Fire, Ice and Wary Hearts part 2 of 2
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M
R for Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
The Twins arrived for a visit with Tyber, half expecting another round of 'what can we do to Rynold' when the feel of the place rattled both their nerves to the core. One time they had felt the power of Tyber's aura when he prayed, but that was a calming, soothing power.
Right now, the Panther was clearly in a state of extreme distress and radiating it at the same power grade. The two were at his side with a speed only an excited Cheetah can manage.
"What's wrong, Tyber?" Tony asked, concerned as his twin examined the room for any sign of an external cause.
He actually jumped slightly, he'd been so caught up in his own thoughts he had completely ignored the outside.
"I ... how much do you know about me?" He started uneasily and motioned them to follow him downstairs.
"Only what you've told Arsham." Tony said, as the two followed him downstairs. "Which amounts to you being a paladin for an outside Power named Kyvva. Why?"
Tyber nodded and opened a door the pair did not remember being there before. "I followed you yesterday." He admitted simply.
"No way." Tony shook his head. "You couldn't have got past even half the security."
"And where the heck did that door come from?" Max asked as the stopped just short of it. "Arsham's house doesn't, I mean didn't, have a door there."
"No, it did not. This is the door to my home." He explained simply. "A safer place to explain what I did, from the mages you serve."
"Mages we serve." Max blinked. "Oh shit. We didn't mention the..." He faltered. "Did we?" He asked looking at his twin.
"No, I know we didn't. We can't." He said simply. "But you're probably right." He said looking at Tyber, before stepping through the door into a place that was right out of a fairy tale of knights and castles and wizards towers.
"Please, make yourselves comfortable," the Panther, wearing his traditional armor again, motioned them to the soft pillows strewn about the floor of the stone room that radiated power even more than it's owner.
"Wild place you've got, Tyber." Tony said as he sat down, followed by his twin. "Though it kind of fits with the armor."
"It is a home of magic," he smiled and relaxed into the pillows as a petit mouse fem with nothing covering her light brown fur and chestnut hair but a few trinkets walked in with a tray. She handed each a large mug, starting with the Cheetahs and finally her Lord, then left without a sound. "As true a reflection of it's master and his desires as any building can be."
"You like mice, huh?" Tony asked, trying to make a wisecrack, and having it go kind of flat. "But that's certainly a handy kind of house."
"I like soft things," he smiled slightly, "to offset my combat edge. But here it is also safe, for to reach here, anyone must pass threw not only my protections, but to the very heart of Lady Kyvva's home."
"Kind of like Star Palace on Draconea." Max nodded.
"Similar, yes." He nodded easily. "But to why I am so ... disturbed." He quieted a moment. "One thing Arsham never asked me was just what my mission was."
"Probably figured you'd tell him, if he really needed to know." Max shrugged. "You don't really ask what his missions are either." He observed.
"I know he is not allowed to speak of them," he smiled faintly as a thick book appeared between the twins. "That is the ... briefing ... I received on my mission. I am here to see the Shadow Government destroyed."
"Yeah, I can see why you might not mention that." Max nodded. "Umm...so why are you telling us?" He asked curiously. "An outside Power sent you to meddle in Politics? Must be one really bored Power."
"She is very busy," he chuckled softly. "My Lady Kyvva is responsible for Fate. For ensuring that things happen as they should, and in proper sequence. My duty is not to destroy the SG, but to make sure it happens within the allotted time frame."
"Fate?" Tony blinked. "Things happened or they don't. Nothing is necessarily supposed to happen. In one universe it happens and in another it doesn't." He shrugged.
"Those are splinter realities." Tyber said simply. "In Prime plane, there is an order and pattern to how things happen. I am part of the order that makes sure it does."
"I guess." Tony said, clearly not buying it, but not seeing a point to arguing it either. "So if it's going to happen anyway, why does it need help?" He asked, really confused as to why anyone believing in such a predestined universe would bother doing anything, since what was going to happen, would anyway.
Tyber chuckled softly. "Because sometimes it tries not to and like most things with a vested interest in keeping things in a semi balance of order, some Powers find that investing in watchers to keep an eye on important events and help them along if necessary is a worthy expense. You are right, the future is not set in immovable stone, but it has a path that is generally agreed upon by the Powers involved."
"I can't imagine Lord Chaos and Lady StarFire agreeing on anything." Tony shook his head.
"I can't imagine them remaining civil long enough to discuss it." Max chuckled. "And I wouldn't want to be the person trying to referee it."
"Not a job I would want either." Tyber chuckled and shook his head. "The politics at that level are not something I have had a lot of privy to the exact nature of. Powers are Powers, and mortals, even favored ones, only get so far before it's simply too strange to follow."
"That's true enough." Tony nodded. "So I take there's some concern about the SG not falling apart on schedule?"
"Something like that," he nodded slightly. "As why I am telling you, I wish answers that She will not give me so directly."
"Oh, can't always get the answers you want from the boss." Tony nodded understandingly. "We know how that works, or more accurately Ebon does."
"No," he smiled faintly. "Sometimes I understand why, sometimes it seems She is fickle, but She has never stopped me from seeking other sources for what I want to know."
"Around here Fate is always referred to as fickle." Tony nodded. "So what did you need to know? Assuming we can actually tell you, sometimes we can't." He said apologetically.
"So I understand," he nodded slightly. "Though you should try, if you wish. There are enchantments in place that should hinder those blocks."
"Well, I guess you should ask." Max said easily. "Cause just randomly going through the stuff we shouldn't talk about could take a long time."
"Yeah, it's a pretty long list." Tony added.
"I can imagine." He nodded simply. "Why is Ebon so upset with the Kitten Commando program?"
"'Cause it's wrong to teach kits to do things like that." Tony said quietly. "Kits got no place in war."
"And it's wrong to take 'em from their families just 'cause you spot that their talented." Max added angrily.
"They are not there willingly?" The Panther's ears flattened slightly.
"Nah, no one asked them." Max said, as if that should've been obvious. "That's what really has Ebon upset. It's really a form of slavery, even if they aren't calling it that."
That settled Tyber back, his rage cooling into a kind of plotting mode the twins knew well from their leader.
"Why call them 'kitten commandos' he asked quietly, trying to figure out what was so odd about the age they were being indoctrinated at.
"Cause that's what they are." Tony said simply. "Nobody inducts soldiers that young, not in centuries. Most armed forces won't even take you before sixteen now, and even then you've got to be exceptional."
Tyber was quiet a long moment, absorbing the various facts. "They are intended for the field, soon."
"Probably a couple of years." Tony said, "Just based on the training regimens they use."
"That will be seen to," the Panther rumbled, hatred flaring hot behind the cool mask. "Even if not by me."
"Hey, the kits aren't responsible for what's happening." Tony said defensively, startling Tyber from his rage. "They're just victims."
"I did not mean they would be killed." He corrected the Cheetah a bit sharply. "Sneaking into a place and getting several young ones out and untangling their minds is not my place in things. I break down walls and shatter bodies."
"Sorry, we're used to a different style of 'fixing' problems." Tony said quietly. "We'd do something, but fixing minds isn't what we do either."
"And getting them to help that can and can keep them safe is beyond your resources right now as well." He half guessed.
"We don't have anyone to get them to." Max said softly. "And I'm not sure we could do it. Outside of here, we can't hardly talk about it." He said angrily.
"Something a skilled mind-healer could change for you, permanently." Tyber said gently, offering out of desire to help those he had come to care about rather than his mission to see them turned from the SG.
"That's occurred to us." Max said quietly. "It's a very painful thought, and we've all got high pain thresholds."
"Not in here, it isn't." He reminded them quietly.
"Well that doesn't help much." Tony shrugged. "None of the three of us is a mind-healer. Nor are any of the rest of the guys."
"But I have access to them." Tyber said simply, letting it sink in of it's own accord.
"Oh, I see." Tony nodded. "You'd need to get the guys in here to discuss it. And then there's the problem of us getting back in ... I'm not sure how much resistance the programming is gone generate to us trying to return."
"Do you wish to?" He asked honestly. "Unconsciousness removes a great deal of resistance to moment when required."
"Well, we really need to talk it over with the guys." Tony said seriously. "We're a team, we stay together."
"I meant if your programming stops you from entering my home again, do you wish to be brought in?" He rephrased it. "In here is the only place you likely can discuss this openly, even with each other."
"Yes, we have to." Max said stubbornly. "I'd like to be in charge of my own mind for a change."
"Me too." Tony agreed.
"Then I will ensure you do," Tyber agreed solemnly. "Should I begin hunting down a Felsin mind-healer for this, or would you prefer one who does not potentially fear your reputations already?"
"A real Healer wouldn't worry about reputations." Max said quietly. "Not one who really takes the oaths seriously."
"Felsin would be better." Tony agreed.
"I will see what I can turn up," he nodded seriously. "Since I am the one who can actually talk with her in her office."
"Thanks, Tyber." Tony said seriously.
"You are my mate's brothers." He smiled more softly than usual. "That makes you family, and I take care of my family." He rumbled softly. "And I like you on your own too." He added a bit more teasingly.
"We like you too, Tyber." The twins said in the unison they often managed.
"Especially for how good Arsham feels when he's with you." Tony added on his own. "It's like watching Ebon and Cazi."
"Yes, the one I keep hearing about and haven't managed to meet yet." He smiled softly, warmed as he always was by the thought of his mate. "He sounds to be a very interesting individual."
"Oh, he is." Tony grinned. "And the smallest Lion I ever met."
"But the loudest I think." Max snickered. "I'm sure Ebon will introduce him, maybe after this mission is over."
"I hope so," Tyber rumbled softly and stretched out, allowing his armor to vanish, leaving only black fur visible. "But as you are here, please feel free to explore and enjoy my hospitality."
"Thanks, Tyber." Tony smiled. "You do look better without the armor." He grinned playfully.
"So I keep getting told." He laughed and shook his head. "Particularly by that sexy White Tiger that keeps managing to get me to forget I don't have it on."
"Especially in places where people can walk in on you." Max teased playfully. "I never would have thought blushing would be noticeable on a Panther."
"It is so much more noticeable on him though," Tyber rumbled, aroused by the thought of his mate and what drew that flush to his face.
"Well yeah, white fur will do that to you." Tony smirked. "Might as well send up a flare."
"Ebon was surprised." Max grinned. "He didn't figure that anything would make Arsham blush."
"Much less something like getting caught with his pants down in the kitchen." Tyber chuckled deep in his chest. "Gods, that was intense."
"Threesomes with Ebon always are." Max grinned.
"And delightfully long." He rumbled hotly.
"That's certainly true." Tony nodded. "That tom just don't tire out." He snickered.
"Oh, he does eventually," Tyber licked his whiskers. "But it takes a lot of doing to get him to admit he's beat."
"I hear you're just as stubborn." Max grinned.
"If not more so." he rumbled softly, looking at the smaller males with a decidedly sexual air.
"That's a serious claim." Max rumbled back. "More stubborn than Ebon."
"Though you did keep Arsham going most of the time on that camping trip." Tony rumbled as he flopped down near the Panther and found himself pinned by the heavier male.
"And in here, I can make time stand still." Tyber rumbled with a grin.
"That's a good one." Tony rumbled up at the Panther on top of him. "We don't have to worry about anyone noticing if we're gone."
"Which is really handy," Max agreed, as he dropped down next to them and nuzzled Tyber's neck playfully.
"Cause we may be in here for some time." He licked his whiskers and dropped his muzzle to claim a fierce kiss from the Cheetah under him. It was met an equally fierce lusty passion while Tony's hands began to explore the Panther's dense black fur and the combat hardened muscle underneath.
"So did your mission go well?" Tyber nuzzled his lover after they had both calmed down from their greetings enough to think beyond their hunger for each other.
"Uneventful." Arsham smiled and kissed his lover gently on the cheek. "It was complicated but not particularly difficult. Of course we did our own intel work this time, so we didn't have any major omissions to deal with." He added with a smirk. "I missed you." He finished tenderly.
Tyber nodded and kissed him softly. "It was the longest week I can remember, especially the last few days."
"Just what happened in the last few days?" Arsham asked quietly. "The twins kind of hinted that something was up, especially with wanting to get everyone together here."
"Yes, that." The big Panther nodded and pulled Arsham close. "I followed them to work, and saw a lot more than I was really expecting. More than I'm willing to just sit back and watch happen while things run their course."
"You got a look at the new training program, didn't you?" Arsham asked softly, as he nuzzled his lover, but it was as much statement as question.
"Among other things, such as the true masters in there." He nodded with a rumble of pure hatred.
"The overlords?" He said softly. "You actually saw them?" He asked in surprise, since no one ever saw them other than the Commander.
"Saw, no." He shook his head slightly and sighed. "It wasn't time for a confrontation and if I got that close, they would have seen me as well. Soon, though."
"Just be careful." Arsham said quietly, as he pulled his lover a little closer. "They're very powerful and dangerous." He added, with a touch of worry. "And there's never just one of them, at least that's what I've heard."
"I will not be alone when I face them," he murmured softly and nuzzled a reassurance. "I am not alone in service to Kyvva."
"Good." Arsham nodded relieved. "'Cause I'm not sure there's anything I can do to help." He admitted with considerable embarrassment. It wasn't that he didn't want to help, he just knew the programming wouldn't let him go against the overlords so directly.
"That was something else ... the actual reason for the big meeting." Tyber rumbled and kissed him lightly. "An offer to have all the programming undone, and a place to discuss it safely and openly."
Arsham blinked in surprise. "Must be a very special place, if we can actually discuss it." He said, as the programming began to rumble.
"My home," he nodded simply and tried to sooth out the stress building in his lover. "The twins found it very ... interesting."
"I thought they seemed excited about something." Arsham chuckled. "Glad to see you kept entertained while I was away." He grinned playfully.
"Oh, they did." He rumbled back with a chuckle. "Quite the energetic pair, those two are. They were particularly fond of the fact that I can stop time relative to the outside world in my home."
"Oh that does sound like fun." Arsham grinned broadly.
"Oh, it is. We can fool around for as long as we want, and no one is the wiser." He grinned back and claimed a heated kiss. "I had to prove to them I could outlast Ebon, after all."
"Only 'cause Ebon doesn't fool around in war-form." Arsham chuckled teasingly. "That's where his real endurance is."
"Oh really?" Tyber's golden eyes glittered with the challenge. "Perhaps it's time to find out."
"Just secure all the breakables." Arsham snickered. "You haven't heard roaring till you hear a war-form roar."
"Mmmm, except maybe an entire pride of them." He grinned suggestively.
"You really do want to test how solidly built your tent is." Arsham smirked playfully. "Of course, Ebon's not the loudest. Everyone knows that you get the loudest roars from Tigers." He grinned, nuzzling Tyber playfully.
"And lucky me, I have one right here to demonstrate." He rumbled and claimed a fierce kiss. "And his brother who will no doubt enjoy it if we invite him to join us, instead of putting our clothes back on."
"He'd probably be suspicious if we suddenly put our clothes back on." Arsham rumbled, once the passionate kiss broke. "After last time."
"Mmm, yes, that was quite fun." Tyber consented with a chuckle. "I had forgotten how enjoyable some aspects of life could be."
"That happens when you work too much with taking time to play." Arsham teased gently.
"It's what happens when you spend a lifetime stuck in a place that believes sex and pleasure are for procreation only and anyone associated with the gods shouldn't have it at all." He huffed and rolled his eyes. "Seriously not a fun place to be a Paladin of Kyvva. Not even the hookers were game."
"Procreation only?" Arsham blinked in disbelief. "So just what did you do to get stuck there for a lifetime?" He asked, thinking it sounded like what the humans referred to as 'hell'.
"My job," he shrugged. "A certain princess had to marry this particular prince, before her Vassar could make her marry him. One of the more unlikely pairings you could think of too. Took the better part of a century to get it all sorted out right and the first kit raised right."
"Talk about unpleasant assignments." He shook his head. "Fortunately, there are no such hang-ups about sex and pleasure here." He added as he claimed a playful kiss that was returned with extra heat.
