Disclaimer: Well, I have no one but myself to blame. Sigh. Stryfe, Cable, Aliya, Tetherblood, the idea of Apocalypse, etc., all belong to Marvel. I am making no money off of this.
Ahem. This is half-written by Persephone Kore.
Dedicated: To, Diamonde and Alicia Mc. And Persephone.
In the early morning hours, soft light began filtering around Stryfe's palace, falling into windows and spattering gently across hallways and floors. One bar fell across the kitten in her curled up ball on Stryfe's chest.
She awoke with a yawn and a near-purr. Slitted eyes studied the sun, and then she stood, stretched and hoppped off of Stryfe.
Who half-awoke when the little warm spot left his chest. He shook his head and stared at the ceiling, noting that it was daylight, but not yet time to awaken. A snore issued from his nose as he slipped back into a light doze.
A moment later, Stryfe was jolted awake as what felt like three-hundred pounds of something landed on his chest. In reality, it was merely a three-pound kitten. Who was playing with a tassle she had found somewhere.
Not that it mattered, in a second, she was yanked up into the air in a tight telekinetic claw.
Stryfe opened his eyes and sat up, moving her away from himself as he did so. The sheet fell down, exposing bare chest and several scratches. Some closed and scabbed, a few still freshly bleeding. The tassle fell to the side, unnoticed.
"Shut up." With a glare, Stryfe stood and stalked over to the shower unit. Excercising fine control with telekinesis, Stryfe dragged the kitten into the shower with him, maliciously enjoying her cries of outrage.
Ten minutes later, he stepped out, bringing the screeching kitten with him. With a flick of TK, he tossed her on the bed and began pulling on the light body suit that went under his armor, and then the armor itself.
A glance at his bed paused him. The kitten was happily playing with the tassle from his boot. She still looked like a scrawny drowned rat, her fur all in tufts everywhere.
Ignoring her again, he bent over and picked up the helmet. It wasn't dented from its fall, so he righted the stand and tucked the helmet under his arm. Time to go and eat before leading his troops into battle against the Dayspring.
The kitten was perched at his feet, staring up at him beseechingly.
"Meow." She stood and began winding between his ankles, purring.
With a growl, he swept her up in a TK claw and tossed her back on the bed. "No. I don't know what you want, but--" He paused, and blinked.
Stryfe, the Chaos-Bringer, Scion of the High Lord, etc., etc., was yelling at a kitten. It was beneath his dignity. With a mumbled curse, he whirled and strode from the room, cape flaring behind him dramatically.
The battle went brilliantly, the rebels were crushed, and the Dayspring was captured and put in chains. Stryfe, himself, took him to the cells.
Stryfe thrust Cable, heavily chained, into the small room and was immediately thrown slightly off balance by the kitten that landed from nowhere on his shoulder. Cable, despite his position, had the temerity to look amused. "Since when do you have a cat?"
"I don't," Stryfe muttered irritably. "She's a nuisance."
The kitten scrambled down from her high perch and sniffed around Cable's boot for a while, then climbed to his knee.
Cable petted her, as well as he could. Stryfe glowered. "Faithless, too." The kitten appeared unconcerned.
"What's wrong? I thought you didn't like her."
Cable shrugged against the restraints, not moving from the chair Stryfe had forced him into. "Then what do you care if she likes me? Cute little thing."
The kitten meowed again and batted at the prisoner's fingers with velveted paws.
"But she's--" Mine! Only he'd just *said* he didn't really have a kitten. Dayspring gave him a look that was most exceedingly insolent in its very bland innocence.
"So, what's your name, little one?" Cable scratched a finger under her chin, causing that motorboat purr to ring out.
"She doesn't have one."
"She isn't--" Stryfe scowled at Cable.
"She isn't what?" Cable asked innocently as the kitten purred vibrantly at him. "Adorable? I disagree completely." His captor was becoming more and more agitated by the moment.
With a suddenness that startled both captor and captive, the kitten jumped down and pounced Stryfe's boot. The tassle was still missing from the one, but she happily became engaged in batting at the other. Stryfe stared down at her, his mind trying to shy away from thoughts of how cute she was.
"Did we do that or did your kitten?"
"SHE'S NOT MY KITTEN!"
"Funny, she certainly acts like she is," Cable choked back a laugh as the kitten succeeded in removing the tassle from the boot and tumbled to the ground, wrestling with it.
