Disclaimer: Marvel owns them.

Ahem. Y'might want to read "Night Terrors" and "To Name a Nuisance" first. It still should make sense. I hope.

Much thanks again to Persephone. And to Diamonde.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something... Ah, well.

Ah, yes. For those wondering, the wonderful Persephone can be reached at persekore@usa.net for feedback.

Been Here Forever...
by Ana Lyssie Cotton and Persephone Kore

It had been two weeks. Dayspring had control of Stryfe's fortress and soldiers, and Haight was dead. Some of the High Lords knew Stryfe had been deposed, but others apparently did not yet. Nathan was making no effort to hasten the spread of the news, being more interested in first consolidating his position here. And making sure the soldiers and guards didn't try an uprising.

Or the people in the city; it wasn't a standalone castle, and Nathan had been a bit surprised to find that except for the admittedly *very* nasty temper, which meant if you annoyed him badly enough you might die instantly and painfully, Stryfe didn't seem to have done much to create objections.

The people, at any rate, seemed more nervous about what Nathan might do than relieved to get rid of his predecessor, though they didn't seem especially determined to get him back, either.

Apparently the man had some sort of anarchist sympathies, too. Nathan wasn't entirely sure what to make of that, given that Stryfe was a military commander and in a position analogous to a feudal lord over a small city, but perhaps it was only a sort of philosophical investigation. Or another instance of temper--Nathan *had* found several carefully secured recordings of... less than amicable conversations with Haight.

Nathan leaned back in his chair, or, technically, Stryfe's chair, and sighed. He missed Aliya.

She was back with Clan Chosen, still encamped and still comparatively safe, or at least in no more danger than previously. They were keeping in touch telepathically, but it wasn't quite the same.

Something landed with a thump in the middle of his desk. He blinked. It was small, and... almost see-through. It squeaked and scrabbled across the desk towards him. Something black and white pounced onto the desk, tracking the holographic mouse with green eyes.





Nathan watched in fascination as Diamonde tackled the mouse (at least her size, if not bigger) and tumbled over and over with it.


The mouse squeaked again, then disappeared in a flash of electrons and light. Diamonde lay on her back, paws waving, a puzzled look in her eyes.

Someone coughed and looked guiltily around the edge of the door. "Er. Sorry. Sir."

Nathan tried very, very hard not to laugh, and failed, so he scooped up the kitten and stroked her ears. She purred. Nathan composed his features and managed a gruff voice. "You might want to be a little more careful where you direct your holographic mice."

"Yes sir." The man nodded abashedly and looked at the kitten. "Um, I'll, uh, leave her in your hands. Sir."

"You do that."

The kitten purred in agreement.

The kitten *liked* Nathan's hands. They were very obliging about petting her fur and undoing the occasional tangle and *not* rumpling her the wrong direction. He wasn't her own personal human, but sometimes he was much more cooperative.

And there were times when you just had to like a man who was so obliging as to leave you fish to eat. Her eyes narrowed in contentment.

Speaking Diamonde's human, he was unhappy in his current position. That might have been the fact that he was digging trenches for the Clan dead. Or it might have been the unwieldy collar he wore to damp his powers. Either way, at least he was getting sunlight.

Even if they did keep him in that blasted cell the rest of the time.

Stryfe paced his cell again. It wasn't a terribly satisfactory pacing spot, because he had to keep turning around. The floor area was further reduced by the presence of a low bed--better termed a sleeping mat, perhaps--but he wasn't exactly complaining about that part. Better than the floor, and he'd been fairly surprised they even gave it to him.

His kitten was gone again. THE kitten! He had no idea where she was; she could be-- He stopped himself firmly. He was not worrying about a kitten. Besides, she was fine. Nathan wasn't the type to torment a kitten just to upset Stryfe; he would come torment Stryfe directly. Nathan liked the kitten.

Stryfe's lip twisted into a snarl. And Diamonde wasn't above sucking up to Dayspring, either.

He paced some more and narrowly avoided walking into the wall. As he knew the room was monitored--though he couldn't actually be sure whether Nathan had found the files or not--colliding with the walls would be even more embarrassing. It wasn't as if they were moving or anything.


Forcing down the sudden grateful feeling, Stryfe turned and glared down at the ball of black and white fluff that was slowly getting bigger. "And what do you want?"