"Yes, very thankfully." Tyber rumbled and ran his hands down his lover's powerful body.
Arsham chuckled for no apparent reason as the he and Tyber lay on the couch wrapped in each other's arms and nothing else after another passionate round of pleasure. "Ebon said he and Cazi will be here in about fifteen minutes." He murmured softly.
"Figured startling the other Panther not a good thing this time?" He rumbled in amusement and nuzzled his lover. "I'm sure that will be long enough to clean up, if we manage to behave."
"He likes you enough to remember that you startle easy." Arsham teased playfully. "And least under certain circumstances." The White Tiger smirked, and nuzzled the Panther back. "Fairly common circumstances it seems." He added with a wink.
"Only around you." He rumbled and stole a quick kiss that ended up not being so quick as he pulled Arsham to his feet. "And it's good he likes me."
"I was sure he would." Arsham rumbled. "If there'd been some reason not to, I would've spotted it." He smiled, and hugged his lover tightly. "Or at least I'd like to think I would've." He grinned.
"I like to believe I'm quite likable." Tyber chuckled and all but pulled the White Tiger into the nearest bathroom to get the worst of the soiling from their fur before Ebon and Cazi arrived.
"Oh, very likable." Arsham rumbled playfully, giving the Panther a quick kiss as they got under the hot water. "Especially out of your armor." He teased playfully, as he grabbed shampoo to scrub the Panther's back.
"That's only because you're hooked on what it covers up." Tyber chuckled and pressed into the contact with a pleasured moan.
"You got that right." Arsham rumbled, as he worked his way down the Panther's back. "Though it's more who it covers up." He added playfully, though he was serious. "Attractive Panthers aren't that uncommon, but ones who can keep my attention are."
"Mmmm, much the same can be said for anyone capable of keeping my attention on them." He let out of a soft breath and turned to give Arsham's thick white fur a good cleaning. "It's still hard to believe sometimes, just how quickly I fell for you." He murmured with a light kiss.
"I'm still rather amazed myself." Arsham agreed, as he leaned into the Panther's touch. "I wouldn't have thought I'd fall for anyone so quickly." He said fondly. "If at all, since I never really expected to care so much for someone outside the team."
"I doubt anyone expects to fall in love." He rumbled softly, his fingers lingering on the powerful chest he was washing as he leaned close to kiss his lover. "I know I never did."
"Oh, there are still a few romantics out there." Arsham rumbled back, as he claimed a more passionate kiss. "Not in my line of work though, usually." He chuckled softly, as he ran his fingers through the thick fur of the Panther's chest as he worked the soap out and Tyber worked it into his.
"You are so terribly, terribly tempting to forget we have company coming." Tyber shuddered in a hunger he barely understood and pulled Arsham against him under the hot water. "Sometimes I never want to let you go." He whispered throatily against the thick white and black stripped fur. "Even knowing I must."
"The feeling is very mutual, love." Arsham said softly, nuzzling the Panther. "But do we really want to put on a show for Ebon's boyfriend?" He teased playfully. "Though it makes one hell of a first impression."
"Yes," he murmured, clearly sorely tempted despite his modesty. "It does, but we shouldn't." He caught Arsham's mouth in a kiss that stole their breath before releasing him to finish cleaning their fur.
"We've made enough of those impressions already." He chuckled softly, as they finished rinsing off. "Even if it has been just my Bros."
"And enough stories that I will never hear the end of it from mine." Tyber chuckled tolerantly and turned the water off and the air on. "I'm sure everyone has heard by now that I have a boyfriend I can't keep my hands off."
"Mine are having a great deal of fun with it." Arsham chuckled, as they dried off. "Of course, Ebon's getting it too since he's just as bad with his boyfriend."
"I would be willing to bet that the others are just waiting for the four of us to get distracted to come watch." He shook his head in amusement. "Then get involved."
"I wouldn't be the least bit surprised." Arsham admitted with a grin. "It's not like we don't play that way without boyfriends involved." He smirked playfully and caught another kiss before the air turned off.
"But I am sure it is so much more fun when we forget they are there."
"It is." Arsham agreed. "People who forget they're being watched are a lot more fun to watch."
"And they are here." Tyber said quietly and made a simple hand motion to dress them before stepping into the hall.
"Ebon's rarely wrong when he gives a time estimate." Arsham chuckled as they walked toward the entryway. The door chime rang just as the White Tiger was opening the door. "Hi, Ebon, Cazi, come on in." He said, waving the Panther and his short, muscular Lion boyfriend in.
"Hello, Tyber." Ebon said with a warm smile. "This is my boyfriend, Cazi. Cazi, this is Tyber, Arsham's boyfriend."
"Pleased to meet you." Cazi said with an easy smile, as he stepped forward to offer a friendly hand as he sized up the new Panther on multiple levels, including the magical which left him seriously impressed, though he didn't show it.
"It is a pleasure," he shook Cazi's hand firmly as he returned the sizing up. It left him more than a touch curious just what this creature was and did to have such a complex aura. "You are a most unusual individual, Cazi."
"I hear that a lot." The Lion grinned. "Though around here, you have to be unusual just to keep up." He smirked playfully. "Of course, unusual coming from someone with a carnivorous mount is saying something."
"Having it be an unusual concept is still taking some getting used to." Tyber chuckled in admission as they settled in the living room. "Not many worlds I have visited used plant eaters for anything other than meat."
"Most of the ones around here use plant eaters as steeds." Cazi grinned. "Well, at least recently, historically griffins used to be used on Felsinor but that's ancient history. And there's the Doradi out on the rim, now they have some interesting mounts."
"Oh?" He perked up at the concept as the two resident familiars nosed their way into the house. "I don't remember getting to them in my reading."
"Wouldn't surprise me, they're a secretive bunch." Cazi said easily. "And they live up in the mountains of their world, so they get missed a lot. The Doradi are feline morphs, like the Felsin only there's only three clans as far as I could tell; Lynx, Mountain Lion and Caracal." He explained. "But the mounts are winged big cats; Panthers and Lions mostly though I did see a couple of Tigers."
"Quite effective in close combat, I would expect." Tyber nodded thoughtfully.
"Seemed to be." Cazi nodded. "And the Doradi are lethal with both javelin and bows while airborne."
"Always something to be good at, and good at avoiding." Tyber chuckled softly. "Ranged combat can completely change the odds in battle."
"It's also quite useful for hunting." Cazi nodded.
"True," he nodded. "Not something I use often, but it can be."
"The flying mounts come in handy for the Windriders, that's the Doradi who actually ride them, unusual approach to getting mates." He chuckled. "Well, maybe not that unusual, but it wasn't something I'd seen in some time."
"Snatch and grab?" He guessed.
"Yeah, mate-raiding." He nodded. "Which I know is practiced in some cultures but it's not something you see much now."
"They must get experienced quickly on how to tell who won't tear their throat out at night for it." Tyber chuckled with a shake of his head. "Some people are just not a bright idea to snatch."
"Well, as I understand it, it's supposedly some sort of honor to be chosen by the Windriders." He shook his head. "Though the first few nights are kind of dicey from what I saw."
"I can imagine," he shook his head and relaxed back. "Anyone with much fire in them would not take it kindly, honor or not."
"Well, cultural baggage can change a lot of things." Cazi shook his head. "And it was better than some of the arranged marriages."
"True," the big Panther shuddered at a few he's had to deal with from both sides of the line.
"Especially since the arranged marriages ignored things like the fact that some people prefer their own gender and not the opposite one." He chuckled. "The Windriders have almost the opposite view. For them 'normal' was that the opposite gender was for producing kittens but one should stick to ones own gender for pleasure." Cazi smirked.
"Reasonable enough," he nodded. "And not that different from the culture I grew up in. It's a good idea when birth control is a dicey thing at best. Not that everyone took to it, but it worked well, especially for the noble class where you don't want as many kits as possible."
"Yeah, I could see that." Cazi nodded. "Though around here we've got the Triad as the example of what relationships 'should' look like, though couples have always enjoyed a certain popularity. But for the most part nobody really cares what genders make up a given pairing. There are some exceptions to that, of course."
"There always are."
"True." Cazi chuckled, though it seemed a little more than the statement warranted. "I'm just hoping the Windriders don't reach space travel anytime soon."
"Oh, why's that?" Ebon asked curiously.
"Well, I'm not sure that Caracal really accepted my repeated 'no' on the subject of marrying him." Cazi shook his head. "Persistent is an extreme understatement."
"You just have that effect on people, Caz." Ebon teased playfully, and pulled the smaller Lion into a brief but intense kiss.
"Well, that's a good thing in certain cases." He grinned at his Panther. "A trifle annoying in others."
"So just when was this little escapade?" Ebon asked curiously. "You never mentioned it before."
"Before we met, love." Cazi grinned. "About a decade ago, give or take. And he was attractive enough, but I just couldn't handle how hierarchical their relationships are. You know how well I take orders."
"I wasn't aware that you did." Ebon grinned back. "But I can see how that wouldn't have worked well. So how'd you end up there in the first place?"
"A mentor of mine had this thing for assigning really weird tasks." Cazi shook his head. "And that time it was task that involved finding the feather of a cat. Took me months just to find out that silly little planet existed. It's on the restricted list due to developing culture."
"Did you ever find out what the purpose of that mission was?" Tyber broke in.
"He was looking for an old colleague of his, and a Seer friend of his told him to look for the feather of a cat." Cazi chuckled. "Turned out that said friend had decided that it was a good place to retire to. Mind you it took me six months to find out just who he was, not that was going anywhere after one of the Thunderbirds took a dislike to my shuttle during my descent from orbit."
"So how'd you get off that world?" Tyber flicked his ears forward, sure he was speaking to a mage but confused that he needed the craft.
"My mentor finally got back from conference and noticed the message I sent him." Cazi shook his head. "He says it was a conference, but I don't think even his conferences last for a year. At any rate, once he got the message, he translocated me back. He's very good at that particular kind of magic."
"That is not very long to be stranded in a reasonably fun place," Tyber commented softly. "It's good to be rescued though."
"It was aggravating more than anything." Cazi shook his head. "If I'd been planning to be stranded in a low tech zone it might even have been fun. But I really didn't have the family business set up to run properly in my absence yet, and it took another year to straighten things out."
"That would be aggravating," he nodded easily, thinking more of noble families than business he had little true understanding of.
"It was after that that I really got into the business, making sure that things could run the way I wanted them to for a decade or so, if I disappeared." Cazi chuckled. "So it did serve a purpose, and learning a little air magic didn't hurt." He grinned.
"At least there's that," Tyber nodded quietly.
"I was just glad they weren't water magic specialists." Cazi chuckled. "I have no head for water magic at all."
"With your fiery disposition, that's no big surprise." Ebon teased playfully.
"Oh, I am not going through that again." Tyber groaned as he finished healing himself from the pounding he'd taken subduing the entire team with Cazi's help.
"Just what prompted that outburst?" Cazi asked curiously, as he finished checking the guys over for injuries, while Tyber'd been healing himself. "I've never seen them react like that to anything, well except the time I put in the wrong porn tape and Ebon kind of freaked."
"The programming has a built in safeguard against being disabled." He stretched abused muscles that still felt the phantom pain of absent injuries. "And in here, it's completely disabled."
"And they know that ... I see." Cazi nodded. "So what's up that made it necessary to get them back in here?" He asked curiously.
"They want to leave the SG." He said simply as Ebon began to come around. "This is the only place to figure out how."
"How is going to involve finding away to break the programming out there." Cazi said quietly, as he helped Ebon to a sitting position. "I may have overdone the stunning spell a bit. But I wasn't sure how resistant the guys would be to it."
"A good mind healer can do it," Tyber said quietly as he knelt next to Arsham and held him until he came too. "I'm still working on who to approach. But until then, they may just have to stay put."
"Uh, somebody is gonna notice if they just sit in here until you find a good healer." Cazi shook his head. "Well, unless you can play with the time flow between this pocket dimension and our world." He added thoughtfully.
"Can and have," he nodded and urged Arsham to consciousness. "I can stop it completely."
"Hey, Cazi." Ebon said as he woke. "How'd you end up here?" He shook his head to clear it.
"Oh, a little winged jaguar told me things were getting a bit out of control." He grinned. "So he dropped me off to help."
"A little winged jaguar?" Ebon blinked. "I think Tyber hit me harder than I thought."
"Hah." Cazi snorted. "He didn't knock you out, I did. He had his hands full with others."
"So any major injuries?" Ebon asked looking around.
"Eight on one and we still managed to lose." Arsham shook his head. "Boy, I'm glad no one's ever gonna find out about that."
"I had help," Tyber chuckled and kissed his lover. "But I have to tell you, I never want to have to try that again. You guys beat the tar out of me."
"I should hope so." Ebon chuckled, as he turned to claim a kiss from Cazi.
"Sorry about that, love." Arsham said gently, as he returned the kiss. "And thanks for the assist, Cazi." He added smiling over at the muscular Lion, still in Lion war-form.
"Hey, I look after my friends." Cazi said easily. "Especially when winged jaguars go out of their way to tell me there's trouble." He shook his head.
"Powers are never good to ignore," Tyber chuckled. "But this does mean you guys really can't leave until the deprogramming is well underway."
"Okay, I know you can mess with how time flows." Arsham said easily. "But I hope this place has some outdoors space if we're gonna hang out here for awhile." He said hopefully, not having really gotten much exploring done.
"It can," he nodded and hugged him close. "It'll take a little time to arrange, but it's not hard."
"Thanks, we get a little stir crazy if we're cooped up indoors too long." He chuckled, as he watched the rest of the team begin to stir.
"Since I don't have the programming issues, I can give you a hand locating a suitable mind-healer." Cazi volunteered.
"It would be welcome," Tyber inclined his head. "This just went from a background project to top priority. I wasn't expecting quite so much resistance, honestly."
"Never underestimate the strength of genetic level programming." Cazi shook his head. "There's a reason the SG uses it, and that's cause it rarely ever breaks. Bends and twists a bit, but the core doesn't usually give."
"Well that's just too bad for it." The big Panther snorted. "Because this time it is going to loose on a grand scale." He growled softly. "Whether it likes the idea or not."
"Oh, I'm not disagreeing." Cazi grinned. "Just pointing out that it's not surprising the level of reaction you got. It's also going to require one hell of a talented mind-healer. There probably aren't one in five hundred who're qualified, and then you've got to figure out which ones to trust."
"And by request, it will be a Felsin healer." Tyber added quietly. "That makes it much harder."
"Well, not on Felsinor it doesn't." Cazi grinned. "I was actually working on the assumption we'd use a Felsin Healer. For work of this detail level, you try to stay within the same species, if you can."
"While most of the ones I know I can trust are definitely not Felsin, but they are also very accustomed to working with other races." He shook his head. "But most are servants of Kyvva or Myti."
"If we're gonna go that route, I'd talk to the jaguar and see if his mate's available." Cazi shook his head. "But I think the guys will be more comfortable with someone who's just a Felsin Healer. They don't like Healers much to start with."
"And we already agreed that it would be Felsin." Tyber said quietly. "Do you have someone in mind?"
"A possibility." He nodded. "But it wouldn't hurt for you to double check. I don't make a habit of doing background checks on people I'm sleeping with." He chuckled. "Too much danger of missing something due to personal bias."
"Of course," he chuckled softly. "It's not like I'd trust Arsham's mind to someone I am not personally sure of anyway."
"I'm not going to be any less careful with Ebon." Cazi said matter-of-factly.
"You know guys, we're still here." Ebon said in mock indignation as mock cuffed Cazi upside the head.
"We know that." Cazi objected. "Just deciding if Nareena's up to rewiring you guys or not."
"Rewiring?" Arsham shook his head. "Well, as long as you're not trying to hotwire us."
"You guys are hot enough as it is, without any help from me." Cazi smirked playfully.
"Any hotter and you'd melt the planet," Tyber chuckled and kissed his lover fiercely. "But seriously, your minds are in our judgment, and we're just being careful."
"Good to hear that." Ebon chuckled, as he broke from a fierce kiss/wrestling match with Cazi. "We've been mind-fucked once already."
