Power Games 2:
Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory

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

Jake shivered as his wrists were cuffed between the headboard rails. He didn't even think as he arched his back and spread his legs, his cock standing out a rich pink against his otherwise solid pelt of cinnamon.

"You do look so very hot like that," Rock rumbled as he walked towards the foot of the bed, running a hand along his lover's body.

"Good," Jake moaned lightly and pressed into the touch.

"So, what sort of mood are you in tonight, Kitten?" Rock purred. "You want me to take you, hard and fast, or do you want me to savor you tonight?"

"Ohh, savor me," he moaned and shifted, his breath already hot and ragged.

"I'm not sure if you'll give me time to," Rock chuckled, trailing the tips of his claws down Jake's chest before climbing into bed with him, kissing him deeply. "You'd think that after a few months of this, you wouldn't get wound up so quickly," he teased.

"It's what you do to me," he murmured into the kiss and tried to claim another as Rock pulled back. "It's still incredible."

"I'm glad you approve," the tabby grinned. "Try not to beg too quickly though," he rumbled, nuzzling Jake's neck, reaching down to lightly claw the insides of Jake's thighs.

"I'll try," he pressed into the contact, willing his body not to betray his need so much tonight.

"Good boy," Rock murmured into his fur, slowly nibbling, kissing, and nuzzling his way down Jake's body, his claws working up and down his legs, tattooing thin red lines of blood that quickly blended with his fur. They'd be healed before anybody was likely to notice them, but the extra pain made it harder and harder for Jake to focus, especially when Rock took his place between his legs and nuzzled his balls lightly.

"Oh, yeah," he moaned deeply and spread his legs, lifting his knees to open himself up more to the pleasant torture his lover was inflicting.

The slick underside of Rock's tongue washed over his tight, furless pucker, then the tabby started on him, licking his cock from balls to tip, nipping one of his barbs playfully.

He grinned at Jake's shiver and the way his cock jumped. Rock had to admit that when he tried to show it off his body, Jake did a fine job, and had the musculature to look good doing it.

He repeated the lick, savoring Jake's flavor, the arousal, the sweat, the need... he ran the side of his furry muzzle up Jake's length, catching one of his barbs and suckling it lightly while he worked a finger up into his ass. It was unneeded; Jake could take him easily without pain, but the foreplay aspect, the act of care, was a real turn-on for Jake and Rock alike.

Jake moaned softly and slid a leg up to rest on Rock's shoulder, his eyes drifting closed as he relished wallowing in the subtle streaks of pleasure and pain his lover was giving.

Rock drew his heavy balls up into his mouth, suckling them briefly, then let them fall from his mouth and swallowed Jake's cock, purring hotly.

"Ah!" Jake gasped, startled by the move no matter how many times Rock did it, then moaned and shifted his legs down to rub Rock's sides. "So good at that."

"Lots of practice," Rock grinned up at him, letting his shaft fall from his mouth briefly before taking it back, taking Jake's legs on his shoulders and extending just the tip of a claw to tease the insides of his ass as he sucked his cock with the skill of several years doing it for demanding customers.

His lover, still relatively inexperienced and decidedly easy to please, didn't stand a chance. Jake's body tensed, putting every hard muscle in sharp relief for Rock's enjoyment. His moans took on a desperate edge as his balls pulled up against his body and his hips began to rock to intensify the pleasure building in the core of his awareness.

Rock pushed his finger in deeper, pulling in his claw and pressing right up against Jake's prostate, pulling back to let his rough tongue play over his pet's barbs skillfully, actively trying to push him over now.

With over six months in Rock's bed, Jake knew not to hold back now unless told to. He whimpered with a deep moan and forced his eyes open to watch Rock suck him as he came.

Another shuddered groan, and he grunted, his hips thrusting up as his balls pumped the first load of his seed into lover's mouth with a roar of unadulterated pleasure.

Rock pulled his tongue back in his mouth, savoring the taste of Jake's seed, catching the full load and letting it build on his tongue before pulling off Jake's cock, kissing him and letting the lean tom taste his own pleasure in his mouth as their tongues dueled for it.

"You are incredible," Jake panted when they finally parted.

"You're worth the effort," Rock purred lustily. "Up for having something else around your cock for a while?" He grinned, straddling Jake's hips.

"Sure," he said even before it sunk in what Rock meant. He blinked and looked up in surprise. "You're sure?"

"I'm still on top, aren't I?" Rock winked down at him, grabbing the lube. "I will need a little prep though," he added, turning around, raising his tail and moving so Jake could rim him while he spread the thick, cool gel on his shaft.

He grinned and slid the back of his tongue across the wrinkled, sensitive skin, before he folded his tongue and pressed inside.

"Oh yeah," Rock moaned, spreading his hips as he stroked Jake's cock, spreading the lube and then just keeping his lover hard while Jake worked on his ass until he was panting and hard enough that a bead of pre-come sat on the tip of his cock.

Rock shifted again, turning around, leaning back to make a good show for Jake as he guided his long shaft to his tight, well-rimmed pucker. He sat down, moaning as his ass was stretched by the lean tom beneath him. He squeezed down around Jake's cock, knowing full well how intense it was for someone who didn't get inside someone often to be there.

He grinned as Jake's eyes squeezed shut with a sharp gasping moan. He wasn't sure which was better; watching Jake strain to hold himself in check, or the fact that he'd have his leisure to take his bound lover in as he wished.

He was going to have plenty of time to decide. He spent a few moments just enjoying the feeling of being filled, without the person filling him being so eager to start pounding into him. It let Jake relax a little bit too, so that when he started to move up and down, slowly working his body along Jake's cock, the lean tom wouldn't go off immediately.

The blowjob helped too, but Rock could see how much this got to Jake, and couldn't help but wonder if Midnight had gotten the opportunity to ride him this way. Maybe he'd given her the taste for it. Wherever it came from, Rock was happy to milk it for all it was worth.

He leaned forward, raking his claws through Jake's fur, leaving little furrows in his cinnamon pelt and moaning as he started to work himself up and down his lover's cock faster. He took full advantage of being in control, making sure Jake's tip went exactly where he wanted it to, enjoying the feel of his barbs along his sensitive inner walls. Despite how seldom they did this, the slick lube made it easier to enjoy it fully, turning what had used to be a part of the job Rock didn't care for into more of a treat that he felt free to indulge in with Jake ... it was a change that made it infinitely better for both of them.

"How ... long you do want me to last?" Jake gasped, forcing his eyes open to look up at his lover for an answer.

"Until I come first," Rock purred, though he leaned back, shifting so that Jake's tip rubbed against his prostate, moaning and looking down into his lover's eyes at the mixture of intense pleasure and adoration there.

He licked his lips, enjoying the show under him, and the effect his display was making there. It made the slow ride to his orgasm an incredibly good one.

"Oh yeah," Rock moaned as his pleasure built to the point he wouldn't be able to last much longer.

"Stroke yourself," Jake whimpered, his eyes locked on his lover's hard erection. "Please."

Rock wrapped his hand around his thick shaft, raising his cock so that when he did come, it would splatter all over Jake's chest and belly. He stroked himself in time with his movements, the bed creaking as he practically bounced on Jake's member, his breath hitching as he approached his orgasm.

Finally, he came, his roar rattling the walls of the bedroom as he sprayed his seed onto Jake's body, the first few spurts actually landing on the cinnamon tom's chin as his ass clenched down around Jake's shaft.

It was testament to how much the show did for Jake that he roared and thrust up hard only a moment after Rock stopped stroking himself, and before the tight pulses around his shaft had even slowed down.

Rock tightened his body, moaning and leaning forward as Jake flooded his ass with hot, thick seed, the lean tom's fluids pooling inside his body as he kissed Jake hotly until Jake's breathing had settled, his orgasm long past and his attention on making out.

"Mmm... feels so much better with you than with most guys," Rock purred, licking some of his seed from Jake's chin. "Up for another round or two, with me inside you this time?"

"Anytime," Jake grinned up at him.

Rock couldn't help but grin back at the feel of Jake's cock twitch inside him at the prospects of a long, hard fucking.

"Then let's get to it," the tabby grinned, pulling off of Jake with a groan and moving easily to lift his legs to his shoulders, press into his tight, hot body, and start pounding into him with all the force he could manage.

The next morning, Chance purred softly as he spooned up behind Midnight. After six months of being up nearly at dawn for training, he was starting to wake up earlier than usual ... but this morning, he wasn't about to complain.

It was a pleasantly warm day ... he had a gorgeous fem in bed with him ... and, by all odds, his partner was having just as good a time with Rock. It was a little hard to believe that they'd all been together for the better part of a full year at the Academy now.

Chance wrapped his armed around Midnight, nuzzling her neck lightly as he inhaled her scent. How long had it been since he'd actually dated somebody, regularly, for this long? Long enough he'd almost forgotten the perks to it, whether the simple familiarity or the ways he'd learned to touch her that would earn a soft, pleasant murmur or whimper while she slept. But he'd already decided that the best part of seeing Midnight was the way she'd relaxed after Allen hadn't come back to give them any more grief for a few months.

Granted, he was still in prison, but it had taken a while for even that truth to sink in for her. The prosecutor had apparently been delighted with the opportunity to put the loser away for a good long time. It'd still probably only be a few years, tops, but it would be time for her to get used to the idea, and he'd make sure the loser didn't want to come back when he got out.

Honestly... he was glad the asshole had plea-bargained. It meant he'd be out sooner, but Chance had had enough of sitting on witness stands for one lifetime, and Midnight didn't need to get started at it.

Midnight shifted in her sleep, giving him a chance to slip an arm under her, and he took both the chance and the distraction from Allen it offered. Waste of fur didn't deserve the effort to dwell on him.

She murmured sleepily in pleasure as he worked a finger around her nipple and kissed her neck. As fun as it was to have her wake him up, waking her up could be just as sweet.

Of course, it was a little trickier to move around without waking her up; she didn't sleep as heavily.

As he licked the back of her jaw lightly, he wondered what she'd been like a couple months back, during her heat cycle. Jake and one of her girlfriends had taken care of her for those two weeks. He didn't hold it against her at all; he wasn't quite ready for kittens either. Still, just thinking about it, the edge of raw need her scent had ... Jake only come back after cleaning off well, but he'd never quite been able to get the scent entirely out of his fur, which had made for a few very distracting mornings.

But for now ... he had the real thing. His fingers slid down her body, stroking her sex lightly. His morning wood was pressed against her thigh now, and every time she moved his body tingled pleasantly.

She murmured something unintelligible and slid a leg on top of his, opening her body up to his touch even before she was aware enough to know what he had in mind.

He purred, slipping a finger up into her and kissing her on the lips. He knew she'd probably be okay with waking up to having him inside of her at this point, but he was enjoying the way she was reacting right now more. The soft sounds of pleasure and shifting of her body to encourage him were the most honest in the world. He very rarely had cause to doubt his skill in bed, but when his lover wasn't awake, enough to think, it made it easy to know he was doing it right.

Gradually she began to kiss him back, though her eyes weren't open. He pulled his fingers out of her, reaching back to squeeze her ass. He rolled onto his back, pulling her up on top of him and rubbing his shaft against her sex with a deep purr.

She continued to sleepily nuzzle and kiss him as she spread her legs and shifted her hips so his cock slid into her easily.

He groaned softly, shifting his hands up between them and fondling her breasts as he started to thrust up into her. His barbs worked the inside of her slick sex as he pressed his tongue into her mouth, squeezing her nipples between powerful fingers and slowly starting to make love to her.

"Mmm, so hard," she murmured and squeezed down around him, rocking her hips as he thrust into her.

"All in the company," he groaned, kissing her and pushing her up a bit, moving his face down to nuzzle her breasts and suckle her nipples.

She purred deeply at the attention and ran her hands along his chest, her slender fingers leaving furrows in his thick fur as she rode him. Without thinking about it, she arched her back to give him a better show even as it rubbed his hard cock and rubbery barbs against her insides.

"Ever thought about doing this during my heat?" she moaned hotly. "What it would be like so keyed up."

"Fuck yes," he moaned, lapping at the undersides of her breasts before leaning back to enjoy the show. "Mmm ... not sure I'd want to try it any time soon, but I could smell you on Jake every night the last time...."

"Bet it made you hot," she purred seductively. "Just smelling what I'd be like when we're ready," she leaned forward to kiss him heatedly, her body squeezing down around him tightly. "In a few years, when you have the rank to support it."

"Almost got Jake a hell of a morning once," Chance admitted with a blush, rolling over on top of her and grinning as he started to thrust faster. "Kinda like the one I'm about to give you," he purred hotly.

"Ohh, I'm sure he would have enjoyed it just as much," she grinned and wrapped her legs around him, sliding her calves along his powerful thighs. "So hot."

"Maybe ... but I prefer this," Chance grunted, pounding into her body, his balls starting to twitch as he approached his orgasm. "Damn, babe... so fucking hot!"

She moaned and rocked her hips up to take him even deeper into herself, squeezing her body around him. A deep whimpering cry escaped her throat when his next thrust sent the building pleasure out of control inside her.

Her body clenched down around him, and he roared, spraying his seed into her sex, the hot, thick fluids pooling in her insides, dripping back into her deepest recesses as he leaned down to kiss her hungrily, devouring her cries of pleasure.

"Hey, Jake!" Zach called out early the next week, sounding more cheerful than he had at any point in the last two months. "How's it going?" He asked, setting his lunch down on the table and taking a seat.

"Great," Jake grinned at him. "You're in a good mood."

"Getting somewhere with my research," Zach grinned. "And a few side projects too ... you wouldn't believe what they've got back in the Rare Books section, even here. Most places you need to find the private universities to get anything more useful than a third-hand copy of some fifth-rate mage's diary. MKC though... well, there's something useful from being the weirdness magnet of the world."

"Not to mention the largest population in the world," Jake agreed with chuckle. "It helps to have numbers and money when it comes to those things."

"Yeah, but most of the good stuff is still in private libraries and schools," he said easily. "Anyways, I've found a few pieces that are going to do me a lot of good in my work... maybe even a couple that'll help me out personally," he grinned.

"You found personal help in a bunch of musty books that are at least five centuries old?" Jake raised an eyebrow.

"Hey, I'll put more stock in those than I will in half the modern self-help crap they publish," Zach pointed out. "And anyways, yeah ... at least if the book's worth anything. One of the old tomes in the back of the place has a few spells in it that are supposed to help with confidence, animal magnetism, that sort of thing."

"Don't you have to learn how to use magic first?" Jake cocked his head at him, his meal paused as it hit him that his friend was serious.

"Normally, I would, but I've got a couple things on my side... first off, this book has all the steps, not just the broad strokes like most of 'em do. Second... I've kinda dabbled a bit already, so I know enough to be able to pull some of these off at least."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Jake looked at him seriously. "I mean, are things really so bad that you need to try magic to fix it?"

"Jake...." Zach sighed. "Look, all my life I've been like this. It's part of the reason I've been here so long," he said with a nod towards the school. "It's taken me years to have the guts to actually start moving forward with things. Besides, they all say they wear off by the next turn of the moon, so that's a time limit if something does go wrong."

"So you plan to keep casting them every month, if it works?" he asked quietly, intensely disturbed by the idea of using magic to change what you were.

"After a month or two, maybe it'll stick," Zach pointed out. "Or at least maybe I'll be used to it enough that I can do it without the crutch... Jake, I honestly don't know how to be the way I should be, to have those kind of guts. I don't just get laughed at because I'm an anthro student, I get laughed at because everything I do tells people that it's okay, that I'm an easy target for it. This is something that could give me a kick in the right direction, finally." He took a bite of his lunch, working on his meal a little bit, hoping that Jake would see it from his end of things with a little time.

"You know I can't approve," Jake said quietly with a bit of regret. "I'm not going to turn away from you for it either," he promised.

"Thanks," Zach murmured. Really, it was what he'd expected. "I know you don't like it... but if you were in my place, what would you be doing? I'm sick of feeling like I'm a high school Freshman when I've got six years on most of the assholes who keep giving me grief."

"What I did was to accept my fate and made do with what I got to have," he shrugged. "Life sucks at its best. You do your best here, when it's over things are a lot better."

"I guess I just can't do that," Zach murmured. "The way I see it... it's worth a shot, since it'll be done in a month. I might just need you to pass a note explaining that I came down with something rare and exotic," he chuckled ruefully.

"I'll do that, if it goes wrong," he nodded. "Maybe it'll work for you."

"Here's hoping," Zach said seriously. "You want to be there when I try it?"

"Rather not be," he murmured, looking down at his food. "I'll be there if you want me there."

"Honestly, I'd rather not too," Zach sighed in relief. "Just thought you might want to make sure things work out... you get overprotective sometimes," he smiled. "So, how's it going with you and Rock?" He asked, looking for a more comfortable topic.

"Good," he smiled shyly, glancing up at his friend. "Really good. I'm starting to wonder how long it takes to wear off."

"The honeymoon phase?" Zach asked with a chuckle. "Honestly, I've got no clue ... but if it's lasted this long, I'd say you definitely got yourself a good one."

"I think Chance and Midnight are having a good one too. It even survived her last heat cycle. I godda tell you, it was weird. I thought Chance was actually going to jump me one morning."

"That... whoa." Zach murmured. "He didn't though, right? I'd have heard about that, I think."

"He didn't, and I didn't push, so it ended up as one of those really awkward moments before class," Jake shook his head a bit. "We had plenty of them that week, even though I did my best to clean up before I left her place. It hits him hard."

"Hope she doesn't go into heat early some time," Zach chuckled. "So, what do you think the odds are of you four hooking up the way you have?" The lean tabby grinned.

"Never thought of it, really," he shrugged. "Pretty low, probably."

"You can suck all the amusement out of an observation, you know that?" he shook his head in tolerant bemusement for his friend's general lack of humor.

"Sorry," Jake murmured, pulling in on himself until he almost seemed to disappear unless you knew where he was.

"Ah, Jake, relax," Zach groaned, moving around the table and squeezing his shoulder. "Lighten up, okay?"

"We can be quite the pair, can't we?" Jake shook his head and focused on his food. "So how's it going with Dr. Sinnian?"

"Going good," Zach smiled, returning to his own meal. "I think I've got a shot at going back with her this summer; she liked my work over break, and she seems fairly impressed with what I'm putting together for my thesis... might just be because I can actually at least kind of use it, but I think the Katsylyan angle plays well with her too."

Jake paused, startled to realize he didn't know, or couldn't remember, what Zach's thesis was on.

"What is your subject, again?"

"After about three rejected proposals, I'm working on links between magical systems and methodology through different cultures... working on Katsylyan magic, the very similar magic used in MKC in the dark ages, modern methods, and what we've got from the Golden Empire. It's most helpful because we've actually got access to some people from the Goldens once in a while... if we can find similarities that hold across the different eras and cultures, it'll help us out some with new systems we come across," Zach explained, trying to remind himself to keep it short... and to breathe once in a while.

Jake smiled at him. "Can I read it when you're done?"

"Sure," Zach smiled. "I'll give you a copy when I submit it to the board of review."

"Cool. Even if I only understand half of it, it'll be useful," he grinned, then glanced at his watch and was out of his seat in a heartbeat. "Sorry, but I have to get to class."

"No problem, have a good time," Zach said easily, taking a drink of his soda. He had a bit longer, and intended to enjoy what was left of his meal. There were advantages to not taking the incredible credit load Jake tended towards.

He watched a few people come and go before he finished eating and took his tray to the turn-in point. He still had two hours before he was expected anywhere today, and it was going to be nice to have a leisurely time of it.

He dropped off his tray, and started out, debating between going down to the library, working on grading a few papers from his TA work, or just heading down to the arcade near the campus and killing some time having fun for a while.

"Hi," a slightly hesitant female voice caught his attention from on side, just enough to turn his head towards a marmalade tabby with light brown hair smiling at him from behind a pair of glasses. The two textbooks books pulled up against her chest did little to conceal how busty she was, or that she had just a bit too much on her hips to attract most guys, despite the short skirt.

"Uhm, hi," he smiled back once he realized she was talking to him. "You need some help with something?" He asked her, trying to think of whether or not he knew her from somewhere ... he kind of doubted it, honestly. He was sure he would have remembered her. Most guys might have been turned off by the extra weight or the glasses, but they were the sort of things that were unusual enough these days to catch his attention.

"I ..." she blushed furiously, and swallowed. "I was wondering if you were busy."

"N-no, not really," Zach said, blushing himself as he realized that there was at least some chance that she was actually interested in him. If she was asking him for help with something related to school, or carrying her books, she probably wouldn't have been blushing like that. "Uhm, my name's Zach, you're...?" He asked, offering her his hand. "Want some help with those?"

"Amy," she said and shook his hand uncertainly but kept her books against her chest. "I, umm ... well, I heard you like glasses, and maybe didn't mind the rest," she managed to get out before embarrassment cut off her voice for a bit, though not the way her tail twitched between her legs uneasily.

"N-not at all," he said, taking a deep breath to try and relax a bit. "And you heard right," he admitted with a shy smile. "So ... you want to go do something?"

She nodded, still trying to find her voice as they began to walk in the general direction of the library.

"I heard you study magic?" she asked after several lingering moments of increasing blushing on both their parts.

"Anthropology, but magic's a part of it," he nodded slightly. "One of my main fields, right now... how about you?" He asked her curiously.

"Graphic Design, I think," she blushed and ducked her head. "I haven't really decided yet."

"There's time," he smiled. "One of the advantages of not trying to be a flyboy," he grinned with a nod to a group of cadets jogging down the street. "You don't have to make up your mind in the first year."

"How many did you go through before you settled on Anthropology?" she asked, a bit of actual interest apparent in her manner.

"Two, and then three," he chuckled. "I got started in Sociology, then History... then I found my way into Anthro and bounced through another three focuses before I ended up focusing mostly on Archaeology."

"Wow," she murmured. "You've been here a while, then?"

"A while," he nodded slightly. "Honestly, I'm working on the thesis for my doctorate."

"That's where the magic came in?" she asked as they reached the library steps. "With your thesis?"

"Yeah, pretty much," he nodded. "It was something I was interested in before that, but it wasn't really serious until then. I dabbled a bit in the course of anthropology in general, but that wasn't anything much."

"You ... you can use magic?" she looked at him in open shock, her green eyes wide.

"Very barely," he said, shaking his head a bit. "What I can do isn't like what most people think of either, it's tedious, slow, and involves more ritual than anything else."

"But it works?" she started walking again, but her eyes were still incredibly wide. "What kind of things have you gotten to work?"

"Well, the first time either the smoke was getting to me or I contacted the spirit of a tribal elder ... and the second time I managed to call a swarm of desert skinks out to my camp. They were one of the totem animals of the tribe I was working with," he explained when he got the look he was all too familiar with, somewhere between 'you're joking' and 'why would you ever want to do that?' "I haven't done too much else," he admitted. "Like I said, it's not that easy... magical traditions around here were more focused on working fast and flashy, but they're a lot more dangerous too, if you're not careful to start small and go slow."

Amy nodded and followed him into the huge, grand library. "It still must be incredible, to do something most people think can't be done by normal people."

"It can be," he nodded slightly. "Doesn't come up all that often, but it's one thing I know I can do that most people can't, for whatever reason. I don't know if I've got something they don't, or if they just aren't interested in putting the work into it ... but either way, it's there."

"Did you book-learn it?" she asked as they walked through the massive, multi-story building that seemed fairly empty even with several hundred people that were likely there.

There were some bets going that you could fit the entire student body into the library in an emergency. It'd be tight, but possible ... privately, Zach thought it was a sad waste. Too much space devoted to satisfying the artistic ego of both the architect and the men who'd donated their money. It was their say, of course ... but it could have been put to much better use, in his mind, by filling it with extra bookshelves.

"Some, but for the most part I studied it spending a semester in the field," he explained. "In the process of making friends with the locals, I got close to a shaman who thought he saw some potential in my being willing to learn. I wasn't about to turn him down," he grinned.

"It sounds like you had quite a summer," she smiled, quite willing to let him lead them somewhere.

"It was," he said, looking around. "Anywhere in particular you want to go, while we're here?" He asked her, realizing that he didn't really have anywhere in mind.

"Somewhere ... private?" she suggested a touch uncertainly.

"Okay," he blushed slightly, leading the way towards one of the study corners he knew of that he could usually get away to when he just wanted to sit down and read without anybody spotting him. "I've got just the place," he smiled.

Hell ... maybe he didn't need the spells he'd been telling Jake about after all.

"How's this?" He asked her as they reached the nook in the Mythology section. "My own little corner," he chuckled shyly, "or at least it seems that way sometimes ... almost never see anybody else back here."

"Nice," she smiled shyly, hesitating before she kissed his cheek. "Any good books around here?"

"A few," he chuckled, blushing a bit at the light kiss, snagging a book from the shelves mostly at random as they headed towards the reading table. "Just so you know, I think you're very pretty even without the glasses," he added, giving her a light kiss of his own as they sat down, trying to keep reasonably calm and think of what to say without blowing it. The fact that she seemed as nervous as he was helped, a lot.

"You ... really think so?" she asked quietly, then slipped them off to look at him, or rather the blur he was now.

"Yeah," he smiled, squeezing her shoulder. "I do like 'em on you, but you're definitely pretty either way," he told her, leaning in hesitantly to give her a light kiss on the lips.

He felt as much as heard her breath hitch, then she kissed back, chastely. Her hand slid up his leg, stopping just short of actually touching his crotch before they parted, both flushed and wanting more.

His own breath hitched as he felt himself responding to where her hand was. He shifted his chair a bit closer to her, wrapping an arm around her and kissing her again, lingering, his heart pounding in his chest hard enough he was sure she could hear it when she kissed him back, her fingers tailing a bit closer to his quickly-swelling cock.

This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to him, even with a girl who had issues of her own. He just wondered how much of this was actually being attracted to him, and how much was having low standards ... but he wasn't about to ask.

Amy made a soft sound he wasn't sure what to make of as she gathered her nerves and pressed her hand against his crotch, rubbing against him ever so slightly.

He moaned softly into her mouth, reaching up between them to rub her chest lightly as he pressed into her touch. Her heart was pounding as fast as his, he could feel it easily now, and her whimpers turned him on nearly as much as her touch. He'd been touched before, of course, but never by someone who wasn't motivated by an offering of cash for her time.

This was intense on a whole new level. He just had to remember that they were in public right now ... that could change, if she wanted it to, but for now he had to keep it in mind.

"You ... do you ... your room?" she struggled to form the words, and had real sense of urgency behind them in her sharp breaths.

"Yeah," he nodded, kissing her again, forcing himself to keep it brief so they could stand up and get ready to go. He had to squirm a bit to get his very noticeable erection to settle into a less embarrassing spot, and caught her hand as they began the far too long walk to his apartment.

Or, at least, that had been the plan.

Shortly before they were out into the main part of the library, Lance and Tony stepped out from around a bookshelf ... and Tony had on his very best pissed-off look.

"What the Hell do you think you're doing with her?" He growled.

"Oh shit," Zach murmured, swallowing hard, entirely unable to think of just why the Beta Wolf would be so pissed off at him... though the vicious grin on Lance's face was giving him a few ideas, as he stepped back and looked between the two Wolves and Amy.

She looked completely terrified, her fur fluffed and ears back as she fought her own instincts to bolt up the nearest tall tree to stand there with him.

Zach swallowed hard, stepping between her and Tony.

"Oh, that's rich," the Wolf sneered, grabbing him by the collar and picking him up. "Thanks for volunteering though," he grinned.

"Stop it!" Amy was jarred into action, however little, by Zach's feet lifting off the ground. She took half a step forward before her own survival instincts stopped her again. "Put him down!"

"Sorry, babe, but he did volunteer," Lance grinned, stepping forward as Tony sank his fist into Zach's stomach, the lean tabby wincing and grunting with the pain. "Maybe if he'd known you were in on this he'd have used his big brain and just ran," he smirked, enjoying the mixed look of betrayal and resignation that crossed Zach's face before the two Wolves started carrying him back to the mostly concealed corner of the library.

"Stop it!" she screamed again, then began to frantically scan the area for a cadet.

"C'mon, not much time," Lance muttered as Tony dropped Zach. "Y'must've impressed her with that bullshit about bein' a mage," he sneered, giving him a solid kick in the side. "We'll pick up here some other time," he grinned viciously, taking off with his Beta before the cadets or security could get there and make trouble for them.

Zach stayed there, curled in a ball in a mixture of trying to stay a small target and not wanting to move what he was sure was a broken rib. He could hear Amy still screaming for help from a ways away, and the too-late response it garnered.

"It was Lance and Tony, from the football team," she was saying as they came closer at a run.

"How badly did they hurt you this time?" A female knelt next to him, and strong but gentle hands moved along his body as best they could. He was fairly sure it was Terina Sandclaw, one of the cadets that had taken to bullying Lance, and was decidedly unhappy that he wasn't willing to testify on these attacks.

"Rib ... they've done worse," he ground out through his teeth, looking over at Amy, not sure if he wanted to ask if they'd been telling the truth or not. She had gotten help, after all ... probably kept him from a much worse beating in the process.

He wasn't sure he wanted to know for sure that she'd helped him get what he did, intentionally or otherwise.

"Still don't want him charged?" Cadet Sandclaw asked him. "Just be still. Medics are on the way."

"Yes, I'm sure," he groaned and felt a gentle, much less sure pair of hands on his shoulder and arm. "Thanks for getting rid of 'em, but it's been better lately."

"Why do they do that?" Amy asked, still badly shaken.

"He likes having a grad student scared of him," Zach growled lowly. "Needed you 'cause they've been making it hard to get me or one of my friends alone," he said with a nod towards the Cadets. "At least ... if you really were helping 'em?" He asked, wincing mostly as his rib twinged. He'd decided; he did have to find out.

She flinched, looking hurt as she shook her head. "Tony said you liked girls like me," she signed in resignation. "Probably should have known something was up, but, y'know, I don't get many tips. I thought he was doing it to get a laugh out of watching somebody look at me like I was nuts. I never thought he might have been planning anything like this."

He swallowed, reaching up to rub her cheek lightly and felt her press into the contact. He wasn't sure about all the details... but it was close enough.

"Think you might be waiting for me after they tape this rib up?" He asked her hopefully.

"Yes," she smiled, half in relief, half in gratitude. "I am sorry for what part I had in this. People can be so mean sometimes."

"Tell me about it," he laughed bitterly, regretting it immediately as his ribs screamed.

"So, ready for a Furlong family dinner?" Chance asked Jake with a grin as they pulled up in front of an old apartment building down in a part of town that Jake normally wouldn't have gone near. Kits were playing out in the streets, though as the sun went down it was clear that most of them would be inside shortly. Mothers leaned out windows, calling out to their kits to hurry up and finish their games ... the disappointed replies were universal, and reminded him of much, much younger days of his own on the rare occasions that his mother wasn't content to let him fend for himself.

"As I'll ever be," he nodded and got out of the passenger side of Chance's car.

Chance lead him inside, knocking on the door of one of the first apartments ... the building was well kept, on the inside. Definitely looked better than most of the ones around it, Jake quickly decided.

"How many of these apartments are your family's?" he asked before the door opened, revealing a chocolate on sand tabby fem who, despite looking a few years younger than Jake, was still taller and broader-built than he was.

"Hey Chance!" She grinned. "Come on in, Mom's talking to Mrs. Grady up on third and Bruce is in the kitchen."

"Hey, Mindy," Chance smiled, stepping in. "This is Jake," he said, indicating his partner. "And about a third; Mom's been managing the apartments for a few years now, she'll probably be back in just a few minutes."

"Yeah, then you get the third degree," Mindy winked, looking Jake over. "I can see why Rock likes you so much."

Jake ducked his head and blushed under his fur before walking inside behind Chance and looked around.

The place was definitely a family home; the TV was on, abandoned by the two kittens watching it, about five or six he guessed, as they looked over the back of the sofa at the two of them. Jake could smell that whatever dinner was, it was probably going to be spicy, but good.

"Jake, that's Mike and Scout," Chance said, introducing the kittens. "Your Mom's at work?"

"Yep," Scout, a small tabby who bore a distinct resemblance to Chance and Rock, said easily. "Working late for a few nights now. Hi, Jake!" Mike, who didn't have the same pronounced stripes his brother had, was more quiet, watching Jake with a curious expression.

"Hi," Jake smiled back at them, noticeably ill at ease but trying to show it as little as he could.

"Somethin' wrong?" Scout asked him, cocking his head.

"No, just very different from my family," Jake shook his head.

"What's your family -" The kitten was interrupted by a deep voice from farther into the house.

"Scout, Mike, come help set the table!" The two kits got up and hurried back into the large apartment.

"Scout's the curious one, if you couldn't guess," Chance chuckled. "And that was Bruce, Mom's boyfriend. Want something to drink?" He asked, obviously still feeling completely at home here despite having moved out.

"Sure," he nodded, hoping his partner meant a mixed drink, but not about to assume. He felt terribly out of place here, and not just physically.

Fortunately, while Chance had first looked up from the fridge with a can of soda, he glanced back at Jake and returned instead with a beer.

"Stronger's not for when the kits are around," he explained quietly. "Mom's rule; too good a chance that something that looks or smells like it's not alcoholic will end up disappearing."

"Okay, and thanks," he accepted the can and watched the busy house and it's chaotic order as everyone got ready for dinner. He had rarely been more grateful for being able to just sort of disappear into the background and not be noticed. It was like nothing he'd seen before, and it was somewhere between fascinating and unsettling to watch.

"Chance!" A cheerful, older female voice called out from the door as it opened after a moment.

"Hey Mom!" Chance grinned, turning to meet her, giving her a hug. Mrs. Furlong was built like a brick house, stocky and solid. It was clear that she'd had a long life, and not an easy one. She looked Jake over appraisingly as Chance stepped back.

"Mom, this is Jake Clawson. Jake, Meg Furlong, my mother," Chance said by way of introduction.

"Jake," she smiled, offering him her hand. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Good things, I hope," he smiled in return and shook her hand. Her grip was strong, unsurprisingly, though he had a feeling she was testing him by squeezing a bit more than she usually would have.

"Very good," she chuckled. "I hear you're keeping this hooligan in the Academy," she smiled with a nod towards Chance, "and keeping my nephew very happy," she added. "I'm glad you could make it, I've heard you've got a very busy schedule."

"Only twenty-three credits this term," he shook his head, teasing her back just a bit, though he did think it was a light academic load. "Rock tends to make it busy."

"He can do that," Mindy giggled as she came in. "Dinner's ready; how's Mrs. Grady?"

"She's fine, she just wanted to talk for a bit," Meg said easily. "I hope you're good with spicy foods?" She asked Jake. "Bruce learned to cook on a pepper farm."

"I haven't met the meal I didn't like," he answered honestly. "It'll be a nice change from cafeteria food."

"Can't help but be that," Chance chuckled. "He is good though."

"Come on, let's go eat," Mindy grinned. "Sausage gumbo tonight."

"Between you and having Chance over, I hope we made enough," Meg chuckled. "How I managed to keep up when all of you lived here, I'm still not sure. I've had the 'good' fortune to raise a string of endless appetites," she explained to Jake. "As I'm sure you've noticed with Chance."

"Hey, I've got to keep up with training," Chance chuckled. "Mindy ... she doesn't have the excuse," he teased his sister.

"She's a growing girl," Jake supplied with a teasing grin at his partner.

"Small and feisty," Mindy purred at Jake. "I like this one."

"He's taken," Jake countered before things got any further.

"Rock shares, I know," she countered in return.

"But he doesn't," Chance saved Jake from more serious flirting.

"Phoo," Mindy pouted cutely, though she did back off. "Well, if it doesn't work out with Rock, let me know," she winked, taking her seat at the dinner table and grabbing a biscuit from the basket in the middle as a lean, gray-furred tom ladled out the gumbo.

"Hello, Jake," he smiled. "Hope you're hungry."

"Not compared to him," he chuckled with a teasing wink towards his partner. "By normal standards, very."

"That'll do," Bruce grinned. "Sit down, dig in ... Meg'll start the interrogation as soon as we've got the irons hot," he teased.

"I'm not that much of an amateur," the middle-aged woman smirked, giving her boyfriend a kiss before taking a seat, the table packed full with seven people around it, even with the two kittens taking up less space. "Why don't we start with any questions you've got first, Jake?" She offered.

"Honestly, none," he admitted between bites. "Chance and Rock both talk a lot."

"Then I'll start out," Meg smiled as she finished a bite of the soup. "What's your family like?"

"I don't really have one," he shrugged. "Dad's dead, no siblings and I haven't been on speaking terms with my mother for years now. My best friend's almost a sister; I've spent more time with her than my own kin. Probably saw her mother more than my own too, most years," he added, only half focused on the here and now. "Mostly raised myself."

"Is your family Enforcer, or are you another first generation cadet?"

"First generations as far as I know," he said. "I think I had a great-uncle or something who enlisted during MW2, but that's probably it."

"Most families had somebody who enlisted back then," Bruce nodded slightly.

"Why don't you talk to your Mom?" Scout asked, cocking his head slightly as he worked on a plate that had mostly sausage on it.

"Because the only thing she wants from me I can't give her," Jake skirted the details around one a bit young to hear them. "We fight whenever I'm around."

"But wh-"

"Scout, you're pushing too much," Chance told him.

"Sorry," the kitten said, his ears flattening briefly before he went back to his dinner.

"So is your family really your family, or your friend and hers?" Mindy asked him, and got an uncertain look in return as Jake tried to process the question with very limited success.

"Are Midnight and her folks more like a family to you than your Mom is," Chance offered quietly.

"Midnight is, I guess," he said, still fairly unsure of it. "I don't have much to compare it to."

"What sort of family are you planning on having, eventually?" Meg asked him, and knew she'd said something very, very wrong even before she finished. He hid it well for a tom not yet twenty, but to her there was no missing the cringe Jake made, or the way her son reached over to squeeze his leg apologetically under the table.

"None," Jake answered quietly, his attention on his food, though Chance got a brief glance of thanks.

Meg quietly filed that away for topics to go into some time when the kittens weren't out, and decided to move on. "So, what made you decide to become a gunner?" She asked curiously, and signed internally when her son cringed this time.

There were going to be issues with those two, she just knew it. Still, at least Chance seemed to be bonding with him.

"I couldn't get work in the field I'd studied for," Jake answered, his words doing little to hide just how very bitter he was about it. "The Enforcers were willing to have me."

"I was wondering more about why you picked that field," Meg explained. "Instead of something that isn't as risky?"

"Because it is risky," he shrugged.

That got her attention, and Chance winced again as she looked at Jake with a firm expression.

"Just how much of the risk is the draw for you?" She asked him with a low tone that could still make his partner feel three inches tall.

Jake just rolled his eyes before leveling off against her, his social shyness gone in the face of a challenge he recognized. "I'm not suicidal anymore. It's just my job now, to be the best gunner out there."

Chance and the rest of the Furlongs had to give him points for not being afraid, even if it was considered slightly insane to stand up against Meg that way.

"Mom, if he was suicidal, he wouldn't have made it this far," Chance pointed out. "You should've heard the questions I got just for not being into guys; they're watching out for anything like that."

"I'm sure you can see why it would concern me though," she said, mostly to Jake, though most of the edge was gone now.

"Yes," he nodded and settled back into his social shyness as the meal continued.

"So, how are you adjusting to college and the Academy?" Meg asked after a few moments, trying to get things back on a more conversational track for a bit.

"It's not very different, honestly," Jake smiled at her. "I started at MKCU full time when I was fourteen. The Academy has more physical and practical training, but it's largely more of what I've always done, plus I'm still taking half my class load in collage classes anyway and we're on the same campus."

"How'd you get in that young?" Mindy asked him incredulously. "You're just a year or two older than me!"

"I finished all the academics required," he shrugged. "I started taking college courses at ten."

"That's just... wow," she murmured, shaking her head. "And I thought I was good taking a few now."

"You are," Jake assured her, pausing to take a few bites of gumbo. "I'm just off the scale," he managed to say without any hint of pride in it.

"Well, I think it's impressive," Mindy told him.

"We were thinking that Jake might actually be able to help you fill out some of your scholarship app's and stuff," Chance offered. "Tell you the sort of things to play up."

"Really?" Mindy asked, looking at the smaller tom.

"I have been living on it for nearly ten years now," he nodded. "I know the systems better than the folks who run them. It's not hard if you know what you're doing."

"Any help you can give would be welcome," Meg said seriously. "We do want to get Mindy into school after she graduates, but we only got Chance in because of the Enforcer programs."

Jake nodded to Meg and turned his attention to Mindy. "How are you doing academically right now?"

"Mostly A's, a couple B's in AP Psych and History," she said easily. "Hoping to get into Calc next year, maybe find a way to talk myself into a programming class."

"It's a good start," Jake nodded. "Have you decided on a major yet?"

"Computer science, if I can do it," she told him. "It's only going to get bigger as the computers get cheaper."

"Agreed. How are your foreign language skills?" Jake asked.

"I speak a little Golden, more Hyena; you kinda learn it in self-defense around here," she giggled slightly.

"So no formal language classes?" he asked. "Something to keep in mind; programming is a foreign language, one that is extremely unforgiving of slang. If you have difficulty learning language or syntax, Computer Science may be very difficult for you."

"That's where I picked up the Golden," she explained. "And I know a bit about it; I haven't had too much opportunity to get experience, but I've been reading up on it and getting a feel for what's involved."

"Good. I'll introduce you to the senior CS instructor if you'd like. He'd love to have someone interested enough to show up at your age."

"That'd be cool," she grinned. "Didn't know you were in those classes."

"Jake's been in just about all the classes," Chance chuckled. "And the ones he hasn't been, he's going for," he teased his partner lightly.

"Or I've challenged and gotten to skip," Jake nodded, completely missing the joke. "It's been a couple years since I finished the CS course, but I still talk with Vince."

"If I could get a start on that next year, it'd be real helpful," Mindy nodded. "Thanks."

"You enjoy learning then?" Meg asked Jake.

"Yes," he nodded, shifting his attention to her. "In class or hands-on, it's a big part of what I am."

"What about after you're done with classes, and go onto active duty?"

"I'll still have plenty of time for a few classes a term," he told her. "Enforcers don't ask that much of my time."

"He only sleeps about four hours a night, if that, most of the time," Chance explained. "Fortunately, he can work without too much light too," he grinned.

"And I'm not spending all my spare time trying to catch the nearest skirt," Jake teased back.

"Please, I haven't been out clubbing in months," Chance snorted. "And you know why too."

"He might, but we don't yet," Mindy grinned.

"He has a girlfriend," Jake snickered.

"Oh?" Meg asked curiously. "Who, and how serious? Since we haven't heard about her...."

"Mom," Chance groaned, working on his supper a bit more. "C'mon, you know I don't bring girls around much after Laura. Serious or not."

"That doesn't mean that I don't want to hear about them," she chuckled. "So, are you going to tell me, or is your partner?"

Jake looked sideways at his partner, quite willing to talk, but giving him first shot.

"I met Midnight, Jake's friend, when she wanted to talk about me and Rock and figure out if we were good for him," Chance explained. "We hit it off... she's a good gal, even if she's got hit and miss choice in boyfriends. I met her ex; he was a real piece of work who she won't have to worry about for about ten to twenty."

"What?" Meg asked, her fur fluffed out as she stared at Chance.

"And that's why I didn't want to tell you," he pointed out. "He's a mean drunk who made the mistake of showing up when I was around. I've handled a lot better fighters than him before," he reassured her.

"This does not reassure your mother," Meg said, shaking her head as Bruce reached over to rub her shoulder lightly. "But you would've told me if you'd been seriously hurt, so I'll let it slide."

"Ma'am, he's an Enforcer cadet," Jake reminded her. "He's in more danger from his job than an ex-boyfriend."

"Jake? Not helping," Chance murmured quietly.

"Maybe not, but that's also an entirely different situation," Meg murmured. "He's got support, backup, people watching him... you watching him," she pointed out. "People who might show up in the middle of the night...."

"Mom," Mindy said, looking over at her mother with a concerned expression. "Not going to happen. This guy's in jail, and Chance... he's not a kitten anymore."

"And he's not alone off duty either," Jake pointed out. "We do look out for each other, in uniform and out."

"I know," Meg nodded slightly. "I just... worry about him."

"I know, Mom," Chance said, standing up to move around and squeeze her shoulder lightly. "Don't worry, he's not gonna be any trouble."

"I'm sure," she murmured, reaching up to squeeze his hand. "You're still eight to me ... probably always will be," she smiled slightly up to him. "You'll just have to live with it."

"I have been for years," Chance chuckled, leaning down to kiss her forehead lightly before returning to his seat. He knew Jake had watched the entire exchange with a strange kind of half-jealous, half-disgusted expression fairly well concealed behind the bewildered one.

He glanced at the lean tom as he sat down, wondering what it must be like to go into the deep end of what a family could be when it was close. He couldn't help but feel sorry for Jake, even knowing it would irritate the hell out of him.

"Well, I think it's time for the kittens to get to bed," Bruce said, glancing at Meg with a concerned expression.

"Aww, it's not that late!" Mike and Scout both protested.

"Oh it is," Bruce chuckled. "C'mon, let's get you cleaned up and off to bed, or your Mom'll skin me when she gets here and you're both up."

The two of them protested, but let themselves be led off for their baths before bed.

"So... why don't we go get ourselves something to drink?" Chance suggested.

"Yes, I think that might be good," Meg nodded agreeably. "You still like to be our bartender?" she smiled teasingly in a motherly way.

"Sure," he chuckled. "I'll get your drinks mixed, you guys get settled in."

"And I can ask you about a few things that the kittens don't need to hear," Meg told Jake as they stood up. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm fine, ma'am," he nodded and followed her into the living room. "It's just very different from what I'm used to."

"I'm sure," she nodded slightly. "I hope we're not making you too uncomfortable," she smiled, taking a seat and indicating that Jake should do the same.

"You aren't," he reassured her with a small smile and sat down on the couch even as Chance came in with four drinks and handed Jake something mixed with a soda.

His mother and sister both got tall glasses of dark liquor, while Chance sat down with a gin and tonic.

"Left a Bloody Mary for Bruce when he comes back down," he said easily.

"Thanks," Meg smiled. "So, Jake, how are things between you and Rock?"

"Really good," a fond smile he wasn't even aware of crossed his face when he thought of his lover. "He's really something special."

It was moments like this that allowed Chance to start to understand what Zach was talking about when he said he missed Jake's smile so much. He bet Jake could light up a room when he felt like it.

"Are you aware of some of his previous career moves?" She asked, taking a sip of her drink.

"That he used to turn tricks? Yeah, I know," Jake nodded. "He told me early on."

"It's been an issue for some people in our family," Meg nodded slightly. "I just think it's a good thing to know going in, instead of finding out by mistake. Does it bother you at all?"

"No," Jake shook his head. "It's just a job; little different from the tom Mom hired to sire me."

"When Chance said you didn't share earlier, I wasn't sure if it would bother you," she explained. "Are you considering a permanent relationship with Rock, at some point?"

"It's been brought up, and yes," he nodded, quiet and serious. "Nothing is likely to be formal until I've had a couple years active duty, but the conversation has been started."

"Did you have any questions you wanted to ask without the kits around?" Meg asked him as everybody started to relax a bit more.

"Can't say that I do," Jake admitted.

"Does being part of a large family bother you?"

"No," he shook his head, though he didn't seem entirely sure. "It's just something different."

"You'll get used to it, being Chance's partner and Rock's boyfriend," Mindy giggled. "At least if you want to. Me ... growing up without brothers and sisters is the hard part for me to see."

"Yeah, but you're the youngest," Chance chuckled.

"Not by much. The schools have a lot of rules about what you're not supposed to do?" She asked, looking over at Jake. "During your downtime?"

"No," Jake shook his head. "Just the laws that govern everyone."

"Wasn't sure if they had rules about dating and stuff," Mindy giggled slightly.

"Are you kidding? I'm there," Chance smirked. "And with the Academy; they've got more rules than the college dreamed of putting through, and they add more every few weeks."

"It's not that bad," Jake teased him.

"Chance was never much for rules though," Meg chuckled. "So, what are your plans, for after you're out of the Academy? More than just the first few years."

"Don't have any," he shrugged, utterly at a loss to see that far forward. "I'll figure it out if the Enforcers don't work out."

"So no plans for retirement, how long you want to stay with the Enforcers?" She pressed.

Jake could only shake his head and sigh. "You're talking to somebody who was actively tried to get himself killed a couple years ago. Life's better, but I'm not ready to try and look forward like that again," he looked up and locked eyes with her. "Have you ever helped somebody through recovery?"

"It depends on what from, but I've seen most of the wringers people can go through," she said seriously.

"Remember 'one day at a time, one minute at a time if you have to' advice most of them use?" he asked softly, though his eyes were sharp and hard with a hatred that wouldn't die nearly as easily as the flesh could.

"It can work, though it doesn't fit for every thing or every one," she nodded slightly, making note that this was definitely a quiet one with the capability to explode. He wasn't saying the right things to make her happy with his association with her son or nephew, but he was honest.

"It's most of what's gotten me this far, ma'am. You don't have to like how I survive, or why I do what I chose to, to know I'll do anything to protect them."

"I understand... but I hope you also understand why it worries me," she said seriously. "Especially given the relationship that you and Chance will have to have. I've come close enough to losing him before."

"I do," Jake gave her his full honesty. "The Enforcers won't keep us together if I can't cut it."

"Mom, it's been six months of training now, and we're both holding up fine," Chance tried to reassure her. "We've got a couple years yet to see if anything's going to go wrong."

"All right," she nodded slightly. "I would like to hear from you, both, a bit more... if you need help with anything, we'll do what we can."

"Yes, Mom," Chance nodded. "It's just going really well."

"Okay," she smiled a bit. "Now... tell me about this new girlfriend of yours," she chuckled.

"Mom," Chance groaned, Mindy giggling and Jake smirked as they settled in to relax a bit more for the rest of the night.

Chance forced himself not to fidget in anticipation of his first real parachute jump. He knew it wouldn't be noticeable in the jump bay of an Enforcer prop, not with the way the other nine cadets were trying to pretend they weren't afraid.

He glanced over at his partner. Jake looked as calm as if he were in a car going to some class. This was definitely one of those times where he wished he could read the lean tom better. He still couldn't tell the difference between calm, tired and spacey unless he was talking.

Of course, for all he knew Jake could be grabbing a catnap before the jump. It wouldn't surprise him at all. The Kat would sleep at the oddest of moments.

"You ready for this?" He asked Jake quietly, hoping to get a better feel for his preparation.

"As much as classes can make it," he nodded, looking up to meet his partner's eyes with a complete lack of any kind of unease. "I'm sure we'll be sore, hungry and miserable by the time we get back."

"Heh ... yeah, I think that's kinda the point," Chance murmured. "Here's hoping the gear all holds out ... figuring out where they're dropping us is going to be the trickiest part once we're on the ground."

"Cadets Hitail and Longfur, ready to jump," the Sergeant in charge of the mission called out as she moved back to pull open the side door.

Chance looked up, watching for any sign of just where they were; the plane was mostly closed off, so they couldn't get too many details about where they were until they jumped. The idea was to simulate a crash in the wilderness ... but it didn't mean that they weren't all looking for any edge they could get.

He really should have known better. All that was visible from the door were trees. Given they'd been promised, or rather told, that this survival week would be within the valley, it didn't tell them much.

Of course that thought led him to the part where somebody asked where else they'd get dropped, and the mention of the badlands.

He was glad that their first trip out wasn't going to be that one ... at least here, they wouldn't have to worry about heat exhaustion too much. The valley had a few horror stories about people getting lost there ... but nothing like getting lost out in the badlands did.

He watched as the first team jumped and almost instantly disappeared from sight. He tried to time out how long it was until the next team jumped, only to realize the plane was banking. They weren't going to make it that easy.

"Cadets Mallion and Feathertail," the Sergeant called out, and their friends got up. Amanda went first, her tail completely puffed out but her actions smooth when she launched herself just ahead of her pilot.

He shifted his attention on mentally running over his drills for the parachuting. He'd done well in the classes, that hadn't been a problem. The classes just hadn't been at a couple thousand feet if something went wrong ... he reminded himself that Jake was going to be going out ahead of him; he couldn't really afford to screw this up given that. He'd take his partner down with him if he did.

The plane banked again, and several minutes later Sergeant Faris spoke again. "Cadets Furlong and Clawson."

Jake nodded fractionally and stood, walking to the open door without hesitation. He paused, glancing at Chance to check that he was going to be okay, and leapt out into the snapping wind and afternoon sun.

Chance was just a few seconds behind him, forcing himself to count instead of dwelling on how very, very insane this all was. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane ... and to think, some people did it for fun!

He focused on making sure he didn't wait too long before pulling his ripcord; Jake pulled his, the billowing fabric quickly filling and slowing the lean tom's fall. Chance mentally braced himself, and followed suit, his body jerking upright as the parachute expanded behind him.

He kept an eye on Jake's chute and the ground as it rushed up to greet him, all while praying he never had to do this in the middle of a firefight. Seconds flashed between disappearing and taking hours to pass.

He drew a sharp breath as he saw Jake's chute catch in the trees, had to focus all his efforts on keeping himself from taking a branch in a bad place.

He winced as his shoulders were jerked again, this time getting caught in the trees and stopping him abruptly.

Still ... it was better than just dropping out of the plane. He had to give it that.

He reached around, undoing the catches holding him in, and dropped the remaining six feet or so to the ground, landing in a crouch and smoothly rolling to dissipate the remainder of the momentum.

"Jake!" He called out after a moment, looking in the direction his partner's chute had caught.

"Here!" he yelled back, just before there was another rustling of leaves and crack of branches from the same general direction.

Chance took off at a brisk jog, hoping that Jake could get down as safely as he had.

"I'll be right there!" He called out as another burst of breaking tree noise reached his ears. He paused near the right location, focusing on hearing in the dim light and limited visibility.

"Coming down!" Jake's voice alerted him to the object about to fall on him.

He ducked back, getting clear just as Jake landed along with his supplies and some broken branches.

"You okay?" Chance asked Jake as he picked himself up.

"Yes, but I hope we don't have to do that for real," he stood and brushed himself off. "You?"

"Glad to be on the ground, but it beats being in a crash. Should we try and salvage the 'chutes?"

"As much as we can," Jake nodded and looked up with a sound of displeasure. "We'll be days getting back and it'll make good shelter."

"Mine's a lot closer to the ground," Chance offered, jerking his head back towards it. "We ought to be able to get that one down pretty easy."

Jake nodded and they headed to where the tabby had come down. He looked up, then made a leap into the tree, climbing the dozen feet to the limbs where the parachute was tangled.

"Need any help?" Chance called up to him.

"I've got it," Jake called back down as he climbed out to begin untangling it from the branches. "Just be ready to gather it when it comes down."

"Gotcha," Chance nodded, getting ready for it. "Any idea where we came down yet?"

No telling what Jake might have learned already, really. Chance was sure he was more familiar with the valley than he was, at any rate.

"We're near the mountains, about a hundred and fifty miles east of city limits," Jake said as leaves came down from his efforts to untangle the chute. "Our best bet is to get to the nearest road. I saw one, maybe twenty miles north. Getting lucky on finding a ranger station would be better, but too risky to plan on."

Chance whistled, gathering up the chute and shaking his head.

"So, are we shooting for a rescue point, or the city?" He asked as Jake climbed down, then just leapt down the last ten feet.

Jake thought about it as they took an inventory of what they had. They both knew the standard list by heart, but they also knew that the Sergeant had gone through each pack and secretly removed items to represent damage done in the crash.

"We'll have to make nearly fifteen miles a day to make it to a precinct office within the time frame, only ten for a rendezvous point," he said, still making calculations on how much food they had, the terrain between them and the artificial limits put on them by the exercise.

"You think we can do it, with what we've got?" Chance asked , going through to make sure nothing actually had been damaged in the skydive. "Might be worth it, if we can pull it off."

"I can," Jake said with a grim certainty. "You need a lot more sleep, though. I don't want you to push yourself too hard. We don't need the points, after all."

"I don't need that much more sleep, and if we can reach the road we'll make better time," Chance pointed out. "We might not need the points, but there's something to be said for bragging points."

"All right, then let's go for the city," Jake grinned, all efforts to dull his competitive nature gone in a flash. "We'll make better time on the road, but we'll have to stay by a water source," he reminded his partner. "We'll be eating very light too, unless we manage to catch something."

"Water's a bigger issue, but I think we can make do," Chance nodded. "It's supposed to be pretty decent weather coming up, from what I heard ... if it'll stay fairly cool, we should be able to avoid the nasty stuff, and I think I saw a river on the way down."

"We can also just follow the main river into the heart of MKC," Jake said as they repacked their survival kits and got ready to start walking. "It's not as fast, but we'll have better food and water available."

"Sounds good to me," Chance nodded, shouldering his kit. "Think it's that way," he said, indicating the direction he thought they should go. "Your blaster still have a charged pack?"

"Stock one, no, but the one I carry is good," Jake nodded as they headed off at a brisk pace, Jake keeping an eye on the sun, shadows and tree growths to keep tabs on their direction.

"You don't trust the compass?" Chance glanced at them as he set his mind to pushing through the pain the next week would bring.

"I know too many ways to mess with them," he nodded. "The sun and stars are a lot harder to misdirect."

"Yeah, I don't think the Enforcers would go to that much effort," Chance chuckled slightly. "Why don't we see if they actually did screw with 'em though," he suggested, pulling his compass out. "What direction do you think we're going?"

Jake glanced up and did a quick calculation. "Probably eighty degrees or so from north."

Chance took a moment to make sure he was reading it right.

"Mine's good, at least," he told Jake, handing it over to him for a second opinion.

Yap," he nodded. "I still know the way to the river. I got a good view coming down."

"Let's get going then," Chance grinned, following his partner off into the woods.

Amy Piercin fidgeted nervously in front of the small full-length mirror in her dorm room. She was privately glad her roommate was gone for night; it was nice to be able to dress and primp in private, even if Stacy's opinion might have been useful.

At five fifteen, she forced herself to stop trying to make herself look good and picked up her slender wallet, slipping it and her key into an inside pocket in her A-line skirt before heading out for the short walk to where Zach was picking her up for a date. It was an actual real date too, dinner and a movie, and she hoped spending the night at his place.

After reaching the Manx Statue, she found herself with a long ten minute wait that felt like an hour. She just hoped, desperately, that Zach would like the way she looked ... at least she didn't have to worry about contacts tonight.

At five-twenty-eight, Zach saved her the last two minutes of nervously wondering if he was going to show. He pulled up in front of the statue, climbing out of the car and looking over at her with a shy grin. "Amy? You look incredible," he said, coming around to open the door for her.

"Thank you," she blushed and got in the passenger side, watching him as he went around the car and got in the driver's side. "Have you picked a movie?"

"Well... given what we talked about after I got out of the infirmary, I was thinking maybe Howling II?" He suggested, closing the door and buckling up. "Haven't seen it yet, but from what I've heard it ought to be right up your alley," he chuckled.

"Oh, it is," she shivered slightly in delight. "It's a great movie."

"You've seen it before?" He asked her curiously, pulling out. "Or the first one? I haven't seen either one," he admitted.

"I bought the first one, and I've seen the second twice now. Great movies," she grinned and leaned over to kiss his cheek.

"Good to know my luck's holding out," he grinned, blushing a bit at the kiss. "So, what sounds good for dinner first? And don't worry, I won't subject you to what passes for my cooking," he winked.

"Mmm, how about Chi Young's?" she suggested. "They have an incredible whole fried fish that has to be shared."

"I've been there before," he nodded. "Have you tried it?" He asked her curiously as he turned off in that direction. "It's pretty spicy."

"I know," she giggled nervously. "I love it, but it's not often I can talk somebody into joining me for a meal. The show doesn't hurt either."

"No, it doesn't," he nodded with a smile. "I've had it before too; they do a good job with it. So, how're your classes going?" He asked her conversationally as they drove.

"Good, I think. A lot of really dull stuff," she admitted. "I'm still just working through all the basic courses everybody has to take. I get to start with the interesting stuff next year."

"Ugh, I remember those," he nodded slightly. "You manage to get into Speech 101 yet, or that still full by the time you get the register?"

"It's full, though I'm on the wait list," she grumbled. "I was really hoping to get that out of the way early."

"I wanted to do the same thing," he grumbled. "Took me three and a half years to get an opening early enough to get in ... a little friendly advice? Take that one pass/fail, if you can. What you'll have in stress is worth it."

"Really?" she glanced at him. "What's so bad about it?"

"Well, maybe it's just me, but giving speeches is bad enough without worrying about hurting your GPA by passing out in the middle of one," he said seriously. "If you're good with it ... more power to you," he grinned, and saw her blush.

"Terrible, though I've never almost passed out," she giggled as he pulled into Chi Young's almost empty parking lot. "Sounds like a good idea."

"Believe me, it is... best part is, if you do good enough on the first couple, you might be able to get out of taking the last one if you don't need the points to make the pass grade," he told her seriously, parking and getting out, walking around to get the door for her.

"That's worth it right there," she murmured and caught herself from opening the door on her own. She stood when he did, however, and smiled uncertainly with her hand half extended to him. It was close enough that she could pretend it just ended up there, but far enough out to be an offer if he cared to see it.

He took it, squeezing her hand lightly with a smile.

"I'm a little old-fashioned yet ... hope you don't mind?"

"No," she smiled shyly and leaned into him as they walked to the front door of the elegantly oriental building decorated with foo lions and snake-like dragons gilded in gold and ornamental stones. "I was thinking of going dutch with dinner ... if you don't mind?"

"Mmm ... you'll let me cover the movie?" He asked teasingly. "Seriously, I don't mind at all. I'm not that old fashioned, if you want to cover part of it. Just don't let Mr. Young know," he chuckled.

"He'll be far too happy just to see me with a tom," she giggled with a blush. "I think I've dragged every girl I know here."

"Well, let's go give him a pleasant surprise then," Zach purred, turning to give her a quick kiss on the cheek before they headed in through the front door, the heady smells of exotic spices and cooking methods greeting them in a blast of the far away and tasty.

"Ah, Lady Piercin, Sir Tanner, it is so good to see you again," a tiny, ancient Siamese woman hurried out from behind the counter in the waiting room and hugged them daintily. "Please, have a good seat for you. You come together, good." She added in approval and walked with quick grace into the dinning room, then through it to a much smaller one lit only with the soft glow of paper lanterns.

"Looks like we got in while it's still pretty quiet," Zach mused, pulling out a chair for Amy before sitting down himself.

"Drinks to begin?" Mrs. Young asked them as she handed them menus.

"Yes please; I'll take some green tea ... Amy?" He asked, looking over at her, realizing he wasn't honestly sure what she'd like.

"Black tea with cream, please," she smiled as the woman nodded and moved off to fetch two pots and their fixings.

"So, do you come out here very often?" He asked her curiously as they waited.

"When I can," she nodded and tried to relax her nervous energy by watching her date and the soothing dimness of the room. "I don't often have the spare money to eat out this well."

"Well, I can handle it once in a while," he smiled. "Don't have that much else I spend my money on, usually," he admitted. "Spend a lot of time at the library. It's good to get out sometimes, especially with somebody as pretty as you."

Amy ducked her head and blushed furiously, though there was a delighted smile on her face too. "It's always better with company. Company that actually likes the food is even better."

"No worries there," he chuckled. "Honestly, compared to some of what I've had, this place is pretty tame."

"I'm not sure if I should be afraid or delighted at that," she giggled, then settled down as their teapots arrived on trays with a small cup and assortment of additions they could add if they wished. "It sounds kind of exciting though."

"It can be," he nodded, starting to mix his tea with a very small amount of honey. "Of course, you've got to know what you're getting into ahead of time ... I've had a couple classmates find out the hard way that you don't always want to ask what you're eating ... especially if you like it and weren't directly involved in its preparation or hunting."

"Did somebody get fed a pet?" she asked, her mind going over the possibilities.

"Not exactly," he chuckled. "But finding out that the 'chicken' you're eating is anaconda can be rough on some people ... and we lost about three potential anthro majors at a Hyena funeral in the western Veldt. You... probably don't want too many details about that one, given we'll be eating soon."

"Lost as in dead, or lost as in new majors?" she asked in a quiet mixture of fascination and distress. "Though I can't say I get the big deal with eating a snake. A cat or dog I could see, but snake?"

"New majors," he said. "Dead ... that only happened once, and a very different situation," he said, taking a sip of his tea quietly. "And some people just don't have any stomach for food they're not used to. They don't like snakes, so there's no good use for them, that sorta thing."

Her eyes unfocused a bit as she thought about it while periodically sipping her tea. "I guess I can follow. If somebody served me spider stew or something I'd totally lose it. But I'm scared of spiders, more than dislike them."

"I could see losing it with that," he agreed. "Spider stew ... that wouldn't happen, at least not as actual food. Spiders are too hard to catch. They tend to be roasted and served on special occasions. Of course, some people are just grossed out by drinking milk that didn't come from a cow," he chuckled and quickly taking the subject elsewhere at the freaked out look she was developing. "They're not cut out for field work anywhere that doesn't have a supermarket nearby."

"I bet," she murmured with a shake of her head. "I could see not liking it, but to be freaked out by it? It's just milk."

"Indeed," Mrs. Young chuckled. "Have you decided on your main course?"

"Actually, we'd decided on that before we even got here," Zach grinned. "We'd like to share a fashi naga."

"Ah, my mate will be delighted," she smiled in real approval. "He will be out to prepare it shortly. Would you like to select your fish?"

"Certainly," he nodded, standing and offering Amy a hand up that she accepted. They quietly followed the ancient Siamese shekat out into the main dinning room where much of the aquatic life served was swimming or crawling about in a handful of huge tanks.

They followed her up to one of them, thick with large, plain-colored carp and considered the offerings as Mr. Young came out from the kitchen. He had a stepladder and net while a great-granddaughter in her early teens carried a pot of water.

"That one, you think?" He asked Amy quietly, nodding towards one that looked like it would be a decently sized meal for the both of them and feisty.

"Yes," she smiled, and watched as Mr. Young skillfully netted the medium-sized carp and quickly plopped it in the pot.

The two of them followed the Siamese back to their table, where the rest of what would be used to cook the fish was being set up by one of his sons. They could smell the chilies and spices blooming in the hot oil the fish would soon meet.

Zach pulled Amy's chair out for her again, before seating himself, his mouth watering in anticipation of what he knew was a delicious meal. He watched as Mr. Young skillfully inserted a needle into the fish's spine, paralyzing it instead of killing it.

It was an addition to the traditional preparation for the 'civilized' market where it was very bad for business if the fish splashed too much. It would still move, but not nearly so much.

With a swift motion Mr. Young submerged the unhappy creature into hot oil, holding it there for several moments until its struggling stilled for the most part. Only then did Mr. Young pick it up by the tail and began to ladle the hot oil over its curved body.

Zach glanced over at Amy; he was fairly sure she wouldn't have a problem with the way it was cooked, if she'd had it before, but he'd found you could learn a lot by watching somebody's reaction. Some people were freaked out by it ... as, he admitted, he'd been the first time he'd seen it prepared the truly traditional way, without the needle disrupting the nerve inputs that would let it feel any pain. Other people enjoyed that part of the show more than any other ... something he, at times, found a little disturbing.

Particularly when he was watching it prepared in the traditional way, which involved significantly more thrashing and apparent pain.

She was watching Mr. Young's movements more than the fish. Though she didn't seem too disturbed by it, at least not enough to turn away, she didn't seem that keen on it either. It was about the reaction he was hoping for.

Relaxing some, Zach leaned back and focused on Mr. Young again, letting himself enjoy the show the skillful old tom was putting on. It wasn't long before the fish, arched into a crescent and locked in place by the oil, was placed on a large platter on a bed of spicy rice and vegetables.

The old tom smiled at them before the four Siamese left without a word.

"Enjoy," Zach grinned over at Amy. He didn't have any compunctions about popping out his claws and taking a piece of the fried carp, along with a generous fingerful of the rice to go with it; he'd had far less civilized meals in less civilized conditions before.

She grinned and sliced around one eye, working to get it out. She wasn't terribly skilled at it, but it was a move that left him in no doubt that she'd enjoyed this before. Almost no one who didn't travel extensively went for the eyes.

"Where did you learn to eat this?" she asked him curiously between bites of the flavorful but messy meal.

"When I was sixteen, my folks spent a year in the Middle Empire as part of a cultural exchange between Pumadyne and Young Industries ... no relation, that I know of," he added, removing the other eye with reasonable skill. "We went with them; it was a major case of culture shock at first, but I've been through more since then."

"You've traveled a lot, then?" she asked, going for a chunk of flaky white flesh next.

"More than most, but not as much as I want to one of these days," he smiled. "You've got to be careful where you travel though ... most people don't realize how many ways there are to get into serious trouble in anthropology, archaeologist or otherwise."

"Really?" she cocked her head, openly curious about this new field. "I can understand somebody being upset with their old home or whatever disrupted, but what else?"

"There's that, there's traps in a bunch of places, sometimes the locals aren't friendly ... and then sometimes you end up in the middle of a warzone, or one that's on the verge of it." He took a quiet drink of his tea, washing down some of the spicy rice and crisp fish. "You remember the Khisari Purge?"

She had to think back, hard. "That was ... three, maybe four years ago? I think I heard something, but I really wasn't paying much attention to the news back then. Mom was seriously interested in it though."

"It wasn't that big a news item either," Zach said easily, pulling a piece of fish free and eating it, right along with a few of the rib bones. "The Khisari tribe tried taking over their portion of the Xenquii Empire from the ruling Ratha. They lost, and the Ratha basically wiped out the entire tribe ... along with anybody they thought was harboring them. Including a team of Peace Corps volunteers who were helping to build a water plant," he sighed. "I had a few class mates over there, nobody ever heard from 'em again. That sort of thing doesn't happen too often, but it can come up ... especially if people think that you'll have some treasure you dug up that they can sell."

"Have you ever been in that kind of situation?" she asked with a mixture of curiosity, fear and sorrow for lost lives. She pulled the fish's heart from its half-eaten body and made it the center of a rice ball. "Where you thought you might not come back?"

"Not like that," he said honestly. "I wondered a time or two during the time I was learning magic, but they do a pretty good job of avoiding potential rebellions and riots with our trips so far." He poured himself another cup of tea, preparing it after wiping his fingers on a napkin.

"It sounds like you will be though, sooner or later," she said thoughtfully after eating another hand-packed fish and rice ball. "I'm glad you like eating here, and fashi naga," she smiled warmly at him. "I don't have any friends who are happy to just dig in."

"Are you gonna tell me you were the first time you had it?" He asked her with a half-grin. "If you are, you're the first MKC native I've met who was."

"Really?" she looked at him in surprise. "I did, but my Moms said it was good, and I've never been much for not believing them. They brought me when I was fifteen, though I didn't see him cook it that time. When I was sixteen I came for my birthday, and I started screaming when I saw him start cooking," she shook her head. "I've gotten over it. The food's too good, and killing it first really does do something to the flavor."

"It does," he nodded. "Some people insist that paralyzing it first does too, though I haven't noticed that as much." He took out the liver, rolling it with the rice and munching on it. "And I think the screaming is something he's gotten used to," he chuckled.

"Oh yeah," she blushed and shook her head with a chuckle. "Mom had to explain that the needle numbed the fish, broke its spine. I was still pretty freaked, but ..." she shrugged. "I did ask to see."

"A little surprised they didn't warn you," he mused. "So, mind if I ask a bit about you?" He asked her with a grin.

"Oh, I was warned, but I wasn't ready for what I saw," she tried to explain. "And sure, ask away," she grinned a bit over a sip of tea.

"How much traveling do you do?" He asked her as he started mulling over the questions he had that he was up for asking just now.

"None, really," she admitted as she began to slice the fish's tail into smaller strips they could share. "I've been to Veldt and Haven, but that was when I was a kit with my folks. I like hearing about other places, reading and pictures, but I really don't do travel well. Even just the islands ... we went for my graduation, as a big vacation, and even though it was fun, I just couldn't like being away from home."

"Mom Tila is a chemical engineer at PumaDyne, Mom Cathy teaches mechanical engineering at MKCU, and Dad's the home keeper," she smiled warmly, obviously fond of her family and it's workings.

"Sounds a bit like the flipside of mine," Zach smiled, cocking his head and taking a slice of the tail. "Your Mom from the school ever talk about a Jake Clawson?" He asked curiously, trying to think if he could place the name as one that Jake had mentioned.

"Mm, not that I can remember, but she never talked much about work," Amy shook her head. "A friend of yours?"

"Yeah," Zach smiled. "Best friend, really. He's downright brilliant; started out in engineering, not sure if he was one of her students or not."

"I can ask. If he's that brilliant, she's probably at least heard of him."

"I'll ask him about her too," he said easily. "Once he gets back from the survival week, anyways. What's her last name?" He asked.

"Piercin, same as mine," Amy smiled, then glanced at the decimated fish meal they'd gone through. "That went fast."

"Neither of us was scared of it," he winked. "So, ready for the movie after we wash up?"

"True," she giggled and licked a finger suggestively, her eyes half closed. "The movie sounds good," she purred softly.

Zach blushed and pulled out his wallet, pulling out his share of the bill and a good-sized tip, wiping his fingers off on the napkin next to his seat while she added her portion to the neat pile.

"Let's go then ... if you don't mind me asking, how'd you get into movies like this one?" He asked as they left the money for the Youngs and started out.

"I saw one on TV a few years back, and it just sort of stuck," she smiled and nodded to Mrs. Young as they walked out. "Supernatural animals are interesting, though ghosts and pure suspense without the critters aren't as good for me."

"Heh - you would've loved one of the classes I audited last semester, I'll bet," he grinned. "Managed to snag a free seat in Supernatural Investigations 101."

"Really?" she perked up with real interest. "Just how many critters are real?"

"Weres, vampires, mages, mutants, a few others... we had a PI in the class who swears that ghosts are too, but that's still not official. I was there mostly to catch hints on figuring out when the room you're standing in is about to become ground zero for something big, mean, and grouchy... kind of a job hazard I'm looking forward to with mixed feelings," he chuckled.

"You actually want to meet something big and mean you just woke up?" she asked with wide eyes as he opened the passenger side door.

"That's the part that I'm not looking forward to ... opening the door and meeting somebody who's lived through a couple hundred years of history, conservatively, that's more appealing," he grinned, helping her into the car and climbing in.

She waited until he got in and closed the door. "You really think any of them might want to talk? Weren't all the mummies and stuff of dark wizards and warrior kings?"

"All the documented ones, yeah," he nodded. "Still, there are legends of others... and mummies aside, immortal mages and the like have more potential. Plenty of legends of those around. And besides... if you've been stuck in a tomb for centuries, which would sound better to you? Killing the first people you've seen, or talking to somebody?"

"After that long, I'm not sure I'd remember how to talk," she murmured. "Sounds like a fast way to go crazy."

"Yeah, probably would be," he admitted, starting the car. "Still... could work out to be a good thing too. Anyways, to the movie?"

"Definitely," she grinned at him as her hand found a place on his thigh. "Though no confusing that with a research subject," she teased.

"I have a feeling I won't need much convincing to remember that," he purred, leaning over to kiss her lightly before they pulled out and he had to pay attention to the traffic more than his date. Her hand on his leg was distracting enough, and as much as he liked having it there, he was glad she wasn't going anywhere else with it just yet.

"Not if you pay attention," Amy giggled.

"If I don't, I have a feeling you're going to be to blame for it," he chuckled, purring softly when she leaned against him briefly. He also welcomed the easy quiet in the car for the rest of the drive. Talking was fun, but being able to sit together and not talk was good too.

The drive wasn't very long; Chi Young's was in the same general neighborhood as the campus' main theater, so they were there in about five minutes. He pulled into the parking lot, helping her out and leading her into the lobby. He squeezed her hand as they walked up to get their tickets, almost like he was proving to himself that she really was there.

For her part, she seemed more than content to have her hand held, lean up against him and play her tail along his leg. He smiled, paid for their tickets, and relished the softly purring warmth so close along his right side. He was starting to wonder if Jake didn't have a point that paying a prostitute wasn't nearly as good as someone who'd get you off because they liked the idea on its own.

Hell ... who was he kidding? He'd already made up his mind about that, even without having any extra experience to back it up. He might not have slept with her yet, but he was already well on his way to enjoying just being with Amy more than he had enjoyed having sex with the hookers he'd hired before.

He pressed against her lightly as they headed down to find their seats, purring along with her as they sat down and snuggled, waiting for the movie to start. The popcorn he'd bought was balanced on his lap, and the soda on his side. He wasn't about to suggest it go between them once she lifted the arm between the two seats and sit a bit closer to him.

He turned to give her a light nuzzle as the lights dimmed, kissing her briefly before turning his attention to the screen. He pressed against her lightly, one arm around her as they snacked on the popcorn and he became keenly aware of a light trace of arousal in her sweet scent.

It was a smell that, combined with how she played her fingers along his thigh, made him uncomfortably aware of how turned on his was. It also made him quite aware of just how busty she was, and how she pressed them against him.

At this rate, he'd be lucky if he didn't explode before the movie was over.

He rubbed her side lightly, almost unconsciously, as the movie played out, opening up on the funeral for a news anchor, and the revelation to the heroes that she was shot for being a werewolf. He paused, his hand on Amy's hip, as the framework for the movie's werewolves was laid out. He found himself wondering just how drunk the writers had been when they decided to blend vampires, werewolves, and shaky science into one strange hybrid.

"Don't think so much," she whispered in a purr and put a hand lightly on his, gently guiding him to rub her leg. "Just enjoy the action and special effects."

"Sorry," he blushed slightly, scratching her thigh lightly through her skirt.

He felt her smile against him, her body vibrating lightly as she purred and they settled in to watch the movie for the action-flick it was.

It kept both of their attention for a good time from there. When Zach stopped watching it for internal consistency ... and trying to figure out why they'd even bothered with establishing two silver bullets when they would spend the rest of the movie blowing werewolves away with gay abandon, he could enjoy it more than he'd thought that he would. The idea of a matriarchal werewolf society was interesting in its own right.

Then the three lead werewolves ended up in bed, and he found himself realizing, abruptly, exactly why he'd heard about this movie on campus so often. Movies had been getting more explicit over the last few years, certainly, but the threesome on the screen was just on the tame side of full-fledged porn!

He drew in a deep breath, trying to calm himself, and found himself on the receiving end of a nose full of arousal from the shekat next to him. He kept the sound in his throat to himself, giving himself something to focus on besides the movie and arousal, until his attention abruptly snapped to his hand and the slickness under his fingers as he rubbed her leg.

He moved his thumb lightly, blushing deeply as he felt it brush against the slick, and very bare, lips of her sex; he pulled his hand away like he expected to get slapped for it... which, to be honest, he did!

"Sorry," he whispered, sure that she could smell his own arousal, just hoping that the rest of the theater couldn't.

"Don't be," she breathed against his ear, her voice soft with longing as she guided his hand back to her leg, though not quite as high up as before.

He licked his lips and snuggled up against her, his thumb tracing along the inside of her thigh. He suddenly found himself rather hoping that the movie would be over fairly soon. There was no way he was going to manage to pay much attention to it, given what was snuggled up against him.

"We can leave early, if you want," Amy suggested throatily.

"If you don't mind?" He asked with a bright blush beneath his tabby fur. A glance down the row confirmed that they could get out without interrupting anybody else watching the movie... for which he was devoutly grateful.

"Not at all," she murmured and leaned closer to kiss him. "As long as we're headed to your place."

"Sounds good to me," he grinned, kissing her back and standing up with her to lead her out, his pants bulging noticeably as they left. Their scent left little doubt as to their intentions for the rest of the night to anyone who got that close.

He could feel her excitement even across the distance between them in the car as he turned it on.

"Do ... you like to watch?" Amy asked hesitantly.

"I prefer to join in," he said a little nervously. "You?"

"Anything that turns you on, I think," she smiled nervously at him, her breath quickening at the increasing arousal-scent in the confined space.

"Let's get back to my place," he grinned, pulling out and onto the road, making for the quickest way back to his apartment. Maybe Lance's games would turn out for the best for once. Wouldn't that be the thing? He'd get the girl because of Lance.

The Wolf'd probably have a conniption fit if he knew.

"Yes, let's," Amy breathed as she turned her focus on making the short ride and walk to his place without embarrassing herself any more than she already had.

It was just a few minutes before they were inside, but they were some of the longest pleasant ones that Zach had ever had. Before long, they were at his door, and he was fumbling with his keys to unlock it.

"You ... don't have to do this, if you don't want to," he offered, looking over his shoulder at her. "Gotta be crazy for telling you that, but...." He tried to grin, only half-managing it. He didn't want her to say no, especially not now. And the last thing he wanted was for her to think he did.

"Don't you want to?" she suddenly looked unnerved. "I ... I do."

"Sweet Bastet yes, I just didn't want you thinking... well, thinking that you had to do this," he said, opening the door and turning back towards her, giving her a tender kiss that turned into a much more passionate one as she pressed against him.

By the time their mouths parted, they were inside and the door shut.

"Bed?" Amy nearly moaned.

"This way," he nodded, quickly making his way back to the small bedroom, sitting down on the edge of the bed and kissing her again as she sat next to him.

"What do you like?" He asked her between kisses, purring deeply as he reached up under her skirt to rub her thigh.

"Being touched," she murmured, spreading her legs a bit for him and leaning back onto the bed, her land trailing up his leg as she moved. "We'll just have to work on finding out the rest," she looked up at him with hungry eyes.

"Gladly," he rumbled, kissing her hungrily and sliding his hand up to rub her slick, practically dripping sex. He couldn't help but enjoy her moans as he rubbed her lightly, her juices thick and slick as they soaked into his fur.

Then it was his turn to moan when she found the coordination to unzip his pants and began to rub him through his underwear.

He reached up between them, fondling her ample breasts, pressing into her hand needily.

"Undress?" He asked her with a hot, low groan into her mouth.

She could barely nod, but she moved her hands and pushed his underwear down with his pants, then up to unbutton his shirt. He had no doubt she was as eager as him to be naked and with each other.

He helped her get his shirt off, then kissed her as he unbuttoned her blouse and pulled it out of her skirt. He shifted down, nuzzling her breasts as he unzipped her skirt and scooted it off. He toed his shoes off, then raised his hips to let her get his pants down. He reached one hand down to get them the rest of the way off, then focused on the nearly naked marmalade tabby spread out for him.

"Take me?" Amy breathed, her body desperate to be filled. "Want you so bad."

"Beautiful," he murmured, laying down on top of her, kissing her hungrily. He reached down, spreading her sex wide, and pressed up inside of her with a low groan that she echoed in a whimper. Her body was hot and tight, dripping with arousal as he slid his shaft up to the hilt inside her. It was a struggle not to come right then and there.

It was well worth it though, at the incredible sounds she made as he slid out, then back into her slick body. He felt himself sink deeper into her when she brought her knees up and wrapped her legs around his, her body trembling right on the edge of coming.

"Fuck," he panted, kissing her hotly, her body clinging to his barbed length, rubbing and teasing every singly rubbery protrusion. He thrust a couple more times, then cried out sharply, spraying his thick seed into her hot, tight sex.

He was vaguely aware of her claws digging into his back and her toe-claws into his legs. It was the intensity of her body clamping down around him, her muscles fluttering and twitching in an instinctive pattern meant to draw every drop of seed from him and draw it deep into her body that made him all but oblivious to the pain.

He gave it to her, his balls spilling their contents into her eagerly as he whimpered softly, beyond much more coherent noise for now. All he was aware of was the incredibly needy body under him, and the willingness of his own to oblige her.

Awareness came to Amy with a soft, slow pleasure that had little to do with the intense sexual need she'd fallen asleep to. Light fingers and a gentle mouth caressed her body, taking in every inch of her over-sized breasts and the too-narrow waist they competed with her wide hips to overshadow.

A rough tongue teased one of her nipples, the gentle touch exploring her legs and belly, a pleasant warmth against her that gave her an entirely pleasant reminder that she really hadn't been dreaming everything that had happened last night.

And that she wasn't alone this morning.

Just that was enough to make her moan, the memories of pleasure shooting lightning down her body as she reached up sleepily to stroke Zach's fur.

"Morning," he murmured, nuzzling her breasts and moving up to kiss her gently. "Guy could get to like waking up like this," he purred, moving a hand up to caress her full breasts lightly.

"So could I," she managed to moan into the kiss, still only partially awake.

He traced a fingertip around her nipples, feeling them harden at his touch as he kissed and nuzzled her face and neck. Slowly, watching for any sign that the attention wasn't welcome just now, he worked his hand down her body, back towards her sex, rubbing it and her thighs lightly.

"Ohhh," she moaned and arched into the touch, spreading her legs to give him more access.

He slipped his hand down further, rubbing his fingers around the entrance to her body, then slipped one slender, dexterous digit up into her sex. She could feel his shaft against her hip, but he seemed more interested in exploring her with his hands and mouth than getting back to the incredible pleasures of the night.

She felt her breath hitch, the desire for what was against her hip to replace his finger, but kept her moans and caresses to encouraging him instead of pushing for what she really wanted right now.

It wasn't like this wasn't feeling very good.

He kissed her again, gently, then moved down her body, carefully adding a second finger to her sex and thrusting them in and out of her. He shifted to kiss her clit, suckling it lovingly, inhaling her potent scent deeply as her arousal built along with her moans and whimpers of pleasure.

Her hands shifted to focus on his ears, and she lifted her knees, spreading them wide for him.

He moved between her legs, guiding them down to his shoulders, a shiver of pleasure vibrating against her as he relished the feeling of being with her.

"Mind if I try something?" He asked her, pulling his fingers from her body, pressing his thumb up into her to slick it down as he licked at her clit.

"Go ahead," she shuddered in the pleasure he was giving her.

He nipped at her clit lightly, licking the swollen lips her her sex as he pulled his thumb out of her, gently running a fingertip around the furless pucker just a few inches away, lightly pressing against her ass, trying to stretch her out slowly.

He felt the surprise hit her a moment later as she realized what he was doing.

"I'll go slow," he promised her. "Unless you want me to stop," he added, moving to seal his lips around the entrance to her sex, his tongue delving into her as he carefully worked his finger into her ass.

"Go ahead," she murmured, then moaned. Her body wasn't relaxing much, but she didn't shy away from him either.

He gradually added a second finger, nuzzling her clit with his nose, his tongue lashing the inside of her sex. He swallowed her juices, moaning into her body and reaching up to fondle her large breasts with his free hand.

It was hard to believe that no one else saw the beauty in her. She didn't dress herself to best effect, but what had looked like a chubby girl when he met her was now on display to him for what it was; an incredible hourglass figure, one that was just more extreme than most.

Her very large breasts and wide hips, mixed with a fairly tiny waist would make nearly any primitive male fight for her, and fight hard. She was built as the perfect kitten-making machine; birth should be easy and milk plenty even for a large litter.

Maybe she wasn't a trophy girlfriend by modern standards, but he could've gone on for some time about just how much that didn't matter to him. The tip of his tongue grazed her g-spot, and he smiled privately at the deep moan of pleasure she gave out when he did.

She was so willing to let him experiment with her without questions about what he had in mind. This was nothing like anal with a hooker. They just wanted him to stick it in, get off and leave. She clearly still wasn't all that sure about the anal part, but she was enjoying herself and his efforts anyway.

He doubted he could go back to paying for it after today. It was just too good with an interested partner. He could see why it was that guys like Chance were out looking for somebody so often too; it made a world of difference, knowing you were wanted too.

His shaft was throbbing between his legs, eager to be inside of her again. He held back though, thrusting his fingers slowly in and out of her ass and eating her out, trying to get her off before he gave them what he was sure they both really wanted.

She was close, he was sure, given the tenor of her cries and how wet she was. He could feel her trembling all around him and turned his focus to her clit, using the rough side of his tongue to tease the hard, sensitive nub standing out proudly from it's folds of slick, sensitive skin.

He pressed his thumb up into her sex again, pressing it back against the front of her body and popping his claw out, the back of it rubbing against the rough, sensitive patch of flesh, his tongue lavishing her clit with attention, his fingers working in and out of her tight, hot ass....

Finally, it was enough to push her over. A torrent of hot, clear juices flowed over Zach's hand, her scent practically overwhelming him as she came, clenching down around his hand. He had a feeling his fingers were going to be bruised, but he didn't really care right now.

He gradually withdrew his fingers as she calmed down, her body heaving in the pleasure of it all.

He slid up alongside her, kissing her tenderly and nuzzling her cheek.

"How was that?" He asked her with a happy purr.

"Pretty good," she turned her head to kiss him, her hands running down hid body and her knees spread wide again.

"Think you'd be up for a bit more than fingers back there later?" He asked, pulling her up against him, rubbing his rigid shaft against her pussy before shifting to press up into her.

Amy hesitated, covering it with a heady moan at being filled again, and squeezed her body tight around him.

"Rather not," she murmured, giving herself over to the pleasure and passion of what she thought of as normal.

"That's fine," he rumbled deeply, starting to thrust into her, rolling her nipples between his fingers. He was sure he could very happily do this forever. Her lack of interest in anal was a very small price for such a sexy girl's interest in him.

She whimpered, then moaned and let her head roll back as she squeezed down around him, intoxicated by the pleasure between them and already near the edge from what he'd done already.

Zach moaned deeply, biting down on the loose flesh of her shoulder lightly as he started thrusting faster, his own balls twitching and pulling up close, his body more than eager to fill hers after what he'd done to wake her up and get her off already. Still, he tried to hold back, fighting to keep from coming too soon.

Not only for her pleasure, but the longer he could make this last, the longer the bliss of her body being wrapped around his would last. Still, when she cried out and her orgasm began to milk his cock, her muscles twitching in perfect time to the instinctive links to his own pleasure, it was all far too much to hold back from.

He moaned, filling her with his seed again, pressing close and hilting inside of her, wanting nothing more than to feel her hot, tight body clinging to his all day long.

It seemed to be a thought she agreed with as she slid her legs along his, lightly wrapping their bodies together, and nuzzled him affectionately.

"So ... once you've calmed down, mind if I try something?" Amy purred softly as she nuzzled him.

"What've you got in mind?" He purred back, kissing her neck tenderly. "I'm game for just about anything, honestly."

"Mmm, something like how you woke me up," she licked his ear, teasing the paper-fine, nerve-rich surface. "Kinda want to try it."

"Oooh... any time," he purred, flicking his ear as the shivers ran down his neck. "Never tried that before?"

"Kinda hard to when you haven't been with a guy before," she kissed him playfully.

"True," he chuckled, licking her nose, reaching down to rub one of her ample thighs lightly. "By the way ... anybody who complains about 'all the rest,' as you put it, is an absolute nut," he smiled, reaching up for her glasses and putting them on her, rumbling lowly as they snuggled close.

"As long as you like it," Amy murmured, running her hands along his back as they both cooled off, and he softened enough to slid from her body.

"I do," he promised her with a gentle nuzzle. "And just about anywhere but MKC or Sayden Bay, and you'd have to beat the guys off with a stick," he purred, rubbing her back. "So ... ready to try something new? Want me to clean up a bit first?" He offered.

"Mmm, I think so," she murmured after thinking a bit, then nuzzled him just before he shifted to his knees. "So if I move somewhere else, you might have some competition?" she teased, looking at his body with obvious interest.

"And you've just given me the best reason I can imagine to make sure you never move," he purred, rubbing her arm lightly. "Unless, of course, it's in here some time... gods, I could've said that better," he blushed deeply, ducking his head sheepishly.

