I'm Stuck: Guardcat by voracity
Summary: Xander has a new friend. An unusual friend
Categories: Buffy/Angel Stories Characters: None
Genres: AU, Humor
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: The I'm Stuck WIPS
Chapters: 1 Completed: No Word count: 7652 Read: 6809 Published: 2019.05.27 Updated: 2019.05.27
I'm Stuck: Guardcat by voracity
Date:Sat, 1 Dec 2007 01:19:43 -0600
From:"Shadow"
To:bookwrecker@yahoo.com
Subject:silly catbunny

Hiya,

This is bunny that has been gnawing on me. I know it will never be used but I thought if I shared it with one person I could make it leave me alone.

Sun Shadow the silly kitty, has been a character I have role played for a good decade in e-mail and message boards only. She was once part of a never completed round robin so i had to settle her exact history down.

When Bastet retired from this realm some of her temple guardian cats were left behind. The temple cats look exactly like an ordinary cat except for two things: they are as intelligent as humans and when whatever or whoever they guard is in danger hello very unhappy saber toothed tiger sized kitty.

The guardians bond to what they guard and as long as that bond is there that cat will live barring a fatal wound.

If a guardian does die it is reborn with the full memory of all it's past lives and if what they guard still stands the return to their post. If it is gone they have the choice of final death and rejoining Bastet or rebonding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy looked up as Xander walked into the Magic Box. "It's apocalypse season and it's all going evil again," she said cheerfully in greeting.

"Let's hope it doesn't destroy my work site this time," he teased back. "What's up? Got the call to be here early."

"We have a charlatan on the edge of town doing...something," Giles told him, handing over the flier he had gotten. "None of us have the time to go see him and hopefully drive him off. You could go out with Anya and do that much easier than we could."

"Yeah, finals are coming," Willow said grimly.

He looked at the flier. "Wish demon?"

"Human using fake magic," Willow assured him. "I checked that already. No demons, no magic, nothing like that near him."

He shrugged. "What about patrols and things? Not like I don't work all day long," he said at their hurt looks. "Remember me, fully employed person with a good job he can't lose or else he'll be camping on your floor?"

"It shouldn't take more than a few hours over a week," Willow said, waving a hand. "You'll do fine, Xander."

"Fine. As long as it doesn't interfere with the other stuff. Speaking of, why was Spike talking to one of the last commandos in town?" Buffy hurried off to save Spike from the guys who had tortured them. They had recently gotten rid of the Initiative. The group itself was healing slowly - though the girls still saw him as pretty much in the way at the moment - and it was starting to get back into the Scoobie mindset. He took the flier off, heading out there to check him out. Nothing too unusual. Looked like a tent revival. A few people were milling around the table he had set up with things that were for sale so he started there. No informational brochures, tapes, DVD's, or anything on what he was doing. Most of these sort like to promote their 'good works' by making money off their speeches or whatever. He did see a familiar face out there and grabbed her by the arm, walking her back to the car.

"Hey!" Dawn protested.

"Shut up." He put her in the car, giving her a look. "Stay."

"Not a dog," she complained through the window. "I was only looking."

He smirked. "Giles sent me."

She huffed. "Fine. I'll stay in the car."

He nodded. "Yes you will." He turned on the alarm then went back to the area. The guy inside gave him an odd look. "She's underage and her mother will throw fits."

"I noticed but I'm not one of the harmful ones who'll suck her into something, sir."

"Uh-huh. We'll see." That just got a nod. He went back to looking. Something was off. He could feel something was off about this guy. Willow had been wrong, he was doing magic. He could feel it wrapping around his ankles. He looked down to check but nothing physical was there. Interesting. He went back to browsing.

"What are you looking for?" the man asked him.

"Just looking, not with intent," he said, looking up at him. "No promotional items?"

"I don't work like that." He stared at him for a minute. "I'm not a palm reader, cult leader, or anything like what you're thinking."

Xander smirked. "I'm told it's very hard to read my mind now."

"Not really." He smirked back. "We can talk if you had questions."

"Maybe we should." He followed him inside the tent, looking around. It was fairly simple in there. A card table, a few chairs, padded with pillows for comfort, and a coffee maker. He took a chair after glancing at it to make sure it was clean, then looked at him. "So, you're selling what? Your flier wasn't very specific."

"A local officer?"

"No. Construction worker. I have friends up at the college."

"Ah. Protecting your friends from the evil stranger. That's reasonable. Do they need the protection?"

"They would probably say no but they wanted to know what was going on so they sent me. Finals you know."

"Yes, I have heard." He got a cup of coffee and sat down, looking at him. "I'm not harmful."