"Between the two of you, we should be safe." Arsham said seriously, as he claimed an intensely passionate kiss from Tyber that rapidly deteriorated into a scramble of removing clothes and oblivion to the rest of the world.
"Thank you for seeing me so quickly, Healer Moonstone." Tyber greeted the regal Tigress in her office with honest warmth and a critical mind and eye.
"Well, Cazimir said it was important." She smiled warmly, as she gestured for him to be seated. "And since he takes little seriously, it got my attention." She finished as she sat behind the large wooden desk in her office.
"It is true," the big Panther chuckled softly. "The situation is most delicate, and very important to both of us. Even if he had not known you, you are one of very few even qualified to handle it."
"Most situations involving his boyfriend and his boyfriend's family are delicate." She smiled softly. "But I take it there is a health issue, that either their employer can not handle, or does not want handled."
"Would likely have a collective psychotic episode if it was even brought up." He nodded cautiously. "And has already done a great deal to keep from even being thought of." He paused and regarded her seriously, running both his own magic, gut instincts and what he knew of her threw his mind. He knew he liked her, and her morals checked out flawlessly as did her skills.
"How much do you know about Ebon and company?" He asked quietly.
"More than their employer would like, I'm sure." She said quietly. "Cazi has told me quite a bit, and I have some access to classified data through the Health Ministry. The Generation Zero project created quite a stir, and a even bigger one when its creator took a position with Ebon's employer."
"Then you are likely aware of just how ... explosive ... a situation it is when I tell you that they wish to retire." Tyber said softly.
"Their employer doesn't have a retirement plan, last I checked." She said softly. "Though it's equally surprising that they want to."
"Their employer's latest training program has them all quite upset." He nodded fractionally. "Add to that their boss and they are more than a little interested in getting out. I gave them the ability to think about it, but it is well beyond my ability to undo the damage out here in the real world."
"The programming will be tricky to undo." She nodded. "And by no means quick to fix, though it may not be that difficult to tone the response mechanism down, so the long term work isn't quite so hazardous." She said thoughtfully, thinking aloud. "Have they agreed to having this done?" She asked simply, though it was clear that the question was important.
"Yes," he nodded easily. "You may ask them yourself in the sanctuary I created. Without the interference, they are quite agreeable to it."
"I'm sure the interference makes sure they're anything but." She nodded. "I'm surprised you were able to get them into the sanctuary."
"Well, the first time they didn't really understand what it did until they were inside. The second time ..." he rubbed his shoulder in memory. "Required a fair amount of healing afterwards. Easily subdued is not a phrase I would apply to any of them."
"So that's what Cazi was talking about." She shook her head. "And no, easily subdued would not be a good term for them. Even with magic, it would be very difficult." She said, as she looked at him with a trained Healer's eyes looking for any injury that might have escaped healing, and was pleased to find none.
"It was." He nodded and smiled fractionally to see the flair of magic in her tools. "The eventual two on nine odds didn't help any either. I was very grateful for the sleeping spell when Cazi arrived. It was a decidedly unpleasant situation to be in."
"I can imagine it would be." Nareena nodded. "Ebon and his brothers have a reputation that is not exaggerated." She smiled.
"No, though it did help that they weren't trying to kill me." He chuckled ruefully. "Just escape. Of course, it didn't help me any either that I was only trying to knock them out. It is not one of my better combat styles."
"Very few warriors specialize in knocking people out." Nareena chuckled. "If they did, more weapons would be blunt and made of rubber or foam."
"And the Healer's job ever so much easier." He added with an amused rumbled.
"True, but I can't see warriors being happy with that arrangement for long." She shook her head. "Especially the ones who like to shoot things."
"They'd just load more powder and make them lethal anyway." He shook his head. "Enough force and even air can be fatal."
"Or as my older brother likes to point out, in the right hands a drinking straw is a lethal weapon." She shook her head. "Of course, he never says that where father can hear it."
"I don't expect so," Tyber chuckled softly. "And he is quite right, of course. And that is before you get into Psi and Magic of any kind."
"Most of the practitioner of Psi or Magic around here wouldn't even call themselves warriors, preferring more refined words for it." Nareena nodded. "But what really differs is the choice of weapons, mind instead of muscle."
"True," he nodded. "And some who confuse the issue by choosing both."
"Some warriors just like to learn every weapon that comes their way. Mind or muscle, as long as it's useful." She chuckled.
"And some simply enjoy being confusing." He chuckled deep in his chest. "Cazi, for example."
"You think he's confusing?" Nareena chuckled. "A brief look at his medical profile is even more confusing." She shook her head fondly.
"Comes with a background and Gifts such as his." Tyber grinned a bit. "Never mind the interest of a trickster Power."
"Yes, Caito is rather fond of him." Nareena smiled. "But then shapeshifting was Caito's gift to the Felsin in the beginning."
"And what trickster would not approve of such a versatile one with a sense of humor?" Tyber chuckled. "What has Cazi told you of me?"
"That you're a paladin from a part of reality quite distant from our own, sent on a mission from the Power you serve. Since you're here that means that the Triad approved your being here." She said easily. "Oh, and he might have mentioned something about you being unable to keep your hands off Arsham for more than about five minutes." She added with a playfully teasing smile.
"I think we managed seven once." He replied with a mock insulted tone and great dignity, though the humor was easily evident in his golden eyes. "He makes it extremely difficult to keep my mind on business."
"They are an attractive bunch." Nareena smiled. "Their designer may have been lacking in morals, but he certainly wasn't lacking in good taste."
"Definitely," Tyber rumbled in fond memories. "And sharp, interesting minds to go with those good looks too. It is quite amazing sometimes to think that be so loyal to each other and have such a sense of payback, yet have so very few morals to speak of. I am sure they were intended to have far fewer than they do. Much less what they are developing."
"I'm sure you're right." Nareena agreed. "But it's very difficult to create life in these parts without it getting some morals, especially if you make it fundamentally Felsin. Felsira is not fond of those who create life simply to be weapons, and it wouldn't surprise me if either she or Caito made some small 'adjustments' to the designs."
He couldn't help but laugh. "That may explain my love's most unique heritage, and the magic he shouldn't have." He shook his head in amusement. "Did you know they managed to create a near-Sabertooth in that project?"
"Really?" Nareena asked in surprise. "That has to be some divine tinkering, since the Sabertooths disappeared before we even discovered the science of genetics." She said, almost saying something but stopping herself.
"Divine, or spirit." He said more quietly. "He is enough Saber to have a powerful Saber mage's spirit speak to him. And one that cares enough about him to save my life after a fight I only sort of won." Tyber shook his head. "They have returned."
"I know." Nareena said quietly. "However, Arsham's employer is not aware of that fact."
"And needs to remain ignorant for as long as possible." He nodded with a low voice. "Just as they must remain ignorant of the fact I am teaching him magic and he already has a strong familiar. I would not rush them, but I must admit that the end of their employment can not come soon enough for me, as long as they live through it."
"Well, I don't think they'd know a familiar if they saw it. With a few exceptions." She shook her head. "But there'd be collective fits if they knew about you teaching him magic. There'd be high ranking fits if they knew who you work for."
"And a lot higher ranking ones if they knew exactly why I am here." He said softly, the tone of extreme confidentiality. "I seriously doubt they would handle knowing they ticked off a foreign Power enough to have Her send someone in to see them destroyed and their best weapon turned on them. I wasn't expecting things to move so quickly, but I am not sorry for it now that I understand just how far they would go." His eyes hardened slightly, though not towards her. "Your assistance would also be most welcome in deprogramming the Kitten Commandos we rescued."
"Out of curiosity, how did they manage to tick off a foreign Power?" She asked curiously. "So you were behind that raid on Citadel." She added with an approving smile. "Of course, I'll help."
"Honestly, I have no idea." Tyber shook his head. "But my Lady Kyvva has gone to unusual lengths to send me here and I am glad She did."
"As am I, honestly." She smiled. "Between you, me and Cazi we should be able to get Ebon and the guys out. But honestly, I don't see them actually retiring." She chuckled. "Changing targets yes, but not retiring."
"Oh, I am sure of it." He chuckled dangerously. "You don't retire from a calling, and it is for them as much as for either of us. Though it will be good to finally get to go on missions with them. Staying behind is unpleasant, even with distractions."
"For a warrior I imagine it is." Nareena smiled. "For a Healer, its time to prepare for fixing what happens during the mission."
Tyber leaned back and thought about that for a bit before he nodded. "True, though for me it's more that I can't be there with Arsham, even if nothing goes wrong." He admitted quietly. "I miss him, even when I know he can handle things."
"Cazi says the same thing about Ebon." She smiled. "And I admit, I'm finding I miss Cazi when he's not around." She added with a fond smile. "But I know I'm not qualified to work in that world. Not that that makes it easier, but it allows me to accept it."
"While I am very qualified," Tyber sighed softly. "It makes it that much harder, knowing I would be of use there."
"Something you'll be able to do, once they break away." She said gently. "Which will happen in time."
"And until then, we all have our work cut out for us." Hr sighed. "I never expected to get this ... personally ... involved."
"Falling in love is rarely expected." She smiled warmly. "I certainly didn't expect it."
"No, it is not." He closed his eyes fractionally, trying not to think about the true future of his time with Arsham. That it was destined to end, and end far too soon. Arsham to his afterlife, and himself to his next mission.
"And yet it bothers you." She said gently. "Because you're here on a mission which may not last as long as you'd like, now that things have changed."
"Because I am immortal and he is not." He said very quietly.
"What he is, is unknown like the others." She said quietly. "No sign of aging since he reached physical maturity, same as the others. And if he's that close to pure Saber then he'd be long-lived anyway."
"It is a comfort," Tyber nodded in acceptance. "I try to think of that and not what comes later. Sometimes it helps."
"Love and loss." She said quietly. "They always seem to move in pairs, though separated by time. But to forgo love to avoid the loss, would be a truly hollow life."
"If I was going to go that route, I would never have touched him." Tyber sighed softly. "I always assumed if I felt this way, it would be for another Servant. Someone that was part of my world. It has been a very interesting lesson in my own game." He chuckled ruefully.
"Your own game?" She asked curiously. "I'm not sure I follow you."
"Kyvva is a Power of Fate, and I am Her Servant, Her messenger and will in the mortal realm." He closed his eyes. "I have arranged more love affairs than I can remember, changed the course of history, built and destroyed worlds in Her name. I had forgotten that I am just as much a subject of Fate and emotions as any other."
"She chose an interesting part of reality to send you to then." Nareena chuckled, though it was kindly. "Even the Powers around here don't believe in Fate or anything else that implies the future is knowable. Which would explain the extreme shortage of prophets in these parts ... well, except for Earth, where I swear they have a prophet on every corner." She shook her head.
"Earth ... yes, that world." Her shook his head in bemusement. "If there was ever a planet to exemplify contradiction, that is it."
"That's putting it mildly." She chuckled. "I'm so glad they don't schedule the galactic medical conferences there very often. The planet gives me a headache."
"You and probably everyone else who can hear with more than their ears." He chuckled. "I'm quite sure I do not even want to find out what it looks like to True Sight."
"Probably a big sign that says 'Don't look behind the sign." Nareena chuckled.
"Which, of course, is the first thing anyone does." He chuckled at his own tendencies.
"Of course, that's why the sign is there." She grinned. "To get everyone's attention. The universe has a very strange sense of humor."
"Among other things," he shook his head with a chuckle. "When will you be available to see the guys?"
"As much as I'd like to say right away, I'll have to wait for the weekend to get away from the office. A sudden disappearance would raise too many questions." She easily. "It's only three days, the situation should be stable that long. Hopefully the weekend will be enough time to get them so they don't run for the hills when the subject of deprogramming comes up."
Tyber regarded her quietly. "I see Cazi did not explain everything about what has happened. They are in my home, a pocket dimension under my control. No time will pass between this world and it until I choose it too. Whenever you enter, you will emerge only a few minutes later, according to is place."
"And the suppression of the programming, is that an effect of the pocket dimension, or a separate magic?" She asked carefully.
"Separate. Both are effects I put there, but they are not linked."
"That's good, because in order to cure the effect I have to be able to see it active." She said simply. "Especially since it will work a little bit differently in each of them."
"If they are in separate rooms, I can even keep it suppressed for all but the one you are working with."
"That would probably be best, since we don't need another panic session. That would be counterproductive." She said with a wry smile.
"Never mind painful," he chuckled softly. "I do not want to go through that again."
"And I don't want to go through it a first time." She shook her head. "One combative patient is usually quite enough, at least without additional staff."
"Oh, they aren't very combative until you corner them." He shook his head. "It's a flight response at first, much like the response to females."
"Cazi told me about that one." Nareena shook her head. "One of the more interesting programming I've heard of."
"I have to admit it's one I find the most offensive, given the Felsin culture about sex." He said quietly. "The obedience, as annoying as I find it, at least makes sense. That one ... is just cruel."
"I have an idea what the 'thought process' behind it was." Nareena said quietly. "The creators weren't sure what would happen if a Generation Zero bred with a normal Felsin, and they weren't interested in finding out. And sterile males are often less aggressive, not something wanted in commandos."
"And far from the worst thing they've done." He muttered.
"Not even close to the worst." Nareena agreed easily. "But the government continues to play tit for tat games with them, instead of finishing the game."
"It will happen, in time." He said with quiet certainty. "One way or another."
"Oh, I'm sure of that." Nareena said easily. "Just a question of how many people get hurt before then."
"As few as possible," he growled softly. "For now I simply have to content myself with hunting their Kitten Commando 'recruiters' and watching you work."
"The more of them you can catch the better." Nareena said approvingly. "And the less kittens who'll need deprogrammed before they can be returned home."
"And now that they know how we operate a little bit, it's a lot harder to pull them out of the complex." He muttered in irritation. "They've got a Power backing them quite directly."
"I know." Nareena sighed. "The Overlords are priests among other things. But the more power they have to commit to security and defense the less they have to use elsewhere."
"And with the NightBlades out of their control, they have to commit that much more." He grinned dangerously. "Would you come with me today? To at least begin to sort thing out."
"Yes, you're the last appointment on my schedule. So no one's expecting me back until tomorrow morning." She said easily. "We'll see what can be done. I'd like to at least get the programming's self-defense mechanism disable, so we don't have to worry about them flipping out."
"That would be very welcome," he smiled and stood easily. "Knocking Arsham out was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do." He said quietly. "I will be very glad when it is no longer a threat."
"Hurting someone we care about is always hard, even when we know it's for their own good." Nareena said softly, as she stood and collected the few things she would need.
"My vehicle, or yours?" He asked politely.
"I should drop mine off at home, since I'm leaving for the day." She said easily. "But we can go in yours from there. The fewer strange vehicles seen coming and going at Arsham's the better, I expect."
"No doubt," he nodded. "Just seeing you, if they can ID you, will cause some concern. Not that it matters anymore, but it might be useful for them to be able to get back in after their heads are unscrambled."
"Useful, but risky." Nareena cautioned. "An unfortunate meeting with one of the telepaths there could blow things sky high."
"I know, but I can't discount it any more than Ebon could." He said quietly. "They could do an incredible amount of damage before they are uncovered and I have to pull them out."
"Could, and probably will." Nareena chuckled softly. "Just from Cazi tells me, I'm pretty sure that at least one executive will have a very bad day."
"Yes, he's going to find out what happens when they are no longer restricted to harmless ranks." Tyber nodded grimly. "And anything associated with the training program too."
"That will probably be the difficult one for Ebon and company. Rescues aren't something they have a lot of experience with." She said quietly.
"That's where my friends come in." He nodded before they parted to their separate vehicles. "It's a specialty."
"A useful alliance of talents." She nodded.
Tyber pulled Arsham into his arms for a heated kiss of greeting before he even introduced the elegant Tigress only a few steps behind him.
"Going to introduce your friend, Tyber?" Ebon asked with a teasing smile, just before Cazi pulled him into a passionate kiss to stop further questions.
"Mm, guys, this is Nareena Moonstone." Tyber grinned at the other Panther. "She's who's going to set your heads right." He hugged Arsham a little closer and nuzzled him, unaccountably nervous.