Amy could only laughed, her own cheeks burning. "From dinner to bed to proposal all in one night?"

"I didn't mean that the way it sounded," Zach stammered, trying to think of a way to get his foot out of his mouth without swallowing the other one up to the knee. "I just... uhm... I should probably shut up before I dig my grave any deeper, huh?" He said sheepishly, curling his tail up almost protectively around him.

"I thought it was sweet, Zach," she reached up to stroke his stiff tail. "Maybe I will, too."

"One of these days, maybe," he smiled shyly, trying to smooth out his fur a bit, not even having realized it had puffed out. "That fast, I'm not looking to move."

Amy smiled up at him, helping smooth his fur. "Me too. It's a nice start, but only a start."

"Yeah... so, did I completely trash the mood, or...?" He asked her, leaning forward to kiss her and uncurling his tail.

"Not completely," she ran her hands up his sides. "Your shower big enough for two?"

"Tight fit, but I think so," he smiled, pressing into her touch and grateful beyond words that he hadn't completely screwed up. "Want to go find out?"

She smiled and scooted back so she could get up, kneeling forward to kiss him softly. "I think I would."

As he returned the kiss and then they stood up and started for the nearby bathroom, he couldn't help but think that he was incredibly lucky he hadn't had to get a roommate this semester.

Rock pulled up in front of Del Loco, parking by the curb and climbing out as he looked around for Midnight. His fingers drummed the roof of the car lightly; it wasn't hard to see that he wasn't in the best of moods.

He spotted her car drive up and find a spot only a few places away from his.

"Surprised I managed to beat you here," he chuckled slightly as she climbed out, trying to force himself to at least try and be sociable. "Seems I might owe you one for calling when you did."

"I'm sorry," she ducked her head slightly and locked her car door. "You could have said no."

"Hey, no problem really... we needed to get something for dinner anyways. Then she decided I had a girlfriend I hadn't told her about and was trying to con her into a threesome," Rock said, rolling his eyes. "Anyways, no great loss. Jaimie's hot, but seems that Saluki has issues. Would not have needed to be dealing with that when Jake got back. So how's your night been?" He asked her, hoping to distract himself from psychotic clients with crushes on their trainers.

"No, you really didn't need that, if she took my call that way," Midnight shook her head as they headed into the quaint, dimly lit building done mostly in dark wood, wrought iron with rich red and fine golden accents. "Evening's been good, but it's a work night, so it'll be short."

"Okay," he said amiably, inhaling the rich, spicy smell of the food inside. "Worried about Jake and Chance?" He asked as they waited for somebody to show them to a table.

"A little," she admitted, and fell silent as they were seated in a back booth and handed a large menu with a sizable drink section. "I thought it might be good for us to get to know each other a bit, without the boys around. After all, we're nearly kin now."

"Erm ... don't take this the wrong way, but through Jake, Chance, or both, and does Chance know if it's him?" Rock asked her, his tail twitching as he hoped she wouldn't take offense.

"Both, for as long as it lasts," she nodded, scanning the drink menu. "Chance is your cousin, and Jake's my brother in all but blood."

"I know," he nodded slightly. "You... might want to watch out for Chance on those grounds. Usually when we hear things like that, it means somebody's thinking something permanent, and unless he's changed a lot that's more commitment than I'd expect from him just now."

"All right," she nodded, pausing as a cute little calico shekat came up to them to take their order. "I'll have an enchilada combo platter and a batido de yogur with tequila."

"Tamales platter, mixed chicken and pork, with champurrado, please," Rock smiled.

"Very good," their waitress smiled and moved off.

"Though he hasn't been scared off by talk of us having kittens," Midnight picked up their conversation. "Whether we get that far or not, he hasn't taken off yet, and kittens are serious commitment talk."

"And that's a Hell of a testament to the fact that he does care about you more than most," Rock nodded. "What sort of talking about it's happened?" He asked curiously.

"Mostly lay out when we'd be ready for it," she told him. "A little bit of fantasizing about what it'll be like when we are. Do you know how keyed up the scent gets him?"

"I've heard about it," Rock chuckled slightly. "We were in Sayden Bay by the time he started reacting like that, but he used to have to spend those weeks with other parts of the family ... Aunt Meg and all his sisters ended up synching their cycles, so he had the entire house in heat basically. His sisters could turn to girlfriends, or each other before they had them, Meg had boyfriends and girlfriends both, depending on finances at the time, but all he could really do was move out for a few weeks once he started responding."

"That makes me really surprised he never tried a boyfriend," she shook her head slightly, pausing as their drinks arrived. "He was almost ready to jump Jake even after a thorough shower. A guy with that much scent on him ..." she let the thought drift off.

Rock was quiet as he took a sip of his thick, sweet drink.

"Chance'd kill me if he knew I was telling you this, so don't let him know, okay?" He asked Midnight quietly.

"Okay," she looked at him quizzically.

"Thanks. Normally I'd leave it to Chance to tell you guys when he was comfortable, but...." He sighed. "When Chance was eight, a tom broke into the house. He was raped, and almost killed, before he managed to get loose enough to scream. The guy was caught, but not before he escaped and killed another little girl in the neighborhood, one of Chance's friends. Chance spent the next few years moving between therapy, trials, and scared stiff of any tom he didn't know ... there's still a bit of that in there. It was Hell for the rest of 'em too, but if you're looking for the Great Big Reason that Chance doesn't do guys... that's it."

She could only shudder. "He said it was trauma, I never expected it was from that young. BKK?" she asked very softly, doing the year-math in her heard and coming up with the only big trial of the year.

"Yeah," Rock nodded. "You can see why he doesn't want to talk about it too much. It just about kills him every time some asshole decides to write a book about the guy and tries to hunt up the survivors. Only reason I know as much about it as I do is because I ended up being his main confidante up until we moved ... I felt like I was abandoning him for months, though he seems to have come out of it okay for now."

"He's strong, weaknesses or no," she nodded and sipped her cream colored drink with caramel stalactites running through it. "Getting stronger too, I think, every time something goes right in his life."

"He's a survivor," Rock agreed with another sip of his drink. "Has been since he was about thirteen or so, and the final verdicts came down. There were some scary months in there, but he's gotten past the point where he'd done his part and didn't think there was any reason he should have to go on hurting anymore. He and Jake are a hell of a pair, huh?" He chuckled grimly.

"Yeah, they are," she nodded with a sigh. "They might be just what they need though to make it the rest of the way out of their personal hells."

She looked at her drink, playing with the straw for a bit. "Did Jake ever tell you exactly why he chose Tamorl?"

"I haven't really asked that much about it," Rock admitted. "I try not to ask people who can be borderline suicidal to think about their preferred methods."

"I'm pretty sure he's past that point now," she sighed. "He knows it's pointless to even try. Bastet won't let him stay dead until he's done her bidding."

"Okay, he did tell me about that," Rock nodded, wondering a bit about just what he had missed.

Midnight looked at him steadily. "It takes a God to counter a God."

"So, basically, he picked Tamorl because he figures that even if he doesn't outrank Bastet, he can still call foul on not letting Jake go?" Rock asked quietly, shaking his head. "Not quite what I'd expected," he admitted.

"Something like that," she nodded. "Bastet and Halikar went off on her over it, a conversation I only got to hear about, though he didn't stop ranting for a couple weeks. Then Tamorl's Masiur Valcran, Jedrmas Bloodclaws, came to my house and told him directly and in no uncertain terms that it wasn't going to happen until Bastet had released Her claim on him. I did get to hear that one first hand, and second hand.

"Jake's a good guy, even when he's mad, but he's known he was somebody's puppet since before he could talk and he can't stand it. He's calmed down a lot since he's started to accept the only way out is to do what they want him to do, but it only goes so far."

"Does he have any idea what that is in the first place?" Rock asked with a frown. He might not have been overly religious, but... well, true or not, Jake believed it enough that the two people closest to him seemed to accept it too. That had a power all its own.

"That he doesn't much talk about, but I've got a gist of it, so he probably has a fairly good idea," she nodded, pausing to take a sip of her drink and let the silence continue as their meal arrived and their waitress left. "She wants him to have kits, which he usually just grumbles about and points out his reaction to a female in heat. The bigger part has something to do with being a major factor in the coming war.

"What research I've done says that the Gods have around six sides, alliances, that have formed over time. Instead of fighting each other, they choose a mortal and their status in the overall system has to do with how well that champion does against all the others, and life itself.

"Sometimes, like with Jake, two will pool the power they can grant their champion, making a stronger one, but increasing their risk if something happens to that one. Others will invest their power in more than one. Each will be weaker, but the loss of one is less of a loss in that generation. There are references to rules of all kinds, and Jake's spelled some of them out, but it's just a convoluted chess game with people's lives and Jake's a major piece."

"I can see how that would screw around with somebody's head," Rock nodded quietly, not quite sure what he thought of all of it. He let the silence fall between them and filled it with eating, and trying to work how Jake's reality would work into his own.

It wasn't pretty, any way he looked at it.

It was entirely possible that Jake was a mental case of the first order, as much as he hated to admit it. That made more sense, in this day and age, it fit with everything he'd seen, everything he knew. Sure, the priests made claims of some pretty incredible things, but miracles weren't supposed to happen in this day and age... and the pantheon that would be involved in that sort of 'game' would be much more hands-on than most people believed.

On the other hand... if he was right, then just about everything took on an entirely new angle... and he and Chance both had some major making up to do in the next few years.

Either way, Jake was expecting his life to be big, chaotic and viewed himself as largely immune to danger.

It wasn't good any way it went down.

"How much does he count on that sort of thing?" He asked Midnight softly. "That they won't let him get out of it. How much does he let it affect him, day to day?" If he didn't go about letting it affect his daily life, if he wouldn't take chances he shouldn't, then he'd probably be fine, either way. Otherwise... Chance being his partner was going to become a much bigger issue before all was said and done.

"It probably just puts him on par with Chance," she said, pausing for a bite of her meal. "At this point, he's simply not afraid of danger. In their line of work, that seems to usually be an asset. You've been with him months now, you know how important the Academy and Chance are to him. Think about what he doesn't do, that he wants to, because it will endanger his badge, and therefore Chance. Rock, Chance means the world to him. Jake'll do, or not do, anything to protect him."

"I'm not the one who has to be convinced... I think I won't let Meg know about this," Rock chuckled slightly, taking a bite of spicy rice and one of the tamales on the plate. "Honestly... my main concern is for Jake, about this. You seem to have accepted it pretty well," he noted.

"I've grown up with it almost as much as he did," she pointed out. "I'm only a few months older, but I raised him more than his mother did once he could crawl," she dropped her eyes a bit and poked at her meal. "Sometimes all you can do is accept what someone is, and deal with it. Whatever is pulling the strings on Jake, an unbalanced mind, biochemical issues or Gods, it's a big part of what he is, what he always has been. His mom spent a small fortune trying to get anyone with a PHD to tell her that he's making this up. None would. That says something pretty big right there, to me."

"Yeah, it does," Rock agreed, eating quietly for a few moments. "It just seems... too big, too close," he said, trying to explain it. "I mean... the gods are s'posed to be distant these days, not testing each other with people's lives. At least that's how it's always seemed."

"Only because you were raised to not see it," she said softly. "It suits the mayors and kings of modern times to downplay the existence of greater powers than themselves out there. I've seen too much not to believe they are very real and very interested in our world."

"Like?" He asked her, honestly curious.

"Like the healing a priest of Bastet can do. Like having a priestess of Halikar fly into my window as a hawk and transform into a Kat to deliver a message to Jake. Like seeing Bastet and Halikar appear to teach Jake things over the years," she hit the highlights. "At some point, it's harder to not believe than to believe."

"Whoa, hold on, what was that last one again?" Rock asked, leaning back with a startled expression.

"Jake gets visits sometimes, folks who look like Bastet, Halikar, occasionally others," Midnight repeated quietly. "I've seen him vanish from his bed, and come back with stories of their world," she murmured, playing with her straw. "It was fun when we were young. It's starting to get scary now that it's no longer kitten fun and games."

"Does it happen often yet?" Rock asked her. "Need to know if I should worry if Jake disappears at night ... Chance wouldn't notice, I'm sure, but...."

"Maybe once or twice a year," she said after a moment to think. "They seem to be fairly careful about not making a fuss when it happens. I'm not sure why they let me see so much; very few are witness to this stuff, other than Jake and those that already think it's kinda normal."

"You're important to him," Rock pointed out seriously. "They might have plans for you too, I suppose... those kits they mentioned, for example. If anybody is likely to have them...."

She nodded slightly. "I know. I honestly try not to think about their plans for me, if any. Jake's got enough to deal with without trying to fight my battles too."

"Speaking of your battles, been having any trouble with Allen lately?"

"He's still in prison," she shook her head. "It's been gratefully quiet, and Chance tends to keep the general creeps away just by being around."

"He's good for that," Rock chuckled. "And getting rid of them when they don't listen. If he does get out and give you some trouble, you might want to come to Chance or me first ... we're willing to help, and to do it without getting Jake in the line of fire, so to speak."

"I don't want either of you in trouble either, you know," she pointed out with a grateful smile.

"We're better at not getting caught," Rock pointed out with a grin. "Some of our friends are even better."

She nodded slightly, nibbling on an enchilada. "All right. Chance'll probably hear first, just 'cause he's always around."

"Understandable," Rock nodded. "Of course, if he catches him giving you trouble ... might not need to call anybody. Allen did not make himself a friend that night."

"No, he didn't," Midnight agreed. "I don't really want them to meet up again either. Chance ... okay, I don't want to see anything like that again."

"For what it's worth, he probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if Allen hadn't sucker punched him and then taken a flying leap onto every single one of his buttons," Rock offered.

"It made sense even before I knew what I do now," she nodded. "I figured he was picking up on the part where I'm about as into anal as he is," she kind of mumbled. "It'll be a long time before that little gift of Allen's go away."

"If you ever decide you want to try and work through it, I know some good people for it, but it's your call," Rock offered. "Chance is probably pretty good for it too, but some people specialize in helping work through that sort of thing."

Midnight nodded again, and honestly thought about it as she sipped her drink. "Thank you. As long as it's not a big deal for Chance, and it doesn't seem to be, I'm not too keen on adding anything else to my plate. I was really never into it in the first place, so hating it really isn't that much of a change."

She looked up at him seriously. "You'll let me know if you find out it's really bothering Chance?"

"Will do," he promised. "I doubt that it will, especially if you don't really mind if he gets it somewhere else if he really does want it... you seem to be pretty much his speed," he chuckled.

"I don't mind," she smiled shyly. "I got used to the idea with Jake. Even if he would have stayed with me, he likes toms too much, and other things, that I just can't give."

"The pain, among other things," he nodded. "Are you still worried about him, on that front?"

"A lot less than when he was indulging himself," she admitted. "I still don't like it, but I trust that you won't hurt him too badly."

"Thank you. That means a lot to me," he said sincerely, finishing off his tamales.

"How well you take care of him means a great deal to me," she nodded with a shy smile for him. "Anything else about Jake you'd like to know?"

"Mmm ... how about some of the things he likes outside the bedroom?" Rock asked her, leaning back.

Midnight couldn't help but smile as she played with her drink, still only half finished. "Give him a pile of junk that might kinda, sorta looks like something and let him play with it. It's boring, but it gets him to really smile. He absolutely loves to turn junk into stuff."

"I'll keep that in mind," he nodded. "Any particular shows or types of movies he likes? Things I can do on a regular date, if I can actually drag him out for something."

"For movies; really cheap monster flicks, anything with kick-tail special effects. He likes action, and plenty of it, very rarely cares about plot. He's surprisingly uninterested in sexy stuff, though admittedly I've never wanted to look at the kind of sexy he might actually enjoy."

"Might have a few options in my collection," Rock murmured. "How does he like horror flicks, especially the cheap ones?"

"Oh yeah, loves them," she chuckled. "Aren't they usually monster movies?"

"Oh, some of 'em... others are even cheaper, they didn't bother spending money on the suits," Rock chuckled. "Depends on what counts as a monster movie, really ... going to have to see what he thinks of Evil Dead some time," he mused.

"For TV, it runs the gamut. Litterbin, international news, anything Discovery Channel ... he sucks up information like you wouldn't believe," Midnight chuckled.

"It's Jake, I'd believe just about anything," Rock laughed. "And figures he'd be a Litterbin fan ... Chance can't stand the guy."

"So what is my tabby into?" she winked at him. "I already know about the cartoon fixation."

"Same type of movies Jake is, though he prefers giant monsters and military flicks," Rock said easily. "Unlike Jake, he's had a definite thing for sexy films for years... if you can ever find a theater running one of the Rakenju films, it's a favorite series of his, or at least it was a few years ago. Heard about it at a family gathering he ended up missing last year; apparently he got hooked by a girlfriend," he chuckled.

"Speaking of family gathers ... how long before I actually get invited to dinner?" she asked curiously. "I'd kind of like to meet the rest of his family."

"You could ask him," Rock pointed out. "Jake, Meg wanted to meet because they're partners ... no offense, but there's not quite the same sort of push to meet a girlfriend. But if Chance knew you wanted to, he'd probably try making arrangements; he's just not used to thinking that way."

"I did ask, and he got all edgy about it," she said quietly. "I didn't feel like pushing, for the visit, or the reason."

"Huh ... that's weird," Rock murmured. "Well, I could drop a few hints with Meg... or you could meet her without Chance, I suppose. Might just want to ask him too, but that's a new one on me," he admitted.

"I'd really rather go with Chance," she smiled faintly. "Something just isn't right about meeting a lover's family without them."

"Fair enough," Rock nodded easily. "I'm sure he'll introduce you when he's ready... he might just be worried about it going well," he smiled.

"Does he really have anything to worry about?" she frowned.

"I don't think so," Rock said honestly. "You're good for him... and he's good for you. But if there is anything, it's probably that. He hates being at odds with his family."

"It may well be worth pushing then, if only to know where we stand. My folks are going to be thrilled with anyone I'm actually willing to bring home," she smiled a bit shyly. "It's hard, with four schedules to coordinate. Are there any holidays that aren't big family gathers for you?"

"Mayor's Day," Rock chuckled. "Some of us voted for him, but that particular day's too prone to starting fights if we get the whole family together."

Midnight giggled, trying to hide it behind her drink with no success. "I'll try to get everybody in one room for it then. At least everybody'll have it off."

"Yeah, that's one thing you've gotta give the Mayor's ego," Rock chuckled. "Either a day off, or overtime ... but that's on my end. Good luck with it."

"Thanks," she smiled warmly and motioned for their bill. "And thanks for talking over dinner after I ruined your evening."

"Hey, like I said - better to find out she's psychotic before sleeping with her," Rock chuckled. "We are splitting that, right?"

"That was my intention," she nodded and smiled at their waitress as their check was dropped off.

"Just making sure," he nodded, pulling out his wallet and looking at the check. "Not bad," he mused, getting out his share. "Well, have a good night. Our guys'll be back soon enough, and we'll both have to be ready to pamper 'em when they are," he chuckled.

"Oh yeah," she grinned and added her share before standing. "At least we both know the lack of company is going to be short-lived."

On their third night out, Jake called them to a halt near dusk. Chance had better physical endurance, but he was far better at ignoring his body and its demands. Despite the determined pace they were keeping, Jake was sure his partner really needed to rest and tend to his feet, and stomach.

"You set camp, I'll try and find something to add to the rations?" Jake suggested as he dropped his pack near a tree that would make a suitable hanger for their parachute-tent.

"Don't be too long; we've got enough gear to try getting some fish if you can't find something without working too much," Chance reminded Jake as he shrugged his own back off with a grunt. They were holding up pretty well, he thought. His feet were sore, but they were almost half-way through the trip, one way or the other. Either distance, or the end of the week when somebody would be out to look for them ... he was still holding out for the distance end of it though.

"I won't," Jake assured him before heading off into the bushes.

Chance unfurled the parachute, swinging it up over the branch. After checking the ground quickly to make sure there wasn't anything on the ground he shouldn't be stepping on, he pulled his shoes off, giving his feet a few minutes to relax as he gathered up some dead wood nearby.

As he worked on a form of autopilot, he reviewed the rules he could remember about what he could or couldn't do in the protected area that surrounded the river. It was a gratefully short list, given his situation, and mostly stuff he wouldn't do anyway.

After piling the twigs up, he cleared a space in the dirt and went to work with a lighter on the tinder. It wasn't long before he had a nice little fire going and he reached over to pull out their rations. They'd only started with four days worth, which was more than usual, and even eating light, they'd gone through a fair chunk of them.

He frowned and put them back into the pack, hoping that Jake would have some luck hunting. While he waited, he decided to try his luck fishing, moving over towards the river and watching to see if something would come close enough he could get it with the knife from his kit.

Several fish were close, but he didn't go for them. They were too far out into the water to risk it. Jake probably could, but Jake could swim. He growled to himself in frustration at that. Of all the things to bite him in the tail.

He was sure he could stand up in the river at this point... it was fast moving, but if he had to....

Fortunately, just before his stomach could talk himself into being a complete idiot, a good-sized bluegill swam close enough for him to make a grab for it.

He felt the knife drive into flesh even as he realized he'd overextended himself. He held on tightly to the knife and their best shot at a decent meal as his leg, then shoulder went under the swift, cold water.

A sharp breath nearly included water, but he managed to keep his wits. The knife, and fish it was impaled into, was thrown to the shore, and he twisted to give the water the least amount of himself to push against while he scrambled for hand and foot holds.

He drove his claws into a slimy rock his hand wrapped around, and caught another with his bare foot. Reality narrowed to those holds onto sold ground and the strain of muscle to keep them, and pull himself out of the biting water.

He felt a pair of strong hands help haul him to the shore.

He laid back, intensely grateful for the help, and for the fact that he'd taken his shoes off before going to the river.

"Jake?" He asked, looking over at the Kat who'd helped him, only just now paying enough attention to who it was to start recognizing him.

"I'm going to assume you slipped and weren't trying to ...." Jake stopped mid-sentence and stared at the river, his expression the crazy kind of thoughtful one Chance had learned to recognize as what preceded a crazy idea that would work. "That might actually work."

"Okay, before you get that crazy idea into gear, I caught dinner," Chance offered, nodding towards the dead fish on the shore.

"Cool," Jake grinned at him and offered a hand to help him to his feet. "I found some sweets to go with it."

"Cool," Chance grinned back. "So, what's the plan?" He asked, grabbing the fish and starting to dress it out, though he saved more of the skin and such than he usually would have. They could use the extra fat.

"This river runs right into the bay," he explained as they prepped the simple meal of flame-cooked fish, berries and part of a MRE. "Between what we have and the forest, I bet we can make a raft that'll make the distance."

"Uhm... well, it could work," Chance said dubiously. "River's pretty fast though; what if it dumped us in and we ended up losing the rest of our gear?"

"It's a risk," Jake acknowledged with a small nod and sniffed appreciatively at the fish. "It's smaller than of one of us being injured or lost in the walk though."

"I suppose ... just how stable would this raft be?" Chance asked. He had to say... he liked the idea of getting back to town sooner... especially if they could set record time doing it, which he suspected they could with the river in the shape it was.

"That depends on how many logs we can use for it. I have metal hooks to bind them together with, and we have plenty of rope. If we can manage at least three logs five or six feet long and a couple feet across, and split them, it'll make a very nice square to ride."

"How long y'think it'll take to get going, compared to the time we'll save?" Chance asked, taking a bite of his portion of fish, and once again noting that Jake gave him almost two-thirds of the food. "I mean... if it'll take us two days and save us one, not worth it really."

"Any idea how long it would take us to chop down a tree like that one and chop it into three five foot sections?" Jake motioned to an example almost two feet wide and twenty tall.

"With the hatchets?" Chance asked, looking up at the tree with a frown. "It'll be a bitch, but probably should have it down and apart in a few hours, I think."

"Hatchets, C4 and a vibro-blade," Jake nodded. "Once the raft's together, we should be inside city limits within the day. It's worth it."

"C4 and a vibro-blade?" Chance asked, cocking his head. "You put 'em together, I'm guessing? And ah... you have demo training?"

"Yes, and self-trained," he answered between the last mouthfuls of their meager meal. "Haven't had an accident yet."

"Be a Hell of a first time for it," Chance murmured. "Well, if you think we can do it safely ... should we get started in the morning? It's not going to end up getting us canned for taking down a tree out here, right?"

"No more than the fish," he shook his head. "Might not be happy with it, but they can't penalize us for it."

"Well ... let's go for it then," Chance said, though he sounded less than enthusiastic about the idea. "When should we start?"

Jake glanced at the sky. "In the morning. This is something to do in daylight, and it'll give me a chance to work on a chainsaw to make it easier."

"Okay, we do not have the gear for that," Chance said certainly, laughing and shaking his head as he moved closer to the fire to dry himself off.

"I do," Jake chuckled. "Though it won't be the kind you're thinking of."

"Gotta be honest, Jake, I think you're biting off more than you can chew this time," Chance said, shaking his head again. "But if you can manage it... Hell, if anybody could, it's probably you. Just don't lose all your sleep tonight doing it, okay?"

"I won't," he promised. "You try to get enough sleep. Tomorrow will be a lot of work," he paused. "Your cloths will dry a lot faster if they aren't on you."

"Yeah," Chance nodded, stripping out of his shirt and pants, hesitating before stripping down the rest of the way. Not like Jake hadn't seen it before in the locker room, or their room. The tom sometimes looked, but he never did so much as stare, much less try to touch. "Just warn me if you hear anybody coming," he chuckled slightly, setting his clothes out to dry.

"I will," he promised, smiling slightly at their progress as partners already. Sure, Chance still had some uncertainties, and didn't know their capabilities as well as he did, but they were making good progress.

After a few minutes to dry off, Chance headed into the tent, leaving Jake to work and keep watch while he grabbed some much-needed sleep.

Chance stirred earlier than he would have normally liked to the next morning. What few compunctions he had yet about the raft were quickly loosing out to having a bed again ... and to the fact that, once they got back, they still had off until the next week.

A five or six day weekend had its appeal, especially with a very willing Midnight to spend much of it with.

He sat up, glancing around to see if Jake was sleeping in the makeshift tent with him. He couldn't manage any surprise that his partner wasn't there, at the sounds of activity outside, or the smell of food heating.

Fish at that too.

"And I'll bet you didn't get an unexpected bath catching it either," he mock-grumbled, sticking his head out of the tent. "Toss me my clothes?" He asked Jake hopefully.

"Here," the tom turned halfway to grab the well-abused cammies and tossed them. "Food's ready when you are. I got the chainsaw to work."

"Okay, this I've got to see," Chance chuckled, making quick work of dressing before coming out. "And breakfast sounds great."

"Then eat," Jake grinned over at him. "This will make cutting a lot easier," he held up a length of braided metal with a boxy handle on each end. "I used my vibroblade to turn this into a low-grade one. It should go through the wood in short order."

"If it works, it'll make it a lot easier," Chance agreed, sitting down and starting to eat. "So, think anybody else'll be even close to getting back when we are?" He asked with a grin.

"We should be at least a couple days ahead of Amanda, and she's easily the fastest of anyone out here," Jake nodded. "Let's just hope that they're tracking us like they're supposed to, or Feral'll never buy it."

"Heh ... I don't know that I buy it, and I'm helping you do it," he pointed out. "Still, be a blast to set the speed record ... won't be able to do it when we hit the Badlands trip, but it's a hell of a start."

"That's a whole different set of survival skills," Jake pointed out as Chance finished eating. "There's a good reason it's last."

"I know," Chance nodded seriously. "That's the one I do not look forward to Mom finding out about, honestly ... the track record would have her up all night until we got back. So, let's see how your gizmo works?"

Jake nodded and stood, leading Chance to the tree he'd selected. It wasn't far from their camp, but far enough it was unlikely to fall on it. "Okay, the idea is to cut most of the way through near the base, then make another cut to take a wedge out. It'll fall in the direction of the wedge."

"Assuming it doesn't get stuck," Chance nodded, looking up to see if they had a fairly clear path for it to fall in. "About here?" He guessed, moving to what looked like the clearest route and knocking on the side of the tree. "Hope there's not much living in it," he mused.

"Nothing I could find," Jake said simply and handed one end of the device to his partner. "Ready?"

"Ready," Chance nodded, taking up his place on the other side of the tree, getting a good grip on the handle.

There was a pause, then a soft hum and vibration.

"Start to pull it through," Jake told him even as he started to move.

Chance hurried to keep up, not wanting to screw this up... he was startled that it was working at all. He just hoped they wouldn't see what happened if you lost control of it. He had a feeling it would be very, very bad.

A few minutes, largely because they were both being careful, and Jake called them to a pause. "Twenty degree angle up as we bring it out."

Chance nodded, turning his hands in time with Jake's to bring it back out, ready to take off if the tree started coming down too quickly.

He really should have known better. Jake's understanding of psychics was as flawless as always, even in an application he hadn't applied it to before.

The vibration from the device cut, along with its soft hum.

"Let go," Jake told him. "Then keep out of the tree's way."

He nodded, watching as Jake got his device back, then high-kicked the wedge they'd cut out.

Chance watched as the tree fell to the ground with a resounding thud, whistling as he headed over to grab the hatchet from his kit to clear the branches.

"I didn't promise you anything if that worked, did I?" He asked Jake, half-jokingly.

"Nope," the lean tom grinned at him. "I'm betting it'll make faster work of the branches than that thing will, too."

"Yeah, but I'd rather have it for splitting the thing up," Chance pointed out. "How much fuel does it have?"

"Well, I used the power supply from the vibroblade, so it should manage at least a few days of constant use," Jake said as he went to work on the larger branches that the hatchet would have more trouble with.

"Be sure you hang onto that thing, or they'll never believe this," Chance chuckled, heading around to the top where the branches weren't as thick to start stripping them.

"Oh, I definitely will. It's too useful not to," Jake grinned at him, then focused on the work as they fell into an easy silence of chopping and slicing the tree into raft-sized pieces and hauled them to the river's edge.

Then it was Chance's turn to sit back and watch as Jake strung it together with improvised metal hooks and rope from the parachute.

"Are you sure it's going to hold?" Chance asked Jake as he finished putting the raft together. It had a lot more give in it than he was particularly comfortable with.

"It'll hold," Jake nodded seriously. "The river's not that rough this far down. Let's pack up and get it in the water."

They made quick work of breaking camp, Chance gathering the stripped branches up into a relatively contained area where, if nobody came for them, at least the local critters could hide in them.

"Hope you don't mind if I stay near the middle?" He asked Jake with a bit of a chuckle. "One unexpected bath's enough during this trip, I think."

"As long as you keep up your part of the steering," Jake nodded and grabbed one of the stripped branches, about ten feet long and stout. "I do not want to run ashore early."

"Of course," Chance nodded, though he hadn't really thought of that too much yet. He grabbed one for himself, and followed Jake to the river, and their makeshift raft. He took a deep breath, remembering just how fast the river had been the night before.

Of all the times to not be able to swim, and with a partner who didn't know.

He helped Jake push it in the water, ands leapt on board before Jake, and, he realized a bit too late from the grunt Jake made, before Jake was ready for him too as well.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly, extending his hand to help Jake on board as the water caught them and began to move the raft downstream.

"It's okay," Jake forgave him just as quickly. "Let's go home."

"Gladly," Chance grinned, the two of them starting to guide the river downstream carefully.

"I see shoreline coming up," Jake pointed to a thin line of gold in the dimming light of late evening. "We'll be home tonight."

"Good," Chance said simply, holding tightly to the raft, still a little queasy from the rougher part of the river they'd gone through earlier. Not that it had been particularly exciting, but he'd made the discovery that, while airplanes and fighter jets didn't bother him in the least, that he could handle motorcycles with ease, while all of these things indicated a fairly strong stomach ... he still got seasick.

It hadn't made for the most enjoyable afternoon, even though the raft had held together far better than he'd been afraid it would at some points.

"We're almost on solid ground," Jake said more quietly, as glad as Chance to see a shore within city limits. A seasick partner, even one trying to put on a brave face, made the relatively easy trip into an annoying one.

The lean tom frowned at a commotion on an otherwise unsuitable beach for swimming. It was sandy, and a few sunbathers were to be expected, but this far inland the current was swift and the drop off abrupt.

"I think we're going to come in second," he commented quietly.

"Lemme guess; Brad and Amanda?" Chance said, not sounding too incredibly surprised by it. "If anybody else would've had an idea this crazy, it's those two."

"I'm not sure, but the dugout canoe is very much her style," Jake shook his head. "Easier and more effective."

And she probably planned on doing that from the time she found out the date," Chance chuckled slightly. "Well, if it is her, I certainly can't begrudge 'em beating us... might take a bit of the spotlight off us for getting in just after them too."

"Most likely, and with any luck," Jake nodded and steered the raft onto the rough-sand shore where a small crowd and news crew were waiting for them.

"Yeap, that's Brad and Amanda," Chance confirmed as they got a clear line of sight of the two cadets, who had hiked to the roadway beyond the beach. "Have to return the favor later," he grinned, watching as the pair stopped to look at them, and discuss something.

"And the press," Jake reflexively faded into the background, behind his more outgoing partner.

"This is Anne Gora of Kat's Eye News," a pale shekat with short brown hair said as she walked up to them. "Are you with the other cadet team that just came ashore?"

"Same class, different team," Chance told her, glancing over at his friends with a grin and saw them wave them to come. "Looks like they beat us to the idea though," he admitted.

"So which team are you?" she asked, then extended the mike to Chance.

"Clawson-Furlong," Chance answered easily. "I'm Cadet Furlong."

"So Cadet Furlong, what has the past few days been like?"

"Long, but a lot better than a whole week out there," he said sincerely, posing for the camera on an almost unconscious level. "It's a learning experience for a city kit, and I'm glad I had it before the real thing."

"Who thought of the raft?" she asked him, pleased to have someone with a reasonably good camera presence.

"That would be my gunner, Cadet Clawson," Chance said, trying to give his partner a chance to shine too, despite Jake's general preference to just do his thing in the background.

She nodded, giving him a warm smile before focusing on the lean tom who had rather pointedly stayed in the background.

"What is your take on your mission?" Anne Gora extended the mike to Jake.

"Umm, er, it wasn't very pleasant, but we made it in good time," he got about a step back before he stopped himself from trying to slip away any more from a camera that wouldn't let him if he did try.

"Miss Gora? We'd love to stay and talk, but we need to report back to a precinct before we're really done with the mission," Chance offered, hoping to save Jake from the mild panic attack he'd just helped get started. "And it looks like our friends are waiting for us as well."

"Thank you for your time, cadets," she smiled at them and turned to the camera. "So there are a few words from the new record holders in the Enforcer Academy forest survival course."

As the camera was turned off, Chance grabbed Jake and the two of them started over towards Brad and Amanda.

"You guys manage to look better on camera too?" He asked with a chuckle.

"I sure hope so," Brad grinned at him as they set off at an easily kept fast walk that was half march. "The Princess here sure did."

"It comes with the territory," Amanda teased him back.

"I'd say we were sorry we ended up stealing your thunder, but I'd be lying," Chance chuckled, walking alongside them. "Heck, we expected you'd still be three days out ... how long ago y'get here?"

"Only an hour or so before you did," she smiled at the buff tabby. "I enjoy talking on camera a bit too much, I think."

"Heh - comes with the territory," Chance smirked. "Proves it wasn't live news though - they'd've been down here to drag you off before now if it was."

"It was live for a bit, I think, but then we got off onto other subject," she chuckled. "We're still making a major dent in the records."

"Bets that before the next one happens, they add 'no craft of any kind' to the rules," Jake snickered.

"Only if I can bet that they will add the rule," Chance grumbled good-naturedly. "But really, if we'd really crashed? They'd be thrilled if we did something like that and got back safe, if we'd been missing this long already."

"No kidding," Brad nodded in sharp agreement. "But if we'd really crashed, there are much easier ways to get to town than our survival skills."

"Which this was a test of," Amanda reminded him. "Logic isn't a part of that and you know it."

"Yeah, but this was our own skills," Chance pointed out. "You especially. Hell, that's probably right out of the manuals they gave us."

"Raft building isn't until second year advanced survival," Jake corrected him with a chuckle.

"Dugouts aren't even in Enforcer manuals," Amanda added.

"Okay, I was wrong, but it is still fair game, as far as everybody should be concerned," he shrugged. "It's not like we thumbed a ride ... it's all our own skills and our own work. Way different from what they said we can't do."

"Oh, it's legal now," Amanda agreed with him. "It just probably won't be for the next class. It kind of makes a dent in the whole wilderness survival aspect."

"Eh, I suppose," Chance shrugged. "Just seems like that'd be going a little far ... I can understand saying 'no hitching a ride into town' - you can't count on being able to find a road when you crash. But 'no doing something that you know how to do if you're ever caught in this situation for real'... that's just making it tough for the sake of it."

"It is, but they want to test a particular set of skills here," she pointed out. "Now that we've proven that riding the river works, every team will do it if they don't ban it."

"I suppose," Chance shrugged again. "At least we made it... next year's a different scenario anyways."

"It always will be," she nodded.

Later that night, Rock was coming home from work, planning on changing, probably grabbing a shower, and seeing what he could find out at the clubs for company. He hadn't been able to get any action at all during the week, and his plan to take advantage of Jake being out for a while had managed to backfire seriously the night before.

Which, along with the fact that there wasn't supposed to be anybody there at all, made for his fur puffing straight out when he opened the door and smelled food cooking.

"Who's there?" He called out, after quietly opening the closet near the door and pulling out a ball bat. Not that most people would break into his house and cook dinner, but a cocky crook... wouldn't be the first time.

"Jake, silly," the too-familiar voice called back, sounding seriously amused. "Who else would try cooking you dinner?"

Rock let out a relieved breath, dropping the bat and starting back for the kitchen.

"I wasn't sure, but after last night I didn't wanna take any chances," he chuckled, finding Jake in the kitchen, his tail swishing from underneath one of Rock's shirts. "You're back early," he grinned, giving Jake a hug from behind and relishing the way his lover pressed into the contact with an eager purr.

"We decided to sail home after Chance almost took a spill into the river," Jake purred, snuggling back against Rock. "Turned the rest of the trip into a couple hours."

"Mmm ... legal, and brilliant, just the sort of thing you'd come up with," Rock purred, kissing Jake's neck and inhaling his scent. "Missed you ... how long until dinner's ready?"

"Twenty minutes if we wait for it all to be ready," he snuggled into Rock's embrace. "I think what really flipped them out was the news footage of our arrival, and the fact that we came in second place."

"Okay, I've got to pay attention to what's on the TV's around the gym more," the tabby smiled. "So who beat you?"

"Amanda and Brad, in a dugout canoe. We were on a raft."

"Oh well," Rock chuckled. "No hard feelings, I hope? How'd you handle the news crew?"

"No way, she's a good friend," Jake nuzzled him with a grin. "And mostly by letting Chance talk. He likes the spotlight."

"Heh - not the first time he's been on camera either," Rock chuckled. "So, what's for dinner?"

"Steak, eggs and potato hash in bacon drippings," he grinned up with a nuzzle. "So what was he up to that got him on camera before?"

"He was a lot younger, and I probably shouldn't have mentioned it," Rock tried to back out quickly.

"That thing that messed him up about guys?" Jake guessed.

"Yeah," Rock nodded slightly. "I'd tell you what happened, but it's his choice more than mine. You ought to know, but...." He shrugged slightly, giving Jake a gentle kiss. "His call, until it causes trouble."

"He has to know I can just look it up, if I really cared to," Jake murmured and relaxed into the embrace while tending to the egg scramble. "I don't really care to."

"And he's probably really glad for that," Rock told him, rubbing his sides. "The macho tabby bit's his way of coping, but because of it he doesn't want anybody to find out. Worst part of it is that most people who find out feel sorry for him... worst part of it to him, anyways." He shook his head, trying to knock himself to a better topic. "So, how'd you two handle the hiking?"

"I still don't feel clean, but it went well," Jake chuckled and served up a rare steak on the plate, then added the scrambled eggs. "Eat up, the hash'll be ready soon."

"Thanks," Rock smiled, taking the plate and grabbing a fork. "And thanks a lot for cooking," he added, grinning as he used the tip of his tail to brush Jake's on his way to the table. "So... you wearing anything under that?"

"Nope," Jake winked at him and flicked his tail to give him a glimpse before serving himself and coming to the table, along with a large plate of hash browns liberally dosed with Tabasco sauce.

"Mmm ... should I take advantage of that before, or after we get a little movie night started?" The tabby purred with a broad grin. "Both is an option," he winked.

"Dinner first," Jake laughed playfully. "Then both. I'm still hungry from the light rations."

"Fair enough," Rock snickered. "Ever watch Evil Dead?"

"I don't think so," he shook his head between bites of a meal larger than he usually indulged in. "Sounds good though."

"Zombie/occult-monster flick," Rock nodded, cutting his red steak and savoring it. "Mmm ... with a few extras, of course," he grinned. "Actually banned in some places 'cause of them."

"Sounds good," Jake leaned over to steal a kiss before focusing on his meal with the kind of relish usually reserved for his partner.

The two of them ate quickly and quietly; though Rock took the time not just to enjoy his meal, but also to watch Jake tucking into his food with an enthusiasm he usually wouldn't bother with.

"You were really hungry," he purred as they both finished up, Jake having actually gone back for a bit more before he was done.

"Four and some days of half an MRE a day, and what we could scrape from the woods before passing out, oh yeah," he nodded. "I've barely stopped eating since we finished the debriefing."

"Lucky I made it before you ate it all, huh?" Rock snickered, taking the dishes over to the sink before coming back over to Jake. "Mmm ... so, too rugged and independent to be a good pet tonight?" He teased, moving behind his lover and nuzzling his neck.

"Mmm, I doubt it," he stood and turned to embrace his lover and claimed a heated kiss. "I just want to be well fucked enough to really sleep tonight," he murmured with a nuzzle. "Been up long enough I'm catching the first hallucinations and I'm way too keyed up to lay still."

"Ookay, maybe I shouldn't show you some of my movies," Rock rumbled, kissing Jake back. "But for now ... I think we can get a head start on tiring you out," he grinned, reaching down to unzip his pants. "Up on the table," he ordered his lover.

A shiver passed through Jake body as he made the move in a smooth, gymnastic twist that ended with him on hands and knees and his tail high.

"Not quite what I'd had in mind, but what the Hell?" Rock laughed, climbing up after him, the table creaking a bit as he rubbed his filling sheath against Jake's ass, flipping the shirt up out of the way. "Mmm ... think I'll be able to keep up with you tonight," he rumbled deeply, leaning forward and nipping Jake's scruff. "Had a frustrating evening last night, and you get to have it taken out on you."

"Good," Jake encouraged him, flicking his tail over his back. "Wear me out, lover."

Rock gripped his hips, spreading the cheeks of his ass and pressing his cock up into Jake without any prep. His barbs gripped the hot, tight insides of his lover's body, and he growled hotly as he started to thrust into him.

Jake moaned low and deeply, his head slack between his arms but the rest of his body taut with pleasure as he slowly gave in, allowing his lover and protector to take charge of his world and the responsibilities that had kept him awake and alert for too long.

Midnight stroked her slender body in front of her full-length bedroom mirror and appraised herself. The sateen nightgown of rich rose red stood out from her fur and set off her bright green eyes. So the theory was to have dinner first, but the fried chicken would wait and reheat just fine. She was hungry for other things right now.

With any luck, Chance would be too... though, frankly, she had a feeling it wouldn't be hard to convince him if he wasn't.

She almost jumped as the doorbell rang; she'd honestly expected Chance would just come in.

"Coming!" she called out by reflex and walked swiftly to the door, pausing to make sure it really was Chance before opening it with a warm smile and open arms. "Welcome home."

He greeted her with an enthusiastic embrace and kiss, kicking the door closed lightly behind him.

"Glad to be here," he grinned after finally leaning back. "Mmm ... I don't think you've got dinner in mind," he teased, looking down at the nightgown that would probably be ruined if she tried to eat the chicken he could smell further in the house.

"Well, the chicken is good, and it eats just as well naked," she winked at him. "So ... what kind of dinner do you want first?"

"I grabbed a snack before I called you; I think I'm up for the one I haven't had yet," he purred deeply, pulling his shirt off, muscles rippling beneath his fur.

"So how about letting me grab one of my own," Midnight purred and knelt, unzipping his jeans to nuzzle at the warm flesh and fur they concealed.

"Gladly," he grinned, reaching down to rub her ears, moaning as his shaft quickly responded to her scent and the eager attentions of her tongue and hands.

"So sexy," Midnight breathed up his hardening shaft, her hands fondling his heavy balls before she swirled her tongue around the tip of his cock, playing the slit and smooth head.

"Mmm ... damn I'm glad to be back," he groaned, spreading his legs for her. "Forget 'beds,' think you're what I missed most."

She couldn't help but giggle, the vibration sending all sorts of delightful tremors along his body before she let him slide from her mouth.

"I bet Jake missed indoor plumbing more than Rock," she winked at him. "He has such a cleanliness fetish."

"Okay, that one's a bit more of a tossup, but I wasn't gonna say it," he chuckled, rubbing her ears. "Seriously though, I did miss you."

"Missed you too," she rubbed her face against his hard cock before swallowing him to the sheath.

"Oh yeah," he groaned, starting to thrust lightly into her mouth, his balls already twitching against her chin as she suckled him, using every thing she'd learned about him in six months to make him moan and shudder.

"Close," he gasped, his voice trembling nearly as much as his body as he leaned forward slightly and gave up any efforts to hold back.

He let loose with a roar, giving in to the urge to push her down onto his cock until her nose was in his pubes, spraying his seed into the back of her hot, wet mouth before he let go of her head, letting her decide if she was going to stay like that or not.

He could only moan when she did, and began to work her throat to milk him for all he was worth. He kept pumping his thick, salty seed into her mouth, reaching down to caress her ears and face before he finally stopped, looking down into her eyes, panting happily.

"Want me to return the favor?" He asked her after a moment. "Or just want me to lay you down on the couch and take you until I've worked off four days of steam?" He purred lustily.

"Ooo, just take me for all you have," she purred, licking his cock clean of what little her throat hadn't taken.

He pulled her up, kissing her hungrily as they made the few steps back to the couch. As she dropped back onto it, he made short work of stripping the rest of the way, practically pouncing on top of her once his well-built body was totally naked.

"Oh yes," she moaned as he drove into her body and began to pound into her, working up a sweat as strong as any he had in the woods, but much more enticing to them both.

He reached up between them, fondling her breasts through her nightgown. He buried his face in her neck, inhaling her scent, rowling lowly as he thrust up into her, grinding his pelvis against her clit. He shuddered and relished her cries and pleasure, the way her body squeezed him and the slickness surrounding him so tightly.

He pounded into her, his balls pulling up close to his body, his barbs rubbing the slick walls of her body as he roared again, pumping her sex full of hot tabby-semen.

"Oh yeah," she cried out, her body twitching in pleasure as she hugged him tightly against her. "Fill me hot stuff."

"You're as wound up ... nnngh ... as I am tonight," he grinned, kissing her as he started thrusting again, hard and fast, only missing a few beats for his orgasm before he was trying to work them both towards another one.

They were both blissfully ignorant of time in their rutting, the pleasure slowly building in a spiral of crests laced with moans and grunts until Chance roared again over her cries and both stilled briefly in a mixture of exhaustion and afterglow.

And, as their stomachs both reminded them with a pair of low, insistent rumbles, a different sort of hunger.

"I think somebody wants us to take a break," Chance panted softly, snuggling up with Midnight.

"Mmm, I think so," she giggled and kissed him playfully. "The chicken should still be warm."

"And it reheats well enough," he chuckled, kissing her back, pulling out with a groan. "Mmm ... so, I'm naked, only fair you get that way too," he grinned.

"And put a thick towel on my chair," she giggled and rubbed against him as he slid her sateen nightgown off her shoulders. "I don't need the extra cleaning bill."

"Unless you'd rather I clean you up a different way?" Chance offered with a cheeky wink.

"If you have the energy for that appetizer," she giggled and grinned back, drawing his face down for a lingering kiss before letting him go.

"I'm up for it," he purred heatedly, dropping down to his knees. He flicked his ears as her stomach rumbled again. "Though I'm not sure if you are," he teased, kissing her navel as his own joined in, and he ignored it pointedly.

"I can't believe this, but I think I actually want dinner over sex with you," Midnight shook her head in bemusement. "We can share a hot shower to clean up afterwards."

"That'll work," he chuckled, standing up and kissing her. "You grab a towel, I'll make sure the chicken's hot?" He suggested, running a hand down her body and scratching her thigh lightly.

"Works for me," she rolled off the couch and tucked her thick tail between her legs to keep from dribbling on the carpet as she fetched a thick towel from the bathroom.

A few minutes later, Chance was back in from the kitchen with their dinner, rumbling happily as he put it and a few plates out for them.

"Like the look," he grinned. "Y'know, maybe some time we should try camping, or something like that."

"Camping?" she blinked at him, honestly thrown off guard by the suggestion. "You liked the trek that much?"

"Not that much, but it might be fun some time when we've got plenty of food and company that's a lot cuter than Jake," he chuckled. "During the off-season some time maybe."

"You are so not cuter than Jake," she teased and laid the towel on her chair before sitting down. "Looking for a new place to have some time alone?"

"Part of it," he admitted. "Being out there, I can kinda see why people do it," he explained, taking a healthy plateful of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. "I've always been a city kinda guy, but once in a while I could see the appeal ... if you had enough food, if you had something comfortable to sleep in, that sorta thing. If you're not interested, that's fine too," he said with an easy shrug.

"Could be interesting," she thought about it as she served herself and began working on a crunchy, juicy thigh. "We'll have to see about scheduling it off for both of us."

"Yeah," he nodded. "Like I said, some time during the summer months ... things'll be lighter for me, so my end'll be pretty easy to work around yours for scheduling."

"Mine's just going to be saving up enough to cover the time off," she said. "I have some spare money, but I really don't care to take time off without having it covered."

"I don't blame you," he nodded. "Maybe we could schedule it around a holiday or something ... anyways, not a big deal. What've you been up to?" He asked her curiously.

"Work mostly, and I had dinner with Rock," she grinned. "Until you'll take me home to meet your mother, he's at least family," she winked at him, trying to take the sting from the words.

"You really want to meet my Mom and sisters?" He asked her a bit dubiously.

"Yes, I do," she nodded seriously. "You introduced Jake, I'd hope I'm nearly as important."

"You are!" He protested. "It's just... things haven't gone well before, when I've tried introducing girls," he explained. "Guess I'm a little gunshy."

"About quite a few things," she said more gently. "Am I that similar to her?"

"No, not really," he admitted. "Though one of us might catch some flack if she hears about you wanting kittens... not sure which direction, but it might come up. I just don't really like the idea of losing you, or of how it might go for Mom if things really went bad. Worried about both of you," he chuckled slightly.

"If we're going to stay together, or ever have kittens, we'll have to face her sometime," she reached over to put a hand on his arm. "Chance, better to face anything that's going to happen before we get any more serious than we are."

"You're right," he nodded slightly. "Gimme a while to get it set up?"

"No problem. Do you think you'll be free to meet my folks on Mayor's Day?"

"As long as we steer clear of politics for the most part, sure," he chuckled, taking a bite of chicken.

"We do not talk politics," she promised. "You might be asked your general leanings on big topics, but not challenged on them."

"Fair enough," he nodded. "I don't mind meeting 'em... and I don't mind introducing you, honest," he added.

"Good," she smiled and leaned over for a kiss that tasted of chicken and gravy more than Chance. "I've always wanted a big family. I won't screw it up for us."

"I'll try not to too," he purred, kissing her back. "Love you," he smiled warmly.

The next morning, Rock was pleasantly surprised to find that Jake was still in bed with him. Still in bed, and still asleep... he probably needed it.

"Poor guy," he murmured softly, snuggling up close behind him. "Wonder if Chance knows you weren't sleeping." He quickly made up his mind, and carefully leaned back to grab the phone by his bed, dialing the number for the gym from memory.

"Hey ... Frank? Yeah, it's Rock. I don't have any clients scheduled in today, so I'm gonna call it in this time... yeah, you might say something came up," he smiled. "Boyfriend's back in town, has the day off, wanna give him a little TLC. I'll be in tomorrow... yeah, thanks.... Heh, you have a good one too, and tell Andy to watch out for Tony if he comes in. Wolf can be in a rough mood sometimes."

He hung up and turned to holding his lover, relishing the too-rare opportunity to just hold him while he was still asleep. It was so rare to see him seem at peace under any conditions, especially asleep.

"Love you," Rock murmured, brushing Jake's face lightly with his fingers before settling down to just relax and enjoy this rare moment for as long as it might last.

It was times like this that he knew exactly what Tommy had been talking about, months before, when he'd talked about Jake's smile. It might not have been the same one, but there was a contented look on Jake's face that was better than the one in the portrait on the wall, where Tommy had captured the two of them snuggling together the night after they'd seen the first one.

He'd almost forgotten about it, really, until Tommy had delivered it as a six-month anniversary present a few weeks before.

Six months ... sometimes it was hard to believe it had really been that long. Sometimes it seemed shorter, sometimes longer, but it never felt like that particular time frame.

It almost always felt it in a good way though. Still fresh enough to feel like shorter, but they had a familiarity, particularly in bed, that Rock had always thought came with years, instead of months.

He purred softly, trailing his fingers down Jake's chest to his thighs, rubbing the matted fur there from the night before. He did have to admit... they'd had a lot more sex in the last few months than Jake had had in his life up to their meeting, and that might have had something to do with it.

Or it could be what Chance had commented on, about Jake getting under your skin too easily when you cared about him. For a Kat who could probably hold his own in most street fights, Jake did have a talent for making others feel protective on him.

"Mmm," Jake mumbled with the first stirrings of consciousness drawn from Rock's fingers between his legs.

He shifted his hands, rubbing Jake's thigh lightly, nuzzling his neck almost in apology.

"Go ahead and sleep, lover," he crooned softly. After last night ... honestly, he was trying to figure out just why he'd even bothered with bringing that girl home from the club anyways. Sure, she'd been attractive, but.... He shrugged mentally. It didn't matter right now. He had his lover home, in his bed and in his arms.

The real gift, though, was the way Jake settled back to sleep on only his whispered words to do so. His partner couldn't even get him to do that yet.

The next two hours passed in a quiet sort of bliss for them both; Jake sleeping peacefully, and Rock snuggled up close behind him. The tabby was actually on the verge of drifting off again when Jake finally started to stir.

"Sleep well?" He murmured.

"Umm-humm," Jake mumbled, only just barely this side of unconscious.

"Good... want breakfast?" Rock murmured, reading Jake's body language as the tom struggled to wake up enough to actually be articulate with very little reason to do so. "Relax, it's not a test," he nuzzled Jake's ear, licking along the finely tuned, paper-thin stretch of nerves and skin and enjoying the few minutes it took Jake to really wake up.

It was one of those little reminders that his lover had begun to truly trust him; it still took him less than five seconds to go from unconscious to fully awake with Chance.

"Yeah," Jake mumbled, though he snuggled against Rock a bit more all the same. It was his stomach that broke the tie by rumbling.

"You work on deciding if you want it in bed or out of it," Rock purred, reluctantly climbing out of bed. "I'll cook ... pancakes and bacon sound good? Maybe scrambled eggs, if we've got enough left?"

"Sure," Jake blinked lazily at him, watching at the buff tom walked out of the room and lazily enjoyed the warmth of the bed and thick smell of her lover and their pleasure still there.

Soon the smells of food got him up, though, and he wondered out to find the source of the good smells.

"Coming out for it, huh? Well, good timing," Rock smiled, tossing Jake an apple as the pancakes cooked. "Want fruit on yours, or just keep it simple today? I'm taking the day off, so I can pamper you for a bit," he winked.

"Fruit sounds good," Jake walked up to him and pressed against Rock's back. "Just about everything sounds good, honestly, especially a whole day with you."

"Mmm ... maybe we'll make some popcorn after breakfast and watch those movies we never got around to," Rock purred, pressing back into Jake's touch as he cooked. "Grab a can of apple pie filling out of the fridge, will you?"

"Sure," Jake gave him a kiss on the back of the neck and turned to do as he was asked. "And movie day sounds great to me. Ever had garlic parmesan popcorn?"

"I have a feeling I'm going to," he grinned. "Sounds interesting, though I'm not sure about right after breakfast."

"Well, I know a great salt and spice mix if you want something a little more normal," Jake suggested after opening the can and pouring it into a bowl to be heated in the microwave.

"See how stuffed we are after breakfast," Rock smiled. "Anything you don't like in movies? Midnight and I mostly talked about what you do."

"Oh kats," he groaned deeply. "I'm in trouble now, with both of you ganging up on me. I'm not fond of mushy or long stretches without action of some kind."

"Don't worry, no chick flicks," Rock chuckled. "I'm not fond of 'em either. You have any limits about things that you can't stand watching?"

Jake paused and really thought about it. "About the only thing I can think of is keeping the straight sex to a minimum and the fem-only at a real minimum. I can take some, but a lot's a real mood-killer."

"Think we'll be fine then," Rock said easily, flipping the pancakes and starting the bacon. "And don't worry, Midnight and I talked more about ganging up on Chance than on you," he teased.

"Oh really?" he perked up with keen interest and a devilish glint in his eyes.

"Yes, but not like that," Rock chuckled. "Mostly about getting him to introduce her to the family, the type of things he likes ... he's been holding off on letting her meet Meg, not sure why."

"I think one of his early girlfriends went really bad that way," Jake explained. "A Laura something. I think he was pretty young for it."

"Laura ... oh boy," Rock groaned, rolling his eyes. "Geeze, I barely even remember her. Hell, I probably wouldn't if Meg hadn't groused about her to my folks on a phone call. At least if it's the same Laura ... not exactly a name you only hear once."

"Sounds like Chance sure did, or at least Meg's reaction to her," Jake sighed and leaned over for a kiss. "What do you remember about her?"

"Not much," Rock admitted, returning the kiss. "About all I remember is that Chance was dating her for a stretch, back when he was just getting into his mid teens ... she was about five years older than him, don't know why she was going out with him honestly. All I know is that Meg said something about her being an attention whore. Not something she'd usually say, but...." He shrugged.

"So it ended quite badly," Jake summarized with a sigh. "At least it's likely to go better with Midnight. All she wants is kits, and that seems to go well with the Furlongs."

"Yeah, generally speaking. Meg might worry about whether or not Chance can support Midnight, a family, but they're keeping that sort of thing in mind too, so it shouldn't be a problem," Rock agreed. "It's just that Chance hates that sort of conflict, so he's steering around it as much as he can... it'll get straightened out, I'm sure."

"I'm sure, and Midnight wants to make a good impression, she wants to be part of a big family. She won't cause a problem," Jake stole another kiss before Rock plated the first round of breakfast.

"Good... now, let's eat, and get to the movies," Rock grinned, giving Jake his breakfast and sitting down with his own.

It was nice now too, that they were both happy to just sit and eat, or sit and snuggle, without talking or sex. Just being there was enough, and it left Rock feeling good.

The two of them finished eating, and while Jake got the dishes ready to go, Rock pulled out the popcorn and the popper. "You want to get the popcorn going, I'll go get the movies ready?" He offered.

"Sure," Jake nodded and headed for the kitchen to start the popper, then began to look around for parmesan cheese, settled for the powdered kind, but found real butter and garlic.

He was warming the butter and crushing the garlic when Rock came in looking for him.

"Isn't that a little much for popcorn?" Rock asked him curiously, surprised he was doing so much for it.

"Only if you don't taste your popcorn," Jake winked at him and dumped the garlic into the butter and let it all sit at just above melting. "You'll never go back to just salt and butter after this."

"Okay, I'll trust you on it," Rock chuckled. "Just gonna give you a heads-up; a bunch of the films I have feature rape scenes of various sorts. I can steer around 'em, but I'm not really inclined to if it doesn't bother you too much."

Jake gave him a sideways look somewhere between uncertain and uneasy. "Depends on the context," he said warily. "And how fake the movie is."

"Well, we'll have to see... though for the first one I've got lined up, the perp's a tree," Rock offered. "Beyond that, it depends from one to the next... think I'll keep Last House on the Left out of the mix though."

"All right," Jake shook his head and sniffed the garlic butter. "Almost ready."

"In most of them, the appeal comes from seeing the perp get nailed in the end," Rock tried to explain, honestly a little surprised at Jake's unease. Rape was a pretty common theme in the adult genre after all. "This one, it's not the major draw of the film at all."

Jake turned and slid a hand up his chest before claiming a light kiss. "It's okay. I trust you," he said gently before turning to fish the garlic chunks from the butter.

"There a reason it bothers you?" Rock asked him, finishing the popcorn and holding it out for Jake.

"Somewhere between the real thing is illegal and having at least a little clue what it really does to people," he shrugged before drizzling the garlic butter over their popcorn, then shaking plenty of the parmesan powder over it. He took a lid and covered the large bowl before shaking it to mix everything up. "Guess I'm kinda surprised you have much stomach for it at all, given that you helped Chance through it."

"I'm going to assume you're just guessing about that," Rock murmured. "And I can see that ... honestly, for me, it's that whole fantasy versus reality thing. It's like special effects ... I don't get freaked out watching someone get dismembered, and I know that the actors are willing, so ...." He shrugged a bit. "The real thing, that's another issue ... there are a few foreign films I won't touch."

Jake nodded. "Guessing, yes, though I doubt I'm wrong at this point. For the movies ... I'm probably just more touchy than usual with the whole Enforcer rules thing. It's not my imagination that I am watched more than most."

"I'll stick to the ones where it's patently fake," Rock promised as they headed out front and he popped the top of his VCR open, loading in "The Evil Dead" as they sat to watch it start and got settled in with Jake half on Rock's lap on the couch, both as nude as they had been in bed.

"And I'll let you know if it goes somewhere I don't want to watch," Jake promised softly with a nuzzle. "Seriously, I doubt you'd have much that'll really creep me out."

"Good," Rock rumbled, turning the lights down as they snuggled and munched on the popcorn. "This is good," he murmured, nodding towards the bowl as the group of teens headed into the cabin and started to settle in, watched by a very low POV cam that skittered around the ground.

"Good," he licked Rock's ear before turning to focus on the movie. "It's got a good start," he chuckled as various of the teens got each other undressed for an opening sex scene to keep folks interested, all of it seen from ground level.

A couple toms, a couple fems, and a five-way with two guys and three gals gave just about everybody something to be interested in.

"Y'like that, huh?" Rock rumbled, pulling Jake up fully into his lap. "You'll get to see more of it," he promised teasingly, nuzzling his neck.

"Mmm, could stand a little less attention on the girls, but yeah," he shivered when Rock traced his claws very lightly along the inside of his thigh. "Like this too," he turned his head for a kiss.

"I bet you do," Rock purred deeply. "Want to move back a bit?" He asked teasingly, and chuckled when Jake shifted to find out just how hard he was.

"Mmm, yes," Jake purred, moaning as Rock helped him to sink down on his shaft. "Oh yeah," he shuddered as his body welcomed his lover in. He stretched upwards to hook his arms backwards around Rock's neck, leaving himself completely open to the buff tom's will.

"Good boy," Rock groaned, working his hips up against Jake's, slowly making love to him, kneading his hips lightly as the tape rolled. He could smell Jake's arousal mount even more at the pleasure and pain, and the temporary focus on the two toms on the small screen.

With a small smile he slid a hand inside Jake's legs, lightly running his claws along his hard, muscular thigh before cupping Jake's balls, rolling them lightly between his fingers until Jake began to pant.

Then he squeezed them with just enough pressure to send a spike of pain right to Jake's spine and straight to his ass. The lean tom shuddered and arched, his body tightening down around his lover as his cock began to quiver.

"Go on," Rock crooned, nipping his shoulder lightly and inhaling the rich musk of Jake's desire. "Come with them... come for me, kitten...."

Jake moaned, his body relaxing briefly before every muscle tightened and his hips rocked up, pumping his seed into the air. He threw his head back with a strangled cry, his ass milking Rock's cock harder with each shot of semen that added to the puddle on the floor.

"Mmm... gods I love how it feels when you come around me," Rock rumbled, still a good ways off from his own orgasm, pulling Jake back for a kiss as the teens broke their orgy and started exploring, stumbling across the basement to the cabin.

"Love the way you make me feel," Jake panted, his body still tight and twitching as he came down, only to lock up again as Rock gave his balls another squeeze, then moved up to run the very tips of his fingers, his claws no harder than fur-tips, against his quivering cock. "Trying to wear me out again?"

"Mmm ... you want me to?" Rock teased, grinning as the voices one of the girls was hearing drove her outside. "And you're about to see one of the two reasons this film pisses people off," he chuckled, the fem screaming as she tripped over a tree root in the woods, and the plant grappled her, making short work of stripping her for the camera.

"A tree?" Jake blinked, focusing on the film briefly. "That's fucked up," he said, then moaned as Rock's cock moved inside him. "And oh yeah," he shivered as a delicious idea crossed his mind. "Feel like being used."

"Stand up then, under the hook and turn so you can keep watching," Rock grinned, pulling out of him with a groan. "Mmm ... I'll go get what I'll need."

Jake shivered in anticipation and did as he was told, watching the film as the girl managed to escape and get back in the cabin, and right into another orgy she wasn't really ready to join in on.

Just about as it ended to the sound of monsters hammering at the door, Rock came back, quickly tying Jake's hands above his head.

"So, what do you think?" He asked with a rumbling grin, nipping Jake's shoulder lightly and grinding his rigid shaft against his ass.

"Film or what you're doing?" Jake moaned, pressing back into the contact as he spread his legs. "More sex, to either."

"Slut," Rock purred, picking Jake up and driving his cock up into his ass, coming almost immediately now that he wasn't trying to hold back any more, spraying hot seed deep into Jake's hot, tight body.

"Oh Yes!" Jake nearly roared, clamping his body down tightly around his lover, milking him and holding him in tightly. "I'm your slut."

"All mine," Rock agreed, growling as he started thrusting hard, the movie going into its action phase as the fem who'd been attacked by the tree turned on her friends, becoming some sort of monster, though neither tom was paying all that much attention. Rock was too busy pounding his thick, hard shaft into Jake's ass, and Jake was mostly lost in the pain and pleasure of being taken so hard.

It was only the sudden mechanical sound of the VCR hitting rewind that broke either of their attentions away from the cycle of pleasure and release, and more pleasure.

"Gay porn?" Jake managed to gasp between whimpers. "Kantin on Kat?"

"Mmm ... sounds good," Rock rumbled, hilting in Jake and roaring as he filled him again. "Going to let you down; get on your hands and knees," he ordered Jake, pulling out of his dripping ass with a groan.

Rock ran his claws up his lover's sides before untying him, and watched lustfully as Jake sank to his hands and knees without hesitation, his tail over his back and his face up and watching his every move.

Rock retied his hands behind his back, leaving him on his knees now before walking off to retrieve Jake's whip, and to clean off his shaft quickly. He returned to Jake, switching the tapes, and kneeling to kiss him lightly.

"We're going to play a little game," he purred. "You're going to suck my cock, like a good little kitty. I'll use this lovely little toy of yours on you, though I won't go far enough to get you in trouble. If you get me off without screaming or biting me, you get to pick what we do next. If you don't, you spend the rest of the weekend around here in whatever I decide to dress you up in," he grinned. "And you've seen the wardrobe I have for you," he winked.

"Agreed," Jake met Rock's eyes briefly in understanding before he leaned forward for a kiss he worked into a lingering, heated on.

"Good boy," Rock purred, returning the kiss with equal fervor before standing as the credits finished rolling and the movie started. He caressed Jake's ears, guiding him up to his still-hard shaft. It would take a while though... he had a feeling that this one could go either way, with one little precaution. "And no fair just ignoring what your body's feeling," he rumbled, limbering up the cat-o-nine-tails before bringing it down on Jake's ass.

"Ohhh," Jake moaned, shivering in desire as he leaned forward to nuzzle Rock's groin, then ran his tongue up the still-hard shaft.

"Mmm ... good kitty," Rock praised him, whipping the small of his back, the leather thongs curling around his side. He was careful not to hit too hard ... but still, harder than he usually dared with Jake. With a few extra days to heal, he could stretch the limits a bit and they were both going to enjoy it.

He could smell as well as see how well Jake's body responded, as always, and the low moans that vibrated down his cock were more than enough proof that Jake was holding up his end of the game.

Damn the Kat was good with his mouth.

He was holding back as well as he could, but he knew he'd have to raise the ante if he was going to win this little game. He brought the lash down on Jake's ass again, angling it so the thongs would curl around, under his tail, catching the sensitive flesh between the cinnamon-furred tom's legs.

The gasping moan Jake made sent a shudder down his cock and made him remember that he had a price to pay for Jake's pleasure as well.

"Damn," Rock groaned, repeating the stroke, Jake's teeth right on the edge of closing down, but the lean tom stopped himself before he bit. "Close call," Rock teased, shifting the whip to his other hand and catching Jake from the side of his hip up to his crotch with it.

Jake moaned and pressed his face forward, driving Rock's cock deep into his throat where he could work it with the muscles as well as his tongue.

"Fuck!" Rock roared, spraying his seed deep into Jake's mouth, the contractions making his last blow with the whip catch Jake's balls when his hand moved.

Jake pulled his head back hard before his teeth met, then gave in to the incredible pain-pleasure and roared, soaking Rock's crotch with his seed even as Rock's soaked the fur of his throat and began to dribble down his chest.

Rock panted, sitting down on the couch as he finished coming, patting the seat next to him.

"You win," he purred. "Want a break before taking your prize?"

"Sure," he murmured and sat down next to Rock, snuggling in close. He enjoyed the close contact, and tried to think about what he wanted. When he'd agreed, he'd never thought about what he might ask for if he won; he hadn't even though he would get anything, other than not having to wear a dress all weekend.

"Mmm ... no ideas, huh?" Rock chuckled, kissing him tenderly. "S'okay, we've got time," he purred, reaching down to stroke some of Jake's welts.

"Oh we do," he nuzzled close, then shifted to straddle Rock's lap and kissed him soundly. "We haven't gone out on a real date in quite a while."

"And who's fault is that?" Rock smirked, running his hands down Jake's back. "Maybe this weekend? Give you a little time to think about what you want to do?"

"And gives us all day to play," he claimed a heated kiss. "And it's all your fault, for being so damn sexy."

Zach frowned as he drove up to pick up Amy one night after classes. Tony, Lance, and Yolanda were standing nearby... not being actively menacing, any more than they did just by being there, but Amy was not comfortable.

"What's going on?" He asked, stopping the car and climbing out, doing his best to look like he was in control.

"Nothing, they're just staring," she said hurriedly and silently urged him to just get her in the car so they could get going and away from the unwanted attention.

"Well there's certainly enough to stare at," Yolanda observed cattily, earning a scowl from Zach.

"Get in," he told Amy, opening the door of the car. "Let's get out of here."

She moved quickly enough that she didn't give the group a chance to say anything at that, and they were gone, leaving their tormentors behind.

"Glad you came when you did," she said softly.

"What were they doing?" He asked her softly, reaching over to squeeze her hand.

"Just staring, and teasing me about how we met. Just the usual."

"Assholes," he muttered, shaking his head. "So... any plans for tonight? Or just stay in and relax?"

"Staying in and relaxing sounds good," she smiled and leaned over to kiss his cheek.

"Maybe we'll pull out the cards or something," he smiled back as they drove back to his place. "Strip poker or something," he teased playfully.

Amy laughed lightly. "Like you need that to get me to strip for you. There is a MKCPB documentary on the ancient Golden Empire that's on tonight. It sounds like it'll be good, if they got the kind of cooperation they said they got."

"Cool," he grinned and pulled into his apartment's parking lot. "Sounds like a plan to me."

She smiled and began to relax as he walked her upstairs to his apartment, both thinking of a pleasant night in front of the TV just snuggling and talking about what they saw. It was always a good evening. She walked in behind him as he opened the door and started back for the kitchen. "Want something to drink?" He asked her cheerfully, as her eye was caught by an old book she didn't remember seeing before on the coffee table. It was bound in leather, probably six inches thick... and with anybody but Zach, she'd have written it off as just being out for show. Him... he probably just forgot that he'd left it out when he came for her. The gilded letters on the cover glinted in the light, spelling out 'The Wilding Tome' in intricate script.

"Sure, what's the book on?" she asked, resisting the urge to pick it up and thumb through it until she actually had his okay to do so.

"The book?" He asked, looking back over his head. "Uhm... if you're talking about the Wilding Tome, it's a spellbook I've taken out for my thesis," he told her. "It's not fragile, but if you do want to look through it don't read aloud."

"Right," she nodded seriously and accepted her glass of milk before carefully putting it on a different side table before picking up the book to see what the whole magic and spells thing was about.

The cover was readable, but what was inside... that was another story. Parts of it were in languages she knew parts of, but most of it was in something that looked like some sort of weird gibberish dialect.

The pictures were something else though... some diagrams of magic circles, but others featured illustrations of toms and shekats, with each other or with wild cats, or even stranger beasts. Hunting, caring for young, mating... it was all lovingly detailed by whoever had written the book centuries before.

Though some of the pages in the back looked more recent.

"The actual spells are partly encoded," Zach explained. "It's part of what ends up taking a while, especially with Katsylyan magic."

"The pictures ... are you supposed to do that?" she looked at him, the book open to a picture of a Snow Leopard Xanith fem being mated by her wild ancestor.

"Uhm... well, that's a different set of spells," he blushed, flattening his ears. "Something that's supposed to create powerful warriors, if my translation is right. But for some of 'em, yeah."

She looked back at the book, humming to herself in interest at some of the more normal-looking sex. "So are any of these meant ... ummm, for fun?"

"Uhm...." He blushed a bit, looking over her shoulder. "Couple of 'em. Believe it or not, just about every spellbook you find has at least one love spell, and a few for the bedroom... mages might've acted like they didn't have any interest in it, but the spellbooks say otherwise. Almost makes me wonder what was in the Past Master's," he mused, flipping through some of the pages, passing by a few spells for attracting a mate, the confidence spells that he'd talked with Jake about... it felt like ages ago that he'd been considering that. Jake'd be glad to hear that he wouldn't have to now, he was sure.

"Would it be much trouble to try one?" she asked, both excited by the idea and a little afraid.

"I ... suppose I could, but it could take forever," he murmured, looking for one that'd do. He reached his bookmark, and quickly pulled it out of the pages before moving on, hoping Amy wouldn't ask about it

"Maybe on a long weekend, then," she crooned and put her hand on the book, lowering it. "It's not like we need it."

"Mmm ... glad to know you think so," he purred, leaning to snuggle up next to her, closing the book after replacing his bookmark. "I'm inclined to agree with you."

"Mmm, so, I don't suppose you pick up any of those vids I suggested?" she purred, pressing against him and making something of a point of rubbing her breasts against his chest.

"Mhm... I actually got a couple the guy at the store recommended too," he blushed. "Want me to stick one in, or just see about a re-enactment for now?" He purred, kissing her and moving his hand to fondle her breasts.

"Put one in," she purred, moaning softly at his fondling. "I like to listen as much as watch."

"Okay," he rumbled, leaving the couch briefly to pick out a video and get it into the player and started, not really paying too much attention beyond what he had to to make sure it was the right type. If his girl wanted to make out to porn, he wasn't about to object.

He turned around to Amy with her shirt off, kneeling on the floor in front of the couch and patting it with a lustful look on her face, her glasses still on.

"Come sit," she crooned as the vid started, the sound of moaning and stripper music came from the TV as the movie's opening credits ran. She ran her hands under her large breasts, lifting them up. "I know how you like these."

"Can you blame me?" he grinned, stripping his pants off on the way over to the couch, leaning down to kiss her deeply before he sat, reaching down to rub the furless, sensitive area around her nipples.

"I can still be pleasantly surprised," she purred, enjoying his touch for a moment before she moved to kneel between his spread legs and began to rub her tits against his quickly filling sheath.

"Ooh ... this is new," he moaned softly, spreading his legs further and starting to purr as her soft, furry globes rubbed against his sensitive body. He drew in a soft gasp of a breath she leaned forward and slipped her tongue into his sheath to swirl around the head of his cock as it emerged.

"Shit!" He gasped sharply, the rough surface of her tongue finding his cock, the smooth bottom of it pressed warmly against the hyper-sensitive inside of his sheath. He thrust up into her face instinctively, barely stopping himself from pushing her head into his crotch as his cock came out and was promptly swallowed, her tongue still working its way around it and her full breasts rubbing the sheath and shaft not inside her mouth.

Zach fought with everything he had to let her keep working on him, the soft, furry orbs around his cock an entirely knew experience to him. Before long, it wasn't any good to hold back; he mrowled loudly, coming hard, spraying his seed into her mouth

His hips practically leaped up at her, choking her a bit as she tried to swallow, a skill that she had little practice at. Still, she kept her head down and mouth around his cock. As new as she was to it, the intense pleasure Zach got from her playing and the smell of his arousal and orgasm so close to her nose was intoxicating.

He panted as he finished, leaning back and rubbing her ears with a blissful expression on his face.

"Gods, you're incredible," he purred happily, his breath still catching now and then as she slowly licked his still-hard shaft.

"Glad you enjoy my ideas," she sort of giggled and stood to sit on the couch next to him. She reached over to unbutton his shirt to finish undressing him.

"Mmm ... what can I say, it was a Hell of an idea," he grinned, kissing her, tasting himself on her breath ... he wasn't sure what he thought of the taste, but he knew he liked how he was getting it!

He helped her strip his shirt off the rest of the way, snuggling up with her and nuzzling her neck as the action on the screen heated up. He murmured in pleasure as she reached down to fondle his balls, pressing her breasts against him and rubbing against him and watching the screen.

A sleek, snow-white tom was thrusting into a midnight black shekat, who was eating out a marmalade tabby shekat while the tom made out with her.

"Mmm ... want me to return the favor?" He asked her, fondling her breasts and leaning forward for another kiss.

"Sure," Amy purred with a low moan. "It'll pass the time, until we can have better fun."

"Kinda what I'd thought," he grinned, kissing her breasts, then moving down, spreading her legs and licking her slick pussy-lips hungrily, shivering in the pleasure that was still new to him. That it was new to her too seemed to make it all the more fun to try things out.

"Oh, yes," she ran a hand between his ears and spread her legs wide as she rolled her hips forward, giving him a nose-first view of her swollen and slick sex. "Love your tongue."

"And I love how you taste ... think it's a good match," he grinned up at her before burying his face between her legs, wrapping his arms around her hips and pressing his tongue up into her body deeply, working the rough and smooth sides along her inner walls, causing her to moan deeply and begin to rub his ears.

"Oh, yes," she moaned and shivered, loving his attention to her pleasure.

He moaned into her body, reaching up to rub her clit, looking up into her eyes, half-hidden by the reflection of the lights off her glasses. He pressed his teeth up against her lips, trying to reach the rough patch of her g-spot, along the front wall of her sex, with his tongue.

He drank in her moans, the thick juices of her pleasure, and the twitches in her hands on his head. Even without reaching the rough patch of skin, he felt her begin to orgasm around him.

He grinned, pulling back a bit, rubbing her clit and lapping devotedly at her swollen, quivering labia as her juices washed out over his face and muzzle until her gasps leveled out into pants and her touch was more in control again.

"You're getting good at that," she murmured at him with a deep purr. "Watch the smut now, until you're ready again?"

"I'm not about to complain about the practice," he purred, sliding up to snuggle with her. "And sure, now that we've missed about half of it," he snickered.

"I think we can figure it out," she giggled and snuggled up against him, her fingers lightly fondling his groin as they settled in to watch the rest of the flick.

Later that night, Zach looked up at the clock with a frustrated expression. Amy was asleep next to him... it was almost midnight... but he couldn't sleep to save his life.

Which was quite a feat, considering what they'd been up to between the end of the movie and bedtime.

It didn't matter though... he was physically tired enough, but he knew exactly what it was keeping him away.

Lance and his friends.

He didn't care if they had just been staring, Amy was potentially on their list of people to give grief now. It was one thing when it was just him... but now she was involved too.

And he wasn't going to just accept that.

He gave her a gentle kiss, then carefully extricated himself from her arms and the bed, heading out to the front room where the Wilding Tome was still waiting.

He knew just what he would need to cast the spell, and which one to use. It should give him the strength to turn his enemies away from him, and that meant away from Amy as well.

He just hoped it would work.

He quickly flipped through the book, finding the spell in question. He picked up the book and carried it into his bathroom, where he could make a bit of a mess for the spell if necessary and clean it up easily.

From there, he collected the rest of the components. A wolf-skin belt ... five calf-fat candles, mixed with trace amounts of wolfsbane... a concoction of herbs and chemicals he really didn't want to think about using in any other circumstances. He'd gathered all of them, piecemeal, over the last few weeks, preparing to cast the confidence spells.

Fortunately, the only difference for this one was one last ingredient ... one he could give easily. He opened up the knife drawer, looking at his options, and selected the butcher knife. He wasn't looking forward to giving the blood involved, but if it would give him the power over Lance and the others that the spell promised, it would be worth it.

"What'cha doing?" Amy's sleepy voice asked from the kitchen doorway, her eyes on the knife.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," he said first, closing the drawer. "Was going to use one of the spells from the Wilding Tome ... get Lance and his assholes off both our cases."

"You really think it'll work?" She was suddenly very interested.

"It's this, or sic Jake on 'em ... and this has a chance of doing more than making them watch for when Jake's gone next," Zach murmured, heading back into the bathroom. "If you want to leave first, I'd understand," he offered.

Amy thought about it, and tried to tug the shirt of his she'd thrown on closed with little success.

"I think I want to watch," she decided. "I've asked you to perform a couple before."

"Okay," he nodded. "First though, ground rules. Rule number one of watching somebody cast a spell - unless you're told to, don't touch anything. Don't cross any lines, don't move anything, don't touch the caster, and especially don't enter any area that's been blocked off. I don't expect it'll be an issue with this spell, but it's a general rule of thumb that's real important to keep in mind when you're dealing with this sort of thing."

"Okay," she nodded seriously. "I can do that," she promised.

"Good," he nodded, starting to arrange things in the bathroom. "Oh, and Rule Number Two - if you start to feel woozy, leave the room, don't turn on the vent fan. Some of the ingredients are a little potent, but I'm supposed to get the full effect of them ... so if I start acting a little crazy when I'm done, please don't call the cops, just get out of here so you're safe."

"Ur, okay," she looked at him a little more dubiously. "I will. Why ... would it do something like that?"

"Because probably half the ingredients in this spell are questionably legal, and definitely hallucinogenic," he admitted. "That's another common thread you'll spot ... there's a reason mad mages are fairly common."

"Oh," she murmured. "Are all spells that ... mind-bending?"

"Not all ... but around here, probably about three quarters," he admitted. "So... ready for me to start?"

"Yes," she nodded and went to get dressed while he finished setting up. If she really did need to leave quickly, it wouldn't due to be naked for it.

By the time she was back, he was lighting the candles, the rest of the lights turned off.

"Once I start, don't interrupt me," he warned her again, kneeling in the middle of the five lit candles, naked except for the wolf-hide belt he was wearing. He rolled his head and shoulders, stretching his body out in preparation for what experience had taught him would be a long, tiring process.

"I won't," she promised in return, and settled in a chair to watch, both fascinated and a little disturbed by the setup. If she didn't know better, she'd think it was an occult ceremony, not a spell of protection.

Zach began reading from the book as the scent of the candles, a pungent, deeper one than she was used to, filled the air of the room. Something about it was making her feel a bit queasy, but it wasn't too bad. What was stranger was the feeling that the words he was saying were giving her, a tingling down her spine, despite the fact that she couldn't understand them at all. Maybe it was the candles, and whatever was in the smoke, but as he continued, she could swear there was another presence in the room, something predatory, stalking the perimeter laid out by the candles.

The perimeter she was outside of ... could she be in danger, watching from where she was? Zach wouldn't let her be there if it was dangerous ... but what if he didn't know?

He kept reading, but looked up, his eyes following the presence, something about it all inviting the whatever inside with him, and away from her.

Amy really couldn't be sure she thought it was a good thing, but it almost had to be her imagination ... didn't it?

He took up a large glass filled with a dark, foul looking liquid. He spoke a few more words, then started drinking it, his expression saying it tasted as bad as it looked.

He set the glass down, and Amy really wanted to go up to him, offer him some milk or yogurt to wash the taste away, but she held still as she promised she would and watched.

He continued chanting, his eyes starting to glaze over as the drugs he'd quaffed started to kick in. He closed the book after a few moments, starting the incantation over as he picked up the knife. Amy swallowed hard, her heart racing as he brought the knife up to his wrist; just how badly was he going to end up hurting himself for this spell?

Especially in the shape he was in?

She glanced at the phone, ready to call an ambulance if need be. He wasn't suicidal, at least she didn't think so, but this was getting to be scary on too many levels. No wonder magic wasn't common.

He drew the blade across his wrist, wincing but not breaking in the words. His voice wavered slightly as he sat the blade down, letting the blood run down his wrist, reaching down to press it to the belt he was wearing, smearing it across the fur before holding his wrist up like an offering.

She could swear that, while he was still bleeding, the blood wasn't dropping off his arm like it should be... and that was creeping her out worse than anything else that had happened so far. Maybe he just hadn't cut himself badly... that had to be it. It was the only thing that made sense... there could not be a wolf somewhere, lapping up his blood. It didn't matter that she could almost see it.

She shuddered, her eyes glued to the scene.

She'd never watch a horror movie the same way again.

He finished the incantation again, and broke into modern speech again, abandoning the centuries old dialect he'd been using.

"Wyld Lord, I seek power over my enemies." One of the candles guttered, then went out. Zach's eyes rolled back in his head as he continued to speak. "Give me the strength to turn them from me and mine." A second candle died quietly, the smoke curling up from it filling the room with its acrid scent. "Let no enemy stand before me; let no ally be wanting for a protector." A third candle went out... they were burning down low, but the timing was entirely too perfect to be natural. "Through me, You shall have a pack, greater than any other." A fourth candle went out, leaving only the last one. "Wyld Lord, give me the Leader's Strength," Zach whispered, almost reverently. The last candle went out, and Amy thought that she saw it curl around something above it ... but in the near perfect darkness of the room, her eyes still mostly unadjusted to it, she couldn't be entirely sure.

"Eiar ketra samnas domina," he finished, his voice deep and guttural, almost as though he was speaking for somebody else. It wasn't that effective; she could tell that Zach was saying the words, even if she didn't know what they meant, if anything. But with the rest of the ritual ... it sent shivers down her spine.

She couldn't help but be grateful when Zach started to look more like himself, and closed his off hand over the wound, trying to stop the bleeding.

"Bandages, and get the vent fan," he told Amy, his voice shaking as he fought to ignore the effect of what he'd drunk, what he was breathing in, and the drain the spell had been on him.

She nodded and hurried to turn on the fan, opened one of the windows and grabbed the bandages from where he'd put them not far outside the circle.

"You scared me," she murmured.

"I'm sorry," he whispered as she bandaged his wrist. "I scared me too, a bit," he admitted. "Don't know if it worked or not."

"Maybe I took a stronger hit that I should have, but something was going on, especially with the blood," she shivered. "I don't think I want to see any more spells."

"Fair enough," he chuckled weakly, pressing against her and taking the belt off, his eyes half-closing. "Though the ones you were asking about earlier aren't as freaky," he smirked.

"Good, but I still think this is way to close to a werewolf movie scene for me. You know, a week or two before the girlfriend gets chomped on."

"Mmm... I think I prefer some of the other scenes in one of your favorite werewolf movies," he grinned weakly. "So... snuggling, or too freaked out?"

"Snuggling sounds good," she let out a breath. "You sure you don't need a doctor for that?"

"I'm sure," he reassured her, pressing against her as they stood and he gratefully accepted her support for the short walk to the bedroom. "If it looks too bad in the morning, I'll go in then."

"All right," Amy nodded and helped him into bed before undressing and joining him. "We'll see in the morning."

Jake relaxed in the cafeteria on the second day of classes after his first survival week, and considered all that had happened in a short few days.

He'd come in second best. Top of the list, no doubt about it, that was the most mind-bending of it all. Granted, it was in a field he was weak in, and Amanda excelled in, but first times ... they were always a bit of a reality check. Ones he rarely appreciated either.

Still, he couldn't begrudge her for her skill or her success. She was damn good at what she did, including confusing the hell out of him on a regular basis.

Why did she have to be so ... so ... exasperating?

"Hi Jake," Zach's uncertain voice snapped him out of his musing and back to the reality of where he was. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine." He shook his head and waved a hand for his friend to sit down. "Sorry, it's been an eventful week."

"I heard," Zach grinned, sitting down along with a reasonably pretty young she-kat who looked even more bashful than Zach usually did. "You still did great Jake, really."

"Against Amanda, oh yeah, I know it," he nodded seriously. "Survival is her thing. It was still kind of a shock to see her already on shore when we got there."

"I'll bet," Zach agreed. "Still, you ended up with a long weekend out of it ... which I'm guessing you enjoyed thoroughly, since I didn't hear back from you until yesterday?" He grinned.

"Rock's good at keeping me occupied," he ducked his head a bit. "Who's your new friend?"

"Jake, this is Amy Piercin," Zach grinned. "My girlfriend. I'd have introduced her sooner, but you've been occupied," he winked.

"You should have been too," Jake snickered, taking her measure. She was a classical beauty, if you went back to very old times, but now, he suspected she had just as much trouble getting a date as Zach did. "So how did you two get together?"

"We met outside the library the afternoon I told you about my idea," Zach explained. "They're getting sneakier, but I think I've got it covered this time. Myself, not putting you on the line again," he added sternly.

"That long ago?" Jake blinked in surprise. "Kats, I have been distracted."

"It's okay," Zach smiled at him. "I've been busy too."

"And wanted to make sure it would last a bit before saying 'girlfriend'?" Jake grinned at him.

"Yeah," Zach admitted with a blushing smile. "Well, y'know, I don't really have the best of luck with that sorta thing ... still worried that one of these days she's gonna come to her senses," he chuckled, leaning over to kiss Amy's cheek lightly.

"Not soon," she blushed.

"You are quite a pair," Jake chuckled, shaking his head in amusement. "So you do want to come to dinner and games with the gang this weekend?"

"Midnight going to be part of it?" Zach asked with a knowing chuckle. "She's heavily into 'truth or dare' when she meets new people," he explained to Amy.

"You'll be drunk enough not to mind," Jake promised with a wink. "Yes, and Chance, Rock, Amanda, Brad, Kathie and Tanner."

"Hang on ... Kathie and Tanner? The same ones who talked you into going Enforcer?" Zach asked him incredulously.

"Yeah, them," he nodded and sipped the last of his milk. "Turns out Chance gets along with them too."

"Okay," Zach chuckled slightly. "We we've got four Enforcer cadets, two of their SO's, and a pair of real Enforcers, all getting drunk, and probably ending up with everybody in various states of drunken undress ... just so you know what you're getting into if we say yes," he chuckled to Amy.

"Three pilots, three gunners, my lover and my best friend is another way to break that down," Jake grinned at her.

"Will anybody be offended if I head home early?" she asked nervously, clearly reluctant to refuse such a social offer, and just as uneasy about what it meant.

"Nope," Jake shook his head. "No problem with that."

"Good chance I'll be right with you," Zach admitted. "Last time I got mixed up in a game of T&D with Midnight, things got ... affectionate, pretty quickly."

"Why not, then?" she giggled. "You know I like watching."