Xander chuckled. "I hear that a lot."

He stared at him. "Let me put some fears to rest then, young man. I'm not demonic. I do not work for the demonic. I have no fight with either side unless they attack me. I never have and I never will." He sipped his coffee. "I am a subscriber to those who are holy and have been in the past." He took another drink then put his cup aside. "I'm not recruiting. I don't want anyone to join me on my path. I'm here to offer some what they need to be happy and content. For some that's the show. That's enough to ease them by giving them the answers they already had but were ignoring. For others it's something more special." He smiled. "Now, on you I can see that you do fight. You have protected these same friends for years." He held up a hand. "The way you stand and move show me you're partially trained to protect and defend. The scars I can see as well. Especially the ones on your neck." He gave him a half-pleased smirk. "I also know about the slayer and who helps her locally. You do fit one's description." He took another drink and put the cup back down. "Other than that, I think it's very wise she sent someone to check me out."

"Willow said you're not doing magic yet I can feel it around here."

"I'm not practicing and I cast no spells but one who travels with me is magical in nature." He looked around, pointing at the cat in the corner napping on a pillow. "She is."

Xander looked then at him. "Familiar?"

"No." He smiled. "She's a friend, not a helper. I don't work that way either." He looked the young man over. "What troubles you?"

"Life." The man gave him a look. "Inter-group squabbles."

"Ah. It's a common ploy to divide and conquer." He shifted, leaning one arm on the back of his chair. "Is it fixed?"

"On its way to being fixed."

"Yet they still have blind spots? I ask because we heard that's an ongoing problem."

"Who tells these rumors?"

"The ones who run screaming from the town. Those who talk to their relatives here. Even vampires can use email. There's a few mailing lists about what goes on out here. Plus some very bad pornography from some of the locals who want to take Angel's spot with your slayer. Some not so horrible but some really bad stuff."

Xander snickered. "I'll have to tell her that, see if Willow can find it."

"She's found one. They know she's lurking on that list so they don't say anything truly dreadful over there. Though they do remark on some of your clothes and your girlfriend now and then. Does she really complain all the time about sex?"

"Yup. She's a former vengeance demon though."

"Ah. Getting used to it." He stared at him. "I'm still not evil, Xander. I'm here to help those people who need it find their own meaning of life."

"Surviving at all costs, otherwise it's death not life," Xander quipped back.

"That's one viewpoint but a fairly sad one. No joy? No happiness?"

"No one ever said surviving at all costs has to be unhappy. Sometimes you don't have to do that much to pay for it."

"True. The rest of the time is shown in the scars on your body and soul." Xander nodded. "The young woman you pulled away?"

"Buffy's sister Dawn?"

"Oh. Understandable. She would get a bit peeved at her for being out here without having checked me out first." He finished his coffee, getting up to get more. "Want some? I assure you it's normal coffee."

"I'm good. Thanks." He looked around, watching the cat nap for a second before looking at his host again. "Since I don't need the answers, what else do you offer?"

"I think you need a different sort of answer," he admitted. "But I don't think yours is as easily found as the others' are. Most people know the answers and only need prompting to see them. You have questions that may never be answered. You also have concerns that may well lead to the world ending." Xander tipped his head at that. "Some of your concerns can be countered but only if things go the right way."

"I know that. They don't always see it that way yet."

"As they never will. None of your group have the clarity of simple, direct, seeing the truth vision the way you do. Some people see a scene and some people see a movie and storyline in everything. You see a scene, a simple scene with overlay of how this is going to probably play out. That leads back to where you plan battles. You see the connections outside the scene but you don't let them sway you and you look a bit deeper than they do when things start to get backed up. You take the simple viewpoint of 'it will happen this way if I do the right things and if not, we're screwed' and leave it there. The girls, as females often do, see a more entwined view of the world. They see the connections and not the scene. They see the story and you see the graphic pictures."

Xander nodded slowly. "Not far off. I can and do see both."

"Yes, but you were basically raised by Willow," he pointed out dryly.

"True. She did make me see those things when I only saw the moment and not the long-term."

"Which is a male versus female issue as far as I've ever known." He sipped from his new cup of coffee and put the mug down. "What do you personally need to be happy?"

Xander shifted some, getting more comfortable. "I'm happy enough."

"Fine. What about content?"

Xander shook his head. "I'm good on that too. It's apocalypse season so we're storing up for next year."

"You just ended one."

"Yes but there's hints that another's coming quickly."

"You released her," he said dryly. Xander sat up straight at that. He nodded. "That is not for you to be bothered by. It will, because you were there. She doesn't understand you at all. She didn't choose her path and doesn't understand why anyone would choose that same path."

