Jake and the Vampire
by Fur and Fantasy
NC 17 for M/M, M/F, F/F sex
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Jake woke in a moving vehicle, which he concluded was an enforcer patrol car as his head cleared a little. He recognized the driver from the pattern of the fur on the back of her neck, and scent; it was Felina Feral. From the lack of light it was probably very early in the morning, and they were traveling up the road toward the Salvage Yard.

"Hi, Felina." He pulled himself upright. "Where was I?"

"Slumped against a lamppost on 7th, near Ferry. From reports you'd been weaving your way drunkenly up the street before collapsing there. Supposedly you accosted some tabby tom, but no complaint was actually filed." She said quietly. "You're just lucky my uncle protects you."

Jake was silent for a long time. "Turn the car around, Lieutenant. I wasn't drinking. I haven't taken anything."

Felina slowly stopped the car. "Turn the car around and go where, Jake? I was just taking you home, figured you'd sleep off whatever it was. Like all the other times Enforcers have brought you home." She asked curiously.

"I haven't taken anything, Felina." Jake insisted a little uneasily. "Not voluntarily at least." He tried to scrub his face clear of the mental fog. "If someone messing with me ... whatever is going on, we need to know what." He dropped back against the seat. "Before it affects me during a crisis."

Felina nodded. "Whatever is going, you're right." She said as she turned around and headed back to the city. "I'll take you over to Serenity Thorne, the Enforcer Medical facility, that's the best place to try and figure this out. Do you want to let Chance know you'll be unavailable for awhile?"

"Yeah, that would be good." He sighed as his eyes closed. "If he wants to know, tell him where I am. If it has to do with SWAT, he might be a target."

She passed a cell phone back to him. "You can call him, I'm sure he's up now. He usually is." She said as they sped toward the medical facility. "That's on the Enforcer Network, so range won't be a problem."

"Thanks." He said, still a touch unsteady as he punched the Yard's number in.

"Salvage Yard, Furlong here." The tabby's voice growled. Chance was not a morning Kat.

"Hi, Chance." Jake paused as he tried to make his mind work enough to explain.

"Morning, Jake. Are you alright?" There was a combination of concern and worry in the tabby's voice.

"No. I'm checking myself into Serenity Thorne."

"Okay, buddy. I'm glad you're getting some help, finally. You've had me really worried. If you end up staying overnight and you need anything, just let me know. If I don't hear anything from you by lunch I'll stop over in the afternoon to see how you're doing. You take care of yourself." He said feeling a bit relieved.

"Chance, listen to me." Jake spoke as evenly as he could. "I'm not on anything voluntarily. I don't know what is going on, but watch yourself. Whoever's been after me might come after you next."

The tabby could hear the tension in his partner's voice. "Okay, Jake, I will." He paused for a long moment. "And if you tell me you weren't taking anything, I believe you. Just take care of yourself, okay." He said quietly, worried because what Jake said made sense of the fact that Chance had never smelled anything on the Kat when he came seeming drunk.

"Thanks ... I'll let you know when something's found." Jake murmured.

"Okay, talk to you later, Jake." The tabby said as he hung up.

Felina turned back to him. "We'll be at Serenity in about fifteen minutes."

Once Jake was settled into a room, it turned into a parade of nurses. Nurses asking questions, checking vitals, taking vials of blood, and various other things nurses do. Then it was quiet for awhile, and the nurses left him alone for about an hour.

Then a nurse came back in, and hooked an IV into Jake's arm and started a unit of blood. "Please try to rest, and not exert yourself, Jake. You'll recover faster that way." She said warmly.

"Yes, ma'am." He sighed, already fighting restless unease. "Can I have paper, pencil and something to write on?"

"Something like this." A deep voice said, causing Jake to look up and see Nathan standing in the door wearing a white Doctor's coat. He was holding a stiff backed sketch pad, and some pencils. "Thought you might be getting bored." He said as he walked over.

"Nathan!" Jake almost jumped up, grinning. "Long time, no see, buddy. How's life treating you?"

"Careful there, Jake. Don't want to go pulling that IV out." He grinned. "Yeah, Feral's had me busy, first he actually made go through a crash course version of the Enforcer Academy, and then I just finished proving that I'm better than any local Doctor." He handed Jake the pad and pencils. "Actually, I was scheduled to rejoin you and Chance. Feral decided you needed a team Medic."

"Way cool." Jake grinned, then smiled softly as he fingered the basic art supplies. "Thanks, Kat. It seems like I only get to draw when I'm laid up."

Nathan grinned and carefully hugged the smaller tom. "Good to see you again, Jake."

"So have you got my case?"

"Yep, the medical chief saw in your file that you were a patient of mine within the last year. Seems that makes me the last doctor to see you, so he gave me the case. I would've asked for it anyway. So what's going on, Jake?" He asked, as he sat down next to the bed.

He sighed and watched the nurse walk out before answering. "Despite the fact that I'm not drinking, and not talking anything else, I'm wandering home acting very drunk pretty regularly. Often enough that the morning shift knows to bring me to the Salvage Yard and not take me in for drunk and disorderly. Apparently I get more than a bit of an attitude going on whatever I'm on."

"Well, the morning shift got marching orders from the Commander on that subject after the one time they did take you in." Nathan smiled quietly. "What concerns me, is that your blood work was off enough that we had to give you two units of blood. That's definitely not indicative of alcohol, and I can't find an illegal substance it is indicative of.

"What do you remember of last night between say sunset and when you woke up in Lt. Commander Feral's squad car?"

Jake thought for a while, putting his memories in order. "I met Trent for dinner at McKallin's around seven. I had steak, he had chicken salad. No alcohol, food was good, as usual. We talked about little stuff; how the yard was doing, how Chance and Felina were doing, his latest business deal and the trip to Seriga he took last month. He bugged me again for wasting my time doing grunt work when I could be drawing plans, or 'real artwork'. He mentioned wanting me to come with him on his next trip there in three weeks. I managed to not give him a real answer.

"After dinner ... eight thirdly, maybe nine ... we went back to his apartment." Jake blushed a little under his fur. "Sex was pretty spectacular. I fell asleep after he did, and woke up looking at the back of Felina's neck."

Nathan nodded. "Is Trent somebody new? Somebody you're seeing regularly?" He asked as he tried to keep strictly professional, as best he could considering the subject.

"For the last couple months." He nodded. "I met him at a high tech trade show four months ago."

Nathan nodded. "But no memory between sex and patrol car?"

Jake thought hard. "After sex we held each other, and he kissed me a couple times before we fell asleep. After that, no." He shook his head. "It couldn't have been later than ten. I always sleep easy with him."

"Jake, the evidence suggests that sleeping is not what you were doing. Unfortunately, there's no good or easy way to look for missing memories, which I think is the problem here. I can look and see, but it won't be easy or comfortable for either of us." He said quietly. "Somewhere in those missing memories should be something that explains how you lost blood without any noticeable ... wait a minute." He said as he leaned close to look at the side of Jake's neck.

"Probably just a hickey, Nate." He chuckled with a little embarrassment.

"I've seen 'hickeys' before, Jake, and they don't involve puncture marks." He palmed his medscanner from the pocket of his coat and scanned the injury site. "Your 'hickey' hit a major blood vessel; it's probably how you lost a pint of blood last night. I'm impressed by the healing at the site, almost looks like a regenerate was applied."

"In laykat, Nate?"

"For an injury that happened last night, that healing looks days old. The puncture goes down to a major blood vessel thus is likely where the blood was lost." He chuckled. "Better that time?"

Jake stared at him for a long time as his fingers traced the injury site. "If it went to my jugular, and I lost that much blood ... even with medical attention that takes weeks to heal, and hurts like hell in the meantime." He shook his head. "The scanner has to be wrong. I've had my throat cut before, Nathan. It doesn't feel like this."

"That's just the trick Jake, it wasn't a cut, it was a puncture. Almost like the needles used to draw blood at blood donation centers. And actually, a pint is what people donate regularly, your body can handle that fairly easily. More than that and you can get into trouble. Someone was very careful, and knowledgeable about this." Nathan said, a bit disturbed. "But the blood loss doesn't explain the memory loss or the behavior. There's something else, and its not showing on the scanner, or the tests."

"So there's nothing showing up?" He searched the Tiger's face. "I can still feel it, whatever's in me. I was barely able to walk when they took the samples."

Nathan put a hand on Jake's shoulder to try and comfort him. "Jake, no nothing is showing that would explain that. Everything was normal for a Kat who'd lost a pint of blood." He thought about something. "Jake, I'm going to need to check you over completely, see if there are any more of these 'hickeys'." He said politely.

He nodded, squelching the sharp sprit of fear that crept into his mind.

"Just get undressed, Jake. And don't worry, we'll figure out what's going on." Nathan said reassuringly. "I spent too much time putting you back together to let something happen now." He said with grin that covered a very serious stance.

Once the tom was undressed, Nathan very thoroughly and gently checked him over. "Okay, you can get dressed." He said quietly.

He sat down and looked at Jake. "What ever the cause of these 'hickeys', you've got a total of five of them. One on the right and left side of the neck, right and left upper arm, and right groin. The reason you're probably still feeling something, is that you're probably not recovering 100% between blood losses, and your body is beginning to notice."

Jake shivered and shook his head. "They're all the same age?"

"The age is hard to judge, because of the accelerated healing, but it's clear that some are older than others." He said quietly. "One important problem to consider is that in your current state your G-force tolerance is significantly reduced. You need at least a week of serious bed rest to be combat ready." Nathan said quietly.

He nodded as his mind slid into shock. "You might want to get Chance checked out ... just in case."

Nathan nodded. "Just hold together Jake, falling apart isn't going to help. I'll have Chance come down, and actually we'd probably better have Trent checked as well, since he was near you last night. Whatever 'bit' you, might not have been too discriminating." Nathan paused. "What's the fast way to locate Trent?" He asked.

Jake swallowed and forced his mind to work. "His pager's 862-9393."

Nathan picked up a wall phone and dialed the phone number. He punched in the direct number to the room, since it was a digital pager.

Then he dialed the number for the SWAT Hanger phone, and waited for Chance to answer.

"Yes?" The tabby's suspicious voice answered after two rings.

"Chance, this is Nathan, I'm with Jake at Serenity Thorne." He said quietly. "Because of what's happened to Jake, I need you to come in for a check up, to make sure you haven't been affected as well."

"What's wrong?" The Kat's entire vocal demeanor changed. "Will he be all right?"

"At this point, he'll recover with rest and some IV fluids restore his body's chemical balance. What the problem is we haven't located the cause, which is why I need to see you, as soon as possible. One SWAT Kat on the injured list is quite enough." Nathan said as gently as possible.

"All right." Chance agreed uneasily. "I'll be there ASAP."

"Thanks, Chance. See you when you get here." He said as he hung up. "Well, Chance is on his way." He said sitting down.

"Nathan ... just what could be going on? What kinds of ... tools could have been used on me?"

Nathan considered. "They'd be custom tools I'm sure, probably based on dialysis equipment, so as to move more blood quickly, without significant damage or spillage. What I'm trying to figure out, is how they did it without you waking up. Any anesthetic or knockout drug would still be in your system, at least in trace amounts, or residuals.

"Which leaves a custom designed synthetic drug which breaks down completely and quickly. Hmmm ... custom designed drugs, that sounds like Dr. Viper's mode of operation, though the blood stealing doesn't make much sense. Unless of course, he's trying his hand at cloning."

Jake shuddered and hugged himself as he fought down the panic the entire line of thought brought as the phone suddenly rang.

Nathan picked up the phone. "Serenity Thorne, Dr. Solgardin speaking."

"This is Trenton DelGran." A strong, self-confident male voice answered. "Jake left this number in my pager."

"Actually, Mr. DelGran, I left this number in your pager. Jake's been exposed to a yet unidentified pathogen. Because you've been intimate with Jake, you need to examined to see if you've also been exposed. How soon can you come down to Serenity Thorne?" Nathan said in a no-nonsense professional voice.

"As yet unidentified?" There was a touch of incredulousness in the tone on the other end, though it remained coldly professional. "You will transfer him to the care of Dr. Jayson when he arrives by CDS-I Medivac." Trent spoke as one who was accustomed to getting what he ordered with little resistance.

"Mr. DelGran, this is a military situation. And frankly, Dr. Jayson's last paper on hemolytic transfer under low electrolyte conditions convinces me that he'd be out of his depth here. I take my orders from exactly one person, and you're not him. I notified you out of courtesy, and because Jake happens to like you." Nathan's voice dropped to a coldly professional tone that he used when he knew he had the authority to say 'Fuck Off', and make it stick. Nathan had carefully located a special clause in the Enforcer code book, which would cover why he was calling this a military situation when it involved a supposedly washed out Enforcer.

"Military?" There was a quickly covered touch of surprise on the other end. "How did this become an Enforcer concern?" He sounded significantly more concerned than anything.

"Section 47, paragraph 12, section 5 of Enforcer Code as regards former Enforcers. Any criminal matter involving a current or former Enforcer may be deemed an Enforcer concern at the discretion of the investigating officer. The unknown pathogen was introduced by means of puncture wounds, that makes it assault, and the unknown pathogen itself is not in the biological library which means it is artificial in origin, which falls under the category of bio-warfare, or bio-terrorism. This is most definitely an Enforcer concern, Mr. DelGran."

"If my resources can be of assistance, don't hesitate to ask, Dr. SolGardin." He spoke more quietly, though his voice was still steady. "I'd like to talk to Jake."

"Just a moment." He said muting the reception. "You feel up to talking to Trent, Jake?"

"Yeah." He grinned. "He argued with you, didn't he?"

"Actually, he made a classic mistake ... he tried to tell me what to do. More importantly, he tried to tell me what to do with regards to my patient. Big mistake." He grinned as he handed Jake the phone. "There you go." He said as he unmuted it.

"Hi, love." Jake was still chuckling as he greeted Trent.

"You sound pretty good."

"More weirded out than anything." He shrugged. "Nate's a good medic. He's patched me back together from worse."

"I'd rather have you in a real facility." Trent said. "The Enforcer's don't get much top gear."

"They've got top skill, Trent." Jake assured him. "Besides, I'm not leaving the city unless I have to."

"Back to that?" He sighed in frustration. "There is more to the world that that junk yard, Jake."

"I know, I know. It's home." He rolled his eyes.

"I'll be by as soon as I can. One teleconference with Sheir Khan."

Jake groaned in amusement. "I'll see you tomorrow then." He teased.

"I will be by before then. Mr. Khan is not that important." Trent managed to sound slightly insulted.

"Why, Trent, I do believe I have corrupted you."

"Only because I wanted you to." He chuckled affectionately. "You make sure that doctor gets the gear he needs, you hear me?"

"I will, though he's quite capable of getting what he wants himself." Jake chuckled. "I'll see you later."

"Not soon enough." Trent sighed before handing up.

"Got that right." Jake grumbled as he handed the phone back to Nathan.

Nathan put the phone away. "Commenting on Enforcer's not getting the good medical gear was he?" The tiger chuckled.

"Among other things." Jake chuckled, feeling much more himself. "He's got a reasonable amount of clout if you ever get stonewalled."

"So he said. Not that we're exactly short clout in the financial/ industrial arena though. But I'll keep him in mind. Actually, there's brand new medical research equipment being installed as we speak. I badgered Stormcraft on the subject for over an hour." He grinned.

Jake chuckled softly. "I tend to forget they're good for anything but parts. I can't say I've dealt with them much once Blackie was ready."

"I'm treating Stormcraft and his company as Unit Supply, and I'm used to having to badger Supply for what I need. I sure as hell wasn't working on second rate equipment when you were involved." He said quietly.

Jake cocked his head slightly. "You care a lot for somebody I haven't heard from for a year."

"Being completely swamped, aside." He said quietly. "I was trying to get through the traditional period of mourning without doing anything I shouldn't. Wasn't sure how long that'd hold up, if I saw you again." He sighed softly.

"Oh," Jake blinked, then fell silent for an awkward minute. "You ..." he took a steadying breath. "You're interested in me ...." His voice trailed off, unwilling to jump that far.

Nathan hesitated for a moment, a little taken back by Jake's involvement with the Kantin. Eventually he decided he couldn't lose what he didn't have. He nodded. "Yes, Jake. I have been since before I left with Feral. But my LifeMate had just died, and I wasn't supposed to thinking that way about anyone, certainly not so soon." He said quietly. "Also I needed to be sure I wasn't on the rebound from losing Rhy, and I was sure of that the one time I saw you, when I was pretending to be the Mayor's chauffeur driving Callie around for a day."

"You godda love this damn city." Jake growled bitterly as he sank his head to his hands.

"Something the matter, Jake?" Nathan asked after watching the Kat for a few moments.

"I finally give up on anyone ever wanting me, and there's five of you now, all in the last three months." He growled without looking up. "I am seriously starting to believe there are gods, and they enjoy practical jokes."

"Of the three I'm on speaking terms with only one is really a practical joker, and it really isn't his style." Nathan said off-handedly. "Some things never change though, my timing sucks."

"Could be worse." Jake sighed and flopped down on the bed to stare at the ceiling. "I do like you."

Nathan smiled. "I'm glad to know that, but you're seeing someone." He said quietly.

"So?" The Kat looked over. "I'm seeing three somebodies. Doesn't change much to make it four ... just makes sorting out a marriage that much more difficult, if any of them ever want more than time."

Nathan smiled shyly. "Well, I didn't know. I'm still getting the hang of this world, in a lot of ways." He said quietly.

"Your call." He sighed and returned his attention to the ceiling.

The tiger looked at the Kat. "You don't sound very confident about the marriage possibility." He said in a voice that conveyed a clear sense of not understanding the why of it.

"With my luck?" Jake chuckled bitterly. "I expect the males will turn out to be using me, and Callie'll have to drop it when the press finds out she's dating a junkyard mechanic."

Nathan considered for a moment. Here they tried to discourage Medics from being involved with patients, but he was trained to deal with that involvement because in small groups the Medic often would have to treat a lover.

He reached over and put his hand on Jake's shoulder. "Jake, if you can handle a fourth somebody in your life, I'd like to be that somebody." He said, feeling terribly clumsy. "And I don't use people, that's not my way." He said very quietly.

Jake rolled his head to really look at the Felsin for a long time before he place his hand over Nathan's and squeezed. "I'd like it too." He said quietly. "And I ... trust you." He added clumsily.

Nathan nodded. "Now, we work on getting you better and out of the hospital. And on finding out what happened, 'cause nobody messes with my teammate and boyfriend." The medic said with a protective growl to his voice. He briefly looked at the injury on Jake's neck and shook his head.

Nathan did his best not to look like he'd all but run back to Jake's room after an hour of fruitless research. He smiled as the lean tom looked up from his sketchpad.

"So, can I see what you're drawing?" The tiger asked curiously, as he walked over to the bed.

Jake hesitated a moment before handing the pad over, which was already turned to the sixth page and a half sketched out image of a Doberman Kantin's face.

"You're pretty good, Jake." Nathan said, honestly. "Is this Trent?" He asked, since he'd never actually seen DelGran, even if he did know who he was.

"Yes." Jake nodded uneasily. "Could ... they be bite marks?"

Nathan nodded reluctantly. "It's a possibility I've been considering. The puncture wounds are spaced correctly for the incisors of a medium-sized Kat or Kantin." He said quietly. "That leads in to lines of reasoning usually found in B-grade horror films."

"And the everyday life of a SWAT Kat." Jake muttered. "Would you believe I started watching those things so I could see something less bizarre than my own life and laugh?"

Nathan smiled quietly. "Yes, I'd believe it. If it is a 'vampire' we're dealing with, it's a very restrained one. Looks like I should be reading legends and folklore, in addition to medical journals." He said quietly, not entirely happy about it, or that Jake was refusing to meet his eyes.

"Never figured my private life would star in one, though." He shuddered.

"Jake." The Tiger said, gently tipping the Kat's gaze up to meet his. "You are not alone in this. Whatever it takes, I will help you get through this." He said, as he gently hugged the lean tom, being careful of the IV.

Jake shivered again, absently curious why accepting Nathan's support didn't rankle him. "If it's Trent, he's not like the legends much."

"Well, the fact that he answered his pager during the day makes me have my doubts. Though it could be someone that Trent knows, who knows him well enough to know his dating schedule. Problem with legends is that they're usually a mixture of truth, fiction and fear. The only part that's of any use is the truth, and that can be difficult to know." He said quietly.

"His dating schedule is pretty easy." Jake murmured. "He always spends the night with someone."

"Actually, I was referring to knowing who he's with when. That's assuming that said vampire is specifically targeting you. Rough estimate, how many times have you been with Trent in the last month?" Nathan asked professionally. "Sorry if this sounds really nosy, but there isn't much to go on."

Jake took a deep breath. "Twelve, including every night I've been 'drunk'."

Nathan nodded. "Well, I'd say the 'vampire' has access to Trent's place at the very least. Do you always go back to the same place with Trent?" He asked knowing that the Kantin certainly had the wealth for multiple abodes.

He thought for a moment. "Except for one night we crashed at my hideout, yes." He frowned as a new trickle of fear wound its way around his mind. "And that was one of the nights, too."

Nathan nodded. "I hate to say this, but we may have to consider that even if Trent isn't the vampire, he maybe cooperating with it. Though this is, of course, speculation. I'll be able to make a better judgment when he actually shows up here." He said quietly.

Jake nodded as he tried to swallow. "It'll probably be late ... Khan meetings never run short." He suddenly glanced at the door. "Shouldn't Chance have gotten here by now? It doesn't take two hours ...."

"Yes, he should. Let me check with the front desk." He said as picked up the phone, and dialed the front desk number.

"Serenity Thorne reception, how may direct your call?"

"This is Doctor SolGardin, has Chance Furlong come in yet?" He asked professionally.

"Not yet sir, but there is a major traffic jam on T-60." She answered easily. "I will let you know when he arrives."

"Thank you." He said, as he hung up.

He turned to Jake. "Apparently there's a major traffic jam on T-60, he'll be delayed. No need for worry." Nathan said relieved.

"Figures." Jake chuckled nervously.

Nathan noticed the other 5 pages. "Is it okay if I look at the rest of the sketches?" He asked, knowing how sensitive some artists where about that sort of thing.

Jake nodded a little shyly. "There ... umm, adult content."

Nathan smiled. "Thanks for the warning." He grinned, as turned back through the pages. After seeing some of Morin's collection of 'art', there wasn't much that qualified as shocking or surprising. Except maybe Rao and the two Ferrin.

The first image was a sketch of Trent and Jake's heads. The angular Kantin had his teeth exactly where the puncture marks were, and Jake had a look of absolute rapture on his upturned face as Trent's hand stroked the Kat's throat.

"That's very real." Jake said softly. "I've always liked it, but it's ... he can make me feel amazing, and barely touch me."

Nathan shivered. "You've about got me convinced he's the vampire. You've got real talent Jake." The tiger said quietly.

The Kat nodded. "Some days I really wish I'd realized I could do that," he motioned at the sketchpad, "before I enlisted." He closed his eyes and sighed with his knees to his chest. "If I thought I could stand myself, I'd quit."

Nathan sat down next to the Kat. "Not happy with SWAT?" He asked quietly, clearly making no judgment either way.

Jake shook his head fractionally. "I love Chance, I love this city, but I don't love the adrenaline and excitement anymore." He looked at Nathan, something not quite hope in his amber eyes. "Ever loved doing something that needed doing, and then woken up one morning after years of looking forward to the day and realized that you desperately wanted out, but the price was so high you couldn't walk away?"

Nathan nodded quietly. "I was a field Medic for years, one mission after another, helping where I was needed. But after a while, I realized that I'd never had a real home, and that as long as I was bouncing from assignment to assignment I couldn't have a family, or kits. It wasn't easy but eventually I realized that if I kept things the way they were my resentment of things was going to compromise my ability to do the job.

"The danger of desperately wanting out, but staying in is that it dulls your edge, and wears at your soul. There comes a point when you have to walk away, before you lose yourself or come to hate what you once loved." He said quietly.

Jake nodded with an understanding smile.

Nathan considered quietly. "SWAT's been operational for almost nine years now, it's time Feral went with the second step and created additional teams. The stress of being responsible for an entire city would get to anyone after awhile." He said with quiet determination, as he geared himself up for a 'discussion' with Commander Feral.

"I still can't do that to Chance." He whispered. "He doesn't trust at the gunner level easily. I leave, I ground him too."

Nathan nodded understandingly. "I know. But you have to consider two things, Jake; how long can keep your edge wanting out the way you do, and how long before you starting resenting Chance for making you stay?" He asked gently.

"I'd get myself killed before I resented him." He said quietly with a shrug. "I still leave him grounded, but he won't hate me for it."

Nathan looked at Jake, absolute horror in his eyes. "Jake, if things are coming to thoughts of suicide..." He choked and turned away, completely at a loss for words. His scent tainted by a combination of fear and sorrow.

Jake looked at the Tiger's back for a long time, more confused than anything. "What does it matter if I choose when to die or if someone else does? I've been living on barrowed time for a decade now."

Nathan turned slowly back, still trembling a little. "Jake, there's a big difference between a risk taken protecting others, and simply choosing to die. The problem with suicide is that it hurts so many people. Everyone who cared about the person ends up thinking there was something they should've done. That somehow they failed." He said in a soft strained voice as he remembered a suicide that tore a unit he was serving with apart.

The lean tom stopped his reflexive reply before it made it out, then sank into thought for a long time.

"Why?" He looked at the Felsin in bewilderment. "It's my life. I'm past my time anyway."

Nathan looked at him confused. "What do you mean, past your time? You're not that old."

Jake suddenly hesitated, mentally backpedaling as he shifted away a bit. "I ... Special Ops life expectancy is twenty three, Nathan. I'm ..." he took a very deep breath, wondering what in the world was making him want to say it. "Nathan, I'm nearly seventy."

Nathan nodded. "Still younger than me." He said quietly. "Jake, life expectancy is an average, a mathematical statistic. It's pretty clear you're a case that falls outside the dataset. "

He paused, and shook his head, missing the fractional amount that Jake relaxed. "Look Jake, I should just stop trying to be calm and rational about this, because what it comes down to is I love you, and it scares the hell out of me that you place so little value on your own life." He said quietly, as he silently debated having the lean tom committed for his own safety.

Jake just looked at him without comprehension for a long, tense moment, then sighed sadly. "I'm sorry I upset you."

"I'd rather know now, than find out too late." He paused. "Jake, given the current problem it may be necessary to try and find another gunner Chance will work with at least temporarily. In your current state, you're not fit to fly, and until we locate the cause it's likely to recur, unless we keep you under guard, which isn't exactly compatible with SWAT." He said quietly.

The lean tom flopped back on the bed and stared blankly at the ceiling with his free hand under his head. "Whatever has to happen." He said in a dead tone. "I can fly if I need to. I have been for a month now, anyway. Probably longer."

"You've been lucky then, based on your current readings and chemistry you'll probably black out at 5 maybe 6 G's top. Your blood level being consistently low has compromised your system." He said quietly. "I know the difficulty pilots can have adapting to new gunners. As they say, been there, done that." He said very softly, remembering an old pain.

"Did you make it?"

"No, but then my gunner died." He said very quietly. "It's harder that way, at least that's what the pilots I've known say. I only ever had one, so no comparison to make."

"Oh." He nodded.

Nathan couldn't think of anything to say so he turned the page to the next drawing. The Medic was sorely tempted to inform Feral that his crack team had cracked, because in his opinion Jake had no business returning to SWAT; the Kat was clearly burnt-out. If Nathan didn't care what Jake thought about him it would be easy to make a decision, the problem was he did care, and he was sure Jake would hate him for that heavy-handed interference. All in all, the Felsin was feeling more than a little depressed.

As Nathan took in the lines he quickly recognized himself as the subject of a fully body nude and smiled. "This is pretty good, Jake. Given what you had to extrapolate. We can go over the minor details later." He grinned impishly.

"Can't believe I have a crush on someone I've never seen enough of to really draw." He chuckled self-consciously.

"It's a good image of me, if you add tiger stripes." He said quietly. "I'd like to think that means your 'crush' is based on something beyond the physical." He smiled gently.

Jake blinked. "You're a tabby?"

"I suppose. Technically, I'm a Tiger, same as my mother, though slightly darker because my father was a Panther." He said easily. "We don't really use the term tabby back home."

"What do you call folks that look like Chance?"

"Actually, the patterns you're used to don't really happen. I guess the closest would be a chocolate on gold Tiger, not that I've ever heard of that color combination in tigers. But stripes is usually a Tiger, just like the large mane is indicative of a male Lion." He said easily. "We're all one of the big cats or another."

"Maybe that's why Xanith so rare here." Jake murmured. "Most left."

"Could be I suppose, we've never had a clear picture of how many left, or how large a fraction of the population that was. Actually, the only 'records' that survived the evacuation were the Holy Scriptures, by the time the evacuation ships reached Felsinor they were failing badly, and only barely managed to reach the surface."

"Nathan ..." Jake's voice was hesitant. "Come here."

Nathan got up from the chair and walked over to stand next to Jake. "Yes, Jake?"

The lean Kat worked to sit up and reached out to guide Nathan in for a chaste kiss.

Nathan leaned in to make it easier, and returned the kiss with a chaste one of his own. He smiled, thinking it a good start.

Jake returned the smile shyly, his fingers never leaving Nathan's neck. "I don't suppose they'd let you stay with me?"

"I'll see. You're the first patient I've had, since I got the full MD. If I can't 'stay', I still be here a lot, don't worry. If I was back home, I'd be expected to stay; it's the unit medic's job on a commando team." He said quietly.

Jake hesitated a second. "Stay in the bed, I meant."

Nathan shook his head. "That I'm pretty sure not. They seem to discourage that. I guess we'll have to wait till you're well enough to go home." He stroked the Kat's cheek ruff gently. "Probably not a great idea with the IV anyway, and you'll have that till morning at least." He said quietly.

"They really check in that often?" Jake persisted through a growing unease.

Nathan thought for a moment, and then realized that if he said he was checking on the patient, that would spare one of the limited watch nurses from doing it. Nathan smiled. "Okay, I'll stay. I know the nursing staff is stretched pretty thin, and my taking one room off their hands will be accepted without question. I wanted to anyway."

"Thank you." He sighed and relaxed back, closing his eyes. "I don't think I 'd be here in the morning otherwise."

"Any particular reason why?" He asked quietly.

"I can already feel the desire to go back." Jake spoke softly. "I doubt I'd resist it on my own."

"Then I'm definitely staying here. If you're feeling some sort of compulsion, then you definitely shouldn't be alone." The tiger said protectively. "This definitely lends credence to the vampire theory."

"Less than you might think." Jake murmured. "You probably noticed I don't sleep well?"

"I noticed that during the time you were mending. What does that have to do with you being drawn back? Or better question, drawn back to where?"

"Drawn back to Trent." He explained softly. "And it has to do with a lot of why. The few people, and things, than let me sleep easy ... it's like a drug for me, a very addictive one. I don't have much resistance even under good conditions. Right now ... I don't have any."

Nathan nodded quietly. "I can understand that, I just hope that maybe I can do the same for you." He said quietly.

"I do too." Jake smiled shyly.

Nathan smiled as well, and turned to the next page. He felt both better and a little bit more concerned now, and he certainly didn't trust Trent any further than he could throw him.

In much softer lines than the first two was a picture of a prancing well-muscled demonistic horse with fangs and clawed feet. It's mane was colored in black, the body gently shaded and his tail left white.

"That's Vangro, an Equs." Jake informed him quietly. "I miss him a lot."

"I can see that from the way you drew him. I guess you must've lived in the country at some point, since that looks vaguely horse-like. When was that?" He asked quietly.

"When I was a kit, mostly." He closed his eyes, remembering those times. "My family raised racers and war-mounds. We developed the Equs through breeding and genetic manipulation, and by some accounts, more than a touch of magic. It took over five hundred years to get to the near perfection Vangro represents." He squeezed his eyes, forcing the tears not to fall. "I wish I could go back."

Nathan gently touched the Kat's cheek. "It's okay, there's no shame in tears." He said reassuringly. "Have you ever considered taking a vacation and going back?" He said quietly. "I'm serious, a small break might do you a world of good. I think in the long term though, we need to work on finding a way to let you walk away while Chance gets to keep flying if he wants." He said with quiet sincerity.

Jake's resolve snapped as he curled to his side with a heavy sob. "I can't," was all he managed to get out before grief overcame him.

Nathan put his arms around Jake, held him close, and just gently stroked his hair. "I'm sorry, Jake ... I ... I didn't know." He stammered, feeling like a complete and total idiot. He wasn't sure what he didn't know, but he sure as hell didn't know something.

Eventually the body wrenching sobs quieted and Jake managed to speak between deep breaths. "Home, my family ... don't exist yet. Not for another couple centuries. I can't go home."

Nathan looked at him curiously. "Time travel? Accidental or intentional?"

Jake slowly pulled himself together, but didn't shift from the fetal position he'd curled into. "Intentional, just not my idea." He said quietly.

Nathan continued comforting Jake. "Someone did it to you? You mean like the PastMaster and his stupid tricks?" He asked trying to understand what had happened.

"Something like that." The lean tom shivered as his voice failed him. Jake relaxed with a deep, shuddering exhale and closed his eyes. "No more, okay?"

Nathan nodded. "Okay." He said, as he held the tom. "But I understand what it's like to be cut off from home and family." He said quietly. "I understand far too well."

"I know." Jake whispered. "As hurt as I was, I remember Rhymar."

Nathan nodded. "Among others I lost being stranded here, yes." He said quietly. "Everything happens for a purpose, though we often don't figure the purpose out for a long time."

"If the purpose was to drive me insane, it worked." Jake said bitterly, then sighed. "Sorry, Nathan." He tried to relax. "Some days being stuck here just gets to me."

Nathan chuckled and shook his head. "You and me both, Jake. Granted, you've been here longer, but this place still gets to me at times. Nothing to be sorry about, I can recognize a little steam release when I see it." He smiled understandingly.

Jake slowly rolled his head around to face the Felsin lying next to him.

"Thanks, Nate." He said softly, then rolled the rest of the way over, careful of his IV, and straitened his body to snuggle again him with his nose against the russet and white neck. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Jake." He said quietly. The medic knew he was breaking a few rules, but given the results he didn't care. Jake seemed to be feeling better than he had been, and that was what counted. "Anytime." He said sincerely.

Jake was quiet for a while, then nuzzled Nathan weakly. "What are your hopes? For the future."

Nathan thought quietly for a time. "Honestly, I haven't thought about the future much lately. For a long time, I was trying deal with Rhy's death, and being stranded. It was just easier to deal a day at a time, not worry about the future. Now, it's like starting over. I've figured out the basics: a mate to love and be loved by, a home, a family. Haven't really worked out the details." He said quietly.

After a quiet pause, he turned to Jake. "How about you, what are your hopes for the future?" He asked, sincerely interested.

"A safe home to raise a family." He stared at the ceiling. "A ... I guess that really covers it. There's a long road to get there."

Nathan nodded. "I agree, there is. But it is a journey worth making." He said in quiet, sincere agreement. He started to say something else, but he didn't want to rush things, so he just nuzzled the tom gently.

"Just not one I'm sure can be pulled off." Jake murmured sadly. "It not like I'll ever be able to have the kind of family I grew up in."

"Where there's a will there's a way." Nathan said with a calm sureness. "There's no good reason it can't be pulled off, if you really want it." He said quietly. "And I understand, I can't have the kind of family I grew up in either."

"What were they like?" Jake tried to pull himself out of another side into despair.

Nathan smiled quietly. "My mother was a tall, regal, black on fire red Tiger Felsin, I get a lot of my looks from her. She was probably the greatest healer in the last seven or eight generations, and she was a skilled mind-healer as well. There was a warmth, and compassion about her you could just feel when she was in the room. She was also incredibly patient and calm; she could calm down a warrior in frenzy easily.

"My father was over seven feet tall, sleek, and muscular Panther Felsin. He was glacially calm, except when he was playing with his brothers then he got very teenager like was the way mom describe it. I just remember that his presence made me feel incredibly safe, like nothing could go wrong. Father was the essence of Special Ops, or more specifically Black Ops. He could handle anything from assassination to sabotage, and he had a record no one's touched yet. He was the first of the Galactic-class assassins, fifty years later and people are still trying to match his accomplishments." Nathan said quietly.

"We both chose our mother's path then." Jake smiled softly. "Sometimes I wish I could have been like my brothers, but fate didn't give me that luxury."

"His brothers, there were eight of them, were varied in species and coloration, but they were all perpetual teenagers when they weren't on missions. Like him, they were Special Ops, though none was as dedicated Black Ops as he was. We had a LifeBonded gunner/pilot team, a pair of identical twin cheetah Felsin. The other air team was temporary till we got another dedicated pilot/gunner. Funny thing is, I was supposed to be the pilot for team two." He said with a quiet sadness.

"You're a pilot?" Jake raised an eyebrow high. "You hide it well."

Nathan nodded. "I'm one of the few Medics with the gold wings. But I'm a Medic first these days, and I can only fly single seat fighters. I've never found another I could trust as my gunner, after my first died. I do love to fly though." He said quietly. "And I'm good too, not as good as Chance, but I've never encountered anything with wings I couldn't fly."

"That puts you damn close to his level." Jake shook his head. "Or are you talking combat flying only?"

"Well, I can fly them, but I'm not as good a combat pilot. And no, it's anything, combat, civilian or research."

"Then you've got an edge on him." He chuckled softly. "Chance is a kick-tail combat pilot with an incredible feel for aircraft, but he's not so good at flying quietly. He's too rebellious for test flying."

Nathan chuckled. "Well, I'm almost too rebellious for test flying, as anyone who's ever been my superior will attest to ... I do not take orders well. I just specialize at being the best at what I do; if you can't be obedient, be indispensable." He grinned broadly.

"Too true." Jake smiled. "I've made it on that theory too. Fortunately for me, inventive geniuses at my level are few and far between, and ones who can make it on the battlefield are so much more rare. I may get to cheat a lot here, but I was building cutting edge gear even before I ended up in this backwater."

"At some point I should put some of these blueprints and schematics in my head down on paper for you to look at. Your genius combined with Alliance tech, is probably more than this world's ready for." He grinned. "You're the first person I've met who's actually made me question whether or not my father's mate was the smartest person ever." He said admiringly.

"Who would he be?" Jake asked cautiously. "Doesn't sound like you're talking about your mother."

Nathan smiled. "He's not. He was actually LifeMate to both of them, a muscular Lion Felsin. He was a brilliant computer engineer, didn't matter what it was involving computers he could do it. He was also the most successful hacker in Alliance history; he'd hacked every secure site known, and had never been caught. He was for all practical purposes my second father."

"Sounds like you had quiet a family." Jake said softly. "And I'd love to play with those plans."

"I did." He said softly. "What was your family like? If you don't mind talking about them, that is." He asked quietly.

"I guess not." He shrugged and settled with his eyes closed. "Mom was Kessi Clawson, the family matriarch. I was her youngest, a single tom and the last litter she'd have. When I got older, I realized just how unusual it was that she could carry to term at a hundred and twelve. That's a good fifty years past normal fertility, and she hadn't successfully conceived during a heat for forty of them.

"It's a pattern I've followed; pushing the edge, doing what's just on the other side of acceptable. Mom liked to say her youngest was a daughter born. It would have made my life a lot easier if I had been.

Jake looked up. "Does Amazon mean anything to you?"

Nathan dug through his studies for a while, finding the term under Earth mythology. "Yes, a female warrior from a society which values women and devalues men. A term from Earth mythology." He said by rote.

"Well, it's a term from Aristal history, and future, too." He muttered softly. "And as good a description of my family as you can get. Female Clawsons are bigger and more aggressive by nature than males, and they ended up running things. It didn't help that by the time I was born it was very rare for a tom to even want to be anything but a home keeper ... what I want now, for that matter.

"For the first fifteen years I had to fight for every advanced class I attended, every weapon and system I was trained with. When I turned seventeen I was finally recognized as a legal female. It still took some snarling matches to get what I was due, but most were cooperative with me, and trying to court me. I learned to hate sex about then.

"Then I got assigned to a special project in Kimberith, the first time I'd really been outside family-held lands. I met this ... incredible tomkat." Jake voice drifted off a little dreamily. "Kerr was tall and broad-chested with fine flame-red stripes on a silver-gray coat ... and he preferred males. He wasn't like anyone I'd ever met, and he actually courted me, not to get me in bed, but to live with me.

"No one had ever wanted me like that before. They'd always wanted sex, and they'd give me what I wanted for it ... Kerr actually turned me down the first couple I times I offered to bed him. He said he didn't want to share my body until I understood what I meant to him." Jake's voice drifted silent for a long moment before he continued.

"I never did get to do more than rest in his arms. He was the first thing than made the nightmares go away."

Nathan nodded understandingly. "I know the sort, my dearest friend, Morin, he'd be my LifeMate if I asked ... but, well ... Rhy didn't like him. But he held me through the tough times, let me sleep when I couldn't otherwise and that was all that ever did happen between us." He said wistfully, missing the Dracon.

Jake nodded sadly. "He was the only one I ever truly wanted to be with, and he was the only one I never did figure out what he wanted of me, and I had over a year with him to try. I still sometimes wonder what he did with the rest of his life." He sighed. "I hope you find Morin. At least your fairly sure you're in the same time and dimension as him. That's not bad, really."

"Jake, I think I can hazard a guess at what he wanted. The word is love. He wasn't really after anything, other than being with you." He said quietly. "I may find Morin in time, but there's no way to do so now. He'd kick my tail if he caught me moping around, so I'll live my life best I can here. That means finding someone to love here." He smiled. "I think I've made a pretty good start."

"Then you're got one on me." He sighed. "If what I felt for Kerr wasn't love, I really don't have a clue what could be."

"Jake, I hate trying to guess so far back, but it probably was love. Though the fact that you were still trying to figure out what he 'wanted' indicates maybe you didn't realize it was love on his part. I really don't know. All I know is that love is simply wanting to be with someone because you do, not because you want something from them. At least that's a kind of simplified explanation of one of the more complicated concepts in life."

The lean tom nodded slightly and fell silent.

Nathan looked at Jake. "You came in pretty early. Have you eaten, and if not are you hungry?" He asked quietly.

"Not really." He answered quietly.

"Okay, let me know if you change your mind at any point." He said settling in quietly next to the Kat.

Jake nodded lightly and carefully shifted to his side, snuggling his back against Nathan and tried to drift off, desperately not wanting to think, much less feel, for a while.

The phone's harsh ring startled both toms out of a light doze.

Nathan got up, gently extricating himself from Jake and picked up the phone. "Serenity Thorne, Dr. Solgardin speaking."

"This is the front desk sir, you asked to be notified when Chance Furlong arrived." The receptionist explained calmly. "He's in a less than stellar mood."

"Given the T-60 mess, I'm not surprised. I'll be down momentarily. Please have someone show him to my office, thank you."

"Yes, sir." She replied easily and ended the call.

After he hung up the phone, he nudged Jake. "Jake, Chance finally arrived. I'm going to go down and make sure he hasn't been bitten. You feeling up to talking, I'm sure he'll ask to see you." He asked gently.

"Not really, but I'll see him anyway." Jake sighed. "He's put up with enough crap from me recently, I can hardly use being unsettled as grounds for not talking to him."

"Okay, just don't go anywhere, while I'm gone. Examination shouldn't take long." He kissed the Kat gently before he left the room.

Nathan walked into his fairly sparse office in Serenity Thorne. As the newest member on staff, it was the smallest office and it had very little in the way of decoration aside from his license to practice medicine and his M.D. from MegaKat City Medical School. One thing his office had that no other office had, was a an out-of-sorts chocolate on gold tabby sitting in a padded chair.

"Hello, Chance." Nathan said, as he closed the door behind him.

The Kat blinked a couple times before he stood. "Nathan ... what is going on?"

Nathan leaned against his desk. "Still not entirely sure, the info we have is inconclusive and points a very unsettling conclusion. I can confirm one thing for sure; Jake hasn't been drinking or taking anything else. His system has been tested for everything and he's clean."

Chance nodded. "I believed him, but it's good to know nobody's slipped him something ... I think."

"What is certain is that somehow, he lost a pint of blood last night. Evidence, including blood work, suggests that he's been losing a pint of blood fairly regularly for the last month. The constant low blood level is finally hitting his system, especially when it comes to G-tolerance." He said quietly. "It's like running an engine on low oil, you can do it for a while, but its not good for the engine."

Chance nodded again, decidedly unsettled, but kept his mouth shut as the tiger-tabby continued.

"What's also certain is that someone did this to him, though we don't have a motive. The reason I asked you down here, is I need to check you over and make sure the same person hasn't gotten to you as well."

"I'm feeling fine." He shook his head sharply. "Can I see Jake?"

Nathan looked at the heads-up the one memory crystal gave him from his palmed med-scanner. The tabby showed no blood loss, no electrolyte problems not attributable to stress, no sign of the accelerated healing which occurred at the bites.

The tiger nodded, and opened his hand revealing the scanner. "Scanner agrees with you." He said as he stuck it in his pocket. "I'll take you up to see Jake. Follow me." He said leading the way out into the hallway.

"Chance, you should know Feral's assigned me to the same 'special project' as the two of you. He felt a medic was needed." He said quietly, using the term that was used to refer to SWAT in a non-secure area.

"Cool." The tabby nodded. "Where have you been?"

Nathan smiled. "I spent the last year doing a combination of Enforcer Academy and Medical School. Just to prove that I can do what I've been doing most of my life; stupid bureaucrats." He muttered. "What little time wasn't taken up by all that, was spent on mundane things including a local driver's license and pilot's license."

"Never thought about all that stuff." Chance admitted. "At least you didn't have to worry about the reference paperwork with Feral backing you. What do you fly?" He asked with honest interest.

"Pretty much anything I can get my hands on." He grinned.

"Really?" The tabby arched an eye ridge. "You have gotten you paws on anything leading edge yet?"

"Locally, not yet. But back home, I was a test pilot a couple months out of the year. I flew all the leading edge stuff, including the stuff that never went production."

"Think you're good enough to tackle Jake's new 'toys'?"

"Can't be any tougher than the Arador aerospace fighter."

"Don't know about that." Chance chuckled softly. "That's Kat's got a gift for coming up with designs I can't make heads or tails of." His voice dropped to a very quiet one. "If you can, it'd mean a lot to him to have someone be able to fly them."

"Well, we'll see when he gets out of here. Oh, before you talk to him, I should tell you that our chief suspect right now is a 'vampire' and that's got Jake a bit wierded out." Nathan said quietly, as they turned onto the hallway were Jake's room was.

The tabby snorted. "You're worse than he is, with those movies. Vampires aren't real."

Nathan shrugged. "Look at the bite marks on his neck and then tell me that." He said quietly.

"Bite marks?" He shot a very disturbed look at the taller tom.

"Yes." He said as he entered Jake's room, followed by the tabby.

"Hi, buddy." Chance raised his hand as Jake rolled his head to look at them.

"Hi," the lean tom tried to smile as Nathan settled in a chair out of the way and Chance came over. "How are you doing?"

"I'm fine, but what's this about bite marks?" He tried not to frown as Jake hesitantly rolled his head to one side and brushed the fur away from the marks. "Cruddy hells."


An uncomfortable silence settled in the room as both Kats looked at each other. Finally Chance cleared his throat. "So, know when they'll let you out of here?"

"I think Nathan said a week or something." Jake mumbled. "I don't get the drip out until tomorrow sometime."

Nathan nodded. "When the IV comes out depends on when the test results get up to the right points. A week is an estimate of how long it should take for Jake to recover, with rest and proper medication."

"A week?" Chance shifted his attention sharply between the two. "How serious is this? I mean, if something comes up ...."

Nathan sighed. "Chance, right now Jake's G-tolerance is down to about 5 or 6Gs tops. Imagine restricting your combat flight to nothing more punishing than a 5G maneuver." He said quietly, knowing that was unheard of for a jet with the Turbokat's performance specs, especially with Chance flying her.

The burly Kat grimaced and muttered quietly. "I guess I'll be going it alone." He shifted his attention between them again. "This is just a temporary thing, though, right? It's not going to happen again."

Nathan shook his head. "Chance, somebody did this to him and we don't know who yet. Until we know who, we can't catch him, her or it. And that means whoever, whatever we're dealing with could strike again." He said quietly.

"Well what do we know? And who's heading the investigation?" He focused on Nathan.

"Currently, everything that's known I've told you, except for the name of one individual who may be involved, but he has to be handled carefully because he's among the very rich and powerful. Since I only found out this morning, and I've been looking after Jake, there hasn't been an opportunity to start an investigation yet. Hell, unless he reads hospital admissions, Commander Feral doesn't know there's a problem yet. That's probably the next thing I should do." He said quietly.

"It's Trent, isn't it?" Chance locked eyes with his partner as the lean tom looked away. "Look, I know you've been dating him at least a month, and he fits the rest."

Jake body suddenly jerked around, his eyes wide. "You ... you know?"

"Yeah, buddy, I know you date guys." Chance put a hand on Jake's trembling shoulder. "It's not that big a deal." He lowered his voice. "Does Callie know?"

"Yeah," he nodded weakly. "She knows. How'd you ...."

"When you were acting drunk ... you talk in your sleep." He explained quietly. "It didn't take very long to put two and two together and figure out who you were spending at least some of your nights with."

"Oh," Jake shuddered. "What ... what else did you lean?"

"Umm," he cast an uncertain glance at Nathan.

"He knows, or can know." Jake closed his eyes and tried to relax on his back.

"I ... I know you're not ... local, I guess." He tried to say it without really saying it. "Not from this time zone."

Nathan nodded quietly. "Jake told me that earlier. Doesn't change who he is." He said firmly, then chuckled. "It's not like I'm exactly local."

"No, it doesn't change anything important." Chance shook his head and squeezed Jake shoulder.

"But we still have to be careful handling Trent, we're not sure what his exact involvement is yet. He may be the bloodsucker, or may simply be cooperating. Though it's possible the vampire is using him and he doesn't even know it, to be fair." The tiger said evenly.

"Yeah, whatever." Chance shook his head. "Just fill me in when there's something to do."

"Absolutely, we're a team. Just keep an eye on your behavior while Jake's in the hospital. If the plan is to take SWAT down, then they may go after you next." He said gently.

Chance nodded and turned to his partner. "If you need anything, just give a call. I should get back, but I want to hear from you every evening, buddy. We survived everything else, no vamp's going to take us down."

"Thanks, Chance." Jake managed a weak smile. "And you got that right."

Nathan smiled as the big tabby left with a nod then he turned to look at Jake. "Don't even think of trying to play protector by walking out early." He said in a combination of sternness and genuine concern, and growing affection.

"Nathan, if I leave early, it's not going because I'm trying to play hero." The lean tom promised with a sad edge.

"I'll keep an eye for the other reason. Jake, I know you and Chance play things pretty independent and normally Feral ends up prying info out of you." He chuckled, thinking that that was how he'd behave. "Officially, this is still that you checked yourself in for a potential problem. Technically, I should report that there's a problem with unit readiness, but there's a reporting window of two days, more or less. How do you want to play this, Jake?" He asked quietly.

He stared at the ceiling for a long moment before closing his eyes. "You really think you can get Feral to bring the other teams on line?"

"With some help from Jeremy, I think so. It's way overdue, and bluntly it wouldn't take a very large increase in the supercrime level to overwhelm SWAT's current capacity. Even Chance will reach a burnout point eventually, he just hasn't yet." He said quietly.

"Then tell him whatever will get us backup." Jake growled. "I'd be surprised if he didn't at least suspect I'm close to burnout, or something just as bad. He knows I don't have a history of drinking."

"Okay, I'll be back in a while. I've got some contacts to make, and then I'll talk to Feral. I shouldn't be gone more than an hour maybe two tops." He said as he moved the phone near Jake. "If you feel a need to leave, give my pager a buzz: 7991. Or for any other reason for that matter. I'll come as quick as I can." He said sincerely.

"Okay." He smiled softly and motioned to the art pad still turned to the image of the Equs. "Would you hand me the pad? It's the easiest way for me to loose track of time."

He handed the pad over. "Excellent, I can't wait to see what you come up with next. I'll be back." He gently kissed the Kat, and then walked out of the room and down to his office.

"Good Afternoon, HyperTech Industries. How many I direct your call?" The profession female voice asked pleasantly.

"Hi Stasi, it's Nathan. Would you put me through to Jeremy?" The tiger asked, not feeling like playing around.

"Oh, hi Nathan. You're in luck, Jeremy just got back from a meeting with Mr. Dyne." She snickered.

"Great luck, he hates talking to that Kat. Just put me through, okay, this is important." He said quietly.

"Sure, Nathan." She said, recognizing the unspoken urgency.

"HyperTech Industries, Jeremiah StormCraft speaking." An irritated, deep male voice answered.

"Sorry to bother you Jeremy, but we've got a problem with SWAT."

"Whoa Nathan, back up. A problem with SWAT, what kind?" The panther answered all attention focused on the phone call.

"Two problems; the first is we have a vampire feeding on Jake Clawson, and we don't know who the vampire is though it appears it's connected in some fashion to Trent DelGran." He paused.

"DelGran? If he's voluntarily involved in any way I'll make a rug out of that smug Dobie. The other problem, as if it was needed?"

"Jake Clawson is badly burned out, he'd retire if it wouldn't ground his partner. I'm worried he'll do something stupid. Jeremy, I want your support for going to stage 3 of the plan, you did activate stage 2 didn't you?"

"Yes, I have the additional fighters ready. I also prepared discrete launching facilities for them. You have my support, Nathan. Clawson has way too much potential, if he wants out of the fighter game we need to find a way for him to walk out."

"Thanks, Jeremy."

"No problem. Any chance you're free tonight?" The panther asked hopefully.

"Jeremy, Jake is in the hospital and I'm the SWAT medic." He said quietly.

"I understand. Do what you have to." He said before hanging up.

Nathan shook his head as he hung up. Jeremy had been trying to bed him since he found out Nathan wasn't mourning anymore. Nathan might even have taken him up on the offer if he wasn't more than a little obsessed with Jake.

He cleared his head and dialed Commander Feral's office.

"Enforcer Headquarters, Commander Feral's Office. How may I help you?" A polite shekat receptionist answered the phone.

"Yes, this is Doctor SolGardin at Serenity Thorne, I need to speak with the Commander on a confidential matter." Nathan asked in internal lingo for 'this is a personnel matter and I'm not telling the receptionist'.

"Let me put you through to the Commander, Doctor."

"Morning, Nathan. What's the disaster?" Feral's tired voice greeted him.

"Two fold disaster this morning, Commander. It turns out that Jake Clawson's drunk and disorderly behavior was due to consistently low blood levels. It appears that a vampire has taken a liking to him, and has been feeding off him for the last month. No solid proof, but a lot of leads suggest that Trent DelGran either is the vampire, or is in league with it.

"No matter who is responsible the result is that Jake is no longer combat ready, and won't be for at least a week, possibly longer.

"The other problem is that Jake Clawson is dangerously burned out, if we had a back up gunner Chance would accept I'd pull Jake out immediately. Plain and simple, SWAT is stretched dangerously thin. One plane is not sufficient to cover the entire city on a round the clock basis day in and day out without something giving, and something is starting too.

"SWAT has been operational for nine years now, its time to move stage 3 and activate the additional teams. Mr. StormCraft agrees with me on this." He said in a professional and non-confrontational manner.

"One of these days, I am going to get you to tell me where you learned to fight like this." He rumbled with irritated amusement. "I don't have any objection I didn't have six years ago. The fact of the matter is, there isn't anyone to take those other planes. Felina's leader on team two, but there's no one else good enough to partner with her, and no one good enough to handle the other jets. There isn't an Enforcer that hasn't been tested for the requirements."

"Okay, that's a problem. But let me back up a moment. You said Felina's leader on team two, most Leaders work from the gunner position but not all. Which does she do?" Nathan asked his mind working on a possible stopgap.

"She's a better pilot than gunner, but she'd done both." He chuckled slightly. "It's the main reason she usually flies alone. Not many gunners can deal with a front seat leader. Thinking to see if she and Chance can deal with each other in the same jet for a while?"

"Thought had crossed my mind. While the TurboKat can be flown solo, it really isn't at its strongest that way. With a gunner, the criminals go down faster, which reduces damage to the city, danger to the inhabitants of MegaKat City, and the danger to crew of the plane; better for everyone. And a side benefit, Jake will be more willing to recuperate properly if he knows his partner has backup."

"You don't have to reiterate the facts, Doctor. I wrote those specs." Feral growled. "I'll inform Felina of the changes. It should make her happy."

"Yes, Commander." Nathan said, polite as always. "I'll inform my patient. With regard to the 'vampire' problem I would figure there'll be an investigation, who'll be heading it? So I can forward what data we have so far." He said, following protocol for the time being.

There was a momentary pause. "Detective Tydin Swyla."

"What's the Detective's clearance with regard to SWAT?" He asked, since most Enforcers weren't cleared to know anything.

"Level five, six on NTK." He replied easily. "He's my old partner, the Kat's trustworthy."

"Thank you, Commander. For medical case reasons, I'll be staying here at Serenity Thorne, until Jake is cleared to leave. The Detective can reach me here." He said precisely.

"I'm sure he'll be contacting you shortly." There was a slight pause before Feral's voice softened. "Medical babble aside, how are the guys doing?"

"Chance is holding in there but he's worried and maybe even a little scared, and not happy about going solo. He just wants to pound someone for hurting Jake, a sentiment I happen to share.

"Jake is the one I'm really worried about. Even if we eliminate that vampire, and get him back into combat shape physically we've only solved the small problem. The big problem is he's burnt-out, he'd walk away but he doesn't think Chance will accept another gunner, and he won't ground Chance." Nathan said softly.

"Then I'll just have to find a gunner Chance will accept." Feral said with the stubborn certainty of a survivor too accustomed to the impossible. "I'm sure you'll take good care of Jake. Has he given any indication what he wants to do after SWAT?"

"Not really, but then he's not convinced that there'll be an after SWAT for him. I'm sure you've seen it before, combat personnel convinced they're going to die in the line of duty." He said quietly, avoiding anything that would flag as 'suicidal'. Nathan would make that call only as an absolute last resort. "But it's not like he's short of options, I know for a fact that StormCraft would hire him in a heartbeat, as an inventor/designer if Jake wanted to go that route."

"I've seen it, and lost too many good officers to it." He sighed with old sadness. "Though I figured it would be Chance doing it. See if you can get Jake to think about the future ... there's plenty in the Enforcers and out of it for him that doesn't involve front line work."

"Don't worry, that's what I'm trying to do." Nathan said sincerely. "That he's dating the only suspect at present isn't helping his state of mind either."

"And who is that?" There was real tension in the Commander's voice.

"Sorry, I thought I mentioned him right away. Trent DelGran, I'm sure you know the name." Nathan said with a trace of tension and dislike.

"Yes," he rumbled. "That was the surprise pairing of the year. Anything else I should know now?"

"Only that I'm not sure whether Trent is the vampire, or is merely cooperating, but by Jake's own recollection all the of the 'drunken' behavior which now turns out to be Jake's body reacting to the blood loss, happened on nights he was with Trent." He said simply. "Trent did 'order' me to transfer Jake to the care of some doctor he thought was better equipped to handle the situation. I politely declined his offer, with some solid run around."

Feral chuckled. "I don't doubt it. I wanted you in SWAT for more than your skill as a medic. Call me if anything happens."

"Of course, Commander. And I'll let you know when Jake's fit for duty again." He said quietly, as he looked to end the conversation.

"Good. We'll discuses option as they come up." Feral said before hanging up.

Nathan made a quick call back to StormCraft, but got his secure voice-mail.

"Jeremy, this is Nathan. We've got a problem with Stage 3, Feral hasn't got anybody to fly the additional jets. Any chance your company can find teams for 'em? Talk to you later. "

As Nathan stepped out of his office, a low ranking Enforcer handed him a padded bag with a shoulder strap. "This was just delivered for you, Doctor." The shekat said politely.

"Thank you." Nathan said, noting the HyperTech logo on the bag as he headed back to Jake's room at a quick pace. He skipped waiting for the elevator and took the stairs two at a time. But he slowed and casually walked into Jake's room.

"Hi Nate." The lean tom said absently without looking up from his sketchpad. "How'd it go?"

Nathan sat down next to him. "Well, Feral agreed to activate the additional teams, as soon as he finds Kats qualified to handle the planes. Seems that he's had every Enforcer tested and the only who's passed is Felina."

"Not surprising." Jake snorted.

"Feral's going to see if Chance will accept Felina as a gunner, at least temporarily. She's trained to lead, and she's qualified with the TurboKat, or at least the version HyperTech is flying."

"Even odds those two ever get out of bed." The Kat snickered.

"Feral's assigned an old partner of his to investigate the 'vampire' problem. All in all, kind of a draw. No solid victories or defeats. How's the art going?"

"Schematics ... not real sure of what yet, though." He flipped the pad, now on page twenty, over to Nathan.

Nathan nodded and looked at the open page, a complex network of lines of varying thickness and shade that had a vague resemblance to micro circuitry. He acknowledged that it wasn't anything he recognized and went to the previous page, with several shaded sketches of a forward swept wing aero fighter with a highly stylized bird insignia on the tail and wing.

"This insignia, it one you just created or has it been used already?" He asked curiously as he studied fighter's design.

"It will be used, by the Phoenix squads." Jake sighed. "The elite of the world guard. Probably evolved from whatever may have remained of SWAT Kat legends."

"Oh, it's from your time." He said quietly, as turned to the previous page where a stylized, three-dimensional Kat's head insignia stared back at him.

Nathan was impressed. "Very nice three dimensional design, Jake." He said, somewhat surprised by the way it did seem to stare back at him.

"I was thinking of some actual decoration, now that we're getting close to being acknowledged." He shrugged. "We need a better squad logo."

"It's high time you and Chance got acknowledged." Nathan said firmly. "That would make a good medal."

"Mmm, I guess. I was thinking more a metallic blue, red and gold insignia placard on our base." He cocked his head at the Felsin. "Would you mind if I fixed that sketch of you?"

"Could work as a placard as well. I just hadn't been thinking that direction." He acknowledged, then smiled at the request. "Not at all." He said as he flipped to the correct page and handed it back. He walked over to the door, and put a sign in the outside pocket that said 'Patient exam in progress - Do Not Disturb', and then closed the door.