"Hello." Nareena said with a warm smile. "Hello, Cazi."
"Hi, 'Reena." Cazi grinned. "Gonna straighten these guys out huh?"
"Well, just get some unwanted interlopers out." She smiled back. "The other is just more than I'm qualified to do."
"Pleased to meet you, Nareena." Ebon said, as he walked over with Cazi alongside. "Cazi's had a lot to say about you."
"Oh dear." She blushed lightly. "Did he really?"
"I was good." The small Lion protested.
"I'm sure you were." She grinned back, indicating she'd been teasing him.
"I like her already." Arsham whispered softly to Tyber.
"She is something special." He murmured and nuzzled him again. "The best this world has to offer."
"The first thing is to fix things so you can actually cooperate in your treatment without the special support provide in here." Nareena said easily. "Everyone is in agreement with getting the programming removed, is that correct?" She asked simply.
"Yes, ma'am." Ebon said politely, and was supported by a chorus of affirmatives from the others.
"Nareena will do fine, Ebon." She said with a smile for the Panther. "I'm not an officer of any kind."
"Sorry, Nareena." He smiled. "I want you to start with me."
"Are you sure?" She asked gently.
"Yes, I don't ask the others to do anything I'm not willing to do." He said firmly. "But can Cazi come with me, wherever you're going to do this?"
"Of course." She nodded, and then turned to Tyber. "You said it was possible to get some privacy."
"Of course," he nodded easily. "Would a library, office, bedroom, garden or wilderness setting suit you best?"
"Perhaps a garden." Nareena said after some thought. "A bedroom just suggests all the wrong things."
"I'm sure," he chuckled and kissed Arsham's neck. "Come, I'll show you out and set things up. You wanted all the blocks I put on the programming removed in that area, correct?"
"Yes." She nodded. "I need to see what the programming looks like when it's functioning correctly."
"Which is why I'm coming." Cazi said quietly. "For when all hell breaks lose."
"It might not." Ebon said quietly.
"It will." Cazi said, nuzzling his Panther playfully. "Nothing ever goes quietly around you guys."
"Would you like a little backup?" Tyber offered quietly.
"Might not be a bad idea, if its okay." Cazi asked looking at Ebon and Nareena.
"Up to you, Ebon." Nareena said easily.
"Best to be prepared." Ebon nodded. "Thank you again, Tyber." He smiled warmly at the other Panther.
"You are welcome," he smiled back and hugged his lover close. "Sorry love, but this is where we must part until Ebon is done."
"Just be careful, love." Arsham rumbled as he pulled the Panther close and kissed him soundly. "Take care of him." He whispered gently.
"As I will take care of you." Tyber kissed him back and reluctantly let the White Tiger go.
"Till later, love." Arsham said with a gentle and watched as the four continued outside into the incredible formal gardens of Tyber's pocket dimension estate.
"Very nice, Tyber." Nareena said as she looked around. "Much like the gardens of my father's estate."
"Thank you, Nareena." He smiled at her and showed the way deep into them to a water garden of shimmering waterfalls and sparkling pools among the greens under a soft blue sky. "I enjoy having the mix of the tamed wild. It's much like myself and those I care about."
"This is nice, Tyber." Cazi said approvingly. "The waterfall reminds me of some property I was surveying a couple of months ago. Smaller of course, but the colors are very similar."
"There is something very soothing about them." Tyber smiled and guided the odd foursome to sit around the largest pool was, cooled by the falling water and trees all around.
"This is a good place." Nareena nodded. "The next step would be to remove the restraints on the programming."
Tyber took a deep breath and look at Ebon and Cazi. "Are you two ready?" He asked quietly.
"I'm not sure how to be ready for this." Ebon said quietly. "And that's something I don't think I've ever said."
"Don't worry, love." Cazi said softly. "We can handle this. And once everybody's programming is turned down a notch, you, me and Nareena are going out for a night. I'd invite Tyber, but I expect he's going to be with a certain White Tiger." He teased the paladin playfully.
"You better believe it, as good as the offer sounds."
"You are presuming a lot aren't you?" Nareena shook her head at Cazi in amusement.
"Oh, you know you like the idea." Cazi smirked.
"Incorrigible isn't he?" Ebon smiled at the Tigress.
"Usually." Nareena nodded. "I think everyone is as ready as they're going to be."
"Okay, here it goes." Tyber concentrated a moment and created a bubble of normal reactions within the calming effects of his home.
Ebon's reaction was to tense as his conscious mind got into a full out brawl with the instinctive reactions of the programming. Each minor victory for the programming cause him to move a little, but the incredible will of the Panther was holding for now.
Nareena moved swiftly, slipping the healing strands of her powerful, yet gentle, telepathy in and amongst the knots of the programming. It was laborious and delicate work loosening the threads of the programming without damaging the mind it was wound tightly to.
Suddenly, the programming snapped into control and Ebon bolted only to be caught by Cazi, suddenly morphed into a nine foot tall red-gold Dracon. "I could use some assistance here." Cazi said, as he wrestled with the powerfully built Panther. The shifter knew of several spells that would be wonderfully helpful, but he wasn't skilled enough to cast them while wrestling.
He'd barley gotten the words out when the paladin was there with powerful arms around Ebon's, pulling the other Panther back and worked to pin him against a large tree.
"Rego Corporem." Cazi intoned, once Tyber had Ebon contained for a few moments. Suddenly the Panther stiffened and was still though it was clear that he was still conscious and struggling. "Don't know how long that body binding will hold though." He said winded. "I forget just how strong he is."
"His mind is equally strong." Nareena said softly as she continued working, moving carefully around the innate shields that Ebon seemed to have floating in odd places in his mind.
"And they're all going to be this strong." Tyber grumbled, feeling the power Cazi's magic was only mostly contacting, even with the reinforcement Tyber could offer.
"Not quite as strong." Nareena said softly, as she worked. "Quick scan showed stronger programming on Ebon."
"Makes sense." Cazi said quietly. "As the leader, they'd want to make sure he stayed controlled more than the others."
"True," Tyber tightened his grip and reinforced the magic locking Ebon's body in place.
After almost an hour, the tension in Ebon's frame slowly relaxed until he was no longer fighting the magic.
"He'll be fine now." Nareena said quietly, as she calmed herself from the exertion. "If you've got a hot tub or spring in here, he should soak in it for awhile. Static resistance like he was doing, will make even his muscles sore."
"Perdo Vim." Cazi said quietly, dispelling the binding enchantment he had cast on his lover, leaving only Tyber's magic in place, which faded a moment later, though the larger Panther was cautious as he let his grip on Ebon go.
"There's a hot spring a little ways away." He offered quietly. "Leave the interference down?"
"Yes, though it will make no difference for Ebon now, as far as discussing treatment goes." She said, as Cazi supported a slightly dazed Ebon.
"Which way to the spring, Tyber?" Cazi asked politely, still in Dracon form. The big Panther just nodded and helped them get Ebon the couple hundred yards it was to a very natural looking hot spring turned into a bubbling garden feature.
"Off with the clothes?" Tyber asked quietly as they got to the steaming water's edge.
"Absolutely." Ebon mumbled tiredly and began taking them off with two sets of helpful hands that weren't entirely keeping to themselves.
He groaned softly as the water soaked into his fur and soothed his abused muscles with a silky warmth that wasn't completely natural.
"Oh, that feels good." Ebon groaned softly. "I'm guessing the process worked. Or did you have to put the suppression back up, Tyber?" He asked curiously.
"No, the suppression is still off." He smiled slightly and rubbed Ebon's bare shoulders. "This is just you."
"That's good." Ebon said, watching as Cazi returned to Lion form. "Then it should work on the guys as well." He added. "Which means you better stay dressed Cazi, otherwise we'll be making the guys wait."
"Nareena needs to rest, love." Cazi smiled as he slipped out of clothes and into the spring with Ebon. "'Sides I just want to relax here with you." He rumbled, as he relaxed against his Panther in the hot water as he hands gently massaged his lover's chest.
"What can I do for you?" Tyber turned his attention to the Tigress with an open offer to anything he could provide.
"A meditation room with soft pillows, a pot of hot water and the bag I left in the entry room to this place." She said softly, taking him up on the offer of anything. "That programming is some of the most convoluted damage I've ever seen in one mind."
"I do not doubt it." He nodded and offered his arm to her. "The room will be ready when we get there."
"Thank you, Tyber." She said, as she stood and took his arm. "Once we get this basic repair done on them all, they'll need to be back in the 'real' world for a while to let it settle." She explained as they walked. "This isn't going to be quick or easy."
"They can not settle here, even without the shields in place?" He asked quietly, not liking the idea of them leaving half healed.
"As wonderful as this place is, Tyber." She started gently. "The mind knows it's not the 'real' world. And their minds need to process their new patterns in the context of the 'real' world. Especially since they know that the programming can be suppressed here." She said quietly. "They need to believe that the repairs work in the 'real' world."
"I understand," he nodded, clearly very unhappy but accepting the Healer's words as true. "I can not say I will like it, but I understand."
"I'm not happy about it either, Tyber." She said gently. "I'd much rather keep them in here until the healing was complete. But sometimes you can't keep the patient in the hospital as long as you'd like."
"No, I suppose not." He accepted it quietly. "Hopefully their calls to duty will be few until then." He shook his head. "At least they are all adept at covering their tracks and intent."
"Hopefully so, seeing as they just returned from a mission, according to Cazi." She nodded. "At least you get to stay here with them. I have to return to the city between treatments."
"And be very careful you are not seen." He looked at her worriedly as he stopped them at a door. "If you will not allow me to arrange it, at least."
"Well, if you can create a shortcut between here and my apartment, I'll take it." She said easily. "It'll raise way too many questions if I'm seen coming and going from Arsham's regularly.
"Easily done, though I will have to open it each time." He told her softly and opened the door to exactly the medication room she had had in mind. "It amounts to having you walk into this home from your apartment and walk out in his home."
"That will be much better, thank you." She smiled. "If you're willing I'd like to do the future treatments here as well. The fact that you can alter time flow means that we don't have to worry about anyone noticing any of us missing for a couple days at a time."
"I assumed they would be," he chuckled slightly. "My home is at your disposal, Nareena."
"I would never make such an assumption about someone else's home." Nareena smiled gently. "But thank you, Tyber. You're probably the best thing that's ever happened to this team, even if they don't realize it yet."
He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "You are most welcome, Nareena." He smiled honestly. "You are healing a great hurt in the one I love more than my own existence. There is nothing I would not do for him."
"They do have a way of finding their way inside your heart, don't they?" Nareena smiled softly.
"They are very good at it." He chuckled to cover his reaction. "I will leave you to your meditations now."
"If the others should ask, I'll be ready for the next one in two hours." She said as she began retrieving things she needed for meditation from the bag she'd brought.
"I understand," he inclined his head and closed the door to give her her privacy.
"Ready, love?" Tyber nuzzled his mate and pulled him close, as nervous as any of them for what was coming.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Arsham rumbled quietly, and claimed an intense kiss.
"Afterwards, guys." Cazi teased softly, as he shifted to Dracon form , knowing that it would be needed.
"Whenever you're ready, Nareena." Arsham added after the kiss broke.
"Are you ready, Tyber?" Nareena asked the Panther gently.
"As I'll ever be." He nodded and steeled himself internally for what was to come. He shifted and put his mate into a nearly helpless position, his arousal kept down by what was coming. Only then did he drop the interference to the programming.
Arsham's reaction was nearly as violent as Ebon's had been, though the fact that he was restrained before it started helped a great deal. The two previous adjustments had shown Nareena a great deal about how the programming worked, so it was a little easier each time. Easier was, however, a very relative term since the programming squirm and clawed to protect itself against the intruder.
Unexpectedly, there was a surge of undirected magical energy as the programming tried to protect itself by hiding in a largely undeveloped part of Arsham's mind. For a moment the Tiger's natural ability to break patterns shattered the magical bonds holding him, though this was mostly due to the counter-magic being entirely unexpected.
"Oh shit!" Cazi growled, as he worked to rebuild the bonds that hand been holding Arsham, while Ebon and Tyber restrained the struggling White Tiger by brute force without actually hurting him.
"Still, love." Tyber rumbled, desperate not to have to hurt him and cursing himself silently for not thinking of this as Arsham's magical gifts abruptly stopped working.
"Okay, binding back in place." Cazi murmured. "Should have considered the effect of untrained ability." He muttered, as he watched Nareena work.
Nareena was having a much more difficult time with Arsham than she expected as the programming took advantage of the White Tiger's natural ability to hide, conceal and encrypt things. Even with her completely overwhelming advantage in psi-strength and experience it was difficult for her to get her 'hands' on the programming to pin it down. Nareena had no intention of stopping until she finished however.
"Is there a problem?" Cazi asked quietly, about an hour into the procedure.
"His mind is more adept at hiding things than the others." Nareena said softly, as she pinned down a particularly slippery portion of the programming. "Ebon was stronger, but Arsham is more agile and his natural attunement to patterns doesn't make things easy."
"Anything we can help with?" Tyber asked worriedly.
"Just do what you can to keep him calm." Nareena said quietly, most of her attention in the psi-realm. "Actually, if the temperature of this pool could be brought up I'd suggest a warm water soak."
"You mean a hot tub." Cazi said easily, as he considered the waterfall fed pool. "Any objection to me warming it up temporarily?" He asked Tyber, as he put the restraint spell into a holding slot while he prepared a second spell.
"Already warming." The paladin responded quickly, his grip tightening slightly as he felt Arsham twitch. "Help me get him in it."
"Cazi, stay focused on your spells." Ebon said firmly, as he took the other side of the struggling Tiger. "I'll help Tyber get him in."
The warmth of the pool did seem to calm the White Tiger some, as his struggles decreased noticeably. This was only true, however, as long as Tyber was in contact with him. . Fortunately, Tyber had no intentions of being anywhere else but nuzzling and murmuring assurances to him while he kept him from moving too much.
In the psi-realm Nareena felt as thorny she was trying to separate roses from a patch of thornweed vine. Thorns everywhere and a great deal of interwoven thought and program. The deeper she went, the more she worried that somehow the White Tiger's programming was so intricate that she'd have to try and do the entire deprogramming in one shot. That idea didn't please her at all.
When she'd just about decided that it was going to be all at once, she found a strangely open area of mental space that the programming seemed barred from entering. Working outward from this 'shielded' space, she managed to finally track down and pacify the last of the programming's defenses. Pausing a moment to look back at the open space, she was shocked at what she saw. But it was a pleasant shock, and not the nasty ones she was used to finding in patient's minds.
"Okay, you can let him go." She said exhaustedly, as she separated her mind from his. "Process complete."
"You okay, Nareena?" Cazi asked after he released the binding spell. "That was almost three hours worth." He said, sitting down next to her, putting his arm around her.
"I'll be fine." She nodded. "Let him soak for a while longer, and then get him dried off and into a warm, soft bed. He'll probably sleep for at least twelve hours."
"Will do," Tyber let out a breath of relief and shifted his grip from restraining to embracing. "You going to be okay, love?" He murmured quietly.
"Just tired." Arsham rumbled, as he leaned against his Panther. "Feel like I just went through twelve hours of combat exercises."
"That is tired." Ebon said quietly.
"You can't be in a safer place to rest and recover." Tyber kissed him gently on the cheek.
"Right now, I don't care, as long as its with you." Arsham said drowsily.
"I think he's about to go to sleep on his feet." Ebon said quietly. "But he couldn't be in better hands." He said with an approving smile for the other Panther. It wasn't just anyone that Ebon would admit could look after one of his Bros as well as he could.
"As soon as his muscles recover, I'll get him to bed for a nice long rest." He promised Nareena and smiled back at Ebon, grateful the NightBlade leader approved of his involvement. "Nareena, do you mind waiting on any more of this until after Arsham has recovered?"
"I'm going to need longer to relax myself." Nareena admitted. "There's no rush."