"She isn't." Stryfe refused to stamp a foot. That would be extremely childish. Besides, he might stamp the kitten.
"Oh, I see," Dayspring said in tones of enlightenment. "She's *not* your kitten." Pausing only a second to allow Stryfe to begin either satisfaction or suspicion, he proceeded, "You're *her* person."
Glaring, Stryfe whirled and stalked from the room. The kitten followed, making it out before the door closed with a snap. "She is not my kitten. NotNotNot. She does not own me. At all."
"Uh... Right, sir." The guards snapped to attention as he swept by them, muttering, a little ball of black and white fur following him.
Cable slumped back slightly under the weight of the chains. Not *that* bad, really, but he was tired, and power-damped--very delicately; apparently they hadn't wanted to have to deal with their prisoner turning abruptly into a spiny metallic creature. Or soupy, which was even more disgusting.
He was--he blinked. His mind felt ever so slightly... lighter, now that he was paying attention. As if a weight had been removed... when Stryfe left? He tried an experimental push at a link of the bonds--and it moved. He wasn't damped!!
With careful movements he released himself from the chains and moved towards the door. Stretching to get the kinks out, he pondered the situation. Once out of the cell, he might lose whatever advantage being free had. Of course, he *could* just track down Stryfe, and--Cable smiled. Yes. He could.
Five minutes later he was trotting down various corridors, mind carefully searching for Stryfe's presence. Once he found it, he made a bee line for the Chaos-Bringer.
With stealthy steps, he approached what were apparently the Officer's Quarters area of the castle. Stryfe had a room quite close. Apparently, all the guards were off drinking themselves into oblivion. Well, except for the ones he'd knocked out and left in his cell.
Cable stopped outside the door, then knocked.
He pushed the door inwards, shoving it flat against the wall, and pointed the gun at Stryfe.
The kitten--who had up till then been curled up on the bed, napping--jumped up and hissed at him, her fur standing on end.
"I thought you said she wasn't yours?"
Stryfe whirled, and blinked at him. The helmet was off, as was the massive cape and he'd apparently decided slippers were more comfortable than boots. But he still was imposing and angry, and wearing metallic armor. "How did you get out?"
Nathan grinned. "You should scan before you invite people into your room. And you should remember to turn on power-damping devices before you go off and leave a telekinetic prisoner to his own devices. I'll be sure and remember not to make the same mistakes. Not that I'm complaining."
To his credit, Stryfe didn't swear or try to kill Cable with any nearby pieces of furniture. He did glare harder and remove his slippers, though. "I'll have to remember that, next time I lock you up."
The kitten chose that moment to attack Cable, her claws doing nothing but scraping his boots. "Erm... Remove your cat."
"She's not my cat."
"Then you won't mind if I kill her," Cable pointed the gun down at the tiny black and white ball of fluff.
"No!" Stryfe cursed, "Don't kill her."
Cable swiftly transferred his aim back to Stryfe, a triumphant smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "Gotcha." He lifted the kitten telekinetically into his field of view without taking his eyes off Stryfe.
"Now, now, young lady. You be quiet while I tie up your human." Cable reached out and snagged the sheet from the bed, wrapping it around Stryfe from knees to neck. "There."
"I'd put her down."
Stryfe narrowed his eyes, "What, the vaunted Dayspring, torturing a kitten? What would your people say?"
"She's perfectly fine. Just a little vertically displaced. Ticked off, but I think that's on your behalf."
The kitten's hisses rose higher in pitch as she batted at Cable. Or tried to. It was sort of funny to watch. Tiny kitten attacking big tall man with a gun. Stryfe continued to glare, rather odd-looking with a sheet wrapped around himself and the armor ridges sticking out.
Nathan shrugged, tired of playing, and gestured Stryfe towards the door, moving out of it as he did so. "C'mon. We're going to go put you in my shoes."
"Planning to take off your shoes, *brother*?"
Raising an eyebrow, Cable shrugged, "No."
He had noted the resemblance he and Stryfe shared. But he wasn't letting it bother him. Not yet. Besides, he was sure there was an explanation. Somewhere. He frowned as memory touched his mind. Right before Redd and Slym had left. Hadn't there been another kid?
Shaking his head, he pointed the gun down the corridor. "Move."
Ten minutes later, he was shoving Stryfe into his chair and attaching the chains to various limbs. The kitten was still held in a telekinetic grip, about shoulder height. She'd quieted, but only because he'd shaken her at one point.