"Oh, now this could get fun," Jake's eyes glittered in amusement.

"Why do I get the feeling I got myself in over my head?" Zach mock-groaned.

"Because as soon as you had a girlfriend, you were," Jake teased him and stood. "Sorry to have to dash, but classes."

"No problem, we'll see you around," Zach smiled. "Let us know when the party is."

"Starts at four, we're gathering at Calista's Needle," Jake said over his shoulder before disappearing into the crowd.

"Picked a place I know too," Zach chuckled. "So, how do you like him?" He asked Amy.

"Is there anywhere on campus you don't know?" she giggled. "He seems nice enough, and he's trying to include us."

"There are a few," Zach chuckled. "Which usually means I can find 'em by going places I haven't before ... and yeah, he is. Don't have to worry about that, Jake's all about making sure everybody's involved who wants to be."

"How many of the others do you know?" she asked softly.

"I know Chance and Rock a bit," he said easily. "Midnight ... we've met, we've hung out a bit with Jake, but I don't know her much beyond that. Tanner and Kathie ... that's another set of people entirely from the ones I know. All are folks I know by or from Jake."

"Kinda sounds like he's the common link all the way around," she smiled softly.

"Yeah, in this group anyways... let's face it, I don't have all that many friends besides him and you," Zach smiled.

"Aww, we don't count?" Lance grinned as he and Tony turned from where they'd been sitting quietly at the next table.

"Don't you have anything better to do with your time than stalk me?" Zach growled lowly.

"Stalk you?" Lance feigned innocence that no one actually believed. "We were just eating lunch. It is a public cafeteria."

"And public libraries, and public walkways, public school buildings... you guys could give the mob lessons," Zach muttered, turning to look at him squarely. "Not that I mind your scintillating conversation skills, but the med staff are getting sick of patching up my ribs."

"It's not our fault you're a clumsy oaf," Lance shrugged, staring at the scrawny Kat in amusement. "Maybe you want to take this outside?" he dared.

"Want to? No," Zach said simply. "But I've let assholes like you jerk me around long enough. When it was just me, I could handle that, but now you're starting to fuck around with the people I care about." He looked up, meeting Lance's eyes squarely for the first time in years.

"It ends now. I'm not going to put up with it any more."

Amy was getting that same creepy feeling she'd had when the spell was first being cast ... almost, anyways. This time though, the presence seemed to be in front of her, between her and the Wolves Zach was staring down... well, up, really.

"Guess he's got balls after all," Tony snickered, though his eyes were on the way his Alpha was shifting uneasily.

"Not for long," Lance flattened his ears and bared his teeth, glaring down at the tom ... even though it was something bigger than him nearby that he was really paying attention to.

"I'm serious, Lance," was all Zach said, not turning his eyes at all ... and the presence that the other Wolf was feeling seemed to loom even larger. It almost felt like there was an entirely different person there, taking the scrawny tom's place. "Back. Off."

The Alpha Wolf scowled; his Beta was watching, along with half the cafeteria by now. The damned Cadets who'd been making it so much harder to play around with the geek squad, some of the cheerleaders, a few teammates, other students ....

He caught a whiff of something potent, pungent ... a smell that triggered half a dozen primordial urges to back down, to tuck his tail between his legs and let it slide, like he was being faced down by a Wolf twice his size and with the will to match it.

He'd taken a step back before he even realized it, his tail down and his challenging demeanor gone, before he backed right into Tony and was forced to stop.

Those who could see his face watched him scramble for a recovery, to save at least a little face, and saw Tony shove him forward a bit.

"Maybe next time," Lance tried to sound threatening, but every Kantin and half the Kats who were witness knew exactly what had happened; the little geek of a scrawny Kat had won.

Tony looked back over his shoulder at Zach as Lance started to stalk off, bristling with frustration, but he followed all the same. Zach leaned back in his seat, his fur bristling as he realized what he'd just done.

"Holy shit," he whispered.

"I think the spell worked," Amy murmured, putting a hand on his shoulder, her own fur fluffed.

"No kidding," he said, taking a deep breath. "Let's hope it sticks... if it doesn't, I think the next time he will kill me for this one."

"Good job," an approving female voice said from not far away. The pair looked up to see a short, wiry Serval fem grinning at them.

"Cadet Terina Sandclaw?" Zach dragged her name from the one time he'd heard it, from when the Cadets had just started to push back at Lance.

"Yap," her grin widened. "Nice to see you standing up for yourself. Good job."

"Thanks," he grinned back shyly. "When my heart starts beating again, we'll see what I think of it."

"Hey, you did it once, you can do it again," she assured him with the easy confidence of someone who had the fight come natural to her. "Soon he'll leave you alone. Bullies like that are cowards, when it comes right down to it."

"Yeah, but cowards can get nasty if they want to," he shrugged slightly. "Thanks though. I'll just have to keep it up for a while."

"Do that, and it'll become natural after a while," Terina squeezed his shoulder in support before heading back to her companions.

"You know her well?" Amy asked, watching the sleek shekat walk away.

"A little, but not well," Zach said honestly. "She and her friends started saving my tail when Lance and his buddies were trying to beat me to a pulp after Jake sabotaged his car for me."

"Nice of them," she nodded, and finally took a deep breath before leaning over to kiss his cheek. "Here's hoping that Lance stays scared for a while."

"With you there," Zach grinned, kissing her back, lightly, on the lips. "Mmm ... seeya after classes, maybe?"

"Love to," she smiled, blushing, before they went their separate ways.

"Okay, before we hit the air, fess up," Amanda Feathertail leveled her gaze on her partner. "What did you bet with Chance on today?"

"Don't worry, I didn't promise him a date or anything," Brad chuckled, getting into his flight suit. "Not with you, anyways."

"And I hope he's not crazy enough to promise you a threesome with him and his girl," she shook her head. "She'd kill you both, or Jake would."

"Nope ... actually, the bet's for buying a round for the pilot's program, and a public admission that the other's the better team," Brad admitted. "Honestly, I'm not sure which'll be more painful."

"Depends on who wins," she laughed heartily. "For you, the round. For him ... I doubt he could say it."

"Are you kidding?" Brad laughed back. "The leader board might say it every time I look, but having to admit it out loud... that's different. So, what about you and Jake?"

"Nothing," she shrugged at his disbelieving look. "Unlike you guys with egos the size of the city, we both know the score."

Brad snorted, shaking his head and pulling on his helmet.

"Just remember, when we win, your choice," he shrugged with a half-grin. "So, let's go!"

She smiled in tolerant amusement for the foibles of pilots and climbed to her back seat in the jet, her manner never quite loosing the poise of her upbringing.

"What's been keeping you?" Chance called across the radio.

"Pre-flight checks, like we're supposed to do," Amanda shot back.

"Take it easy Princess," Jake's voice laughed over the radio. "He's just keyed up to make Tumbler admit who's better in front of everyone."

"Oh, c'mon, like he can top getting on Kat's Eye news," Brad smirked as he ran through his checks.

"Hey, compared to how you looked, I did top you there," Chance shot back over the radio. "Now hurry up and let's hit the sky!"

"Take it easy, Sundance, we're coming," Amanda teased him as they got clearance from the tower, and all four got chided for their talk.

Soon, the two jets were on the runways, peeling out to take off. The two jets pulled up off the ground, then banked towards the badlands where they'd be conducting their contest and turned their comms to internal.

"Cut to the sun," Amanda as soon as they crossed into the aerial arena. "We've got to take them down fast."

"On it," Brad nodded, turning to the east and upwards as fast as the jet could manage. "Get me a bearing on 'em so I can get you a shot."

"Trying to beat us up," she nearly growled. "Directly starboard."

"They've got us for speed... if I let 'em outrun us, can you get an opening?"

"As long as they don't realize it," she said with certainty and began to work out the split-second timing they'd have between when she had a clear shot of their engine and what Jake realized what they were doing and turned on them with the advantage of height and the sun behind him.

"Gimme the word, and I'm ready for it," Brad told her, licking his lips, edging back on the power just enough to let their rivals start gaining on them for real.

"Now!" she hissed, her finger on the trigger.

He pulled the throttle back further, just above stall speed, and angled the nose up to give his gunner the best shot he could.

"Take it!" He told her as the other jet's engines flared and pealed away, the pilot and gunner catching on to what was happening. He knew he didn't have to say anything, but without the line of real bullets, laser or missile trail to see, he felt the need to fill the uncertainty of her actions with something.

"Clipped them," she reported as he powered the engines up again and dodged the counter-attack. "Now he's serious."

"Kinda guessed; heading sunward again," he told her, keeping a close eye on the radar and the other jet, hoping that he could regain the fractional advantage they'd given up trying to end the duel quickly.

At least Jake and Chance had given it up too, in attacking.

Brad caught a look at Chance and Jake as the two jets jockeyed for position, neither wanting to get too far ahead or too far behind. Both were dangerous and everybody knew it.

"Port!" Amanda suddenly ordered, just as Brad noticed that the other jet had moved away.

He twisted the stick, turning towards the other jet in a warped game of chicken. He knew both sides were firing, knew this was going to be part of his life now, facing down a better-equipped opponent in a contest that deep down he knew he couldn't win, and did it anyway for his gunner, his city, so his comrades would have a chance to sneak up and do the job, take the perp down.

"Calm," his gunner's voice pulled him fully into the battle again as the jets passed each other, both now registering damage but neither one down.

"What's to be nervous about?" He quipped, coming around for another pass, knowing that if he waited to be told that Chance and Jake would be on top of them. "Any other plans?"

"Just set me up as best you can," Amanda told him. "You know how Sundance flies as well as anyone."

"As well as anybody outside that jet anyways," Brad muttered, banking sharply to avoid Chance's next run, pulling up, trying to get the altitude advantage. He knew what his friend would be doing, if he had the chance ... he just had to make sure he didn't get it until it suited him.

It was decidedly easier said than done. Chance was a damn good pilot, and his gunner was a level of brilliant that even the instructors couldn't quite figure out how to cope with half the time.

They jinked and jagged, danced and strafed each other. The computers marked up points for each side; they were as close to evenly matched as any two teams in the class could be, helped by the fact that Amanda knew Jake on a level that no other gunner could claim.

He'd really have to ask her about that some time when he could breath.

"Sharkweave!" Amanda barked out sharply, causing him to drive the jet in a twisting corkscrew that let her get one more missile shot off before Jake and Chance ripped their jet apart according to the computers.

"Damn it!" He swore, bringing the jet around for a landing and punching the switch to let out the smoke to announce their loss.

"Did better than last time," Chance announced over the comm, pulling the jet into a showy victory loop before moving to follow them in.

"Nice move, Princess," Jake added. "You've been paying attention."

"It's my job, Raven, same as yours," she countered. "We both know who's the student of whom here."

"Is there anybody here who isn't learning from him?" Chance laughed as both jets slowed to hit the tarmac.

"Ah, come on," Jake groaned. "I haven't been at this any longer than the rest of you."

They rolled to mutual stops, the cockpits opening to let their pilots and gunners out.

"Maybe not, but you're still better than any of us," Chance chuckled. "At what you do anyways - the things I am learning from you, you've been at a lot longer."

"Oh, stop teasing him Sundance," Amanda chided with a light laugh before they popped their canopies up. "Poor Kat gets flustered far too easily."

"That's what makes it fun," Brad grinned, climbing out. "Good run, you guys," he added, taking his helmet off.

"You are getting better," Chance grinned back at him, though his respect was honest. "But that still doesn't get you out of that round, or the statement."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Brad chuckled. "Just gimme a while to figure out how to word it so I don't lose face," he smirked.

"Oh come on, you're the only one who thinks you've got anything on me," Chance laughed as the four of them headed inside, leaving their jets to the maintenance crews.

"Is that who I think that is?" Brad whispered with a look towards two Kats in Enforcer uniforms.

"Shark and Rumble," Amanda nodded.

"And Rock and Midnight," Jake smiled shyly at his boyfriend and best friend

"Gee, confident much?" Brad snorted. "You guys invited an audience?"

"Only Rock and Midnight," Chance said, visibly started that the two Enforcers were there.

"Nice performance, all of you," Kathie grinned at them.

"What, you think a challenge like this wouldn't get around in time for onlookers?" Tanner's grin nearly cracked his face.

"Didn't think it was all that unusual," Chance admitted.

"Oh, not that much, but between the two cadet teams who made Kat's Eye News? That's different," Tanner winked.

"We cleaned up quite nicely too," Kathie winked at him. "Somehow, folks will still bet against you."

"That won't last the year," Jake predicted.

"Yeah, but nobody gets out of the Academy betting pool, so they're already down," Tanner grinned.

"Don't suppose Cadets can put a few bucks in on that one, huh?" Brad asked with a chuckle of his own. "Good to meet all of you."

"Only if you don't bet directly against yourself," Tanner told him.

"Good to know," Brad chuckled. "Consolation prize for second might not be too bad."

"You can bet that you'll be in the top ten, five, three, two or one slots," Tanner grinned, thumping him on the shoulder. "You can bet on what records you'll break, where you rank in Academy overall history ...."

"If you can think of it, you can bet on it," Kathie summarized. "We thought you might want to meet us before the weekend too, since it will be at Tanner's boyfriend's place."

"Hey, glad to meet you," Brad grinned. "So, ah... have a few pointers for either of us?" He asked hopefully, his dark tail twitching behind him.

"Sure," Tanner grinned at the young pilot. "Always happy to talk shop."

Two days later, Chance and Midnight were at the Storm Front, taking advantage of a mutual night off.

"Having a good time?" He asked with a grin as they danced next to each other in the relatively quiet club.

"Always, with you," she purred, brushing up against him. "You're a good dancer."

"You're pretty good yourself," Chance rumbled, bringing his tail up between her legs, rubbing it along her crotch. "Could be in for a long night," he grinned. "There's a bitch down here just going in heat, I think."

"Ohhh, it's going to be a good night," she shivered in appreciation to what it would mean when they got home. "How long do you think you'll last, before you can't stand her scent anymore?"

"Kantin, probably another twenty, thirty minutes, if I don't go take a breather," he rumbled. "At least if I worry about being sure we'll get out of bed tomorrow," he teased, and almost moaned when she pressed fully against him, rubbing her supple, rounded body against his hard one.

"I'd better be able to," she grinned up at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I do have to go to work."

"And I've got classes, though they're later in the day," Chance purred, glancing over in the direction of the fem he was smelling. "Huh ... you'd think he'd have better sense," he mused.

"He?" she glanced in the direction he was.

"Lance, the quarterback at the school," Chance explained, the handsome Wolf approaching a fluffy-furred Chow fem, possibly the one in heat, Midnight couldn't tell. "Oughta know better than to take on a Kantin in heat ... especially when he's already got a girl," he chuckled.

"I take it she's not the sharing kind?" Midnight guessed, watching the scene. "That one of his pack?" she made a nearly imperceptible motion towards another buff Wolf with a Lioness in a very short skirt near the bar.

"Don't know about her, but he'll rip you apart if you get too friendly. And yeah, that's Tony, his Beta... c'mon, let's get back to dancing," he purred, nuzzling Midnight lightly.

As the two of them returned to their dancing, Tony passed a wine cooler over to Yolanda.

"So, Lance is off skirt-chasing?" He asked her. "You'd think he'd treat you better."

"Yes, you would," she huffed, glaring at the Wolf's back. "Especially with all that trouble he had with the geek the other day."

"You should've seen him," Tony smirked. "Hell... backing down from that little wimp, makes a guy wonder if maybe it's time for a few changes. Wouldn't see me tucking tail like that."

"You didn't take the wimp down either," she pointed out. "Time for change, quite likely, but you didn't do any better."

"Wasn't my place to," Tony shrugged slightly. "Not there, anyways. Besides ... not like this is the first time Lance's screwed up. The bit at the library? His plan, and look where that got us? Hell, he almost got suspended from the team for that one. He might be doing a good job of keeping the cash coming and our grades up, but his thing about Zach's dragging us down."

"You know, in the old days, Lions would eat such creatures," she mused, apparently to herself. "He would rule, or rot."

"Like Zach, or like Lance?" Tony smirked.

"Zach, though it works for both," she said, considering how her boyfriend was feeling up the bitch in heat, her tail lashing angrily. "If you want to oust him, now's your best bet to pull it off."

"So I wouldn't be hunting for a new Alpha fem?" Tony asked her with a low rumble. "And when do you want him on a platter?" He added, grinning as he looked over at the somewhat smaller Wolf. He'd tried things like this before and come out the worse for it... but then, Lance hadn't been making an ass out of himself in front of the entire school back then.

"Not if you do a good job," she grinned viciously at him. "He does need to be taken down a couple notches."

"Be my pleasure," Tony grinned back, finishing his drink before he started over to where Lance was shamelessly groping the blatantly willing Chow fem.

"Hey!" He barked. "What's the big idea, Lance? You're already taken ... unless you're leaving?" He said, giving his long-time Alpha a chance to just back out of this without either of them having to lose too much face.

Either way, he'd be the Alpha and Lance'd be out of the picture.

"I can do what I please," Lance turned and glared at his second-in-command with deadly intent. "You're not one to stop me, either."

"You're making an ass of yourself," Tony growled. "And you're making the pack look bad. So you can walk out, and start up fresh, or I can throw you out. Your call."

"Tony, you're about one step short of getting your balls ripped off," Lance growled right back, standing up as the Chow shrugged and headed off towards another guy who was looking at her with interest. "And that was pretty much it. You've been my Beta for a long time, so you can back down now, and I'll forget about this." He stepped forward, meeting Tony's eyes, the two Wolves glaring at each other, mentally taking each other's measure and warring. Lance was good at this part, he'd knocked Tony back in his place without saying a word before.

But Tony hadn't seen him back down from somebody like Zach before. That was a chink in his armor that a stare-down wasn't going to fix... Tony wasn't backing down this time.

That left fighting ... and Lance knew what it'd take to come out ahead there.

Tony was focused enough on the stare-down that he didn't see Lance grab his bottle from the bar, bringing it around and slamming it into the side of his head. Glass, beer, and blood spattered the floor and the crowd that had cleared space for the two Wolves, and Tony hit his knees, stunned by the blow.

There was a stirring of unease in some of the crowd as the handful of Cadets and Enforcers debated between letting the two known troublemakers fight and breaking it up the way they knew they should. Somebody called for the bouncer. Someone else yelled that there wasn't one here.

Tony didn't take long to recover. He snarled, diving at Lance in his best tackle. The smaller Wolf tried to sidestep him, but he'd had more to drink than Tony had, and the Beta was as good in a bar fight as he was on the field. He grabbed Lance, slamming him back into the bar, knocking the wind out of him. Lance grunted, bringing his fists down solidly between Tony's shoulders, making him weaken his grip enough that he could knock him back.

"Okay, break it up," a stout Bulldog with the natural bearing of a ranking Enforcer stepped into the circle, completely unphased by how much taller his opponents were.

It was past that point though. Tony slugged Lance in the face, splitting his lip, knocking him back into the bar again. Lance leaned back against it, bringing his foot up and slamming it into Tony's groin, taking advantage of his Beta's pain to turn and try to grab a bottle, a tap, anything to get a bit more leverage. The bartender interrupted him by smacking his shoulder with a ball bat from behind the bar, only to have it wrested from his hands with the Wolf's other arm.

"Get the fuck out of the way!" Chance snarled, fighting through the watching crowd as Lance advanced on Tony with the bat. He pounced on the Wolf, sinking his claws into his shoulder to make him drop the weapon while he wrestled him to the ground.

He felt someone kick Lance's legs out from under him, and was distantly cognizant of others getting involved and Tony's protests at being restrained as well.

"Do you want them out, or press charges?" the Bulldog asked the bartender as things quieted.

"Just get them out, let them settle it elsewhere," the bartender nodded.

Chance helped them haul the two Wolves out, Lance surly and snarling the whole way, Tony trying to mop the blood out of his eyes from the first bottle blow.

"Go finish it somewhere else!" The Bulldog told them as they tossed both of them outside.

"Oh it's finished," Lance growled, glaring at Tony. "And if you want to run a pack, fine, go start one! I'm not putting up with a Beta who doesn't know his place!" Tony looked up at him, utterly shocked, as Yolanda came up after them and promptly draped herself over Lance, comforting him and nuzzling his neck lightly to try and calm him down. The Alpha didn't back down, though he didn't turn on her either, and Tony slunk off with his tail between his legs.

"Bastard," Chance muttered as the door was closed on the trio.

"All three," Midnight agreed as she came up and hugged him, her fur well-fluffed. "You guys really don't do off duty, do you?"

"Not when things like that happen... though to be fair, I'd've gotten mixed up in it even before the Academy," Chance murmured, smoothing out her fur and giving her a light kiss. "'Course, if we didn't, I think Lance just might've killed him before it was over... really lost it this time."

"That wouldn't have been a loss," she pointed out with a sigh. "One gone and one in jail? Make life better on campus for sure."

"Maybe, but I'd have felt pretty bad about sitting back and letting that happen," he murmured. "So ... have another drink, hit the dance floor again? Or just want to get out of here for now?"

"Since that bitch in heat stayed, let's get back to the dance floor until you're too wound up to think," she purred with a mischievous grin. "No reason to let his bad manners ruin all the fun."

"Sounds good to me," Chance grinned, leading her back out as the crowd got back to their various pastimes, washing out the fight with the fun they'd come for.

"So what do we actually know about Tanner's boyfriend?" Midnight asked curiously as she, Jake, Chance and Rock arrived at Calista's Needle.

"His name's Shannon, I think," Jake shrugged. "Not much."

"I've heard he's some kind of survival nut," Chance offered. "Camping, that sorta thing, but I haven't heard too much. Just some of the guys talking," he shrugged slightly.

"He's a handsome Kat," Jake added. "There's Brad and Amanda."

"Tanner, or Shannon?" Rock asked with a teasing grin, looking up at Brad and Amanda. "Hey guys!" He called out cheerfully. "Good to see you again, Brad."

"So, anybody know how to get there after we all meet up?" Chance asked as the other Cadets approached them.

"Kathie said she had the vehicles for everyone to fit in, so she and Tanner are driving, I expect," Jake shrugged. "Or we follow them in a couple of our cars."

"Okay, just wanted to check," Chance nodded. "You sure you invited Zach and Amy?" He asked, checking his watch.

"They're coming, they just aren't the habitually early types who make it in the Academy," Jake teased. "They live further away too."

"At least wait until transport has arrived before accusing folks of not coming," Amanda smiled with a snicker. "Kathie and Tanner aren't here yet either."

"Yeah, but they're not terminally shy either," Chance snickered. "Zach ... that's another story, and sounds like Amy's his match."

"They agreed to come, they'll be here," Jake said. "Probably be in his car though, so they can check out early if they want to."

"Not surprised," Midnight smiled. "I remember the last time we talked him into something like this ... he was kinda fun though; he didn't have too many stories himself back then, but what he could talk about was interesting."

"He's got a few more now," Jake grinned. "I think the ride's here," he pointed to two brand new looking SUVs, one in a dark sapphire blue, the other a deep forest green.

Chance whistled at the pair of large, expensive vehicles, then glanced over at the much smaller, older car that was driving up from the other way.

"And so are Zach and Amy, I'm guessing," he grinned, then paused, his expression more serious as the two big vehicles pulled to a stop and idled.

"That's not right," Jake frowned, his ears twitching.

"It's electric-ethanol," Kathie leaned over and yelled out the window. "And electric brakes. Come on, get in."

"Cool ... weird, but cool," Chance said appreciatively as he climbed in. "Enforcer salaries can't be that bad if you guys can afford these," he chuckled as he took his seat and helped Midnight in.

"Oh, please, did you see the license plate?" she laughed. "They're Shannon's."

"In which case, he's got good taste," Rock grinned as he followed Jake in to the back seat. "Seen a couple like these at the club, they're not cheap."

"No kidding," Kathie nodded and pulled away after everyone was seated. "But the guy has money. Wait until you see his place. It's a log cabin like nothing I've ever seen before."

"A log cabin? Where's this guy live?" Rock chuckled as Zach pulled out to follow them.

"Outside city limits, in the foothills," Kathie explained. "I'm kind of surprised nobody recognized his name, honestly."

"Uhm... don't know about everybody else, but to me it's 'Shannon, Tanner's boyfriend,'" Chance pointed out.

"Ah," she smiled back at him briefly. "Shannon Gryas, of Karidin Sportswear."

Rock whistled lowly.

"Okay, that name I recognize," he said.

"Big name?" Chance asked, looking back at his cousin.

"If you're into the outdoors, yeah," Rock chuckled. "Or if you spend a lot of time hanging out with people who are."

"Which pretty much leaves you," Jake snickered and distracted Rock with a kiss and lingering caress up his thigh. "The rest of us ...."

"I've seen Karidin Sportswear gear," Midnight glanced between Rock and Kathie. "One guy's behind it all?"

"At first at least," Rock nodded, respect clear in his tone. "He probably had a backer at one point, and these days there are a few designers on the payroll, but he's owner, founder and CEO."

"He might have gotten a loan for it too, instead of a silent partner," Jake suggested. "Is he going to be there?" he looked up at Kathie.

"It's not in the plans," she chuckled. "Though I wouldn't be too surprised if he dropped by briefly."

"Be good to meet him if he does," Rock smiled. "Not that I'm expecting it, but it'd be a good story at work," he chuckled.

"I'm sure," she smiled, paying attention to the traffic more than the conversation as they started to get out of town and into forested land. There was largely silence as everyone watched the road and thickening forest, until Kathie turned off onto a lightly paved road that twisted and turned uphill until they came around a bend and onto the front yard and parking lane of a mansion fashioned as a log cabin.

"Welcome to Green Hearth," Kathie grinned at them.

"Wow," Chance murmured, looking up at the huge house. "Actually made of logs, or just a facade?"

"Oh, it's quite real," she grinned and pulled to a stop. "Quite modern inside too."

"Heck of a place to spend a weekend ... Tanner lives here?" Chance asked, fairly sure the question was being echoed by his fellow pilot in the other SUV.

"Not often," she chuckled and got out. "He still lives in the barracks, like me."

"That'd make getting a call easier than coming in from here ... you'd need your own hangar to pull it off," Rock chuckled as he and Jake climbed out.

"Believe me, it's been offered," Tanner chuckled from the vehicle right behind them. "Along with a separate house for Kathie and anyone she might decide to keep for more than a night."

"It's tempting, but the Commander'd have kittens," Kathie snickered. "Still, good place for a weekend."

"I'll say," Zach said, parking his own car and looking up at the big house. "I think we missed something, not riding along," he chuckled.

"Let's see, 'Shannon' is Shannon Gryas of Karidin Sportswear," Kathie provided a summary. "This is Green Hearth, his primary home."

"Okay, yeah, we missed something," Zach grinned. "He going to be here?" He asked curiously.

"Not for more than a few minutes," Tanner said. "At least not where we are," he gave a wink and headed for the grand main entrance that was so unlike the architecture in any city. "I know the private parts of the house."

"Hey, have to have somewhere to get away to when things get rowdy," Chance grinned, glancing over at Zach. "You've heard of him before?"

"His company makes some of the best field gear out there, when you're looking for comfortable, sturdy, and secure places to live," Zach pointed out. "Even made some progress on making MRE's edible, when you need 'em," he chuckled.

"Okay, that's impressive," Chance admitted, most of his attention on trying to absorb the strange combination of rustic and high-tech. "I didn't take you for the wilderness type though."

"Anthropologist, and I love going out in the field," Zach grinned. "It never hurts to have a good tent, especially when you're on a dig site ... made working in Katsylyan Valley a lot easier over the break. "Like the house too," he added, looking around. "Definitely different."

"So's Shannon," Tanner grinned at him and lead the way past the large front rooms, through a wide but enclosed hallway, and into a wide open room with one almost entirely glass wall that opened to the mountains, two walk-in fireplaces and enough wood to floor all of Enforcer Headquarters.

Chance whistled lowly, getting more impressed the more he saw.

"Must be good money in that sort of gear," Brad observed, just as impressed.

"When you own the company and all the patents involved in being the first in an industry, yeah, there can be," Tanner nodded. "Take a seat," he grinned and motioned around to the leather couches, plush chairs and thick throw rugs. "What do folks want to eat?"

"What's on the menu?" Chance asked easily as he sat, drawing Midnight down to snuggle up next to him.

"Private chef," Kathie shook her head with a laugh and found a chair to settle in. "I think snack food might be best. Cheese sticks, clams, pizza, fries."

"In short, whatever he can fry," Tanner laughed. "You are so predictable."

"She knows her audience," Zach grinned. "Two Enforcers, Four Enforcer cadets and two college students; party food's the easiest way to go there."

"Not to mention good in hurrying the party along," Chance grinned. "So where's the bar?"

"Over there," Tanner motioned to a full polished oak bar that looked more like furniture than what he was used to. "You're bartending?"

"Unless somebody else wants to, or you'd rather I didn't," Chance offered easily. "Anything I should know about what's back there?"

"I doubt they've got a selection like mine, Chance," Rock chuckled

"Most likely," Tanner acknowledged. "He keeps it well-stocked, but isn't much of a drinker himself. It's really all there for parties," he explained and walked over to an intercom and pressed one of several buttons. "Party food, Pendrick, and plenty of it fried."

"Yes, sir," a male voice replied.

"Mostly the case for me too, but most of the parties I have that I break the liquor out for are a little raunchier," Rock explained as Chance went back to inspect the selection. "Lot of the stuff is spiked with catnip, I just keep it marked; think that's what he was asking about."

"So, what does everybody want? Starting with you two," Chance grinned at Kathie and Tanner. "And don't worry about stumping me, hasn't happened yet," he winked.

"A black side freeze," Kathie grinned at him. "I'll get to interesting things later."

"A Buchanan's aguila," Tanner grinned.

"Coming right up," Chance said easily, mixing Tanner's simple drink first, passing it over to the pilot before starting on Kathie's. "Anybody else?"

"Depends," Zach grinned. "You want us to try and stump you?"

"Go ahead and try," the buff tabby grinned broadly.

"Serengeti," Brad grinned with a wink.

"Serene golden sky," Zach smirked slightly.

"A royal gingersnap," Jake laughed.

"Sidecar," Rock nodded.

"Death by chocolate," Amy blushed lightly.

Midnight giggled. "A chocolate martini."

"A hurricane for me," Amanda nodded.

"Okay, so we've got ourselves a wiseguy who travels," Chance said, rolling his eyes and starting to mix the drinks. "And sorry Brad, not you this time," he winked at his friend, passing over the serengeti. "I've come across this one before ... and I've heard of yours, Zach, but I don't know what's in it," he admitted. "But neither did the guy at the bar I heard of it at, so I don't feel too bad."

"I'm not surprised," Zach snickered. "Besides, they probably don't have the ingredients ... I'll take a Tequila Sunrise. And for the record, it's green tea and saki, served warm, with a honey lozenge dropped in to sweeten it."

"We do have the ingredients," Tanner grinned at Zach. "Though only the saki is in the bar."

"I'll stick with the Sunrise for the first round, but if we get the water heating I could take over for Chance for round two, if anybody wants to try one," Zach offered with a grin.

"I'll have Pendrick send up supplies for tea, and drink, when the food arrives," Tanner said. "Tea is actually quite common here, believe it or not."

"A lot easier to make in the wild than coffee," Zach guessed with a nod. "That'd be cool, thanks."

"No problem," he nodded.

"So who's opening up this little game?" Kathie grinned at the entire gathering.

"I'm still playing bartender, so I'll go later," Chance said easily. "Midnight? You're good at this game, so how about you?" He grinned.

"Sure," she smiled behind her chocolate drink. "One extra rule ... questions and dares we covered last time are off the table."

"But we weren't all there," Tanner objected.

"We'll let you know, and the results, if you ask," she countered. "Fair?"

"Fair," he agreed, along with Kathie.

"Sounds fair to me," Zach agreed easily. "At least as long as it's only to the same people," he added with a grin.

"Of course," Midnight nodded. "Brad, how did you get your call name?"

"That'd be a little trick I've got," he grinned, his white-tipped tail twitching as he knocked back his drink. "I cut into a dive, make the jet look like it's out of commission, then pull out of it after the guy who 'shot me down' gets past me and go after 'im."

Chance snickered, passing out the last of the drinks and taking his own double atomic to sit down. "Sure, that's his version of it," he grinned.

"Oh? And what's yours?" she grinned up at Chance.

"First time he climbed out of his plane, he tripped and fell flat on his face," Chance smirked. Brad groaned, rolling his eyes.

"Come on, that was one time, and six months before we started getting call names."

"Yeah, but ask anybody else in the program with us, and they'll give you my version," Chance grinned.

"Not everybody," Brad sort of growled at him.

"Okay, we're in a circle," Amanda called them both to a halt. "Brad, your turn."

"Okay ... well, as long as we're keeping it simple, Jake, where'd you get 'Raven'?" Brad asked him curiously.

"From the princess over there," he nodded towards Amanda.

"The raven is a smart, curious, inventive bird, and those that live long are very wise as well," she smiled at the blush the story still earned from him. "It's a very apt description of him."

"I'll give you that one," Rock smiled. "Jake? Your turn."

"Kathie, not like I couldn't guess, but where did your name come from?" he turned to the Kat most responsible for his joining the Enforcers.

"Basically what it sounds like," she chuckled. "I like to fight, and I'm damn good with my fists."

"But no one incident?" he asked, causing her to lean back and think.

"Not that I can think of."

"What about the Warlords fight back in your first year?" Tanner asked with a grin.

It took her a moment to place the reference, then she nodded. "Quite possibly. It was one of those very rare times when things got really out of control, and I was smack in the middle of it."

"And loving every minute of it from all I've heard," Brad winked at her.

"I'm not going to deny it," she admitted with a wink.

"Put down four other soon-to-be-ex cadets," Tanner grinned. "Every one of 'em bigger than her and thinking they could take on the entire place by themselves. Helped out a bunch with the others, before the bouncers gave up on small and pumped mace through the vent system."

"Yeah, that was not fun, but it's not nearly as bad as folks think," Kathie chuckled a bit.

"Says the woman who's eaten a mace ball to prove it could be done without choking," Tanner countered.

"Hey, hey, you're starting to spoil things that could make good questions later," Chance snickered. "Though I really hope you cleaned up on the bets about that one."

"Doubt it," she winked at him. "It's far from the hottest or toughest thing I've eaten. But you'll have to wait your turn to find that out, sweetie. How'd you come by Princess?" she looked at Amanda.

"It's what I am," she shrugged slightly. "I don't make much of it, but it stuck."

"How'd you ever end up an Enforcer?" Chance couldn't help but ask.

"You've got a real problem with turns, don't you?" Amanda snickered. "Might want to get the tabby a pad to write his questions down on for when it comes around to him."

"In the top left drawer of the bar," Tanner grinned at Chance.

"So, Tanner, how did you end up as 'Shark'?" Amanda looked at him.

"My classmates always joked that I could smell blood in the air," he shrugged.

"It's still true," Kathie winked at him.

"Yeah, well you've never complained about it," he chuckled, glancing back at her. "Well Chance; you're the only one left, so let's go ahead and get the callsigns out of the way. How'd a macho guy like you get tagged with 'Sundancer'?" He asked, leaning back and sipping his citrus drink.

"You have to ask?" Chance laughed. "I've got a knack for coming out of the sun, and for going after guys doing the same thing. They didn't have to teach me it was a good idea either; picked that up long ago."

"Those tapes will only go so far," Brad laughed. "It's all old tactics."

"They worked against you," Chance pointed out with a grin. "Besides, I just said that's how I got started."

"You also had the better jet," he pointed out. "No saying it'd work that well for you on a level playing field."

"It never will be," Jake chuckled softly behind his drink. "I see to that."

"And old tricks or not, you guys were trying the same thing," Chance added. "So apparently they still work."

"Okay, wind down, both of you," Tanner said seriously. "We're having fun here, remember?"

"Right, right," Chance nodded, then grinned. "So, Rumble, what is the 'hottest, toughest' thing you've eaten? You made it sound like it might be interesting."

"Only if you're crazy," she laughed. "I tried a shot of half-strength pure capsicum in vodka once. I was still standing, but it took a couple minutes to remember how to breath again."

"Yeeg, that'd do it," he chuckled, shaking his head.

"Not the best way to use the stuff though," Rock grinned, noting the shiver it sent through Jake's body.

"Maybe not, but it sure makes an impression on the guy hitting on you," she winked at him. "He couldn't get away fast enough."

"I'll bet," Rock chuckled. "Me, I prefer it with somebody I do want to sleep with," he winked at Jake.

"Oooo, I see," her eyes glittered. "So, now on to more interesting questions. Rock, who's made the biggest impact in your life, and how?"

"Jenna Branston, from Sayden Bay," Rock decided after a few minutes. "Not that anybody here'd be likely to know her. She was a streetwalker in my neighborhood, helped teach me the ropes back when I was turning tricks myself. Kept me from getting my damned head blown off once," he admitted. "Back when I didn't know some of the unwritten rules, in particular the ones about watching out for johns in vans, instead of cars."

Kathie frowned slightly. "I've heard about that, but never understood."

"Well, here's the big reason for you," Rock said, leaning back, casual about what he was talking about. "At least for a bunch of 'em. A van's got space, and if it doesn't have windows, it's got privacy. If you had three or four drinking buddies who wanted to take their time with a hooker without paying, what would you drive 'em around in?" He took a drink from his glass. "Beyond that, let's say you were the sort of sadist who goes too far, who doesn't care about your partner. What would make a better portable torture chamber?"

"No wonder the beat cops keep a real eye on those kind," she nodded.

"And why the manufactures have been pushed hard for more windows," Tanner added. "All the legit perks with none of the illegal ones."

"Yep ... at any rate, I owed her a lot when I got out of there, but if I remember right smoking caught up with her a few years back," Rock explained.

"She must have been quite an interesting person," Kathie nodded.

"She was," he smiled. "So, next question ... Amanda? I'll save Chance this one, since I'm curious too; why did you become an Enforcer?"

"To improve our own security and training and ability to work with MegaKat City forces," she smiled at him. "I will spend up to ten years here, across several divisions, and then return home to pass on the training."

"Cultural exchange deal then?" Rock asked curiously. "Or your choice?"

"By choice, as much as such things are," she answered easily. "I am the chief's daughter and his most likely successor. It takes one of my authority to make such alliances stick."

"Makes sense," Rock nodded. "Well, your turn again," he grinned.

"Okay. Brad, what's the craziest thing you've ever done?"

"Oh, that one's easy," he grinned. "Back when I was first getting into girls, there was a sleek, sexy fem in my classes that just about every guy was crazy for. Well, one night I got the brilliant idea to go out to her place and try pleading my case."

"If that's the craziest thing you've done, then you've lived quiet," Chance chuckled.

"Everybody also knew that her family raised guard dogs," Brad chuckled. "I had a plan for dealing with it too, which was where I ended up getting in trouble. You know how they've got fox bait that they take from a vixen in heat? I tried something similar."

"You tried to lure the dogs away with a fake female?" Amanda raised an eyebrow. "What about the female guard dogs?"

"Well, I didn't really think it through that well... I also didn't read the instructions too well on the stuff," Brad admitted, blushing. "Managed to break the container before I got the lid off... long story short, I learned an all new appreciation for claws and trees, and understanding owners, with half the dogs barking and after my hide, the other half after something else."

"Yeah, that's an experience not to forget," Midnight laughed playfully. "I bet you have a few more good ones too."

"Here and there," he admitted with a grin. "That's for other rounds though," he winked. "I did get a few dates out of it though... so, Amy, how did you and Zach meet?" He asked her. "I never thought he'd have the nerve to ask somebody out," he grinned.

"A mutual less-than-friend set us up to give Zach some trouble," she blushed and looked down uncomfortably as she finished her death by chocolate. "He told me he knew a guy that liked big hips and glasses. A hot buttered rum, heavy on the rum, please," she handed her glass to Chance when he stood.

"A blue star for me," Rock lifted his empty glass to be snagged by his cousin as he walked by.

"And a barbara," Kathie added with a grin.

"I'm not sure where I got the guts to walk up to him, but I did," Amy continued her story. "Turned out we both love Chi Young's fashi naga."

"And werewolf flicks, at least some of 'em," Zach added, polishing off his own drink. "I'll space 'em out a bit, I might be driving later," he told Chance when the tabby looked over for his request.

"Hopefully not," Tanner grinned at him.

"So, Chance, what was your first impression when you met Jake?" Amy giggled, already a bit loopy.

"Want some chocolate in that rum?" Chance grinned at her, and added a heavy dollop of the fine dark syrup when she nodded. He passed it over, and leaned against the bar, thinking. "Honestly, I wasn't quite sure what to make of him. Mostly, that he seriously needed to get out more ... and I think it's a good thing that I hauled him out when I did," he grinned.

"In a round-about way," Jake chuckled and snuggled against his lover, one hand on Rock's powerful thigh. "I am glad you did."

"Beyond that ... hard to say," Chance smiled. "I think it's all worked out though. Mmm ... Amanda, why don't you date that anybody hears about?"

"Cultural expectations," she chuckled softly and sipped her hurricane. "I'm expected to have high standards, even when my people are not watching. It's second nature at this point. It's not wrong, what is said about the good ones being taken or not interested."

"Not all of 'em, but fair enough," Chance chuckled. "Gotta suck sometimes though," he said more sympathetically.

"What makes a 'good mate' is a deeply cultural thing as well," she smiled at him in thanks for his sympathy. "I have no doubt you are a fine mate for Midnight, and Rock is for Jake, it is just not for me. Sometimes I think I'm missing out on the fun, but it is not in me to abandon what makes me what I am."

"You've got a lot to be proud of," Zach agreed. "We still need to set up a time to talk about your people some," he added with a smile.

"Perhaps next weekend, when the full moon has waned some?" she suggested. "I could even show you around a bit if you have the time."

"Sounds good to me, I think," he smiled. "I should have the time, and it'd be great to see the area."

"I'll plan on it," Amanda nodded. "So, Rock, what was your first impression of Jake?"

"First impression, or after I started to actually think about it, instead of just what we were doing?" Rock asked.

"We were posing nude for a painting when we first met," Jake explained. "A blind date that at least I didn't think was a date."

"Okay, after you stopped wondering how much work it was going to take to get him in bed," she laughed playfully. "I expect your first impression was very similar to mine then."

"Might have been," Rock chuckled. "At first, I just thought he was cute and that I might have some more fun posing for the painting than I'd thought I would when Tommy talked me into it. After that ... I started seeing him, what he was looking for. Have you seen the picture we were posing for?" He asked curiously.

"Yes," she nodded with a soft smile. "It was an incredible display of what that kind of relationship should be; I even tried to buy it, but Tommy wasn't going to sell. I didn't realize you had just met when it was done."

"We had ... Tommy's a Hell of an artist," Rock smiled. "As I was watching him, I started getting a feeling for just how complex he could be." He pulled Jake up into his lap, nuzzling his neck. "And that he needed somebody to take care of him ... wanted it, anyways. I'm just glad that he's decided to let me take the job."

"You earned that, and everything else," Jake tipped his head up to nuzzle him affectionately.

"You two are so mushy," Midnight rolled her eyes, though it was impossible to miss how pleased she was by it.

"Oh, like you're not thrilled by it," Zach grinned over at her. "You two are a good couple though, it looks like," he added as Rock tipped Jake's face up for a tender, passionate kiss that quickly turned into oblivion to the rest of the world.

"It's true," she admitted with fake reluctance and snuggled into Chance's arms when he sat down again. "As disturbing as some of it is, he is doing wonders for Jake, and I can't object to anything that good for him."

"Somebody should remind them that it's Rock's turn when they come up for air," Brad snickered. Rock raised his hand, signing for one moment. A bit later, he looked up, licking his lips.

"You're just jealous," he winked at the younger tom. "Since you're so eager to get going... not counting falling flat on your face climbing out of your jet, what's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done?" He asked with a grin.

The tuxedo tom groaned, thinking back. "Dare?"

"Oooh, fun," Rock grinned. "Especially considering some of the ideas we've been hearing. But I'll keep it simple for now, I think; strip for us?"

"Guess I'm the first one naked then," Brad grinned back with a chuckle and stood, making a production of taking his buttoned shirt off, then the white t-shirt under it to reveal a well-developed chest and mouse-soft fur of pure black and snow white.

"Mmm ... I don't think any of us are complaining," Rock rumbled. "What do you think Jake?" He asked with a grin, licking Jake's ear lightly.

"He spends a lot of time on that fur," Jake closed his eyes, more than willing to simply sink into Rock's presence. "Not bad looking," he added, watching again as shoes were toed off and Brad unbuttoned his jeans one at a time, drawing out the display and turning so everyone could get a good look at all he had to offer. "Nice ass."

"Mmm ... not as nice as yours, but close," Rock agreed, reaching up under Jake's shirt with one hand to scratch his chest.

"Ohh, nice enough you want to play with it?" Jake purred softly, his eyes drifting closed and largely oblivious to the rest of the room.

"Maybe later," Rock purred, kissing Jake lightly. "Would you want to join in? Or just watch?"

"You know, I do have a choice in the matter too," Brad protested playfully.

"Oh, that all depends on how many other questions you don't want to answer," Rock grinned wickedly.

"Watch, I expect," Jake murmured as he turned to straddle his lover's lap and claim a kiss that managed to take Rock's mind completely off the naked tom making a proud display of himself for the group.

"Mmm ... well, if they're too distracted, I think we'll still be able to find you some company tonight," Tanner rumbled as Brad showed himself off. "What're you into, or do you want to save that for a later round?" He asked teasingly.

"Oh, I think we can save that, for a round, or when we're going to do something," Brad winked at him. "So, Zach, what was your most passionate moment?"

"First time I was with Amy," the orange tabby smiled, snuggling up against his girlfriend. "It keeps getting better, but that first time had something extra to it."

"Starting to think everybody here's a romantic except us," Chance chuckled to Brad.

"Oh?" Midnight raised an eyebrow in challenge. "Should I entertain them with some of your mushy moments?"

"Hey, I never said I can't be romantic," Chance chuckled, turning to kiss her deeply.

"That doesn't mean we're not interested," Zach grinned as they parted. "Midnight? What's the 'mushiest' thing you and Chance have done?"

"Mmm, that would have to be the day we went to the city fair," she giggled at her boyfriend's startled look. "He spent all day kissing me in public, holding me on rides and generally making a point to everybody who'd look at us that I was not available, and neither was he. What made it really cute though was that even when we could have, he never tried to get me to sneak off somewhere for a quickie."

"Well, that wasn't really the point that day," Chance chuckled, nuzzling her neck. "Besides, we were enjoying ourselves plenty without," he purred.

"Okay, so I'm the only one here who isn't a hopeless romantic, even if some of us hide it better than others," Brad chuckled.

"Oh, I'm sure you are," Jake laughed, just to make the point that he was still listening, even if he seemed totally engrossed in getting off with Rock without undressing.

"So, Chance," Midnight grinned up at him. "What's a fantasy you haven't told anyone here?"

"Uhm, what's said here doesn't get repeated, right?" Chance blushed, looking over at Tanner and Kathie. "This one might be a little touchy with the Academy," he chuckled.

"Gotcha," she nodded. "I won't repeat it."

"Agreed," Tanner nodded.

"Okay," Chance nodded. "One of the fantasies I haven't mentioned to anybody is a whole lot of dicey in a lot of ways. Mixing girls and flying all at once; take a plane up, put it on auto-pilot, and make the mile-high club in a two-seater," he chuckled.

"Ooo, godda tell you, it's a real common one," Kathie grinned. "Still a hot idea too, in my book. And I understand why you don't want it to get to the folks who keep you in a jet."

"Oh yeah," Tanner nodded.

"It does sound fun though," Midnight purred with a teasing wink.

"Maybe some day when I've got my own bird for sure," Chance winked back, nuzzling her neck. "Since we're getting to the fun questions; Kathie, what's your hottest fantasy?" He asked with a grin.

"Humm," she leaned back and sipped her drink. "Anyone not know about The Java?"

"Not my kinda place, but I've heard of it," Chance said easily.

Jake just let out a soft rumble of excitement and pressed closer to Rock.

"Practically lived there for a while," Rock chuckled. "Adult club," he explained to Zach and Amy, "specializes in bondage, D/s, and light S&M... oughta take you there some time," he told Jake with a nuzzle. "Anyways, back when I moved back into town, I spent a lot of time down there getting a feel for the local scene."

"Love to," he purred and pressed close.

"Okay, so I walk in one night and look around, just checking out what's on offer," she smiled secretively.

Tanner suddenly went bright red and ducked behind his glass and tail as best he could. "You just had to say this one, didn't you?"

"He asked," she shrugged with a teasing snicker for her pilot. "Anyway, kneeling in one of the slaves for use stalls is my pilot. He's looking quite ignored and lonely, and very sexy in nothing but a collar and leash. I walk up and he whimpers when he sees me, lowering his head for me to stroke between his ears.

"For reference, it'll never happen," Tanner piped up.

"Most fantasies don't," Kathie pointed out. "Anyway, I stand in front of him and he unzips my crotch with his teeth before going to work with his tongue. Somebody behind me asks if I share, and I nod. She chuckles and asks if I'm up for a game; see if she can make him come before he can make me, prize being the next round with him.

"When I nod she slides under him and starts giving him a boob-blowjob. It makes his breath hitch, his body shuddering as he tried to hold himself back. I spread my legs a bit further, watching my pilot fight to let me win."

"Ooh, that does sound hot," Amy purred, giggling as she finished her second drink and Chance went to mix a third, the water for the tea coming in along with the food. "How does it end?"

"With him on his back and me riding him as he squirms and moans for the crowd as much as me," she licked her whiskers and accepted a bright green concoction from Chance. "He's incredibly sexy in submission."

"In your head," Tanner objected. "I don't do that."

"I know, sweetie," Kathie smiled at him. "It's a fantasy."

"Okay, just how common is it for pilots and gunners to sleep together?" Chance asked. "We've got three teams in the making right here who don't, after all."

"If you count those who only do it occasionally, probably at least two-thirds, if not three-fourths or more," Kathie said thoughtfully. "Which would include us, when we're both single and horny that night. If you just count those who are in a serious relationship with the other, probably more like one in ten. It's common, but far from universal."

"Well there goes one question," Amy giggled.

"Okay," he nodded. "So, your turn," he grinned as he brought back his own drink and Amy's, Zach starting to mix the tea while munchies were passed around.

"Chance, what's the scariest thing you've ever done?" Kathie grinned at him.

"Dare," Chance said, glancing down with a bit of a frown and knocking back about half of his drink.

"Kathie, he did that one last round," Jake told her quietly.

She blinked in surprise at both of them, then shrugged. "Okay, what's the craziest thing you'd done?"

"Heh... that's easier to talk about," Chance chuckled, trying to get back into the mood. "Few years back, my buddies and I were working on cars ... that's when I built my bike too. Anyways, one of 'em got their hands on a supercharger Pumadyne had ditched after it looked like it had been trashed when a jet crashed. We hooked it onto an old beater and took it out to the badlands to see if it'd work. I managed to beat the other guys out to drive it," he grinned. "Left half a mile of skid mark from where I hit the charger before it finally stopped."

"You are insane, Kat," Tanner laughed, shaking his head. "Good thing you've got a partner that's just as whacked. No one else would last."

"Thanks," Chance grinned broadly. "Never did it again, but it was a blast while it lasted ... Amanda? You're up next. How did you and Jake get to be friends?"

"I asked him on a date," she chuckled softly, which resulted in Jake ducking his head and burying it against Rock's chest. "A fair amount of stammering later, he got out about not doing girls. So I asked him to talk over dinner instead."

"I'd say I'm sorry to hear it," Rock grinned, scritching Jake's chest lightly until the lean tom began to purr, "but I'd have to lie, since it means he was free."

"I don't doubt it," Amanda chuckled. "You two do make a very good couple," she said honestly. "Now, Rock, tell us what you do that Jake finds the hottest."

"Oooh ... well, I'd have to check with him to make sure...." He leaned forward, whispering into Jake's ear.

The lean tom shivered and nodded, reaching down to play his fingers along Rock's tight crotch.

"Watch it, or I'll demonstrate for everybody instead of telling 'em," Rock groaned softly.

"You think I'm going to object?" Jake whispered throatily.

"Or any of us?" Brad grinned. "I bet he's something else when he loses control."

"Mmm... Midnight might," Rock said. "Jake's got a thing for pain, especially claws and whips ... I know how to indulge him without getting him in trouble. Kathie, might want to talk to you about the actual limits on that sort of thing one of these days."

"Sure thing," her eyes glittered with interest. "I'm more into the D/s angle, but I'm quite well versed in all of it. Now, details on his tastes?"

"Details, or demonstration, if everybody's up for it?" Rock asked, looking at Chance, Midnight, and Zach in particular.

"Go ahead," Midnight nodded, snuggling up against his boyfriend. "I think I can distract him from the parts he might not want to watch."

"Okay," Rock rumbled when Zach shrugged slightly. "Up you go, Kitten, and strip down for us."

Jake reluctantly gave up his spot on Rock's lap, obedient but not entirely happy about loosing the contact. He closed his eyes and began to take off his shirt, focusing on giving a show for his lover.

By the time he tossed his jeans to the side, he'd all but forgotten about his audience, except for the one he wanted to arouse.

"Mmm ... stop like that," Rock purred, standing up. "Want to leave them with something to want," he grinned, popping his claws out and raking them lightly down Jake's sides.

It earned a shiver and moan from Jake as he leaned into the contact, and towards Rock, as he slid his arms upwards, offering himself without reservation.

The dark-furred tabby rumbled, kissing him heatedly before turning him around, reaching up to claw at his chest lightly as Jake's arms slid down around his neck and Jake leaned in a bit for a heated kiss, his cock peeking out from his briefs.

"You're going to show them your scar before you're done," Rock promised him, kissing him back and reaching to dig his claws slightly into Jake's ass.

"He loves to bleed ... to feel claws or blades or whips tearing at him," he purred as Jake's body tensed and he cried out, pressing against Rock's body and the claws in a blatant hunger for what was being offered him. "He likes other types of pain too, but mostly the cutting; sharp and fast."

"No kidding," Kathie purred deeply, watching with clear arousal as she leaned forward. "What scar?"

"One I gave myself couple years back," Jake answered with a whimpering moan while Rock rubbed their bodies together, digging his claws even deeper into Jake's rump.

"It'll give you an idea just how into it he is... he says he came harder than ever before, before he passed out," Rock chuckled. "We've also played around with a few other things... I've been broadening his horizons. Bondage isn't something the Enforcers mind, but the burns and scars is something we have to be more careful with... so, who wants to see the rest of him?" He asked teasingly, kneading Jake's ass through his increasingly blood-stained briefs.

"Yes," Amanda was the first to answer throatily, watching the way Jake trembled with every movement Rock made.

"Damn, I haven't met anyone who's been that into it," Kathie murmured, her eyes raking the cadet's body and judging for herself how many of the visible marks were from something other than getting off.

"Turn around, and let them see," Rock ordered Jake with a throaty purr. "And decide fast if you mind if I use you to tempt the tuxedo over there," he winked.

"Don't mind, long as you're on the other end," Jake moaned, his body very close to the edge of coming already. He let his arms drop from Rock's shoulders as he turned around, whimpering as Rock walked his claws forward under his briefs until they caressed Jake's sheath lightly, no longer drawing blood.

With a tightening of his entire body, Jake cried out, the tip of his cock jumping as a sprit of come splashed his chest and down to the fine wood floor.

Rock kissed his neck and held him upright as the orgasm passed, then slid his briefs down to show those watching the full extent of Jake's arousal.

"He's also got a thing for getting cum on himself," Rock chuckled, reaching down to trace a claw up the scar on Jake's sheath. "Here's what I was talking about ... cut himself from base of the sheath to the tip, before he was in the Academy. We're going to be careful about letting him go that far again," he rumbled, kissing Jake's neck again.

"And joined before I could explore that idea any further," Jake gaped out, his body trembling as he recovered, blood still oozing down his legs.

"Mmm ... so you can see why we're interested in a little help at figuring out where to draw the line," Rock grinned to Kathie, turning to look at Brad. "Want a little help with that?" He asked, nodding down towards his thick, hard cock with a mischievous gleam in his eye.

"Depends on the price," Brad rumbled, licking his lips at the sight of a Kat he'd desired for some time naked and so very compliant in a tom's arms.

"He sucks your cock, I get your ass later," Rock said, unzipping his pants and undressing himself, making a very intentional, very skilled display of a body that showed how much care he gave it. "I won't be as hard on you as I am on my pet though," he promised with a grin.

"Unless you beg nicely," Jake licked his whiskered back and lowered himself to all fours.

"Deal," Brag grinned broadly and walked up to Jake, caressing the lean tom's jaw as Jake nuzzled his groin. "You want anything special?"

"Just Rock under my tail," he waved his tail at his lover.

"Gladly," Rock rumbled, straddling Jake's hips and pressing himself up into the lean tom's tight, hot ass with a groan that was mirrored was his lover.

Brad slid his hand through Jake's short hair, stopping to rub his ears as Jake swirled his tongue around the conical tip of his cock, teasing him.

"Wanted your mouth for months now," Brad rumbled, thrusting lightly into the hot, skilled mouth that was so insistent on teasing him. "So hot."

"He worth the wait?" Rock asked with a grin, raking his claws down Jake's back, leaving furrows in his fur as he thrust, slowly and powerfully, into his ass.

"Oh yeah," Brad groaned as Jake's tongue swirled around his cock-head. "You got so lucky."

"Mmm ... no offense, but I don't know that you could keep up with him," Rock rumbled, leaning forward to lick Brad's nose. "Not and keep your job," he grinned, reaching under Jake to stroke his cock, one claw out to randomly catch a rubber barb and nearly make Jake cry out around the cock in his mouth.

"Oh?" The tuxedo tom raised an eyebrow in challenge. "I've never been out-paced yet."

"I'd meant kinks," Rock pointed out with a grin, groaning as Jake's body rippled around his barbed length. "Mmm ... he doesn't really care about sex otherwise. Not unless he wants to."

"I bet you make him want to, though," Brad's rumble was interrupted with a groan. Then he unsheathed his claws and made tiny pricks into Jake's shoulders that caused the lean tom to whimper and shudder, right on the edge of coming again.

Rock's teasing demeanor was gone in a flash.

"Take them in," he told Brad seriously, and was instantly obeyed with a startled look. "You want to feel him hurt, I do it; I don't know your skills," Rock explained without slowing down in his deep, hard thrusts.

"Very, mmmm, little," Brad admitted, his tail flicking sharply as he began to thrust into Jake's mouth, right on the edge and happy to not hold back. "Damn he's good."

"Very good," Rock agreed, popping his own claws out and raking them down Jake's back, drawing thin lines of blood down his body as he groaned, his balls twitching, right about to fill Jake's ass but working to be able to watch and feel the others first.

Rock leaned forward, pulling Brad's head forward into a heavy kiss with one hand while the other went to work on Jake's cock, both stroking the length and clipping the sanative barbs with his claws.

With a whining shudder Jake pulled his head back with a roar and gave his lover what he wanted, his body milking Rock's cock and his own cock spraying seed over Rock's hand and the floor.

Rock roared into Brad's mouth, filling Jake's ass as he squeezed down around Jake's cock, piercing one of the barbs as his hand tightened reflexively. Sweet Bastet he wished Jake was more inclined to do this, especially with someone else who could be trusted to inflict pain. It would be beyond incredible.

Brad suddenly gasped and roared, caught by surprise when Jake recovered enough to swallow him.

Rock pulled Brad back into the kiss, swallowing his roar as he savored the feel of Jake's body convulsing around his, purring deep in his throat as he suckled the smaller Tom's tongue.

"Mmm ... so, my turn?" He asked with a wise-ass grin as the three of them finally stilled, all panting and working to recover their breath.

"If you have it in you," Brad chuckled weakly.

"Oh you're for later, pretty boy," Rock chuckled. "Mmm ... though I think I've got enough space on my lap for both of you," he winked. "Amy; what's the kinkiest thing you've ever wanted to do?" He grinned, helping Jake to his feet and onto his lap back on the couch, sitting down on a towel that Tanner helpfully laid out for them.

"Sex with a werewolf," she blushed and ducked her head, though most of her attention was on her hand inside Zach's pants.

"You wouldn't actually do that, would you?" Tanner asked with a worried frown. "If you had the chance?"

"No," she shook her head sharply. "Well, I guess if it was Zach I might, but really, they aren't real."

"They are, Amy, and be careful with thoughts like that," Amanda looked at her with honest concern. "They'll be drawn to you, and it's a rare day that one is gentle enough to leave its bedmate alive."

"Nnngh ... for what it's worth, Rock did ask about what she'd wanted to do, not what she would," Zach offered, leaning against his girlfriend and kissing her cheek. "And I've got the... mmm... sense not to turn myself into a werewolf."

"I would hope everyone does, though many do not exactly get a choice," Amanda reminded him.

"I won't seek it out, promise," Amy said with certainty. "It's just a fantasy, like being able to fly with your own wings."

"We understand," Chance nodded. "You've just got four Cadets out of Supernatural Investigations and two Enforcers familiar with it," he chuckled slightly, snuggling up against Midnight while she played with him, keeping his mind off the intensively bloody guy on guy action they'd just been witness to.

"Jake," Amy purred softly. "How do you like to clean up after being clawed up?"

"I don't get to often, but a long, hot shower with Rock there. It's a large shower, the kind you find in honeymoon suites " he licked his whiskers back before claiming a lingering kiss. "He'll fuck me, suck me off until neither of us can stay hard anymore, then pulls me out and ties me standing up with soft rope. I'm past arousal, but he cleans every scratch and puncture he's put in me with his tongue, caressing and grooming me until every muscle I have melts. Only then does he take me down, and has to carry me to the bed, where we snuggle and drift to sleep."

"You always did have a thing for water and snuggling," Midnight smiled fondly, trying to look past the blood starting to dry on her friend's fur as she stroked Chance's cock from his open jeans.

"If you want, all the full bathrooms here are quite big enough," Tanner rumbled, his pants tight and a little damp from all he'd seen and heard already.

"Does anybody mind if we send them off to clean up?" he asked quietly. "I don't like seeing him all bloody. Guy's my partner."

"Sure," Tanner nodded and stood. "Just wait on the game until everybody's back, okay?"

"No problem," Chance agreed quickly, grateful when Jake and Rock followed the other tom from the room.

"So, since you created the break, care to cover the time until Jake can ask his question?" Amy giggled and lifted her glass for a refill. "I want what he's drinking," she added with a nuzzle for Zach.

"What do you have in mind?" Chance asked and took her glass, walking a little awkwardly in open jeans with a serious hard-on sticking out.

"Give those of us who prefer guy on girl without blood a show," she grinned and watched him make the hot saki drink.

"You up for it, Midnight?" He asked her with a grin. "You know I don't mind showing off," he chuckled, "but you do sometimes."

"Not when I'm this drunk," she giggled and stood to saunter to him. "So, take me dressed, or not?" she purred, draping her arms across his shoulders. "Just distract me from all the eyes on us."

"Mmm ... not," he grinned, kissing her and undoing her belt.

"Mind using something other than your hand there?" Zach suggested to Amy with a low purr, reaching down to grope her ass discretely.

"Mmm, mouth, or tits too?" she purred, already quite turned on by the moans and arousal from the couple starting their show.

"Your tits too, if you really want," Zach grinned, kissing her hotly. "But I'd been thinking of you on my lap, so you can enjoy your show," he winked and got a surprised look, then a bashful grin.

"Sure," Amy kissed him and worked his pants down with his help before she shimmied out of her underwear and slid into his lap. "You're bold tonight," she murmured and nuzzled him, rubbing her full chest against him before she lifted herself up a bit and slid down, taking his hard cock into her body with a shudder.

"Oh... you're not complaining," he pointed out with a low moan, pulling her into a kiss.

"And people think I'm eager to put on a show," Chance chuckled. "So... on your knees, or against my chest, spread out for everybody?" He asked Midnight with a lusty grin.

"You know I like being on top," she giggled and kissed him soundly, cupping his balls and sheath in both hands as she rubbed against him, enjoying the raw sexuality of the contact before she pulled away and slipped out of her clothes.

"Just checking," he laughed, stripping himself down the rest of the way and laying down, making a shameless display of his hard body and rigid, barbed shaft.

"Showoff," Midnight laughed lightly and slid up his body, pausing to rub her tits around his cock briefly before continuing up to claim a kiss, her lithe form rubbing against his buff one.

"Mmm ... and you're not?" He grinned, kissing her back, rubbing his shaft against her sex. "At least when you're partying," he teased playfully.

"Not as much as you," she grinned and lifted herself up, arching her chest forward and twisting her fluffy tail around her slender body before she guided his cock into her body and rippled the muscles there. "Mmm, yes. Remember my heat-scent? Take me like it was for real tonight."

"You wouldn't be on top for long if you were," he rumbled, leaning up, lapping at her nipples and suckling them hungrily as he worked his pelvis against hers, gripping her hips and lifting her up so he could pull her down hard onto his shaft.

"If you're inclined for it, there's a blue heat lite that could be fun," Tanner offered with a rumble for the shows he was getting and their effect on him. "It only lasts a couple hours."

"I'd better lay off, but it's your call," Chance rumbled, tipping his head up to kiss Midnight as they fucked on the floor.

"I'd say ... mmm ... go for it," Zach rumbled into Amy's ear with a grin.

She raised and eyebrow at him curiously, then shivered a moan as he thrust deeply into her. "Y-you really want to?" she moaned.

"I think it'd be a Hell of a rush," he groaned, taking her hips and tilting her a bit so he could hit her g-spot, running a hand up under her dress to fondle her breasts.

"Maybe after the game, then?" she crooned throatily and pressed into his touch. "Close," she whimpered, not entirely sure whether it was his hard cock inside her or his hand fondling her breast.

"I say I don't need any help to enjoy him," Midnight grinned down, then groaned and spread her legs further apart as he ground into her pelvis. "Sweet Bastet, you're good," she moaned, her world shrinking again to just the two of them. "Take me hard."

"With pleasure," he grinned, pulling her down and rolling so she was on her back and he could pound his slick, throbbing cock deep into her body. He kissed her heatedly as she wrapped her legs around him and squeezed her body, whimpering at the intense pleasure and the rush it always brought her with him.

"I think the game's on hold," Rock chuckled from the door to the room, wrapping an arm around Jake's waist as they watched the beginnings of an orgy that wouldn't happen.

"At least for a few minutes," Jake snickered and turned to steal a kiss. "Might as well join the audience."

"Sounds good to me," Rock grinned, picking Jake up and walking him back over to their seat, snuggling up with him as they watched both couples rutting in full view of everybody. "Can't believe Zach's joined in."

"Or Amy, she seemed as shy as he is," he nuzzled his lover, his hand slipping down between them to lightly tease Rock's sheath. "They make a good pair, I think. Just keep in mind that I want to take a long and lingering advantage of the showers here."

"Oh, no problems there ... taking advantage of the fact they're big enough for two, or that we could probably squeeze three in?" He asked teasingly, leaning over to kiss Jake's neck, nipping it lightly as Chance roared.

"You know I'm not inclined to share you," Jake moaned deeply and shifted to straddle his lover's lap, pressing their bodies together. "Besides, that would leave Kathie with no one to play with."

"Mmm ... and that would be a shame," Rock purred, nuzzling Jake and hugging him close. "So you'll hardly have to twist my arm," he chuckled, scratching his chest lightly as Zach groaned and filled Amy's body.

"Yes it would be," Jake claimed a heated kiss as the two pairs of lovers relaxed. "Hey, Chance, is the show over yet?"

"Mmm ... for now," he rumbled, nuzzling Midnight. "We're doing encores later," he teased, licking her neck and snuggling with her happily, not particularly interested in moving.

"I'll give you an easy one, cousin. At least it might be," Rock shot him a teasing grin. "Just how many girls have you slept with?

"Gods," Chance groaned, blushing and looking down at Midnight. "Uhm ... I'm probably gonna get in more trouble if I say 'dare' than if I answer, huh?" He asked her sheepishly.

"Knowing your cousin, probably," she giggled. "But it'll be more fun."

"Okay... dare," Chance chuckled, looking up at Rock.

"Mmm ... brave soul," Rock grinned, then got more serious. "And don't read anything into this beyond what it is, okay? Think I'd like to see you get a blowjob, from Jake."

"Rock," Chance said, with a tone somewhere between irritated and wary.

"I know you don't normally do guys," Rock said quickly. "But I'm not asking you to do anything with him... just to let him make you feel good. We've talked it over, and it'd be okay if you let Midnight distract you some, if she's willing," he offered, looking at the black-furred fem.

"Sure," she nodded and nuzzled her boyfriend affectionately. "Just close your eyes and lean back," she purred. "Jake's very good at what he does."

Chance took a deep breath, and claimed one more kiss. He groaned as he pulled out of her, then rolled over and leaned back, his arms stretched behind him.

Midnight snuggled up behind him and smiled at Jake, giving him a secretive wink before she claimed a heated kiss from her boyfriend and Jake settled on the floor between Chance's legs.

Jake murmured something wordless and nuzzled Chance's groin, licking him slowly from sheath to tip.

Chance groaned into Midnight's mouth, wrapping an arm around her neck and pulling her close, trying not to think about who was trying to make him feel good.

With her breasts against his back and shoulder, and her scent and taste in his nose and mouth, it wasn't as hard as he'd expected it to be. Knowledgeable hands rolled his balls, and a well-educated tongue swirled around his hard erection, teasing rubbery bards.

"Oooh ... guy could get used to this," he groaned, trying to think about it like any other threesome.

"I'm sure," she chuckled and ran a hand down his chest, then further to tease the base of his sheath where Jake didn't have a hand for.

"Love you," Chance murmured softly, kissing her heatedly as his hips thrust up into Jake's mouth and her hand on reflex. It was good, kissing and fondling Midnight while he was sucked off.

"Love you too," she purred, her fingers splayed and rubbing the base of his sheath. "Good isn't it, having the extra hands work on you."

"Oh yeah," he moaned as Jake's rough, skilled tongue played over his barbs. "Mmm ... not long," he warned them both.

Jake rewarded the warning by taking him all the way down his throat and purring as he milked Chance's cock with his throat.

"Oh fuck!" Chance roared before Midnight pulled him into a hungry kiss and he pumped his thick, hot seed down Jake's throat, then into his mouth when the lean tom pulled back a bit to taste the tom he'd wanted for almost a year.

Chance groaned into Midnight's mouth, reaching down to scratch Jake's head lightly.

"Good," he murmured, pulling back from Midnight a bit and looking down at Jake. "Probably not going to happen again, but it was good," he admitted apologetically, wishing he could come up with an easier way to word what he meant.

Jake gently licked him clean, earning another groan from the tabby above him. "Then I got what I wanted," he smiled up as shifted to a sitting position and reached out to scritched Chance's jaw affectionately. "I haven't been infatuated with you since Rock decided to keep me. I wanted you to have a little something good from a guy, even if only once."

"Thanks," Chance murmured, leaning back against Midnight. "I appreciate it," he chuckled slightly. "It's ... just not for me," he decided, though he didn't sound quite as decisive as he wished he did.

"I'm not the one you need to convince," Jake smiled gently back as he stood to return to his boyfriend. "I'm not exactly without issues there myself."

"Right ... so, my turn again?" Chance asked with a bit of a chuckle. "Or are we just going to give up on the game?" He grinned.

"Oh, I think we should keep going," Kathie grinned devilishly at him.

"Okay then," he purred. "What's the kinkiest thing you've ever done?" He asked her, his tail twitching.

"Ohhh," she grinned at him. "I think that would have to be the day I performed on stage at Warlords," she grinned. "Amateur night. It was fun too."

"So what'd you do?" He pressed with a grin of his own.

"I had this slinky little shekat all tied up in a web on stage, a gray tabby in heat," Kathie thought back to that time. "I think we went through it all; paddle, whips, claws, I got her off using her own tail while she whimpered and begged up there, keeping everyone's attention. What made it the kinkiest thing though was how it ended," she grinned devilishly. "I invited a tom from the audience to take her ass while I fisted her pussy."

"It wasn't just a tom, was it?" Tanner asked, catching his partner's body language.

"Oh, of course not," she laughed playfully. "Ulysses Feral was who helped us out."

"How long ago was this?" Rock asked with a grin. "Was he Commander yet? Didn't think he'd want anybody seeing him being less than a machine."

"Oh, but he was quite the machine," Kathie laughed. "About ten years. I wasn't even a cadet yet, and yes, he was Commander. The post-show was something else too," she licked her lips in the memories. "Literally fucked me senseless."

"Mmm ... I'll bet," Rock purred. "If there was ever a tom I could see myself subbing to regularly...." He trailed off, nuzzling Jake's neck.

"Yes," he rumbled and returned the attention.

"Well, Rock has a shot at it, but not the rest of us anymore," Kathie chuckled and sipped her drink. "Jake, what do you like to do when you're in charge?" she asked with a grin. "Your top fantasy."

"What is this, pick on Jake night?" he pouted, only earning a few grins of appreciation.

"Hey, you're sexy to pick on," Midnight grinned, to be quickly seconded by Brad and Amanda.

The lean tom chuckled and nuzzled Rock. "Back in the large shower," he purred, playing with Rock's sheath, balls and half-hard cock while he talked. "My lover's bound to the ceiling, soft and nervous as I step into the warm spray. Their fur's matted down, showing over every curve and muscle with the water moving down their body in rivulets.

"I stand there, watching for a moment, just enjoying the sight before they look at me, pleading silently. I step forward, kissing their neck as I run my hands up their side, exploring a body that's fairly new to me. Gradually arousal mixes into the hot, moist air and they're moaning.

"I come around to their front and kiss them, before kissing my way down their body," Jake closed his eyes as the fantasy gave way to something more intense. "I kneel between their legs and nuzzle a soft sex, slick and wet well beyond the water of the shower."

"You okay?" Chance whispered to Midnight now that she'd stopped moving, just staring at her best friend.

"Y-yeah," she nodded after a brief moment. "Just never realized how much that night meant to him."

"Wait a minute, that's a memory, with a shekat?" Amanda's head shot up as she stared at Jake.

"We were very young, Amanda," he said apologetically. "Long before I met you."

"The 'can't be with a female' thing started to kick in a couple months later," Midnight added quietly.

"Memories can be good, even when you can't do it any more," Rock added.

"Damn, that's a hot one," Kathie rumbled to distract them from humiliating Jake this way. She looked around at the guys and settled on Rock. "You don't plan on keeping Brad all night, do you?"

"I think I can hand him over after a while," he chuckled.

"Here you go making plans for me without me again," Brad complained, though he didn't seem to mind as he looked Kathie over.

"I don't hear a real objection," she grinned at the tuxedo tom.

"If you just don't go for fems either, I think I can come up with ways to keep you occupied," Tanner grinned.

"I'd be tempted to say I didn't, but Princess over there would spoil it," he stuck his tongue out at the snickering shekat.

"Ah, you don't have to be afraid of me," Kathie winked. "I won't hurt you unless you ask for it."

"Y'know, you could always see if Jake's willing to be shared again," Tanner chuckled. "He'd ask fast, I'm sure, and then you could leave the pretty-boy for me," he grinned.

"I do get some say in this, right?" Brad laughed.

"Sure, unless you end up with a few more dares before we're done," Tanner grinned broadly as Chance laughed and got up to mix another round of drinks for everybody.

"So let's get to it!" He grinned, passing them out as the focus of the party took a sudden shift towards seeing just how much they could finagle out of the tuxedo tom before things turned into more of an orgy than a party.

"Mmm ... losing a Beta does wonders for you," Yolanda said dryly as she and Lance walked out of one of the restaurants on campus. "Don't think you've pampered me like this since the last time I was in heat."

"I had an idea on that," he grinned at her and flicked a small vial into view. "Blue Heat."

"Think you'll be able to keep up with me this time?" She asked with a toothy grin, licking her lips and glancing at the pale glass tube. "You know how I get... especially if you forgot to get two and give out half way through," she rumbled.

"Oh, I could never forget," he promised her. "I still have marks from that night."

"Good," she rumbled, kissing him heatedly. "Maybe we'll add to the collection," she winked playfully.

"I think I could help with that," Tony grinned, rounding the corner and leaning against the wall. "Hi, Lance. Up for a rematch?" He asked, standing up straighter and cracking his knuckles.

"You've never beaten me," Lance reminded him, his ears flat and fangs barred. "This time no one's here to save you."

"Funny ... I was just thinking the same about you," Tony grinned, letting out a sharp bark. A Husky, two dark tabby Kats and a lean Cheetah Xanith came from around the other corner. "And this time you don't have weapons to cheat with."

"You're one to talk about cheating," Lance growled, looking around. "What happened to one on one?"

"You cold-cocked me with a beer bottle and tried to take a ballbat to my head!" Tony snarled, the grin gone as he advanced on his former Alpha. "Then you threw me out of the pack like a gutless little shit! Cheating went out the window a long time ago."

"Yolanda, get out of here," Lance told her seriously, trying to keep his voice steady.

"Oh, I don't think so," Tony grinned again, utterly vicious this time as the Cheetah moved around behind her and the other four advanced on Lance. "Once you're down, she's mine, as she promised."

"Whaddaya think you're going to prove, Tony, huh?" Lance demanded. "Four on one? Nobody's gonna give a shit you beat me like this."

"It's not about proving anything, Lance. It's just about watching you hurt." Tony rushed at Lance, trying to close the distance as his friends did the same, closing in on the Wolf fast enough he couldn't get out from between them. He spun around, planting his fist in the stomach of one of the calicos, but the other three were on top of him, each one giving him at least as good as he gave out in return.

It was a short fight, and as everyone expected, and when Lance finally went down, Tony made a point of turning the Wolf's head to see where Yolanda was pinned against a tree by the Cheetah.

"Now, to the victor goes the spoils," Tony pointed out and searched Lance for the tube of blue heat before he walked over to Yolanda.

"Tony... y-you've made your point, you don't have to do this," Yolanda said, trembling in the Cheetah's grip. "Please... i-if you want, you don't need that," she said, nodding towards the glass tube he was holding.

The last thing she wanted, right now, was to be trapped in an artificial heat with Tony, one other Kantin, and three felines who'd probably be more than happy to take over after the canines had finished with her.

She didn't particularly want to fuck any of them, but if it would get her out of that....

"You seemed so eager for it earlier," he rumbled and reached out to wrap his free hand around her neck and pulled her into a hard, hungry kiss that had little to do with lust or desire. "But I don't mind," he added to her relief as the kiss ended.

The Cheetah let her go, and she already knew he'd be the hardest on her. For Tony, she was the spoils and taking something she'd offered more than once. To the others she was just a body. But to a Cheetah ... there was a very decided element of racial hatred she knew from his touch that he was close to.

"On your knees, face away from me."

She did as she was told, her knees pressing into the soft dirt as she raised her tail, hoping he'd be a bit easier on her if she was reasonably cooperative. He'd have to get her jeans off, but she wasn't going to make it too hard for him. She didn't want him angry ... or to irritate him enough that he'd make her watch Lance watching them.

The Husky in the group came up and unzipped his jeans in front of her, pushing them down just enough to reveal a hardening shaft that he pressed to her face.

She swallowed her revulsion at the circumstances, and made herself focus on the act. It wasn't her favorite thing, but this wasn't the first time she'd pleasured more than one male. She'd started going with Lance partly because she'd known she wouldn't be expected to do it again, more than could be said for a lot of Lions.

But she could still do it; she nuzzled his shaft, starting to lick it, closing her eyes so she wouldn't have to look up at him.

"Good girl," Tony patted her rump and slid his fingers over her sex teasingly before he brought his hand forward to unbutton and unzip her jeans.

He undid the flap for her tail, and pulled them down; she lifted off her knees a bit, so he could get them and her panties out of the way more easily.

"Heh - if I didn't know any better, I'd think you wanted this," Tony rumbled, undoing his own zipper after ripping her panties off and tossing them onto Lance's face, the Wolf being pinned down by two of the Kats and his injuries.

She couldn't be more grateful for a valid excuse not to answer; her mouth was full of canine cock. Then her sex was filled, the residual slickness from when Lance had been her company making it an easy event for her.

Tony began to thrust, hard and fast, his gradually swelling knot popping in and out of her body. Then he leaned forward and grabbed her scruff in his jaws while his hands moved forward under her shirt to fondle her breasts inside her bra.

She moaned slightly around the thick shaft in her mouth; Tony was huge, and what he lacked in Lance's extensive experience he made up for in strength and enthusiasm, and he seemed intent that she have at least a reasonably pleasurable time of his attentions, wanted or not. She gagged around the Husky's cock, her knees sinking into the soft dirt under the force of Tony's punishing thrusts.

She knew before he came that he didn't intent to tie with her, and was admittedly grateful for it, even if it left her open for the others before this was likely to break up.

Tony was close, but it was the Husky in her mouth that came first, pouring his seed into her, not caring in the least that she made most of it dribble to the ground.

His thick, bitter juices dribbled down her chin, making obscene tracks in her fur as Tony howled and pumped his own come deep into her sex. He pulled out of her, licking the back of her neck lightly.

"Sure you don't want the 'Heat?" He asked her teasingly, keeping a hand on her neck and moving around in front of her.

"I-I don't want it," she said, dreading what the group had in store for her next, besides having to get each of them off at least once.

"Your pick," he rumbled, moving around, rubbing his slick, sticky shaft against her face. "Go on... I know you like tasting yourself on him. Ghede? You want the next round, or wanna wait a bit?" He asked the Cheetah with a grin.

"I want her last," he grinned back, a truly evil look on his face. "I don't think anybody'll want her when I'm done."

"Mmm ... sounds like he's got plans for you, babe," Tony grinned. "Hey, Larry; I know you've got a thing for some nice, tight tail, why don't you get her warmed up?" He called to the tabbies as Yolanda obediently started lapping at his shaft, tasting her own juices mixed with his.

"Hey, Tony, how about giving Mark her sweet pussy while I open up her ass?" Larry grinned, trading off with the Husky and Cheetah in holding Lance down.

"Give Lance a dose of the 'heat and go for it," Tony nodded. "I want him to beg."

"Fuck you!" Lance spat at Tony.

"Wrong way around," he growled lowly as Ghede forced Lance's jaw open with carefully applied fingers to the base of it. Mark cracked open the glass, pouring the pale blue powder onto Lance's tongue so he couldn't possibly spit it out. That done, the two dark calicos finished stripping their pants off, hurrying over to the dripping, whimpering Lioness.

"Such a pretty thing," Mark rubbed his hands along her fit body as he slid under her, stopping briefly to finger her dripping sex and circle her clit with a claw while he nuzzled her breasts.

She whimpered softly, pressing into his touch, trying to get some pleasure out of it to make up for what she was sure she was about to get from Larry. The other tom just spread the cheeks of her ass, rubbing his cock against her tight pucker ... then proved her right, shifting to force his conical, barbed tip up into her painfully tight ass.

It turned out to be one of those very rare moments where she wished Lance had been more into her ass. Despite the pain, she whimpered at Mark's continued playing with her slick clit with his fingers and her breasts with his muzzle.

Tony growled and shoved his cock fully into her mouth, demanding her attention as his knot swelled to its full width.

She teared up, whining around his knot, her jaw forced painfully wide, and reached up to fondle Tony's balls lightly. Mark slipped his cock up into her sex, groaning as he and Larry both thrust, rubbing their shafts against each other through the thin walls of her body, filling her painfully full.

Despite her best efforts to avoid it, she couldn't help but feel a little partial to Mark. Even now he was taking some actual effort with her pleasure. She didn't really want him to, but she couldn't help but respond to the attention.

Tony grabbed her head and howled as he forced his way down her throat, gagging her as he got off hard and fast, his scent incredibly turned on by all that was going on.

She felt like she was going to drown on his seed before he pulled back, wiping his cock off on her cheeks. Unlike the Husky, she hadn't been able to spit out what he'd given her; if she hadn't swallowed she would've drowned.

"How do you like it, Lance?" Tony asked him. "Watching your bitch like this? Mmm ... think she likes Mark," he grinned, panting hard.

"All it takes is a little care," Mark grinned, nuzzling her shirt up to suck on her breasts through her bra as his cock worked her sex against Larry's and the fingers of one hand worked her clit hard. "I bet he hates it more than watching anything else."

"Oh, just you wait until I get her," Ghede grinned. "Mmm... might not be as bad, but it'll be damned close... besides, he can't mind it too much, he smells like he's having a good time," the Cheetah purred.

Larrry's roar interrupted Mark's reply, but only briefly.

"We'll see," Mark grinned from under her as Larry pulled out. "Mind helping me play?"

"Sure," Ghede grinned wickedly and traded off with Larry as Mark pulled out of her sex and pushed her upright.

"Just hold her arms and make sure Lance has a very good view," Mark purred as he knelt, licking his lips as he knelt in front of her and nuzzled her dripping sex. "Going to make you roar, pretty," he promised before sliding his tongue deeply along her sex.

"Please, don't!" She whimpered, fear tainting her aroused scent, especially now that she felt the Cheetah's long, barbed shaft rubbing against her fur, drooling pre-come onto her.

The Cheetah only chuckled, getting off on her fear as Mark delved into eating her out and never letting up on the attention to her clit with his fingers. She felt a leg kicked out a bit from under her, spreading her further open to Mark's attentions as he shifted to sucking on her clit as his tongue worked it with far too much experience.

"Your fear is such a turn-on, Lion," Ghede grumbled in her ear. "I'm going to enjoy breaking you."

"Tony ... ah, fuck!" She moaned as Mark's tongue washed over her clit. "Tony, please! D-don't let him have me, I'll - ah! I'll do anything!" She begged, quite serious about it, whimpering as the Cheetah bit down on her scruff.

Even as distracted as she was, she could tell he was seriously considering it.

"Oh, he'll fuck you, though if you really want out of anything more, I think I might be willing to talk him into letting you go," he reached out and tipped her face, tight and on the edge of an orgasm, to look at him. "In return, you're going to fist Lance over there when we're done with him."

"Hey, you ..." Ghede began to object, only to be cut off by a sharp look.

"I'll buy you a Lion, a male Lion, to take home," Tony stated in an offer that brought instant compliance with letting Yolanda off with little more than a rough fucking.

Yolanda looked over at Lance, biting her lip. She knew he'd never agree to it, never accept it ... and as desperately as she wanted to get out of letting the Cheetah have her ....

Hell, maybe he was a lousy guy, even by Wolf standards, but they were already being put through more than anything they'd earned by these assholes, they didn't need to be doing it to each other!

She moaned as Mark's tongue delved deeply into her dripping sex, his fingers working her clit hard and fast.

"A-anything but that," she moaned. "Be yours, leave him but ... shit!" She swore, crying out as Mark pushed her over the edge, an entirely unwanted orgasm rippling through her body.

"Now that's a tempting offer," Tony grinned. "You just lucked out ... Ghede, go ahead and fuck her, but you'll have to wait a bit longer before you get to cut loose."

The Cheetah grinned, reaching around to squeeze her breasts before he shoved her to the ground and pinned her by the wrists, and his jaws on her throat before thrusting into her hard and fast.

"What's going on over there?" a strong female voice demanded with the sound of heavy footsteps.

"Shit!" Mark and Larry both swore loudly, grabbing their pants as the Husky just pulled his up and ran. Ghede ignoring the interruption, growling and biting down harder on Yolanda's throat as she tensed to scream.

Lance struggled to his feet and grabbed Ghede's scruff, hauling the Cheetah off his girlfriend.

"Just a little party out of hand," Lance growled at the pair he knew all too well.

Cadet Sandclaw groaned inwardly as she looked at the scene. Any idiot could see what had been happening, but it wasn't going to do any good.

"Is that true?" She asked, glancing at the others, particularly the literally shaking Yolanda. The Lioness nodded sharply, pulling her pants up and on to try and preserve a little dignity.

"Y-yeah," she said, Tony and Ghede slowly working their way into the shadows to escape. "Sorry, we'll find somewhere private."

"All right," Cadet Sandclaw said reluctantly, privately listing Yolanda as someone to get one of the other females to talk to in the morning. It wasn't likely to work, but it was always worth a try. "It sounded like trouble, that's all."

"Sorry," Yolanda repeated, getting to her feet and brushing herself off, still badly shaken. "Come on Lance, let's go home," she said, taking his hand and squeezing it. She just hoped they'd get that far before the Blue Heat he'd been forced to take kicked in and they didn't have much choice in the matter.

That game was a lot less appealing right now than it had been before this had started.

"Are we going to visit her when he's gone?" Cadet Black asked once everyone was out of sight.

"Not us, but yes," she nodded as they turned back to their late-night run. "Somebody who's a lot more empathetic than I can manage for her. How many of them can you ID?"

"All of them," he said with certainty. "You?"

"All," she nodded. "We'd better hope this doesn't turn into a full-out pack and pride war. They get ugly on a whole new level."

"You're telling me?" Black laughed darkly. "If we're lucky, it'll stay to Lance's pack against whoever Tony hooks up with ... that'll be over with as soon as somebody gets stupid, which won't take long with those two. C'mon ... let's finish our run, maybe grab a drink or something on the way back."

Sandclaw nodded and they started their run again, though both were thinking about what had just happened and its possible implications.

The next evening, Yolanda was brushing her hair and fur out. She'd spent the rest of the night helping Lance burn off the Blue Heat ... losing herself in it after a while. She'd gone home after that, about noon, showered, eaten with the other girls ... then gone back into the shower, a pattern that she'd repeated a few times after that. She'd only just gotten out of it, actually, when there was a knock at the door.

"Jenny, can you get that?" She called out hopefully.

"Sure thing!" The younger, tuxedo-marked fem replied, walking out to the front room. She glanced back at the door to Yolanda's room with a frown, then went to the door of their apartment building, undoing the first door lock and opening it as far as the chain lock would allow.

"Hello?" She asked, looking the dark-furred Lioness over. Even without the uniform, she had no doubt she was looking at an Enforcer. With it, she knew this one came from one of the special crimes units, though she wasn't sure what SCU stood for.

"Hello, I'm Detective Kakra Sandru. Is Yolanda home?"

"Yes," Jenny nodded, frowning. "Something happened to her last night, didn't it?"

"Yes," she nodded slightly. "I'd like to speak with her, please."

"Either way, or only if she wants to talk?"

"I can't force her to talk, but I really would like to speak with her," the detective said.

"I understand," Jenny nodded, closing the door. "Yolanda! There's somebody who wants to talk to you," she called out, hurrying back to her friend's room. "A Detective Kakra Sandru ... she sounds pretty serious."

"Might as well get this over with," Yolanda sighed, putting the brush down and pulling her hair back into a ponytail before starting out, peeking out through the door before opening it up.

"Detective Sandru?" She asked the Lioness, sure it was who Jenny'd talked about.

"Yes," she nodded. "I'd like to talk to you, if you would."

"Please, come in," Yolanda nodded, opening the door and stepping back. "I'd like to try and keep it short though ... I didn't get my sleep last night," she explained, like it was the only reason.

"I don't expect so," Detective Sandru agreed and stepped in. "Somewhere private, perhaps?"

"Please," she agreed quickly, leading the way back to her room, letting Jenny lock the door. Once they were there, and she'd closed the door, Yolanda sat down on the edge of her bed. "You know ... you don't need to come out here, I know the Enforcers are busy ... did Lance call?"

"No, the two cadets who interrupted things last night did," she said gently and sat down on the chair nearby; close but not crowding the woman only a couple years her junior. "Yolanda, we are never too busy to talk to a victim. It is what I do, and sexual crimes are all the SCU deals with. I know what the cadets think they saw, but I would like to hear as much as you can tell me."

