure it's coke or H?"
"Nope, didn't get that close. Could be powdered sugar I suppose. But I doubt it since the people in the pictures are packing the powder into baggies."
"Okay, we'll be there within the hour."
The agent interrupted, "The Sunnydale Memorial School for Girls, right?"
"Yes," Buffy replied, impressed.
"And you're out on the edge of Cuyahoga Park. See you soon."
"They seemed interested," Buffy said to Willow as she hung up.
The two agents sat around the coffee table with Buffy, Faith and Willow, studying Miss Kitty Fantastico's pictures.
"You say," asked an incredulous Agent Mankowski, "that your cat took these pictures?"
"Yes sir," said Willow, "see, I modified a small digital camera to fit on her collar and take a picture every ten seconds while she's out and about. You can see that cats have this whole secret society thing going for them, and..."
"Yes, I'm sure feline society is intensely fascinating," said Investigator Henderson, "but these pictures, they were taken on private property without permission. Will they hold up in court?"
Mankowski said, "Animals are a special case, and we're far enough out from the city that I think it's even okay for cats not to be subject to the leash law, and no one knew what pics you'd get from your CatCam, right?"
"Right. We thought it'd mostly be pictures of small animals, birds, and a few cats, lot's of bushes and undergrowth, that sort of thing."
"This is enough to get a warrant, Joe."
"Do you know what street it is? We'll need that for sure. No judge will give us a warrant if all we have are these photos with no street name."
"Yeah, here," said Faith as she hauled out a big map from behind the couch. "Now, here's where we are," she pointed to the representation of the old farm that had been converted into the Slayer School, "and here's the line of forest behind us, and this is Stone Highway, and here's Green Road, and that, gentleman, right there is the house in this photo!"
A week or so after the drug bust, which played out big in the Cleveland Plain Dealer due to the sheer quantity and near-rural setting, Willow came down from her room with another stack of photos.
"Oh hell, Willow," said Faith after she spied the stack of print-outs, "not another one! How many druggies are around here anyway?"
"Nope, not drugs, this one's right up our alley." She plopped the photos down on the table, "look!"
"What am I looking at?"
"A dark mage. One of our neighbors is trying to call up a demon."
"Do you know which one?"
"Which demon? Or which neighbor?"
"No, not yet anyway. But I'm workin' on it."
"Damn," said Dawn as she walked in and saw the photos, "that cat really gets around."
Miss Kitty Fantastico was lying in a patch of sunlight licking herself conscientiously. Dawn passed by about six feet away and Miss Kitty reared up and hissed angrily, her tail twitching violently.
"Damn!" said Dawn, "is that stupid cat ever going to forgive me for shooting her with Buffy's crossbow?"
"Don't call her stupid," said Willow, "I think she understands that. And no, she's not gonna forgive you."
"But I only wounded her slightly! It was just a little scratch – okay, it left a bend in her tail, but that's character building!"
"Dawn, cats are very proud of their tails, that's why they spend so much time grooming them," said Willow with feigned authority.
"Yeah, but they spend just as much time cleaning their butts, so are they proud of their asses too?"
"Dawn," Will interrupted, "just trust me on this. Miss Kitty is upset that her tail has a kink in it, and it's your fault, and she knows it, and she won't ever forgive you."
Faith said, "Okay, let's forget about cat tails, what do we have to do to prevent the end of the world this time?
"Oh, the usual. Just stop one of our neighbors from raising a demon and causing hell on earth, or at least hell in Cuyahoga Valley."
"Okay. So what's the plan?"
Authors Notes: I spent a surprising amount of time trying to figure out what police department would have jurisdiction, assuming that the Slayer School is on the edge of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. No amount of googoling gave me a map of jurisdictions, so I figured they'd call the County Sheriff. Googoling the Cuyahoga County Sheriff resulted in some unexpected and amusing reading – it seems the Sheriff (now resigned) had a habit of deputizing his kids so they could carry guns, among other practices that appear contrary to effective policing. He is being investigated by the BCI, (and a quick check of the BCI website shows they have a narcotics investigation department) so that's why I chose that agency for Willow to call.
3: Miss Kitty
Willow walked out of her bedroom towards the kitchen, not almost tripping over Miss Kitty because she had learned to look out for her for this last year. Miss Kitty no longer seemed as aware of her surroundings as she used to be.
"Good morning Miss Kitty," sang Willow as she prepared coffee in her French press, "how are you today?"
Miss Kitty didn't answer, in fact, she didn't appear to notice Willow.