She sat down at his feet and began studiously ignoring him and washing her face.

"Irritating little nuisance." Well, he'd wanted something to vent at. Still, even Stryfe had to admit a kitten was a sad receiver of anger that really was self-directed. As much as it was directed at his captors.

He still couldn't believe he'd been that stupid. Granted he had been distracted, which *was* the kitten's fault... sort of... only, that wasn't a very good excuse.

No, the best excuse would be inattention. Irritation at a kitten was... not of the Strong. He winced. Dammit. Another week consolidating and conquering, and he would have had it! Would have won. With the Askani'Son in chains, the Clan Chosen would have been demoralised, crushed.

And he would have proved he was the strongest. The one fit to rule. If he had to do it on the top of a pile of--

"Puuurrrrr." The kitten was twining herself through his ankles, rubbing against them softly. Since he was barefoot again--apparently, they thought it would be harder to escape barefoot--he could feel the softness of her fur.

It was very nice. Very silky and fluffy, and... and it was tickling his instep something fierce when she trailed a furry tail along his foot. He crouched down, then sat on the floor, and didn't take her off his lap when she crawled into it.

He even stroked the soft kitten-fur, lightly, and was starting to decide that being claimed by a cat might have its good points.

Stryfe sighed and stared at her. "I'm really not supposed to do this. I'm supposed to be all mean and nasty and imagine killing you."

"Really, Stryfe? You look more like you wouldn't mind caring for her and any offspring she might produce." Nathan's voice was half-muffled with the need to not laugh at the image he was seeing.

Stryfe jumped, as much as possible for a person sitting cross-legged on the floor, and blushed violently. Then he winced, as Diamonde, who did not like being jumped, put out her claws to keep from falling.

"Go away."

"Aww. Poor Chaos-Bringer. Wanna be left alone with your kitten?"

"Yes! I mean, No!" Stryfe got the feeling he sounded like a complete idiot. He had the sneaking suspicion this was because he did. Dayspring was smirking at him.

Nathan really didn't mean to be smirking. He was just trying very hard not to laugh. "Make up your mind."

He proceeded to startle Stryfe considerably by proceeding to sit down on the floor as well. Unfortunately, this seemed to imply he was staying.

There was a definite air of "Now, what?" in the way Stryfe glared at Dayspring. Dia opened her eyes and purred. She turned green eyes on Cable and then slowly stood and stretched.

Nathan chuckled, "Little flirt."

Fighting down the urge to grab the kitten and hold her protectively, Stryfe shrugged. "She can purr at whom she please."

Nathan shook his head sadly, "The kitten has addled your mind. Are you sure you don't want me to kill her?" Not that he would. She was wondeful for tormenting Stryfe with. Besides, she was too cute.

Stryfe glared harder. "Having fun fighting to keep my empire together?"

"Not that it was much of one, but, no. Not really," Cable shrugged, "Haight was such an easy kill--why did you keep him around, by the way?"

"Haight's dead?" Stryfe was actually startled enough to stroke the kitten once.

Biting his lip against laughter, Nathan nodded, "I decided he was too much of a security risk."

Stryfe opened his mouth, closed it again, looked down at the kitten, and returned his gaze to Dayspring. "I'm not sure that's exactly how I'd have classified him, but... tell me it hurt."

"As much as being gutted with someone's hands can." Cable shrugged. "Although I don't think he remembered me dancing in his entrails."

"I never thought of that solution..." Stryfe mused, continuing to pet the kitten, who purred contentedly. "Must file it. Could be a useful application." He blinked, "And... you danced in his entrails? Feeling a little barbarianish?"

"Not really, just trying to impress your troops. It worked."

Stryfe sighed. "Uncouth simpletons."

"Is that what you call them in person, too? No wonder they were so ready to switch loyalties."

A look of resignation crossed Stryfe's features. "I refuse to say it."

"Say what?"

"You know."

Nathan bit his lip, trying not to laugh. Stryfe was still stroking the kitten. "I'm afraid you'll have to enlighten me."

"'Good help is so hard to find.'" Stryfe said grumpily.

The kitten decided it was time to end this, and interrupted them with a hiss at Nathan. She then scrambled up and stood on the floor between the two, glaring. "I think you've worn out your welcome, Dayspring."

Cable stood and chuckled, "I'm sure I have. Good day, Stryfe."


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