"Good," Tyber murmured, most of his attention on his exhausted and relaxing mate. "Please make full use of my home." He reinforced his previous offer. "Kimmi will see to anything you desire."
"Thank you." Nareena smiled. "Don't hesitate to come get me, if anything seems wrong." She said gently.
"I will." He promised and shifted so Arsham could rest completely supported by Tyber's body.
"Now, lets find you a bed, Nareena." Cazi said firmly. "You're way more tired than just meditating will cover."
"This way, sir, ma'am." A harem-silk dressed girl startled them slightly by her sudden appearance, though her voice was very polite and soft.
"Thank you, Kimmi." Ebon said politely, as he and Cazi supported the exhausted Tigress. They followed the all but naked brown and blond mouse to Nareena's meditation room door, then threw it to a door none had noticed before that opened to a light, airy and soothingly magical room that smelled faintly of pleasant things.
"Wonderful place." Cazi commented absently. "Must be nice being able to rearrange your home at will." He added, as he looked for the bed and saw the grand four poster item done in white and creams with silken sheets, satin pillows and fluffy feather filled comforters.
"Okay, Nareena." Cazi smiled. "Time for bed." He added, and started helping her undress for bed. The Tigress was mostly out of it from exhaustion, but she kept leaning her head against Ebon's chest. "Just go with it, love." Cazi whispered to the slightly bemused Panther. Once Nareena was carefully tucked under the covers, the two toms stripped down and joined her one on each side.
"Are you sure?" Ebon said softly.
"You asked me what she wanted." Cazi chuckled softly. "But this will have to do, as she's in no condition to play. Just cuddle, Ebon."
"Okay." The big Panther said uncertainly as he lay down next to the already sleeping Tigress. It suddenly hit him, that somewhere along the line, she must have adjusted his reaction to females as well.
"Stop thinking and go to sleep, love." Cazi whispered softly just before he drifted off.
"Right." Ebon nodded, and let himself relax into sleep.
"What's that?" Tyber asked quietly when he opened his eyes to find his mate staring at a glowing cube of smaller cubes that was floating about an inch above his hand.
"A puzzle." Arsham said quietly, clearly focused mostly on the glowing cube. "And a key of some sort, I think."
"To your gift?" He regarded the object with all his senses.
"Not exactly." Arsham said softly. "Well maybe, I'm not sure. Though I think it has something to do with the lost city of Kel." He said as one of the cubes slid sideways and matched up with another of similar color. There were five different colors among the smaller cubes; red, green, blue, black and white. The puzzle was clearly both magical and psionic in nature, and it resonated with a power and energy that seemed very old to Tyber.
Not having a clue about what was clearly a very personal puzzle token, the panther kept his mouth shut and watched quietly as Arsham worked his way threw it.
"It's funny." Arsham said as he worked on the complicated puzzle. "It appeared after Nareena cleaned out some of the garbage in my head. Like it had been there all along."
"It probably was," Tyber murmured softly and carefully drew Arsham into his arms. "Much like your magic, and your ability to love."
"I didn't know anything about love, till you walked into my life." Arsham rumbled, and turned to kiss his Panther passionately as the cube faded into the palm of his hand. "And I'm so very glad you did."
"Me too." He rumbled deep in his throat and claimed another heated kiss. "Done with the puzzle for now?"
"I think so." He rumbled. "I've still got something of a headache from getting my head rewired." He smirked. "The puzzle can wait." He grinned, as his hands began to explore the Panther's dense fur and found a dark set returning the attention eagerly.
"Would you like something for the discomfort?" He offered between kisses.
"I was kind of hoping you would." He smiled. "You do a remarkable job of healing, for somebody who dishes out as much damage as you do." He grinned playfully.
"Balance," he rumbled and drew Arsham tightly against him for a kiss that embodied all the White Tiger meant to him and let the trickle of healing magic wind it's way around Arsham's body to sooth the aches. "It is all about balance, love."
"Oh, that felt good." Arsham rumbled deep in his chest. "Balance isn't something we NightBlades know much about." He chuckled. "But everybody knows we're unbalanced." He smirked, before claiming a playfully passionate kiss.
"It makes you irresistible," he laughed and kissed him back before twisting to put Arsham on his back and himself on top. "And insatiable."
"I'm not the only insatiable one here." Arsham grinned and pulled the Panther in close for another kiss. "And you're pretty irresistible as well." He smirked playfully, taking the opportunity to run his hand along his lover's ass.
"Only for you," he breathed hotly and shifted, spreading Arsham's legs in what was now a familiar bit of foreplay before taking the White Tiger's half hard cock and sheath into his mouth.
"And to think, if it hadn't been for botched Intel work, I might never have met you." Arsham breathed hotly, as cock quickly swelled to full hardness. "Even screw ups are good for something."
Tyber chuckled, his rumbling adding vibration to the sensations of his talented tongue and welcoming mouth playing over his lover's hardening shaft. He shifted one hand away from a powerful white thigh to prepare himself with fingers slickened by magic.
The both moaned loudly as Tyber sank down, taking his lover deep into his body and lowered himself to kiss Arsham until they were both breathless from it and the growing pleasures of their joined bodies.
"Gods, but I love you." Tyber shuddered in their physical pleasure and the intensity of it being with one who meant so much to him. "More than anything." He claimed another deep kiss. "Even my service."
Arsham was more than a bit stunned by that declaration, and quite speechless for a moment, which he attempted to cover by claiming a passionate kiss. "I love you, too." He said quietly, clumsy with the emotion he knew little about. "More than I ever thought I'd feel for anyone."
It was clearly enough for Tyber, for the big Panther smiled in pleasure before their mating caught up with him and he roared with his orgasm, spraying Arsham's chest with his seed.
The sensation of the Panther's hot seed spraying across his chest, pushed Arsham past his limit. His roar rivaled Tyber's as his seed splashed between them and the Panther moaned one last time before settling on his side next to Arsham and pulled the White Tiger into his arms.
"Love you." He whispered throatily with a tender lick to his mate's ear.
"I'm really hoping your mission drags out. Just so you don't leave." Arsham whispered softly. It was something that bothered him every time he thought about it, and it was getting so he didn't want the SG overthrown, because of what it would cost him personally.
Tyber stilled, looking at his mate seriously as he judged his own heart no matter how it terrified him to contemplate.
"I'm not leaving." He eventually admitted. "Not until my life is over."
"Is your boss going to be okay with that?" Arsham asked quietly, not really sure what an upset Power would be capable of. "I admit, I don't want you to leave but I also don't want you in deep trouble 'cause of me. I mean, I've heard Powers can get really vicious when they get upset."
"Yes they can," he consented. "Lady Kyvva is reasonable. If not ... I deal with it."
"Well, she is in charge of Fate." He said quietly. "Maybe you were meant to stay here longer than the mission called for." He suggested.
"Right now, I can only hope so." He admitted and nuzzled him. "But She has encouraged my feelings and involvement with you."
"Well, I'd call that a good sign." Arsham said encouragingly, and licked the Panther's ear. "And I'm grateful she did. You're the best thing to happen to me in a long time, maybe ever."
"I know you are for me." He whispered back, trembling slightly with the intensity of his emotions. "How are you feeling?"
"Recovered mostly." Arsham said easily. "Still kind of tingling around the edges though. That was the weirdest experience I've ever had."
"I'm not surprised," he chuckled softly. "Probably ranks up there for Nareena too. Your mind was decidedly not cooperative."
"I'm not surprised." Arsham shook his head. "I know way too much about hiding things to make it easy."
"And an untrained magical gift on top of it." He chuckled with a teasing nuzzle. "We really do need to work on that."
"Events just haven't been cooperating on that score, have they?" Arsham shook his head. "Always something coming up." He said, and then smirked at the unintentional double meaning.
"Usually the two of us." He chuckled back and nuzzled him. "I'm looking forward to finding out what's in that little puzzle of yours too."
"Me too." Arsham smiled. "Kind of funny that somebody left a key inside my head."
"Sounds like something one of my friends would have done." He chuckled softly. "Though in this case I'm laying odds on that old Saber spirit that healed me."
"That wouldn't surprise me." Arsham nodded. "You probably would've noticed if one of your friends had been around, right?"
Tyber considered that for a while, then shook his head. "No more than I would have noticed anyone with power being around. Detection is not my specialty. Pounding things into submission and matchmaking are." He grinned and claimed another kiss. "Though I've never been a subject before."
"That's an interesting combination of specialties." Arsham grinned mischievously. "I believe I met people who mixed beating and romance regularly though." He added with a teasing smirk before claiming a playful kiss.
"Never did figure it out myself." He laughed and pulled the White Tiger close. "But I keep getting those missions."
"Well, once people think you're good at something they just figure it's a safe bet to give you the job again." Arsham chuckled.
"True, and I never fail." He rumbled softly.
"I'm not the least bit surprised." Arsham rumbled.
Arsham had been focused on the glowing cube of cubes in his hand for almost twelve hours. For the last six hours, he'd been completely oblivious of the world around him as he shifted the fifth level of cubes into the proper configuration. Even with his knack for puzzles and decryption this cube had been challenging, and Arsham had never been one to pass up a challenge. And the White Tiger was having fun, as strange as that might seem to others. As he locked the last cube into its proper place, he wonder what the next level was going to look like.
Much to his surprise completing the current level didn't reveal another level, but a fountain of light and sound. It was like someone had set off fireworks and an orchestra in the room with him, though the orchestra was playing a piece that sounded like nothing he'd ever heard. It was piece that was both full of majesty and grandeur while at the same time being full of celebration, and it had a feeling of great age.
'*Love?*" Tyber interrupted him very gently. While he didn't want to distract his mate, the sudden involvement of the puzzle with the real world of his home made him nervous. '*What is happening?*"
'*I solved it.*" Arsham replied, his mental voice extremely pleased, and filled with a quiet sort of wonder.
'*So ... what does it unlock, besides the music and light?*"
'*The key goes to something in the lost city of Kel.*" Arsham explained. '*Which isn't so lost anymore, though I dare say the archaeologists won't be finding it anytime soon.*"
'*Do you know where, now?*" He nuzzled his love and drew him back into strong arms.
'*We were right on top of it.*" Arsham chuckled as he leaned back to nuzzle his mate. '*But if you don't know how its hidden, you'll never find it.*"
'*The SG valley?*" He guessed uncertainly.
'*Nope.*" Arsham shook his head. '*That forest we went camping in. The one where you fought the Dragon.*"
'*Which would largely explain why there was so much Sabertooth attention to it and us.*" He chuckled softly. '*I don't suppose you got told just what that monster was?*"
'*No mention of it.*" Arsham shook his head. '*I just hope it doesn't come in groups.*"
'*Very much so.*" He shuddered. '*I would definitely need help if they did.*"
'*Well, hopefully that was the only one in that area.*" Arsham said quietly. '*Cause I'm going back there.*"
'*Do you really think you'll be going back alone?*" Tyber was ready to become defiant if need be.
'*I somehow doubt it.*" Arsham chuckled, and nuzzled Tyber playfully. '*I think you'd come even if I didn't ask, which I was going to.*"
'*Believe it.*" He rumbled and nuzzled back. '*I wouldn't be surprised if your brothers chose to come as well.*"
'*I'd be surprised if they didn't.*" Arsham chuckled. '*We look after each other, always have.*" He added fondly and found himself kissed firmly.
'*Yes, you do.*" Tyber rumbled deeply. '*And so do I. Now, since all the major deprogramming is settled, when do you want to check this place out?*"
'*The sooner the better.*" Arsham said quietly. '*I don't know how I know, but its important.*"
'*Then as soon as we can rouse the others.*" He chuckled and nuzzled the White Tiger. '*And manage to get out of bed and dressed.*"
'*It's the getting out of bed part that can be difficult.*" Arsham smirked and claimed a playful kiss that was returned with predictable heat from the Panther that owned his heart as much as he had Tyber's.
"So there's a city here?" Ebon asked as he surveyed the clearing where Arsham had indicated they should stop.
"Not here, exactly." Arsham chuckled. "Or the archaeologists would've found it already. According to the map, the doorway is hidden behind a tree."
"Reminds me of one of those treasure maps in the pirate movies." Max chuckled, as he and his twin began dashing about checking trees.
"A doorway I expect your puzzle opens." Tyber reguarded the area, amazed at the level of hidden magic here. He very much wished he had permission to have one of the mages here.
"Something like that." Arsham nodded, as he focused and let the cube materialize in his open hand. This time it materialized as an arrow floating like a compass needle. Walking slowly Arsham followed the arrow until it was pointing a huge ironwood tree. He walked around the tree looking at it carefully.
"Seriously not a normal tree." Tyber commented as he regarded the heavily magical plant curiously. "The innate magic is off the scale, mostly preservation magic."
"And most trees don't have a portal next to them." Arsham commented, indicating a 3 meter by 3 meter square of multi-colored light that was now visible sitting just off the ground.
"That either." He chuckled and drew Arsham into his arms for a nuzzle. "The city is on the other side?"
"I don't think its that direct." Arsham said uncertainly. "The puzzle mentioned the 'Three Faces of Kel', which if I understood the history correctly were the Lord of Magic, the Lord of Battle, and the Devourer of Evil." He shook his head. "Last one makes me kind of nervous."
"You are not evil, love." He hugged him tightly. "No one here is."
"But some of what we did, might qualify." Arsham said quietly. As Nareena had undone the programming, a sense of right and wrong had started to develop and with it a growing suspicion that they had been on the wrong side of things for a long time.
"Yes," the big Panther nodded slightly. "But committing an evil act does not always make one evil. It is how that act is viewed by the one who committed it and why it was done. Everyone has committed some evil in their lifetime. Very few are actually evil."
"Why was because we obeyed orders." Ebon said quietly. "The question of why do it, never really occurred."
"More to the point, you were never cognizant of the nature of your acts." Tyber looked up at the NightBlade leader. "You never saw it as something wrong, or evil, and did it anyway when you had another choice." He nuzzled Arsham gently. "We will see if Kel views it as I do."
"I rather hope so." Arsham said nervously. "But we've come this far." He said stubbornly. "Ready, love?"
"Ready." He nodded firmly and kissed him soundly. "Let us go."
"Looks like the door is big enough for two at a time." Arsham commented, as he took his lover's hand. "On three...one...two...three." He said, and stepped through.
The other side of the doorway was in a vast underground chamber that was cut down the middle by a wide chasm which fell out of sight. The only way across the chasm was high arching stone bridge about four meters across. In the middle of the bridge was a large shadowed figure, clearly quadruped, but obscured in the dim light of the room.
"As long as that's not another corruption dragon, we'll be fine." Tyber commented, trying to lighten the mood a bit.
"Seems a little small for that." Arsham said seriously.
"Lovely place." Ebon commented as he and Cazi emerged. "And that would be an obstacle." He commented observing the quadruped. "I hope its not going to be a fight, because that is really not a place I would choose as a battlefield."
"That would be the point." Tyber commented and moved forward, taking point as much out of protective instincts as the practical fact that he was the hardest to kill, and wouldn't stay dead.
Arsham was close behind, leaving a somewhat bemused Ebon organizing the rest of the team as they arrived.
As Arsham and Tyber started across the rough stone span, they could see that the quadruped was in fact the largest Sabertooth tiger that anyone had ever seen. There was, in fact, no going around it to cross the bridge. It watched them curiously with glowing green eyes as they approached.
"Who enters the domain of the Devourer?" The big Sabertooth rumbled in voice as deep as the chasm beneath them. The bright eyes looked over each of them in detail, seeming to peer deep within them, beneath any masks or facades that might exist.
"I, Arsham Kelspar, wish to enter the lost city of Kel." Arsham said politely, trying very hard to hide the nervousness he was feeling. Considering what 'Kelspar' meant in the old language, he felt a bit presumptuous using in front of what was probably Kel himself.
The giant tiger laughed, a great booming sound that shook the cavern. "A bold statement, little one. Kelspar indeed, you may wear the name, but you have yet to earn the title. But you may in time, though you have much to learn first."
"And who is the silent hand of fate come into my realm?" The Tiger asked after a long pause, looking directly at Tyber.
