Gahhh!!!! I am sorry this took me so dang long to write. Part of the Reason I started this fic was so that I could learn to write faster. . . Guess I need more practice. Anyway, like chapter one, this chapter contains spoilers so, if you don't like spoilers don't read it (though why you would be reading this if you had not read chapter one, which also has spoilers, is entirely beyond me) Also, I am looking for titles for this chapter and the first one. If you have any ideas, please email me at "ladyfox at rydia dot net" Standard disclaimers apply. I do not own Trigun, Kuroneko, or Wolfwood, however often I might fantasize to the contrary.


OHC: Chapter 2


Wolfwood's blood froze. "What the. . ." he said, but again the sound that came out was "Nyah" He forced down the panic rising in his chest and shook his head. The disorientation was overwhelming. He took a few deep breaths to steady himself and then stretched out a hand in front of him. In place of his long and calloused fingers, his eyes were greeted by a furry black paw. What in the name of all that's holy. . . He wiggled his new "fingers" experimentally.

He ran the paw over his face. It was met by a cluster of long silky strands. As his paw brushed them his nose tingled. Whiskers? So that, combined with the "Nyah" meant he was a cat? Well, at least he kept it warm-blooded. He pondered his situation for a moment. As he thought about it he realized things could definitely be worse. He got to his feet slowly. Having four legs instead of two was definitely different, and felt nothing like crawling around on all fours playing "horsie" with the kids at the orphanage. This'll take some gettin' used to. The panic he had first felt was quickly being replaced by curiosity. I gotta see this. He took a closer look at his surroundings.

He was standing on a table in a run-down bar. Then again, everything on this planet was run down, and this bar was no worse than a lot of others he had been in. The bartender, a big bored looking guy in a dumb cook's hat was polishing glasses and chewing a pipe. In one corner of the room stood a couple of pinball machines. There were two guys at them. They didn't really look like the pinball types between the gun, cowboy hat, and cut-off gloves, but Wolfwood knew from experience that with few exceptions, one way of passing the time was as good as another on this desert planet. Other than those two, there were maybe six guys in the bar.

He padded around the surface of the table carefully first, and then peered over the edge. It couldn't be more than three feet down he knew. He had seen cats jump from such a height a million times, but it looked a lot further from this position. He padded to the other side of the table where a chair was pulled up. Even the distance to the chair seemed like a lot. He swallowed. He had heard people who climbed cliffs say that going down, the first step over the edge was always the worst. He had always thought they were idiots for climbing them in the first place. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and stepped over the edge.

He realized two things in quick succession. One was that the tale about cats landing on their feet was true. At least it was true this time, and he felt the wood of the chair meet his paws. Next, before he could experience even a split second of relief he realized that he should not have closed his eyes as his head plowed into the back of the chair and he fell to the floor.

He regained his balance and shook himself off as laughter rang through the previously quiet bar.

"Kitty had too much to drink?" one guy laughed. He was ugly, with stubble and one with a small circle of bushy hair right on the top of his head. He scratched the front of his dirty blue shirt as he laughed at his own joke. Wolfwood shot the man what he hoped was a withering look- it was hard to know what expressions looked like in this body- and stalked with as much dignity as he could muster to the back room of the bar. On the other side of the boxes and crates of assorted liquors he found a staircase leading, no doubt, to the second floor and the living quarters of the bartender/owner. Climbing stairs proved to be yet another new experience, but he managed it much better than he had the table. The upstairs consisted of a few rooms, including a bedroom which opened onto a balcony.

Wolfwood entered and found the bedroom also had a little bathroom. Once inside he gathered his courage and his strength and sprang from to the floor to the toilet. It was easier than he had anticipated, and he almost overshot and fell to the otherside, but he caught himself in time. He jumped, more carefully this time, from the toilet to the sink and peered into the mirror that hung above it.

Surreal. . .

Somebody else seeing the same thing he was probably wouldn't have thought so, but he wasn't someone else, he was himself, and the face looking back at him from the mirror was definitely not. It was disorienting, dizzying even, but he forced himself to examine his new "face." The paw had just been the beginning. He was black from tip to tail, not a hint of white or orange anywhere. He smiled just a little. At least the color's familiar. The eyes that stared back at him though were not his former blue-grey, but instead a bright, almost glowing green and must have taken up half his head.