"People died if I didn't."

"People still die even when you work at it."

"But less die if I patrol."

"That's one point she does understand. Still, you need to look at all the things she's telling you. They're not as shallow as the others want to think. They're not dreams or nightmares."

"They're portents," he said grimly. The other man nodded. "Any other advice?"

"They're not fully literal. Whatever she does to damage you won't literally happen but that doesn't mean it's not going to be something that will make it feel that way."

Xander sighed. "I can understand that." He stared at him. "Are you a seer?"

"No. I got told by the cat."

Xander frowned. "The cat's a seer?"

"Something mystical that travels with me," he said with a small smirk. "As all cats are partially mystical."

"Ah." He just nodded. "Okay. Any other wisdom?"

He stared at him for a minute. "What do you hold sacred?"

"My duty. Otherwise I would've left and never come back."

"Not your life?"

"With my life?" he snorted.

"That is a point to consider. You do know that there are other guardians out there?" Xander nodded. "Beyond those like Angel?"

"I figured there had to be other hunters and others who helped keep the problems down outside the Council."

"Indeed. Including some of those who resemble what you hunt, young man."

He nodded slowly at that. "I know not all demons are bad. The same as I know all of them aren't going to eat people or destroy the world. We leave those sort alone."

"There are those who rest solely on the side of good as well," he cautioned.

Xander nodded. "I figured there had to be."

"Good. Then you're realistic. I have heard that there may be one of those coming this way sometime in the future. They would only step in when absolutely necessary, but they would watch the group to see when you needed help."

Xander nodded. "That might be helpful. As long as Buffy and they could get along. Now and then she's still a girl."

"I understand. I'll warn that one." Xander nodded, standing up. "Do be at ease and watch that young one. My traveling companion said she's very strong, especially for living here. Very pure for living here so long too." He took another sip of his coffee.

"I'll let the right person know that," he assured him. "Thank you. Try to keep it down. Giles sent me, not Buffy."

"I'll do that." The boy nodded and left. He looked over at his cat. "Well?"

//Not bad,// the cat whispered in his mind. //He could clearly use a guardian. The town could and he does protect the town.//

"Good. Then you talk to the unbonded ones." He finished his coffee and went to get more, going outside to deal with the gawkers who would only want his help to find the answers they were hiding from themselves. He was like a very expensive psychiatrist in some ways.

***

Xander strolled back into the Magic Box an hour later. He and Dawn had dinner before this because the group would've broken for dinner and her mother would complain if he hadn't fed her. "He's one of the ones who'll give you the answers you're not listening to your mind give you. He's not doing magic but he is traveling with a mystical beast who's a seer of some sort, and is hiding as a cat. Not promoting a faith, any particular way of life, nothing like that. He did tell me that the dreams we're all having are the next apocalypse and they're portents, but not literal." Giles stiffened at that. "He also said that there's a guardian moving this way in the near future but they'd only step in when they felt it was necessary. They'd watch the group to see when it was necessary but they'd hide from us."

Giles shook his head. "Portents?"

"Not literal, but yes. I keep seeing my heart wrenched out."

"Oh, dear. That spell."

"Um-huh. He said she can't understand why anyone would choose to do this job when she didn't."

"I see. I'll gather the accounts and look them over with that in mind."

"Good." Xander went to get the ones they had all written out, handing them over. "Willow's got a magic issue. Tara keeps showing up in the oddest places. Buffy's probably getting the slayer pep talk about it being over soon and then she'll get to rest. Or being chewed a new one for slacking off. My heart keeps getting ripped out so I'm guessing we're going to have an emotional issue. With the other ones going on.... I'm going to say that we can banish her but the portents show that there's something worse coming."

Giles nodded, looking them over. "How do you know that Willow's is magic based?"

"She didn't write it down but she had one with Tara stretched out, covered in magic symbols."

"Oh, dear," he sighed.

"Plus Tara is always farther off and in the oddest places. Places where she shouldn't have been." He stared at him.

"Does that mean she could be taken out of her usual place?" Dawn asked from her seat at the research table.

Giles stared at her then nodded. "It very well could."

"Which means the heart being ripped out could be that," Xander said quieter. Giles nodded and got to work on that issue. He looked at Dawn then at him. "Anyway. He's not causing problems. He's breaking some denial issues and selling things like dream catchers and other crafty sort of things. No harm, no foul, well off the hellmouth."

"That's fine. What else were you going to do?"

"We were going to talk to Tara." He grinned. "I wanted her opinion on something and Dawn's graciously agreed to help me."