"And how much of it goes on the record?" Yolanda asked cautiously. "Things get complicated with this one."

"Between Wolves, Lions and Cheetah, I expect it can," Detective Sandru inclined her head. "SCU has dealt with very sensitive cases before without having them turn into a war," she added gently. "I will put as much on the records as you let me, but right now, I'm more interested in helping you and learning the truth."

"Hell, that wasn't even what complicated it," she muttered. "Damn Lance ... about a week or so ago, he got stared down by some nerd he'd been giving trouble at school. It shook him up, bad, and convinced Tony he'd have a chance at taking the pack from him. Tony ended up losing the fight, and Lance threw him out ... what happened last night was Tony's payback for it."

"Pack politics, old school rules," Sandru nodded. "Despite the leniency the back story would likely create, what happened is still a crime," she said with gentle firmness. "We have enough to charge all five with something if you have any inclination to."

Yolanda closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself.

"Could we get that fucking Cheetah without having to get everybody else involved?" She asked quietly, her voice hard. "He was disappointed when they said he'd only get to take me ... they had to promise him another Lion, a male, in exchange."

"We can, if he lets us," Sandru nodded. "It may not be easy, but it can be tried. Do you know his name?"

"Ghede Nightwind," she shivered, then leaned into the gentle, supportive touch on her shoulder that the other Lioness gave.

"Do you think he might come after you again?" Sandru asked.

"If he has the chance, I think he'll put me in my grave and then dance on it," she shuddered. "Just on principle ... gods, I've never done anything to him, not even to Cheetahs in general! Just a bad idea all around to dig that crap up...."

"His family has a very serious case of old hatred," Sandru tried to put it politely. "We know Ghede, and his folks. We can offer you protection if you bring charges against him, but I would strongly advise you not to be alone until he is safely behind bars. Keep someone who can fight if off close to you, if not us."

"If it's just him, there's Lance ... I'll think about it," she murmured. "I just ... I don't want him to get me," she admitted. "And Tony ... he deserves it, but I don't want to get him in trouble. I ... uhm ... I might've pushed him a bit, from time to time," she said, ducking her head shamefully. "I really don't think he's sane anymore, not entirely."

"I know Ghede isn't," she murmured. "Is there anything I can offer, to help you through this?"

"Could you give the girls the basics for me?" Yolanda asked hopefully. "I know Jenny and Mel are worried about me, but ... I don't want to deal with them asking about details."

"Of course," she nodded. "Is there anything else?"

"Not really," Yolanda murmured. "It... uhm... it doesn't matter, that one of them tried to make me like it, does it? And... did a pretty good job of it," she admitted.

"No, Yolanda, it doesn't matter," Sandru said firmly. "Your consent, and ability to do so, are the only factors. Some rapists get off on forcing an orgasm on their victims."

"This one did. Not Ghede, but ...." She sighed, shaking her head. "Thank you for your help ... I wish I could do more to help you out, but if it weren't for him I'd just want to let this all go away."

"I understand, Yolanda," Sandru squeezed her shoulder gently. "Would you mind if I come by in a couple days, see how you're doing? I don't mean to intrude, but I get the feeling you might not have the most supportive boyfriend right now."

"Last night doesn't count!" The younger Lioness protested, before realizing that it hadn't even been brought up. "They... Tony dosed him up on Blue Heat, he couldn't think about trying to be supportive," she tried to explain. "But... you're probably right. I won't mind, just call first, if you can?"

"I didn't mean to insult him, but I know the type that would let you out of his sight this soon afterwards," she gave her shoulder a last squeeze and fished a card from her jacket pocket. "I will call before I come, and please, call me if you want to talk, or just have another Lioness' support. We may not be sisters, but I'm alone right now too."

"I'll... thanks," Yolanda nodded, taking the card. "You know... when I started seeing Lance, I never thought I'd appreciate how a pride works over a pack as much as I do now."

"Yes, it is," she smiled and turned to leave. "Take care of yourself, Yolanda. I will tell your roommates the basics, and no more."

"Thanks ... and tell 'em that if there's a Cheetah hanging around here, to watch out for him. Just so you know, I'll probably be out tomorrow night... Lance needs reassuring that I was just scared when I said I'd leave him for Tony," she muttered.

"I will, and I understand," Sandru assured her before leaving.

Yolanda sighed as she walked out of her last class the next day and saw Lance's car waiting for her. She'd known he was going to be there... but she had to admit, there was a part of her that half-wished he'd realized how low on her agenda sex was tonight.

Well... maybe he still would. It wasn't his strong suit, but he could be sweet when he wanted to be... with a little luck, tonight would be one of those nights.

"Hi Lance!" She said brightly as she climbed into the car, putting on her usual demeanor, somewhere between perky and flirty. "How was your day?"

"Sore, and way too many looks," he grumbled, a too-clear reminder of how badly his beating was visible through his fur. "Survived it though, and Tony's nowhere to be seen."

"Good," she nodded, buckling in. "Just so you know... sounds like those cadets called the Enforcers. I'm not planning on making anything out of it, except maybe for that asshole Cheetah, but they might try to talk to you eventually."

"Already did," he huffed. "Told'm to go away."

"Right," she nodded quietly. She wasn't going to bother telling him they might come to him again... she'd warned him, that was what she was supposed to do. "Lance... what I said to Tony... I'm sorry, I was scared. Cheetahs... there's some history between Cheetahs and Lions, and that guy had it all in his head."

"I noticed," he said more quietly, taking one hand from the wheel to squeeze her leg lightly. "He's a real psycho; knew that before he showed up last night. His folks were big in the last race riots, and he's proud of it."

"I know," she nodded slightly, reaching down to squeeze his hand, privately grateful that he seemed to understand. "I'm gonna try and get him locked up, at any rate," she muttered. "So ... no hard feelings about what I offered to do for Tony?" She asked him hopefully.

"Didn't like it, but I know why," he gave her as much as he could right then. "I'll feel better when Tony's beaten to a bloody pulp.

"That's not gonna be tonight, right?" She asked, turning to kiss his chin lightly. "I've got other plans for you, y'know," she purred deeply.

"Oh?" he looked at her hopefully. "I think I can put that off for you."

"Good," she smiled. "Lot of the specifics are up to you, but... I just want a nice night out with you. No fights, no bars, no Blue Heat, just us... think we can do that?" She asked him, flicking her long tail between her legs.

"My place, a movie, and stay for the night?" he suggested with a soft rumble.

"Sounds good," she purred, leaning her head against his shoulder lightly as they drove. "After the last week, the last thing I need is another nice night out being interrupted by trouble," she chuckled ruefully.

"Agreed," he smiled down at her and wrapped an arm around her. "So something in my collection, or rent?"

"Unless you're in the mood for a romance, your collection's fine," she rumbled, slipping a hand behind his back and scratching it lightly. "I'm easy tonight," she giggled. "So, any luck finding a replacement for Tony yet?"

"Probably William, maybe Dan," he hedged a bit. "They're both good players."

"Mmm ... you could always go for both, they're not as hard to control as Tony was if I've read 'em right," she grinned.

"Heh - yeah, that would be something," Lance chuckled, pressing back into her scratching fingers with a low rumble. "Those two've both been holding out for Beta though, they might not want to share. Know Tony didn't. Anyways, not gonna worry about that tonight.

"True enough," she purred. "Though if anybody would share, it's those two. They share everything else."

"That they do," Lance grinned. "Including each other, so they won't be after you the way Tony was," he said, a half-hidden warning that she shouldn't try to change that behind the words.

Just as well ... she didn't think she particularly wanted to play that game again for a while. Not after it had gone so spectacularly badly.

"I don't have any desire to," she told him seriously, then leaned the rest of the way over to nuzzle him. "I just want to have a quiet life for a while."

"Mmm.... thank the gods for the off-season, huh?" Lance grinned, turning to kiss her deeply at a stoplight.

"Yeah," she rested her head on his shoulder and let the rest of the drive pass in relative quiet, just rubbing his leg and being grateful things hadn't been any worse than they had.

Eventually, Lance pulled up in front of the house, parking the car.

"Don's out on a date, and I think I can get rid of the rest of the guys quick enough," he grinned, climbing out and getting the door for Yolanda. "If you mind 'em being around, anyways."

"I'd rather have them gone," she admitted and got out of the car. "But I can deal with them around."

"I'll make sure we get to our room before things get too heavy," he promised, offering a compromise between what they both preferred. She was pretty sure the door'd be open, but it would be better than being actively watched like she normally would be. They walked up to the door, and he let them in, hanging up his keys and heading for the video rack. "So, what sounds good to you?"

"Action, explosions, no real plot?" she grinned at him. "Something that we don't have to watch all that much."

"Got just the thing," he grinned, grabbing a tape and putting it in, hopping onto the couch with her. "The Golden Flame, fourth rate Bond knock off."

"Good," she snuggled up against him, more than absently aware of the two Wolves watching from a polite distance. "Maybe a warm-up, while the movie does?" she suggested seductively and ran her fingers up his crotch, feeling the hardening flesh beneath his jeans.

"Mmm ... sounds good to me," he grinned, spreading his legs for her. She caught his zipper, sliding it down as he pulled her close for a kiss while she freed his filling sheath and balls from his clothes and fondled him.

"Good," she whispered and leaned down, almost laying on the couch and turned his sheath over to her mouth and her hand continued to stroke and roll his balls around.

"Mmm ... damn, baby," he rumbled, rubbing down her back, slipping his hand between her legs to stroke her through her panties.

She moaned around his swelling cock and swirled her rough tongue around the emerging tip, teasing the piss slit with the silky tip of her tongue.

He pushed up towards the welcome warmth, reaching up a bit, flipping her skirt out of the way and slipped his hand into her panties, moaning as he started to finger her directly, sliding a thick finger up into her sex as she rolled his balls across her fingers.

It felt good to know her arousal so early on, but it was really good at causing her moan and purr around him as he slid fully from his sheath and into her mouth.

"Oh yeah, that's my girl," he encouraged her, rubbing between her ears with his free hand.

She licked him from base to tip, and then swallowed his shaft as he whined softly, thrusting up into her mouth, enjoying just letting her pleasure him, trying to return the favor as well as he could.

"That's a good girl," he moaned, putting on a show of his own, knowing that his pack was watching, showing them that he was still in charge, along with the Lioness skillfully sucking his cock.

She pulled her head up and grinned at him. "Feel like letting me sit on this nice hard thing without tying?" she rumbled.

"As long as I get to tie you later," he grinned back down, pulling his hand out of her panties and pressing his fingers to her lips, letting her suckle them clean before moving up to kiss him heatedly.

"Happy to," she grinned and shimmied out of her panties before sliding onto his lap, wrapping her arms around him as she reached down to guide his hard cock into her ready body with a low moan.

He kissed her hotly, moaning into her mouth as he started thrusting up into her, grinding his pelvis against hers as his knot swelled. He reached down, rubbing the spot above her tail, fondling her breasts with his other hand as they made love on the couch, oblivious to the movie running behind Yolanda or the two Wolves watching appreciatively a half dozen paces away.

They were both moderately aware when the pair left, presumably to find dates of their own to work off the arousal, but it felt too good to care much.

Hatred burred hot in his soul as he turned his flesh inside out to claim his true form. Skin tore and was absorbed into the much greater mass of his new, familiar body. Claws curved out, bigger, thicker, and no longer retractable. Bones cracked and crushed, reforming into a proper muzzle and long, killer fangs.

He sniffed the air, catching information from across the whole city as he sought the trace of his first target, his greatest enemy.

With a shivering howl he took off, faster than any natural creature, on the hunt and spoiling for a fight.

It was several miles there... a couple minutes running at most. He kept to the shadows as well as his bulky form would allow, trusting to the indifference of city dwellers to keep him from being truly noticed. It worked too; those few who did notice him, turned away instinctively from the great predator in their midst.

Before long, he was there ... and he could smell the Wolf and Lioness he was hunting on the wind. The Beast licked his long muzzle in anticipation; after such a long time, this would be a good hunt.

They were mating, something that fueled his rage. No Alpha Wolf should take a feline as mate. It was wrong. So very wrong. It was enough reason to kill them, but far from the only.

He leapt to the second story, where he could smell and hear them, and crawled in the open window to the dim room where their mating scent assaulted him. His lips curled back as he watched. The Lioness was on her back, her legs spread wide as the Wolf thrust into her from above.

It was sick.

He could smell the scent of his pack's arousal too ... this wasn't a vice he indulged in private, this pathetic male had made the Lioness his Alpha. A growl would have risen in his throat, but the hunt overpowered his outrage. It was just a matter of waiting for the right moment ....

He had it when the Lioness pulled Lance down into a heated kiss, holding him still. He rose up, lunging and reaching out with a powerful, massive hand, closing it around the Wolf's scruff, hauling him bodily off of his 'mate' as his claws dug into his throat.

"No true Alpha takes such a mate," he growled turned Lance around to go nose to nose with his opponent, counseling himself to take his time and enjoy this first hunt fully.

"Who the fuck are you?" Lance demanded as Yolanda shrieked and tried to scramble out of the room. He threw Lance up against the wall, grabbing the Lioness by her tail and pulling her back in, pinning her to the ground by her head.

"Keep quiet, or I'll give you a reason to scream," he ordered her, pounding her head into the floor to emphasize his point before turning on Lance again, the Wolf just regaining his senses. "And I'm here for somebody you've pissed off very, very badly," he rumbled.

"They just pissed me off," Lance flattened his ears and rushed for a low charge, hoping to use his football skills to get the unnaturally large Wolf off balance enough to go for a weapon.

"Good, it's about time they returned the favor," the massive hunter sneered, twisting out of the way and pushing Lance on into the wall. "You've had this coming for a long time, and I haven't seen a damned thing to make me thing you're worth letting off," he growled, keeping up the pressure on his primary target to keep him pinned. "You might want to find your backbone, before I remove the spineless thing that passes for yours now."

He gripped Lance's tail for emphasis ... then lifted it up, running a finger up between his ass-cheeks.

"Or maybe I'll just make you my bitch, let that thing you call an Alpha female watch how you should be treated?" He taunted and began to rub his groin against his target's rump.

"Girl, you freeze or I break your back," he growled without looking at Yolanda.

She did as she was told, whimpering softly.

"Mmm ... she does have some redeeming features, I suppose," he chuckled deeply. "She listens well ... so, how about you, 'Alpha'?" he sneered, sinking his claws into Lance's ass, making him howl in pain. "Cat got your tongue?"

"Or maybe it's me," an evil grin crossed his face as he let one hand go and reached around to force Lance's mouth open and closed his claws around the spongy flesh and ripped it out.

He swallowed the thick, bloody muscle, then spread Lance's ass again, slamming his thick, throbbing shaft into the Wolf's ass, hatred overpowering his host's revulsion at fucking another male. He turned around, making a show of the Wolf trying to scream around a mouthful of blood for the Lioness he'd chosen as a mate.

"You're next," he promised her with a grin, his muzzle bloody as he reached down, squeezing Lance's balls painfully as he raped him. It wasn't as satisfying as he'd hoped for; this male was too weak to be any real enjoyment to dominate. He was a weakling. His feline bitch was likely to be more fun.

He tightened his grip, ripping the Wolf's balls off his body, leaving his scrotum a ragged mess of torn skin and blood as he pulled him off of his cock and tossed him to the floor.

"Come here," he ordered the Lioness with a growl somewhere between seductive and lethal. He could smell her fear, a terror that was entirely new to her, as she crawled towards him, offering utter submission in her body and whimpers.

He held his hand out towards her, Lance's soft, warm orbs in the palm.

"Go on," he crooned. "Take them, then I'll show you what a real male is like."

She shook terribly as she obeyed, the firm orbs of flesh warm and wet in her palm as she waited for what was next and prayed to ever God and Goddess she could think of to survive tonight.

"Now eat them," he growled lowly. "Swallow that good for nothing gamma's balls and then suck my cock."

Yolanda glanced at her boyfriend's broken body, still breathing, his eyes glazed over and bleeding badly from both ends. She swallowed hard, then swallowed the orbs whole like hard-boiled eggs.

It was hard not to gag on them, but she knew her small chance at life was to make this psycho Wolf-monster happy enough that he'd only rape her unconscious, and not to death.

She crawled forward to kneel in front of him and took the large cock into her mouth while her hands fondled his balls and worked the swelling knot above them.

"Good," he rumbled, reaching down to stroke her head lightly. "Show me what he taught you about making a Wolf feel good.

The fact that he'd just been fucking Lance wasn't helping; the bitter taste that was mingled with his potent, strange arousal, half-lupine and half-feline, was enough to make her want to choke. The fact that his cock was big enough to choke on, even before his knot, stretched her jaw painfully to accommodate him, but he seemed to appreciate that she was putting the effort in to do that, taking his tip into the back of her throat where she didn't have to taste him as much.

Maybe he really would let her live.

The small hope focused her efforts with the use of her throat's muscles, the soft side of her tongue and her hand around the underside of his knot as she drew the first appreciative sound of pleasure from their attacker.

She couldn't help but wonder just who could have sent this monster. She was more sure than ever that he couldn't be any kind of normal person. Taste, scent and size ... nothing like him existed in the real world.

She knew it couldn't be Tony ... this Wolf would have chewed him up and spit him out, not decided to help him ....

Ghede? Some sort of monster his people could summon? The idea made her shudder all over again. But Wolves didn't even exist there until recently. A Hyena-beast would be more likely, both as something Ghede would know about, and that would willingly work for him against a Lion.

The massive Wolf howled and pumped his seed down her throat, pulling back to spray it all over her face.

She did her best to look like she enjoyed the treatment and waited to see what he'd do next.

He picked her up, tossing her back onto the bed over Lance's increasingly still form. The smell of blood and sex blended in the air, stirring something primal inside of her, but unlike the Wolf who was only getting more aroused, that primal urge was promptly squelched by the rest of her mind.

"Maybe I should wait for your pack to come back," he rumbled, climbing on top of her. "Make them watch while I take you, then make you watch while I take the weaklings who followed that right out of the breeding pool."

"Punish Kats for Lance's choices?" she blurted out, hoping to save herself along with most of the pack, even as she spread her legs and offered herself to him fully. If this thing wanted Wolf standards, maybe he'd buy into only inflicting it on other Wolves, at least in full.

"There are Wolves in his pack," he growled, pressing himself into her dripping sex. "And what do I care for prey?"

Yolanda gasped as he slammed into her deeper than anyone every had, his cock hitting her cervix even before the knot was against her entrance.

She had never heard anyone, or any animal, considering Kats as prey. Even Cheetah and Hyena thought they were enemies, but not food.

"Not just Kats," he rumbled mockingly, licking her throat with his broad, velvety tongue as he hammered against her cervix, seeming to read her thoughts.

"Wha-what are you?" she whimpered.

"The old ways," he rumbled, gripping her hips and thrusting up into her hard, forcing his knot half way into her sex, his tip ripping her cervix wide as he grunted and continued to force his way forward over her screams of pain. "The Wolf," he added, ignoring her instinctive claws raking his chest and arms as she struggled, no longer able to just lay back and let him play.

He howled, pumping his seed deep into her sex, forcing his knot the rest of the way into her.

Tonight was going to be a very long, pleasant night.

The next morning saw Detective Sandru arriving at an address she really hadn't wanted to see, for a name she'd honestly been hoping to never hear of again... at least not from dispatch.

Two Wolves were sitting on the front step, both looking ashen and haunted as they pressed close against each other. A lean black tom was leaning over the rail of the porch, dry-heaving as he thought about what he'd seen inside.

"Detective Sandru, we're still working on the scene ... should be clean enough for you to go in though," one of the CSI's told her, meeting her at the door. "You know the routine ... but be extra careful with this one. Real ugly, all over the house once you get past the front room."

"Understood," she nodded and stepped in, as ready for the bloodbath she'd been warned of as she could be. She could smell the blood, sex, terror and death even in the front room. "Anything unusual yet?"

"Male victim was castrated manually, balls literally ripped off, tongue ripped out of his mouth ... and we have to confirm it yet, but it looks like we've got ourselves a grade-A psychopath here, considering what happened to the female victim," the slender calico said, nodding back towards the kitchen where the photographers were still working.

"It looks like we've got semen in the abdominal cavity, as well as pretty much everywhere else you'd expect to find it in a case like this. Almost all claws too... there's only one wound that isn't too ragged for knives. The one that was some sort of tool ... long, slender, right to the base of the skull," he explained, marking the point one the back of his own head. "There's a decent chance she was alive while he did the worst of it, but couldn't feel a thing."

"Or just couldn't move," she nodded with a slight shudder. "Abdominal cavity?" she looked at him curiously. With all her reading over two centuries of Enforcer sexual crimes cases, she'd never heard of that one.

"Slit her navel open... the wound is large enough to be suggestive, particularly with the pink tone of the matted fur around it," he shuddered. "I've never seen it before either ... Luke Thompson, by the way. Don't think I've been assigned one of your cases before."

"Kakra Sandru," she extended a hand. "It's your CSI team?"

"Yes," he nodded. "We should be finished in a little bit, unless we spot something new. You want the tour, or want to look around on your own?"

"Go for the tour. I expect I'll be giving it a couple more times once HQ finds out just how ugly this is. There's no way I'll be given this one solo."

"Understandable," Luke pointed out. "Speaking of other detectives, Homicide going to have somebody here soon?" He asked as he led the way to the bedroom where it looked like everything had started.

"They should be," she nodded. "SCU never works a homicide without them. I was just in the area already, so I made good time."

"Right," he nodded, leading the way into the bedroom. "Okay ... it looks like our perp came in through the window," he said, jerking his head towards it. "Claw marks on the outside ... big bastard. Got the drop on the both of them ... condition of the male victim suggests the he was penetrated anally, but the perp stopped before finishing up."

"Was he likely alive when raped?" she asked evenly, taking in the bloodbath around the deceased Wolf. "Or any sign his death was from other than blood loss and shock?"

"Rectal bleeding suggests he was, and we can't find any signs of it ... quite possible he was still alive and watching when he started on the female victim. One thing that doesn't really add up though. Damage indicates that the perp was barefoot, and couldn't retract his claws ... not to mention that the size of them is beyond any feline I've seen before, except some of the big Xanith. But the sharpness is atypical of a canine."

"Claws can be sharpened, or sheathed in a harder substance," Sandru mused. "There hasn't been a Kantin that big since the Dire Wolves died out, what, eight or ten thousand years ago. Not that are natural at least," she frowned. "Any clue with fur or other trace what we're looking for?"

"We've got some Wolf fur, but no surprise there. Some orange furs too, those are harder to explain. I've got somebody out taking casts of some tracks we found ... could be canine, could be something else. You'll want to talk to the guys outside too, by the way ... I heard them earlier, sounded like they've got some suspects."

"I know a few names to clear or focus on fast to," she nodded. "The female vic's one of my cases already. From what I've gotten, she ended up in the middle of a Wolf Alpha-battle, and our male vic lost. The winner's pack did quite a number on her two nights ago. It doesn't feel right, but he'd definitely a top suspect."

Sandru cocked her head and knelt to examine some of the claw-marks left, presumably by the perp. "You know, if it wasn't for the size, this could match a Cheetah fairly well. Feline, can have orange fur, and the one in my case has an incredible hatred for our female vic."

"Two perps, maybe?" Luke suggested, looking out the window. "Could explain handling both vic's without any signs of a major struggle. Homicide's on the way up, it looks like."

"Possible," she nodded. "Did the housemates have anything to say?"

"I haven't talked to 'em that much," he told her. "Leave that to you guys," he chuckled. "What I heard though, it supports the pack war bit... they were talking like they knew who was behind it, they just couldn't believe he'd gone this far. If we did have two perps... the Cheetah might explain some of the extra," he said, nodding towards the kitchen.

"Agreed," she patted his shoulder and turned to greet the other detectives. "Thanks for the info. I'm sure this'll get interesting by the time the forensics gets done."

"Already getting that way," he murmured, heading out to the other room to get back to work.

"Has Brad ever talked about what he's going to do when Amanda transfers?" Jake leaned back to crack his back as he and Chance ate lunch.

"Either find a new gunner or look for civilian work, probably," Chance said easily, waving to Zach as he walked by. "By that time, he figures his first tour will be up; MKAir is usually up for Enforcer trained pilots, especially for international flights."

"True enough," Jake nodded. "Have you ever thought about what you'd do if you couldn't fly with the Enforcers anymore?"

"Not much," Chance admitted as Zach sat down at the table with them. "Probably try the same thing, if I couldn't get a job as a test pilot ... maybe see if I could find a spot as a stunt pilot somewhere. To be honest, while I could do it ... commercial piloting just doesn't have the appeal."

"I bet you'd be a great test pilot," Zach grinned at him, almost completely at ease with the two Enforcer cadets now. "And you are a good stunt pilot."

"He has a point," Jake chuckled.

"I'm not going to argue," Chance grinned back. "Thanks. So, how'd your weekend go?" He asked Zach with a grin.

"Very well," the tabby purred. "Got a few errands done, spent some time with Amy... haven't had any trouble with Lance and crew either," he grinned.

"She's been very good for you, you know," Jake smiled at his old friend. "You haven't been this confident before. She really brings out the best in you."

"Thanks," Zach purred. "I kinda think there's still something up about Lance's trap she hasn't told me about ... she gets too uncomfortable about the subject ... but I'm not going to worry about it now, honestly. She's with me, and we're happy."

"Which makes the how of your meeting much less important," Jake smiled and munched on a fry dripping in ketchup. "Speaking of Lance, how are you two taking his murder?" he asked more quietly.

"I haven't gotten many details, but I think I'm debating between worrying about who did it, and wondering how long it'll be before the cemetery's empty enough to accommodate the people who'll want to dance on his grave," Zach muttered. "Amy ... she's taking it a bit harder," he admitted. "What gets me is that it sounds like his girlfriend got it worse than he did. She didn't have that coming."

"That's an understatement," Jake nodded quietly. "He had his tongue and balls ripped out, sodomized and left to bleed to death. She ... she was paralyzed by a skewer and raped through the belly, along with the regular stuff. The guy that did it's a real sicko."

"How'd you hear all that?" Chance looked at his partner in surprise, not noticing that Zach suddenly looked much more disturbed than he had a moment before.

"Hellen asked if I wanted to work on it in my spare time," Jake smiled at him.

"Hellen?" Zach glanced between them. "As in Detective Hellen Favad-Talon, the specialist in supernatural threats and crimes?"

"Yes, that Hellen," Jake nodded.

"Why are they interested?" Zach asked quietly, frowning as he thought it over.

"Because some of the fur CSI found was Wolf, and wasn't Wolf," Jake glanced around nervously. "No proof yet, but there's enough evidence that we've got a Kat-based Werewolf around to bring SI in."

"Shit," Chance whispered harshly.

"There were three Wolves and several Kats living there," Zach pointed out quietly. "But ... yeah, that'd be SI's turf. Dammit, where did I hear that before?" He asked, mostly to himself, pinching the ridge of cartilage between his eyes as he tried to think.

"There have been over a dozen in Enforcer history," Jake offered. "Far from common, but you've probably heard of a few in history if nowhere else."

"Not werewolves, that's easy to place," Zach said, shaking his head. "It's something else ... something more obscure, with what you said about what was done. Jake, I know it's a huge favor to ask, but do you think you could get me some more details about it? I might be able to help."

"Details on what part?" he asked quietly, uneasy about breaking confidence, but wanting to solve the case before it got worse even more.

"On what exactly happened to Yolanda, and anything the killer might have left as a message or sign ... arrangement of the body, location of wounds, that sort of thing," Zach explained. "Gods, it's right there ...." He murmured, shaking his head. "What you said about what was done to her, it's a one in a million set of details, but I've heard them before."

Jake had to think back, organizing his thoughts. "She was in the kitchen, sprawled out but not really suggestive. A hole was in her belly, into her main birth canal, and raped there as well. Eyes open. It took her a long time to die. The instrument that pierced her spine was removed, likely after death. It was long and slender, likely a pick of some kind, or a long sewing or knitting needle."

"Where on her spine?" Zach asked, sounding almost sick. "Base of the skull?"

"Yes," Jake looked at him curiously. "What do you know about it?"

"Gods," he shivered. "I don't know if it's connected at all, but you might suggest that they look up anything they can find on the 'pretty dragons.' Have 'em talk to the Enforcer's specialist on the Xenquii Empire, if possible... best chance of knowing about it, though the odds are still slim. About twenty years ago, during a series of uprisings, one of the Xenquii generals decided that the best way to get people back under control was fear and terror.

"In any village that rebelled," he explained, "the eldest daughter of each family - rebel or otherwise - would be brought out. The spine was pierced at the base of the skull, expertly, so they couldn't move, but so that they could watch and feel everything that was being done to them. Then they were raped to death, one at a time ... the abdominal penetration was a particular favorite 'finisher' of the General's.

"Once word got back of what he was doing, he was executed, very graphically, and the incident largely wiped out of the Xenquii's history. The only record that it happened comes from the survivors, and they don't talk about it usually ... I only know because I knew the right places to pry, and the right ways to make them feel comfortable about speaking about somebody they felt was a demon, after death if not before."

"Okay, I think I'm going to hope it's someone with obscure knowledge, and not him coming back," Jake murmured, shaking slightly as his stomach turned. "A psychopath is one thing, but an organized psychopath ...."

"It probably would be," Zach offered. "There wouldn't be any reason to target Lance and Yolanda for him, or any of his officers from the incident, to bring their spirits there. Unless somebody with the obscure knowledge decided to bind them," he mused. "Some mage or shaman... or wannabe... pissed off at them, deciding to use somebody really vicious to carry it out. If that's the case though, start praying that it's a full-fledged mage or shaman. More dangerous than a wannabe, but not near as dangerous as those spirits getting loose to roam."

"Okay, I think I'm going to hope for the random sadistic werewolf appearance with odd knowledge," Jake shook his head. "Those we know how to deal with."

"Heh - sorry," Zach said sheepishly. "On the bright side... if you'd call it that... it could also just be random. Let's face it, if one psycho can come up with it mostly in a vacuum, another one can too, I'm sure."

"Since it's based on medical facts, that's quite true," Jake nodded and sipped the last of his soda. "Something interesting is going on outside," he said and quietly stood. "Might want to go see what's brought a Lieutenant Commander out here."

"You and your ears," Chance grumbled, but took the last of his burger and followed Jake without question.

"Think they've got a lead," Zach said quietly, saying it rather than asking as he followed too.

"Hear something earlier?" Chance asked him, glancing back at Zach.

"No, but I see Tony and Enforcers ... that's usually an interesting mix."

"Maybe they got something on him with the murder," Jake cocked his head and worked his way closer, his ears perked for any details. "He is an obvious suspect."

"Looks like they're after a Cheetah too," Chance motioned towards another pair of Enforcers not far away.

"Damn it, I knew it!" Cadet Sandclaw hissed nearby as she saw the two being led off.

"You know the Cheetah?" Jake glanced at her.

"Well enough," she growled. "He was with Tony... guess they finished the job."

"SandClaw ... Tony's a bully and mean, but I kinda doubt he'd that sick," Jake said quietly. "What happened ... it took a real sadistic psychopath to pull it off."

"That's where the Cheetah comes in," she pointed out. "At least by his rep."

"You remember Mark Danvers?" Zach asked quietly. "Ghede was one of the main people they thought was behind it, but no one could prove it."

"Oh," Jake murmured, getting a last look at the Cheetah as he was put in a squad car. "Guy has a major Lion issue?"

"Big time ... and we caught him, Tony, and some of their friends raping her after beating Lance into submission," she added more quietly.

"Is he really dumb enough to think that taking out the vics would drop the charges?" Jake looked at the retreating patrol cars with a frown.

"Wrong question," Zach pointed out. "The question is if he and Tony might think that taking them down was worth it."

"Ghede would," SandClaw shook her head as the crowd began to disperse.

"He's sick," Chance muttered.

"Tell me about it ... maybe even sick enough to do it," Zach murmured. "Well... Enforcers seem to have it under control. At least this means it's probably over."

"We can hope," Jake nodded as the group separated, going off to their afternoon classes.

Ghede scowled as he waited in the interrogation room he'd been put in. He knew why he was here ... Hell, how couldn't he? Had to have something to do with that Lioness getting herself killed.

Hell, he wished he'd done it. Sounded like a pretty thorough job, all things considered, and he was sure most details had been kept out of the press. Just that meant somebody did quite a number on her.

He grinned viciously to himself, thinking about how delicious it would have been, when the door opened a middle-aged Cheetah detective came in with a Hyena right behind him.

"Hello Ghede," a low, strong male voice greeted him when the door opened. "I'm Detective Swift Wind, this is Detective Vager," the older Cheetah introduced himself and his Hyena bitch partner. "Care to tell us what you know about the events last night?"

"Somebody killed a Wolf and a Lioness. Quarterback and head cheerleader, if I remember right. Sorry to say it wasn't me, but good riddance," he said with a shrug as Swift Wind sat down across from him and Vager remained standing in the background.

"Do you know why we picked you and Tony up for questioning?" Swift Wind asked as he relaxed in the chair, his tail flicking easily, giving the distinct impression he was pleased about something in the back of his mind.

"I'm guessing because somebody told you about a little party that got out of hand in the park," Ghede chuckled slightly. "Tony was pissed at Lance for kicking him out of his pack ... I just don't like Lions."

"None of us do," Swift Wind rumbled darkly. "The guy that did this one was something else. I've never seen that kind of hate taken out on somebody. It was incredible to see."

"I wouldn't know; I haven't seen it," Ghede pointed out. Not for the first time since hearing about it though, he wished that wasn't the case. If he'd managed to impress the Enforcers.... "Sounds like quite a piece of work though."

"Think he'd keep quiet about it, if he did?" Vager asked his partner, looking between the two Cheetahs.

"I would, until I knew who I was talking to," Swift Wind chuckled, then leaned forward conspiratorially, his voice low. "Want to see the photos?" he offered, clearly intending it as a favor.

"Sure," Ghede chuckled. "Why not ... I can keep my mouth shut."

"It's pretty incredible stuff," the older Cheetah grinned and put a selection of photos, mostly highly pornographic ones of the Lioness, on the table. "Get your rocks off big time, hu?"

"How stupid do you think I am?" Ghede asked, though he looked at the pictures all the same ... they were pretty incredible. Not posed to be arousing, really... but she was very, very dead, and it was clear she'd died in terror and extreme pain. Her gut had been opened up... he wasn't sure what was up with that, but he had a couple of ideas. "It's really something else though...."

"Worst rape anybody in SCU's seen, that's saying something," Vager grinned. "When we give the details to the press, this is going to be big ... real big."

"What's your take on it being the first of many?" Swift Wind rumbled, clearly aroused by the images on the table. "The toms are almost as much fun, but they never scream quite the same. Whoever did this is going to be a hero."

"Oh, you can make them scream the same," Ghede rumbled, going back to some of his own memories. "Ask Mark Danvers about that," he chuckled slightly. "What's this about being a hero though?"

"Oh, most folk's'd think he was a fucked up psychopath, but you can't do anything about that," Vager chuckled. "But ... well, some of us are glad to see somebody treating the Lions like they deserve. But then ... you know about that already, don't you?"

"This is the kind of thing any Cheetah parent should be pound of," Swift Wind added, tracing a claw around one of the pictures. "Especially ones like your folks, who know the score isn't settled."

"When this goes to court ... it'll be a real shitstorm. Put things back in motion," Vager mused. "Everybody's going to know who pulled this one...."

"Yeah," Ghede murmured, something in the back of his questionably stable mind liking the sound of what they were saying. "I didn't do the Wolf though ... that had to be Tony."

"Those two do have a real history," Swift Wind nodded. "The Wolf's death is going to pale compared to hers, no matter what. We'll make sure of it."

"So ... what has to happen, for this to work?" Ghede asked. "No good if it doesn't."

"It has to go to trial," Vager said simply. "Preferably with Tony on trial, and you as star witness. He can contest all he wants, but as long as what you say on the stand matches what happened by the evidence, it'll blow the lid of things," she grinned viciously.

"That I can do," Ghede said, looking at the pictures and doing some mental figuring to put together the rest of it. He had plenty to go on in front of him, after all.

Tony looked between the Wolf and the Lioness interviewing him, an increasing sense of desperation taking him over.

"Look ... I didn't do anything," he told them nervously, stopping as another officer came in and spoke briefly with Detective Sandru.

"That's not what your packmate's saying," she countered, leaning forward with one hand on the table. "He just spilled it all, so you can stop trying to play innocent."

"There's nothing to spill!" Tony nearly howled, looking over at Detective Whitestar, the Wolf, desperately. Maybe another Wolf would listen to him. "I don't know what that psychopath said, but dammit, I didn't do this!"

"He said you took out Lance, while he took Yolanda," Whitestar said as he read the papers handed to them. "Signed confession implicating you and all."

"Come on, Tony," Sandru signed and sat down, putting on her best matronly mother manners as she forced herself to relax. "We know you two fought, and that Lance didn't fight fair."

"So the Cheetah is a sicko, but Lance ... an Alpha fight does reduce the charges quite a bit," Whitestar added, playing the advisor as was his roll here. "It happens."

"I didn't do it. Yes, I went a little crazy there a few days before that, got Ghede and a couple other guys to rough Lance up but ... shit, killing him? And if I wanted to do that, I wouldn't have brought Ghede along! If I was gonna fight Lance, gonna take him on, I wouldn't have taken that psycho with me this time! Didn't know how fucked up he was at first," he shuddered. "He would have killed Yolanda, and I would've wanted her alive! How would that have helped? Gods, gimme a little credit!"

"Yet you can not provide any credible alibi," Sandu countered. "A nearly empty bar where no one knows you and a hooker you picked up on a street you can't even name. Look, we have forensics, we have a confession implicating you and you don't have anyone that can say you weren't there. It really doesn't look good."

"I used to live there! Lance and the others are lousy housekeepers, what the fuck am I supposed to do about that?" Tony groaned, dropping his head to the table, his tail well and truly down. "That fucking psycho probably did it all," he whined. "How can I convince you?"

"A good alibi would really help," Sandru said fairly gently. "Think back to the bar. Try to remember what it was called. Did you talk to anyone? Maybe there is something they'd remember about you, even if it isn't your name. Bartenders are really good witnesses when they care to be. They see everything."

"I... don't know," he groaned. "Down in the Bars... think I was hitting on anything in a skirt towards the end, before I found the hooker I left with, but no surprise... there was tabby there, built like a brick house, but kinda cute if you liked that sorta thing, and a Chihuahua she was hanging out with, but I just don't remember anything else."

"That's not much to work on," Whitestar pointed out. "A name, anything like that? Even a street?"

"I think I need a lawyer," Tony groaned, folding an arm over his head like he thought it might make the world go away for a while.

"We'll take what you have to the beat cops in the Bars," Sandru said as she stood. "Maybe they will recognize something."

"The officer will take you to a holding cell until your lawyer arrives," Whitestar told him.

"Hope he gets here soon," Tony murmured as the officer came in to lead him out.

"So, what do you think?" Vager asked Detectives Sandru and Whitestar a few minutes later, once Tony and Ghede had been taken back to their cells and they'd met to compare notes.

"I'm more than half-inclined to believe Tony," Whitestar said as he leaned back against the wall. "Wouldn't be surprised if he was guilty, but I'm not convinced of it."

"Honestly ... I kinda go with you there," the Hyena admitted. "Though it would explain the mix of evidence. But Ghede's story splits things up too neatly ... he did everything to her, Tony did everything to the Wolf. Frankly, I don't think they're that good. Lunatic could've just been trying to blame Lance on somebody else so he wouldn't 'disappoint' us," he snorted, shaking his head.

"He gave in too easily too," Swift Wind shuddered. "I usually have to keep that crap up for a couple days before they buy that I'm on their side."

"At least you'll have an easier time keeping dinner down," Vager grinned at him. "I still can't believe how convincing you are."

"Comes from way too many years of hearing it," he shuddered. "I know the mindset inside and out."

"Plus Ghede's not exactly an unknown," Sandru nodded.

"No, he's not," Vager agreed. "That guy ... I get the feeling that if he thought he could get away with it, he'd have tried to take me out just on principle. It's not just Lions he's got trouble with, even if they're the biggest ones. He's every inch his father's son ... at least we've probably got one of them. Can't be that many other people besides him who'd have done that to her."

"True enough," Swift Wind nodded. "We've probably got enough on tape and in the confession to convict him on Mark Danvers' rape too, even without a complainant."

"You're kidding," Sandru blinked at the Cheetah.

"Nope," he shook his head. "He confessed to that too, and a few others from the backlog. Nothing we didn't suspect him of, but the confirmation is good to have."

"What I want to know if how the hell you manage that hard-on with the pictures," Vager snorted.

"A very good imagination and a lot of practice at not seeing what I'm staring at when I need to," he made a face. "My mate hates that I use her like that, but it gets the job done."

"Yeah, it probably would," Whitestar said, shaking his head. "I'm just glad my kind don't have the same sort of fucked up fringe groups, at least not so many of 'em. No offense, but I'm happy to live without having to do the sort of things you guys do to get confessions out of guys like him."

"I'd be happy not to anymore too, but if it gets guys like Ghede off the street, it's worth it," Swift Wind turned to get a fresh cup of coffee. "Let's just hope that it really was Ghede, and that lunatic isn't out hunting again."

"And that nobody leaks the details to inspire copycats," Vager nodded grimly. "The last thing we need is more freaks like this guy."

"No kidding," Sandru shuddered. "That was one seriously fucked up crime scene."

Four down, one to go.

Five daughters to become pretty dragons as a gift to this city and its protectors.

He sniffed the air and picked up a perfect scent; a young shekat, a virgin. He grinned and began stalking her in the early night air.

When he saw her, his grin grew even broader; a Siamese female. One he recognized no less ... Jenny Young, one of the girls from Chi Young's. She'd be the perfect addition to the list of victims ... especially since she might know what was happening.

He stalked up behind her, following her from alley to alley to shadow, moving quickly and quietly, then out far enough that he could be heard.

"Do you remember the Dragons of Tham?" He asked her in heavily accented Xenquii with a low, honeyed rumble, ready to pounce if she ran.

She whirled around, her short, creamy fur fluffed and eyes wide at the name and searched for the voice. Her gaze landed on him almost instantly, and she bolted; straight into traffic as she screamed for help.

A car very nearly ran her over, but she twisted into a tumble over the hood as he leaped out to follow her. He was dressed this time, albeit in ill-fitting clothes, so it didn't look too unusual when a 'good samaritan' Wolf followed the apparently suicidal girl out into the street and grabbed her.

Of course, that he quickly disappeared into another alley ... that was a bit harder to explain. He clamped his hand over her mouth, hiding with her briefly.

"Try something like that again, and I'll break your back," he promised her with a low, menacing growl, still speaking the language she'd been born with. It took a bit more effort, a bit more thought, but it would confuse things for him, and that's what he wanted. "Then I'll still make you part of my little show."

He felt as much as heard the whimpered 'why' as she continued to struggle, abet much less seriously. Her fear was thick in his nose, and it felt incredibly good.

"Because you're here," he nearly purred, wrapping an arm around her and jumping up to a fire escape, making his way to the roof of the building and then through the city to the quiet, closed library on campus. The lobby hadn't been locked earlier, and the fact that it would be so quiet for the weekend would be perfect. In the morning, when they opened ... terror would be waiting for them.

He shivered in excitement.

There was only good thing he could say about his host; the Kat was weak-willed. Too weak to control him, force him to do, or not do, anything. A pathetic host, really... but a useful one. It had been years since he'd gotten to play like this.

He felt the girl in his arms shudder when she saw the four others and began to really comprehend what he had planned, perhaps.

"You should be honored," he told her in Xenquii, taking a long, slender, metal needle from the counter, the other girls already prepared and lying where he wanted them, mute from sheer terror and pain. "You'll get to be the last of my Dragons... now, get down on your knees. I'll make it faster for you if you don't fight me."

He was sure that he could manage the piercing properly even if she was struggling, but it would be so much easier if she wasn't ... and while he wouldn't got the same look of shock from her he had from the others when he'd done this, it would still be easier.

She trembled, then closed her eyes and stilled, kneeling as he directed her.

He was half surprised when she complied so quickly, but his host wasn't, for what little he was paying attention. Cultural female submission, acceptance of fate, little value on life.

He lined the needle up with her spine at the base of her neck. He paused for a moment, inhaling deeply to savor her terror and the anticipation of the stroke, then forced the needle in, her body going slack as it lost all communication with her brain.

He quickly stripped her naked, ripping the clothes off her body before he removed the needle, licking her blood from it and setting it to the side. He laid her out, spread-eagled, her head towards the center so she could see what he was doing to each of her 'companions,' and started towards the young, red-furred shekat he'd picked out first.

Her eyes were wide as he licked down her body, savoring the terror and pain in her taste. It was so sweet, the way her limp body tasted as he drove his cock into her sex, and grinned even wider when he felt the resistance of a complete virgin.

He thrust up into her body, his knot starting to swell as he fucked her, reaching up and curling his claws into the firm mounds of her breasts, raking them down her body and letting her blood begin to flow.

He really wished she could feel it; respond to him like the Lioness had at first, but this was as much about confusing the locals and creating fear as sating his desires.

She was even smaller that the Lioness too, so tight, and her cervix cracked against the tip of his cock with he was barely more than halfway inside her. Without arousal, her flesh clung to him instead of sliding around him.

He growled lowly, rumbling in sadistic satisfaction as he forced himself into her, completely ruining the muscles that kept her sex separate from her womb, blood seeping into her body to make his thrusts a little easier.

Keeping himself from tying her, he pounded into her until he groaned, flooding her womb with hot, thick seed and pulling out, wiping himself off on her face.

"Suck it," he ordered her, rumbling hotly. This was one more advantage of his host ... the feline side meant he didn't have to stop and wait until he was ready to keep enjoying his playthings.

The girl didn't seem to respond, except for the way her eyes followed him.

"I know your mouth works," He grabbed her and forced her mouth open, her scent so terrified that she probably couldn't move what little voluntary muscles she had left. He shoved his way in, and down her throat, moaning deeply as her gag reflex kicked in hard and she started to have trouble breathing.

He turned around, half-tossing her body out ahead of him as she forced his knot into her mouth, letting the others see. He could tell that one of the girls, a pretty, plump Husky fem, squeezed her eyes shut tightly.

She'd be next, he decided, reaching down to caress the red-furred shekat's throat ... before he wrapped his massive hands around it, squeezing it tightly as he fucked her throat, her eyes tearing, her throat convulsing around his length as she fought to breathe around his cock and crushed windpipe.

He held himself back, wanting his last orgasm in her to be after she'd taken her last breath.

He could feel her trying to move, her limp arms twitching ... then they stopped, along with her throat, and he pulled out, howling as he sprayed thick Wolf-seed over her face and hair.

"Oh, that was good," he rumbled in Xenquii, putting on a show for Jienhue Young as much as himself. Still breathing heavily, he turned to the Husky and grinned. "Which of my pretty dragons will you be?" he asked her in Katian as he leaned over her, forcing a kiss to taste her fear.

"Please," she wheezed, her eyes full of terror.

He reached down, sinking his claws into her plump stomach.

"No!" She managed to scream, the sound thin as it came up out of her throat. He ripped up through her belly, tearing through flesh and fat, blood flowing out of her as he opened up her body to the crisp, death-tainted air. He moved between her legs, leaning down, inhaling her terror... he allowed himself a small indulgence, biting into her liver and ripping a part of it off, chewing and swallowing the meat as she stared down in terror and he moved her insides to the side, so that the dying Husky could watch herself being fucked to death.

Lifting her legs, he pressed himself up against her hymen ... then forced himself in again, ripping her virgin body open, his cock bulging against the walls of her body.

This was so good; and so lucky to find at least two virgins in this sex-soaked city where everyone seemed to get fucked on a regular basis. Even his host, now, was regularly mated.

He snorted at the thought. If anyone didn't deserve to mate, it was that second-rate gamma of a Kat.

His thoughts were interrupted by a moan dragged from his throat as his swollen knot hit up against her outer body and the bone that could lock him in, and now locked him out.

He grinned suddenly and grabbed her hips, pulling and turning until bone cracked enough to let him sink fully into her body, slick with blood. He could see his cock inside her as her guts shifted from his thrusts.

"So good," he groaned in Xenquii.

He humped her, hard and deep, pulling out enough to fit his knot through her body, tight enough to be ecstasy but weak enough that he could force what would be agonizing pain on her.

"You should thank me," he moaned. "Not making you feel this!" He could tell she wasn't going to last too much longer... she was spilling copious amounts of blood onto the floor, and as her body jumped inside in time with his thrusts, he could tell that her heart was weakening. Once again, he decided to indulge himself for a job well done... he leaned down, nuzzling his way into her body, twisting his body improbably so that his muzzle was pressed up against the thick, pulsing, inviting muscle. She reeked with terror, knowing now how she was going to die, and she tried to scream again, deflating her lungs for the last time.

Then he twisted, jaws snapping, ripping her heart out. Blood pulsed through her chest cavity, coated his face as his balls pulled up close and pumped his come into her wombs.

He felt a hint of regret, actually ... the puppies she'd have had could have been magnificent. Maybe tomorrow he would see about claiming a bitch to sire on, keep long enough be worth the time. He had the magic at his disposal after all.

"Yes," he moaned for entirely different reasons, his mind racing at what his pups would be like coming from a fine Wolf bitch. "Oh, yes. It will be good."

He forced his focus back into the present, pulling out of the corpse with a grunt, taking a moment to finish posing the body properly before rounding on his third victim, a Lioness transplant from Travaris.

Randomly as he'd picked her at first, largely because she was a Lion, he had to admit that there was a certain perverse satisfaction to picking her for this as well. She was proud, powerful ... she'd been the only one he'd had to struggle to get the needle into her.

And now she was just as helpless as the rest of them.

Even now, she was glaring at him, her fangs barred and spewing a creative series of curses his way that even his host's knowledge was hard pressed to translate.

She was twitching a bit too. She could feel, even if she couldn't really move. That was even better.

He took the flask of clear fluid he'd stolen from the chemistry lab, and carefully removed the rubber stopper, releasing its pungent odor.

"You know what this is, don't you?" He crooned, wafting it over her nose. "I'm going to ruin you, as a woman," he promised her, reaching down to fondle her clit with his free hand before he used a claw to cut it off completely.

She snarled in pain and rage, her body convulsing slightly.

"Goina kill you, Lierok," she got out through clenched teeth.

"Now how do you know that?" He asked her with a chuckle. "You know... little girls in your place shouldn't make threats." He took the flask of acid, carefully tipping it, pouring the powerful chemical onto her breasts. He wasn't going to take her just now ... not yet. He had other plans for that.

She snarled, more in outrage than feeling the pain of her flesh dissolving. "Not everyone has forgotten you, or your Lord," she got out. "You will pay for this."

"There's much, much more I'll pay for," he chuckled, dribbling the acid down her furry body, watching her fur and flesh smolder and melt. "You are nothing among my crimes," he grinned over at Jienhue. "None of you are."

He felt a tendril of power at the edge of his awareness and blocked it instinctively, even before working out what it was.

"Naughty, naughty, girl," he slapped the Lioness to break her concentration. "I'll make this even slower for that," he promised with a growl and carefully lifted her body to let him push the neck of the flask into her sex, tipping some of it up in to let the acid burn and scar the tender flesh there, fulfilling the promise he'd made her.

He heard the first gasp of pain, and grinned at her. "I know you felt that, and I bet it's not what hurt, is it? Trust me ... it's going to hurt even more before I finish you," he rumbled, leaning close.

"Maybe I'll even let you live," he rumbled ... then tipped the flask, pouring almost all the acid he had left onto her face, saving just enough to finish the job as her features melted and burned away as she screamed for real.

He knew it was enough to kill her, but it would take time. Her body would last much longer than her mind. The acid would eat that away, or at least bits of it, before anything else got to her.

Unless he took mercy on her, at least.

For the first time though, he wasn't sure if he really would ... she'd pissed him off more than once already, and the stories were vague enough that he could leave her for now without breaking with his plan too badly.

He finally moved around, lifting her legs and forcing his cock up into her ass, the only part of her he hadn't done something to ruin yet.

Well, no particular reason to leave that out.

Her screams had nothing top do with what he was doing now, he was sure. Having her face melt was certain to take all her attention. He drove his fully swollen knot all the way into her ass, tearing her flesh further with each thrust.

He didn't bother holding back; the pain he was giving her now would be vastly less than what he'd already inflicted on her, especially thank to what he'd done to her spine. All she could feel now, for sure, was the burning and searing as bone and muscle were exposed. The horrified expressions on the faces of his remaining two dragons told him that they were watching far more closely than they cared to, the sheer grotesquery of the display keeping them riveted to the scene.

He grunted as he raped her ass, deciding that they would make up his mind for her. The added horror of watching her die by swallowing the remaining acid ... or the false mercy of letting her live for as long as it took the acid to eat away enough of her brain.

He shuddered, then howled as he came, thoughts of her death no matter what he did tightening his balls far sooner than just the pleasure and blood of what he was doing.

He panted as he pulled out of her ruined body, then grinned as he stood back and watched her twist and writhe as much as she could as he began to stroke himself, intent to soak her body as much as he could with his seed in the single sexual act that a female from Traveris considered a true insult.

He wondered if it would get through the agony she was feeling in time for her to express her complete revulsion before she died... he just hoped he'd have time to pay attention, while he worked on the next ones. His next victim would go quickly, for better or for worse... then he'd have Jienhue.

Again, thinking of what he had planned, his body tightened, his exhausted balls pouring more of his seed out onto her twitching form. As much as he wondered how the others would take the bloody death he'd had planned for her, he'd made up his mind. They'd be more scared of getting the same treatment she had, and he'd be able to savor her final moments that much longer.

He turned to face the four girl, a white Persian with blue eyes that could not be any wider, or her tears any more real. Despite the death in the air, and the pungent stench of burning flesh, he could smell her fear, and it managed to excite his tired body once more.

"Good girl," he crooned, posing the Lioness mostly correctly; he'd fix the fine details after she was dead. He walked over to the Persian, pulling her up onto her knees, letting her face him, and his mostly hard cock.

"Go on ... get me hard again, then suck it," he rumbled, running his fingers through her hair, scratching at the back of her skull as he pulled her in close. Once he got going, she wouldn't be alive for long ... he'd have to enjoy her now, while he could.

She whimpered and did her best to nuzzle him with the limited mobility she had, her tongue was rough, but she tried. Only the little Siamese seemed to realize that they were all dead no matter what. All the better to save her for last.

"You're scared of me, aren't you?" He rumbled, groaning as she licked him clean from the Lioness' body, getting him hard all the way and then trying to swallow his smooth, tapered shaft as much as she could. He could tell she wasn't sure why he wasn't forcing her, the way he had the first fem.

She'd know soon enough. He found a place along the back of her skull where he'd be able to crack it fairly easily, and rubbed it lightly, giving her a few more moments to think she might live through the night.

He saw something flash across her face, mostly in her sky blue eyes, and his world dissolved into raw pain as her jaws closed and she ground her teeth together, growling in rebellion as she crewed on him.

He snarled, twisting his hand to take her lower jaw and wrench it open, breaking the bone and pulled his cock from her bloody jaws. Despite the broken bones, she held on tight, hate and rage burning in her eyes as she ignored the pain of holding on by muscle alone.

"That was very stupid of you," he growled and ripped her lower jaw off to free his badly mangled cock, a bit of one side fell from her mouth as what remained with his body healed to wholeness. He threw her to the ground, then went over to retrieve the acid he had left as blood pooled around her head.

"This was going to be quick and fairly painless," he growled to her, straddling her chest. "Now...." He tipped the acid over her face. She closed her eyes reflexively ... but it did nothing to save the beautiful, pale blue orbs from being eaten out of her skull as she screamed, and gurgled, in pain.

Suddenly she began to cough, reflex jerking her body around as she aspirated a critical amount of blood from her destroyed mouth.

"Those aren't usually on, are they?" Jake asked as he ran in the small formation next to Chance and behind SandClaw.

"Hu?" Chance glanced at him.

"No," Black motioned to the main library they were passing. "It's far too early."

"Something is wrong," Amanda added from behind them, next to her pilot.

"In we go, then," Jake chuckled as SandClaw shifted direction and broke from their measured pace to a real run.

"Who'd be trying to rob the library?" Chance asked with a chuckle as they hurried towards the building and up the grand main staircase.

"Some books in there are worth millions," Jake told him and tried the door. "Who's good at picking a lock?"

"What?" Black stared at him, wide-eyed.

"We trying to stop 'em, or make the papers?" Chance asked, stepping up to look at it. "I've done it before, but don't have much to do it with ... easier to bust the glass and set off the alarm, but then we end up sharing with the Enforcers."

Jake's head snapped up suddenly, along with Amanda's. "Break it," he snapped, his fur fluffing as he knelt to pull a combat knife from his boot. "Somebody's screaming in there."

Chance couldn't hear it, but he didn't hesitate either. He stood, reaching back and slamming his hand through the glass. The alarm went off, and he could hear the screams, not quite drowned out by it, as he turned the lock and opened the door, wincing as the glass opened up a gash along his arm.

SandClaw and Amanda were in first, as they were on the opening side of him, and Jake bolted around him with only a heartbeat's hesitation. "Black, Mallion, guard the door!" Jake yelled over his shoulder as Chance twisted to join his partner in a nearly headlong rush into the building.

The further they made it into the building, the more they could smell. Fear ... hell, absolute terror, sex ... and death. Only another scream, weaker, more desperate, told them that there was still a life there to save.

Chance lowered his shoulder, barreling through another glass door, sincerely grateful for the cheap glass that had been used in the doors years back.

"Go!" He shouted back at Jake, Amanda, and Terin, pulling his own combat knife out. They were lucky they'd been planning on only leaving enough time for a shower before role call, or they'd have been unarmed.

Somehow, he had a feeling they'd all be glad for the knives before this was done.

Jake was first up the stairs, with Amanda and SandClaw a breath behind him and Chance a few paces behind them. He got a look at the scene just in time to catch Jake, minus his knife, as he went flying backwards.

The scene was almost enough to make him stop right there. The room reeked of death and pain, the four bodies he could catch glimpses of behind the fight that was going on all horribly mutilated. The last victim, probably the screamer, was discarded by their attacker, a massive, hulking Wolf, soaked in blood and other things, naked and fully aroused as he fought with Amanda and Terin.

Chance rushed into the fray, a growl low in his throat. The Wolf didn't notice him yet though; he knocked Terin back and grabbed Amanda by the throat, lifting her from the ground, ignoring the knife she stabbed into his arm....

But he howled in rage when Chance got past his other arm and drove his knife up through the Wolf's groin, blood flowing freely from severed veins and arteries. He threw Amanda back into the tabby, batting Terin back like a kitten when she came after him again. But Chance's well-placed knife had gotten his attention more than the other Enforcers had by cutting up his arms; he bolted for the door, past Jake, trying to escape.

"Be dead soon," Chance panted as he stood. "Gotta be!"

His eyes went wide as he saw Jake make a leap almost straight up that landed him on the Wolf's shoulders and he dug in with one hand and his jaws, as his knife suddenly appeared in the other and struggled to slash the Wolf's throat.

Chance rushed to help, but before the tabby could get there, the Wolf managed to grab Jake by the scruff of his neck, ripping him off of his body with a howl of rage and pain, and threw him up onto the stairs.

There was a series of sickening snaps, one with each impact as Jake bounced up the stairs. First his skull, then neck, then back, then ribs, each broke in multiple places as he bounced along the concrete steps with enough force to shatter the tom's body.

For a moment that was nearly frozen in time, the massive Wolf seemed to stare at Jake's limp, broken body with the same horror that Chance, Amanda, and Terin did....

Then the moment ended, and as Chance roared and rushed after the Wolf, it took off, moving with blinding speed to get out. Brad was thrown back against the wall almost before he realized he was even being rushed. Black wasn't quite as lucky; he'd stayed by the door, and was knocked back through the entrance and down the steps of the library, his arm snapping as his body rolled and the Wolf bolted, sirens approaching from the distance, still pursued by the enraged tabby.

Brad got to his feet, looked after the tabby charging into the darkness, then to the flashing lights coming towards, and made a bee-line for the lights and help.

He nearly slammed into the hood of the first car, the two Enforcers inside staring at him as the cruiser screeched to a stop and he rolled off it towards the driver, ready to pound on her window, only to have it roll down.

"Murder in the library, officers injured, perp took off that way with Cadet Furlong after him," he pointed towards where the tabby would be headed.

"You call it in, I'll drive," the officer decided quickly, handing her partner the handset. "You, get the scene secured for backup," she ordered Brad before taking off.

"Yes, ma'am," he nodded and started to run back to the library while she found a place to park. He got to Black first and knelt. "You okay, beyond the arm?"

"Yeah," he groaned. "Nobody's come out," he hissed painfully.

"Help is coming," Brad promised. "Think you can keep an eye on the door?"

"Yes, go help them," he insisted, gritting his teeth and watched as Brad headed inside and followed the sent trail of his friends, and backtrack the blood-trail out.

He rushed up, wondering now why they weren't coming down ... and when he saw Jake on the stairs, his gut twisted up in a knot. Not even his partner kneeling next Jake did much to alleviate the sick feeling.

"What happened?" He asked Amanda hurriedly as he rushed up to her, not sure if Jake was alive or not ... and leaning towards not with all the unnatural angles the body was twisted into.

"See the Dire Wolf that rushed out?" she asked as she closed Jake's eyes and fought to hold the tears back. "Jake got on his back, tried to stop him. He threw Jake against the stairs. There are four more bodies up stairs, and one paralyzed but live girl that SandClaw is trying to comfort."

"No wonder Chance was after him," Brad growled lowly, his body shaking. "Black got his arm broken ... what needs to be done yet?" He asked, trying to make himself focus on what they had to do to keep the scene together. He wasn't about the catch the Wolf, he was sure.

"You ... show the officer up here, help Black keep any curious folks out of the building," she struggled to focus on the needs of the CSI team. "Try to keep any blood trails preserved. Make sure they know Chance is out there, and likely out to kill that creature."

"Right," he nodded. "Just lemme take a look, so I can tell 'em what...." He moved a bit further in, his eyes going wide as he saw the four bodies, no longer obscured by the fight going on. A Lioness with her face practically gone, a red-furred shekat, dead, blood near her mouth, a disemboweled Husky... and a Persian shekat, her front soaked in blood, the back of her head destroyed and leaking blood and brains.

He whirled around, practically taking a header down the stairs as he ran for the door to vomit.

"Welcome to death, Brad," Amanda said very softly and stood, glancing up to make sure that the room was still under control, then calmly walked down the stairs to greet the Enforcers at the front door.

Jake shivered slightly.

He knew he was dead.

He'd felt his skull crack open and his spine break in half a dozen places, his lungs deflate as they were punctured, never mind the rest of the damage that would have killed him in the next hour.

More than that, though, he knew the feeling of being only spirit, even in this place where spirits were physical.

He could only hope that Chance didn't get killed going after that beast.

"Is that really your only concern, Jake?" a softly familiar voice caressed his senses.

To anyone else, it would be an awe-filled experience. To anyone else, that voice would be comforting, soothing.

For him, it just meant the punishment was about to begin.

"Concern, yeah," he told her with little fight in him, though he didn't bother to look up at her voluptuous, maternal form. He'd gone that route already and knew it wasn't worth it. "You know I'm past caring about myself."

"Yes, I know," she sounded sad as she reached down and caught his chin in a gentle grip to make him stand and face her. "Why do you hate me so much, kitten?"

"Because of that," he spat in her face, rage flaring brightly for a brief moment, eclipsing his instinctive desire not to anger the one who controlled his life. "Because I am yours and I don't want to be."

"The choices have been made. I can not change that," she reminded him. "What is so terrible about what I ask of you when I offer eternity in my garden?"

"You don't ask," he said, brisling slightly even as he sank back into submission to his fate. "I don't care about the garden." He looked up at her abruptly, fire behind the acceptance in his amber eyes. "I don't want to be a hero," he added in a low growl.

"I am sorry, Jake," she sighed and let his chin go, allowing him to sink back down to sit with his knees to his chest and his chin resting on his knees. She watched him for longer than she expected any mortal could stay still, but he didn't do more than breath and wait, passively accepting anything she was going to do. "It's already too late to not be a hero. This death is quite the proof of that."

He didn't react, just waited for the lecture he didn't care about and the agony of being shoved into a body he didn't care about, a life he didn't want, and the months of recovery it would take to heal the non-fatal injuries she'd leave there as a final punishment.

Rock frowned as he pulled up in front of Meg's apartment complex early that morning. He'd gotten a call from his aunt just a few minutes earlier, telling him to cancel any appointments for the day and come over, that Chance had something to tell him.

The fact that she was the one calling him ... it left a damned short list of things he'd need to hear about.

When he saw Midnight's car pulling up, it shortened the list to a handful of options, all of them bad.

"Meg called you?" He asked her softly as he climbed out of his car.

"Yeah," she nodded as they began the short walk to the apartment. "Seen the morning news yet?"

"I'm not usually conscious for a couple more hours," he pointed out. "What's up?"

She opened her mouth, then closed it, took a deep breath and stopped him to meet his eyes. "Look, just remember what I told you about Bastet and Jake, okay? Chance is going to need us for the next few hours, and the next couple weeks are likely to be really bad for everyone."

"Jake got hurt, didn't he?" Rock said softly. "Dammit ... knew that was probably what this was about."

The question was ... was he hurt, or dead? He walked ahead of her, getting the door to let her in, hitting the buzzer for Meg's apartment to let her know they were there.

"Yes, hurt, and worse," she nodded slightly and followed the dark golden tabby inside. "He'll be fine."

"I'm surprised Chance is even here," Rock murmured as Meg met them at the door.

"Only because they sent him here, after they got him calmed down," the older shekat said. "Rock, Midnight ... you two heard?"

"I heard," Midnight nodded.

"And she clued me in," Rock said hesitantly, his mind suddenly clicked with the fact that Jake was dead. He had to be dead, or they'd be gathering at a hospital. "Oh Bastet," he whispered shakily and was all but pulled into the house and the door shut behind him. "H-how?"

"Chance wanted to tell you; he hasn't given me any details, and they're keeping it out of the news," Meg said, pulling Rock into a hug. "I know it was saving somebody though ... young woman."

"At least there's that," Rock shivered, pressing into his aunt's embrace as Midnight put a hand on his arm.

"Rock, remember what I told you about him," Midnight whispered seriously.

"Something Chance should know about?" Meg asked, glancing back towards the other room where her son was pulling himself together.

"He's heard, though if he's that torn up, I'm sure he either doesn't remember, or doesn't believe," she admitted quietly.

"It's damn hard to swallow," Rock added as he striated a bit and tried to focus on the fact that his cousin needed him, and needed him to believe what she said was true.

"Jake's unlikely to stay dead," Midnight summed it up simply. "Bastet and Halikar have plans for him and they aren't done with him."

"If you're right, then it's going to be more than just Rock and Chance who believe it after this," Meg said grimly. "Come on ... I think he's ready," she said, leading them in to a tabby who was clearly barely holding himself together, and couldn't quite meet Midnight and Rock's eyes.

"Sounds like you heard," he said softly. "I'd kinda been hoping I could break the news, but it might be better like this."

"What happened?" Rock asked, not sure which one of them was taking it harder ... a part of him wanted to comfort Chance, to try and make him feel better, another part of him wanted to be the one being comforted ... and another part of him wanted to slam Chance through the wall for letting this happen to Jake.

"We were out on a run with Amanda, Brad, and a couple other cadets when we saw some lights in the library," Chance explained quietly, sitting down again. "We thought it was just a robbery ... found a Dire Wolf or something with four, five girls ... think most of them were dead from the smell of it, but one of them was alive. I busted through the doors, Jake, Amanda, and Sandclaw went ahead. I got a clean shot and ... fuck, I should've castrated him with what I did," Chance swore. "He should've dropped on the spot!" He was shaking now, rage warring with grief and steadily starting to win out.

"Dire Wolves have been extinct for at least three thousand years," Midnight pointed out. "A werewolf's more likely."

"Yeah, well that'd explain how I managed to practically cut his leg off and he could still run," Chance growled lowly. "Jake jumped him on the way out, tried to cut his throat...." Chance closed his eyes and shuddered. "Wolf got him by the scruff and threw him up and into the stairs. Knew as soon as he stopped that he hadn't made it ... sweet Bastet, I'm sorry," he whispered, starting to tear up, not for the first time to judge by the matted fur around his eyes.

"It'll be okay," Rock reached out to his cousin, desperately hoping he was putting his little remaining faith in the right place. "Probably how he wanted to go."

Meg shot a deadly look at Midnight to silence the contradiction that was about to come, given the black shekat's expression.

"It will be okay," Midnight said instead and squirmed her way into the chair Chance was in, trying to hold him even as she gave Rock a grateful look.

"Not until they catch that bastard," Chance muttered. "I chased after him, but he lost me about six blocks away, then the Enforcers caught up and managed to snap me out of it."

"More likely slap you out of it, I bet," she said with a soft sigh. "They don't expect you back in class today, do they?"

"Wish they did," Chance muttered. "Give me something to do."

"You've gotta be kidding," Rock murmured, shaking his head. "Chance, you've gotta take a day off after this ... at least."

"They told me to come in again next week," Chance admitted. "But Rock, you know what I'm like when I get thinking about things like this...."

"Yeah," the older tabby sighed. "But you wouldn't be any good in classes either... look, we'll figure out something for you to do, just something that'll actually take your mind off it."

"If no one else can, I will," Midnight said firmly. "Boss may not like it, but he can't do a damn thing about a few days off for this."

"I hope you're right," Chance murmured softly. "Gonna be big if you are, but it sure as Hell beats the alternative."

"What's so big about it? It's happened before," she looked around the various Furlongs uncertainly. "It's done every year."

"Honey ... maybe you're used to this sort of thing, but for us dead usually means dead," Meg said softly. "As for what's so big about it ... Jake was killed with witnesses, very dead from the sound of it. It's already in the news ... he can't just pop back up without getting a lot of attention for it."

She made a face. "He's going to hate this."

"That's what I meant about it being big," Chance murmured. "But I'll take scrutiny over losing a partner."

"How well known is this ... favor?" Meg asked Midnight. It was hard to swallow, but she'd seen enough to find believing a little easier than her son and nephew did.

"Pretty much everybody's who's been close to him, though I'm not sure anyone else has seen enough to believe," she nodded towards Chance and Rock. "But it's a piece of information that comes out about him readily enough."

"Among the faithful though?" Meg pressed. "I have a sister who's a priestess ... it might be good to have somebody we can trust there, to help make things easier for him."

"Oh, he's big time known," Midnight said softly. "Much to his frustration. Your sister ... well, it'd be better than the High Priestess of MegaKat City, who's likely to go when it's close. They fight terribly whenever they're in the same room."

"Melia, at least, has a reason to be involved other than being a priestess," Meg nodded. "I'll call her, let her know ... you really think it's likely to go over better? It'll help if we've got a reason to have Melia get involved, I'm sure."

"Very much so," Midnight nodded with easy certainty. "Though on the odd chance she doesn't know Jake's temperament, it would be best if she left as much of her robes behind as she can, and still get in the morgue. The less his first reaction is going to be 'priestess' the better this will go."

"Why ... why don't we go?" Chance looked between the two most important women in his life. "If he's really going to wake up, I should be there. I'm his partner."

"Are you sure you're ready for it if he doesn't?" Meg asked gently, considering the options. "If Melia knew, she could just take along her symbol and ID and probably get in without him realizing what she was at first."

"I'm sure she could," he hesitated, his ears flicking up at a hesitant knock at the door. "Who knocks like that?"

"Enforcers delivering news, I expect." Midnight said softly. "Just make sure Melia knows not to lie to him outright," she added to Meg.

"She knows her stuff," Meg smiled, heading to the door and opening it. "May I help you?" She asked the two uneasy Enforcers on the other side of the door.

"Kinda the reverse," the flame-haired chocolate brown female shifted on her feet and looked up at the broadly built female older than her own grandmother. "I'm Kathie Rumble Firetail, this is my pilot, Tanner Shark Evans," she motioned to the tan tom with red stripes slightly behind her. "They may be cadets, but they're still one of us. I was Jake's recruiter. Anything we can do to help his partner, we'll do," she explained with an honest pain and discomfort despite being all too familiar with the offer.

"Just knowing that you care might help," Meg nodded, stepping back to let them in. "He's in the other room at the moment ... wanted to break the news to Jake's sister and boyfriend."

Kathie winced as they walked in. "Probably better than hearing it from Lt. Commander Blackthorn."

"I think it's how I'd want it," Tanner nodded, reflexively taking in the apartment. "My boyfriend has offered the use of his home for the wake, and more, if folks want a place to stay and recover."

"That would be good, if there are too many for here," she glanced apologetically at Meg.

"By the time all his friends are involved, there probably will be," Meg said easily. "You don't have to worry about offending," she told Kathie. "Jake might not have realized it, but he had more people who cared about him than he thought. If it turns out that they were a little ... pre-mature, when it came to declaring him dead, what sort of trouble is there likely to be?" She asked, glancing over at the two Enforcers. "He might not be family, but if by some miracle they were wrong it'd be good to know how to help him."

"If they're wrong?" Kathie glanced around and focused on Midnight. "You can't be serious."

"It's happened before to him," she shrugged slightly. "Bastet isn't done with him, not by a lot. She won't let him stay dead until she is."

Tanner frowned. "You have actually managed to make being immortal sound bad."

"Just get Jake on the subject," she laughed bitterly. "You have no idea how unpleasant it can be."

"Umm, well, if he, um, recovers ..." Kathie started, only to loose her idea. "I honestly don't know," she admitted. "I expect there are regulations that cover it, mostly in proving who he is."

"The toe-tag will probably help, if she's right," Meg pointed out. "It sounds like it could be soon ... if you'll excuse me, I'd like to make a few calls?"

"Yes, of course," Kathie nodded and walked up to Chance. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Get me whoever did this and ten minutes," Chance growled. "Seriously though... what the Hell was that thing?"

"I don't know," Kathie admitted and took a seat. "I don't think anyone knows yet."

"Does anybody know if Zach knows yet?" Rock asked quietly. He'll probably take it worst of any of us, weird as it sounds."

"I don't think so," Kathie shook her head slightly. "Midnight, do you know what kind of send-off Jake wanted?"

"Nothing he'll get, I'm sure," she sighed. "I'm sure he'll accept whatever happens."

"Why don't you tell us about what he wanted, and we'll see what can be done," Kathie offered again, getting ready for another long conversation she was getting entirely too used to.

"A quick cremation and equally quick scattering into the river with no one to mourn him," she muttered. "You have no idea how much he hated being the center of attention."

"That he won't manage," Kathie agreed. "But we can probably keep it small ... just close friends and what family he'd want there?"

"That would be none, though we might as well invite his mother," Midnight grumbled. "Those here, Zach and Amanda. I'm sorely tempted to invite Greg, but Jake'd kill me for it."

"I'll send word out to pick them up," Kathie nodded. "Would Shannon's place work?"

"Sure," Midnight nodded as the group stood. "I think I need to drive you guys."

Zach purred softly as he woke up, feeling Amy's increasingly familiar warmth in his arms. Then, as his brain started to kick into gear, he realized just why this was such an unexpected pleasure this morning.

He could have sworn that he'd gone to sleep in his own home.

As his mind caught that she was as aroused as he was, he stopped caring where he thought he'd gone to sleep. This was far too pleasant to argue with.

He nuzzled the back of her neck, inhaling her scent happily and running a hand down her front. He purred a bit more as he carefully undid the drawstring of her pajama bottoms, slipping his hand down under it, over her belly and between her legs, and started to fondle her clit and already slick sex.

"Ohhh," she moaned and shifted back, pressing against him as she spread her legs and slid one back over his.

"Love you," he murmured into her ear gently, licking the edge of it and reaching down a bit more, pressing a finger up into her slick sex, shivering as the smell of her arousal. So much better than the nightmares that were quickly fading.

"Muve you," she mumbled and rocked into his hand a bit, her tail curling up to rub his crotch as she worked a hand back to fondle him more directly.

"Oooh...." He moaned softly, pressing into her touch; he was naked, unlike her, so as he started to finger-fuck her, he turned to give her better access to his own stiffening shaft.

"Take me," she groaned deeply, trying to work the bottom of her pajamas off. "Please."

He pulled his hand out of her, taking one of her ample thighs and pulling it back, spreading her further and pulling her back against his lean, hungry body. She guided his shaft to her sex, and he sank himself into her gladly, moaning as her hot, wet, velvety body tightened around him.

"So incredible," he moaned as he thrust into her, his hand still playing along her clit.

"Oh yeah," she shivered and squeezed down around him, relishing the way his body felt against and inside hers.

He reached around her chest, hugging her close and fondling her breasts, thrusting his barbed shaft into her welcoming body. As she leaned back against him, he felt himself rub against the rough patch along the inside of her body, and grinned inwardly at the happy moan she let out as he rubbed her g-spot and they worked each other to a slow burning orgasm that left them panting and awake.

"Morning," she murmured and turned her head to kiss him.

"Mmm ... morning," he purred into the kiss, kissing her again once they parted for a moment's breath. "Surprised?" He asked her with a cheeky grin.

"Pleasantly," she purred and squeezed down on his cock. "When did you come in?"

"Oooh ... not sure," he admitted, rumbling happily and snuggling up. "Must've missed you though, I think I managed to sleepwalk here," he teased lightly.

"I think I like being the cause of that," she giggled and rubbed his side. "Unfortunately I have to get up in ten."

He pouted good naturedly, then hugged her close. "Mmm... think we can arrange a repeat tomorrow night?" He asked her with a happy rumble.

"Happy too," she snuggled against him, quite willing to take advantage of every minute she had. "Just maybe no more sleepwalking?"

"I can handle that," he rumbled. "Enough time for breakfast for two, before class?" He asked her hopefully.

"I'd love to," she grinned and kissed him again as she gently pulled off him. "Cafeteria?"

"Sounds good," he groaned softly as she slipped off of his softening shaft. "Mmm ... you have any plans for the summer break?"

"Probably go home, spend it with my folks," she half shrugged and collected her clothes for the day before putting her pajamas back on and picking up her toiletries bag. "You coming?"

"For the shower, sure," he grinned, his tail twitching as he got up to follow her. He looked around, not spotting his clothes, and went to the dresser to pull out a spare set of clothes. "Think I could talk you into maybe taking a week or so off with me, out of town?"

"I think so," she winked playfully, though there was no missing the curious look he got when she realized he wasn't going for clean clothes, so much as any clothes. "Definitely no sleepwalking, okay?"

"With you there," he blushed deeply, grabbing his clothes. "Just hope there's not an APB out for a scrawny, naked geek," he chuckled.

"Nah, streaking's such a minor crime, no one will care if they didn't catch you," she giggled and gave him a kiss before heading out to the showers on the floor. "I don't want anyone to get any ideas, though."

"Mmm ... anybody but you, huh?" He grinned. "Want me to help scrub your back?" He offered after listening for a moment to hear there wasn't anybody else in the showers yet.

"As long as you stick to cleaning," she giggled and selected a stall at the end.

"And a lot of looking," he promised with a grin, following her in, then stripping down as she did.

"Same as me," she winked and stepped into the shower, standing to one side as she turned on the water and waited for it to warm. "Though you need to clean up as badly as I do."

"We'll save time this way then," he winked, following her into the shower once the water was hot. "So, you sleep well up until I woke you up this morning?" He asked, as he took the fur shampoo and waited for her to wet down.

"Quite well," she smiled and worked her hair to a soaking mass before she began to work shampoo into it. "You must have had quite interesting dreams however."

"Yeah ... that's one way of saying it," he murmured, thinking back to the dreams he had had. "Though if it means I wake up with you, it's worth it," he purred, starting to soap up her fur, lingering a bit longer than strictly necessary in some favored spots.

"Bad dreams?" she asked curiously.

"From what I can remember," he nodded slightly. "I think your horror flicks are getting to me," he chuckled a bit.

"The wrong parts of them, apparently," she giggled through a purr and pressed into his touch. "Maybe we should stick to porn for a while."

"No complaining here," he grinned. "Or we go for something a bit different, at any rate ... think what happened to Lance and Yolanda was getting to me too."

"Not even they deserved that," she nodded and leaned forward to kiss him. "That was just beyond sick, and I bet they didn't say half the details."

"They didn't," he murmured, kissing her back. "And no, they were jerks, but not that much... c'mon, let's finish getting cleaned up, try and think about something better. Maybe I'll come up with a surprise for you for tonight," he winked.

"Oh?" she grinned. "Like starting the night at my place?" she suggested throatily and turned into the water to rinse off, before turning to start working on his chest.

"If you're up for it tonight," he grinned, purring as she helped him wash up. "It sounds good to me, unless something comes up."

"I think I am," she smiled and lightly washed his half-hard cock and soft balls. "What's likely to come up in lives like ours?"

"Oooh... if you're not careful, you'll find out soon," he grinned. "You know it's not fair teasing before you leave me alone all day," he purred.

"You got your fingers all over mine," she moved on, then grinned devilishly. "Or you can keep very quiet."

"As a mouse," he purred, leaning forward to kiss her as the water poured over them both. It was a trial from the first moment her mouth touched his mostly-hard cock, then her hand went to his balls and he bit back a deep moan.

He reached down, fondling her ears and head as she coaxed him the rest of the way to hardness. His fingers traced down the back of her skull, pressing lightly against the soft back of it ... and he pulled his hands back sharply, almost like he'd caught himself about to stick his fingers in a light socket. He just hoped she was too busy to notice.

Or if she did, which he suspected she had, she wouldn't think anything of it. Maybe take it as if he was trying not to be bossy about

But what was so bad about that spot?

All he could think of was "it hurts...." He couldn't think of why for the life of him; she certainly didn't mind.

"Zach?" she looked up at him as his softening cock slid from her mouth.

"Sorry," he blushed deeply. "Enough time to try again, or did I blow it?"

"Probably not enough time," she said reluctantly and turned the water off and the blowers on. "What happened?"

"Don't really know," he murmured, kissing her as she stood. "Sorry ... I just got this feeling that I was gonna hurt you, I don't know why."

"You don't sound like you're nearly as okay as you should be," Amy murmured with a worried look as she pulled out a couple brushes to work their fur out and dry.

"I guess," he murmured, helping her brush her fur out. "I offered to help Jake look into this ... his contacts with SI are giving him a shot, and so I got a few extra details ... it might be linked to something really ugly, I guess it's stuck in my head. That and the dreams...."

"Maybe I should tie you to the bed tonight, to keep you where you belong," she said uneasily. "Can you back out? I mean, if a few details do this to you ...."

"I could," he nodded easily. "Odds are though, the Enforcers already have the perps, so it's not an issue. If it is though ... this could be linked to somebody that nobody else is willing to talk about, who knows about it. I can't just back out if that's the case."

He wasn't sure if he could anyways, now ... if it wasn't Ghede and Tony, then the chance that whoever it was knew about Tham's Dragons ... his gut twisted when he thought about a full-scale re-enactment, even with the details as spotty as they were.

"And it's worth a few nightmares," she nodded and went to work on her long, wavy hair. "I hope you aren't needed anymore. Just how many ugly things have you seen?"

"Not too many, but I've heard a lot... especially out of Xenquii and Traveris. If there were ever two countries that deserved each other, they're the ones."

"Except they're half a world apart," Amy giggled to cover her nervousness, then turned off the blowers and got dressed. "At least they're well away from here."

"If you're expecting an argument, you're not getting one," Zach chuckled, giving her a quick kiss as they walked out. "C'mon, let's go get breakfast."

"And talk of more pleasant things?" she purred, leaning against him as they walked.

"Mmm ... like what I plan to do to you this weekend?" He purred teasingly, leaning down to whisper into her ear as they rode the elevator down to the ground floor, making her blush deeply.

"I think so," she giggled and leaned close. "Maybe try something new if I can think of it too."

"If you can't, I've got a few ideas," he grinned broadly as they started out and towards the nearby cafeteria, not noticing the subdued, quiet atmosphere of the overcast morning campus.

"I'm sure," she giggled, stealing a kiss before they entered the cafeteria. "Maybe tonight I can wear you out enough to sleep all night."

"You're making it sound like this happens all the time," he laughed as they got their trays. "Not that I'll object to trying," he winked, then looked around. "Damn... guess Lance dying is finally getting to everybody," he mused.

"I don't think it's Lance," Amy murmured as she caught sight of one of the TVs. "It's pictures of girls."

"Gods... no," Zach whispered, the blood draining from his face as he abandoned his tray and rushed over to watch the news report more closely.

"In addition to the four dead and one surviving victim, an Enforcer cadet was killed and two badly injured when a group out for a morning jog interrupted the slaughter at the MegaKat City University's main library," Ann Gora reported, likely not for the first time that morning.

"Shit no," Zach whispered again. "Please, not Jake, not Jake, not Jake!" He repeated, like a mantra, his dreams and nightmares taunting him with the possibility.

"The memorial service on campus intended for the first two victims of the new serial killer," she said as a picture of Lance and Yolanda came up behind her left shoulder. "Have been expanded to include the four victims of this attack," she added as the images of a Lioness, Husky, red shekat and white Persian appeared at her shoulder. "And the Enforcer cadet who was killed. In addition, the Enforcers have announced a separate service for the first cadet killed in the line of duty in eighteen years," she concluded as an image of Jake a month into his training appeared to join the other dead.

Zach began shaking, visibly, the rest of what Ann was saying completely beyond him as he fought just to keep control enough not to collapse on the spot.

He distantly felt strong hands supporting him, and another pair, much less strong, on him as well.

"Zach," Amy's voice sounded pretty terrified, but he honestly couldn't find it in him to comfort her. "Zach!" she insisted again. "Snap out of it."

He was helped into a seat, and he fought to try and regain some sense of control.

"S-sorry," he managed to get out, looking at the cadet who'd helped him ... he didn't recognize him, beyond knowing he was one of the cadets. He looked back at Amy, reaching out to grab her hand, squeezing it tightly, not really sure what to say.

"I'm so sorry," she said in his stead and sat down next to him as the cadet moved away. "Maybe your nightmares were catching some wind of that."

"Maybe," he murmured, leaning against her, still stunned. "I ah ... I think this is something coming up," he said apologetically.

"No kidding," Amy agreed, shuddering, glancing up at the TV again as the names of the dead and injured were given. "What ... where do you want to go?"

"Somewhere with a phone ... I'll head home, try to get hold of Chance, find out what's going on. Sweet Bastet, he's got to be ready to kill right now...."

"Probably," she nodded and helped him stand. "I'll drive?"

"D-don't you have to get to class?" He asked her, looking over with a confused expression.

"Don't you think this is more important than class?" she stared down in shock. "Your best friend died. I'm not about to let you be alone for a while."

"Thank you," he murmured, leaning against her as they started out. "I uhm... I guess I relapsed a bit," he joked weakly.

Amy just nodded and supported him, her eyes catching two grim-looking Enforcers walking towards them at a good clip. "Zach, Kathie and Tanner are coming."

He tried to pull himself together, unconsciously reaching back to smooth out his tail as the Enforcers approached.

"Hi ... I just heard the news," he said as they walked up. "That's why you're here, I'm guessing?"

"Yes," Kathie nodded and reached out to squeeze his shoulder. "We're having a small wake at Shannon's place. We'd like you to be there, given how close a friend you were."

"Sure," he nodded slightly. "As good as any place else right now ... Rock and Midnight know? I'm sure Chance does."

"Yes," she nodded and guided them to her car. "Have you met Jake's mother? I'm afraid she'll be there as well."

"Yes, I have, though I'm hard pressed to think of anybody he'd want there less," Zach muttered. "I can be civil around her; she's convinced herself that I'm not sleeping with him, so she can tolerate me."

"At least there is that," Kathie nodded. "And while that's the general consensus, she is his only known relative. We couldn't not tell her."

"Just make sure you keep an eye on Rock, or there may be another wake soon," Zach sighed, following them back to the car.

Jake heard as much as felt a forced gasp of air that was pulled deep into his lungs as his body was healed and forced to life again and his soul shoved deep into it again.

It was cold here, and dark. Metallic. Confined.

He drew another deep breath, this one voluntary, and knew instantly why.

He was in the morgue.

He began to breath slowly, his stomach turning at the smell of death on ice as he focused on his body and just how much damage was left.

Head, neck, back, ribs ... everything was sore, but whole.

What the hell was that about? She never left him in any better than was needed to survive. Never. It wasn't Her way.

It just wasn't.

What was he going to be facing this week, that he'd need to be whole?

Deal with it later, Jake. Just get out of here and to Chance and Rock before things went from bad to worse, assuming his partner was still alive after going after that beast.

He closed his eyes and began to pound on the aluminum door between his tiny prison and the outside.

The door was open much faster than he'd expected it to be, a shocked Calico tom on the other side staring at him as he all but exploded out, right into the ample chest of a tabby shekat that smelled distinctly like close kin to both his partner and his lover.

"Gently, Jake," the big female crooned, catching him as her body absorbed his forward momentum and he started to fall down. "Calm, kitten. You are safe now," she soothed his instinctive use of claws to grab hold of anything, which meant her flesh.

"Holy shit, you're right," the Calico murmured. "Y-you're alive?!?"

"Yes," the Furlong answered for him as Jake caught his wits and got to his feet, his entire body shaking.

"Shower?" Jake croaked, desperate to get the blood and death-smell off him.

"There's one close; will you need help to stand?" She offered. "I'm Amelia Furlong, Chance and Rock's aunt."

Jake nodded, then shook his head as he took a step back from her arms. "I-I can stand."

"I have real clothing for you, when you are clean," Amelia added as she guided him to the shower room off the morgue without anyone seeing him.

"Chance, Rock?" he asked even as he was lured into the hot water spray and a deep groan for the pleasure.

"They think you're dead, but your sister, Midnight, has been telling them all that you're going to recover ... you're not going to get out of it without being noticed this time though," she said apologetically. "Your death has made the news in a fairly large way."

He winced and groaned at the prospect, then groaned again in pleasure as he got the last of the gore from his fur. "I guess I should have known, given how completely She healed me this time."

"That's not just because of necessity, Jake," Amelia told him gently. "In case you haven't guessed yet, I am a priestess, though I'm here as Meg's sister more than in any official function."

"I could smell Her on you," he nodded and squirted another glob of shampoo to work on his face again. "So where's Fela?"

"She agreed to go away, when I arrived," Amelia smiled slightly as his body visibly relaxed.

"Thanks," he murmured, then glanced at her over his shoulder, taking in the way she watched him. "You aren't much like the others."

"Part profession, part upbringing," she smiled slightly. "You might say I'm a bit more down-to-earth than some of my colleagues, though they mean the best in the world."

"You aren't flirting," he said, just standing under the hot water and enjoying it. "You haven't tried to touch me."

"I know better than to think I can change you, Jake," she smiled softly. "Besides ... given the circumstances, I'd think it very inappropriate, especially since you're dating my nephew," she added with a chuckle.

"It wouldn't have stopped Fela," he said and turned the water off and the blowers on. "Or most of the ones I've dealt with before."

"They can be a bit overzealous," the tabby shekat admitted. "Bastet does want you to have kittens ... and that means you have to be able to be with a shekat, at this point ... but like I said, now is not the time or place, at least not for me to make the move. For what it's worth ... they think they're trying to help you, they just don't always go about it the best way."