Stryfe looked at the two unconscious guards in disgust, but said nothing more. Even though the manacles on his ankles were cold.
Dayspring finished locking the last set of chains and stepped out of the room, bringing the guards with him. "Well, I guess I shouldn't leave you alone."
The kitten screeched as he tossed her through the air to land in Stryfe's lap.
"Thank you, I'm sure." Stryfe said dryly.
"Don't mention it. 'Chaos-Bringer'." Nathan snickered and left the room, allowing the door to close behind. A moment at the panel on the wall and the damping field was turned on.
Inside the cell, Stryfe glared at the closed door, then sighed. For now there wasn't anything he could do. A purr interrupted his thoughts and he looked down to see the kitten making herself a nest in the sheet still wrapped around his legs and waist.
As he wandered down the hall, headed towards where the war room would most likely be, Nathan mulled over his options. He could just kill everyone, but that would be a useless waste of life. He could run, make it back to his people, and what? Have all of this to do again the next time Stryfe captured him. And the next time, Stryfe might just kill him.
Of course, not killing Stryfe might be a problem. He frowned. The kitten had apparently taken the High Lord's Scion in much affection, considering her reaction. Maybe there was something under there to save after all. Cable snorted. Or not.
Which left him with a last option.
An option which was about to be tested.
Dayspring's strategy for taking advantage of Stryfe's unexpected kitten-induced lapse of attention was really fairly simple, if ambitious. Announce to all and sundry that he had bested Stryfe and, some years ago, killed Apocalypse, and was hence not merely of the Strong but the Strongest, the Survivor, and accordingly they should follow him.
Parridian Haight, unsurprisingly, objected to this and had to be sent on a one-way errand to the afterlife to get him out of the way.
Actually, it was harder than it sounds. Nathan had to kill the man with his bare hands and then dance on his entrails before the rest of Stryfe's forces would listen to him. But, since they didn't want to end up as his dance floor, they all began following him.
Cable was gratified at the success of his applied knowledge of Apocalypse's philosophy. "Know your enemy" was a very useful adage.
Meanwhile, Stryfe sat in his chair. The kitten slumbered on, happily oblivious to things like uncomfortable armor that chafed after a while, or stupid sheets that made a room unbearably hot.
The sheet which had actually shredded in places. Spikes are not nice to material. A moment later, the kitten woke up and yawned.
The yawn continued until she was almost falling off Stryfe's lap. Since he kind of didn't want that, he moved his hand and caught her. She burped.
Kitten fur is very soft and silky, and Stryfe found himself stroking her fur almost unconsciously. He scowled and stopped as soon as he realised her was doing it. The kitten squeaked at him, and then paused, green eyes suddenly fixated on a shred of sheet.
A moment later, she was batting at one side of the tear. Then the other as Stryfe shifted slightly. She rolled on her back and twisted around, pulling one thread off and happily shredding it. Then she rolled back over and began to stalk across his lap, tail twitching.
With a cry of triumph, the kitten pounced the trailing threads. Then she jumped, startled, as Stryfe growled at her. A moment later she was glaring up at him reproachfully, threads hanging from her mouth like whiskers.
Stryfe shifted again, the armor clanking. The kitten gave him another look, then sneezed. She sneezed again and rolled over onto her back, paws waving up at him. "Puurrr."
It was laughable, really. He, the Chaos-Bringer, was stuck in a tiny room, chained and wrapped in the shreds of a sheet. With a kitten in his lap, playing with anything that waved. And, as if that weren't enough, he was hungry. Dammit.
Dayspring had just HAD to escape before lunch, hadn't he. Stryfe would have kicked a wall, but his feet were bare, and his ankles had shackles around them. The kitten gave another purr-sound and rolled over to study the floor.
With a butt-wiggle, she hopped off and landed on the floor, skittering slightly on the smooth surface. Then, tail in the air, she trotted to the door and waited expectantly.
When it didn't open, she butted it with her head. When that didn't work she sat back on her haunches and began crying.
Stryfe gave her a pained look. *How* could she be that stupid? And plaintive? "Shut up. I can't do anything about it either."
Not that he didn't want to. He'd like to leave too, but at least he wasn't wailing about it.
She shot him a dignified look, then began scratching at the door.