"As long as you help me with my english paper," she sighed.

"I think between us we can BS one," Xander said with a grin. He looked at Giles. "Need us on patrol?"

"No. Buffy's said it's a slow night." That got a nod so Xander walked Dawn out to his car, calling Tara on the way. "Mystical beast pretending to be a cat?" he muttered. He went to look that up. The portents weren't that clear and he clearly needed better accounts from the girls to get the full effect. He'd have to get them from them after patrol.

***

Xander sat Dawn down on his couch, ignoring her huff of displeasure. "Anya, go do something. We need to talk to Tara about something girlish," he called. She made a whining noise. "Tough. Go help Giles. I heard that our dreams are portents and he needs help with that." She stomped off. He got Dawn a drink of water and then went to let Tara in. "Hey." He closed the door. "Seal it for me, no eavesdropping?"

"Why?" she asked.

"Because what I just got told you need to hear and see if he's right."

She turned and did it, frowning at him. "Wh...what did you hear?"

"Well, a few things," he admitted, leading her to the couch. "The first is that the dreams we're getting from Sineya, the First Slayer, are portents." She sat up, staring at him. "Not literal but still roadsigns." She went limp. "Also, he had a mystical traveling companion that was pretending to be a cat. The cat told him that Dawn's very pure for having lived here so long and very powerful for having lived here so long."

"Huh?" Dawn asked.

"The h...hellmouth taints," Tara told her.

"Within a year by Giles' lectures to Wes back in high school," Xander told Tara. He got a horrified look and Tara went to grab what she needed. Anya wasn't practicing but she did have some magic abilities so she kept the basics on hand for emergencies. "White cabinet in the kitchen, Tara. I stocked it last month in case." She dug in there, finding the last few things she needed. She brought them over, starting a formal circle then pulling Dawn into it. He sat on the couch, drinking Dawn's water while she figured it out.

Finally it came down to an 'oh dear' and Dawn giving her horrified looks. She canceled things and looked at her. "You're...."

"I saw," Dawn said, staring at Xander. "What the hell?"

"Don't swear," he ordered, shrugging a bit at the end. "No clue. Figured there was a reason since he said a guardian was moving into town soon, but he didn't connect that with the stuff he told me about you."

Tara shook her head. "She's not," she said quietly, staring at Dawn. "She is powerful. Very powerful."

"Powerful enough to draw the next major bad?" Xander asked, finishing the water. Tara nodded quickly. "Okay. Then I'm going to make a leap on logic here. Willow's dreams have been full of magic. Sometimes written on you, sometimes not. Magic and humiliation. Ending in death." Tara shuddered and so did Dawn. "So I'm thinking that her problems from earlier are going to continue?"

Tara looked at her hands then at him. "She has been doing a lot of magic," she admitted.

"Have we told Giles?" She nodded. "Has he talked to her yet?" She nodded. "Did it help?"

"She threw a fit," Tara nearly whispered.

"Then I want *you* to teach Dawnie. You're safe. You know what you're doing. You can help her hide what she has the same way you do, Tara. Joyce would agree because that could keep her safe, right? Or at least safer?"

"No accidents," Dawn told him. "Can I mute it so someone really has to *look* to find it?" Tara nodded quickly. "Can you teach me that? I don't want to draw them to the house and have them attack Mommy."

"Of course," she agreed, smiling at her. "We'll talk to your mother tonight." Xander called Joyce to come over while Tara got to work with her. Joyce got there twenty minutes later, letting Xander let her inside. "Hi, Joyce."

"Tara. Dawn. Magic?"

"Oh, yeah, huge magic, Mommy," Dawn sighed, looking at her. "The guy Xander went to see found out that I'm a lot of powerful." Joyce moaned.

"Like triple Willow," Tara said quietly. "I'm teaching her shielding so less things come for her."

"Good!" she assured her, earning a smile from all the younger ones. She looked at Xander. "What else was said?"

"That'll take some research," he admitted. "Unless you know, Tara?"

She swallowed. "She's not... not human," she whispered. "She was made to be your younger daughter." Joyce sat down, looking at her. "It was to protect her and you."

"Because something bad the next time was going to be really bad and it'd come for Joyce to get Buffy?" Xander asked. Tara shrugged. "That's one thing it could be?"

"It'd protect them both. She has protection marks all over her aura. So does Joyce from the same source."

"So, to protect me, they gave me a second child?" Joyce asked, just to make sure.

"Plus to protect her too," Tara agreed quietly. Dawn sniffled so she hugged her. "Not like we care."

"I know. I'm sorry, Mommy."