"Tyber Windcrest, Paladin in service to Lady Kyvva, Keeper of the Paths among the Ryoshi-Simyna." He bowed politely.
"Kyvva, huh?" The Tiger said thoughtfully as he looked the Paladin over more seriously. "You're a long way from your Lady's domain. What business do you have with one of my children?" He asked seriously, sounding very much like a parent asking if a potential suitor had honorable intentions.
Two truthful answers competed to be spoken first, but in the end habit won out. "My orders are to see the NightBlades turned from the service of the Shadow Government and that organization destroyed." He began. "My business with Arsham is remaining close to my heart."
"Your lady meddles far outside her domain." The Tiger rumbled. "And yet my cousins do not object to your presence. Curious, very curious indeed." He said thoughtfully, and then turned to Arsham. "And you little one, what is your feeling on this?"
Arsham was a little intimidated by the sheer power he could sense from the great Tiger, but he refused to back down. "I love him with all my heart." He said with deep conviction, though declaring love in front of anyone but Tyber was difficult. Admitting the emotion went against everything he had been taught.
"Not an easy thing learning love at your age, little one." The Tiger smiled, and then looked back at the NightBlades who had come up while the three had talked. "And these would be the rest of my cousins' NightBlades." He chuckled. "The ore is good, but the weapon is not forged yet." He said cryptically. "You may pass, and don't be so harsh with yourself. Every abused kit does things they regret before they learn better, and they're not evil." He said, before fading.
"I guess he agrees with you." Arsham said, as gave a sigh of relief and pulled Tyber into a close embrace that was returned with a tremor of relief that went to Tyber's very core.
"I can not say how glad I am for that." Tyber whispered, his voice tight as he sought to control the welling of unfamiliar emotions threatening his composure.
"It was actually kind of weird." Arsham said quietly. "The way he kept referring to me as his kit."
"You're part Saber, Bro." Ebon said reassuringly. "I'm sure that's what he was referring to."
"They've adopted you at any rate." Tyber added and nuzzled Arsham gently. "Let's get going, before we get distracted again."
"You two could get 'distracted' in the middle of a firefight." Max teased playfully, at which his twin bapped him upside the head.
"Well, they could." He protested to his twin.
"Looks like there's another portal over there." Arsham pointed to a shimmering arch of multicolored light.
"Here we go again, then." Tyber took a deep breath and kept a tight arm around his mate as they walked threw.
There was a moments disorientation before they found themselves on a large open plain littered with dead warriors. Most of the dead were Sabertooths, but there were many of other clans as well. It was clear from the array of tabards that the Sabertooths had been one side and the other clans the other. It was also clear that many of both sides had died from intense flame, as there was little left but bone and metal. In the distance smoke could be seen rising from a stone walled city and the screams of a city being ransacked could be heard.
"The Battle of Toros Kel." A deep voice rumbled from behind them, and when the group turned to look a Sabertooth in warform was standing behind them towering above at something that had to be close to twelve feet. "The Warriors of Kel would have held the day, but for the use of acidfire." He rumbled. "A horrible wizard weapon that burns anything save bone, stone and metal to dust and it spreads to anything the victim touches." He rumbled dangerously as the anger in his scent grew powerful enough to begin to affect the NightBlades. "But with the new villages of Sabertooths rising, we will smite the descendants of those who dared use such terrible weapons before they know what is upon them." He growled with a rising intensity, as the NightBlades' eyes began to turn red and they fought to retain control against the rising Berserker rage. "We will avenge the fallen!" He roared.
"No!" Arsham shouted through the tide of rage that was sweeping him. "The past is the past. None who are responsible live. We can't right ancient atrocities with new ones." He said trembling against the Rage he knew was wrong. "You must let it go."
"You do not seek vengeance for the women and children slaughtered by the armies of the Clans?" The Saber rumbled dangerously.
"Vengeance will not return the dead." Arsham growled back. "Only create more dead. It must stop somewhere. Let it stop here."
"A warrior needs wisdom as well as strength and training." The Saber rumbled approvingly, as the anger and rage in the air faded as quickly as it appeared. "But so few attain it. Very good, little one." He smiled at Arsham. "You have come far in a short time, but there is still far to go." He smiled before vanishing.
"That I could have done without." Arsham rumbled, as he sank to the ground still trembling. Berserker rage was exhausting even at the best of times, and even the edge of it took something out of you.
"Good job, Bro." Ebon said quietly, patting the White Tiger on the shoulder even as Tyber wrapped him in an aura of healing and affection.
"Yes, you did very well, love." Tyber added proudly. "You are doing very well."
"Kel doesn't play around." Arsham commented quietly. "That kind of anger is easy to get swept up in."
"No kidding." Rifleman said quietly, still breathing hard. "Acidfire? It's like napalm, only worse. Did something like that really exist?"
"I'm guessing it did." Arsham replied uncertainly. "I don't think he invented it just now."
"It does." Tyber said quietly. "I can't say about here and then, but I've met such spells before. It's the magical equivalent of an NBC assault by most laws."
"Which means there are people willing to use such things." Ebon commented as he surveyed the battlefield. "Use of such things always precedes the laws banning them."
"Yes," Tyber nodded. "As destructive and indiscriminant as they are, they are very effective weapons."
"Hopefully the knowledge of it was lost after the Disappearance." Arsham said as he stood and found Tyber's arms still wrapped supportively around him. "Time to get moving."
"Yes, the sooner we face the Lord of Magic, the sooner we can rest." Tyber commented with a supportive nuzzle.
"Up there." Arsham pointed up the hill behind them. "Behind the Sabertooth banner, its the next portal."
"Level three, coming up." Max snickered.
"Yeah, but this game doesn't have a save feature." Tony shook his head, as they followed Arsham and Tyber toward the glowing pyramid of light.
"I think we know what Kel's been doing for the last thousand years." Arsham chuckled, just before stepping through.
There was a much stronger sense of disorientation then before, as the world swirled rapidly before setting them down in the foyer of a grand library. Books stretch in every direction, and three stories upward as well. But amid the books, and the decoration fit for a palace the most noticeable thing was the sense of age that permeated everything.
"Reminds me of Kysevva's study." Tyber commented quietly, his respect for the magical arts clear in his tone and body language. "Not even the Prime Magic Guild of my homeland had anything like this."
"I'm not surprised." The deep voice of Kel rumbled, as the Sabertooth in Felsin mode descended a staircase in a robe of deep purple with gold edging. "The knowledge of more than one world resides here. And more than just the knowledge of magic, knowledge in all forms is my domain." He smiled, as he crossed the room toward Arsham. "You've done well, little one, to come so far. Just one test left, to find the door that leads forward to the lost city. There are many doors in this library, most of them lead back to the mortal world, only one goes where you want."
"How do I recognize the right door?" Arsham asked carefully.
"Observation and deduction, little one." Kel explained. "You have the tools, now you must use them." He said before fading out of sight.
"Observation and analysis." Ebon commented quietly. "Two more critical abilities of a warrior."
"And your specialty, in a way." Tyber smiled and nuzzled Arsham supportively. "Just a different kind of puzzle."
"Kind of a treasure hunt." Tracker chuckled.
"Well, no time to start like the present." Arsham grinned. "One could lost in this library for days."
"You got lost for days in the Capitol library." Mason chuckled. "And it wasn't half this big, I don't think."
"So I like to read." Arsham smirked back.
"At least you have your team bond to keep track of each other with." Tyber chuckled and grinned at his mate. "Which means I stick with Arsham."
"We'll using the tracking beacons to mark doors as we find them." Ebon said, as the team broke up into pairs. "But I don't think the rest of us have the insight that's required here."
"I can use the tracking comp to mark them off as I check them." Arsham nodded as Tyber watched in something akin to amazement at the team action that was all but instinctive for the NightBlades. It was much different from the mindset he had much of the time.
"Come on, love." Arsham grinned, as he headed of in what seemed like a random direction. Though it might not have been as random as it appeared since the other NightBlades all went in different directions. It wasn't long before they came across a door, which the White Tiger promptly marked with a small portable beacon about the size of a two quarters and twice as thick. He stood back and looked at it for a while, and then smiled as he realized he could see a kind of swirling pattern in the door. It was just a matter of understanding what the swirls meant.
"I take it that means you understand better now?" Tyber asked curiously, regarding the door, sure he wasn't seeing something his mate could.
"There's a pattern to the door." Arsham nodded softly. "Swirls and ripples of energy. It's like the first time I look a new code, I can see there's a pattern but I haven't quite figured out what it means yet."
"You just need enough examples to match the patterns with known ones?" He half guessed.
"Not always." Arsham smiled. "Sometimes, I can just find the patterns I need. Though, of course, I'm usually matching unknown to a known language. Here, I'm not sure what I'm matching to." He admitted.
"Ur?" The Panther flicked his ears back in uncertainty. "I thought we were looking for the one that led to the city. The one that didn't lead back to the mortal world."
"Oh, right." Arsham chuckled. "Just exclude the ones that look like the portals we came through to get here. I was over-complicating the process, trying to figure out exactly where in the mortal world the portal went." He snickered. "My one little problem, I tend to want to answer all the questions instead of just the one asked."
"Something like that." Tyber nodded, willing to trust his mate without understanding exactly what he was doing. "You can figure out the rest of the destinations another time." He nuzzled him affectionately.
"Depending on how often Kel lets us into his library." Arsham chuckled. "I think this place is very similar to your home." He said, and then nodded. "Not the right door."
"It's quite possible it is." He nodded and looked around more carefully. "It can be very difficult to tell."
"One door down and a large number to go." Arsham chuckled, as he picked a direction to look for a door in.
Arsham looked at the most recent door in a long series of them for a long while before grinning broadly. "This is it." He rumbled, pleased as he turned impulsively claimed a kiss from Tyber. He pulled the Panther into his arms and it was passionately returned with a happy rumble and physical hunger that his mate's attention always brought on in both of them. '*Guys, I found it.*" He rumbled over the link. '*Beacon AX-22.*"
'*Everyone to beacon AX-22.*" Ebon ordered.
"So, is this it or can we expect another challenge on the other side?" Ebon asked curiously, once the team was gathered at the portal.
"I think this is it." Arsham said uncertainly. "I don't know what other challenges there would be."
"Very well, but everyone stay alert." Ebon directed, though it really wasn't necessary. "Your show, Bro." He smiled at the White Tiger.
"Yes, I suppose it is." Arsham chuckled, and then stepped through the doorway.
There was the feeling of disorientation, and then a warm breeze as they emerged in a large open cavern. Ahead of them across a wide open stone plain was the wall of a large city, with an open gate visible from where they stood. The cavern was amazingly quietly though the sound of the breeze, and of dripping water could be hear. There was a feeling of great age and stillness in the cavern, as if nothing had moved of its own accord in centuries.
"Feels like a preservation spell." Tyber commented quietly. "A very potent one."
"Probably the influence of Kel." Arsham commented softly, as he looked around waiting until the rest of the team arrived. "What I'm looking for is that way." He said, pointing toward the city. "Not sure exactly what it is though, but I'll know it when I see it."
"Sounds like half my search missions." Tyber groaned but willingly followed his mate.
"Must be a game that Powers like to play." Max chuckled. "Make the mortal look for something, but don't tell him what it is, or looks like." He said as they followed Arsham into the well preserved city. In some respects it was too well preserved, like the empty suits of armor standing guard at the gate, or the carriage standing in the street with the harness floating in mid air as if it were over the back of patiently waiting Destrin.
"Like a moment in time held for centuries." Arsham commented quietly, as he followed the floating arrow in his hand.
"Creepy as hellfire." Tyber shuddered as he looked around and knots formed in his gut over the similarities to one of the more terrifying of his missions. One he only came back from on the grace of his Lady coming to fetch his trapped spirit personally. "A ghost city locked in time."
"Except I don't think there are any ghosts." Arsham said quietly, as they passed a blacksmith's shop with where the glow of still hot fire could be seen. As they left the merchant quarter for the residential quarter, it got no less creepy with suits of clothing standing at doorways, or playing in the street.
"I hope so." The big Panther murmured, resisting the growing urge to give his aura full play in this enviroment that rattled him so badly.
Sensing his discomfort, Arsham put his free arm around his lover as they walked, and nuzzled him reassuringly.
"It's like a really big haunted house." Max said. "Not a real one, but like the places at carnivals where they set up all sorts of things to try and scare you." He said as they entered an area where the houses became larger and fancier.
"Except I don't think the intent is to scare." Ebon said looking around. "I'd say Kel just doesn't want things to change. I'm surprised he hasn't put people or at least images of them in the clothing."
"If it is what it seems to be, without any ghosts, then the empty clothes is a reminder of things lost. Of what should be here, but is no longer." Tyber said quietly and leaned into Arsham's nuzzle, welcoming the calm strength of his mate.
"That wouldn't surprise me." Arsham said quietly. "I don't think the anger we saw at the battlefield was entirely for show. There is some very real anger, he just accepts that the anger no longer serves any purpose. Or perhaps the only purpose it serves is to mask pain."
"And provide focus, perhaps." He added softly. "It can be very effective for that as well."
"Possible." Arsham nodded. "With a Power its difficult to be sure." He nodded, stopping as the came to the foot of wide marble steps leading up to large building crafted from marble. The pillars of the building were carved in the image of the robed Kel they had encountered in the library. "Whatever it is, is in there." The White Tiger explained before starting up the steps.
"Here's hoping it's not trouble," Tyber nuzzled his mate.
The building turned out to a library that was as well preserved as the rest of the city. It was as big as Kel's library but it had a similar feeling of age. As they proceeded into the basement of the library the books were replaced by carefully preserved scrolls. And then they reached a large door crafted from solid silvery metal. Arsham tried the key on the door with no success.
"Let us have a crack at it." Max grinned, as he and Tony moved in to take a closer look. "Not a mechanical or electronic lock that we can't pick." He said as they laid out a detailed set of lock picks and burglar tools.
"It's unlikely to be one." Tyber considered the door with all his senses, weaving divination energy around it to see what he could tell.
Tyber's suspicion was correct, the locking mechanism was magical not mechanical. The complex keyhole on the front was merely for decoration, put there by a craftsman who felt doors need keyholes.
"We have a magic keyhole, which usually requires a magic key to open." He said simply. "It probably is that puzzle, just not as a physical key."
Arsham thought about that for a while. So if it wasn't the key, then which form was it he wondered to himself. He concentrated and caused the puzzle to resume its cube form and then projected it out until it touched the door. Glowing runes ran around the edge of the frame and then disappeared ... along with the door itself. Inside was a small room lined with shelves, and sitting on the one shelf was a bright golden chest the same color as the key that the puzzle had revealed.
"Now that might be what the key goes to." Tyber nodded sharply, but stayed back to give Arsham the lead.
Ebon's instincts were telling him that there was no trap here, and usually he trusted them, but this place made him edgy. His eyes were everywhere looking for anything that looked out of place or otherwise wrong.
Arsham nodded and shifted the puzzle into its key-form. Carefully, he walked forward and inserted the glowing key-puzzle into the lock on the golden chest. Slowly the lid on the chest opened and then a glowing bird of fire rocket from the chest. It raced around them room for a moment leaving bright glowing trail of sparks and then shot through Arsham and then up through the ceiling and out of sight.
There was no visible injury to the White Tiger though he remained lined in glowing red light. He stared at the chest as if entranced by it.
"Love?" Tyber stepped forward, cautious about touching just yet.
The rest of the team was on full combat alert watching for another attack, except for Cazi who had slipped around to get a better look at the chest. Peering into the chest, he noticed that while the chest was physically empty it contained a noticeable amount of raw magical energy that was radiating out rapidly, but strangely enough the radiating energy wasn't entering the room.
Everyone's attention was diverted back to the White Tiger as the glowing light vanished and he slumped to the floor.
"He's exhausted, nothing more." The Panther rumbled, his healing magic able to counter only a small part of his mate's condition.
"Which means he needs to rest." Ebon nodded. "And this vault doesn't strike me as the best place to rest. Since we haven't had a chance to find a route back, we'll take advantage of all the unoccupied residential facilities. Twins, do a quick recon of the nearest residential facilities while we get Arsham back topside."