He very casually got undressed under Jake's very watchful gaze, putting clothes on the chair in such a way as to minimize dressing time. When he was nude, he looked at Jake. "Correct away." He grinned as he shifted to the pose and angle in the image.

Jake licked his lips and rumbled slightly before remembering he was supposed to be doing something besides stare. He shifted to give his hardening cock somewhere to go as he picked up the pencil and quickly sketched in the stripes, so very different from the thick tabby ones he'd original thought might be there.

"Pose?" He arched an eyebrow at the tiger, not quiet keeping the desire from his voice.

"Anything in particular you'd like?" He grinned.

Jake swallowed before he managed to make his voice work. "Mmm, something sexy ... pleasure yourself?"

Nathan chuckled throatily, as he remembered one of the tamer vids in Morin's collection. He was already starting to feel hard since being naked in front of Jake was a turn on. He struck what he thought was kind of sexy, at least the panther in the vid had looked hot doing it, and slowly teased himself hard in Jake's direction, giving the Kat a good view without showing everything.

For his part Jake never took his eyes from the tall, muscular feline that was taking his time with the presentation. He shivered as he resisted the urge to touch his own swelling length; only holding back out of determined desire to watch the entire show, memorizing every line and shading of muscle and fur as Nathan moved his hands long his body.

Nathan turned sensually to give Jake a look at the back of him, while brushing his white-tipped tail past the Kat's nose. He continued to gently tease his hardening length aware of both his own arousal and Jake's. As much of a turn-on as this was, it was also a lot of fun.

As Nathan got fully hard, he sensually strutted up to the side of the Kat's bed, and used one finger tip to gently guide the Kat's muzzle so Jake's gaze was looking right at the hardness his 'pleasure yourself' suggestion had brought about.

With a low whimper Jake leaned forward as his tongue darted out to taste the first drops of precum. He ignored the pad as it fell to the floor as his hands began to explore promising, hard muscles. One eventually settled on Nathan's balls as the other stayed on the tiger's hip as he slowly slid the hard, pink, barbed length into his mouth and down his throat.

Nathan moaned as the Kat engulfed the sensitive flesh, and then began to rock slowly back and forth. Part of his mind said that he was completely out of bounds, but another said that sometimes the book just doesn't apply. He sensually caressed as much of Jake as he could reach, paying special attention to pleasure spots.

As Jake set to work learning what brought the most vocal responses in his new lover, he shifted to close his free hand out his own throbbing erection, seeking to be only a few moments behind the tom he was suckling.

As Jake's expert technique pushed him toward the edge, Nathan consciously pulled back with biofeedback trying to time it as close as possible. He discovered that his long tail would reach around and brush the Kat's hard cock, and he did this repeatedly to see what reaction it would arouse and smiled through his pleasure as it through Jake off for a moment, then drew a deep growl of desire as Jake began to loose his battle to cum second.

Nathan continued a sensual brush pattern with his tail, until felt the Kat began to spasm and spurt. Shortly afterward, Nathan lost his grip on the edge and went over with a roar, as the muscle spasms seized control of his body as he shot jets of seed into the lean tom's mouth.

Jake's involuntary cry of pain as Nathan collapsed forward snapped him out of his pleasure instantly as he searched for the cause and cringed inwardly as he realized they'd pulled Jake's IV out.

With careful speed he replaced the IV line, grateful he didn't have to move it to the other hand this time. He looked at the panting Kat. "You all right, Jake?" He said breathlessly, thankful that the Kat had been on one of the IV fluid bags instead of one of the units of blood.

"Damn that hurt," he forced his system to calm down. "Hell of a way to snap out of an orgasm." He looked up with a slight grin. "That was fun ... you're something to look at."

Nathan nodded. "Yeah, an adrenalin surge at the end of an orgasm is not something I'd recommend." He said shaking his head. "But it was fun, and you're pretty incredible yourself."

Jake blushed behind a grin. "Thanks. Practice has its perks."

Nathan sniffed the air, and chuckled. "Well, this is one hospital room that doesn't smell at all antiseptic. And I think your sheets need changed." He grinned broadly.

"I like this smell better, though it'll get some questions." He chuckled. "I'd say it all need's changing." Jake carefully cleaned himself and then Nathan with the hospital gown. "Maybe get me some real clothes?"

Nathan quickly stripped and remade the bed. "They actually teach this in the first year of med school." He chuckled, as he tossed the soiled linen in the appropriate hamper. He handed Jake another gown. "I'll see what I can do about real clothes. What you were wearing when you came in? Smells like you had some very interesting encounters with drunks, winos, and other streetlife, before Felina picked you up. But first to neutralize the questions." He said as he finished dressing. He pulled a foil wrapper out of his doctor coat and removed two green leaves from it, before carefully sealing it.

He found some rubbing alcohol on a shelf, and a shallow tray. He poured out some alcohol and placed the leaves in it. A strangely gently fragrance floated through the room, and though not all that noticeable itself, it neutralized the mating scents.

"Umm ... good question." He frowned in irritation. "I assume it was jeans and a collared shirt. It's what I usually wear."

"I'll check with laundry, see if they're clean yet." He said as he went to the door. "This shouldn't take more than ten minutes maybe fifteen."

Nathan came back about fifteen minutes later carrying a bundle he tossed to Jake. "There you go, fresh out of the dryer. Let me cap the IV, so you can put shirt on without dislodging it." He said temporarily disconnecting the IV line.

"Thanks." Jake sighed as he settled down and handed Nathan his sketchbook with a slight grin. "I think it's a good rendition, considering my state of mind."

Once Jake was dressed Nathan reconnected the IV. He grinned at the picture. "Better than I would've expected, I didn't figure you were still drawing at that point. I figured you had other things on your mouth ... I mean, mind." He chuckled.

The lean tom smirked. "It's something called a memory, Nate. Mine may be the consistency of a sieve right now, but I keep a few ... important bits."

Nathan chuckled. "So I see, I'm flattered to be one of the important bits." He said kiss the Kat gently.

"You understand." Jake smiled softly as he caressed the Felsin's face. "Not many do."

Nathan hesitated for a moment. "Jake, if Chance can accept Felina as his gunner; would that allow you to walk away?" He asked very gently.

"She's a pilot." He frowned.

"According to Feral, she does both. Of course, maybe he's just trying to make things work."

Jake fell silent for a while, then he nodded. "If it really works, yes. They're a good pairing otherwise too."

"We'll just have to see how things work out. And you're right, they are a good pairing regardless." He paused. "Jake, I know Callie's been worried about you this past month, you want to tell her anything yet?" He asked quietly.

"Oh, Kats." He groaned and dropped his head to his hands. "That's a whole 'nuther angle. She's not exactly a minor player." He shook his head. "She should know, and I kind of need to tell her about you too."

"Would you rather talk to her in person?" Nathan asked quietly. "Or on the phone?"

"Gaw, in person." He shivered. "I hate talking on the phone."

Nathan chuckled. "I'll see what I can do. Be back shortly, I'm going to use the phone in my office, it looks like an 'important' call and gets past the receptionist easier."

Fifteen minutes later as the receptionist finally put him through, Nathan wondered what he'd been thinking when he'd said easier.

"Deputy Mayor's office, Calico Briggs speaking."

"Yes, Ms. Briggs, This is Dr. Solgardin at Serenity Thorne. SWAT confirmation 7336 ID Medic." He said giving the information that one of the council would use to recognize him as a member of the current team.

"Any news on Jake?" She asked immediately.

"Yes, he was never actually drunk. He's been suffering from a repeated blood loss, which his body reacts to as if he was intoxicated. This appears to a case of assault by an unknown entity which we are calling a 'vampire' for purposes of reference. He's currently in Serenity Thorne, and will be for the next week. His condition is stable, but not combat ready. If you can spare the time, he'd like to speak to you in person." Nathan said quietly.

"I'll make the time." She growled stubbornly. "Has Feral been informed?"

"I spoke with him earlier. He's assigned Felina Feral to back Chance up while Jake is out of action. He's also started an investigation into the attacks on Jake." He said easily.

"Good." She said. "Keep me informed. What room is he in?"

"Jake's in room 527."

"I'll be by as soon as I can." She promised. "How's he doing?"

"Physically, he's recovering and he'll probably be back to normal in a week or so. Mentally, he's a little rocky because our only suspect in the attack is someone he knows, intimately." Nathan said delicately.

"It makes sense, in a Jake sort of way." She sighed. "I'll be by as soon as I can." She promised before she quietly hung up.

"Callie will be by as soon as she can." Nathan said as he walked into Jake's room.

"Probably after dinner, given her schedule." He chuckled.

"Possibly, but hard to say. She said she was going to make room." Nathan grinned. "It's quite possible someone is getting rescheduled as we speak."

"And I'd dare them to complain." Jake smirked. "It still amazes me she's not Mayor."

"I think she has more power as deputy mayor." Nathan commented quietly.

"Mmm, or at least more ability to get stuff done." He shrugged. "Or that just might be her." He shook his head. "Crud, I'm already restless."

Nathan walked over and rubbed the Kat's shoulder gently. "Anything I can do to help with that?"

"Knock me out?" He looked up hopefully.

"Given that you probably haven't actually slept in the last twenty-four hours, a little sleep wouldn't hurt. However, the last thing your body needs right now is chemicals. Fortunately, I have an alternative." He said, opening the case he'd received earlier. He took a small gray box out, from which he removed a strange, high-tech headset, with what looked to be eyepieces.

"Jake, this is something I developed back home, and redeveloped here. It basically gently moves the body and mind from waking state, down to the deep levels of sleep with being in the state where dreams occur. Since I seem to recall your sleep problem is due to nightmares this may help, at least on a short term basis. I should point out it hasn't been approved for use here, but I wouldn't offer it to you if I wasn't convinced it was safe. You can try it, if you want to."

"Why not." He chuckled. "Can't be half as dangerous as my designs."

Nathan chuckled, as he put the headset on Jake and adjusted it. "True, there's nothing explosive or flammable involved here. I'll wake you up when Callie gets here, or a little before if I have any warning. Sleep well, love." He said as he activated the device, from the control pad that came with it.

The gentle hum slowly gave way to sense of numbness and a fading consciousness for Jake, as the waking world went to black.

Nathan gently brushed back the Kat's hair, as he checked the readouts. Pleased that everything was working properly he powered up the laptop that had been the bulk of the case, linked in to the HyperTech Industries Net, and then the Internet to do some intensive research on vampires, including anyone in the city who might have already done a lot of research on the subject.

He wasn't sure how useful any of it would be, but it was something to do, until Callie arrived. The tiger also passed a request to Jeremy to see what his people could dig up on Trent DelGran. He was sure the Enforcers would do a background check, but sometimes corporate intel went places the law didn't.

Nathan was getting thoroughly frustrated with all the counter-information when the phone rang sometime later.

"Serenity Thorne, Dr. Solgardin speaking."

"Deputy Mayor Briggs is here to see your patient, sir." The front desk receptionist reported crisply.

"Thank you, I was expecting her. Please send her up." He said, before hanging up.

He gently cycled the device back to waking state, and when the waveforms were correct he removed the headset. He gently shook the still groggy Kat. "Time to wake up, Jake. Callie is on her way up."

"Lovely." He shook his head sharply as a knock on the door distracted them. "That is one funky device, Nate."

"Glad you like it." He said quietly, as he kissed the Kat quickly before answering the door. "Hello, Ms. Briggs. Please come in." He said stepping aside to let the deputy mayor in.

"Hello, Nathan." She said as she walked over to Jake, and bent over to kiss him. "Hi, Jake." She said sweetly. "Nathan said you needed to see me. How are you feeling?"

"Not completely with it." He tried to chuckle as he shook himself the rest of the way awake. "Did he explain any of what's going on?"

"Some, that you've been losing blood to what may or may not be a vampire. And that you're out of commission as far as SWAT is concerned for at least a week. And that you know the only suspect in the case, though he didn't say who."

"Good summery. It's Trent." He sighed. "Did he mention I'm half a step away from getting committed from burn-out?"

She looked over at Nathan. "No, he didn't." She said quietly. "Jake, if you're that burned out then you need to get away for awhile. You've been on constant combat duty for almost ten years with nothing amounting to a decent vacation." She said with some concern. "You don't do the city any good if you flame out." She said quietly.

"I know." He whispered. "It's being dealt with. Just figured you deserved to know you won't be dating a SWAT Kat much longer."

Callie put her hand under Jake's chin, to make sure he was looking at her. "I wasn't dating you because of the uniform anyway." She said as she kissed him gently. "Have you thought about what you'll do after SWAT?"

"Not much." He admitted. "Wasn't till this morning that it was even going to happen."

"So what prompted the sudden change?" She asked curious, but not disapproving.

"Somebody caught on that's capable of forcing the issue." He nodded at Nathan.

Callie glanced at Nathan, and back to Jake. "True, he is the first doctor who's seen you long enough to realize you're burned out, and he could ground you on that basis...but I don't think it was quite that heavy handed, not the Tiger's style." She said as though assessing another politician.

"No, but it's not a fight I'd win, or even really want to." He admitted quietly. "He's good at making me remember living has its perks." He tried to smirk, but didn't quiet make it.

The pale shekat smiled. "Well, sounds like your doctor is a good counselor as well. And from the sound of it, that's just what you need right now." She nuzzled him affectionately. "He said you'll be in for at least a week, but I'd like to see you the first night you get out." She said smiling.

"As soon as I'm up for it." He promised with a playful smile and caress on the cheek. "And not under guard." He made something of a face.

Nathan gave him a mock stern look. "Just making sure he doesn't go running back to Trent." He said with a bad attempt a seriousness, which ended up as more of suppressed smirk.

Jake actually rolled his eyes. "He wants Trent out of my life completely. Greedy Tiger."

Nathan smirked. "Sorry, but I just don't think someone takes a pint of blood from you on every date is good for you, call it a quirk of mine."

"It's not every date, and it easy to sleep with him." Jake rolled his eyes and teased. "And I still say you're a greedy Tiger. I bet I could be out of here well before a week if you wanted."

Nathan grinned back. "He's so easy to sleep with that you wander the streets in wee hours accosting drunks, and any other tabby you find." He chuckled with a teasing sparkle in his eyes. "Well, maybe but I figured this was the best way to get time with you, given your overloaded social calendar." He grinned broadly.

Callie just rolled her eyes at the two males. "I'll expect you both for dinner the first night he's out of here." She ordered with a twinkle in her green eyes. "Seriously Jake, It's good to see you smile." She leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. "I'd say Nathan's already good for you."

"Thanks." He smiled up. "We'll be there; who cooking?"

"I am, of course." She stood with her hands on her hips and huffed. It's my apartment."

"Yes, ma'am." He smirked and play-cringed.

Nathan smiled. "Yes, ma'am."

"Don't tell me you're a cook too." She rolled her eyes in mock despair.

Nathan grinned. "After suffering numerous people's attempts at camp cooking and a mate who couldn't boil water, it was self-defense." He chuckled.

"We should do some kind of fun-raiser with it." Jake mused out loud.

"A cook-out?" Callie chuckled and rolled it around in her head. "There are possibilities there. I'm sure some folks would pay just to see the lot of us do something so mundane."

Nathan chuckled. "I'm sure Jeremy'd get a kick out of it. Though I'm kind of an unknown otherwise." He said trying to figure out why anyone would pay to see him do anything.

"Not for much longer." Jake pointed out. "By the time SWAT's in the open, you'll be wearing the uniform, remember?"

"Jeremy?" Callie glanced between the two before settling on Jake. "I didn't know you were sleeping with him."

"I'm not." He shook his head. "I think Nate was thinking SWAT personnel."

Nathan shuffled one foot a little, and looked a bit uncomfortable without saying anything.

Callie chuckled softly. "Inside joke, Nathan. Jake seems to like to date good cooks, just to compete with them. Trent and Cassy are too, so now it's all five of us that know how to cook."

Nathan chuckled. "Oh, it's not that. It's just that you looked at the wrong person when you tried to figure out who Jeremy was dating." He grinned a little.

Jake raised an eyebrow behind Callie's back as the shekat shook her head.

"That just leaves Commander Feral without a bedmate on the team." She muttered, then half chuckled. "The MegaKat City Enquirer will have a field day if they ever unravel this."

Nathan blushed, and was a little sheepish. "As soon as I decide if I'm going to take him up on the date or not." The tiger said obviously completely out of his depth, looking something like a high school kit at least in manner.

"Just make sure you can handle them both before saying yes." She chuckled and patted his arm on the way out. "I'll see you guys later, and I'll be careful, Jake." She winked as he shut his mouth with a sheepish grin.

Nathan sat down quietly after Callie left, feeling a little uncertain. He couldn't figure why he'd let the bit about Jeremy out, it had just seemed to come out.

"So the Panther likes you?" Jake asked curiously.

"Yeah, we've been friends for awhile now. At first I thought he was just interested in the tech I had in my head, but eventually I figured that it was more that he likes to be with other 'Great Cats', and there aren't many in the city, and I stand my ground with him. He likes to have equals as friends, but too many people insist on being subservient around him.

"Yesterday, he told me that he was interested in me as more than just a friend. He asked me to dinner, when my schedule allowed, so we could discuss it further. That was over lunch yesterday. Around two or so, Feral tells me I'm being assigned to SWAT, says there's a problem and hands me the notes on the 'drunk and disorderly' situation." He smiled slightly. "Guess I haven't really thought about the offer much."

"So are you interested?"

"Enough that I'm not sure." He shook his head. "Right now, things are too busy anyway. But if I was, would it bother you if I saw him sometimes?" Nathan asked extremely tentatively.

"Not at all." Jake smiled and brushed Nathan's cheek. "I'm not monogamous, I hardly expect my lovers to be." He chuckled softly. "Though we do make an attempt to mention it before the first night."

"I'll let you know when I'm sure there's going to be one." He smiled. "Actually, Felsin aren't monogamous either. Our usual married pattern is three not two." He said quietly.

"So you still look for partners outside a triad too?" Jake raised an eyebrow.

"Considering we don't necessarily stop at triads, yep." Nathan smiled. "There's no rule on maximum size of a group, though it becomes more difficult to find new people that get along with everyone as you go. But it's okay to partner outside, as long as your honest about it, and the partner isn't actively hostile to one of your mates."

"Nice system." He chuckled. "I wish it was more common around here."

"It works most of the time." Nathan smiled. "Once in a while, someone will forget that they're supposed to stay loyal to their mates, but usually a quick reminder is sufficient."

Jake nodded. "She actually took that better than I expected."

"What was she supposed to get upset about?"

"That I noticed someone else on the team." He shrugged. "She said more than once that she expected I'd leave her if I ever got Chance's attention."

Nathan chuckled. "If she's anything like Feral she probably thinks something's been going on for a while." He smirked. "Before I was on the team."

"And I lied to her?" He frowned. "I don't think she'd tolerate that. She knows who my lovers are."

"Scratch that, she definitely wasn't reacting that way. I didn't sense anything like that. Don't know, the only thing I sensed was approval, and a little relief." He said quietly. "I still think Feral thinks there was something, a couple of his comments were unexpected."

"Probably hoping something was between us, or just running on my track record." He shrugged. "Not like it matters anymore."

Nathan walked over and put his hand on Jake's shoulder. "No, I suppose it doesn't. Though Feral did make a point of mentioning that there were still things you could do in the Enforcers away from the front line; assuming that you wanted to, of course."

"I don't doubt it, and he could probably even make it pretty attractive." Jake chuckled. "I really don't know, Nate." He closed his eyes. "I'm still getting used to the concept of not dieing for the city."

"Like I said Jake, only if you want to. I'll support whatever you decide. Just to give you another option, Jeremy'd love to have you on his R&D staff. But no need to decide now, just letting you know you have options." He nuzzled the Kat supportively.

"And there's my art, and freelance, and maybe just being a stay-at-home father." He flopped down dramatically and threw an arm over his eyes. "Gods, it'd be easier to make a list of what I couldn't do."

Nathan smiled. "I think you'd make a good father." He said quietly, as he went over one of his projects in his head.

"You do?" He peaked out from under his arm.

"Yes, is that so surprising?" He smiled.

"Well ... yes." Jake brought his arm down and looked at the Tiger curiously.

"I'd say you're on the edge of asking a question. You can ask me anything Jake, if I really don't want to answer I'll say so, but there's no harm in asking." Nathan said encouragingly.

"Why?" He murmured. "What in me would make me a good father?"

"You've certainly got the protective instincts for it. You're smart, always a plus dealing with kits. You've got a good heart, you give everything for the people you care about ... sometimes maybe a little too much." He paused. "But part of it is instinct, my mother told that my heart would tell me if a mate would be a good father or not. Well, my heart has no doubts about you, Jake."

"Oh," he murmured quietly and fell silent as his mind tried to work through that.

While Jake was thinking, Nathan quietly logged into the HyperTech R&D network, and checked the status on his research project. He read over the results of several tests, ordered some additional tests, checked on some overdue parts, and did other administrative work. He figured Jake just needed time to think, until a light snore drew his attention back to the bed where the Kat had tossed an arm over his eyes again.

Nathan smiled, and gently pulled the covers over the sleeping tom. It was one way to do ones thinking, and a positive sign that the tom had gone to sleep that easily. But Nathan decided to stay close by just in case.

Nathan had quite lost track of time when the phone in Jake's room rang, but judging from the light outside, it was early evening. He quickly picked up the phone and answered quietly so as not to wake the sleeping Kat. "Serenity Thorne, Dr. Solgardin."

"Mr. DelGran is here to see you." A new receptionist said crisply.

"Please show him to my office, I'll be down shortly." He said before hanging up.

Nathan walked back over to Jake, reluctant to wake the Kat, but Trent would ask to see him. He gently kissed the Kat. "Time to wake up, Jake. Your doggy boyfriend is here." He said in a teasing voice.

"Mmurrr?" The lean tom struggled to focus, rolling his head to look out the window before looking back at Nathan. "Muuppp."

"I see. Let's try focusing shall we. Coherent speech this time." He grinned encouragingly.

"I'm'up." Jake squinted at him before yawning. "Gawk ... tell me they don't serve hospital food here."

"It is a hospital, but I'll see what I can do. But first things first, Trent's here. Do you want to see him?" Nathan asked without hint of opinion for or against.

"Definitely." He snapped to focus and smiled. "I do like the guy."

Nathan kissed the Kat gently before he left the room. "Just keep your wits about you." He said quietly. "I'll be back with him."

Nathan walked into his office to find the Doberman waiting for him.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. DelGran." He said politely as he entered.

"I understand." The lean, angular male nodded slightly. "Have you made any progress on what has affected Jake?"

"We've managed to isolate the pathogen, and bio-research is handling it with level 5 bio-safety precautions. We've determined that this was definitely a deliberate exposure. Despite this being a new and tailored pathogen we've found it responds to a combination of existing antibiotics and Jake is responding favorably. We expect he should be ready to go home in a week or so. An investigation is currently underway into the attack on Jake." He said as he walked past the Doberman with the scanner in his palm. "Given that the exposure may have been last night, how are you feeling? Any dizziness, blurred vision, sudden fatigue, or strange memory gaps?"

"No." He watched Nathan move with combat-trained eyes, though his body didn't betray a bit of it. "I've felt fine."

Nathan was comparing the scanner's readings as they appeared on the crystal readout to his knowledge of Kantin physiology looking for similar indications of blood loss, or other readings that fell alarmingly outside the norms.

He nodded, made a couple of mental notes. "If you'd follow me, Jake would like to see you." He said evenly, thankful for years of practice at keeping his outward signs neutral, even scent would reveal nothing, thanks to biofeedback. He headed for Jake's room with the Doberman following in silence.

"You got out early." Jake chuckled with a broad smile as they walked in.

"I told you I'd be here." Trent smiled softly as he brushed a few stray hairs off of Jake's face. "How are you feeling?"

"Pretty good." He shifted to lick the slender black hand. "Mostly sleepy. How'd it go?"

"Reasonably well, considering who it was." The Kantin chuckled. "They're treating you well?"

"Yes, Trent." Jake rolled his eyes. "Nathan wouldn't allow anything else. This is the Kat that pieced me back together from a bloody pulp last year. He's hardly going to let bad medical care get me."

Trent smiled. "Good to hear his concern extends to more than over the phone. Would you like your pencils?"

"You brought them?" He glanced around eagerly.

"Of course, handsome." The Doberman chuckled affectionately and ruffled Jake's hair. "They're in the car. I wanted to make sure you'd be staying here." He looked over his shoulder at Nathan. "May we have a few minutes alone?"

Nathan looked to Jake, and seeing that that was what the Kat wanted nodded. "I'll be outside." He said as he stepped out the door. He maintained his empathic fix on Jake, ready to bolt back in, if required.

As he stepped out, he activated the scrambled surveillance mike built into the briefcase, linked in through the mem-crystal in his head. That combined with his exceptional hearing, would let him keep an ear on things. "Sorry Jake, but I don't trust Trent one bit." He whispered very quietly under his breath as he stood outside listening.

A long, intimate kiss followed by a double sigh, one of contentment, the other of relief, were the only sounds at first. Then Trent spoke.

"Seriously Jake, do you really think these people will take the best care of you?"

"Yes." He sighed with a bit of exasperation. "Nate's the best."

"He's lying to us." The Doberman countered, all concern. "If this really is a pathogen, he's being inexcusably lax. If it's not, he's up to something, and you're the bait."

"Trent, you are being paranoid." Jake groused. "Nathan's not like that."

"I hope you're right." He sighed. "We both have enemies, Jake. A little paranoia isn't always a bad thing."

"You still have to trust someone, and I trust Nathan." Jake murmured. "He wouldn't allow anything bad to happen to me."

"All right." He kissed Jake again. "I trust you, I'll trust him. I'd still feel better if you were in a better facility."

"I know, but it's only for a week."

"Then I am going to spoil you rotten." Trent spoke with firm determination. "We are going on a vacation when you get out of here. I'm not going to take no for an answer this time."

"All right." Jake chuckled softly. "I'll be ready for a change by then."

"Mmm, okay, that's one good thing." Trent chuckled softly. "If this gets you to relax, I won't complain."

"I doubt anyone will." Jake purred softly, affectionately. "Better let Nathan back in before he gets too antsy."

"All right. I like a doctor that dedicated." Trent chuckled softly. "I'll bring your pencils up."

"Thanks." Jake said with honest affection as the door cracked open.

"Thank you." Trent inclined his head to Nathan. "I'm going to get his art supplies, if that is permitted."

Nathan smiled. "Certainly, his art is good for him." He nodded as the Doberman went out for the supplies. He waited until he was sure the Doberman was a ways a way.

"Just a little info, Trent's been fed on to, though not nearly as aggressively as you have. I'd say he's not the vampire, but he may be working with it." He said quietly.

"Or he's just a victim." Jake countered. "Is that really so hard to believe? Would you be suspecting Chance is he'd been fed on?"

"Chance wasn't with you every night it happened, Jake." Nathan said quietly. "If it was just some of the nights, I'd call it coincidence, but every night ... there's way more than coincidence here. If he's a victim, it's quite possible he's a controlled victim. Which means he could be a danger, and not even know it." He conceded.

"Or be in danger." Jake sighed. "I know you don't like him, but why are we keeping the truth from him?"

"Jake, you convinced me he might be a danger between the drawing and the fact of his being present every time. I don't like anyone I think is a danger to you. As for why I'm keeping the truth from him, if he's working for the enemy it's hardly wise to let him know what we know is it?" Nathan said quietly.

"That drawing could be of almost anyone I've been with for very long." He hissed. "I told you, I've liked that kind of play for a long time." He forced himself to calm down and control the fear constricting his heart. "Nathan ... if he's being fed from too, wouldn't that indicate he not cooperating? And without me, he's going to be in a lot more danger."

Nathan forced himself to sit down. "Okay, maybe I'm being overprotective but given you were talking suicide earlier it's not surprising. And according to some of the lore on vampires, some people allow themselves to be fed on willingly. They're mortal servants of the vampire." Nathan shook his head. "Jake, if you're that sure of him. Tell him what's going on, you know as much as I do." He sighed. "I haven't kept anything from you. No matter what he may think."

"Well, you did lie to him." Jake said softly. "Even if you didn't to me, he doesn't know that."

Nathan shrugged. "I did what I thought was best to protect you."

"I know." Jake reached out to brush Nathan's cheek. "Like I told Trent, I trust you."

A quiet knock on the door preceded the Kantin's appearance with a large plastic box in his arms and a flat, polished wooden object on top of the box.

"That's a little more than my pencils." Jake observed with a touch of amusement.

"It's just what you seem to use the most." The Doberman smiled as he set the box down near the bed and unfolded the legs of the small wooden table before setting the art supplies box on top of it. "And a couple odds and ends you wouldn't normally need."

"Thank you." Jake smiled as he rolled to his side and opened the box with a familiar hand.

"Dr. SolGardin, what hoops are required to stay past visiting hours?" Trent asked politely as Jake made a quick inspection of what was brought.

"That would depend on how long past visiting hours you were talking." Nathan replied, covering a very unprofessional surge of jealousy.

"You found it!" The lean tom grinned delightedly at his Kantin lover as he pulled Trent down for a hug and quick kiss.

"I told you I'd seen one before." Trent chuckled. "It just took some hunting to figure out where. You'll find your laptop in the bottom drawer too."

"You're trying to spoil me." Jake pouted with a chuckle.

"It's what mates are for, Jake." He smiled softly at the Kat in the bed. "I'd spoil you a lot more if you'd let me."

Jake shook his head and chuckled. "We've had this discussion before, Trent."

"I know." He turned to face Nathan. "The night, until he's well enough to go home."

Nathan wished just once he was really telepathic so he knew what Jake wanted, but he didn't. "I'm afraid hospital policy doesn't allow that, except for married partners, or common law." He said in a completely unemotional, firm business like tone. One month of dating wasn't even close to common law. This was a case where he knew the administration was a stickler on this particular rule, and the hospital administrator hated rich folk throwing their weight around.

Trent nodded and pulled a chair next to Jake's bed and settled down. "What are visiting hours?"

"Normally they're till 8pm, but I know Jake's a night owl, so you can stay till 11pm. I've got that much leeway as his doctor." He said pleasantly. "Visiting hours start at 10am." He said as he swiveled his laptop around.

"Thank you, Doctor." Trent smiled at him before settling his head on crossed arms near Jake's head.

"You're not going to argue?" Jake raised an eyebrow as he picked up the pad he'd been sketching on earlier and quickly added some color to them.

"I know you don't like it," the Doberman scratched Jake's shoulder lightly. "And I don't like you being here in the first place, but you trust him, so I'll behave." He smiled softly. "They're more to spoiling a mate that buying gifts, you know."

Jake smiled back. "And the best gifts aren't bought."

Nathan sat back and checked with Jeremy to see if anything interesting had come up on Trent. As expected nothing yet, but trying to work on the case was more satisfying the playing celibate doctor, and he wasn't leaving Jake alone with the Doberman anymore than absolutely necessary.

He set up the wireless sketchpad connected to the portable graphics station/laptop and started putting one of the blueprints in his head in to a visible form using a light pen. A good way to bury a growing irritation, and if the Dobie mentioned his dislike of the hospital one more time, Nathan would be more than tempted to admit him.

But Trent was calmly quiet, apparently content to watch Jake color, then to be a warm presence next to the tom's head as the Kat drifted off.

Nathan glanced up at eleven o'clock on the dime to see Trent stand with lean grace and walk over to him.

"Thank you for letting me stay late, and I do hope your warmth will let him sleep well." The Doberman spoke quietly and offered his hand. "I'll be back in the morning."

Nathan smiled politely, and stood to shake the Kantin's hand. "It makes him happy, and we'll see you in the morning then. Good night, Mr. DelGran." He said as the Doberman left, after which he made a brief call to the floor nursing station letting them know he would be looking after the patient overnight, so they could take him off then nursing rounds. The nurse was appreciative, since they were short staffed nurse wise.

Then he walked over to Jake to see if the Kat was still asleep, since the tom often didn't sleep for long and smiled at the sound rest his patient was getting.

Nathan set the laptop to ring a silent alarm at six am, and link his active mem-crystal to watch it so it would wake him at six. Then he set his over jacket neatly on the table with the laptop, secured the laptop to the table and activated its motion sensor alarm.

Everything set up properly, he climbed into bed with Jake, since he'd promised to, and wanted to anyway. He put his arms gently around the Kat as if to protect him, which he would. Nathan drifted off to sleep, but it was the watchful sleep of a warrior protector.

Nathan woke to the sound of a gurgling growl and smiled as he got up, recognizing in the unhappy sounds that the Kat needed to eat. Fortunately, he remembered what the Kat liked from the time he'd spent nursing him back to health. He slipped downstairs to the kitchen, and managed to talk the cook on duty out of the makings for breakfast for two. Nathan convinced him by explaining that he was saving the cook the time of making two breakfasts, he'd have to make anyway.

Fortunately, the fifth floor had an executive conference room, with a small adjoining kitchen for meals that were served with some presentations. Nathan got happily to work fixing breakfast.

About an hour later he came walking back into Jake's room carrying a tray in each hand from which tasty aromas wafted, despite the covers to find the Kat fidgeting in bed, with some signs he'd been moving around suck as he could.

"Nathan, you are a doll." Jake grinned as his nose and eyes zeroed on the meals. "It's good to sleep, but it's throwing meals all out of whack."

Nathan swung the arm over the bed to set Jake's meal on, before set his own on another table. "Well, breakfast is at approximately the right time." He grinned taking the covers off the two large breakfasts. "But you certainly needed the sleep."

"Mmm, looks like your cooking hasn't suffered for your schedule." He purred as he pushed an egg on toast and globbed blueberry jam on top of that before digging in with a relish.

Nathan ate absently not really paying attention, which was fairly normal. "I've had a lot of practice, so a year of not so much practice didn't do much harm." He smiled. "Besides, I figured at the very least I should be able to beat hospital food." He grinned broadly.

"Or Chance's." Jake grinned as he finished off his toast and eggs. "Kats, I'm not usually this hungry, even after thirty hours." He looked up with a smile half way through the butter and syrup soaked pancakes. "Don't usually sleep nearly this much either."

"You've made a decision that's allowed you to relax in a way you haven't been able to in a long time. The hungry is actually due to your body working overtime replacing the lost blood, and other chemicals. Takes fuel to make repairs." He said with a grin. "The sleep is probably some combination of Trent's presence and mine."

"Do you really hate him?" Jake asked quietly between bites as he slowed to a more normal pace.

"I never said I hate him. I'm just uncertain about him, and I have reason to think he may be working with someone who hurt you. I'm uncomfortable, but I'm trying my best to keep a reign on that." He said softly between bites.

"He's a nice guy, Nate." Jake said softly. "I hope when all this is over you two end up getting along."

"If I'm wrong about him, we probably will." Nathan said evenly. "If I'm right, well ... better you don't know." The tiger said very softly.

"If you're right, you aren't going to get the opportunity." The lean Kat hissed softly. "I'll get to him first."

There was a long silence. "Jake, has Trent proposed to you?" He asked delicately, not wanting to really but the issue had been bothering him based on several things said the night before.

"No." He shook his head. "He's hinted pretty strongly he'd like to be more involved in my life, but nothing so formal." He looked at the Tiger. "Why?"

"Just something said last night sounded like it. It's just normal to try and keep track of that sort of thing when you're seeing someone." He smiled quietly. "Just sizing up the competition." He grinned shyly.

"Nathan, he isn't competition." Jake shook his head before taking another bite. "I'm not looking for just one mate, and you two offer different things."

Nathan nodded. "I know. I guess I just find someone else taking the same approach to treating a mate as I take a little disconcerting. He does things so much like I would, down the bit about spoiling you." He said quietly. "Guess that's why it feels like competition."

"Oh," he smiled gently. "He does it 'cause I drive him nuts. He's so used to thinking in terms of money and prestige, and I don't. It's his way of trying to prove he's listening to me, and I'm not the mate of the month or some decoration like a lot of his others."

Nathan smiled. "Oh, I just do it, 'cause I just do. Money and prestige have never been big with me, 'cause I've been military my whole life. Well, I've always done well, but it was never important." He shrugged. "I've never actually been with someone who was seeing someone else ... I understand the theory, the reality takes a little getting used to." He smiled shyly.

Jake leaned over enough to pull Nathan in for a quick kiss. "I understand, Nate. I've been poly for a long time, but I remember that first time, and I remember when it was my mate, and not me, who had another interest."

Nathan made a face of mock sternness, that wasn't very convincing. "Well, I do hope the Dobie understands he has to share. He's probably used to monopolies." Nathan smirked impishly.

"He likes them." Jake chuckled. "But he understands that he can't always have me to himself."

Nathan grinned. "Heh. Darn right."

"And he knows why he doesn't want to have me to himself too." The lean Kat smirked daringly. "I can be quite a handful."

Nathan smiled broadly. "That's easy to believe. Though I'm looking forward to finding out." He said sincerely.

"I hope you like more than you don't." He said a little hesitantly. "Though you probably already know more about me than anyone else."

"Given my own background, and past. I tend to be very understanding of others', especially of those I love." He said encouragingly.

Jake nodded slowly. "You're the first I've told about ... where I grew up. You ... even if it was the only thing you offered, you understand what it's like to be stranded in a society much more primitive than your own." He looked up uneasily. "If you look very carefully, you'll find bits and pieces in the language you picked up from me ... The Alliance stretched out here when I was born."

Nathan examined the language more closely, then nodded. "Yes, and I'm not surprised. Finding Origin has always been an interest of my people, and in another two hundred years it's likely they'd find it. Being stranded could've been worse, but Jeremy let's me work on 'reinventing' things, it's a good partnership. You kind of brighten up being stranded to." He said, as he gently kissed the Kat.

Jake dropped his eyes slightly. "If you ever want to find out just how difficult I can be to live with, ask Chance what I was really like after you left, and I still don't get quiet why, except that it was so nice having another refugee around."

Nathan kissed the Kat gently. "Well, I'm back in your life now, and I don't plan to go anywhere this time. I'm sorry I didn't stay the last time, but well ... I couldn't." He said softly.

"It's over with now." Jake leaned into the contact. "What got us here doesn't matter much."

"Not much, no it doesn't." Nathan said quietly. "Where we go from here is enough to deal with." He said quietly. "I'll have to wait for this mornings blood workup to be sure, but I think you'll be off the IV before visitor hours start."

"Good." Jake sighed. "I hate this thing." He nuzzled Nathan softly. "Where do you want to go from here? Besides back in my bed, that is."

"Everyone hates IV's." Nathan smiled. "I don't know exactly, but some of the more normal dating stuff ... spending time together, doing things together, just getting to know each other. Preferably without hospitals or weapons involved." He smiled gently. "Seriously, Jake, I know what I want in the long run, I just need to be sure, and to know if maybe you want it too." He said, as he softly nuzzled Jake in return.

"How about just asking me?" He offered.

"Well, I was trying to be romantic about it." He said quietly. "In the long run I'm looking for another LifeMate, and based on what I do know and gut instinct it feels right when I think about it being you. What I don't know for sure is if you want a lifetime commitment like that."

"Gut answer, yes." Jake stared at the ceiling. "Life's just not quite so simple."

"I know. It'll take time to get there I'm sure, but it's easier knowing that you're not going to be running from the idea, like some toms do. Between the two of us, we can probably make anything work." He said quietly.

"Probably redesign the planet in the process." Jake chuckled, half serious.

Nathan smirked. "Yep, the civilized half." He said supportively.

Jake raised an eyebrow at that. "You're not against a little social engineering?"

"I'd consider it. There are some positive changes that could be made. Anything in particular you had in mind?" He asked, raising an eyebrow of his own. "I'm always in favor of trying to make people's lives better."

"Mmm, the basics: world government, real space program, start colonizing, AI development, get the legal system comprehensible."

"Well, I'd say the first step is the world government. Colonization before world government just leads to wars in space. AI development needs to be done carefully; I've seen some real disasters there especially when AI's were hooked to weapons systems. But it's still a good idea.

Nathan smirked. "Make the legal system comprehensible? That would be a miracle of some proportion. I think it'd better to have it make sense, toss out the century old laws that aren't being enforced anymore and that sort of thing. Though the institution of a world government would probably be a good opportunity to rewrite the legal code." He said in a planning mode. "Sounds like reasonable ideas, certainly better than a lot of social engineering I've run across."

"Oh, and what are those?" Jake chuckled with real curiosity.

Nathan rolled his eyes. "You name it, and some wacko's tried it. World-wide enforced religious doctrines to ensure moral purity, strict genetic testing to ensure racial purity. Various approaches to population control, either to encourage or discourage growth; and sometimes to discourage some people and discourage others. Social engineering can be very dangerous in the hands of people who forget it's people's lives they're playing with." He said quietly.

"It's not an easy balance to keep, individual freedoms and the greater good." Jake agreed. "I don't think I've even heard of a system that always did the right thing."

"Me neither, though my natural instinct is to err on the side of individual freedom. It's the way I was raised, and it's kind of tiger nature as it were." Nathan said easily.

"I prefer harsh penalties and rehabilitation." Jake shifted to lie down and glanced at the door. "How long before the morning shift arrives to poke and prod me?"

"About an hour or so." He said quietly. "I'm all in favor of rehabilitation, if it's possible. Harsh penalties depends on the crime, and what you mean by harsh."

"Death when they're irredeemable, but mostly none of this revolving door arrests and automatic release because there isn't space. There's a serial killer who admits he'll kill again that will be set free in eleven years because of the housing policies."

Nathan growled low. "Serial killers are irredeemable, and their one of the cases in which I favor the death penalty. Though I've found often if you look at some of the minor crime statutes you can eliminate a lot of overcrowding and automatic release with things like electronically monitored home arrest, and rehab for drug offenders. Or at least make the automatic release make sense, release the least dangerous criminals the ones doing time for non-violent crimes."

"Just actually enforcing the death penalty we have in decent time would cover a lot of it." Jake grumbled. "You realize that when Dark Kat's captured, even though we've got him dead to rights on hundreds of deaths and more crimes than I can count, he'll still be kept in a cell for a couple decades while the legalities are sorted out to actually put him down. And that's assuming he doesn't get an insanity sentence. That will never get rid of him." He bristled. "There are criminals out there that just need to be shot on sight. They're past the justice system."

Nathan looked at Jake. "If they ever put Dark Kat in a cell, he won't last decades." The tiger said in a low dangerous voice.

"He's just one of dozens, Nathan." Jake sighed. "Half of them are already behind bars, some of them won't be staying there." He closed his eyes. "I don't see how the lifers do it. Seeing the same criminals commit the same crimes over and over again after they get arrested and released."

Nathan shook his head. "I can't say I understand either, though I know my world had the same problems before the world government." He paused for a moment. "As for Dark Kat being one of dozens, I know that, but there's a score to settle." He said darkly.

"Stand in line, Nathan. We all do." Jake flicked his ears back with a raw hatred of gave few things.

Nathan shook his head. "I shouldn't think like that. Brooding on such thoughts isn't the way I was taught." He said quietly. "But suffice it to say, the criminal justice system is broken."

"The scary part is it's in the best shape in recorded history." He shook his head, then looked at Nathan. "Perhaps another sketch before the nurse arrives?" He suggested with a wink.

"That is scary." He agreed. "So you want to refine the earlier sketch, or something new?" He asked in a seductive voice, as he pulled the examination screen across the middle of the room.

"Something new." Jake crooned. "Something ... different."

Nathan smiled. "Different huh? I can give you different, I just hope it isn't more than you can handle." He said quietly, a little worry in his scent.

Nathan began a slow strip tease based on the vids he'd seen with Morin, and the couple of actual shows Morin had taken him to. He kept it slow with 'sexy' undulations of his hips. It was fun, but part of him thought he was being really silly. As he got close to the end, he kicked in the switch to midnight black War-form, that the Protectors had shown him was possible. Slowly he became larger, more powerful, his legs became back hinged, and his face far more feline, and his claws longer, though he retracted them. He walked over to Jake once the transformation was complete.

"Different enough?" He asked tenderly, as he ran a finger gently down the stunned Kat's jawline.

"Sweet Bastet," he whispered, eyes wide in a mixture of shock, disbelief and lust. Slowly he closed on hand around the one touching his jaw. "That's ... incredible."

Nathan ran the other large paw down the Kat's chest. "You like it then? I'm glad, I wasn't sure how you'd react but I couldn't hide this part of myself from you, not now." He said quietly, in the war-form's deep voice.

"Like it?" Jake whispered throatily as his gaze ran over the creature before him, settling on the thick sheath and balls. "Dear gods, yes. Nathan ... you're ... gorgeous."

Nathan smiled, and bent down to claim a quick kiss. "It's not the reaction I'm used to, but it's a very nice change. Back home the usual reaction is closer to fear, or at least wary respect."

"I guess back home don't find feline traits attractive." He traced a light finger up the filling sheath before him. "I'm not sure you'd want to walk down the street like that, but ... damn ..." he shook his head sharply. "You're hot."

"Walk down the street, maybe not. But private sessions is a whole 'nother matter." He rumbled seductively, as his paw caressed Jake's crotch, while undoing the prone Kat's belt. "You can't play all dressed like that." He said softly.

"Do I really have to be all hooked up?" Jake pleaded as he raised his hips to slip his jeans off.

Nathan walked over to the IV, and shifted back to Felsin. "Looks like it's about empty anyway. Best to take it out now, I really don't think you need it anyway." He said as he carefully unhooked the IV and set it aside. "It'll probably come unhooked anyway." He smirked as he shifted back to war-form.

Jake licked his whiskers and rumbled hungrily as he shifted to his elbows and knees, with his ass in the air and tail twitching over his back. "I like it rough."

"So you said." The war-form rumbled excitedly, as he got on the bed behind Jake, and stretched the Kat, a bit roughly with two large fingers. When he felt prep was sufficient to avoid damage, he drove his cock in roughly to the balls, and then began thrusting while holding the Kat's hips with one large paw. The other paw, he reached under to stoke his lover's cock, determined that they would both come, preferably Jake first.

With a moaning howl Jake shuddered, already near the edge, as he thrust his scruff up as his head dropped down, panting.

Nathan instinctively reacted to the out of the ordinary behavior, and placed a paw against the vein in the Kat's neck to check his pulse, while he listened to the Kat's breathing. "Are you all right, Jake?" He asked quietly, concerned.

"Bite, damn it." The lean tom panted. "Mount me."

Nathan shook his head only barely understanding, but he was trying to please Jake. His one consolation was that the bite marks were too small to be made by the war-form.

He roughly resumed this thrusting, and took the Kat's scruff in his jaws the way Jake expected him too, applying enough pressure for it to be felt solidly, but not to break skin. The strange thing was once he started the arousal, the sensations, and the roughness became kind of heady mix when combined with the natural adrenalin of the war-form.

On top of it all the unadulterated whimpers and moans of pleasure from the Kat under him was bordering on intoxicating, even before he felt Jake's muscles contract with the first rush of an orgasm.

Nathan roared into Jake's scruff as the Kat's orgasm triggered his own rush. It was an incredible bliss out, as much of a rush as he got the first time he flew the Arador. As the rush and the spasms passed he gently released his jaws and collapsed to one side holding a panting Jake gently in his arms as their breathing gradually returned to normal.

"Sure you can't take me home for some personal care?" The lean tom nuzzled his huge mate with mixture of affection and desire.

"Stay today, and if your readings are good tomorrow morning, then I'll see. I certainly wouldn't mind taking you home." He grinned as held the Kat closed. "You'd probably be less stir crazy too."

"Definitely, with such a handsome creature to keep my attention." Jake grinned with a contented sigh.

Nathan nuzzled Jake playfully. "Flatterer. You're just saying that to get out of here earlier." He teased happily. "But we'd better clean up before morning shift gets here."

"Umm, yes. Wouldn't be good for your rep if they found out you were boinking your patients." Jake snickered with an affectionate lick.

"Yeah, they're funny about that around here. Back home they wouldn't look twice at the unit medic sleeping with a member of the unit. Actually, they'd be surprised if he wasn't." He kissed the Kat gently as he climbed out of bed and shifted into his Felsin form. He got dressed quickly, and made short work of changing the bed, once Jake was out of it, though the Kat's playful mood did little to help his coordination.

"Pity." Jake purred with a wink. "At least it won't matter when you take me home."

"Nope, then it's nobody's business if I'm boinking you." He smirked playfully, once he finished making the bed. He looked out the door to see where the duty nurse was, and got a wave from young marmalade tomkat wearing orderly garb, just before he turned the corner.

Nathan chuckled broadly, as he came back in. "You might as well relax. Nurse will be here in about 10 minutes. Though that's only cause we finished." He smirked.

With a bemused humph Jake flopped down on the bed. "So is there anything to actually do until they let me out of here?"

Nathan checked the Kat's vitals with his hand scanner, and as he thought the base levels had recovered faster than expected, which was why Jake was stir crazy. But there were still deficiencies in other places, but they could be corrected on an outpatient basis, with Physician supervision.

"First thing, I'll get you out as soon as I can with the understanding that you'll stay with me until you're healed, and that you understand that you are not back to duty, until I say so. I'm willing to make recovery more pleasant for you, as long as you're willing to not make me look like a fool for doing so." He said gently, but very serious.

"I'll behave. Promise." Jake nodded, absolutely sincere.

"As for something to do, you might find these interesting." He handed the lean tom a set of blueprint and design printouts for the ExoFrame base model, no weapons just the base exoskeleton. "It's an Alliance mission configurable modular ExoFrame, used in both civilian and military applications."

"Hmm, interesting." He regarded the plans carefully, eyes darting from one point to another between systematic scans. "Not what I usually work with, but it's got real possibilities."

Nathan grinned. "Design I'm most familiar with, I used a special model designed for the Medic Corps frequently. I'll get down the design for one of the aerospace fighters later on."

An older dark gray shekat in nursing whites entered and very professionally took a number of vials of blood from Jake.

"Nurse, would please have the lab expedite the results on those tests?" Nathan said as she left.

"Of course, Doctor." She responded, making a note on the vials.

"Hopefully, expedited means sometime this morning." Nathan said shaking his head.

"Do I get to leave now?" Jake asked hopefully with his art supplies neatly packed and ready to move.

Nathan chuckled. "Yes, I've finished all the paperwork and brought the necessary people up to speed. Time to leave. I assume you'll want to stop at the Yard and pick up clothes." He said as he packed away the laptop, and other equipment into the carrying case.

"Yes," he nodded easily. "Have you told Chance?"

Nathan smirked. "Hard to call him when he's in the air. I saw the TurboKat from my office window. Since there's no emergency on the Enforcer bands, I'd guess he and Felina are probably testing out the feel of working together."

"I hope that works out." Jake said with a little more fervor than usual as they walked out. "They make a good pair."

"As do I." Nathan agreed sincerely. "Yes, they do." He said as they passed the front desk where he signed a few more forms, before they left. Nathan headed to the physicians parking lot, and stopped at a sport utility vehicle clearly equipped for actual off road use.

He unlocked the driver's side, got in, and then opened the passenger side door. "Come on, let's get out of here." He grinned.

"Nice truck." Jake eyed it appraisingly as he stowed his art supplies and got in. "How upgraded is she?"

"Only just got, so she's top of the line consumer grade, but I want to get her into my shop at LeadingEdge and bring her up to par with my cycle." He said as they left the parking lot and headed for the highway. "Fortunately, Medics back home are trained as mechanics and field tinkerers, some times you just have to use the laser cannon power supply as a defibrillator." He chuckled.

Jake joined in the chuckle. "I get the feeling no one will ever recognize anything we take into the field again."

"Not once we're done with it." He said as he merged onto T-60 headed out toward the Salvage Yard. "It'll certainly cut down on the loose parts lying around." He grinned.

"The only loose parts are ones that haven't found a home yet." Jake smirked. "And I so hate to see homeless parts."

"I've noticed you do seem to find good homes for a lot of them." Nathan smiled.

"Comes with the territory." He chuckled softly and leaned back with his hands behind his head and watched the familiar serenely pass, growing more sullen as they drew closer to the Yard.

Nathan put one hand reassuringly on the Kat's shoulder. He didn't say anything, he just made sure Jake knew he was there for him, as the miles passed.

"We're here." Nathan said as they pulled up in front of the Garage.

"Wonder if they're back yet." Jake said to no one in particular as he got out and made short work of the distance to the second floor of the Garage and his room.

"I think so." Nathan said, after Jake was already inside, as he followed at a more leisurely pace. He was fairly sure he was picking up Chance, and another less familiar pattern, in addition to Jake.

He sat down on the couch to wait for Jake, and figured that would be the easiest place to see the other two as well.

"Hay, Nate." Chance waved to the Felsin as he came into the room from the direction of the Hanger ladder, closely followed by a dark brown female with black hair taller than the tabby. "What'cha' doing here?"

"Hiya, Chance. I'm here with Jake, he's getting some things. I worked out a deal to let him get out of the hospital early. He stays off duty, and with me so he's under medical supervision. He was gettin' a bit stir crazy." Nathan smiled.

"So he's doing better?" Felina asked as she gave Nathan an appraising look over.

"He's improved enough that he can be cared for on an outpatient basis. But he's still not cleared for combat." Nathan said easily. "I think my original estimate of a week will still hold, assuming he behaves." The tiger grinned.

Chance shook his head and chuckled a little uneasily. "You're in for a full time job with that. Only reason he behaved for you last time was cause he had a broken middle."

Nathan smiled. "He promised me he'd behave." The tiger said simply. "And he meant it."

"I'm ready." Jake said quietly as he came downstairs with a good-sized tote bag over his shoulder. "Hi Chance, Felina."

"Hi Jake." She smiled at him. "You're looking much better."

"I'm feeling better." He managed to meet her brown eyes. "How's it going?"

"Pretty good, I think another day or so and we'll have it." She said easily. "That's one very sweet plane down there, even better than the TurboKats HyperTech has."

"Thanks," Jake ducked his head slightly. "Give a call if something goes wrong. There's not much left of the original craft."

"You take care of yourself and get your tail back in shape." Chance put a hand on his partner's shoulder. "You're already missed."

Jake dropped his eyes slightly and nodded. "I'll do my best."

As Jake went to put his stuff in Nathan's truck, the tiger handed Chance a card with two numbers on it. "If you need to reach Jake, use those numbers. Top number is my home number, bottom number is this." He pulled tapped the cell phone on his belt. "Take care you two, and don't worry, I'll look after Jake." He said waving as he went out to the truck.

Several quiet minutes went by as the truck headed back down the highway toward the city, until Nathan turned to Jake. "You're still not sure how to tell Chance you're giving it up, are you?" He asked sympathetically.

"He loves Felina, she's damn good, and still all he's talking about is for me to get back ASAP." He dropped his face to his hands. "I don't know if I can do it." He shook his hand softly. "One thing to say it ... but to his face?"

"Jake, of course he is, because he thinks you're just out temporarily. But you two are friends as well as partners, and I think if you're honest with him about why you can't do it any more, he'll understand. Granted he may be a bit disappointed at first, but he'll get over it." The tiger said sounding more confident than he was, as he drove back into MegaKat City toward his apartment.

"We're here, Jake." Nathan said to pull Jake's attention back to the real world.

"Huuu?" The lean tom blinked, then nodded and got out.

Nathan led Jake through the parking garage attached to the apartment building he lived in, and through the halls of the well lit, obviously well maintained building to the elevator, and got off at the fifteenth floor.

Nathan unlocked the door, and let Jake enter. The living room was spacious, with a large television the most obvious feature. The couch and chairs were functional, not fancy, which was a statement that could apply to the entire apartment. There was a dining area off the living room and a hall leading further back. The apartment was a bit warmer than Jake was used to buildings being kept.

The young tom lying on the floor playing a video game turned to wave at Nathan. "Hi, Nathan. Hey, new roomie?" The dark gray tom with black ears, tail tip and paws grinned. He was reasonably young, probably a teenager, and clearly athletic from the well-developed chest visible due to his wearing only running shorts.

Nathan nodded. "Gavin Blackpaw, I'd like you meet Jake Clawson, my boyfriend. He'll be staying here while he mends. Jake, this Gavin. Among other things, he's my assistant at HyperTech."

Gavin bounded over and offered Jake a paw. "Boyfriend, huh? That's cool. Nice to meet you, Jake. Welcome to Nathan's home for wayward kittens." He smirked, clearly largely self-directed.

"Trying to make a family without me, hu?" The lean tom smirked at Nathan playfully as he shook Gavin's paw. "What do you do for him up there?"

"Run errands, drop off his laptop at the hospital when he leaves it at home, keep nurses out of patient rooms, scan news and web for useful data, and I beta test the latest game software from LeadEdge Game Designs." He grinned.

"The last he does for entertainment." Nathan grinned. "Why don't I show you where to put that stuff, Jake." He said heading to the back.

"Oh, Nathan. Ashtalos said he'd be by tomorrow, and there's a special delivery package on the kitchen counter." Gavin added in an 'almost forgot that' tone of voice.

"Thanks, Gav." He nodded as Jake followed him.

Nathan led Jake into a large bedroom with two large beds. From the scent of the room, Jake could tell it was Nathan's room. A large closet occupied one wall, and the door to a bathroom was on the other. There was a large wooden dresser on one wall.

"Just set your stuff down anywhere, we can figure details out as necessary." Nathan said casually.

Jake nodded and dropped his tote bag near the wall, taking slightly more care setting the art box down. "Does Gav live here?"

"Yes, but his room's at the end of the hall. I've always believed in having a place for guests, just in case. Gav's at that age where he needs 'space' of his own." Nathan smiled.

"How'd you end up with him?"

"About six months ago, I was out walking trying to clear my head, when I got run over by three teenagers Chance's size chasing Gavin with unpleasant intent, from the weapons. I didn't even think, I chased after them and when I caught up with them I beat the tar out of all three of them. Gavin was pretty banged up, so I brought him back here and patched him up.

"Turned out he'd been on the street since Dark Kat's last attack on the city. I guess his parents were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, I saw some serious potential in him so I offered him a deal; he could stay with me, if he got back in school and stayed. He was reluctant, but after a few days he decided it sounded pretty good.

"Jeremy got all the paperwork squared away, and even brought him on as a part time employee, my assistant. Gav may be a teenager, but he's seriously trustworthy, Jeremy even uses him as a courier for council business if he's not doing anything for me."

"Sounds like a good rescue." Jake said very quietly as he flopped down on the far bed and stared at the ceiling with his hands behind his head.

"I like to think so." Nathan said easily, as he walked over and sat on the floor near Jake's head. "So, what's bothering you?" He asked quietly. "I know the ceiling's not that interesting." He said with very quiet humor.

"If I'd been faster ... he'd still have his parents." Jake closed his eyes against threatening tears. "Of all the times for Feral to have picked the fight ... I really did have Darkcrud in my sights. How many dead are because I followed by training and not my instincts?"

"Jake, Gavin's parents died early in Dark Kat's attack. Probably the first Kats who did, and it was before the SWAT Kats were even on the scene." He said quietly.

"That first time, Nathan." He said softly. "When we were 'kicked off the force'. I really did have him."

Nathan was silent for a while. "Jake, I'm going to tell you something about Gav's parents. Even he doesn't know yet, he's not old enough, but they were Protectors. They were in Dark Kat's way because they knew he had to be slowed down to give city defenses a chance to scramble. They didn't plan to die, but sometimes when fighting a force that large, the unexpected happens." He said admiringly.

"What were their names?" He asked softly.

"Shvrin and Marssa BlackPaw. They were fourth generation Protectors, and I'm afraid Jake, that the Protectors claimed the blame for not stopping Dark Kat before you did." He said quietly.

"They can claim whatever they want. I could have stopped him that time, and I didn't. I've never gotten a second chance like that."

"Jake, there's no changing the past, and no sense beating yourself up over it either it. It changes nothing, and helps nothing." Nathan sighed. "Well, maybe this will help a little...you and Chance turned Dark Kat's attack back just before it hit the building Gavin was in, and as far as he's concerned the two of you are heroes who saved his life. I'm surprised he maintained his composure in the living room, as well as he did." Nathan smiled softly.

Jake cringed slightly and sighed. "Thanks for the warning."

Nathan grinned slightly. "Well, if he made past the handshake, he won't say anything now. Officially, he's not supposed to know who's who. That's actually above his level of clearance, most peoples actually. But one member of the council didn't seal something properly, and all the papers fell on the ground, and in the process of picking everything up, Gav learned a few things."

"I'd say he just proved his ability to handle that clearance. If he kept his mouth shut when face to face with me with no one in the room that doesn't know, he's not likely to slip anywhere." Jake said quietly. "Pretty impressive for a kit, really."

Nathan smiled. "Yes, he is. He took Jeremy's lectures on the importance of maintaining security very seriously."

"Probably got early training on it too." Jake smiled softly. "If his parents were Protectors, no doubt they were grooming him for it, even if they didn't tell him."

"That's basically what Ashtalos told me, since basically the Protectors expect me to groom him for it now." Nathan shook his head in amusement. "It's been a busy year."


"My Protector mentor."

Jake jerked slightly before he nodded and forced his body to relax one muscle at a time. "I think it time for a nap, for me."

"Like a massage? Just to help you wind down and relax." Nathan offered quietly.

"I ... not really." Jake said.

"Okay, sleep well. Jake." Nathan said, giving the Kat a quick kiss, before leaving the room.

Jake waited until the door had closed and he couldn't hear Nathan's footsteps before letting a small sob out. He curled to a sitting position and buried his face in his hands. "Of all the things ... why a Protector?"

Nathan wasn't five paces away from the bedroom door when he felt the emotional spike erupted from inside with a mixture of grief, misery, longing and carefully controlled hatred.

Nathan turned and went back to the door. Though it was his room, he decided not surprise Jake and knocked.

There was a brief pause as the emotional turmoil was buried. "Yes?"

Nathan walked in. "Jake, something's been bothering you in a serious way, since I mentioned the Protectors. What is it about them that upsets you." He asked with sincere concern in his voice. "I could feel your distress even after I left the room."

Jake gave him a very startled look before he sighed. "It's my problem Nathan, nothing you did."

"Jake, is it going to come between us?" He asked sincerely.

"I don't know." He refused to meet the Tiger's gaze. "I never bothered to find out if it would matter."

Nathan sighed. "Is there anything you can tell me about why there's a problem?" He asked quietly confused.

"You're a Protector."