"No, Dawn. With this being the hellmouth, it's not something I wouldn't expect. Hiding things here is easier probably and sending you to us to protect, and to protect us as well, makes a lot of sense with Buffy in the family." She smiled, stroking over her hair. "You're still my daughter. I can remember giving birth to you. That's all I need." Dawn nodded, cuddling her mother as hard as she could. "We will not be telling the others."

"Not unless it's necessary," Xander agreed. "I do want someone good to teach her how to hide herself and how to harness it at the very least."

Tara nodded. "It's safer. She can learn protection spells too."

"Agreed," Joyce said, smiling at her daughter. "You will?"

"Yup. It'll be helpful."

"Good girl, Dawn." She kissed her on the forehead. "It doesn't matter to me and if Buffy throws a fit when she hears, I'll spank her. All right?" She smiled and nodded. "It's not any more weird than babysitting Spike is. Or her sleeping with Angel really." Dawn giggled and Xander got them a bottle of water. "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome." He looked at the women. "Tara, do you want to include Willow in her lessons?"

"She never learned how to shield the right way."

"That's a good enough reason for her to be left out," Joyce decided. "You'll keep teaching her, Tara?" She nodded quickly. "Thank you, sweetie." She kissed her on the head. "Come on, I made pie. We can go have some and talk." She helped the girls up and out to her car, taking them home to talk to them. Buffy wouldn't be in until late, she and the boyfriend were off somewhere doing things she didn't want to imagine.

Xander laid down on the couch, getting comfortable for the next call out. Which would probably be Willow scrying to see what Tara had been doing and finding out somehow.

***

Xander looked around the cemetery as they patrolled, frowning at the shadow he could see moving around them. It was too small to be harmful. The only thing in town that was that small and demonic was harmless. He kept an eye on it, which of course meant that when the vampires attacked he got hit and nearly knocked down. That's when the shadow changed and came out to attack the vampires. Two swipes with the fist-sized paws and it was gone. He blinked at the cat. It was white with faint gray stripes. It was huge. "What are you?" he asked quietly, looking around. Buffy had run after one of the vamps to stake it so they were alone. "Are you peaceful? Please don't try to nibble me. I'd taste bad. Anya said so." He sat up and let the cat sniff him.

//You'll do,// the cat sent to him. //Not bad but you could use some training. The same as any Protector can when they first come to the temple.// The cat swished her tail and seemed to smirk at him. //Comfortable?//

"No," he said calmly. "But I'm not sure I'm sane." He stood up slowly, watching the cat trot off into the shadows and disappear again. He blinked then looked over as Buffy came back. "Am I possessed?"

"I don't know. Are you? How would we tell? You're not sniffing things, trying to nibble or molest me, and you're not growling. So if you are it's clearly not the hyena again."

"No!" He pointed at the shadow. "There was a huge cat that just came out to decapitate the vampire."

She frowned, looking where he pointed then at him. "Did you maybe hit your head again? That's a better reason than the possession stuff."

"It talked to me, Buffy. It was telepathic."

"Okay, then maybe you hit your head and it possessed you," she offered, walking him off. "Come on, we'll see if Giles can tell. What did it say?"

"It said I could use some training, like the Protectors who came to the temple could. Told me I'd do for now. Asked me if I was comfortable on the ground." He could hear a snickering in his mind. "Now she's laughing."

"What did she look like?"

"White with faint gray stripes on her side. Like a blanket on a horse. The rest was white."

"Okay," she said slowly, drawing it out. She looked at him. "How big?"

"Huge! Like waist height."

"How did it disappear?"

"I don't know," he complained. "It's still snickering. I can hear her."

"Her?"

"Sounded like a girl."

She just nodded and walked them faster. They walked into the Magic Box and she handed Xander to Giles. "A huge, waist-high white cat with faint gray stripes saved him from the vampire and then talked to him telepathically. He wanted to know if he's possessed."

Giles blinked. "Sounds more like he hit his head on something."

"No, I didn't," Xander promised. "I hit the ground but it was clear ground and my head didn't hit. She still talked to me."

"I see. Willow, be a dear and set up the telling spells for me?" he asked. She went to do that. "We'll see, won't we?" He walked him into the room they did magic in, finding Tara and Dawn in there. "I didn't know we were teaching Dawn magic."

"Shielding," Dawn corrected. "Xander heard that I have some floating around me and wanted Tara to teach me how to hide it."

"That's an excellent idea. It would keep things from coming for you."

"Did Mom agree?" Buffy asked.

"Yup, agreed Tara could teach me," she promised, getting out of the way. She helped Tara and Willow set up the spell for them. "What happened?"