"Little different from Her," he sighed and began to brush himself out. "She thinks She's giving me a gift," he spat. "Like stealing my right to chose is a gift."

"Jake... I know it doesn't help, but there's something much larger here too. It's not just about you. If it's any consolation ... I think Rock and Chance will be thrilled that they've got you back. Especially Chance, he's beating himself up about all this pretty badly."

"I bet," he murmured, closing his eyes briefly before opening them and turning the blowers off. "I'm not so sorry about this time," he admitted. "She still didn't give me a choice. Never a choice."

"I'm not sure She can afford to," Amelia admitted, stepping closer to put a hand on his shoulder gently. "With a little luck, you'll understand some day ... it's not just divine whim that this is happening to you. So, should we get you checked out of here, get your effects, and back to Shannon's place where the others are?"

"She just chose poorly in Her champion this time," he sighed and accepted the clothes she'd brought for him, dressing quickly. "Yes, let's get this over with."

"Give yourself a chance," Amelia smiled as they started out. "You're young yet, Jake ... you might be surprised how well you'll do, given time."

"It's not about doing well," he told her quietly as they walked out of the shower room. "I always do well. The two biggest choices in life I don't get to make, and She wants me to be something I don't want to be. It'll all happen. That's not my choice. I just get to bitch about it."

Amelia let the subject drop; she wasn't going to overcome that much history that quickly.

"My car's outside," she told him, handing him the keys. "Why don't you climb in, I want to call the others so they know that you're on the way ... I really don't think we want to interrupt your wake without warning them," she chuckled slightly.

"Probably not," he nodded and accepted the keys. "Most'll probably think they're drunk and hallucinating."

"Midnight's been working on them, as I understand, but it's quite possible," she chuckled as he walked off, then stopped at the pay phone to make her call.

"Chance, Rock," Kathie walked up to the two tabbies studiously ignoring the cinnamon-furred female that was largely off on her own. "That was Amelia. Jake is alive and on his way."

"You've got to be kidding," Chance murmured, still not quite believing that it was possible.

"I'm not kidding," she said firmly, though it was clearly hard for her to believe as well. "That's what she said."

"How long?" Rock asked hopefully, leaning forward. Hard to believe or not, he didn't think they'd lie about something like this.

"Less than half an hour," Kathie smiled slightly. "They're leaving now."

"Shit ... he really did die those first couple times, didn't he?" Zach murmured, overhearing the conversation. "H-how is he? Did she say?"

"Yes," Midnight nodded as she walked up to the group, sure what the phone call had been about.

"She said he's unhappy, but healed and cleaned after a long, hot shower," Kathie told them. "This is going to be so weird."

"Why does it have to be?" Midnight pointed out. "It's not like he's been gone for years ... they might have declared him dead, but if you just think about it like he was hurt instead ...."

"It's ... probably going to be a lot less awkward to think about it that way," Chance murmured.

"Agreed, but ... it's not often someone comes back from being declared dead," Kathie said uneasily. "It happens, but ... not like this."

"Well, either it does happen, or the coroner, paramedics, and several cadets were all incredibly wrong about it ... either way, I'm glad it's worked out like this," Zach pointed out. "But ... this isn't the first time it's happened to him, I guess. Just the first time he's been caught, so to speak."

"It happened when we were kits too, and after Greg," Midnight nodded. "I was there for that first time," she shuddered in the memory of it. "If he's fully recovered, that's a big difference from the last two times."

"What happened the first time?" Zach asked quietly. "Heard about the second one."

"We were playing on the brownstone's roof, and I dared him to jump to the roof behind it. Eight years old, neither of us really understood he couldn't do it. I didn't think he'd try."

"But he did," Chance didn't have to guess.

"Yes, and he actually made it, but he didn't keep his footing, and hit the pavement of their front stairs two stories down," Midnight said quietly, her eyes downcast. "His brain was spilling out when I got down there, blood was everywhere. After that I only remember screaming and trying to get it back in his head where it was supposed to be, then some adults pulled me away and told me he'd be okay. He was hurt, but he'd be fine."

"That was fast ... but I'll bet I know why he's in better shape this time," Zach said, trying to look at it as an intellectual issue, rather than a religious one, since if Jake did arrive the fact that it was real was self-evident. "This time he wasn't trying to hurt himself, or taking a bet ... this time, he died trying to save people. He went out a hero, so it wasn't a matter of teaching him a lesson about not doing things like that."

Midnight cocked her head at him, and really thought about it. "You might just be right," she acknowledged. "It might also be that he'll need to be up and around to catch the killer."

"This is one seriously fucked up conversation, you know," Chance observed, desperately trying to get the image of Jake's brain spilled all over the pavement out of his head. What he'd seen had been bad enough, but it wasn't very messy.

"I'll take it over the alternative," Rock murmured softly. "Gods... wish he'd called."

"Rock, this is the hard part of him to deal with," Midnight stepped close and squeezed his hand. "As best as he's able to pretend, this never happened. I doubt he'll lie, but he'll probably never want it mentioned around him. He really does hate that he's this kind of special."

"I'm not going to be able to just ignore this," Rock told her matter-of-factly. "I'm sorry, but I won't be able to."

"I do understand, just try to understand that Jake's not going to be thrilled at how everyone is so worried about him, or shocked that he came out fine," she sighed. "He'll probably be very glad to see you and Chance, but not so much about the fuss."

"We'll try to keep it quiet," Zach promised. "If it'll help ... once he's here, once I've seen him, I can get going."

"If this doesn't turn into another party like last weekend, it would probably be appreciated," she looked at him very gratefully. "He'd never ask you to leave, you know."

"I really don't think that's likely," he pointed out, nodding slightly towards the seat Jake's mother still occupied silently. "And no, but it might make things more comfortable ... once I see he's alive, honestly, we've got a day to get back to," he said, turning to nuzzle Amy lightly. "It'll be real good to know, but he won't want the extra attention."

"Agreed," Midnight nodded her thanks. "How about making us some drinks to kill the last fifteen minutes?" she glanced at Chance.

"Right," he nodded slightly, standing up. "Ah... what does his mother usually drink?" He asked Midnight, hoping she'd know.

"I'm fine with what I have, Chance," Mrs. Clawson spoke up for the first time since their brief introductions when she arrived. "He is on his way, then?"

"Yes, ma'am," Midnight nodded.

"How long?" she asked calmly, the tip of her tail twitching uneasily.

"About fifteen minutes," Midnight said. "A priestess is bringing him over."

Mrs. Clawson nodded and returned to her silent sipping of her drink, leaving the younger crowd to deal with themselves.

Chance started mixing drinks, passing them out as they all settled in to wait, Rock near the window, watching for the car that he hoped would be bringing good news.

About twenty minutes later, it was there, pulling up to the house with two Kats inside. One the large, broad frame of a Furlong female, the other lean, short and trying to quietly disappear even as he got out of the car and looked up at the place that had been host to a wild party only last weekend.

Rock moved slightly, trying to get a better look before he let himself believe, and the lean tom bolted for the front door. He was up and running to meet him in an instant, his drink abandoned as Tanner hurried to get the door open before Rock reached it. The larger tabby wrapped Jake in a smothering hug, clinging tightly to him, convincing himself that this was real.

The lean tom in his arms squirmed, got an arm free and pulled Rock's head down for a kiss as they pressed close, desperate for each other's company.

"You scared me," Rock murmured, rubbing Jake's back, aware of the eyes on them both. "C'mon, let's go in for a few."

Jake nodded, nuzzled him, and tried to steel himself for what was coming. "Who's here?"

"Chance, Midnight, Amanda, Kathie, Tanner, Zach, Amy and, um," Rock hesitated.

"And my mother," Jake nodded acceptance of the inevitable. "No press?"

"No ... not yet, and if I have my way, you'll be home and safe before they find out where to find you," Rock promised him, leading him into the house, Chance right there at the door to hug him tightly, though not quite as enthusiastically as Rock had.

"Good to see you too, partner," Jake hugged him back. "I'm sorry you had to see that. I didn't mean to get hurt."

"I know you didn't," Chance murmured, giving him another squeeze before stepping back and letting Midnight in on her greeting hug, one that included as much checking him for injuries as welcome. "For what it's worth, you probably did more to save the survivor than any of us did."

"Good," Jake let out a breath as he spotted Amanda smiling at him from slightly further back. "What about SandClaw, Brad, Black?"

"Black got his arm broken, SandClaw and Brad are fine," Chance told Jake. "After you went down, the freak took off like somebody'd lit a fire under him."

Jake nodded, uneasy. "His scent was familiar, a little."

"He was a Werewolf, not just a Dire Wolf," Amanda asked for confirmation from the one person present who might be able to.

"I'm sure of it," Jake shuddered and pressed into the embrace Rock game him. "There was a lot of power from Their world."

"Do you think you could place the familiar part of the scent?" Zach asked. "There might be some other ways to figure out who it is, but that'd be the easiest one."

"Not right now," he admitted with a shake of his head and took a couple steps to hug Zach in greeting. "My head's still buzzing too much. Maybe after I'm feeling normal again I can place it."

"Maybe," Zach nodded, hugging him briefly. "Maybe I can help too ... anyways, that's for later. Seeya later, once Rock lets you out of his sight again?" He teased lightly, trying to mask just how badly scared he'd been before.

"I will see you around," Jake promised and squeezed his friend's hand. "We will deal with this creature."

"Yes," Amanda nodded with a cool certainty befitting her native rank. "I will ask for a shaman to come, if the Enforcers will accept it. This beast is from old times."

"You're as crazy as he is," Mrs. Clawson glared at Amanda.

"Only if you consider those with more knowledge crazy," Amanda countered evenly. "Werewolves are well-known among those who know of the spirit world."

"Mrs. Clawson, I took a combat knife through every major artery in its right leg," Chance pointed out matter-of-factly. "And the library's got the stains to prove it. It should've been down from shock in seconds and dead from blood loss a minute or two later. Instead, it kept going, kept fighting, and it's still out there. Whatever it is, it's not natural."

"Mother," Jake growled out, low and flat-eared. "Shut up."

She looked at him in stunned silence, her eyes wide at the rebellion, then flattened her own ears and growled low in her throat.

"Both of you stop it," Tanner said sharply. "You're in my mate's house, and I'm not going to have a fight starting here!"

Jake backed off instantly, obedient to the ranking officer. His mother took a bit longer, but she forced her ears up a bit and nodded acquiescence.

"It is good She still has use of you," she told her son coolly before walking out the front door to her car.

Jake held on only long enough to be sure she was really gone, then buried himself against Rock's solid support and started to shake.

"It'll be all right," Midnight put a hand on his shoulder while Rock held him tightly.

"Come on, I'll get you home," Rock murmured, nuzzling his head gently. "Can you guys take care of anything else that has to happen?" He asked hopefully, looking between the other faces he knew.

"The paperwork is under way, and as a Priestess of Bastet witnessed this, this is unlikely to be much debate on events," Amelia spoke up and gave each of her nephews a hug. "I'll run as much interference as I can."

"We can handle much of the rest," Kathie nodded solemnly. "At least until Jake's needed in person. So rest. It'll be next week before it gets that far. We'll warn you before the officials come if we can."

"Thanks, everyone," Rock nodded gratefully to them, and guided an unresisting Jake out to his car. When they were in the front seat, he leaned over to hug Jake again.

"I know Midnight told me you wouldn't want a big deal made out of it, but damned if it's hard not to," he murmured, kissing Jake's cheek. "You had me scared," he admitted softly.

"Had me scared too, for a split second before I died," he admitted and shifted for a gentle kiss. "I'm so sorry you had to go through this."

"It's the sort of thing I signed up for, when I started dating an Enforcer," Rock murmured. "It hurt ... but I'm just glad to have you back."

Jake nodded, hesitating briefly before he sighed. "You know this'll happen again, probably several times, and then one day I really won't be back." He desperately didn't want Rock to leave him, but he owed his lover the full truth, now that he could understand.

"As long as you don't start relying on it, I think I can handle it," Rock told him gently, squeezing his shoulder before starting the car. "I'd just rather not hear about it too often."

"I'd rather it never happens and I'll never count on it," Jake shuddered, leaning lightly against Rock as they started to move. "It's good to be back with you and all, but that is so not my idea of a fun day."

"No, I'll bet it's not," Rock nodded slightly. "At least you don't have half the bones in your body broken anymore ... so, since I think you've got the evening off, what do you want to do?"

"Dinner, and spend some very quiet time with you," he murmured, briefly closing his eyes. "I'm had quiet enough excitement for one day, and I'm starving."

"Why don't I stop at Hardee's on the way back into town, or we could order pizza," Rock suggested with a smile. "And quiet sounds very good."

Hardee's sounds good," Jake smiled up at him, openly grateful that they were still a couple after this. "Pizza can be later, if we end up hungry again."

Rock smiled, wrapping an arm around Jake's shoulder as they drove, hugging him close.

"Burgers it is then," he purred, heading back into the city.

Lierok sniffed the air hungrily, skulking around the outside of the small house. He knew that a handful of Wolves lived here ... strong Wolves, good fighters, but that was what he wanted. The Enforcer vehicles parked nearby said that they were special forces ... the best the Enforcers had to offer.

The best MegaKat City had to offer, in terms of warriors.

And his nose told them their Alpha bitch was in heat, along with her Beta. The three males were gone, and a third female was in the house, a young one; too young to breed.

He licked his lips, salivating freely, as he stalked around the house to the Alpha's bedroom, trying to figure out the best way to get inside. The doors and windows were all locked, but on the second floor, the pup's room from the smell of it, a window was open and the sounds of a TV drifted down over the sounds of the two females pleasuring each other.

He looked up, considering the jump. He could make it easily, he was sure. The question was if he could silence the pup in time. His host recoiled at the idea of making her join in the fun for the night, and he wasn't much for it himself. Killing her would be possible ... but again, his host railed against that thought.

His host was stronger tonight, galvanized by what had happened the night before ... and Lierok's hold was slightly weaker with the waning moon. If he could figure out a way to do this without bloodshed, it would be better ... and more impressive, when it was discovered.

He prowled around the house one more time, then made the jump, his head going in first as he tried to squeeze his body inside before the pup sleeping in front of the TV woke up and yelled for her mother.

It was a tight fit; the window cracked, waking the pup. She stirred, looking up towards him blearily ... her eyes snapped open as she realized he wasn't supposed to be there, but it was too late. He lunged, clamping a hand around her muzzle, keeping her from screaming.

"Be very, very quiet," he rumbled lowly. She was young ... maybe ten, eleven years old. Not too young at one point in time, but these days, definitely so. "I'm not going to hurt you," he told her, honestly meaning it for once. "Not unless you make me. You'll be quiet, and you'll behave, and you, your mother, and her lover will all be fine. Do you understand me?"

The pup, her beautiful tri-colored fur bristled in fear and her tail tucked between her legs, nodded as best she could. Even this young and terrified, he could see she was her mother's daughter. Survival made her submit, but there was no submission behind her eyes. This pup would make a fine Alpha one day.

Perhaps the female of one of his pups. He chuckled his satisfaction at the idea, then released her body, keeping a hand around her muzzle until he'd taken the sheets and torn them to use to bind her.

"Good girl," he praised her. "Stay still; this is just to make sure you behave." He bound her, praising her obedience in letting him do so, and then left the room, leaving the pup unharmed except for the fear he could smell lingering behind him ... the fear that was quickly drowned out by the enticing smell of two females in heat. As he moved, he undressed, stalking down towards the bedroom. He'd only been planning on the Alpha, but with two bitches here ... he was hard pressed to come up with any reason but tradition to limit himself so.

And, for once, tradition wasn't much of a reason to him.

He found their door, locked, but it wasn't much of a hindrance. He pressed an ear to the door, listening, wrapping a massive hand around the knob and preparing to turn it until the lock broke if necessary to get through. He was just hoping for a good moment, when he could do it without being heard.

A deep howl of pleasure gave him his moment, and the door gave way easily. It was really only meant to keep the pup out, not anyone like him.

The massive master bedroom opened up to him, and it's king-sized bed with two very lovely and wound up females working on each other until the tri-colored one looked up, her expression furious as her lips curled back in a challenge to whoever had dared invade the very heart of her den.

"You have no male," he pointed out with a low rumble, taking a defensive posture ... not a submissive one, but ready in case she wasn't quite as eager to accept him as he was to take her. Still, he made a point of letting his powerful, heavily muscled body show to her, making a display of himself and what he had to offer her.

Her Beta shifted back, eyes flicking between the pair uneasily.

"You're audacious," she granted him and moved to stand, her posture aggressive but not ... precisely ... threatening. "What makes you think you are worthy of me?"

"I am Lierok, Beta of the Wyld Lord's pack," he introduced himself properly. "It would be a great honor to have me sire your pups," he rumbled with a grin, shifting to stand more now that she hadn't attacked him out of hand. He stood at his full height, two feet taller than she was, his muscles rippling under his fur. "I am Lierok, Dire Alpha, Beta of the Wyld Pack. I am a greater warrior and hunter than you will find anywhere in this world, let alone this city. I have faced the Dragon of Death and won, lead the Great Pack in battle against the great Lions of the mountains long before this city stood, and drove them out, into the plains beyond the lands of the Wolves, making this place safe for our kind until I joined the Wyld Lord himself in hunting the spirit-realms, and for generations after.

"I have chosen you as a fine warrior, an Alpha of warriors. Our pups would be stronger than any Wolf in generations, destined to be great Alphas, leaders of our kind. The pride of our race, and the terror of those who would stand against them," he rumbled proudly, ready to continue if necessary, but feeling he had already said more than enough to impress even an Alpha of her standing.

He could see her shock at his claims, and made no real move when she stalked forward to sniff him, using her nose to confirm his lineage. He could see her frown briefly, but she ran her hands up his chest, feeling for what sight could lie about.

"Why return now?" she demanded, looking up at him with open consideration on her face.

"I was summoned by a fool," he rumbled, reaching up to run his fingers along her muzzle. "A weakling who thought he could control me, and thought very wrong ... I do not have much time here, but time enough to find a mate. You already have a fine daughter," he said approvingly. "She is scared, but unharmed, in her room."

"I am Hala, Alpha of the Killheart pack," she introduced herself and drew a deep breath of him before stepping back and dropping into an aggressive stance again. "No one sires my pups that can not defeat me."

"I would have it no other way," he rumbled, shifting into an aggressive stance of his own, giving them both a moment before he lunged for her, vaguely aware that her Beta was running from the room.

Hopefully to check on the girl, not to call for reinforcements, though he doubted that her Alpha would have approved of that sort of duplicity.

He felt her lighting-fast kick connect with his chest just before she rolled to her back and twisted up as he found his own footing, his chest stinging from a blow that at full force would have shattered bone.

"Don't hold back for me," he growled at her, ancient urges and the desire to prove himself again starting to burn through his blood as he came at her, his massive hands outstretched and ready to grab her once he got close enough.

He saw in her eyes in that brief moment before she moved that she'd decided to take him up on that challenge. A twisting kick into his ribs to turn him into a leg-powered thrust that sent both her fists into the underside of his jaw, leaving his bones shattered and lung punctured.

He coughed up blood, but caught her midsection, whirling to throw her onto the bed as though the blow to his chest and jaw hadn't bothered him at all. He spit out a few teeth she'd loosened, his body already recovering as he leaped for her.

She let him, kicking her feet up in the last second to nail his chest again, squarely above his heart, and rolled her shoulder into a knife-hand slice across his eyes.

He snarled, twisting to bite down on her arm, forcing himself not to hurt her too badly. Sheer pride and will got him through the pain while his body repaired itself ... one of the benefits of having a host like this one, a body that could heal almost as quickly as it could be hurt. He grabbed her arm, forcing it back to the bed as he blinked the blood from his eyes, her scent and his adrenaline feeding the lust that was becoming increasingly distracting. He tried to get her other arm, rapidly approaching the point where he was willing to make the choice for her.

"I am most impressed, Lierok of the Wild Lord," Hala rumbled and shifted to spread her legs under him. "We will make fine pups."

"Very fine," he agreed, kissing her with bloody lips as he drove his thick, throbbing shaft up into her fiery hot sex and took her with an abandon that even the slaughter couldn't match.

To have such a fine female hot for him, howling for him, breeding for him ... it was more than he even remembered in life.

He inhaled her potent scent, his knot swelling as he pounded into her sex. A low, lusty growl built up in his throat as the Beta returned, adding her own arousal to the air.

Later ... first, he would breed the eager bitch beneath him until she was completely sated. She'd be much less likely to object then, and he could already tell the Beta was more than willing to submit to him, if her Alpha allowed.

She howled, her body tightening around him in waves when he finally drove his half-swollen knot into her and began to thrust in short, rapid humps that tightened his balls and washed raw pleasure across his entire body.

His howled along with her, the sounds harmonizing as he spilled his seed, his essence, and a fragment of his power deep into her sex, waiting for the chance to make the pups he wanted from her so very badly.

Hours later and finally sated, Lierok pulled out of the Alpha she-Wolf one last time, licking her muzzle tenderly. The Beta had long ago fallen asleep, and was snuggled up against the both of them, her sex full of his seed. As much as he rather wanted to stay with the two lovely she-Wolves, he knew that he couldn't afford to.

Dawn was approaching, and he had to be out of here before they found who he was.

"I have to leave," he told the Alpha apologetically. "Take good care of our pups, all of them," he rumbled, nuzzling her neck.

"I will," she promised sleepily and reached up to claim one last kiss. "They'll grow up strong and fierce."

"Like their parents," he agreed with a low rumble, returning the kiss heatedly before turning to give her Beta one parting lick and climbing out of bed. Looking back, he saw the little girl curled up by the door, sleeping.

"Seems she watches," he chuckled to himself, carefully walking out over her. He left through the back door, then got down on all fours and shook himself out. It had been quite a night.

He started running back towards his host's home, letting out an exuberant howl as he did so, the sound echoing through the streets of the city for miles, and sending a message that would rattle the souls of the Wolves who lived in its concrete confines.

He was here, an Alpha greater than any had known in centuries ... and this city would be His.

Zach woke up, stretching in his own bed, alone this time, groaning softly as he looked at the clock with an irritated expression before hammering the snooze button.

"At least the dreams were better last night," he murmured, flopping back into bed for a few moments. He needed a shower, badly ... apparently, the dreams he'd had about Amy had worked on him better than usual. Didn't need to change the sheets though, which surprised him a bit.

He climbed out of bed, heading for the shower. Didn't matter; he had other things to worry about today.

He showered quickly, washing the smell of arousal out of his fur, and hit the blowers. The phone rang just as he was climbing out, and he paused just long enough to grab his underwear, pulling them on and grabbing the phone on the third ring.

"Hello?" he greeted the caller.

"Zach?" the somewhat familiar female voice on the other side asked him.


"It's Dr Sinnian. I was wondering if you felt up to telling me about Jake. I hear he recovered from death yesterday."

"Hard to believe, but yes," Zach nodded, new relief welling up every time he thought about his friend being alive. "And sure ... where do you want me to meet you, Dr. Sinnian?"

"My office?" she asked hopefully. "Or somewhere on campus, though I understand the library won't be opened for at least another day."

"I can understand why," he said easily. "Five rapes, four murders, one maniac ... the place has to be a mess, especially after the fight. Your office is fine; I'll be there in about fifteen minutes?" He offered.

"That would be great," he could all but hear her smile. "Have you had breakfast yet?"

"Actually, no, but I'd been planning on grabbing something on the way in," he explained. "I should still be there on time. Maybe you can answer a few questions for me too, when I'm there."

"I'll certainly try, and if you don't mind, I'll probably be eating when you get here. It's been quite a morning. It's not often the Enforcers ask me for answers," she chuckled softly. "See you soon, then, Zach, and drive carefully."

"I will," he smiled, hanging up and going to get dressed, mentally planning out the best route to take on the way in.

Fifteen minutes later, he was finishing off a donut and hurrying up the stairs to Dr. Sinian's office. He knocked when he got there, surreptitiously brushing a few crumbs off of his shirt as he waited for her to answer the door.

"Come in," she called out instead.

As soon as he opened the door, it became clear that she'd called out because moving would have been perilous to the barely-hanging-together sandwich she was eating.

"Find a seat, if you can," she grinned at him teasingly, unabashed about the state of her office. "And you're welcome to what's not in front of me," she nodded towards the bowl of fruit, yogurt and granola and a second glass of milk.

"Thanks," he chuckled, snagging an apple and carefully moving a stack of books and journals off a chair, sitting down after he had them in place. "Huh ... didn't think Dr. Lanyon's article was ready yet," he mused, noting one of the titles advertised in the top magazine. "So, why have the Enforcers been asking you about the murders?" He asked her curiously, taking a bite of the apple.

"Not the murders, well, not directly, but about resurrection, its limits, its effects and such, and about werewolves. Detective Favad-Talon is not a happy person right now," she chuckled. "I really wanted to know about Jake, so when I try to talk to him, I don't come off like a reporter. He's the first confirmed resurrection in over a century in MKC."

"Honestly, Dr. Sinnian, Jake would be a lot more comfortable if people just didn't ask him a lot about it," Zach offered. "Believe me, I sympathize with wanting to know about it, but he doesn't want to be treated differently because of it. He'd rather it wasn't happening at all," he admitted.

"He doesn't?" she looked honestly quite surprised.

"No ... I've heard all the rants before, I just wasn't sure how much of it to believe until now. Basically, he'd be happier if nobody knew anything about this. It's not going to happen that way, not with his death being announced publicly, but...." He sighed, shaking his head.

"For whatever reason ... I've got my theories, but no proof, obviously ... Bastet seems to have a personal interest in him. She's keeping him from dying until he's jumped through the hoops she's chosen for him, which is something he hates right there. On top of that, his mother's convinced that he's simply insane, right along with most people who hear about it. I was there when she saw him after he got out of the morgue ... even after that - even after seeing her son come back from the dead, she's convinced that he's crazy. Of course, she thinks the entire werewolf angle on the attacks is psychotic too ... woman desperately needs to get her head examined," he grumbled.

Abi shook her head with a sigh. "I'm sorry he's so unhappy. He says he's been brought back before?"

"Twice; once when he was a kit, and once after he graduated and got blacklisted from the industry he'd been working to get into all his life," Zach told her. "I think it was the second time that really cemented how much he didn't like it in his head. The first time had been when a dare went bad, but the second time he apparently ended up getting lectured on just what he was supposed to be doing with his life and how he wasn't doing it right. Both times he came back he was only whole enough to survive; this time he came back in much better shape, either because of the circumstances of his death or because he was going to be necessary to take down the werewolf ... we're not quite sure yet."

"What a life," she murmured after another bite of sandwich, both of them relatively quiet as they ate. "You said you had a theory on what Bastet wants with him?"

"Yes," Zach nodded. "I'm sure you remember the legends of the Divine Champions; I suspect that Jake has been picked as Bastet's, and possibly Halikar's. It's the only reason I can think of that explains everything I've heard, and after this I've got no reason to believe that Jake and Midnight are simply insane or making up stories for some other reason ... especially given how much Jake doesn't want it getting out."

Abi leaned back, her eyes wide behind her glasses as she pulled up the legends and stories in her mind. "If he is, those around him are likely to have short lives."

"Certainly not uneventful ones," Zach nodded grimly. "That, or they'll be of the same caliber ... I've done a little poking around, and there are some interesting indicators. Need more time to find out more though, especially since not all the information I need is public record yet."

"I do have access to a fair amount that isn't," she offered. "What are you looking for?"

"It's probably personal to each of them, but I need to try and find more information about Chance and Rock," Zach explained. "There are some pretty significant chunks of their lives I don't know about ... for Chance, I know it's intentional, so I don't want to pry. What I have found on the record is bad enough. But for Rock, there's a stretch when he was in Sayden Bay when he was associated with a couple people I think were involved in the Temple of Pain. Don't think he was a member himself, but they took a special interest in him."

"I'm sure I could find out, but why?" she asked, trying to figure out the connection.

"Bastet isn't the only one with a Champion," Zach pointed out. "I think that Rock might be a subject of interest to the Gods of Pain, particularly given that, according to a few of his old partners, he's got a knack for it. Jake has nightmares about The Demon ... it seems he's a point of interest for more than just Bastet, and if his partner is another of the Champions, or destined to become one, it could be indicating either more interest in Jake in particular, or that we're going to be looking at a major divine dust up in MegaKat City some time in the next fifty years or so. I'm not sure which scares me more," he admitted, taking the second glass of milk and a long drink from it.

"I'm not close to him, so the major dust up scares me a lot more," Abi murmured, thinking the pieces through. Zach had been right, it wasn't proof, but entire generations of archaeologists based theories on much less. "What's Chance's link, and any thoughts on who The Demon really is? I can think of a few candidates that have been called that, but none are current."

"Chance's link ... possibly Halikar, possibly collateral damage, as horrible as that sounds. If his cousin is one Champion and his partner another, he'd be a locus no matter what. As for the Demon... we've been theorizing about where Dark Kat gets his Creeplings for the better part of a semester now. That could make a lot of loose ends tie up."

"So you theorize that the Demon is trying to take out Bastet's champion without risking his own?" she said thoughtfully. "You are right about Dark Kat, though in either case, there are still quite a few possible Powers it could be."

"I'd theorize that the Demon is trying to subvert Bastet's Champion to his own service," Zach said. "Which would involve keeping his own Champion out of the line of fire until just the right moment. And you're right about the identification; it's not really something I've developed too far, or looked into too much. I try not to get too involved with dark gods; they've got an easier time noticing me than most folks."

"Quite true," she agreed with a nod. "You do need to be careful, even with a minor gift for magic. So what do you think about the others close to Jake?"

"Midnight ... close associate, but no signs of divine interest in her, beyond the possibility that Bastet might want her as a mother for Jake's kittens. She's got a definite interest in being a parent, but that's the only real support for it. His ex boyfriends... just that. As for myself... I'm not sure if it's just backlash to avoid sounding like an arrogant wannabe, I really don't think I've been singled out by anybody. Fate, maybe, it's a coincidence that I would've hooked up with Jake the way I did, but nothing specific in mind."

"Well, from all I've read, most divine champions know what they are before their lives get too interesting," she mused. "Though your gift for magic may just make you unusual enough to handle being around Jake for long. If this is any indication, he's not easy to be around for long."

"No ... no, he isn't," Zach agreed. "So ... with what they asked about werewolves, did they give you any more details about what happened?"

"Very little, but they know that the same Kat-based werewolf is responsible for both attacks," she said quietly. "They've asked me to pull together all the information I can about them."

"Do you know if there are any known groups of them out of Xenquii?" Zach asked her softly.

"There is certainly an historical precedence to support their existence there," she nodded slightly. "Whether they have moved here; not that I have an indication of. Why?"

"It's related to the murder of Lance and Yolanda, more than the latest batch," he explained. "I don't know if it's connected, but a Xenquii werewolf makes more sense than a Wolf and a Cheetah who, out of the blue, decided to reenact a war crime nobody's supposed to know about but the survivors."

That raised an eyebrow. "You know a lot more than you should," she said uneasily. "What war crime?"

"Off the record, but Jake gave me some details, hoped I could help with the investigation," Zach explained. "And the crime... the 'Pretty Dragons,' or 'Tham's Dragons,' depending on who you're talking to. One of their generals went into a number of rebelling villages, took the eldest daughter of each family and raped them to death, publicly. The General was executed for what he did, and wiped out of Xenquii history. I've heard about it from refugees, who talked about it with me piecemeal when they were explaining how the Empire had done worse than what they did to the Peace Corps team that died over there, but otherwise they don't want to talk about it, for the most part. So if there's a werewolf re-enacting the crimes ... like it looked might have been happening with Yolanda ... it seems likely that it's one from Xenquii."

All the color drained from Aby's face at the thought of what could possibly cause the Xenquii Empire to wipe a general from history, given the atrocities they quite willingly spoke of to outsiders.

"He did far more than rape them to death, I think," she said when she finally regained her voice. "Just that would be nothing to an empire that buried people alive and invented the death of a thousand cuts."

"It was the method, more than the rape," Zach admitted. "All the girls were paralyzed first. Enough that they couldn't run, but not enough that they were numbed. They each had to watch as a twisted sadist who'd have made Tamorl cringe indulged new and exotic ways of killing. Several victims were raped abdominally ... through the navel, left to bleed out afterwards. Others were strangled with their own entrails. One...." He shuddered. "The one who inspired the name 'Tham's Dragons' had her face plunged into a vat of boiling oil while she was raped. The only part of her that could feel everything. It goes on from there, but we are eating," he pointed out, though his appetite, at least, was largely dulled.

"I ... I think the Enforcers would like everything, and I mean everything, you know about this," she said seriously, her own meal forgotten. "How long ago was Tham?"

"About twenty years ago. Long enough for a generation of Xenquii refugee children to grow up with him as a legend, not long enough to be purely legend," Zach said seriously. "To them, he's a demon, and they don't talk about him for fear of calling him back. But plenty long enough for somebody who knew about it - whether a refugee or an immigrant - to decide that it was an excellent way to create terror by re-creating it. And you're probably right ... Jake was going to introduce me to the Detectives who'd be interested, but then the other night happened before he had the chance."

"I think it might be worth introducing you to them soon, later today?" she glanced at him, not sure he was really up for it yet.

"I do have to teach your Comparative Theology classes later today, but once I'm done with those ... well, the library is closed yet, so not like I can work on my thesis that much."

"I'll call Detective Favad-Talon and find out when she'd like to talk, then," Abi nodded and forced herself to finish her breakfast. She looked up compassionately at Zach. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Right now ... not really," he said. "Jake died ... but he did come back. It was a Hell of a shock yesterday, but he'd be one of the first people to tell me it's time to get back to work, if you asked him. Though if you could stick around campus today, in case I end up changing my mind while there's still a class to go?" He asked her hopefully.

"Easily," she smiled gently and reached over to squeeze his hand. "How is Jake doing?"

"Better than he has any right to be," Zach smiled. "He went home with his boyfriend yesterday, and I think he's going to be pampered far more than he's comfortable with for a few days. Midnight was actually almost relaxed about the whole thing ... Chance seemed to be holding up pretty well too. The others ... actually," he said, checking his watch, "they'll be getting the full details and announcement from the Enforcers about Jake's miraculous recovery in about a half hour or so. I'm supposed to be there, along with the rest of the friends he doesn't know he still has."

"Do you mind if I come along?" Abi asked, intensely curious. "Perhaps you could introduce me to Midnight? I do want to know about the resurrection, and I will do my best not to bother Jake about it."

"She'll be willing to talk about it, more than he will," he nodded. "And sure; we'll have plenty of room, I'm sure. Want to get going, or anything else you want to do first? I was kinda hoping to get there early, let a few people know that Jake's not as bad as the news reports made it sound."

"I thought that was what this meeting was about?" she looked at him curiously as they stood and began to walk out to their cars.

"His last boyfriend, Greg ... he took the news really hard, from what I found out," Zach said softly, walking with her. "I ended up getting his boyfriend on the phone, the guy was a real wreck. I have to let him know as soon as I can see him; he wouldn't believe me over the phone."

"And Jake's not likely to want to offer any proof, I expect," Abi nodded, then sighed. "I'll follow you in," she said as she veered off to her own car, parked not far from his in the employee lot.

Zach climbed into his own car, starting it and pulling out, waiting for Abi to be ready before he left.

She'd been right ... though, technically, Jake didn't even know that Zach still spoke to Greg, even if only once in a while. He'd pushed the older tom away, hard, after being blacklisted, but Greg ... well, he'd never asked, but it was pretty easy to tell that Greg was still in love with Jake, to some extent.

Zach was honestly glad that Jake and Rock weren't going to be at the announcement. He wasn't sure he wanted to see what it would do to Greg to see Jake having moved on like that, even if Greg had a new boyfriend as well.

"What a headache," he groaned, allowing his head to rest against the steering wheel briefly at a red light, Abi still right behind him.

Just when did it all go out of control?

If he ever got a chance to talk to the guy who'd gotten Jake blacklisted ... he'd probably feed him through a jet engine, after getting him to 'fess up. That one thing had thrown Jake's entire life into the proverbial meat grinder, and a lot of other lives around him.

He was going to meet a lot of the secondary victims today.

The light turned green, and he pulled out again. It wasn't much of a drive, and he quickly pulled in behind the Student Union where they'd be gathering soon. The Enforcer cars already there made it clear that they were ready for this. He just hoped he was too.

"Hi Zach," Kathie greeted him with a weary smile as he opened the car door. "Looks like you managed to get some sleep last night."

"You didn't?" He asked her with a bit of a frown. "What happened?"

"With two strikes on consecutive nights, we were all pulling double shifts to cover last night with every officer we could. Even cadets were used to free up some of the desk jobs," she said with a sigh. "I'm not sure if I'm relieved or afraid that we never found anything. The guy is not subtle."

"Ugh, sorry to hear it," he murmured. "The good news is, you won't have any more attacks for another few weeks... not from the Wolf, at least. Maybe his other self, but that's another issue."

"Hu?" she blinked at him, her mind clicking into gear fast. "What makes you say that?"

"Didn't you hear yesterday? According to everything that Chance had to say about it, about how quickly he healed, he's probably a werewolf. That means that he's got three nights, the three nights of the full moon, unless he's a skinwalker... and if he was a skinwalker, he's a real damned smart one to wait for the first night of the full moon to make his appearance. He wouldn't throw away his advantage this soon, I don't think."

"I heard the werewolf part, but I figured the full moon bit wasn't, well, going to help us that much," she admitted. "You really know about those creatures?"

"My thesis is on magic; supernatural critters are a secondary interest," he explained. "A particularly nasty one sometimes, but it's there. But I think you'll find that the next few weeks are more normal... this guy won't be likely to show until the next full moon. That's when you start upping patrols again, if I'm right. Dr. Sinnian would know more," he said, indicating the approaching shekat.

"Do you have any contacts with Supernatural Investigations? At this rate, they'll be in charge shortly," Kathie included them both in the question. "I know Detectives Favad-Talon and Brown are fairly open to outside help, if it knows what it's talking about."

"I audited their session last semester, and Dr. Siniah said they spoke to her earlier," Zach said easily. "We were planning on speaking with them later."

"Good, good," Kathie nodded with a grateful smile that she didn't have anything more on her plate. "Just how many are coming, if you know?"

"At least twenty," Zach said after a quick mental count. "Only a couple folks aren't from the university, as far as I know."

"Any likely to be hysterical, when they hear about it?" She asked, wondering if they'd need any extra help.

"Much less so than when they heard he died," Zach shook his head, keeping an eye out for the large gray tabby that he was hoping to tell early. "Even if they don't believe you, the worst shock is over, if they made it this far."

"Okay ... we'll head in, it looks like you've got somebody you're looking for," Kathie said, turning to go inside. "Thanks for the help getting this together," she added as she moved into the gathering crowd.

Abi smiled at him and headed into the growing gathering, now likely forty strong, and left Zach to his search. It didn't take long before an expensive car pulled up and the driver, a Tiger with regal bearing, got out, only to go to the passenger side and coax a gray tabby out.

Zach hurried over as he recognized Greg, his tail swishing behind him.

"Hello, I'm Zach Tanner, the one who called," he told the Tiger by means of introduction. "Can I speak with Greg for a moment?"

He gave a look at Greg, who nodded, and walked off a bit; enough for privacy, not enough to truly be gone.

"Stan's being a real gem about all this," Greg tried to smile. "I didn't think it'd hit me nearly this hard. Not after so long."

"I'm sorry you had to find out the way you did," Zach said softly. "At least you have him there for you. Look ... I wanted to tell you this now, before everybody else finds out, because I think you've got more right than just about anybody else here to know ... certainly more than I do. Jake's okay," he said, deadly serious. "It's insane, I know, but he came through." It was easier to explain than 'he came back,' and maybe something that Greg would accept a bit more quickly. "You know him though ... he doesn't want anybody making a big deal out of things, so he's only let the people he thought he was closest to know so far. That's what this gathering's really for."

"While he's recovering, so everyone else knows, from a real person," Greg said shakily. "Thank you," he barely got out in a whisper, then straightened himself a bit. "How is Jake doing, besides getting hurt like that?"

"Better than he was right after ... you know," Zach said, reaching up to squeeze Greg's shoulder. "He's a Cadet now, you know that much ... he's got a good Kat for his partner, guy just about went ballistic when he was hurt. Chased the guy who did it, on foot, for a couple blocks before he lost him. Beyond that ... he has found a different boyfriend, though it took him two years to do it. Rock's his partner's cousin ... and good for him, I think. Rock's the one taking care of him right now."

"I-I kind of assumed he would, if he made it past the depression," Greg nodded, sad but accepting. "As you can see, for all I still probably love Jake, I've moved on as well. Come on, I'd like to introduce you. He's really been incredible the last couple years."

"I'd be glad to meet him," Zach smiled, following Greg over to the Tiger. "And I don't know that he's really past it yet, but it's a lot better. He just got lucky that he got a partner who can't understand being single and not dating," he chuckled slightly.

"His partner set him up with his cousin?" Greg raised an eyebrow. "Zach Tanner, my boyfriend, and soon to be mate, Stan Wieth."

"Indirectly," Zach explained briefly. "Stan, it's a pleasure to meet you," he said, looking up at the much taller Tiger and shaking his massive hand. "I'm glad you guys managed to get here."

"You made it sound important, and I can see it was already worth it," he smiled at Greg's slightly better expression.

"Yes ... Jake isn't actually dead, the way the news said. It's ... very complicated. Come on, let's go in and let everybody hear the news," Zach suggested.

"Sounds good," Greg agreed and the three headed for where Kathie was starting to get everyone's attention.

"Okay, I know everyone is here because they were told that the news didn't report Jake's condition correctly," she spoke evenly to the gathering. "The fact is, he's not dead. He was injured in the attack, but he is currently recovering with his boyfriend and should be back on campus next week. Because of red tape, the official announcement won't be for a few days, but we thought those who know him deserved to hear it before you saw him walking around."

A collective sigh of relief passed through the crowd, along with a murmur, and a number of questions.

"What really happened to him then?" Somebody asked ... Zach glanced over, recognized Sheila, one of the shekats Jake had helped through Chemistry years before.

"The news did get the rest of it correct," Kathie told her. "He was with a group of cadets that interrupted the second known scene of a killer and was injured when he attacked the perpetrator trying to escape. I do not have details, I wasn't there, but I believe what was thought to be death was actually unconsciousness and suppressed heart and breathing. What I do know is that he is very much alive. I spoke with him in person last night."

"So whoever did this hasn't been caught yet?" Somebody else asked. Zach scowled; he didn't recognize the voice. A quick look told him what he needed to know, and he leaned over towards Dr. Sinnian.

"Isn't that Mike Waters, from the school paper? If you can let 'em know...."

"If we had, it would have made more news than Jake's death," Kathie pointed out, then raised an eyebrow when Tanner walked up to the tom who'd asked the question and rather roughly pulled him away. He hissed something in the reporter's ear that made the brown tabby go pale. Tanner turned him loose, and watched as he hurried away.

"Reporter, partner," Tanner answered Kathie's questioning stare. "He'll behave."

"Right," she nodded. "Like we said, we're just letting Jake's friends know for now, so if you could try to keep this quiet...."

The Q&A continued, but Zach was distracted when Detective Brown walked over to him and Dr. Sinnian quietly.

"Would this be a good time to talk?" He asked them quietly.

"Sure," Zach nodded. "We were looking for a chance later anyways."

"Yes," Abi agreed as the three began to move away from the gathering.

"Tanner said that you knew something about werewolves," Detective Brown said, looking back at Zach as they walked outside. "Thinking back to the class we handled, I think he's right. Anything that didn't come from that class though?"

"Not much that didn't come out in it," he confirmed. "I know a bit about some other things that might be related to this though ... best to cover it with a bit more privacy though," he said, indicating the students making their way to morning classes.

"How are you feeling, Jenny?" a slender chocolate Burmese shekat in nursing whites walked into Jienhue Young's private hospital room.

"I'm feeling," Jenny offered, looking on the bright side. "My legs are starting to tingle some when I try to move them, and my arms ... is that a good sign?"

"Yes, it is," Nurse Sadi smiled warmly at the paralyzed girl in her care. "Do you feel up to talk to a couple detectives?"

"I guess ... have my parents called yet?" She asked hopefully.

"Yes, they should be by later today," Sadi said gently. "I'll show the detectives in," she added as she turned and motioned the golden tabby and Lioness in.

"Good," Jenny murmured, pulling her head up, trying to sit up as well as she could. She had more movement than she'd been supposed to; she'd been lucky that way. "Hello," she said politely.

"Hello, Jenny," the dark sandy furred Lioness smiled warmly at her and sat down next to the bed. "I am Detective Kakra Sandru of the sexual crimes unit. This is Detective Hellen Favad-Talon of supernatural investigations," she introduced the blond tabby. "We'd like to talk to you about what happened."

"If I have to, can I ask to stop?" She asked them cautiously, sitting up more with the Nurse's help. "Thank you," she said, looking up at the Burmese fem who was trying to be unobtrusive enough to avoid being sent out.

"At any point," Sandru promised as Hellen settled down. "We are not here to interrogate you, Jenny. You have not done anything wrong."

"I know," she nodded. "But...." She swallowed hard, shaking her head. "Go ahead. What he did was horrible, I want to help stop him."

"Good," Sandru squeezed her hand gently. "We know what attacked you was a Kat-based werewolf. We have several Enforcer cadets that have provided an excellent physical description of him. What would be most helpful is more personal information. Something that might translate to his Kat form."

"He is from Xenquii," she said softly. "Spoke it well, for a Wolf, and he knew about the Demon General. Either he's from there, or his family was, like mine."

Hellen made a quick hand signal to cut off Sandru's question about the general, and was given a slight nod in acknowledgement.

"Did he give you a name?" Sandru asked gently.

"The Lioness called him Lierok ... I don't know what the name meant, but he answered to it. Then he started torturing her with the acid," she shuddered.

"Lierok," Hellen murmured. "I know that name. Haven't heard it in ages, but we have records of him somewhere."

"It isn't a name from my father's land," Jenny offered. "But I don't think it was the Kat's name ... it was the Wolf's. He's the one who answered."

"It is still somewhere to start," Sandru smiled at her, pleased to have two very useful bits already. "Did he do anything that might indicate a profession or other history?"

"He didn't set off the alarms," she offered. "He might have had access to the library. More than that ... he was very good with the needle, but not good enough to notice when I moved a bit ... it sounds silly, but he might be learning to cook."

"What kind of cooking gives this kind of knowledge?" Sandru asked curiously.

"Xenquii, at least some of it. It's the way my great-grandfather prepares fashi naga; the needle paralyzes the fish, so it doesn't feel the pain when you fry it. It works the same way with people, but our spines are larger so it doesn't stop pain, just control," she said, nodding down towards her still mostly useless arms.

"Are you likely to recover?" Sandru asked.

"Eventually, I should," she nodded. "It's not likely to be permanent. Even done perfectly, it just lasts for years ... more than long enough to do whatever you want to the victim. If I'm lucky, I should be able to move fairly well in a few months."

"Good to hear," Hellen smiled, honest in her words. "You will have the best medical care available."

"Did you know any of the other women?" Sandru asked. "Or catch any of their names?"

"No," Jenny said, shaking her head. "I think he was trying to do something with their bodies, but I couldn't see well enough to know," she told them. "It might not be anything either, it just looked like he was trying to pose some of them ... if it's okay, I think I need to try and get some rest," she said apologetically. "I'm sorry I haven't been more help."

"You have been a great deal of help," Hellen assured her honestly and stood. "A name and likely origin are of great value to the investigation. Rest well. If you feel like speaking to us again, just tell your nurse."

"I will, and thank you," Jenny promised them, grateful that no one had thought her crazy for what she had seen. She watched them leave, sure the pair was actually excited by some of what she had said, then closed her eyes to rest for a time.

Elsewhere in town, thoughts of werewolves and murderers not far from his thoughts, but not immediately in them either, Rock climbed out of bed and walked out to where Jake was making breakfast.

"Y'know, you don't have to do that today," he murmured, wrapping his arms around his lover from behind and nuzzling his neck.

"I know I don't ever have to," Jake turned his head with a smile and nuzzled him. "I happen to like cooking, when the audience enjoys it."

"Okay then," Rock purred, turning the nuzzle into a tender kiss. "How're you feeling?"

"Uneasy, I guess," he murmured, leaning back into the contact and closing his eyes briefly. "Between press, classmates and command ... I don't really want to face any of it."

"I don't blame you ... though Kathie, Tanner, and Zach are telling everybody they can that they just made a mistake, and the red tape is keeping them from saying more. Not sure if the brass will say otherwise, but ...." Rock scratched Jake's chest lightly. "Doesn't matter to me," he promised his younger lover, kissing his neck tenderly.

"Thanks," Jake sighed. "I just hope they don't get any bright ideas about trying to transfer me."

"Especially without Chance," Rock murmured, thinking about it. They probably wouldn't put either of them into a safer line of work either. "You up for a little distraction?"

"Anytime," he chuckled a bit. "You want to eat first?"

"Only if it's going to be ready in the next five minutes," Rock grinned, licking the edge of his ear.

"Mmm, I think it'll reheat just fine," Jake purred and moved the pan off the heat. "What do you have in mind?"

"Mmm ... I was thinking of picking up where we left off last night," Rock grinned, shifting to slide a hand down between them, slipping his fingers up under Jake's tail to press against his well-stretched pucker.

"You'll get no arguments from me," Jake nearly moaned.

Just like last night, Rock knew deep down in that part of him that could tell how far to push a sub, that Jake needed it simple and gentle; about as far from their normal sex as possible. He probably would for some time too, until the shock of dieing wore off.

He turned Jake around to the table they usually ate at, bending them both down over it, nuzzling Jake's neck and kissing him tenderly as he pressed his fingers up into Jake's ass, taking his time and enjoying the way his lover moaned.

"Love you," he rumbled, going over thing to do to help him relax into his skin again. "What do you think about getting out of town for the weekend, maybe the mountains? Get away from everything that's happened, and the reporters who will track down this address too soon."

"Mmm, sounds really good," Jake moaned, even as Rock felt something relax that all the grooming and massage and incredibly slow hot sex last night hadn't touched.

"Pick a direction; we'll make arrangements later," Rock promised him. "Just a place we can stay that's quiet, or somewhere we can do something?" He asked, curling his fingers to reach for Jake's prostate.

Jake's voice was stolen briefly by the shocks of pleasure. "Ohhh, south, someplace warm," he shuddered, panting as he pressed back against his lover's hand. "Somewhere we can just lay on the beach in the sun and swim in the ocean."

"I might have a friend at the club who can help," Rock smiled. "How does a beach house about two hours out of town sound? About ten minutes from the main road to Haven, down on the beach, and not a soul for miles...?"

"Sounds great," Jake groaned deeply, as much from the idea of going to such a place as the pleasure making his cock quiver.

Rock shifted, pulling his fingers from Jake's body and pressing his cock up in their place with a low groan. He started to thrust slowly, laying up along Jake's lean body. He moaned low and deep as Jake's body welcomed him in and milked him lightly, intent on drawing the pleasure out.

"Just the two of us, some groceries, and nobody to bug us for days," he purred deeply, his thrusts measured and strong without the demanding pace he typically held.

"Sounds so good," Jake groaned and squeezed down on his lover. "Feels so good, you against my back."

"It'll feel even better where we're headed next," Rock promised, running his hands down Jake's hard body, taking in its wholeness and the labored breathing before he wrapped a hand around Jake's cock and began to stroke, smiling at the whimpers that Jake offered up for increased pleasure.

He worked Jake's barbs skillfully between his fingers, hoping to get him off before they moved. He knew it wouldn't be terribly hard normally, but without involving any of his lover's kinds, it was actually some work.

He caught Jake's scruff in his jaws, holding him much more lightly than usual, but it was still quite enough to trigger the desired spike of desire and Jake's cock began to dribble pre-come and his breath quickened.

Rock grinned around his scruff, starting to thrust a bit more, shifting to hit Jake's prostate ... his own balls pulled up close. He held back just a bit longer until he felt the quiver and twitching in Jake's body that meant he was past the point of no return. He groaned and gave into the rolling storm and pumped Jake's ass full of his thick, hot seed even as Jake's seed spilled over his hand and slicked the fur on his hand as he continued to stroke his lover.

"Bed, or couch?" He asked with a throaty purr, nuzzling Jake's neck.

"Mmm, couch, with porn to listen to?" he groaned, squeezing down on the thickness filling him.

"Mmm ... that one you like with the Rottie?" Rock asked with a groan of his own, pulling out of Jake reluctantly and nuzzling his back.

"Oh yeah," he shivered in excitement and turned around to embrace his lover for a long, lingering kiss. "Then maybe breakfast in bed for us both."

"Sounds good," Rock murmured into the kiss, licking Jake's nose before picking him up and carrying him out to the front room. He put him down on the couch, and turned to rewind the tape and get it started again, his tail waving lightly in the air and making a fine show of his own well-muscled ass.

Jake grinned and indulged in the view as he stretched out on the couch, his arms under his head and his legs spread.

"Like what you see?" Rock asked with a cheeky grin, starting the tape and returning to the couch, snuggling up with his lover. "Gonna be good to get out of here for a while."

"I godda admit, it will be," Jake smiled slightly and leaned up to kiss him softly. "And I've always liked what I see," he winked back. "And even more, what you make me feel."

"I do my best," Rock murmured, nuzzling his neck. "Been a while since you've had any nightmares I know of," he offered, kissing Jake tenderly.

"Still get them, just not when you're around," he purred, wrapping his arms around Rock's broad shoulders and lightly thrusting up against him as the sound from the TV turned erotic. "I don't think I've slept this much in years."

"I call that a good thing," Rock rumbled, kissing Jake and rubbing back against him, exploring his mouth with his rough tongue when Jake invited him. He didn't need words, spoken or heard, to know how to move. The tenor of his lover's body spoke volumes of how each thrust and stroke was received.

Jake moaned into Rock's mouth as his cock hardened fully and rubbed against soft fur, hard muscle and his lover's hard cock. He shuddered, his breath quickening as instinct took over and he thrust up against the body thrusting against his, rubbing sensitive skin against skin and fur.

The Kat on the screen moaned as the Rottie penetrated him, and Rock sealed his lips against Jake's, swallowing his own moans as they rubbed and ground and made out. He popped his claws out slightly, scratching Jake's sides lightly but not drawing blood. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to initiate any pain-games before Jake did. Not this soon at least; maybe not ever.

Dieing could change a guy, even if it was a third time.

Rock closed his eyes and focused on the physical, the enjoyment his lover was taking from this. Still, he couldn't completely take his mind off of what it felt like to be the caretaker of someone who couldn't die.

He just wished he could get the quiet part of his mind that was coming up with ways that could be taken advantage of to shut up. Even if Jake would probably go for it, he didn't want to do anything like that to him.

He was more concerned with the consequences ... and how hard it might become to do his part of things.

"Promise me you'll be careful," he murmured softly.

The words snapped Jake's to him instead of the intense pleasure building in his body, but it still took him a lingering moment to processes what was being asked of him.

"I promise," Jake murmured and pulled his lover back down into the exploratory kiss as his body began to shudder and his thrusts became much more demanding.

Rock forced his mind to quiet down and let him focus on their shared pleasure. His body trembled as his balls tingled and pulled up close, almost ready to spill themselves into their fur.

He swallowed a deep groan from Jake and gave one of his own as he felt hot seed splash across his cock and against his body.

His shaft twitched, and he came right along with Jake, their seed mingling, smearing in their fur as they rubbed against each other, the smell of pleasure heavy in the air with their half-muted roars.

"Mmm, oh yeah baby," Rock nuzzled him. "You are hot stuff."

"You are incredible," Jake grinned lazily up at him, then reached up to lick his chin playfully.

"You're not half bad yourself," Rock chuckled, nuzzling his neck. He lifted his head at a firm knock on the door.

"That had better be Chance or Midnight," he muttered, nuzzling Jake once more. "Be right back," he added before reluctantly getting up and heading for the door. He'd get pants if he needed them.

"Who is it?" He asked, pausing on the inside.

"Detective Hellen Favad-Talon," the strong female voice answered.

"Give us a couple minutes!" He told her, hurrying back into the main room.

"Detective," he told Jake briefly, turning off the tape. "I'll grab pants for you, might want to hit the air freshener while I'm getting 'em."

"Right," Jake sighed and sprayed the canned perfume around on his way to open the windows. "Guy or gal?"

"Gal; Hellen Favad-Talon, something like that," Rock said on his way to the bedroom for their long discarded clothes.

"What would the head of Supernatural Investigations want?" Jake frowned as he met Rock and they both got halfway presentable.

Rock opened the door to the athletic golden tabby with blond hair and bright blue eyes. Despite her strong looks, it was easily overshadowed by her uniform, and the way her nose was going a million miles an hour.

"Ah, sorry we don't have the place a bit more presentable," Rock apologized. "How can we help you, Detective?"

"I was hoping to talk to Jake for a bit," she smiled warmly at her former student. "I understand you got very close to our killer."

Rock stepped back to let her in, leaving heaving Jake to speak with her.

"Yeah," he nodded. "About as close as anybody but the victims."

"Did you notice anything about him that might be identifiable?" She asked, stepping in and letting Rock close the door.

"I think I half-recognized his scent, but I still can't place it," Jake admitted as he motioned for her to have a seat in the living room and claimed a spot next to Rock on the couch. Despite remaining socially polite, Jake made it quite clear he was comfortable claiming the tabby next to him as his lover. "Something Chance said might be more important," he shifted uneasily. "When I hit and crumpled, the werewolf seemed to be as distressed, or at least as shocked, as Chance was."

"So you think it's someone close to you," she suggested. "Or at least someone who might respect you enough to be upset by killing you, even right after what he'd just done."

"Something like that," Jake nodded reluctantly, something in the back of his mind niggling for his attention but refusing to come forward.

"Can you think of anybody that might be?" She asked him. "Classmates, old lovers, family...?" She folded her fingers, thinking about it. "Enforcers who know you?"

He sighed. "You're looking for someone who knows some magic," he said quietly. "I'm sure you know that I was killed, and didn't stay that way. I can tell when someone I'm close to is similarly affected by a Power. That wasn't a classical werewolf. It wasn't a bite or inheritance that turned him. Someone invited a very powerful Wolf spirit to them, and likely lost control of him."

"And do you know anybody who fits that description?" She pressed. "Magic isn't that common."

"Until you start working the circles I have to deal with," he closed his eyes and suppressed a shudder. "Every priest and priestess of Bastet, Halikar or any number of Wolf Gods in the city, most of those from outside that might be visiting, anyone else who'd recognize the taint we share, maybe a dozen others."

"Could that be the scent you recognized then? Your brain interpreting somebody else touched by a powerful spirit as a familiar scent?" She asked, trying to figure out how much they had to go on.

"It's possible," he nodded thoughtfully. "I didn't have long to process it, and I still can't ID it."

"So we can't actually be sure that it is an acquaintance of yours," she mused. "We can check into the various Wolf Cults though. Any particular markings that might have been distinctive, or an accent? Those things sometimes carry through."

"Faint stripes, but it barely narrows the list, if at all," he admitted. "I'm sure the base was a tomkat. I might be able to ID the base if I got close to him. It really depends on how overpowering the Wolf is. I should be able to recognize the taint, though. There aren't that many in this town with it from a Wolf, and that taint was ... distinct."

"Once you're back on duty, it would be good to have you meet with some of the lead Wolf extremists we can get access to," she nodded. "What else can you tell us about people with this sort of ... taint, as you put it?" She asked, glad for a back door to the other topic that had brought her here.

"The only thing in common is that there's a strong link to a very powerful spirit or God," he shook his head. "What it does, what boons and banes come of it ... it depends on the power involved and how it came about. Given some time with someone with it, I could tell you a lot about their connections, as they could tell about mine. It's not that different from the normal information you can gain from someone's scent, just on a different level."

"Anything in particular about this one you could tell, that you haven't mentioned yet? If you could pick up something else, a name perhaps, it could narrow our search quite a bit."

Jake sighed reluctantly and closed his eyes, pressing into Rock's strong embrace as he went back to that brief moment when his nose was right up against the monster's fur and stilled time as he focused on what information remained in his memory.

"He's ... he's in service to an old Kantin Power; very old, and once very strong," Jake began to speak, his voice a bit distant as he focused on that brief memory. "An incredibly powerful servant. I think that's the Wolf, not the host. They aren't friends, I don't think," he wondered off a bit before getting back to the point. "You're probably looking for a Beta to either Kram or Wyld, though it might be a few others. I'm not as up on the Kantin side of things as the Kat. His freedom is very limited. He rules his host, but only for a short time. If he wins, I'm going to be on the front line of those who hunt him down."

"Because of you, him, or Bastet?" Helen asked gently, knowing she was on dangerous ground here.

"Partly because whether I like it or not, this is my protectorate," Jake actually growled, surprising Rock into blinking at him. "I'm sure you're going to dig, so when you do, dig up Halikar too. I'm still not sure of His place in my life, but He's involved enough to deck me for being a stubborn brat," he dropped his eyes a bit, "and I've got the personality for Him more than Her."

"It'll serve you well," Helen offered, reaching over to squeeze his shoulder. "I should warn you, it probably won't be too long before the news sources track you down. They're not happy we're saying they jumped the gun."

"We're already planning to head out of town for the rest of the weekend," Rock told her, then paused to nuzzled his lover into a gentle kiss that calmed Jake down a fair amount. "After that ... we'll manage."

"What is the story you're going to use for it?" Jake asked quietly, focused on what he'd say when he couldn't avoid the cameras any longer.

"When he grabbed you and threw you down the stairs, you were knocked into a coma. The other cadets, inexperienced and already on edge from the fight and what they'd seen of the victims, assumed you were dead, and in the chaos everybody else agreed. You didn't come to for twelve hours or so because you didn't receive proper medical care immediately, but you still recovered without any sign of permanent harm, though you've been on medical leave while we ran a few tests to make sure of that," Helen rattled off easily. "If you'd rather any part of that got changed, change it now, before it's set in stone."

"No, that works fine," Jake nodded. "While I'm sure Amanda, Cadet Feathertail, could effectively contradict it, she won't."

"The coroner and paramedics could contradict it, but they aren't likely to either," Helen nodded. "Of course, not everybody will accept it, but we think that most people will. It's a bit more believable than the truth."

Jake nodded again. "Sooner or later someone will get the truth out, but this should buy a few years."

"With some luck," she nodded. "I should tell you, there's a certain amount of interest in you from different divisions. Special Ops is looking into every reg to see if they could bend the rules enough to let you in ... and I'll be honest, we'd love to have you in SI."

"I'm not going anywhere without Chance," he told her with quiet determination. "Though I'll take SI over special ops any day."

"Well, that's good to know," she chuckled. "Though there might not be too much choice in it ... Special Ops has quite a bit more pull than we do, with the current administration. Just stick to keeping Chance as your partner ... they won't force you to transfer against your will, and he'll need a few years in the field before he can even try getting into Ops, if he wanted to. Of course, we'd be glad to have you both too, once he's had a few years."

Rock chuckled, and Jake smiled at her in amusement.

"Chance'll never do anything but fly," Jake explained. "It's all he's wanted since he was a kitten, and he's good at it too."

"Oh well, it's worth making the pitch," she smiled. "He is good at it, from what I hear. If things ever change though, keep us in mind. Chance might not believe it, but you're both damned smart."

"Guy's been tough too long to be smart," Rock chuckled. "At least that's probably what he'd say. You're right though; he just underestimates himself in all but three places."

"Generally to other's disadvantage," Jake chuckled. "Thanks for the warning though. I kinda saw the thing with special ops coming, if they ever found out about me." He hesitated briefly. "Just how ... persistent ... are they likely to be?"

"Not likely to do anything underhanded, but they'll probably offer you and Chance the moon, once it's clear that you won't leave your pilot," Helen explained. "Improved pay, living allowances, perks you wouldn't normally get ... if you are ever tempted to sign on, be careful about your eventual squad-mates. They might not take too kindly to the preferential treatment for somebody who's got so much less experience."

"All the more reason I want to avoid it," Jake nodded his thanks. "I really don't like being treated like I'm so special because of what She does."

"I can understand that," Helen nodded. "I would like to speak with you about it some time though ... not to treat you differently, but to try and find out what's going on, and if it should go into SI's databases."

"For now though, we'd like a bit of time to ourselves," Rock said. "Thanks for the warnings."

"You are welcome," Hellen smiled and stood. "Perhaps after class next week?"

"All right," Jake nodded in agreement and stood to show her out. "I'm sure a lot is already in there. Bastet's indicated that I'm the latest in a long line of her chosen, and most of the stronger Powers have one."

"I don't doubt it, but it's a field we have very little on, actually," she explained, following him to the door. "We've certainly never had a chance to speak with one of them," she added as she stepped out. "Have a good weekend, Jake."

"He will, if I have to sit on him to make sure of it," Rock grinned.

"It won't be that hard," Jake teased him back, earning a smile from Hellen before she left.

"So ... Special Forces, huh?" Rock asked, walking up behind Jake and hugging him. "Hell of a step up, some'd say, for either of you."

"Except that Chance wouldn't fly, and everyone'll know they only want me because Bastet won't let me stay dead," Jake sighed and leaned into the embrace. "What better for a deadly situation than someone who won't stay dead? They don't care what it does to me."

"Well ... it doesn't sound like Her plans for you include dying for a living, so maybe She'll make sure you don't end up doing that," Rock suggested hopefully. "Though Chance might not think of that, in a few years. What'll you do if he does fall for it?"

"I'm not sure," Jake admitted and turned his head to nuzzle Rock. "Probably take Hellen up on her offer. I do really like the detective thing so far."

"You'd be good at it," Rock smiled, returning the nuzzle. "I should call and see if we can get the house for the weekend; you want to grab a shower while I do?"

"I am glad we were here when she knocked, though. It doesn't feel as unpleasant to talk to her about Bastet."

"Mmm," Rock finished the kiss with an affectionate lick to Jake's forehead. "I'd call that a good thing. Maybe because she doesn't seem interested in using it against you?"

"Probably," he nodded, thinking about it even as Rock started him on the way to the bathroom and a hot shower.

"See anything?" Brad asked Amanda quietly as he spotted her in the crowd. They were near the library for the second time in almost as many nights, but this time they weren't alone. Instead, they were part of the security for a candlelight vigil that had brought probably a quarter of the large campus out to pay their respects for the four students who had died there, and for the Wolf and Lioness who had died the night before them.

"Nothing but mourners," she shook her head as they continued to drift, their working grays less visible than the dress grays and obvious blasters of the full Enforcers there. "Who would want to mess this up?"

"Dark Kat would, just to make a real point," Brad pointed out quietly. "There are a lot of people here. The killer might too," he added more quietly. "If you were looking to hunt, to scare the shit out of people ... picking off some of the people around the edges of the crowed would be a real good way to do it tonight."

"True enough," she nodded, her eyes on the shadows as they meandered through the gathering. "I still don't see anything."

"Here's hoping we don't," he murmured, on the alert himself as one of Lance's teammates talked about the dead Wolf and his girlfriend.

"...a great guy; he and Yolanda lived for each other, and the team. They didn't deserve what they got, and it'll never be the same without them...."

"He talking about the same Wolf we knew?" Brad muttered quietly. "Shouldn't even be talking about him, not here ... not yet, anyways."

"Did we even find out the names of all the others?" Terin SandClaw asked as she briefly joined them.

"All but the Lioness, and I doubt she had any kin on the continent," Amanda said. "Not the way I'd want to find out, but when Anne put their faces all over the morning news, their families came forward quickly."

"Ugh ... I hope that wasn't her call," Terin sighed, shaking her head. "How's Jake?"

"Trying very hard to pretend that he's not about to become a media sensation," Amanda sighed. "For all it's going to be covered up as best it can be, that was too big a scene for it to not come out eventually. Rock's probably done a world of good for him."

"Hope so," Terin murmured. "At least he ought to be back on duty fairly soon. Ryan's already getting irritable about being off for his bad arm."

"Just remind him he got it in the line of duty," Brad tried to think on the bright side. "And there's a lot he can still do."

"Yeah, but given his favorite part of training so far is target practice, he's irritable," she chuckled slightly. "He knows it was worth it to respond though ... we just both wish we'd caught the bastard."

"I don't think anybody will argue that," Brad muttered. "That guy needs to go down, and soon."

"No arguments here," Terin murmured before drifting off, back into the crowd, keeping an eye out for trouble.

Just a few moments later, Brad heard something happening near the edge of the crowd, turning to run and see what was going on.

"Ah, crud," he hissed under his breath as he caught sight of the Wolf in the middle of things. He tagged his shoulder-radio on. "Fight brewing on the eastern edge of section three. Tony showed up. Over."

"Try to break it up; we're moving in," the reply came back. "If possible, just get Tony out of there before it gets rough. Over."

Well, at least it didn't look like he'd have to fight with Tony to do that. The Wolf looked like he wanted out as badly as the Enforcers wanted him out, but the small crowd gathering around him apparently hadn't gotten the word that he'd been cleared.

Of course... neither had the Cadets. However he'd gotten out though, he had to be a grade-A idiot to show up here, knowing it was partly for Lance and Yolanda.

"Just wanted to pay my respects," Tony protested, the first thing Brad could hear him saying, trying to explain why he'd shown up. The two Wolves who'd been his former packmates visibly didn't care as they tackled him and dragged him further into the group that was quickly becoming a lynch mob.

"Oh, you'll pay them all right," one of the Wolves growled with flattened ears. "With your hide! I don't know how you got out, but it was a damned bad idea!"

"Hey, back off, what's going on here?" Brad demanded, using his best 'I'm in charge here' voice. Not particularly easy against people who were almost twice his size, but it was his best chance.

"None of your concern, Cadet," someone else, a big tabby Kat from the football team, snapped at him and moved to block his view of what was going on.

"It is our concern," Amanda's strong voice countered as she strode onto the scene with far more authority than most ranking Enforcers did.

"Somebody let this killer out, and we're gonna make sure they don't make that mistake again," the tabby said, though a little less confidently as others, including several full Enforcers, approached.

"Not with us here," Tanner said firmly. "He didn't kill anybody; we got word just a few hours ago."

"How do you know?" another Wolf demanded, even as the two holding Tony stopped his efforts to get away.

"Forensics got their results back fast, when the second attack happened," Tanner explained. Technically, this part of things wasn't supposed to be out yet ... but it was the only way they were going to get Tony out of this without somebody getting hurt. "The same person did both attacks, and since he was in a cell, it can't be him."

"But ...." someone objected.

"You're not shitting us?" a big Wolf demanded, stalking up to Tanner and glaring down at him.

If we hadn't found out that that idiot Cheetah was lying through his teeth, do you think he'd be out?" Tanner growled lowly, looking up at the Wolf. "Tony just got in the way of his ego. Now back off."

"You don't really want to start trouble with all of us here, do you?" a Feral in officer's grays pointed out.

"Especially here," Brad added, nodding back towards the vigil that was taking notice of them. "C'mon, this isn't the place or the time."

That seemed to get through the last of their resistance.

"Get out of here," the Wolf muttered at Tony, the rest of the group starting to break up.

"Good work, all of you," the Feral nodded to the cadets present, but especially towards Brand and Amanda. "You're going to be a credit to the uniform."

"Thank you, sir," Brad said respectfully, saluting the Enforcers before they split up themselves, back to providing security ... and making sure Tony got on his way safely.

Amy leaned against Zach's arm as they walked past the turnstile and into the entrance greenway of The Aristal Garden, the finest zoo-park in MegaKat City.

"I'm glad you didn't want to go to the funerals," she murmured, nuzzling him as she breathed in the fresh grassy air. "This is so much better."

"And what conceivable reason would I have for going, unless it was to make sure Lance was under the ground?" Zach chuckled slightly, nuzzling him back. "Besides, you're right about this being better. So, where do you want to get started?"

"The aviary?" she pointed to the first of a series of buildings and netted spaces. "There's a butterfly room there too."

"Fun place to go," Zach grinned. "Maybe they'll still have the parrot display together yet; it's been a while since I've been out here," he mused, walking that way with her as they watch the other people and listened to distant animals.

A wolf pack howled in the distance, soon joined by other canine voices from around the park.

"Wonder what set them off?" she murmured, glancing towards the original singers.

"The werewolf," Zach explained softly. "Just being in the area, he'll get the wolves and dogs in the neighborhood riled. Doesn't have to be close, just somewhere they can smell him on the air. Could be miles from here."

"But it started when we walked in," she shivered, a very frightened look in her eyes. "That spell called a Wolf."

"It wasn't that type of spell," he said quietly, trying to keep from being overheard. He knew better, but most people wouldn't. "It couldn't have made me into ... that, or turned one loose, unless I'd intentionally made a bargain like that."

"Good," she murmured with another shiver and pressed close to him. "I'd hate to think you had that in you."

"You'd know by now," he murmured softly, wrapping an arm around her and rubbing her side lightly. "Besides ... I wouldn't have tried to kill Jake," he pointed out. "C'mon, let's go see the birds, let the wolves settle down."

"I like that idea," she smiled up and let him open the outer of two doors into the primary tropical aviary. "I bet there is tons of history in your head about these feathers."

"Depends on if you're interested in the feathers, or the people who liked 'em," he smiled. "The parrots have almost as many legends and stories as the rest of 'em put together ... peacocks can be interesting too."

"Anything you care to talk about, that isn't modern," she managed a small giggle. "I know they're big in a lot of places."

"Mmm ... well, how about the sunbolt hawk," he grinned, indicating a bright gold and red plume in the trees before they headed in to see the bird it belonged to, one of the few in an area of its own. "It's native to the deep rainforest regions; according to legend, the Sun King of the Crimson Fang Jaguarundi could command them, either to hunt or to harry his enemies. They could be pretty good too ... when they hit their prey, they're usually more deadly than a bullet."

"How?" her eyes went wide in honest surprise as she looked up at the relatively small and brilliantly colored predator. "He's so lovely."

"In a dive, if they've got room, they can get up to over 200 miles an hour," he explained. "When they hit, they grab onto the back of whatever they're after and then pull up - whatever they grabbed is dead before they feel anything more than the talons touching them."

"That's ... fast," Amy murmured, looking at the brilliant bird of prey on its perch. "It must be incredible to see on in action."

"Yeah, it probably is," he nodded. "Assuming you could follow it," he chuckled slightly. "Never had the chance, myself."

"Maybe they still do the raptor show," she smiled and snuggled close as they stood and watched the sunbolt hawk take off to do a lazy turn around its airy prison

"Be good to find out," he mused. "So, want to keep going?" He offered, not sure if she'd want to stay and watch the bird with the sun glinting off its wings, or go on to another of the displays.

"Sure," she nodded with a last look over her shoulder at the hawk showing off. "I wonder if he misses the open sky."

"They do let him out once in a while, I think," Zach murmured as they headed towards another area, this one filled with imported trees and brightly colored toucans. "At least the hawks are solitary birds, unlike these guys ... they like company," he smiled as he spotted one couple sharing a mango.

"Makes for a nice show though," she smiled and watched the black birds with their bright yellow chests and huge green and red bills. "They look a lot happier than the hawk."

"They're happy pretty much anywhere they have food and company," he smiled, leaning up against her. "And their mates," he added. "They mate for life ... their feathers are used in the wedding adornments in their part of the world. The reason they only have mass weddings two or three times a year," he chuckled.

"I didn't think animals mated for life," she smiled at a pair clicking their beaks against each other even as she noticed that there were quite a few different colors in the beaks and bodies.

"Most don't. These guys are a bit unusual though... they actually mate longer than that, believe it or not. If one of them dies, the other won't accept another mate. There are a couple others like that, on the endangered list, but the toucans here have it a bit easier. Since the locals value them so much, each family keeps at least one pair in their home, so they've adapted to the growing cities."

"Lucky birds," Amy smiled and watched them hop around the trees, instead of flitting about. "It's amazing they can fly with those beaks."

"Who says they do?" Zach joked. "Seriously though, they don't fly too far, most of the time. The part of the canopy they prefer to live in is so thick they can just make short hops from one tree to the next to find fruit. The parrots fly farther, but they've only got about a quarter of the beak."

"I wonder how they avoid becoming somebody's dinner," she mused as they walked into the next aviary, one filled with parrots, and like the toucans, they were free to interact with visitors. "Between the hawks and cats, you'd think they'd be helpless."

"Those beaks, I'd bet," he said. "I don't know for sure with the toucans, but I know that the parrots can bite your finger clean off if they want to."

He felt her shudder in real fear pass through her. "They don't usually do that, do they?"

"No, Miss," a heavy-set female orange tabby with a white chest ruff smiled warmly at her as she walked up with one of the smaller members of the aviary on her forearm. "While the larger birds are capable of doing damage, they very rarely do so. We are here to see that any birds who are agitated are left alone."

"It's generally just when they're being threatened, I think," Zach agreed. "But you've gotta admit, it's a good way to keep from getting eaten. How tame is the little guy there?" He asked the tabby curiously.

"Very tame," she smiled warmly at him and moved her forearm a bit closer. "I'm Sara, and this is Kaliku."

"Is he usually a little angel?" Zach asked with a smile and reached out carefully to stroke the bird's chest feathers.

"Have you handled birds before?" Sara asked at his attention that caused Kaliku to chirp happily.

"Very seldom," he admitted. "Why do you ask? Amy? If you want to, I think he'd get along with being stroked," he offered, looking over at her. "He looks like a vegetarian," he winked.

Amy ducked her head slightly and moved closer to stroke the small parrot's chest the way Zach had, and smiled when she got the same happy chirps.

"You seem to have a good hand with them," Sara said. "Would you like to meet one of the larger ones?"

"Thanks," he smiled. "I've spent a fair amount of time abroad, seen people working with the exotic ones ... and sure, if you think they're in a good mood."

"Some are, I'm sure," Sara smiled and made a small click with her tongue. Kaliku walked up her arm a bit, then hopped to her shoulder as she walked them further into the parrot aviary with its ruckus and wild colors in plant and animal.

Amy abruptly squeaked and all but dove behind Zach and Sara, her tail poofed out completely.

"It's all right, Amy," Sara reached out and tried to soothe the frightened shekat as a very large dark blue and emerald green parrot swooped down to a heavy branch only a bit above them. "Sudu isn't aggressive, he's curious."

"And gorgeous," Zach murmured, looking up at him. "'Beautiful Shadow,' if I'm translating right?" He asked her, reaching back to rub Amy's back. "Don't worry... he's huge, but I'd bet he's a pussycat as long as one of the keepers is around."

"He tends to like just about everyone," Sara added in assurance, but gave a three-tone whistle while looking at the giant bird. Sudu squawked back, but spread his six-foot wingspan and flew farther away to another spot where he could watch them. "And yes, Sudu means beautiful shadow," she smiled at Zach. "Not many understand the names we give them."

"I'm an anthropologist," he explained. "The sort who thinks that means being a linguist too is just good sense," he added with a smile. "Not a part of the world I've been in yet, but you never know when it'll come in handy."

"If you ever do find your way into an area where greater jurada live, most locals consider them people," Sara said, utterly delighted to have an audience that might be at least vaguely interested in the subject. "Many tribes have a place reserved for one in their leadership. I'm not sure about sentient, but Sudu is very, very smart."

"I'm sure he is," Zach nodded respectfully. "I've heard that some of them can even understand language, partially?" He asked her curiously.

"I've found even little Kaliku can," Sara nodded as she gently rubbed the small bird's neck. "Tone helps him a great deal, but he does seem to understand. Sudu ...he can carry on a conversation better than many kits that come in."

"Hell, he can probably run rings around some of the college students I know," Zach chuckled. "Though that's fairly faint praise, I'm afraid. What does a parrot that big eat?" He asked curiously, sure that the usual berries would be a bit small for him.

"He'll eat nearly anything, even meat, but he's most fond of some very large types of nuts and fruit; coconuts, whole coco fruit, melons," Sara said as Amy warily came out from behind them and smoothed her tail. "He likes to talk gossip about the others," she smiled and tried not to giggle.

"Parrots gossip?" Zach asked with an incredulous laugh.

"Oh yes," Sara laughed playfully. "Perhaps you will come back when you have time to talk with him. It might not be all that interesting to listen to, but he loves outside gossip too."

"Maybe I will," he smiled, squeezing Amy's hand lightly. "If you don't mind, I think I've got to go make up for wording things badly," he admitted sheepishly.

"Of course," Sara nodded. "Would you like an escort out? I can assure you that nothing will happen."

"We can make it, I think ... Amy?" He asked, glancing down at her.

"I'll be fine, really," she tried to sound calmer than she was. "I'm sorry, Sara. It's not his fault I scare easily."

"So why don't we go take a look at something a bit smaller," he smiled, leading her out. "Think they've got a songbird collection, or we could check out some of the other animals? See if the wolves are freaked out yet maybe."

"The songbirds sound really good," she smiled and pressed against him as the fear began to dissipate from her scent. "Maybe this afternoon you can take her up on that visit?" she looked up at him with an apologetic smile. "I can keep myself entertained for hours at the undersea exhibit."

"If you want, I could," he smiled. "I don't mind though ... sorry I managed to scare you," he apologized with a nuzzle as the soft tweeting of the songbirds and a babbling brook took over the background sounds.

"Me too," she admitted and leaned against him as they sat down at a bench overlooking the brook and many trees. "They were lovely, and it sounded like it could have been interesting with Sara."

"If you're a bit more relaxed later, maybe you'll want to come along," he smiled, leaning back against her and watching her more than the small birds flitting about. "Either way, it's okay ... I probably shouldn't have told you that, most people aren't too hot about knowing it."

"Maybe," Amy said as she relaxed around the very harmless birds and lovely, warm environment. "Have you been anywhere like this?"

"Like this? Sure," he smiled. "Pretty much anywhere you can go camping is a lot like this ... not as many birds, obviously, but it's pretty easy to find, especially out in the woods."

"I wish camping wasn't so unpleasant," she sighed, finally relaxing fully. "It'd be nice to spend a couple days in a place like this."

"I think I know what we're going to be doing this summer then," he purred, kissing her cheek. "Cabins are more comfortable than tents, we might be able to get one for a bit if you'd like?"

"Sure," she smiled up at him and kissed him lightly. "I think I'd love to."

"Good," he smiled. "So, ready to get going again? Maybe go see your fish?"

Amy just chuckled and nuzzled him before standing. "And you can go have a conversation with that parrot-person."

"Don't worry, you'll be the center of my world tonight," he purred, standing and kissing her gently on the lips before they started out. "Should I come find you when I'm done?"

"I won't be hard to find," she giggled. "I'll be in the shark tunnel."

"Heh - good place to lose yourself," he grinned. "C'mon, I'll walk you there. We'll just have to watch out around the octopus tank though," he teased. "They might want to come talk with Sudu on the way."

"You have got to be joking," she made a face even as she laughed in the open air of the zoo's grounds.

"Are you kidding?" He laughed back. "They're smart! Put some food in a jar, close it, and toss it in, they'll find it and get it out. Probably be an interesting conversation they'd have," he grinned.

"Assuming Sudu doesn't think the octopus looks too tasty to talk with," she giggled and leaned against him as they walked into the canine exhibit area.

The wolves were still agitated, though they weren't howling, just prowling around and watching the people watching them warily. Still, Zach and Amy continued on to their way to the aquarium, looking at other animals as they walked past.

"So, you like fish a lot?" Zach asked her curiously as they started into the aquarium.

"I like the blue and freedom of the water, even if I'm a lousy swimmer," she chuckled. "It's just so soothing to watch them move effortlessly and see what patterns their paths make."

"And watching it like this, you don't have to worry about the jellyfish getting too close," he smiled. "Well, have a good time; I'll come make the rounds with you later," he promised her.

"Have fun with the giant parrot," she grinned and kissed him soundly before heading into the undersea exhibit.

"Not as much as I think I'd have with you," he murmured, blinking as she walked off. Still, he turned to walk back, his tail swishing. The wolves broke out howling again, and this time he was fed up with it. In a fit of pique, he turned towards them and hissed, his ears flattening, lips curling back in a snarl. Nobody was there to see the wolves back down, tucking their tails between their legs and slinking back into their dens.

Smoothing out his fur, Zach continued back into the aviary to meet Sara and Sudu again and tried not to think about what he'd just done.

"Hello," a loud squawk greeted him as he entered the parrot aviary along with the loud rustle of large feathers settling down.

"Hello," Zach replied, looking up at the dark-feathered bird. "Were you looking for me?" He asked with a chuckle.

"You said you would come back," Sudu told him, careful with the words he squawked as he ruffled his relatively small crest. "Why come?"

"I was curious; I didn't know how smart you really were ... and I don't know much about your kind, so talking to one of you was interesting," Zach explained. "First time I've talked to a bird," he smiled.

"Why would a hunter talk to a bird?" Sudu cocked his head, clearly agitated but curiosity overriding whatever unsettled him.

"I'm not much of a hunter," Zach shrugged. "Don't even really like chicken all that much," he mused. "More of a fish guy, myself," he decided, before realizing just how much thought he was putting into a question from a bird.

Sudu cocked his head and hopped to another branch, then down to get a bit closer. "You and Old Hunter linked. The Dire Wolf King," he said, clicking unhappily before he retreated to his original perch. "Great hunter. Bloody hunter. Kills everything. We remember him."

"Huh?" Zach blinked, then shook his head. "No ... nothing like that," he said. "I did use a protective spell ... but that was to protect the ones close to me. The girl who was scared."

Sudu clicked at him as Sara walked up, Kaliku perched between her ears and a rainbow macaw on her shoulder. "I see you two didn't wait for me," she chuckled.

"No need," Sudu squawked and preened a bit.

"You were right about him being intelligent ... pretty perceptive too," Zach chuckled, looking over at Sara and the two birds. He was vaguely conscious of his stomach growling, reminding him that he needed to grab dinner with Amy once they were done. Then there was a squawk, and he barely had time to get his arms up in front of his face before a flurry of talons, feathers, and a razor-sharp beak descended on him.

"Sudu! NO!" Sara screamed as she rushed in to try and physically pull the giant bird away even as many of the larger parrots started to come in. "Zach, run!"

He didn't need to be told twice. He turned and bolted for the door, blood running down his face and arms, some of the birds pursuing him, some of the other people in the aviary screaming when they saw him. He made it to the door, plowing through it and quickly turning to slam them behind him, the glass rattling as one of the few parrots still chasing him crashed into it. The bird fell, stunned, but picked itself up and flew back in as Zach shivered and panted on the other side, sure he looked just as badly as he felt.

"Whatever I did, I really hope I enjoyed it," he muttered before he backed away from the swinging glass doors, unconsciously reaching to try and put pressure on the worst of the cuts and gouges in his arms.

He was still standing in the middle of the air lock between the parrot and sunbolt hawk rooms when many more people in zoo uniforms rushed in, and one in an EMT uniform stopped by him.

"What hurts worst?" The lean brown tabby asked, trying to guide Zach to a spot to sit.

"Arm ... left arm," Zach told him, taking the seat and raising the large, thankfully shallow wound so the EMT could see it. "Damn that bird's sharp!"

"It's very strange for a parrot to attack anyone like that," the EMT said as he cleaned and bandaged the wound. "Do you know which one did it?"

"Sudu, where it started anyways," he told the EMT, holding still for him. "Think the stupid bird thought I was going to eat one of the others," he muttered. "Stomach growled, and he was right on top of me."

"Strange," the EMT murmured. "It's not like him to be aggressive. You should be fine, though it will hurt for a while.

"Yeah ... well, like I said, it's probably not all his fault," Zach shrugged slightly. "Don't suppose you've got some aspirin or something I could take for this?"

"Of course," the EMT nodded and handed over three small sealed packets, then opened a fourth to hand over two small white pills.

Zach swallowed them without any trouble, then stood up carefully.

"I should probably get washed up ... thanks for patching me up."

"I'll walk you to a restroom, and you'll need to fill out an incident report," he said evenly and began to guide Zach out of the aviary complex. "Are you going to ask for him to be put down?"

"With what I just said, does it sound like I will?" Zach asked, shaking his head. "No, I don't think he was just doing it to be mean ... like I said, think he was trying to protect the others, even if he didn't have to."

"Good," the EMT nodded. "Sudu's never done anything like this, and you're probably right. The zoo officials are going to want to talk to you, and the parrot's head keeper too, at a minimum."

"Great," Zach groaned quietly, though he understood it. This was always the sort of thing he liked least about getting roughed up, aside from the pain. Having to go into loving detail about just why it had happened.

Of course, this time ... he wasn't even entirely sure why.

Amy sat against the edge of the tunnel through the shark aquarium, wondering just what kind of conversation Zach could have gotten into with the bird, or it's keeper, that could have kept him so long. She was hungry, but she'd said she'd stay until he came.

"Hey!" Zach called out to her as he rushed down the tunnel towards her. "Sorry about the wait!" The bandage on his arm, stained with blood, and the smell she could still pick up off of him told her it probably hadn't been under his control.

"What happened?" She demanded as she stood and rushed to hug him.

"Would you believe my stomach growled at the wrong time and Sudu decided I was trying to eat one of the other birds?" Zach laughed and shook his head. "I've been tied up doing paperwork and swearing up, down, left, and sideways that I don't want him put down and I'm not going to sue."

"Did he hurt you badly?" she went to the next thing that crossed her mind.

"Lance has done a lot worse to me," Zach said, shaking his head. "So ... see? Even when they want to kill you, they won't hurt you that badly if you don't stick something in their mouth," he offered with a wise-ass grin that didn't do nearly as good a job as he'd intended of breaking the tension.

Still, Amy accepted his statement and hugged him, careful for any injuries she couldn't see. "Feel up for eating?" she asked softly.

"Sure," he smiled. "Just not fried chicken," he added with a chuckle, starting to lead her out. "Maybe we'll come down another time, go through here together," he added apologetically.

"No revenge feast?" she managed to giggle. "How about fish and chips?"

"Are you kidding? I'm worried he'd track me down and finish the job, just on principle," he teased back. "And that sounds good to me. Wolves calmed down," he noted as they walked by the pen.

"That's good. I think they were agitating everything," she leaned against his mostly uninjured arm. "Did they give you any extra bandages? I think they could stand to be changed."

"Yeah, they did," he nodded. "And you're probably right ... I dropped 'em off in the car before I came for you, think you could help me when we get there?"

"Sure thing," she nuzzled his neck, then licked his jaw lightly as two zoo workers walked purposefully towards them.

"Is something else wrong?" Zach asked as he recognized Sara, turning to face them. Gods ... that parrot hadn't gone on about that insanity about him being tied to the Dire Wolf King, had he? That'd be just what he needed, a date interrupted by getting questioned by the Enforcers.

"No, no, Zach," she tried to assured him hurriedly. "Sudu would like to apologize for attacking you. There will be strong bars between you."

"Okay," he nodded, though he noticed how Amy tensed up. "This time, it will be perfectly safe," he promised her, kissing her cheek lightly.

"Yes, he's in a quarantine cage," Sara tried to calm her. "He won't be able to reach you. I promise."

"All right," she nodded, though her grip tightened a little on Zach's arm.

"Thank you for how you've taken this, Mr. Tanner," the older Tigress with Sara spoke in deeply felt honesty. "I am Darla Saravu, head avian keeper. I raised Sudu from a hatchling."

"Well, like I kept saying, I don't think he did it out of meanness," Zach said easily. "He seemed to think I was a hunter, and when my stomach growled...." He shrugged a bit. "Though I'll admit, it's got me re-thinking the compliments I gave him on being perceptive," he chuckled slightly.