"Yeah, I got that. But why is that such a problem? At least currently they're doing a lot to protect and save lives." Nathan said feeling very confused. "This is something from the future, isn't it?"

"Not really." He sighed. "I was refused. I'm still bitter about it. Like I said, nothing you did."

"You were?" Nathan looked stunned. "That's really hard to believe." He said putting his hand gently on Jake's shoulder. "How long ago?"

"When I was nine." Jake said quietly.

"That was in the future then." He said quietly. "Different way of doing things apparently too, 'cause the Protectors now don't even consider potential candidates until they're eighteen. If you weren't so tired of the fighting, I'd suggest you talk to Ashtalos. I know they'd accept you now." The tiger said with certainty.

"I don't want anything to do with them." Jake couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Future rules or not, it's still the Protectors." He sighed miserably. "Look, it's not your fault, and there's not much to be done about it now. It just figures you'd be one."

"Jake, if this is going to cause problems, then I'm not going to be one much longer." Nathan said firmly. "You're more important to me, that some organization I never heard of before this year." He said fervently.

Jake hesitantly reached out to brush Nathan's arm. "I ... don't know if it even matters. Either I can accept that they wanted you and wouldn't take me, or I can't. This isn't about you being something I don't approve of, it's ... well, that you're better than me in the eyes of a group I used to revere.

Nathan nodded. "Well, I won't push the issue any more. If you still need that nap, I'll go take care of a few things." He said quietly.

"I need some time to think, alone." He finally looked up to the Felsin's green eyes. "I won't bolt."

Nathan nodded. "I understand, and I trust you." He said as he left the room and closed the door.

Once outside he turned and went down to his den, and sat down at his desk. Part of him was raging inside, it just figured he'd pick the one organization that would cost him his relationship with Jake. If that happened, they could just protect their own damn city.

He tried to calm down, but music didn't help, and his meditations didn't help. He pulled out one of the magic texts Ashtalos had given him, and tried study, while keeping one eye on the security system indicators.

"Nathan?" Gav's uncertain voice finally drew his attention from the book he wasn't reading.

"Yes, Gav?" Nathan said distractedly, looking up.

"Are you going to bed?" The dark teenager asked. "Jake's out cold, and it's late."

Nathan chuckled. "Is it? I hadn't even noticed. I suppose I should, and I know you should." He said as he stood up and stretched. He carefully locked down the apartment security system for the night.

"Good night, Gav." He said, as he hugged the Kit same as he did every night. "See you in the morning."

"Night, Nathan." He hugged the bigger tom back. "Good luck."

"Thanks, I'm gonna need it." He said as he headed into his room. He looked over at Jake as he climbed into his own bed, and then rolled over. What a disaster of a day, he thought as he drifted off to a light, watchful sleep.

Nathan was aware of Jake's slow return to consciousness nearly two days later well before the Kat was. He'd sat a mostly silent vigil, checking vitals that didn't make much sense, looking at lab results that made less sense and generally wondering if he could have been a bigger fool if he'd been trying. He'd been studying the literature on vampires diligently, carefully correlating the various bits of information. He knew he'd need it eventually.

He waited for the Kat to wake on his own, not seeing anything to be gained by impatience.

A low moan heralded Jake's grudgingly admitted awareness of the outside world. He sniffed the air a couple times, and lunged with lightning fast reflexes directly for Nathan's throat.

Nathan's reflexes shifted him to warform, as he rolled to one side to put the Kat to the floor, as gently as was possible under the circumstance. He applied his full strength and weight to keeping Jake pinned. "Jake, snap out of it!" He growled in his deep voice.

Panting, nearly hyperventilating, he obeyed, his eyes staring up conveyed more than just a look as Nathan felt the savage, starving hunger consuming Jake's mind.

Nathan wasn't sure what was going on, but he had a dark suspicion about what the problem was. He carefully pushed telepathically against the hunger, and with an intense psychic effort created a bonding. He didn't expect more than a temporary respite though as Jake collapsed under him. The tom was awake and aware, but without any strength.

Nathan picked the tom up gently and laid him on the bed. He thought about what he'd sensed, and reviewed what he knew. He also knew that if he was right, the required substance didn't have to be straight from a living source. He took a fresh unit of blood from the special refrigerator in the room, and went over to Jake. With a haunted feeling he opened the blood pack so Jake could smell it, and barely got his fingers out of the way of another grab backed by a desperate growl as the blood pack was torn open, and it's contents greedily sucked down.

With the cool blood dripping down the side of his face and a significantly more alert look Jake whined a little as a looked around the room before trying to lick every last drop from his fur and the bag.

Nathan sighed, and gave Jake another blood bag.

Six bags later, Jake finally stopped looking famished and started to look around with real eyes that eventually focused on Nathan.

"I just got into a lot of trouble, didn't I?"

Nathan nodded. "It's what I tried to warn you about. Getting killed by a vampire isn't necessarily the biggest danger. Though this situation is a little less clear. What do you remember about what happened to you?"

"A lot of it." He closed his eyes and pushed down the guilt over what he'd done to tell the truth. "I ... I wanted to find out for myself what kind of conditioning I had. I went to my old hunting grounds, where I dance and pick up one-nighters. I met this ... stunningly gorgeous Gray Fox, Ozzy. We danced at Pharos, and went back to his place.

"It was intense," Jake's eyes went a little glassy as he smiled at the memory before becoming serious again. "I passed out on top of him. Next thing I know, this big tom slapped me awake. He's got half a dozen friends, and Ozzy's there, in the background somewhere.

"I'm cuffed to this X-frame, and they start talking about what's going to happen. They said that I was a vampire-lover, and with the help of my vampire lover they'd have their vampire servant to destroy the SWAT Kats. They were sure I was Razor's lover ... that he'd never see it coming.

"Then they put this collar with tubes in it, that's what the neck wounds are from. They gave me two shots of this red stuff. The first made everything hurt like hellfire, then they did something and my blood started to flow from the tubes. That's when I started to fight. I wasn't going to get out alive otherwise.

"I got out of the restraints easily enough, but the big one pinned me down before I could get the collar off. I gutted him, nearly crushed his head, and he kept holding me down. Eventually he collapsed and I pushed him off. His friends circled me, but I crashed up through the skylight. Ozzy was next to me, all bloody. I told him I hopped he could run, and set focus to your apartment. We were maybe half a mile away.

"I take it I made it at least close."

Nathan nodded. "You came in through my bedroom window followed by a bloody Fox, who is rather cute. He's staying here too; he and Gavin are getting along pretty well. I'd guessed there was something strange about him, but it seems pretty clear he's a vampire but a pretty harmless one. Actually, this kind of throws everything into a bit of confusion."

"That's an understatement." Jake groaned and dropped back to the bed. "You just said at least four things I do not understand."

"Okay, tell me which ones and I'll try to clarify." He said pleasantly.

"Start with 'harmless Vampire'."

"As far as I've been able to tell, Ozzy doesn't feed, or at least he hasn't in the two days he's been here, but then he eats normally which defies most of the recorded vampire info. He also tries to not behave like any vampire there's record of. About the only thing noticeable is that he avoids sunlight."

"Well, that gives some hope for me, since it's his blood that did this to me." Jake sighed and closed his eyes. "He does feed on blood though, needs to. He feed from me last night."

"Based on some readings, blood bank supplies will work just as well." Nathan said reassuringly. "So that's what he meant. He said he never meant to hurt you. I thought he was just blaming himself for you being abducted from his apartment."

"You have to admit, I have a gift for picking interesting dates." Jake actually chuckled, then looked around. "Where's 'here' anyway?"

"Serenity Thorne, I don't keep the kind of blood supplies needed in my apartment." He said with slight smile. "Actually, if it wasn't for those psychotics I think you would have had a perfectly good date." He grinned. "However, the wounds on your neck from that encounter don't match the earlier wounds. We still don't know who the earlier assailant was. However, he or she isn't nearly the danger they were before."

"You actually trust Ozzy around Gavin?" Jake looked over at the Tiger. "You didn't turn him over to your friends?"

"Ozzy was on the level with me, he told me he was a vampire. I haven't seen any thing that triggers my danger warnings. Besides, Gavin knows what Ozzy is, and he still wants to hang out with him. I think it was actually your 'conditioning' problem that caused Ozzy to feed. Apparently, that whimpering it causes, triggered some feeding response." He said quietly. "I'm not so sure about the Protectors right now, they have a pretty black and white view of things."

"All such groups do. They must, to function." Jake said quietly. "Well, if Ozzy is on level with you, he can probably do a decent job of explaining just what the hell I am now."

"Probably, I can tell you one thing: he hates it. If I step out of the room to get him ... you're not going to disappear on me are you?" He looked at the Kat seriously.

Jake took a moment to really know the answer before meeting Nathan's green eyes. "I won't. I'm still very hungry, but it's not as bad as it was. I can control it, for now."

"I think one thing we should check is if you can still eat regular food. Theoretically, since Ozzy can you should be able to. I'll get more units of blood shipped up, that should help. If you feel like you're going to lose control, tell me." He said gently, as he stepped out to go down the hall.

A few minutes later, the Tiger came back with a very hesitant Ozzy. The fear was evident in his scent and posture. "Hi, Jake. How are you feeling?" He asked quietly. "I'm sorry. None of this was supposed to happen.""

"Somebody's going to be happy about it." Jake shrugged, locking eyes with the Fox. "Vampire Survival 101. Start with just what we are."

"Not the guys who did it." He said quietly. "As you figured we're vampires. That means we're stuck with an appetite and need for blood, though it's controllable and doesn't have to kill anybody. Sunlight will kill us in a short period of time, and it's very painful. Unlike most vampires you and I aren't part of any of the clans."

Jake nodded easily. "Just how much blood do I need? I finished eight of these things," he motioned to the stack of empty blood bags, "and I'm still hungry. They don't taste great either." He made a bit of a face.

Ozzy nodded. "No, they don't. Actually I just don't like taste of blood period. As for how much, you need a lot tonight because your replacing all the blood you lost, plus the transformation is very energy intensive. For a vampire, blood is like fuel we use it to do the fantastic things people assume vampires can do. If you can handle being no more powerful than you were in life, than you can get by on one or two of those a week.

"Some vampires have a person or group of people who are willing to be fed on. I've never felt comfortable asking that of anyone, but I'm not very close to anyone around here. Others just feed carefully; never taking enough that it really hurts the person. That's what I try to do ... I just get into trouble cause I decide I like the person too much to bite them. I didn't want to bite you, but that strange whimpering noise you made brought the Beast on stronger than I could stop in time." He explained apologetically.

"Yeah, somebody was conditioning me for something ... and feeding on me a lot." The Kat sighed. "You really can stop apologizing. You didn't really hurt me, and you didn't do this. It's hardly the worst thing I've had to adjust to in my life." Jake shifted to look at Ozzy. "Do you have anywhere to be soon?"

Ozzy shook his head. "I took some time off. I needed to know you were okay, and I wasn't feeling safe going home. Nathan's let me stay here, which works with the lightblock currents." He smiled gratefully at the Tiger.

"Can you feed from another vampire?" Jake began to plan as he talked.

"Not really for nutritional needs. It's done for power transfer, and other reasons. For nutrition, and 'fuel' it really needs to be mortal blood."

"How are Vampires normally created?" Jake asked pointedly. "I do not want to be doing that by accident."

"As I understand it, and I've never done it intentionally, you have to drain all the blood out of a mortal and then feed them a small amount of your own blood. It's called the Embrace."

"At least it's not easy to do by accident." Jake relaxed slightly, then glanced at the Fox. "You might as well get comfortable," he smiled slightly and patted the bed. "I don't expect I'll run out of questions soon," a shadow crossed his face, "and Nate's far too tempting right now to snuggle with."

Nathan gently stroked the Kat's hair back. "We'll just have to get you fed properly so that isn't a problem." He said quietly. "Don't think this means I'm going anywhere ... I still love you."

Jake quietly smiled at him, but there was fear in his eyes too. "I never want to attack you again, and it's still a struggle." He closed his eyes. "All I could think of was to drain you dry, and keep hunting."

"As you saw, I can take care of myself." Nathan said quietly.

"I saw," He smiled weakly and caressed the Tiger's hand. "And it makes me feel better knowing that, but I don't want it to ever come to that again."

Ozzy tentatively settled next to Jake in the bed. "Learning control isn't that hard, and then you'll be able to snuggle with anyone you like." He said quietly.

The Kat smiled fractionally and tugged Ozzy to lie down. "I like snuggling with you too, Foxy." He nuzzled the Fox affectionately. "You aren't that distant a second choice. And you are gorgeous."

"Thanks, Jake." Ozzy said as he lay down, and nuzzled back. "But he's probably the one chance we both have at getting our lives back." He said cryptically.

"Urr?" The Kat's gaze snapped from one to the other.

"I'm not sure exactly, but the Book of Night refers to the Firecat and rogue Protector who finds the Path of Return. The Path of Return is the mythic way for a vampire to reclaim his mortal life." The Fox said quietly.

"Book of Night ... that was what those creeps were using ...." Jake concentrated for a moment. "Has anyone been back to the warehouse?"

"It's been sealed as a crime scene, once Ozzy identified it. But I don't recall any mention of a book." Nathan said quietly.

Ozzy shook his head. "Only Kindred, ghouls or Mages can see it clearly."

"Is it night?" Jake moved to get up. "We need to get that book." He turned to Ozzy. "And you need to teach me how to feed from a living target without hurting them badly."

"Yes, it's night. About an hour after sunset, and if you two are going out, I'm coming with you." Nathan said firmly.

Ozzy looked at him. "I was kind of hoping you would."

"Good, since you're the one with official muscle right now." Jake nodded. "Let's go."

"Maybe you should get dressed." Nathan said handing Jake a carefully folded set of clothes, on top of which was sitting an Enforcer badge.

Jake shot him a quizzical look but dressed quickly. He picked up the badge, flipping it over in his fingers several times. "You know, there were times I honestly forgot this was mine."

"It's kind of a known fact now that you're still on the force. When I had to pull in a Helivac for you, it kind of blew the illusion. The only way to get a Helivac fast enough was to call in an 'officer down' situation."

"Well, it's not like it was going to be a secret for long." Jake sort of shrugged. "It's not like Felina could ever pass for me."

Nathan chuckled lightly. "Well, no one actually has you connected to SWAT yet. You're just on one of the Commander's many special projects." He said as he opened the door. "Let's go."

"Keep your eyes open." Nathan said as they entered the warehouse. "If what I've heard about the Book of Night is true then it may have put itself out of the way of casual discovery." He said looking around the blood-splattered warehouse, noting the numerous chalk outlines on the floor.

Jake nodded and began a systematic search of the out of the way spots in the building, staring with the back. It was a search that paid off fairly quickly, as he discovered the black leather bound book covered in dried blood wedged under a crate near the back. Just as he found the book his attention was drawn to a loud crash from another area of the warehouse.

Instantly he drew his blaster, wished for his Glovatrix, and made his way to the noise, the book carefully tucked under his shirt.

What it turned out to be was Nathan brawling with a creature Jake couldn't quite identify; it seemed to be part Creepling, part lizard and part big cat though the species was unclear. The wreckage of a shipping crate gave Jake a good idea what the crash had been. There was a sudden roar, and Nathan shifted to war-form and kicked the Kat-sized creature across the room, where it crashed into another crate.

Jake took quick aim and fired, as much to see if his targeting skills were still intact as to stop the beast.

The blaster bolts splashed of the hide of the beast, without noticeable effect, except to get the creature's attention. It hissed angrily and rushed at Jake with claws out, only to get hit from the side by Ozzy. The small Fox slashed the creature leaving bloody gashes before the creature threw him off.

There was glowing silver light around Jake's blaster for a moment. "Jake, shoot it again." Nathan said in the warform's deep voice, with silver light shining in his eyes.

The Kat didn't even hesitate long enough to fully comprehend the words; he just took aim and fired.

The blaster bolts shimmered with a strange silver power, which seemed to shatter the creature when they hit. For a moment, the creature struggled to retain coherence before it exploded into gouts of black flame.

"Impressive." Jake raised an eyebrow. Then looked down at the blaster. "To think I'd miss those days." He said quietly.

"Shadow demon." Nathan said as he shifted back to Felsin form. "Guess we're not the only ones looking for the Book. What days?" Nathan asked as he walked over to check Ozzy's condition.

"My sniper days." Jake answered quietly. "Those were the reflexes you triggered."

"Oh, I just wanted you to shoot it. Mostly 'cause it's easier to enchant a weapon to work against a shadow demon, then to throw magic against one directly." He said as he discovered that the Fox had merely had the wind knocked out of him, and was already sitting up.

Jake continued to look at the blaster. "I must trust you more than I thought." He whispered.

"Why do you say that? Not that I'm complaining." He asked curiously as he helped Ozzy to his feet.

Jake almost jumped as his gaze snapped to focus on Nathan, his eyes wide. "I ... do you know how the Gunner/ Pilot relationship works on this world?"

"I haven't really looked into it. I wasn't planning on flying again." He said quietly. "Back home it's usually the gunner who gives the orders."

"Same here." Jake nodded, his eyes down. "A pilot has to trust their gunner implicitly. Snipers have a similar relationship with their spotter. A lot of snipers become gunners after loosing a spotter, rather than face leaning to trust like that again."

"Sounds like the reason I gave up being a pilot." Nathan said quietly. "I take it you lost a spotter." He said sympathetically, as he walked over and put his arm around Jake.

"Not lost ... she's alive." He shrugged off the arm. "I couldn't stomach seeing heads explode without them ever knowing what hit them anymore."

Nathan nodded, and turned to look around 'feeling' for where the demon had appeared. He swiftly moved over to a dark corner, and started carefully examining the floor.

"Anything useful?" Jake asked from behind his shoulder.

"It's the point where the demon materialized here. But there's no trace of dimensional residue, which means the demon had been in this dimension for a while before it was sent to retrieve the book." He said quietly. "We've got a definite mage faction involved here, though I'm not sure if they're simply cleaning up after the failed ritual or a separate group taking advantage of the confusion."

"Ozzy ... any impute on this one?" Jake looked at the Fox.

"I don't know much on mages, but factions are what Vampire society is made of. Clan politics can get pretty nasty, and you'd been fed on by another vampire before I met you. It's possible somebody wanted the book to give the ritual another try, not realizing it sort-of worked already."

"Except I'm not a servant." Jake shrugged, then looked around. "How sure are you two this was mostly a mage thing, and not another group?"

Nathan looked at the ground again. "I'm not sure it was mostly a mage thing, I just know that at least one powerful mage or several weaker ones would be required to summon a shadow demon. Also, the ritual they were attempting would require at least a small amount of magical talent."

Ozzy nodded. "It could be another group, but do you have any idea who the vampire who was feeding on you before is?"

Nathan stayed silent, and focused on the floor.

"No, but I have an idea how to find out." Jake growled low in his throat. "Did any of the ones here that night escape?" He looked at Ozzy.

"I think one or two got away." Ozzy said uneasily. "I didn't have time to chase them down."

"Good," Jake grinned viciously. "That means there's something to track."

Nathan nodded. "Hopefully, there weren't any Protectors near enough to catch them."

"Either way, we have time." Jake finally holstered his weapon. "Time for feeding lessons. I'm hungry."

Ozzy nodded. "I'm not surprised, you hadn't fed completely and combat is something of a drain. There are basically two ways to 'hunt', either the slow way or the fast way. Well, there are others but I only use two and the other ways belong to the monsters who don't care who they hurt."

"Probably start with the fast way." Jake stretched. "If hunger is any judge of how much I'll need, I'll need significantly more than one partner tonight if I'm not going to hurt them."

Ozzy nodded. "It'll be easier once you've gotten fully fed, you're still recovering from the transition. The fast way is kind of like mugging someone; only you're after blood instead of money. The thing to remember is that they won't remember, unless you want them to. As distasteful as it may sound, best targets for the fast way are prostitutes, the cheap ones though." He shook his head quietly. "Alternatively, anyone you can find in an unobserved location works well."

Jake nodded easily and pulled the book from his under his shirt and handed it to Nathan. "You might not want to come along."

Nathan took the book. "Since you're trying not to hurt anyone, it might be a good idea for me to be along. Someone might need patched up." Nathan said quietly.

Ozzy nodded. "Inexperienced vampires have been known to lose control. I know I did the first couple times. A Medic might be useful."

"As long as it won't bother you too much," Jake looked at Nathan meaningfully.

Nathan sighed. "If it was going to bother me too much, I wouldn't have made it this far." He said quietly. "Doing what's necessary to survive is something I'm well-acquainted with. Besides, I'd rather not have to try and explain where you are, if I go back to the hospital without you."

"All right," Jake nodded and gave the Tiger a hug. "I'd prefer prostitutes ... they'll get paid for what they're giving." He looked at Ozzy. "Is feeding always pleasurable for the 'victim'?"

Ozzy nodded. "Unless the vampire is trying to make it unpleasant. Otherwise, it's extremely pleasurable; some mortals even get sort of addicted to it. But that takes multiple feedings from the same vampire to occur."

"I'll keep that in mind." Jake nodded. "Unless you know better, Jackson near here is a good place for cheap hookers."

Ozzy shook his head. "I haven't gone the hooker routine in a while, so that'll do." He said simply.

"Let me guess, the long rout is picking up a date for the night?" Jake chuckled and led the way back to the car.

Ozzy chuckled. "Yep, more fun too. Though on more than one occasion I became too fond of my one night stand to actually feed." He grinned. "Fortunately, my activity level is low enough that I can miss a meal without noticing it."

Nathan followed along behind them, feeling as though he'd stepped into a kind of surreal gothic fiction. Trained as a Protector, he was accompanying two vampires as they looked for 'dinner'. Most definitely surreal.

"Speaking of which, do we need to find dinner for you too?" Jake shot a look at the Fox. "Between the fight with those creeps and the demon, I expect you've burned off a fair amount of energy."

The Fox looked a little uneasy. "Actually, after the fight with the creeps I had a serious surplus. I'm about down to normal now, I'm just waiting for the combat rush to wear off."

"Ah, I wasn't sure if you'd had any time then." Jake smiled as he got in the back seat of Nathan's black SUV. "I wasn't moving all that slow."

"Well, there are a fair number of vampire power stunts, and one of them increases speed. Compared to a vampire with celerity you were moving quite slowly." He smiled, and got in back with Jake as the Kat pulled him in for a kiss.

Nathan started up the SUV. "Umm, where are we going?" He asked curiously.

Jake chuckled as he broke the kiss. "Know where Jackson Street is?"

Nathan turned on the computer in the dashboard, and watched as it displayed maps. "I do now. Any particular part of it?"

"The section nearby." Jake smiled as he cuddled the Fox, then looked down at Ozzy. "How many will I need tonight, if I don't hurt any of them?"

"I'm not sure." Ozzy said as the SUV set off. "I've never really dealt with the period after the Embrace before. Though I'd be surprised if it was less than three or four."

"Mmm, sounds like we'll need to hit a couple spots. Picking up that many in a few blocks would get even their attention." Jake shook his head.

"You want to be careful about who you pick. Drug users aren't advisable since you end up getting a hit of whatever they're using."

Jake made a face. "I'm in enough trouble ... trust me you don't want to deal with me high."

Nathan looked around as they approached Jackson Street. "I'm not sensing any Protector activity in this sector of the city."

"One less thing to deal with." Jake took a breath before looking out the tinted window and tried to relax. "This feels *so* much like a sting." He laughed nervously.

The Kat swallowed. "The blond gray tabby, Nathan."

Nathan nodded and pulled over near the indicated Kat as Jake rolled down the back window for her to lean in.

"Hi, honey." The female crooned as she leaned forward to show off her assets. "Looking for a little sugar?"

"That we are," Jake smiled as he looked her over. Not his type, but his type weren't cheap. "Twenty for it all?" He offered bluntly.

"For both of you?" She asked.

"Just me," Jake smirked. "Foxy here watches."

"Around the corner." She pointed and began walking.

Ozzy simply watched Jake, since prostitutes weren't something he dealt with often, at least not the street ones. Nathan kept busy looking out for other forms of trouble; Protectors, Enforcers or other busybodies as he pulled the SUV into the indicated dark spot.

"Okay ... just how do I feed?" Jake shot a look at the Fox.

"Really fairly simple, you get up close to the 'meal' and make skin contact with the intent to feed. This generates the psychic effect known as 'the Kiss' which blanks memory of the fact that you're going to bite them. When you go to feed your teeth elongate and sharpen to allow you to penetrate skin to a blood vessel, arteries are best and the neck is he easiest place to gain access." He explained quietly.

"And drink the blood, or is that a fang thing too?"

"The fangs penetrate the blood vessels and provide secure grip. Drinking the blood works the same as it did with the blood packs in the hospital, you just drink. The real trick is maintaining control, the Beast will want to drink the victim dry, but you need to restrain that urge."

Jake nodded as he opened the door for his first meal and scooted over for her to get in. He swallowed his nervousness and nuzzled her neck, grazing the front of his fangs along the path the main artery took to judge her reaction.

With a slight shiver he grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the back of the seat before nearly covering her with his body and focused on feeding, like Ozzy had said.

Her reaction was one of ecstasy as the Kiss engulfed her, and she shuddered in pleasure. She didn't even notice when the Kat's fangs penetrated the blood vessel. As the blood flowed, Jake could her a bestial roaring in the back of his mind and a driving instinct to sate his hunger on this victim alone.

It was only knowledge of the two sets of eyes watching him for just such a surrender that he denied the voice, but with this he knew he'd never drink bagged blood again if he could help it. This was good. The rewards of the long hunt would be even better.

Ozzy sighed. "Before you start enjoying the hunt too much, just remember that your enjoyment comes at someone else's expense." He said quietly. He'd met vampires who truly enjoyed hunting without regard for the fact they were hunting sentient beings, and they frightened him.

Nathan didn't say anything, but merely watched the vital signs on his med scanner to be sure the victim wasn't in real danger. He still couldn't believe he was doing this; it was almost too surreal to be believed.

Jake continued to feed, trusting his companions to clue him in to when he should stop, and getting seriously turned on by the pleasure his meal was getting in this.

Ozzy tapped Jake's shoulder gently. "You should stop before she requires medical attention." He said quietly.

Jake shifted to remove his longer fangs, and licked along the holes, hoping he remembered that bit right.

Ozzy pulled a package out of his pocket, and drew a moistened tissue from it. "Pre-moistened tissues, great for clean-up. Especially if you get the anti-bacterial kind." He said as he gently cleaned up her neck.

Nathan turned around. "She'll be fine, no long term effects. Even if she is a bit blissed out at the moment."

Ozzy nodded. "We should get out of sight before she comes 'round."

"How long should she be zoned?" Jake glanced between them.

"Fifteen minutes maybe." Nathan hazarded.

"About that." Ozzy agreed.

"That's a long time to be helpless in this neighborhood." Jake looked around, unsure of what to do.

"Not if no one knows she's there." Nathan said quietly. "I can keep others from noticing her until she's with it." He said beginning to weave a minor spell.

Jake nodded acceptingly and quickly set her in a reasonably clean part of the ally before tucking a twenty into her dress and returning to the SUV.

"This is going to take a while." He sighed unhappily.

Ozzy nodded. "First Hunt is usually long, if you're trying not to hurt anybody." He hesitated. "There is another option, depending on your view of justice and punishment. On occasion, when I was really hungry I'd look for criminals, the kind who hurt people or killed people. With them I wouldn't care if draining them hurt them, they were just getting back what they'd dealt out."

"I know enough of them to feed on for a century." Jake growled softly. "Though that might be more than Nathan can accept." He looked at the Tiger driving.

"It's no worse than what I did to the Kat I discovered running a kit prostitution ring." Nathan said softly. "They expect he'll be a permanent resident of MegaKat City General's psych-ward."

"Good. I know two more of that kind, and a serial killer." Jake leaned back. "At this hour," he glanced at the clock in the dashboard, "the killer is the easier one to find. He'll be at home."

"What's the address?" Nathan asked putting the SUV in motion.

"7831 134th." Jake supplied easily. "About ten miles inland."

Ozzy nodded. "One Kat should sate the remaining hunger completely." He suggested.

"At least enough to sleep well with a mortal." Jake relaxed as the city pass by.

"Basically, once you're sated the temptation won't be there." The Fox added quietly, as he watched the city.

"That is a relief." The Kat smiled. "As much as it feels like an addiction, I'm glad it doesn't act like one."

Ozzy nodded. "It's no more an addiction than three meals a day makes you addicted to food. Speaking of which, you can eat regularly and it'll supplement the blood if you do."

"Even better." Jake smiled. "I would have missed pizza and milk."

"Fringe benefit to getting turned into a vampire by my blood. A lot of vampires can't eat normally; their bodies will only process blood for sustenance. I always thought that sounded depressing."

"At the very least limiting." Jake shook his head. "Variety is the spice of life, and that definitely includes what you eat. Living wouldn't be nearly as fun without a little variety in the diet."

Ozzy nodded. "I agree, there's nothing like a dish of ice cream after a good hunt." He grinned.

Nathan shook his head while driving. He punched in his security code to activate his link to the Enforcer network, so he could check the status on the killer they were after. "Jake, this serial killer ... what's his name? I want to make sure he hasn't gotten picked up on something before we go after him."

"Greg Matcar," Jake supplied easily. "I doubt he's been picked up. There was never enough legal evidence to arrest him."

"Yeah, but he might have gotten picked up on something else." Nathan said as he punched the name through the arrest database.

"There are plenty of other targets if he's not readily available." Jake grumbled darkly. "Oh, and Nathan ... can you keep us from being particularly memorable when he's 'arrested'?"

Nathan smiled. "Easily done, it's a basic Protector enchantment. And you're right there are plenty of other targets, too many really." He said quietly.

"At least I won't have to worry much about meals." Jake grumbled. "Or training hard."

Ozzy shook his head. "Oh, you have training ahead. You've got to learn how all your vampire abilities work, and you'll need to adjust to the new body responses." He said easily. "Being a vampire just puts you on a new training schedule."

Nathan nodded. "There's also the issue of deciding if you're going to stay with the Enforcers or not. I'm sure you could get shifted to a night shift easy enough, if you wanted to. Or you could use this to retire like you wanted to." He said as he waited for the search results to come back.

"This doesn't change my interest in retiring." Jake sighed. "It does give a little more interest to existing, though."

Nathan smiled slightly. "That's good to hear, you really had me worried." He said sincerely, reading the report as it came back. "Looks like your meal isn't in custody tonight, though he did get picked up on a weapons violation day before yesterday."

"Can't say I'm surprised." Jake grumbled, then cocked his head at Nathan. "What had you so worried?"

"Several things you said in the hospital sounded decidedly suicidal, enough so that technically I had no business letting you out that early. By the book, I should have had you committed as a danger to yourself." He said quietly. "What the book doesn't know, is that it would've just made things worse."

"Yeah, and what the book doesn't know is there isn't a facility on this planet that can hold me without my consent." Jake growled. "Thanks for looking the other way. I really wasn't suicidal then, just very burned out."

"That's what I was hoping, and I learned a long time ago that the book doesn't know everything. I trust my own judgment before some book ... doesn't mean I don't worry though." He grinned slightly. "Fortunately, I only answer to one person and as long you don't turn up 'dead' he lets me do what I think is best." Nathan said easily.

"Well, as long as I can curse at him, I doubt he'll have any problems believing I'm still 'alive', and as far as I'm concerned, I am." Jake huffed. "I've been dead enough times than this qualifies as not dead."

"As far as anyone knows you were just seriously injured, what really happened isn't going anywhere official. There are some things that are better not recorded." He said quietly.

"Yeah," Jake grinned lopsidedly. "It's not like anyone would notice. I don't think what really happened has ever been recorded in my file."

"In this case it's a little more important. The Protectors have far too easy access to Enforcer records." He said as they drove on.

Ozzy looked at the Tiger. "Are they going to be mad at you for this?" He asked quietly.

Nathan didn't say anything for a while. "I'm resigning from the Protectors so it doesn't matter. They won't be happy I'm sure, but it's not all that important." He said in even measured tones.

"Aren't they useful?" Jake interjected.

"They can be." Nathan said quietly. "They're also extremely dangerous to you and Ozzy. They have very black and white views on vampires." He said quietly.

"No doubt," Jake rolled his eyes. "Some things never change." He leaned back and sighed. "To think I might actually see home again, and I won't be able to go home."

"I thought you were from the future, Jake." Nathan said, curiously.

"And when my time comes again, I won't be able to see my family." He said quietly. "For the same reason you're retiring."

"There's no guarantee we're still in that time stream, time travel has a habit of creating new time streams. It's how you can act in the past without eliminating the future that created you. At least according to temporal theory." He said, as they entered the neighborhood containing the target's address.

"I'm in the same timestream." Jake said quietly. "I played a major roll in creating that reality."

Nathan shook his head. "Huh? That doesn't make any sense. How can you play a major role in creating the reality that created you? That's a bad case of temporal paradox at best." The tiger said confused. "That's like the chicken laying the egg it hatched from."

"Just a loop for me." Jake shrugged. "I was born before I died, hardly the weirdest think that's happened to me."

Nathan decided to give up the whole thing, it made no sense at all. He concentrated on the map of the neighborhood looking for the most discrete approach to the target.

Nathan drove through the 'projects' until they were close to the address Jake had provided. This sort of area reminded him why he was so uncomfortable with cities.

"That building over there." He said as he stopped the SUV in a location where they could observe discretely.

Jake leaned out and fingered the badge still in his pocket. "Since we have the badges, you and I should go get him." He said, looking at Nathan."

Nathan nodded. "Agreed. Ozzy, get behind the wheel. We might need to get moving in a hurry, you never know in a neighborhood like this." He said as he got out, quickly followed by Jake.

"You want to take lead, or me?" Jake asked quietly as they moved.

"Maybe you should, I haven't really done much arrest-wise. I was primarily trained as a medical examiner/ medic." Nathan said looking around uneasily for any danger.

The Kat nodded and led the way to Greg Matcar's apartment with the ease of familiarity. Without hesitation he knocked hard on the door.

"What now?" A medium built swirl brown tabby growled at he opened the door in only a pair of jeans.

"We just have a few questions, sir." Jake said calmly as he flipped his badge. "If you'll come with us."

"At this hour?" Matcar scowled, then turned back into his apartment. "Let me get a shirt on."

"Of course, sir." Jake smiled agreeably and followed the slightly taller tomkat inside.

Nathan followed Jake silently, playing the strong, silent backup role. He also kept his eye out for anything strange or unusual, and for any on-duty Enforcers in the area. Though the enchantment would keep most from really remembering who had been there, it wouldn't work as well on someone whose job it was to see things.

True to his word, Matcar quickly pulled a light blue shirt from his bedroom closet and grabbed his wallet after buttoning it up.

"It shouldn't take long, sir." Jake ushered the other tom out of the room and down to the SUV. "Just get in the front seat."

"What's this about, officers?" Matcar asked with a mixture of curiosity and feigned innocence as he shut the door, and it locked.

"The Kimber Yard murders." Jake said quietly.

Ozzy blinked in surprise as he jumped into the back of the SUV while Nathan took the driver's seat.

"What could I tell you about them?" Greg looked at them, honestly confused, but growing uneasy.

"Very little, I expect." Jake said coldly as he drew a blaster and settled it squarely against the tabby's heart through the seat. "At least very little I don't already know. This is about coming clean, and paying a debit."

"You've finally lost it, Clawson." Matcar growled, but held still.

"Can't argue with that." The Kat shrugged.

Nathan carefully wove a blanket of indifference around the SUV to gently blur its description and presence in the minds of those who saw it. He then started a detailed psi-scan of Matcar, to see if he really did know anything about the killings. It wasn't a gentle scan, he wanted the truth and he wasn't inclined to be picky. As the scan confirmed the Kat's guilt in that and a great many other things, he pulled out being deliberately harsh about it. The Tiger's disgust was plain both on his face, and in his scent.

As Matcar held his head and groaned slightly Jake caught Nathan's eyes. "To Kimber Yard."

Nathan carefully changed the cloak to a movable form, and put the vehicle in motion. He picked the most direct route to Kimber Yard from the ones the computer offered.

The silence in the vehicle was deafening, and mixed with the pungent smell of Nathan's disgust, Jake's hatred and hunger, and Matcar's growing fear made the ride out into a nearly deserted warehouse district utterly oppressive.

"Get out, meat." Jake ordered calmly as he slipped out of the SUV.

"What is this about?" The tabby turned to face the young vampire with fists raised.

"The truth we both know." Jake grinned viciously as he dropped into a combat stance, giving him a rather psychotic look. "It's about survival, a young tom who never saw his eighteenth birthday, and one whose fate was changed by you."

The brown swirl tabby didn't even get a chance to speak before Jake moved, diving into a twisting roll to hamstring him. As the Kat roared in pain and started to fall Jake came up with the full strength of his combat honed body pushed to its vampritic max to slam his knife into Matcar's ass, twisting it before he shifted forward to pull the blade out.

As he moved, he rolled its sharp edge hard between his dinner's legs, slicing both balls and sheath clearly open. Then with the supple grace of a combat trained dancer Jake was on his feet and drove his blade forward and down, smashing it up to the hilt into Matcar's pelvis; slicing deep into his penis, tucked inside the body, safe from most attacks.

With that Matcar dropped to the ground, far enough into shock that he wasn't even screaming anymore.

"Circle's nearly complete." Jake growled, breathing heavily even though he no longer needed oxygen. He looked at his victim a moment longer before kicking him hard, breaking several ribs to roll the Kat to his back.

"Don't worry, I won't hurt you as bad as you hurt them. It's almost over." Jake growled with a sick chuckle before he lunged forward to rip Matcar's throat out with his claws. As he lowered his head to feed greedily on the dieing killer his hind claws dug deep into the brown tabby's gut, disemboweling him slowly as the life drained from him to strengthen the young vampire.

As Jake gulped down the last of the blood pouring from his victim's neck he curled his back up, arching over Matcar's chest and drove his claws down, snapping the breastbone raggedly in half. With now unnatural strength Jake thrust the ribcage open and apart, revealing his goal, a still weakly beating heart.

His fur soaked dark brown red in blood Jake grabbed his prize, ripping it from it's home and holding it up to the night before downing it in two great bites.

The look on Ozzy's face was one of complete shock as he watched. Nathan on the other hand was quietly retching on the far side of the SUV. What this monster had not done enough to compensate for watching his lover do ... that.

As Jake slowly stood, shaking terribly as he stared at what he'd done, he looked at a spot a little further in. "Maybe now you can rest, Jake. You and the others."

With that he tried to swallow before he knelt to retrieve the dagger, looking more than a little queasy at the sticky slurp it made as it was pulled out of his meal's crotch.

Nathan sat down on the ground next to the SUV, and focused on erasing the images he'd just seen. Years of combat, decades of surgery and still he'd never seen the like. It frightened him to think that Jake was capable of that.

"Interesting to see what I can do ... loose and in cold rage." Jake said in a strangely subdued tone as he shook himself out of the shock of the past few minutes first and looked at his handiwork. "The carcass gets left." He said to no one in particular as he grabbed the box of pre-moistened towels and tried to clean the worst of the offal from his fur and clothes.

Nathan forced himself to his feet, and unsteadily went to the back of the SUV. He pulled out a large unmarked bottle, which he handed to Jake along with a large towel. "It'll get anything out." He said quietly.

He looked at the scene and then ran tendrils of silver energy through the area covering not only the gore, but the three of them and the SUV as well. As the tendrils returned to him, he climbed back behind the wheel and leaned on it.

"I hope I don't do that again," Jake said quietly as he sank into the back seat, now blood-free. Hesitantly he reached out to touch Nathan's shoulder. "If you don't want anything to do with me after this, I can't blame you, either of you."

Nathan took a moment to catch his breath. "There was something very personal about this serial killer to you, wasn't there? He wasn't just some random serial killer."

Ozzy climbed into the back seat. "The Beast lurks in every vampire, it's the danger we all face. You've just seen the face of yours." He said gently. "But I'm not going to abandon you because of it." He said gently reaching out to run a hand along Jake's cheek.

"Thanks," The Kat leaned into the caress and closed his eyes. "How much do you know about what happened here thirty years ago?"

Nathan looked at him, and gently held the hand on his shoulder. "Well before I arrived, and I haven't done much research into old files." He said quietly.

Ozzy shook his head. "I wasn't born yet. And I didn't grow up in MegaKat City."

"Okay," Jake let out a breath and leaned back to rest against the back seat, his eyes closed. "Can ... I explain this someplace more comfortable? It's a ... painful story."

Nathan smiled. "Of course. My place okay?" He suggested gently.

"Yeah, that'd be great." Jake whispered. "Are ... I'd like to be in bed with you."

Nathan smiled. "I like that idea." He said, as he gently kissed the Kat before he turned to put the SUV in motion, and head for home.

Ozzy looked around a little uncomfortably, feeling the odd Fox out.

As they got going Jake snuggled against Ozzy tightly. "You to, Foxy." He said quietly as he shivered. "I need you too."

"Oh, I wasn't sure." He said, as he nuzzled the lean tom affectionately. "I didn't want to presume anything."

"You're not." Nathan said from the front seat. "Jake needs you, and you're welcome in my home." The tiger said sincerely. "Good thing I went for the large bed." He chuckled in genuine amusement.

"I seem to remember you thought threesome are normal." Jake almost had an amused tone.

"They are back home." He chuckled. "I was still getting a handle on what 'normal' is here. Besides, I only had one Kat in mind." He smiled affectionately."

"I don't think there is a 'normal' around here, unless you break it down into sub societies." Jake snickered. "Not like it really matters. You can accept that I need to sleep around a little to be happy."

Nathan opened the door to his apartment to let his two guests in. Once he felt certain there wasn't any threat around, he followed them in and locked the door.

"Hi Jake, Hi Ozzy." Gavin said over his shoulder from where he was lying on the floor playing AG3.

Nathan chuckled at the teenager. "You're up late."

"I was worried. Besides, I kept thinking Chance would call looking for Jake."

"He's probably busy." Jake shrugged. "I was doing fairly well last time he saw me."

"Yeah, you look better now. I take it things went okay." He asked tentatively. "Well enough." Nathan said simply. "You should save your game, and get some sleep."

"Yes, Dad." The teenager smirked as he found a good point to stop.

Jake snagged his mates. "Do you have those black-out curtains here?"

Gavin smirked as he passed them on his way to bed. "I put them up earlier. Just in case."

Nathan shook his head, and mussed the kit's hair. "Thanks, Gav."

"No problem, Nathan." He said as he disappeared into his room.

"Lets get this over with." Jake lost his good mood as he pressed close to Nathan.

"Okay." He said leading the way into his bedroom, where he folded down the sheets before starting to undress. In the time it took him to get his shirt off, both vampires were naked and cuddling, watching him.

Nathan chuckled, and quickly stripped down. He cuddled up next to Jake, on the side opposite Ozzy.

The Kat soaked in the warmth for a long time before he began to speak, his voice distant as he told the story for the first time since living it.

"When I was thirty-three I still looked about fifteen. I as working on a temporal teleporter prototype outside my family lands. It wasn't much, just allowed the item/ person sent to arrive anywhere within a ten minute range of when they left. Five up the timestream or five down.

"I was making some modifications when a power surge set it off and blew the safeties to pieces. When I came too I was here, forty years ago. I danced and dated to make a living until I looked old enough to work somewhere more interesting. It didn't matter that I could draw them a working design for something they wouldn't expect to prototype for fifty years. I was 'too young'." He said a little bitterly.

"There was one club I frequented, The Purple Queen ... it specialized in young, and young looking, dancers. They were all too delighted to have an experienced tom that looked in his early teens. I made my first friend there, another dancer, Jake Clawson. At seventeen he looked about the same as me. It took him a year and a half, but he made friends with me. He knew the truth about me, and didn't care.

"He was my first love, and lover," Jake said very quietly. "By the time ... that ... happened, we were talking marriage and the future." He stopped as his voice choked.

"No one had ever cared about me before." The Kat finally let the tears fall. "I ... I found his body, with Xara and Danny's. I ... I ..." he swallowed painfully. "As I was kneeling there, I felt what happened. Every detail. Every touch, every cut. I felt how he ... forced himself inside Xara. She wasn't old enough to understand. She wasn't one of us, she was only twelve. Just a friend. I felt her scream as he tore her apart taking his pleasure as Jake and Danny had to watch.

"I saw Jake fight ... I ... all of it." He squeezed his eyes closed, trying to stop the memory-visions.

"My mate ... I saw him in front of me when it was over. He's never left my side for long. He ... all of them, Matcar's victims ... couldn't rest until he was brought to justice." Jake sighed softly. "I always knew killing him like that would work, but ... I couldn't. I just ... couldn't.

"I kept trying to bring him to justice." Jake shivered. "It's over now ... he can rest. Jake Clawson can finally rest."

Nathan looked a little confused, and very sympathetic. "So there were two Jake Clawsons for a time?" He asked as he nuzzled the lean tom affectionately.

"No ... I took his name when I enlisted." Jake said softly. "I was born Remy."

Nathan nodded. "That's real devotion." He said in quiet admiration.

"He was all I had," the Kat shivered. "Loss I can accept, but that ... he had such dreams. I couldn't let them die."

Nathan gently pulled the lean tom close. "I understand. When we only have one person, we cling to that person no matter what. Were you able to do anything with his dreams?" He asked quietly, noting that the Fox had snuggled in tight on the other side of Jake.

"I hope so," He sighed. "He wanted to be an Enforcer, to make things better in the city. He really loved this city."

Nathan smiled. "Well, you've done both." He said supportively.

"I tried, I really tried." He murmured as he closed his eyes and started to relax into his grief. "At least his spirit can rest now."

"You didn't just try, you succeeded." Nathan said quietly, as he gently held Jake.

The lean tom nodded very weakly before letting a breath out of his lungs. "Why do I still breath?"

Nathan looked at him. "Huh?"

Ozzy looked at him. "Vampires breathe, though when necessary you can do with a lot less oxygen. It's handy to breathe, keeps the illusion solid. The more you continue to act normal the better." He said with conviction.

"Do ... vampires dream?" He asked quietly.

"I do." Ozzy said. "It's kind of like people, not everyone does. And not everyone remembers dreaming even if they do."

Jake shivered and nodded. "Do ... we have to sleep during the day?"

"No, you don't have to. But seeing as we can't go out in the day, and we still need sleep it makes a certain amount of sense."

"Just wondering, if I'd loose all that time," he shrugged weakly. "I don't usually sleep much. Though I think the next few days I might." He stifled a yawn.

Nathan smiled. "You'll just have to stick to work in blacked-out spaces, during the day. And sleeping would do you a world of good." He said nuzzling the tom gently.

"I think I can use some sleep myself." Ozzy said quietly. "It's been a really weird few days."

"You're telling me." Jake shook his head and settled his head on Nathan's shoulder. "At least we have warm bodies to snuggle with ..." he looked up at Nathan. "Are we warm bodies?"

Nathan smiled. "Much to my surprise, yes. That's not something I expected, with vampires."

"It's one of the gifts of my bloodline." Ozzy said quietly. "I think it's due to my refusing to be like other vampires. My sire thought that too, though he wasn't being complimentary when he said it."

"Have you ever actually gone out in the sun?" Jake asked curiously, even as his eyelids were trying to close on him.

"Very brief exposure, once by accident. It was very painful, think third degree sunburn almost instantly." Ozzy said, as he nuzzled Jake, and snuggled down feeling sleepy himself.

The Kat nodded fractionally before closing his eyes and tried to get his brain to stop asking questions. "Sleep time ... I think."

"Yes, sleep time." Nathan said gently. "No sense asking questions when your brain will barely hear the answers." He said, as he pulled Jake close, while Ozzy snuggled up behind the lean tom.

Nathan woke to the pleasant sensation of loving fingers running along his body, paying special attention to his sheath and balls.

"Good morning." He rumbled deeply. "Or whatever time of day it happens to be." He grinned broadly.

"Not late enough to do anything." Jake murmured, his eyes tracing over the Felsin's body in utter fascination. "Except study you, at least."

Nathan smiled, and just lay back. "Still daylight then, no matter. I'm not in a hurry to go anywhere."

"I can see, feel, your blood flowing." Jake smiled absently. "Tell where it's close to the surface, how much is there. It's a whole 'nother level of stripes on you."

Nathan smiled. "An interesting perception." He said quietly, not sure what to make of it.

"I heard your heart, felt it all day, even in my dreams." The Kat smiled softly. "I haven't felt that safe since I left Sashari."

Nathan smiled warmly. "Well, that's a good thing. I like making you feel safe." He said reaching a hand out to gently stroke the Kat's hair.

With a low purr Jake forgot all about his study as the feel of the warm hand stroking his head danced across his nerves, freezing him in the low-level pleasure.

"Jake, you alright?" Nathan asked, not quite sure what to make of the sudden freeze.

"Yeah, feels good." He rumbled as his eyes slid half closed.

Nathan relaxed, and returned to gently stroking the Kat. "Good, it's supposed to." He grinned.

"Never felt this good before," he sighed in bliss.

"That's interesting." Nathan said absently, without stopping as Jake seemed quite content to stay still and have his head scratched.

"Nate ... may I give you a blow job?" Jake eventually asked, his eyes fully closed in pleasure.

Nathan looked at him curiously. "If you'd like, it's not like you to ask though." He said as he wondered about the change from the aggressive tom who wouldn't have asked.

"It's ... I wasn't sure if you'd be okay with my new teeth that close ...." he trailed off.

Nathan smiled warmly at him. "Jake, I trust you. I did before, and I still do."

"Thank you," he smiled in gratitude as he leaned forward for a chaste kiss that slowly became more intense as Jake tested his own responses.

Nathan responded eagerly, but let Jake determine how intense things became. Out of habit, he hugged the Kat as they kissed, and felt Jake melt into it warmly.

Very slowly, both savoring and testing himself with every touch, Jake worked down Nathan's jaw, then throat, where his natural fascination with feeling the blood pulsing under his tongue all but froze him with the added heat, aroma and feeding-song of the Beast in the back of his mind.

Nathan was quiet, as he watched Jake. He could sense the tension in the lean Kat, and was fairly certain of the reason. He ran a gentle hand through the Kat's hair and down his back, acting as if nothing was unusual or out of the ordinary.

Ozzy watched silently, a little amazed. Though he couldn't decide what amazed him more: a Protector being so completely trusting with a vampire, or a vampire willing to risk the loss of control so soon after Becoming.

With an exertion of will Jake broke his lock on the pulse of hot blood so close to his fangs and continued down, hesitating again as he reached the Tiger's navel. With a deep shudder and sigh he shook himself and pushed up to straiten his arms. "So much for no temptation." He sighed before flopping to his side. "Not as bad as it was yesterday, but ...."

Nathan smiled gently, and leaned over to nuzzle the Kat. "No temptation isn't likely, but if you recognize and resist it, that's what's important." Nathan said quietly. "I trust you, you just need to trust yourself. Or at least accept that even if you were to lose control, I can take care of myself."

Jake shuddered. "After yesterday ... both are going to take a while to happen."

Nathan smiled, and kissed the lean tom gently. "No pressure. I'm just happy you're still alive, and not under the control of some other vampire."

Ozzy looked at Nathan. "Hey, I don't do that. Hell, I don't even know how."

The Tiger reached his other hand over, and mussed the fox's hair. "Wasn't talking about you, Ozzy."

"Nate, I don't suppose you're at all voyeuristic?" Jake smiled a bit playfully.

"Wha'cha got in mind?" He smiled. "It's okay once in a while."

"Well, if I can't play with you just yet, I expect playing with the Fox here is safe enough." He grinned with a teasing glint. "I seem to recall promising Ozzy a private dance."

"Sounds entertaining." Nathan grinned. "Watching can fun occasionally."

"Maybe you'll come see my stage show then." Jake grinned as he slipped off the bed. "It's much more fun with costume, poll and crowd."

"I'll grant the costume, and props are probably useful. I've never cared for crowds, too many unshielded minds."

"Do snuggle guys." Jake smirked. "And making out is encouraged, which is most of the fun for the crowd."

Nathan chuckled, and pulled the fox in close to snuggle. "Could thing you're cute, foxy."

"You're pretty handsome, yourself Tiger."

Then with a coy smile he struck a pose, batting his eyelashes as he curled his tail around his hip to conceal balls and sheath as he began to move; a slow, precisely erotic dance that never let his audience see more that a glimpse of what was most interesting. Just enough of a look to see the gradually lengthening line of pink skin behind the fur and hands.

As he continued the teasing modified kata Jake kept an eye on Ozzy's arousal, waiting for the Fox's knot to begin to swell before sliding up to him coyly and offering a hand.

Ozzy smiled and took the hand, following Jake away from the bed before the Kat ran his hands how the slender Fox's body.

"So what is your fantasy, beautiful?" Jake crooned softly in Ozzy's ear, even as one hand applied a little pressure to the underside of the Fox's swelling knot.

Ozzy ran his hand along Jake's ass, and up under the Kat's tail. "I fuck you, and then we lay on the bed snuggling until my knot goes down."

"Then take me," he whispered with a licking kiss, urging the Fox to open his slender muzzle.

Ozzy opened his muzzle to kiss the Kat passionately as he teased Jake's asshole with his fingers, drawing a deep rumble of pleasure. He gently nuzzled his way around the Jake's neck till he was behind the Kat. He gently pressed two fingers in, as he started working on loosening his mate.

With a low moan Jake shifted their positions to give Nathan the best view of the action and began to teasingly stroke his own cock as his free hand ran through his fur. Then he reached back to slide Ozzy's free hand forward along his body, and up to his mouth to have his slender fingers suckled.

As Ozzy felt the Kat become sufficiently stretched, he urged Jake to his knees, since he was to short to manage fucking Jake while standing. Once the Kat was down, he slowly slid his cock into his lover until he was completely buried in the Jake's ass. Then he began slowly pistoning in and out, trying to make it last as long as possible before his knot swelled too much for the extra motion.

With a shudder and surprised growling roar Jake's body went tense, tightening his grip on his spurting cock as his spasms locked Ozzy inside him.

Ozzy yipped loudly as he came, spurred by the spasms from Jake. As the spasms fade he sagged in exhaustion on the Kat's back, before they lay to one side, waiting for his knot to release.

"Intense." Jake gasped as he tried to catch his breath.

"Very." Nathan said breathlessly, as he nuzzled the lean tom affectionately. It appeared that his roar had coincided with Jake's.

"How 'bout a fox sandwich next time?" Ozzy asked with a mischievous grin.

"I like that idea, as long as there's a Kat sandwich in there sometime soon." He chuckled softly.

"I think we can work that in too." The fox smirked as Jake twisted to claim a hungry kiss from Nathan.

"I think keeping the feeding and sex separate is going to be the hardest part of this." The Kat sighed.

"Jake, if you learn to feed before you're really hungry it shouldn't be a problem. Or even feed and then have sex, that's always safe since after feeding you've got about six hours minimum before the hunger starts to build, assuming you weren't starving before hand." Ozzy said with a reassuring nuzzle. "Or just learn how to only a feed a little during sex, it's not that hard really. I learned, and I've never been great at self-control."

"Speaking of which, I am hungry." Jake relaxed, knowing he wasn't going anywhere. "Almost as hungry as after the hooker."

Ozzy smiled. "It's a little early still to pick up dinner. But there's the other appetite to deal with. It's one of those slight handicaps we've got, some vampires can get by on just blood ... we've got to still fill the 'normal' appetite, and blood."

Nathan grinned. "I can do something about the regular appetite. Given the hour of the day, I'll go make lunch." He said, as he stood.

"Sounds good," Jake chuckled softly. "It's not like we're going anywhere."

Nathan smiled as he walked out of the room, and headed for the kitchen. After he left, Ozzy turned to Jake. "So, can he actually cook, or does he just think he can?" He asked curiously.

Jake growled hungrily at the memory of the last meal. "Oh, he can cook." He grinned. "At least breakfast."

Ozzy smiled. "You really snagged a good one, Jake. He can cook, and he wasn't even phased by you being a vampire. Hard to believe he's a Protector." The fox said quietly. "You're really lucky to have someone who loves you so much."

"Well I can cook," the Kat smirked. "Can't argue with the rest though." He smiled softly. "He is quiet a catch."

"Guess that makes three cooks in this group, but he really seems to enjoy it." The fox smiled. "Where'd you meet him anyway? I've never seen anyone quite like him." He asked curiously. "And I've been with a few Xanith."

"I seem to attract cooks." Jake burst out laughing. "I'm not surprised, Nathan's rather unique. We met when he pulled me out of a very bad situation and patched me up afterwards."

Ozzy nodded. "So you two have been together a while, huh?" He wondered. "Sorry if I'm being nosy, it's just he's the first person in a long time who didn't weird out at discovering I was a vampire. I'm just trying to understand him a little." He said a little sheepishly.

"'Fraid I can't help much there." The Kat shrugged. "He's seen stranger than vampires, so have I, for that matter. Hell, I've been stranger than a vampire. I think it goes under the heading of once you've been through enough, nothing is really that hard to deal with. But that's my perspective talking more than anything. I hadn't seen him for months until the night before we met."

"Oh," Ozzy said in surprise. "It seemed like you'd been together a while." He said quietly. "The whole vampire thing is the strangest thing I've ever seen ... pretty boring life before it happened."

"Well, you'd be hard pressed to top what I've deal with." Jake said quietly. "Just how old are you? In real years, I mean."

"I turned thirty last month." He said quietly.

"Oh," the Kat murmured, stunned. "This'll be interesting."

"What'll be interesting?" Ozzy asked curiously.

"Taking lessons from someone so much younger than I am." He shrugged. "It's been a while sense I haven't been the team CO."

"I can teach, but leading isn't something I'm good at. I haven't worked on a team much, I'm usually working by myself. I think I've got a few things to learn myself." He said quietly, before something occurred to him. "Those thugs who grabbed us thought you were Razor's lover, is there any truth to that?" He asked a little worried.

"Why?" Jake didn't go tense only on practice, and an expectation of the question to eventually be asked.

"Guess I'm just worried he'll blame me for what happened. I always worry about heavily armed people being mad at me." He said quietly. "I was surprised Nathan wasn't mad at me, in a strange way he seemed sort of relieved." The fox said and shook his head.

"Don't worry about it too much," Jake assured him with a pat. "Razor won't come after you for this. Though if you're anything but a Vampire Fox, now would be a good time to mention it. A friend of mine's going to be joining this hunt, and her wolves are sometimes overly aggressive towards various types of critters."

Ozzy relaxed significantly. "That's good to know. Nope, just a Vampire Fox with slight pretensions of being magically talented. Unless her wolves don't like stockbrokers." He grinned slightly.

"As long as you aren't cheating her, she shouldn't. Though if you've magical talent, that's important, since we're probably hunting a mage." Jake shook his head. "Though with Nathan, the hounds she brings will have to be mage-socialized anyway."

"Cleo says I have Talent, it's just been difficult learning to use it. She says I'm too grounded in this reality and I have to learn to see beyond it." He shook his head. "That's not easy."

"You really are normal." Jake looked over his shoulder in surprise. "Well, that does make you rather unique among my lovers."

"Well, up until Nilmars interference my life was pretty normal. Good high school grades, good college degree and then a good job. Pretty mundane really, and looking back kind of boring. As crazy as things have been, I haven't felt this alive in years."

Jake chuckled softly. "There are moments I've prayed for that kind of mundane life. Doesn't usually last long though. I've never known anything but this wild existence. It's kind of comforting really, knowing that leaving the Enforcers won't change that much."

"You have any plans for after you leave the Enforcers?" Ozzy asked quietly.

"I had a couple ... now, well, only staying with Nathan." He shrugged and relaxed. "I hadn't thought about it much. I was generally aiming for a honorable death in the line of duty up to a couple days ago."

"I somehow think things will get interesting, especially once Nathan resigns from the Protectors. I've heard they don't take resignations well. Then there's the vampire politics angle, we're going to attract attention since we're not really attached to any of the clans. They'll probably be some angling to get us to side with one clan or the other."

"And then there's the Jake-angle." He chuckled. "If this turn in my life is anything like the others, I'm more of a wild-card than anything reality throws at me."

Ozzy smiled. "I think Nathan's got the same effect, which leaves me along for the ride." He grinned.

Gavin's eye caught the flash of the lamp, indicating the doorbell had been wrung. With a little irritation, he paused AG3 and pushed the button for the security camera. He looked at the Doberman at the door with complete annoyance. "Oh. Him." He said as though discussing some annoying door-to-door salesman.

Gavin cracked the door open with the security chain still on. "Yes?" He said without giving any hint that he recognized the Doberman.

"I'm looking for Dr. SolGardin. I understand he lives here." Trent DelGran said calmly.

"Yeah, he does. He's not here." Gavin said taking a distinctly 'punk' attitude, and not giving any indication that he wasn't telling the truth.

"I see." The angular Kantin nodded. "When he and Jake wake up, please ask one of them to call me."

"And you are?" He asked with out a hint of knowing, or even really caring. "I'll mention it, don't know when they'll get back though."

Trent actually quirked a smile, the rather disturbing look of one who knew he was being lied to and letting it slide intentionally. "Trent DelGran."

Gavin didn't let any hint of being disturbed touch his face, as he stuck to the arrogant 'punk' sneer. "Right. I'll let 'em know." He said, as he closed the door, and turned the volume on AG3 up a bit. He went back to playing, making a note to mention it quietly to Nathan went the chance came up. The teenager decided he didn't like the Doberman, and liked that the fact that he'd showed up here, even less. He turned the wide-angle security camera on to make sure the Doberman wasn't hanging around, and followed him calmly walk out of the building.

"Good afternoon, Gavin." Nathan greeted his aid with a smile as he walked through the livingroom in running shorts, fresh from a shower.

"Afternoon, Nathan. We had a visitor while you guys were playing." He said clearly disturbed.

"Trent, right?" Nathan focused his full attention on the teenager.

"Creepy Doberman in the fur." The teenager said quietly. "Gives me chills, can't imagine what Jake sees in him."

"What did he want?"

"To talk to you or Jake. I told him nobody was home." Gavin said easily.

"Do you think he bought it?" Nathan sat down next to him.

"No, and that's what's really creepy. There's no way he could know that you were here. But that quirky smile distinctly said he did. I don't like it, and I definitely don't like him." The teenager said emphatically. "I mean if he was reading my mind, I would've known that."