"You got it, Ebon." The Twins nodded, quite serious as the left the room at a speed the naked eye couldn't follow.
"Do you need help carrying him?" Ebon asked Tyber quietly. He knew the other Panther would certainly try, even before Tyber picked his unconscious mate up.
"Not for a few blocks." He said quietly, an undercurrent in his tone giving thanks for the offer. "He is not that heavy."
"If we have to go more than a few blocks, we'll probably want to construct a stretcher." Ebon nodded, as they climbed the stairs toward the surface level.
"Good morning, love." Tyber nuzzled him as Arsham slowly came around in a large bed that spoke of wealth in another time.
"Did you redecorate?" Arsham asked looking around the strange room uncertainly, clearly a little disoriented.
"No, we are still in Kel." He kissed him affectionately. You passed out after that bird did a real number on your magic." His voice lowered. "I don't know what we set loose, but something very powerful has fled from that chest. Something of pure magic."
"That's probably not a good thing, huh?" Arsham asked, after claiming another affectionate kiss.
"I don't know, but the affect on you is positive." He smiled gently. "You are much more powerful than before."
"I feel like I just ran a marathon, or something." Arsham shook his head. "I don't think I've ever been that tired before."
"I'm not surprised." He kissed him again. "The twins think they know the way out, at least the physical route out of the city."
"Well, that's start." Arsham smiled. "Be interesting to see where in the physical world it comes out." He chuckled, and then put his arms around his Panther and pulled him close. "This has been a very weird trip."
"And a good one." He smiled and hugged him even closer. "No one was injured."
"Well, that's much more normal for the NightBlades." Arsham chuckled. "Not that missions involving Powers and lost cities is anything near to normal for us."
"For anyone here." He chuckled. "Ready to try to eat and get out of here?"
"Yes, to both." Arsham grinned broadly. "Though I think a trip back, at a later date, to check out that library may be warranted."
"Hopefully there will not be all those trials next time." He chuckled and nuzzled the White Tiger out of bed. "Let's go rouse the others and see what my magic can come up with in here for a meal."
"And if all else fails, there's always food packs." Arsham smirked teasingly as he rolled out of bed. "Most of the guys are awake, except for Cazi and Ebon, who had watch first."
"I'm sure I can do better than that." He made a face and followed his mate. "You do realize we just spent over eight hours in bed together and didn't fool around." Tyber added teasingly.
"That's cause I was unconscious." Arsham smirked back. "Nice place you guys picked for camp." He grinned as they walked through the big house.
"The twins have good taste." He chuckled as the other NightBlades filtered to join them in the grand dinning room.
"I should've known." Arsham chuckled. "They wanted me to have something like this built when I bought the land my home is on."
"I think what you had built suits you better." Tyber nuzzled him. "Are Ebon and Cazi going to join us?"
"They'll be down shortly." Rifleman rumbled from a corner. "Cazi managed to get a shower working and I think they decided to clean up."
"Hopefully they'll have better luck getting out than we usually do." Tyber chuckled softly and stepped a bit away from his mate to focus both inside and outside to weave the meat-creation spell.
"I wouldn't bet on it." Blitz snickered as he lounged in one of the big windows of the grand dining hall. "They're at least as bad as you two, only they've been dating a bit longer."
"True love never cools." Tyber smiled at him and let his magic wined into the local reality to form a fine meal of meats, vegetables, breads and sweets in quantities sufficient for the entire team and himself.
"No it doesn't." Ebon grinned in agreement as he entered the room, looking seriously frizzy as though he'd been overdried. "It occasionally learns a little control though."
"Good heavens Ebon, were you attacked by an industrial strength hair dryer?" Corwin asked, as he looked his leader over.
"No, Cazi attempted to create a warm air jet dryer using magic." He chuckled. "Didn't quite compensate enough for the local magic booster."
"Cazi must look like a fuzzball, with that mane." Tyber chuckled and produced a sizeable brush from nowhere. "This'll settle your fur a bit, if you let it work while we eat."
"You seem much more comfortable with the increased magic than Cazi is." Ebon commented as he considered the brush. "Anything to not look like I just stuck my finger in a light socket. Cazi actually jumped back in the shower and is now employing towels to dry off."
"I'm used to having to adapt to all sorts of different environments with little warning." He chuckled and let the brush go. It promptly floated over to Ebon and went to work smoothing his hair and fur. "It's all but instinctive to check the local effects before weaving anything."
"According to Cazi the Alliance is pretty consistent with some well known exceptions." Ebon explained. "So he hasn't had a lot of practice with variant fields."
"Well everybody dig in." Tyber chuckled at the scattered Felsin in the room and grabbed a seat for himself. "We eat and then we get out of here."
Tyber didn't have to repeat himself as the commandos dug in hungrily. Cazi came in a few minutes later and grabbed a chair next to Ebon and started in himself. There was no sign of frizzy about him at all. It was a condition his mate was soon in as well, which send the brush back to where it came from.
"So what do we know about this place, besides it's creepy and does interesting things to magic." Tyber cracked a grin at Cazi.
"It has indoor plumbing and running water which is interesting for the time period." Cazi commented. "Apparently when this house was 'stored' it was waiting for a plumber to arrive, because a pipe had broken. I think their plumbers must have been at least minorly gifted because the plumbing uses magic as well as piping."
"Sounds like my place." Tyber chuckled softly.
"You have problems with the plumbing at your place?" Blitz asked curiously, a bit surprised since the place had seemed to be perfect. Almost a bit too perfect at times, but it was a nice vacation spot.
"No, pluming that's half magic." He clarified easily. "Nearly everything there is at least half magic."
"Only half?" Mason smiled. "Everything seems kind of magical there." He said, clearly meaning it as a compliment.
"Perhaps more than half." Tyber consented with a returned smile. "How much the den-realm uses it's innate magic and how much is converted to normal physical means is not something I have paid close attention to."
"It works, that's what counts." Ebon grinned. "No need to dig in the details unless you need to know."
"At any rate, time seems to be passing normally in the city." Cazi continued. "But it has no effect on non-living matter within the city. I believe this is why there are no plants within the city. They would've overrun the city if left unchecked."
"No doubt." Tyber nodded easily, his gaze on Arsham. Despite the White Tiger saying he was fine, he was still worried about what had happened.
Clearly whatever had happened, had not affected the White Tiger's appetite. In fact Arsham seemed hungrier than usual. He noticed Tyber's gaze and smiled warmly at him, as if he sensed the Panther's concern and wanted to reassure him.
A reality that Tyber quickly realized was probably true, given his mate's strong empathic gift.
"We're gonna have to be careful when we hit the surface." Corwin said thoughtfully. "Otherwise this place is going to have archaeologists all over it."
"I don't think Kel is going to allow that." Arsham said thoughtfully. "I think this place is in his domain, even if it is in the real world, and no one intrudes in such a place unless the Power allows it."
"Quite true," Tyber nodded. "And it may not be in the real world anymore, either."
"With any luck, the Director has not tried to reach us." Ebon said thoughtfully. "Of course, if this is not in the real world, than we have no way to be sure how much time has really passed."
"Even if it is, given the modifications Kel has done to this area, there is little telling anyway." Tyber shrugged lightly. "We'll just have to deal with what comes when we get back. Including him and his masters." The big Panther bared his teeth slightly. "This is far more important than maintaining your cover."
"Aside from contact with a Power no one has seen in a thousand years, and a city just as old." Ebon said considering the situation. "What is important about this?" He asked curiously, though he could see a distinct value in it, if it was a place in the real world the SG couldn't touch.
"Knowledge." Arsham said quietly. "Assuming we can translate them, the library here could hold things forgotten for centuries, to say nothing of the potential magic knowledge."
Tyber interlaced his fingers under his chin and regarded the other Panther for an unsettling moment.
"Kel's involvement in the real world again. The full rebirth of magic and the Saber clan." Tyber paused and glanced around the room. "You do realize that between the eleven people in this clan, we have the very direct interest and occasional intervention of six Powers from three worlds?"
"Very occasional, closer to rare." Ebon nodded. "At least for five of them. Well, four of them, since I'm not sure how Kel does such things."
"I think he's more involved with the Sabers right now." Arsham said thoughtfully. "But we are the focus of a lot of non-mortal attention."
"Which may prove helpful on occasion." Ebon nodded. "But isn't something we should rely on. And you're right Tyber, those are important. I just wasn't thinking that big picture." He admitted.
"No, it is not to be relied upon." Tyber agreed easily. "But that big picture is where my job usually rests." He chuckled. "I rarely forget to see things in that view. It's the details that I tend to miss thinking about."
"Sounds like we've got a good overlap then." Ebon grinned. "I've never had to do big picture 'cause that wasn't my concern. It was the team and the details of missions."
"I'm just not as annoying as the one who usually does your big picture."
"And considerably more attractive." Arsham added with a playful rumble. "On any level you can name."
"Now you see why we put him in charge of Intel, he doesn't miss a thing." Ebon chuckled.
"Except the door when I've got him distracted." Tyber grinned mischievously and pulled Arsham close for a heated kiss that nearly melted the silverware.
"He'd miss moderate explosions with that distraction." Corwin snickered, as Arsham returned Tyber's passion with an equally hot passion of his own.
"You really need to get out more Corwin." Cazi teased, as he grabbed Ebon and pulled him into a kiss that threatened to ignite the wood furniture.
"Stay quiet and we'll get a double show." Blitz elbowed Corwin.
Arsham wasn't really paying attention to the crowd, as he was focused entirely on his lover. He pulled Tyber closer as he claimed a kiss with all the passion in his heart and quickly found himself straddling the Panther's lap and unapologetic black hands moving over his body even as they were pulled even more closely together.
Arsham's hands began to move through the dense fur of his lover's body, as the musk of his arousal began to mix with that of mate to create a heady mix.
He moaned into his lover's mouth, willingly surrendering to the pleasures of touching and being touched by Tydin. He didn't even care that they were both still dressed when he felt his body nearing the edge.
"Arsham?" Tyber nuzzled his SoulMate as they lounged in their quarters at the Lake Maxwell camp that had been established almost a year before in preparation for Nareena's kit. "Have you thought about kits, for us?"
"Thought about it? Yeah, I have." Arsham rumbled, nuzzling Tyber back. "Pretty much since Nareena, Cazi and Ebon decided to have one. But its gonna take a bit more effort for us. We'll actually need a G-tube to pull it off, fortunately Nareena knows how its done." He said easily.
"Good, cause it's a bit over my head how it's possible." He chuckled a bit sheepishly and drew his White Tiger into a tender, lingering kiss. "We would have such beautiful kittens."
"Love, its over my head too." He said after the kiss. "Advanced Genetics is not something I've ever understood. But I trust Nareena and she understands how its done. We'll need to do a little shopping at Citadel for equipment first." He grinned playfully. "And we should probably talk to Nareena before she gets too far along in her pregnancy. Or we could wait till after their kit is born." He said quietly.
"Yes ... soon I think." Tyber said softly. "This way you have of only one kitten at a time is very ... alien ... for me." He murmured and held Arsham close, stroking the White Tiger's hair gently. "It doesn't seem healthy to try to raise a kit without siblings to play with."
"We don't always have one." He said quietly. "Two happens often enough, but as I understand it, this isn't going to be an easy pregnancy for Nareena. Something about her family's genetics, I didn't fully understand it."
"She has the best protection available." He smiled faintly and licked Arsham's ear. "Lady Felsira is not likely to let anything happen to either of them."
"I know that, but its why there's only one kit this time." He said quietly. "The next time there'll probably be two." He chuckled, and claimed an affectionate kiss. "Our limit is how much equipment we requisition from Citadel." He smirked.
"A birth back home was usually four to six kits, though it was rare for more than one to survive to have kits of their own." Tyber said softly. "I don't think more than two would be good for a first litter, even with all the help."
"Around here its rare to lose any kits, so we don't have litters much larger than two normally. I mean you see larger multiple births, but they're pretty rare." Arsham said softly, hugging the Panther close. "I think two will be plenty to start, given that I know I've never been a parent before."
"Neither have I." Tyber admitted. "I was always too busy, or not considered good enough to breed yet." He sighed softly. "Once I entered the service of Kyvva, it just wasn't much of an option anymore."
"Not good enough?" Arsham asked in disbelief as he looked over the Panther. "Some seriously screwy standards if you ask me."
"No, just very refined tastes, very little noble blood and seriously late coming into my full growth." He ran a finger down Arsham's face. "Very few females have ever held my interest that way, and far fewer were ones I had any hope of courting."
"Noble blood?" Arsham shook his head. "Gods, does that concept cause enough grief or what." He grumbled. "Nareena's had hell from her family for 'marrying beneath her station.'"
"Yes, it does." He nodded. "I know, I've seen the reason they come about and it has everything to do with survival, but once it's an institution, it's nothing but grief."
"A lot of institutions do that." Arsham agreed. "Once they outlive the reason they came into existence, and no one remembers the 'why' anymore. They just keep doing it because 'it's always been that way'."
"And that's when it needs to get shaken up."
"Which it usually doesn't." Arsham sighed. "Most people prefer things to stay as they are. Its easier that way, and doesn't require much effort or thought."
"And it's usually when I get dropped into things to help them along." He chuckled and kissed his mate soundly. "Change is rarely a quick process."
"No it's not." He nodded. "And the SG is one of the biggest opponents to change there is. They're the last of the resistance to the formation of a world government." He shook his head.
"We will see them put down, love. We have time on our side."
"Only if the government decides to get serious." Arsham rumbled. "Politicians have been playing with this mess for over a century. I think everyone's just gotten comfortable wit the arrangement."
"Then we will do it." Tyber rumbled darkly. "Sooner or later, we will have that ability."
"We just need a bit larger team." Arsham chuckled. "Right now we're spreading it thin to run anything larger than quick and dirty strike missions. We've got a base to look after now, and non-combatants." He said thoughtfully. "Well, non-combatant, but we'll have more in time."
"Yes, but now we can start to gather others of a similar mindset." Tyber reminded him. "A stable base of operations is one of the first real steps in gathering an army."
"We do need to be discrete though." Arsham cautioned. "We don't want either the government or the SG to catch on to where we are, or what we're up to. Fortunately, Ebon's good at reading people so we should be able to avoid moles."
"Most of us are." He smiled softly. "Nareena's gift is a useful one too on that count."
"True." Arsham nodded. "Ebon's just frightening and he does it without thinking about it. It's like he's just seeing what really is, instead of what people put on for show."
"About what he does." He chuckled and hugged hug mate. "But enough of them, we were talking kittens. Which brings up who is going to be the 'mother' half of them."
"As Nareena explained it, unless there's a reason it matters that's usually left to random assignment." He said easily.
"It .. does kind of matter." He struggled with something he'd been trying to understand for years now. "To me at least. Some beliefs I still haven't left behind."
"Anything in particular?" Arsham asked gently.
"Some that do not matter here, like their family name." He started softly. "Some ... there are a few ceremonies I still believe in that who is the sire and dam are important to."
"Well, for last name we could go with going with both connected by a hyphen." He suggested. "As for the other, well I guess we either have to decide, or let the computer decide and tell us which is which." He said quietly. "Does it merely matter you know which is which, or does it matter who is which 'cause technically this is a kit with two sires. There's just a little genetic magic to make one of the sires DNA stand in where a dam's would have."
Tyber had to think very hard about that, running threw the rituals he still valued and what mattered to him. "No, it is just necessary to know who is who. I want to be the father of at least one of them."
"Well, we could simply have Nareena make it one way for one, and the other way for the other." He suggested easily. "That way we both get to be 'father', though I think we should just let the kits call us both that, just for sake of limiting confusion."
"That works for me." Tyber smiled and kissed him again. "It's ... a very weird conversation to be having."
"Discussing having kits with another male?" Arsham chuckled and kissed him back. "It is kind of strange, and unheard of a generation or so ago. I mean the tech was available before, but nobody thought about applying it to same gender pairs."
"Well I'm glad they did, because it's the only likely way I'd manage it."