"A huge cat seemingly saved him from a vampire then talked to him."

Dawn frowned, coming over to check his head. "No new lumps."

"I didn't hit it," he complained.

"Okay then." She helped him sit down in the spot Willow pointed at then got out of the way. She didn't want them to accidentally find out her secret at the moment. They still needed to do some research. Giles did the spell, looking her buddy over. "Is he?"

"Not that I can tell," Giles admitted.

"There's a shared telepathy spell," Willow offered. "I grabbed that stuff just in case, that way we can hear whatever she's telling him to do."

"Right now, she's purring," Xander said dryly, giving her a look. "With the way it traumatized Buffy, do you really want into my head?"

"No," she admitted. "I might see a lot more of Anya than I ever wanted to." She walked off shuddering. "I left it on the small table, Giles."

"Thank you, Willow. Girls?" They left him to do the spell, smiling a bit. "Well, she is purring, isn't she?"

"Very," Xander agreed, concentrating on that sound. He poked at it mentally, getting a snort. "We don't mind as long as you're not a mean demon, kitty woman. You can come here and talk to us." The purring stopped. Giles broke the spell. He shrugged. "I tried."

"I know you did." He patted him on the shoulder. "Stranger things have probably happened but let me look up large cat demons. We'll make sure she's truly harmless." He got up, going to do that.

Xander leaned against the wall, going back to the voice. He poked at the blank spot, getting a feeling of confusion. He sent a 'come see me, I'd like to thank you, we're not mean' thought. She sent back another purr. He got up and went out back, frowning up the alley until something rubbed against his ankle, making him yelp. He looked down at the normal sized cat, picking it up to look at. "That's dangerous with all the things running around here." The green eyes stared at his brown ones and he knew. "Really?" She seemed to smirk again. "Uh-huh." He petted her. "Thank you for saving me. Can I let Giles see you?"

//Watchers are annoying but he'll never find me in the books. I'm not demonic, I'm sacred,// she told him.

"Huh." He walked her inside, holding her out to Dawn, who squealed and petted her. "She said she's not demonic, she's sacred."

Giles looked at the cat. "She's a bit smaller than you said."

"I have the feeling she can do that," Xander said dryly.

"Good point." He went to look in another book, then stared at the cat. "You're a guardian?" The cat purred at him. "Well." He came over to pet her. "Thank you for your help, m'lady. Xander does need the protecting now and then." She batted him with a paw so he let Dawn have her back. "Do treat her nicely, Xander. It's a great honor to even see them. Usually they're with their bonded for their entire life." He put down a bowl of water and got some of his ham from his sandwich for her. "There you are, m'lady."

"Got a name?" Xander asked. "He's sounding like you're a queen instead of a kitty creature. Pretty soon he'll start doing other British things and make you drink tea."

//My last one named me Sanura.//

"Sanura?" he asked.

Giles looked up. "It means kitten in Egyptian," he said dryly, looking at the cat, who hopped down to drink at the water. "Is your bonded here, Guardian Sanura?"

//Yes. I've been watching them for a while now. They're safe.// She looked up at him. //You do nearly as good as those who came to our temple, Watcher.//

"Thank you, Guardian."

//No one but those here must know.//

"Of course not," he assured her. "Dawn, Xander, she didn't want anyone to know."

"Anya, Buffy, and Willow are off getting muffins," Dawn told him with a small shrug. "It's cool with me." She sat down. "Where is she living? That way we can get her home."

//For now, I'll reside with the one I saved. He has need of me,// she announced to all of them. Xander gaped. She looked at him. //You do.// She nibbled on the ham then came strolling back to hop into his lap since he was sitting. She stared at him when he didn't start to pet her. //Never had a pet?//

"Um, no," he admitted. He petted her gently, like he would Willow's cat. She purred and settled in on her. "You do know I have a girlfriend?"

//Yes, I have seen her. She will not bother me or I will get her back,// she assured him. //We are not to be bothered with, even as regular cats aren't. Speaking of, they come.// She went back to her harmless lap cat persona, watching the three women walk in followed by another that was guarded. //Interesting,// she sent to him alone.

"Guys, this is Sanura. We adopted her," Xander introduced. Anya gave him a look. "Yes, I did adopt a cat."

"I don't like pets."

"Then move," Dawn said cheerfully, smiling even. "Pets give a lot of loving affection since you don't like cuddles either."

"Dawn," Buffy warned.

"She doesn't!"

"So? It's their relationship."

"And I'm an honorary little sister. I have nagging rights," she said, staring her sister down. "The same as you and Tara do but you never use them."