"Oh Miss Kitty, it's been twenty-three years, almost to the day, since Tara brought you home," Willow mused, "I can hardly believe it's been that long." Willow gazed sadly at the cat while the water boiled. She had figured out some months earlier that Miss Kitty had lost her hearing – she no longer responded to voices, she was easily surprised by walking behind her, and her infrequent meows had become very loud.
Miss Kitty's right rear leg dragged a bit as she circled around looking for her breakfast. Willow opened a small can of cat food into Miss Kitty's bowl and put it down. Willow watched sadly as Miss Kitty searched and finally found her food about a minute later. "Oh Miss Kitty, I'm going to have to make a life-ending decision about you sometime this year, aren't I. I'm so not ready."
Willow's coffee was ready so she took it and went into her office. She stopped in the doorway for a moment and admired the room. It was not only her favorite room in this house, it was her favorite room ever. It was perfect, the proportions, the peach walls, the white woodwork, the French doors overlooking her garden, the beautifully made built-in wood cabinets, the coffered ceiling with hidden lights, the wood floor, the Persian carpet that complemented the room so well, and finally her table/desk and chair where she spent so much time. She put her cup down on a coaster and admired her desk again. Xander had built it, of course, as he had built everything that was made of wood in this room. Her table was made of pearwood that had been rescued from an orchard just before it was bulldozed. The surface had been worked with planes, according to Xander, instead of sandpaper (or xandpaper Willow thought to herself) and Willow could feel the finger-friendly toolmarks. She sat down in her wonderful chair and stroked the table legs sensuously. She couldn't help but think the curve was nearly the same as Tara's leg, all these years ago. But not Kennedy's, who Willow hadn't seen in a decade and with luck, would never see again, she thought with a scowl.
She sighed, took a sip of coffee and opened up her new laptop and watched as the screen opened and stretched to its full height and width. Wow, she thought, what will they think of next? She started to check her email when she felt a cold nose bump into her ankle. Miss Kitty didn't look up, but she let out a loud wail, her new signal that she wanted to be picked up. Willow did so, carefully laying the cat in her lap, stroking her fur. Miss Kitty was content to spend a few minutes grooming herself and then fell asleep.
Willow read and answered her mail, then started her morning research. After a couple of hours, Miss Kitty woke up and indicated that she wanted down. She no longer leaped, she needed to be set down or she would just slide off and fall ungracefully to the floor with a thump.
A few minutes later Willow heard the unmistakable sound of feline urination on the floor under the desk. "Oh Miss Kitty," she sighed as she picked up the cat and hurried off to the bathroom, gently setting her in the litter box. Willow went back and cleaned the floor, then put her cleaning tools back in the bathroom and the paper towels back in the kitchen. Miss Kitty had walked from the bathroom was nosing her food dish when she suddenly fell over. Willow bent down and stroked her head, "Too much excitement old girl?" she asked.
Miss Kitty just lay on her side, half-heartedly scratching her chin with her topmost hind leg. Willow went back to her office and worked some more until she heard a great hacking cough from the cat. She went back and Miss Kitty was still lying by her food bowl, but with a large wet spot were she had upchucked. Willow was more worried now, Miss Kitty wasn't very responsive. She picked up the cat and carried her back to the office, sat down, leaned back, and arranged Miss Kitty on her stomach, the cat's head under Willow's chin. Willow softly hummed and stroked her back, fingers running over the sharp spine.
Willow remembered the time when she and Tara shared an off-campus apartment with Miss Kitty. The day Tara had spent half the afternoon making a magnificent shrimp and rice pilaf and set it on their inexpensive plastic table. Tara rushed back to the kitchen to collect plates and things when Willow grabbed a quick smooch. Right in the middle they heard a scrabbling of feet and turned to watch in horror as Miss Kitty, still young and slightly clumsy, made a prodigious leap up onto the table and found she had zero traction on the freshly cleaned slick surface. She slid across the tabletop, legs pumping furiously in a failed attempt to brake, smashed into the plate of pilaf, and sent it flying to the floor. The piece de resistance was Miss Kitty sliding off the edge and landing right in middle of the mess. Willow and Tara had clutched each other in laughter, then ordered pizza.
Over the next two hours Willow and Miss Kitty didn't move from the chair. Her scratching became less and less effective, her movements slower and more hesitant. Miss Kitty was content to lie still on Willow, dreaming of chasing mice while Willow gently stroked her, then she fell asleep, and didn't wake up.
"Say hello to Tara for me," Willow said softly.
Dedicated to Pixel, 1988 - 2009, R.I.P.