Author's Note: This is totally crack. I just couldn't resist, though. (Notice a recurring theme here? I have absolutely no willpower...) Anyway, this was partly inspired by my cousin Helga, who has a fear of snakes so strong that one time, at a friend's house, she actually jumped out the bedroom window when the friend brought her pet snake into the room. The snake was IN A CAGE and Helga still jumped out the window. Thankfully it was on the first floor so she only dropped about three feet, but still. Honestly. So: Helga, this is for you, in honor of that hysterically funny day. (And yes, Helga actually does think it's funny as well, that's not just me. She laughed so hard that she cried when she was telling my mom. That's the only indication I've ever seen that she has a sense of humor at all.)
Warnings: Slash, completely irrational phobias, and OOC-ness like you won't believe. Oh, and a mild case of Karril.
A.N.2: I really think a lot of people would recognize the quote I used for the title, but just in case... it's a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth. Act 4, Scene 1, Line 1. It's supposed to be all dramatic and awe-inspiring... which set me off into a fit of hysterical giggles when I used it for the title of this fic. Plus I can just picture what Gerald would make of that, being mocked using a quote from a famous Terran playwright. He'd throw a proper tantrum, I bet.
A.N.3: Remember in the prologue of Black Sun Rising, where it's mentioned that Gerald was working on modifying the uncats to be more like real cats, but it's never actually mentioned if he succeeds or not? I think he failed. And this is why.
A.N.4: Hobgoblin, you better not have already thought of this - or anything involving cats, really. I'll sic Karril on you. Don't think I won't. How are your fics coming along, eh?
As the Hunter, Gerald feared nothing. Well, almost nothing. The day that Damien learned the exception was a day he would never forget. It seemed the Hunter suffered from a rather unusual phobia - one that Damien had never heard of, in fact.
Gerald Tarrant, former Neocount of Merentha, one-time Prophet of the Law, Lord of Jahanna, the Darkest Prince of Hell, was deathly afraid of cats.
The day that Damien made this interesting discovery was, in fact, a night. It was a windy night in early August, two weeks after the defeat of Calesta. Damien, Ciani, and Gerald - mostly Damien and Ciani - were starting the process of packing up Damien's belongings from his ramshackle apartment. He was moving in with Gerald in the Forest, despite his less-than-sincere oath that he was going to kill Gerald for almost dying on the slopes of Shaitan. It should have been a simple task. It was anything but.
Gerald looked up at the ramshackle apartment building with something close to horror. "This is where you've been living? Good God, Damien, it's not even structurally sound!"
Damien stared at him. "How can you tell?"
"The roof being at a forty-five degree angle from the ground was a pretty good clue." Ciani remarked before Gerald could reply. The Hunter smirked at that, and didn't pursue the matter, much to Damien's relief.
There was no further criticism from Gerald, and by the time Damien was unlocking the door to his apartment, he allowed himself the brief hope that this might actually be relatively painless. Ah, sweet naivety...
Gerald looked around the sparsely furnished apartment with a critical eye. "Well, it's not as bad as I... what the hell is THAT?!"
A blur of dark fur had come streaking in from another room, meowing happily at it's master's return. Before Damien could even blink Gerald was using him as a living shield, having just let out a shriek that would have earned him quite a lot of 'scream like a girl' jokes if not for the stark terror in his grey eyes.
"Um, Gerald?" Damien said slowly, fighting against the laughter that welled up his throat, fairly certain that laughing right now might get him killed. "It's just my cat."
"A CAT?!" Gerald said, in a tone that suggested Damien had said it was a fire-breathing dragon. "You have a CAT?!" Damien very carefully avoided meeting Ciani's eyes, biting his tongue slightly as he said,
"Yes, a cat. His name is Tibbles. He's tame, you know."
The cat in question had stopped at the sound of Gerald's rather ear-piercing screech of terror, and was now sitting in the middle of the floor. He was plump and mild-mannered, his white-and-brown mottled fur relaxed and fluffy, his ears pricked up curiously. His huge blue eyes practically glowed. His tail was curled around his legs, the tip swishing gently, and with his huge eyes and quivering ears he was the very picture of innocence. Gerald, however, was regarding the feline with an expression of mingled alarm and deepest distrust, still keeping Damien between himself and Tibbles.
"I do not like cats, Vryce. Nor do cats like me. It is a case of mutual enmity. That animal is not getting anywhere near me, is that clear?"
Damien turned to stare at him. "You can't be serious. It's a bloody cat, Gerald. More to the point, it's my cat, and I'm moving in with you. What the hell do you expect me to do?"
Gerald gave him a decidedly sulky look. It was a look that could, depending on the circumstances, either make Damien want to kiss the adept senseless or punch him into next week. This time, it provoked a bit of both attitudes. "I don't particularly care, Vryce. It's not setting one treacherous little paw in the Forest, though."