"I don't think anybody's going to answer it," he told her. He felt rather silly, talking to a cat, but in this situation it really probably didn't make him look any sillier than he would otherwise.
Nathan, having secured the support of most of the opposing military forces, decided it was probably time to get back in touch with his own people. Aliya was probably worried.
She was. She was also pissed at him for not calling sooner. "Nathan!"
"Aliya, I think I've won. Stryfe's forces are under my control. All we have left to mop up are--"
"You didn't call. We were a bit worried."
Cable shrugged, "Well, I may have lost the battle, but I won the war."
"Right." She looked unimpressed, "So, now what?"
"Keep the Clan Chosen hidden, for now. I'll lead some forays with these troops and get back to you."
The door finally responded to the kitten's entreaties, much to Stryfe's surprise, which turned to disgust as Cable stepped through the door and gazed down at the kitten. She ceased her mewling and purred her way around both of his ankles. Stryfe glared at them both, even though keeping the kitten in his field of glare required him to direct Cable's portion of it at the man's feet.
"Feeling a little hungry, Stryfe?" Cable casually picked up the kitten and scritched under her chin. The purr rumbled out into the room. "By the way, have you named her yet?"
"No." Stryfe was able to glare straight at Cable now. Especially since he was cuddling the kitten close to his face and cooing at her. It was... sickening, really.
Cable petted the little fluffball some more. "Why not? I'd think you'd've had time to think about it by now."
Gritting his teeth, Stryfe refused to answer.
"I can see you're not hungry enough yet." Nathan smiled sardonically, "I'm sure my people won't mind you receiving the cruel and unusual punishment of being chained in here all night." Cable looked at the kitten, "I'll feed her and be back in about an hour."
The door shut with a click. Stryfe muttered under his breath and then leant his head back, cursing.
A moment later, he tried to decide which was worse. The fact that his kitten was off being treated to the Gods knew what, or that Dayspring had left him chained without anything to eat.
Stryfe was lucky. One of Cable's flunkies--one of Stryfe's own flunkies. Previously--came in and released him from the chair, stripped him of his armor, and left a sanitary device for his use. Stryfe kept himself occupied planning the man's painful demise.
But no one brought the kitten back.
"Come here, you little imp!"
"Meow." Replied the kitten happily from her perch atop the massive control room computer. Cable snorted and reached out with TK, intending to pick her up and bring her back down to him. She reacted by backing further into the dark recesses above the computer. Where Nathan couldn't see her.
He began to have an inkling of why Stryfe had classified the little creature as a nuisance. Giving up on finding her, Nathan went back to reading the latest reports from his commanders.
A minute later, a tiny black and white ball of fluff streaked across the keyboard, pressing random numbers and letters, leaving a sentence of gibberish in the latest report. He sighed and flicked out a telekinetic claw to hold her away from everything.
She rowled and tumbled end over end in the air, spitting angrily at him. Nathan chuckled at her and finished the reports, then turned to her. "What am I going to do with you?"
"That's no help at all."
"Talking to yourself, Nate? Isn't that a sign of old age?"
Cable glared at Tetherblood, "You wish, old man."
The tall blond man chuckled. "Who's the kitten?"
"She isn't named yet."
"Because she isn't mine." Cable gently set the kitten down on the floor and watched, amused, as she bounced over and began twining around Tetherblood's ankles. "Although I will admit I think I owe my life to her."
Tetherblood crouched down and offered a hand to the kitten, upon which he was duly smelled and then purred upon some more as he smoothed the soft fur with his fingers. "All right, Nate--if she isn't yours, whose is she, and I really want to hear the story on how less than two kilos of fluffball saved your life."
"She's Stryfe's. Or, rather, Stryfe is hers." Nathan chuckled. "It's rather funny watching them. She's definitely chosen him, while he wants nothing to do with her."
"And the bit about life-saving?"
"She distracted him. He forgot to put the damping field on."
Tetherblood gave his friend a disbelieving look, decided he was serious, and laughed long and loud. "And you just walked out?"
Nathan shrugged. "Yes."
The kitten meowed then, apparently deciding not enough attention was being paid to her. In fact, she decided she wasn't enjoying this discussion at all and squirmed out of Tetherblood's grasp, diving for the floor. Once there she scampered from the room and disappeared.
The two men looked after her. "Should we go catch her?"
"I doubt it. She seems to have been fine with the run of the place so far."
"I still can't believe Stryfe has a cat."