"True for a lot of people." Arsham nodded. "Most of this team in fact." He chuckled. "Not that anybody in the original nine aside from Ebon and me are showing any signs of settling down with one person long enough for kits to be an issue."
"Except each other." Tyber nuzzled him. "The Twins are as close as any mated couple. Most of you are."
"That's different." Arsham said quietly, as he snuggled against the Panther. "We've always been that close, its part of who we are. But it does make getting close to others difficult." He admitted. "Most relationships seem so shallow by comparison. But once in a while someone really special comes along." He added, claiming an deeply affectionate kiss.
"You didn't catch it." He chuckled softly. "I meant kits with each other."
"I don't know that that has occurred to any of them." He said thoughtfully. "Probably because we tend to think of each other as brothers."
"Yes, but you must admit the potential of such kits is incredible and they couldn't wish for a more loving family."
"You have a very good point, love." Arsham smiled, nuzzling the Tiger. "And maybe with the G-tubes around, some of them will think about it."
"It wouldn't hurt." He murmured and nuzzled him back. "I must admit the thought of what a kit by Tracker and one of the twins is a fascinating concept in perfection."
"Tracker and one of the twins?" Arsham said curiously. "The ultimate tracker with the speed of a cheetah." He nodded. "It does have potential, assuming the inheritance mixes the way you want."
"Of course," he nodded. "Though I don't think any will match up to the one growing now. Ebon, Cazi and Nareena? That's just a mix of everything possible on so many levels."
"Considering Cazi's a mix of Felsin and noble Dracon, Nareena's a product of one of the oldest and most carefully bred families on the planet, and Ebon's, well Ebon." Arsham chuckled. "What's amazing is that she didn't need tech to make it happen. That's a Healer ability that hasn't been seen since the Age of Wonder."
"Then why'd we requisition so much of it?" Tyber asked in confusion.
"Because the way she did, only works for combining three, and only when one of the three is the Healer." He said quietly. "The equipment is required, because a G-tube is required when two guys are having a kit."
"So all that ... was for us?"
"Well, Ebon figured a little planning ahead for when others come up with the same idea, wouldn't hurt." Arsham said easily. "And besides, if we've got it, the SG doesn't. They don't need to be manufacturing more super-soldiers."
"No, they don't." He considered thoughtfully. "We might want to look into snagging a few of the new kitten commandos now that we have a stable base."
"Something for the next planning session, I think." Arsham nodded. "Though we have to watch our expansion, given that we don't have support staff. It's just us, one of the few outfits were the commandos double as janitorial staff." He chuckled.
"We'll have staff as soon as Ebon lets me use mine here." Tyber pointed out.
"I thought they only worked inside your home?" Arsham asked curiously.
"I am a competent mage, love." He chuckled lightly. "It is hardly a difficult enchantment. Much less complicated than what I originally proposed for out base, after all."
"I think Ebon is still uncomfortable with the idea of conjuring people." Arsham explained gently. "A little to close to home if you will." He said softly.
Tyber thought about that for a while. "I think I need to explain things to him again, with different words."
"It couldn't hurt, love." Arsham nodded, and kissed the Panther gently. "For one who was created to serve, it can be a difficult concept." He explained gently. "Even with the understanding of magic I have, it was still not the easiest thing to understand."
"I expect not. But if it not people doing it, but cleaning and return to home spells, it may be easier to accept." He considered out loud. "I just don't think along those lines often. I prefer my help to be attractive to look at."
"Most people do, I expect." Arsham nuzzled the Tiger gently. "But most people don't have the past the NightBlades do."
"No, you are most unique." Tyber purred back.
"Despite some very serious attempts by the SG to create another set." Arsham chuckled, seriously amused the SG's long running string of failures. "What they lack in success, they make up for in persistence."
"Persistence that is to our advantage." Tyber rumbled. "It is wasted resources and if they ever succeed again, we'll have a set of kits to raise."
"Now that'll be a challenge." Arsham grinned broadly. "We were a handful and then some."
"And you deserve a handful in return."
"Love we've been talking kits already, I think we're going to get a handful." He chuckled. "Probably a rather magically inclined handful."
"Possibly even a match for the one Nareena caries." He chuckled and drew Arsham close against him to run his hands along sleek white fur and powerful muscles. "Maybe we will even be blessed with a black Sabertooth." > with a black Sabertooth."
"That would be something." Arsham rumbled, and ran his hands through Tyber's dense dark fur.
"Yes, as handsome and powerful as anything this world has seen recently." He breathed hotly and claimed Arsham's mouth with all the heat in his soul. "A son of ours."
"I think the second generation of this team, may out do the first." Arsham rumbled before claiming a kiss of unrestrained passion.
"It is how evolution works." Tyber's voice carried the desires of a body well aroused and eager for his mate.
"How are you feeling, Nareena?" Tyber asked politely when he and Arsham entered the medical area of the NightBlade's main building.
"Very good, Tyber." Nareena smiled. "What can I do for you two today?" She asked curiously, since she rarely saw the pair in medical.
"We ... um, got talking about kits again." He said softly. "Now that it's possible."
"I can't say I'm surprised." She smiled warmly. "Something you want to do soon?" She asked curiously.
Tyber glanced at Arsham, a double check that they were in agreement and nodded. "So they are close to your kit in age." He said softly. "Two kittens, if none are twins."
"Twins have been known to happen with the process, but it's rare." She nodded. "I admit, I like the idea of my kit having playmates of the same age."
"And it is very ... difficult for me to think of raising a kitten alone." Tyber admitted quietly. "Two and a playmate in Nathan is a concession to the cultural differences. As is our other request. That we are each sire of one of them."
"When there are two kittens, it's fairly common to have that requested." She smiled. "Though the Healer will never suggest it."
"It is very important for me to know who is the sire of who." Tyber inclined his head to her differentially. "Several rites of my people require knowing."
"I understand." She nodded. "Some older Felsin rites had such requirements. You do understand that gender and such are as random as in nature. No genetic manipulation beyond what is absolutely required is done." She explained.
"Yes," he almost shivered in excitement at the idea. "It is how it should be. I hope for one of each gender and stripes, but that is for time to tell."
"Yes, it is." She nodded, noticing the Panther's excitement and the quiet White Tiger's equal excitement. "I have a strange feeling that you two won't be stopping with just one litter." She chuckled playfully.
"Possibly not." Arsham grinned agreeably.
"Not something I wish to do." Tyber rumbled and drew Arsham against his chest for a nuzzle. "It may be very old fashioned, even on my world, but I have always wanted a large family. And the NightBlades make that possible. I could not hope for better aunts and uncles."
"Even if it's mostly uncles." She chuckled. "And it's quite old-fashioned here as well. Few families have more than three or four kits these days, though that's for economic reasons as much as anything."
"Which are one of the better ones." Tyber nodded seriously and hugged Arsham tightly. "No child should be brought into the world if it can not be cared for. Physical and educational needs I can handle easily. Enough family they are grow up healthy and with enough attention is the one thing I can not provide myself."
"More than three or four kits, and it becomes tough for two parents to pay proper attention to all of them." Nareena nodded. "At least without help."
"Something I think there will be lots of." Arsham chuckled, and nuzzled Tyber. "Everyone is excited about there being kits around."
"It's a real change," Tyber grinned. "A challenge like no other."
"Also in the category of things that were supposed to be impossible." Nareena chuckled.
"Two things that will draw a NightBlade like a deer to water." Tyber chuckled.
"And its something constructive to do." Arsham added quietly. "That's something we've never really done before. Usually we blow stuff, or knock stuff down, generally destructive activities."
"That saves lives." Tyber tipped his mate's face up with gentle fingers. "As you demonstrated quite apply the day we met, not everyone is meant to be good at everything."
"No, actually I'd say that no one is meant to be good at everything. Most people have a whole here and there in what they can do." He said quietly, leaning into the touch. "But sometimes when you've done one thing your whole life, you start wondering what else there is."
"Everything." He kissed him gently and slid his arms down to embrace the White Tiger. "And nothing at all. Contentment comes from inside, love, and nowhere else. Whether that means being the best at something or trying new things until you find one you aren't good at is up to you."
"When you're the best at something because you were created for that purpose, there's a certain need to figure out if you're more than just what you were made to be." He said softly, claiming a gentle kiss. "Contentment ... that takes longer."
Nareena smiled. "As I told Ebon, you've only been working on it for four or five years. Takes most people a lot longer than that to figure out those things. Especially contentment...some people never figure that one out."
"Or love." Tyber added with a fond look at his mate. "And there have been definite successes there."
"Definitely." Arsham agreed easily, nuzzling his mate affectionately.
"That there have been." Nareena agreed. "And I'm as surprised as anyone. But then the NightBlades reputation gives a very distorted picture of the people behind it." She smiled fondly. "Definitely not the cold-blooded killers they're made out to be."
"Plenty of people behave differently at work." Arsham chuckled, though it was a little forced.
"Yes, and most people grow up different that they were at home." Tyber added and hugged him close. "Remember Kel?"
"How could I forget." Arsham chuckled. "I think I've seen him occasionally since then, but I can't be sure."
"Then trust Kel's faith in you." Tyber murmured gently. "Powers do not give that trust easily."
"He trusts that I'm blowing up the right things now, I think." Arsham chuckled. "Not quite the same thing."
"You're wondering what you would've chosen to be, if you'd had a choice." Nareena said quietly.
"Yeah, kind of." He chuckled softly.
"A father, for one." Tyber rumbled softly. "And a mage, which you're making good progress on."
"Father ... that's going to be interesting." Arsham smiled softly. "No clue how it works, but I've heard a lot of people go into it without a clue."
"Almost everyone." Tyber chuckled softly. "Somehow the kits tend to do okay for it."
"Well, most people take clues from how their parents raised them." Nareena said easily. "And adjust things because of what they did, or didn't like about the experience. However, each kit is so different, at best you end up with vague guidelines."
"I still think this bunch of parentless perpetual teenagers will do just fine." Tyber rumbled and hugged Arsham tightly. "We'll probably have three magic heavy kits for this first group, between four of the parents. Three mages and one with magical talent at a minimum."
"And probably two or three shapeshifters." Nareena added. "Given how strong the shapeshift genetics are on the NightBlade side of things."
"I can't say I'll be surprised to see a full Saber in ours to." Tyber chuckled. "This family is a most unusual collection of people."
"And a very interesting set of genetic profiles." Nareena chuckled. "And I'd be surprised by the full Saber if it wasn't for the interest of Kel." She chuckled. "Powers have a way of skewing probabilities."
Tyber gave her with a soft look from where he was nuzzled against Arsham's shoulder that belied just how serious it was. "So do my kind when we really want something."
"Just what is your kind, Tyber?" Nareena asked seriously. "It's an important question from a genetics standpoint." She added. "It's never really been an issue before, because you heal yourself so effeciently."
"A good question." He blinked in surprise. "I meant as an Immortal Servant. Your science can answer your questions about me better for it's own needs."
"Yes, even the Spirit Court around here can tamper with things within certain limitations." She nodded. "Which is probably our closest equivalent to Immortal Servants. And as long as your both here, we should get the genetic profiling done so I can get the process started."
"Yes, please." Tyber rumbled eagerly. "The closer the births are to each other, the better."
"Okay, I'll start with you Tyber. Mostly because I have a fairly complete profile on Arsham already." She said easily, as she led the way back to one of the medical scanner beds. "Just lie down on the bed."
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded and did as directed, curious at the equipment that was her realm so far from his experience.
"Now just lie still, and refrain from doing active magic." She said, as she sat down at the nearby computer console. The bed hummed as it did a slow, careful scan which was much more detailed than the usual diagnostic scan.
"This is not going to be easy." Nareena commented as she looked at the preliminary results, while the computer began working through the data acquired during the hour long scan. "Doable, but not easy."
"If it wasn't doable, there are other methods." Tyber rumbled softly. "But as long as you can, I will leave it to the Healers."
"If it wasn't doable, I'd find a way to make it doable." Nareena smirked. "I don't buy into the idea of something being 'impossible'."
"There is only the easy, the difficult and the annoyingly difficult." He chuckled back.
"Roughly speaking." She nodded. "Your DNA is about half-way between difficult and annoyingly difficult." She teased playfully. Rather like your mate's would be, if I didn't have the blueprints for him."
"Blueprints?" Arsham snorted. "Sounds like you're planning to build another me." He added, though the grin on his face made it clear he was amused.
"Oh, I wouldn't do that." She chuckled. "One set of twins is quite enough."
"Oh, I don't know." Tyber grinned and rolled off the bed to pull his mate close. "I must admit that another Arsham would be a most attractive addition to the team."
"I rather expected you'd say that." Nareena chuckled, as Arsham claimed a playfully kiss from the Panther. "Whole new meaning to the phrase double date."
"You are giving me such fantasies, my dear." Tyber rumbled with a hungry shiver.
"Well, I'm afraid it'll take about sixteen years for me to come up with another Arsham." She teased. "Only way to do it faster, would be to talk to Cazi." She smirked.
"Not quite the same thing." He grinned back, his hands growing a bit bolder in their roaming. "Not that even you could come up with an exact match." He rumbled throatily, utter adoration in his tone as he nuzzled his mate.
"Given that no two tigers have exactly the same stripe pattern, no I couldn't." She chuckled, as she watched Arsham pull the Panther close. "Now, before you two get too distracted, I need to get Arsham on the scanner to update his genetic scan."
"Guess we'll have to behave for a little while." Arsham smirked playfully.
"Just a little while." Tyber rumbled a chuckle and let his mate go. "You do such things to my self control."
"Oh, it's very mutual." Arsham rumbled back, as he got up on the scanner bed.
"And I didn't think anybody could be as bad as Ebon and Cazi." Nareena chuckled as the scanner started and Tyber leaned against the wall to stare at his mate lustfully.
"What can I say, I'm a hopeless romantic at heart." Tyber grinned. "And this delicious-looking one has completely stolen my heart."
"Well, had to get one to replace the one you stole from me." Arsham smirked at his mate. "And to think, it all started 'cause mission Intel was screwy." He chuckled.
"Oh, I would have caught you eventually." Tyber grinned in certainty. "I was sent to hang with you guys after all. Best mission assignment I've ever gotten."
"Yeah, but that made it so much easier." Arsham chuckled. "Got you past our tendency to distrust anyone outside our team."
"Which is something I am quite grateful for." He admitted. "I'd hate to have had to deal with any more suspicion than I did while trying to figure out what was going on between us."
"Would've put a damper on things happening between us for a little while, at any rate." Arsham added quietly. "At least till I got the point of trusting you."
"Which is something we got to avoid." He rumbled gratefully and moved to just next to the bed so he could touch his mate again as soon as Nareena was finished.
"Okay, you two can run along and play." Nareena chuckled as the scan finished.
"Yes, ma'am." Arsham smirked, as he hopped off the table and claimed a kiss from his waiting mate that instantly developed a heat that blinded them both to their surroundings.
Go to Part 1 Part 2
Fire, Ice and Wary Hearts part 2 of 2
NC-17 for M/M
R for Violence
Het Level is None Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
160 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written March 20, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall
Setting: Galactic Alliance, Ryoshi-Simyna
Primary Races: Felsin, God
Contents: Furry. Slash (M/M). Romance
Pairings: Arsham Kelspar/Tyber Windcrest
Notes: The service of Kyvva brings many demands and few rewards for her paladins in the mortal world. It is a life and duty that Tyber Windcrest embraced with his soul, and in return she granted him immortality and a home within the very walls of her temple-dimension of Koray-Ku and her full support. Now she has seen what he still refuses to, her favorite paladin needs a companion, one of his own stature and kind. It is enough to bring her to negotiate such an option with the Powers of many feline inhabited worlds outside her normal realm of influence. Now all she must do is get him to *see* the possibilities before him.
Blurb: A new mission, a new life, another death when it is completed. It's a cycle far older than Tyber, Paladin of Kyvva, can remember. Despite this time being no different, the Felsin at the center of his mission holds his attention like none before. It makes him wonder about many things, even his heart and faith.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from February 25, 2005