As he stared, a motion in the corner of the mirror caught his attention. When he turned his focus to it he realized it was his tail, switching back and forth. Surreality washed over him again, but he fought it down and tried to concentrate on how he was doing it. As soon as he paid attention to it though, the tail stopped. He tried to make it move. Nothing. He tried again, but only managed to wiggle his butt. Frustration was setting in when it started lashing back and forth again. This time he decided not to concentrate on it so hard, but just get used to the feeling of muscles he had never had before. After a while the tail stopped again, but this time he thought he had it. He tried, and it twitched. He tried again, and this time it lashed from one side to the other just once. It was an odd sensation, and would probably take more practice, but he was happy with what he had accomplished.

He looked at himself a while longer in the mirror. He moved a paw back and forth as he watched. He found himself thinking of a comedy routine he had seen once where one guy had stood in front of an empty frame thinking it was a mirror. Another guy had stood on the other side, imitating his every move. Even when the first guy tried to make a quick move, the second somehow anticipated it and matched it precisely. Finally though he had messed up. The first had gone one way and he had gone the other. The gag was blown. It had been pretty funny at the time. That's what he kept expecting to happen, for the cat in the mirror to suddenly wink at him, let him know it was just a game.

He hopped down from the sink and walked back into the bedroom. The door to the balcony was open and he went out onto it. There was a faint breeze. It felt nice but he knew that it would be conquered by the climbing suns before much longer. He found that the balcony wrapped around the entire second floor, but he forgoed further exploration and instead looked out over the desert. The building faced a highway and was just off the exit. There was a sign just off the road that read: "Lobs diner and salad bar. Food for take out." Diner? He hadn't seen any salad bar down there either. "Lob's Diner" was definitely a bar. The highway itself stretched endlessly in either direction with no end that he could see, as did the desert on both sides of it. It hit him hard then that he had no idea where he was on this no good ball of sand they called a planet. Worse yet, he had no idea WHEN he was.

I need a drink.

He was used to speaking to himself outloud, but he avoided it for the moment. He didn't want to hear that other sound come out of his mouth. It would make his situation too real, or too surreal maybe. For now he wanted to pretend that he was just stepping away from the cat he had seen in the mirror. He slipped back into the bedroom and headed head for the stairs. Once back in the bar he realized another problem.

How am I supposed to get a drink?

He pondered this a moment, his tail lashing furiously when he noticed that the man that had laughed so hard at him before was not as his table, and had left his drink. Wolfwood grinned to himself. He was getting used to jumping, and landed on the top of the table with hardly any effort. He proceeded to lap up the drink without further ado.

As he was approaching the bottom of the glass, the man came out of the restroom doors next to the pinball machines. Wolfwood looked up, and the man caught sight of him.

"Hey Ugly" Wolfwood said. "Ugly" of course only heard "Nyah" and it took him a second to realize what had taken place, but once he did, he came at Wolfwood cursing furiously. Wolfwood jumped lightly from the table. When Ugly moved to kick him Wolfwood easily sidestepped him, and then jumped up on the bar. Ugly wouldn't have given up then either, but the bartender stopped him.

"Leave it." he said.

"That @#$% cat finished off my drink!!!" Ugly shouted

"You leave your drink, you take your chances." the bartender said. The other patrons in the bar were laughing. Even the pinball boys had stopped to watch the brief show. Ugly grumbled but ordered another drink and sat back down, shooting Wolfwood a venomous look. Wolfwood licked his whiskers adding a non-chalant "serves you right" which also came out as "Nyah"

Conversation resumed, and Wolfwood jumped down from the bar. The alcohol was already beginning to send a warm contentment through his system. Sometimes you had to just forget things for a while. Alcohol was good for that. Maybe it didn't solve problems, but, he thought, it at least made them disappear for a while, made you not care so much about them if only just for a little while. He stumbled just a little as he made his way to the other side of the bar, careful to avoid Ugly. He held his liquor rather well, so he rarely got drunk. At most he felt just what he was feeling now, a sort of apathy, a contentment. The room tipped and his vision blurred just a little. That's when the smell hit him.

Tobacco!

Wolfwood followed the smell, not exactly walking- more like staggering- on air. For a brief moment the dirty wood floor, the smelly punks, the bar itself disappeared and he floated to where a greasy looking guy with a ponytail and orange vest was playing cards with a guy in a magenta shirt who had a scar across his face. Greasy was the one smoking, and the light from the end of his bent cigarette glittered off his round sunglasses. He had been one of the ones laughing the hardest when Wolfwood had drunk from the guys glass, so Wolfwood took a chance. He jumped onto the table and stumbled across its surface. That's strange. . . guess I need more practice at jumping. He picked himself up and half skipped half padded over to the guy.