"She has him," Nathan reminded him. "He just hasn't admitted it yet."
"Okay, let me rephrase. I can't believe he didn't kill her the first time she annoyed him."
Morning dawned with its normal splendid round of colours that most ignored in favour of trying to stay alive. For the most part. In Stryfe's palace teamed with early morning people who were all surprised that they were on the other side now. And Nathan decided to visit his favorite prisoner.
Along the way down he rediscovered the kitten, who tackled his left boot from a side corridor. Chuckling, he picked her up and carried her with him on his way to Stryfe.
In his cell Stryfe sulked. It wasn't a long, prolonged sulk, but it was there, mainly culminating in pacing and slight worry over his--the kitten. The kitten. She wasn't his.
He'd gotten a little bit of sleep. In-between wondering how he was going to get his empire back and plotting ways to torture Dayspring.
Still, they were semi-profitable. He'd come up with some nice torture involving cheese and rats. A sound outside the door made him turn and wait.
Dayspring opened the door and looked at him. "Enjoying your stay in our five star hotel, Stryfe?"
"That was so funny I forgot to laugh," Stryfe replied.
Cable chuckled and reached up to scratch the kitten sitting on his shoulder, "Glad I could make your day."
Glaring, Stryfe flounced into the chair, avoiding the chains since his feet were still bare.
The kitten purred, loudly, right in Nathan's ear. He only grinned.
Stryfe caught himself looking at her. She seemed to be perfectly fine. He hadn't really been worried. Not really. There hadn't been any reason for him to worry over her; she was only a kitten. Right?
He was distracted from his thoughts as a young woman came into his sight.
"Nathan!" Aliya practically threw herself at the Askani'Son and kissed him soundly. Then she pulled away and looked slightly puzzled. "What's with the cat?"
Nathan removed it from his shoulder and dropped it on his captive. "She's Stryfe's. He keeps trying to disown her, but I think she's wearing him down."
The kitten curled up happily on Stryfe's lap, purring. Aliya looked at him, "What's her name?"
"She doesn't have one," Cable said, lips twitching. "He refuses to name her, because she isn't his."
Aliya looked at Stryfe, "No name? How could you? That poor kitten is going to go through life--nameless! Imagine her problems, her identity crises!" She stalked over and poked a finger in Stryfe's chest. "You have to name her."
The kitten opened an eye and hissed softly at Aliya.
"Feisty and protective little thing, isn't she." Aliya chuckled. "Name her, Stryfe, oh Chaos-Bringer, oh Scion of the High Lord. Or are you too chicken to admit there's someone who cares for you?"
Stryfe had been going to point out the absurdity of a kitten having identity crises, given the number of wild or feral felines who got along perfectly well without names. Unfortunately, he lost his retort in shock at Aliya's last challenge, and gaped like an idiot.
"Hah." She turned away and reached up to kiss Cable. "I'll be deploying more of your minions. Do something with him."
Cable waited until she was gone, then shook his head. "She's right, you know."
"Is not." Stryfe hated the half-whine his words contained. That he was reduced to whining. And with a kitten in his lap, purring.
"Yes. Why not?"
"Why?!" Stryfe countered.
Nathan sighed. The kitten purred. "Well, for one thing, she DOES seem to like you."
"Well, that's her problem." He sneered, shifting and pondering standing to get her off his lap. She chose that moment to dig in one claw, piercing his skin.
"Feeling hungry, Stryfe?"
Stryfe stared at Dayspring, startled. The man was witholding food for a name. A single, simple name. And, after all, he hadn't eaten. Not since breakfast before the battle yesterday. Had it been that recent? His stomach rumbled irritably.
It was such a small thing, a name.
A very small thing. Of course, that raised the question of why on Earth it would be important to Nathan that he name a kitten!
"Name her, Stryfe."
The kitten yawned and looked up at Stryfe from green eyes. A name. A name for a kitten who was irritating, adorable and got in the way. But she liked him. "Diamonde."
Nathan raised an eyebrow. "A diamond in the rough?"
"There's a tiny diamond on her nose." Stryfe felt himself blush as Nathan's eyebrow went higher, "Yes. I noticed it. You notice a lot of things when she's sitting on your chest and poking your chin with her nose."
"Ah. Well. Dinner should be along shortly." Dayspring smiled, "I'll leave you two together, I think. Just knock if she needs the litter box."