"That means he'd get to nag her about Riley," Willow told her. She came over to look at the cat. "Hi, Sanura. You're very pretty." She stroked over the white fur, getting a purr back. "We should introduce you to our familiar, Miss Kitty Fantastico." She smiled at Xander. "You'll need stuff."

"I know. We'll go get stuff tonight."

"I will not live with a pet," Anya told him firmly, stamping a foot.

"You know where the hotel is since I pay the rent," he said dryly. "Before you ask, yes we are allowed to have pets. The landlord told me I could adopt the demon dog that used to live in our apartment if I wanted." She huffed off. He waved. "Think Wal-Mart's good enough for litter tonight?"

"Probably," she agreed. "You'll need a litter box, some food and water dishes, food, a collar, toys, flea medicine."

"I'm sure we can do that," Dawn said cheerfully. She looked at the cat. "Would you have a problem with eating kitty food, Sanura?" The cat stretched out, letting her pet her ears. "You're such a good kitty."

Buffy shook her head. "Mom's allergic," Buffy reminded her, walking off to calm Anya down. Tara was back there taking magical things from her so it was about time to knock her out. "Anya, be honest, is it a real relationship if you can be displaced by a cat?"

"Cats are evil creatures, like bunnies," she said firmly.

"You don't seem to mind Willow's cat," she said dryly.

"I'm not living with it."

"Uh-huh," she said, staring at her. "Learn to live with the cat and your boyfriend or find a new boyfriend, Anya. After all, he never let you sit in his lap to pet you that way."

She walked off sulking, going to call her former demon lord to see if he'd take her back since they had broken up. If not, maybe there was another spot for her somewhere?

Buffy and Tara walked out, Tara sitting on Xander's other side to pet the kitty too. "She's gorgeous," Tara told him.

"She is," Xander agreed happily. "Want to help me get kitty things tonight? We should be getting Dawnster home."

She smiled and nodded, letting him take both of them to the car to drive Dawn home. Buffy could finish patrol with Willow tonight. The greeter at Wal-Mart didn't want to let them in with the cat so Tara did a don't-see-me spell on her, letting them bring her inside so they could fit collars and check toys for her. Tara found the litter they used and a good litter box, putting them into the cart. "Bells?"

He looked at the collar then at her. "Leather or not?"

Sanura looked at them. //Leather please.// Xander figured out which one he wanted, a light gray one. It went well with the stripes you could barely see on her smaller size. It also didn't have a bell to alert anyone. The toys were looked over and she found some she liked. Then they looked at the food. She grimaced. //Those smell disgusting.//

Xander looked down at her. "Most cats don't care about dry food."

Tara picked up a small bag. "What about this one? It's a very good brand," she offered, letting the cat sniff it.

//Still disgusting.// Xander frowned, moving to the wet food. He let her sniff. //Not as bad. At least it's real meat.// He put some into the cart and they went to the grocery side. He needed more stuff for himself. She sniffed at one aisle. //Go there.// He walked the cart down the canned meat aisle, letting her tell him when to stop. She leaned over to pat a can. //That will do nicely. When I don't steal off your plate.// She smirked at him.

He looked at the can then at her. "You do know potted meat isn't really meat?" She settled in to curl up on the baby seat of the cart. "Fine." He got some of that, some of the veinna sausages, and some spam just in case. Tara laughed. "What?"

"Is she talking to you?" she teased. He nodded. She gaped. He shrugged and they walked on. She looked at Xander, running a hand over his head. "No bumps."

"Happened earlier when something saved me after I got knocked down." He grinned. "Giles thought it was amusing."

"It is," she assured him, helping him get some chips and soda, then they left the store, heading to his house. Anya was in there throwing things around. She stopped her and sent her off with the simple expedient of walking near her with the cat. She looked at the cat, smiling some. "Don't like her?" she asked quietly.

//That was all on her,// she promised the young witch. She liked this one. She felt good and kind. Tara nearly dropped her for it so she huffed. //Really, dear.//

"Um, Xander, is it a possessed cat?"

"No, she's a sacred cat," he said, giving her a look. "She saved me earlier too."

Tara just nodded and put the cat down, casting her own telling spell on her. "Oh." She smiled and nuzzled her. "Welcome, favored of Bastest." The cat purred at her. "Try to protect him better, okay?"

//I have every intention of it. He needs it sometimes.// Xander spit in her direction. She laughed, making them both smile. //He is still a young kitten. He'll learn.// She went to investigate the litter box, finding it deep enough and very nice for her. She used it and covered it then went to test the new food sources. It was tasty. Xander gave her a pet. //You should pack the female cub's things for her. That way she has no reason to come back and tear more things up.//

"Oh, I'll be doing that most of the night since I have tomorrow off," Xander said dryly. He went to talk to his landlord. "Hey."