"Well, there are much less supernatural methods of being sure." Nathan said quietly. "And he would have access to many of them quiet readily. Did say or indicate anything else?"

"Only that he wanted you or Jake to call him when you woke up. I told him I might mention it when somebody got back." Gavin said easily. "I'm only mentioning it, 'cause Jake's not out here." He said quietly, relying on the sound dampening between the rooms.

"I'll run another security sweep for anything he might have watching us." He tried to reassure the kit. "I'll call him. Better than have him come back unannounced."

"Maybe you ought to take Jeremy up on that deluxe security system he offered you. That'd take care of anything Dobie might have watching." Gavin said a little nervous.

"I'll think about it, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea with the new developments." Nathan nodded. "Hungry? I'm making breakfast for us.'

Gavin grinned. "When's the last time I passed up a meal?" He smirked. "You know, I never thought I'd meet a vampire who qualified as 'cute', but Ozzy definitely does."

"Well, I never thought I'd want to protect one," Nathan shook his head as he stood and headed for the kitchen. "Now I have two in the family."

Gavin smiled and followed Nathan. "I don't think it would've mattered what Jake turned into. You said you were afraid this would happen. I guess better Ozzy than some other vampire, huh?"

"I guess. Of all the options, this is a reasonably tolerable one." The tiger admitted. "Though I still worry about how well Jake is adapting. It's like this has barely made a blip on his radar.

"That is pretty weird, it's like nothing unusual happened. He didn't freak or anything. Of course, you didn't freak either which I was sure was gonna happen as soon as you figured out what had happened."

"That was all timing." Nathan shook his head ruefully as he pulled out sandwich makings. "By the time I calmed down from full Medic mode, he was so calm about it, I just didn't."

"The fact that he's still warm and breathing probably didn't hurt. It's not like he's one of those stereotypical walking corpse types." Gavin said, while helpfully pulling glasses out of the cupboard.

"No, that didn't hurt either," he admitted. "He's really changed amazedly little except the addition to his diet."

"And the need for sun block SPF ten thousand." Gavin chuckled.

Nathan couldn't help but chuckle with him. "Or a good sunblocking spell."

"There's got to be a reason the vampires never came up with that, after all vamp mages are hardly unheard of." Gavin said quietly.

"I expect we'll find out." Nathan spoke just as quietly. "As soon as that thought gets into Jake's head, I'm sure he'll try it."

"When was Trent here?" Jake's voice was quiet behind them.

Gavin carefully maintained a nonchalant manner. "While you guys were playing." He said casually, not even asking how Jake knew the Dobie had been there.

"Where is he now?" The Kat focused fully on the teenager.

"Not here." Gavin said evenly. "He wanted you or Nathan to call him." The teenager said, figuring that while he'd lie to the Dobie with casual ease, he wouldn't lie to Jake.

"I will," Jake nodded quickly. "Where's the phone?"

"Right next to the couch." Gavin said pointing to the phone in question, sitting on an end table.

Jake relaxed into the couch and dialed a number from memory. It was answered almost immediately.

"Hi Trent.

"Pretty decent really.

"No," he chuckled softly. "Kit's name is Gavin.

"No, he's not usually.

"Yes, I'd love to.

"No, not now ... dinner?

"I'll be there, though it'd be good to assume a tail or three even if we can't find them." Jake chuckled.

"Yes. He's just looking after me, chill." Jake sighed. "Do I need to remind ....

"Good, I'll see you there." He hung up with a bit of a scowl for Gavin before finding an out of the way spot to watch lunch come together.

After a few minutes there was a flash on the TV screen and Gavin dropped down in front of it, and put on a headphones and mike headset.

"Hi, Ranger.

"No kidding, sure I'm up for it.

"No problem, I'm not on duty today.

"Give me twenty, you are half-way crosstown.

"Sure thing, see you in twenty." He said as he took the headset off and turned the TV off. "Nathan, I'm going be ThunderStrike teaming with Ranger, be back later." He said as he grabbed his jacket and took off.

"Have fun, Gav. Be back for dinner, or call if you're not going to be."

"Sure, dad." The teenager smiled, grabbed his rollerblades, and closed the door behind him.

"Are you anything but a Felsin and mage, Nathan?" Jake asked quietly after the door shut.

"Guess that depends on what you're asking about, really. Mage is a profession, and I've had several of those. Felsin would be shorthand, since my heritage is only partially Felsin, my one father was half Dracon, and my other father is well...unique, Felsin for ease of conversation."

"Umm, Mage in context of supernatural abilities." Jake considered. "I need to warn Sashari so she doesn't bring any wolves that really hate it."

"Oh, that would about cover the supernatural. There might be some dragon magic lingering, but if there is I haven't found it yet." He said casually. "Who's Sashari?" He asked curiously.

"My spotter," he didn't quiet make eye contact. "It wouldn't hurt to have the muscle, and her wolves will make tracking the responsible party much easier."

"No, extra muscle won't hurt at all. Though I doubt any of us have seen the truly responsible party yet." He said quietly. "So what kind of wolves? Are they anything supernatural?" He asked quietly, still worried about the signs of Protector activity he'd sensed nearby.

"No doubt, but they can track at least those that were there after than any of us." The Kat nodded. "I'm not actually sure what they are, but they're good at tracking and as dangerous as anything on the ground in combat."

"Just wondering, I've picked up some signs that there's been Protector activity nearby. I shouldn't tell you, but I'm pretty sure there's at least one tailing Trent." He said softly.

"That ... not good, is it?" He considered the Tiger thoughtfully.

"Depends. If he's a victim, like you suggested then they'll just tail him till the vampire hits, and then they'll take out the aggressor. If he's willingly working for or cooperating with the vampire that was draining you, then he's in a lot of trouble. There are some Protectors who hate those who pimp for vampires worse than the vampires themselves." He said quietly.

"And those who protect vampires?" Jake prompted with more than a trace of concern.

"I don't know." Nathan said very quietly. "It never was mentioned. I know they're not going to be happy with me when I resign. Once they figure out what's going on, I don't know." He said before meeting Jake's gaze squarely. "And I don't care. If they don't like the fact that I'm looking after the Kat I love, then they can try and pick a fight with all the potential they keep talking about." He said without hesitation and with a trace of fire in his eyes.

"Do you care if we get out of town?" Jake glanced at them both. "There are far safer places to avoid them then here."

"We have to fill in a few gaps, so to speak, before getting out of town." Nathan said quietly. "Make up something to tell Feral, and you should probably tell Chance something. If he comes looking for you, and you're not here he'll turn the town upside down looking for you. We'll have to wait till night, at any rate."

"I have a date tonight." Jake said flatly. "Probably two. I'll deal with Chance and Feral, and a couple other folks that should know too."

"Well, I don't really have a problem, except work." A rather fluffy Fox said as he walked into the room shirtless. "Don't suppose we can hide someplace with a broadband connection."

"The place I have in mind is on a tier one T-3 line." Jake chuckled. "Though money won't be a worry."

Nathan grinned. "Don't worry about work, Jeremy will cover financial issues. Speaking of which, I'd better talk to him as well. Disappearing will cause him to put his resources to work looking, and he won't be subtle about it either." Nathan said with an affectionate smirk.

"I don't doubt it." Jake smirked back.

"Just keep your eyes open tonight." Nathan said evenly. "If they're watching, you could be in danger as well. And the Protectors are trained to fight the old vampires, who are a lot more dangerous.

"Yeah, and watch your Beast carefully. If this Trent has been fed on before he'll be even more appetizing. I'm not entirely sure why, but those who have been drained before are more attractive to other vampires, in terms of hunger." Ozzy added cautioning.

Jake nodded with a sigh. "I'll hunt before I meet him then, and I'll be careful." He shot a look at Nathan. "Though they'd be hard pressed to actually be ready for me, even if they know what I did for a living."

"Use my cell phone number, if you get into trouble." Nathan said as he finished cooking. "I'm going out tonight." He said simply.

"On a date, I hope." Jake smirked at his mate. "You haven't been out in far too long."

Nathan recognized the look and chuckled. "I can just see wing extenders in the works." He grinned broadly. "I'll have you know I've been on three dates in the last six weeks." He grinned broadly. "Lifetime record I think. But yes, Jeremy's been asking me out for about six months and this seems as good a time as any."

"I rest my case. That many in a week is healthier." The Kat snickered. "Good luck with him, he's quite the looker. Lovely black fur, and the most subtle of stripes I've ever seen."

Nathan grinned. "Well, I didn't even start dating till I was twenty-five, and I married the first one." He chuckled. "He thinks you're pretty attractive too."

Jake's eyes glittered. "Now this has some real possibilities."

Nathan grinned. "Wha'cha got in mind?"

"Nothing in particular, but it's a given there are real possibilities with two Xanith in bed, with or without Kats and Foxes added for fun." Jake chuckled. "I'd better talk to Callie too." He lost most of his humor. "She is not going to be happy."

Nathan nodded seriously. "I imagine not." He said quietly.

"So what are you up to for the night?" Jake looked at Ozzy as they sat down to eat.

"Gavin wanted to show me this AG3, and I must admit I am a little fascinated. I mean I've handled large amounts of stocks and bonds in the company that produced it, but I've never looked at the product. Don't feel like going out anyway." He said quietly.

Nathan nodded. "Guess that means he's planning to come home for dinner after all, sometimes when he's with Ranger he loses all track of time."

"He'll probably bring Ranger back with him." The Fox chuckled.

"Wouldn't surprise me."

"Any real chance the Protectors have figured out what's living here yet?" Jake suddenly asked.

"I don't think so. They still think I'm one of them. One of their rules requires that they contact a Protector before entering his home. At least for the time being that'll keep them away."

"Even if they think a vampire is in there?"

"Technically, yes. They wouldn't be sure it was a vampire, if it was inside a Protector's home for one thing. No vampire can enter a Protector's home without permission. It's an old magic that still works very well. They'd have a serious conversation with the Protector first."

"Be careful yourself, Nathan." Jake said quietly. "If they're anything like the ones I knew, you might not see them coming for you easily."

Nathan gave Jake a look of his own. "They are no more ready for me, than they are for you. But I'll be careful."

"I hope so, I'm not ready to loose you." The Kat fiddled with his meal.

Nathan nodded. "Don't worry, I'm not that easy to get rid of. Truthfully, they really don't have any idea what they did when they taught me how magic works." He smiled quietly. "And I'm glad they don't."

Jake raised an eyebrow. "How so?"

"Dracons are a naturally magical race to begin with, and my one father was a Cyber Wizard. The genetics for magic were there but quiet, the Protectors think the Felsin are just Xanith with slight appearance differences. I was born with a dragon's aptitude for fire, but I didn't go into magic so it simply manifested in my temper. The Protectors taught me magic, and inadvertently show me how to unlock the Dragon's fire."

"Yeah, that'll be a good surprise if they become ... unpleasant." The Kat nodded with a slight chuckle. "Here's hoping I'm nervous for nothing tonight." He raised his glass to them.

Nathan raised his glass. "Here's hoping we're both nervous for nothing."

Ozzy raised his glass, and after he'd taken a sip he looked at both of them. "You two are making me nervous." He shook his head.

"We're accustomed to a dangerous world." Jake shrugged with a bit of an apologetically. "I get nervous when it's been too quiet, and very nervous when that quiet has an obvious cause."

"Don't worry, Ozzy, you'll get used to it." Nathan smiled reassuringly. "And I agree it has been too quiet."

"And my condition points to someone having a plan." Jake growled. "I still want to know just what was holding me down." He shook his head. "That was no normal Kat."

"I'd be interested to know that as well." Nathan said curiously. "Though I think that's at least two people with a plan, somebody was going to a great deal of trouble to weaken you slowly beforehand. I'm still trying to figure out what that was about."

"Looks like one plan tripped up another." Ozzy said quietly. "I don't know what it was, but I don't think you killed it, just incapacitated it."

"If it's not dead, that significantly narrows down the list of options." Jake muttered softly. "I don't suppose the body is still around?"

"It was still twitching when I followed you out of the warehouse." Ozzy said quietly.

"There wasn't any body by that description on the crime scene detail report. So the 'body' either left or was removed before Homicide arrived." Nathan added. "There was a highly unusual blood type listed on the forensic report. Whatever the blood was from, the healing was so rapid as to be notable in a blood sample."

"Mutant, probably, but Sashari will probably have a better idea." Jake shook his head. "That Lioness was a spook back when we were partners. After she left, she went into it full bore."

"A talent we can definitely use." Nathan said easily. "I was trained in black ops, but espionage and investigation wasn't really what I did."

"Just be warned, she's probably going to want to poke and prod a bit in exchange for the crash space and backing." Jake chuckled. "We're something of a dream come true for her."

Nathan looked at him a bit curiously. "Poke and prod? To what end?" The Tiger asked with a distinct caged animal look.

"He probably meant him and me, Nathan." Ozzy suggested trying to calm down the Tiger. "She probably doesn't get many cooperative vampires."

"Mostly us, but a mage willing to cooperate with some experiments, or even just talk magic and theory with her is what I mean." Jake said calmly. "We've actually ended up in very similar professions. She's just more scientific about it. She won't do anything you don't agree to Nathan. She just wants to understand what she might have to face better."

Nathan nodded. "Oh, that makes sense. Just had a few childhood flashbacks." He said quietly. "I think we've got enough backing for a not so small army, and a ready source of equipment as well, between the people we know."

"Not to mention who we are." Jake chuckled. "I'm dangerous for a lot more than my training, especially with your schematics available."

"I'll have to show you the neural interface control system I helped design. It was state of the art Alliance tech when I was last there, or more like the next step. Kind of like the TurboKat's relationship to current norms in fighter aircraft." Nathan said easily. "I think I'm going to have to put in for an extended leave of absence from the Enforcers, or maybe it's time for me to take Jeremy on the offer he made a few months ago ... it would give me more flexibility." He said softly.

"There are other options too," Jake added. "But it's probably safer with Jeremy."

"It's the option where I know I can do whatever I have to. Jeremy knows that you're the most important person in my life, everything else comes after." Nathan said confidently. "Safer wasn't actually the reason for considering his offer."

"So how long do we have to kill before I can head over to Callie?" Jake leaned back and glanced at the blackout-shaded window.

"Probably a good five or six hours, till sunset." Ozzy said quietly.

"Might as well call Sashari now then." He sighed and stood, heading towards the bedroom.

Nathan nodded. "The phone's over there." He said indicating the living room as the Kat walked the wrong direction.

"Thanks, but it's easier to get through using my cell." The Kat inclined his head. "She's not much on outside contact."

"Then you should use my office, and turn the crouching panther statue ninety degrees to open the screen." He smiled. "Part of the anti-surveillance system, though its not nearly as good as the one Jeremy wanted to install for me."

"Thanks," Jake smiled slightly before retrieving a small black object from his tote and headed for the office.

Nathan smiled. "No problem." He said as he started cleaning up.

"Hi, Callie." Jake's voice was soft behind her as she walked to her car early in the evening.

Callie jumped slightly. "Jake, don't do that." She said with a smile as she turned to face him and right into an affectionate embrace. "I take it you're feeling better after that second hospitalization."

"Yes, and doing well enough Nathan's even let me out on my own recognizance." He grinned before claiming a chaste kiss. "We need to talk though."

"Why do I think that he let you out, because he didn't want to spend the evening sitting on you to keep you in?" She grinned softly and gently kissed him back. "Where would you like to talk?"

"Your place or mine?" He cocked an eyebrow. "Just somewhere private."

"How about mine then?" She said as she unlocked the doors to her car. "It's closer."

"Works for me," he smiled softly and brushed a hand along her ass as he walked to the passenger side to get him. "How was your day?"

"About the usual. A few unusual events; Nathan put you on extended medical leave without a definite return date."

"That's basically what I want to talk about." He nodded, almost covering his nervousness.

"There was another murder at Kimber Yards. A really gruesome one this time, Feral even seemed taken back." She said as she drove. "Whoever did it was a real professional according to Feral, a full day of forensic search and still not a single hair, fiber or skin cell not belonging to the victim."

"Please not another kit ...." He didn't fake a trace of the plea in his voice.

"Too much body mass for that, at least what remained. Coroner says the victim's heart was missing, along with a significant fraction of blood." She said looking a little queasy. "It was one of those days I wished the Enforcers weren't nominally reporting to me. Of course, Mayor Manx would've passed out after the first paragraph."

"Thank Bast for small miracles." Jake swallowed, queasy himself.

"Small miracle this time, but Commander Feral thinks there's a new Kimber Yard killer starting up. A more brutal one, which we didn't think possible. Enforcers have shifted patrol resources to cover that area more thoroughly but that means leaving other places less covered."

"Not good," he shook his head. "At least SWAT's ready to fly without me."

"So you wanted to talk about that medical leave?" She said, shifting the topic. "It's up to Nathan as far as you coming back to active duty, you'll need clearance from him." She said quietly.

"I know, I'm not going back." He took a deep breath. "I'm retiring from the Enforcers, SWAT and the rest."

"I can't say I'm surprised, given how actively Nathan dodged the question of when you'd be returning. He already knows I take it." She said quietly. "How did Chance take the news?" She asked softly.

"I haven't told him yet, or anyone but Nathan, really." He sighed. "I don't expect it'll be easy."

"Probably not." She said supportively as they pulled into the parking garage that her condominium had attached. "So have you given any thought to what you'll do after you retire? Not that you have a shortage of options." She smiled, doing her best to keep the conversation from getting depressing.

"My spotter lives in Cabridina. She runs a big investigative/ R&D ranch there." He stretched as they got out of the car. "I'm going there for now, not sure about long term yet." He smiled softly and slid an arm around her waist as they took the elevator to her penthouse apartment.

Callie looked surprised. "I didn't realize retiring meant you'd be leaving MegaKat City as well." She said clearly not pleased as she opened her door. "Unless I've completely misjudged things, I expect Commander Feral will be getting two resignations, not one." She said softly. "I can't imagine Nathan staying here without you."

"He not," Jake tipped his head up slightly to kiss her as the door shut. "I'm sorry for leaving, but I can't stay. Not if I want to live at any rate."

"Jake, what's going on?" She asked quietly. "I'm asking off the record, just because I care about you. And I think there's a lot that's not in the medical reports, or that incident report about how you got rehospitalized." She asked softly, before kissing him gently.

He hesitated, clearly struggling with just how much to say. Finally he sighed before pulling her tightly against him and burring his nose against her neck. "You're right, to put it mildly." He shuddered as he felt her blood pulsing so close to his nose, almost hypnotically. "I just wanted to spend some time with you, before I left."

"How soon?" She asked softly, as she gently put her arms around him holding him close. "I'm glad you did."

"Soon, a few days probably." He murmured, urging her to the bedroom. "I can't afford to be here for the next emergency."

"Whenever that is." She said quietly. "Is there something you're expecting the next emergency to be?" She asked as she headed for the bedroom.

"Not really, but Nathan put me on leave on the first round for more than my injuries." He admitted as he twisted in front of her to unbutton her pink jacket. "Burn-out's dangerous."

"Yes, it is." She said quietly. "I'm glad he caught it, before something happened." She purred slightly, encouraging him. "So that's why Commander Feral brought Felina into SWAT so suddenly, they weren't sure then if you'd be able to go back." She said, running her hands up under the back of his shirt.

"And even without it, I'd be down for a week or more." He sighed in pleasure as he cupped her breasts through her blouse and bra before shifting behind her to work on the rest of her clothes with his nose snuggled against her neck, and buried in wavy blond hair.

"More, if that last injury was as understated as I think the report was." She purred, beginning to lose herself in the pleasure of his touch. "I think Feral was right about your Doctor." She grinned.

"I died on the bed," Jake admitted very softly as her skirt slid to the floor. "Just didn't stay that way."

"That's morbid humor, even for you." She chuckled softly.

"So what did Feral say about my Doctor?" He chuckled as he worked her blouse open.

"That his first loyalty wasn't to the Enforcers or SWAT, but to you." She said quietly. "Your Tiger didn't put up with anybody saying bad things about the SWAT Kats, and that included Enforcers who didn't know the truth." She purred, and turned to undo his belt, and let his pants drop as he eased the soft white blouse from her shoulders.

"That sounds like Nathan." He smiled and ran an appreciative finger along her lips and down her jaw as he stilled, just looking at her for a long time. "I'm going to miss you." He closed his eyes and leaned against her as they kissed. "There's never enough time for the important things."

"I'll miss you too, but just because you go doesn't mean you can't come back and visit." She suggested. "Goodbye, doesn't have to be forever." She said before claiming a passionate kiss.

"No, it doesn't." Jake accepted with a slight nod as he undid her bra, letting it slip down between them and shivered as the silk caressed his hardening cock on the way to the floor. "You could come see me, too," he whispered as he lowered to one knee, suckling a bright pink nipple as his hands slide over her hips to bring her panties down.

"True, I could really take a vacation for a change." She chuckled. "Let Manx run the city for a week."

"That'll get you elected." He chuckled as his breathing picked up.

She purred deeply as he moved to nuzzle between her legs with his hands on her ass. "I love the way you chose to say good bye though."

"Mmm, I'll miss how you taste and feel." Jake whispered as he stood to embrace her before sweeping her up in his arms for the ten or so feet to the plush bed.

"I think I'll miss being able to make you smile the most though." He rumbled as he slid up her body to claim a kiss as his fingers slipped between her swollen mons to caress the slick flesh between them.

"I'll miss that too," she murred and arched her hips up into his touch as she spread her legs for him.

Gently he guided her to her knees as he sat up, then forward over his as she smiled down at him. With the ease of familiarity she pressed close to his chest and slid down, welcoming the hard, pointed cock he guided into her ready body.

With a mutual sigh they sank into the minor rocking permitted by the position until Jake slowly leaned back, and pulled Callie down on top of him to nuzzle her neck. With only a twinge to question the wisdom and morality of what he was doing, Jake shifted slightly to hold her tightly and focused on his intent to feed.

Carefully he set his longer fangs along her neck, intent on avoiding the major vessels and prolonging the pleasure of the Kiss as Callie sank into the blissful mindlessness of losing herself in its power.

She came around slowly, still tingling in the aftereffects of the Kiss and the warmth of Jake's arms as he held her tightly. Then she recognized the feeling even if it didn't make any sense, even if it wasn't possible. She carefully extracted herself from Jake's embrace.

"Callie?" Jake raised his head as she got up, not particularly interested in moving. "You okay?"

"Just need to use the bathroom." She said very quietly, as she stepped into the master bathroom and closed the door.

Callie took a hand mirror and very carefully examined the skin under her neck fur. Eventually, she found what she'd been looking for, much to her distress. She grabbed an old brown leather bag from under the sink, removed a bottle wrapped in black cloth. She removed the silver foil seal, and poured the silver liquid into a small glass and threw it down. "God, I'd forgotten how bad that stuff tasted." She said quietly.

She splashed some cool water on her face, as she felt the counteragent begin to run through her system. According to her sister it would purge any residual chemicals including the coagulant, and accelerate the replenishment of red blood cells. She sat down on the toilet seat to let gather her thoughts as the potent chemical did its job.

"Callie?" Jake knocked before he poked his head in. "What's wrong?"

Callie looked up, still a little pale. "How long have you been a vampire?" She asked bluntly.

He blinked a couple times in surprise.

"About a day." He answered quietly. "I wasn't joking when I said I died on the bed the other night."

"I guess no one told you about asking before feeding on friends and lovers." She said quietly. "Your sire hasn't brought you up to speed yet, I take it."

"Urr, no." He looked both sheepish and a little confused. "Sounds like you know more about this than I do."

"Some basics, out of necessity." She said as she carefully rewrapped the bottle and put it away. "You're not the first vampire I've known; not even the first I've dated." She said quietly.

"Are you mad?" He asked very softly.

"I didn't know he was one until the end. He didn't tell me, and he never asked. My sister saved me from him, but not before Carina died." She said quietly. "How'd Nathan take it?"

"I'm ... sorry." Jake looked down. "I only meant to make our last night together a pleasurable one." He swallowed. "Nathan ... he's rolling with it. I'll probably feel sorry for the guys that did this to me, when he finds them."

Callie lifted his muzzle with a gentle hand. "I can see that, and I believe you. And this is not going to be our last night, it may be a little while till the next time, but there will be a next time." She said gently. "Just ask next time, that's all. I don't mind if it's you doing it." She said kissing him.

Jake accepted the kiss and pulled her close, deepening it in almost a desperate embrace.

"Krud this is hard." He muttered as they parted and squeezed his eyes tight, burying his nose in her hair. "I'd stay if I could, Callie. I really would."

"I know, Jake. You probably stayed longer than was good for you." She said stroking his hair. "Just give me a way to reach you once you get settled, just so I can talk to you. Nothing official." She said sincerely.

"I can give you that now." He slowly released her, his eyes never leaving her face. "You know what I'm going to miss most?"

"I don't know." She said quietly. "What are you going to miss the most?"

"Being able to make you smile," he tipped her chin to face him. "Not the political one you wear so easily out there, but that rare honest one when I've done something you truly find amusing."

"I'm going to miss that too." She said, giving him a gentle kiss. "That alone is reason to grab time off to visit you, wherever you end up."

"I won't be hard for you to find. I promise." He pulled her close. "I'm not going to hide, Callie, just move to a place I won't keep trying to get myself killed protecting someone. Anytime you want to see me, I'll just be a skimmer-jet ride away."

"I understand, and I'll keep that in mind." She said with a gentle smile. "So which one you drew telling the Commander about the upcoming changes?" She said with a slightly mischievous smile.

"That would be me." He took a deep breath. "I've got all the major notifications. But with him," Jake shook his head, "he'd have to hear it from me to believe it."

"Maybe not as much as you might think." She said quietly. "He can read between the lines of reports as well as I can, and I'm sure he sees the same things in the medical reports. I'm not sure where Nathan learned to write, but he's very good at 'unofficial' communications inside official reports." She smiled.

"Well, he was a military-type Medic before he came to us." Jake shrugged. "They probably write about the same." He chuckled slightly. "Most seem to, once you get past the linguistics of it."

"So, can you stay the night?" She asked softly.

"I'm ... not sure." He glanced away. "I have a few folks to tell tonight still. Tomorrow night, I'll make time for us if you can."

"Jake, you're going away. I'll make time, I can be selfish for once." She said without hesitation.

"Then tomorrow night is for you and me." He smiled softly. "I'll let myself in if I can get back for a while tonight, if you don't mind."

"You're always welcome, Jake. Just remember the sunrise, you need to be wherever you're going to spend the day, before then." She said easily.

"I know," he said sadly, then smiled a little mischievously. "Or we can spend the day and night together."

She shook her head. "As much as I'd like to, I still have to keep this city running. Suddenly abandoning Manx to his own devices would be a bad idea." She said. "Tomorrow's rather busy, and several are ones that it wouldn't be good to abruptly reschedule."

A little reluctantly he nodded. "Do you know where Nathan lives?"

"I hadn't had a reason to look at his file lately, I do recall the Commander saying Nathan had restricted access to his personal information, more than such information is usually restricted. Given his close friend, I imagine it's in a good section of town."

"That it is," Jake chuckled. "He's on a date with that 'good friend' tonight. But that's where I'm staying for now. I'll give you the address, just come by when you can. It'll give us a few extra hours in the morning."

Callie raised an eyebrow. "I take it Nathan's finally accepted that invitation that's been standing for over four months. Sometimes that Panther's patience is a bit frightening." She smiled. "I'll stop by when I can." She said with a gentle kiss.

"I look forward to it." He brushed a strand of hair from her shoulder before turning to gather his clothes. "Nothing like walking away to make you realize just how many connections you've got." He shook his head ruefully as he dressed.

Callie nodded as he sat on the bed to dress. "At least you got to walk away. It's better than the way burnout often ends." She said, as she lay on the bed watching him.

"I know." He stopped moving, staring at the shirt in his hands as he bent over. "It's easier all the way around. No one calls you a coward or quitter when you die in the line of duty. You're hailed as a hero with your name on the wall for everyone to see. Your memory is defended, even if you had problems, they're forgiven or forgotten. And you don't have to say goodbye or find a new life. Belie live me, Callie, it's a very attractive choice."

"Only if the death wasn't avoidable. And someone usually figures out that it wasn't." She said her eyes narrowing. "Suicide by combat, is suicide just the same. The only heroes are the ones who weren't looking to die in combat."

"Not by the names on the wall." He shrugged and pulled the shirt on. "I knew enough of them. I knew their choices, like some of the guys knew I was considering." He said as he buttoned his shirt and tucked it in. "There are traditions that don't get around much to outsiders." He locked eyes with her. "And you won't break that confidence, will you?"

"Jake, the names on the wall have a lot to do with politics. We ignore the failings of heroes in public because we need them. The public needs heroes to rally behind and to believe in, so we ignore the less pleasant things that aren't publicly known. Heroes are useful, but it doesn't ease the pain of the families who knew, despite what the hero thought." She said quietly. "I know I've had to comfort a few 'hero's widows in my official capacity, they knew but couldn't get through no matter what they did."

She locked eyes with him. "No, publicly I won't break that confidence. I do what I have to to protect this city, and that means overlooking things at times. Just don't think the people around are so blind, they're not. I can think of one son who only visits his father's grave when the cameras are there, so as to play the role that the city needs. But in private, he hates his father for abandoning him, for choosing death over life." She said very quietly. "That was a Kat who believed in that 'tradition'."

"I don't doubt it." Jake growled softly, hurting deep inside. "I know them. I hate them. I've seen more good officers broken because the acceptance isn't there like it was. That wall isn't *for* them. It's not for the widows and kits and friends and traitors. It's for the ones who go out there every day, knowing we might not get the choice, the chance, to choose our time and go out anyway. Sometimes knowing you've got an accepted way out when you can't take it anymore is the only thing that gets you up in the morning." He turned away from her sharply as the tears began to fall. "The heroes aren't for the people, they're for the Enforcers who take their place."

"Maybe, but most Enforcers manage full careers and retire to enjoy their lives. But when you talk about choice, it's a selfish choice that ignores the pain and grief it will cause those left behind. The pain of the widows and children who were there all along to support their loved one. Enforcers aren't the only profession that suffers burnout, they're just the only one that thinks they're entitled to commit suicide when they do. It's the one thing about the Enforcers that's always gotten on my nerves. The insistence on the easy way out, it takes a lot more bravery to live then to die."

"Yes, it's selfish." Jake growled as he stood. "And maybe I still believe that a lifetime of being unselfish for everyone else entitles one to be selfish at least once."

"I've been to one to many 'hero' funeral, I'm tired of them. And I don't want any more to be people I'm close to." She said as tears of old pain and anger began to fall from her own eyes.

"Most Enforcers are heroes either." He hissed as he walked out, too angry and hurt himself do what he knew he should do.

Callie walked over to a box that sat in the bottom of her night table. She opened the box, and pulled out the picture of a mature peach and brown tabby tom in an Enforcer pilot uniform. As tears fell, she stared at it. "You still manage to cause me problems, even after all these years." She said angrily, before putting the picture away.

"Welcome, Nathan." The muscular Panther greeted his date with a broad smile at Micharo's. "It is good to see you like this.

"I should've taken you up on this before, Jeremy." The Tiger smiled warmly. "Nice restaurant."

"Now that is a pleasant thing to hear." The Xanith Kat smiled slyly. "How's your patient coming along?"

"Does this restaurant have private rooms? I can talk to you, but I'd prefer to do it out of public eye."

Jeremy blinked in surprise before he nodded and motioned a waiter. "Have a private booth prepared."

"Of course, sir." The perfectly groomed gray tabby tom nodded. "If you'll come with me."

Once they were seated, Nathan pulled out an intricately designed medallion and set it on center of the table. He tapped it twice, and it glowed brightly, and then faded. "I needed to be sure." He said very quietly.

The Tiger relaxed with a sigh. "Things have gone completely out of control, Jeremy. I thought I could protect him, but I failed. Now, I have to try again and I'm frightened that I'm not up to it." He said with great fatigue.

"Failed how?" He reached over to put a supportive hand on Nathan's shoulder. "He's still alive, and he's doing well enough for you to be here ... isn't he?"

"Jeremy, what I'm telling you is in absolute confidence, it's not in any report and it won't be. He would've died, but he'd been injected with vampire blood. Jake's a vampire now." He said with soul-rending pain in his voice. "What I tried to prevent from happening, happened despite my best effort."

For a very long moment the Panther stared in mute incomprehension as his brain tried to work through the statement, and the Tiger's agony. Slowly he pulled Nathan against his chest in a supportive embrace, letting actions say what he didn't have the words for.

It would be a good ten minutes before Nathan could speak again. "Jake's retiring from SWAT now, and he's moving out of the city." The tiger said quietly. "I'm going with him, Jeremy. I've told you how much he means to me, besides it's not like there's anywhere you can't visit me, and I can always come back for visits. I'll be submitting my resignation from the Enforcers tomorrow." He said quietly.

"Anything I can do to make it easier for you?" Jeremy rubbed the Tiger's arm supportively.

"Jake says he has a friend who can put us up, but I'd feel more comfortable with your support, I know you. Once you mentioned that any time I wanted out of the Enforcers you had a place for me. I've got designs from the Alliance in my head that aren't like anything you've got right now. With Jake's help I can make them real, you said once that you had operations well outside of MegaKat City ... would it be possible to set Jake and Me up as an R&D facility? I've even got someone to handle facility finances and Gavin to handle the day to day stuff." He said, as he made up the proposal as he talked. "I don't want to be dependent on someone's charity, that's not the way I do things."

"Nathan, relax." He hugged the Felsin tightly. "Yes, that is perfectly doable. Do you know the name of his friend?" He asked curiously.

"Sashari, he said. I guess she was his partner along time ago, when he was a sniper."

"I'll look her up, though the name sounds familiar from somewhere." Jeremy nodded. "Do you know what she does?"

"He was a little vague, something about an R&D ranch or something in Cabridina. I've been a little distracted, trying not to let him see just how upset I've been. And I've been adapting to the fact that I'm in love with a vampire." He said quietly. "Jeremy, how much do you know about the Protectors?"

"Enough to not like them much, and putting a one in the same room with a Vampire is a bad idea." He said quietly. "How do they fit into this?"

"I am a Protector. It made sense with my work with SWAT, and I'm a defender by nature." He said quietly. "That's another resignation I have to deliver tomorrow. I worry about how they'll take that, and I wonder how long before they figure out that I've got two vampires living with me." He sighed and sipped at his glass of water. "On top of that, I still don't know what DelGran and his vampire were up to. Well, I don't know that it is his vampire but I don't believe that he's as innocent as Jake wants to believe." Nathan said quietly. "Gavin's reaction to him, reinforces that feeling. The Kit's a good judge of character.

"Remember that advanced security system you wanted me to have ... how soon could it be installed? I'm not sure how, but DelGran knew Jake and I were at my place when he shouldn't have. I think he's got surveillance equipment aimed at my apartment or something."

"Or on Jake. Which given the Kat's tendency to roam, seems more likely." Jeremy sighed. "I can have it installed before dinner is over, if you'd like. But if it's really that serious, and you're moving, it would make more sense for you to stay at my place for a few days."

"Well, that would involve me, Jake, Gavin and Ozzy. Are you feeling up to two vampires? I'd have to talk with Jake, and I don't expect to see him until just before sunrise. He has some goodbyes to say, one of which I hope doesn't get him into more trouble." He said quietly. "Maybe you'd better have it done anyway. I can't say how Jake will go for it, but I'll ask."

"If you'll vouch for their behavior, I have plenty of space." Jeremy hugged him. "You don't have any way to get a hold of him before? During the day he's at the most risk."

"During the day is easy, I know where he is. Actually, if I can remote access that security system you had installed I can get his cell phone number. He called out from my office, and I know the system records all cell numbers used inside it." He said remembering a rarely used feature.

"Easily done." He pressed a spot on his lapel. "Miss Demar, please bring my laptop in."

"Yessir," her softly professional voice responded instantly.

"I always keep such access nearby." He smiled.

"I knew going to dinner with you tonight was right thing to do." He smiled warmly at the Panther. "But I don't want you to think I accepted just because I needed to ask for your help. I'd wanted to accept before, but between mourning period and trying to figure out things with Jake, well it just happens that this is how things worked out."

"Considering how devoted you are to him, I'm happy you even noticed me." Jeremy gave Nathan a quick nuzzle.

Nathan smiled and gave the Panther a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'm devoted not blind." He chuckled. "Actually, he encouraged me to go tonight, thinks I don't date enough. He also happens to think you're attractive, but then you already knew he was smart." The tiger grinned broadly.

"I don't suppose that 'attractive' comment included anything else?" Jeremy cocked a playful smile. "He is cute and creative."

"With Jake it always does, something about two Xanith, a Kat and a Fox." He grinned. "Way cute, and I'm not sure but I think he's actually more creative in the bedroom."

"Now that would be an accomplishment." Jeremy chuckled as the door opened and a primly professional Cheetah female in a sharply cut dark blue skirt-suit placed a laptop case on the table.

"Will that be all, sir?" She asked as she straitened.

"Yes, Demar." Jeremy nodded with as slight smile as she nodded and walked off in quick, controlled steps.

Nathan smiled. "Well, the performance he and the Fox put on earlier was most interesting." He grinned. "I just have to hope he'll get back to trusting himself with me. The vampire thing has him freaked out." Nathan said quietly. "He's afraid he'll lose control."

"He's only been one a day and something, right?" Jeremy cocked an eyebrow as he turned the laptop on. "That's not very long to get used to the kind of things I understand happened to him."

"I know. It's just, I've only been with him a day or two longer. It's tough, having him at arm's length." Nathan said quietly. "Especially when I can take care of myself. I've gotten very good at burying my feelings, and making like nothing's wrong. He's got enough to deal with. I just have to wonder how much he's faking, most of the time he acts like nothings happened."

"It may not have really registered yet, you know." He hugged Nathan supportively. "That Kat's died, and almost died, so many times that I know about, and been through so much strangeness, it's possible it never really will impact him. Some people are like that, they just roll with what life sends them, and never look back much."

"That and he was trying to get himself killed when I caught up with him in the hospital the first time. At least he appears to have gotten through the burnout, for which I'm grateful. He had me closer then I've ever been to breaking a few of the rules for telepaths." He said with shudder leaning into the embrace.

"Nathan, things will work out." Jeremy said softly as he tried to be supportive. "You'll do what you have to. Whenever you're ready to call him, I have the number."

"That's what I keep telling myself." He smiled. "Probably should do it now, hopefully before he's with Trent." He said pulling out his cell phone. "What's the number?"


Nathan punched the number in and waited for Jake to pick up, while he relaxed against Jeremy.

Three rings.

Then four. Five. Six.

"What?" A nearly broken voice snarled.

"Jake, it's Nathan. Is something wrong?" He asked, concern overriding his original reason for calling for the moment.

"Shit. How'd ... oh never mind." Jake growled, clearly angry and very upset. "I'll be fine. Just fought with Callie."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Nathan said sincerely sympathetic. "Actually, my reason for calling is that we've got a security problem at my place. Though installing a new system is doable, since we'll be leaving soon anyway Jeremy offered to put all of us up at his place. I wanted to see what you think about that."

"Fine, whatever. Where?" Jake said, trying to focus on the conversation.

Nathan looked up at Jeremy. "Where? This is the first time I've scene you off business property." He whispered quietly.

"It's be better if Demar can pick him up." Jeremy said. "It's an estate outside town."

Nathan nodded. "Jake, Jeremy's secretary Demar will pick you and the other's up at my place. It's an estate outside of town. For reference, Demar is a female Cheetah in a sharply tailored blue skirt suit. I'll be with her when she picks you up, though." He said looking at Jeremy.

"Fine, when?"

"I'll make it late, since I'm sure there were other things you were going to do. I'll have Gavin make sure everything is ready to go."

"Okay," Jake agreed quietly. "Anything else you want?"

"No, I just didn't want to make a decision without consulting you." He said quietly. "I'll see you later, just take care of yourself Jake. I love you." He said feeling it important to say it.

"I love you too, Nathan." Jake whispered before handing up.

Nathan closed the cell phone and put it away. "If you don't mind, Jeremy, erase any reference to that cell phone number of Jake's. He's very secretive about it, he wasn't even happy about my having it." He said quietly.

"Of course," the Panther nodded and typed in several commands before powering the laptop down. "Now, what would make Nathan smile?" He squeezed the Tiger tightly.

"Amnesia?" Nathan chuckled, as he nuzzled the Panther. "I'm feeling better already, somehow just being with you makes things seem better." He shook his head. "I wonder how many fights he's going to get into saying goodbye."

"Already one too many, from the sound of his voice." Jeremy sighed, hesitant. "How much do you trust him not to do something rash?"

"He's been doing rash things since this started. Despite DelGran's involvement he still insists on seeing him." Nathan said quietly. "Doing something rash, got him to where he is." The tiger said softly. "I hadn't figured he'd get into an argument with Callie. Feral or Chance I could see an argument, but Callie wasn't one I figured on."

"He's at the Hero's Walk." Jeremy said quietly.

Nathan shivered unpleasantly. "If he's planning suicide, he won't find it as easy as it once was." Nathan said with a soul-deep sigh. "Jeremy, keep an eye on my body. I have to check on something." He said as he pulled out his gold Triad medallion, and began to concentrate.

"Umm, okay." The Panther looked at him uncertainly.

"I can get to Hero's Walk faster this way." He as he freed his mind from his body. His spirit homed in on the lean tom, traveling at a speed unmatched by anything save thought. His spirit form materialized at a point nearby his mate.

Jake was kneeling on one of the graves, half hugging, half leaning on the simple gravestone and sobbing uncontrollably.

Nathan peered around to get a look at the inscription on the headstone, curious to know who Jake was so distressed over. The name inscribed in the simple text they all were was 'Faris Tailchaser'. He'd barely registered the name when his senses picked up two more presences in the immediate area.

He carefully damped his presence, while looking around.

A dark-colored Puma only a few inches taller than Jake, and likely not out of his mid teens, had wrapped his arms around the crying Kat. Kneeling on Jake's other side was a lean, brown and black tiger-tabby shekat in the uniform of an Enforcer Detective. Neither seemed to be trying to communicate, though the Enforcer looked up to Nathan's general location with a slight frown.

Nathan was a little surprised at the frown, since he wasn't visible with very narrow exceptions. However, Jake was his mate and he wasn't going anywhere till he was sure the tom wasn't going to do anything rash. Nathan's face was touched by a very gentle and affectionate expression as he gently brushed Jake's hair. He didn't send any words, just a strong sense that Nathan was with him, in spirit as it were.

Under the three touches Jake trembled, unable to pull away in any direction.

Without warning the tears and shudders stopped and he pushed back, staring at the headstone.

"You always teased me about falling for those who'd never understand me," Jake voice was soft, nearly mocking. "I never believed you, you know. I thought they understood. Damn it all, was I wrong. The two closest to me demand I live and give up my dream. A third betrayed me. Kruddy hells, Faris, I wish I'd been there. Live or die, at least we understood each other. You would have been Commander, you know. I can't even imagine what this city would be like with you instead of that weak hearted traitor that wears the stripes now."

Nathan turned and walked away; he should have known this world still had a functional warrior death cult. They'd managed to eliminate it in the Alliance, but here they still had it. The glorification of death over life. Nathan stopped and wanted to rage, but the silence of spirit projection denied him. He couldn't understand how death could be a dream, death was the enemy to be fought as long as possible and only to be accepted when all other options were exhausted.

The tiger sat in an empty space and sobbed on his own for a time. He found himself wondering if Jake had given up before he'd ever known him. How could love be real when it could so willingly be abandoned? Nathan had spent his life around warriors, but this worship of death was the most alien thing he'd encountered on this world.

"Nathan?" Jake's voice was low, uncertain.

Nathan looked up, surprised that Jake could see him. "Uh huh." He said with a hesitant nod.

"What happened?" He asked quietly.

Nathan looked confused. "I got worried about you, and I needed to know you were alright. I was afraid of what might happen if I took too long so I came the fastest way I knew how. The only thing faster than a spirit, is light itself." He said quietly. "It's been a long time since I studied spirit projection, I'm kind of surprised it worked."

It was the Kat's turn to look confused as his friends joined him. "You're not dead?"

"No, just temporary separation of spirit and body. Not easy, and not something I'd do just to do it. But the pain I heard in your voice worried me, I had to come." He said quietly.

"Oh," Jake sighed and shrugged. "What were you expecting? I gave you my word I'd live."

"I'm not sure what I was expecting, I was just worried. If it's any consolation, I wish I hadn't." He said in a soul tired voice. "I'll see you later, I can't hold the separation any longer." He said beginning to fade away, as his mind returned to his body.

"It went badly?" Jeremy's voice was softly supportive as he hugged Nathan as the Tiger's awareness focused back on his body.

"Not exactly. I guess I missed it, but he said he promised me he'd stay alive, so I was worried on that score for nothing. But this 'dream' of dying in combat; we used to have what we called warrior death cults that pursued such things, but they're part of history, removed by careful social engineering over generations. I'd never actually met anyone that way before." He shivered. "It scares me to think that he's so anxious to embrace death."

"He's going through a lot right now, Nathan." Jeremy said quietly. "He's loosing everything he's lived for, it tends to bring that to the surface. He may not feel that way normally."

"I don't know what normal is, I guess." Nathan sighed quietly. "He's been burned-out for a significant amount of time, and his belief that Chance wouldn't accept another gunner left him nowhere to go." He shook his head, and then stretched up to kiss the Panther gently. "I'm sorry if I'm not very good company tonight, I thought I'd left my Medic uniform at home, but apparently I never took it off."

"It's okay," Jeremy smiled understandingly. "Ready to eat?"

"Famished." Nathan smiled weakly. "Astral Projection takes a lot out of me. What's good here?" He asked, as he pushed his worries to the back of his mind.

"Everything," Jeremy chuckled before snatching a quick kiss. "Press the button on the wall."

Nathan chuckled and pushed the button on the wall.

A light gray Siamese tom in a waiter's suit appeared almost instantly.

"A sampler appetizer, Chicken Fettuccini Amelro and Shrimp Cortisone." Jeremy ordered with a smile.

"Yes sir." He nodded with a smile before disappearing.

"Sounds good." Nathan smiled, and sipped at his water glass again. "Just remembered, I better tell Gavin and Ozzy what's going on." He said as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed his apartment.

"Hello?" Gavin answered on the fifth ring.

"Hi, Gavin. It's Nathan. We're going to be moving in with Jeremy until we move to the safe location Jake's got in mind. We'll leave when everybody gets back, so I'd appreciate it if you'd get things packed. Ask Ozzy to help, I'm sure he'll be willing."

"Umm, okay ... your office too?" The kit asked cautiously.

"Leave the office for now, I'll have to give that some thought. Concentrate on personal stuff first." He said quietly. "After that encounter you had, I decided extra security was needed and as Jeremy pointed out, not much point doing it when Jake wants to move anyway. I know this is abrupt, but we have to be careful."

"I can have a professional team move you in the morning. It'll be over with in a couple hours." Jeremy offered.

Nathan chuckled, and put a hand over the phone. "That'll be good, means we don't have to handle the big stuff. The personal has to be out well before sunrise, we have to people who need to be indoors before sunrise." He said quietly to Jeremy, before taking his hand off. "Okay, just get personal stuff. Jeremy's going to have a professional team move the big stuff." He said to the kit.

"Got it." Gavin sounded a little more relaxed. "Everything personal, or just what we need for a couple days?"

"Better make it everything personal, we're going to Jeremy's for a couple of days, and then to wherever Jake's got in mind." Nathan said quietly.

"Okay, will do. Anything else?"

"Just keep your eyes open, and either or you or Ozzy stay up till I get back. I don't know when Jake will get back, but he may not be very sociable when he does." Nathan said quietly.

"Unless he saves Callie for last." The kit chuckled. "How's your date going?"

"He talked to Callie first." Nathan said simply. "My date's going fine, but then I'm having a quiet dinner in a wonderful restaurant with a very attractive and supportive Panther ... how could it be anything else." He smiled as he nuzzled said Panther.

"I'll get packing." Gavin said quietly before hanging up.

Nathan put his cell phone back in its holster. "Okay, that's all the business for this evening." He said with a warm smile for Jeremy.

"Good," the Panther wrapped his arms around Nathan for a slow, gentle kiss as their meal was delivered without a sound.

Nathan held on to the kiss, and made it more passionate. He held for a while as he enjoyed the warmth, and sensation of safety while being held in the Panther's arms. The tension in his frame seemed to melt away as Jeremy caressed his back.

"Mmm, one hunger at a time, tiger." Jeremy grinned as he claimed a second quick kiss. "The food will cool, I won't."

Nathan smirked and turned to the food. "You better not." He grinned mischievously.

"Jake?" Trent's voice was quiet and several yards away.

"What?" The Kat growled from where he was kneeling in front of a gravestone.

"You didn't show for dinner ... I figured you'd be here." The Doberman explained softly without moving closer.

"Sorry." Jake stood and turned around in the moonset darkness. "It's been a rough night."

"Anything I can help with?"

Jake stopped halfway into a denial, then closed his eyes to a calculating slit. "Tell me who's been feeding on me."


"I want the Vampire's name." The Kat growled before baring his fangs as Trent took a step back in shock. "I want who you betrayed me for."

"I didn't ... I don't understand. I only wanted ...."

"His *name*!" Jake snarled as he lunged at his lover, bowling the larger male over with both hands around the Kantin's throat, threatening in posture and strength.

"I wasn't, I swear it, Jake." Trent faced the Kat bravely, though his terror was just as clear. "I've done nothing but love you and want the best for you."

"You lie." The Kat spat as he tightened his grip on Trent's neck, watching in a twisted fascination as the Kantin began to choke and reflexively tried to free himself with an effort that didn't even register. "It feed on you too. Do you like how it feels? The Kiss?"

Trent made several attempts to talk before Jake let up on his grip enough to permit it.

"I didn't, Jake." The Kantin choked out. "I love you."

"You're looking better." Commander Feral said, as Jake walked into his office. "My secretary said you needed to talk with me, is there a problem?" He asked the Kat who rarely set foot in HQ, much less his office.

"I'm being polite." Jake said tersely as he pulled his badge from his pocket and tossed it on the Commander's desk. "You'll have the paperwork soon. I'm resigning as of now."

"And the reason for this abrupt resignation would be?" Feral asked without batting an eye at the sudden declaration.

"Burn-out." Jake growled out with some difficulty.

"Have you considered requesting reassignment from front line duty to one of the support areas; R&D for example?" Feral asked calmly, trying to find a solution other than a resignation since he did not want to lose Jake Clawson.

"Considered, and not acceptable." Jake nodded sharply. "I'm leaving the city."

"Fortunately, Felina is working out well with Chance. Is Chance up to handling the repairs on SWAT's equipment, without your assistance?" He asked quietly.

"He's as prepared as he'll ever be, and has been for years." Jake shrugged.

"Given that I know you have a doctor who'll back you on this. I don't see the point to arguing this, clearly you've made up your mind. I can't actually say I'm surprised, based on the medical reports I've had." He said pulling out a manila folder. "These are your discharge papers, review them, sign them and get them back to me. No hurry, you're on medical leave for the time being anyway." He said easily.

The large tom stood, and walked around the desk. He put out a hand to Jake. "We've had our disagreements over the years, but your resignation is definitely the city's loss. If you ever change your mind, you're welcome to come back." He said evenly.

"When Nathan dies, you'll have me back." Jake said simply and accepted the handshake with some distaste.

"Then I guess I'll have to hope I don't see you for a long time. Despite his insubordinate nature, I actually like that Tiger. Don't get too many through here who won't back down from me. I figure I'll be seeing him some time soon, he made it very clear that he wasn't staying any longer then you did." He said easily. "Well, good luck at whatever you do next, but somehow I don't think you're heading into a quiet retirement, it's not your style." He said opening his door.

"It's not my luck either." Jake shrugged quietly before he stepped out. As he passed the secretary he desperately tried not to collapse at the hollow pit growing in his soul at the speed of thought.

As Jake left the outer office, Feral closed the door. He'd never really thought Jake would walk away from the Enforcers, and certainly not this soon. If it had been anyone but Felina taking over in SWAT he would've been worried. As it was he just worried about her, same as he always did.

Jake slammed on the breaks of his cycle as a familiar scent crossed his nose.

Fresh blood. Deathwish.

He barely gave a token resistance to the call to feed before following the scent trail to a small, barren apartment and the sliced wrists of the barely aware dark brown shekat in her late thirties within.

"You would die, little one?"

"Like you care. Like anyone cares, besides it's my stinkin' life." She said in a mixture of anger and sorrow.

"I care a great deal," Jake smiled as the strongest of his predatory nature washed to the surface, partially against his wishes. "I can make it a very pleasant experience, if that is what you want."

She looked up at him, still holding the knife. "What the hell are you talking about? Death isn't supposed to be pleasant, also isn't supposed to take this long." She said with an unexpected strength.

"It won't if you cut yourself right." He shrugged. "I can make it nasty too if you want. I just don't see the point."

"Okay, you're just plain weird." She said backing away unsteadily. "Look, I can take care of this without any weirdness. Nothin' else ever went right, without something weird happening. Just go away." She said, completely ignoring the fact that she was still bleeding.

"Why?" He focused on her, just barely dragging his attention from her bleeding wrists. "You can die fast or slow, and either way, I'll be here when it ends."

"What the hell's your problem? I don't want company, okay?" She said getting her back against a wall.

"Okay." He shrugged and left through the window he'd entered by, though he only went far enough to be out of her sight to wait for the inevitable, at least until a better opportunity presented itself.

"Can't even end it all without the creeps in this town showing up." She muttered quietly. "Well, Papa you were right. This town was a bad place, we never should have come. Now there's no way back, but at least the Nosferatu won't get me. You said if everything else failed, this would give me eternity." Jake could hear the slight tinkling of what sounded to be something metallic on a chain.

"In fire and thunder the world was born, and in fire and thunder I leave it." She said with strength, and then there was silence for 30 seconds, and then a massive explosion of fire and light as the building was ripped apart. For a brief painful moment, the light was as bright and burning as that of the sun.

For a brief moment Jake stared at in it utter fascination, then the pain of the burning kicking in and he bolted, staying focused on where his bike was with more ease then he'd expected from Ozzy's descriptions.

As he reached his bike he could hear the fire department responding already, and he could see the fire spreading. He wasn't sure but he thought he saw a burning figure walk from the burning building and disappear as he gunned the engine and headed for Nathan's apartment as fast as the bike would take him.

"Hi, Jake." Gavin said pleasantly as he dropped a suitcase in the living room. "You're back early."

"Gav, do you have quite enough 'stuff'?" Ozzy said as he carried a box into the living room and set it down. "Jake, are you all right? You look a bit singed." He said concerned as the Kat stared at them both.

After a few blinks Jake shook it off. "Bad night got worse, my dinner turned into a fireball." He muttered. "Just what's going on?"

"Um, packing." Gavin said looking at him. "Nathan did tell you were moving to Jeremy's temporarily for security reasons, didn't he?"

"Umm, yeah ... just didn't expect this." Jake shook his head.

"We've still got time before sunrise, did you want to try hunting again?" Ozzy suggested. "Turned into a fireball? That's just a little too spicy for my tastes." The Fox grinned.

It was a response Jake saw no humor in. "Probably have to, if I want to stay with Nathan tonight." He sighed and shivered. "Probably another kill."

"Very likely, one of these nights we need to get you completely sated." Ozzy said as he grabbed his jacket. "You stay here, Gavin."

"Yeah, someone's got to tell Nathan what's going on when he calls."

"Come on Jake, lets find you dinner. I know a couple of criminal targets reasonably close by that you can have." Ozzy said as though heading for the supermarket with an excrescency agitated Kat on his heals.

"I just hope these are more cooperative than the one I picked." Jake muttered. "I offered to make her suicide pleasant. She turned a block into cinder for it."

"Suicides are always dicey, you never know how their minds are working. Sounds like you got one who needed to purify the world, or something like that." He shook his head.

"Yeah, I was thinking a nice way to get a big meal."

"No, suicides are better avoided." He said as he hailed a cab, and then gave it directions to a middle class area nearby. "Well, it isn't exactly the vicious sort you got last time but this guy's bad enough. He specializes in despair, setting people up, claiming he can help them with their problems, swindling them for all he can, and then saying the problem can't be solved. Law hasn't been able to touch him, apparently a destroyer of hope and dreams isn't that serious."

"Good enough." He glanced at Ozzy as they got out and the cab drove away. "How long till dawn, anyway? I never did keep much track."

"Four hours, safe estimate." The Fox said looking around. "Area seems clear."

"Miracles happen." Jake said completely untrusting of it as he followed the Fox.

"I said seems, keep your eyes open. Target lives on the second floor of that red brick brownstone. Apartment two hundred twenty six." Ozzy said from memory.

Jake nodded and made short work of finding an unobtrusive path to a window of that apartment. He made quick work of a security check, extending all his senses and training on making sure he was neither seen nor detected as he entered.

The security systems was a common commercial one that Jake bypassed easily. The interior of the apartment was dark, and the sound of snoring could be heard from the bedroom on the opposite side of the living room.

With as quiet a tread as he could, Jake made his way to the noise, considering his options as he moved with nearly paranoid care. The noise was coming from behind a closed door, which gentle testing determined to be unlocked.

Jake stood there, frozen for a long time, not even breathing.

Suddenly he turned and bolted out the way he came, pausing only to cover quickly his tracks.

Ozzy was waiting just outside when Jake bolted from the building. "Hey, what happened? No way you could have fed already." He asked concerned.

"Never mind." The Kat said breathlessly, everything about him radiating fear and uncertainty. "Lets get home."

"Okay." Ozzy nodded a little confused, as he flagged down a passing cab. The ride home was quiet and little tense, with Ozzy not sure even what to ask and Jake spending it curled as tightly as he could on the seat, shivering as his mind kept replaying events.

When they reached the apartment building, Ozzy gently urged Jake from the cab, and up to the apartment where Gavin was laying back on the couch talking on the phone. "Oh, they just walked in. Beats me, didn't seem like they were gone long enough. Okay, see you in a while." He said as he hung up.

"Nathan's on his way back, seeing how everyone is back now." Gavin said reclining on the couch.

"Good." Jake nodded even as he was still trembling slightly, and didn't seem inclined to move from where he was standing in the middle of the room.

"Jake, are you okay?" Gavin asked from the sofa, looking at the Kat with concern in his eyes.


"Right." Gavin said as though that explained everything. He picked up the phone and dialed Nathan's cell phone. It was in pager mode as expected, so Gavin punched in the urgent situation code, and then hung up.

"Jake, why don't you sit down till Nathan gets back." Gavin suggested trying to be helpful.

The Kat nodded absently and sat down before curling his knees tightly against his chest again and zoning the universe out as hest he could.

About ten minutes later, Nathan ran in clearly winded from running the stairs. He caught a look just a fraction of a second before the Kat's entire demeanor changed with a welcoming smile of obvious relief mixed with residual distress as Jake sprang up to hug him tightly.

Nathan smiled. "This I like." He said hugging his mate. "But what's bothering you?" He asked softly.

"Bad night, and personality sifting's distressing for a while." The lean Kat snuggled in, clearly taking a great deal of comfort from Nathan's contact.

"Jake, you haven't fed in a while have you?" Nathan asked in concern for what he sensed.

"Both attempts failed, one explosively." The Kat sighed and relaxed the rest of the way.

"I know it's not preferred, but there are blood packs stored in the smaller refrigerator." Nathan offered.

"Even that sounds good right now." Jake shook himself out, almost back to normal. "Haven't been this hungry since I woke up."

Ozzy looked at Jake concerned. "You shouldn't be using up blood so quickly." He said quietly. "Have you felt any sudden surges of abilities lately? Like temporarily being faster or stronger during times of stress?" He asked quietly.

"Yeah," Jake nodded. "With the first fight/ fright of the night. Why?"

"Every time you push your abilities beyond 'normal', you're burning up blood. It's like using the afterburners on a jet. You're doing it reflexively, but you need to concentrate on not enhancing unless you really need to. Sometimes you'll need to, but most of the time not, and you can chose to not enhance to max all the time too." He said casually. "I didn't think to mention it before. I've never had a fledgling before, if you'll excuse the term; it's traditional."

"Oh," Jake nodded and filed that away under 'things to remember'. Then he chuckled. "Academy uses the term too, for first year Pilots and Gunners. It's been years since I was one."

Nathan pulled out four blood packs from the fridge. "Good thing I put down that you're suffering from hemophilia, wonderful explanation for why I need to keep blood stored."

"And not particularly a lie, either." Jake shook his head and sighed before pausing just before downing it. He turned to Ozzy. "Have you ever tried flavoring this stuff?"

Ozzy raised an eyebrow. "No, I can't say I ever have. But then again I never had such easy access before either. I wonder how you'd go about 'flavoring' it without damaging the blood itself." Ozzy considered.

Jake shot a hopeful look at Nathan. "You're a Medic and cook ...."

Nathan chuckled. "Not quite a combination I'd ever considered, but you can flavor just about anything. Blood is essentially a meat, so probably flavor it like one though I guess garlic is out. I understand vampires and garlic don't go well together." He grinned teasingly. "You two go sit down and let me see what I can do. Good thing I stocked up."

"Yes, sir." The Kat grinned at him and complied, almost completely relaxed. "How'd your date go?" He called over his shoulder before finding a spot in the big kitchen he wasn't in the way to watch.

"Very well, once we got a few items of business out of the way." The Tiger smiled. "I ensured we won't have any funding problems, and all we have to do is play around with all these technical schematics I brought from the Alliance." He chuckled. "How'd your date go?" He asked as he considered the spice rack.

"Poorly." Jake sighed. "I haven't even gotten to Chance yet."

"I take it things didn't go any better with Trent than they did with Callie." The tiger said sympathetically as he put the contents of a blood bag into a very clean glass pan. He looked at various spices. "This is going to be tough, normally a chef can judge by taste." He said, omitting the obvious.

"I'll play victim." Jake snickered before loosing the smile. "Actually, things went better with Trent than Callie, overall. I managed not to piss him off. I'm just not convinced I believe him."

Nathan finished with the spices, hoping he'd ended up with something related to the spaghetti sauce from the restaurant. "Not sure you believe him about what?" He asked as he poured a sample into a small glass, and handed it to Jake.

"About not knowing who was feeding from me." He took a sip and raised an eyebrow before downing the rest. "This would go well on pasta, or with chicken. He'd been fed from too, regularly."

