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Familiar Feeling

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The cold rain stings Shizuo’s cheeks as he swerves around a taxi. It’s hard to care about being safe and following all the traffic laws when it’s so wet and cold outside but he still does it. Mostly. All the people around him are nice and warm and dry in their cars while he’s on his bike, exposed to the elements. Shizuo respects the law, of course, and doesn’t want to be unsafe but… it’s hard to care is all. At least Celty had the foresight to warn him about the weather so he’d bring a cover for his bike basket so all his groceries and candles wouldn’t get soaked. But it’s days like this where Shizuo wishes he didn’t live so far away.

He takes a left turn just before getting to the part of town with all the shady clubs and zones out as he peddles through the familiar streets to his complex. He reminds himself again that the stew he’s going to make will be worth all the trouble he’s gone to going out in the first place. Probably.

Oyster mushrooms and potatoes and…

And the only downside is how long it’s going to take for the stew to come together so everything is just right. The waiting as the smell fills his home might be even worse than biking in the rain. Still, imagining the comforts of home and a calming evening ritual carries Shizuo the rest of the way back with a relatively positive attitude.

Once Shizuo is under the safety of his porch he pulls off his raincoat to give it a firm shake, cringing as water sprays. Still, it’s better than tracking it in the apartment. He carefully pulls the cover off his groceries to shake that off too when he catches something small in his peripheral vision.  

A tiny black ball of fur is huddled just on the edge of his porch. Its tail is curled around its paws as it sits hunched over, staring up at Shizuo with big, weary eyes.

“Oh.”

The cat is absolutely drenched from the rain and trembling. Animals always make Shizuo feel weak and soft and a sight like this has him folding instantly. He forgets about getting into his home.

“Hey,” He says in the softest voice he has as he crouches down more than an arm's length away from of the cat. “You can stay on my porch, if you want, you don’t need to run away.”

The cat does not seem to have much to say to that. It just keeps staring at Shizuo.

“But it’s even drier inside. Warm too. How about it?” He reaches out towards the cat slowly, his fingers curled inwards.

The cat doesn’t so much as blink.

After giving it a few moments Shizuo pulls his arm back again.

“Alright,” He ruffles his hair with a sigh and stands up to turn back to his bike. If the cat wants to be left alone then it’s better that he respects it. He’s no professional rescuer or anything. Although… he had hoped that maybe…

He opens the front door, causing a little tingle of wind chimes, and steps inside with his groceries in hand. He’s glad to toe off his soggy shoes and balances the groceries in one hand to peel off his squishy socks too. Then, he looks over his shoulder at the cat as he hangs his wet things by the door with his lips pressed together in thought.

Well… maybe…

He leaves the door open and drops his groceries off on the counter to quickly turn to his bathroom for a towel. Then he lays the towel over the floor in front of his open door.

Just in case.

Continuing on with the rest of his evening as planned, Shizuo sets out his ingredients to get started on the stew with the aid of his potted herbs. He chops with intent, stirs clockwise, and puts his energy into making a spirit soothing meal. Every so often he glances up at his open door with the tiniest bit of hope but he sees nothing.

Finally, as he’s covering the pot to simmer on low heat, he catches the smallest movement out of the corner of his eye as the cat peeks around the door frame into Shizuo’s house.

Shizuo smiles to himself as that hope inside him is prodded just a little. The cat could very well decide to turn away, but it might not.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. That’s my favorite word today, I guess.

He turns away from the door to let the cat make up its mind in peace and to clean his kitchen. Shizuo will always keep his kitchen clean, although a bit cluttered like the rest of his place.

Once every surface is clean and the dishes are dried he looks up again and sees the cat sitting in the doorway, staring.

Shizuo smiles at it but does not approach it.

“You can come in. I’m not gonna hurt you.” He reminds the cat gently before turning away from it again to grab his broom and start sweeping.

He’s tired from a hard day’s work and would love to clean himself off too but with this whole cat situation, he feels pretty much stuck in the kitchen until something substantial happens.

After the floor is swept he looks up again and sees that the cat is now sitting inside his house, just inside the door on the towel at Shizuo laid out for it. Its tail is curled around its paws neatly again, staring at Shizuo.