"Perceptive, yes," Darla chuckled. "Just not quite as in touch with what things mean with civilized people. As big as he is, his parrot companions have filled his head with all kinds of stories about being hunted and great escapes."

"And anything with half a brain knows better than to go after him, huh?" Zach chuckled. "Yeah ... they probably have. By the way, I never thought to ask before, but how many of the birds here are rescues?"

"About a third," she admitted. "Though many of them are never suitable for the aviary."

"I can see where it would be trouble for them, and where it might make Sudu a bit overprotective," he nodded. "I'll be fine though ... it's not quite as bad getting beat up by somebody who really does mean well, somehow," he chuckled.

"I can't say I'll ever understand that," Amy shook her head, tensing at the smell and sound of many large, unhappy birds in an enclosed building.

"This is where you keep the ones who aren't suitable for the aviary?" Zach asked quietly.

"This is our quarantine area," the Tigress shook her head. "Birds who are sick, injured or waiting out enough time that we're sure they aren't sick. It's only the occasional one who misbehaves that ends up here. This just contains our only cage large enough to hold Sudu."

"Hope he doesn't catch anything," Zach murmured, following her to a cage that looked like it was designed to hold a small flock of normal parrots. It wasn't large, but it was at least big enough for the nearly person-sized bird to move around and spread his wings a bit.

"We are very careful," Darla assured him as Sudu half-glided to the ground from the one tree-branch like perch large enough to hold him, intentionally putting himself below the person he had attacked.

Sudu shifted his feet several times, glanced at Darla, then back at Zach.

"I am sorry," Sudu said carefully. "I thought you were going to hunt. Only meant to protect flock."

"I understand," Zach nodded slightly. "Around here, not too many of us go hunting like that ... especially not with the keepers around.

"I know," Sudu shifted uncomfortably on his feet and fluffed his feathers a bit. "Old Wolf King ... afraid of him. I not attack again. Promise."

"Glad to hear it," Zach nodded. "Forgiven; I'm not planning on causing any trouble for you or the others either."

"Thank you," Sudu ducked his head in a decidedly feline maneuver of thanks.

"Could I buy you lunch?" Darla offered as they turned to leave.

"We were planning on getting something on the way out," Zach explained. "Have another suggestion?"

"The Safari Cafe has the best food on site," she smiled. "A personal thanks from me. I know you think little of it, but you did just let one of my kids off the hook, and I appreciate it."

"Amy? Sound good to you?" Zach asked her. "I can cover you."

"I meant lunch for everyone," Darla smiled slightly. "Game?"

"Sure," Amy smiled at the Tigress, then her boyfriend. "I am hungry."

"Let's go get us all fed then," Zach grinned. "And thanks for the offer, though honestly ... it would've been a real shame to have him hurt any way for this," he said, turning to follow Darla and hoping nobody would bring up the bandages until after lunch.

Chance looked around the entrance to the temple a little uncomfortably, trying to remember if he was properly groomed and dressed to be paying the place a visit. It had been a long time since he'd set foot in Bastet's temple, at least looking for help or answers.

He wasn't sure which of the two he was after this time, but at least he knew that Melia would be willing to provide either. He took a deep breath, then stepped inside to meet her.

"Hello... uhm, what am I supposed to call you in here?" He asked her sheepishly. He should've asked that before, but it hadn't occurred to him until now that her rank in the temple might be more appropriate than acknowledging the family relationship.

Had it really been that long since he'd gone to services?

"Melia is fine, Chance," she smiled warmly at him and guided him inside the large holy place. "Would you like to talk in private?"

"About this? Oh yeah," he nodded slightly, following her in. "Thanks for being willing to meet," he added, glancing up at the temple's old, yet lovingly cared for, statue of Bastet. The temple didn't get the sort of funds that some of the others in the city did, but the priests and priestesses only worked that much harder to keep it up. It was probably the highlight of the Bars, and he knew Melia was proud of that fact.

"I'm always willing to help," she reminded him gently as they passed into the back spaces of the temple where the priests and priestesses lived in the simple luxuries of soft cloth, pillows and furs. "It is what we do."

"Yeah, but this isn't exactly a normal situation," he pointed out. "I mean ... I just need to ask you about Jake, really."

"Just try to remember it doesn't have to be this drastic to come talk to your aunt," she told him and opened the door to what was clearly her room, a space that except for being for one person and done for comfort first, was very much like his. "Was there somewhere I can start?" she asked as she closed the door and motioned for him to sit anywhere he liked.

"I know, I just ... it usually doesn't occur to me," he admitted, taking one of the two chairs. "How about with what the heck Bastet wants from him, and why, if you know?" He asked, getting to the point.

"I know what She usually wants of her champions, though I do not know if that is exactly what She wants of him," Melia said gently as she sat down in the other chair. "Her historical expectations are for protection of Her followers and kittens. There has always been a great conflict between Her champion and the champion of one of more others.

"Jake has also been chosen by Halikar, the Aggressive Defender. I am not as sure what He expects, but it is rare for Bastet and Halikar to invest in the same champion. Jake likely has a more spectacular life ahead of him than most champions."

"Right," Chance murmured. "And me along with him, probably ... so, what's this about Champions and stuff?"

"We don't know all the details, but a long time ago, the various Powers agreed to keep collateral damage to a minimum by using mortals to settle their arguments over who rules where and what," she explained something that didn't translate well into the mortal world, for all it was about the mortal world. "It is said that the badlands to the south and east are the result of the last battle the Powers participated in themselves here, though I do not know how true it is. I know there are many rules limiting Their interference, but not what those rules are."

"So do you know what the end-game is?" He asked her with a frown. "How they win or lose? I mean ... if Jake has to go out and start polishing off other champions, that'll get really awkward," he tried to joke.

"Many times, many champions in history, never really face off against other of their kind," Melia shook her head. "Many serve more as an anchor point or central figure in the mortal world. I'm afraid it is very unlikely Jake will have such a calm life given what he has gone through so far," she tried to tell him gently. "He has chosen to become an Enforcer, and one in a dangerous job. Danger will come looking for him, even if he does not look for it."

"Right," Chance nodded slightly, leaning back in the chair. "This is probably a stupid question but ... were the gods pulling strings when he got himself blacklisted, trying to get him into something a bit more 'suitable' as a career?"

"I doubt it," she shook her head a bit. "While it would not be unknown for them to set some events up to test a champion, he is very young to be pushed so drastically. Mortals do have a great deal of influence, Chance. If Bastet or Halikar had much real influence they would have prevented his aversion to females. That is much more frustrating for both of them, I am quite sure."

"Sounds like it," he nodded. "Well, whoever did manage that fucked him up real good ... sorry," he said, blushing as he caught the language he'd used. "So ... what else can you tell me about this, that I need to know? I'm kinda trying to figure out what I'm in for, being his partner."

Melia took a deep breath, settled herself, and looked her nephew square in the eyes. "You're in for a short, violent life that makes a difference to this city. You're in for a lot of attention, most of it negative, from mortal powers that can tell what you are and don't like being outshone. You're likely in for the attention of Powers that don't have a champion yet, as well as Bastet and Halikar, once you are too important to Jake for him to lose easily," she closed her eyes and sighed. "I'd rather if I wasn't going to loose a second nephew to this."

"You're not gonna lose either of us," Chance told her, reaching over to squeeze her shoulder. "Jake'll do anything to keep Rock safe, and he's pretty good about taking care of himself on top of it ... and I don't kill easy either, you know that."

He wished he felt as confident as he sounded, though he was more worried about Rock than himself.

"Chance," she looked at him seriously. "You have the capability to be a hero in your own right, but you won't be if you remain involved with a champion. You probably won't last long enough to have kittens, no matter that you already have a willing lover for it."

"Melia, I am not going to drop Jake about this," he said, flattening his ears. "He's not saying it, but that's what he expects everybody to do."

"That or take advantage of him," she nodded, backing off. "I'm sorry, Chance. I've been told in no uncertain terms that Rock is off-limits for my meddling. You aren't yet. I'm afraid for you both and I can't help him."

"I know," he said, relaxing his ears a bit. "I'm sorry too, I guess ... don't tell Mom about this, okay? You know she'd freak. I don't want her back like she was when I was going to court every day."

"It'll be easier this time," she promised him and reached out to hug him. "She knows you're in danger in the Enforcers, but she's proud of it more than she's afraid. I won't tell her more of this than I have to, but she already knows a lot of it. She's not quite as absent as you've been from the temples."

"Yeah ... well, that might change a little bit, I guess," he admitted. "Still, the whole 'probably be dead in a couple years' bit you can leave out, right? I know she worries about me ... and she really worries about Jake and me, or at least she used to."

"She still does, even more now that it's so clear that what I warned her about Rock is coming true," Melia said softly. "He's a perfect match for Jake, but with you in the mix," she shook her head, trying to throw off the bad feeling. "I will keep your life expectancy out of the conversation as best I can," she promised. "I'll keep hoping you beat the odds as well. You have so many other times, you may again. I hope you do. You'd have such lovely kittens with her."

"Yeah, well, don't go picking out baby shower dates just yet," he chuckled, blushing a bit. "What did you tell her about Rock?"

Melia hesitated, then dropped her head a bit and consented to the request. "He's not a champion yet, he may never be one, but he was marked by the Powers shortly after birth. The Powers of pain."

"He ... shit," Chance murmured. "Yeah ... that would be a perfect match for Jake, I guess. That might end up getting Jake and I broken up more than anything else," he offered. "If Rock managed to go too far and they canned Jake for it."

"You don't give your cousin or Jake enough credit there," she actually chuckled. "Jake's stable enough now that he won't allow indulgence to threaten his goals. It has Bastet very unhappy though, for all she appreciates how much less difficult Jake is now. I know it's a lot to take in, Chance, but for all it seems to be all around you right now, such people, this kind of power, it's rare. You're just in the middle of a major confluence."

"Well ... safest place to be in a hurricane is smack in the middle of it," he offered with a half-way grin. "Maybe it'll work out in my favor. So ... how've you been?" He asked her, hoping to find a topic that wasn't so unsettling.

"Very happy," she smiled at him and relaxed back into the chair, welcoming the new subject for a while, and the perfect opening it would give. "It's fulfilling for me, and it's a great sex life."

"Heh ... yeah, probably," he chuckled. "Still working outside the temple too?"

"Occasionally, though I don't often have time for it these days," she told him. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good, aside from the whole 'Jake died the other day' thing," Chance smiled. "Midnight and Mom actually get along, and training's been going well. If it weren't for these attacks, I'd say things are just about perfect."

"Good to hear at least most things are going well," she said with a nod. "No real awkwardness with Jake preferring guys so strongly?"

"Not since he met Rock," Chance said easily. "Not before then either, really, but now that he's got Rock I think he's meeting his 'big buff tabby' quota pretty regularly," he chuckled. "There was a little bit at a couple parties, but that happens, and it wasn't serious."

"Good," she smiled and relaxed a bit. "I figured it was true, but it's good to hear. Have you gotten any more inclined to try things with a nice guy again?"

"No," Chance said, shaking his head sharply. "One of those parties, Jake got the closest any guy's likely to, but if it's not gonna happen with him then it's not gonna happen. It ... he's still there, Melia," he said more quietly, lowering his head. "Doesn't matter what's happening, he's still there any time I try. Midnight distracted me, but that didn't even take it all away."

"I understand," she moved over to hug him supportively and kissed the top of his head. "It will get better, in time."

"Maybe," he murmured, hugging her back tightly. "But hey... I've handled it for this long, right? Even if it never clears up, I'll be fine."

"You know I'm going to hope for it to clear up, you know," she murmured, rubbing his back and nuzzling his hair. "I hate to see you in pain like that."

"Yeah ... well maybe he'll finish burning up his appeals some time soon and they'll finish the job," Chance muttered. "That'll help." He pulled back a bit. "Thanks, Melia ... if you can get any more details about Jake, it'd be great to know what we're up against here."

"I'll ask," she gave him another squeeze and went back to her chair. "Just don't expect real answers to your life. Too many other people have influences, but I can at least get the rules Jake has to play by."

"Well, that'll help anyways," Chance said, standing up. "I should probably get going; it was good seeing you again, Melia."

"Take care of yourself, Chance," she stood with him to show him out. "And don't be such a stranger. I'm still family."

"I know, I'm just pretty busy these days," he blushed, following her out. "I'll try to come around more often though," he added as they reached the door. "Take care of yourself too," he smiled before waving and heading out.

"Until we meet again, nephew," she called and waved him off before turning to see to her duties.

Rock relaxed in a hammock over golden sand and held his lover as he slept. As peaceful as it was right now, he couldn't help but think back over the last forty-eight hours and just how much had happened. About now, two days ago, the Kat sleeping and warm on top of him had been cold and dead.

And he'd been killed be a werewolf ... somebody tainted by a spirit or power, hopefully beyond their control.

Hopefully because Jake thought he knew the werewolf, in his regular identity. The thought that one of Jake's acquaintances would do these things willingly was horrifying.

Rock nuzzled Jake's head gently. Here he was ... the modern day ... and stuck right in the middle of warring gods.

It was enough to make him really wonder about what he was in for later on, given how little care he paid to even Bastet, much less the others. He couldn't even tell you how many major Powers were out there, much less which ones Jake would be on the opposing side from.

Life was only going to get more interesting as time went by, he was sure. It would be so easy to blame Jake for it too ... Hell, Jake expected it, it seemed. No doubt from years of experience and that person who was his dame, and didn't deserve the title of mother.

But he just couldn't do it. Jake was as much a victim of it as anybody else.

A victim of Bastet. That was something that flew in the face of everything he'd been brought up to believe about Her ... but it was hard to look at how Jake felt about it any other way.

He lightly stroked his lover's back, relishing in how soundly he was sleeping. Even on the good night in the city, Jake never slept this soundly. It was more than enough to make him wish he could somehow spirit the lean tom away to a place where he could be this at peace forever.

"One of these days, Jake," Rock promised quietly. "Don't know how I'm gonna do it, but one of these days you will be able to live quietly."

It earned an incoherent mumble and slight shift of the body resting on his chest, but no real awareness as he stroked Jake back to sleep.

As much as Jake claimed to want his toys, the ability to tinker ... it was what he did when he had to be doing something. He was happy to do nothing when things were peaceful ... for a time, anyways.

Rock smiled slightly. Chance had mentioned that the Academy did shut down for almost a month for New Years. The next one would see Jake somewhere far from the city for the entire time.

Rock looked out over the ocean, glittering in the sun, and decided he really ought to do something with his morning, tempting as it was to just snuggle with Jake. He carefully moved the smaller Kat, laying him out on the warm sand and headed into the surf with an eye out for any fish.

Of all the things he'd learned from Sayden Bay, fishing like this was probably the one he indulged the least, and enjoyed the most.

He really needed to change that he thought as he swam in the clear blue water with small swarms of tiny fish, the occasional larger one, and very occasional small shark.

He spotted a large fish as he got out into deeper waters, and went after it, tail long and whip-like behind him as he dove beneath the surface, claws out and teeth ready. He didn't bother to identify his prey, grabbing for it as soon as he had the chance. Claws sank into scaly flesh, and he pulled his flopping, slippery quarry up, landing a somewhat inexpert death-bite along its spine. The fish went limp, and he broke the surface, breathing through his nose as he swam back to shore with lunch.

As he got in close he noticed that Jake seemed to be right where he left him; testament to how quickly the tom relaxed when there wasn't any threat around. It was cute in a sleeping tiger kind of way. Lounged in the warm sand like he didn't have a care in the world, it also made Rock wonder how long it would take a place like this to get to Jake so much that he wasn't perpetually ignoring exhaustion.

Rock walked out of the surf and onto the dry sand before shaking himself off. Then he put the fish up on a rock for a few minutes while he dried himself in the sun and watched as Jake shifted a bit. It moved on to a rolling stretch in the hot sand, and indulgence Jake seemed to never get his fill of.

"If you're waking up, I've got food ready to clean and cook," Rock offered with a soft smile.

"I guess so," Jake chuckled and stretched again, showing off his nude body to great effect against the light golden sand. "Ceviche or actual cooking?"

"Ceviche, I think, unless you want to cook," Rock rumbled. "It's easier to make."

"And more fun to feed to each other," Jake winked as he rolled to his feet and shook most of the sand from his fur. "I never thought it would be this nice to just lay in the sand."

"It's the heat," Rock grinned. "Water's good though, if you're in the mood to swim a bit later."

"Always," Jake laughed playfully and followed Rock to the small beach house. "Just watch your tail," he winked.

"Oh? Is it in danger?" He asked teasingly, pausing on the patio to clean the fish.

"Maybe," he purred and slid his hands up Rock's back, careful not to disturb his cutting. "You know how water gets to me."

"Mmm ... yeah, I do," Rock purred, pressing back against his hands. "Been a while since you've topped too," he grinned back at him, gutting the fish and putting what they wouldn't need in the bushes off the patio for the birds and other animals that lived nearby.

"I give it less than five minutes," Jake chuckled and claimed a kiss before they moved inside for the citrus and dicing of fish. "Mmm, want to find out what's gone first, those guts, or your come down my throat?"

"You are incorrigible," Rock grinned. "But let's find out," he rumbled, sliding the fish into the fridge to wait for them and leaned back against the counter as Jake knelt and pressed the side of his face against Rock's groin, clearly enjoying the feeling and smell of the powerful tom.

Rock reached down, stroking his ears gently with a low purr.

"So, how do you like it out here?" He rumbled, his tail swishing behind him while Jake continued to rub his face against Rock's crotch and fondled his balls until the buff tabby was as hard as his name.

"A lot," he purred before swallowing his lover right to the sheath as he swirled his tongue along it and began to suck and squeeze with his throat.

"Ah fuck," Rock groaned, starting to thrust lightly into Jake's mouth and throat. "Mmm ... damn you've got a good mouth," he rumbled hotly as Jake's rough tongue worked the underside of his shaft. He curled his claws out slightly, running them along the insides of Jake's ears.

His eyes closed briefly as Jake pressed his nose hard against his groin to take his cock as far down his throat as possible and began to milk it while rolling Rock's balls in his hand. As intense as the pleasure was, it was hard for Rock to miss how much pleasure was in Jake's scent.

He knew that Jake wanted to get him off, hard and fast, and was enjoying knowing that he could entirely too much. Even so, he didn't bother to hold back. Moments later, he roared, coming hard down Jake's throat, pumping his thick, hot seed into the smaller tom's mouth to be swallowed greedily.

Rock shuddered as it passed and Jake turned his attention to licking him clean and rubbing Rock's scent all over his face.

"I think I may have found something worth saving up for," Jake purred deeply before playing his tongue in a spiral of tingling pleasure around Rock's shaft.

"Oooh... I was thinking the same thing earlier," Rock grinned down at him. "Hell of a place to retire, huh?"

"And just spend the weekends at," Jake smiled and stood to claim a lingering kiss.

"That'd be a good start," Rock agreed, purring and kissing him back. "You get along well with beaches like this ... so, breakfast, then we see about keeping you entertained again?" He grinned.

"I like," Jake rumbled and slid his hand between them to fondle Rock's groin. "So much to do, so little time."

"At least I've still got some training they'll let me do," Black grumbled as he and Terin walked to class the middle of the next week. "Starting to think they were going to make me sit out until next term."

"It's just a broken arm," she teased him. "Could have been a lot worse."

"Yeah... almost was too," he nodded. "Next time that bastard shows up though, the rematch'll end better for the good guys." His ears flicked as they approached a corner, and he looked down the cross street, pausing to see a crowd gathering in front of one of the dorms. "What's the big deal down there?" He asked, checking his watch and starting down to see what was going on. "C'mon!" He called back to Terin even as she broke into a run to match his.

"Holy ...." she gasped as she caught a whiff of death. "Enforcers! Move aside." She ordered sharply, earning her a quick path to the head and hide of a Cheetah skewered onto a pole in front of the dorm.

"Look familiar?" Black asked grimly as he looked up at Ghede's dead, glassy eyes, flies swarming around the crudely skinned pelt. "I'll go find a phone."

"I'll work the crowd," she nodded and turned, taking in faces until she zeroed in on one that looked more shell-shocked than most.

A Cheetah fem who bore a distinct resemblance to Ghede ... most Cheetahs did, but there was more similarity there than usual in this case. A larger male was behind her, his arms wrapped around her as she stared. He noticed Terin, and frowned, trying to turn the female around with minimal success.

"Did you find this?" Terin asked as she walked up to the pair.

"Do you need to bother her now?" The male asked irritably.

"Rasha, please," the fem said softly, turning back towards Terin with a deep, shuddering breath. "Yes, we did ... i-it's Ghede, my brother."

Terin nodded. "Full Enforcers should be here soon to take over and cover him," she tried to make it easier on her. "What can you tell me, about who was around, what you saw before the crowd gathered?"

"I could smell the Lions on him... the pain," she shuddered. "The bastards tortured him to death."

"All thanks to the Enforcers tricking him into saying that bullshit about that Lioness bitch," Rasha growled, looking directly at Terin, who glared back unflinchingly.

"He said it, and a good deal more," she shrugged. "Now do you want to help catch his killer, or end up on the wrong end of one of these hunts?"

"Are you kidding? We're -" The fem reached up, clapping a hand over Rasha's mouth to shut him up, her tail swishing nervously.

"We're going to help," she said firmly. "My name is Sefra, by the way ... what can I do to help?"

"Anything you can give me on his attackers," Terin said firmly. "If you know any of them, how many individuals you could smell, if this," she motioned to the display, "has any historical significance."

"At least four," she explained. "And no, I don't know any of them. What they did...." She swallowed, shuddering hard. "It's one of the reasons we hate them. There was a time when they would have cured him and used him as a rug, instead of hanging him out for show."

"They went beyond that though," Rasha growled lowly. "They declawed him, took his canines ... it's like shearing one of them, but a lot more permanent."

Terin simply nodded, filing that information away, her ears flicking at the sound of sirens. "Who was here early on? Who might be worth questioning?"

"The two of us ... a few people we didn't know ran off early on, but I know that those people over there came when I screamed," she said, indicating a group of Kats currently near the edge of the crowd.

"Thank you," she nodded and headed towards the group to make sure they stayed despite the dispersal the sirens caused among many of those gathered.

"Hey, glad you could make it," Rock smiled the next night as Kathie approached the small table he'd saved at Warlords.

"Like I'd miss this," she grinned. Her black leather bustier was decidedly not street legal, with her nipples and their silver and ruby hoops standing out sharply against her chocolate brown fur. A short leather skirt didn't hide that the velvety fur over her sex was as crimson as her hair and tail. "Even if it wasn't to help out one of my recruits."

"How's work been treating you?" Rock rumbled at the sight she made, especially with the sex and heavy music was already thick in the air around them, and the dance floor was fun with writhing bodies. It made him feel incredibly overdressed, wearing a tight muscle shirt with a matching leather vest and pants.

"Pretty well," she sat down, noting with a slight smile at he'd already ordered her preferred drink. "Being a pilot keeps me out of the worst of the current crime wave."

"You'd think being a gunner would too, but Jake seems to have found his way into the middle of it," Rock sighed, shaking his head. "Figures, doesn't it? Almost gets himself killed, and dives right back into it as soon as they'll let him. Just in time for things to take a whole new angle too."

"He's a cadet," she pointed out with a shake of her head and sipped her mint-katnip tea. "He still spends most of his time on the ground and in the middle of ground zero. If it was happening somewhere else, he probably wouldn't be nearly as involved."

"True," Rock admitted. "I just worry... especially now that it's getting ugly. You know the Cheetahs on campus are going to go after the Lions who did it ... it's the makings of an old-fashioned blood feud, with each side believing they've got justice with them."

"And the Lions will never believe that Ghede really is innocent of this particular offense," she sighed. "Even if they could, and will, claim other times, it's going to get ugly if we can't bring this were and those Lions in fast."

"Sorry, I'm being a downer, aren't I?" Rock chuckled slightly after a moment, and drank deeply of kat cola and rum. "C'mon - you're on your down time, I've got the night off, let's get something more fun."

"I couldn't agree more, unless you've changed your mind," she winked at him over her steaming cup.

"Of course," he chuckled. "And no, I haven't, though I'd like to talk things out before you go demonstrating," he winked back.

"Sure," she licked her whiskers back. "I hope you're as hot receiving as Jake seems to be in your giving."

"Mmm ... it's been a while since I've done much, but I think I still remember how to make it good for you," Rock purred. "Just remember; I do want you to take me to the limits of where the Enforcers start getting irritable. It might be further than I usually want to go, but I need to know where the line gets drawn ... and I kinda doubt that it will be."

"I will," she promised seriously. "Though I should warn you that there is some translating involved. What is the safe limit for you might not be the same for Jake. It's largely a matter of how much it will affect his performance when he goes on duty next."

"So there isn't a real line, beyond the performance line?" Rock asked, taking a sip of his drink. "Nothing specific that's off-limits?"

"Not that I've heard of, not that wouldn't be covered by the 'don't hamper his on-duty performance' mandate at least," she nodded. "A lot depends on how well Jake can work through pain, how quickly he heals, how good the medical care is and what kind of physical condition he needs for his job. Somebody at a desk job can get away with a lot more than a SWAT officer."

"And a gunner? I'll admit, I've got no idea what's involved beyond pulling the trigger when he has to," Rock said honestly.

"Sharp eyes, fast thinking under pressure, taking fairly high G's, but likely the most important one is that his heart has to be able to take it. Strong blood flow is the key survival in the air."

"Doesn't that tie into the G-tolerance?" Rock asked, cocking his head. "Or is it two separate issues?"

"It's the core of G-tolerance," she nodded. "If your heart doesn't pump blood hard and often enough, you pass out. It's really bad news at best."

"No kidding," Rock murmured. "So, have to watch out for that big time. His bloodplay might be a problem then?" He guessed.

"It can be," she agreed, thinking about a good way to give him a workable limit. "Just keep the blood loss to no more than twice the level as the last party per week, and he should be fine. "The longer he's off, the more he can recover, but never let him loose more than he would if donating blood. Hospitalization for blood loss can send of red flags. Even if it's not technically against the regs if he's in fighting shape by his next shift, it's something that can make his CO watch him very closely. Anything that should hospitalize him will."

"Right," Rock nodded. "What about broken bones? I don't plan to give him any, but I've got a feeling he's prone to them, just good to know if that's likely to be a long-term issue."

"Not as long as they heal correctly," she said and sipped her drink. "I would not recommend doing it intentionally. That tends to be a long time out of commission."

"That's not something I do," Rock said easily, shaking his head. "I don't do things I wouldn't want done to me unless something very unusual is going on. Breaking bones is rather more pain than I'm up for, personally, though I've known a couple folks who've gone for it in some variations."

"It's not a bad thing to avoid, in general," Kathie agreed. "So any other questions before the main event?"

"Mmm ... anything in particular you want to use for safewords?" He asked with a grin.

"I usually let the sub choose," she smiled playfully. "You're under more pressure to remember it if you have to use it."

"Not that I expect to," he chuckled. "Let's keep it simple for now then; red and green, and remember that I've got tomorrow off."

"Understood," she nodded professionally, a reminder of both her job and her experience. "What kinks would you like to focus on tonight?"

"Jake's," Rock said easily. "Pain, bondage, and bloodplay in particular. Anything else you want to add in?" He asked her with a low purr.

"Well, I'm particularly fond of decorative piercing," she licked her whiskers back with a low rumble. "But his kink list matches up with mine pretty well, at least for a first date. Maybe we'll invite Jake along some time, and really test your limits."

"Oh, I think I'm up for that too, as long as we keep things tasteful," Rock grinned, licking his own lips, his eyes staying on her largely exposed breasts. "So, here, or somewhere else?"

"I do enjoy showing off to an audience, and I know they have everything I need, so it's up to you if you want to be on display while I work you over."

"As long as I get to approve if you want to share me with anybody in the crowd," he said seriously. "Audience participation is something I like a little say in these days."

"No problem," she nodded. "A room, or out on the main floor?"

"Main floor's good enough for me," he grinned, his tail swishing. "I'm used to folks watching."

"Good," she purred, finishing her mint-katnip tea and stood, her eyes on her lover for the night. "I'm more interested in you without all those clothes," Kathie winked at him, trailing her fingers across his breastbone as she walked by. "I know you have quite a body under there."

"You want to do the honors, or should I?" He purred, pressing into her touch unconsciously. "Mistress?" He asked, not sure if she'd want him to use the title or not.

Kathie smiled, her hips swaying a bit as she walked with him a step behind her, his groin teased by her long flame-red tail. "That depends on whether you want them back or not," she grinned at him. "I tend to be hard on clothes."

"I didn't wear anything I can't replace," he grinned back, following her obediently out into the main part of the club, though he left his vest on the table.

"I'd hoped so," she rumbled and made short work of the distance to one of the unused bondage platforms around the edge of the dance floor.

"Just remember that I need enough pieces afterwards to actually leave the club without getting arrested," Rock grinned, taking his place on one of the well-equipped platforms. One of these days, he was going to bring Jake back here. It just hadn't seemed like the right time the first time around though, and they hadn't been back since ... maybe after everything had calmed down again, it could be a celebration he'd never forget.

"Oh, I brought something for you to wear home," she winked and kissed him before securing his arms over his head and ankles to the stage. "I wouldn't want you to get in trouble, after all."

"Oh, of course not," he laughed, stretching his body out for her, making a display of himself. "At least not any trouble that you're not in charge of ... bet you'd have fun if you were the one who got to put the cuffs on me," he rumbled teasingly.

Kathie laughed and pressed against his back as she stood. "That can be arranged, you know," she purred in his ear, her breath rubbing her breasts against the thin fabric of his muscle shirt. "I'm sure you'd require a full body search."

"If I didn't, I'm sure you could find some reason," he purred. "You or that partner of yours." He pressed back against her, curling his tail back around her leg. He wasn't sure if she would prefer a spirited sub or not yet, but he had a feeling she liked it.

He felt her chuckle against his back and caught the flash of a blade out of the corner of one eye before the flat of it slid across his collarbone, then moved lower.

He held his breath, holding very still, sure she wouldn't have any compunctions about cutting him as well as his clothes, especially given he'd already agreed to blood-play tonight.

She wasn't kidding about being rough on them; he wondered idly just what she'd brought along for him to wear home, and if she had any intention of him going home alone. He'd have to try and call Jake first, see if he minded, if it started going that way.

"Good, boy," she purred next to his ear before sliding the tip of the blade back up, then under the cloth at his neck to slice one strap of the muscle shirt in two, letting it dangle and display his muscular chest.

He held stock-still, professional experience with less experienced Masters and Mistresses giving him a healthy respect for how dangerous a blade like that could be while it undressed him.

He trusted her not to screw up, but he wasn't going to be careless because of it.

He tightened his body slightly, making the powerful muscles in his chest shift, displaying it for the parts of the crowd that were paying attention. The second shoulder strap was sliced, displaying his upper body in full and gave him fur-on-fur contact with the shekat that owned him tonight.

The blade's tip traced a meandering path down his chest lightly, no more than a fingertip's pressure, but slid flat as it crossed his belt, then pressed against his groin.

The buff tabby couldn't help by tense up a bit at that, and not just in his bulging crotch. He didn't say a word, closing his eyes and making himself relax again. She knew what she was doing. She'd probably been doing it longer than he had - giving or receiving - and wasn't going to do something stupid right off the bat.

It didn't help much as he felt the blade bite into the leather, pricking feather-lightly against his skin through his fur.

Her arousal behind him, rubbing against his back, encouraged the blood in his groin to build as the blade slid away and disappeared. Then she slipped in front of him and ran her hands up his chest, playing down it with her claws making furrows in his thick fur.

The remains of his shirt were stripped away and dropped. Her hand pressed against his arousal as she looked up at him. "Ready for this to be free?"

"Yes, Mistress, please," he moaned softly, tilting his hips forward into her touch.

Kathie smiled and slid his belt from the loops, then unzipped the tight leather pants and slid them down enough to fondle his balls, then squeezed them lightly.

He moaned softly, pressing his broad back against her ample chest; she was in damned good shape, and the firm mounds against his back brought back memories that made her touch even more appealing.

He moaned deeply as her claws played lightly along his balls and cock, the tips nipping at his fleshy barbs before her touch disappeared. He felt his pants slide all the way down to his ankles without resistance. Then her hands were back, squeezing his ass as her claws dug into her, drawing the first blood of the night.

He drew in a sharp breath, his cock jumping as blood welled up around her claws.

"Mistress!" He gasped softly, not complaining by any means, but putting on a good show for their slowly growing audience. He rocked his hips as she walked her claws up and over his hips, pulling him back to rub his ass against her hips.

He felt her breath quicken with the smell of blood and his arousal, and moaned in surprise when her next touch on his cock was a strong stroke with the palm of her hand as she shifted around to face him again.

"Time to work a little of that heat off," she purred and slid her body against his, hooking one leg around his hip and expertly sank down on his cock.

"Sweet Gods," he groaned, thrusting up into her as well as he could, bound wrist and ankle. Her body clung to him hotly, and he leaned forward to kiss her hungrily as she worked her skilled sex around him.

He had to admit; he did miss fems, once in a while. Ones like her reminded him of why. Hot, hungry, strong and dominant; hard and soft in all the right ways.

He grabbed the chains in his hands to take their combined weight off his wrists. His eyes closed as she milked him, her own body rippling in pleasure. Her teeth closed on his left collarbone as the first tight ripple of pleasure cascaded down her body.

"Hold off," she growled at him just before her pleasure peaked.

He nodded slightly, gripping the chains and pulling up sharply, using them to help thrust up into her body. He had to fight to hold off, but it didn't mean he wasn't going to try and push her over as fast as he could. He wasn't sure how long he could obey.

She bit down harder as her body crested, riding the wave of pleasure for everything it was worth.

"Oh yeah," she moaned and pulled off of him, quickly slipping behind him to drive her claws into the tender flesh to either side of his groin. "Go ahead."

His shaft surged as blood dripped down his thighs, and he roared, spraying his thick seed into the air, letting it splatter on the platform and the floor in front of it.

His body hung limply for a minute as he caught his breath, then slowly straitened himself and oriented himself to be ready for what she had in mind next.

"You make a good show," she purred from one side as she came around in front of him. "Ever made love to a declawed hellcat?"

"It's been a while, but I have," he shivered, remembering the modified cat-o-nine-tails he'd been subjected to years before, how thoroughly it could rip a guy up. Not as much as a typical hellcat; it didn't have the claws on the end. But it tended to be bloodier, or at least look it.

Even if she didn't want to go back home with him, he'd have to call Jake just so the tom wouldn't panic when he saw him afterwards.

"Good," she purred and snapped a light caress of raking needles from just above his cock to his collarbone.

He winced, closing his eyes and gasping sharply as the whip bit into his chest, drawing pinpricks of blood to wet his fur.

He'd have to consider getting one of these; he wasn't overly fond of them, but he was sure Jake would be. It was exactly the kind of thing he'd get off on, hard.

The next blow hit his side and curled around to his back with just enough bite to make him want to cry out, but not quite enough to force him.

He bit his lip, holding back the cry for now, his muscles shifting and twitching with pain, trying to anticipate the next blow.

He had to give Kathie credit; she was making it easy for him to minimize or maximize both the pain and damage of each blow. Even so, after ten strikes to his chest, he was trembling, actually needing the chains to support him.

The pain abated for a moment, and he opened his eyes in time to see Kathie walk behind him.

Blood oozed from his chest in shallow cuts that he knew he'd have fun explaining in a day or two. He raised his tail unconsciously as she moved around behind him, exposing his firm ass to her as he took deep breaths, trying to overcome the pain.

His shaft was half-hard, spent from the orgasm, his arousal warring with the stinging pain. He didn't have Jake's appetite for it, it was that simple. It wasn't a turn-off by any means, but the whip hadn't done much to heighten it.

He was more than half surprised when a firm had guided his tail back down, flush with his hard ass, but he didn't resist. It'd save a lot of hurt, now and in the next week.

The multi-tailed whip all but caressed his back, not drawing blood this time when it landed and raked him from shoulder to ass.

Instead of another blow, he felt Kathie's hand on his bloody shoulder as she licked a bit off. "Want somebody to play with you?" she asked softly. "I think he gets off on pain a lot more than you do."

"He does," Rock admitted. "Who've you got in mind?"

"The Lion in the front row or that blond piebald shekat in the second row," she suggested. "I've worked with them both."

"Both?" Rock suggested after a moment, looking down at the Xanith and shekat; they were both attractive, and he was sure the Lion would be a blast to have inside of him.

"Hank, Jenny, care to come up and play?" Kathie called out to them.

"Oh hell yeah," the buff Lion grinned and leapt up on stage, quickly stripping down to show off his full masculinity for Rock and the crowd. "Rules?" he asked politely as he stepped close and cupped Rock's groin while claiming a kiss from the bound tom.

"He wants to feel how far an Enforcer can be pushed. Keep him distracted enough that I can," she said simply, grinning as Jenny joined them.

"You work his ass while I play up here?" Jenny suggested with a deep purr.

"Just leave his back open," Kathie chuckled and stepped back to give Hank room to kneel behind Rock.

The buff tabby moved his tail off to the side, looking down at the two of them.

"You guys like the show so far?" He asked with a grin that turned to a groan as Hank began to work his tongue around the furless pucker of his ass.

"Very much," Jenny purred before one of his balls disappeared into her hot mouth.

He was just settling into the pleasure of having two Kats working on him when the whip's multiple straps raked across his back again.

His moan turned into a hiss as his shoulders flexed. He draped his tail over Hank's shoulder, his hips working back and forth unconsciously as their mouths and tongues worked to make the pain more enjoyable.

Doing a good job of it too; he'd always had an easier time of it when there was more than just the pain going on, it gave him a more pleasant distractions. He was still fully aware of the bite of the whip across his back and sides as Kathie worked him, and let it help push him towards a second orgasm when Jenny let his hard cock slide from her mouth.

She wrapped her arms around his neck to help her wrap a leg around his hips and sank her body onto his rigid shaft with a deep moan

"Ah FUCK!" He started to groan, shouting as the whip slashed across his shoulders. He kissed Jenny hard, tightening his grips on the chains again and using them to help thrust up into the hot shekat wrapped around his body, his anus winking as Hank's rough tongue washed over the tight, furless pucker. He fought to hold back, at least until he knew if they wanted him to or not.

The sudden absence of fresh pain caused another deep moan at the building pleasure from Jenny's body riding him. He felt Hank stand up and grab Jenny's hips even as he drove into Rock's tight body in a single fluid motion with a roar as he began to pound away, causing Jenny to cry out with each impact.

"Get them both off first, if you can," Kathie's seductive voice reached his ears from where she'd moved off to watch the display.

He nodded slightly, pain shooting through his ass even as he squeezed down, his body working the barbed length deep in his bowels. His eyes rolled back as he fought to keep from coming, the urge to fill Jenny's pulsing, hungry body making his balls ache as he kept them from doing so.

"Such a tight ass," Hank grumbled in his ear as the pace changed, the Lion's powerful body pouring all his strength into driving as deeply as he could into the willing body around him as his balls tightened in response.

"Doesn't get used much," Rock moaned hotly, his prostate throbbing against Hank's shaft. "Ah, fuck, fill me!" He pleaded, his breath short and shallow as Jenny's cries filled their ears and her body squeezed down hard on Rock's shaft, milking him for all she was worth.

"Anytime," Hank grunted and slammed into Rock's ass again, this time aiming for his prostate as his balls began to empty themselves, shooting ribbon after ribbon of hot seed against the sensitive gland.

Rock roared, relaxing his hips and letting his juices spray up into Jenny's hot, eager body, his balls pulling up close as they released their thick seed.

He roared, grunted and gasped with the desperately needed release and being in the middle of two other Kats in the same state. Only when he realized that Jenny had climbed off him and most of his weight was in Hank's arms did he realize how intense it had been, being on stage with three Kats who actually cared about his pleasure. Someone was undoing his bonds, and even more of his weight fell onto Hank's shoulders, though the Lion didn't seem to mind in the least.

"Haven't enjoyed performing this much in years," he purred, carefully standing, then dropping to his knees with a grunt as his legs protested taking his weight again so soon. "Oof!"

"You look good like that too," Kathie purred. "Think you're up to one more round out here?"

"Depends on what I'm doing," he grinned up at her. "Wanna see if I can take you all on?" He winked playfully, his shaft still hard between his legs, his anus dripping with Lion-seed.

"Oh, I like your ideas," Kathie laughed playfully and glanced at Jenny. "Who gets his mouth?"

"Well, he did leave me quite a mess," the piebald grinned at her, and got a nod before Kathie slid underneath him, her legs spread.

"I have many more ways to give pain, maybe for next weekend?" she purred, claiming a kiss as they shifted to sink his cock into her willing body.

"Oooh ... sounds good, though I want to return the favor some time too," he rumbled, starting to thrust into her powerful body even as he turned his face up, his tongue sliding out to run up between Jenny's swollen, dripping folds as she knelt in front of him.

He moaned deeply into Jenny's sex as Hank thrust into him again, this time taking a bit more care with drawing it out and fitting in with the rhythm Kathie and Rock established instead of controlling it.

The tabby moaned and purred all at once, sparing one hand to reach up, fingering Jenny's ass lightly, giving her a chance to protest before pushing in further to her pleasure.

"Damn your ass is tight," Hank groaned, his tongue hanging out as he panted, his body tightening and electrified by what was going on under him. "You ever want to be well-fucked, call me."

"If my boyfriend's not in the mood, sure," Rock rumbled hotly, returning his attentions to licking Jenny clean, working his fingers up into her ass, finger-fucking her as his tongue started delving his seed out of her body, his hips pistoning up into Kathie's hot, eager body, ready to fill her this time.

Hank grunted above him in reply, his rhythm breaking as his body edged to it's second orgasm inside Rock's body.

Rock moaned into Jenny's sex, working his ass around the Lion's thick, barbed member. His own cock worked the inner walls of Kathie's body, hitting her g-spot as Hank drove him in deeper.

Kathie screamed her pleasure, her body tight around him as she massaged his cock, her muscles contracting in a rhythm designed to get her mate off hard and fast.

He obliged her gladly, his teeth pressing sharply into Jenny's engorged flesh, a hint of blood tingeing her arousal as his cock sprayed his seed into Kathie's body and his tongue lashed inside Jenny's sex until she came around it, rubbing his ears until she relaxed.

"That was good," Kathie rumbled, giving Rock a squeeze for good measure before she slid forward off his cock. "Care to take this private, and into your kinks, or want more of his?"

"Got a better idea," he purred, kissing her lightly. "If we're gonna take this private, maybe back to my place, if he wants to join us?"

"Mmm, you think he'd be game with a female?" Kathie raised an eyebrow. "I'd love to, though I'd need to swing by my place to pick up a few things first."

"I'll call while you grab me some clothes?" He offered with a grin and a purr.

"Deal," she gave him a lingering kiss before they parted to their respective missions.

He gave brief kisses to Hank and Jenny, getting both their numbers before limping out to the changing room and the pay phone there, leaning painfully against a locker to dial home, hoping Jake was back from his class by now.

His home number rang three times, then was picked up.

"Hello?" Jake's curious voice answered.

"Hey, Jake? It's Rock," he grinned. "You up for finding out exactly where the Enforcers put their limits on pain, first hand? Kathie's decided I'm not as fun to demonstrate on as you would be," he chuckled.

"I bet," Rock could almost hear Jake shake his head. "You're going to be there too?"

"Promise," Rock smiled. "If you're not interested, just say so," he said seriously, "but I think you'd enjoy yourself."

"Oh, I expect so," Jake chuckled. "You're coming here, or her place?"

"There," Rock said easily. "I'm not sure what I'll be wearing yet, but we'll be going there," he chuckled. "Make sure you've got some peroxide and aspirin handy; I got worked over pretty well before she decided I wasn't any fun."

"You're okay, though, right?" Jake's tone was suddenly all concerned. "I'll be ready."

"Yes, Jake, I'm fine," he chuckled. "Just sore, that's all. Sore, and I'll probably look like a mess ... she's got a type of whip here you'd adore. I'll be home, she'll be following after getting some toys."

"All right, handsome," Jake purred softly. "I'll be waiting for you."

Rock hung up, heading over to a sink to wash the worst of the blood out of his fur even as Kathie walked in.

"Just your basic loose shorts and T," she chuckled and tossed them on the bench nearby. "I got your vest too, though you might not want to wear it. I can see to that before we go," she offered.

"If you wouldn't mind," he nodded slightly. "I don't think Jake'd freak, but I don't want to give him the chance either."

"I doubt he would too," she agreed and picked up one of the complementary first aid kits in a cabinet for members. "As much as I'm sure it still aches and looks nasty, once you're cleaned up, it won't even show."

"I'm sure," he nodded. "You're too good for that," he said, honest respect in his voice. "Do you have one of those declawed hellcats of your own?"

"Among other things he's likely to get off with, yes," she smiled slightly and began to work his back clean with disinfecting wipes. "You've given me a pretty good idea what he likes in his pain. Have you tried chemicals yet?"

"We've considered it," he nodded, wincing as the disinfectant burned in the cuts. "If you've got any of that capsaicin, he loves it. He likes how a burn feels too, he's just not sure about how well he can keep those hidden."

"I've got a few tricks," she nodded, intent on her work. "Electricity?"

"I don't have the gear for it," Rock admitted. "At least not to do it safely, and I wouldn't do it any other way. Outside of bondage and bloodplay, I stick mostly to things I can do with household items," he explained.

"It might be worth investing in some, and suggesting Jake shop a bit too. I can recommend a few shops that are good with relative beginners with high tolerances. It can be a fun thing to do as an evening out together," she added with a seductive smile.

"Sounds good," he chuckled, smiling back at her and pulling on the shorts and shirt once she was done with his back. "You know though, one of these days I think I'd like to see how well you sub," he grinned with a purr.

"Quite well," she kissed him lightly. "Now let's fix your chest. So has Jake moved in fully, or just have clothes at your place?"

He turned around, leaving the shirt off while she worked.

"I don't think he knows it yet, but he's basically moved in," Rock smiled warmly. "He's got most of his stuff in his dorm room yet, but he only stays there during the day ... a lot like Chance, from what I've heard," he chuckled. "On the bright side, probably makes keeping it inspection-ready easier."

"You planning to invite him, or wait until he asks?" she asked with a distinctly gossip-worthy tone while the pile of bloody sanitized wipes grew bigger.

"I'm going to wait until I hear how Chance handles Midnight's invitation, and see if that convinces him," Rock chuckled. "Not going to be any trouble with the Academy if he moves out, right? I know the old one liked to keep Cadets close for the first year or two."

"Oh, they'll have to keep their room, but nothing controls where they actually live as long as they show up when they're supposed to," she chuckled. "It's not like either of them actually spend any credible amount of time in that room, from what I've heard."

"Not really," Rock smiled. "I'm not about to complain though; it's nice, having him around, especially since I know he sleeps so much better with me around."

"His instructors aren't complaining either," Kathie snickered. "He's so much easier to deal with now by all accounts. You've really been good for him, even if he doesn't spend nearly as much time on his studies as he used to."

"You do realize that means I still had to pout and play on his sympathies to get him to limit himself to the max credits a student's normally allowed?" Rock laughed, shaking his head.

"Whatever you do, most folks appreciate it," she grinned back. "Though I'm sure most credit his better temperament to getting laid on a regular basis."

"Might be part of it too, though it's mostly that he gets some decent sleep," Rock chuckled. "He doesn't have his nightmares nearly as often these days."

"That's good," she smiled softly. "How are things going with the press over the last incident?"

"Honestly, I don't know," he admitted. "Apparently they've been calling the dorm, not getting him, and leaving messages for now ... one of these days they'll turn up at my door, I'm sure, but for now it's staying relatively quiet. He's still dreading when it isn't though."

"I can't blame him," she nodded as she finished working on his chest. "For someone who's not keen on the spotlight, that kind of notoriety has to be hard."

"Very," Rock sighed and pulled the loose t-shirt on. "Makes me wish he had a holiday coming up I could just take him away for, but neither of us can afford it, time or money-wise. So, you know how to get back to my place from yours?"

"Yes, I know where you live," she nodded easily and began to clean up. "I'll catch up to you."

"Thanks," he smiled. "Any particular way you want Jake when you get there?" He asked her with a broad grin.

"Hot, bothered and naked," she chuckled. "Bound like you were is a plus, if you have the setup, and be ready for blood."

"I do, and I will be," he grinned. "I'll see you in a little while then," he added, turning to head out with one last appreciative look at her well-muscled body.

Jake was in his shorts and collecting together the last of what he expected Rock would need when he heard the door open. He looked up, confirming that it was Rock through the window before hurrying to meet him.

The tabby looked like he was in pretty good shape, really, and when he greeted his lover with a heated kiss that Jake practically melted into it.

"Hope you haven't been waiting here too long?" Rock asked with a smile and a low purr. "Kathie cleaned me up before we left the club, took a bit longer than I expected.

"Good for her," Jake murmured with a smile. "I still want to check you out."

"Fair enough," Rock rumbled, stripping his shirt off for Jake to run his hands across his back and chest, using touch where Kathie used sight. "Though I did promise a hot, bothered, naked you, tied up and waiting for her," he winked, purring at the tender contact after so much pain. "So you've got about ten minutes or so."

"Good thing she did a good job then," Jake grinned and kissed the base of Rock's left ear. "What did you think of it?"

"Mmm ... it's not really my thing, but it's not bad," Rock purred, turning to kiss Jake's lips tenderly and found it returned with a fair amount of heat. "I can see the appeal, and it works a lot better when there's pleasure to go with it ... which is why you smell two shekats and a Lion, not just Kathie," he chuckled.

"Sounds like you had fun," Jake chuckled and slid his hands under the loose waist of Rock's shorts and slid them down. "Now, I seem to remember you needing me hot and bothered soon."

"Mmm ... yeah, I do," Rock grinned, lifting his hips so Jake could strip him, pulling the cinnamon-furred tom's own shorts down. "So, just how should we arrange that?" He asked, licking his lips hungrily as he stood and ran his hands down Jake's sides.

Jake could only laugh. "All you have to do is kiss me," he grinned and slid his arms around Rock's neck to go for it.

"Oh, maybe it's all I have to do," Rock purred, pulling Jake up and kissing him deeply, letting him taste the faintest trace of male and female arousal still on his breath. "But I've got other things in mind that might be more fun than just kissing," he grinned wickedly. "Up for one of the rings? Possibly a piercing or two, before the night's done?" He asked, reaching between them to tease one of Jake's nipples with a claw.

"Sure," he shivered, a low moan escaping his throat before he claimed another kiss.

Rock moved him back beneath the binding hooks, raising his hands above his head.

"The sharp one, or the normal one?" Rock asked, quickly getting the silk ties to fasten Jake's wrists with.

"Sharp," Jake shivered in anticipation as he posed a bit to give Rock the best show he could.

"Just remember, you can't be too bloody by the time Kathie gets here," Rock rumbled, giving Jake's bare ass a quick slap before heading back to his room to retrieve the ring with its numerous short, sharp needles inset along the inner portion of it. It wasn't something he ever wanted to wear again, but Jake made the most incredible sounds with very little effort with it on.

"Guess you'll just have to keep your claws in," Jake purred at him, his eyes on the cock ring that promised so much.

"I think I can still make you scream," Rock rumbled, fastening it around the base of Jake's sheath and securing his balls tightly against the already hardening cock inside. "And beg, and wish I'd take it off and let you finally come," he purred hotly, moving around behind Jake, rubbing his member against his ass.

"Oh yes," Jake moaned, pushing back excitedly. "Love how you feel inside me."

"And I love the way you feel around me, so it's a good match," Rock grinned, shifting to press his shaft up into Jake's unlubed ass, moaning hotly. He liked bottoming well enough, but even the foursome earlier just didn't measure up to how it felt to sink himself into Jake's ass, the lean tom spread out for him to explore with his hands.

He extended one claw to trace around the top of Jake's cockhead as it peaked out, the blood flow to engorge it drastically slowed by the cockring. It did nothing to dull sensation, though, and Jake whimpered, his entire body tightening at the feather-light tough to such sensitive skin.

"You've gone all day without a thing, haven't you?" Rock moaned softly into his ear, starting to thrust up into his tight, hot ass, curling one claw up to tease one of Jake's barbs. "Just imagine what she'll do to you when she's here ... you'll love that whip of hers."

Jake moaned deeply, though Rock couldn't tell whether it was from actions or thought, it felt good.

"She going to take me to the limit?" he nearly cried out as Rock grazed his prostate.

"Right to it," Rock groaned. "And I'll be there, watching and helping out," he added, thrusting, hitting Jake's prostate twice more before he practically exploded in his lover's ass, roaring as he pumped him full and kept going, knowing how Jake best enjoyed being filled up.

He could feel Jake's body wanting to come, the ripple and clench of muscle that usually accompanied it, but his balls couldn't pump past the constriction on them yet.

He'd closed his jaws on Jake's scruff and began to thrust hard again when a knock on the door caught his attention.

"At least we got one round," he rumbled, licking Jake's neck and pulling out of him reluctantly to go get the door and let Kathie in, not bothering to dress.

"Hot and bothered enough for your tastes?" He asked her with a grin as she saw Jake, panting in his bonds, blood seeping from the places the needles pierced him.

"Quite," she purred and walked in, putting her large tote bag down and walked up to Jake. "What's your safeword, pretty boy?"

He blinked in surprise at her, something in his expression managing a 'you are kidding' look.

"I know you don't think it's possible, but the day I don't have safewords in place is the day I have to stop," she told him firmly.

"Red for stop," he gave her one.

"We actually do have safewords, I think he's just forgotten what they were," Rock chuckled, shaking his head and locking the door. "Either of you have any rules about who gets to do what to who?" He asked, looking at Jake mostly.

"No," Jake gave the expected, though no less exciting, answer.

"I expect you'll be fucking him or watching, until I finish with him at least," Kathie grinned at him. "So save a couple rounds for me."

"I will," Rock chuckled. "However you want it," he added with a grin, moving to sit down and relax a bit as Kathie circled her bound, eager plaything. It was only now that he noticed she'd changed. The halter-top was black leather and covered her enough to be street legal, as was the miniskirt. Still sexy as hell, but it covered her.

She slid her hands along his body, a light touch that barely ruffled his fur but told her where every muscle and scar was.

"Is there anything you want me to get for the two of you?" Rock asked. "I've got a few toys here you might not've grabbed from your place, if you're interested in more than bloodplay."

"If he has any favorites, by all means," she grinned at him and walked over to her duffle bag. "I brought everything I actually need."

"He's already wearing his favorite," Rock grinned. "At least of the toys you probably don't have with you."

"If I do my job right, that won't last," Kathie purred deeply as she extracted a slender mental rod several inches long and a vial of clear liquid. She set the vial in a stand designed to hold several of them and walked back over to Jake. "Know what this is for?" she asked him with a throaty purr.

"No," he managed to say.

"It's to go in here," she stroked his rigid cock lightly.

"What will it do to him?" Rock asked, cocking his head curiously.

"It just feels intense," she said as she slipped the rod down Jake's urethra and watched him stiffen, his entire body tightening with a deep moan.

"I have a feeling it's a good thing you saved it for him," Rock grinned. "Want me to help with anything, or just watch for now?"

"Just watch, unless you want to play with him," she chuckled, watching Jake writhe and gasp as he struggled to adapt to the sensations that were entirely new to him.

"For now, I'll just watch and learn," Rock grinned, settling back to see what she had in mind. She'd already gone in things he'd even heard of.

Jake's whimpers slowed down to a trembling moan, his cock visibly quivering at the sensations from what was inside it.

"Ready for something even more intense?" Kathie asked with a low purr.

"More?" Jake rasped out in shock, but nodded eagerly all the same.

She smiled and closed her mouth around his cock, swallowing him to the sheath as his hips thrust forward to meet her. When she drew her head back, the rod came with her teeth. Without a word she took it from her teeth and dipped it into the vial of liquid, before carefully inserting it again.

She lowered her head and licked his cock root to tip as he screamed, startling Rock with the intensity of the sound, unable to even try holding back. The tabby stopped himself in the middle of getting up. Jake could stop this if he wanted to, and Kathie wasn't going to go too far.

He hoped. Jake could stop it ... but would he?

A low sob was wrenched from Jake next as the liquid seeped further into his body and the burning didn't abate, but the next sound was a whimpering grunt as his third orgasm finally pushed his seed past the cockring and the rod, sending the metal shot towards Rock and his come all over Kathie's head.

"Whoa!" Rock laughed, moving to the side before the rod hit the couch where he'd been sitting. "I think that goes on the 'to get' list," he said, though he was watching Jake's face to see if the pain was too much for him. Though his lover was panting and trembling with the occasional whimper, he clearly wasn't anywhere close to his limit yet.

"Incredible," Jake gasped out. "What was that stuff."

"A 2% capsicum solution in oil," she chuckled and stood to retrieve the metal rod. "I think we'll have fun tonight, since I started with the simple things."

"There was ever a doubt?" Rock asked her, thinking about what he'd seen, passing the rod back to her. "What point does that stuff start to do real damage at?"

"I never go above 5%, myself," she said as she grabbed a towel to get the worse of the semen from her hair. "Even a 1/2% can be useful."

"Of course, when you're drinking it, it's a different story," he chuckled. "At least if I remember your story right. Want some help cleaning up?" He asked her easily, standing up to do as he offered.

"Thanks. The tongue's taste buds will recover and nerve density is far lower," she pointed out quite seriously. "Where we put this stuff typically won't, and nerves almost never do. You can cause very serious chemical burns with too strong a solution on skin, or even inhaling it. While I don't doubt he'll eventually ask you to go higher than is safe, don't. Even if he's not an Enforcer anymore. No more than you'd use hard acid on him. This one isn't about Enforcer limits; it's about safe limits."

"That's why I asked," he nodded seriously, helping to clean most of Jake's seed from her hair, pausing briefly to lick some of it from her cheek and face, enjoying Jake's taste mixed with her scent. "Those are the limits I don't want to get anywhere too near; the Enforcer ones I'll push."

"Not too hard," she warned him and stood to cup Jake's face to guide him to look at her despite the slightly glazed expression he still had. "Are you up for more?" she asked him gently. "I'm quite willing to come back until I've taught Rock all I know."

"Thanks," Jake managed, then slid his head forward to lick her on the lips lightly. "Maybe something not-so-new?"

"The declawed hellcat?" Rock suggested.

"Sounds good to me," Kathie purred, kissing Jake lightly and going to fetch the toy while Rock started out to get some papers to put down for the blood.

"Hello there, cadets," Lindin Derlon greeted the three cadets already waiting in the lobby of SI's primary complex. "Here for Hellen's update too?"

"Yes, sir," they all nodded. Amanda and Jake he recognized quickly. He didn't know the third cadet as well, though he recognized him from the SI class he'd audited. He was thin, black-furred ... he must've had a hard time making it into the Academy, though he had a bright look about him that most of the best detectives he'd known had.

"Cadet Austin Dupin," he said, standing and offering his hand to the Panther. "A pleasure to meet you outside of a class, sir."

"It's good to see you've made the right impressions, Austin," Lindin shook his hand, then looked over at the two gunners. "Has she convinced you to switch divisions yet?"

"Not yet, though this will likely be my next transfer," Amanda nodded a polite greeting to him.

"And I'm staying with Chance, for now," Jake shook his head. "Maybe when he retires. For now, I'm glad to help out."

"We all are," Austin chuckled slightly, looking up as he saw a marked vehicle drive by. "Think the news is going to be along too."

"Then we'll likely get two passdowns," Jake sighed and rolled his shoulders. "No way will everything be spilled in front of the press."

"Maybe they won't be here long," Amanda offered hopefully. "If they don't stick around, we'll be doing something useful quick. You know SI's under pressure to produce some results, fast. They probably want to make it look like they're going to get them by inviting the press in."

"I'm surprised that three cadets and an outsider PI would be on the same tour," Lindin commented quietly as Ann Gora walked up by herself, press badge on her dress-suit lapel and notepad tucked professionally at her side.

Austin didn't show it, but he wasn't thrilled with the situation either. He had some ideas why they'd been asked to come along, and hoped he was wrong.

He didn't much like being a warm body, rather than an investigator in training.

"Has anybody seen Detective Favad-Talon yet?" Ann asked them curiously. She didn't have her camera crew with her, not just now. That was a good sign, at least, that this wasn't likely to take too long.

"No, ma'am," Amanda answered, reflexively taking the leadership roll she'd been raised for.

"Here she comes," Jake stood with a nod towards the inside of the building where the blond in uniform grays and long white lab code she seemed to go everywhere on duty.

"Good," Ann smiled. "Are you part of the investigation?" She asked the cadets and Panther ... she thought she remembered him from somewhere, though she couldn't place him.

"All of us are," Amanda nodded, allowing a grateful Jake to slip into the background.

"Do any of you have any personal opinions regarding the case? We could talk about it after the tour," Ann offered, knowing the senior Detective would be there soon.

"You know we can't talk on an open case without authorization," Amanda smiled politely at her.

"And my contract amounts to the same," Lindin lied smoothly. "Opinions or no, we'll have to say 'no comment' for now."

"Worth a shot," Ann chuckled, turning to greet Helen. "Detective Favad-Talon, a pleasure to see you," she said politely, giving a winning smile and offering the blonde her hand.

"I'm glad you came," Hellen smiled back and accepted the handshake. "I believe you've already interviewed some of the up-and-coming cadets," she nodded towards Jake and Amanda.

"Not about this, but I remember them both," Ann smiled, looking back at them. "And ... Detective Lindin Derlon?" She asked, looking up at the Panther. "I seem to remember you from the Shirley Brown case."

"You have a good memory, Miss Gora," he inclined his head slightly. "Though I'm a PI, not a Detective."

"Sorry, I'm not entirely up on the titles," she admitted with a smile. "Thank you though; I do my best. I haven't met you yet, though," she added, looking at the black-furred tom.

"Cadet Austin Dupin," he said politely, shaking her offered hand.

"Good to meet you," the reporter smiled, before turning back to the Detective in charge. "So, where do we start?"

"How about with any questions you have while we walk to the main lab," Detective Favad-Talon suggested, motioning them to follow her into the building.

"All right; what is the current status of the investigation?" Ann asked, starting with the list that had been prepared for her, pulling out her pad to write down the answers as she got them.

She'd get to the more important questions later.

"Open," Hellen answered. "We know what we're looking for, we have a name to go with him and enough forensic evidence to bury him in court."

"You do have a name then?" Ann asked, latching onto the biggest piece of news first. "Who did this?"

"Lierok," she said, pausing to see if the name registered with anyone, and wasn't particularly surprised when Amanda and Jake did.

"Only a first name then, not a last name?" Ann asked, not recognizing it. "Still, it must have narrowed down the suspect list quite a bit; it's an uncommon name."

"A unique one, Miss Gora," Amanda explained with a private smile. "Lierok is the name of a powerful Dire Wolf spirit. It's the name of the werewolf, not the Kat he's riding."

"Riding?" Ann focused on her. "This isn't a normal supernatural case, then?"

"As much as such a thing exists, no," Hellen confirmed. "It does mean that we have until the first day of the next full moon before he can strike again."

"Then the current curfew and increased Enforcer presence around campus is just for appearances?" Ann asked, glad she didn't have one of the major officers here; they tended to bristle when she asked things like that, especially the Ferals.

Jake shot a look at Hellen, who nodded.

"It's to prevent copy-cats, and to make people feel safe," Jake explained. "Just because we know it's a werewolf, doesn't mean that it's something that will soothe the general populous."

"And the rumors of increasing tensions between the Lions and Cheetahs on campus play a part too, I imagine? Are the Enforcers really sure that the two major killings were the work of the same person, and that the third victim, Ghede, was the victim of vigilantes gone wrong?"

"Yes," Hellen said with all the authority of absolute of forensic proof. "The only thing that links them is the violence and timing, but all forensics link the first two and exclude the third. Ghede was killed by at least three male Lions, while the other two attacks were by a Kat-based werewolf."

"And how can you tell it was a werewolf, and not just a hybrid of some sort?" Ann asked her. "Just the name identification, or something more?"

"A combination of DNA and an Identification spell," Hellen explained. "While we got his name from the spell, it was also confirmed by the survivor of the last attack. There is also how he healed from the damage, the timing and descriptions."

Ann could have sworn she saw a look pass between the Detective and Cadet Clawson, a look of ... gratitude?

She took the opening that mentioning the last attack gave her.

"Cadet Clawson; everybody is aware of your miraculous recovery after confronting the killer," she said. "Were you able to tell anything about him when you did so? And how do you explain your rapid recovery, and survival, when you were declared dead by Enforcers on the scene, paramedics, and the medical examiner?"

"I didn't learn anything that wasn't already known," he shook his head. "As for being alive, I don't try to explain," he shrugged.

It was as unsatisfactory an answer as any they'd been given; she couldn't believe that of all the people who'd checked him out, not one had recognized a coma instead of death, or that he'd recovered so swiftly afterwards if it was one. She didn't know what was up, but she knew something was ... and it was the sort of secret being kept from her that made her push towards questions she normally wouldn't ask.

"What's it like, waking up in the morgue?" She asked him, scolding herself at the perturbed look she got from Amanda for the question. She really needed to not give in to that sort of temptation.

"Cold," Jake muttered, holding his arms tightly against the memory and very clearly not completely with them anymore. "It's cold, dark and claustrophobic."

"Miss Gora?" Helen asked politely. "We would like to have the Cadets available to help with the case soon; if you could arrange for another time to speak with Cadet Clawson...?"

"Of course," Ann nodded slightly, turning away from him before Amanda reached up to squeeze his shoulder gently, Austin looking back at them curiously.

"You said that you were able to determine that the killer is a werewolf through DNA evidence and magic; what sort of things tell you that you might be looking at a werewolf, in the lab, and do the Enforcers have mages on-staff for things like this?"

"What we see in the lab is fairly simple, actually," Helen said easily, leading them back into the hallway outside a fairly busy lab. "I've got an example set up on the scope; I expected this one," she chuckled. They walked into a small room, mostly empty, large enough for all of them to gather around the main table and its microscope but not much more. "Miss Gora, if you wish; it should be in focus, but please allow me to adjust it if necessary." Ann nodded and looked through the powerful microscope at the stiff, dark hairs on it.

"I don't see anything unusual," she said, looking up at Helen.

"There's very little that is visible, particularly to the untrained eye. They look mostly like Wolf hairs. However, if you'll take a look at the next two slides...." She slowly rotated them through the viewing field while Ann looked. "Now can you see?"

"The werewolf hairs aren't as coarse as the regular Wolf ones?"

"Correct. Of course, it's only a first indication; there are too many other logical explanations to jump to werewolf from that."

"Using a feline fur-conditioner regularly being the easiest one," Austin mused.

"Exactly," Helen nodded. "But, since we had more evidence to go on this time, we've taken a look at the DNA, which is the final proof." She pulled out a sheet of alternating light and dark spots in four different lines.

"Ordinary Kat DNA; nineteen chromosomal pairs and all of them very clean," she said, indicating the shorted line. "Wolf DNA," she said, indicating the next one. "Thirty nine pairs, all of them very clean, very clear. This, however, is werewolf DNA; our werewolf's DNA," she said, indicating the third line.

"As you can see; thirty-nine pairs, but over half of them are muddy and indistinct. There was a time when we'd thought that it was just a result of bad lab procedures, but tests have shown that it's always the same twenty pairs, the pairs a Wolf would have that Kats lack. The werewolf, when shifting, replicates the remaining chromosomes, but their mutable, inconstant nature makes them show up poorly on the DNA screens. If it were a hybrid, the results would be more like this," she added, indicating the fourth line. It was similar to the werewolf line, but the extra twenty spots weren't fuzzy and indistinct, they were simply paler and smaller. "Since they have twenty chromosomes that don't have partners, we get this very distinctive pattern."

"I see," Ann nodded. "Just how many Kat-based werewolves have you done DNA tests on?"

"Ten," Hellen told her evenly.

"And the mage on staff?" Ann pressed.

"We don't have that much funding," Hellen shook her head with a low chuckle. "When we have a case that seems to need it, we have contacts we can call on for the job."

"I see. Do you have any way of identifying the Kat from the Werewolf DNA?"

"At this time, no," Hellen admitted. "The technology is being developed, but computer technology hasn't caught up to what's needed. We have to use magic for that, and it takes a week for the information to come in."

"So your mage should have it in a week?" Anne asked, surprised it would be so quickly. "A name?"

"Just the DNA," Helen said, shaking her head. "If we could get the name, that would make it much easier, but that takes a bit more doing unfortunately. At least to get it with evidentiary value; the courts are still reluctant to accept magic, particularly when it's names or descriptions."

"I see," Ann nodded, abruptly realizing that her job actually could be easier. She had much lower standards to uphold, as strange as it sounded to her.

"So, do you have any other questions?" Hellen asked.

"At the moment, no, though I may want to call and ask for clarification about some points while I work on the story," Ann said easily. "And Cadet Clawson; I'd like to set up a time to talk with you, just the two of us? No cameras," she promised with a smile.

"Like hell," he snapped, and instantly looked contrite for the outburst, though no less angry. "It's seen too much press already."

"Ah ... right," she nodded slightly, startled by the harsh response. Maybe his partner would be more willing to talk.

"Miss Gora, if you're ready to leave, I'd be glad to escort you out," Lindin offered. "Don't want you getting lost," he chuckled.

"I'm sure," she murmured and accepted a packet of papers from Hellen before following the old Panther out of the building.

"Are you going to be okay?" Amanda asked Jake quietly.

"I'll be fine," he nodded, though it didn't carry his usual confidence. "What can we do to help, ma'am?" He asked Hellen, distracting everyone with the job at hand.

"We've got two things that we need to work on," Helen said easily. "We've got the werewolf investigation, and we're trying to find the specific Lions responsible for Ghede's murder. We need results on both if we're going to avoid rioting. We'd been hoping for Lindin's help with the Lions, and the three of you on different aspects of the werewolf investigation. Austin; are you up on geographic profiling methodology?"

"Reasonably, ma'am, but aren't we short on data points?" He asked, cocking his head.

"We're including the last known points his victims were seen at before they were kidnapped," she explained. "And normally, yes, but that's why we're putting people on it instead of computers. We need a certain level of intuition in this, and I trust yours most of the cadets I don't need helping on the research end of it. Jake, Amanda, I need your help pinning down information on this Lierok, and how we can stop him."

"Yes, ma'am," Amanda nodded. "Do you have a file on what we do know?"

"Is it okay to bring Zach and Dr Sinnian in on this?" Jake asked.

"I think so, if they're both available," Hellen nodded. "You want to call them while I show Amanda the files?" She asked Jake.

"Yes, ma'am," he nodded with a somewhat easier smile now that the press was gone and slipped away to make the calls.

"Will he really be all right?" Hellen asked Amanda quietly.

"I expect so, ma'am," she nodded. "All the attention over his recovery just has him on edge."

"Understandably," Hellen agreed and walked over to a file cabinet and pulled out a thick folder.

Chance looked in the full-length mirror on the inside of the door to his changing room, considering how he looked in the pirate costume he was wearing.

Not too bad, really. The full-length coat and frilly gloves, boot, and shirt made him feel like an idiot, but half the other guys in the place would look just as ridiculous. It was one of the advantages of a theme park that virtually required dressing up to match it.

One of the few advantages, he reflected as he stepped out, hearing the high-pitched squeal of a kitten who was less than enthusiastic about being dressed up. He noticed a lone tom, paused in the middle of lacing up a boot, watching a young mother dressing her daughter through a half-closed door, and scowled briefly, catching himself before he went too far with his disapproval. For all he knew, the tom was the girl's father or uncle or something, just watching to see if her mother needed help.

He was grateful when Midnight came out of her room, next to his ... and when he actually looked at her, he let out a low, appreciative whistle as he was reminded of the other advantage of a park like this one.

His girlfriend made an incredibly hot pirate babe. Her scarlet red miniskirt trimmed in white lace matched the long-sleeved, high-collared bustier and captain's hat set off against her black fur was breathtaking, and entirely too hot for his own good.

He made a mental note to ask how much it would cost to buy, instead of just rent.

"I take it you like?" Midnight purred as she pressed against his chest and claimed a quick kiss.

"Very much, Captain," he purred back, returning the kiss briefly. "Piracy becomes you," he grinned, taking her arm as they started for the door.

"I think it becomes you as well, my Chance," she purred and pressed against him. "You make quite the dashing first mate."

"Thanks," Chance chuckled, purring and pressing back against her lightly, looking around the family-friendly version of a Sayden Bay that hadn't been seen in five hundred years. Rides, mostly water rides, were scattered through the park, long lines waiting to see them. A wax museum was nearby, taking advantage of people too tired for anything exciting on their way out, or gearing up to the more entertaining displays on the way in. A fenced off area near the back had numerous signs pointing towards it, advertising 'The Wharf,' with a smaller note marking it for pirates fifteen and older.

"So, where do you want to start, Captain?" He asked Midnight with a grin.

"Let's have fun in the adult areas while we can," she gave him a playful wink.

"You suggested it, not me," he chuckled, following her back towards the Wharf, where fences kept the kittens from seeing too much more than they should. They were admitted by the pirate-guard at the entrance with little more than a glance at the wrist-bands they'd gotten when they bought adult tickets and entered a world that seemed a little seedier, more realistic, but was still far from the real thing.

Of course, the real thing would've fit in nicely with some of the adult clubs he'd been to, so this was probably about as close as they could come normally. It was close though; the smell of cheap alcohol was in the air, and he could hear people in the bars laughing and joking. A fem further down the 'street' giggled as the guy she was with pushed her up against a wall and they started making out, his hands all over her too-tight corset.

"Not Warlords, but not bad," he chuckled. "So, want to grab something to drink?"

"Nothing's like Warlords," Midnight giggled. "And a drink sounds good. They might have good finger-food too."

Chance chuckled, and they headed for one of the marginally quieter bars nearby.

"Rum, or grog?" Chance asked her as they looked around, the atmosphere jovial, the smell of liquor strong. The 'no fighting' sign above the bar was a pretty good sign of how it could get, but it didn't look like anything was about to get started.

"I'd better stick with grog," she scanned the taps behind the counter for anything less strong, and spotted nothing. Even the lemonade was hard. "I'd like to remember our date," she smiled softly.

"Kinda what I figured," Chance chuckled. "I'll be back in a minute with drinks, Captain," he grinned, leaving her at one of the tables to go get two drinks in mock tankards.

Midnight grinned and watched his buff body walk to the counter, not making the least effort to hide her appreciation of it. She wasn't the least bit oblivious of the attention he got from others either, and grinned that she didn't have to worry about it.

He came back, setting her heavy mug down in front of her before he took his own seat.

"Here you go," he grinned, taking a long drink of his rum. "So, how do you like the place so far?"

"It's different, and you're sexy as all hell," she giggled and sipped the watered-down rum. "I'm not the only one who thinks so either."

"Glad you think so though," he grinned. "While we're on the topic, I don't suppose you happened to notice how much your outfit was going for if one of us wanted to buy it instead of just renting?"

"Can't say I did, but if you like it that much, I know places to get it for much less," she leaned forward to kiss him affectionately. "When were you planning on admitting that we'd moved in together?" she giggled a bit.

"Huh?" He asked, blinking as she looked up at him expectantly. Another moment passed as he thought it over. "I guess we kinda have, huh?" He chuckled sheepishly. "Didn't really think about it that much, I guess."

"I didn't think so," she giggled and took a longer drink. "Neither has Jake, but he's moved in with Rock too. Bets your room is still clean from the last time you had an inspection."

"I just thought Jake was keeping it clean in case of a surprise inspection," Chance admitted sheepishly. "I don't spend that much time there, so I haven't really noticed how much he does ... you, ah, you don't mind, do you?"

"You wouldn't have gotten this moved in if I did," she smiled slightly at him, feeling a bit giddy. "I like it when you spend the night. I'd like it if you made it official and moved in."

"Well... I'd have to talk it over with Jake, make sure there weren't any regs against it, but I think I'd like it too," Chance smiled shyly, leaning forward to kiss her gently.

"Well, if you haven't gotten in trouble yet, then you can move in, without moving out," she suggested with a giggle and leaned up against him. "It's not like you're really there anyway."

"True," he chuckled, pressing against her lightly. "Just have a few other things to move into your place then. Maybe this weekend?"

"Sounds good to me," she purred and shifted to sit in his lap, nuzzling him affectionately between sips of her drink. "You know, it's dark in the corner here, my skirt is nice and short," she rumbled throatily.

"I've noticed," he purred, reaching down under the table to rub her leg and the panties she wore under her skirt with powerful fingers and relished in the soft moan he received for it. "So, how do you want me to take advantage of it?" He grinned, pulling her around for a kiss that was returned eagerly.

He moaned into her mouth as the sensations of her full chest rubbing against his and her hips rubbing against his quickly-responding groin.

"Mmm," she purred, leaning close to his ear as her hand slipped between them to stroke his hard-on. "How about loosening your pants and let me sit on this lovely hard thing in them while we finish our drinks?"

"Gladly," he rumbled, kissing her again and reaching down to undo his pants. He guided her hips forward, and she pulled her panties aside to let him slide his barbed shaft up into her moist sex with a deep groan that she swallowed eagerly.

Chance was sure they weren't the only couple doing this, but he got a thrill out of it all the same, being out where anybody could spot them and it wasn't exactly permitted.

It didn't hurt that she suggested this, and her arousal was much more intoxicating than his drink. Her moans and rubbing against his body was possibly even more so, with the way she milked his shaft with her body without actually moving much.

He kissed her, fondling her through the corset as his shaft tingled inside of her, throbbing and thick with blood.

"Close," he murmured quietly, sure he shouldn't drag this out too much, despite wanting to.

"Try to hold off until our drinks are done, hot stuff," she breathed against his neck, nibbling playfully before twisting a bit to take a long drink. "I'm in no hurry."

"You're evil, you know that?" He groaned softly, though he took a drink of his own heavily flavored rum, feeling the alcohol start to kick in. "Strong stuff," he murmured.

"No, evil is going to be when I have you while I'm in heat," she licked as his head and squeezed the muscles of her sex upward, working his barbs and sensitive skin. "Ask Jake what I'm like, if you dare."

"Oooh ... what if I asked you instead?" He grinned, trying his best to hold back.

She grinned and began to rub up against him, adding a little movement to their pleasurable torture. "I'm so hot even Jake'll get hard, and I take three lovers to bed because it takes that much to sate me," she whispered secretively in his ear. "Last time I kept screaming your name, you know."

"One of these times, I'll be there for you," he rumbled, kissing her hungrily. "You can get Jake hard, and he still won't actually give you kittens?"

"Won't, can't," she whispered softly, her body hungry for what he offered that her first love couldn't. "I don't know," she admitted, nuzzling close to his face as body. "He'll take me until he's sore, and never come. I can see what it does to him, to do it for me. I've wanted to not ask him to join me for three years now, and never been strong enough when it came time. He feels so good to be with."

"Don't have to worry about that right now," he rumbled, kissing her hungrily, letting her taste the unadulterated drink on his breath as he ground his hips up against hers.

"No, now I have you all I want," she moaned, pressing against him and closing her eyes as an electric wave of pleasure crashed over her. "Fill me, hot stuff. Fill me with all you have," she nearly begged.

He drew her down into a kiss, moaning into her mouth as he came hard, pumping his seed deep into her dripping pussy, his claws pressed against her cheeks lightly as the pleasure made everything in his body tighten.

All he could think of was the incredible pleasure of her orgasm around him as he gave her what she wanted. Sweet Bastet it was going to be incredible when they were ready for kittens.

Beyond incredible. When this was as good as the average shekat on the leading edge of her heat, Midnight in the full bloom of hers would be mind-blowing on a whole new level.

"Can't wait till we're ready," he moaned into her fur, oblivious to the rest of the room, or that one of the serving wenches had come by and refilled their drinks.

"I'm looking forward to it too," she murmured with a contented sigh and relaxed in his arms. "How long do you think they'll let us sit here?"

"If they haven't yelled at us yet, probably at least until nature takes care of things," he chuckled, nuzzling her neck. "Love you."

"Love you too, hot stuff," she purred, deeply contented. "Glad you're ready to really move in too," she nuzzled him. "Can't wait till you graduate."

"Mmm ... make it official after that, a few more years and kits?" He purred, nuzzling her neck. "Gods, you've got no clue what you do to me."

"As long as it's good," she smiled warmly and nuzzled him. "And I like that timeline. Enough time to be secure, and I'll still be young enough for a good sized family."

"Mhm," he purred. "Assuming living around mine hasn't scared you off the idea," he chuckled. "At least we'll have family to help out."

"All the better," she shivered in anticipation of an event still several years off. "If my family and Jake's hasn't killed the desire, I seriously doubt your could," she giggled playfully and kissed him passionately. "I have all but raised one very difficult kit already, after all."

"Yeah, but you got him one at a time," he smirked as she pulled back, his shaft finally softening and slipping from her body. "Mmm ... wonder if they've got showers anywhere," he chuckled.

"I saw a bathroom over there," she motioned with her nose towards a back corner and slid a hand between them to tuck him in and close his pants. "You can't tell me you wouldn't get off on having everyone with a nose know just how hot you are to me."

"You bet your ass I would," he purred hotly, kissing her and moving her panties back into place. "So we'll just wash up a little," he winked as she reluctantly got off his lap, her first step a bit tipsy.

"I think you did a real number on me," she giggled before she got her balance back and walked off with a playful sashay in her hips.

Chance chuckled and got up himself, heading off to wash up a bit after taking a sip of his rum. It tasted a little different this time, though he couldn't quite place it.

He pointedly grinned back and flirted with everyone who looked at him with interest, even though he had no intention of going with any of them.

"Hey, hot stuff," a very sexy voice crooned from his left with enough presence to turn his head to see a red-furred Vixen walk right up to him and slid her hands up his chest and pressed right up against him. "That was something else you did to that pretty black girl."

"Glad you liked the show," he chuckled, pulling away from the Vixen a bit and looking her over. Attractive girl; one of the guests, he was sure, the bodice she was wearing was the skimpiest rental there. "Hope you're not here with security to have us escorted out?" He asked with a wise-ass grin.

"Hardly," she laughed in a light, playful tone. "Though I was hoping for a dance or two with you myself."

"Dancing, or 'dancing'?" He asked her with a chuckle. Normally, he wouldn't have bothered to ask, just taken her up on the offer without a second thought. With Midnight here though, he didn't want to roam too far, too long. She'd be expecting him there when she got back.

"The dance you just gave her," she crooned, brushing her tail up his groin. "Your girl isn't jealous, is she?"

"No," Chance shook his head, only to realize he'd just given up a very easy way out. "Look, you're hot and ..." he froze, his ears flicking at a woman's scream from the general area of the bathrooms.

"Sorry," he said, turning to start running for the bathrooms, easily brushing off her half-hearted attempt to keep his attention. Midnight or not, he couldn't be sure, and he didn't care. He wasn't about to stand around and flirt after hearing that.

The next sound was from below the floor in the bathroom area, and sounded like male snarls of pain and a female hissing in desperate rage.

Chance growled lowly; it only took him a moment to find the small, poorly closed trap door in the floor. He threw it open and dropped down to the ground, not bothering with the short ladder.

"Enforcer!" He called out, light streaming in from the bathroom the only source of illumination, his eyes busily adjusting to the darkness of the tunnel leading away.

Midnight was impossible to see, but her red, white and gold costume stood out against the other dark shapes. Three or four, he couldn't be sure, and one of the bigger ones had Midnight over her shoulder, though he wasn't having much luck keeping her there, or escaping unscathed from her escape attempts from the yip of pain he gave.

He heard the clang of the trap door shutting and everything went dark, leaving only Midnight's hissing snarls and the sounds of pain when she connected to guide him.

He followed them for a few moments, but the echoes quickly made it useless so he turned to his nose in the maze this place under the wharf was turning into.

"If you bastards don't stop now, I swear you'll both be castratos when you get to jail!" He shouted down the tunnels. He didn't really expect them to stop, but they might reconsider if they thought he could follow them.

He paused for a brief moment at a corner, trying to catch the direction to go, and reached down to pull his combat knife out of its ankle-sheath under his leather boots. It had looked like part of his costume earlier, and after over a year wearing it, he honestly had a hard time taking it off while he was dressed. The heavy blade felt good in his hand, a natural extension of his arm after so long working with it and its smaller street cousins.

He'd just stood back up when a large body plowed into him, obviously in absolute panic. His nose told him it was one of the toms he was chasing, but the big Kat seemed to be far more concerned with getting away from whatever was behind him than with Chance.

He grabbed the big tom and twisted, throwing him down to the ground and laying on top of him.

"Where the Hell is she?" He demanded of the terrified, squirming tom. Not even the blade at his throat seemed to make much impact, but it got an answer.

"Way I came," he hissed out. "Demon's all yours."

He wasn't sure if 'demon' meant his partner or Midnight, but he rather hoped it was her as he got up and took off, leaving the tom behind. He didn't have time to tie him up or anything right now.

He ran down the tunnel the tom had come from, things getting lighter as he moved towards the maintenance tunnels under the park. Now that he could see, he could see torn fur and blood spotting the walls. None of it looked like Midnight's, so he could only assume that she was doing a number on whoever was holding her. There was one last scream, this one cut off mid-way through, and he bolted to follow it.

One last corner and he spotted her, hanging limply over a large mutt Kantin's shoulder. It didn't take much to see the guy'd taken a serious clawing before she went down.

If he was lucky, that's all he'd get from Chance before they were done.

"Put her down, asshole!" He shouted, lowering his head and charging the mutt, flipping the knife in his hand so it laid flush with his arm for now.

The mutt turned his head and growled, dropping her limp body as he faced the charge.

Chance ducked his head for a tackle, bringing his knife-hand up to block the Kantin's attempt to clobber him. His hand slammed into the canine's stomach, the knife flashing up and cutting his arm as he drove him back and away from Midnight's limp form.

The Kantin snarled and slammed into Chance's chest with a lightning-fast kick, sending the tabby to the ground and giving him time to turn and bolt into the darker areas of the underground.

Chance was torn for a moment; part of him wanted to chase after the guy, grab him. The tom he'd found was probably long gone, and the Vixen too if she had half a brain ... he was sure she was part of this. The Kantin could be the only link to finding out what had happened.

But the other part of him, the part that won out in the end, wanted to go back and make sure Midnight was okay. He hurried back to her; ripping the crude muzzle of rope off of her face once he saw it.

"Are you okay, baby?" He asked her, his face a mask of concern as he helped her up, easily compensating for her half-conscious shakiness.

"Will be," she managed to garble out, not even vaguely capable of standing on her own. "That hurt."

"I'll bet," he murmured, helping her stand against the wall. "Stay with me, babe; how many fingers am I holding up?" He asked her, trying to figure out just how badly she'd been hurt, and if she still had a concussion or not.

It took her a moment to focus and figure out what he wanted. "Two," she said softly. "Probably do, definitely got hit hard enough. Unconscious a bit."

"Well, you answered right anyways," he murmured. "C'mon, let's get you the Hell out of here ... should be a ladder somewhere, and we can call the Enforcers once we're up top," he said, looking around, helping her walk further into the better lit tunnels where they might be able to find an exit.

He was starting to debate the wisdom of not simply backtracking his own scent when he saw movement just at the edge of his vision.

"If it gets rough, try to get out of here," he told Midnight quietly, handing her his knife, just in case. He couldn't help but notice that she had some training on how to hold it, and suspected it was from Jake. He felt her focus her energy on her legs and balance as she nodded, prepared to bolt if she could and fight hard if she couldn't.

"Hey!" He called out. "Hey, we need some help down here!"

He really hoped it wasn't one of the bastards who'd katnapped Midnight.

"What?" a confused and startled male voice called back as the figure began to hurry towards them. "How did you two get down here?" the buff tom wearing a maintenance uniform demanded, even as he focused on the pair's condition. "How long have you been lost?"

"Lost? About ten minutes," Chance half-laughed. "Chasing two guys who tried to katnap my girlfriend? About the last hour or so. Can you please tell us how to get out of here?"

"Of course," he nodded and turned back the way he's come. "Name's Gavin, by the way," he introduced himself. "There's a first aid station about a hundred yards from here, the exit's about half a mile."

"Station first; they hit Midnight hard," Chance said, taking his knife back and helping to support her again. "Name's Chance Furlong, and this is Midnight Raven. Don't know who the bastards who started this were, but I can describe 'em to security."

"Good," Gavin nodded and made a bee-line for the first aid station and opened it for Chance, then went to the CB stationed next to it and called in the situation.

Chance helped Midnight to sit down, checking just how badly hurt she really was, and what he could do to help fix it.

"A little help might be good," he admitted quietly, keeping half an eye on Gavin. He didn't think he was in on it, but he wasn't at his most trusting just now.

He did sheathe his knife though.

"Enforcers and paramedics will met us at the access point, unless she needs help sooner," Gavin repeated what the dispatcher told him. "Someone can show them here, but it probably won't be any faster that walking there."

"I'm not that hurt," she said firmly, mostly to Chance. "Paramedics, yes. Hospital if they want it. I need help walking, but I'm not that far gone, and nothing's broken."

"Let's get going then," Chance said, closing up the kit and giving it back to Gavin before turning to help Midnight stand. "Don't think this means I won't keep trying to take care of you though," he murmured to her softly, welcoming the weight she willingly put on him.

"Didn't expect it," she smiled slightly. "Let's get back to daylight, okay?"

Zach glanced out the window of the small plane they were taking to Karalanol, Amanda's home turf. He'd already gotten three major surprises today. That Jake and Rock were also coming, that they were flying instead of driving, though he should have seen that one coming, and that two other Karalanol natives were flying home with them this trip.

Right now he was sitting next to an older shekat, probably close to his mother's age, and dressed in full ceremonial leathers that covered much of her multi-colored fur. They didn't particularly resemble the leathers for any specific ceremony he knew of; more the Karalanol equivalent of formal wear, if he remembered right. Their society wasn't one he'd covered in too much detail, part of why he was here in the first place. A personal tour by a princess wasn't to be passed up.

After a while on the flight, Jake and Amanda chatting quietly up front, discussing the flight, Zach decided to try and be at least a little sociable. It would be a long flight if he couldn't manage it.

"Looking forward to a visit home?" He asked her, desperately hoping he was right that she wasn't originally from the city. He always worried about offending somebody when they first met, especially if there was any way that somebody could misinterpret what he was saying. It made making small talk very nearly painful, but in close quarters for at least the next hour, there wasn't too much choice.

"Very much," she smiled warmly at him. "I intend to stay for a few years this time."

"How long have you been away?" He asked curiously, relaxing a bit.

"Almost a full cycle," she said. "It will be good to be home again, and with my grandkits. One is going to have her nameday tomorrow."

"I hope it's a good one," Zach smiled. "I'm sure she'll be glad to have her grandmother there. Do you know how things are going in Karalanol lands these days?"

"Good, I believe," she nodded slightly. "The harvest came in strong, and hunting has been good from the letters my daughter has sent. We did not loose any of the newborns this year."

"That's always good to hear," he smiled. "I've always respected your people's choice to stick to the old ways, but it must be hard some years."

"It can be," she consented. "It is always hard to lose a kitten, but it is how the Goddess intends us to live and die. Your city has many wonders, but it is not how I wish to live."

"These days, I can't really blame you either," he nodded easily, thinking of the psychopathic sadistic werewolf that probably wasn't even warmed up.

"Yes, I was very pleased to hear Princess Ees-ta-vina was making this trip, or I would be in the city another three weeks. It is not something I was looking forward to."