Nathan chuckled. "I'll write down what I used, just in case." He said with a smirk. "So should I do up a large batch?" Nathan smiled before becoming more serious. "Without some serious investigation there's really no way to tell what the truth is there. Well, I could but we both know I'm a bit biased." He said quietly.

"Yes, I'd like to sleep with you tonight." Jake nodded. "I'll trust you. I want to know who's going to be pissed. They'll probably come after Ozzy too."

"Probably true." Nathan said as he filled a large glass saucepan with blood from the fridge. "Oh, if you decide to do this yourself always use glass cookware. You don't want the blood to pick up a metallic taste from the pans." Nathan said casually as he though he were just making any other sauce. "If you really want to try it over pasta there's some in the leftmost cupboard." He indicated with his head, and a smirk.

"Definitely." Jake hopped down and grabbed a bag. "It's still a rather queasy thing to drink without the Kiss distracting me."

"There should be ziti, spaghetti, and shells. Take your pick, pots are in the bottom cupboards." Nathan said as he concentrated on balancing the spices the same way. "So what does the Kiss feel like anyway?" Nathan asked curiously.

"It's ... intense." Jake sorted through his handful of experiences as he set up to cook the spaghetti. "The closest I can come to a real description is an orgasm that lasts the entire time." He shook his head. "And it's better with actual sex."

"Sounds exhilarating." Nathan said quietly. "When you trust yourself, we'll have to try that." He said entirely serious.

Jake stared at him in silent shock for a very long moment.

"Stopping is easy, it's not starting that I don't trust myself with." He explained softly as the water came to a boil.

"No hurry." Nathan smiled gently, and leaned over to kiss the lean tom. "Just wanted you to know that I still trust you."

Jake let his eyes slid closed for a moment before he smiled slightly. "Did I remember to thank you for covering my tracks last night?"

"No, but I wasn't sure if you knew that I did. It just seemed prudent." Nathan smiled. "That's one death that can stay unsolved." He said easily.

"Since there won't be another, Feral should calm down about it." Jake nodded. "He thinks it's starting again, not that it's finally finished. Callie told me how there wasn't any evidence. I figured it had to be you."

Nathan nodded. "Something the Protector's taught me. It's how they keep certain terminations from drawing undue attention, among other things." He said quietly. "Speaking of Feral, how'd he take you resigning?"

"He made less than a half-hearted attempt to talk me out of it, had the paperwork ready, is expecting you tomorrow and he likes you." Jake rattled off as he stirred the pasta.

"I expect he made all the attempt he figured was worth making. He's a good judge of Kats, and you are extremely stubborn when you fix your mind on something. He probably had the paperwork ready, because the between the lines on my report contained very serious doubt that you'd be returning to duty."

"Callie said as much." Jake shook his head. "I was half hoping for a nice big blow-out fight with him. Burn off some of the resentment I've built up."

"I was planning to see him tomorrow, but it was an understanding between us that I really wasn't interested in the Enforcers, I just wanted to be able to look after you. He accepted that." He said as he gingerly sniffed the 'sauce'. "I think it smells right." He chuckled.

"Yeah, he said as much. When I said I'd be back when you died he said he hoped he wouldn't see me for a long time, but he wants me to stay. Offered me an R&D post." He looked down at the spaghetti, not really seeing it. "If I wasn't ... this ... I would gave grabbed it. I already miss it. Didn't realize till I walked out of that office just how total ... how little there is without that badge, even when I was the only one who remembered it was mine. I wanted to turn around and take it back so badly ...."

Nathan put his hand on Jake's shoulder. "Don't give up hope, there may still be a way. Remember what Ozzy said about the Book of Night, there maybe a way back. When we've settled down, I'll take a look and see what the book has to say." Nathan said determinedly. "I don't think anybody but Feral is going to know you resigned. I don't think he's planning on turning the paperwork in right away."

"Even ... if I'm not a vampire, it doesn't change the real reason I had to resign." He murmured as he drained the pasta. "I promised you I'd live, I can't turn my back on someone who needs help, even as bad as it is. I can't live somewhere I'm needed as a hero. I just can't turn away, no matter how badly I want out."

"A destructive combination; maybe after some rest away from the stress and strain you'll feel better. Maybe there's a way to balance things, somewhere between all and nothing that you could be comfortable." Nathan said uncertainly.

"Maybe," he said quietly. "Balancing needs was never something I was good at."

"Maybe you need help then. There was a long time when I wasn't anything but work, took the help of someone special to show me that it was possible to balance work and life." Nathan said quietly.

"I hope so." Jake said he mixed the blood sauce and pasta. "I don't want to exist like this."

"There is a way, it's just a matter of finding it." Nathan said sincerely. "I'm not going to give up on you."

Jake set the pot down and turned to face Nathan before slowly hugging him with his arms around the taller tom's neck.

"I'm counting on that, on you." Jake whispered. "I'm good at surviving, but I need to live now. I don't know how."

"I understand, I spent most of my life just surviving. I learned how to live, so can you. Especially, since I have two Kats to help." He looked past Jake's shoulder to Gavin and Ozzy.

"Two Kats?" Jake glanced up, curious and slightly confused.

"Help me help you, if that clarifies the statement." He smiled. "I realize that it could be interpreted either way."

"Oh," he chuckled and pressed close to Nathan. "I was thinking Gavin and Ozzy ... 'sept that's not two Kats."

"Yeah, granted Gavin's only a kit, and Ozzy doesn't act much older." He grinned, first at Jake and then over his shoulder the two who just shook their heads and looked away.

"As long as they're not looking." Jake pulled Nathan into a fiery kiss that he clearly had no intention of stopping there with.

Nathan responded passionately and pulled Jake into the part of the kitchen that was out of sight of the living room. The Tiger's hands agilely lifted the Kat's shirt to gain access to soft cinnamon fur as Jake breathing increased sharply.

"Gods, so warm ..." Jake purred hotly as he rapidly unbuttoned Nathan's shirt and jeans to kiss, lick and nuzzle his way now, slowly sinking to his knees until his nose was buried in the Tiger's groin, purring deeply as he lowered his mouth around the swelling erection.

As Nathan truly began to relish the attention, reflexively rocking his hips to the warm, wet and attentive muzzle Jake suddenly pulled away, just sharply enough to make the room air a shock on wet flesh.

"Brace yourself, no touch, no move." The Kat looked up with pure lust in his eyes and command in his soft voice as he gently shifted Nathan's hands to the counter-edge behind the Tiger.

Nathan was intrigued by the Kat's strange instructions, which made them potently erotic. He obeyed and looked down with a lustful smile for the lean tom. "Whenever you're ready, lover."

Jake chuckled softly and grinned back up. "Silence, too." He instructed before focusing his full attention on the glistening, blood-rich length of pulsing heat, more than a touch amused how easy it was to ignore the call to feed, despite being hungrier, now that he'd accepted his place with the Tiger.

Nathan was completely puzzled by Jake's strange requests but there was a definite eroticism to it, so he played along. The whole situation was exciting enough to keep him hard.

Then Jake went down on him with all the determined skill of a half-century of serious fooling around. It didn't take him long to feel Nathan tense under him, then shudder as he came hard with a silent, explosive roar the slammed open every cupboard in the kitchen. As the Tiger's gooey seed flowed down Jake's open throat the water in the sink also began to flow as all the appliances flared or turned on.

In the living room, Gavin looked at the blinking lamps, and then turned to Ozzy. "I'm glad I wasn't on the console." He chuckled.

Nathan leaned against the refrigerator, looking down at Jake. "So what was with the interesting requests? Silent, don't touch, don't move?" He wondered curious, and out of breath.

"Balance of power, testing myself." The Kat smiled as he tucked the Tiger back into his clothes.

"It was fun, though." He said hugging the lean tom close. "Now to put the kitchen back together." He chuckled as he stepped away a little shakily to close cupboards and turn appliances off.

"Yes, it was." Jake purred, feeling decidedly better with himself as he set to work on the other side of the room. "Though this was cheating a bit on the 'silence'." He chuckled.

Nathan smirked. "It had to go *somewhere*, actually I didn't do any of this deliberately. Spontaneous manifestation, happens occasionally around kits just before it's discovered they have magical talent."

"Mmm, yes, just what creative uses can we find for that?" Jake rumbled mischievously and he embraced Nathan from behind.

"I'm sure something will come up." The Tiger rumbled pleasantly, as he turned in the embrace so he was facing Jake. He leaned over to kiss the Kat gently. "With all this moving going on, is there anything you need to get from either the Yard, or from your place?"

"Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow." Jake answered quietly. "I haven't told Chance yet."

"After the night you've had, maybe waiting till tomorrow is a good idea." Nathan said understandingly, as he put his arms around the smaller tom. "Jeremy's secretary should be here in a couple hours to show us to the estate." He added absently.

"Mmm, plenty of time to play." Jake grinned mischievously.

"Time indeed." Nathan smirked. "Time to get you a shower." The tiger said laughing as he made an untelegraphed grab and carried Jake off to said shower.

"As long as you're in there with me." He purred lustfully and wrapped his arms around Nathan's neck to nuzzle him.

"That was what I had in mind." He said as he carried Jake into the bathroom. One hand adjusted the shower, while the other expertly undid Jake's belt. Once the water was set, Nathan roughly nuzzled Jake while quickly undressing him.

They both managed to get each other undressed with a minimum of unintentional entanglements. As Nathan's last sock was tossed away Jake pulled him under the water and into a searing kiss.

Nathan slowly broke from the searing, passionate kiss, and kissed his way slowly around until he was behind the lean tom. Then he put a large dollop of shampoo into his hand, and began sensual, massage/scrub of the Kat's back. Only this massage was intended to be exhilarating and erotic, not relaxing.

Purring deep in his chest Jake leaned into the touch, only just cognizant of the fact that the deep hunger he'd had earlier had abated almost completely. It almost seemed to be encouraging this as strongly as it encouraged the Kiss.

Nathan made a rumbling sound deep in his chest as he pulled the soapy Kat back against him. Then his hands went to work massaging soap into the Kat's chest and abs, and then one hand went lower to fondle the Kat's cock and furry balls. As his erection grew hard against Jake's back, Nathan roughly nuzzled the Kats ruff.

"Yes." Jake rumbled as he soaked in the pleasure almost mindlessly. "Love me."

Nathan shifted one wet hand around behind to spread the Kat's ass open. "How would you like it, love?" He whispered lustily, as his other hand slowly stroked the lean tom's cock.

"Hand and fast." Jake groaned as his eyes closed. "Fuck me so hard I can't think."

Nathan shook his head; he had asked. He gently pushed the smaller tom down so he was on hands and knees, and then pushed into the stretched ass. Once he was in, he did as asked, and fucked the lean tom hard and fast, though he managed to reach one hand underneath to stroke the Kat's hard cock as he fucked him. Just before he came, he took Jake's ruff in his jaws the way Jake had asked him to before.

As the Tiger came, he restrained the roar, causing a fraction of the energy to vaporize some of the water, creating a sauna like effect in the shower. He leaned forward, putting one hand on the wall to support himself as Jake gasped for breath under him.

"Mmmm," Jake lolled his head back is relaxed pleasure as he purred, eyes half lidded. "Feels good ...."

Nathan slowly sank to shower floor, and pulled the cinnamon tom in close to snuggle. "That was wonderful." He rumbled breathlessly, as he nuzzled the lean tom.

"Yes," Jake gently disentangled himself so he could face his lover for a gentle kiss. "Is anything wrong ... are you hurt?" He asked cautiously.

Nathan gently kissed the tom back. "Hurt? Heavens no, why would think that? I'm just happy you decided to trust yourself with me." He said with a pleased rumble, and happiness the main element in his scent.

"Because I'm stronger." The Kat smiled back in relief. "It feels like I've feed some." He gently cupped Nathan's face and met bright green eyes. "May I?"

Nathan nodded. "I was wondering if you'd ever ask. Though you should be prepared for anything, I'm not your average Kat." He said quietly, as he tilted his head to expose the main artery on the side. "In some relationships it's 'I love you', in ours it's 'bite me'." The Tiger smirked in wry amusement.

"Yes," he purred as a whole different kind of pleasure-excitement began to gather as he knelt to hold Nathan close and closed his eyes. With a focus on feeding Jake lowered his hand to the pulsing source of blood and set his hangs into it as a pleasure as intense as the one he'd just finished with spiraled out from body and mind.

The blood the flowed was intensely rich, flavored with power and pleasure. It made his previous meals seem like drinking water, and this was a grand feast.

As Nathan relaxed, Jake began to get mental flashes that had to be coming from the Felsin. There were images of a small Jaguar Felsin with sensations of fondness, but distance; then there were images of a large, broad chest wine-red dragon morph with sensations of an intense affection that had to be love; images of a small White Tiger Kit with wings with a sense of affection and close but in a familial way, along with a strong sense of guilt and loss. Then there were briefer images, Gavin who was clearly important to the Felsin now, and the final image was Jake himself, with a sense of affection at least as intense as that for the dragon morph, and a quiet sense of guilt and failure.

The images stopped as Jake stopped feeding. He looked at the completely blissed out Tiger for a moment before gently cleaning him up. With the supernatural strength still in his system from earlier he dried and settled Nathan on the bed, and snuggled against him, more than a little bemused by how full he felt, and the images he's gotten.

A little while later Nathan came back to reality. He gently kissed the Kat snuggled against him. "I don't recall anything that ever felt quite like that." He said with a pleased rumble.

"It's easy to understand how it can be addictive." Jake said quietly as he kissed Nathan back. "It's pretty extraordinary with you. Did you know you were including thoughts?"

"No, I wasn't that consciously aware, way too blissed out." He smiled. "Anything interesting?" He asked curiously.

"Yeah, I'd say so." Jake shook his head. "What are you guilty about, with me?"

"I tried to protect you from the vampires, from becoming one, and I failed." He said quietly. "All the training, knowledge, and ability and I still failed."

"Because I'm a stubborn, arrogant, have to learn it the hard away Kat, Nathan." Jake snorted. "Gods, I was a SWAT Kat for almost a decade. It's a damn good way of convincing yourself you're invulnerable."

"And I've been told how much of a miracle worker I am, that I started believing it. I don't fail often, so I forget that I can." He said quietly. "Just wish my failures didn't keep happening with people I care about."

"Because the other kinds of failures aren't usually noticed." Jake sighed.

Nathan shook his head and chuckled in wry amusement. "About now, Morin would remind me that I'm not responsible for everything that happens."

"He's a red dragon-type?" He prompted.

"Yeah, he got me through some really rough times. Gods, I miss him." Nathan said quietly. "You might say he's the one who showed me what love is supposed to be."

"Then maybe you'll be able to show me." Jake whispered as he let his eyes drift closed, sated and content on every level.

"I'm trying." Nathan said with quiet affection, as he lay quietly holding the smaller tom, letting his mind drift.

Nathan roused first to Gavin knocking on the bedroom door. He felt lazy, so he encouraged the door to open on its own. "Yes, Gavin?" He asked in a very relaxed voice.

"There's a lady Cheetah here, says Mr. StormCraft sent her." The teenager poked his head in.

"Right, we'll be out shortly. Starting taking stuff out to the SUV, since I'll be following her in it." He said as he nudged Jake. "Hey love, the movers are here." He said as he gave Jake a gentle kiss on the cheek.

"Mmm," so soon? I was just settling in for a long nap." Jake chuckled as he rolled out of bed and searched for his clothes.

"Me too. But we need to get to the new digs before sunrise." He said as he located his clothes and got dressed.

"Mmm, yeah." He stretched. "I haven't felt this good in years." Jake shook his head and chuckled before grabbing his bag and walking out.

"Me either. But I don't think this was a one time event." He grinned as he threw his jacket on. "At least, I certainly hope not." He chuckled as he followed Jake out of the room.

"That is your choice." Jake said quietly as he hugged Nathan.

"More like our choice, since you'd have to ask, and I'd have to agree." He amended with a smile. "But I'd say we both enjoyed it."

"Okay, our choice." Jake chuckled. "I was saying it's yours because I definitely want to again. But I don't want to too often either."

Nathan chuckled. "Blood loss issue aside, if we did that too often we'd probably ruin ourselves for anyone else. A whole new level of codependency." The Tiger grinned. "I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to."

Jake shuddered and swallowed. "As long as you want it."

"Granted, and I really was joking." Nathan said trying to reassure his mate. "Oh, yeah I see what you mean. I suppose that might have been the problem. We'll just have to spice things up, by not doing things the same way every time." He grinned.

"Mmmm, that won't be a problem." Jake winked, recovered to some extent. "You still haven't seen my show."

Nathan smiled. "Something to look forward to, sounds like." He said as he gave the lean tom a quick kiss before they entered the living room. "Once we get things at least a little settled."

"I can get you a private room to watch my last show." He offered quietly with a raised eyebrow for the tall Cheetah fem that watched them approach, and what the voice in the back of his head next to where he was used to hearing his instincts, said about her.

Nathan nodded. "That sounds like fun." He said with a smile.

"Evening, Mr. DelGran." The German Shepherd Kantin security guard said politely as Trent walked past the building security desk. "Looks like somebody was trying to have fun with you, they called in a prank burglar call to the Police, the Enforcers and us. No evidence that anybody had been in or out of your place that shouldn't have been though." He said crisply.

"Evening, Kadrin." The Doberman nodded sharply and put on his best work face to cover just how disturbed he really was and headed for the private elevator to his penthouse apartment.

His apartment did show signs of entry though that could be attributed to the presence of all the official types recently. Amongst all the official smells was one that was distinctly out of place. It was a distinctly shekat smell, and it was clearly a very angry shekat.

With a hand only barely forced to be steady he reached for a personalized blaster hidden in a secret wall compartment.

There was a blur of motion as a metallic staff snapped at his hand knocking it away from the desired blaster, with a sharp flare of pain that felt like something breaking. As he recovered from the sudden blow, he found himself face to face with a shekat in what appeared to be black leather body armor. She was smaller than him, perhaps five foot four or five and though her build was light it was clearly very well trained and toned. "Don't know what you want over there, vamp lover." She said with a growling sneer. "But you can't have it."

"All right, ma'am." He set his mind into the cold steal of hard negotiation and looked down at her with irritated calm. "What do you want?"

"That's real simple, details on the vampire you serve." She said with clear distaste. "Name, clan, position, that sort of thing. And just how many people you've betrayed to sate the monster's appetite." She said her hatred giving an acrid tinge to her scent. Her eyes never wavered from him, and yet she had a poise that indicated an awareness of the entire room.

Trent frowned. "I do not serve anyone."

"Delude yourself if you want." She said disdainfully. "But there's a vampire who pretty much lives here, which means either he's keeping you blind to his presence, or you work for him willingly." She growled. "The first makes you his toy, the second his tool. But somehow I don't see you as weak-willed enough to be a toy. But you're arrogant enough to think you might be on equally footing with him or her, whichever the monster is. So skip the semantics, details on the monster." She demanded with a growl.

"There is only one other who lives here to any extent." He stated coolly. "And if she is a vampire, they can walk around in the daylight."

"You're beginning to bore me with semantics. You have been fed on regularly by a vampire, and you have brought others into the reach of the same vampire, betraying their trust. That alone justifies the termination of your worthless existence, but you just might redeem yourself if you provide details on the parasite."

"If I had any, I'd tell you." He growled. "Bottom line is, I don't know who it is."

"Then you are being seriously used, and you endanger others as well. I suggest you put some effort into discovering who it is. He or she was here earlier, and was likely the one who notified the authorities." She said with glacial indifference. "If any others come to harm because of you, you will be held accountable." She said with a dangerous growl.

"Is that all?" Trent only half demanded.

"For the moment." She said sternly. "Only because you're telling the truth, do you continue breathing. But heed my warning, every time you cause another to lower their guard in your presence you make them a meal for the vampire. Concentrate on discovering the vampire, and cause no more harm." She said darkly, before all the lights in the room suddenly went out.

"This is not my night." He sighed and shook his head before finding a light switch by memory and seeing if he could get any light.

He found the light switch, and got no response from the light. Looking around he realized the nothing electrical appeared to be functional in his apartment.

"Wonderful." He muttered under his breath and checked if the intercom to the main desk was operational, which it wasn't.

With a soft grow he tried his cell phone, and sighed in relief when it rang at the front desk.

"Imperial Towers Front Desk, Kadrin speaking. How may help you?" The professional voice answered promptly.

"This is Trent DelGran." He kept most of the furry from his voice. "I've had a break in, and a lot of damage done. Have maintenance get on it, particularly electrical, and the elevator so I can get out of here."

"Yes, sir. I'll notify maintenance immediately. We should be able to reset the elevator from down here. Give us ten minutes and then try again. Do you want us to call the Police for you regarding the break in?" He asked politely, knowing that some Tower residents preferred not to have the Police called.

"Yes." He answered immediately. "And see that the reason for the power failure is reported to me as soon as it's found."

"Yes, Mr. DelGran." The Kantin said crisply. "Will there be anything else?"

"Have all calls forwarded to my cell phone." He added after some thought. "That will be all."

Yes, Sir." The security guard said before hanging up.

About ten minutes later, there was a knock on Trent's apartment door, which he quickly answered.

"Mr. DelGran, I'm Detective Maltin, this is Detective Themas. We're with the MegaKat City Police." He said as they both showed their badges. The two toms were both gray on black striped tabbies, with Maltin being taller and thinner. "Building security said you had a break in, we're here to investigate, may we come in?"

"Of course, though you'll need your flashlights until maintenance deals with the lack of lighting." The Doberman nodded and stepped back.

The two toms pulled out flashlights, and stepped in. "Now, if you could describe what happened, and be detailed." Maltin said as he took out a pen and paper, while his partner held a flashlight for him to see by.

Nathan was slightly surprised by the age of the estate as the SUV drove up the long drive from the front gate to the mansion that was the centerpiece of the estate. The grounds were meticulously kept up and even the classic statuary that was part of the grounds decoration was in excellent repair. The mansion itself was huge, being three stories high, with some sections being taller. The style was gothic with a very old feeling to it, but it was still in good repair.

Nathan smiled. "I knew he collected antiques, I didn't know he lived in one." He chuckled as he parked the SUV in front of the main entrance.

"Betcha that's surface only. I can't imagine him living with less than state of the art." Gavin quipped, covering up his own surprise.

"It's not hard to do, with money." Jake nodded as he took in the place, getting more uneasy as they went inside. "I don't like it here." He shivered and hugged himself, more unnerved that he could remember being since the first moments at Kimber Yard.

Nathan was casually aware of the negative vibrations, but they didn't penetrate his casual shielding. He carefully extended a positive shield to encompass Jake, who quickly relaxed to a normal level of alertness. "It's just old noise, Jake." Nathan said reassuringly. "Jeremy wouldn't have suggested coming here if there were any danger."

"Absolutely." The Panther said firmly. "It's simply an old place with history. You want really bad vibes, try the Old City Graveyard."

"No thank you." Jake stated sharply with a bone-deep shudder. "There's some nice folks there, but too many ... ugly ones."

Jeremy nodded. "That's more generous than I am, there's some nice ones but there are some that are just plain evil." The Panther said knowingly. "Here there's just some old pain, since no one was buried any closer than the hilltop cemetery. Actually the observation cupola is incredibly peaceful, it was added by the second owner as I understand it. He was a bit of a vigilante of the time, taking on bandits, simply because the law was so ineffectual."

"Sounds like SWAT." Jake shifted a little closer to Nathan, trying both for distraction and a little more protection from what he felt, and heard, here.

"Come on, let's take a look at the bedroom." Nathan whispered in Jake's ear, as he led the Kat upstairs. He kept his extended shields up to reduce the 'noise' that Jake picked up, though he noticed a steady decrease as they went upstairs, till it was only a faint background echo on the third floor where their bedrooms were.

The bedroom was, like the house, huge and ornate. The bed was equally lavish being of the large four-poster type with a massive canopy. Nathan looked at the solid wood construction posts of the bed, and turned to smile at Jake. "Definite possibilities there." He smirked.

Jake only nodded quietly, though he'd relaxed significantly as he looked around. "He has expensive tastes."

Nathan nodded. "He likes things accurate. Everything is probably an accurate period replica. Though I don't think he spends much time here, at least it doesn't feel like he does." He said quietly. "It is secure though."

With a slight nod Jake sat on the bed and smiled. "Nice and soft." He commented, patting the comforter. "Ready for bed?"

Nathan nodded. "Been a busy day, and tomorrow promises to be the same. I'm not looking forward to one of the conversations I have to have." He said as he sat down next to Jake.

"Which one would be that?" Jake asked quietly as he stripped and snuggled under the covers,

"The Protectors." He said quietly, as he stripped, climbed under the covers and pulled Jake close. "Talking to Feral is a politeness and a formality. He understood my reasons when I agreed to join."

"Then we've both got unpleasantness coming up." Jake sighed as he pressed close. "I am so not looking forward to facing Chance."

Nathan nuzzled the lean tom affectionately. "At least yours has a possibility of going well." He said quietly. "I've never heard of a Protector resigning, and I'm sure they don't take it well."

"If they give you too much grief, let me loose on them." Jake offered with calm certainty as he yawned. "I can make it much very much not worth their while."

Nathan smiled and kissed the lean tom gently. "Thanks, Jake. But I can certainly make it not worth their while, it's just beginning to feel like what my father describe his resignation from the Shadow Government being like." He said quietly. "Gives me more time to work on my special project though." He said with a quiet smile.

"What's that?" The lean looked over his shoulder curiously.

Nathan smiled. "It's not easy to explain." He said quietly. "In the images you got when you fed from me, was there a small White Tiger kit with wings?" He asked. "I didn't actually see what images went through."

"Yes." Jake nodded curiously

"His name is Storm, he's my son." He said quietly. "Physically, he died about three years ago, but his mind, spirit, psyche or whatever you want to call the reality of a person's being, is still with me. I promised him I'd make a new body for him. It's just very difficult here, I've had to introduce some major advances in genetic engineering." He said quietly.

"You can do that?" Jake's eyes went wide even as his mind kicked up several very urgent things to do with it. "Give a soul a new body?"

Nathan nodded reluctantly. "It's an a combination of magic and science. Science creates the new body, and magic tells the soul where it should go. At least that's the theory, I'm still working out the technical details of creating the new body."

"Oh," Jake smiled and settled in. "Thank you, Nate." He murmured as he let his eyes drift closed.

Nathan smiled, uncertain what he was being thanked for, but not worrying about it. He let his eyes drift close, enjoying the warmth of the blanket, and the Kat snuggled under it with him.

"Nathan?" Jake's soft croon penetrated the Felsin's sleeping mind along with teasing fingers and a nuzzling nose.

"Yes, Jake?" Nathan responded, still a little sleepy but liking the way he was woken up.

"Is Storm our son, or yours?"

"Whether he's our son, as opposed to my son ... is up to you and him. Do you want to be his father?" Nathan asked cautiously. "I know I'd like you to be."

"I want to be part of your life, all of it." He tried to explain. "I never thought about kits much, but he's your son, and you're my lifemate, and I don't want to leave that big a part of my lifemate's life out."

Nathan smiled. "Then I guess it's just up to him, though my impression is that he's favorably inclined." He said quietly. "As far as thinking about kits ... thinking lifemates naturally includes thinking about kits for me. But then again, where I'm from kits are possible for any couple." He smiled quietly.

"I never had a calm enough life to dare think about it much." Jake murmured with a kissing nuzzle to Nathan's neck. "I like fems enough it's not hard that way."

Nathan absently ran his hand through the lean tom's fur. "Not exactly an option in same-sex couples." He said quietly. "And there's a certain 'natural' desire for kits that are blood to both." He smiled quietly.

"I guess never really got that far." Jake shrugged as he began to purr softly. "You're really quiet amazing, you know that?"

"I got that far, because I've been married once before." He said quietly, as he smiled. "Amazing? That's one I don't hear too often." He chuckled. "So what's so amazing?" The Tiger asked out of genuine curiosity.

"How you've accepted all this. What happened to me, being fed on, leaving home ... all from a Protector. I'm not sure I could handle it nearly so well." He shook his head. "That you could love me that much."

"Love is the only thing that matters, everything else comes and goes." He said softly. "As for leaving 'home', I've never gotten that attached to places. I've been military my whole life, never spent that long in one place." He nuzzled the lean tom. "As for what happened ... I did a lot of thinking while you were unconscious. It took some doing but I realized that despite what the Protectors would have me believe, I knew who you were hadn't changed. The physical had changed but I realized that wasn't that important." He said with a quiet sigh. "That I love you, is one of the few certainties I have right now." He smiled quietly. "What amazes me, is how well you've taken what's happened." He said quietly.

"I survive." The lean Kat could only shrug. "The rules of reality have been changed on me a few times. You just find out the new rules and go on."

Nathan nodded. "I should know that, after all somebody yanked the galaxy out from under me." He grinned wistfully. "Guess I've had a bit too much Protector doctrine thrown at me, very black and white approach to things. It was comfortable at the time, but I think maybe it's just as well I'm leaving now." He said quietly.

"I'm glad too," Jake snuggled close. "I really would have hated to end up on the opposite side of a war from you."

"What war would that be?" The tiger asked curiously.

"The inevitable one." Jake sighed. "Sooner or later they'll grow powerful enough, and arrogant enough, that their private vigilante war against minorities will become public, one way or another."

Nathan nodded. "Though they stick very carefully to those the public would be afraid of, if they were aware of them being real. Let's face it, the average citizen isn't going to see a problem with a war on vampires. They have a fairly cozy relationship with the Enforcers too. They deal with difficult problems, and they keep a low profile doing it." He sighed. "Feral 'unofficially' approves of them."

"And what they do is patently illegal for the most part." Jake spat. "Just no one has been willing to challenge it."

Nathan sighed. "I won't argue that, but they're not likely to be challenged at least not while threats like PastMaster and the other majors exist. At least not by the city ... it's easier to let them handle the things that they do, and safer politically since if they're excessive or screw up ... the city can disavow any responsibility." He shook his head. "A lack of alternatives makes the unacceptable reasonable to the average person."

"And the word of a hero can make many think." Jake mused quietly, already plotting with a slight grin on his face. "So can the death of those threats."

"Well, I can't argue with the last idea." Nathan agreed. "I think that's certainly something to keep one busy for a lifetime, and then some." He said quietly. "While you're plotting, don't forget to leave in time to have a life." He sighed.

"There'll be plenty of down time, Nathan." Jake actually chuckled. "This isn't a SWAT operation I'm plotting, it's Black Ops, and the research phase it's my thing. Does mean I'll need to make up with Callie though."

Nathan chuckled. "Blacks Ops, my first career." He smiled.

"You don't show it."

"It was a long time ago, but it was the first thing I was trained in. And it's what my father was, though I'm nowhere near as good as him. So what happened with Callie, if you don't mind my asking?" He asked gently, trying to be supportive.

"Same thing that freaked you out." He said. "She's as against the truth behind The Wall as you are. She just didn't say that in a way that wasn't a desecration of everything I've believed in and fought for."

Nathan thought about and nodded quietly. "It's a truth that hurts a lot of people, Jake." He said gently. "Though I'm surprised she was that undiplomatic about it. That's not really like her."

"She hurt as bad as I did then." Jake sighed, his eyes focused elsewhere. "It's just one of those things that we should have never brought up. She can't stand I believe in it, I can't tolerate that kind of disrespect towards the only thing that's kept the Enforcers effective."

Nathan nodded. "Jake, I think it's probably not so simple. But I think what she can't stand is the thought of losing you to it." He said quietly. "She cares a great deal for you, and I'm sure she was badly frightened." He said quietly. "Aside from that maybe this is best left alone, since I've seen very effective fighting forces that didn't have it." He said softly.

"That are daily asked to go on deadly patrols?" Jake growled softly, rapidly backing into a mental corner with his hackles raised.

Nathan sighed and shook his head. "Forget it, there's no point to discussing it." He said quietly. "Best to leave it, that we see it differently."

With a slight nod Jake tried to relax. Eventually he sighed softly. "Yeah, it's not like it matters anymore."

Nathan was silent for a while, uneasy and uncertain about what to say. Though he knew that this 'suicide pact' wasn't universal to the Enforcers, which was probably just as well. Though Callie's reaction did make sense of some conversations they'd had regarding periodic recertification for duty, a universal practice in the Alliance, which Callie had seemed to like.

"How often is it safe to feed from one person?" Jake suddenly asked for a change of subject.

"Honestly, I expect it depends heavily on the person being fed from, and how much is taken. As far as I know no one has studied it closely, the Protectors sure didn't." He smiled. "I'm probably able to handle it better, mostly because of my unique heritage."

"Okay, how often would it be safe to feed from you?" Jake rolled over and brushed his fingers across the all-but-invisible marks on Nathan's neck.

Nathan chuckled. "Don't know, I've never had anyone do it before. I know I feel fine right now, and the hand scanner isn't picking up any ill effects from it. I guess we'll just have to play it by ear, so to speak." He said smiling.

Jake nodded and stretched before rolling out of bed. "Join me for a shower?" He asked with a wink and a leer.

"Sounds like fun." Nathan grinned as he rolled out of bed, and followed.

"Hi, Callie." Jake's voice was low, and a touch uncertain. "I thought you might be here."

Callie looked up from a desk full of paperwork. "Hi, Jake." She said in a voice both surprised and uncertain. "Wasn't sure you'd be back." She said as her hands continued to shuffle papers.

"I'm sorry." He took a step forward, out of the shadows behind her, his entire demeanor submissive.

Callie put down her paperwork and turned to face him, a little surprised. "I'm sorry too, I shouldn't have dumped on you like that." She said quietly, having been put a little at ease by his apology.

"And I shouldn't have stormed out." He opened his arms, offering an embrace. "It's been a rough few days for everyone."

She stepped into the embrace and put her arms around him as he sighed in relief. "That's an understatement." Callie said quietly. "I am glad you came back." She said as she kissed him gently.

"Forgive me?" He asked sincerely, watching her face.

Callie smiled. "Yes, but can you forgive me?" She said quietly.

"For my beliefs, too?" Jake pressed hesitantly. "As much as you don't like it, that hero's right was what made Razor possible. It is part of me, even if I'll never take it now." He added with a choked throat.

"Jake, it isn't a matter of forgiving. As you noticed, I'm not comfortable with it, and never will be. It's cost me two Kats I cared for very deeply, and who I never had a chance to know as well as I wanted to." She said quietly. "But it's not something I hold against you, I was just terrified you'd be number three." She said with tears leaking from her eyes, despite an attempt to deny them.

"I forgive you. There is a price for loving outside your social cycle." He nuzzled her, burying his nose deep in her hair as he held her tightly. "Who were they?"

"My father, and my mother's brother." She said softly. "Both before I graduated from high school." She sighed. "And my mother's never been the same, though she's been better since my brother left the force."

Jake nodded quietly, not surprised. "Do you have much work left for tonight?"

She chuckled. "Not really, I was just doing things to do things. Most of it hasn't been done in years, and no one will notice." She smiled. "You have something in mind better than meaningless paperwork?" She said with an affectionate nuzzle.

"Better, I guess so. Definitely more necessary." He said quietly. "I still have to talk to Chance. I doubt I'll be in any shape to drive afterwards ... then we can spend the rest of the night together, for as long as you want."

Callie nodded. "You're right, it's definitely more necessary." She said as she put the important papers away and locked up. "As for how long, I don't know that my place is safe during the day for you. I did arrange it to maximize the amount of sunlight. That's my only concern." She said quietly.

"We'll need to stay where I am ... Nathan'll have a fit if I'm not back before daylight." He chuckled slightly. "He's just a wee bit paranoid about me right now."

Callie chuckled. "He's overprotective of you, but I've known that for a while. And I'm sure what I reacted to, he reacted even more so, though he may have kept it hidden better. That's not a problem though, that address you gave me isn't any further out than my place."

"That's the other reason I came by. We're not there anymore." He shook his head. "It wasn't safe enough, or something like that."

"Given what's going on, I could see that being the case." She nodded. "So where are you instead?"

"I'll show you." He hedged. "Let's get dealing with Chance over with."

She gently hugged him before they left the office. "It might not be as bad as you think." She said trying to reassure him.

"I'm due a miracle or six about now." Jake muttered softly. "Might as well take your car. Mine can find it's own way home."

Callie chuckled. "Now that's a useful feature." She said with a grin as they walked to her car.

"I have come up with a few over the years." He winked as he got in and tried to relax.

Callie smiled as they pulled out of the city parking garage. "That you have. I don't suppose there's a hope of getting occasional improvements on SWAT gear from you, say on a consulting basis?" She asked casually. "I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't at least ask."

"You'd be getting them even if you didn't ask." He rolled his head sideways to look at her. "I'm not abandoning you, or Chance, or this city, any more than I have to."

"Thank you, Jake." She said driving with one hand, so she could put the other on his shoulder. "That's more of a relief than you know."

"I'm leaving for my health, Callie, and no other reason." He looked down a little. "Especially that the city kind of has a price on my head now."

"Since when?!" She asked angrily. "If the city had such a thing I'd know about it. Or does kind of mean 'unofficially', who's involved?" She asked, a defensive anger tingeing her scent.

"Kind of means you support the activities of a group who's sole purpose is to destroy monsters like me, whether or not we do anything wrong." He tried to keep the anger from his tone. "The Protectors murder innocents and guilty alike and everyone just looks the other way because it's the easy thing to do."

Callie sighed. "They've been a touchy issue for some time." She said quietly. "The problem is they pick their battles carefully. Actually, the Enforcers tried treating Vampires as any other resident ... it didn't work very well. Most of the Vampires refuse to acknowledge that feeding on someone without their consent is assault, or murder in the case of some of them. They refuse to recognize the courts, and the 'jail breaks' have cost the lives of several officers.

"Jake, I agree that they don't distinguish between guilty and innocent. The problem is neither do the vampires. The Enforcers look the other way on Protector activities, because they have the experience and the knowledge. No one has come up with a better solution, and the Vampires take a very superior attitude, or at least their leaders do." She said quietly. "How do you deal with a section of your population that refuses to recognize any authority save their own?" She asked quietly. "At least the MegaCorps pay lip service to the law.

"Obviously, there's more to the Protector issue than Vampires, but the whole situation was the subject of a report in seven volumes."

"And the bottom line is they're mass murders with even less regard for justice than the monsters I fought for you." He glared out the window, more hurt than he expected. "I don't know which I hate more; that some group is allowed the right to commit genocide, or I've put my life on the line for all these years for nothing. I sighed up to protect justice for everyone, not a select few by fault of birth or dumb luck. I can't believe I fought for a lie, and now the city has a price on my head for nothing I did wrong."

Callie sighed. "You seem to have ignored the fact that we tried the justice route first, we got violence, non-cooperation and arrogant dismissal for our efforts. We have a responsibility to protect the citizens of this city against random, unprovoked assault. If we'd had some cooperation from the leadership on the other side, we could've kept the Protectors out of that arena entirely. But we didn't, which brought us to where we are." She said quietly. "And let's keep something straight, the city doesn't support them save by neglecting to get into a war with them. They're completely independent."

"Which still gives them the right to hunt and kill me because of my race?" He snarled. "I've done a lot of things to warrant someone hating me that much, but I really thought we were beyond the species stage."

"I notice you're criticizing how things have been handled, but no suggestions on how to handle it better." She said quietly. "And just for reference they're are at least three serial killers hiding in the Vampire community. It's not in the public files but evidence from the scene conclusively identifies Tagert Heights, the Marina slasher and Dark of the Moon as vampires." She said naming three fairly infamous serial killers. "The indifference from vampire leadership is overwhelming."

"More than that." Jake shrugged. "Or there were. Did you bother to address what they are in the legal code? And what of all the others? What about the weres, mages, changelings, shapeshifters, spirits, ghosts, innocent vampires and even regular Kats, Kantin and animals that are slaughtered by the Protectors in that selfsame war? Most of them hunt vampires, or know even more about controlling them. How can you justify that many innocent deaths to stop a handful of monsters that should have been SWAT business? And if you want suggestions, you'll get them. You say the law doesn't work. That's ignorance and nothing more talking. It can, if you bother to do it right." He growled.

"The Protectors and the Mages have an understanding, and there hasn't been any hostilities there. The were's don't seem to interest the Protectors as long as they don't harm others. In fact, they're very focused on that particular requirement, 'harm to others.' I guess that's the reason for their focus." She said quietly. "I only named the three 'cause those are the ones that crossed my desk most recently.

"Jake, there is a fundamental problem here and no one seems to have a solution. Part of the law's purpose is to ensure that a person is secure in their person. It's why assault, rape, and murder are felony crimes. The vampire leadership insists on the right to commit assault, even murder." She said tiredly. "The law was never designed to moderate relationships between a predator species and its chosen prey. Yes, the Protectors do overstep bounds in their 'war', but frankly the fact that these vampire lords claim the right to the city as a buffet doesn't inspire a lot of sympathy. And actually, we have prosecuted numerous Protectors when their actions injured an innocent." She said quietly. "The law isn't broken its just out of its depth. But most citizens don't even know that vampires and such are real, and the vampires like it that way and frankly so do I. If the average citizen knew there were vampires among them, they'd be demanding that the city do more, not less. Protector excesses are mild compared to what mob hysteria would be."

Jake opened his mouth to say something, then snapped it shut and he forced himself to say a lot less than he wanted to. "Yeah, just never figured I'd be on this side of the line." He shrugged as he forced everything but acceptance deep down where he stashed the rest of the truths he couldn't be open about.

"That makes two of us. Of course, one stupid move is about all it would take to justify doing something about Protector excesses. I think attacking the deputy mayor would qualify." She said non-committaly. "Then Feral goes after the Protectors, and assuming the Enforcers win ... Uly will deal with the problem of the random assaults his way."

"I doubt it would work well." Jake shook his head. "You did have part of it right, the regular legal code won't work, and neither does regular law enforcement." Jake shifted to look at her through the corner of his eye. "If you stop looking the other way, let me know first, okay? I've got stuff for you."

Callie sighed. "It isn't even that easy. Looking the other way means I don't have to get into a war with my own sisters." She said quietly. "If you ever run into a shekat who reminds you of me in a lot of ways, especially scent, don't turn your back on her. She used to be a Protector but she decided they weren't being aggressive enough, after our sister died, she went rogue and joined the Hunters. Fighting strangers is easy, family is a whole other matter." She said staring into the distance.

"Lovely." Jake groaned slightly.

"Maybe you thought I liked the idea of having a group of overzealous vigilantes loose in the city." She said softly. "Politics is the art of living with the unlivable."

He just barely kept the outraged snarl from coming to the surface, and remained silent, his gaze focused on the horizon.

Callie nodded. "Yeah, it's not pretty. But in a city this size, you can't control it all, no one can. Let me put it another way, give me a better option than the Protectors." She said. "I don't imagine I'll be able to deal with them much longer anyway."

"You'll need a lot of clout in city politics to do anything I can offer." He said quietly.

"If I think it's a good idea, I'll find the clout. Being the Kat who actually gets things done, means I know most of the major players." She said easily. "Means I even have pull with some."

"I'll put together what I know, and what I can find." He promised quietly.

"Okay, just don't be afraid to tell me something because you think I might not want to hear it. I get enough of that from everyone else." She shook her head.

"If I was afraid of that, I would have never opened my mouth tonight." He put a gentle hand on her leg and squeezed. "We've just got kind of different priorities at the moment."

"Just making sure, there aren't many I really can trust. That'll become especially true if I try changing things in any serious way." She smiled and put her hand gently on his. "My priority hasn't really changed, just the method." She said quietly.

"I know," he nodded. "But mine have. Caring about my own survival puts a rather different spin on things for me."

"Yes, puts you on an even footing with the rest of us." She smiled gently. "But I'm sure it probably seems strange for you." She said, trying to understand how someone could not care about their own survival.

"Then why don't you leave?" He looked at her curiously. "You're in nearly as much danger as I am.

"Because I'm not letting anyone run me off." She said determinedly. "I do what I have to make sure I survive, but runaway isn't one of them. One day I'll get around to something quieter, just not yet." She said keeping her eyes on the road. "I plan to enjoy retirement at some point."

"And do what?"

"Honestly, I haven't planned that far ahead. But part of the attraction is that I won't have all the external demands on my time. But that's a long way off. The important thing is I intend to survive long enough to do so." She said stubbornly. "But at some point, I intend to let someone else take over."

"Oh," he frowned in confusion before turning his attention to the rapidly approaching Salvage Yard.

She pulled to a stop in front of the main building. "Jake, you want me to wait out here for you, or come in with you? It's entirely up to you." She said supportively.

He took a deep breath with his eyes closed. "I'll do this." He settled himself before getting out to face his soon-to-be-x-partner.

Callie nodded and quietly watched the troubled tom get out. She hoped that he was misjudging the tabby's reaction.

Jake managed to keep his pace steady as he let himself in and called out. "Hay, Chance!"

Chance came running out, from the direction of the lockers. "Hey, Partner!" He said smiling, as he grabbed the smaller tom in welcoming hug. "You're looking pretty good for somebody who was hospitalized a few days ago." He said as he backed off to take in his partner. "Any idea when you'll be coming back?" He asked hopefully.

Jake swallowed and tried to meet the tabby's eyes. "I'm not."

The look on Chance's face was somewhere between disbelief and panic. He blinked and few times, tried to say something, and then stopped. After several awkward minutes, "Why?" was all he could choke out.

"Because I ... can't." The lean Kat said simply.

"You were hurt that bad?" He asked simply, trying to find words as his brain froze, before a low growl escaped. "The damage from all that blood loss isn't going to heal, is it?" He said as a dangerous fire began to burn behind his eyes as the tabby decided somebody needed hurt badly. "Even if you can't fly, I mean you'll still be here, won't you? I mean, Felina's a good gunner but no way can she do everything you did with all the gear."

"Sort of. I won't be around." He dropped his eyes to the ground and tried hard not to shake. "I can't stay. I promised ... I'll still help with what I can, but I can't stay."

Chance put his hands gently on the lean tom's shoulders. "What do you mean you can't stay? Was it something I said or did, or didn't do?" The tabby flailed around verbally trying to figure out what he did wrong, feeling sure it was his fault some how.

"Gods, no." Jake finally looked up. "You had nothing to do with this. I promised I'd take retirement before The Wall, and that means leaving the city. You know I can't stay out of the fight if I'm here."

Chance relaxed visibly. "Yeah, I know you can't. And it's not like you can't contribute from retirement." He smiled weakly. "Nathan found out about The Wall did he? Never knew a medic who didn't react badly to the idea." He said with a shake of his head. "So are things serious between you two?"

"Yeah, they're serious." Jake swallowed. "Callie freaked really bad too."

"Good." Chance said evenly. "I think Nathan's your best catch, at least of the ones I've met." He smiled. "Callie freaked? Guess the rumors about Lt. Commander Briggs were more than just rumors." He said remembering some of the stories he'd picked up during Academy. He'd always been more interested in old stories than in the actual required work.

"That and a few others." Jake nodded quietly. "Are you going to be okay?"

Chance sighed. "I'll learn to live with it. I won't lie and say I'm happy about it, but if you were that close to the edge then this is better." He said quietly. "How far away are you going? I mean, it'll be okay if I buzz out and visit you, won't it?" He said working up to a very important question. "We're still friends, right? Even if we're not gonna be partners anymore?"

"Yes, we're still friends." Jake clasped the big tabby's shoulder. "We've been more than just partners for a long time, to me. And yes, you're welcome to buzz by anytime you want, though do both of us a favor and radio ahead before you hit ranch airspace." He managed a half grin.

Chance chuckled. "Okay, just remember to let me know where you're settling. How soon you leaving the city?" He asked with a surprising amount of calm.

"A day or two." Jake said quietly.

"Oh, I almost forgot. The other day, some shekat came by asking a lot of questions about you and whatshisname, the Dobie." Chance said absently.

"Trent." He sighed. "What kind of questions?"

"Mostly things like how long you'd been seeing him, how often and if you'd seen him recently. Like I'd know, I couldn't recall when you started seeing him much less how often. Some weird stuff too, did you ever meet him during the day." He shook his head. "It was weird though, she reminded me a lot of Callie, though she was more white, and really intense."

"Smelled like her?" Jake went completely tense.

Chance thought about it. "Yeah, now that you mention it. I thought that was weird, but she did." He said, before catching the tension. "Somebody you know?" He asked worried, for no reason he could exactly put a finger on.

"In a manner of speaking." He shivered. "She's one of the more dangerous individuals trying to kill me right now."

"Trying to kill you?" Chance's eyes flared. "Which of the psychos is she working for? You didn't mention there was anybody trying to kill you ... you should stay here at least till you're ready to leave. We've got better security than anybody, you should know that, you designed it."

"I only found out a few minutes ago." He sighed. "She's working for herself, or maybe The Hunters, and she's a first rate psycho herself, dangerous as anyone we've fought." Jake looked around sadly. "As much as you're probably right ... I know I'd never walk out of here if I spend another night."

"Hunters?" Chance blinked. "Now who are they? So where are you staying then? If you're in this much trouble I ought to be with you." The big tabby said protectively.

"Chance, you have a city to protect." He put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "And I'm not without extra protection. I'll be all right."

Chance nodded unhappily. "Yeah, guess I do." He said quietly. "I just don't like the idea of somebody called the Hunters being after you, if I'm not there to back you up." He said stubbornly, already feeling a widening gulf between them and not liking the emptiness.

"I'm not happy about it either, but we both have promises to keep." He hesitated a moment before dropping his hand. "Maybe you'll retire sometime ... come join me."

Chance smiled. "Yeah, maybe if they can get the actual SWAT squadron up and running. Once they do that, then I can think about other things." Chance said, fighting to say what he'd finally admitted to himself ... that Jake meant a lot more to him then just a partner, or even a friend. He'd spent years not seeing it, and more years denying it. "Like my old man said, some jobs you gotta retire from in order to have a life." He chuckled. "Gotta make sure things are taken care of first though." He added, resigned.

"Not ... this is hardly the goodbye I expected to happen." Jake swallowed the lump in his throat as he twisted on one heal and tried very hard not to look like he was fleeing as he headed back to Callie's car. "I ... I'm sorry ...."

"You take care of yourself, Jake." Chance said with great difficulty. "If you need anything, and I do mean anything, please ask." He said softly. "I love you, Jake." He said in a voice the lean tom could barely hear.

He may have kept the knowledge of what he heard from showing to the Kat behind him, but Callie saw his face, and he didn't have the strength to keep the rush of mixed emotions from it as he hit the seat next to her.

Callie smiled and waved to the big tabby, and made a mental note to check up on him later. She was silent until they were back on the road outside the Yard. "So, how did he take it?" She said, as she put a gentle hand on his shoulder, feeling a distinct tremor under her fingers as he slowly sank over, his arms tight to his stomach.

"Said he loves me." Jake whispered sickly.

Callie wasn't sure exactly what to say to that revelation. "Not exactly what you'd been expecting was it?" She said quietly.

"No." Jake shivered. "Know where Jeremy's mansion is?"

"StormCraft manor?" She smiled. "Yes, Jeremy showed it off a few years ago when he finished restoring it." She said as she took a turn-off. "I take it you're staying there then."

"Yeah." He swallowed and finally pulled himself together. "Of all the things to say ...."

"It was rather impolite of him to refuse to be mad at you." She said with gentle smile.

"It's fighting dirty is what it is." Jake concentrated mostly on breathing and making his partner's voice stop repeating in his head. "It's hard enough as is."

"Jake, did you ever think that maybe he said it, because he'd never been able to before? There are some things that shouldn't be left unsaid, especially at times like these." She said softly.

"I'm sure of it, doesn't change ... I'd almost convinced myself leaving was a good thing." He pushed himself up to stare out the window. "Only a coward leaves their family like this."

"Jake, you're many things, but a coward is not one of them." She said firmly. "You're only leaving because you can't survive staying."

"Tell that to my heart." He growled to keep tears back.

"I wish I had an easy answer, but I don't." She said as they drove the quiet roads toward the country estate.

Jake tried very hard not to completely crumple as the angry depression of the estate's aura tore into his already fragile grip on life and sanity.

An unfamiliar yet reassuring calmness, pushed away the aura leaving only a calm that penetrated into him with a healing warmth. "Listen not to the angry voices of the past, they seek to accomplish in death what they failed to do in life." A mature male voice said from just behind him.

Jake took a shuddering breath as he shifted his focus to the owner of that voice.

The owner of the voice was a slightly graying black on brown striped tom, who was a bit over six feet tall and clearly athletic in build. He was wearing old style clothes, similar to those seen in some of the paintings in the house. There was a reassuring aura about him, a combination of inner peace and absolute confidence.

"Hi." Jake said quietly, only peripherally aware that Callie was watching him.

"Welcome to Defender's Rest." The tom said with an old-fashioned nobility. "Not many notice the old voices, but just pay them no heed."

"I'll keep that in mind," he smiled a little weakly. "Who would you be?"

"I am Devon Silvermane, second lord of this manor. Like yourself, I was a defender of those who couldn't defend themselves."

Jake kept his mouth shut about that last part as he nodded. Then he turned to Callie as Ozzy came out of the mansion to greet them. "Come on."

"Learning to live is the most difficult thing a defender ever has to do." Devon said quietly, and then vanished.

Jake sighed at the truth of it and nodded a greeting to Ozzy as the Fox came close. "Hi, Ozzy."

"Hi, Jake." The fox said warmly. "How did things go?" He asked with a trace of concern. He blinked as he noticed Callie just behind Jake. "Deputy Mayor Briggs, this is unexpected. Umm, Mr. StormCraft isn't here." The fox floundered a bit, trying to guess what the real leader of the city was doing there.

Callie smiled reassuringly. "I'm here on a strictly personal basis." She said as she fished for the fox's name. "Maybe you could introduce your friend, Jake?" She asked gently.

"Callie, this is Ozzy." He quietly herded them inside. "He's trying to teach me how to get along now. Callie's my mate." He added for the Fox.

"Pleased to meet you Ozzy." Callie said warmly.

"Same here." Ozzy said, more than a little surprised to find another of Jake's mates was the Deputy Mayor.

"So where's Nathan?" Jake prompted a touch uneasily.

"Not back yet." Ozzy said, a little worry slipping into his voice. "Called in a while ago, said he'd talked with Feral and it had gone as expected and that he was headed to talk with the Protectors."

"I don't suppose we know where he is?" Jake prompted quietly.

Ozzy shook his head. "He didn't say."

Callie sighed. "The Protector's main HQ is a refurbished industrial facility on the edge of MegaKat City. They bought it about twenty years ago after the original owner went bankrupt, and the city took possession. Mayor Manx signed an agreement with them that let them keep the original facilities weapons testing license in return for them paying the higher industrial manufacturing property tax rate."

"And where's Jeremy?" Jake kicked his brain into planning mode.

"He had a major meeting of the SGE directors this evening. I'm not sure when it was supposed to wrap up." Ozzy said quietly.

"If we need him to help Nathan, I know how to get through to him." Gavin added as he came down the stairs to where they were talking. "Hi, Callie." He waved to the shekat.

"Hi, Gavin." She smiled pleasantly.

"Callie, do you have any real idea what kind of weapons and defenses that building has, if a rescue becomes necessary?" Jake turned to look at her before heading for the kitchen. "Who's hungry?"

"They're carrying a license similar to the heavy weapons developers, so they could have pretty much anything. And it's a complex of buildings, not just one. If their weapons keep with their normal tactics, then it'll be energy weapons with high rates of fire; probably repeating blaster rifles like the Enforcer commandos use.

"The building defenses are largely remoteness, solid reinforced concrete construction and multiple lines of barbed wire. Along with the fact that all Protector personnel are combat trained. There could be more to the defenses that don't show on the recon I've had run over the years."

"And food sounds like a wonderful idea." Callie said with a smile. "If the rest of this place is any indication I'll bet there's a full time cook."

"There most certainly is." A matronly female voice said as a black and white female well over six foot came walking out of a side room. "Mr. StormCraft pays me to take care of the guests, so what'll you be wanting light snacks, a small meal or a large dinner." She said clearly ready to handle any or all of the above.

Jake blinked in surprise as he restructured his plans. "Small meal for me."

There was a general round of nodded agreement.

"So where'll you folks be wanting your meals? I've worked for Mr. Stormcraft long enough to recognize a strategy session when I see one starting." She smiled.

Jake shook his head and laughed. "That it is. Somewhere with computer access and preferably plenty of places to write."

Gavin exchanged a glance with the cook, and then smiled. "The small dining room then, Jeremy uses it as more 'war room' than dining room anyway." He said leading the way.

"There looks to have been some major brainstorming." Jeremy smirked as he looked over the large amount of paper strewn about the small dining room. "What prompted this?" He asked curiously. "Looks like the last major merger I launched."

"Hi, Jeremy." Gavin said as walked over and hugged the Panther.

"Good to see you too, kit." He rumbled pleasantly, before looking at Jake and Callie. "I presume one or both of you are running whatever is in planning?"

"Just a little preemptive preparation if the Protectors decided not to let Nathan retire." Jake nodded. "It's basically over, unless he doesn't come back. Then I call in a few favors." He said grimily. "Do you know what the Hunters are?"

"Under the current circumstances, I presume you're referring to the Vampire Hunters, a group of extremists who believe the Protectors fail to take strong enough steps with regard to the Vampire threat to the living. They take it on themselves to purify the living world of the curse of Vampirism, or some other such nonsense." The Panther said shaking his head. "Fortunately, they're rare and don't have the support of the main Protector organization. I take it you have news of one."

"Yeah, it seems one is hunting me, or will be in very short order." Jake sighed and shook his head. "She's interrogated Chance already. Between her dislike of Trent, Vampires in general and my dating her sister, she's not going to like me much when she figures it out."

The Panther nodded. "So Misty is back, I wonder when she'd turn up again." He shook his head. "Unless she's changed her dislike of Trent is because she thinks he's connected to Vampires, and she hates all vampires. She won't care that you're dating her sister, well actually she will but only in that she'll probably want to kill Callie for betraying the memory of their younger sister." He said softly.

"I was wondering if life could get any more complicated." Jake sighed and ran a hand down his face.

"Funny, Nathan was wondering the same thing the other night." He smiled and put a friendly hand on Jake's shoulder. "And I wouldn't worry about his little conversation with the Protectors too much. He can take care of himself, better than most think he can."

"So I've gathered." Jake agreed. "I just hate feeling useless."

"Having to wait isn't pleasant, especially when you're used to acting." The Panther agreed. "And I know all about feeling useless, since he tends to get into problems that can't be solved by money or influence." He said sympathetically. "But truth is even when you're not actively helping, you're helping in another way. You give him a sense of belonging that he needs to stay balanced."

Jake pushed his bangs up with a breath of air before turning to Callie. "And I've already managed to forget you're a day person." He put a gentle arm around her. "If you don't mind, I'll fuss over you the rest of the night." He purred very quietly. "It's not home, but the beds are very nice."

Callie smiled warmly. "That sounds very nice, but no Kiss this time, okay? I just want to be with you, no tricks." She said leaning on his arm to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek.

"No, no Kiss.": Jake smiled as he guided her out of the room. "Only when you want it from now on." He promised sincerely.

"That's all I needed to hear." She smiled. "Despite what Misty says, there's something very romantic about trusting someone that much."

"Yes, there is." He smiled at a few memories of his own and nuzzled her affectionately.

Jake was woken by a somewhat insistent hand on his shoulder. "Jake, Nathan's back." Ozzy's voice said in a futile attempt to wake Jake without waking Callie.

"Hu?" The tom took a moment to come to, then snapped fully awake as he rolled out of bed and grabbed his clothes. "What's wrong?"

"Nate's back, it doesn't look like they let him go easy and he's not alone." The fox said in a worried voice, which was drowned out by a roar from outside the house.

Jake hit the door at a dead run, blaster in hand and no thought but for his mate's safety as he sought the fray.

The well manicured lawn had been singed by great heat, and standing in a scorched circle were two battered opponents, both showing great fatigue and numerous wounds. The one was Nathan wearing what was left of the casual outfit he'd been wearing, and the other a giant black and tan tomkat similar to Ulyseus Feral in size and build.

"Go back, Kelroth." Nathan growled. "I beat the lot of you, now leave."

"That doesn't apply to traitors who protect the undead. I was just waiting for you to lead me to the vampire." The giant growled, ears back.

"You're no Protector, you're a gods forsaken Hunter!" Nathan roared. "And you know the Protectors will expel you for violating the Rite."

"Not important. All that matters is the Hunt."

"You won't be hunting anywhere near me, Kelroth." The Tiger struck suddenly, claws drawing blood and roar from the giant's chest.

"You're bluffing, Nathan. Everyone knows you can't kill." Kelroth baited the Tiger, and struck a sudden blow that drew a long gash down the Tiger's arm.

"Everyone's wrong, Kelroth." The Tiger said coldly. Suddenly there was a blur of motion as Nathan shifted to a winged variant of his warform, and ripped into the giant with the full force of the rage-driven warrior. Kelroth screamed only once, before his throat was torn by Nathan's claws and his voice silenced forever. Blood flowed and splattered as the fury-driven Tiger made a gory mess of his opponent rending him into pieces a coroner would find frustrating. Eventually, the warrior stopped and stood staring into space, blood dripping from his scorched and battered fur.

"Nathan?" Jake walked up, concerned only for the Felsin's health. "The battle is over, love. Come wash up and rest with me."

"Over?" The war-form responded in deep, dazed voice. There was an element of disbelief, but he followed Jake just the same as the much smaller tom lead them to their grand guest bedroom and the large bathroom adjacent to it.

"Can you change back?" Jake smiled up at the huge creature. "Your Felsin form is easier to clean. Less of it."

There was some hesitation, and then war-form was slowly replaced by a heavily wounded, burned and blood soaked Felsin, who slumped to the floor of the shower despite Jake's efforts.

"Oh, my god ...." Jake whispered as his brain tried to think of what to do. "Get a Medic!" He roared for whoever was in hearing distance, then turned back to Nathan. "Just hold on, things will be all right." He said as much to himself as Nathan as he tried to clean up and staunch the worst of the blood flow with what knowledge and supplies he had.

Ozzy came running up with a first aid kit, that he handed to Jake. Then he noticed a strange energy link between them, very weak, mostly inactive, but there. "Jake, you can do more than bandages. There's some sort of bond between you and Nathan, if you can transfer energy along it you should be able to strengthen him, so his own healing can kick in." He said as he helped as best he could. "Don't think about it, just go with your feelings."