"Harris. I heard Anya on a rant earlier. What's her issue?"

"I adopted a kitten."

"You did?" Xander went to get her and brought her back, making him smile. "She's a good looking girl. Flea medicine?"

"Just picked some up with her food, litter and box, all that stuff."

"Good. Make sure she doesn't tear things up."

"She won't. She's a good cat. I'll get her scratching stuff if she starts on the couch."

//It is rather ugly,// she told him.

He looked down. "We'll figure that part out this weekend, when I can get to a bigger store than Wal-Mart." The landlord smiled and nodded. "Anyway, it appears Anya's moving out. So I'm going to pack her stuff tonight and put it in storage. Can I change the locks? She was up there trying to rip my clothes for adopting Sanura."

"Sanura?"

He grinned. "It means kitten in Egyptian."

"Ah." He petted the cat's ears. "She seems loving. I hope she'll be a good renter like you are, kid. You have that storage area in the basement." Xander nodded. "I'll give you stuff to change the locks tomorrow morning. Gotta dig it out of storage myself." Xander grinned and nodded. "Everything else go okay?"

"Just fine. I'm going to have to switch around the bank accounts too, just in case." That got a knowing look. Anya had bounced the rent check a few months back. "I'll figure that out so remind me if I'm not on time." He walked her off, taking her back upstairs. Tara was already packing things for him. "Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek. "He thought she looked cute too. What do we get for scratching kittens?"

"A spray bottle and a scratching pad." She smiled. "They make some with catnip too."

"I saw those." He helped, hefting the boxes down to the basement storage area. He'd have to carry them out for her tomorrow but at least they were out of the way. They got done and he found Tara had put the things Anya had pulled out into the washer for him. Sanura was on the couch staring at the tv. He turned it on and down, Anya had been watching soaps from the bathroom again apparently. She looked up at him. "That's a tv, Sanura."

//I knew that. Why do you watch such dribble as soap operas?//

"I don't. Anya loved them. Thought they were true life stories." He sat down and pulled Tara next to him, changing the channel. She took the remote and put it back with a grin for him. It was animal planet and it was a show on bigger hunting cats. "Hey, look, relatives," he joked.

Sanura looked then smirked. //Cousins surely. Bastest thought them adorable when younger.// She put her head on Xander's hand, getting petted again. It was the best thing a guardian could want. She fell asleep that way. The humans would be fine without her for a while.

***

Spike rushed in about dawn, looking around the apartment. He saw the litter box and frowned. "We're watching Red's cat?" he muttered. He walked into the bedroom. "Whelp, Watcher bloke sent me again."

Xander flipped him off. "You know what a couch is, Spike. Watch out for Sanura."

"Sanura?" he snorted. He felt something dig into his ankle and yelped, looking at her. "What're you?" he asked, scooping her up to look at her. "Guess you're the cat?" he taunted with an evil smirk, vamping out to scare it like he had the witches' cat.

She stared at him then batted him, claws out, on the nose, making him yelp. Stupid vampire.

"Sanura, be nice to Spike. Buffy's boyfriend and his playmates made him unable to hunt," he said quietly. "Spike, shut up, others are trying to sleep too. Hit the couch before I tie you to it." Spike walked off grumbling, rubbing his sore nose. He looked at the cat that hopped up next to him, letting her under the covers. "Didn't like Spike?" he teased.

//Vampires are pests. Like mice. They should be hunted and killed.//

Xander petted her. "He's not one we can do that to. He's an ally."

//Pity.//

"Pick on him but don't really hurt him," he warned. She licked her paw, staring at him. He stared back. She huffed but turned around a few times before laying against his stomach. "Thank you." He petted her, going back to sleep with one hand on her.

Spike checked on them, rubbing his nose again. She had some sharp claws! He had heard the boy talking to the pet. That was odd and he wondered if he was possessed again. There's no way that cat was normal. He cleaned the new wounds then laid down on the couch, turning on the tv quietly. He knew very well the boy would make good on his threat to tie him to the couch and would leave it on a disgusting channel, like the all childbirth channel or something for waking the others up. He had the last time he'd pushed his luck. The cat came out a while later to stare at him. "What? Gonna claw me again?"

She stared then snorted and went to eat some before going back to bed. She'd let him prove himself. One of the others of her kind clearly had decided he was worthy enough by the markings on his aura.

"Weirder than normal around here," Spike complained quietly.

***
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