Another smile teases along the corner of Shizuo’s lips and he thinks about what else he could clean. He could always organize his spices and of course, the fridge always needs cleaning… yeah, he could definitely kill some more time in the kitchen.

Eventually, there’s nothing left for Shizuo to do and the cat is laying on the towel, curled up as it watches Shizuo with half-lidded eyes.

“So it came inside? Just like that?”  Celty signs at him.

“Well, not  just like that.  More like it took hours of me pretending I wasn’t looking.” Shizuo signs back as he speaks out loud. Celty doesn’t need him to sign as she’s not deaf but he likes to do it to practice. “But yeah, it came in on its own and now it owns my only cushion.”

“That explains why you’re buying a can of tuna.”  Celty’s shoulders shake with a laugh.  “I’ve never seen you pick up meat before. I thought you had lost your mind.”

“Yeah,” Shizuo sighs. “I just went grocery shopping too.”

“You must really want it to stay.”

“Well… yeah. I guess I do. I’ve always wanted one but none of them have ever seemed  right  before and this one seems  right,  y’know?” He looks away from the cans on the convenience store shelf to Celty for her response but her hands are still in front of her chest as she thinks, her round, green eyes looking straight ahead at Shizuo’s own chest although he knows she’s not really staring at him.

“I… I’m not sure I do know.”  She finally signs.  “About a familiar, that is. The only thing I can think of that sounds  right  like you said is Shinra for me. But that’s not the same thing.”

“I guess you’re right.”

That makes sense to Shizuo. It’s just usually easier to communicate with Celty through empathy than through words because he’s so bad with them.

He turns back to the shelves to browse, wondering if it would be dumb to get a snack since he has food at home when Celty places a hand on his upper arm to get his attention again.

“Ah, sorry.” Shizuo apologizes for looking away. “I thought you were done.”

Celty shakes her head to let him know it’s okay before signing again.

“I just wanted to remind you that… even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it too, your craft is still good without a familiar. It always has been.”

“I know,” Shizuo replies a little too quickly and Celty gives him a doubtful look.

“... I know, I know. I just feel like it’d be  more  if I had one.”

Celty nods sympathetically and drops the issue for now.


 

“Hey, you.” Shizuo greets the cat when he gets home. He’s been leaving the window cracked in case it wants to leave which has left his house significantly cooler but he’s not trying to cat-nap the stray. So far, it doesn’t seem as though the cat is interested in leaving.

It’s laying sprawled out on its side over Shizuo’s counter and he doesn’t bother waving it off. All he’d do is teach it not to get on the counter in front of him which really wouldn’t make a difference in the end.

The cat looks at Shizuo when he arrives and its ears flick once before it lays its head back down.

Shizuo places his two shopping bags down next to the cat but rather than startling it like Shizuo has expected to do it seems interested. He takes a moment to tighten the loose tie for his hair at the back of his neck before unloading the contents of the bags.

“I got some food for you,” Shizuo tells it even though it can’t understand. He reasons,  What’s the point of having other living things around if you don’t talk to them?

The cat stretches and rolls over onto its paws, seemingly interested. Being an alley cat it probably recognizes cans.

Yeah…  Shizuo thinks to himself with a smile.  This is my cat.

Shizuo leaves the window open for another day after feeding the cat just in case it changes its mind on a full belly. But the cat didn’t change its mind so tentatively Shizuo closes the window and lets the oven heat up his house again by making bread.

Over next week Shizuo and the cat get to know each other. The cat likes to be up high and won’t eat anything but tuna. Even then, it doesn’t have the appetite Shizuo expected it too.

It likes to stretch out over Shizuo’s futon when he leaves it out for even a moment too long and Shizuo doesn’t have the heart to move it so he can roll it up.

And most recently, if Shizuo isn’t paying enough attention to it, it’ll knock stuff off his counters and meow loudly. Fortunately, it seems to recognize knocking around lit candles is off-limits.

When the cat acts out like that Shizuo gives it the attention it’s asking for.

 

“You’re rewarding it for bad behavior,” Celty warned him when he told her. He knows she’s right but...