Jake nodded without even thinking and pulled the badly wounded Tiger against him as he sought the place in his mind he'd gotten the images when he'd feed and willed some of his own life to support his mate.

The channel opened again as Jake's energy surged to support Nathan. At the same time, a flood of uncontrolled images flowed from the wounded Tiger immersing the lean tom. Images of a lifetime broken into several strange and seemingly unrelated periods. Images of a dozen Felsin, who felt like family. Just as suddenly, the flood stopped as the energy flow was stopped by his mate, with a warm feeling that seemed to say 'thank you'.

"Well done, Jake." Ozzy's voice said, just before Jake's eyes opened to see the ceiling of an unfamiliar room, that smelled like a hospital.

"What the hell?"

"Guess you got wrapped up in the bond, or something." Ozzy said. "But you were not here. But Jeremy had you and Nathan moved to the private clinic that's part of the estate." He said easily.

"How is he?" Jake almost bolted up. "How long?"

"Unconscious, but the doctor says his vital signs are stable." Ozzy said calmly. "It's been about twelve hours."

"And Callie? It's after dark?" He got out of bed.

"It's not quite dark yet." He said evenly. "Callie should be back in a couple hours. She had to take care of a couple of things at the office. But she went in one of Jeremy's hovercars so getting back won't take long."

"Thanks." Jake smiled softly and kissed Ozzy. "Show me where Nathan is?"

"Sure thing." He said as he turned the Kat to look over at the other bed in the room. "Jeremy figured it was best to keep you two together." He smiled.

"Where is he?" Jake asked calmly as he sat on the bed next to Nathan to touch him, reassuring himself. "He'll have visitors soon, and despite the looks, they're friends."

"He's been talking with Devon." Ozzy said quietly. "And there was a pair of toms here earlier that he didn't introduce, but I'd bet money they're former Enforcers, Black Ops types I think."

"I'm not surprised. The Protectors, or Hunters, just made at least one very serious enemy if I read Jeremy at all right." Jake nodded, his focus on the Felsin in the bed. "Would you please go get my cell phone? It's in my tote bag." He looked up with a bit of plea in his eyes.

"Sure, Jake. Be back in a while." Ozzy said as he walked out of the infirmary.

A couple minutes later, Gavin stuck his head in. "Hey, you're awake." He smiled broadly. "How's Nathan doing?" He asked worriedly.

"Better than last time I saw him." Jake looked up without breaking physical contact with his mate. "The docs say he'll be okay, eventually. How are you doing?"

He walked over, and touched Nathan's shoulder. "Better now. It was scary for a while, with both of you out of it. Jeremy hasn't been in any mood to talk either, I've never seen him so angry." He said quietly. "There must be two or three dozen private soldiers on the grounds now."

"I'm not too surprised." Jake shivered. "He wasn't the only one scared nearly to death."

"Can't even tell anything happened outside." Gavin said a little amazed. "Amazing how fast lanscapers work with the kind of incentives Jeremy hands out."

A soft chuckle greeted that. "Money speaks very loudly, money and rage mixed together can accomplish damn near anything." Jake reached over to ruffle Gavin's hair. "You holding out okay?"

Gavin found a spot next to Jake on Nathan's bed to sit down. "I guess. My folks were Protectors, and then Nate took me in, and he was one. I never realized this side of them existed." He said looking down at the bandaged Felsin. "I knew they wouldn't be happy about his resignation, but I didn't think..."

"Neither did I." Jake said softly as he hugged the kitten with one arm. "I hope Nathan didn't."

"Wouldn't have mattered." Gavin said quietly. "He's a stickler for doing things properly, and he needed to make sure they understood he was finished with them. At least that's what he said, when Jeremy suggested he send his resignation by certified letter."

"I meant more that there was a good chance he'd be hurt this bad." Jake said softly. "This city doesn't need another front line war."

"I doubt he thought there was. He thinks he can handle anything." Gavin said quietly. "I don't think it's going to be front line, at least I don't think Jeremy's planning on running it that way."

"And that would be a very different story if Nate had died." Jake shook his head, trying to shake off the gloom. "Anything good come about?" He asked hopefully.

"If what I heard is correct, the Protectors lost their 'blind eye' from the city." He said simply. "When one of the city's major weapons suppliers starts raising a fuss about something, the government listens."

"And Callie is in a mood to listen on top of it." Jake stretched. "Even more than she was before. Do you know where Jeremy is now?"

Gavin chuckled. "Yeah, he and Callie had a long talk. That was after he had some choice words with Commander Feral over the psychotics he let operate with impunity in his jurisdiction." He shook his head. "Jeremy's in his office, in the main house, last I knew."

"Here you go." Ozzy handed Jake his phone.

"Thanks." He smiled at the Fox before tapping a series of keys.

"No problem." He smiled, as walked over and put a supportive hand on Gavin's shoulder. The kit turned and smiled at him appreciatively.

It look a moment for the phone to be picked up, and the conversation was short and in a language Ozzy only caught the jist of it from; it was a logistical conference.

Once he hung up, Jake looked at Nathan and shook his head. "What's the number for Jeremy's office?"

"Not sure." Ozzy said and then he remembered something, and pulled out a small cellular radio which he handed to Jake. "Star-One-One-One is Jeremy."

Jake nodded and keyed the sequence.

"Jeremy, go ahead." The Panther's deep voice came back.

"Jake here. A friend of mine is bringing in a specialized search team, they should be here in about three hours by C&C SEH Jet." Jake opened. "I'd appreciate it if you clear Sashari Goldenwind's craft to land."

"Okay, Jake. I'll have CAPCOM escort her in." The Panther said. "How are you feeling, Jake? You were pretty out of it for a while." He asked, genuinely concerned.

"Thanks." He said. "I'm awake, I'll be doing better when Nathan is too."

"That makes two of us." The Panther agreed. "According to my doctors, should be some time in the next twelve hours." He said encouragingly. "Ms. Briggs said to tell you that she's sorry to not be there when you woke, but circumstances required her presence in the office."

"Good, I was hoping she wasn't mad about this." He breathed a small sigh of relief. "Anything I can help with from here?"

"At the moment, we're currently in data gathering mode, so there isn't much to do here but wait. But I'll let you know if there is something." He said easily. "Actually, the person she decided to be mad at was Ulysses Feral. I don't envy him one bit."

"I wouldn't either." Jake shook his head. "He's got a lot going against him at the moment from her court."

"Thinking he could 'manage' the Protectors vigilantism so that it only did what he wanted was a bit overconfident." Jeremy said quietly. "They've been getting more overzealous over the years."

"Or just less vigilant about holding their standards." Jake added. "Either way, it's not good."

"No it's not." Jeremy agreed. "The idea is commendable, but the execution has become flawed." He said, as he was interrupted by a phone in the background. "Let me know when Nathan comes to, I have a few things to attend to." He said as he hung up.

Jake clicked the radio off hand handed it back to Ozzy before arranging himself to settle next to Nathan, intent on not moving or until the Tiger did.

"Sir," a CAPCOM officer saluted Jeremy sharply. "The aircraft has arrived."

Jeremy returned the salute. "Thank you, lieutenant. I'll be going out to meet our guests." He said, as he walked out to the Surface Effect Hovercraft Jet which was just lowering its access ramp.

First to appear was a very clearly not-of-this-world hound-like creature with horns and a thick, glossy black pelt than charged out with an unnaturally disturbing bay and eyes of burning embers that surveyed the grounds and personnel with a decidedly possessive, protective air.

A few paces behind it a tall, dark golden-tan Lioness followed. Her sharp, calculating golden eyes were set off by a decorative web of golden pearls that rested across her square muzzle, strong jaws and flat, broad, hairless head that would have belonged on a princes. And from the neck down, she looked more like a black ops wetworks commando coming to a briefing than anything else.

Following the Lioness were four more hounds and a smaller, younger Lioness with very faint tiger-stripes with the same look as her leader.

Years of dealing with the completely unexpected allowed Jeremy to maintain a completely neutral expression. In the back of his mind he figured if he didn't have a war with the Protectors before, he would now. He stepped forward, complete command and confidence in every motion. "I'm Jeremy StormCraft, welcome to StormWatch." He said formally.

The older Lioness smiled in honest friendliness and offered her hand. "I am Sashari Goldenwind. Thank you for looking after my partner and his mate."

"My pleasure, Sashari." He said easily. "Jake's done enough for this city that it's time someone looked out for him. As for Nathan, well, he's important to me on his own." He said affectionately. "Jake mentioned that you were bringing a search team, which I presume is them." He indicated the hounds. "What exactly are you searching for?" He asked politely.

"The soon to be sorry individuals who hurt Jake." A low growl crept into her professional voice. "This team is mage tracking trained."

The Panther smiled predatorily. "That makes two operations tracking them. Though competing with the Hunters is complicating things, as their random vampire killings take out leads." He said frustrated. "I'd be careful tracking mages. Nathan is one, and there are several friendly. There's some evidence that the individuals may not be mages but simply knowledgeable in the occult." He said giving a brief overview of some pertinent facts. "However, additional forces are welcome. Did Jake tell you anything about the situation with the Protectors?"

"Very little. He wasn't sure how secure the line was." Sashari shook her regal head as they walked back towards the house, the hounds pacing in a loose circle around them and the younger Lioness a few paces behind. "As for your concerns, I understand them. One of the reasons I'm here is because my pack hunts differently. Will we be staying here?"

"A valid concern considering the cozy relationship the Protectors had with the Enforcers." He said as he turned toward the Auxiliary building entrance. "You're certainly welcome to stay. Everyone is moving into the Auxiliary facility until I complete some upgrades to main house defenses. Given the deteriorating relations with the Protectors I'm not taking any chances, as they've had twenty years to stockpile military grade equipment."

"And you have Jake." She smiled knowingly. "Even burnt out, he's inventive. Over the next few hours, it would be good to introduce those who have a right to be here to my hounds. That way they can guard the property when we aren't out."

"Excellent idea, since with a few hours I should have the new guard compliment filled. Would've been faster, but I had security redo all background checks for those assigned to estate security." He said easily. "Right now, I think Jake's busy enough with Nathan still unconscious."

"Won't leave the room?" She smiled with a mixture of affection and understanding.

"Yes, I would do the same, but there's too much I have to do. I have no intention of letting this go unanswered." The Panther said darkly, as the large elevator descended into the Auxiliary bunker.

"Neither are we." Sashari growled. "It's not often my business is of actual use to my friends."

"If you don't mind my asking, what is your business? I simply accepted Jake's statement that you were a friend. It was one less security profile to run, and right now that's a help." He asked, curious about his new ally.

"I'm a professional Spook." She chuckled. "I research, negotiate, remove and otherwise deal with weird shit."

"Oh, then you won't have a problem with the two werewolves who are on staff?" He asked curiously.

"Not unless they make themselves a problem I have to deal with." She shook her head. "I don't have a problem with any of them. I'm just interested in understanding, but with that knowledge, comes a responsibility to use it for the better, so I hunt those that can't be dealt with a better way."

Jeremy blinked. "That's decidedly close to what the Protectors claim, though I think something's gone wrong with them over the last few years." He said quietly. "Actually, I've discovered over the last twelve hours that I have more supernatural staff then I thought. It seems security needs to be a little more diligent, in the background checks."

"No doubt." Sashari chuckled. "By my research, roughly 15% of the recorded population isn't normal. Which is roughly 25% of the actual world population, discounting one or two of a kind aliens. The difference between the Protectors charter and mine is they are a police agency first, research organization second."

"I'm not sure that the Protectors charter is worth much right now. They've been becoming more interested in the preemptive strike approach over the last few years, though it was impossible to prove. And whatever happened with Nathan ... if he was a Kat, he wouldn't have survived it."

"And overall, it's a damn good thing he did." The Lioness shook her head, unsettled by a thought. "I really, really don't want to see Jake out of control again."

"My response would've been frightening in a billion dollar way." He said quietly. "I've always been amazed by how focused on Jake Nathan has been. As long as I've known him he's always kept a close eye on Jake, at least as much as anyone can. I was surprised he managed to make the year without saying anything." He said quietly. "I'm just grateful Jake doesn't mind sharing."

"As long as you don't try to take away what's his, Jake's very mellow that way." She agreed as the elevator door opened and two hounds lunged out first. "He's always had an interesting view of things."

"No danger of that." Jeremy said as he left the elevator. "Nathan wouldn't even date me, until he was sure it was okay with Jake, or that Jake didn't return his interest." He shook his head. "Actually, I think Jake has a similar view, something about his home culture."

"It makes a healthier relationship, to share views on monogamy." She agreed.

"Or the lack thereof." He nodded as he stopped at a door and keyed it open. "These'll be your quarters while you're here." He said indicating the very large living room which had four doors and a small kitchen off of it.

The hounds made a quick run before the younger Lioness nodded to Sashari. "I'll set things up while you see to him."

"Thank you, Sythina." She smiled as the leader of the pack came to heal.

"Jake's in the infirmary with Nathan, who's still out. According to Gavin, Jake hasn't moved since he regained consciousness except to get into bed with Nathan and make two phone calls. One to me, and I presume the other was to you." The Panther said evenly. "The infirmary is this way." He started in that direction after making sure she was following.

"Yes, that was an update and request that I come early with his armor and rifle." She said quietly as the hound ranged ahead. It stopped abruptly at the infirmary door and waited, it long bushy tail wagging frantically.

"With Misty around, armor and a rifle will be useful." Jeremy said as he keyed opened the infirmary door, which slid open with deliberate slowness.

The demonic hound was pawing at the opening almost immediately, her nose jammed into the widening space as he bayed in a jagged cadence, much to Sashari's amusement.

"She always did like Jake." She shook her head as the animal squeezed through. "If it wasn't for his need to look somewhat normal, I would have given her to Jake years ago."

Jeremy chuckled as they walked in. "That's the handy thing about playing the eccentric billionaire, I can keep a pair of panthers at headquarters and nobody looks twice. One of my contacts offered me a winged panther, which I'm seriously considering." He smiled.

"Can it fly?" She looked at him in rapt interest, her demeanor shifting instantly from Black Op to fascinated researcher.

"Quite agilely, I'm told. I was supposed to go on a business retreat to Sarigal where they're native but things came up." He said quietly. "That's something I'll have to reschedule."

"So will I." She nodded as the door finally opened to reveal the demon hound braced with two legs on Jake's shoulders, licking the Kat's face as Jake scratched a greeting.

"I'm sure Corfai would be open to more company. He loves showing off his estate." The Panther offered, before chuckling at Jake and the hound. "Nice to see there's a 'normal' hound side to them." He said casually.

"Oh, yes." She chuckled, taking in the scene. "They're very much dogs when you come right down to it, just well trained dogs with special abilities."

Nathan stretched, and then opened his eyes, as he appeared to study the ceiling in great detail.

It was a moment before Jake caught the motion, but he pushed the hound off him as soon as he did to lean over and touch Nathan's chest with an open palm. "Hello, Nathan."

"Where am I?" The Felsin's voice seemed distant and a bit lost.

"In the hospital at Jeremy's house." Jake said quietly. "How do you feel, love?"

The Felsin seemed confused by the question for several moments. "Sore, but in a strange way purified. It's difficult to explain." He slowly reached up and took Jake's hand in his own. "As long as you're here, nothing else really matters."

"We finally agree on something." Jake smiled teasingly as he leaned forward to kiss Nathan gently. "It's good to hear your voice."

"Sorry if I frightened you. I didn't mean to." Nathan apologized, followed by a gentle kiss.

"I know, apparently I scarred everyone just as bad trying to keep you alive." He chuckled as a weight of tension flowed from his body. "Is there anything left of Protector HQ?" Jake asked curiously.

Nathan nodded. "Structural damage was minimal." He said quietly. "Things didn't get of hand until I fought Shayna, Tereth and Kelroth. They weren't playing by the rules."

"I gathered as much." Jake squeezed his hand. "Feeling up for a couple introductions?"

"I think I can handle that." Nathan said holding Jake's hand in both of his. "As long as there aren't any long walks involved, I'm not quite up to that yet."

"They're right here." Jake smiled. He patted the edge of the bed while looking down. "Up."

Almost immediately a large set of paws raised up with a demonic caninish head over them.

"Nathan, this is Raither." He scratched the beast's ears.

"Hello, Raither." Nathan said gently, offering his hand slowly so the hound could get his scent. "She yours?" Nathan asked Jake curiously.

"If you two get along." Jake smiled as the hound sniffed Nathan's hand, then reached in to lick the Tiger's face affectionately.

"I'd say she likes you." Sashari chuckled as she approached. "That mean you're finally going to let her stay with you?"

"Yes, Sash." The lean Kat chuckled.

Nathan gently scratched the hounds ears, imitating what Jake had been doing. "Any idea if she's good with kits?" He asked quietly.

"Very good." Sashari nodded. "She helped me raised Sythina, even nursed her on occasion. All my hounds are very well trained, but I breed for a well socialized, friendly animal as well as their special abilities."

"That's good to know." Nathan said quietly.

"The Lioness is Sashari, the one I called in to help." Jake nodded at her.

"Would you like a little help with the healing?" She offered as she stepped up next to Raither.

"It would be appreciated. Thank you." He said sincerely.

"Anytime." Sashari smiled as a soft golden glow grew around her hand. Gently she placed her open, glowing palm on his chest as it spread over his entire body. "Dust of the stars, fire of hell, strength that which is made from you."

Nathan felt the soreness ease, and his fatigue lessen. He slowly sat up and smiled. "Much better. Thank you, Sashari."

"You are welcome." She smiled back. "Healer-warriors need to stick together, and I'd do anything for Jake."

"You're right, and you're not the only one." He smiled, and hugged the lean tom.

"Which is a good thing." She chuckled and ruffled Jake's hair.

"Yeah, he's quite the handful." Nathan teased gently. "But well worth the trouble." He chuckled.

"Yes, he does seem to need more than one spotter these days." Sashari chuckled affectionately as Jake leaned against her side, melting in a 'come protect me' manner as she stroked his hair.

Nathan nodded. "It'll be easier when we reduce the number of people causing trouble." He said confidently.

"A list that has grown significantly in the past three days." She shook her head with a slightly worried look for Jake as she hugged him close to her side.

"It's a little shorter than it was yesterday." Nathan said with a grim look on his face, as though contemplating further 'shortening.'

"And a lot shorter before I leave town." Sashari nodded in grim agreement before leaning down to whisper something in Jake's ear. He nodded weakly with a look of mild relief.

Nathan looked a little confused. "Did you change your mind about leaving, Jake?" He asked non-committally. "Last thing you told me, we were relocating." He said, wondering what he'd missed while unconscious.

"No, we're leaving, just as planned." The Kat nodded. "I was figuring on getting the guys who killed me out of the way. It shouldn't take long."

"And if it does, you two head out and Jeremy and I do the clean-up." Sashari added.

"That's if the conflict with the Protectors boils over." Jeremy added calmly. "I don't expect they're involved with the guys who killed Jake. The last thing the Protectors would be doing is creating vampires."

"Long or short, I'm staying with you." Nathan said determinedly.

Jake nodded with a soft smile for him. "That I haven't doubted since this started."

"Good." The Tiger smiled. "Since this started...hard to believe it's been less than a week." He shook his head in disbelief.

"Welcome to the lifestyle of a hero." Sashari chuckled. "Things'll calm down soon enough. Now you both need some real rest." She said with the air of a healer, then softened to that of a friend. "And I know Jake would rest better between us, if you wouldn't mind." She regarded Nathan considerately.

The look in Jake's eyes was nearly begging for it, though it was unlikely the Kat realized it, he wanted it so badly.

"Oh, I expect so." Nathan chuckled with a smile. "It's fine with me." He said, not seeing any particular problem with sharing a bed.

"Good." Sashari smiled her own thanks as she urged Jake into the middle of the large bed and settled next to him, on the opposite side as Nathan. "A circle of healing support, Jeremy?" She looked up at the Panther. "Strong support on each side, the injured in the middle. It really does help."

"Not a theory I'm familiar with, but it sounds plausible." The Panther said as he settled next to Nathan. "Good thing I had the big beds put in here." He chuckled.

"It can hardly hurt." Jake sighed in relieved pleasure as his body and mind finally relaxed completely, feeling utterly secure between his spotters.

Nathan quietly snuggled up next to Jake, figuring that nothing else need to be said. Jeremy smiled to himself, thinking that was actually the first time that he and Nathan had actually been in the same bed together.

Nathan woke to the pleasant sensation of Jeremy's warmth on one side and Jake's affectionate touch coming from the other. He opened his eyes to look at the lean tom. "Feeling better?" He asked quietly, as he gave the Kat a gentle kiss.

"Yes, you?" Jake rumbled softly before claiming a much deeper kiss, not caring in the least they weren't alone.

"Yes, better than I expected to this soon." He said quietly nuzzling the tom after the kiss broke.

"You've had a lot of support." Jake shivered slightly as he pressed their mouths together for a desperately searching kiss, much of the fear of the past day demanding reassurance all at once. "What happened?"

Nathan sighed. "My resignation was not well received by the Protectors." He said quietly.

"Nathan, you knew that before." Jake bit his lip. "You died. What the hell happened?"

Nathan looked a little confused. "I never died, though I'll admit it was close there." He said quietly. "There's an old ritual I didn't know about. In order to leave the Protectors, you have to fight your way past the cream of the warrior corps ... all of them."

Jake nodded weakly against the Tiger's shoulder and pulled him tight. "I felt you start to slip away. I've never been that scared in my life." He whispered only loud enough for Nathan to hear. "I almost embraced you. I just ... I couldn't let you go."

"It was close, but I had one reserve left but I didn't want to use it." He shuddered quietly, and then whispered back. "Wouldn't have worked, though it would have activated the hidden reserve."

"I'm glad whatever happened worked." The lean Kat sighed before nuzzling in affectionately as his hand wondered down Nathan's chest. "At least you're free now, right?"

"Yep, I'm done with them." He said pulling the Kat close as Jake reached up for a kiss.

"Good." The lean tom began to relax. "Has anyone told anything to Chance?" He asked quietly.

"Only that your medical leave has been extended, and that you'll be out of town for a while." Nathan said quietly. "They just didn't want him to worry, before you decided what you want to tell him."

Jake nodded weakly. "I keep thinking just telling him I'm dead is the most humane."

"But he's going to ask how, and he's going to want to see a body before he believes it." Nathan said quietly. "He won't accept that willingly, you know."

"I know." He sighed. "Never said it was practical, just more humane."

"Unfortunately, we're stuck dealing with practical things." Nathan sighed. "But since the humane approach isn't really workable, I guess we have to come up with something else."

"Kind of leaves the truth." Jake said uneasily. "I've never lied to him more than necessary. I'm not going to now."

"Always my preferred approach with friends." Nathan said supportively.

"Just hope he doesn't do anything stupid tried to make it right."

"If he's got any ideas on making it right, I'd be interested." Nathan said quietly. "Any particular stupidity you're worried about, or is it more generalized?" He asked gently.

"General, he has a hot temper and tendency to not think before he acts." Jake sighed. "Makes for a great SWAT Kat, but not much on the survival front."

Nathan sighed, he knew the type well. "Well, I guess we'll just have to keep an eye out for impending stupidity then. Not much else we can do."

"And he's going to need a new gunner." He shivered. "I know he never intended to outlive me. Go down in a blaze of glory with me, or avenging me."

"We'll have to see how things are working out with Felina." Nathan said quietly. "Hopefully, he can take to working with her as gunner." He suggested, suppressing the shiver that the mention of 'blaze of glory' caused.

The words made Jake relax significantly. "Yes, they do make a good pair."

"Yes, they do." Nathan agreed. "Doesn't hurt that they're crazy about each other out of uniform."

The lean tom chuckled. "It's quite a show, when they don't realize it."

Nathan raised an eyebrow in amusement. "I bet, and more original than a rented video." He teased gently.

"Much more." Jake purred. "Better endurance too. Chance could have quite a career, if he'd consent to being taped."

Nathan grinned. "Don't think he's a showoff in that area, huh? As a career the explosions would certainly be less dangerous." He snickered.

"But much more fun." Jake laughed. "Oh, if he gets too serious, I'll just suggest that."

"That'll certain break his mood." Nathan laughed. "But imagine if he actually went for it ... imagine Commander Feral's face, finding out that T-bone was retiring to be a porn star."

"Especially if he gets his girlfriend to come with him, both ways." Jake snickered before pulling himself up for a forceful kiss.

Nathan managed to restrain the laugh until the passionate kiss broke, at which point he burst out laughing. "Gods, that would be something to get on videotape."

"Yes, it would be." Jake murred softly as he snuggled against the Tiger's chest. "I should probably get that over with, before the real fireworks start."

Nathan nodded. "Yes, best to tie up loose ends. Besides, he'll need time to adjust."

Jake lay quietly for a moment. "Jeremy? Just how advanced is your space program?"

Jeremy turned over to face the other two. "Space Program? We're about six months from completion of our space station. We're planning a landing on the nearest of our planetary neighbors for early next year."

"How much of that is because Nate gave you pointers?"

"Well, the space station was under construction, though he did speed things up with a few pointers. And the artificial gravity does save us from having to worry about spin gravity.

"The interplanetary, on the other hand, is about ten years ahead of schedule, thanks to his pointers on interplanetary drive systems." He chuckled. "Why do you think I've been trying to get him to work for me full time?"

"So you can watch me leave your office?" Nathan suggested teasingly.

"Well, there is that..." The Panther murred.

"He does make for a nice view." Jake chuckled, nuzzling his mate. "What do you both think about putting our full focus on the space program? Maybe even see the Alliance in our lifetime."

Jeremy considered that for a moment. "The Space Sciences and Technology division has been self-sustaining for the last two years. Thanks to the commercial off-shoots of space research. If the two of you want to take over SSTD I don't see a problem."

"What do you think, Nate?" Jake turned to the Tiger. "Could be fun."

The Tiger smiled. "Yes, it could. And I'd love to be able to show you around the Alliance."

"Pity it'll have to stay mostly secret." Jake sighed. "I doubt the general populous is ready to become part of the galactic community."

"That's usually preceded by the formation of a world government." Nathan said quietly. "I don't see that happening any sooner than three generations from now, and that's extremely optimistic."

"I guess I'll ..." Jake's voice choked off as it registered with a sledgehammer that even if he saw it, no one he knew would.

"What's wrong Jake?" Nathan asked feeling his mate's distress.

"Realized how long I'll live, without you." He whispered.

"Don't go making any assumptions, Jake." Nathan said quietly. "No one's sure how long I'll live." He kissed the Kat gently.

"You're not immortal." Jake murmured. "Even a million years is a short time compared to forever."

"Maybe when we get to the Alliance we can find a solution to your problem. Make you a mortal again, assuming you want that." Nathan said confidently.

"Alliance tech, right." Jake nodded, grabbing at the only bit of hope he had. "Just have to get to the Alliance."

"Don't worry too much, we've got a couple millennia to figure it out at least, I figure." He chuckled.

"Nate, if you actually believe that, it's time to learn politics." Jake snorted. "If I'm going to be stuck here, I'm going to fix it."

"Actually, I was referring to figuring out making you mortal again." Nathan chuckled. "Sticking around here for a couple millennia doesn't really appeal, except for present company."

"With that long, there might not be a point." Jake murmured. "Kats only see a century or so. If you'll live that long, I'll just deal with it when you're gone."

Nathan chuckled. "No one really knows, Jake. Estimates have ranged from a low end of about a thousand to upper ranges in the tens of thousands. No one's exactly sure what my genetic makeup means in terms of lifespan."

"Then I'll deal with it when it comes." He shrugged softly. "Now we just have to get home."

"Between the two of us, it shouldn't be that hard." Nathan smiled.

"No, it shouldn't." Jake agreed quietly. "Let others do the fighting. We can focus on going home."

"No arguments here." Nathan said hugging the lean tom.

"And I'm sure byproducts of it will more than compensate for any cost." Jake chuckled softly, with a look at Jeremy.

Jeremy smiled. "I'm sure, the Space Program's always been good that way." He looked upward. "Though when the time comes, I'll be sorely tempted to join you."

Nathan smiled. "We'll let you know before we leave." He chuckled. "You could create an interstellar corporation instead of an international one."

"Sounds like fun."

"Works for me." Jake purred as he snuggled down to relax. "Though I'm feeling terribly lazy right now. It's too comfortable here."

Nathan grinned and nuzzled the lean tom. "No one says we have to start today, right boss?" He grinned over his shoulder at Jeremy.

"Oh, I definitely think you two need some time off. A couple weeks, unless of course you get bored before then." Jeremy grinned, leaning his muzzle on Nathan's shoulder.

"And we all need to work some tension out right now." Jake grinned and reached up to give Jeremy a quick kiss in invitation. "Tiger sandwich?"

Jeremy rumbled excitedly. "I like the way you think. You want top or bottom, Jake?"


Nathan grinned. "This is a good way to start a vacation."

"It's a good way to start a new life." Jake purred softly as he kissed Nathan. "I'm willing to share, but I prefer a threesome to separate beds."

Nathan rumbled happily as he kissed Jake passionately. "Sharing seems kind of normal to me, but I'm an alien." He snickered.

Jeremy chuckled, running his hand along Nathan's ass. "We definitely need more aliens like you." He rumbled.

"Well, we'll just have to go to the source." Jake crooned as he slipped a finger down Nathan's chest to tease along the inside of his sheath.

"Agreed." Jeremy said nuzzling Nathan's neck, as let a finger tease at the pucker of the Tiger's ass.

Nathan moaned and rumbled in pleasure as he ran his hand down Jake's back, and ass before slipping it under his tail to tease at his asshole.

"Ohh, you know what I'd rather have there, handsome." Jake chuckled with a purr as he rolled to his back with his knees up.

Nathan rumbled and brushed his hard cock against Jake's pucker as he moved to position himself above his mate. "That I do." He murred, as he flipped his tail up to bat at Jeremy teasingly.

The Panther moved up behind Nathan pushing in slowly, as the Tiger pushed slowly into Jake. Nathan rumbled deeply, heavily aroused by the sensation of fucking and being fucked at the same time. As he buried himself deeper in Jake, he leaned forward to claim a kiss that was eagerly returned.

"Hay, Chance." Jake's voice was low and uncertain as he caught the tabby by himself in the yard well after dark.

"Hey, buddy." Chance said, a smile lighting up his face. "How 'ya doing? I guess you weren't out of town as long as they thought." He said, clearly pleased to see Jake, as he put a big friendly arm around the smaller tom's shoulders. "I was just finishing up. Why don't we go inside?"

"Sure." He smiled weakly at his friend and partner of nearly a decade.

Inside, the place was neater than Jake would've expected with Chance handling housekeeping. The tabby ducked into the kitchen, and came back with two cans of milk, just like always, and tossed one to Jake.

"So, any idea when they're gonna let you off medical leave?" He asked curiously.

Jake took a long swig from the can before answering. "When I retire." He said softly. "I won't be coming back."

"It's that bad?" Chance asked, concerned. "Medical Discharge?"

"Yeah," Jake sighed. "A lot of old crap finally caught up with me."

Chance looked seriously taken back. "You'll be alright though, once you retire?" He asked, worrying about his friend.

"As long as I watch myself, yeah." Jake nodded sadly and sat down. "It's nothing intrinsically fatal, buddy. I just can't keep up with being Razor."

"You have been looking kind of rundown, lately." Chance agreed. "Think you'll be around for me to bug occasionally for maintenance pointers? There's a lot of the detailed stuff that I've never really done." He said trying to figure out how to make things keep running by himself. Felina was a good gunner, but she didn't know the gear beyond how to use it.

"Yeah, I'll be around." He chuckled slightly. "I'm going into pure design and prototyping at StormCraft. And over to the space program. Give me a couple weeks to settle in and I'll train you both in the entire mess."

Chance looked a bit relieved, it meant he wouldn't have to wing it on maintenance. "I'll try not break anything for a couple weeks." He grinned, a little forced.

"Now if the rest of reality cooperates, we might get out of this in one piece." Jake smiled back.

"You moving in with Nathan?" He asked curiously, since he thought the Tiger was the best boyfriend Jake had had that he could remember.

A soft smile crossed Jake face. "Yeah, we're moving in together. Probably the best thing to come out of this."

"Good." The big tabby smiled, and patted Jake on the shoulder. "Of all your boyfriends, I like him the best. I can trust him to watch your back." He said approvingly.

"I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that." Jake smiled, more touched by the statement that he could admit.

"It won't bother you if Felina moves in here will it? It's not like I'm trying to replace you, but it makes alerts easier and well ... other things." The tabby stammered a little bashfully.

"You mean she hasn't yet?" Jake raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"She didn't want to make anything permanent until we knew what was going on. Things have been quiet lately, and it's not she can't get here quick." He shrugged. "Besides, I don't think she's told her family yet. Being T-bone and the best pilot in this city doesn't change the fact that I'm still a tom from the wrong side of the tracks." He said quietly.

"Stupid politics." Jake grumbled.

"That's what she said." Chance smiled weakly. "I guess the Feral's are normally pretty fussy about who they let breed into the line." He shook his head. "My folks'll be pleased though. Mom keeps bugging me about settling down with a good shekat and raising kits."

Jake raised an eyebrow. "It's that serious?"

"Maybe." Chance said quietly. "We were talking, and I forget how it came up but she said she wanted kits someday, just not right now. Then she asked me if that bothered me. I said that it didn't cause I wasn't quite ready for kits either." He smiled slightly.

"That's great." Jake smiled brightly as he stood to thump Chance's shoulder. "You two are good together."

"Thanks, Jake." He smiled. "Once we all get done moving around, the four of us should get together. Dinner or something." Chance said with his usual clumsiness for arranging social things. "Just cause we don't work together anymore, doesn't mean we can't still be friends, right?" Chance said needing to pin down that very important fact.

"I hope not." Jake smiled at him. "We just won't see each other as often. I'll give a call when things are calmer on my end."

"Okay, and take care of yourself, Jake. And if you ever need my help, you just call." He said giving Jake a big hug. "Tell Nathan I said hi."

"I will." He smiled and returned the hug, careful to keep it no more than friendly. "And you call me if I can help out too, including if the Feral's give you too much grief over this."

Chance grinned. "Ah, don't worry about them. Felina and I can handle 'em." He said with his usual cockiness.

"No doubt." Jake chuckled. "I better get invited to the wedding." He added with a smirk.

"You better believe it, just who else do you think I'd trust as best tom?" He chuckled, and then winked. "If the Feral's give us too much grief, we'll just elope in the TurboKat."

"It'd be one for the records." Jake laughed with real humor. "They don't know who they've challenged."

"Gives us the element of surprise." Chance whispered secretively.

"That is does." Jake chuckled softly. "I'll see you around."

"See ya 'round." Chance waved as he watched Jake leave, with a small part wondering how things might have been different, if he'd ever been willing to tell Jake that he actually felt more than just friendship for him. He quickly shoved the thought away, since his bravery didn't go quite that far.

"How'd it go?" Nathan asked gently as Jake climbed back in the SUV.

"Better than I expected." The lean tom chuckled softly. "He and Fel are talking marriage and kits."

Nathan smiled as he started toward home. "Sounds like he's not so intent on the 'blaze of glory' anymore." He said approvingly. "Those'll be some handsome kits. Has she broached this with her family?" He asked, all too familiar with families that were fussy about breeding and lineage.

"Yes, he's doing really well." Jake leaned back and relaxed as a major source of distress unknotted. "And they sure will be, and some of the best pilots around." He chuckled. "She hasn't brought it up yet, unfortunately."

"Her reluctance is understandable." Nathan said quietly. "The Ferals are known for being fussy about who their kits marry. As good a Kat as Chance is, he lacks lineage they expect. My mother faced a similar problem with my father."

"I just hope she's strong enough to tell them where to stuff their attitudes and do it anyway." Jake sighed. "And I hope her uncle has enough guts to back her."

"I think she is." Nathan said quietly. "The question is, is Commander Feral willing to break with the family patriarch on this. I understand that Alexander Feral has quite the temper, and still rules the family pretty much. Reminds me of my mother's father."

Jake nodded and quietly looked out the window, more than a little amazed at how much better he felt, having gotten his strongest tie to his former life severed.

Nathan looked at Jake, smiled at the improvement in his mate's mood and then returned his concentration to the drive home.

"How long do you think it'll take us to get a fast enough ship built?" Jake asked quietly after a while. "And how fast *is* fast enough, given our lifespans."

"Not sure really, I know interstellar ships can normally be completed in under six months but that's at an Alliance shipyard. We really can't even start construction until the Space Station is built, and we'll need to modify its design to include a construction yard.

"I know the trip was completed about three or four thousand years ago in a thousand years, and that included a bit of indeterminate wandering." He said drawing on his memory of religious texts. "Which means they must have had FTL back then. A thousand years would mean at least two hundred fifty times the speed of light, which is pretty slow by hyperspace standards. But let's get a working FTL drive before we worry about how fast." Nathan smiled.

"I was just curious what I should aim for." Jake chuckled. "I work better when I have a goal and standard to beat the crap out of."

"Try for a million times the speed of light, I think that's in the Trans-Luminal range. They say nobody can actually design one of those." He said, in a tone that dared Jake to prove otherwise.

"How long would it take to get home at that speed?" Jake prompted as he started twisting ideas about.

"About 3 months, rough estimate." Nathan said with a smile.

"Okay, I can work with that." Jake nodded absently, most of his mind working elsewhere. "I should have a good prototype working by the time they have the shipyard. Do you care what it looks like? The ship itself. If you want to do the designs while I work on the guts, you can." He offered softly, part of him not quite believing he was letting that much of the project out of his control.

"I know a few designs that work pretty well. I should be able to reproduce them. But what it looks like isn't that important. We're talking transportation, not art." He said accepting an offer, that he was sure was unusual. "I think I like the idea of us both working on the same project." He said softly, remembering the projects he'd worked with Rhy on.

"It'll go better, and faster, that way." Jake nodded. "I may have the genius to make it work, but you know a lot." He glanced over at the Tiger. "And I like having you nearby."

"That's good, 'cause I like being nearby." He said rubbing Jake's shoulder with one hand affectionately.

He smiled and kissed the fingers on his shoulder. "I think Ozzy will appreciate the new home too. Are you adopting Gavin, or is he staying?"

"Leave Gavin behind?" Nathan shook his head. "No, he's got no one but me and Jeremy, and I don't think Jeremy's going to be staying. Besides, he's been bugging Jeremy to let him go up to the space station when it's finished. He'll jump at the chance to go to the stars."

"Good." Jake smiled slightly. "I think the five of us make a good family."

"Guess we do at that." Nathan smiled fondly. "Hope the four of you like Dragons." He chuckled.

"I didn't like the one I met, but he was Pastie's mount, so it's not much to judge on."

"This one's about eight and half feet tall, and a serious hunk." Nathan murred.

"Not the kind in our legends, I take it." Jake chuckled.

"Well, Dracons are to Dragons like I am to a four legged tiger." Nathan smiled. "And they're one of my favorite races in the Alliance."

"Kinky." Jake smirked. "Never let it be said I'm not opened minded. I'm sure your Dracon boyfriend is a nice guy."

"Very." Nathan smiled warmly. "And he's probably going to find you very attractive." He grinned. "He has very good taste."

"Was that very to the first or second statement about him?" Jake smirked harder.

"Well, he's a very nice guy. As to your open-mindedness, I hope so." Nathan grinned. "But seriously, Morin's probably the reason I'm not in a psych facility back home."

Jake laughed and shook his head before turning serious. "I'm very glad you aren't. You're far too good to be locked away."

"Makes two of us, I don't like psych facilities they're very unnerving places."

Jake and Nathan with deeply involved in a tongue duel kiss when Chance and Felina walked up to the table.

"Looks like they started already." Chance stage whispered to Felina.

"They'd have to stop in order to do that," she whispered back, smirking slightly.

"It's one way to work up an appetite." He smirked, nuzzling her affectionately.

"That it is. Of course, we might have to throw a bucket of cold water over them if they keep it up too long."

"Or bring out marshmallows." He snickered.

Felina chuckled. "I think the management would complain before it got quite that far."

"Yeah, this isn't that sort of club." He grinned.

"Could be interesting if it was, though," she mused, rubbing Chance's shoulder lightly. "Should we break them up, or enjoy the show a bit longer?"

"We could try sitting down and see if they notice." He grinned.

"I suppose. Though it might be more fun to try tapping one of them on the shoulder," she commented as she grinned at the thought.

"Which one?" Chance grinned.

"Depends. You know Jake better - is he usually jumpy enough that he'd have a heart attack? If not, my vote's for him."

"Heart attack? Nah, I don't think his heart was the problem."

Felina winced mentally. "Not quite what I meant. At any rate, why don't you do the honors?"

Chance walked over, with as much stealth as he was capable of, and tapped Jake lightly on the shoulder.

The cinnamon tom let go of his mate with the nearest hand to the tabby and batted him away.

A minute later the pair finally parted.

"I know a couple interesting clubs to go to if you want a show." Jake purred lustfully at the pair.

"Hi, Chance. Hi, Felina." Nathan smiled pleasantly.

Chance chuckled. "Maybe after dinner."

"Well, at least we know you're still paying attention." Felina chuckled as they sat down. "Though I can see why you'd get distracted."

Nathan chuckled. "We hadn't gotten to anything that distracting yet. It was just the best way to wait." He smirked.

"Though if you care to return the show, we'll hardly object." Jake crooned lustfully.

"That depends on which show you'd like returned - the one we saw, or the one we can't put on here." Felina chuckled.

Chance smirked. "We can return the other one later." He chuckled, as he pulled the taller shekat down into a passionate kiss that Felina returned eagerly, running a hand down his back.

"I am definitely dragging the lot of you to Sage's." Jake smirked as he played a hand up Nathan's inner thigh.

"Maybe for desert." Nathan rumbled, as he nuzzled Jake's neck affectionately.

"Maybe call Ozzy in and I'll give the four of you a private dance before the real fun begins." He purred before claiming another intense kiss of his own.

"Who's Ozzy? You dance?" He asked curiously, a very small amount of interest slipping through.

"A very nice Gray Fox." Jake chuckled. "And I dance, just not as much as I used to."

"That's a show we'll definitely have to take in some time," Felina said, smiling at Chance.

"Singe the edges of your fur." Nathan said teasingly. "The Fox is cute too."

"I'll only be dancing on special request from now on." Jake smiled softly. "Tonight'll probably be it."

"Can't miss that now, can we flyboy," she asked, smirking slightly down at Chance.

"Certainly not, Luscious." He said, pulling her into another kiss. It was a pleasant way to cover his inappropriate, to him, interest in the show.

'Took him long enough,' she thought, as she returned the kiss and brought her hand down low enough to run over the base of his tail.

Jake quirked an eyebrow for a second, then chuckled. "You'll be giving me nearly as good a show, from the look of things."

Chance smirked. "It's only fair." He chuckled.

"This is shaping up to be an interesting night." Nathan murred, running his hand along Jake's thigh. "Think we should invite Jer?" He asked with a mischievous wink.

"All the better for me." Jake purred and licked his whiskers.

Fel smiled. "Sounds like *somebody* likes an audience. You know, we should probably get dinner out of the way so Jake here doesn't explode."

"I like a good audience." The lean tom smirked with a glitter of a plot in his amber eyes. "And waiting, I'm good at that. It just builds the anticipation."

"Probably." Chance smiled as the waiter appeared.

"Yeah, he can wait till the performance to 'explode'." Nathan teased gently.

"And so can everyone else." Jake smirked back.

"Let's order then, and send the poor waiter on his way before he thinks we're all nuts." Felina chuckled as the gray striped tom in question stepped up to the table.

"Jer and I have been here before." Nathan chuckled. "They know I'm nuts." He grinned. "But for a good tip, they'll ignore a little insanity."

"Ready to order, sirs, ma'am?" He asked politely.

Jake chuckled a last time before meeting the waiter's gaze. "I'll have the Chicken Fettuccini Alemari.

"Lasagna, with extra sauce." Nathan smiled.

Felina smiled as she looked at the waiter. "Seafood Primavera, please."

"Spaghetti with meatballs." Chance said chuckling as Felina rolled her eyes slightly. "And make it a double."

"Don't stuff yourself too much." Jake chuckled. "Or you'll get in trouble for the show. I don't think Fel here will stand for you being too full to fuck."

"That's one thing he's never let happen," she chuckled. "Not sure it's possible."

Chance smirked. "Just fueling before take-off." He grinned at Fel. "Fuel to fuck with."

"Just remember," Felina said, a gleam in her eye, "you need it to keep up with me, Flyboy."

"Keeping 'up' is not something I've ever had a problem with." He smirked lustily at Felina.

"Lucky for me," she said as she winked at him.

"I'm going to enjoy this." Jake rumbled deep in his chest.

"Not half as much as we will, I'm sure." She smirked at her lover.

"We'll see about that." The cinnamon tom purred.

Chance smirked in agreement with Felina, biting off several potential replies that he thought might be misinterpreted.

Felina smirked back at Jake. "Don't think you could possibly enjoy it as much as we will, unless you decide to take your dance more horizontal."

"Then you have no imagination for what a good poll dance can be." Jake crooned. "This is going to be a good night."

"Who said he's not going to?" Nathan winked lustily at Jake, as he nuzzled the Kat's neck.

"It is that kind of club, right?" Chance asked, wanting to make sure.

"On the stage it is, and in the private rooms where we'll be, it's anything goes." Jake smirked. "Maybe I'll even do a warm up on the main stage." His gaze drifted off a bit. "If the right audience is there."

Nathan smiled. "You can always do an unexpected return from retirement, if you decide you miss the excitement." He said with warm, encouragement.

"Mmm, it could be fun, at that." The lean tom mused. "Now that I don't have to."

"A lot of things are more fun when you don't have to do them. If you do decide to go that route, I don't think there'd be any complaints." Felina chuckled.

"Certainly not for the regulars, or owners." Jake smirked slightly. "I always pulled in a full house."

"And a fun night out too." Nathan rumbled. "We can all use the relaxation."

Chance nodded quietly, feeling uncertain of what to say that wouldn't have some unintended and revealing meaning.

"And I can get you the best seats in the house, as guest of the star performer." The cinnamon tom mused. "Could be fun at that."

Nathan smiled. "If you're having fun, that'll make the performance better than ever."

Chance was relieved by the arrival of dinner, even as Jake chuckled.

"Good," Felina said after the food was distributed. "Now we can eat and go for the *real* entertainment tonight."

"Definitely." Jake grinned before working into his pasta.

Chance nodded, and dug into the very large plate of spaghetti eagerly.

Nathan smiled. "But like any other appetite, the appreciation is heightened by waiting." He grinned. "Though a year maybe a little extreme." He winked at Jake, who rolled his eyes.

"That was your choice, you know."

Felina raised an eyebrow. "A year? Definitely a little extreme."

Nathan grinned sheepishly. "It's an improvement, it was fifteen the last time." He chuckled. "Besides, just try completing Academy and Medical School in under a year ... the same year." He smirked.

Felina almost choked on her drink when she heard that.

"He couldn't just take a year and a half and have an actual life." Jake smirked with a teasing hand up Nathan's thigh. "Such an over achiever."

"Try explaining what a 'life' is, to Commander 'I-married-my-career'." Terry chuckled, clearly at himself at least partially. "Though I am an over-achiever." He smiled, brushing his hand against Jake's.

"That's it, you're number two on my list of people to sign up for Workaholics Anonymous when I find somebody willing to start it up. And damned close to number one." Felina groused.

"Ah, your uncle has a life." Jake smirked dangerously. "He just doesn't let anyone else know about it."

"Frankly, I don't have any problems with that at the moment." Felina huffed. "He doesn't tell me everything about his life, I don't have to tell him everything about mine."

Chance attempted to hide behind a large forkful of spaghetti.

Nathan chuckled quietly, having seen the CMO's last write up on the Commander's yearly physical.

"Something wrong, Chance?" Felina asked as the two of them climbed into the car.

Chance looked at her curiously. "Why?" He asked quietly.

"You seemed a little nervous to me back there."

"I did?" He said quietly, though it clearly was more concern, than denial.

"Maybe uncomfortable's a better word for it. Every once in awhile, you'd clam up like there was something you didn't want to talk about," she explained. "Something about Jake?"

"Yeah." He admitted reluctantly. He didn't want to tell, but he also believed that you didn't lie to your partner, which Fel was in more than one way.

"Want to talk about it?" She asked, trying to keep her tone neutral.

"Promise you won't tell anyone, please?" He asked softly.

"So long as it doesn't hurt anybody not to tell."

Chance nodded. "I'm in love with Jake." He said very softly and reluctantly.

"Explains a few things," she said quietly, after a moment. A longer moment passed before she continued. "Does it change things between us?"

"Not if you don't want it too." He said quietly. "I don't know that I'll ever be able to admit it to him. Took me this long to admit it to myself.

I love you, Fel." He said sincerely. "But that means I don't lie to you. Even when some might say I should." He said quietly.

"I love you too, Chance," she said, just as sincere. "Don't worry," she said, a teasing tone coming into her voice, "it'll take more than this to get rid of me." She started the car, and continued more seriously. "I'm glad you're being honest with me. You should probably let him know some time, but I won't tell him unless you want me to."

"No, I should tell him. When I figure out how." He said quietly. "Figures I'd figure this out just when he left SWAT." He said softly. "Thanks for understanding."

"Chance, you've been his partner for years, it's not a huge surprise. As for how, you might just try the direct approach. Still want to go watch his show, or should we come up with some way to take a raincheck?"

"Maybe the show will give me enough courage to say what I should've said years ago." He said trying to push his courage. "It was a huge surprise to me." He shook his head.

"Usually is, when you realize it's more than just friends that you're feeling. Especially when it takes awhile to realize it. Well, we should probably get on the way, so they don't start wondering if we decided to ditch 'em. Whether or not you tell him tonight, I'm sure it'll be a show to remember," she smiled, trying to lighten the mood again.

"Yeah, that it will. I never knew he was a dancer, but he does have the body for it." Chance said figuring he could make those kind of comments, at least around Felina.

Felina chuckled as she pulled out. "Definitely."

"There they are." Jake purred as he caught Nathan's tail teasingly as they waited just outside the moderately upscale strip club.

Nathan rumbled and nuzzled Jake. "Nothing like bringing your own appreciative audience, huh?" He teased lightly, as the Fox and Panther walked over to join them.

"It has its merits." Jake agreed with a chuckle.

Felina did a double-take as she recognized the panther. "You two do have friends in high places," she mused quietly.

Nathan smiled. "Yes, but he's just another lusty spirit this evening." The Tiger advised softly. "Just stick to first name, he really is very friendly and down to earth."

"No problem," she replied. "Just a little surprised to see him here."

"It's not someplace you'd usually associate with the head of a major corporation." Nathan chuckled. "But then most of them are pretty dull."

Chance looked from Jake to Nathan and back, and shook his head. "You guys are on a first name basis with a big shot like him?" He seemed rather surprised.

"Nate's other boyfriend." Jake smirked with a welcoming wave for the odd looking pair approaching them.

Chance quietly took note of that, wondering silently about the Fox's connection.

"Ozzy is Jake's other boyfriend." Nathan smirked back.

"I knew I forgot something." Jake looked startled. "Sashari's not going to be pleased to miss this."

"You know, Jake, it's starting to sound like we should just rent out the club," Felina teased.

Nathan chuckled. "Jake, I think there's someone walking behind Jeremy."

"Who's Sashari?" Chance asked, beginning to think he needed a program for this evening.

"My Spotter." He murmured in shock as he spotted the tall Lioness.

'That's unexpected,' Felina thought to herself.

"Spotter?" Chance asked in surprise, but only a little since Jake certainly had the aim for a sniper. "You were a sniper?"

"For nearly a decade." Jake nodded softly. "I retired into the regular force a couple months before we were assigned together. She retired to professional spook hunter."

It suddenly occurred to Chance that Jake must be significantly older than he looked. "No wonder you're such a damn good shot." was all he said though.

Jeremy walked up and hugged Nathan, and they kissed briefly before he turned to Jake. "So, final performance? Hopefully, you'll still do private performances." He winked teasingly.

"Depends on the audience, and request." He smirked back as the Lioness gave him an affectionate hug and ruffled his hair as a demonic looking hound woofed and nuzzled him.

"You always were a bit of an exhibitionist." She smirked at him affectionately.

"So, is anyone expecting anyone else?" Nathan chuckled.

"Sythina opted out." Sashari chuckled. "She's working a lead she found."

"So, just the eight of us," Fel asked, standing off to the side.

"That's probably enough." Nathan grinned.

"So, time to go in?" Chance asked easily, having been to something similar, but female, on other occasions.

"Yeah," Jake chuckled and turned to the main entrance. "Come on, I'm playing on the main stage first."

After a skilled dance/ strip tease by a female Fire-Point Siamese, the stage was finally empty and the lights went down.

"And now, a special treat for those lucky enough to come tonight!" The announcer roared. "Back for one last professional dance ... the one and only master himself ... NightRazor!"

There was an instant hush as the crowd possessed the information, than a round of wild cheers and whistles that silenced as the first dim light came up, backlighting the sizable hardwood stage with three poles arranged in it.

"Now for the real show," Felina said quietly, smiling as she glanced over at Chance, who's eyes were riveted on the stage, though he gripped Felina's hand tightly.

"This should be good." Nathan rumbled excitedly.

"NightRazor." Jeremy rumbled. "I'd heard about a dancer by that name, but I thought it mere coincidence that it was similar to his handle."

A true hush fell as a graceful male form flowed with evident power and control onto stage as the lights picked up in a soft spotlight as a heavy rock and roll beat picked up in drastic contrast to the subtle music of the shekat before him.

As the lean cinnamon tom in a black mask caught the center pole by one hand he swung around it in a flowing ark that highlighted his toned body, perfectly groomed fur over hard muscle, and the fact he was dress only in a dark cinnamon G-string and an open leather vest in the blue and red of SWAT.

If there was ever a doubts in any of their minds that the shy mechanic was an act, the utterly self-assured and relaxed sex symbol on stage was the end of them as he shamelessly made love to the center pole while sliding the suede vest from his shoulders to catch in his off hand.

With a sudden, graceful freeze with his full weight supported by one hand Jake looked out over the crowd with half lidded eyes and a smile. That smile turned from sensual to playful as he went into motion again, with a leap onto a nearby table to a nearly swooning response from the two toms and shewolf sitting there.

The swoon that nearly turned into a faint as he purred and brushed his tail between her thinly covered breasts and up along her throat before he moved to another table, and his actual goal: a young dark calico shekat that was already blushing profusely.


Chance was both stunned and riveted. He couldn't believe that that was his partner out there, but it was. Any doubts about how he felt melted away. He gripped Felina's hand tightly, and a very quiet purr vibrated in him.

Felina looked at Chance as he gripped her hand, but relaxed when she heard him purring. A response she understood quite well, as she turned back to the show.

Nathan was likewise riveted, though only in pleasure. He had no trouble believing after the private dance Jake had performed in his bedroom the other night. Neither did Ozzy have any doubts, though the Gray Fox was impressed and half wishing Jake had taken the stage the night they'd met, for reasons other than guilt for Embracing the lithe tom.

Though Jeremy was a little more controlled in response, it was only because of long practice at being reserved. His eyes searched the crowd, wondering if the mystery videographer had had the good fortune to be in this crowd.

Sashari on the other hand, was simply leaning back and smiling as she nursed her drink.


"For the shows you've made special." Jake purred seductively and took her hand to his lips for a kiss before slipping the vest over her shoulders.

Even as Jake turned to leave the shekat's table, she got a burst of bravery and caught the side of his face with her palm to turn his head back to kiss him. He smiled at her as they parted and slipped to the floor to walk with a swagger and caressing touch for many of the patrons on the way back to the stage, and a smile for those who reached out to touch him.

As he took the stage again, he made it clear in the thrusting, languid movements he was nowhere near finished. It was a choice that earned quiet, though eager, cheers as he moved with increasing abandon.

But it was when he stilled with his back to the audience and dropped into a slow, simple shifting of his hips that you could really tell who the regulars where as wild cheers and lusty calls of encouragement for him to 'do it' rang out.

With a look over his shoulder and wink he slid his thumbclaws under the invisible strands in his sleek fur that held his G-string together at his hips and held them there, waiting for the excitement to reach a certain level before snapping his arms forward to grab the center pole and froze again. Though the strings holding it in place fell away and swayed with his motions, the larger scraps of cloth stayed where they where, held in place by his tail, now tucked between his legs and covering everything the thong had.


Felina watched, more than slightly amazed. She glanced over to make sure that Chance wasn't having a heart attack, to see him caught like the proverbial deer in the headlights; fascinated but restrained by his own reluctance to let others know he felt that way.

She leaned over quietly, and whispered, "Remember to breathe."

Chance nodded tightly, and let out the breath he'd forgotten he was holding.

Nathan licked his lips a few times, as he watched the lithe tom on stage. Part of his attention was diverted though, by all the noise that Chance's psychological acrobatics were making. Jeremy, meanwhile, nuzzled the excited Tiger as they watched the very skilled and arousing performance, while Ozzy was looking for an opening to show his interest to either of the people next to him. But Sashari was relaxing, and Jeremy otherwise occupied, so the Gray Fox did his best to keep himself in control.


After making sure he had everyone's attention by a moment of utter stillness, Jake swung back into motion on the pole he was holding. During the increasingly rapid swirling that actually brought his feet off the ground, the cut G-string appeared in his free hand. His tail was still covering him across his hips as he struck a proud pose to halt, holding the small garment up with a curious, offering look around the room to explosive cheers and calls to claim it.


Chance's eyes went wide, and he broke his eyes from stage to claim a passionate kiss from Felina that she returned eagerly.

Nathan noticed the Fox seeming a little isolated on the outside, and nudged Jeremy gently, who nodded. He leaned over and put his large hand on the much smaller male's leg. "Enjoying yourself, Ozzy?" He rumbled warmly.

"Yes." He nodded and almost reflexively moved closer into the contact. "He's good."

"Yes, he is." The Panther agreed, slipping his arm around the Fox, as Nathan nuzzled up against him on other side, though both were still watching the performance.


Jake stood in the center of the stage, teasingly looking over the crowd until his eyes fell on a sleek black tomkat that likely had both Panther and Siamese in his heritage. With only his eyes Jake drew the heavily breathing tom to the front of the stage, dangling the prize in front of him.

"What's it worth, handsome?" The dancer crooned to the eager excitement of the rest of the crowd.

"Name a price." He breathed.

Jake chuckled at that. "Join me backstage, for a more private dance."

The black tom nodded, clearly not believing his luck.

"Go now. Candy will get you ready." He crooned as the cloth was handed over.

The tom reluctantly followed Jake's motion into the back of the building as the cinnamon tom stood and stepped back to lean against the center pole again, almost lounging. As he began to move again, thrusting lightly to the beat of the music, his gaze swept over the crowd again as his movements became more circular.

Then he slowly lowered his tail, an inch at a time, to reveal the hard, pink erection he was sporting to the crowd.


Chance took a breath from the long kiss with Felina to notice Jake's hard, pink cock rocking against thrusting cinnamon hips. He blinked a couple of times, and a couple times more. He realized that he'd badly underestimated the effect the performance would have on him, as he felt his own hard flesh straining at his jeans.

Nathan was sufficiently aroused that he wanted leap on to the stage, and carry the performer backstage. Exercising great self-control, he put his hand on the bulge that was forming in Jeremy's pants. Jeremy let his hands wander to the crotch of the male on either side of him.


Jake smiled to himself as he watched how strained most of his watchers were to keep themselves covered and upped the anti.

With languid, rhythmic movements he dropped down from the stage again, strolling threw the crowd with a calculating eye for the wistful looks and outright offers. He was well into his circuit when he stopped and offered his hand to a black shekat with curly flame red hair and a tail with black and crimson tabby rings.

As he led her up to the stage, it became apparent just how little she was wearing. Just a flimsy lace bodice and leather skirt just long enough to be legal, both matching her ebony fur to give a good illusion of nudity.

Once on stage, he wasted little time backing her against the central pole and pressing up, inside her willing body. She hooked one leg around his waist and arched back with a heady cry to hold onto the pole behind her as he thrust in beat to the music, his bare chest rubbing against her barely covered one with each movement of his hips.

"You are mine, for all the world to see, beautiful." He purred into her ear and stretched up, grabbing the pole with one strong hand and fondled her for the group to watch with his other.


Felina watched the display in mild shock, her hand moving unconsciously down Chance's back as she debated whether or not to draw his attention to it.

Chance caught the action out of the corner of one eye, unable to tear his eyes away completely. His mind and spirit were torn between jealousy, desire, love and a need to stay hidden.

Jeremy watched, aroused by the sensuality of the performers, more so by Jake. The Panther had seen many erotic performers, and there was something about Jake, that surpassed them all. Though perhaps, he thought, it was the fact that for the first time he knew the dancer intimately.

Nathan watched Jake with a fiery intensity; it was a side of the cinnamon tom he'd only begun to be aware of. And it was a side he liked, a lot. The shekat, on the other hand, kind of spoiled the performance he thought, it would've been much better with the sable black tom that Jake had had up there earlier.


As the female stiffened and cried her pleasure out Jake stilled, pressed fully into her body, lifting her to her toes with tiny thrusts to prolong her whimpers and twitches for the audience. When her body finally relaxed, almost lax in her pleasure overload, he pulled out slowly, still hard and glistening as his gaze looked out over the crowd again.

Moving carefully away to make sure his playmate could stand on her own and return to her seat, Jake stroked himself with absent interest, seeking a second partner even as his gaze leveled on Chance, then Nathan for a moment before moving on to those who wouldn't see him again.

A soft chuckle escaped his throat as he knelt and arched back to grab hold of the pole again, thrusting into space in an open invitation to his audience.


Chance on the other hand, put his head in his hands. The smell of arousal from so many was powerful, almost too powerful. Part of him wanted to run outside and clear his head, but the part that feared being revealed was still stronger.

Nathan was finding Chance more and more distracting as the tom's distress grew. He hated the feeling of eavesdropping, but it was hard to not hear. His first impulse was to try to calm the tabby down, but he realized that Chance was trying to keep anyone from noticing.

Jeremy leaned close to Ozzy. "Definitely need a small stage at home." He rumbled quietly.