It was Gerald's use of his surname more than anything else that told Damien his lover was really upset and not just being melodramatic. He cast a helpless look at Ciani, who was wearing a thoughtful and intrigued expression.
"When you say that cats don't like you, Gerald... to what extent? And how long has that been the case?"
Gerald glared at her and refused to answer. At that precise moment, with the impeccable timing of all Iezu, Karril materialized next to Tibbles with a soft popping sound.
"Have I missed the fireworks?" he asked brightly. Looking around and seeing the stunned expressions of the other people in the room, then looking down at Tibbles, the Iezu smirked. "Ah, just in time then. Did you tell them about Panther yet?"
Gerald glared at him. "I hate you sometimes, Karril."
"Yes, I know." Karril said cheerfully. "Obviously you haven't told them, so I'll have to. Panther was a raggedy little stray alley cat that Gerald's older brother brought home one time - you were, what, eleven? Anyway, this cat was skin and bones, and it was absolutely starved for affection. It would do absolutely anything for attention, and I do mean anything. First time it laid eyes on Gerald, though, it went completely spare. Chased him out of the house, halfway across the yard, and up a tree. Funniest damn thing I ever saw."
Damien nearly bit straight through his tongue before asking, in a rather strangled voice, "You were chased up a tree by a stray kitten?"
Gerald gave him a look that would have frozen pure alcohol. "Panther was a vicious monster, and he tried to kill me on several occasions. He used to climb the armoires around the house, wait until I went by, and launch himself onto my head. I'm certain he was trying to decapitate me. I will not go through that again, Vryce."
As Damien opened his mouth to respond, he shifted slightly on his feet, allowing Tibbles a glimpse of Gerald. The cat cocked its head, its tail freezing mid-swish. A sly gleam entered the cerulean eyes, which narrowed, zeroing in like the sights of a hunting rifle. Gerald saw the warning signs and let out a rather pathetic 'meep!' as he tried to duck behind Damien again, but it was too late.
With a yowl like a demon having its claws pulled out by the roots, Tibbles sprang. Dignity entirely abandoned, Gerald bolted: Tibbles, however, in a striking display of cunning, shot past the adept and skidded to a halt in front of the door. Thus blocking the adept's escape, he displayed what could only be categorized as an evil smile, and started stalking toward the terrified Hunter. To say Damien was surprised would be a drastic understatement.
"Tibbles, what the Hell has gotten into you?" Hurrying forward, Damien scooped the cat into his arms. The feline went momentarily placid, seeming to accept the treatment - but the second Damien had straightened to full height again the cat used his arm as a launch platform and hurtled at Gerald again.
Gerald took to his heels and fled headlong out of the apartment, pursued by what appeared to be a demon in cat's skin. Damien and Ciani watched openmouthed through the window as Gerald was literally chased down the street, Tibbles streaking along just behind him, hissing and spitting like a rabid rattlesnake. The adept's furious yelps drifted back to them on the cool breeze.
"Demon cat! Get away from me, you filthy felonious feline! Hell-spawned, infernal, possessed, accursed CAT!"
"Has he forgotten he can Work?" Damien asked blankly.
Karril just cackled.
One week later...
It was a hard-fought battle, but in the end, Damien convinced Gerald to let him keep Tibbles. This miracle occurred after a long, difficult evening, during which Damien locked himself in a room with Gerald and the possessed cat and didn't let them out until they were getting along. Thanks to his utterly unscrupulous method of using his lover as a living shield, Gerald emerged immaculate as always, while Damien sported a full-body crosshatch of tender red gashes. He considered it a win, however, given that Tibbles now seemed to accept Gerald's presence as easily as he accepted Damien's.
He should have known that nothing was that easy. Especially where Gerald Tarrant was concerned.
They had left Jaggonath behind and were traveling through Kale. Tibbles was nestled on the front of Damien's saddle, looking plump and quite pleased with himself. It seemed like a fairly normal night, the streets deserted due to the lateness of the hour - when suddenly, a blur of shadow detached itself from the side of a building and came flying through the air toward Gerald, screeching like a banshee.
With reflexes honed in a lifetime of battle, Damien intercepted the flying object, snatching it out of midair. He found himself holding a slim black female cat with fiery green eyes, hanging rather docilely from his hand by the scruff of its neck, looking decidedly put out. Damien sighed, and held it up for Gerald to see.
"Apparently, in addition to being hated by cats, you attract them."
Gerald looked horrified. "Where the hell did that come from?"
Damien snorted. "Hell, if the way it was attacking was any indication." He rotated the cat in his grasp so that he could see it more clearly, and the skinny creature let out a pitiful mew. Damien's hazel eyes softened. "You know, it's really a rather pretty little thing, isn't it? It's so thin though, it looks half-starved..."