“If it needs attention then it needs attention. What am I supposed to do? Neglect it?”

 

Besides, Shizuo is also being rewarded in the form a soft, surprisingly affectionate cat. It doesn’t always want to be touched, but when it does, it soaks it up like yarrow in the sun.

Pretty soon, Shizuo loses track of how long the cat has been with him. Still, he refuses to name it.

 

“Why not name it?” Shinra asked when Shizuo stopped by to pick up some ingredients from Celty.

“What, should I just rename any foreigner whose language I don’t speak?”

 

The cat had been weirdly twitchy on his balcony for the past few days and when he told Celty about it she figured he had attracted some faeries. That made sense to Shizuo as the cat would surely sense that sort of thing. Plus, he had been taking his craft more seriously since this potential familiar arrived, which faeries would be attracted to. Celty recommended leaving out some offerings for them. She knows more about faeries so he took her advice on the matter.

After combining her ingredients with some of his own and placing out the offerings, the cat seemed to relax on the balcony again.

After a few months, the cat Shizuo has been able to come to the conclusion it’s a shoulder-cat. Whenever Shizuo stands or sits still long enough the cat almost materializes onto his shoulder. Sometimes it watches Shizuo’s actions intently and other times it acts as if it being up there was purely a coincidence.

Either way, it’s unbearably cute.

But more than cute Shizuo is finally confident that the cat has chosen him after a full month.

 

“That’s great, Shizuo!”  Celty congratulated him.

“Yeah,” Shizuo could hardly contain how eager smile as he considered the two crystals in the shop.

He wanted to make sure to get the ritual just right but it was hard to tell which conformation would be best since he’d never even attempted the spell before. Plus crystals weren’t really his specialty.

“Shizuo…”  Celty signed, her head shaking and her shoulders drooping in silent exasperation.

“You’re over-thinking.”

“I know.” Shizuo sighed. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes then put both crystals down.

One of his spellbooks has suggested crystals but Shizuo’s instincts are telling him to go with incense.

“Finally,” the witch behind the front counter groaned.

“Watching you agonize over those when you clearly were resonating has been torture!”

Celty’s shoulders shook in amusement from Erika’s attitude.

“Just be confident.” Anri reminded gently him from her station of stalking the shelves.

“Your magick is stronger than you think it is. I just know it.”  Celty signed at Shizuo with an affectionate smile.

“Well if you say that, it must be true.” Shizuo smiled back as he picked up the incense sticks that he knew were right.

Celty was definitely the best witch Shizuo knew and she would never lie to him.


On the evening of the first quarter moon, Shizuo wasn’t still enough for the cat to jump on his shoulder.

He started by opening his balcony since he felt the moon was important for this spell. Then he pushed all his furniture and futon to the walls, needing as much floor space as possible.

He swept his floor in a counter-clockwise direction, feeling the familiarity of his usual craft through the broom in his hands.

It’ll be fine. I can do this.

The cat watches him from the kitchen counter, its tail flicking curiously. Shizuo sweeping certainly wasn’t a new sight for it, but Shizo was sure it could sense the more weighted preparations this time. After all, it chose Shizuo, and if it minded it could always leave through the open balcony.

It’s not going to be just ‘the cat’ anymore. It’s going to be my familiar.

Shizuo has tried not to let himself think about the cat like that when it wasn’t true. But now it was going to be true. If Shizuo did the spell right, that is.

I will. I can do it.

When the floor is ready, Shizuo opens his Book of Shadows. He flips through the pages and pages of drafts before getting to the final sigil design.

With his chalk in hand and the design open in front of him, he carefully recreates it so that it covers the majority of the floor.

By now the cat has jumped down from its perch to investigate further. It pads around the in-progress sigil and appears to be considering it with the same critical eye it first cast on Shizuo.

When it’s done, Shizuo pushes himself off his knees to inspect it from a greater height, checking to see if it’s wonky or if there are any incomplete lines.

“What do you think?” He asks.

The cat’s tail flicks but it doesn’t walk away so Shizuo takes that as a sign of approval.