"Oh, definitely." The small Gray Fox yipped softly as he took in the incredible intensity of arousal all around them and the pounding blood in so many hearts. It was almost enough to make him miss that it wasn't entirely natural in origin.

A quick scan showed Ozzy something he'd never even heard of in a Vampire before: Jake was actually gaining strength, sustenance, from the sexual energy in the room, as well as intensifying it.

Nathan was amazed at what he could feel Jake doing, and as astonished as he was it was reassuring. If Jake could 'feed' like this, it was a lot safer than the normal vampire method.

What really weirded the Tiger out though, was the fact that he could feel his own magical energies building at the same time. He shook his head, it didn't make sense.

Felina hugged Chance close and whispered to him. " I think it might be mutual, Flyboy, if that look said anything."

"He's always liked to tease me." Chance whispered in a slightly strangled voice.

Felina couldn't think of anything to say to that, so she just hugged him reassuringly and leaned her head against his.

Felina tried not to breathe too deeply as she started to respond to the same smell. "Chance," she said quietly, "I think I need to get a breath of fresh air. Want to come with me?"

Chance nodded, and leaned over to Nathan. "Nathan, Fel wants some air and I'm going to keep her company." He said as he got up. "We'll be back. Let Jake know we didn't run out on him."

"Okay, let's go, Beautiful." He said giving her a light kiss as he stood.


Felina stood outside and took a deep breath before she put an arm around Chance's shoulders. "Sorry I didn't think to get you out of there a bit sooner, Handsome."

"It's okay, Fel." He said turning to kiss her gently. "I should be able to handle it." The tabby said quietly.

"With everything you're going through in there," she asked, putting her arms around him. "I'd be worried if you weren't a little uncomfortable. Especially the way things were starting to go - I've never been anywhere that something like that happened. People get keyed up, but that was something else. And a nosefull you probably didn't need."

"Fel, I've been in places like that before." He admitted quietly. "The nosefull never bothered me before. Guess I'm more keyed up then I thought. It's a side of him I never knew existed."

"He does a very good job of hiding it. I don't think he was teasing you, though. Not intentionally."

"It's been a game for years, since he 'knows' I don't date toms." He said quietly.

"You might be right," she said, tipping his chin up and looking into his eyes. "But if he was teasing, and it hurt that much, then I think you should tell him how you feel so he won't do it again."

"Fel, the teasing didn't hurt." He said quietly. "What hurt was that I wanted to join him out there, but was too much of a coward to let people see how I really feel about him." He shook his head.

"You are *not* a coward," she barely managed to keep from growling. "Telling him would be one of the hardest things you've ever done, going out on stage with him would have been harder - if not doing so makes you a coward, then that makes nine out of ten people in this city just as bad."

Chance sighed. "Maybe, but its why I'm afraid that bothers me." He said softly. "I keep telling myself that my family doesn't run my life, that I chose my own path ... but I still hear the taunting."

Felina rubbed his back and leaned her head down to his. "This have something to do with why you don't visit your family?"

"Something." He said quietly. "They haven't been in the City long, and when it comes down to it, they're backwater and a century or two out of it." He said angrily. "They give me a hard time 'cause I lived with another tom and neither of us had a steady girlfriend, for a long time. At least not that they ever saw. Growin' up with them, Tailraiser is not what you want your nickname to be." He sighed.

"Oh, for - somebody needs to teach them a lesson about being a little more open minded," Felina growled, her tail lashing behind her. "Chance, worrying about what your family thinks is perfectly normal - remember who you're talking to. There comes a point, though, when you've just got to say screw the family, and do what makes you happy."

Chance nodded. "I know, and I think maybe I finally can. It's just taken this long to get out from under them. Being the youngest doesn't help." He shook himself. "Come on, let's get back before he thinks we left." He said stubbornly.

"Sure thing, Handsome. Good to hear that tone of voice from you again," she said, smiling as she held the door open for him.

"Hey, if I can face Darkie." He whispered as he walked past her. "I should be able to handle a few old insults." He smirked.

"Let's just try to solve this without blowing anything up, except their attitudes," she whispered back, with a smirk of her own.

"Maybe just one Megavolt missile." He smirked. "To shock them." He grinned broadly as he ducked inside and headed back to their seats.


It was a charcoal gray tom with black tipped ears that ended up on stage. As he jumped up Jake smiled sultrily at him and spread his knees a little further while shifting to put the gray tom's back to one side, to give everyone a good view of their dancer being eagerly sucked off.

Nathan found *this* far more interesting, and leaned forward a bit to watch Jake with the tom, one attractive enough that Nathan would seriously have considered him for a one-time, at least. One part of his mind was still a little worried about Chance, though.

Jeremy raised an eyebrow at the tom on stage with Jake. "Guess he's not quite as boring as his grandfather." The Panther chuckled.

"So who is he?" Ozzy raised an eyebrow, looking between Panther and the shameless eroticism on display.

"His name's Terry BrightClaw, he's a private investigator. A damn good one from what I've heard. He's also heir to the Pellatier fortune, including control of Halycon Industries."

"Oh," the Gray Fox murmured with wider eyes. "That would put him in your power bracket, wouldn't it?"

"Very much so. Apparently, in my hobby bracket too." He murred. "I'm going to have to talk to him at some point."

"Can't hurt to have interesting friends in your circle." Sashari chuckled softly as the first fine tremor made it's way down Jake's body and his eyes slid closed with sharpened breath.

"No, but I tend to just stick to having interesting friends." He chuckled softly, entranced by the lean tom as the performer's control began to slip under what must have been a skilled and eager mouth.

"Interesting he is." Ozzy murmured very softly, to Sashari's agreement and the hound's nearly silent woof.

"He didn't learn that in the boardroom." Jeremy chuckled appreciatively.

"Well, not during it's normal operation at least." The Lioness winked at Jeremy with something of a smirk.

"Has someone been spreading tales about my boardroom again?" He smirked playfully.

She was about to reply when a sharp motion by Jake's hips caught their attention, and they watched in intensifying excitement as Jake roared; a series of sharp sounds matching his thrusts as his balls tightened against his body.

Terry swallowed the dancer's seed greedily as the tom shot into his willing mouth. He lifted his eyes, seeing if he could catch the lean tom's gaze by luck. He could hear the crowd, but he'd tuned them out long ago, all that interested him was the tom he was sucking. It was far from his first time, but this was like nothing he'd felt before. It was far more intense, more erotic than he'd imagined.

Jake kept his eyes closed as he controlled his breathing again, reveling in the wash of the room over him as Terry expertly licked and sucked the lean tom clean, until there was nothing more to be gained by licking and sucking.

"Good, kitty." He murred and scratched his lover behind the ears before he stood and the stage lights went down, signaling the end of the performance to the shocked surprise that he wasn't coming around for direct tips.

Terry stood, straightened himself out as he watched Jake walk off stage in the darkness. The look in his eyes was definitely one of 'we'll meet again' before he departed the stage to jealous looks and rumbles of interest from various toms.

"I think Jake just picked up an admirer, of the more serious kind." Nathan commented quietly, watching Terry leave.

"Is that a bad thing?" Jeremy chuckled.

"I think I recognize him from the Academy." Chance commented curiously, wondering how long before Jake rejoined them.

"Terry BrightClaw." Sashari nodded as she stood. "Though he looks more like his mother than father. Come on, it motioned us backstage."

Chance followed close behind the others, not wanting to seem too eager, with Felina at his side.

"This way." A skimpily clad, dark longfur tabby smiled as she turned to led them into a sizable private room that had its stage hidden behind a solid curtain. "I'll bring your drinks while you wait for the preparations to be finished."

"Thank you," Felina said, taking her seat.

"Thank you." Jeremy nodded as he sat down, picking a seat that left room for Nathan on one side, and Ozzy on the other.

Nathan smiled politely, and sat down next to Jeremy though he was still having to work on screening out Chance. For a mute, the tabby was noisy ... made Nathan wonder if maybe there was some untapped potential.

Chance smiled, and winked at the tabby as he sat down next to Felina.

As they settled, the lights came up dimly with a spotlight as Jake, now wearing an interesting mix of leather, silk and translucent fabric that was half fetish and half harem dancer, slipped onto stage with a seductive smile.

"Nice outfit," Felina murred quietly as Chance nodded agreement, transfixed by this new Jake.

"Incredible outfit, more like." Nathan rumbled excitedly. "But not half as incredible as the Kat wearing it." He said, looking at Jake lustily as Jeremy licked his lips in a slow, deliberate fashion with a matching look.

The comments got both Felina and Nathan inviting looks as Jake swayed, picking up the rhythmic beat of the ancient dancing music modernized with a touch of techno.

"If I go to take him up on that look," Felina whispered to Chance as the lean tom started moving, "stop me unless you're coming with me, m'kay?"

Chance nodded, clearly considering going up very strongly. He watched Jake intently, and his eyes asked a silent question; would Jake want him up there?

Nathan on the other hand, didn't need to be asked twice. He gave the amused Panther a quick kiss before sliding up behind Jake. "You do wonders for this outfit." He rumbled seductively in the lean tom's ear.

A soft purr replied as Jake shifted his movements to run along the taller Tiger's body, though he kept in beat to the music. As he stretched his arms up and back to wrap around Nathan's he caught Chance's gaze and smiled, his tail snaking out from between his legs to wave the tabby up.

"If you were waiting for an invitation, Flyboy, there it is," Felina said, ready to follow Chance if he went up.

Chance nodded, looked around the room briefly, and realized that he'd been worrying for nothing. None of these Kats would razz him for what he felt for Jake, they understood. He slowly got to his feet and walked up on stage next to the swaying tom.

"You look pretty incredible, Jake." He said quietly as he took in his best friend and his outfit up close. It was pretty clear there was a lot unsaid, especially his arousal could be smelled and it had gotten stronger as he went up onstage.

Nathan smiled encouragingly at the nervous tabby, before he leaned down to nuzzle Jake's neck in rough affection as the cinnamon Kat extended a hand to Chance with a smile as the other remained around Nathan's neck.

"You look like you need some loven', handsome." Jake purred with welcome in his eyes.

Chance took the hand, a little shyly. "Guess you were right all along." He purred lightly, as he kissed Jake gently.

Nathan continued nuzzling roughly, as his hands explored the fur he could reach around the costume. He found the tabby's arousal added a pleasantly novel touch to his and Jake's mutually aroused scents.

"Tell me to stop, and I will." The cinnamon tom made sure he had Chance's attention.

"I understand, Jake." Chance said quietly. "You're one damn good lookin' Kat, buddy." He said, as he looked the lean tom over, with open lust.

"You're pretty hot yourself, you know." Jake cocked a grin that did little to conceal the eagerness in his touch as he stepped forward to dance against the tabby as Nathan followed the hand still around his neck to make a Jake sandwich.

"That's an understatement." Nathan murred playfully, trying to encourage the tabby.

Then a light went on for Chance: he was playing with somebody else's mate. "Uh, Nathan you don't mind." He asked hesitantly. "Do you?"

Nathan smiled and patted Chance on the shoulder reassuringly. "With you Chance, of course I don't mind." He said sincerely.

"Thanks, Nathan." The big tabby said, relieved.

As Jake stretched to kiss him again Chance accepted with the same sort of passion he'd show Felina. He wasn't sure what would happen after tonight, so he'd enjoy this like it was the only time he'd get.

Nathan rubbed up against the lean tom sensually, running his hands down Jake's back and across his ass.

Once the kiss broke, Chance shifted to a rough nuzzle of Jake's neck. He didn't really know what he was doing when it came to toms but he figured he could wing it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ========================= ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Care to play with a shekat?" Sashari rumbled lightly as she caught Felina's arm before the brown female followed her mate to the stage.

"Why not," she purred after a quick glance at the scene on the stage. "Lets the boys play with each other for now."

"And we get a good show as well." The Lioness rumbled as she slipped onto the bench next to Felina and kissed her eagerly.

Felina returned the kiss with a hungry passion, finally releasing some of the pent-up arousal of the night as she played her hand up the lioness' side, towards her breasts, as the larger female ran her hands down Felina's back, as the brown shekat slid a hand under Sashari's short leather skirt.

"Want to play with, or without, clothes?" Sashari rumbled as her muscular, black tipped tail lashed excitedly.

"Definitely without," Felina murred. "I strip your back, you strip mine," she asked playfully, working her hand towards the button over the tail that held the lioness' skirt on.

"At least I dressed for it." Sashari teased the brown shekat with a kiss as she fondled Felina's breasts threw her T-shirt.

The only response Felina had was a soft moan into the lioness' mouth as she undid the skirt and caressed the dark lioness' firm breasts through the wrap she was wearing, rubbing the base of Sashari's solid, muscular tail lightly as the skirt fell away.

"Off with the cloth, beautiful." Sashari chuckled as she worked her hands under Felina's shirt to pull it up as Felina undid the knot holding the lioness' wrap together. "Up with the arms, sweetie." She chuckled.

"Getting a little ahead of myself, I guess," Felina replied as she raised her arms, letting her shirt slide off, giving Sashari a good view of her bare chest and stomach.

"Very nice," Sashari purred as she dropped to nuzzle, then suckle on the firm, dark brown breasts before her as her hands wandered down to tease under Felina's belt.

"Mmm, I'm gonna have to stand to get those off, you know," Felina chuckled as she nuzzled Sashari lightly.

"All the better to touch you, my dear." The Lioness rumbled in desire as she pushed her lover down to her back on the bench and laid over her possessively. "But not entirely true." She lowered her muzzle for a heated kiss as Felina held her close.

"You have a point," Felina murred when they broke apart. "But we're both wearing far too much," she continued, unbuckling her belt and rocking her hips up slightly to press against the larger Lioness, and let Sashari slide her pants down.

"Much better," Sashari purred as she rocked against Felina and pressed the bushy end of her muscular tail against the wet warmth between the brown shekat's legs.

"Definitely," Felina purred back, pressing against Sashari's tail as it pushed inside her, and brought one of her legs up between the Lioness', rubbing her thigh against her lover's sex as they found their rhythm to the sounds of desire from stage.

As Jake bathed in the attention of the stripped toms on either side of him, reveled in the show the two shekats were giving, he worked his hands down Chance's heavily muscled body. Gradually he worked in, over the jean-clad hips to rest a palm over Chance's groin as they rubbed together to the nearly forgotten music.

Chance purred deep in his chest at Jake's touch, enjoying it like he'd never thought possible. Tentatively, he ran his hands down Jake's lean, tightly muscled body, becoming more comfortable and confident with time, and Jake's clear approval and encouragement.

As Nathan basked in the heady arousal of two very attractive toms, he decided to do something about one problem he was worried would hurt Jake if he didn't find a solution. With his hands still caressing Jake, he turned to watch the two shekats. After a moment of confusion he found himself actually enjoying what he saw. There was no panic, no fear, simply an added arousal on top of what he was getting from the two toms next to him. He rumbled deep in his chest, pleased that he'd managed to get past the programming that much.

With slow, knowledgeable hands Jake pulled the zipper of Chance's hands down, his fingers sliding inside the gap to brush soft fur and hard flesh as he brought them up to deal with the belt.

Chance purred excitedly, though when he considered Jake's outfit he wasn't quite sure where to start, but once his belt was off, it no longer mattered as Jake lowed himself to take the tabby's pulsing cock fully down his throat as his hand copped and rolled Chance's balls.

The tabby shivered and shuddered excitedly at the warm, wet sensation surrounding his cock. It wasn't exactly a new experience, but the fact that it was Jake made it entirely new, and twice as exciting. He reached down and gently caressed Jake's ears, wanting to return some of the pleasure as Jake let him know just how experienced he was at sucking another tom off.

As Jake brought his head up, he rumbled deep in his chest. "Cum for me handsome, let me taste your lust." He purred hotly before sinking back down till his lips covered the sandy furred sheath.

Chance didn't say anything, but suddenly his hips thrust forward under there own power, as his orgasm shot seed down Jake's hungry throat and tore a powerful roar from his chest. The power of his spasms overbalanced him at one point, though Nathan caught one arm and kept him from falling.

"Oh Kats, Jake." He rumbled as he sought to catch his breath. "That was unbelievable."

"You want the rest?" Jake murred lustfully as he stood from cleaning the tabby's still twitching cock to kiss him with hungry abandon.

"What's next?" Chance asked curiously, after the kiss broke.

"You wanna fuck me?" He purred invitingly, rubbing his crotch against the tabby's exposed flesh.

"You want me to?" Chance asked, clearly interested, if a little surprised.

"Yesss," he purred, eagerly hungry.

"Just tell me what to do. I've never been with a tom before." Chance said quietly, clearly wanting to but not knowing what he was supposed to do.

"Well the first thing is to loose the clothes." The cinnamon tom grinned.

Chance nodded and slowly undressed, deliberately pausing when he thought he saw added interest from Jake. Two could tease, he thought to himself.

An approving rumbled escaped from Nathan's chest, causing Chance to look at him. He smiled and shrugged. "You're one good looking tom, Chance. That's all there is to it."

Chance paused a moment and then smiled. "Guess I was just surprised." He chuckled. "Didn't think you were looking at me. Thanks though. Bet Jake thinks you're wearing too much though." He teased.

"He's fine," Jake purred softly as he closed the distance between them to touch sandy fur as a lover. "Right now is between you and me."

"Okay." Chance said easily, purring lightly at Jake's touch, before kissing Jake gently. "I think you're wearing too much, though." He said, in gently teasing voice.

"Oh, that'll be dealt with soon." Jake chuckled as he ran his hands across the tabby's chest. "I still have a show to put on."

"I thought this was the show." Chance chuckled lightly, looking over at the very attentive Panther.

"It's usually the after show entertainment." Jake purred. "You two are just terribly eager.

"Nathan was eager." Chance purred, lightly nuzzling Jake. "Took me years for this." He said quietly.

"It'll be a night to remember, handsome." Jake promised softly. "Now stay put, and watch." He purred seductively.

"All ready is." Chance said equally softly, and nodded as Jake backed up with a sway and suddenly froze, both arms outstretched in front of him.

To the beat of the ancient techno-enhanced music Jake snapped into motion. The sleeves of his costume flew off as Jake grabbed hold of the cuffs and pulled, becoming added length to the tom's arms as he arched and swung to the beat.

Chance and Nathan both watched, entranced by the tom's graceful and seductive motions. Chance was still amazed that he'd had no idea that his partner had this kind of talent, but then he figured that Jake probably hadn't wanted him to know.

The Tiger was enjoying the show, and kind of eager to get to the show after the show. It was easier to enjoy, now that Chance wasn't throwing off so much psi-noise.

As they watched, Jake seamlessly removed each piece of his costume, giving them a good display of himself after each bit. When he was wearing only a tight g-string, he sauntered up to Chance.

"Anything you want, big boy, is yours to take." He purred seductively as he rubbed along the tabby's body.

"Still want me to fuck you?" Chance rumbled in Jake's ear, as he pulled the lean tom up against him with his hand on Jake's ass.

"Hell, yes." He rumbled lustfully without a trace of reservation.

"Then we better get this scrap of cloth out of the way." He rumbled, as he slid the g-string down and out of the way. "How do you like it?" Chance asked in a rough voice as he slid around behind Jake, his again-hard cock rubbing against the cinnamon tom's ass.

"Every way I've tried, handsome." Jake rumbled eagerly, purposefully playing his tail along the tabby's cock as he moved it out of the way. "Slow, fast, hard, soft, primitive ...." his voice trailed off as intensity of the room stole his focus past anything but sex.

"Okay, just tell me if I do something wrong." Chance rumbled softly, leaning to nuzzle Jake's neck as he pushed his hard, pink shaft against the puckered flesh of Jake's ass. As the smaller tom groaned in pure pleasure that was much more than just the physical, his body responded to the familiar demand and let its lover in easily.

Chance slid his cock in until he was buried in Jake up to his sheath. Then he took Jake's ruff in his jaws possessively and began to fuck the tom hard, reveling in the new, extremely pleasurable sensation. On every level it felt like something he should've done a long time ago, and now finally was strong enough to admit he wanted.

Nathan was extremely turned on from the sight of Jake and Chance together, the emotional 'wash' of them enjoying the experience so much and the other sexual energies flooding the room. It took what little self-control remained to stay put and watch as his mate moaned and whimpered in the pleasure and desire that was as spread out in origin as Nathan's own.

"Oh ... mate ... come here." Jake groaned in a desire even more intense than the rest floating around the room with them.

Nathan came up to Jake and claimed a passionate kiss, while Chance continued his hard, enthusiastic fucking. When they broke, Nathan slid down to his knees to take the lean tom's hard cock in his mouth, sucking it greedily.

"Oh ... sweet Bastet." Jake closed his eyes and rubbed Nathan's ears as the full emotional impact of the situation hit him hard, almost breaking his training and resolve to give Chance every second until the tabby came on his own.

Nathan purred deep in his chest as Jake rubbed his ears, while he continued sucking enthusiastically and teasing the lean tom's fine, sensitive barb hairs with the rough side of his tongue. He slipped one hand down to release his hard, straining cock from the prison of his jeans.

The powerful surging mix of his, Jake's and Nathan's arousal drove Chance to fuck harder, as the more distant scents of arousal from the others in the room mixed in to become a heady, intoxicating mix. Despite his desire to make this last as long as possible, Chance lost control and threw his head back with a shattering roar as he began pumping hard into his lover's ass as his seed came out in gushes.

The instant he felt the tom behind him loose control Jake let go on the tenuous hold he had on his own and cried out, a half roar and half scream and bucked forward into Nathan's mouth as his ass clamped around Chance before he pushed back against the tabby, forcing the thick, pulsing cock completely into his body.

As Nathan swallowed his mate's seed, only allowing a little dribble to escape from the corner of his mouth, he gave his hard, straining cock a quick stroke and he roared, even louder than Chance, as he began spraying seed across both Jake and Chance's legs as he came.

"That was fucking incredible." Chance rumbled breathlessly with his head against Jake's neck.

Nathan slowly stood and kissed Jake tenderly. "You are unbelievably hot, love." He murred affectionately..

"It was, way good." Jake purred to them both.

"That it was." Nathan rumbled. "Definitely a night to remember."

"Yeah, that it is." Chance purred quietly. "No wonder you wanted it." He said very quietly.

Jake smiled and turned his head to look at Chance while he cupped the tabby's cheek. "I wanted you." He said softly. "Because you're special to me."

"And you're special to me, Jake." Chance said softly, leaning into the hand. "I love you, Jake." He whispered softly. "I know we've each got our mates now, but after everything that's happened lately I had to tell you."

Jet let out a soft sigh and nodded. "I've loved you a long time. It just wasn't meant to be."

Nathan said nothing, since it made sense of all the noise he'd been hearing from the tabby. He did smile quietly though, knowing it was something Jake had wanted for a long time.

"I'm still your friend, and I still consider you my partner." Her murred softly, nuzzling into the big tom behind him. "Maybe this can silence a few demons for both of us."

"Maybe, and maybe this doesn't have to be the only time." He murred quietly, missing the all but imperceptible tensing of the lean vampire. "But we were friends before everything else, that's what's really important."

"Yes, yes we are." Jake smiled and shifted, easing Chance from his body as the tabby softened. "If you have any energy left, there are two females over there I know would like to play."

"Buddy, I'm a long way from being exhausted." He smirked boastfully.

"Good," he turned fully to face his partner and draped his arms over the broad shoulders. "Because you are so hot in action. I want to see more."

"I've got nothing on you, buddy." Chance smirked, as he looked invitingly at Felina. "You better invite the Lioness, I hardly know her." He chuckled quietly.

"Oh, Sash, he's agreed." Jake purred at his former spotter, bringing her eagerly up on stage to join Felina in admiring the threesome they were about to break up.

Suddenly Jake stepped back from the tabby and grinned at the females. "Have at it. I get to watch this one."

Nathan stepped back with Jake, to watch the show. He was kind of curious to see what Chance would do with two females, both bigger than him.

"Take this a little more private?" Jake murred softly to Nathan as the tabby was surrounded.

"Unless you want to watch." Nathan purred agreeably. "Or is this being filmed?" He smirked mischievously.

Jake raised an eyebrow. "Of course it's being filled, from several angles. I want you."

"Well, then let's find somewhere more private." Nathan rumbled seductively. "I've had enough sharing for a little while, I want to be selfish and have you to myself." He purred, mostly teasing.

But Jake's expression wasn't at all teasing as he led his mate backstage, then to a small room just off of it. There wasn't much more than a simple metal frame bed along one wall and a vanity/ sink taking up the other.

"After we've done everything we want," he rumbled hungrily and shut the door and locked it. "Can we make love while I feed, just a little?" He looked up at the taller tom with the heartfelt desire in his amber eyes. "I don't need to, I want to share that with you, when I'm not starving."

"Of course, Jake." Nathan said affectionately. "And you can ask when it's need as well." He said softly, nuzzling the lean tom encouragingly.

"Thank you," Jake murred and turned the nuzzle into a gentle kiss. "I've very lucky to have you, Nathan. I never want to forget that."

"You're not the only lucky one, Jake." Nathan purred. "You've been my happiness in what seemed like a joyless time. Being stranded wasn't so bad knowing this world had you."

A soft smile crossed the vampire's face at that. "And we have all the time in the world together.

When Felina woke up the next morning, she stretched out and turned to face Chance -- only to realize he wasn't there. She rolled out of bed and pulled on some clothes.

"He must have gotten up early," she murmured, checking the clock. He hadn't slept well, and the last time she remembered him being in the bed was about two in the morning. It was eight now.

"I really hope you just got up early, Flyboy," she mumbled to herself as she walked down to the main part of the Yard.

"Chance," she asked, looking around for any sign of the stocky tabby in the kitchen... the 'living room...' anywhere in the main building. And she didn't find a thing.

"Crud, Chance, when I find you..." she trailed off, getting worried. He could have been gone for six hours, if he'd disappeared when she thought he might have.

"Calm down, Fel," she said to herself, "check the hangar before you fly off the handle." She turned and ran back to the entrance to the massive underground chamber he spent so much time in.

The hangar likewise showed no sign of the missing tabby. All the vehicles seemed to be in place, especially the TurboKat, Chance's pride and joy.

Swearing mentally, Felina headed back up and out to the Yard itself, hunting for any sign of the tabby in the numerous piles of junked cars and military equipment that provided ample hiding space for someone who was determined.

The ground was still damp from the rain earlier in the week, and Chance's footprints weren't hard to find. They stopped next to a scrap pile that had had several items knocked off, and left lying loose. In the dirt Felina could see three other sets of footprints, two large Kantin, one large Kat and all barefoot from the pawprints. Judging from the depth of the one set of Kantin tracks, its owner had probably been carrying something heavy when he or she left.

"Somebody's going to die," Felina growled. "Painfully." She turned and ran back into the main building, grabbing the secure comm and called the Commander.

"Feral." Her uncles' gruff voice answered almost immediately.

"Commander, it's Felina. Somebody's grabbed Chance," she said, even as she holstered her blaster and got ready to go hunting. "I'm going to go find out who," she finished, her voice leaving no room for argument, even if she didn't think it'd keep him from trying.

"What do you mean 'grabbed Chance'?" The shock in his voice spoke volumes of what was going through his head.

"As in 'he's not here, and there are footprints that say somebody walked off carrying him.' Like I said, I'm going to go find out who. You might want to let Jake know, I have a feeling he'll be almost as interested in finding out who as I am."

"At least wait for a special commando team to join you." He said with significant concern.

"Whoever got him's already had six hours to get away with him. If I wait for the team to get out here, they'll just have more time. Besides, if something goes down in the city while Chance is missing, you'll need them to take care of it." Felina opened the locker with her vest in it, and pulled it out. "Wish me luck, Commander. If you decide you can spare a team, tell 'em to get out here fast."

"Felina, they're ...." The Commander's voice was cut off as she closed the line and pulled on her vest. She went back to find the tracks, and follow them to whoever had just volunteered for target practice.

The tracks went out to the road outside the Yard, where fairly fresh tracks could be seen. They appeared to be very serious off-road tires, like the sort SUV's used, when they were actually working vehicles.

"This just isn't going to be easy, is it," Felina grumbled to herself as she turned to go back to the Yard again, this time to get the Thunder Truck and follow in something that could catch up. Once she'd come back to the SUV's tracks, she decided she should be sure that Jake found out what had happened. Pulling her cell phone out, she keyed the speed dial sequence for Jake's phone.

Nathan picked up Jake's cell phone. "Jake Clawson's cell phone, Nathan speaking."

"Nate? This is Felina. Is Jake there," she asked, trying to stay calm while she thought. "It's an emergency, he needs to know about it fast."

"Let me try and wake him, Felina." Terry said calmly. "He's sleeping pretty hard after last night. What's the emergency, details might get through faster than just a vague emergency."

"Somebody grabbed Chance," she said, her voice slipping for the first time since she'd found out. "I'm going to follow, but I figured Jake deserved to know what was going on. He might have some ideas about how to follow ... should be able to track me and the Thunder Truck if you guys decide to come after us, the codes haven't been changed yet."

"Be very careful, Felina." Nathan said quietly. "Some people tried to grab Jake not that long ago, and they damn near killed him. Just be careful if you going to do this before backup arrives." He said as he went in to the windowless room they'd set up for Jake and Ozzy to sleep in during the day.

"Jake, wake up." He said loudly. "Somebody grabbed Chance."

A low growl emanated from the cinnamon tom as he fought his way to consciousness at the sound of stress related to his partner's name.

"C'mon love. I know it's difficult but Felina's going after whoever grabbed Chance on her own." He said urgently.

With a notable effort Jake forced himself up on forward stretched arms, though it took him a moment longer to get his eyes open.

"Oh, this sucks." He grumbled as his body coordinated enough to get up. "Waking up was never this hard."

"Side effect of your new metabolism, I think." Nathan said, standing close enough for Jake to use him for support if he wanted. "It's why vampires are so secretive about where they sleep."

"I bet," he growled as his brain started to kick into gear for real and he grabbed for his jeans. "Chance missing, Fel in Thunder Truck. Right?"

"Yes, someone grabbed Chance from the Yard, sometime early this morning would be my guess." He said quietly.

"Someone who doesn't have a lot of survival sense." He growled.

"Or someone dangerous enough that they don't feel they're in any danger." Nathan said quietly. "Possibly someone who thinks they can make use of the latent power Chance has."

"Latent power?" Jake looked at his mate. "How do I go out in the day, anyway?"

"I think so." Nathan nodded. "All last night, at least before we had that Jake sandwich, he was putting out an incredible amount of psi-noise. Actually gave me a headache before I got my shields adjusted right." He paused to consider. "Well, the critical thing is to keep you from taking direct sunlight. Thick black cloak with cowl, and top grade sunglasses to start with, and as powerful a sunblock as we can come up with."

"Mirrored glass." He added, already thinking. "Actually, the TurboKat with Speed of Heat shields up would work too. I just couldn't get out.

"I was trying to make it so you could get out. I can't imagine you're going to want to sit and wait." He smiled. "I think mirroring the glass in the SUV should be fairly quick."

Jake nodded and chewed his lower lip for a moment. "How much do you know about what actually causes the damage?

"My understanding is that it's really the UV component of sunlight that does the damage." Nathan explained. "Essentially the skin 'burns' at a far faster rate than normal. Some people can't stay out as long as others without getting a sunburn, for vampires it's simply a much shorter period of time and much greater damage."

"It's worth a controlled test then." Jake nodded, mostly to himself. "There are radiation shielding suits in the Hanger. It'd take me all of a couple minutes to tune them to UV.

"And we should go back to the Hanger anyway." Terry nodded. "I'd like to get a look at where Chance was grabbed. I might see something Felina didn't."

"I wouldn't be at all surprised." He shook his head. "Let's get going."

Nathan knelt down at the spot where one scrap pile and been disturbed and Chance's tracks stopped. "Not the greatest for psychometry work." He murmured as he extended his senses to read what psychic impressions had been left. Once he tunneled past Felina's anger and fear, he found the impressions of a conflict, an argument it seemed but not a physical fight. Chance's impressions he recognized and two were unfamiliar though the image was that of large Dire Wolf Kantin, but more combat focused. The third image was someone Chance recognized, kin but estranged, a brother it seemed. Nathan pulled his shields back up and leaned against the scrap pile as he regained his strength.

After a few minutes, it became clear than Nathan was resting but was clearly with it again.

"Learn anything?" Jake asked, his voice slightly distorted by the energy and light cloth radiation suit.

"Some." Nathan nodded. "One of the abductors was kin, but estranged kin I think, possibly a brother since there was a close family resemblance. I got the sense of an argument and then I think Chance was knocked out by something like a stun gun I think." He continued. "What was odd was the two Kantin ... they looked to be Dire Wolf kin, big ones and heavily combat trained if one can judge by appearance." He shook his head. "As good as she is, I think Felina's headed into a lot of trouble."

"Given they got Chance, that was kind of a given." Jake muttered. "And hint where they went?"

"I got a sense of dense, old growth forest and lots of pine trees." Nathan said as he stood slowly from leaning against the scrap. "How's the suit working so far, any burning sensation anywhere?"

"Nope. The light's kind of bright even with the filtering, but I'm getting used to it." Jake chuckled. "I totally maxed out the UV frequencies protection."

"You could try putting on sunglasses as well." Nathan suggested. "So where's the closest old growth forest?"

"Far northern edge of the valley." Jake nodded in the direction, on the far side of the city.

"Well, we should get out there to back her up." Terry said. "I've got a very bad feeling that those Kantin were something more." He said quietly."

"Like what isn't these days?" Jake said, both testy and resigned.

"Good point." Nathan nodded. "Last night was certainly full of surprises." He chuckled. "Guess we'd better load equipment into the SUV. Do you have a portable means of tracking the ThunderTruck?"

"Yeah, unless she disabled it." Jake bit back a yawn.

"I don't think she did." Nathan said, as he headed back to the main building. "You gonna be okay?" He asked, concerned.

"Just not fun to stay awake." He grumbled. "Let's get some gear and get going."

"Agreed." Nathan nodded. "I'd suggest you trying sleeping on the way there, but you don't wake up very quickly."

"Noticeably," he grumbled as they moved back to the garage. "I'm kind of surprised Sashari hasn't arrived yet."

"I'm sure she'll be along presently." Nathan said easily.

After numerous backtracking and getting out to check, Felina found herself at the edge of a clearing where a large cabin constructed of logs sat, with a plume of smoke spiraling up from the chimney. A large black SUV was parked outside, and there was a large concrete area that appeared to serve as a helipad. There was no sign of anyone moving outside the cabin. She got out of the ThunderTruck, and worked her way along the edge of the clearing, watching for traps and ambushes as she approached the house, her blaster drawn.

Things remained quiet as she approached. The windows were shuttered, but no sound emanated from the building. The silence was almost deafening, even the normal animal sounds were absent as though the woods were holding their breath.

She let out the breath that she realized she'd been unconsciously holding, moving the short distance between the forest and cabin quickly. The helipad did not bode well - but if they'd already moved Chance, at least she might be able to find something - or someone - to tell her where.

The cabin appeared to have only one entrance, a stout wood door in the front with a shuttered square window at eye level. Up against the wall of the cabin, Felina thought she could hear a pained moan from inside the cabin. It didn't sound like Chance, but it was heavily muffled by the cabin.

Part of her smelled a trap, but the rest of her was too busy being pissed to do more than recognize the possibility as she moved around to the door and slammed into it with her shoulder, hoping she could get through it without taking the chance of hitting somebody inside shooting through it.

It was only Felina's exceptional reflexes that turned the tripwired shotgun blast from a solid chest hit into an upper arm hit where the vest unfortunately didn't cover. The slug plunged into flesh painfully, but failed to hit any significant blood vessels.

Inside the cabin, the smell of death, blood and burned fur was strong in the air, like some of the worst crime scenes Felina could remember. When she realized what it could mean, something shut down inside, and she started running on pure training, first making sure there wasn't anybody else there, then trying to stop the bleeding of her arm wound while she took in the scene more carefully.

In a back room, Felina found what looked to be either a medieval torture or a modern S&M parlor for advanced practitioners. Racks, wheels, whips and a variety of sharp instruments that seen recent use were present. Lying near an X-frame, a bloodied Kat lay moaning in pain. The wounds appeared to be those of claw and tooth, and though difficult to be sure the Kat seemed very similar to Chance in build and coloration, not Chance but a definite resemblance.

She hurried to the wounded tom, quickly checking to see how badly injured he was.

The tom needed medical attention and soon, having lost a fair amount of blood already and continuing to bleed. "Who are you?" He asked weakly when he finally noticed her.

"Lieutenant Felina Feral, with the Enforcers," she explained, pulling her communicator out, praying that whoever had done this hadn't also rigged a bomb with a detonator it would set off. "This is Lieutenant Commander Feral, requesting emergency medical backup and a forensics team at my location," she said quickly.

"Acknowledged, Lieutenant Commander. Dispatching Medical Chopper now." A profession male voice responded.

"There is a helipad nearby - it's a wood cabin with a black SUV out front of it. Premises may still be booby-trapped," she said, watching the injured tom as she kicked herself for leaving the medical kit in the truck.

"Acknowledged. ETA is ten minutes."

"There's the ThunderTruck." Nathan said as it came into view. "And there's a cabin over there."

"And a lot of blood and pain." Jake growled, bristling under the radiation suit.

Nathan nodded and grabbed his medical kit from the back of the SUV. "Felina's probably already gone inside, the door's open." He said as he slung the kit over his shoulder and drew his blaster, his mate going in first, low and fast as advanced senses swept the area for traps and zeroing in on two living heartbeats, one much weaker than the other.

Nathan moved ahead as he spotted Felina and the wounded tom. "Okay, Felina. I'll take over." The medic said as he knelt down and opened his more advanced field kit. The tom's condition was critical and deteriorating but Nathan had saved worse off in his career, and this one might have vital information. The Tiger went into automatic his hands moving quickly as he repaired what damage he could, and administered drugs to stabilize the tom's condition.

Felina moved back a safe distance, giving Nate plenty of room to work as she tried to think of what to do next, to avoid having to think about what was going on. She leaned back slightly against the wall, wincing as she was painfully reminded of her own injury before Jake managed to take over caring for it. "Jake, why are you in a radiation suit?" she asked, latching on to something that would take her focus for a few moments.

"Long, messy story I'm not ready to go into right now." He said softly, though his tone was remarkably business-like. "Did you find anything useful?"

"Whoever's behind this is very dead when I get my hands on them," she growled. "And not just for Chance any more. There's a med chopper on the way, with a forensics team if they listened to me. They don't seem to be too high-tech, to judge by the shotgun they had waiting for me, but they've already left with Chance. I'd guess they planned on him dying," she said, motioning towards Chance's near-double with her head, "and everyone assuming it was him."

"This is sounding way to familiar from somewhere." Jake growled under his breath, though he couldn't place the where, if it had even been real. "You, however, are going with the chopper. You are in no shape to go hunting anymore."

"Like Hell I'm not," she growled. "I'll be fine once I've got the slug out of my arm. We're talking about Chance, Jake."

"Yes, my Chance, my partner, my issues that got him in trouble." Jake growled, not giving a damn that he was fudging the truth on the last one, or that she had claim on the first two as well. "Look, you talk the medic over there," he motioned to Nathan, "into letting you come, I won't argue."

"And my mate," she growled back. "I'll talk to the medics once they're done helping the people who need them."

"Not the medics, Fel. That medic." He pointed to Nathan. "If he clears you, you come. He doesn't, you won't wake up until we're back."

"You'd better be damned sure you can pull that off before you try it, Jake. And that he's back before I wake up afterwards, or you'll have just bought a few hours before I come out anyways."

Nathan carefully packed the tom's injuries to control bleeding as he finished healing the worst of the damage. "He'll make it now." He said quietly. "He'll need some additional surgery when he reaches the hospital, but I'd rather not do it in the field."

"He can." Jake said simply, catching his mate's eye. "Cleared for field duty?" He nodded at Felina's shoulder wound.

Nathan moved his kit over. "Let me look." He said examining the wound. "Have to get the slug out before I can be sure about muscle damage."

"At least you're not grounding me on principle," she grumbled, taking off the makeshift bandage she'd been using. "At least they weren't using shot in that thing."

"I don't ground anyone without examining them." Nathan said as he applied a combination spray anesthetic and antibiotic to the wound. "Probably used a slug because a slug is more likely to kill someone, while shot is a royal pain for the medic." He commented as he delicately removed the offending metal.

"Shot'll do the job pretty well at that range - probably would have taken my head off," she said as she winced slightly, trying to keep her focus on something other than the pain and unnerving feelings of something moving inside of her arm.

"True, slugs just tend to appeal to the less sophisticated." He said as he set the slug aside and disinfected the wound again, before carefully repairing the injury. He looked at it with the deeper intuitive sense that had always been his most reliable scanner. "Okay, try moving the arm." He said after he'd carefully stitched and bandaged it.

She rotated her arm carefully, ignoring the pain that laced through the anesthetic. "Probably shouldn't go free-climbing any time soon," she half-joked, even knowing that it wouldn't change the tiger's opinion.

Nathan considered for a moment. "You're fortunate that there's no serious muscle damage. Nothing worse than you'd get from overextension." He said simply. "And since I don't ground people for overextension, I'll clear you for field duty." He smiled. "It's not really in me to stop someone from looking for their mate over a relatively minor injury."

"Thank you," she said quietly. "We should see if there's anything here to give the forensics team a head start when they get here."

"Excluding the corpses which are not going to reveal anything save that the attackers were skilled with bit and claw, and in some sort of frenzy." Nathan said. "I could be mistaken, but the Kat I patched up is very likely to be Chance's brother." He said as reached out to touch the X-frame and the suddenly drew his hand back as if burned.

"Nate?' Jake asked softly, more than a little concerned for his mate

"Is there something wrong with the frame?" Felina asked, not sure what would cause that sort of reaction.

"Sorry, healing leaves me more sensitive to psychic impressions. It's okay with positive ones, but negative emotional energy is a little painful and that frame's absorbed a lot recently." Nathan said softly.

"I bet." Jake nodded understandingly. "Chance was here, probably taken in a helicopter or VTOL from the pad outside."

"Seems most likely," Felina nodded. "Nate, can you tell who the energy came from?"

"A number of people." Nathan said quietly. "Chance was one of them, I picked up pain and outrage from him mostly. That fellow on the floor is another, and I can't much sense of what he was giving off, very complex and some of it not exactly negative." The Tiger shook his head. "And a lot of death energy, this frame has seen many deaths though Chance was not among them."

"Thank Bastet for that," Felina said quietly.

"If you're up for it, the helipad might know where the chopper went." Jake said softly.

"It may, though I have a strange feeling there was no helicopter involved." Nathan said quietly, and then noticed the Medical team arriving. "But we have precious few leads now, so we can't afford to overlook one." He said heading for the helipad as others took over with the patient.

"More magic?" Jake grumbled unhappily.

"Come back for me if you find anything," Felina told them, spotting the investigation team and going to tell them what she'd found so far.

"Of course." Nathan nodded. "It's either magic or an unknown Omega." He said quietly to Jake as they approached the helipad. "Difficult to tell." As he knelt down to read the concrete helipad he noticed a significant difference in the pattern of dirt on the pad. Setting it aside for the moment, he sank into the psychic residue still present. "I was right that no helicopter was involved, because a VTOL Jet was." Nathan said as he came out of the trance. "They were headed back to MKC, and whoever they work for they're deathly afraid of failing her."

"I'll give them someone to be deathly afraid of." Jake growled deep in his throat.

"Jake, you have got to stop running off without me." Sashari's resonant voice broke into the cinnamon tom's fuming as the clop of unnatural claw-hooves and whining of the hellhounds arrived with her. "Especially when the supernatural is involved."

"Sash ..." He didn't get more out before the hounds went nearly crazy with baying and searching, and the Lioness's ears went flat back.

"Jake, we are really going to have to talk about this habit of yours." She growled deep in her throat as one hound let out a different, ghostly bay and ran inside, quickly followed by the rest of the back and Sashari, who dismounted on the move. "You are not prepared to handle werewolves. Particularly not how they'll react to you now."

Nathan followed quickly, having a bad feeling about who the werewolf was. His protectiveness toward his patients kicked in full force, as he ran. He broke into the room to several very distressed medics, Felina holding her blaster on the hounds who were largely ignoring her, and Sashari's lashing tail as she called the hounds away.

"Okay, what's going on here?" Nathan asked as he checked his patient. Noticing that the tom was still out he turned face Sashari and her hounds as she shepherded the group back outside, though he was more curious than anything now.

"That is a werewolf." She informed him simply. "Several others were involved here very recently as well."

"That is a patient." Nathan said simply. "And the only surviving witness to what happened. He's also a close relative of Chance's probably his brother."

"He's also a material witness, whatever else he is," Felina said, still watching the hounds. "So whatever's going on, he's getting the help he needs and answering questions." A part of her brain couldn't help but wonder what the blazes *was* going on, but that would have to wait.

"There is no need to get testy." Sashari said calmly. "They tracked the most relevant, closest supernatural source. They don't attack unless ordered."

"Wish I'd know that before," Felina said, rubbing her temples slightly. "Do we have to take any special precautions with him?"

Nathan looked back towards the building. "At the moment, he's unconscious. Even when he regains consciousness he's going to be weak from excessive blood loss."

"Do you know what a werewolf is?" Sashari asked pointedly.

"Judging by your tone, probably not enough," Felina said simply.

"Classic multi-form shapeshifter with a wolf as the primal base." Nathan said calmly. "Guardian rating of 5, comparable to a vampire in terms of combat ability. At least, if the Guardian ratings are to be trusted which I'm not so convinced they are." He shrugged. "However, the patient's physical condition isn't strong enough to support any sort of transformation, and is healing no faster than any other Kat. We don't know for a fact that the patient is in fact hostile."

"Your average encounter, particularly cornered, weres are more dangerous than vampires. They are much more kill-oriented at a younger stage. Older vasmpires are much more dangerous than powerful weres, however." Sashari nodded slightly. "As for his condition not supporting it, you're experience must be with a different kind of shapeshifting. He should drop to his combat form to heal on instinct as soon as he's conscious." She shifted her attention to Felina. "He's not anything Enforcers haven't held before, but based on his Kat form, the combat-form will stand around nine feet tall, six hundred plus pounds of muscle, and be able to tear a patrol car in half without much trouble. Injured as he is, he's much more likely to attack anything that moves, hostile in intent or not, which he isn't from my scan."

"So we put him in one of the special containment cells, and keep him sedated until he's under wraps, and that should do the job?" Felina asked, her focus shifting to keeping somebody who was apparently an Omega-class threat under control.

"He's in shocky condition right now. Sedation is out of the question." Nathan said in full medical mode. "And he belongs in a hospital not a cell. Though maximum security at Serenity Thorne is certainly not unwarranted."

Sashari inclined her head to Nathan. "He isn't hostile right now, which means overreacting is as dangerous as not being prepared. Nathan's call seems quite sufficient to me based on current information."

"He's my partner's brother," Jake added quietly. "Not some monster."

"Sorry, Jake," Felina said. "I'm not exactly at my best as far as thinking too clearly about certain things right now. Serenity Thorne should definitely be secure enough, though, I'm just not used to thinking of using it."

"The usual Omega isn't one you would put there." Nathan said simply. "But this is a more complex case, though I think he was involved in Chance's abduction. Though it could be another brother of Chance's, I suppose."

"It's not like this comes up often." The cinnamon tom relented, before turning to the Lioness. "Can you track where that jet went?"

"They should," she nodded easily. "Do either of you know how to ride?" Sashari motioned to the Nightmare Unicorns watching them with burning red eyes and gloss black pelts offsetting their fiery manes and tails.

"If they ride like horses, I should be able to handle them," Felina said, wondering if she was going to see something normal any time soon.

"Very much so." Sashari nodded.

Nathan looked at the outlandish creatures. "I can't say that I've ever ridden before. If they were just horses, I could probably keep up, but I'm guessing they're much faster and I won't be the least surprise if they fly or do something else unusual."

"They and the pack tend to track out of phase." Sashari nodded. "Felina, if you'd mount Ketherdor," one of the animals snorted and walked up to her as a saddle and bridal materialized on him. "Jake and Nathan can ride Broeshi."

"Works for me." Jake nodded and strode to the other Nightmare Unicorn that had come with his Spotter.

Felina mounted the black unicorn, swinging up into the saddle a little awkwardly. "I hope they don't mind somebody who hasn't ridden in awhile," she said.

Nathan waited for Jake to mount, before swinging up behind him with an easy grace, almost as though performing an action that was second nature, as the demonic hounds bayed and took off.

The hunting party crashed out of phase and into an opulent and distinctly Egyptian room with little regard for the damage claws or weight of the half dozen hell hounds or three highly agitated nightmares would do. A petite blond, gray and white shekat was cleaning and bandaging a battered and bloodied unconscious tabby on a large pile of soft floor pillows.

The shekat placed herself protectively between her charge and the intruders, though it was quite obvious that she had no combat training at all. "Stay back." She commanded, her voice steady despite the fear in her scent. "I won't let you hurt him."

Jake made a sharp motion with his right arm, bringing both the other nightmares to a stop.

"Your charge is my partner." The vampire growled deep in his throat. "We are going to take him home."

"He's not strong enough to move." She said protectively. "Those beasts nearly killed him." She growled back.

"Those beasts are going to get what's coming." Jake rumbled, full of protective hate. "Nate?" He looked at his mate for the truth.

Nathan swung down from the nightmare and walked over to the tabby. "Please, Miss. I'm a doctor, and Chance's friend." He said reassuringly, his voice gentle.

"You promise you won't hurt him." She asked quietly.

"My oath as a healer." He said simply.

"Okay." She said, letting him near.

"Thank you." He said as he bent down to examine the tabby. "She's done a fair job on cleaning him up, but she's right. He's shocky at the moment, if he's to be moved it should be by Medical Helicopter to Serenity Thorne."

"But you can't take him." She said, and then quieted. "There's a helipad on the roof." She said, considerably subdued.

"Who's calling your orders?" Jake asked much more gently.

"Her Exaltedness." She said with respect bordering on reverence. "The Luminary believes your Medic speaks the truth that Chance requires a hospital, so she will permit it."

"So what does Her Exaltedness want with my partner?" Jake's tone held much less respect, Felina's low growl backing up the question.

"Her Exaltedness did not share that with me." She said, unphased by the hostility. "She merely instructed that I was to take care of him."

"Yeah, whatever."

"Chopper will be here in five minutes." Felina said as she got off the radio.

"The elevator in the corner goes to the roof." She said quietly, as she mopped the tabby's forehead with a damp cloth.

"Would someone go to the roof, and guide the stretch down here?" Nathan asked as he checked the tabby's temperature and pulse.

"On my way." Sashari nodded and swung down.

"Thank you." Nathan said, as he returned his concentration to the tabby. He shook his head, took a small bottle and a needle from his bag and gave the tabby a shot in his muscular upper arm.

Nathan walked into the vampire's sleeping quarters to see his mate in bed, resting peacefully in a magic induced sleep. Sashari looked up from her reading nearby in the dim light as the door closed.

"What is wrong with Jake, Sashari?" The Tiger asked politely, as he sat down on his mate's bed, brushing his hair back gently.

"He was being suicidaly obstinate." She shrugged. "Nothing too unusual for him. Want me to wake him up?"

"Please." Nathan said quietly, taking the lean tom in his arms. "He must be conscious to get past being suicidaly obstinate, " He said, as his voice dropped a bit. "Or suicidal anything else."

"Nathan, he'll be fine." She said with soft assurance as the spell dissipated. "He just gets stubborn sometimes and refuses to acknowledge something's not a good idea."

"That too." He said nuzzling the tom gently, to encourage the consciousness that was coming much more quickly than last time.

"Mmm, nice way to wake up." Jake purred, still only sort of with it as he nuzzled Nathan back.

"Thought you might like it." Nathan rumbled gently, holding the tom close.

"What day is it?" He murmured softly, shifting to snuggle close to the Tiger. "I know Sash put me under."

"It's Wednesday." He said quietly, kissing Jake gently.

"A day and something." He glared at his spotter. "Don't start with the lecture, Sash. I know it by heart."

"But not my mind, apparently." She chuckled. "I will leave it to your mate to try and teach you."

"Apparently, it was necessary to keep you from getting yourself killed." Nathan said quietly. "Though I don't actually know by what."

"It wasn't that bad." The lean tom huffed. "We tracked the guys who tried to kill Chance. Sash figured out they're Garou, and back home. But three nightmares, a full hellhound pack and the two of us weren't enough to make the strike reasonable."

"Garou, that is formidable. Especially if you were facing the Mountain's Edge tribe." He said softly. "Are you even sure that the entire tribe was involved? It may only have been few rogue individuals."

"We were tracking those involved." Jake sighed. "I don't care about the tribe."

"Yes, but these are wolves we're talking about. Creatures of the pack, and unless you can prove that those you seek were involved in some wrongdoing, then you will have to fight all of them." He said quietly. "And the Garou of Mountain's Edge, do not trust outsiders, especially not a vampire outsider."

Jake sighed, muttering something under his breath. "I know. Just don't want to." He leaned over and nuzzled him. "How's my partner doing?"

"Stable and resting quietly. Felina is watching over him, and will call me if there's any problem. I have a Jetcopter standing by that can have me back at the hospital in twenty minutes." He said softly. "I wouldn't have left him if he was still in danger, since I knew you weren't."

"So you can stay a while?" He purred softly, kissing Nathan's neck.

"I should go back tomorrow morning at least briefly to check on him." He said quietly. "But I can stay till then." He purred softly, his hands running down Jake's sides caressingly. "How much do you know about the shekats Chance dated while he was a Cadet?" Nathan asked softly.

"Very little," he murmured. "Just it was never the same one twice, and he usually had a bedmate."

"Then the name Angela Madsen doesn't ring a bell?" He asked quietly.

Jake blinked. "Her I remember." He purred softly at the memory. "Very pretty, very bright, very intense. Fantasized about her plenty."

"Looks like her brief involvement with Chance left her wanting more." The Tiger said softly. "A great deal more."

"That does not sound good."

Terry shook his head. "Her full name is Her Divine Exaltedness Angela Madsen Savornia, Crown Princess of Calindria."

"That very much does not sound good." Jake murmured.

"Same Exaltedness who pulled Chance out of that cabin." He said quietly. "Apparently, she's reached some special age where Calindrian imperial law says she has to have a LifeMate in order to retain her title." He murmured. "Guess who she's set her sights on."

"And she's not going to take no for an answer easily, is she?"

"It's not something she's accustomed to." Nathan said quietly. "I don't think you'll like her backup choice much."

"You?" He asked uncertainly.

"Nope, you." He said quietly.

"Oh," Jake murmured, more than a little stunned. "A month ago I would have taken her up on it, most likely. This is a mess."

"I couldn't agree more." Nathan said softly. "That doesn't even count my worry about what's going on with Chance physically."

"Another transformation?" Jake asked wearily.

"I'm not sure." Nathan sighed. "I shouldn't complain, but he's healing too quickly, even for his incredible constitution." He said quietly. "And one thing he did tell me ... that other tabby we brought back, is in fact his litter-brother."

"Oh krud." All pretence of calmness fled the cinnamon tom. "My partner is a werewolf?"

"Possibly, my understanding is that there can be Garou and Kinfolk in the same litter." He said quietly. "Only Garou really qualify as werewolves."

"His brother come around yet?"

"Not yet." Nathan shook his head. "His injuries were far more severe, and aren't healing any faster than a normal Kat would. From what I recall seeing in the Guardian files, there are some injuries that a werewolf's regeneration doesn't really help with."

"Yeah, I know. Injuries from another supernatural, and silver."

"My guess would be the first, since there's no trace of silver anywhere on him." He said quietly. "It'll probably be a few days at least before he regains consciousness, and at least a week before he's strong enough to answer questions."

"Chance'll have to be protected until then." Jake said stubbornly.

"Once he's strong enough, I'd like to move him out here." Nathan said quietly. "Assuming he and Felina are okay with that."

"He *needs* to be okay with it." Jake said stubbornly.

"Yes, he does." Nathan said gently. "Especially since her Exaltedness isn't invited out here. There's something about that shekat that bothers me, and it bothers me more that I can't figure out just what."

"She's probably a supernatural of some kind." Jake said softly. "Might be worth setting Sash on her. She specializes in that kind of thing."

"Just remember she's still a visiting foreign dignitary." He said quietly. "Callie doesn't really need a diplomatic crisis to deal with."

"Research, love, not physically." Jake said softly. "See just what we're dealing with."

"Oh." Nathan chuckled softly. "Guess maybe I'm still a little keyed up."

"You and me both, but that's why she's in charge." Jake smirked in resigned humor. "This is her specialty."

"Speaking of in-charge, it seems that Enforcer HQ is not a pleasant place to be these days. Uly's a bit upset over having SWAT down again." He said softly. "All we're missing now is a monster of the week."

"No kidding, though all this might well make up for it. Or your little fight with the Guardians."

"Nah, none of this has actually threatened the city." Nathan chuckled weakly. "It's just the universe messing with us personally."

"I thought that was what it was doing before." Jake pouted, though it was ruined by the snicker that followed. "Come Nathan," he murmured softly, wrapping his arms around the Tiger's neck and tugging backwards, "let the universe fuck itself for a while. I've missed you. Even asleep, I missed you next to me."

"I missed you too, love." Nathan said, as lay down with his mate. "Long shifts at the hospital aren't as easy, now that there's a warm bed I could be sharing with you." He rumbled.

"You don't need to do those long shifts anymore," Jake purred softly, running his hands along the athletic, fit body. "We both need to live more. Universe be damned."

"That sounds familiar somehow." Nathan chuckled, before claiming a tender, loving kiss from his mate while his hands massaged the lean tom's back.

"To me too." Jake chuckled softly. "It's amazing we ever met each other, we're such workaholics."

"Guess we got lucky you got hospitalized when you did." Nathan smiled softly. "Though I was due to join SWAT in a few days anyway."

"Yeah, not that I knew at the time." Jake shook his head slightly against his mate's chest, significantly subdued. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay, love." Nathan murmured. "You don't have to." He said, his hands gently caressing the lean tom's back in comforting fashion.

"Don't want to talk about anything for a while," he whispered with a demanding kiss.

"That's okay too." He rumbled softly, as their lips met.

"Okay, now that everyone's here we can get started." Jeremy said, as Nathan, Jake, Ozzy, Sashari, Sythina and Callie took their seats around the large wooden conference table in one of the many conference rooms in the secure building on the mansion grounds. "Sashari, these matters are more in your area of expertise. If you'd care to start?" He said, politely deferring to the Lioness.

"We've got a lovely mess in this one." Sashari leaned back before launching into a serious lecture. First off, the Calindria monarchy is far more interesting and disturbing than Angela herself.

"The Imperial Throne of Calindria has a written history dating back four thousand years ruled by a single family. The throne is occupied by the most competent member of the generation with the condition that the successor cannot be the same gender as their predecessor, and that the successor must be married and have at least one litter before ascending the throne.

"According to tradition, each Emperor or Empress is protected and guided by either the first Emperor or first Empress. The Emperor or Empress is always a spellweaver of talent. The casting style makes a very good case for it being an immortal pair we're actually dealing with."

Jeremy nodded. "And Calindria is significant enough economically that tact is required. My sources say the Crown Princess proposed to Chance, does anyone know if he responded?"

"Given his physical condition, any response that might have occurred wouldn't be valid." Nathan replied. "Though given his current relationship with Felina Feral, I doubt he'd accept."

"Given he's T-Bone, I doubt he'd accept." Jake growled softly. "That kind of marriage would almost require his resignation."

"No almost about it." Jeremy said quietly. "The Princess would insist he return to Calindria with her. And I'm not sure how he'd go for the strict monogamy required."

"Excessively poorly." Jake shook his head. "It's less his style than mine. Well, maybe not that bad, but not his thing."

"So he's likely to refuse." Jeremy nodded. "But I'm sure this has already occurred to her. She wouldn't ask expecting to be refused if she didn't have an ace to play." He said quietly. "The Crown Princess is accustomed to getting her way."

"The obvious ones I can think of involve me, or his heritage." Jake flattened his ears. "And there are a lot of variants on the first."

"Chance's heritage is still something of a mystery." Jeremy admitted reluctantly. "As far as we can determine, he first appeared in MKC when he was twelve. That's a juvenile arrest for public disorder; he was brawling."

Jake shot a look at Nathan. "Genetics and family tell a different story."

"His genetics and the one family member we're sure of, suggest he's from the forest between MKC and Saydan Bay. He's either Garou or Kinfolk, I can't be sure at this point." Nathan nodded.

Jeremy looked a bit surprised. "Isn't he a bit old for it to still be uncertain?" He asked quietly.

"Depends, I think Chance is younger than is generally believed." Nathan said softly. "And his exposure to a powerful mutagen might have delayed First Shift, if he's Garou."

"And that is assuming he doesn't know." Jake said quietly. "It's not exactly the kind of thing you go making known."

"No, it isn't." Nathan nodded. "Especially with the Guardians around. For all their knowledge, their black and white view of the supernatural leaves them blind to the shades of gray in the real world."

"So what kind of fight are we facing when she realizes he's going to say no?" Jake got back to topic.

"First she'll pull out whatever she's holding as her trump card." Jeremy said evenly. "If that doesn't work, she might try several things. An abduction is certain well within her capability. Depending on the nature of her magic, she might try enspelling his cooperation. And then there's the frame up, conviction and better deal scenario."

"Nathan found out one of her backup plans is me." Jake said softly. "Where that would fall in the lineup is the question."

"Depends on the exact level of preference for Chance, I expect." Jeremy sighed. "But historically, the Empresses have a preference for big muscular males, especially tabbies, according to a source of mine."

"Gee, I'm surprised she didn't put me on the list." Nathan chuckled.

"You're a healer, Nathan." Jeremy smiled. "They prefer warriors."

"She doesn't know him very well." Jake smirked, though there was little humor in it. "Probably also depends on how much she's willing to fight, and if she's checked in on me in the last couple months." Jake sighed. "Last time we met I was pretty willing."

"That could be it." Jeremy nodded. "After the fight for Chance fails to succeed she'll probably want an easy catch. And you would sire exceptional kittens, Jake."

"Well, she can't have him." Nathan said defensively.

"It's not like I could anyway." The lean tom shook his head. "And I'm not willing anymore."

"There is that." Jeremy nodded. "But her first target is Chance. And until she does something illegal, we can't touch her."

