Jake and the Vampire part 2 of 3
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M, M/F and F/F
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

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 of 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, its 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."

"I'll go with what I know." Nathan quietly, as he turned to climb into bed. He really regretted getting up, and decided he should've slept till the next morning.

"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 a 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.

Storm laughed. "Oh, that's right. Father Jake's an inventor." He grinned.

"Among other things." He grinned back. "Though I'll probably have my wings built before I go for flight wings for you." He tapped the kit on the nose. "Someone'll have to be able to get up there with you."

"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 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 natural 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 slightly 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."

"Jakem 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 shook her head. "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 be.

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 its 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 same 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. 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 break 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 personnel 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 its 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 which 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 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, 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, though it was clearly an 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 grey 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 shrugged. "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. "Lets 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 smirked slightly 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 back 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 I'm 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 its 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 Nate 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 him 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." He 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 smirked. "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 smirked 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."

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3

Jake and the Vampire part 2 of 3

NC-17 for M/M, M/F and F/F
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is LowFemslash Smut Level is Low
Herm Level is None

244 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written October 23, 2002 by Rauhnee Ranshanka, Todd McCall and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Exalted (generic), Galactic Alliance, SWAT Kats, World of Darkness (generic)

Primary Races: Felsin, Kantin, Kat, Vampire, Were

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Femslash (F/F). Alternate Universe, Supernatural

Pairings: Jake/ Callie, Jake/ Nathan, Chance/ Felina, Others

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.).

Blurb: For about the last month, Jake has on several nights 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 being drunk.

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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