Shizuo nods in response and moves onto the next phase. With the zippo his brother got him as a gift many years ago, he starts lighting candles. Red and black aren’t his usual and they definitely aren’t usual for a familiar bonding ritual. But they felt like they would work best with this cat so Shizuo got them.

The incense are last, placed differently than the candles and taking the spaces of crystals. The deep herbal scent, at the very least, is familiar to Shizuo.

Last thing, a packet of dried herbs and flowers right in the center. He places it in front of the cat who leans down to sniff the folded paper packet with interest.

Alright.

He shifts his bare feet over the floor, looking for just the right spot. When Shizuo finds it, he plops himself down seiza-style with his hands on his knees in the circle and looks to the time.

It’s almost the witching hour so Shizuo closes his eyes to center himself until then. The energy is just right.

I can do this.

The feeling of little paws crawling over his calves makes Shizuo’s closed eyes twitch. The cat almost never gets in his lap when his shoulder is available. This  must  be right.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

On the witching hour, Shizuo begins the spell.

For the first part, he keeps his eyes closed and feels the power in his diaphragm. For the second part, he opens his eyes and breathes that power out.

The pupils of the cat’s eyes widen suddenly, encompassing the color in black.

Shizuo stays focused and continues on with the third part of the spell.

Nothing happens. But that’s normal, things rarely happen the first time. Shizuo won’t get discouraged because he  knows  he’s right.

He begins the first repetition.

The cat is very still in Shizuo’s lap, it’s eyes locked on him.

The bond between a witch and a familiar is a symbiotic one. Both parties must agree and both parties will benefit by drawing energy from each other. Without a doubt, this little creature is going to be Shizuo’s familiar.

Shizuo closes his eyes and starts the third repetition.

A person’s magick can, generally, be traced to two key factors. Being a witch means tapping into those two things.

Sensitivity and intent.

Sensitivity has always come easily to Shizuo. Two out of his six spiritual senses have always had much higher sensitivity than the others and have been the cornerstones of all of his practice. As Shizuo recites his third repetition he smells more than the incense and feels a deeper vibration than the cat’s purr.

Intent has been a learned skill from Shizuo, mostly through the support of his fellow witches Celty, Erika and Anri who helped him build his confidence. They aren’t coven, but if any of them even needed one… With the support of his fellow witches in his heart and the strength of his intentions in his mind, he’s completing the spell.  

There’s no room left for misunderstandings or confusion. With Shizuo’s clear intentions and the synchronization of his and the cat’s vibrations, a connection opens between them. It’s give and take. Nothing hidden or unclear -

A sudden jolt of unexpected energy followed by extra weight in his lap wrenches Shizuo’s eyes open. He looks down and instead of his little black cat…

… there’s a man.

“What the fuck?!” Shizuo blurts, jerking back in shock. His palms slap down against the floor to catch himself before his back hits the ground.

Well, mostly a man? Okay, no, with his full nudity there’s no doubt he’s definitely a man, but also, there’s a pair of black ears on the top of his head that definitely aren’t human.

The man appears just as shocked as Shizuo. He’s been knocked out of Shizuo’s lap and into a pile on the middle of Shizuo’s spell circle. He looks up at Shizuo with wide, reflective red eyes and his ears are flattened back against his skull. Now that there’s some distance between them, Shizuo can see the puffed up black tail that matches the ears.

“What the fuck?!” The man cries, pin-like fangs flashing in the dim light.

An accusatory black claw is thrust in Shizuo’s face.

“You… You-! That wasn’t supposed to actually  work!”

Shizuo pushes himself forward, eyes flying wildly over the man’s more bizarre features. As confusing and freaky as this is… that tail and those eyes… are unsettlingly familiar.

“I thought you were just some wishy-washy Hedge Witch, you weren’t supposed to have  that  much magick!”

Shizuo shifts into a crouch, leaning in for a closer look at the strange man.

“You’re… the cat?” He asks, just to confirm his suspicions as his brows furrow in concentration.

It… could be some faerie’s trick. There were faeries around a few months ago.

But Shizuo doesn’t think that’s the case. He leans forward onto his fingertips to get a better smell of the man’s energy and it’s just like the cat’s was a moment ago. 