Gerald's eyes shone with something close to panic. "No. Damien, NO. Don't even think about it. You can't keep it! I won't stand for it!"
At that moment, Tibbles stretched his nearly nonexistent neck out to an astonishing degree and touched his nose lightly to the female cat's. Instantly, the black cat burst into a storm of purring. Damien melted.
"Oh, look. Feline love at first sight." He turned those devastating hazel eyes on his lover. "Come on, Gerald, surely even you wouldn't leave a starving animal to die in some lonely alley?"
Gerald's resistance crumbled as he looked from Damien, who could employ a fair set of puppy-dog eyes when he wanted to, to the equally beguiling cat. He groaned.
"I just know I'm going to regret this."
Three Months After That...
"DAMIEN! Get these monsters away from me!"
Gerald came stumbling through the doorway into their bedroom, covered head to toe in black-and-white splotched kittens. Not much larger than matchboxes, the tiny felines clung with astonishing pertinacity, their needle-sharp claws dug into layers of velvet and silk until they formed a thick coat atop the Hunter's clothing. Damien burst out laughing at the sight. Gerald glared.
"This isn't funny, Damien! It was your damn cat that started this whole mess. Then the stray you found in Kale. Then your brilliant bloody idea to let them breed. Remove these little vermin from my person, at once!"
"They aren't vermin, Gerald, they're only kittens." Damien said patiently, plucking the tiny, big-eyed fur-balls from his lover's clothing. "And Catarina's an absolute darling, you know that. And they were both very helpful when those squirrels you were working with got loose, weren't they?"
"I still don't like cats." Gerald pouted. Damien knew that if he ever said a word about the fact that Gerald did, at times, pout, he would deeply regret it. Plus, truthfully, it was rather adorable. So he simply smiled indulgently and continued de-kittening his fiancée.
It occurred to him that that, at the very least, ought to make the Hunter like cats. "You do know that Catarina is the reason we're engaged, right?"
Gerald gaped at him. "How do you work that out?"
"Well, I was planning on waiting, because I wasn't sure you were ready for that yet. Then Catarina had that attack of hairballs, and while I was cleaning up our room I found your diary. Now I wasn't going to read it, because I don't pry, but then Cat jumped on me and knocked it open, and well... I read that you were starting to worry because I hadn't proposed yet, and apparently you're painfully insecure, so I got my act together and proposed. So really, you ought to cut her some slack."
Gerald was silent for a long, long time. His grey eyes were narrowed, and he was clearly concentrating intently. He looked at the mess of kittens in Damien's arms, and one in particular wriggled out of the mess. It was jet black, the only one of its litter not splotched and speckled, with luminous turquoise eyes. It perched on top of the wriggling mass of fur and claws, arched its tail in what looked suspiciously like a question mark, and made the most blatant, ridiculously adorable puppy eyes - or in this case, kitten eyes - at Gerald.
That one little kitten managed what two adult cats, twenty-three kittens, and a determined Church Knight had not previously managed to do. The Hunter melted.
"Oh, very well." he muttered. That was apparently the signal the kitten had been waiting for. It launched itself into the air, in a move it had obviously learned from its father, and landed squarely on Gerald's chest, digging in its tiny claws and hanging on. Gerald froze. Damien nearly stopped breathing.
The furry little menace hauled its way up until it was on Gerald's shoulder, then leaned around and, barely managing to not overbalance, licked his cheek with its bubblegum-pink tongue.
Gerald melted all over again. "Little rascal." he murmured, reaching up to scratch the kitten's head gently. He looked up at Damien. "Have you named this one yet?"
"No, I couldn't find one that fit." Damien admitted. "Why don't you name him? He seems to like you more than me anyway - little devil nearly bit my finger off the other day."
Gerald looked from Damien, to the cat, and broke out into the most terrifying grin that Damien had ever seen. "I think you and I are going to get along just fine." he told the kitten, smirking evilly. "Let's see..." Damien just knew this was a bad idea. "...how about Diablo?"
"Oh shit. What have I done?" Damien groaned, watching as the cat turned deceptively innocent shimmering eyes on him. The priest backed away, slowly depositing the kittens on the bed, with some half-formed idea of running for his life. The instant his siblings were out of harm's way, Diablo pounced.
Gerald, smirking broadly, sprawled across the bed and let himself bask in his lover's pained yelps.
"Get off me, you little beast! Oh, God, I've created a monster!"
Perhaps, Gerald reflected idly, cats weren't so bad after all.
Tibbles is the name of the cat that was supposedly responsible for the extinction of the Stephens Island Wren. Catarina was the name of Edgar Allen Poe's cat, which was the inspiration for The Black Cat. Obscure references, yes, but I thought they went fairly well with the title. Diablo... you all probably know that one, but that would be Spanish for Devil. Can't you see it? The Hunter, with a tiny black kitten named Diablo. SO CUTE!