"Beautiful new dawn," Amanda called back, anticipating the question. "I love my heritage, but some things aren't worth trying to explain to Academy officers."

"Fair enough," he chuckled slightly. "I think she's been looking forward to this trip too ... by the way, I'm afraid I haven't asked what your name is," he said sheepishly, looking up at his traveling companion. "Mine's Zach, Zach Tanner."

"Tammel Us-sha-kem," she inclined her head.

"Do you know Amanda, beyond her position?" He asked, glancing at the shekat piloting the ship.

"We are not close relatives, but I am of the same tribe," Tammel said with an amused chuckle that drew a groan from the open cockpit. "I was around for much of her youth."

"It sounds like there's a story here that's worth hearing," Zach grinned, not sure if it would be told or not, but giving the opening.

"It helps if you understand our ways," Tammel began with a low, matronly chuckle. "While it is far from unknown for women to be weura; a warrior; the hunter and provider of a family, or for a male to be a berdache; the cook and caretaker of the kits, it is fairly rare. Many villages can go generations without seeing either one."

"And Amanda is definitely a warrior," Rock piped up from his seat in the second row, looking over curiously. "So she ended up getting a fair amount of attention?"

"Particularly of the kind she didn't appreciate," Tammel chuckled. "Warriors who thought they could make a wife of her."

"Who were only interested in the status of marrying the chief's only daughter," Amanda snorted.

"I'm guessing they learned that you were a better fighter than they thought?" Rock asked her with a grin. "You just don't have any real luck with guys, do you?"

"Not many toms are willing to tend a fire," she shrugged. "A female wife will be easy, several have shown interest, but I'm not terribly fond of females in general and haven't found one I cared for enough to see past it."

"So you're looking for a...." Rock tried to pronounce the world right again.

"A berdache," Zach offered, helping Rock out with it. "Sounds like it. They're not very common then, or just not in your tribe?"

"They aren't common anywhere I've looked, and when you add at least a little bit of quality needed to make my father happy, it makes it harder," Amanda admitted. "That I want someone I'm actually attracted too it gets a whole lot harder."

"You're still young, Ees-ta-vina-ka," Tammel assured her. "You will find it easier to choose when you are older and less picky."

"Which probably isn't too much consolation these days," Zach said understandingly. "If nobody minds a change of topic, Amanda ... why'd you choose that name, for what you use locally?"

"If you dig back to middle Amerin it means beautiful dawn," she explained. "It means the same, just in a language easier for city Kats to understand."

Zach groaned and rolled his eyes. "I should've known that," he muttered. "Oh well, reminder I needed apparently," he chuckled slightly.

"Yes, you should have," Amanda teased him back.

"In my defense, I study cultures, not languages," Zach blushed. "And in modern culture around MKC, most people only care what a name means as long as they're reading the baby-name books."

"Sure, sure, blame society," Rock smirked. "Zach's an anthropologist by training," he explained to the slightly confused looking older woman. "This sorta thing's supposed to be his bread and butter."

"No, this trip's the sort of thing that's supposed to be my bread and butter," Zach chuckled.

"How much of our language do you know?" Tammel asked.

"I can keep from humiliating myself too badly, and do it without much of an accent," Zach admitted easily. "The greetings I'm pretty good with, but an actual conversation is beyond me."

"You will make a good impression on her father, then," Tammel smiled slightly. "Have you made one on her yet?"

"Enough of one that she's willing to be seen in public with me, I guess," Zach chuckled. "And to bring me back here for a weekend," he added.

"And in private?" Tammel asked with a chuckling purr.

Zach took a moment to realize what she meant, and blushed fiercely.

"Ah, wrong kind of good impression," he protested shyly. "Even if I wasn't taken already, no way I'm up to her standards."

"My taste run more towards the cinnamon tom," Amanda added with a chuckle. "Who, unfortunately, is very much not the breeding kind."

"And he's taken too," Rock grinned up at his lover in the cockpit. "Though I don't know how well he'd take to the berdache life."

"Poorly, I expect," Jake chuckled, earning a snicker from Amanda.

"Oh, I don't know, you seem to take orders well," Amanda winked at him, earning a deep groan.

"And you like to cook, and clean," Rock added, enjoying the joking.

"And hunting bad guys," Jake countered.

"That's for when somebody's stupid enough to break in," Zach teased with a grin. "Besides, somebody here'd probably think you'd look good in the outfit," he winked.

"Oh?" Rock quirked an eyebrow between Zach, Amanda and Tammel.

"Berdache wear dresses, same as most women," Amanda filled him in. "He even wouldn't look too out of place with that muzzle."

"Well, don't worry, I won't ask for a demonstration," Rock snickered. "Tempting though it is," he winked.

"If you did, you'd have to be prepared to fight for him," Amanda warned with amusement. "Many would want him."

"Mmm ... I don't know about that, I think he'd probably stick pretty close," Rock purred.

"If you'd just wheedled him into a dress, he might not," Zach pointed out with an amused chuckle.

"Well, I'm sure father would be happy to perform a wedding ceremony to keep the competition away," Amanda giggled, her own desire to have a chance with Jake overcome by the idea of seeing that incredible sweetness the pair had on public display. "I'm sure you two would keep the entire village awake afterwards."

"We've only got a weekend though," Rock snickered. "Don't think the Academy would be all that understanding."

"Why not?" Amanda glanced back curiously.

"Oh, the marriage probably, but not a leave for a honeymoon," Rock grinned.

"Weddings rarely last ten minutes, and the honeymoon starts right afterwards, and lasts until dawn," Zach supplied, only realizing after he said it that it might not be appropriate, or always correct.

"Unless you have a great deal of rank and want to make a big gathering of it," Amanda nodded.

"Which we wouldn't," Rock chuckled. "To be fair though, think I'd want to see if he's willing to move in all the way before I go proposing."

"Not a bad idea," Jake chuckled softly. "And see if you can actually cope with me full time."

"Any time you want to admit you're a few crates of books away from it, I'm ready to pick 'em up and make room," Rock smiled warmly.

"That's just the dorm room," he pointed out with a grin and wink. "I have a have a hangar and too many things still at home too, you know."

"Well the hangar is your own," Rock chuckled. "How much do you still have at home? Don't remember it coming up."

"What I haven't needed at school," Jake answered, a bit more subdued for a brief moment. "If I actually move in, she'll expect me to move out, you know."

"From her place, or from mine eventually?" Rock asked gently.

"From hers," Jake shrugged. "I did move into the dorms at fourteen. I left a lot of stuff there. As long as I'm still in the dorms, she's not going to ask for me to get out."

"Does it bother you? If it does, then it's okay, I just figured you spent most of your time at my place anyways ... when you're not at class, anyways."

"Bother me? No," Jake shook his head, keenly aware of the audience and how much he didn't want this conversation in public. "Guess I'm just still a little gun-shy after Greg."

"We can talk it over some other time," Rock said easily, picking up on Jake's discomfort. "Not like I'm gonna throw you out," he chuckled, privately cursing himself for letting it get to the point where Jake started to withdraw. "So, Ees-ta-vina," he pronounced Amanda's given name carefully. "Is your father likely to spring a suitor or two on you?"

"No, he's long past that," she chuckled, more than willing to be the target for a while to give Jake a breather. "He still hopes, but I think he's accepted I'm unlikely to marry soon."

"Just as well, really, with you in the Enforcers," Zach offered. "Or wouldn't you be expected to return shortly afterwards?"

"Once I marry, I won't visit the city often, or for long," she said. "I'll have my hands full supporting my wives and kits."

"Kinda what I figured," he nodded. "So that'll probably be at least a few years down the line, after you've gotten a few years and transfers under your belt, before you're seriously looking?"

"I've been seriously looking since I turned ten," she chuckled, most of her attention on flying the craft. "While candidates for second and third wives are easy to come by, a first wife, that is much harder, even in MegaKat City."

"Yeah, I could imagine," Zach nodded slightly.

"Y'know ... I might be able to find somebody who'd fit the role you're looking for, if you wanted me to," Rock offered.

It earned him a curious look over her shoulder. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Yeah," he nodded. "It's come up both times we've been talking, so I figured I'd offer," he chuckled. "I know a few folks in the tranny community in MKC ... might be somebody who meets your standards, and that's basically what the berdache sound like to me."

"I believe so," she nodded thoughtfully. "Though one that is prepared to live as we do may limit the choices, and the skills to fill the role."

"Granted," he nodded slightly. "Just figured it might open up an option for you; I could introduce you, at any rate."

"I would appreciate it," Amanda smiled at him with real gratitude. "Perhaps this weekend you could spend some time getting to know Nemari, a berdache in my father's village. If he wasn't already married, I would have considered him, and I have already agreed to take him in if anything happens to Tro-en-na."

"If I get the chance, sure," Rock nodded easily, and everyone settled quietly as the plane began to descend quickly.

It didn't take long for touchdown, or for the rolling to stop. By the time Amanda opened the hatch, quite a crowd had gathered, all in leather clothing that Zach recognized from books, but had never seen in life, much less with all the wear and different conditions apparent in the gathering.

Rock, Zach and Jake waited for the Karalanol to disembark, watching at the varying levels of formalities in greetings; everything from screaming kittens running up to hug a favorite relative to the extremely formalized motions and words exchanged between Amanda and a woman who could very easily be her mother, who wore ceremonial leathers even finer than Tammel's.

"Come on down," Amanda waved them over once she had finished about a dozen greetings, mostly formal.

The three outsiders followed her down, Zach obviously the most at ease with it, the most curious about the society he was visiting, though Jake wasn't far behind him.

"Did you hear much about this?" Rock asked his lover softly, his eyes instinctively scanning to gauge how hard it would be for these people to accept two warriors together. There may have been a time when Jake would have accepted, maybe even welcomed, being a housewife, but they were long past.

"A year's worth," he nodded and bowed politely to the very finely dressed older woman standing next to Amanda as they approached. "Thank you for welcoming us to your husband's village."

"You taught him manners," the older woman seemed faintly surprised, and pleased.

"He has been among my warrior-kin for as long as I have been gone, mache-suun," Amanda chided her politely. "This is Jake Clawson, Cadet and Gunner of the Enforcers. His warrior-lover Rock Clawson, cousin to his partner, and Zach Tanner, a young wise-kat. This is Alamin, my father's third and most senior wife."

"It is a pleasure to meet you, lura-suua," Zach said politely, inclining his head towards her, hiding his faint embarrassment at Amanda's introduction. While he was sure it was the role he came closest to filling, he knew he was nowhere near it, not by Karalanol standards. At least not the standards he was familiar with.

"Come, we have prepared tents for you," Alamin warmed to the group slightly, then dropped her voice low to speak to Amanda as they walked. "Male or female?"

"Female for both," she answered just as quietly. "Jake does not like females in bed, but he is unlikely to want anyone but Rock anyway while we are here."

"Know what that meant?" Rock whispered to Jake at the quick hand signal Alamin made.

He just shook his head. "I don't think it's anything bad."

"If it was, I think we'd probably know already," Zach reassured them quietly. "C'mon, let's keep going - don't know about you guys, but I could use a stretching out after the ride."

"That was nothing," Jake cracked a grin at him. "Real luxury compared to a shift in a Talon."

"Yeah, but you're getting used to that," Zach smirked as they followed Amanda. "I only fly a couple times a year at most."

"That's still more often than the rest of us," Rock pointed out, and followed the two women up to a large teepee decorated with stylized game animals and geometric patterns.

They waited briefly, unsure what was going to happen next, when Alamin stood just a bit straighter. Her gaze was on a line of six Kats, all clearly of Karalanol descent but not dressed in any finery, that walked towards them. The group was well-groomed and dressed in good clothing, but the first thing that caught Zach's eye was the lack of a headband on the two toms. He wasn't entirely sure what it meant, though he was fairly sure it meant these two weren't warriors, like almost all the other toms here.

"My husband wishes you every comfort in your stay with us, honored guests," Alamin spoke formally, and most directly to Jake. "Please, select a slave to serve you during your stay."

"Huh?" Rock blinked, surprised by the offer.

"Roll with it, and let Jake make the choice," Zach told him quietly, looking the selections over. The shekats were attractive, no doubt about it. He would be glad to let Jake choose first though; he thought that was the right way to go about it, since he'd been the one addressed for the most part.

Not for the first time, and he was sure not for the last, he wished he'd done more research before coming out here. He'd wanted to, but between Amy and the investigation, it wasn't easy to find the time he needed to do it right.

Jake cocked his head, considering the six. His gaze passed over the four females; two tabbies, a black-haired piebald and a solid white with golden hair. Then he looked over the two males; a gray tiger-tabby with black hair he was sure was Fern from Amanda's many stories of her last few years at home, and a black and white with fierce blue eyes despite his outward passivity.

"The black and white tom," Jake inclined his head towards his choice, and the slender but muscular tom walked to him to kneel at his side.

"The white-furred fem," Zach decided after a moment to silently confirm that he was supposed to make the next choice by the way their attention shifted towards him slightly.

"The piebald," Rock decided last, following Zach's advice and hoping he was doing this right.

No one missed the slightly grateful look Amanda gave Jake when it was over and the gray tabby tom walked to her side without anyone giving a word.

"Jake, Rock, this is the tent we set up for you," Alamin indicated the large teepee they were in front of. "That one," she motioned towards a smaller one," is for Zach. Ees-ta-vina will join the family circle," she motioned towards the center ring of teepees that they were just outside of. "Send a slave to her tent when you are ready."

"Yes, lura-suua," Jake inclined his head to her, and watched briefly as Amanda walked off with her mother's husband's wife. "It's going to be an interesting weekend," he murmured and turned to enter the larger teepee.

"Yeah, it probably is," Zach agreed, heading for the smaller one along with the white-furred slave he'd chosen, considering whether or not this might be a good time to nail down a few details about their stay.

The floor was a single cured hide, the bed was a pile of soft-cured furs, and the only other thing in the teepee was a small pile of grooming goods and clothing that his slave had knelt next to.

"What's your name?" He asked her, starting to undo his shirt. It was more than a little strange to have her watching him so closely, much like Amy did, but with nothing like sex planned.

"Esta, Master," she smiled at him, a brush in hand, ready for him to be completely undressed.

"A pleasure to meet you, Esta," he smiled back, stripping down completely without nearly the sort of nervousness or hesitation he usually had. It was easier, when he could get into the mindset of being somewhere unusual, taking part in their customs and society, rather than being back home ... less personal for him, in a lot of ways. He'd spend much of his teens and entire adult life learning to do just this kind of thing.

"You have handsome stripes, Master," she purred with brush in hand. "Come sit and allow me to groom you for your meeting."

"Thank you," he smiled, sitting down and crossing his legs to let her start working on him. "Mind if I ask you a few questions, about this weekend and life around here?"

"Of course not, master," she said easy and began with his neck. "I am here to serve your needs as best I am able."

He nodded, tilting his head to give her better access to his neck and shoulders.

"What am I expected to do for you while you're serving me?" He asked her. He didn't expect that it would be too much, not over the course of the weekend, but some places had customs in place that could be tripped over easily, particularly when it came to basic needs. "I'm not really familiar with my responsibilities in this situation."

"Nothing, master," Esta was a little surprise, then remembered what the Chief had said about this one, that he was a young wise-kat. She thought for a moment as she laid his fur flat and gave it a subtle soft shine of good care. "My Master does not appreciate his slaves being struck, though it is your right to."

"I seriously doubt that's going to happen," he chuckled, purring as she groomed him well. "That's not the sort of thing I do. Ees-ta-vina introduced me as being a young wise-kat; do you know if I'm going to be expected to prove that?" He asked with a bit of a chuckle.

"Are you trying to court her or claim a position in the tribe?" she asked politely, moving down to his back.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "Her friend, but that's all." There was a little temptation to see what he could manage, he had to admit. Not courting her, by any means, but he wondered what would be involved in becoming a part of the tribe, and what he might learn from it.

He had all the wrong reasons to try though, which was why he didn't contradict himself now. Learn about the society first, accept the offer, if it was actually made, later.

"Then I doubt you will be tested in any way," Esta told him, her brush and slender fingers working lower in the most thorough grooming he'd had in a very long time. It was enough to trigger a memory that sent a shiver down his spine.

His first field mission; an undergraduate and only just working into sexual awareness of himself as more than an abstract concept to jerk off to. She was only a girl, not even ten yet, and her father was trying his best to get him to marry her and stay with the tribe. He'd known it wasn't an uncommon age for them, but it was the first time academic knowledge had gone face to face with a real life situation he had to work out.

He still wished he'd handled that better. He knew, now, that there were better ways to have dealt with it, not just more suitable to his own morals and ethics but more professional. He was just devoutly grateful that every indication had been that the one night he had given into temptation hadn't had any lasting consequences.

He still wasn't entirely sure what freaked him out more. The fact that he had given in, that his first sexual partner had been a kitten ... or the fact that she'd been more experienced than he had been.

He shook his head, discarding the thoughts. It was the one thing in his career that he was sincerely, honestly pissed at himself for the way it had worked out, and he didn't like to dwell on it.

Still ... it had given him one lasting philosophy he'd almost forgotten about.

"Ah ... Esta ... you did say that there wasn't anything I had to do for you ... is there anything that you expect me to do, or to want you to do?" He asked her.

Best to find out before bedtime, if there was any doubt whether or not you were sleeping alone.

Her silence, the momentary pause of her hands as she worked on a question she likely had never had cause to think about before, was met with relaxed, patient silence to allow her the time she needed.

"Most visitors do bed their slave," she said uncertainly. "I would like you to eat my cooking; I have never cooked for a city Kat before, but I am considered a good cook locally. I would like you to tell me if you like or need anything. It is what I am here for."

"I will," he promised her, and felt her relax a bit as the grooming continued. "And I'm sure your cooking is fine," he added with a smile. "I'll be glad to try it."

"Thank you, master," she smiled shyly. "I hope my Katian is acceptable, master."

"It is," he smiled back at her. "I hope my Karalanol holds; I'm not very good at it yet," he admitted.

"I can help you with it, if you would like, master," she offered, picking up his tail and beginning to work on it with even more care than the fur that would be covered by clothing.

"I'd appreciate that, Esta," he smiled, purring as she worked. "Ees-ta-vina gave me a few pointers, but I know that I need to work on it."

"It would be my pleasure, master," she smiled and moved around to begin working on his chest.

"How did you become a slave?" He asked her, changing the topic to something they probably had time to talk about yet. "If you don't mind talking about it?"

"I was orphaned when I was six and traded to cover my new father's gambling debt," she said easily. "I've had many owners since then, some nice, some not, even a Herinoth women once."

"A different tribe?" He asked, trying to place the name without any real luck.

"They are that too," she nodded. "Herinoth are the big people. Tigers, Sabertooth, Puma and the like. What do you call them?"

"Ah," he nodded. "We call them the Xanith," he told her. "So what do you usually do? Are there different types of slaves around here?"

"Oh yes," she nodded, working on his arms. "There are general slaves, bed slaves and skilled slaves. Though most start out as general slaves and become bed slaves or skilled slaves."

"Which are you?" He asked her curiously. She was acting more like a general slave, at this point, but if she was a skilled one she might still have been chosen for one of the guests, just not in a position where her skills would be as useful.

"I'm a bed slave, master," she smiled warmly, clearly pleased with the statement.

"So what sort of duties does each kind of slave have?" He asked her. He had his ideas, but this was the sort of thing that was almost always poorly translated and varied radically from one culture to the next.

"A general slave's duties depend on their sex, to a great extent. A male will set camp, gather wood, haul things and help with other things warriors usually do around the camp. A female will cook, clean, prepare hides, help with grooming her master and care of the kittens. The duties of a wife.

"A bed slave is a general slave that also sleeps with their master and bears their master kittens if female. Being the Chief's bedslave means that my kittens will grow up the children of the Chief. It's far better a position than I could ever hope for them as a wife.

"A skilled slave usually belonged to a healer, wise-woman or sorceress and was trained but not freed. Some are also bedslaves, some are not.

"Oh, and there are slaves that only have to serve for a time, set when they were sold, usually by their families. Most of us are in for life, or until an owner decides to free us."

"You like your position in life then?" He asked her with a smile. That was the sort of thing nobody really addressed when slavery came up in MKC; whether or not the 'victims' of the practice minded.

This weekend could be the start of an interesting paper when he got back. Probably not much for his thesis, but it wasn't like he could just write that.

"Yes, I do," she nodded, completely at ease with the statement. "My Master treats me very well, his wives do not resent me, and his sons and daughter are similar in temperament. It is a good life for me."

"I hope you get to stay in it, then," he smiled. "There's not too much known about slavery, particularly among the Karalanol, back home, and much of what is discussed is very one-sided. It's good to hear about it from the inside, so to speak."

"It's not always so nice," Esta admitted quietly, moving on to his upper legs. "Some masters can be mean, and some people never accept being a slave. Renzen, the black and white tom that went with your friend Jake, is one like that. He does his duties, but he hates not being a free warrior."

"How did he get into it?" He asked, trying to keep his mind off exactly where she was at the moment, focusing on the academic side of things, the impromptu research, and trying to remember things until he could get his notebook out of the small bag he'd brought along.

"He was captured," she shrugged. "Stand, master?"

He did so, letting her get at his lower legs.

"He's not likely to take it out on Jake or Rock, right?" He asked. He probably wouldn't, but it could be hard to tell sometimes.

"Oh, no, master," she shook her head sharply, and instead of his lower legs, knelt behind him to brush out his rear and upper thighs from behind. "He is well past that level of open rebellion. Our Master would have never offered him if he had any doubts about Renzen's behavior."

"Good," he sighed in relief, purring lightly as he felt his sheath start to fill out a bit, and mentally pulled himself back to the topic. "What about the other two, the one Rock picked and the one Ees-ta-vina chose?" He asked curiously.

"Patches is the one with Rock, and she'll be free in two more springs. Her family sold her to him to cover debts they could not cover, but not so great that it would be for life. She's content enough, though I think she is eager to be free and married.

"Fern is with Princess Ees-ta-vina. He's been her bedslave for a long time, even before her father gave him to her after the ceremony to confirm her warrior status. I think he has hopes to be her wife, but he gets all squirrelly when we ask. He's not a berdache, but he's not a warrior either. He's been a slave since he was weaned, I think."

"Would his being a slave be a problem with becoming her wife?" Zach asked, cocking his head.

Esta paused, really thinking about it. "I've never heard of such a thing, taking a slave as a wife. She could if she wanted to, I think."

"Of course, she could probably also just free him, and then marry him, I suppose," Zach mused, as much to himself as to Esta. "If he was willing, of course ... he might be uncomfortable with the idea of not being owned, if he's been a slave for so long."

"If he's free and not a berdache, she would be his wife," Esta said carefully, thinking it out. "I believe. I don't know about all the details involved."

"It would definitely be complicated, at any rate," Zach decided. "I'm sure she's thought it over ... she wants to marry, that much is pretty clear ... ah, crap," he muttered, realizing what he was doing. "Uhm ... you're not going to repeat what I talk about, right?"

"No, master," she giggled slightly. "Though you have not said anything that is not already known."

"All the same, I try not to say anything that people might consider gossip," he blushed slightly. "Thanks though. I hope it works out for her, whoever it works out with."

"I'm sure it will," Esta smiled and shifted to kneeling in front of him to groom his hips, groin and inner thighs. "Do you have any other questions you would like to ask right now?"

"Not really," he said easily. "Thanks for the help with the grooming; you're very good at it."

Rock looked around the ten-foot circular space that would be home for the next couple nights and wondered just how comfortable a pile of furs was going to be, and about a hundred other things now that he had a solid look at the living conditions around here.

Amanda seemed so at home with technology, even familiar enough with MegaKat City that she didn't seem too out of place. He'd honestly never have expected her to come from a stone age society.

Stone age in more ways than one, he couldn't help but think, glancing at the two slaves who were preparing the grooming supplies.

How Amanda could possibly have some from a society like this one and qualified for the pilot's program ... he just couldn't imagine it. There had to be some sort of additional technology around, uncommon as it might be.

"Are you okay?" Jake caught his attention with a gentle lick on the cheek.

"I will be," Rock murmured, turning to kiss him. "This just ... isn't what I'd expected. Especially not the servants," he explained. "I'm not really that comfortable with real slavery," he admitted.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. "They'll think it strange, but they can just do the cooking, nothing more."

"How much do you know about the rules and stuff around here?" Rock asked him quietly, starting to remove Jake's clothes, sure they'd have to be groomed and dressed fairly soon, at any rate.

"A year and some worth of Amanda trying to drag me here, and a couple visits," he let a soft moan escape at his lover's touch despite no intention on either of their parts to follow through with it.

"So what's life like for them? I know most disgruntled slaves I've met won't admit to it."

"Most are treated reasonably well," Jake murmured as he finished stripping and helped Rock out of his clothes, cognizant of the two locals in the tent. "Not all like it, and many who do would still rather be free, but owners have almost as much responsibility to care for them as their own blood. The duties I've seen are little different from those who are free, they just don't have quite as many choices in it. Neither do many wives, for that matter."

"Right ... well, I won't say anything outside the tent, and if you do want to be with yours, it's your call, but I'll probably stick to letting mine cook unless she wants more to do than that," Rock told him, lifting his hands above his head to let him remove his shirt.

"Cute and fluffy has it's points, but you're who I want in bed, and you know it," Jake chuckled and stepped back, holding still as the black and white tom began to groom him from the hair down. "Oh, and he's Renzen, she's Patches."

"Did I miss the introductions, or did Amanda tell you before?" Rock chuckled, making himself behave as Patches started combing him out.

"I know them from previous trips," he explained easily, surprisingly relaxed with the attention given the source. "And the little mink that Zach chose."

"Oh dear," Rock snickered. "Poor Zach going to have some explaining to do to Amy when he gets home?"

"Only if he decides too," Jake chuckled softly, a low purr in his chest at the knowledgeable grooming, but Rock could tell by look that he was more turned on by what he was seeing, his lover's nude body, than by the hands on him. "Though she's likely to convince him with very little trouble."

"Oh, probably," Rock purred as well. "He's got remarkably little resistance when it comes to that sort of thing, I'm guessing."

"Like you do?" Jake laughed easily, his eyes glittering with knowledge just before Rock felt a delicate tongue slide along his left ball sac.

"Hunh?" Rock looked down, started to see Patches kneeling between his legs, tongue-grooming his more delicate areas. "You ah... you don't have to do that," he said, blushing deeply beneath his dark tabby fur.

"I know, Master," she purred with a playful smile. "You are a very handsome warrior, Master Rock."

"I think she got the wrong idea how you got your name," Jake couldn't help laughing. "Though she's not actually wrong," he added with thoughtful amusement. "You know I like watching, too."

"Hold it ... I just want to make sure," he said, kneeling so he could look into Patch's eyes more easily. "You really do want me to bed you, some time?" He asked her, something in his eyes that she wasn't used to seeing. "At least, not just because you're expected to?"

She looked at him, then over her shoulder at Jake, hoping for something from the visitor she knew to explain the question.

"I think he's worried you'll get in trouble if you don't act like you're trying," Jake said, glancing at his lover to be sure he got it right.

"I ... yeah," Rock nodded slightly. "I'm used to slaves who feel like they have to be eager because if they don't, their masters might punish them. Where I come from, it's a much uglier business than it sounds like it is here."

She nodded and formulated her answer in a language she wasn't completely convinced she knew well enough.

"I find you desirable, Rock," she said carefully, wanting to be sure of her words. "I would like to share your bed, since your lover does not mind."

"Okay," he murmured, thinking that over. Well ... if she was willing, then it didn't really matter that she was a slave. "We probably have to be dressed and ready to meet with the others pretty soon for now, but tonight I think we can do something about it."

"I would like that, master Rock," she purred softly and picked up the brush again to make quicker work of the remainder of his grooming.

"Tonight is going to be fun," Jake grinned at his lover, already anticipating the show to come.

"Yeah, it probably will be," Rock chuckled, letting Patches finish grooming him in peace and accepted the finely cured leather pants from her. They were almost like suede inside, but outside were noticeably tough, meant to survive the hard wear this life must put on clothing.

"Never seen leather like this before," he murmured, inspecting the vest he was given next before pulling it on. "Good, but not like what I've run into."

"Different animals, different tanning methods, different constructions," Jake chuckled, making quicker work of getting dressed with the unneeded loincloth with it's decorative beadwork, soft-soled moccasins and stripe of blood-red leather tied as a headband.

It was only when Rock tried to put his tan headband on that he found out that there was more to it than getting it to stay put.

"Master, it must tie on the left," Patches got her hands right in with his to correct him. "Not that knot either. Master will be unhappy with me if you walk out badly dressed."

"Ah, right," Rock nodded. "I'll take the help, gladly," he admitted, watching what she did so he would have some idea how to do it in the future, if he had to.

"Between the three of us, you'll be able to do it in your sleep tonight," Jake grinned at him as he worked a couple black raven feathers into his short hair by the headband's knot, and two more bright tropical ones into a thin leather strap on his right arm. "You do look good."

"Thank you," Rock chuckled. "You do too," he added, looking his lover over up and down, and a little jealous of how easy Jake seemed to be in his skin and role here. If he didn't know better, he could have forgiven himself for thinking that Jake was a local like Amanda. "Looks better on you than I think it does on me, actually."

"That I don't know about," Jake stepped up to kiss him soundly. "You are very handsome as a Karalanol warrior."

"I suppose," Rock murmured, kissing him back. "You look more comfortable as one though," he smiled. "Just how often have you visited here?"

"Twice, before I got teamed up with Chance," he smiled shyly. "Come on, once the introductions are over, we'll be free to enjoy the evening."

"Let's go then," Rock smiled, glancing at Patches and Renzen. "Are they supposed to stay here, or come along?" He asked, honestly not sure.

"Stay," Jake said easily and slipped out of the low entrance of the teepee and walked over to Zach's to scratch politely on the door flap.

Zach opened the flap, dressed in much the same way that Rock was, though he didn't make it look nearly as good, his scrawny chest filling out the vest as well as it could. The outfit was cut to his size, but it just didn't really work for him all that well.

"You two ready?" He asked them easily, stepping out of the tent to meet them. "I've been talking with Esta," he explained.

"I'm so not surprised," Jake chuckled and stepped back. "Esta, go tell them we are ready."

"Yes, Master Jake," she said easily and slipped by them, walking with quick grace to Amanda's tent. She scratched on it, Fern poked his head out, exchanged a few words, and Esta headed off again, this time to the largest teepee in the family circle.

"Are we supposed to wait here, or follow?" Rock asked, deferring to the other two to know more about what was going on than he did.

"We wait for Amanda, and she'll take us to meet her father," Jake explained, nodding to his friend as she emerged, wearing snow-white leathers like their own, her headband red like Jake's, and instead of a vest, she wore a breastplate created with dozens of rounded horizontal bars tied together down the edges and center.

"Okay ... the things that I am thinking of right now never get mentioned around here," Rock murmured, considering Amanda's outfit. It was definitely unusual, and a lot different from what he was used to seeing her in. Even what he was wearing would have been less unusual. The woman actually looked ready for battle.

"I'll ask when we get home," Jake cracked a grin at him and welcomed Amanda to them with a warm hung. "You look as impressive as ever."

"Thank you," she beamed at his approval. "I see everything fit well enough," she looked the others over. "Come, my father is eager to meet everyone, though he was disappointed that Brad and Chance couldn't come."

"If they'd come, we'd never have gotten near the controls," Jake snickered, following her a bit ahead of Rock and Zach.

"Quite true," she admitted, smiling as she approached her father, sitting outside an elaborately painted teepee and dressed in ceremonial leathers much like the ones Jake and the others were wearing. Next to him sat a leaner gray tabby tom with a red and gold scarf tied on the left, but covering his entire head, and a loose cloth shirt of sandy red.

"Father, seneschal, it is good to be home again," Amanda spoke formally in Katian out of respect for their guests.

"It is good to have you home, daughter," Chief Pazuquista Mitsel-eman smiled warmly at her. "Come sit by the fire with your companions. My wife wishes to feed us tonight."

"Thank you, father," she smiled brightly and settled cross-legged, starting the circle to eat with her back to the cooking fire two shekats were diligently tending.

Jake was the next to sit, with Zach and Rock following suit, Zach slightly ahead of the larger, noticeably uncertain tabby, his eyes on the others to pick up on the subtle mannerisms and social cues that Amanda wouldn't have thought to mention before they'd come.

"Welcome back, Jake," the Chief nodded to the lean warrior. "It is good to see you are well. The news from the city has been quite grave."

"True as well," Amanda admitted. "There is a spirit werewolf lose. Jake has fought it."

That raised eyebrows, and seemed to impress both their hosts.

"You both survived?" Pazuquista asked.

"Yes, unfortunately," Jake nodded. "It does not hunt warriors, so it is difficult to track."

"Especially since it seems bound to the cycles of the moon," Zach added. "Only three nights a month to try and find it."

"Do you know what spirit is behind it?" The seneschal asked, his tone grave.

"A powerful Wolf spirit named Lierok, from what we have gathered," Jake answered. "He serves the Wyld Lord. We don't know much else."

"Except that he's got a particularly vicious, sadistic sense of humor," Zach agreed. "Honestly, I'm still worried about what happened on the third night. We haven't found anything from it."

"It was found," Jake said simply, his tone leaving no doubt that nothing was going to draw any more details than that from him.

"And that tone probably means we don't want to know," Zach murmured. "At any rate ... yeah, it's pretty ugly."

"Spirit werewolves usually are," the seneschal nodded. "The last one in our lands was many, many generations ago. We lost a hand of tribes before she was destroyed."

"Any advice you've got on how to find or stop ours would be welcome," Zach said sincerely. "Speaking for the student end of things, at any rate, and I'd be surprised if the Enforcers felt any different."

"If you have part of him, there are wise-women that could track him to his mortal host," the seneschal spoke gravely. "It is not a spell that can be woven quickly however, and will not help you before the next full moon."

"I understand," Jake nodded. "How long does this spell take?"

"I am not sure, but the stories indicate it took many moons to gather the things she needed for it, and longer for her to find the name of the host," he explained. "I suspect it will take much less time to gather what she would need these days, but I do not know who could cast the spell. We would have to send messages to all the tribes to find one."

"If you would send word out to find one who can work the spell and make a list of what is needed, Ees-ta-vina and I will work on getting those things and any gifts she may want in exchange for her efforts."

"Yes, we can do that," Amanda nodded in agreement.

"In an absolute pinch, what's necessary of the spellcaster?" Zach asked. "A particularly skilled mage, or somebody who's capable of spells that deal with spirits?"

"Divination," the seneschal answered. "A Seer who can work magic as well."

"In the same person, much harder to find," Zach nodded. "I just wanted to check."

"Yes," he nodded. "Are you learning magic?"

"I can actually use some already," Zach explained, trying not to overplay his abilities. "Not very much, and it takes time, but I've been trained already. If it was a spell I might have been capable of, it might have been worth the chance, especially since we do have some of his hairs to work with."

"Perhaps using another kind of magic you could," the seneschal said, then glanced up.

"Ah, welcome Darzen. You are just in time," Pazuquista greeted the blood-red tabby with sandy stripes and striking orange eyes.

"Hello Darzen," Amada greeted him with a slightly shy smile.

"It is good to see you here, even if only for a few days," Darzen smiled at sat next to her. "Dinner smells excellent," he added as a white shekat with golden hair and stripes not much older than Amanda brought several bowls filled with stew over and began handing them out.

"Thank you," Jake smiled to her as he accepted his bowl after the chief and seneschal were served. He sipped the thick broth and purred, his eyes closing briefly in the pleasure of good food and good memories.

Rock was more interested in watching Amanda and Darzen flirt shyly, sure something big was up, but not at all sure what it was. His attention was briefly broken as he was served, and caught a whiff of the shekat's scent; she was at most a day from a full heat.

He took a sip of the broth, trying not to think about it too much, letting the scent of the food distract him from hers. Just as well that Chance hadn't come; the last thing they really needed was his nose around a fem in heat here, especially not the chief's youngest wife.

Patches might end up with more of a workout than he'd expected though, and he seriously doubted she or Jake would mind.

"Thank you," Zach smiled as he took his own bowl, watching the way different people ate and interacted, reminding himself that he needed to eat himself; the food was good, and he didn't want to send the wrong message by distraction.

As it stood, he was the first to notice Darzen untie his red warrior's sash and offer it to Amanda, who went rigid in shock.

He was running over what he knew about them, trying to figure out what it meant. There were only two real possibilities he could come up with ... it could have been a standard proposal, and she was just shocked, or he could be offering more than that, to surrender his status as a warrior.

Knowing what he'd heard from Esta, he couldn't help glancing around surreptitiously to see if Fern was around to see this, and how he was reacting. The gray tabby wasn't to be seen, at least not when his attention was brought back to the circle.

"Yes, it is acceptable," the chief was saying to his daughter. "If he is willing to give up his status, he can become your wife."

"I heave learned to cook and clean and sew, and I own a slave who is quite skilled," Darzen told her in a mildly formal tone.

"I will not be here to care for you for many years," she objected.

"I am willing to wait, Ees-ta-vina," he smiled at her, openly hopeful. "Or follow you wherever you go."

Zach smiled privately; after all he'd heard about the amount of luck she didn't have with guys, to see this was nice.

He wasn't quite sure if she'd accept or not, but he hoped it worked out either way. Since they'd sat down, it had been clear they were attracted to each other.

"How long have you been thinking about this?" Amanda asked softly.

"Since you became a warrior, Ees-ta-vina," he looped his tail around hers. "I have wanted you much longer."

"He approached the seneschal and I three moons ago about how to court you to marry without asking you to become his wife," her father said with an approving smile. "He will make fine kits for you."

"Yes, he would," she admitted with slight smile. "Darzen, you know I can not support a wife while I am training as an Enforcer. I will be in the city for many years afterwards."

"Daughter, you are doing the will of your father and chief in service to the entire tribe," Pazuquista reminded her firmly. "It will be our honor to support your wife, slaves and children while you are away from them."

It effectively silenced whatever she was going to say, leaving her looking at Darzen and the red warrior's sash in his hands.

Slowly she turned her hand over, giving him a last chance to change his mind, and found the strip of fine leather between her fingers before she expected.

"I would be honored to have you as my wife, Darzen," she looked him directly in the eyes. "I will return as often as I can."

"I know," he smiled, relief sagging his shoulders before he leaned forward to kiss her. "The next time you return?"

She glanced at her father, who smiled and nodded.

"If he is willing to forgo the festivities, I would be pleased to," she put a light hand on his leg.

"I believe all who must attend will be able to arrive," Pazuquista chuckled. "Now eat, you will need your energy tonight."

All of her friends smiled warmly, glad to see the happy couple as they got back to dinner.

"Early honeymoon?" Rock asked Jake quietly. "Or is the wedding going to be tonight?"

"Early honeymoon," he chuckled low in his throat. "She'll have two toms pleasing her tonight, if Fern gets a chance."

"And if Darzen lets him," Rock chuckled. "Glad she's finally found somebody."

"You have no idea how happy I am for it," Jake let out a low breath. "She'll have three wives at this rate by the time she graduates."

"Three? Fern and Darzen, if Fern gets freed, but who's the third?"

"One of the females she talked about as a second wife," Jake explained, nearly done with his stew.

"You are going to make my father entirely too eager for another wedding," Amanda chided him in good humor. "At least let me get my badge before the next one."

"Oh, all right, maybe they'll get to combine it with the graduation party," Zach grinned teasingly, earning a groan from Amanda and a pleased smile from her father.

"And excellent idea, actually," Pazuquista agreed, enjoying both the idea and teasing his only daughter. "A female wife and couple young bedslaves so the kittens can come more often."

"You'll end up with a bigger family than Chance will if he gets his way," Rock grinned.

"Typical of parents," she rolled her eyes. "There will be kittens," she promised. "Just not until I can spend at least a moon with my wife."

"And get maternity leave from the Enforcers? Or would your female wife probably be the biological mother?" Zach asked, not catching himself in time to stop the potentially awkward question.

"I will carry a couple litters at least, but likely not these first ones," she inclined her head to the question. "A female wife, or female bedslave. We will have to see how the timing works out, and what my second wife might demand of the sire."

"Thanks for answering, and sorry for asking," Zach blushed slightly. "Prying's a bad habit of mine."

"I invited you because of your curiosity, Zach," she smiled at him. "I am an ambassador of one kind between our people, you are another kind. Your questions are welcome, even the ones that we refuse to answer."

"You realize that you're opening yourself up to a long night, don't you?" Zach chuckled. "Would you be the father of all the kittens in your family then?"

"Yes," she nodded. "Even those I may adopt."

"So who would the mother be?" Rock piped up, thinking the situation through.

"That would depend on who gave birth," she chuckled softly. "If one of my wives or slaves does, then she is the kit's mother. If I do, or the kit is adopted, then generally my first wife will be, though it may be my first female wife. The only exception would be during the adulthood ceremonies. Then it will almost always be who actually gave birth and sired the kit as mother and father."

"What's the significance of the order of your wives, of either gender?" Zach asked curiously.

"Beyond the order of marriage, you mean?" she checked and continued when he nodded. "The first wife is the head of the family; she makes sure the others and kittens are cared for. The second is responsible for tending to the kittens. The third is expected to be highly skilled at something that can be traded for meat and goods the family can not make. The fourth and beyond have no expected role, as very few warriors have more than three wives. You have to be incredibly good to support that large a family."

"I can understand why," he nodded slightly. "Does it make a difference if they're male or female?"

"No, just as it does not matter if the warrior is male or female," she said. "Despite what you see here, I am the only weura alive."

"I'd ask if berdache were more common, but that's pretty clear here I think," Zach murmured. "More to it than just wanting to change roles? Or is it that uncommon for women to want to do so?"

"Few women wish a warriors life," Amanda admitted. "Fewer can manage it. It is more than hunting for meat and hides, though that is dangerous enough. Many warriors still die in fighting between the tribes and with outsiders. It is not as common as it once was, but I have already lost a brother to it. It is the rare warrior who dies in their bed."

"Worse than the odds for Enforcers?" Rock asked quietly.

"Much worse," she nodded slightly. "There is a reason we take such care to trace our kin-rights and make alliances with other warriors to care for our wives and kits should we die first. A lucky generation sees one in ten warriors live long enough to be supported by their grown kittens."

"Well, here's hoping that this is one of the luckier ones," Zach said respectfully. "My apologies if this question offends, but ... do some of the berdache take the role they do to escape those odds?"

"A berdache, no, I would not think so," Darzen shook his head, a deep respect for them in his voice that bordered on awe. "It is a role they chose very young in life, much as weura do. To be a berdache ... it takes incredible dedication and training to become one."

"Compared to becoming a warrior?" Rock asked, cocking his head curiously. He just couldn't really see it, himself.

"Far more," Darzen nodded. "A berdache must be skilled in weaving, beadwork, tanning, sewing, dancing, pottery, cooking, storytelling, history, healing, midwifery, and all other wifely skills, and skilled in pleasuring a warrior, all before they are ready to marry."

"And with any gifts they have," Amanda added. "Many are skilled in divination or magic. It is a great honor for a warrior to be good enough to have one as a wife. Parents tends to be very choosy with suitors for a berdache."

"So not all male wives are berdache?" Zach asked her easily. "Not even most of them, necessarily?"

Amanda thought about for a bit, then looked at the seneschal.

"No, not all male wives are berdache," he answered. "Darzen will not be one, though most are. It is very rare for a warrior to give up their status to marry a warrior. Most who wish a warrior become lovers, as Jake and Rock are."

"So one warrior can't marry another?" Rock asked, leaning back a bit.

"Marry, no," the seneschal shook his head slightly. "They can be together, those who are together for a long time may chose to join families, but they do not marry any more than two wives would."

"Splitting up duties could get a little awkward," Zach nodded slightly. "Are triads an option they'll go for sometimes? Not married to each other, but each taking the same wife?"

"Yes," he nodded. "It is more common that they each have their own wives, but it is not unknown to share, by marriage or simple agreement."

"Wives can take multiple husbands as well then?" Zach asked, leaning back a bit, relaxing some. "Or is that an exception to the general rule? I can understand why it might not be common; it's hard enough keeping one household straight."

"I have not heard of it when the warriors were not lifelong lovers, but if the warriors and other wives agree, there are no laws against it," the seneschal explained.

"Talia of the North Great Lake did when her first husband could not give her kits," Amanda said.

"That's a case that'd make it easier to figure out who the father of the kits is ... or does it default to the first husband?" Zach asked her.

"It depends on the terms that were decided on before the second marriage," the seneschal said. "It would be typical that they would be considered the kittens of the first husband, but not always. One arrangement I have heard of is for the kittens to be those of one or the other, determined with each litter, or that each warrior is the father of part of each litter."

"What's the particular importance of who the father and mother are, as opposed to sire and dame? You mentioned that in the coming-of-age ceremony it makes a difference."

"Yes," Amanda nodded. "Though it is more important for girls. Your mother is who is responsible for caring for you. The one who gives birth to you is who speaks for you in your womanhood ceremony. Your mother can stand in if needed, but the daughters I give birth to I will introduce to the women of the tribe when she comes of age, instead of her mother."

"Where does the difference come in?" He asked her curiously, and knew instantly when even she balked slightly that he'd managed to stumble onto something he shouldn't have asked.

"It's ... not for toms," she all but apologized.

"Right, understood," he nodded easily. "Don't worry; I'm good with being told I'm not allowed to find out too," he smiled. "Different topic; I've noticed that the headbands you wear seem to be one of the badges for warriors. Can you explain the significance of the different colors, if there is any?"

"They are," Amanda nodded. "They are a warrior's sash. Tan are for untested warriors. Red means you've drawn blood in battle. Black means you've killed."

"I understand," he nodded slightly, more conscious now of the one that he was wearing. "What's the meaning of your headwrap then?" He asked the Seneschal, looking over at the old tom.

"It means I am the tribe's seneschal," the gray tabby explained with a slight smile.

"Well, that was a simple enough one," Zach chuckled as everybody finished eating.

The meal was barely over when the white-furred shekat that had served them slid up behind the chief and nuzzled him affectionately, her breasts nearly over his shoulder as she whispered in his ear.

"It is good to see everyone, but a warrior must keep his wives happy," the chief winked at Amanda teasingly.

"Maybe you'll manage a daughter that will marry a warrior this time," she teased back, then turned to her friends. "I think we could all use time in our teepees with her scent so heavy," she suggested and stood with Darzen.

"The newlyweds to be in particular," Rock grinned. "Have a good night," he winked, helping Jake up.

"Oh, we will," she purred and nuzzled her lover. "I would still be your lover, as warrior-mates," she said softly.

"I want more than that," he said simply. "I have though long about this. I am sure."

"Then come, it is time you met Fern and see how well you please a warrior, and her favorite bedwarmer," she said as they took the few more steps to her teepee and slipped inside.

"Come on," Rock smiled as he watched Amanda and Darzen, leading Jake back to their own tent with a happy purr. He hoped it worked out for Amanda; she deserved it.

"I think it's good Chance couldn't come," Jake chuckled as they slipped into their own tent. "Nosing around the chief's wife isn't a good idea."

"Midnight'd have a blast though," Rock grinned, closing the flap to their tent and glancing around. Patches had undressed and was laying on one of the two double bedrolls, her eyes on Rock. Renzen was still dressed, kneeling near the back of the space.

"Oh, yeah," he laughed. "Looks like she's expecting you."

"Looks like it," Rock chuckled, glancing back at Jake. "Do you want to join in, or no?" He asked him quietly.

"I'll just watch," he motioned to the tri-colored female. "Just save some for me."

"Don't worry, I will," Rock grinned, starting to undress with some care to do everything right. From the corner of his eye, he saw Jake stripping down with much more ease in the simple clothing, and hand it off to Renzen before settling onto the second thick pile of furs to watch his lover with a wanton shekat.

When the tabby was naked, he laid down on the furs with Patches, running a hand down her side lightly as she purred and returned the touch, only much more bold with it.

"I'd ask if you're still interested, but I think Jake would throw something at me," he chuckled slightly, kissing her gently.

"Likely," she giggled, playing her fingers along his rigid cock. "I think Mece's scent got you."

"It certainly didn't hurt anything," he rumbled hotly. "Mmm ... you have any ideas on how to help with that?" He grinned, putting the fact that she was a slave out of his mind again, focusing on the fact that she was here and eager to 'help' and trusting that Jake wouldn't put him in a situation where he was with someone who didn't want it. It didn't hurt that her arousal was strong, and this early on, that was hard to fake.

She grinned and slid down his body before nuzzling his groin briefly, and slid her mouth around his cock, lavishing it with her tongue as she slowly swallowed him.

"Oh yeah," he groaned, fighting not to thrust up into the wet warmth of her mouth. "Guess that's a yes," he grinned, reaching down to massage her ears lightly as she worked the rubbery barbs and smooth tip with both sides of her tongue between moments where she sucked hard and bobbed her head up and down to give even more motion to the pleasure.

Rock closed his eyes and let his head roll back slightly, enjoying the sensations of having a female go down on him. As much as the basics were the same, the subtleties of her breasts against his legs were enticing.

Then the heat was gone, and he felt her rub against his body as he opened his eyes to see her on hands and knees, her tail over her back.

"Tease," he chuckled good-naturedly, shifting to his own knees, moving to mount her, though he reached down to stroke her damp sex with his fingers, sliding them up to find her clit, not pressing into her just yet.

She moaned, then whimpered, pressing her hips back in a mixture of desire and surprise.

"I like to tease too," he murmured, licking the edge of her ear lightly. "If I do something you don't like, tell me," he told her, fingering her clit, sliding his claws out slightly to add just the tiniest bit of the edge that he gave Jake so readily.

She moaned softly, her juices oozing down to his fingers as he played with her.

"You like that, hmm?" He purred, nuzzling her neck, nipping her scruff lightly. "Want to let Jake watch?"

"Yes," she moaned. "Please take me."

He leaned up, pulling her up with him, then back and letting her hot, tight body sink onto his thick, rigid shaft, closing his eyes and groaning lowly in pleasure at the feel of her body clinging to him. He reached up, squeezing her breasts, making a show for both of the other toms in the tent, only to realize that Jake was the only one there.

The soft grow of hunger from his lover was quite worth it though, as was the open hunger in his eyes.

"Mmm ... change your mind, feel free to join in?" Rock grinned at him, starting to thrust up into Patches, tracing a claw-tip around her nipples, pulling her back a bit to kiss her hungrily.

"I'll watch for a while longer," he rumbled, his eyes more on Rock's body than Patches, and the motions of his thrusts, but enjoying the show despite the content. With a low rumble he reached down and slowly stroked himself, putting on a show for his lover as well.

Rock took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of all three of them, picking up just a hint of the heat-scent from several tents over, he thought. His balls tingled, twitching as he tried to hold back, shifting to search for Patches' g-spot with each thrust.

"Ohhh," she moaned, squeezing her body around him and rubbing shamelessly against his chest and the hand playing with her breast. "So strong."

"So hot," he rumbled deeply, nipping her neck, thrusting again and again, sinking himself into her hot, tight body, his barbs working the inside of her sex. He fought to hold back, trying to bring her right to the edge before his own orgasm.

His jaws tightened a bit more than he intended when he felt Jake's palm rub her sex and his fingers worked back to rub along Rock's cock as he thrust.

Patches' arms wrapped around Jake's body, pulling him tightly against her while he nuzzled Rock's jaws up for a kiss that was returned hot and hungry, then groaned into his mouth as his balls erupted into Patches' needy sex as it rippled around him with her orgasm.

"I could get used to this kind of treatment," she purred, letting Jake support much of her weight.

"Mmm ... afraid you'll only have a weekend of it from us," Rock purred, nuzzling her neck. "Glad you enjoyed it though; I know I did."

"Then I'll just have to take advantage of serving two strong warriors while I can," she turned her head and nuzzled him, then licked Jake on the cheek. "I'll pleasure you as well, if you like."

"It still doesn't work," he murmured and pressed forward slightly, letting her feel how much he'd softened in the few moments they'd been against each other.

"Jake doesn't mate with females," Rock explained quietly. "It's not about you, don't worry."

She nodded and slid a hand down Rock's side. "More from you, then?" she purred hungrily.

"Anything in particular you'd like to do, that you don't normally get the chance to?" He asked her with a grin, nuzzling her neck.

"Not that I can think of, master," she purred.

"Down on your back then," he rumbled, pulling out of her with a groan and letting her get down onto the furs before straddling her hips, raising his tail high. "Jake? See anything you'd like?" He grinned.

"Mm, I think I do," he chuckled, running a hand along Rock's body before trailing it with kisses. "You're hot when you're this turned on."

"I'm glad you approve," Rock grinned back at him, purring and reaching down to stroke Patches' dripping sex. "Ever do this before?" He asked her curiously.

"No, master," she said, though her eyes seemed more on what Jake was up to, utterly fascinated by how two toms who were equals mated and interacted.

The smaller tom was behind him, his head low. Rock moaned as Jake's tongue washed lightly over the tight, sensitive pucker. Bolts of pleasure tingled through his entire body at his lover's care when neither of them had though to bring lube for easy entry. They just so rarely needed it.

"Go on, Jake," he moaned lowly. "Any time, tonight."

Jake nodded and kissed him just above the tail before slowly pushing into his lover's body.

Rock moaned lowly, pushing his own shaft up into Patches' body, leaning back to kiss Jake as the threesome mated each other. They moaned and whimpered, their bodies demanding they pick up the pace.

"Oh yeah," Jake rumbled, his cock deep in Rock's body as he searched for the right spot with each thrust.

"Fuck yes," Rock panted, thrusting into Patches faster, turning to kiss her hotly as he squeezed the walls of his ass around Jake's shaft. How long had he thought about asking Jake to do something like this? It felt incredible to have a female around his cock and Jake inside his ass.

He'd always held back though, knowing that Jake wasn't much for threesomes. If this was an exception, it was one he'd have to consider taking advantage of more often!

"Give it to me," Patches moaned, crying out as Rock pushed her over the edge again, her entire body quivering as he slammed into her again and again, driving her to the very brink a third time.

Rock roared, his ass clenching down around Jake's throbbing, barbed member as his own erupted into her, filling her with another load of thick, hot semen that she seemed to crave so much.

It was the deep roar from above him that was even more intense though, and nearly got Rock off a third time as Jake's seed erupted against his prostate in wave after wave of hot pressure that ebbed and surged uncontrollably.

"Sweet fuck!" He moaned, milking Jake's cock, his own still spurting and twitching inside the eager shekat beneath him. "Gotta see about getting you to do this more often," he grinned a little loopily.

"Mmm, does that mean you don't have enough left for me?" Jake purred against his back, honestly no longer all that concerned with it.

"Oh, I think I can manage," Rock grinned. "Your turn to watch this time, I think," he winked down at the piebald beneath him, pulling out of her with a groan.

"This should be good," she purred, reflexively tucking her tail lightly up between her legs to hold the seed in place for as long as possible. "He seems very happy with you."

"I like to think he is," Rock purred, moaning as Jake pulled out of him, rolling onto his back as the smaller tom's seed dripped onto his tail. "So, what do you have in mind?" He grinned, licking his lips.

"First," he slid up to lay against his lover and claimed a long, lingering kiss. "Mmm, first, get all that shekat off you," he slipped down to close his mouth around Rock's cock.

"Oooh ... like you're complaining about the taste," Rock grinned, reaching down to caress Jake's ears, his tail twitching between his lover's legs as he let his claws out a bit further, indulging Jake's tastes this time, letting them prick against his scalp and ears.

He felt Jake shiver at the touch, and a low moan worked out around his cock. Could they really be this familiar after only eight months together? Not even a year, and it was hard to think of what it would be like without Jake there.

It might be hard to remember he couldn't get Jake too bloody while here. The medical situation wasn't nearly what he was used to; never mind how others might take it. Amanda and Zach understood, he knew, but the others... that would be a bigger issue.

"Love you, Jake," he rumbled deeply, meaning it completely. The rumble in response drew a moan from him even as Jake pulled his head away and lightly pushed Rock to his back and straddled his hips.

"Ready for a ride, lover?" Jake purred, rubbing his ass against Rock's cock.

"Always," Rock grinned, gripping his hips and looking up at him, rubbing back against him. "You're in the mood to top tonight, aren't you?" He teased lightly, pricking Jake's thighs lightly with his claws, drawing a hint of blood and grinning at the low moan and quiver of Jake's cock it earned.

"In the mood not to get in trouble," he chuckled softly and shifted to push his lover's cock fully into his body before leaning forward for a kiss. "You're no good at denying me when you get to ride me hard."

"We'll test that before we leave," Rock rumbled into the kiss, though he withdrew his claws, taking Jake's hips and starting to thrust up as well as he could, pulling his lover back to meet him.

It all added to an incredibly pleasurable, and utterly strange, evening.

Earlier, when Zach returned to his own tent, he blushed to see Esta reclining on the sleeping furs, nude, obviously waiting for him.

"You weren't kidding about expecting me to bed you tonight, were you?" He chuckled shyly, starting to remove most of his outfit.

"Don't you want to?" she looked at him a bit hesitantly.

"I... that's a little complicated," he admitted. "Short answer? Yes, but I'm not sure if I should," he blushed. "I'm not used to girls actually wanting to be with me."

She cocked her head and patted the fur bed next to her. "Why do you question if it is acceptable?"

He sat down next to her; everything in her body language was telling him that she wasn't about to jump him, not that he thought she was going to. He was only really wearing his loincloth at this point, removing the vest as he sat down.

"I've already got a mate... well, technically lover, but at the moment mate's almost closer... back home," he explained somewhat awkwardly. "She isn't much for traveling, at this point, so she didn't come along. But we never really talked about whether or not we were going to be an exclusive couple... never really thought there was much need for it, on either side," he admitted.

"Having a wife has never been reason not to indulge in a bedslave before," she looked at him curiously. "Why would she be upset?"

"I don't know that she would be even," he admitted. "We're both just a little insecure, I guess. We're used to nobody being interested in us, for whatever reason, so we're more worried than most about losing the people who are... and I'm probably thinking about this too much," he smiled slightly. "It's not like this would be anything even potentially serious."

"No," she smiled. "I am merely the entertainment while you are here. She has no cause to be jealous of me. I could not follow even if I was inclined to do so."

"And if you were, I'd be very surprised," he chuckled, leaning over to kiss her lightly. "So, why don't I stop analyzing, and start taking advantage of having such an attractive, willing entertainer?" He purred, rubbing his hand up her side lightly.

"I think that is a good idea," she purred and pressed into his touch before sliding the hand on his leg up under his loincloth to stroke his sheath.

"So, what do you like to do?" He asked her, purring lowly as he undid the loincloth. As similar as this was to paying for it, she was enough of a volunteer and interested in talking to him enough that he felt like she deserved enough care to make it good for her too.

"The simple things," she purred and nuzzled his neck affectionately. "I prefer guys deep inside me, playing kitten in the basket, whether it's time for it or not."

"Is it?" He asked her, returning the nuzzle and tipping his head up to kiss her lightly.

"Not for three more moons," she giggled and leaned back, drawing him down on top of her.

"Good," he grinned, nuzzling her neck and reaching up between them to fondle her breasts, his shaft hardening against her thigh as they kissed and she ran her hands along his body, encouraging his arousal until he was ready to fill her.

He slid a knee between hers, spreading her legs and pressing himself up into her slick sex with a low moan of pleasure, pausing for a moment before he started to thrust up into her body.

It felt good, being deep inside a willing female. Not as good as Amy, but better than a prostitute, and Esta had skills in bed he wasn't going to forget soon.

He kissed her deeply, this fingers working her nipples and breasts as he sank himself into her again and again, purring hotly as the pleasure built. He tried to focus on the noises she was making, what felt good to her, though he knew he wasn't as good at this as a lot of guys.

It didn't seem to bother her, not from her moans and the slick heat of her body at least. "Give it to me, warrior," she purred deeply, squeezing her body around him with each thrust. "Fill me with your seed."

It wasn't long before he obliged her, groaning as filled her body with his thick seed, hearing a roar from Jake and Rock's tent and the more distant noises of pleasure from Amanda's and the chief's, and likely several others.

"More?" Esta purred, squeezing down around him again as he lay still on top of her.

"Mmm ... see if I'm up for it," he chuckled, licking her neck lightly. "Mind if I try something different?" He asked her, nuzzling her neck.

"I'm always up for something different," she nuzzled him and spread her legs for him to withdraw. "Should I clean you up first?"

"If you want, but you don't have to," he blushed a bit, pulling out of her with a low groan, his seed dribbling down over her tight anus as he slid down to nuzzle her breasts. "I usually need a little time between rounds," he explained, grinning up at her as he licked one of her nipples. "So I'm fine with just exploring you for a little."

"I'm not going to object," she giggled, running her hands down his sides and flicked her tail across his groin. "There are benefits to not being sore in the morning."

"Mmm ... what I've got in mind, there might still be a bit of soreness," he admitted with a low rumbled, nuzzling her breasts as his shaft stirred slightly at her tail's touch. "Is there anything that you won't do, either because you don't want to or because it's against the rules here?"

"It would be best if you didn't draw blood," she said simply, curious at what he had in mind. "My master doesn't like his slaves damaged."

He paused for a moment, looking up at her.

"Not my taste, but if it were to happen between warrior-lovers, would that likely be a problem for either of them?" He asked her seriously, thinking of the two toms in the next tent.

"I would not think so, as long as they could still hunt," she twitched her ears. "Jake and Rock have a taste for hurting?"

"Jake for being, Rock for doing," Zach nodded slightly. "They're careful, I just wanted to make sure I didn't have to go over there and tie one of them down before they got in trouble," he chuckled slightly, sliding down to nuzzle her belly, then her slick sex, finally letting the underside of his tongue brush against the tight pucker of her ass.

"Oooo, not likely," she slid her tail further out of the way and spread her legs for him. "I don't mind it like a tom," she grinned down at him.

"That's what I was thinking of," he grinned up at her, wrapping his arms around her legs to lift her rump a bit, giving him better access for the rimjob he was cheerfully giving her.

"Ohhh, yes," Esta cried out, her body squeezing out some of their mixed juices onto his nose. Her body twitched, adding a rhythmic edge to the way her tail rubbed against his balls and across his hardening cock. "Oh, you're good."

He blushed a bit, shifting up to lick up their mixed juices before returning to her tight pucker, lavishing her with attention to her sex and her anus as his shaft began to harden again.

Soon he slid two fingers into her sex before he began working her open, one finger at a time to moans and shivers of encouragement.

Before long, he was confident that she was stretched out enough for this to be comfortable, sliding up along her body to kiss her, lingering in the kiss as he pressed his hard shaft up into her tight, hot, surprisingly slick ass.

Zach panted, his entire body tingling from the sensation of being so tightly constrained as Esta slid her knees up and wrapped them around his body.

"Ah fuck yeah," he moaned deeply, starting to thrust carefully, doing his damnedest not to hurt her as he took her ass, licking her face tenderly and kissing her when their mouths met.

He knew he wouldn't last long, not even going slowly, and the vibration of her purring wasn't slowing the inevitable tumble towards emptying his balls into her body again.

He finally did, crying out as his balls pulled up to his body, his pelvis grinding against her clit as he worked her body as long as he could, his body shaking hard with pleasure and exhaustion.

"You don't get to play like that often," Esta purred, licking his nose playfully when he remembered how to breathe again.

"No, I don't," he admitted with a happy purr. "I don't like toms myself, and my lover isn't too keen on experimenting. It's nice when I can get it," he smiled, kissing her lightly.

"Well I happen to like it, so while you're here, we can have plenty of fun," she murmured, nuzzling him as they both relaxed.

"Sounds good to me," he purred, snuggling close.

Rock leaned back on a pile of furs outside one of the teepees and watched in private amusement with how entranced Jake seemed to be with young kittens. There were at least a dozen of them, from just old enough to really sit up without help to those nearly in their teens, and a few older teens and adult females that seemed quite willing to let him tell stories and play games with the youngsters all morning.

For somebody who wasn't likely to have them ... who didn't particularly want kittens, as far as he knew, aside from the fact that it represented freedom from the life he disliked so strongly ... he got along with them well.

The stocky tabby flicked his tail for one of the toddlers who was play-stalking it, keeping it just out of the youngster's reach. Some time he'd have to find out just what Jake did think about kittens and having them ... between them, they couldn't, but they might be able to adopt, or find a shekat who'd volunteer.

And there was how involved he might want to be with Midnight's kittens to find out too. He wanted to be close to them, to his cousin's kits, maybe this was a good sign that Jake was inclined towards it too, as long as some female wasn't trying to bed him in the process.

He started as he was snapped out of his distraction by the kitten he was teasing catching his tail, biting onto the end with kitten-teeth that weren't really sharp enough to do serious damage yet and grappling with the furry length.

"Sye Tril," one of the older teens waved at an orange and white tabby tom about her age, then screamed, her eyes wide in horror and the rest of her frozen as an arrow pierced his throat from behind.

"Rock! Grab kittens and get them inside," Jake snarled at his lover, his entire manner changing in a heartbeat as he launched himself to his feet and towards the direction where the killing arrow had come from.

The tabby did as he was told, scooping up the toddler and then going for as many others as he could grab quickly, hauling them inside and to safety as fast as he could, looking around for some sort of weapon he could use to protect them. Two of the shekats herded other youngsters inside with him. He knew he had at most a third of the kittens with him, but at least it was a fair number of them.

He spared a glance for Jake; knowing that his lover wasn't going to be permanently killed by what might happen here didn't make it any easier to stay back, but he knew he had to, for now.

Seven raiders on horseback, two of them with guns, others with bows, spears or spiked clubs ... and each one of them undoubtedly trained for years in how to use them to kill. Even as his hand closed around a stone knife, the weapon he saw here he knew how to use best, he knew that he wasn't up to fighting these warriors. If he had to, he would do his damnedest, but the chaos of a real battlefield wasn't something he'd ever had to learn to handle.

He kept himself hidden inside the tent, just peeking out to keep an eye on things, and prayed honestly for the first time in too many years, this time for his lover's safety. It didn't matter if he'd come back, he didn't want to see Jake injured like that. He never wanted to see Jake with dead eyes looking up at him.

"Oshen ni," one of the older teens breathed from behind him, her eyes on Jake as he swung up behind one raider and slit his throat in one clean move before throwing him from his mount and taking charge of it, and the spear its rider had been carrying.

Rock didn't know what that meant, but if it was a comment about it being impressive, she was right. Bloody as all Hell, but impressive, and his lover was far from done as he swung the horse around and charged one of the raiders who'd grabbed a young girl and was attempting to ride off.

Where would Jake have learned to handle a horse like that?

And what in the world was the faint golden glow flowing off him?

Rock was somewhat startled out of his contemplation of Jake in full-on battle by another loud snarl and a cry of pain from a raider elsewhere in the camp ... even more surprised when he saw Zach's lean tabby body launching into the fray, spear in hand and being wielded like he actually had some idea how to use it.

A damned good idea how to use it, Rock realized after watching him for a moment, the spear spinning around along with the inoffensive tom as he blocked two mounted raiders coming from him, then brought the stone blade around to kill one of the horses, animal and rider both screaming as the massive creature collapsed half on top of its master.

Without so much as a thought Zach leapt over the dying animal to drive the spear into the chest of the Wolf pinned under his thrashing mount.

A quick glance told him that the dead raider's spear would do better than his own, if he bothered to pull it out. The metal blade that had been carefully lashed to the sturdy wooden haft wouldn't be as brittle, and would last the fight better, so he switched over to it, throwing back his head and letting out a bone-rattling battle-howl that startled the other Kantin in the camp. One of them quickly regretted his distraction, taking a pair of arrows to the chest from the seneschal's bow before he fell to the ground. Another brought his carbine up, firing on Zach.

The tom twisted with a snarl of pain, but the shot only caught his shoulder ... painful, but not lethal, and not slowing him down overly much as he threw the short spear, catching the gunner's forearm with the weapon.

A heartbeat later Jake was on him. A lunge from the ground up that pulled the injured Coyote-Fox mix from his mount and to the ground, tumbling with him. He raised his combat knife for the strike. Then Jake froze, staring down at the male under him and frowned.

The red-tan Kantin gasped out something Rock couldn't understand in a whimpering tone.

Jake drove his blade into the Kantin's upper arm, threw it into the ground, and snarled something before he got up to join Zach in tackling the last two raiders.

The tabby was starting to slow down; whatever had spurred him on seemed to be wearing off along with the blood loss and pain, but he pushed himself through it. He grabbed the gun the mix had dropped, throwing it over to Jake, who fired without seeming to aim, and took the giant mixed breed down with one shot.

Zach retrieved the spear, took a moment to try and get his bearings and zeroed in on the last target. His throw was weaker than he'd have hoped, but strong enough to drive into the Wolf's gut and send him tumbling off his mount where Jake finished him off by slitting his throat.

Zach panted, covered with blood as Rock crept out of the tent, looking around to make sure all the attackers were down, and to see if there was anybody wounded who needed to be taken care of.

The tom who had been hit in the beginning was dead, two of the raiders were still breathing, but they wouldn't last long, even if Jake didn't finish them off. A black furred girl in her early teens was crumpled on the ground, her long hair covering her face and much of her body.

He went over to check on her, not sure if she was scared, hurt or dead. He put the knife away before she could see it, sure that wouldn't help either way, and gently touched her shoulder. She didn't twitch, and he rolled her to her back, carefully checking for breathing and a pulse, and found neither. Her blue eyes stared out at him without seeing anything, the only thing that gave any illusion of life. He closed them gently, shaking his head a bit as Jake went to check on Zach.

"How'd it go?" Zach asked Jake quietly, starting to shake a bit as the fight and what he'd done sank in, and he fought to control himself, his hand tightly over the gunshot wound.

"Three dead I know of, six raiders dead, one surrendered, and you were impressive," Jake said quietly after glancing at his new slave and nodded when he saw one of the older girls tending to his wounds. "Come on, let's get that wound tended to. There are real first aid supplies and native ones in the healer's tent."

"Who got killed who wasn't supposed to?" Zach asked quietly, though he followed Jake to the tent without resisting. "And what the heck did I do?"

"A tom and fem almost ready for their adulthood ceremonies by the raiders and a very young kitten was trampled by a loose horse," Jake answered as they were greeted by a still-frightened elder shekat, her piebald fur largely covered by her leathers that bore the marks of a healer.

"Have you seen the chief or seneschal?" she asked even as she hurried the bloody pair inside and assessed their injuries.

"Neither were injured, Healer," Jake told her with the full respect due her rank. "I saw them checking the perimeter."

"Not likely to be a second attack, unless I'm very sadly mistaken," Zach murmured. "Raiding packs don't usually split up, if I remember, not for multiple waves. Not unless the pack's so big they'd know about it in MKC. Did you get hurt?" He asked Jake, looking his friend over, not seeing anything serious as the Healer started to inspect his bullet wound.

He was lucky the one who'd shot him didn't have better aim. It was bloody, but through the meat of his arm; it had managed to miss the bone, and anything vital, though it was bleeding freely now.

"Nothing but bruises," Jake said even as he turned to leave. "I need to help out now."

Now that he was calming down, he shivered slightly as Jake left, but not from a friend leaving. Something deep inside him was very much afraid of the power Zach could feel still whisping around Jake's body.

"Whatever that was, it was impressive," he murmured quietly, leaving the healer to patch up his arm.

Outside, Rock was helping take care of the dead animals, putting his powerful body to use moving the heavy carcasses where the women wanted them. He glanced up as Jake came out of the healer's tent, relieved that he looked okay. Bloody, but he didn't think any of it was Jake's.

"You okay?" Jake asked as he walked up.

"Yeah; what about you?" Rock asked him. "You were ... well, you were glowing out there."

"Halikar's cloak," Jake shrugged. "He does that when I'm doing His work."

"Only you could make the direct intervention of gods sound perfectly normal," Rock murmured, shaking his head. "How's Zach, and what the Hell got into him?"

"He's injured but okay, and, well, what happened in a lesser form of what happens to me," Jake said softly, tugging Rock away to join him to wash off in a nearby stream. "I don't know who's involved, but I do recognize partial possession when I feel it."

"Do you think he knows?" Rock asked gently, joining Jake in the cool stream to wash off the blood and grime from their bodies and leathers.

"I doubt it," he admitted. "I know he'd dabbled in magic. He probably dabbled in something he shouldn't have at some point. It can't be strong, or I'd feel it normally."

"You might ask him about it, if you get the chance ... if something like that happened at school, he'd make the news in a bad way." Rock moved to help wash Jake off. "What was up with the one you only wounded?"

"He surrendered," he grumbled slightly. "Meant it, knew what he was saying. I couldn't. I just ... couldn't."

"Couldn't what? Kill him? I'd call that a good thing," Rock admitted. "So... what's going to happen to him?"

"As of his surrender, he became my property, my slave. I'm really not sure what to do about him now, either. I can't just turn him loose, not after all he's done."

"So ... give him to the chief, maybe?" Rock suggested, honestly not sure what to do.

Go on a weekend trip, get a slave after a bloody fight. He knew people who'd line up by the dozen for a deal like that.

"Maybe," Jake murmured, now clearly holding something back.

"You think he's cute, don't you?" Rock almost had to laugh. He'd noticed the reddish-tan Coyote-Fox's looks, but still ....

"He is," Jake said before he caught himself.

"You do realize there's no way we could take him home with us, right?" Rock asked him seriously. "Not legally, anyways, without keeping the nature of the relationship real quiet?"

"I know, but ... there are a lot of slaves in the city, they just aren't the true, legal kind," Jake started talking even as he was thinking. "Given who we hang out with, what we like, would somebody really think he wasn't the voluntary kind, which he kinda is."

"You would have killed him if he didn't," Rock frowned.

"Yes, I would have," he nodded slightly. "It's what he said afterward, after I agreed, that he'd enjoy warming my bed."

"He'd have to stay at my place," Rock murmured. "I'm sure they wouldn't let that fly at the dorms. How's he likely to handle that?"

"You're right," he murmured, clicking back in with the realities of his life. "The chief, or Amanda. He might be fun to have around when I visit."

"That might work," Rock nodded slightly. "The chief would probably work better... not like Amanda's around all that much more than you are. Though this means you could probably let Renzen off the hook, so to speak," he mused.

"I pick him to give him a break," Jake smiled slightly. "He despises being a slave, and a bedslave more than anything, and I don't ask much of him. I liked his looks the first time, since then ... I like him."

"Then I guess you've got two, for your stay," Rock chuckled slightly, helping Jake out of the water to dry off a bit. "Though given some time, your guy might find himself in the same boat."

"Quite possibly," Jake said, then blinked. "Actually, this could be what frees Renzen. I'm not a great judge of value yet, but the chief may be willing to trade the canine for Renzen. If I own him, I can free him."

"That's another option ... to be honest, I kinda prefer it, but that's my thoughts on slaves talking," Rock admitted.

"You really don't like it, do you?" Jake glanced at him before shaking his fur out a bit more.

"If the people volunteered for it, it'd be one thing, but if they're forced into it ... not really," Rock said, shaking his head. "It's got all the wrong connotations for me. If somebody's happy with their situation, like Patches, it's one thing, but when they're as miserable about it as Renzen is and don't have a choice, it all comes back."

"Then I will see if I can free Renzen with this," Jake smiled softly and kissed him. "Sometimes you have stronger morals than I do."

"I suspect Amanda or the chief might take offense if you told them that," Rock chuckled, kissing Jake back. "I think it's a good choice though, if you can."

"Likely, as will Chance and anyone else," he chuckled. Come on, let's get back to the teepee, changed into something dry and get ready for the funerals and hunter's return."

"Right," Rock nodded, a bit more subdued at the reminder of the victims of the raid as he followed Jake back into the village. The place was even bloodier than before, with the freshly dead animals being bled out and butchered. The bodies of people had been moved, though not the stains their dying had created in the dusty soil.

When they slipped into their tent, the canine was waiting for them, along with Renzen and Patches.

"That was very impressive, Jake," Renzen spoke with honest respect as he stood to help the lean tom undress from wet leather.

"Yes," Patches purred softly and moved to help Rock undress.

"So who are you?" Jake asked the canine whose arm was bloody and bandaged, but functional.

"Darien, master," he answered with his eyes lowered and long fluffy tail submissively flat, except for the white tip that was trying to wag. "Were you injured?"

"Only bruised," he answered. "What are your skills?"

"I am a reasonable cook, good at pleasuring males, I know how to care for horses, mend clothes and set a camp."

"You were the pack gamma," Jake barely guessed.

"Yes, master," Darien nodded.

Rock watched the exchange as Patches helped him change, only absently aware of the shekat's touch as she dried and groomed his fur quickly, and helped him dress in a different set of leathers.

That Darien was a gamma actually made the entire situation make more sense to him. That the canine would be willing to surrender like that, that he wouldn't necessarily mind ... Hell, it was probably a step up for him, in some ways, with the way some packs treated their gammas and how most slaves seemed to be treated around here. Even if he did stay here, rather than remaining Jake's property, he'd probably have a better life overall.

"Renzen, Patches, help Darien understand what is expected of him, and feel free to have fun if you feel like it," Jake told them and turned to leave the teepee with Rock.

"If you're reconsidering at all, I could see it," Rock told Jake softly as they stepped into the open air that still smelled strongly of blood. "He's ... a little different."

Jake glanced back at the tent, hesitating now that Rock had changed his mind. "I think I would rather have a free ally than a willing slave," he decided after a moment. "The chief will treat him well."

"I'm sure he will," Rock nodded, honestly grateful that Jake hadn't changed his mind. Even though it wasn't as bad a situation as he'd thought it would be at first, he still wasn't that comfortable with it.

"Come, let's see if the chief will deal," Jake spoke quietly, only pausing to glance up once. "Amanda's party is back."

"Your ears are a lot better than mine, I think," Rock said, shaking his head as he followed Jake to the Chief's tent. He couldn't hear a thing. "Hope it was a good hunt for 'em."

"I doubt they were out long enough to get much," Jake shook his head. "Riders were sent to fetch them."

"Ah, Jake," the seneschal greeted them as he opened the flap to the chief's teepee at the sound of their voices. "The chief would speak with you."

"Good," he nodded and slipped inside the large tent and noted that Zach was already there, still a bit dazed. "I wished to speak to him."

Rock followed him in, glad to see that the older tom was in good shape yet. Coming home from the hunt to find her father hurt wasn't something he wanted sprung on Amanda; the situation as it was was bad enough.

"Jake, Zach, you have proven your bravery and skill as warriors today," the chief spoke with quiet gravity and offered each a strip of soft black leather as black as squid ink. "Take these headbands as an outward sign of your deeds so all may know your status."

Even knowing it was coming, Jake seemed startled for a brief moment before he gathered himself and accepted the headband. "Thank you, chief," he added as he swapped his headbands out.

"Very much," Zach agreed, doing the same. He was a little surprised, though the Healer must have warned him. It looked a little odd, to see the subdued, small tom donning the warrior's headband indicating he had killed in battle.

"Jake, you had other business?" the chief turned his attention to the cinnamon tom.

"Yes chief," her nodded. "The canine that surrendered to me, Darien. I understand he is now legally my slave."

"Yes. The seneschal will carve his wand of ownership for you before evening," chief Pazuquista nodded slightly, allowing Jake to direct the conversation.

"He says he is a reasonable cook and bedslave for males, can mend clothes, tend horses and set a camp. I am interested in trading him."

"Understandable, given you must return to the city soon," Pazuquista nodded.

"I would like to trade him for Renzen."

That raised an eyebrow. "I am afraid I can not do that," he replied evenly. "Renzen's actions during the raid earned his freedom and warrior status with us."

"That was my plans for him," Jake chuckled slightly. "Though it does now leave me with a question of what to do with Darien. I can't really take him home, as cute and useful as he might be."

"I am sure you would find many takers," the chief suggested. "Why did you want Renzen?"

"Because he hates being a slave," Jake said simply. "Is there another like him here?"

One name sprang to Zach's mind almost immediately, though he caught himself before speaking up. Fern might not appreciate being forced into freedom that way.

It was interesting to watch Jake like this... he was much more familiar with the Karalanol and their customs than Zach had expected him to be. Of course, being one of Amanda's friends probably had a lot to do with that.

Hard to imagine him being a wife though, particularly by local standards ... at least a full-time one.

"There is one I would suggest," the seneschal said thoughtfully when the chief looked his way for suggestions. "Her name is Hathor, a Lioness that belongs to a distant cousin of mine. I understand he still has trouble with her after three years. They live several days ride from here."

"That is more complex than I had hoped," Jake admitted. "Though she sounds like the type I wanted."

"If you wish, I will trade them and free her in your name," the seneschal offered. "Darien is easily worth more than Hathor, even if my cousin is partial to her."

"Thank you, seneschal," Jake inclined his head. "Though I would like to meet her."

"Then I will contact Ees-ta-vina when I have acquired Hathor so you arrange a visit," he agreed with a slight smile.

"I look forward to my next visit then," Jake smiled and began to stand. "I hear Ees-ta-vina's warriors outside. We may wish greet them before they get too upset."

"Agreed," Pazuquista stood with them.

Rock relaxed back in his seat two days later as the plane settled in for the smooth portion of the trip home. They didn't have any extra passengers this time, making for a much quieter trip.

"So, what'd you think?" He asked Zach, who was reviewing and adding to the notes he'd taken during the weekend.

"It was a Hell of a trip ... the fight was a little unexpected, but it could have gone a lot worse than it did," Zach answered, glancing up from his notes. "Glad we were able to help with it."

"Yeah, where did you learn to fight like that?" Rock asked, honestly curious.

"I've used a spear before," he explained. "When I was staying with another of the Badlands tribes, I learned how ... as for learning to use it that well ... I dunno," he admitted. "I think I might have had a little help with that."

"Help?" he raised an eyebrow. "Like Jake did?"

"I think so," Zach nodded. "A few months ago, before this whole werewolf fiasco started, Lance and some of his buddies were threatening Amy. I used a spell to help me protect her, but our werewolf got to him before it came to a head."

Rock blinked. "You talk about casting spells the way Jake talks about meeting Bastet."

"Hmm? I figured that Jake had told you," he chuckled slightly, putting his notebook down. "I've learned to use a few spells ... nothing flashy, like the Omega mages, but quieter things. It's why I was so interested in the tracking spell for the werewolf; I was thinking I might be able to cast it."

"So we have a champion of the gods, a fledgling mage, a Karalanol weura-princess and a Furlong," Rock shook his head. "Boy, do I feel out of place."

Zach chuckled, hiding a bit of a smile behind his notebook again.

"You'll figure it out eventually," he smiled. "And like you said, fledgling mage. I've summoned lizards before, basically ... managed to bind a warrior spirit to myself too, apparently, but that's about it, and to be honest, that's not much in the way of magery."

"It's more than anyone in my family can do," Rock shook his head.

"And nobody in my family can pilot a fighter jet or put a building up ... or make Jake smile the way he used to," Zach smiled warmly. "It's all a matter of perspective, really."

"Yeah," Rock smiled privately as Jake's head ducked slightly. "That is something."

"You sound like a self-help book," Amanda laughed from the cockpit. "So, did you two enjoy the trip?"

"More exciting than I was hoping for, but I think I'd enjoy coming back when we have longer to settle in," Rack smiled at her. "I haven't felt that welcome by strangers in a long time."

"Agreed, on all fronts," Zach smiled. "Think you could talk to your father some time about whether or not he'd mind if I worked on a book on the Karalanol? Archaeology might be my focus, but your people are fascinating, and there's remarkably little that's really known about them by anthropology. Not the same way as we know about some of the other cultures at least."

"I'd be shocked if he objected," she nodded easily. "I'll be happy to ask him for you. Perhaps we can stay a couple weeks over the break."

"You know I'm in," Jake grinned at her.

"I would be too, after a couple other plans are through," Zach grinned back. "Might even be able to talk Amy into it, though I wouldn't count on it."

"It doesn't seem like the kind of vacation she'd enjoy much," Jake said. "She's even more the city type than the Furlongs."

"That's why I don't think it'd work," Zach nodded. "A cabin somewhere she might go for, but I really don't think she'd take well to the living out here. It's a bit of an acquired taste," he admitted with a chuckle.

"And it's still more civilized than some places you've been, I expect," Amanda grinned back at him briefly. "Just what societies have you visited before?"

"Xenquii, Golden Empire, a few tribes here and there... get me started, and I'll keep going through the rest of the trip," he chuckled. "Maybe not for long, but I've visited at least. By the way, those raids aren't common, are they?" He asked her.

"There will be a few a year, though it is rare for them to be deadly like that. Most of the time they are from other tribes who are just looking to snatch dinner and maybe an older kitten as a slave."

"That's good to know. I hope we didn't end up making things worse by fighting back?" He asked her hopefully.

"Considering they started by killing a youth not yet a warrior?" she shook her head sharply. "They weren't Karalanol either. No, the way you fought back likely saved many lives, and many wives and kits from slavery."

"Good to know," he nodded. "I keep getting told I'm not supposed to involve myself, not supposed to interfere ... this seemed like a time I was supposed to, even after."

"When you are as much a target as the person you are watching, getting involved isn't much of a choice," she pointed out with a slight smile. "Some of the elder women were out there too, distracting them or their horses so someone else could get a shot in. You said you've visited the Golden Empire?"

"Yeah," he nodded, taking the hint to change the subject this time. "Back when my folks were traveling more," he started, leaning back and starting to talk about his experiences abroad.

The Jade Dragon was a small buffet near the campus, popular with those who enjoyed the exotic tastes of the lands to the south of Xenquii. It was packed tonight with those grabbing dinner before the theater class' annual year-end show.

"Jake? Remind me never to argue if Chance and Rock ever suggest a buffet for a double date again," Midnight murmured, shaking her head as she watched the two tabbies putting together their plates. "That's ... impressive."

"Just never dare them to see who can eat more," Jake snickered with a wink between mouthfuls of his own second plate.

"You didn't," Midnight said hopefully, looking at Jake seriously. "Did you?"

"Nope," he winked at her teasingly. "Though I hear there is another bet going down tonight."

"Oh there is?" She asked, raising an eyebrow curiously. "What about, and what's the prize?" She asked with a chuckle.

"From what Rock let slip, it's about who can hold out the longest without screwing one of us," Jake said, snickering at the dirty look Chance gave Rock, and the shrug he got in return. "Not sure what the prize is, given it's not one of us."

"We're not letting that slip either," Chance said, shaking his head. "Though it's not related to the bet ... that much," he blushed a bit.

"Oh, I'm just wondering if it's in my best interests to try and make you lose," Midnight grinned. "Beyond the obvious benefits," she winked. "I should've known something was up when you guys suggested going to a play!"

"Well, it's supposed to be a good show too," Chance protested, blushing more. "And no, it isn't!"

"Mmm, so, do we want to try our own bet?" Jake asked with a teasing grin for Midnight.

"That depends on what you're planning on betting on," Midnight grinned conspiratorially, leaning in close.

"See who can get one to spill the details first," he purred low in his throat. "It's got to be good if Chance is that shade already."

"Agreed," she grinned. "So, what are the limits on how we find out?" She asked teasingly, looking between Jake and Chance.

"If one loses the bet first, ours is off," Jake suggested.

"Well of course," Midnight giggled. "If we just went that way, we'd find out real easy. So, what's the prize on the side-bet?"

"Mmm, if you win, I won't ask you to join me next heat," she suggested with a slightly guilty smile. "If I win ... a tape of you, Rock and a girl, light on the kink?"

"If we can find a girl who's interested," Jake blushed a bit.

"Somehow, I seriously doubt that'd be hard," Chance snickered. "I bet I could name half a dozen off the top of my head, and Rock knows more."

"True," Rock admitted, honestly torn by which side of that bet he wanted to win. Getting Jake out of her heat would be great for them both, but getting to make that video would be great fun.

"Chance, would you mind coming up to the buffet with me?" Midnight asked, putting her plate aside to be picked up. "Just in case anybody gets fresh," she explained.

"Sure," he shrugged slightly, getting up to follow her, curious as to what was up. She wasn't the type that worried about guys getting fresh, even if she was a little more edgy than usual after the whole katnapping attempt.

"Think you could let Rock know to have Jake win?" she asked softly as she set a layer of rice noodles on her plate. "I keep meaning to not ask Jake to come, but I'm not that strong when it comes down to it."

"I can let him know," Chance nodded slightly. "Though I really hope you guys'll let me win the first bet," he blushed, taking the chance to grab some extra stuffed crab puffs for himself. "Want me to look for somebody to take his place next time, or you'll handle that?"

"There are other guys like that?" she glanced at him curiously.

"Some guys who just can't," Chance shrugged slightly. "Not physically, but they can't have kits."

"If you know one," she nodded, a grateful look on her face. "It would be nice."

"I'll see what I can do," he nodded slightly. "Calico toms are a good bet, if you can find 'em, but they don't usually make it out of kittenhood ... you'd be amazed what you learn when you live with three fems who don't want kittens," he chuckled.

"And are tired of each other," she smiled a little teasingly. "Only a few more, and I won't have to worry about it any more," she added with a sultry purr that made no effort to disguise how eager she was for that time.

"Down girl," he chuckled. "At least until we get home," he winked.

"Then you are all mine," she grinned wickedly and turned back towards their table, where Jake had moved things around so he was sitting next to Rock, and being unabashedly affectionate without pushing polite limits.

"With pleasure," he purred, nuzzling her lightly after they'd sat down. "Already planning on losing this one?" Chance asked his cousin with a grin.

"Jake's planning to win," he countered, but turned into the nuzzle of his lover all the same. "Though I'm not about to turn down his attentions, up to a point."

"Fair enough," Chance chuckled. "Save us all a lot of trouble if you did though," he smirked.

"Oh, like I'm about to pass up on seeing whatever he managed to get you to bet to that turns you that shade just thinking about it," Jake laughed teasingly.

"Got more to do with who I made the bet with," Chance laughed, shaking his head as everyone settled back into their food for a while, the shift in positions made stealing kisses and the occasional feeding of a lover more common.

Chance's purr of satisfaction at the meal shifted to one of pleasure until he realized that Midnight wasn't playing fair.

"You know, if you don't move that, your bet might not play out," he rumbled lowly, kissing her as she rubbed his crotch under the table.

"I'm sure we have until the play, and low lights," she teased with playfully, though she moved her hand down his leg a bit.

"At least until then," he chuckled, giving her a light kiss.

"Anybody still hungry?" Jake asked around.

"I think we can get going any time," Rock said easily, noticing their waitress as she brought their bill over. "Meet you guys at the theater?" He asked, taking out his share and collecting the rest from the others, only that Chance picked up Midnight's portion.

"Sounds good," Midnight grinned and gave Chance a kiss for paying. "You're getting entirely too used to thinking that I don't have a job, you know."

"Getting into the habit for a few years from now," he winked. "Rock, could you hold up a minute?" He asked as they all stood up and got ready to go.

"Sure," the older tabby shrugged slightly, tossing Jake the keys. "Want to get the car started?" He asked him.

"Sure," he nodded with a curious glance at his lover, then slid an arm around Midnight as they walked out.

"So, what's up?" Rock asked, putting down a little extra for the tip and starting out with Chance.

"Midnight wants to lose her side-bet with Jake, so let him find out what our bet was about," Chance told him quietly. "Though I'm sure it'll mean that they both set their minds on you winning," he grumbled.

"Quite likely," Rock cocked his head. "Why does she want to lose?"

"She's been trying not to invite Jake when she's in heat for years, but she always breaks down when the time comes, and he won't say no," Chance said softly. "I think knowing he's so close ... knowing they're so close to what they both want, after a fashion, it doesn't do either of 'em any good."