The man bristles and pushes himself back across the floor, smearing the chalk lines as he slides out of the circle and away from Shizuo.

“You don’t even know what you just did, do you?” He hisses with narrowed eyes.

Shizuo scowls at the jab and sits back on his heels.

“I did a Familiar Bonding Ritual.”

He just made some slight changes to it… okay, he made a lot of changes. But only the changes he felt he needed to make for it to work.

The man huffs, tail lashing behind him.

“You just made a  demon  your familiar, you idiot.”

.....

Okay, so  maybe  Shizuo didn’t know the cat was actually a demon like… thirty seconds ago but -

“Yeah, I can see that now, asshole.”

Maybe he should have asked Celty to meet this cat before deciding to bond with it. He had just been so sure it was right he didn’t think to ask her opinion on the cat. Familiars are personal bonds, after all, not something you can really get a good outside opinion of.

She  probably would have been able to tell the cat was a demon though, unlike Shizuo, who’s the dumbest witch alive, apparently. Now Shizuo just feels like an idiot. A bonded idiot.

He tsks and pushes himself up to his feet to get one of his books. It’s not like he can’t break the bond, especially because he’s the one who made it. It’s just extremely disheartening. The first animal that seems to really choose Shizuo and it’s not a sweet cat at all. It’s an actual demon. What a waste.

The demon gets to his feet as well and works on brushing the chalk dust out of his tail with his claws.

“Seriously, what kind of witch is witch enough complete a spell  like that  but not witch enough to recognize a demon…” The demon grumbles.

Out of the corner of his eye, Shizuo considers the full scale of the demon. His skin is unnaturally pale and in contrast, his hair and fur are so black they seem to absorb light. Now that the demon is standing Shizuo is surprised by how short he is. He always thought demons would be tall and imposing, not petite.

Now that Shizuo’s more or less over the extra appendages, what catches his eyes are the black markings that go down the sides of the demon’s legs. His first guess is runes, but they’re too small and it’s too dark for Shizuo to tell exactly what they are at this distance. He’s really interested in getting a better look at what sort of markings a demon would have printed on their skin.

“Honestly, and I was so comfortable here…”

That complaint catches Shizuo’s attention. It reminds him of one crucial detail of the spell. The  one thing  the spell  had  to have to work. The thing that Shizuo couldn’t have changed about it even if he wanted to.

“Wait a minute.”

Shizuo snaps the book shut and turns to face the demon fully.

“That  was  a bonding spell.”

Shizuo steps forward closer to the demon again, but this time he’s the one about to make accusations.

The little demon bares his fangs and doesn’t back away. He doesn’t flinch but Shizuo can feel the way his vibration shifts defensively through their bond.

“So what?” The demon hisses.

So  everything.

“You have to agree to the spell, it’s a contract. Part of the ritual is you agreeing to it. I  couldn’t  have bonded with you without you knowing about it. It wouldn’t have worked.”

Shizuo taps the cover of the spell boom for emphasis.

“So what the fuck are you mad at  me  for?”

Even in the dim lighting, Shizuo can see how those paperwhite cheeks darken with color. Even if he couldn’t see that, he can feel the buzzing from the demon.

“... Who said I was mad?” The demon crosses his arms and turns from Shizuo dismissively.

“Just get rid of it.”

Now it’s Shizuo’s turn to bare his teeth. But he’s not on the defensive, he’s grinning.

Bonds are symbiotic. Freely chosen on both sides. That’s how the spell works. Shizuo doesn’t have to do shit. This little demon can, just as he has been able to since the afternoon he appeared on Shizuo’s doorstep, leave. He doesn’t need Shizuo to break the bond.

“Don’t play dumb, kitty cat. Maybe I’m not ‘witch enough’ for you, but I know how the spell works. Hell, I made half of it.”

Shizuo didn’t really expect to meet a demon in his lifetime. He certainly didn’t expect to call one out on their bullshit either.

The demon’s ears flick as he glares at Shizuo from the corner of his eye. He’s silent for a bit as he considers Shizuo and how to respond. The tip of his tail flicks as he looks up and down the length of Shizuo’s body.