"Most certainly not." Callie added emphatically. "We don't need a diplomatic crisis with Calindria."

"What we can do it protect him in a way she'll have to play her hand." Jake said quietly. "We can take a lot of her options out before she tries them, particularly given his condition."

"The first thing we do is move him out here." Nathan said quietly. "I can look after him just as well here, as at Serenity Thorne."

"Moving his brother here too might not be a bad idea either." Jake added. "At least until we get some answers out of him. I'd put Felina on guard. She's a likely target, or will be soon."

"I expect if Chance comes out here, Felina will as well." Nathan said quietly. "And you're right about the brother, move him as well."

"I'd call the name of the current game is controlling as many variables as possible." Jake grumbled. "I don't know how the politics work, but putting her on notice that we won't tolerate this might be good."

"So far all she's done is propose, Jake." Callie said gently. "That's perfectly legal. She has to do something more offensive before we can say we don't tolerate it." She smiled. "Actually, we're supposed to honored that she's chosen one of our city's military personnel as her Consort."

"Except he's not willing and she's not going to take no for an answer." He grumbled. "And choice number two is no more agreeable."

"Yes, but he hasn't actually refused her yet." Jeremy said gently. "We have to wait for that refusal."

"Politically." The cinnamon tom nodded. "Everything else can start now."

"Agreed, which means you and I should go get Chance and his brother, while Jeremy and Ozzy set up here." Nathan nodded to Jake.

"And I go dig for more information on the lot of them." Sashari nodded.

Jake sighed. "I guess it's to go collect the tabbies, and Felina. SWAT is a mess."

"Commander Feral is not going to be a happy Kat." Nathan nodded. "This is the second SWAT Kat on medical leave in the last month."

"Third." Jake sighed softly. "Fel's in even worse shape than I am, mentally. If she won't take time off, she needs a psych leave."

"I'll take a look." Nathan said quietly. "I'm not on the Enforcer payroll any more, but I might be able to talk her into taking leave."

"If she won't, talk to her uncle, or I will." Jake said grimly. "She's not fit for duty."

"Let me, Jake." Nathan said gently. "I've got the credentials to back it up. Though if Uly's as good as reading people as he seems to be, he'll probably pick up on it."

"He's at a real disadvantage, though." Jake said softly. "She's kin, headstrong and fiery to start with. But we can hope."

"Well, maybe if I suggest it, Uly will put her out here to look after Chance." He said quietly. "Maybe not strictly off-duty, but it would be away from the stress."

"And an assignment she won't argue with." Jake smiled. "It's what she wants anyway."

"Maybe you should brief Felina and Chance, while I talk to the Commander." Nathan suggested.

"As long as it's here." He shook his head. "I'm not going into this mess at the hospital, or anywhere that Fel can't be stopped from doing something excessively stupid. The answer we really need right now is how the kidnapping and torture fits into this."

"Hopefully Chance's brother will be able to shed some light on that when he comes round." Nathan sighed. "The impressions from the scene didn't help much at all on that score."

"Of course not." Jake smirked. "That would make life far too easy on us."

"And that's certainly not our lot lately." Nathan chuckled.

Chance was sleeping when Jake arrived in the room, with Felina sitting nearby watching him. There was a single IV line in one arm, and a heart monitor hooked up which was beeping nice and evenly. The room otherwise looked like the private room that Jake had had when he'd been here.

"Hi, Fel." He greeted her quietly. "We're moving this out to a more secure location."

She nodded quietly, and stood. "Any luck finding out who set this up?"

"The half where we found him yes, and those involved in grabbing him, though not why." He nodded. "It's going to be very, very messy."

"How so?" she asked, already trying to figure out just what they were up against. "More of those werewolves your friend was talking about?"

"I'll explain when we're secure." He cut off any more questions as he slipped into an operations mode she rarely saw.

"Fine," she agreed. "You've cleared getting him moved already, right? I know Nathan wouldn't let you move him if it wasn't safe, but I can't imagine they'd want him leaving," she said, with a nod towards the door.

"That's what Nate's up to now." Jake said quietly. "We expect you'll be coming too."

"Okay, everything is cleared." Nathan said as he walked back in the room. "Medical Chopper on the roof. Felina, Commander Feral said that you're assigned to look after Chance for the duration of the current problem. You'll get the orders through official channels later I'm sure." He explained, as the orderlies came in to move Chance to the copter, which woke the tabby up quickly.

"Good," she said quietly. Last thing she needed was to have to have her uncle take her off duty so she could keep an eye on him on her own.

"Hey! I can walk." He growled irritably, resisting the attempt to lift him to a stretcher.

"Chance," Felina said with a slightly warning tone to her voice.

"Wheelchair." Nathan said to the orderlies. "Walking any distance won't be a good idea for a day or two still." He said firmly, giving the tabby a look that brooked no argument.

"Okay, sure Nathan." Chance said, no feeling up to arguing with the Tiger.

"At least some things are back to normal." Jake chuckled softly at the scene.

An orderly came back quickly with a wheelchair, and put it near the bed. Chance swung his legs out of bed on the side near the chair, and tried to stand, only to fall as one leg gave out. "I told you, not for a couple days." Nathan growled lightly, as he caught the tabby and helped him into the wheelchair. "Lucky thing you didn't pull the IV out." The Tiger said as he disconnected it properly.

"It's going to be a long couple days." Jake shook his head.

"No kidding," Felina said quietly, slightly subdued.

"No kidding." Chance grumped from the wheelchair. "Can't even get up to a decent speed in this thing." He joked weakly.

"Okay, lets get everyone to the helicopter." Nathan said, as he pushed the tabby out of the room.

"Nice place." Chance said quietly, looking around the suit he and Felina had been given. It had a big bed that the tabby had discovered was very comfortable, even if it was a bit overdone. There was a big bathroom attached, which actually had a whirlpool tub in addition to a shower. Chance was looking forward to trying the whirlpool. The small living room attached to the bedroom had a big TV and stereo system, and according to the aide who'd shown them the room, had a full cable hookup with all the channels. "Real Nice."

"Jeremy doesn't do anything by halves." Jake nodded as they settled Chance on the bed.

"We'll have to thank him when we see him next. I think a certain tabby likes this a lot more than that hospital room," Felina smirked as she helped get Chance moved.

"Yeah, Jeremy's got real taste." Chance agreed, as he tolerated being fussed over, barely. "You're just lucky he's not trying to steal Nathan." The tabby teased gently. "He'd be tough competition."

"He'd lose." Jake smirked confidently. "Nathan already made that clear, but we've sorted things out."

"Well, I'd say you sorted things out pretty well," Felina chuckled, "given the fact he came with you to that show of yours the other night."

"Though he seemed pretty well occupied with that cute Fox." Chance chuckled slightly.

"Well sharing a bed and Tiger does that." Jake purred. "He's hardly a poor catch, you know. Just lovely velvety fur. And Ozzy ... he's fun."

"It looked like it," Felina smirked, gently sitting down on the bed next to Chance.

"So how's my brother doing?" Chance asked, changing topics abruptly.

"Stable, but not conscious." Jake said softly. "What happened?"

Chance shivered, and looked down. Embarrassment and shame tinged his scent.

"It's okay, Chance," Felina said quietly, putting a hand on his shoulder comfortingly.

"Buddy, you're among friends." He touched the tabby's arm gently. "We know a lot already, suspect a lot more, but the truth will be a godsend right now."

Chance looked at both of them, and nodded quietly. "It was Randy, Tommy and Mike that morning in the yard." He started quietly.

"Which one is here?" Jake asked softly. "All three are Werewolves, though, right?"

"None of them. That's my litter-brother, Vance. He's a good Kat, tried to talk Randy down." He said quietly. "Randy's the oldest of my sibs, the Alpha. And all three are Garou, apparently. I didn't know Randy was before. I thought he was just Kinfolk."

"Why'd they come after you?" Jake murmured gently.

"'Cause Randy thinks I'm Garou, but that I'm suppressing it by spending to much time among Kine." He said quietly. "He thought he'd found a way to trigger First Shift. He was waiting for me to come home, but I'm almost too old for First Shift, so he decided not to wait any longer."

"Is that why he tried to beat you two within an inch of your nine lives?" Felina growled, losing a bit of what control she had over her reaction.

"The mutagin is more likely." Jake said softly. "But he was right about the first part. He did this to you and Vance?"

"He was trying to buildup enough Rage in me to force the shift." He said quietly, shuddering. "He worked me over for hours. Knives, whips, clips, electrodes, if it could cause pain or humiliation it was there." He shivered, wrapping his tail around to his front. "He didn't hurt Vance though, he knows Vance is Garou. The Furies almost killed Vance, they stopped when I managed to throw myself on top of him."

"Furies?" Jake asked, squeezing Chance's shoulder as Felina rubbed his neck and back gently.

"Face of snarling shekat, body of a powerful wolf, and the wings and talons of a predatory bird." He shuddered. "Their talons and claws are like silver to a Garou, and they're fast and travel in flocks."

"Angela." Jake whispered. "Will your brothers come after you or Vance?"

"If they do, they won't live through it," Felina said with a dangerous certainty, pushing her own questions back for the time being.

"Not without the Elders permission." He said quietly. "Randy's attempt failed, and resulted in a number of dead. He'll have explaining to do when he gets home." He said softly.

"That simplifies things significantly." Jake nodded. "What will you do after you First Shift?" He asked gently.

"What makes you think it'll actually happen?" He asked weakly. "And could either of you actually love a Garou?" He asked miserably, remembering what he'd been taught; Kine never tolerated a Garou in their midst, and Kinfolk barely at best.

"Chance, it's *you*, whatever happens," Felina said quietly, looking at him seriously. "And anybody who says otherwise is going to have to deal with both of us.

"Sash's hounds have never been wrong." Jake answered softly as he gently tipped Chance's face to look at him and kissed him; a long, tender contact that left no doubt to it's honesty. "And I can, even if you can not return it."

Felina looked at the lean tom with a slightly confused expression at that before the only explanation she could think of occurred to her -- not one she liked at all.

Chance relaxed significantly, though he hesitated. "Jake, I do love you." He said quietly. "It's taken me years to admit it, but I do. Of course, by the time I figured it out, we were both happily with others." He chuckled wryly, and then turned to kiss Felina as if to reinforce that statement.

"We're partners, Chance." He said softly, touching the tom's cheek gently. "We always will be. There is nothing more important to me than that."

"Besides," Felina said with a smile as their kiss broke. "I don't think Nathan'd mind if you two saw each other once in awhile, if the other night's any sign. I wouldn't."

"Thanks, Fel." Chance smiled affectionately. "I think we can work things out. After all, I think I just got a good long vacation." He chuckled, though it was somewhat forced.

"And we're not an exclusive mating, by a long shot." Jake smiled softly, before turning serious. "There are a few things to explain first, before you decide you want it."

"Jake, if you can handle my being Garou, then there's nothing you can say that'll change how I feel." Chance said firmly, even if physically a bit weak.

"Know what a Vampire is?" He asked simply.

"Another supernatural predator." Chance said quietly. "The Garou don't get along with them well normally. There's some debate about which group the Kine fear more." He said quietly. "I wondered why your scent had changed." He added simply, as though discussing a fur dye job.

Jake nodded. "I was Embraced, sort of, a few weeks ago. Nathan would have put me on psych leave for burnout, but not being able to go out in daylight was a better way to get me to retire."

"That would do it," Felina murmured quietly, as she realized it made sense out of a lot of things -- especially the environmental suit he'd been in the other day.

"So Nathan was right there was a vampire after you." Chance said quietly. "But it doesn't change anything, Jake." He said stubbornly. "You're still my partner, and I still love you. Just means I don't have to be so careful talking about my family anymore."

"Well, we're not actually sure about that." He sighed. "It was done by mages, to take out SWAT. They didn't know I was Razor, though. Ozzy's just acting as my Sire, though I think I inherited from him. It's still pretty new, and we've been busy."

Chance nodded. "Yeah, it's been busy alright. So, Ozzy's a vampire too?" He said curiously. "Two Vampires and two Garou, Jeremy must be one really cool customer to have all that under his roof." He chuckled weakly.

"And a significantly powerful alien shapeshifter in his bed, five Nightmares, two dozen Hellhounds, and a small team I'm not going to ask about my first partner called in." Jake shook his head. "Plus what's on his staff."

Felina blinked at the list, and shook her head with a slight chuckle. "I always knew weird things liked this part of the world, but it just gets stranger every day."

Chance shook his head amusedly. "And it sounds like there's a convention being held here. I just hope the M.O.T.W's take some time off."

"There is." Jake said softly. "It's weird to think it's all here and the war running into full swing because of me." He shook his head. "Never thought about it before, just how many powerful people are willing to back my safety with force."

"War?" Felina asked, that comment and the one about the 'monsters of the week' reminding her of the fact that SWAT was down for some time.

"Well, I knew Nathan would." Chance said quietly. "Saw it in his eyes, just before he left for the Academy."

"And with him came StormCraft." Jake said quietly. "The real surprise was what Sash accomplished since she left the Enforcers. As for the war, the Guardians have finally lost it enough to be taken down a few notches, and declared both Nathan and me enemies of the city, or something. Then there's the faction who succeeded in taking down SWAT, if in a roundabout way, and a rather scary sorceress who's after Chance. That's the opposing side. This side has enough firepower to level the planet, and at least a couple with the temper to use it. Callie is siding with us, Uly ... well, he wasn't invited to the last meeting."

"Hold on a second," Felina said quickly. "Mind backing up to the part about the sorceress who's after Chance on the opposing side?"

"I think he's talking about my ex-girlfriend Angela." Chance said quietly. "She's decided she wants me back, permanently."

"As her consort-mate." Jake nodded. "She's in line for the throne, except for a little hitch involving a mate and kittens."

"She's the one who pulled you out of that cabin?" Felina asked quietly.

"Yeah, she was kind of pissed about that." Chance said tiredly. "Crazy shekat is convinced we're destined to be together."

"And, of course, she doesn't like being turned down? What is it about mages and obsessing over people," Felina growled slightly.

"She's talked to you already?" Jake asked softly, more than a little concerned.

"I passed out before I could turn her down." Chance said softly. "She's a spoiled princess who's used to getting her own way." He said a bit harsher than he meant to.

"And she's after you." Jake muttered. "You know, between the cases the two of us attract we could set of up own mental asylum."

"Assuming you could keep the patients in it, from the sound of things," Felina said. "She'd better get used to the idea of finding somebody else fast, too."

"She won't." Chance said quietly. "She never takes no for an answer easily. Took two weeks to convince her she'd been dumped."

"Well, she'd better get used to it, and on to a third choice." Jake growled deep in his chest.

"I'm guessing she's the main reason we're out here now," Felina half-asked, already thinking. "Any plans for how to explain to her, in as 'tactful' and 'gentle' a way possible of course, that she can go to Hell?"

"Who was planning to be tactful?" Chance growled quietly. "I'm not interested in being her pet."

"Sarcasm, Hotshot," Felina said quietly, holding him close. "But any heir-apparent isn't the sort of person we'll be able to treat the way I think we'd both like unless she does something very stupid."

"Her and whoever turned me into a Vamp." Jake nodded. "Tactful is left to Callie. She comes out here, she gets a less than gentle rebuttal."

"That would qualify as stupid enough," Felina nodded. "Any ideas for finding and dealing with the people who ... Embraced you, I think you said, Jake?"

"Sash in hunting them down." He said softly, leaning against the headboard. "She's got the forces to play havoc with them, or know if she can't."

"Just what sort of forces does she have to use, if she finds them? If we just introduced them as 'the people who tried to bring SWAT down,' I have a feeling more could be arranged."

"Sash is the Lioness with the Nightmares and Hounds who tracked our tabby down." Jake smiled affectionately. "I'm not sure I'd want to get the Enforcers involved, though pointing the Guardians their way may be in the works."

"Thought you said the Guardians were part of the problem? Or are they a different problem that just might get themselves killed taking care of another one?"

"Different problem." Jake muttered. "We're looking at three distinct factions directly after us but neutral to opposing each other, plus a few that are after us less actively, but will definitely take an opportunity."

"Too bad we don't know who everybody involved is," Felina mused. "Definitely a situation where the best thing to do would probably be throwing them at each other. And the Guardians would probably be the easiest ones to do that with."

"Unless they decide to hold the fight inside the city." Chance said quietly.

"That's gonna happen regardless, buddy." Jake said softly. "All but Angela are locals, and determined to stay that way."

"Which means, one way or another, we've got to minimize the damage." Felina said. "Which is a lot easier to do if you have a rough idea of where it's going down -- you can at least get most of the bystanders out of the way, watch out for riots and looting. Fights like that are a little different from the M.O.T.W.'s everybody's used to by now."

"Unfortunately, the answer is going to be almost everywhere." Jake sighed. "We have at least three resident armies of significant power in residence trying to kill each other, our forces cleaning up the remains, and the Enforcers hopefully staying out of the way."

"Your uncle's gonna have a fit." Chance said quietly, with light humor.

"Unfortunately, it's our job to try and minimize the damage. I might be able to talk him into just trying to evacuate the areas where it's worst, but I don't think there's any way to prevent interference of some sort, short of killing all the equipment while it goes down. And that's not a viable option."

"Fel, this is a *war*, not MOTW situation." Jake said with gentle firmness. "MegaWar IV in a very real way. It's just not mortal powers that are going at it."

"And if you have any ideas for how to convince the necessary people of that, I'm listening. Unless Miss Briggs orders us to stay out of it, I can't come up with any."

"Honestly, I'm leaving the entire Enforcer thing in her hands." Jake shook his head. "I've got enough to worry about, and I can't do anything about that one."

"I'll have to try and talk to her about it later, then. Unless we can take one or both sides out before it turns into a war, of course -- or at least cripple them badly enough that they can't fight."

"The mages, possibly." Jake nodded hesitantly. "It depends on how big a group, and how powerful. The Guardians? Not a chance in hell."

Suddenly the lean tom froze. "Well, no, I probably could." He whispered very quietly.

"Jake," Felina said questioningly, cocking her head as she looked at him and his expression. "What are you thinking of?"

"I was a Sniper, my Spotter's here." He said, just barely audible and not looking at anything in the physical world.

"You were?" Chance asked a bit surprised.

"One sniper can't take on the Guardians, even if they aren't too well organized," Felina said quietly, not liking the way Jake seemed to be reacting to the idea. "Besides, you wouldn't have to be the one to do it, if we can establish that they present enough of a threat to the city."

"A sniper couldn't." Jake countered softly. "I was SS, not just a sniper. Ten years before I couldn't take it anymore and got transferred."

"You were SS?" Felina asked, clearly surprised.

"SS?" Chance blinked, more shocked by that realization than the vampire bit.

Jake only nodded. "One of their best, I just can't kill like that for long." He murmured. "Riella still keeps an eye out for me, though. Once SS, always SS."

"So you're thinking of trying to turn SS against the Guardians, and coming out of retirement for the duration," Felina asked, frowning slightly as she considered that and the other options. "Or just going after them yourself?"

"SS already hates them." Jake smirked slightly. "We knew they were out of control years ago." He shook his head. "I don't know what I was thinking, really."

"Don't know what you were thinking about what? What to do, or something else?" Felina demanded quietly.

"What I was thinking when I mentioned the SS." Jake muttered quietly. "Nate would never let me go out again, unless it was for Chance or Sash."

"No, but it might be a good idea to see about bringing the SS into this, even if you're not pulling the trigger. The last thing we need is for this to turn into a war - one mage comes close enough to tearing the city apart, I can't imagine what an army of them would do. If we can throw these Guardians badly enough that they can't operate until the mages are dealt with, it could save a lot of lives."

Jake nodded, not as sure of himself though. "I'll run it by the planners, but she probably won't stay out much longer anyway. Might as well be a coordinated strike with us."

"You've got a point. But until I've talked to Miss Briggs about it, it's better that I hear as little as possible about your plans on dealing with them, at least in that way. I'd cover for you, if it ever came up, but it's easier if I don't have anything solid that I have to cover for."

"You won't have to cover for much of anything." Jake smiled slightly. "You'd be surprised what the charters say when you get right down to it."

"Unless it includes voluntary acts by members of the various squads, I still think it takes at least the Deputy Mayor's okay," Felina pointed out. "That's why I said until I talked to her."

Jake nodded easily. "Considering they tried to kill Nathan, and did kill me, it's fairly justified. But I don't think anything is going to happen in the next few days, and she's in on this."

"Are we talking about the Guardians, or the mages?"

"Guardians almost killed him, mages did get me." He corrected quietly. "Guardians will kill me as soon as they can find me in the open. They know I'm a vamp."

"Well," Felina said with a grim smile, "from the sound of that, SWAT has the right to pretty much declare open season on both groups, if I remember what I've read correctly. Is that about what you're thinking?"

"Among other groups. SWAT's not the only ones with proactive rights here now." Jake nodded. "Guardians will also take out Chance, as soon as they figure it out."

"That's an opportunity they won't get," Felina growled. "Though I think that keeps it internal to SWAT unless I manage to call in family."

"And a few friends of mine." Chance said quietly.

"And who's here." Jake pointed out.

"Well between us, we should be able to find some way to finish this without the entire city being torn apart in the process," Felina mused, relaxing somewhat.

"Nathan, Jake has asked for you to join him in your quarters." Sashari's daughter told the healer politely as he was checking on the still unconscious Garou four days after being brought to the Eyrie.

"Thank you." Nathan nodded, and finished checking the Garou's vitals.

"You wanted to see me, Jake?" Nathan asked as he walked into their quarters, catching sight of his mate stretched out seductively on the bed, covered only by a sheer length of cloth along his body that did nothing to hide his intent in the bright moonlight of the new night.

"Remember the lecture about not getting lost in work?" He chuckled softly and stretched a little more.

"I seem to recall such a discussion." Nathan smiled, as he sat on the bed next to Jake.

"I've heard it three times today, in reference to the both of us." He made a face. "Sash, Chance and Jeremy all reminded me that we aren't front line anymore, so *relax* already. At least Chance is calling this our honeymoon period."

Nathan smiled and kissed Jake softly. "I was just checking on a patient, love." He said as he stripped down.

"I know," he smiled with a low purr. "But how long has it been since we spent a night with just touch and loving?" Jake murmured softly and ran his hand over Nathan's taunt abs. "I'm hungry for you, Nathan. For your touch and calmness."

"Too long." Nathan said as he ran hands gently across the lean tom's chest, skillfully caressing pleasure points and was rewarded with unabashed moans of pleasure as Jake willingly submitted control of the situation to his mate for the time being. Nathan continued gently caressing his mate, working down his chest and abs slowly. "I love how you feel under my hands, love." He purred.

"Oh, what you do to me." Jake's moan shuddered in pleasure that wasn't entirely physical. "Gods, I love it."

"Rollover, love." Nathan purred softly, as he claimed a tender, loving kiss before his mate complied eagerly, his tail laying to one side and resting his head on crossed forearms.

"You have such an incredible touch, Nate."

"Training, love." Nathan said softly, as he began working his mate's back gently. "Guided by how much I love you." He added softly.

"There is nothing like it." He moaned softly, purring deeply as his body relaxed more than it had in months.

"I need to do this more often." Nathan rumbled as he skillfully worked down his mate's back, touching pleasure spots and releasing knotted muscles with firm, gentle fingers and palms as Jake moaned appreciatively.

"You need it as bad as I do." The cinnamon vampire chuckled softly. "Gods I'm glad you like doing this. Feels as good as sex, you know."

"Yes, it does." Nathan rumbled deep in his chest. "Probably the only thing that relaxes me more than cooking." He chuckled softly, as he worked the tom's lower back.

"The sex or a massage?" Jake asked with lazy curiosity. "Feels sooo good, love."

"Massage." He smiled softly as he continued slow circular motions that eventually worked down to the Kat's ass. "Sex is comparable to cooking, though often a bit less."

"You make more noise with sex though." The cinnamon tom chuckled. "So this is actually good for you?" He asked curiously.

"Yes, it heals and relaxes me on several levels." Nathan rumbled. "And roaring while cooking is kind of silly." He chuckled.

"Good," Jake purred and closed his eyes. "Glad it's good for you."

"Seeing you relax like this is good for me." He smiled, as he worked his way down the tom's legs.

"Did Sash fill you in on the results of her research on my feeding?" He asked absently.

"No, I wasn't aware she was doing research on your feeding." He said curiously.

"Seems I wasn't normal to start with, something she suspected but never really got to check out." Jake murmured softly, his eyes closed in relaxed pleasure. "The reason I can get away with so little sleep is because I'm kind of a incubus. I get energy from sexual tension of release."

"Not unheard of at home." Nathan smiled as he finished the massage, and lay down to take the lean tom in his arms, holding him against his chest. "Just one more way you're special." He purred affectionately, as he nuzzled his mate.

"Mmm," he rumbled softly. "Explains my near-addiction to erotic dancing, though."

"And you do it so well." Nathan rumbled. "I expect you pleasantly haunt people's dreams, long after they leave the club."

"I know I do, at least some of them." He murmured. "Some are as addicted to me as I am to the energy of the place."

"I was thinking a little more traditional fantasizing, but I'm not surprised." He smiled softly. "Maybe when things calm down, you can do guest appearances, if you want."

"It does ease the hunger." Jake murmured. "And it is an addiction, love. I'll do it for the energy if nothing else, there or elsewhere."

"Like any addiction, you need to control it, not the other way around." Nathan said gently. "How much of an audience do you need for it to be effective?"

"Only one," Jake chuckled softly. "I get a huge rush from sex. But I like the less personal energy that comes with a full house focused on what I'm doing."

"I'll talk to Jeremy." Nathan smiled. "With his resources we should be able to find you a proper audience, without leaving you a target."

The cinnamon vampire blinked. "I wasn't even thinking of that."

"Umm...wasn't thinking of which?" Nathan asked quietly.

"That it would leave me open," Jake murmured. "I wasn't even thinking about everyone who's out to kill me."

"Leave that to me and Jeremy." Nathan said protectively. "We can handle it."

Jake opened his mouth to reply, then closed it and relaxed down against his mate. "All right." He said softly, willingly.

"You enjoy doing it, and we enjoy watching." Nathan smiled, nuzzling his mate. "We're not gonna let people mess with that. You are so incredibly hot on stage." He rumbled.

"I can feel you, even above the others." The lean Kat smiled softly. "Your desire runs so hot, especially when I had that gray tom with me. I thought you might cum just watching me take him."

"It was close." Nathan rumbled deep in his chest, as his fingers traced absent patterns in Jake's fur. "You were scorching hot by yourself, but there was something with him that just made it blister."

"Maybe we should look him up then." Jake purred, both at the idea and the contact. "I'd love to see you that turned on, that you couldn't hold back anymore."

"And I think he'd make a pretty hot threesome too." Nathan purred. "I'll ask Jeremy, he seemed to know him."

"He's a BrightClaw." Jake murmured. "I've seen him around HQ, though I never caught his name. I want to say he's a detective, but I'm not sure. There are a lot of them."

"He used to be a detective, according to Jeremy. Family business takes up too much of his time for that now." Nathan nodded. "Name is Terry BrightClaw. His older brother Greg, is a senior officer."

"Sounds like you already looked in on him." Jake chuckled softly. "Greg's a good guy, I wouldn't mind him taking Command, if Feral can look past the name."

"Just a brief conversation with Jeremy at one point." He smiled. "I like to know who catches my attention."

"He did?" Jake purred contentedly.

"He's attractive, and he looks hot with you." Nathan rumbled. "And there was something else, harder to define. I think it's that he's basically trustworthy."

"Given his family, it's most likely true." Jake murmured. "So you like him, hu?"

"I like what I've seen so far." Nathan rumbled. "Do you?"

"His fixation could be trouble, or a good thing." Jake yawned and stretched up top of his mate. "Not sure which yet. But he's cute and sexy, and good energy."

"I'll ask Jeremy about getting in touch with him." Nathan murred, running his hands through his mate's fur.

"He should at least be another appreciative audience." Jake purred softly.

"That much I'm sure of." Nathan chuckled softly, as his hands shifted to making more deliberate sensual patterns that drew a playful laugh from his mate.

"The Nathan version of 'shut up and fuck me already'." He smirked down and claimed a playfully passionate kiss.

"Nah, I just wanted to see how much I could do with my hands before you got more interested in things other than talking." The Tiger chuckled as their lips parted.

"Then keep going, I'm not that wound up yet." Jake smirked at him.

"Oh, I planned on it." Nathan grinned, as his hands began finding pleasure spots, including gentle circular caresses of the tom's nipples.

"Good, cause I don't give up easily, even on a lost cause." He purred playfully. "Though a test of wills could be most interesting."

"See which of us is more stubborn?" Nathan chuckled, as one hand reached up to massage Jake's ears firmly but gently. "That could be long test."

"But can you think of a more pleasurable way of finding out?" He purred, closing his eyes. "Of course, if I get hungry or fall asleep, all bets are off."

"Very true." Nathan smiled, and began a slow sensual massaging and caressing the moved down below his mate's waist.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ========================= ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ========================= ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ========================= ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Evening, love." Nathan nuzzled his mate as the vampire woke up slowly, as usual.

"Krud I hate waking up slow." Jake muttered softly when he was coherent enough to notice.

"It is strange." Nathan admitted, as he kissed his mate gently. "Feeling up for some company this evening?"

"Yeah," he yawned and stretched. "Damn but that makes me hungry."

"What makes you hungry?" Nathan asked curiously.

"The thought of company." He stretched again. "Fresh blood, fresh sex-energy. Even though I don't need it."

"Well, the sex-energy is certainly appropriate." The Tiger smirked. "I am talking about Terry."

"Oh, yeah." Jake rumbled, licking his lips. "He tastes very good."

"Interesting, he thought the same thing about you." Nathan grinned broadly, and ran a hand up Jake's chest caressingly.

"Not the same way, though." Jake chuckled nonetheless. "I'm sure he's not an energy-drainer."

"Not that I'm aware of." Nathan chuckled. "He's probably got one or two working for him from what I hear though."

"Yeah, Haven, The Land of Friendly Strangeness." Jake rolled his eyes. "Sashari keeps drooling over it."

Terry chuckled. "Yeah, I've thought about going down there to see if anybody from home's turned up there."

"It's certainly a better place to live peacefully." Jake said softly. "MKC just seems so ... dreary."

"It has a lot of problems, that's certainly true." Nathan agreed quietly.

"A lot of problems I can't do anything about anymore." Jake murmured sadly. "Maybe I was burnt out anyway, but it feels like I got cheated out of it."

"You were burnt out, love." Nathan said softly, nuzzling his mate. "And even if you can't be on the front line, you could always work in a support role, designing stuff for the front line, if you really wanted to."

"I can do that better from elsewhere." Jake sighed, closing his eyes. "You have any idea to how hard it is to look out the window and *know* you can't fight anymore? That everything you fought for was a sham at best, and an illusion at worst?"

"I'm sorry, love." Nathan said quietly, as his hands caressed the lean tom. "I can't claim to know what that's like, but I'm here for you." He added softly. "And I always will be."

Jake squeezed his eyes shut before he relaxed a bit. "Thanks, love."

"That's what mates are for." Nathan smiled softly, and gave the lean tom a tender loving kiss. "If you really want to take a look at Haven, we can." He added supportively.

"It's not so much I want to look at Haven, as I don't want to keep looking at MKC." Jake admitted softly. "Too many memories are here, that are just starting to taunt me."

"And it's not so far away that you can't get to the people who still matter to you." Nathan said quietly. "As long as I'm with you, the where isn't that important."

"And they can come down too." Jake murmured, relaxing against the Tiger. "Somewhere, I godda believe there's a Power laughing their tail off at this mess."

"Probably, but not any of the ones I'm familiar with." Nathan said softly.

"Not one I want to be familiar with." Jake shuddered. "Should probably get up, greet our guest."

"No hurry, he's not due for another hour." Terry smiled. "But knowing how difficult waking up can be for you, I thought I'd start early."

"Yeah, this sleeping days thing is making me feel incredibly lazy." He muttered slightly. "Doesn't feel like I'm rested at all either."

"I can imagine given you didn't sleep much at all before. Strange that you don't feel rested though, I wonder if that's normal." He said quietly.

"It feels kind of like when docs would drug me into sleeping a 'full night', not getting I don't sleep like that." He murmured. "Enforced sleep never leaves me feeling good."

"I wonder if there's a way around that." Nathan wondered aloud. "Something to look into."

"If it's the only reference in Sash's library, I don't like what it says about me," Jake sighed deeply. "Though I can't say I'm surprised."

"What does it say?" Nathan asked gently.

"That the lower the morality of the vampire, the harder it is for them to wake, and the longer they sleep."

"Given how limited the research on vampires is, I wouldn't take a single reference too seriously. There are probably other reasons as well." Nathan said reassuringly.

"I know," he murmured, settling close to his mate. "It just rings very true, when you get to the push and shove of it."

"I don't know." Nathan shrugged. "I don't get the connection between morality and sleeping. And besides, morality as defined by who?"

"Something along the lines of the ability to socialize and blend in as a mortal." He tried to explain a concept he didn't really get. "At very low levels, you're more animal than sentient. A very violent, forever hungry animal."

"Well, we'll just have to keep you out of that state." Nathan said firmly. "Problem is you've never been terribly social anyway, outside of sex."

"It hurts my head." The cinnamon tom admitted. "Only place I was ever remotely at ease was that world-wide inventors conference a few years back."

"Bet you'd feel right at home at Brainstorm, from what I've heard." Nathan smiled. "And perhaps it's that natural dislike of socializing that's causing you to sleep longer, for whatever reason. I still think it sounds like incomplete research."

"It's the best we have right now." Jake sighed. "Ozzy knows less than Sash does, about provable things."

"Just don't build too much around it, love." Nathan said gently. "Incomplete foundations aren't a good place to build."

"It's what I've always done." He sighed deeply. "Incomplete is the best anyone's ever got, and it's better than nothing. I can't put my life on hold because we don't completely understand what I am."

"I just don't want you thinking worse of yourself because of incomplete information." Nathan said quietly. "You're basically a good Kat, Jake. Sure you cut corners on methods, but it's always been to do the right thing."

Jake nodded weakly. "Some of the things about it ... scare the hell out of me, more than dieing ever did. What vamps become like when they sink too low, and how close I sometimes am."

"You will not sink that low." Nathan said firmly. "I won't let you, and if I can't stop it from happening I'll drag in someone who can." He said with a determined look in his eyes.

The lean tom looked at his mate quietly for a long time before he nodded and relaxed, letting that worry slip away.

"Hungry in any particular way?" Nathan asked gently.

"Hur?" Jake looked up in confusion for a moment before placing the comment. "The thought of company? For blood. Really, I've drank and eaten and absorbed my fill and then some in the last couple days."

"Just checking." Nathan smiled. "Wouldn't want you to get the munchies when he walks in the room." He teased playfully.

"At least not for anything other than cum and kisses." He smirked back and kissed the Tiger. "Though I doubt he'd object to just finding us here."

"Probably not." Nathan smiled. "He was rather pleased when I called him." The Tiger smiled, and claimed a more passionate kiss.

"Mmm, fed or not, I'll always be hungry for you." Jake rumbled softly. "Your touch, your body, your voice."

"It's very mutual, love." Nathan rumbled as he ran his hand through Jake's fur.

"Terry can find he here, if he wants." Jake rumbled hotly and claimed his mate's mouth with a fiery hunger that had nothing to do with feeding.

There was a brief knock on the door, followed by the door opening long enough for Terry to enter. "Nathan?" Terry said curiously as his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting.

A low, exquisitely pleasured moan came in answer from the writhing lumps on the bed he was beginning to make out.

Terry rumbled lustily as he made out Nathan with his head buried in Jake's groin, as the cause of the moan. "I see the party started without me." He murred, as he stripped down without taking his eyes off the action.

Oh, yeah." Jake's voice was low and lustful as his hands worked Nathan's ears, and happily oblivious to the rest of the universe. Nathan's only response other than to keep licking and sucking Jake's cock, was to flip his tail up invitingly at the gray and black tom. Terry rumbled and got behind him, stroked himself fully hard and buried himself in the Tiger up to his sheath.

Nathan moan excitedly around Jake's cock at the extra stimulation, and the extra arousal in the room drew a nearly intoxicated cry from Jake. The cinnamon tom held his mate's head as he shifted to his knees and leaned over the Tiger's back to catch Terry's neck, drawing him forward into a heated kiss as they fucked Nathan from both ends.

The intensity of being fucked from both ends, combined with the almost electric effect of the intense arousal in the room pushed Nathan past his limit. What might have been a roar came out as an intense moan around Jake's cock, as his seed splashed on the bed and his ass spasmed around the shaft of flesh in his ass and Jake cried out, bracing against Terry's shoulders as his body stiffened. Whether he came from the pleasure or the energy in the room or both, no one cared as his cum splashed down Nathan's throat.

Terry had a sudden intense rush, much like sticking his finger in a light socket, only it was pleasure not electricity that zapped him. Several hard passionate thrusts and he came, roaring as his cum flooded the Tiger's insides. Suddenly Jake shuddered and roared a second time, arching his back as his head threw back with the force of it.

Nathan had barely recovered from his first orgasm when the rush from taking both Jake and Terry's cum at the same time pushed him over again with deep moans of pleasure and drawing a throaty whimper of over stimulation from his mate.

"Sweet Bastet, that was intense." Terry purred as he lay across the Tiger's back catching his breath.

"That's an understatement." Nathan rumbled, after he licked his mate's cock clean and Jake almost passed out as he crashed backwards.

Terry and Nathan separated quickly as both moved at the same time to make sure Jake was okay, one of them on either side of him.

"Gods, *two* medics?" The vampire chuckled. "Damn but that was incredible."

Terry chuckled. "Gods, no. I've got basic first aid and that's it." He smirked. "You just looked like you were about to pass out."

"Yeah, good reason though." He smirked up at the pair. "That was intense."

"Yes, it was." Nathan rumbled. "Oh, Terry this is my mate Jake Clawson. Jake, this is Terry BrightClaw." He smirked.

"We've met." Terry grinned broadly. "Just didn't get a name the last time."

"You made a good impression though," Jake smirked. "Twice now."

"That he did." Nathan grinned playfully.

"It's not every dancer who catches my attention enough to find out who they really are behind the stage name." Terry smiled.

"And mine's not the easiest to get." Jake chuckled.

"Your name or your attention?" Terry asked with a smirk.

"My name, and keeping my attention." The lean tom smirked back.

"Name wasn't that hard." Terry chuckled. "Keeping your attention I'll just have to work on." He purred.

"He's just going to get terribly spoiled with all this attention." Nathan grinned, obviously not minding one bit.

"As if that's a bad thing?" Jake rumbled eagerly.

"I don't see a problem with it." Terry purred, and gave Jake a playful lick on the ear.

"No problem at all." Nathan rumbled, claiming a passionate kiss from his mate.

"So, Jake," Terry started as they lay entwined with Jake in the middle. "What are your plans now that you've retired from SWAT and the club scene?" He asked with genuine interest.

"Move, do something else." The cinnamon tom answered softly. "Maybe what I did before my life got sidetracked by MKC."

"What was that?" The gray tom asked nuzzling the tom gently.

"Design stuff." He chuckled weakly. "Haven and Halycon come with recommendations."

"So do you, based on what I've seen of the TurboKat." Terry smiled. "And I think you'd fit in with Brainstorm."

"That's what Nathan said." He smiled slightly.

"Well, you do fit the profile." Terry grinned. "Intuitive creative inventor-genius who works best when left to his own devices. Brainstorm is a whole division of that sort of people."

"That many?" He said with a little awe. "Must have half the folks who attend the CIG-C regularly."

"A fair number, yes." Terry smiled. "And a number you don't see because either their not that social outside of Brainstorm, or they simply don't feel comfortable outside of Haven."

"Kurd," he murmured in a bit of shock. "Most of them outclass me."

"I'm not so convinced." Terry said softly. "When's the last time you had the freedom to simply design as you wanted, instead of designing for a specific and very time-driven need?"

Jake lay silent for a long time. "Not since I was four or five."

"I bet you'll really bloom given the freedom to work as you choose, and other creative inventors to bounce ideas off of." Terry smiled confidently, and nuzzled Jake encouragingly.

"CIG-C 8 was a lot of fun." He murmured. "Might be nice, with open hours and a real workshop."

"Hours are very open, and we given you a standard lab and then let you customize it to meet your needs." He smiled.

"Just technological, or do you do biological research as well there?" Nathan asked softly.

"Both, and any." Terry smiled. "You a researcher too, Nathan?" He asked curiously.

"I have been, and there is something I would like to work on." He said quietly.

"Hey, the more the merrier." Terry smiled. "I *like* you two."

"I'd say it's rather mutual," Jake chuckled softly. "Should be interesting."

"I think so." Terry smiled. "And if you ever decide you want to play the club scene again, I know a few places that would love to host your act." He licked his lips. "And two clubs that you might enjoy just in general, if you like clubs like Thunderbolt and Warlords."

"I'm fond of Warlords, though I prefer to be on stage most nights." Jake chuckled.

"Haven has Hurricane which is very similar." Terry smiled. "And I can introduce you to a few select club owners, if you'd like." He offered casually. "And if you like leather, there's a place you just have to see."

"It has its place." Jake chuckled. "You give a good sales pitch."

"Not really meant to be a sales pitch." He grinned. "I just know home well, and if you're really thinking about relocating I'm more than willing help smooth things for you." He chuckled. "And I wouldn't mind having you at Brainstorm either."

"I guessed as much." Jake grinned at him. "We'll probably come down to check things out."

"You're welcome to stay with me, if you do." Terry smiled. "I've got the space." Terry smiled encouragingly. "And it would give me a chance to cook for you."

"You two are starting to get frighteningly similar." Jake chuckled. "I might take you up on it. We'll have to see. I've got some odd sleeping requirements."

"So I noticed. But you wouldn't be our first employee who only worked the night shift." Terry chuckled softly.

"Oh?" Jake raised an eyebrow. "What are the others?"

"There's Kiya, a distinctly nocturnal bat and Lexington, who's a gargoyle who happens to be stone by day." Terry smiled fondly at the last.

"And you thought you had a tough time waking up." Nathan teased with a lick along Jake's ear.

"They don't sound like natives to this world." Jake murmured cautiously.

"They aren't." Terry smiled. "That's not exactly uncommon in the Haven Alliance."

"Sounds like an interesting place, to have friendly aliens." Jake murmured, stroking Nathan's fur absently.

"Given that you've got your own." Terry smiled, nuzzling Jake as Nathan nuzzled the lean tom from the opposite side.

The cinnamon tom blinked, then glanced at his mate. "Yeah, I tend to forget that."

Nathan chuckled. "Well, I don't much look like one."

"Nah, you look more like Azra, but shorter." Terry smiled.

"Now that's a thought." Jake purred, his mind abruptly shifting to more lusty areas.

"Oh, what thought would that be?" Nathan rumbled curiously.

"Two pretty Tigers tangling stripes." Jake rumbled. "Would be a lovely sight."

Terry chuckled. "Oh, that would be lovely." He murred in agreement.

"And for an encore we could make a Jake sandwich." Nathan rumbled, running his hand up Jake's chest.

"Among other things." The cinnamon tom purred.

"I imagine the four of us could come up with 'other things' all night long." Terry purred deeply. "And that's before we get into toys or such."

"Or my costumes and dancing." Jake chuckled with a deep rumble.

"Azra would be terribly thrilled about the dancing." Terry chuckled. "He was kind of disappointed when I told him he'd missed your last show."

"Has he been on stage with me?" Jake asked curiously.

"No, his duties rarely let him get up to the city. But he was very interested in the descriptions I gave him." Terry smiled. "I gave him *very* detailed descriptions."

"What for?" Jake chuckled.

"To get him turned on." Terry grinned. "And I was trying to get him interested enough to get up here. I was hoping to see him up there with you, it was a very hot mental image."

"You may get that yet." Jake purred with a soft chuckle. "With proper incentive for the dancer."

"And what would proper incentive be?" Terry rumbled, as his hand caressed the inside of Jake's thigh, running up to his groin.

"Getting that pretty Tiger of yours hot enough to perform for me," Jake grinned playfully.

"That's not usually too hard." Terry rumbled. "Any particular performance you wanted?" He grinned.

"Something creative." He smirked. "Cultural, perhaps."

"I'll have to talk to him about that." Terry chuckled.

"Of course you will." Jake smiled and rolled to kiss him. "A Tiger harem dancer must be incredibly hot to fuck."

"Probably." Terry smiled. "Not that I've ever had one. Though it would be interesting to see Azra in one of those silky get-ups."

"Whose sole purpose is to make the wearer look and move sexy." Jake purred.

"Azra hardly need anything to make him look sexy." Terry rumbled. "Though leather looks very good on him."

"I am *so* not surprised." Jake chuckled softly. "I bet you do to."

"So I've been told." Terry purred.

"Well, maybe we can have a leather party sometime." Jake grinned. "Think Jeremy would want to play?" He looked at his mate curiously. "Could be a very fun six-some."

Nathan grinned. "I'm quite sure Jeremy would be game. And getting him dressed up properly could be fun too." He rumbled.

"Oh, yes," Jake licked his whickers. "Most definitely."

Felina found Chance in the gardens outside the compound, staring off into the distance. She sighed slightly as she sat down next to him.

"Something wrong, Hotshot?" she asked, leaning close to him.

"Don't know, Fel." The burly tabby said quietly. "Just feeling a pull, I never felt before."

"Any idea where it's pulling you?"

"The forest there, just beyond the edge of the property." He said softly, gesturing to the barely visible tree line. "He screwed with something inside me, I can feel it." He said softly, with an edge of fear that Felina had very rarely heard.

"They're not going to get you," Felina said with a low growl. "Have you told anybody else about this?"

"I don't know what to tell." He said quietly. "I don't think it's anything Nate can fix. I'm not even sure its wrong." He said quietly. "Just something I spent my life trying to ignore."

"And he had to go and force the issue," she muttered. "I don't know if there's anything that could fix it, but if there is, I think it'd be worth finding out about. Maybe Sash knows something - seems to know just about everything else about this sort of thing," Felina said, shaking her head slightly.

"I ran away from home, 'cause I didn't feel I fit in with them." He said quietly. "Tried to ignore it, and burn-out as much of the Rage as I could fighting and a few other things." He sighed. "Your uncle managed to channel a teenager's undirected anger into excelling as an Enforcer."

"I'd say it worked out pretty well," she said, holding him close. "And from what I've been finding out since this all started, you don't fit in with them. And that's not necessarily a bad thing."

"Depends. I don't fit with the ones that raised me, but there's another group most people don't know about. And me and my bro get along with them pretty good." He said quietly. "They don't give me shit about not changing, and they approve of Jake. My family never did."

"I meant the ones who raised you, that time," Felina nodded. "It's good you found some who'd accept you, though. It's gotta hurt to have the people who should be accepting you giving you that much trouble - and you already know what I think of what they thought of Jake," she said with a slight scowl.

"Yeah, it did when I was younger." He said quietly. "But I'd gotten over them mostly, they just kept bugging me. Said I had a responsibility to come home and keep the line strong." He shook his head. "Like hell I was going to bring kittens into that family."

"That's something we probably need to talk about eventually," Felina said softly.

"Yeah, I think we do." He agreed quietly. "That and how what's happened is going to affect my career."

"I don't think it has to, once you're back in shape," Felina said. "The rest of it ... that might be more difficult," she admitted.

Chance shook his head. "I still don't know if he succeeded. If First Change happens, it can mess with everything." He said quietly. "Combat thrill could trigger it too." He said quietly. "And I know the rest might be more difficult. Garou aren't often desired as mates outside our own kind." He said sadly.

"Chance, I meant what I said before - it's still you. I don't care what my family says, I still love you, and I'm not going to let them get in the way any more than I would have before."

"Thanks, Fel." He said, turning to claim a gentle kiss. "Guess I'm just not real sure of myself now."

"That's a first," she chuckled slightly. "There's only one thing that I'm worried about with this, Chance," she said quietly. "And that's got more to do with your 'family' than with you."

"What's that?" He asked softly.

"Since this is hereditary, are they going to try the same crap with our family?"

"No, I'm a wayward pack member." He muttered. "Once we found a family, we're a separate pack. And the tribe in the city is willing to take me and my Bro in, so my 'family' would have to mess with them too."

"I hope you're right about all that," she said softly. "More paranoid than I'd like to have to be. Any idea what the odds of our kits being Garou are? Still trying to sort a simple answer for that out of the material Jake's spotter brought with her."

"I don't think there is a simple answer." Chance said quietly. "It's a recessive trait, I know that much. I can ask my Garou friends in town, they should have a better idea."

"Figures," she said, shaking her head slightly. "I'm just trying to sort all this out yet. It's not any easier for you, is it?"

"Never anything ordinary about you, Hotshot," she said with a slight smile as she rubbed his side affectionately. "This is just a little stranger than usual, that's all."

"No, I've spent my life trying to be just an ordinary Kat." He said quietly.

"Seems to be the way things are going." He smiled weakly. "Jake's a vampire, I'm a Garou, our former Medic's an alien. So what are you gonna turn out to be, luscious." He rumbled as he pulled her into a passionate and needy kiss.

"Somebody crazy enough to love you," she smirked when their lips eventually parted, "and stubborn enough to put up with the weirdness that's part of the package."

"Craziness is right, love." Chance rumbled. "Wait till you see me in Crinos, if it happens, you ain't never seen anything like it."

"So I've been hearing," she said quietly, leaning up against him. "Good to have you back, Hotshot."

"Long as I've got you, nothin'll shake me for long." He rumbled playfully. "I'm just gonna have to stay grounded a while till I figure out if First Change is gonna happen or not. Crinos don't fit in fighter cockpits. Not unless Jake builds me a much bigger one." He chuckled.

"Well, we could always stick you in the bomb bay if you had any warning. That'd be one hell of a way to put Dark Kat out of business," she chuckled. "Let you drop in on him like that, I *might* actually feel sorry for him afterwards."

"First Change doesn't have much warning, or that's what my bro said." Chance explained. "After that, it has possibilities. Of course, I'd have to get into the bomb bay naked before shifting, since shifting will shred whatever I'm wearing." He smirked.

"Can't say it's an unappealing image," she smirked back.

"Have Jake put a camera in the bomb bay." He chuckled.

"Or we could always see just what you're capable of like that, outside of a fight," she rumbled suggestively, playing her fingers along his thigh.

"That sounds like a lot more fun." Chance rumbled, and put a hand on one breast.

"You've got that right," she purred. "Know if there's anybody out here?"

"Don't think so." Chance rumbled. "Ozzy and Jake are sound asleep. Jeremy had to go into town to take care of business. I think Nathan's asleep with Jake. Are they a hot couple or what?" He licked his lips. "As for Sash and her zoo, I don't have any clue."

"I was wondering if I'd ever hear you say that," she chuckled slightly. "And I definitely have to agree with you."

"Well, I'm getting better." He grinned. "You what's really weird? When my older brother had me tied up in that cabin, I thought he was playing some sex game until the knives came out. But there was something kind of exciting about being tied up like that." He purred softly.

"There is, as long as you want to be," Felina nodded, trying not to growl at the memory of what she'd found. "Think you'd like to try it again, under ... friendlier conditions?" she asked with a rumble.

"Oh, yeah." Chance rumbled. "I'd much rather be tied up by you."

"I'm going to hold you to that," she purred, leaning over to kiss him again. "One of these days, we're going to have to find a way to arrange for a nice long vacation."

"I know I've got the time available." Chance rumbled amusedly. "I haven't had a vacation since SWAT was formed."

"Not that it's slowed down most of your fun," she smirked. "But that is way too long to go without a real break."

"Well, Jake and I learned how to have fun without actually going anywhere." He chuckled. "But on-call 24/8 wears on you after a few years." He said before turning serious. "I'm just glad Jake got out when he did. I miss having him as my gunner, but it wasn't worth how it was burning him out."

"Just wish somebody'd thought of bringing me in as backup for him before he didn't have a choice in the matter," she agreed with a slight sigh. "Maybe it would have kept him from being turned into a vampire like that."

"I don't think the two are connected." Chance said quietly. "From what little I know, that was somebody's plan to try and take out SWAT. Somebody who thought Jake was dating Razor." He chuckled quietly.

"Figures. They screw up, and their plan works better because of it. Or at least would have."

"Yeah, would have if Jake wasn't so stubborn and Ozzy wasn't kind of weird as vampires go." Chance chuckled ironically.

"Well, I don't know how weird Ozzy is, compared to a werewolf who doesn't change shapes," Felina chuckled. "And Jake's always had stubborn in spades. And I think his tiger's the real wild-card. I have a feeling Jake wouldn't have made it this long even, without Nate keeping him from doing something damn stupid."

"He's a vampire who doesn't like biting people." Chance chuckled. "Yeah, though the funny thing is they weren't together before you dropped Jake at the hospital that one morning." He said quietly. "We hadn't heard from Nate in over a year, since your uncle dragged him off to the Academy."

"Somebody must have been looking out for them," Felina nodded. "I don't think Jake would have taken that well at all without Nate to tone him down, give him something to keep going for."

"I don't think anybody else could've kept him in the hospital or on medical leave." Chance chuckled quietly. "But then Nate will do anything for Jake, including sit on him if he's not taking care of himself."

"Which is just about all that'll do it, if he thinks he has to do something. That kat just doesn't know when to quit, and won't admit it when he finally does get it through his head."

"Yeah, he's way too stubborn." Chance chuckled. "But Nate's moreso, and he don't back down from anybody. I'm just glad he's not the jealous sort, lot of guys wouldn't have been so cool about me being up on stage with Jake like that."

"Which means they would have missed a *very* hot show," Felina purred. "But I don't think Jake would have been on stage if Nate would have minded anybody being up there with him, least of all you."

"I'm also glad you're understanding about how I feel about Jake." Chance purred, as he claimed a passionate kiss. "Lot of shekats I've know would've freaked to find out I was also in love with a tom."

"You've known the wrong sort of girls, then," she chuckled. "Besides, I like seeing you happy too. As long as you're hooked on me too, no problem," she smirked before kissing him a little possessively.

"Oh, I'm definitely hooked on you, gorgeous." He rumbled, as his hands ran down her sides. "One of my favorite fantasies is you under me, and Jake on my back. Nothing hotter than to be between the two Kats I'm hooked on."

"Maybe we can arrange that one of these nights," she smirked, rubbing his back as she purred.

"That'd be way hot." Chance rumbled. "Better than any porn that's out there."

"I'd say you and Jake managed that on your own pretty well the other night," she purred. "But there's no way I'm passing up a chance to get in on the action."

"You only make things hotter, love." Chance rumbled. "But so you can watch too, I got a threesome idea involving the Tiger."

"I think we'll be spending our vacations moving from bedrooms to playrooms at this rate," she rumbled, clearly not bothered by the idea.

"Sounds like a good vacation to me." Chance purred lustily.

"A very good one," she agreed, then giggled slightly as something occurred to her.

"Something funny, love?" Chance asked curiously.

"Just occurred to me that I think we've set a new record for talking about this sort of thing, without acting on any of it," she smirked.

"What shall we act on first then?" Chance rumbled lustily pulling her into a passionate kiss.

"Well, unless you want to try to wake up Jake or the Tiger, I think we'll have to entertain ourselves until tonight," she winked.

"I think we can handle ourselves." Chance rumbled, as he ran his hands down her sides.

"I'd rather handle you," she purred, running her hands along his back, down towards the base of his tail.

"Definitely more fun that way." He rumbled lustily, as he nuzzled her breasts through her clothes.

She moaned softly as she loosened his shirt, slipping her hands under it to run them through his fur.

Chance purred deeply as he lifted her shirt out of the way, so he could run his hands through her fur, while nuzzling and licking at her breasts.

She purred loudly as her hands explored his familiar body again, passing over thick slabs of muscle as she let go of some of the stress of the past few days, letting it melt away under his touch.

Chance slowly dropped to his knees as he kissed his way down her abs, and loosened her pants to slide them down. He nosed playfully at her sex through her undergarments.

"Mmm, you're still wearing way too much for us to start that," she smirked down at him, rubbing his head and ears lovingly.

"Seems to work." He rumbled, as he nosed the undergarment out of the way, and gave a playful lick at the edges of her sex, drawing a deep, needy moan from her as she rubbed his ears gently.

"Gods, Chance - missed this," she said with a weak chuckle. "Missed you," she finished quietly.

"Missed you too." He rumbled deeply, before licking deeper into her sex. "Love how you taste." He purred, before pushing his muzzle close to lick at her deeply. His enthusiastic and skilled licking continued until Felina was moaning deeply. He then pulled her down to lie on her back, as he shed his pants quickly. He then slid his hard cock inside her warm, wet sex as he lay on top of her to claim a hot, passionate kiss.

"Gods, take me Chance," she whispered to him as she squeezed down around his shaft. "Make me roar."

"We're both gonna roar, gorgeous." He rumbled as he began thrusting powerfully into her, his barb hairs pricking the soft tender flesh of her sex.

She wrapped her legs around the stocky tabby's hips, pulling him against her more forcefully as she reveled in the feeling of her mate's body against and inside of hers.

As his arousal built, his thrusts became quicker and more powerful pushing her hard against the ground, nuzzling her neck roughly as he did so. Her tail lashed the ground furiously beneath her as she tightened her body around his cock, crying out every time he thrust into her as she felt the pressure building deep inside her body.

Chance's moans and grunts became louder and deeper as his breath became more ragged. Deep inside her, his hard shaft leaked precum as he approached his limit, and felt his balls begin to tighten up against his body.

Fel gave out a low, long moan as she tried to hold back longer, her sex quivering around Chance's shaft. That quiver was the last straw. Chance threw back his head and roared as his back arched, burying his shaft deep in his mate as he pumped his seed deep within her. Several lesser, half grunt/half-roars followed the first as his balls drained into the shekat, who came with a roar of her own as her mate filled her, her body quivering beneath him as their pleasure filled the otherwise quiet garden.

"Sweet Bastet, that was good." Chance rumbled with his muzzle against Felina's neck. "We probably even woke Jake." He chuckled softly.

"And Ozzy, and anybody else in about a mile," she chuckled, holding him close. "Feels like you just got back, somehow," she murmured quietly, "like everything might be back to normal sometime, somehow."

"Outside this estate, there ain't nobody within a mile. Jeremy owns at least that much property, I got a look at the map of the estate briefly." He chuckled, as he nuzzled her softly. "I guess in a way I did, but I haven't been sure what normal was since Jake and I started flying SWAT."

"You're right," she said softly after a moment to think about it. "Guess after this long, normal starts to change."

"Yeah, it does. But who you're friends are, who you love ... those you can count on." He said as he kissed her gently.

"At least if they're worth loving," she purred. "And you sure as hell are."

"So are you, love." He purred back. "So are you."

Jake and the Vampire

NC 17 for M/M, M/F, F/F sex
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is LowFemslash Smut Level is Very Low
Herm Level is None

661 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written October 28, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka, Todd McCall and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Galactic Alliance, SWAT Kats, World of Darkness (generic)

Primary Races: Felsin, Fox, Kantin, Kat, Panther, Vampire

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Femslash (F/F). Admittance Story, Alternate Universe, Angst, Crossover, DarkFic, Dom/Sub play, Murder, Mutilation, Non-Con (F on M), Prostitution, Relationship (Cross Species), Relationship (Established), Romance, Sex (BDSM), Sex (First Time), Sex (Kinky), Sex (Orgy), Sex (Threesome), Supernatural, Transformation, Violence (Graphic), Voyeurism

Pairings: Jake Clawson/Callie Briggs, Jake Clawson/Nathan SwiftClaw, Jake Clawson/Trent DelGran, Jake Clawson/Ozzy, Jake Clawson/Sashari Goldenwind, Nathan SwiftClaw/Jeremiah StormCraft, Chance Furlong/Felina Feral

Notes: Set three years after the series

SWAT: created by Ulysses Feral, Calico Briggs and industrialist Jeremiah Stormcraft of FutureTech Inc. in response to the growing threat of megavillians such as Dark Kat. Jake and Chance were transferred to SWAT, and the entire 'booted from the force' scene was a show for public consumption, as has been the 'conflict' between SWAT and the Enforcers. Both Kats are still Enforcers, though for obvious reasons they don't carry the badges as SWAT Kats.

TurboKat: built by FutureTech to Jake's very demanding specifications and design. The first one was actually the fourth model, since Jake wasn't happy with the first three. FutureTech keeps two spare TKs on standby, just in case. They also provide the 'junk' that Jake salvages to turn into new weapons and vehicles.

Jake/ Chance: Jake wants Chance as a mate and has for years, but Chance isn't interested in toms. Or didn't think he was up until about 9 months ago, when he started thinking maybe he was interested in Jake as a mate. (Summary: Chance is interested but he's got a lot of society and upbringing garbage that's confusing him.). Jake's totally frustrated a lot of the time, but between still loving the tabby and valuing the friendship he settles for unhappy, and bedding other toms.

Jake/ Callie: They've been dating quietly for about three months, but Jake's 'problem' lately is making serious waves. Callie really dreads the press finding out that her boyfriend was picked up for drunk and disorderly again. It'd be a lot easier if she didn't actually love him.

Chance/ Felina: Off and on dating for about six months, nothing serious on either side currently. Neither is rushing commitment, but there's definitely a strong case of lust.

Chance/ Ulysses: Ulysses has had a serious interest in Chance as a mate, or at least lover, since before the tabby was an Enforcer, and it's only gotten stronger. Unfortunately for the Commander, between regulations and Chance's apparent cluelessness he doesn't see much hope for anything happening for a couple decades at least.

Jake/ Ulysses: No sexual interest, but the Commander is very curious about the Kat's uncertain past, and just what is going on with the apparent drunken behavior without drugs or alcohol.

Nathan: Pulled a heavily injured Jake/Razor out of a Dark Kat trap about a year ago, and stayed with him till he was back on his feet. Then Feral snatched him into the Enforcers, and neither Jake or Chance has seen him since.

Jake's 'Problem': For about the last month, Jake has either stumbled back to the Yard in the wee hours of the morning, or been driven back in a patrol car. On one occasion, Chance actually had to go down to the station and get him. (the sergeant on duty wasn't aware of the fact that he was supposed to just make sure Jake got home safely, not lock him up.). It looks a lot like alcohol intoxication, except that Chance has never smelled alcohol on the Kat and Jake denies it.


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.

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