After my 'encounter' with the appropriately named Cancer, I wasn't entirely sure who had come off better. We somehow ended up knocking each other out, though I was more than a little pleased to see that I'd come round first. I slunk away, a weary, limping, scrawny tom cat in a dreary shade of grey. The form reflected my current state rather nicely.
I spent most of the day curled up on a sunny roof on The Street, drifting in and out of sleep. The air was growing fractionally cooler when I decided to risk Asha's wrath and return home. The cat was slightly more sprightly as he made his way home, though still rather battered. Thanks to my nap, I was a little more alert, and so I was able to notice that the Street was all but deserted, save for a shadowy figure, hidden in the shadows under a large tree near the entrance to the road. My cat's eyes were strong enough to pick out a female outline. She seemed to be staring intently at me, the only other moving creature in sight. Something in her gaze gave me the chills and not in a pleasant way. It carried a weight like an ice cliff. Cold and un-moving.
I debated hiding and risking a change to something more suited to getting a closer look, but the battering I'd recieved earlier was still fresh in my mind (and body) and I preferred to think that was the reason for me to lightly leap onto the fence surrounding my house, sauntering in what I hoped was an unconcerned fashion around the back. After waiting a prudent amount of time to ensure I hadn't been followed, I shifted back into my human form, resisting the urge to shift into something very small as I saw Asha appear in the window over-looking the garden. She was at the door before I was.
"Please don't ask?" I groaned hopefully as she took in my battered state. I gave her the puppy eyes, holding up my hands in a placating manner.
She sighed, giving me a look that was equal parts annoyance and concern with a small dash of amusement at my expression thrown in. Finally, a small smile emerged and I knew I was off the hook. For now.
"Come in and I'll fix you up." She said, in a tone that said I'd be in trouble later.
"Erm, you might want to take a look outside, subtly, first." I replied tersely. "It might be nothing but a woman out there gave me the creeps in the too-much-attention kinda way if you know what I mean."
She met my eyes, hers a shade darker than usual and promptly vanished. A few moments later, she was at my side again.
"We're about to have a visitor.Stay here."
Her emphasis on the last two words sent a coil of nerves through my stomach. She left the room, flicking on the TV to confuse any supernatural senses that could pick me up. I shifted into spider form, slipping out into the hall as the doorbell rang. When Asha opened the door, I nearly dropped from the ceiling in shock (a painful and unusual occurrence).I then started mentally spewing as many curses as was possible, in pure frustration.
"Imogen." Asha's voice was impeccably calm, the picture of a polite hostess, albeit one that did not invite their guest in. "I thought you were dead." Okay, maybe not so polite.
"Funny that." The woman on the step was petite in nearly dimension, her bright copper hair tied back into a rope that fell over one side of her ample chest. Her eyes were bright green, currently narrowed in unvarnished loathing at Asha. Her tone was like broken glass in an ice bucket. Cold and sharp.
"What are you doing here?" All pretense of manners had gone. I noticed Asha's hand stray to the umbrella stand concealed behind the door. I also noticed that instead of umbrellas, the stand contained her half-swords. Sneaky, that's my Asha.
"Our mutual friend. Merely a call for old time's sake."
Asha laughed, a single, short, humorless sound. "As I remember, we parted company with you vowing revenge while bleeding to death somewhere in the Australian Outback."
Imogen played a parody of someone looking back on fond memories. "I remember. You seem to have forgotten the legion of Hunters that descended on you and followed you for around fifty years after."
"Yeah, I knew we should have decapitated you when we had the chance." Asha snarled back.
Imogen actually smirked at that. "Problem?"
"Just a pathetic turncoat vampire who is still hung up on a one-night stand."
Even I winced at that. Low blow.
"It was five months!" Imogen screeched, going white then a fetching shade of crimson.
Asha shrugged. "Still a traitor. Working with the Hunters."
Imogen glowered darkly. "Says the exiled bounty hunter. I wonder if Zelthar knows how his pet is doing these days?"
It was Asha's turn to shoot daggers. "Get out, before I make life really difficult for you." Her voice had gone deadly soft.
Imogen smiled again. "Didn't you know? I'm moving in. I'm sure we'll be really good neighbours."
White with fury, Asha slammed the door in Imogen's laughing face. I materialised in my human form as she turned to face me.
"I heard it all, Asha."
She was breathing quickly, her eyes wild. "We have to go-"
"No, I'm not getting chased out by her."
"Everyone is in danger. Aria, Cody.."
"We'll deal with it."
"Asha." I cut across her panic, speaking firmly. "She's my bitch to deal with, okay?"
Her dark blue eyes stared up at me, looking like the 18 year old, instead of the tough bounty hunter she was.
"You let her get under your skin." I said, still a lot calmer than I felt. "Don't, go to Cody's, relax a bit with him. I'll be fine."
She looked at me doubtfully, extracting a promise that I wouldn't fight and would raise an alarm if Imogen tried anything. Once Asha had left, I changed into less bloodied clothes, intending to sleep off the rest of my injuries. I healed faster than normal humans, so long as I slept while I did so. Along with my sleepless night the night before, it wasn't long before I'd crashed on the sofa. Half-formed, my last thought was that I should have put the house alarm on before I slept.