It’s strange that this demon, who was far more aware of the situation than Shizuo, would be the one acting betrayed right now.

Shizuo can feel another tiny shift as the demon’s shoulders sag.

His whole body relaxes, shifting to settle his weight on one hip as he tilts his head back to look down his nose at Shizuo despite their height difference.

“... Fine. So witches make for a nice snack. Kitty’s gotta eat, right?”

There it is. This demon probably thought it was in the clear when an unaware witch invited him inside. He’s been feeding off Shizuo for over a month and without them being bonded so Shizuo wasn’t getting anything in exchange. This demon’s just mad he got caught freeloading.

That would also explain why the cat ate so little yet was looking so healthy under Shizuo’s care.

“Right.” Shizuo snorts.

Now, this is a different dilemma. This demon’s clearly made his choice already for the time being. Shizuo had given him a pretty good deal, after all. A warm house in the mortal realm, energy to feed off of,  magickal  energy no less.

The question is, does Shizuo want to be bonded to a demon? No, have a demon as a  familiar.  He doesn’t know any witches who have one. Maybe there are different rules. Maybe there’s a curse of some kind attached.

All he really wanted was a nice cat…

Shizuo sighs.

Well, wouldn’t hurt to at least talk to him about it.

“What’s your name?” Shizuo asks. Getting a demon’s name is a pretty big deal but they’re already bonded so maybe this demon won’t mind sharing.

“Oh, you wouldn’t be able to say it,  hearthwarmer.”  The demon purrs condensingly.

Shizuo’s eye twitches. Maybe it would hurt to talk to this demon after all.

Before Shizuo can bite back, the demon continues.

“I’m known as ‘The One Who Watches.’” He says with a prideful grin.

That’s way too long and now Shizuo’s starting to think that Shinra was right and he should just name the damn thing. Calling him ‘Pest’ has a nice ring to it…

“But you can call me ‘Izaya.’” The demon finally finishes.

He extends a hand to Shizuo, offering to shake. Shizuo doesn’t know a whole lot about demons, obviously, but he’s pretty sure that shaking hands with a demon means some sort of deal or agreement. They already made one from Shizuo’s spell and this demon hasn’t just changed any of the terms. Only offered his name.

Or rather… he offered the name he wants Shizuo to use. Names have power, as do contracts.

He reaches out to take the demon’s hand. The demon’s skin is silky smooth but icy cold like a ghost.

“Alright, Izaya it is.” He shakes the demon’s hand who’s grin grows wider.

“Excellent. I’m more fond of that name, you see.”

Shizuo doesn’t see why he should really care which name the demon prefers to use since it’s not like he’s getting into a soul contract with the guy.

“And I think I’ll call you Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo tries to snatch his hand back before Izaya can finish that god-awful sentence but it’s too late. They shook on it.

“Hey! Fuck you!” Shizuo snarls and shoves the dirty little trickster back.

The demon laughs and stumbles but isn’t knocked off balance.

“Oh, Shizu-chan, you wouldn’t hurt your precious little cat, would you?” Izaya gasps in mock hurt.

“You’re not my cat.” Shizuo snarls.

“Aw, boo.” The demon pouts, his ears swiveling back but his tail still waving proudly.

“And here I was starting to think you might prefer this form.”

Shizuo scoffs and turns his back on Izaya to start cleaning up the spell in reverse order. Herbs first, then incense, and so on.

Of course, the demon is beautiful. In a bizarre, supernatural kind of way. He’s a demon.

The demon, much like the cat, doesn’t feel inclined to be helpful. Not that Shizuo wants any help from him.

Izaya stretches and yawns, another familiar thing about him. Then, Shizuo feels another tiny burst of energy and he looks over his shoulder to see leathery black wings have sprung from the demon’s back to stretch, as well as long horns which emerge from his forehead and curl back.

Shizuo wonders how many other appendages this demon is hiding and goes back to cleaning.

“If you’re going to stay in that form, you should put on clothes.”

...

......

Izaya opens the balcony to stretch himself across it, just like he used to as a cat, ignoring Shizuo completely.

Except he's not a cat, he's a naked man.

"Hey! Don't be naked on my balcony!"