"Mind if I join you?" he asked. Again it came out as "Nyahh" but at this point, Wolfwood didn't really care. Greasy looked up from his cards. "Hey kitty, just keep your nose out of MY drink." He moved his drink a little further from Wolfwood and then turned back to his cards. Wolfwood flashed him a goofy smile.

"What's his name?" Scar asked looking at the tipsy black cat.

"How should I know?" Greasy asked. Scar laughed a little slowly.

"Sure can't hold his liquor."

Wolfwood hiccuped.

"Are you going to play or fold!?" Greasy looked up from his cards irritated. Scar turned back to his, and Wolfwood curled up into a ball where the cigarette smoke could drift over him. Man how he longed for a cigarette. He had given them up. About 5 minutes before he had died actually. Kneeling there, in that little white chapel, smoking his last cigarette he hadn't been able to get the image of Milly saying "Smoke is bad for the baby dear" out of his mind. He he had wanted to do something for her after what had happened between them. It was a small gesture, and one she would never know about, but his thinking hadn't been exactly clear at the moment, and in between the pain and everything else he just wanted to do something right. So he quit.

Still, none of that meant he couldn't enjoy the smell. The disadvantage to quitting within five minutes of your own demise he was discovering, was that it didn't give you a chance to get over the habit. The smoke above him was stirring into a powerful longing. Still it was comforting in it's familiarity. And with the alcohol warming him from the inside out, he realized suddenly that he was tired, and drifted slowly into sleep.

***


He was woken by the sound of a bell as the bar door opened. He lifted his head slowly cursing the headache that was beginning to throb between his ears, but when he saw who it was his tail went rigid, and his eyes opened wide. He blinked once or twice as Meryl and Milly strode into the bar.

I must have the devil's own luck.

Milly, was just as tall and beautiful, and innocent as he remembered, following as always in Meryl's footsteps. He couldn't help leering. He wasn't alone. Everyone in the bar leaned forward a little as the girls marched up to the bar. Even the pinball boys, irritated at first at the interruption were watching the girls lustfully. Meryl looked suspiciously behind her before she addressed the bartender, who was the only one whose expression had not changed. He was still polishing glasses. How many glasses does this two-bit joint have anyway? His expression, what could be seen of it under his ridiculous hat, never changed.

"What'll it be?" He asked chomping down on his pipe.

"A banana sunday!" Meryl pounded the bar with her elbow. Milly piped up:

"A gateu mille-feuille with Ceylon tea!"

Everyone, a slightly hungover Wolfwood included, fell over. Ugly was the first to get up. He slammed his table back on its feet.

"Listen missies, the gag won't work unless you order milk!"

Wolfwood felt an undeniable urge to bite him. Greasy and Scar added to the joke he bristled even more. Meryl looked somewhere between disgust and condescension, Milly just looked blank. Bless her clueless little heart.

"But I don't want milk, I want Ceylon tea."

As she spoke something large fell out from her coat, hitting Ugly's tablewhich in turn smacked Ugly soundly under the jaw as the other patrons watched. Greasy and Scar caught Ugly has he fell and both shouted. "Hey!"

Meryl looked righteously amused now, but Milly scratched the back of her head apologetically. "I'm so sorry!"

"You clumsy bitch!" Greasy shouted at her as she bent to retrieve the object, her large stungun.

Bitch!?!

This time Wolfwood actually staggered over to bite him. But before he could Milly casually slung the large weapon over his shoulder. Greasy's face suddenly turned a sickly green. Wolfwood gloated, and Meryl smiled.

"I broke another sling" Milly said to her superior. Meryl responded in her typical way:

"You have another one don't you? Be more careful." Wolfwood had been on the wrong end of one of Meryl's lectures many times before, but even so it was good to see her again.

Scar and Greasy had turned away from the scene still supporting the unconcious Ugly between them. They looked nervous. Wolfwood couldn't help but gloat again. That's my girl.

"I will" Milly obediently agreed.

"What is she?" Scar was asking in hushed tones. "A monster..." Greasy rsponded. For the third time that night Wolfwood was tempted to sink his new pearly whites into their flesh, but instead he ignored them in order to hear what Meryl was saying to the bartender.

"By the way mister, we heard that Vash the Stampede was in Felnarl..."

Felnarl? Then this must be one of the exits near it. He had a good idea where he was now, he had found the girls, things were definately beginning to look up.

"Vash? Who are you two?" Greasy and Scar were still watching the exchange, looking at them nervously. The bartender looked at them appraisingly. "Are you innocent-looking things after the 60 billion double dollar reward?"

"Not at all" Merly shook her head. Milly smiled

"We're here on business."

Wolfwood couldn't help but chuckle which came out more as a cough. Business indeed. It was good to know that the girls could be counted on in their duty to pursue and keep an eye on Vash.

"Business?" the bartender was responding. "Well," he set down the glass he had been polishing. "Didn't see him myself" he turned and bent to pick up something from behind the counter. Probably another glass. "But they say he left town before dawn. They say he went east."

East. Now he knew where he was going as well. Nothing could spoil Wolfwood's mood. Nothing that is until Meryl's next question.

"Can you tell us what he looks like?"

Wolfwood almost fell down again. He stared at Meryl through his green eyes, jaw slack. The bartender was saying something about a giant in red with a mohawk, but he didn't catch all of it, he was watching in shock as Meryl and Milly took it all in seriously. He felt a sinking feeling as he waited, hoping for the girls to burst out laughing, but Meryl only affirmed his fears "A man with a huge weapon and a mohawk, that's him alright."

Bob's frustrated "Aw crap!" just before he had blinked out came back to him. It was suddenly clear to him what had gone wrong. The timeshift . . . Bob had said weeks or months even, but Wolfwood had been thrown more than two years into the past, clear back to before the girls had met or known vash. As he tried to wrap his shocked mind around this new information, he did not at first notice the girls leaving. Without him. When he realized they had gone, he ran out as fast as he could, but by then all that he could see was the dust cloud kicked up by their thomases.

Well, at least I know what direction they are going. The town could not be farther than 10, 15 iles away. He had covered a lot more distance than that many times before when his motorcycles had broken down. He started walking.

***


Before he reached Felnarl that evening, Wolfwood had learned two things. One, the shorter your legs, the shorter your stride, and the more strides of those legs it takes you to get from point A to point B. A cat's stride could not compare to his former one. Second, when walking under the hot desert sun black fur was a whole lot hotter than a black suit. As a result the 10 miles to Felnarl felt more like 100. By the time he reached the outskirts of town, he was as tired as he had ever been in his life. His tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth, and he was sure that sand had found its way into every nook and cranny on his body.

The town he finally arrived at though was anything but tired. People ran back and forth talking, yelling. It was total chaos. The far end of town was buried under a pile of rock. Everyone was saying that Vash the Stampede had dropped a load of dynamite on a cliff above the town, causing the cliff to fall. Miraculously no one was dead.

Wolfwood knew it wasn't really much of a miracle. Vash would never hurt, let alone kill anyone intentionally. So this is how he got his reputation. He thought to himself watching the rumors fly. If he hadn't been so tired, he might have found the whole thing very amusing. As it was, he managed to find his way into the center of town. There he caught site of Meryl and Milly. They must have turned in their thomases, and were boarding a bus. With superhuman or perhaps superfeline effort, Wolfwood gathered up all the remaining strength he had to run up and jump on the bumper of the bus as it took off for the nearest town.

Later that night on the roof of the motel Meryl and Milly were staying in- The manager had caught him trying to sneak in and thrown him out- he tried to shake out the dust and sand from a 40 mile drive through the desert, and found that the same fur that made it intolerably hot during the day, was inadequate to warm him on the cold desert nights. He sighed as he laid down to try and catch some sleep. It's gonna be a long two years.

END CHAPTER 2


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A/N:

I am not happy with the writing in these first two chapters, (which is part of why it took so @#$% long to write) but I am trying to learn to write faster and not be so nitpicky. What does this mean? 1) I am sorry for the level of writing in these first two chapters and appreciate you reading this far and 2) I may very well revise these chapters before I finish the fic, but only if I have time after writing the latest chapters. Finally, like I mentioned above, I am trying to find names for this chapter and the first one, so if you have any complaints about the writing, suggestions for titles, or whatever please feel free to email me at "ladyfox at rydia dot net"