"No, it doesn't," Rock confirmed with a slight nod and walked out with his cousin. "He was a couple weeks getting back to normal, and it wasn't from the good kind of trip. Sure, I'll make sure he wins, and maybe not even know it was planned that way."

"That's kinda what we're shooting for," Chance nodded. "If he asks, I tried to get you to promise you wouldn't make me wear a costume," he grumbled.

"And I didn't promise," Rock chuckled deep in his chest. "See you in a few, if you make it to the play at all," he teased as they parted to their separate cars.

"We will!" Chance smirked, heading over towards Midnight. "Okay, he knows ... so, let's get going?"

"Before I tempt you into breaking that promise," she giggled and slid into the passenger side, even though it was her car. "Not that I'm not going to enjoy getting you so hot and bothered you'd risk something terrible just to sink into me."

"You'll have to go up against how incredibly hot for it you'll be when we get home too," he teased, climbing into the driver's seat, not needing to move it back. "You're just as eager as I am!"

"Oh, but you're the one who'll loose the bet," she purred, leaning up against him unabashedly before he turned the car on. "I'll be hot, but you'll have to be even more, and you've never managed to say no to me yet."

"First time for everything," he smirked over at her. "Besides, if I don't manage to keep saying no until it's over, you might just dump me," he blushed.

That got her terribly curious, though mostly in shock. "What on Aristal could be that bad?"

"You'll find out when we get there," Chance blushed more deeply. "I'm sure Jake'll know by then, and be busy laughing his head off."

"Unless Rock's got his mouth busy doing something else," she giggled and slid her hand along his powerful thigh on the short drive to the theater. "Just how are you guys defining sex for this one?"

"Anything that gets either of us off," Chance chuckled, then licked his lips and grinned over at her at a stoplight. "So I could make sure you don't have to go without," he winked.

"Now this evening could definitely get interesting," she grinned back, an utterly devilish look on her fine features. "I'm sure Rock will take full advantage of it."

"If he doesn't, you can bet I will," Chance grinned, winking as they pulled into the campus theater's parking lot, and quickly pulled in next to Rock's car.

"Well, they're taking advantage of getting here first," she giggled before getting out to sneak up on the two toms making out in the front seat of the other vehicle.

Chance snickered, watching her move quietly. He didn't want to be too close when Jake got startled, but it was fun to watch all the same. It was hard to remember sometimes that she wasn't his sister in blood. At times, they seemed even closer than that, and times so far apart it was painful to watch.

She slipped a hand in the passenger side window and teased a cinnamon ear, causing it to flick, though Jake didn't seem to actually notice.

She did it again, and got batted for it, though Rock broke the serious making out session to figure out what had made Jake shift.

"Oh, hi," he grinned at her.

"Scat, you have your own tabby," Jake growled teasingly.

"But we'll miss the play," she countered with a pout she managed not to crack for a solid five seconds.

"He doesn't jump as well as he used to anymore," Chance snickered, climbing out of the car and walking over. "So, should we get going in?"

"Sure," Rock grinned, giving Jake a kiss on the cheek.

"You tell her," Jake snickered with a glance full of amusement for Chance. "I'd never tell it that good."

"Oh, all right," Rock smirked. "If I lose our little bet tonight, I owe Chance a good bottle of catnip-bourbon. He couldn't come up with much else to suggest. Then I put my terms down - if he loses, we get to hold a little karaoke party, and he has to do a piece of my choice," he grinned.

"Without costumes," Chance added firmly as they all walked towards the main entrance that already had a fair crowd moving through it.

"I still haven't promised that part," Rock grinned. "Besides, I'm sure I've got something that'd fit you," he teased.

"Given what you'll make me sing, that's just getting creepier," Chance muttered, offering their tickets to the bored looking student manning the desk of the souvenir shop.

"It might be a bit much, though I have one that could be hysterical with the right song," Midnight offered up.

"This is why I didn't want them finding out," Chance groaned, shaking his head. "C'mon, if we're lucky we'll find some seats that aren't taken by folks in Katian."

"Yeah, yeah, like this all wouldn't have happened if they found out after you lost anyway," Rock laughed.

"You know I'd behave if Rock just asked me to," Jake added with a teasing wink for his partner. "Even without a clue why."

"Yeah, but Midnight would probably behave better if she didn't know about the bet," Chance chuckled, giving her a quick kiss as they found their seats.

"Quite true," she giggled and leaned against him in their seats.

"Any idea if there's anybody else here we know?" Chance asked Jake quietly. "I know Zach said he had something else going on."

"Amanda is coming for the educational value, and I expect just about everyone with prospects for tonight is making this part of the date," he chuckled softly. "If half the audience isn't riled or sated by the end of the show, they didn't do well."

"Why do you say that?" Chance asked, flicking his ears at the curious look all three of them gave him.

"You don't know what 'Much Ado About Nothing' is about, do you?" Rock asked, only just controlling the hysterical laughter trying to bubble up.

"You know I don't usually go for plays like this," Chance shrugged. "Usually pretty dull."

Jake couldn't help it; he cracked up, drawing some attention from those around them. "Buddy, it's two hours of all but solid sex on stage."

"You have got to be kidding," Chance blinked, looking up at the still-curtained stage.

"They can't actually have sex, but everything I've heard says it's a very good fake out, and tonight they're going even further than usual," Jake told him, still chuckling deeply.

"I thought I recognized that voice," Amanda grinned at them. "Have a seat for me?"

"Sure," Jake motioned to the one on the far side of Rock.

"It's just rumor that they're going further tonight, of course," Rock said continuing the conversation as Amanda sat down. "Mostly because everybody who's interested knows the sort of things their writer does," he grinned.

"Great, just what I needed," Chance said with a resigned sigh. He was sure the show'd be interesting now, but with the bet going ... this was going to be interesting, he was sure.

"Did I miss something?" Amanda asked, cocking her head.

"Only that Chance is losing what little hope he had of winning the night's bet with Rock," Jake supplied. "They're trying to find out who can hold off the longest, and Chance didn't realize the content of the play."

"Poor tabby," she snickered, not sounding in the least bit sincere as the lights dimmed slightly, putting the emphasis onto the stage as the recorded reminders about not using flash cameras during the play were run over the intercom.

"You are not helping," Chance grumbled, but his attention was soon on Midnight as she leaned against him and played her fingers along his inner thigh. Though it was perfectly normal for her, tonight it took on a different meaning.

"You're having entirely too much fun with this," he murmured quietly, grateful for the interruption of the applause as the curtain rose.

"Not as much fun as I'm going to," she giggled, clapping along with the rest of the audience.

They quieted down as the first actors took the stage, setting the scene as the Lords accepted the hospitality of the local governor. Rock was passingly familiar with the plot, from his own time in school before he'd dropped out; the actors weren't bad, and they hadn't changed the plot or lines he remembered too much ... yet, at any rate.

From what he'd heard, especially in tonight's performance, that was going to change. Watching his cousin turn various shades of scarlet and blue trying not to give in to Midnight was going to be a blast.

He was just glad that he wasn't the target of choice, or he'd have to endure two sets of hands trying to tempt him. As it stood, Jake's hand in his lap and nose against his neck was enticing enough.

Still, it didn't keep him from doing a little enticing of his own. He rested his own hand in Jake's lap, lightly scratching his thigh as Claudio and Benedick settled in at their quarters, the two friends bantering about Benedick's discomfort with shekats and unwillingness to risk being tied down with kittens.

He hoped Jake wouldn't take anything out of this particular plot. He was pretty sure that Jake knew enough not to interpret it as being all that relevant to his situation, but it was never easy to tell with Jake. He occasionally seemed completely rational about it all, and then at times he would be set off at the smallest thing.

"You know there's nothing that said you can't get me off, you know," Jake purred in his ear.

"I know," Rock purred back, his hand shifting up higher as the banter started drawing to a close. "Just waiting for what I think they're going to do next," he winked, finding that he'd been right as Benedick started to demonstrate one of the advantages of the fact that he wasn't into fems, pushing his friend back into the bed and quickly undressing him. It was blocked incredibly well ... well enough that, combined with the noises both toms were making, Rock couldn't really tell if they were faking or not.

Not that he was particularly concerned with it; the scent of arousal quickly filled the air from the audience, and from much closer as his hand found Jake's crotch, and he started rubbing him through his pants.

"Oh yeah," Jake moaned deep in his throat and arched a bit to press into the touch, and against his lover. "Right there."

"Shu, quiet," Rock whispered, kissing Jake lightly, rubbing a bit faster, the heel of his hand working Jake's tip behind layers of fabric. He glanced over, and wasn't too surprised to see that Chance seemed a little pre-occupied with Midnight at the moment, his attention more on her than on the stage.

He was sure that would change as the play went on, which it was in the process of doing now ... answered the question of whether or not it was real pretty well. They'd have had to be wound up as all Hell to get off that loudly that quickly. The curtain dropped and lights dimmed as the scene was quickly changed.

Jake's breath came quickly, his hand in Rock's lap quickly finding his lover's crotch and shivered in excitement at the hard flesh under his fingers.

"Love how you touch me," Jake whispered, his eyes nearly closed as he pressed close.

"Good," Rock purred, though he still stopped rubbing as the curtain came back up, opening up on a pair of nude shekats snuggled up; Hero and Beatrice, he was sure, discussing their new guests.

Jake's response involved sliding the back of one claw down Rock's hard cock, a hard, even pressure along the sensitive length, before he slid his fingers down on either side.

"Revenge, kitten?" Rock whispered with a purr and a grin. "I get to tease too."

"It's your bet, not mine," Jake reminded him, nuzzling against his neck affectionately.

The two shekats were pushing the limits of what was allowed even more; he could hear a low grumbling from some older members of the audience nearby, who apparently hadn't realized that the school's rules would allow for the more blatant fondling and groping despite the obviously salacious intent.

It was playing well with most of the audience though.

Despite the focus much of the audience had on the foreplay they were watching, the actresses were nailing their lines. Beatrice warning her cousin about Claudio's possessive reputation, Hero waxing rhapsodic about the handsome Kat she'd only met briefly.

Rock could pick up one thing; the two actresses were definitely doing this because it was in the script. He was sure there wasn't any particular attraction between them; their touches were too stiff, scripted, and ... formulaic, really. He wondered if anybody else had picked up on it.

He did have to give the director credit though; he'd picked actresses who could pass as relatives.

A stiff moan from Midnight caught his attention, and he chuckled softly at the way Chance was making sure she couldn't tease him too badly.

"Why would anyone be possessive the way she is warning of?" Amanda asked from the other side.

"To some extent, it's a mix of ego and fear," Rock explained quietly. "At least to the extent it goes in this play. Some people get attached to the idea of being the only partner, of fulfilling all their needs, and others are just worried that a different partner might divide the attention and affection available for them, that they might lose the person they're in love with to another."

"Strange," she murmured, shaking her head.

"Somewhat," Rock nodded. "One of the themes here is how ridiculous it is to push that sort of thing too much," he explained.

"Ah," she nodded. "Do many toms need the lesson?"

"Not these days, but it was written about six-hundred years ago," Rock explained. "It was a lot more common back then, especially among the noble toms. Othello is similar, but a much more tragic, grim look at the consequences than this one."

"While this could rather easily pass for mild porn," she chuckled. "I think your lover wants your attention back."

"You noticed that too, huh?" Rock chuckled, turning to kiss Jake lightly as the scene moved on, the two lead couples meeting for the first time and the utter difference between the way they handled it; Beatrice and Benedick practically at each other's throats, Hero and Claudio's romance rapidly proceeding to a proposal. "Sorry about that," he whispered, licking Jake's lips lightly and found his mouth quickly claimed by a heated kiss.

"I was about to unzip your pants to get your attention," Jake warned him with a low chuckle. "We won't have to wait much longer."

"Oh really?" Rock grinned, glancing over to see that Chance's moves to stop Midnight were becoming more and more half-hearted, particularly as Hero ended up in bed with one of the toms who served the villain ... Chance wasn't really paying enough attention to know his name right now, but the well-arranged scenes were wearing down his resistance. "Just wait until the end still," Rock warned Jake, reaching down to start rubbing his crotch again, this time intending to get him off.

"Deal," he moaned softly, a sound nearly inaudible between the play and the audience, few of whom were as restrained as the two tabbies.

"I'm not sure which you are enjoying more, watching your cousin lose, or making Jake whimper like that," Amanda giggled, her own arousal evident in the air around them, though she made no effort to do anything about it.

"Oh, making Jake whimper," Rock grinned back at her. "Want some help?" He offered. "No strings, nothing but fingers," he promised her, his own cock stiff and bulging in his pants but Jake currently distracted enough that his hand was little more than a warm presence over it.

"No need," she smiled slightly at him, though her eyes were more on Jake's pleasure-drenched face as the lean tom quickly neared his breaking point. "I will be fine."

Rock glanced up at the stage, speeding up his own attentions to Jake's shaft, trying to get him off before the upcoming confrontation and suicide scenes. The last thing he wanted to do was link death and pleasure any more than it already was in Jake's mind.

Jake's breath hitched, and his hips thrust up hard against his lover's hand, neither of them trying to hold it back any longer. It was only a few moments more and he grunted through clenched teeth, his body tightening to empty his balls.

"So, how do you like the theater?" Rock asked him with a wise-ass grin, licking his cheek.

"Hell of a lot," Jake mumbled, leaning heavily against his lover. "Know where to find more shows like this?"

"Oh, I could probably find some," Rock chuckled, wrapping an arm around him to hold him close, leaning his head against Jake's. "Some that don't have as much fem action too."

"Cool," Jake sighed, his body relaxing into a near-liquid state, even as Chance's strangled moan made him look over his shoulder just enough to notice that Midnight had gotten his pants unzipped and had her head in his lap, slowly bobbing up and down.

"Any time now," Rock smirked, turning his attention back to the stage, where the final act was beginning, with Claudio challenged to duels by both of his close friends and Hero's father for her 'death,' and the villainous Don John gloating over the success of his plot.

Jake, predictably, was more interested in watching Chance get a blow-job than the fighting on stage; while well-done by college standards, they didn't work all that well for someone who knew how to fight for real.

Soon it ended, Benedick wounded and returning to argue with Beatrice about his unwillingness to fight with Claudio over her cousin's death. The part of the audience that was still paying attention to the actual lines, instead of their dates, soon found themselves caught up in the various puns, atrocious and otherwise, that were being slung back and forth once the topic returned to relationships in general, and theirs in particular, such as it was.

Amanda was paying attention, mostly, but that was about it; Jake and Rock were entirely too wrapped up watching Chance try desperately to hold off until Midnight decided to lay off for a while again.

He was also apparently the only one that didn't realize she wasn't going to.

"Damn they're hot," Jake murmured, mostly to himself, and felt his lover's hand working on his hard cock again.

"This is why I made the bet," Rock grinned, trying to split his attention between the two shows going on, word getting back to Claudio and the others that the tom he'd caught Hero with had been talked into saying they were going to leave the city by Don John, who had conveniently fled once he heard his accomplice was captured.

"Only thing that would make it better would be you riding me hard," Jake rumbled hotly, his own breath catching as Chance nearly bit his own tongue to stop himself from roaring as he came into Midnight's throat, his entire body rigid against the thrusting of his hips.

"Might be a little late, but if you're up for sliding over a seat...." Rock grinned as the big reveal at Claudio's wedding to 'Hero's cousin' brought on a heartfelt statement on the tom's behalf that he had given up his jealous ways.

Jake shivered in anticipation and shifted, squirming to pull his jeans down before sliding onto Rock's lap.

The actors started to dance ... and before long, the dance had changed its nature entirely, devolving into an orgy as Beatrice and Benedick started mating in a way that drew gasps from what little part of the audience was still paying attention and not expecting it.

No amount of blocking in the world could hide that, as the dance turned into an orgy, the actors were undeniably actually having sex on stage, not just faking it. There were some exclamations of shock, a handful of outrage, as some of the more conservative members of the audience got up to leave.

It still left the vast majority of the students cheering them on, as the director and other behind-the-scenes members of the production streaked out and joined in.

No one was sure who, but a call from the stage invited all to join the festivities, as was proper for a great celebration.

Chance, knowing he'd already lost his bet, pulled Midnight up, kissing her and shifting her over to his own lap, pulling her panties aside, both tabbies sinking into their respective lovers as some of the people in the front row rushed up to join in.

The next weekend, Chance was walking into the Temple where Melia worked. The entire campus had been buzzing since the last night of the play; the excitement, positive excitement, it had created, the lightening of everybody's mood and the fact that he could hear laughing more often than started gasps again, made being there to see it almost worth the fact that later today he'd probably be dressed up in something frilly and belting out 'I am Woman' for Rock's karaoke machine.

Almost worth it.

Still, campus had been a lot more fun lately, better than it had been since the murders almost a month before. And today he was going to get some answers, an explanation of just what was up with his partner's life.

He stopped just inside the temple, waiting for Melia to come and meet him, or for somebody to come and tell him where to find her.

"It seems it has been a good week," her familiar voice still managed to catch him off guard, his attention on all the regalia of his upbringing and trying hard not to think that the individual it was dedicated to was not only very real, but very interested in someone central to his life.

"It was, really," he smiled. "The consequences are going to be a bit iffy, but not bad. Folks have started to relax a bit ... hopefully not just in time for it to happen again."

"If the investigators are right, next week's full moon will be the next assault," she said unhappily. "Many of us will be on campus to help guard it. I just hope it is enough. Come, I'm not sure if my news is good, but it may be useful at least."

"That's all I can really ask for," Chance nodded slightly as they walked back towards her quarters. "And good ... just keep your heads down, okay? The cadets are all getting drafted for it too, but if this guy runs into any group ... it's not likely to end without bloodshed."

"If he runs into anyone, let it be us," she said with a calm certainty. "This is a beast of magic, of the spirit world, Chance. Only magic can slow it down. We may not use it often, but when Bastet deems the cause just, we have a great deal of power at our disposal."

"I'll still cross my fingers and hope that he's nowhere near ... any idea if they're right about silver not doing anything to it? They gave us a briefing after calling for volunteers for patrols, said it wouldn't do any good. Didn't have any better ideas what would work," he added with a half-laugh.

"Energy," she said simply, opening the door to her small room. "I don't think you have any weapons that would work yet. Perhaps something of Jake's, but nothing they could issue for everyone."

"I'll talk to him then," Chance nodded slightly. "He ought to be able to rig something up ... maybe some sort of a grenade or something he could make a lot of fast. Anyways, that's not what I'm here to talk about for now ... what did you find out?"

"More than I expected, honestly," she said as they sat down as they had three weeks before. "She wants Jake to lead the defense of Her territory here against the Champions of the Demon and His allies. She chose Jake because he can do what needs to be done."

"So what needs to be done, and what is this Demon?" Chance asked her.

"He, or a Champion he leads, must kill the Demon's Champion," she said softly. "The Demon ... we aren't sure what it is, only that it has gathered an impressive alliance of Powers, and there is word that it isn't from here, it isn't one of Them."

"That's going to go over so well," Chance groaned. "Is there any way this can play out without somebody having to kill somebody else? Probably with Jake as one of those somebody's?"

"Technically, a Champion can take themselves out of the game by surrendering completely to an opposing priesthood or Champion, though please do not tell Jake that. His throat will be slit for it, and there will be no coming back from it. Other than that, no," she shook her head. "I think you are worrying too much about that point though. As Enforcers you will be required to kill. I would be very surprised indeed if an opposing Champion does not set themselves up as a viable target."

"He'd need to find another of the Champions first, and I don't think the only candidates I've heard of for it would be people he'd surrender to," Chance pointed out. "But you're right, I won't. And you might be right about that, but that's a different situation. If Jake finds out that the only way to get out of this is to go out and kill somebody ... I'm not honestly sure he wouldn't, legally justifiable or not."

"That is another issue. It will likely end his Enforcer career, but it won't do much more than that, from the legal system at least," she said softly. "Like being resurrected by a Power, there are laws that cover it. Rarely used as they are, they are still on the books. If both parties are opposing Champions, it is legal. It doesn't matter how, or the circumstances, or even if the dead one saw it coming."

"Yeah, but what it'd do to Jake ... that could get nasty," Chance murmured.

"Didn't he already try his best to kill an opponent that needed to be killed?" she looked at him curiously. "At least I understood that he was injured trying to slit the werewolf's throat."

"Yeah, but that's different," Chance tried to explain. "It was in battle, protecting lives. Anyway, any other rules I ought to know about? Knowing the gods, there's probably dozens of 'em that aren't going to be a huge issue, but if there's something that'll end up being a problem for Jake or Rock, it'd be good to warn 'em."

"It would be good to keep in mind that while She can bring Jake back from death, She can not directly interfere with things, and neither can any of the others. They can evoke very specific abilities to help depending on what their specific fields are, but it is as far as direct actions go."

"Given Jake's opinion of her direct actions, I think he'll be glad to hear that," Chance murmured, still trying to deal with the idea that the gods were so very real and watching those close to him. "Did ... did you find anything out about their plans for Midnight?"

"No, and I still don't know if that means there are none, or She just isn't talking about it," Melia admitted.

"Well, if they're for Midnight and Jake, then She's going to have to figure out some way to change the way things stand. Any idea why this is all happening now? I mean ... things like this haven't been heard about for ages, and now all this coming together at once?"

"As we understand it, every dozen generations there is a major contest that determines a significant balance of power for the next dozen generations," she sighed. "Every generation has Champions and conflicts and small shifts in power, but these big ones ... apparently the latest Dark Age was in no small part do to Fahik and Izaris' Champion being defeated, and it ended when the next major battle went the other way."

"Okay ... so does everybody have a champion, or just some of them, the ones who've got a horse in the race, so to speak?"

"Everyone has a champion, it is their central link to the mortal world, but only a few are normally in the contest. Throughout history, very few champions are ever in the kind of situation Jake is in, though all could be. If your champion is defeated by another, all who invested in the champion have their power in the mortal world wane for at least a generation, sometimes much longer."

"So if Jake loses, and Bastet and Halikar have put so much power behind him...." Chance thought it over, and the results that could include ... particularly if they lost to the Demon. "And what happens if one of them changes allegiance?"

"It's the same as losing for the ones they left, and an incredible boon for their new Power," Melia said, though her expression said just how little she thought of the idea's plausibility.

"How much do you know about Jake's nightmares?" Chance asked her softly. "It's a pretty easy way to read them."

"Nightmares?" she went tense, her tail slightly fluffed at his tone. "Tell me about them, please."

"I don't know much about 'em, but from what I've heard from Rock and Zach, they're usually about a dark force, the Demon according to Jake, chasing him and devouring him," Chance told her quietly. "It could be dreams about the fact that the Demon's Champion is after him, but it could be about the Demon trying to convert him too."

"Or simply weaken him," she nodded uneasily. "How long has he had these nightmares?"

"To hear him, he never didn't," Chance explained. "Rock or Midnight could tell you more, but I don't know if they will. It's a touchy subject; most people think he's crazy, including his own mother, and you know how he is about priests."

"Unfortunately," she nodded. "Though apparently I made a reasonably favorable impression by not coming on to him. Perhaps he will talk to me, in time. Would you mind feeling out how Rock will take it if I try to spend a bit more time with Jake? I'm sure it will be uneasy at times, when Jake is trying to figure out why I'm not acting like others he's met."

"I can ask him, though I think he'll understand well enough," Chance nodded slightly. "Those nightmares worry me, a lot," he admitted. "And not just because of the Demon; it sounds like they're the reason he learned to live on a couple hours of sleep a night."

"I expect so," she agreed. "I would not be surprised if other things came of it as well. He has not been treated kindly by life."

"No, most of which he can turn around to blame on being a Champion," Chance half-laughed. "At least he's started to have a good time once in a while, doing more than just tinkering."

"At least Rock is good for him," she smiled softly. "It is good to hear he is starting to enjoy life."

"Yeah, reluctantly, but he is," Chance chuckled. "Honestly, I kinda wonder sometimes if the Enforcers really are good for him, given the effect Rock's had on him, but that's not my call and I'm not about to suggest he quit."

"Until he defeats the Demon's champion, it will keep him in shape and the right mindset," she reminded him gently. "It may not be best for him personally, but in the long run, it's a good idea. He will hopefully have many years once it is over to relax with Rock."

"Here's hoping," Chance nodded. "Thanks for the info, Aunt Melia. I'd better get going; I need to be at least mildly drunk by the time I see Rock this afternoon," he chuckled slightly as he stood.

"Why?" she looked at him curiously and stood to walk him out.

"Lost a bet; if I know Rock, I am not going to want to be sober when I pay up. Especially since Midnight and Jake are both in on it too, now," he said, rolling his eyes slightly.

"Did you make sure he isn't going to record it?" she asked with an amused chuckle.

"He wouldn't promise that, or that he'd pass on costumes," Chance grumbled. "At least the night was worth it."

"Good," she chuckled. "I also have news on the three who tried to take Midnight. The two Kats surrendered to us, and have named the Kantin to the Enforcers."

"They came to the Priests to confess?" Chance asked, cocking his head.

"In a way," she chuckled darkly. "They came to have the Mark removed. Apparently she called upon Bastet to mark her attackers as enemies and She did."

"The Mark?" Chance asked, trying to place it. He'd heard it before, but didn't clearly remember what it was.

"A magical mark visible to all who believe in Bastet, indicating that the person is an enemy of Her and Her people," Melia explained. "It will also make all of Her children, aware or not, uneasy and unwilling to deal with them."

"Ah ... so, did they get it removed, or do they get to wear it into Alkatraz?" He asked with a half-chuckle. "Deserve it for what they were trying."

"I believe High Priestess Fela agreed to ask Her to remove it if the Kantin was convicted, they assisted the Enforcers in recovering their previous victims, and pled guilty without a plea bargain. As I understand it, Vice is ecstatic."

"Heh - I'll bet," Chance chuckled darkly. "I'm sure the Enforcers will make sure, but remind the High Priestess that there's a Vixen who was working with 'em too, if you get the chance. They should have to bring it all down before they get off any of it. So ... this have anything to do with why the one called her a 'she-demon'? Or was that just the way she fought 'em?"

"It was a bit of the fight, but mostly it was the show and instinctive fear of what she did to them in calling on the Mark. It is very unnerving to suddenly realize you are on a Goddesses hit list," she grinned viciously and opened the outer door for him. "Good luck surviving your bet."

"Thanks," Chance laughed, stepping outside. "And I'll let Midnight know they caught the bastards; she'll be glad to hear it."

"I'm sure," she smiled and kissed his cheek. "Keep in touch, Chance."

Tony stretched out his thick, muscular arms as he walked back home from his new girlfriend's dorm. The last month, since Ghede had fingered the both of them for killing Lance and Yolanda, hadn't been particularly easy, but things were looking up now. He was still ronin, no pack was willing to take him in just yet, but that had its advantages, he was finding.

Like the fact that he didn't have to worry about whether or not his Alpha was going to stick to the old rules about being the only one who could date. That had been one thing that had always chafed about being under Lance, and now that he was on his own he was taking advantage of it. Trudy was cute, fun to hang out with, great in bed, and best of all, another Wolf. He probably would've still been at her place if her RA hadn't been a hardass about the fact that it was a female-specific dorm and threatened to call him in.

Hell, it meant he was out after curfew, and technically breaking the laws just leaving, but hopefully any of the Enforcers or Cadets who tried to call him on it would accept his explanation.

And maybe give him a ride; the night was warm and balmy, but there was something in the air that just put his fur on edge.

Something he couldn't identify pricked the hairs on the back of his neck and quickened his step. Could the Lions be after him too, another example like Ghede?

No ... that didn't make sense. He wasn't a Cheetah, they'd had a full month to come after him if they'd wanted to.

A full month ... and another full moon was in the sky.

His blood ran cold as he remembered just what it was that had killed Yolanda.

"Shit," he whispered, looking around, taking a deep breath, sensitive to any trace of a Wolf's scent he didn't recognize. A whisper of one from upwind made him shiver, the fur along his spine lifting in response to knowing he was being hunted by a greater predator.

He was here.

He couldn't be sure that the guy was after him. Logically, it didn't make sense. He'd killed Lance, but only to rape and kill Yolanda. The next night had been a horror show, but all against fems. Logically, there was no real reason that he'd be after Tony.

More likely hoping some girl from the dorm would be breaking curfew.

Somehow though ... that wasn't helping him. He just knew that he was the one being stalked.

He reached into his pocket, making like he'd forgotten his keys and turning to head back, cursing quietly, trying to make it seem like he hadn't noticed his stalker.

He didn't want to run. He knew it was the very worst thing he could possibly do. Even if he wasn't the target, running would make him a target.

"Boo," a deep, husky voice half-barked at him from his left as he looked right, but nothing was there when he snapped his head around to look.

"Look, I don't know who you are, and I don't care," he said lowly. "I'm not gonna call the Enforcers, just go play somewhere else."

"Oh, I want you to call them," the dark voice laughed, sending a chill right through Tony that quickened his steps. "I bred two of them, you know. Maybe your new bitch too."

"You stay away from her," Tony growled lowly, trying to figure out how fast he could get back to the dorm if he bolted.

A booming laugh of pure delight echoed from all around him.

"You're going to stop me?"

Tony licked his lips. This wasn't a matter of bravado anymore. He was going to die tonight, if this bastard had his way, he knew it. The question was if he managed to do anything before that, managed to be even a little bit useful before he went out.

He turned, bolting for the dorm, dropping down to all fours and throwing his head back with a howl of warning and danger as he tried to make it somewhere at least almost safe, where he could get the Enforcers called.

He felt one leg cut out from under him, sending him tumbling, but the expected killing blow didn't come as he scrambled back to four feet and continued his hell-bent dash for the dorm in full voice.

He couldn't hear anybody answering ... he just hoped it was because they were too busy calling the Enforcers or coming to help. He let out another distress howl before he reached the dorm, tearing around to the side door he'd come in through, hammering on it, hoping desperately they'd let him in.

"What the hell?" the RA, a big bitch of a Hyena, snarled at him, and was nearly slammed flat on her ass as he scrambled inside.

"He's here!" Tony said desperately, the fear pouring from his body giving her all the clue she needed to figure out who 'he' was.

"Phone's in the main lobby. I'll wake everyone," she ordered him and rushed off after bolting the door, not the least bit concerned that he might not obey.

He hurried around to the lobby, grabbing the phone and starting to dial. He'd almost gotten the number in when the front doors splintered, and he looked up at the hulking form of Lierok for a moment before the Werewolf was on top of him.

"Why?" Tony gasped out, his entire body going limp in submission on raw instinct to survive the assault from a much stronger Wolf.

"Because you deserve it just as much as your Alpha did," Lierok growled lowly, momentarily held back by the utter submission. Even today, it didn't sit completely right to kill a Wolf who'd surrendered the old way. "Because you wronged the one who called me to this world," he slashed down Tony's chest, ripping his clothing to tatters, but doing little other damage. "You, him, I'm required to kill. The rest, they're just fun."

"Look, whoever called you, I've only ever followed my Pack ... Lance is dead, I'm not gonna bother whoever it was anymore, I swear!" Tony said, hoping there was some way to reason with this ... thing.

He didn't really think it would work though.

"There's another reason I'm doing this though," Lierok smirked slightly as he used his claws to delicately cut the rest of Tony's clothing from him. "He wants to watch it, no matter how much he says it's not what he wanted."

Tony went pale under his fur, and the beast grinned even more.

"Just be grateful he doesn't like guys," Lierok chuckled as he slid a claw down Tony's chest, just barely drawing blood. "I won't play long, I'm sure."

"Just leave after you're done with me," Tony said, sounding sick. "They didn't do anything to you here!" He pointed out, hoping he could reach, if not the Wolf going to kill him, the person inside him.

"Technically, neither did those girls last month," he laughed deeply, then grunted as a powerful blow slammed his head down against Tony's chest.

He whirled around, grabbing the Hyena and slamming her back against the wall, cracking the plaster with her heavy frame. His next awareness was of incredible pain in his arm and the cracking of bone as jaws strong enough to shatter a femur closed around the arm and twisted to separate his forearm in two.

Even before he completely registered the damage, she kicked out hard from the wall and drove a fist into his throat in a perfectly placed kill shot.

He twisted his own head, spitting blood onto her arm as he grabbed it in his jaws and twisted, snapping the joint and whirling around, throwing her back into Tony as the Wolf tried to scramble for the phone.

Lierok smirked as her bravado and fight disappeared into a whimpering ball as she tried to stop her own bleeding.

"Not so tough after all, are you, bitch?" He grinned, then looked down at Tony, who'd frozen as soon as he'd realized the distraction was over. "Bind her wounds. And if you try anything stupid again, you'll die like that Lioness cunt did," he warned the Hyena as she began to go into shock.

Tony nodded slightly and did as he was told, as much on instinct as thought.

Even with all that was in front of him, Lierok didn't miss the low thud of feet hitting the ground outside, some distance away.

"Smart. Stupid, but smart," he growled. He was tempted to go after them, a hunter after prey, but he knew the Enforcers would be here soon.

He wanted some time to make sure he paid Tony and the Hyena properly for irritating him like this. It may be a short night, but it would be remembered well.

With the fight over, his brain caught on to what was so intriguing about the Hyena; she was heavy with the scent of Wolves in heat. At least three of them, and being here, they would be fully grown and fit to breed.

"Tell me if they're still here," he growled lowly. "They'll live," he promised her, picking her up off the floor. "And if you tell me where they are, you'll die much more quickly."

"Like you're believable," she spat at him, a bit of fire coming back as it sunk in she was the walking dead.

"I wouldn't murder the mothers of my pups," he growled lowly. "Now, tell me, or you'll beg the Enforcers to kill you when they find what's left of your body. Are. They. Here." It wasn't even a question anymore. It was an order to answer him.

"Yes," Tony said, visibly shocked at his own voice.

Lierok turned to look at him, smiling darkly.

"Where, then?" He asked with a low rumble.

Tony worked his mouth, not wanting to answer even as he knew he would.

"Second floor, room 231," he said shakily.

"Thank you," he rumbled appreciatively, dropping the Hyena. He whirled on Tony, grabbing his head with one massive hand and shaking him once sharply, snapping his neck and letting his body fall to the ground.

"I keep my promises," he rumbled to the Hyena. "If you're still here when I've finished, you'll find that out first hand," he grinned, stomping on her knee, breaking the leg before stalking up through the building for the she-wolves he could smell more and more strongly.

They weren't the same quality as the bitches he'd bred the month before, but they would do well enough. He was good enough that even a beta-grade female would produce fine pups.

His nose led him right to room 231, just as Tony had said, and he knocked lightly, a grin going ear to ear. At this rate, Wolves would rule this city in a generation.

"Go away!" She cried out, though her scent was begging for him to do just the opposite.

He had no intention of going away either.

"Open or I break the door," he growled at her. "You'll like it better if I'm in a good mood."

The door opened a moment later, revealing a half-dressed shewolf; she was a beta at best, but the scent of her heat was incredibly strong, and she looked up at him with a whimper somewhere between needy and pitiful.

He pushed her into her room and closed the door. A glance confirmed she was alone, and he looked down at her, his body already hard in desire as he ran a powerful hand down her body and slipped his fingers between her legs.

"I'm going to breed you," he said firmly. "I can make it very good for you." He left 'or incredibly painful' unsaid. He knew she knew it.

She licked her lips nervously, but nodded and knelt, inhaling his scent and nuzzling his thick, hard shaft.

"Mmm, good girl," he rumbled, stroking her between her ears lightly.

She shuddered, inhaling his scent and licking him from balls to tip, her tail tucked up between her legs submissively as she pleasured him. As much as she didn't want pups yet, at least he was a fine male if she couldn't avoid it.

With a deep breath she slid her mouth down around the massive cock in front of her, working her tongue around it as she swallowed him.

"Very good," he rumbled hotly, gripping her head, thrusting into her muzzle and throat. "You're good when you're scared," he grinned viciously, making her shiver again.

She was scared, and she wasn't sure what of. Of the possibility he might kill her ... or the stronger possibility that he wouldn't, since he was talking about pups. She might have to see him every month, and who knows what he'd do once the pups were born.

He grunted and thrust up hard, giving her just enough warning to be ready to swallow when he began to pour his seed into her mouth.

She choked on his thick semen for a moment, her loins burning with hot, hungry need to have it inside of her. She moaned unconsciously once he was finally finished and let her back, where she could breathe.

He let her catch her breath before he hauled her to her feet and pushed her back onto the bed.

She quickly rolled onto her belly, hoping desperately that he wouldn't want to face her as he did this. She raised her tail, opening herself up to him, squeezing her eyes shut in a mix of anticipation and shame.

The thick, hard heat of his cock pressing into her swollen sex dragged a moan from her throat and she did her best to forget her mind and body. He would take anything he wanted, leave what he wanted inside her, and her body would cry out for more when he finally left.

Jake closed his eyes and for the first time in his life, allowed the ebb and flow of power around him to come to his sense as Bastet had long ago told him would be important for him in his life. He despised using it, using anything She had given him, but there were just too many lives at stake to let his personal feelings get the better of him.

"This way," he motioned to those with him; Chance, Amanda and Terin Sandclaw.

"Right," Chance nodded, following along. "Are you sure these weapons are going to work?" He asked.

"They'll fire," he nodded, his voice low even as he was moving fast, tracking something he couldn't describe if he had to. "They'll kill a person. A werewolf, I don't know."

"They'll hurt it at least," Chance said with a sharp nod. "And it should last, according to Melia ... make him easier to find at least."

"And we're here because we're the only ones crazy enough to use untested weapons against a mythological monster," Terin muttered, shifting the heavy riffle in her hands in an effort to find it's balance point.

"The tested ones weren't exactly that helpful last time," Chance pointed out quietly. "I'd rather have something with a chance of hurting him," he concluded, his fingers near the firing stud of the heavy gauntlet-blaster that Jake had cobbled together during the last week.

How he managed these sort of things so quickly, he really didn't know.

"Keep complaining, and I'll give you the DND tomorrow," Jake warned her, both teasing and very serious.

"DND?" Chance and Terin both looked at him.

"Dirty nuclear device," Amanda provided.

"He's kidding," Chance said, shaking his head. "They wouldn't let him touch anything radioactive, I'm sure... got a bead on him?"

"Yes, and I still have the access codes for the nuclear lab," Jake shrugged without breaking stride. "Take me all of an hour with what's in there."

"Jake? This is the time when you stop talking before your partner warns somebody you need to be watched very closely," Terin pointed out dryly. "Now let's find this bastard and see how these things work."

"They can't watch me much more closely than they already are," he reminded her, far more matter-of-factly than she expected. "In there," he pointed to one of the only female-only dorms on campus.

"Oh shit!" Chance hissed under his breath, other Enforcer vehicles already gathering around the place, taking care of the females who'd fled. "Come on, if he's still in there he's probably got a vic yet!"

"Hopefully alive," Jake nodded and angled towards a window that wasn't well guarded by those in uniform, Chance on his heels without a thought.

Terin considered the situation ... then turned to head for the front door at a purposeful run.

"Hey, you!" someone yelled. "Halt!"

She did so, near the door, turning to face the Enforcer coming for her.

"Sir, if he's still in there, he might have a live captive," she pointed out, glancing back at the building like she wanted to go in ... she did, really, but she was more focused on getting Jake and Chance in there, and Amanda if she got in too like she was trying.

"SWAT is coming," the officer insisted. "This is no place for cadets."

"By the time they get here, anybody he's got inside could be dead," she pointed out. "Sir, I've seen what he did last month. He won't take hostages. He won't care about SWAT being here. He'll kill whoever he can and then take out the officers he has to on the way out. Right now, there's a chance we can take him by surprise!"

"With what?" the muscular tom demanded. "Last month proved nothing we carry can slow that thing down. Better weapons are coming. He's been in there for a while, and one of the survivors says he's here to breed, not kill."

"This isn't a regular rifle," she explained, raising the heavy weapon Jake had given her. "One of the cadets trained in weapon design; he put together a blaster rifle after we found out from one of the Priests that it would take energy weapons to hurt that monster. I don't know how many shots it's good for, but I only need one if he's distracted."

"Then set yourself up as a sniper until SWAT gets here," the officer ordered her, still focused on keeping a cadet as far from the line of fire as he could. "Talk to the team captain."

She went to do so, her eyes straying towards the window that Jake had been going through; satisfying herself that the others were inside already.

She just hoped they'd be there in time, and set herself up with the hope that if the werewolf was driven out, it would be on the front side of the building.

Inside, her friends were each fighting their personal demons of their last encounter with the beast they were hunting.

They were moving fast, Jake's track on the beast giving way to their noses and it's scent-trail.

"I'll get the door when we get there," Chance told him quietly, briefly, saving his breath. They could hear the sound of other officers in the dorm, securing the building more steadily, getting bystanders out as they could. If they were spotted they'd probably be skinned alive for this stunt ... Hell, they probably would be anyways ... but their noses all told them that the monster was here, and Chance's told him easily that he was busy trying to make more of them.

He'd rarely been so glad that Kantin in heat didn't hit him the same way Kats did, or that his partner didn't react to either.

The howl of a shewolf's orgasm covered their steps as they closed in on the room. Jake motioned Chance forward and readied himself to fire.

Chance silently prayed that the door wasn't locked, gripping the knob with his bare hand. He twisted it, throwing his body forward, knocking the door open easily and giving Jake and Amanda clear lines of fire on the massive Wolf rutting his reluctant mate.

He felt as much as heard both of them open fire, and knew Jake had gotten something right in the weapons when the monster roared in rage, but didn't heal instantly.

He whirled around, coming for Chance, the she-wolf screaming as his thick, throbbing shaft ripped out of her. The stocky tabby balled his gauntleted fist up, ducking under the first wild swing of the werewolf and planting his fist firmly in his groin.

Then hitting the firing stud inside the gauntlet, firing the blaster directly into his obscenely bobbing maleness.

With a howl of agony, the werewolf turned, hurling himself out through the window, shattering it and its frame and taking off into the night lit by flashing lights and alive with sirens.

"Dammit!" Jake snarled before jumping down himself and taking off after him, Chance only taking the moment needed to be sure he wouldn't break anything in the leap before following his partner.

Amanda rushed to the window and got off one well-aimed shot on the fleeing werewolf. "Goddess protect them," she whispered a small prayer and turned to take care of his latest victim.

Lierok snarled, his back burning from the last shot that had ripped into his flesh, even if the one between his legs was far more painful. It would hurt for a while too, leave him unable to do much of anything tonight.

Damn that tabby. He would pay before this was over.

He cursed himself for not taking his host's knowledge of the small tom for the reality it clearly was. He hadn't expected them to have firepower like that. He was sure that he could handle the two pursuing him, but if the rest of the Enforcers had upgraded as well, he'd have a much harder time with them.

Besides ... he didn't need the fallout from taking out the smaller tom again. Even if he had come back, he was sure the strain on his host would make him lose control again, especially tonight.

He had to lose them, and soon.

That meant losing the servant of Bastet, and that would not be easy.

For the first time in centuries, Lierok was trying to figure out a way to run away from a fight ... if he hadn't been so pissed off about it, he'd have laughed.

He bought himself some time by leaping down an overpass; they'd have to double back to find him, and he hid under the street until they did so they couldn't just shoot him. Stealth wasn't his strong suit ... that was Coyote's dominion. But he knew a few tricks he could use like this ... he'd just have to be creative.

When he heard them reaching the lower level, he took off again, snarling as one of them fired on him from the top. Clumsy, stupid choice! He should have known they'd split up.

He leaped up into a nearby house, crashing through the window and into the living room. An elderly shekat looked at him and screamed, but he just kept running. He needed time, space ... the Hunter's Blessing didn't just work on a whim! He twisted down, heading into her basement, finding a dark corner ... and blended into the shadows like he wasn't even there.

He could hear them arrive in the house above. One of them checking on the elder, the other, Jake likely, growling about the trail he was following having faded.

The door to the basement opened, silhouetting the lean tom and his gauntlet weapon for a brief moment before he was moving again and gone from easy sight.

His patrons might not have been hunters, but he clearly was.

Still ... the Blessing made it much easier to tell where he was, likely much the same way he'd tracked Lierok in the first place. The temptation was strong, so very strong, to lure him near and then remove the threat he posed.

But even thinking about it seriously made his hold on the body start to waver, so he held back. Besides ... killing Bastet's Champion again would have far more consequences than being defeated would.

He would have to be patient.

He trembled as the lean tom passed within inches of him, close enough they should have felt each other's body heat.

Yet the Kat passed him by, circling around to his partner before the pair left.

Cadet Terin Sandclaw was the last of the four hunters to arrive in the waiting room outside Academy Commander's office. Despite her dress grays, her short spotted tail twitched sharply, her nervousness early visible to everyone there.

"We won't be in that much trouble," Jake tried to assure her, and nearly made her break down in giggles when the only thing she would think of was how handsome he was in a dress uniform.

"We did not break any orders or laws," Amanda added calmly, her uniform perfectly regulation once you looked past the two feathers bound into her white and black hair on the left side. "He may be angry, but we did nothing wrong."

"From the sound of it, he's not the only one angry, but you're right," Chance nodded slightly. Dressed in his own grays, looking abnormally formal and only slightly more relaxed than she was. "Not given the results; they might bust us on using non-reg weaponry, but the situation makes that pretty unlikely too."

"Blackthorn isn't who you need to be worried about," the prim blond shekat that served as his secretary spoke to them for the first time since their arrival. "It's the Commander who's really pissed."

"Commander Feral's here?" Chance asked, his ears drooping at the thought.

"For the last hour," she nodded with a sympathetic look. "At least they aren't threatening each other anymore."

"Well ... there's progress for you," Terin chuckled weakly, the cadets settling in to wait until they were called and trying to control their nerves with the thought that at least one of the powerful toms in the room next to them was on their side.

"Get in here, cadets," a deep, gruff voice ordered them without preamble as the door opened.

"Yes, sir," Jake responded, taking leadership in the face of the consequences as he had in battle as they filed in to face the Academy Commander seated at his desk and the Commander of the entire Enforcers standing at his right.

They lined up, Chance next to Jake, Amanda and Terin bringing up the rear, and stood silently, waiting for the shouting to start.

They didn't have to wait very long. Feral might have been done threatening Blackthorn, but that didn't mean he was calm about things.

"What sort of a stunt were you four trying to pull?" He demanded, glaring down at them. "I should think the four of you especially realize just how dangerous that lunatic is! But when you're told to stay back, out of the line of fire, you don't do what every other Cadet is doing, but build yourselves unlicensed blast rifles and go out hunting it? What were you trying to prove?" He roared, finally stopping to give them a moment to dig their graves a little deeper.

Chance had the sense to look cowed, at least a little, but he knew, just from the spiking of fur along his partner's tail that Jake wasn't about to back down. He was probably stilled keyed up from the hunt.

"Kill it," Jake actually shrugged, the defiance that was usually turned on the older women in his life now focused squarely on his commander with the same lack of regard for safety or consequences.

Not the best career move, necessarily, but Chance couldn't really say he was surprised. Politics and Jake seemed to mix about as well as petrol and water, and was at least as explosive to the slightest spark.

"And just what would you have done if your little weapons hadn't worked?" Feral pointed out. "What made you think that you could do the job better than a fully trained, fully armed SWAT unit?" He demanded, focusing his attention fully on Jake and found the second year cadet utterly unflinching in the face of his wrath.

"Run, they weren't there." Jake pointed out. "You're not going to win this one Commander. You know who I'm used to facing off against."

"And you should know that this isn't going to be acceptable behavior, particularly not once you're full Enforcers," Feral pointed out. "I do not expect to loose any of you without a fireball involved. Understood?"

"Yes sir," they answered in unison, though no one doubted that he didn't buy it in the least, especially not from Jake, who at least managed to keep his mouth shut this time, even if his defiance hadn't dimmed in the least.

"Sandclaw, if you have a taste for this kind of thing, say so now," Feral continued, focusing on the startled Serval who tried to tuck her bob tail between her legs.

Still it made her think, really think, about why she was always getting into scraps and in the middle of just about every major brawl on campus before it was over.

It was his tone, though, the lack of condemnation in it, that got him the truth.

"Yes sir," she met his eyes, her submission gone, though not her deference to him "I like the challenge."

"You never tried for full combat training," Blackthorn leveled his gaze on her.

"I didn't know I could," she managed not to shrug.

"We will speak of your future later, then," Blackthorn rumbled, a moment that struck everyone with just how similar he was to the Commander.

"Yes, sir," Terin inclined her head.

"Clawson, just why are you a gunner?" Feral demanded. "You're clearly suited to commando duties."

Jake stiffened slightly and shot a look at Blackthorn that could kill.

"I didn't pass the psych for it, Commander," he answered evenly, the tip of his tail flicking in annoyance.

Feral raised an eyebrow, looking at the papers in front of him. "Is that the case?" He asked Blackthorn quietly, his voice stern.

"I don't recall about that one, but he is under watch for several things," he nodded to his distant cousin. "He's a damn fine gunner, but not the most stable person here."

"We'll discuss this later," Feral said with a sharp nod. "After the current crisis has been dealt with, Lieutenant Commander Blackthorn will decide on appropriate disciplinary measures. Do you have any further comments?" He asked Blackthorn, looking over at him.

The big tom looked at Jake, sure he was the ringleader once again.

"What do you know about this beast that no one else does?" He asked evenly, surprising nearly everyone there.

"I know how to find it, track it, sir," Jake answered politely.

"Only when it's in the Wolf form, or at any time?" Feral asked him, his interest abruptly caught by the lean gunner. "And how do you know this?"

"Only as a Wolf, sir," he confirmed. "In theory I could track it in any form, but I haven't had enough practice and this city is full of those with links; it makes tracking a cold trail very hard. I can track anything with a link to a deity or greater spirit power by following the taint we have in common. That werewolf isn't a natural one, it was created by a bargain with a powerful Wolf spirit, so I can feel its presence."

"I see ... tonight, I want you with the hunter unit, but out of the line of fire," Feral said, emphasizing the role he expected Jake to play. "He'll be out again, but if they can find him they can stop him."

"Yes, sir," Jake nodded.

"Dismissed; get some rest and then report to the hunter unit before patrol begins," he told them sternly.

The group gave muted 'yes, sir's and escaped at a dignified pace, leaving the cousins to face off again over what they'd just learned.

"He bears careful watching," Feral rumbled, displeased on more levels than he could name right now.

"On several levels," Blackthorn agreed. "He doesn't take well to being told what to do on the basis that it's for his own good ... they did save that girl last night and they were not actually forbidden from hunting it," he pointed out. "I didn't believe anyone was quite that intent on it."

"Why wasn't I informed of his ability to track this thing when it first came up?" Feral glared down.

"This is the first I've heard of it," Blackthorn could only shrug. "He is less than forthcoming when it comes to extra abilities."

"Neither are the clergy, apparently," Feral growled. "I want that changed; find out, from him or from them, exactly what it is that he's capable of."

"You are aware I cannot force them to speak any more than you can," Blackthorn said dryly. "I will get what I can."

"Remind them that the less they tell us, the more likely we are to have good Kats for them to bury because we didn't know what their pet Enforcer can do," Feral rumbled lowly, nearly growling. "Now, why wasn't Clawson's failing the psych screen in his file?"

"Since I doubt he lied about it, someone has altered his records," he folded his fingers in front of his face and glared at the offending bit of missing information. "I will speak to Dr. Camarn about his findings. It is unlikely that every copy of that report was affected."

"Agreed. If it was changed, I want to know who by."

"You clean your house, I'll clean mine, and we'll see what falls out," Blackthorn nodded and stood. "High Priestess Bast-Daughter is usually willing to see me on relatively short notice."

Rock woke up with a start as he heard Jake's key turning in the lock of his apartment. He'd been trying to wait up for him, but it seemed he'd dozed off. A quick look at the check confirmed that it was nine now, about three hours since he'd last looked, and he got up to go meet his lover at the door.

"How'd it go?" He asked after his first look confirmed that Jake wasn't hurt, but didn't look all that happy.

"We stopped the night at one dead, one injured and one raped, but he got away," he sighed and let his bag drop to the ground just inside the door before he stepped into Rock's welcoming embrace and willingly melted into it. "Then Blackthorn and Feral spent the rest of the morning chewing us out."

"Don't worry about them," Rock said firmly, kissing the top of Jake's head. "Sad to say it, but it's still better than last month ... how'd your new weapons work?"

"Hurt it bad, for a while," Jake managed a smile and nuzzled against his lover's broad chest. "We're on the right track at least, it just needs more power, or more hits."

"Good," Rock rumbled deeply. "So, going out again tonight?"

"With a hunter team," Jake grumbled with a sigh. "Right now, I just want a hot shower and few hours sleep. It's going to be a very long weekend," he murmured and stretched up to kiss his lover lightly. "I'm glad you're home, you know."

"Just try not to get killed again, please," Rock murmured, kissing him back. "I'm glad you're home and safe too ... I've got to go to work later, but for now, why don't we get you that shower?" He suggested, picking him up with a grin.

"You are hopeless," Jake laughed and wrapped his arms around Rock's broad shoulders. "And I will definitely try not to get killed. It is so not my idea of a good day."

"It's not any of ours," Rock pointed out. "Chance is okay too, right?" He asked. He thought for sure that Jake would have told him if he wasn't, but it didn't hurt to make sure.

"Frustrated, a little unsettled about getting chewed out by Feral, but he's fine," he gave Rock a nuzzle as he was set on his feet in the bathroom and began to strip down, eager to get the fear, Wolf-heat scent and adrenaline out of his fur. "I think he's spending the day with Midnight."

"If she's got the night shift, he probably is," Rock nodded slightly. "Well, as long as he's okay, I won't worry about it," he said, turning the water on hot and stripping down himself. The shower might not be big enough for two, but Jake would be out fast enough given how tired he looked.

"When do you go back to work?" Jake asked as he stepped under the hot spray and just stilled for a moment, letting it wash the night's issues away.

"I've got an appointment at two, then the night shift out at Manx Manors," Rock told him. "Assuming they don't bug me for overtime, I'll be home by the time you're back tomorrow morning ... it's just a few nights more, lover," he added softly, reaching in to help scrub Jake's back.

"Two nights, and a month of relative peace," he nodded, pressing into the touch with a low groan, though it got him to move a bit more. "I just hope we can end it before many more die."

"So do I love, so do I," Rock agreed, making quick work of shampooing him tonight. "Sorry I'm not lingering too much tonight; I think you need sleep more than our usual shower."

"For once, I'm not gorging to argue with it," Jake murmured, making quick work of finishing scrubbing himself down, cleaning the last of the night from his fur and turning the blowers on. "I'm beat. Nearly just passed out in my quarters."

"I could pick you up there tonight, on the way home," Rock offered gently, helping him out of the shower. "Then you wouldn't have to worry about it ... just about putting up with smelling what I'm like getting off a job site," he chuckled slightly.

"I think I can tolerate that," he smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. "Just hope this can end tonight."

"So do I," Rock agreed seriously, taking his mate to bed.

"How'd patrol go?" Midnight asked with a welcoming smile for her boyfriend as she opened the door for him.

"Better than last month," he said, stepping in and hugging her close. "Gods I hate this crap," he murmured.

"Enough you're doubting graduating?" she asked softly, trying to keep her hope he wasn't to herself.

"No, enough I'm gonna make damn sure I do it," he growled lowly. "It's not the chasing and the long nights ... it's the part where I come across some sick fuck raping somebody and lose him that I hate. Hope what I did to him sticks this time."

Midnight stiffened, her tail fluffing fully and ramrod strait. "Jake's okay?"

"Ah crap," Chance groaned, remembering only now that he'd taken some steps to make sure she didn't find out they were going hunting. "Yeah, he is ... he had some extra toys along this time, we hurt him ... damn near castrated him too, with a little luck."

"Not for long," she murmured, her body relaxing just a little bit even as the shock of terror reached her scent. "He's with Rock, then?"

"Yeah, he is," Chance nodded. "So ... you have to be in today?"

"No, and I've never been more grateful for it," she leaned against him. "Come on, let's get the rest of the night off you, and get some rest."

"I think so," he smiled a bit, pulling her close for a kiss that was returned with a fierce passion that had little to do with desire. "Glad you don't have to work... need you today," he smiled warmly and walked with her to the specious bathroom.

"Something else happened, beyond the fight?" she looked up at him even as she stripped down.

"Eh, got chewed out by Feral for not being a good Cadet and standing back while that freak raped and murdered somebody," Chance muttered. "I guess I've just really got problems with letting guys like that go, especially when we knew we had him cornered ... just couldn't find him down there."

"And Jake called it off?" she frowned over her shoulder. "Shower or soaking tub?"

"Jake could sense the thing ... it's how we tracked it as well as we did, but he couldn't sense it down there," Chance explained, stripping down himself. "Shower, I think ... I was surprised too, but I think he decided it must have magicked itself away or something."

"It wouldn't be the strangest thing I've heard of," she admitted and turned the shower on, letting it warm before stepping inside and trying to fluff her fur out to get wet down to the skin. "How's Jake taking it?"

"Planning on having enough firepower around him tonight that there's not a chance for the bastard to escape tonight," Chance said, following her in and wrapping his arms around her, holding her close for a moment to inhale her scent in the increasingly steamy shower.

"Good," she murmured, nuzzling him. "Is that all?" she asked, looking up at him. "You seem ... upset."

"After what I saw last night, thinking about what's going to happen tonight...." Chance sighed, then growled lowly. "I don't care how dangerous it is, I want that fucker dead. The girl he raped was in heat, and he went ahead and took her. She wasn't willing either; I could tell she was terrified of him, even if she was playing along to keep from getting hurt. I...." He shook his head. "Rapists bug me, a lot. Allen got off light because he was drunk and I didn't know what he'd done to you before. This guy ... he's just plain sick."

"What he did tonight bothers you more than what happened to those girls last month?" she looked up, openly confused.

"Yes and no," Chance murmured. "Last month was fucked up too, but ... well, I was a little distracted by Jake dying, I guess. Wanted him dead then too," he pointed out. "Them though ... he was planning on killing them all. Going to sound pretty twisted, but that ... I guess that doesn't bother me as much. He'd been planning on ending it after that night for them. This time, from the sound of it, he had no problems with the fact she's going to live the rest of her life with it ... maybe even with his pups."

"If he's trying to establish a power base again, it would make sense," she sighed, shaking her head. "A blood link is incredibly powerful."

"That could be, but I really don't care why," Chance admitted. "I'm just worried about her ... hope it didn't take. C'mon, let's get cleaned up ... I could use some sleep."

"I bet," she smiled softly and kissed him before squeezing a large glob of shampoo onto her hand. "When are you expected back?"

"Tonight, about seven ... they're hoping to get us all out before sundown," he said, taking the shampoo himself to start cleaning Midnight's silky black fur.

"Mmm, I think you've put on muscle this year," she purred, her hands working down his chest and abs. "It looks good on you too."

"Thanks," he chuckled, purring a bit at the attention, grateful for the new subject. "The working out's good for the body ... personally, I like you as is though," he rumbled affectionately, not fighting the way her touch affected him, though he didn't try to take it further either.

"Good," she smiled and stretched up to kiss him as her hands slid down further to rub the lather into the short, mouse-soft fur of his sheath and balls. "I hope you like me with more curves too."

"Oooh ... I think I'll learn to like it," he rumbled into the kiss. "And the practice before they're all there," he winked.

Midnight grinned and played her fingers delicately along his slowly filling sheath.

"I very much like that too, lover," she pressed against him, rubbing her breasts and slender body against his. "You make it something to look forward too a great deal. Glad last night didn't ruin your appetite much."

"Only for anything rough ... which we don't do, so I think we're good," he murmured into a kiss, pressing into her hand. "Best way to stay sane is to leave it behind."

"Then lets get the rest of the smells off you and put mine there," she giggled a bit and moved her hands down his legs to finish the washing a little more quickly so they could get to the fun part of going to bed.

Lt. Commander Jarrem Blackthorn straitened the overcoat to his uniform one last time before he walked through the great double doors to the most powerful temple of Bastet in MegaKat City. It was not the largest, but this one was home to the High Priestess of the city, and the respect due her residence.

As a Kat, he was very partial to Bastet, as the mother of his kind, but as an Enforcer, he was most devout to Halikar, the Hawk-god, who was so partial to the aggressive defense that Enforcers practiced so often. It was not a joke that He was their patron god, even more than She was.

He paused before one of the large statues of the Goddess, offering a quiet prayer that She protect her children tonight, and one to Halikar for good fortune in the hunt.

And protection for the hunters.

"It is good to see you again, Jarrem," Fela Bast-Daughter's silky, seductive voice greeted him, causing him to turn to face the brown tabby, her body well-rounded from many litters yet her manner placing her as someone who could rule the world.

"And a pleasure to see you, as always, High Priestess," he said with a respectful bow to the noticeably shorter fem. "Though I wish it was under better circumstances."

"Such has been the case with us," she admitted with a sad smile. "It is the fate of great rank to have little time for your own pleasures. Come. I am sure whatever brought you here with such little notice is not for the public halls."

"Agreed," he nodded. "And perhaps we can find an opportunity some time after dealing with our recent menace," he smiled slightly as they walked into the back halls of the temple to a private audience chamber decorated in soothing earth tones.

"Now, what did bring you here?" Fela asked as she settled into a large mound of pillows.

"One of our cadets, who I'm sure you know something about ... Jake Clawson," Jarrem told her, taking a seat nearby. "We need to know what it is that he can do."

"I was afraid of that," she sighed. "The short answer is that he can do anything he sets his mind to, including breaking natural laws. Most champions can. Your problem is going to be directing that determination. He's decidedly ill-tempered towards being ordered around when it doesn't follow his ideas."

"What did he mean when he told Commander Feral he wouldn't win, because of who he was used to fight?" he asked, sure he wasn't going to like the answer.

"He hates being a champion, and he's not at all shy about reminding both Bastet and Halikar of that in person."

"Wonderful. We've got a cadet who's used to being insubordinate to gods and my cousin as his Commander," Blackthorn groaned. "What can you tell me about his specific abilities, aside from coming back from the dead? He's scheduled to join the hunter team tonight, and they need to know if he's going to start doing anything particularly unusual."

"Coming back from the dead isn't his ability, it is something Bastet does to him, at least from his point of view. He'd really rather She didn't. As for tonight ... he can track anyone else with a strong connection to a god or greater spirit. They tend to be drawn to each other, either as friends or enemies. This werewolf is not a champion, but it is the servant of a Power, and follows many of the same rules.

"The way Champions work is that a deity invests a portion of their power in a mortal. Most of the time, only one is involved, but with Jake, both Bastet and Halikar invested in him. Jake's rejected Her as much as he can, but Jake likes Him, to some extent. They are much more kindred spirits."

"He's an Enforcer, I'm not surprised," Blackthorn chuckled. "So nothing that's particularly likely to help him in a fight against this thing, or the people around him?"

"Keep clear of him once you get close," she offered. "Let this be a battle between those invested with power. It'll save lives."

"It didn't go all that well the last time the two of them fought," Blackthorn pointed out. "With any luck, they won't get close. We'd much rather see that thing try to shrug off a sniper shot than fighting with anybody, Enforcer or Cadet."

"That would be my preference as well. If it gets to close-quarters fighting, let him do it," she nodded. "You might want to give Jake the rifle, and suggest focusing Halikar through it. It may work, and keep the bloodbath at a minimum. Jake is a tinkerer, a mechanic in the old sense. He is likely to focus whatever he can do through his creations and enhancements to existing things."

"I'll suggest it," he nodded. "So, in a larger sense, what is his being a champion likely to entail, particularly for the Enforcers?"

"He'll be in the middle of just about everything spectacular that happens, good and bad. Since both Bastet and Halikar are interested in protecting what is theirs, there should be little conflict in duties. I would recommend that Commander Feral, and anyone else likely to need to order Jake around, become very familiar with the laws regarding champions. There are a whole set on the books from when this was better known, and Bastet more influential. You might also caution against putting a female directly charge of him. He tends to react poorly to females."

"We've noted that," he nodded. "Are there any particular areas that he shouldn't be in, as a matter of course?"

"You'll probably want to try to keep him clear of Sniper Squad. Even if he could pass the psych for it, you do not want someone like him trained as a cold-blooded killer. Any other areas that don't socialize outside their squad much would be poor choices as well.

"You may also want to make friends with Midnight Raven, the only female he gets along with well, and Rock Furlong, another champion, though he doesn't know it yet, and Jake's mate. Not necessarily you or Ulysses personally, it would be far too obvious, and likely to annoy them all, but strongly encourage those you trust around him to stay close to him socially. I understand Shark and Rumble are already among his friends, as is Ees-ta-vina Mitsel-eman, the Karalanol princess in the Academy now."

"You just finished telling me how poorly he deals with females, and three of the five you've suggested I court are female," Jarrem chuckled deeply.

"I never have understood him well," Fela admitted. "If I did, I would have figured out how to coax him into bed. Those females are his friends, his near-equals. Think about the three people he hates more than anyone, and they are the females with power in his life. His mother, myself and Bastet."

"I don't know much about his mother, but knowing Bastet's general field and you in particular, it might be the 'coaxing him into bed' part," Blackthorn chuckled slightly. "Midnight's his sister, Amanda and he aren't involved to the best of my knowledge ... he seems to get along with fems who aren't trying to get him bedded."

"Fairly accurate summery," she acknowledged. "Which is going to be most females who know what he is," she shook her head. "He picked a particularly difficult aversion."

"As our counselors are fond of pointing out to people who say things like that, he probably didn't pick that aversion," Blackthorn pointed out seriously. "We'll try and keep a lid on what he is, though it's increasingly well known with the Enforcers."

"I understand," she nodded, equally serious. "Do what you can to keep it from spotlighting him. I'm sure it is why he chose to be a gunner. He can be in the middle of things and acknowledged for his skill, but his pilot can be the center of attention."

"Actually, according to the maintenance staff it's because he can play with his jet," Blackthorn chuckled. "So ... anything else you can think of?"

"A general bit of advice towards all champions. Let them run their course. I realize that is not entirely possible for an Enforcer, but you will get your best results by letting him have as little direction as you can manage. He has a destiny, whether he likes it or not, and nothing mortal can stop it. There are only three ways to interact with a champion. You can help them, you can hinder them, or you can get out of their way."

"I think I'll let you try to explain that to Ulysses," he chuckled ruefully. "Whether it's Jake or somebody else, you know how well he takes to being told there's anything he can't control, especially if it's something he ought to be able to."

"Yes, regrettably," Fela admitted. "He is one of the worst Commanders to have a champion on his force. I will try to get him to understand. You try and build enough of an Enforcer base around him that his loyalty to them might overcome how badly the Commander rubs him the wrong way."

"Will do ... if you can figure out if any of the champions have to be stopped, it might be easier to convince Uly to tolerate Jake in exchange for taking out a bigger problem. Omegas are getting to be more and more of a problem as time goes by."

"Several of them are champions," she nodded. "More will come. It is their links to the gods that make them what they are, whether they realize it or not."

"Wonderful. Will they all be coming back regularly, or is that Bastet's special gift for Jake?"

"Only a champion can kill a champion," she told him softly. "So yes, they will unless Jake or one of the others does it."

"Why is all of this happening now, rather than in the last few generations?"

"Because it is time," she said simply. "Every dozen generations there is a confluence of champions that determines the balance of power in the mortal world for the next dozen generations," Fela looked at him seriously. "If Jake loses, the Dark Ages will return, only far more vicious."

"Is there any good news related to this?" He sighed.

"Jake," she said simply, then elaborated when he frowned. "He is easily the most brilliant, stubborn, contrary, vicious and unyielding champion Bastet has chosen in millennia. As difficult as it will be for the Enforcers to deal with him, he is exactly the kind we need to win against Dark Kat and his friends."

"Dark Kat is one of the champions?" Blackthorn asked her, his ears flattening. "This is only going to get worse as time goes by then."

"Yes, he is," she nodded solemnly. "If it would be clear one side would win from the start, these contests would not happen. Jake is Dark Kat's equal, if he chooses to be."

"You'd think there'd be a way to determine this that wouldn't end up putting an entire city at stake instead," Blackthorn sighed. "Well... we'll just have to make sure he keeps himself safe then. Until the time comes."

"The city," Fela raised an eyebrow. "My dear Jarrem, the world is at stake this generation, as it is during every confluence. This city is nothing in the big picture. We are but one battleground of many."

"A battleground with a population larger than some countries crammed close enough that one good, big explosion could wipe out millions," he pointed out seriously. "Fela, the world might be at stake in the end, but that's not what I'm sworn to protect. The big picture is Bastet's concern, not ours."

"It is important that you understand the scale of what will happen here," she tried to explain. "It is not just about Dark Kat or Jake, and Jake may be drawn to battles away from this city in his duties. As much as it will drive Ulysses crazy, you will find that the laws are well-crafted to take into account what a champion is and does, and that this battle is not limited to one land. It may not be easy to understand these days, but they exist for good reason."

"I understand," he nodded. "And that is something that we will have to learn to deal with. My chief concern, however, is the safety of the civilians who will be caught in the crossfire as Jake and Dark Kat clash. I hope that you and the Priesthood will understand that as well."

"We do," she assured him. "They are our concern as well. We will be there picking up the pieces with you as we always have."

"I would hope for nothing less," he nodded. "Is there anything else?" He asked, checking his watch quickly to see how much time he had before he was expected elsewhere.

"Just one last warning," she said gravely. "Death is not the only way to lose a champion. If he is angry enough, we can also loose one to conversion. He will become the enemy. Jake is very unlikely to side with Dark Kat or his kind, but if he turns, he is likely to be far worse a threat."

"Is that likely to happen because of concerns in his normal life?" Blackthorn asked, raising an eyebrow. Having him deal with Ulysses might be more trouble than it was worth.

"Very unlikely," she nodded solemnly. "If anyone close to him dies, he is likely to turn his rage on whoever did it, but he knows that he will meet them in a few years. It is disillusionment with the side he is on that is the real threat. On that, Ulysses has one thing going for him. As difficult as he can be to deal with, he does care deeply for this city and is honestly interested in protecting it."

"That he is... though the special forces trying to get an immortal operative might do as much harm as good," he mused. "I'm assuming that Bastet would not approve of that sort of use of her champion."

"Not particularly, but Halikar is likely to find it appropriate," she chuckled. "Jake is His champion as well."

"I see ... well, that might not be too terribly bad then," he mused. "Thank you for the information, Fela," he said respectfully. "Do you have anywhere in particular you're expected to be soon?"

"No," she relaxed back with a soft purr. "You?"

"Not for a few hours," he smiled. "I think we could both use a little time to try and relax before tonight ... I know I could, before my briefing Ulysses," he chuckled and began to undress when she did.

"Here you go," the buff brown tabby bartender put down a second glowing red shot glass in front of Rock. "Haven't had anybody test my skill in a while," he added with a chuckle.

"Good to know I haven't lost my touch," Rock grinned. "Who'd have thought that the Bars would be where people would go to stay safe, huh?" He asked, indicating the unusually large number of students in the place as he took up his glass and sipped the potent liquor, not quite in the mood to get hammered the fast way yet.

"No kidding," the bartender agreed. "I guess anywhere is safer than MKCU on a full moon right now."

"Yep ... and guess just where my cousin and boyfriend are right now?" Rock sighed.

"Enforcers, hu?" the bartender offered his sympathy. "At least the beast isn't after them, it seems."

"Worse, Cadets who've got courageous streaks a mile wide. They're supposed to stay out of actual fighting, but it's the last thing they'll really do when it comes down to helping somebody. They mean well, but it's enough to make a guy feel a lot older than he really is," Rock chuckled slightly.

"I bet. Every courageous youngster needs a sensible adult to keep them safe, though," the bartender suggested. "At least when possible."

"Yeah ... who'd have thought that I'd be the voice of sanity?" Rock half-laughed, finishing his drink. "I'll take another," he said, pushing the glass towards the bartender.

"And I'll try one too," another voice piped up. Rock glanced up, surprised to see Zach taking the stool next to him. "Hope you don't mind me sitting here?" He asked Rock, seeming a little nervous.

"Not at all, just didn't think you were the bar crawling type," Rock managed a grin for him.

"I'm not, really," Zach admitted with a half-grin of his own. "But the campus lockdown ... I don't want to be anywhere near another night of rapes, murder, and mayhem, thanks much," he shuddered. "Besides ... heard you were in the neighborhood."

"That I am," Rock raised an eyebrow. "I'd have expected you'd be at your place with Amy, or somewhere with her at least."

"I can't really blame her, but she didn't really want to be somewhere she was the only target," Zach said with a shrug. "And to be honest, I'm happier this way ... if he did come around my place for some reason, what would I do to try and keep her safe? That raid was something I could actually win, this ... it'd be short, messy, and permanent."

"I guess so," he nodded slightly. "So what brings you looking for me?"

"Well ... I've been thinking a bit, lately," Zach said, taking his glowing drink and taking a cautious sip, coughing for a moment at the strength of it.

"Sorry about that ... anyways, like I said, I've been thinking a bit lately ... you know I'm not generally interested in toms, right?"

"Yeah," Rock looked at him more seriously now.

"Well, I've never really been interested in them, but I've never really tried being with one before either. I... well...." Zach blushed deeply. "You're an attractive tom, and I think I could trust you not to go blabbing it all around, however it goes."

"If you're sure you want to, I'm honored," Rock watched him, trying to understand the timing without scaring him off. "And you're right, it won't go beyond us."

"Jake wouldn't mind, right?" Zach asked him uneasily. "Screwy timing and all, I know, but ... well, I imagine you could use a distraction too."

"No, he won't mind," Rock smiled and downed the last of his drink. "We aren't an exclusive couple. Just understand that he'll be back around dawn and expect a spot in bed."

"I understand ... I might be gone by then, I'm not sure," Zach admitted. "So ... your place? I could drive," he offered.

"All right," Rock nodded and stood to walk out with the scrawny marmalade tabby. Zach wasn't anything close to his usual standards, but anyone who was a good friend of Jake's was worth adjusting that for, especially as a one-time favor.

"I think the hunting team got larger," Jake murmured as they approached the Academy's armory and heard Commander Feral arguing with a woman who didn't seem the least bit intimidated by him.

"You don't suppose the Commander ... no, he wouldn't be joining in," Chance said, shaking his head, dearly hoping he was right about that.

He'd had to fight just to get on the hunt team along with Jake. He wasn't happy about the idea of having the Commander breathing down his neck the whole time.

"Sure sounds like he's trying," Jake shrugged and knocked on the armory's door. "Clawson and Furlong," he called out.

"Enter," the female's voice called out as the argument stopped abruptly. They opened the door, revealing Feral towering over a woman who was obviously related to him; it was clear in her face, fur color, even her size. Despite being a solid head shorter than he was, she was at least that much taller than the rest of the guys on the team. Standing more quietly near the arguing pair was Blackthorn.

"Lieutenant Felina Feral; good to meet you, Cadets," she said, nodding politely towards them, though her tone and expression made it clear she still wasn't happy with the situation.

"Good to meet you, ma'am," Jake saluted respectfully, recognizing her name from the rumors that circulated with it.

"Very good to meet you," Chance agreed with a salute of his own. "Did we interrupt anything, sir?" He asked, glancing between the three officers, hoping to keep things from getting too much more uncomfortable."

"Just a dispute regarding who would be joining the hunt team tonight," Blackthorn said, downplaying the incident. "The Commander and I will be assisting this evening; we have every reason to suspect that tonight will be our breakthrough, and the hunt team will need all the help it can get if that's the case."

Jake just managed to keep his mouth shut this time about it, though Felina's displeased growl covered up what reaction he had before distracting himself with trying to place faces of the other hunters. He smiled and nodded at the three he knew the names of from various martial arts completions and demonstrations.

"So, how is this going to work?" Jake asked both Ferals.

"You track it from behind the front officers and direct us to the werewolf," she answered. "Stay out of the fight."

"We've issued every blaster we can get our hands on to the Enforcers on patrol tonight," Blackthorn added. "When we find it, after the hunt team engages you two call for additional backup."

"Yes, sir," Jake nodded his understanding. "This isn't the only hunter team, though, is it?"

"No, it's not ... just the only one with a tracker who knows how to find it," Blackthorn told him seriously. "If we get a call from one of the other units that they've found him, the two of you are expected to stay behind while we respond."

"Yes, sir," Jake nodded, seeming unusually agreeable to the order.

"So how does this tracking ability work?" Felina asked as they were issued blasters.

"It's kind of like tracking a radio ping," he tried to put it in a way someone who couldn't do it would understand. "The 'frequency' indicates who, or at least what kind of who, and the strength gives a sense of direction and distance."

"And what sort of range do you have?" Ulysses asked him, checking his own unusually large blaster.

"Five or six blocks last night," he said. "That was the first time I've ever tried it. I can probably cover the campus, but not the whole city."

"We'll be traveling in the two troop transports behind the building, so we'll cover ground as best we're able," Feral nodded. "I'd prefer to have you in a chopper unit, but those can cover ground too quickly at times."

"Agreed," Felina nodded. "Can you pick up anything now?"

Jake paused, focusing on the part of him that he usually ignored quite intentionally. "No," he frowned.

"So he's staying away from the armory... not surprised," Blackthorn nodded easily. "Suit up the rest of the way, and let's get moving. Any ideas on where to start?"

"Maybe," Jake said, taking the time it took to suit up in full body armor to choose his words. "Carterell dorms."

"Any reason?" Blackthorn asked as they started for the transports, the Special Ops silently making sure they would be between anything and the officers and cadets with them.

"A bad feeling I recognize too many things about the attacks," he answered quietly. "I just hope I'm wrong."

"If there's anything you can tell us that might stop this thing, now's the time," Felina pointed out as she climbed into the first transport along with her uncle, Jake, Chance, Blackthorn, and as many of the Special Ops soldiers as could follow.

"I don't know anything you don't," he promised her. "This isn't the kind of accusation you make on a gut feeling. There must be a hundred Kats in this city that know everything he does."

"Who is he?" Feral demanded gruffly. "That is an order, cadet," he added at Jake glare.

They locked eyes, everyone watching the stare down that shouldn't happen to see just how much control the Commander really had over this walking wild card.

"Zach Tanner," Jake said as he looked away.

"The student who's been working with SI?" One of the investigators asked, ears flattening. "I hope you're wrong, Clawson."

"So do I, Bermen," Jake sighed as the engine turned over. "I don't want to lose one of my best friends."

"You know me?" the detective blinked in surprise.

"I saw you crush the Savateur, Carmin De'rull, in the MMA championship," Jake grinned at him shyly.

"That was five years ago," Berman smiled at him, clearly a little surprised that a cadet was watching that long ago.

"It's hard to forget somebody who can move like that," Jake pointed out.

"That's the guy who got you into competition fighting?" Chance raised an eyebrow at the medium-built brown and black tom a bit taller than average.

"Yes," Jake nodded with a smile at his partner. "It's much more impressive if you've seen what a master Savateur can do, and know he won that fight with two broken arms."

"Okay, I'm impressed," Chance gave the guy a more apprizing look. Anybody who could impress his partner that much was someone who rated respect. Hell, anyone who would win a competition fight with two broken arms deserved a lot of respect.

"Let's hope our werewolf is as impressed ... whoever he is," he chuckled. "Let us know as soon as you get a feeling he's nearby."

"I will," Jake promised as the vehicle fell silent and Jake got a seat so he could focus inward, and towards the psychic ping of his target when he felt it.

Zach licked his lips nervously as Rock led him into his apartment.

What was he doing? He didn't like toms ... Rock was attractive for one, sure, but he didn't really think he was sexy....

But for the last few nights, he'd been thinking about it more and more, and the last day it had been almost maddening.

Well ... one night. One night didn't mean anything.

That was what he kept telling himself, anyways. It was a lot less irritating to keep telling himself that than to try and figure out why, suddenly, he was starting to question if he was straight despite a lifetime of not doubting it.

Besides ... even though he was sure that Rock wouldn't blame him for backing out now, he couldn't shake the feeling that he would.

"You uhm ... do have lube and stuff like that, right?" He asked Rock as he walked into the well-built tom's apartment. "I know Jake doesn't bother with it."

"Always," Rock turned his head slightly to smile at him. "It won't hurt," he promised gently as he turned the rest of the way to face Zach and drew him into a slow, gentle kiss.

Zach returned the kiss, albeit awkwardly, running his hands down Rock's side and fighting to convince himself he really did want to do this. For a moment, they both thought he was going to change his mind ... then something seemed to give way, and Zach pulled Rock into another, more heated kiss.

"That's more like it," Rock murmured as they parted and he slid a hand down Zach's chest. "Why don't you undress, and I'll get what we need."

"Sure," Zach smiled nervously, starting to undo his shirt as Rock walked into the bathroom to fetch the rarely needed lube. He'd managed to strip completely by the time Rock returned, wearing only his boxers.

"Uhm ... mind if we warm up a bit first?" Zach asked nervously, glancing down at Rock's crotch, focusing his nerves again.

"I don't mind," Rock smiled gently and put the lube on the nightstand before he walked up to Zach and kissed him gently, his hand sliding down to caress Zach's groin. "I'm not in a hurry."

Zach shivered as he returned the kiss, then slid down to his knees, nuzzling Rock through his boxers.

"Even if you are, I think you'll like what I've got in mind," he smiled up shyly, taking a deep breath before pulling Rock's boxers down, staring at the larger tom's sheath for a moment before he leaned in, nuzzling the soft fur, trying to figure out how to give something he'd only received before ... and not all that often, at that.

"You're more forward than most first timers," Rock purred in approval, reaching one hand down to caress Zach between his ears. "I hope you don't mind one in return."

"Not at all," Zach blushed. "And it's not totally my first time ... just my first with a tom ... so forgive me if I'm a little clumsy at this," he blushed again, before licking Rock from the base of his sheath to the top, shivering a bit as he ran his tongue around the very inside of the soft skin.

"Oh, yeah," Rock moaned softly. "You're forgiven," he promised, holding himself still for Zach's experimenting.

Zach reached up, gingerly touching Rock's heavy balls, fondling them lightly. He tried not to think about it too much, or about what Jake might think if he came home and found them in bed together.

He was sure Jake wouldn't mind, but something in the back of his mind was still certain that his friend wouldn't like what he saw.

He just didn't know why, and so distracted himself by trying to focus on the blowjob he was giving Rock, coaxing his shaft out and tasting it, closing his eyes as his rough tongue worked the rubbery barbs than ran from base to tip.

"Yes, good," Rock encouraged, his body making it as clear as his tone that Zach had a reasonable feel for this. He closed his eyes briefly before looking down to watch the kneeling tom, trying to judge him, much as he had done with Jake that first evening, before they were lovers.

He smiled and brought his tail between his legs to caress Zach's groin.

He wasn't nearly the sub that Jake was ... or, rather, he wouldn't enjoy being a sub the way Jake did. He'd do it, he was sure, but only out of the sort of numb acceptance that Rock remembered from some of his own earlier experiences.

The moan he got around the tip of his shaft told him that his tail's attentions were welcome though, and he kept it up, caressing Zach's ears as the scrawny tom started bobbing his head up and down Rock's swelling shaft, twisting his head a bit as he neared the bottom to rub his palate against Rock's tip.

It wrenched a deep groan from Rock's body at the sharp bolt of pleasure that soon evolved to quickened breath. "Oh, very good," he shivered, the effort to keep his hips still now noticeable.

Zach didn't respond, though he sped up his attentions, encouraged by the response he was getting. His teeth grazed Rock's cock accidentally as his hands worked the buff tom's tingling balls.

"Not going to be long," Rock warned him with a deep breath. "You don't have to finish," he offered.

Zach pulled back with a bit of a blush.

"Thanks," he said, though he wrapped his fingers around Rock's shaft, starting to stroke it. "Still want to get you off first," he purred, looking up at the top, exposing his throat and chest for the eruption he was expecting.

"Not going to be hard," Rock groaned, his hands on Zach's shoulders as he gave into instincts and began to thrust against the hand stroking him. "Oh yeah!" he got out before his breath was stolen by a roar.

Zach drew in a sharp breath at the rush of arousal and how his own shaft started to react to it finally. Spurts of thick, pearly semen shot up onto his throat and chest, dripping down his fur slowly as Rock came hard and heavy.

"You've gotten a definite talent for this, if you decide you like it," Rock praised him between pants. "That was good."

"Thanks," Zach blushed up at him, licking his hand clean. There was something different about tasting another male's seed, but it was hardly the first time he'd done that part.

Just the first time it hadn't been mixed with a female's arousal as well.

"So ... uhm ... you'd offered to return the favor?" He asked shifting to sit, spreading his legs to reveal his half-hard shaft.

"Yes," Rock smiled and gently tugged him to his feet for a lingering, heated kiss. "Why don't you relax on the bed?" he suggested, guiding Zach to the edge of the soft mattress and knelt to nuzzle his groin. "You want this to be fast and hard so you roar, or a slow burn until you scream?"

"Faster," Zach groaned softly, spreading his legs. "Save slow for the next part," he grinned down at Rock, reaching down to stroke his dark, soft ears.

Rock grinned up at him and closed his mouth around the half-exposed cock, sucking and lavishing it with his tongue.

"Oh yeah," Zach moaned deeply, leaning back a bit as Rock coaxed him to full hardness, his shaft throbbing in the larger tom's mouth as teeth and tongue gave each rubbery protrusion individual attention.

Rock's hand came up to fondle and caress Zach's soft balls, giving the smaller orbs their share of attention as pre began to leak from his cock.

It wasn't long before Rock's skilled mouth pushed Zach over the edge. He moaned deeply, his balls twitching as his shaft erupted into the tabby's mouth, filling it with thick seed that was easily swallowed. He continued to moan as his cock was licked clean.

"Ready to try taking it?" Rock asked as he stood and sat down on the bed next to him.

"Yeah," Zach murmured, kissing him lightly before turning to get up on his hands and knees, raising his tail. "Like this?"

"It works nicely," Rock nodded and knelt behind him to run the soft side of his tongue around the virgin pucker. "You've done this with a girl?"

"A couple times," Zach moaned. "Topped too."

"Good," he murmured and turned his full attention to beginning the stretching process with his tongue, and keeping Zach very hard.

It wasn't too hard to do; Zach could be vocal, and Rock managed to keep him moaning and shivering pleasantly until he was ready to start with his fingers and lube, spreading the thick gel around the smaller tom's tight pucker.

"You can tell me to stop at any time," Rock assured him before slicking his smallest finger down heavily and pressed the tip against the incredibly tight opening.

"Right," Zach gasped, squeezing his eyes shut as he was slowly stretched out, doing his best to shut out the stinging pain and alien feeling of being penetrated like this. He could sympathize with Amy for not being particularly interested in it, at least at this point.

Why would anyone not into pain be into it?

He shuddered as the finger pressed in further, up to the point where he could feel Rock's knuckles against his ass. Then he touched something inside that sent shocks of raw pleasure through his body.

That answered that question! He gasped sharply, his cock twitching in response as his ass tightened reflexively. He made himself relax again, trying to keep from making this hurt any more than it already did, and focus on the pleasure instead.

"That's the advantage guys have with this," Rock purred, drawing his finger out and pressing it back in to touch that spot again. "Girls, they don't have that spot."

"So how come some of them go for it?" Zach asked with a groan, pressing his face down into the pillows.

"Because there are a lot of nerves back here, and done right, it can feel really good just to be fucked," Rock licked the spot just above Zach's tail as he continued to fuck him with one finger, only adding a second one when he felt no resistance to the first.

"Mmm ... whenever you think I'm ready, go ahead and prove it," Zach grinned back at him shyly and got a kiss on the mouth for it.

"I will," he promised, though he made no real effort to speed his preparations up, finger-fucking Zach until the smaller tom was panting, nearly ready to beg for it.

"Much more of this and I won't be able to walk for a week," Zach groaned, shifting his weight, spreading his legs further apart.

"You'll be fine," Rock promised, though he withdrew his fingers and slid up along Zach's back to nuzzle, then bite his scruff as he pressed his hard, well-lubed cock slowly into Zach's ass.

Zach bit his lip, pain and pleasure mingling as Rock sank into his virgin ass. His shaft twitched, jerking as Rock's cock pressed against his prostate, and his fingers curling in the sheets as he gripped them tightly.

"Damn you are tight," Rock groaned around the scruff in his jaws as he pulled out and thrust in again, this time a little harder. Two more strokes and he reached a hand back to slide his fingers along Zach's cock, teasing the hard, sensitive length.

"First ... time!" Zach pointed out, grunting as Rock started thrusting more evenly. "Fuck ... you're huge!"

Rock let go of his scruff and nuzzled him instead, then curled his hand around Zach's cock to stroke him in a steady counter rhythm to his thrusts. He had to focus on controlling himself, or he'd get off long before Zach felt how good this could be.

Zach, for his part, was soon reduced to whimpers, moans, and the occasional cry as Rock's spongy tip found his prostate again and again, making his shaft twitch and ooze a little more pre between Rock's fingers, onto the sheets beneath him. He felt completely helpless, at the mercy of the tom above him, but he felt it in a good way for once.

He was barely even aware of the tightening sensation as he approached his next orgasm. He lifted his head a little as he roared, his body completely out of his control as he pumped his seed over Rock's hand and the sheets.

It was completely beyond him when Rock roared above him and began to fill his ass with the thick seed that he'd sprayed down his chest not too long before.

His eyes were wide as he felt himself filled, felt the thick, hot seed pooling in his insides. As his own moment passed, he slumped to the bed, panting hard as he recovered.

"More?" Rock asked him, his own breathing hard. "Maybe in me?" he suggested and licked his ear playfully.

"Oh, that's exactly what I was thinking," Zach rumbled lowly, chuckling himself ... his body starting to shift beneath Rock as he moved in ways that felt entirely unnatural.

"What the?" the buff tabby oriented himself fast, but not fast enough to avoid being pinned under the abnormally huge Wolf that had taken Zach's place.

"My turn!" Lierok grinned down at him, forcing his legs apart with a knee and ramming his throbbing, canine shaft deep into Rock's ass, drawing a roar of pain out of his victim.

"It's not our werewolf, but I think I see trouble coming," the transport's driver said to get everyone's attention.

"What do you have?" Blackthorn asked him levelly.

"That Cheetah's sister riding with four or five Lions. She looks downright friendly."

Jake groaned.

"She's setting up an ambush, I bet," a well-muscled black furred brunette officer commented.

Blackthorn glanced at Commander Feral, who nodded sharply.

"Follow them," the massive tom ordered. "Clawson, keep an ear out for that werewolf ... or whatever it is you do, but we have to keep this from turning into a real race war."

"You won't get an argument from me," Jake told him, though he shifted his focus fractionally to try and read the nearby bacons. "I think there are several priests of Bastet in that building," Jake pointed ahead of them and to the left slightly. "And a strong mage is just at the edge of my range to the south," he added as he felt more sure of his interpretations. "Not the one we're after, though."

"That would be Flametongue," Felina said certainly, picking up her communicator. "Should I call him in to help with this?"

"Until we've got a better fix on our quarry, I think so," Feral nodded. "If he's willing, at least."

"One of the mages we've contracted to help deal with the werewolf," Blackthorn explained briefly as Felina made the call.

"Good gods, these guys are idiots," the driver muttered. "They're pulling right into the Cayson Street parking garage. Follow, or let you guys out?"

"Let us out," Captain Sharten ordered, mobilizing his team, and both the SI detectives with them. "We can cover it better on foot."

The door opened, and Chance started to lean to get up... but a glance at his Commanders told him that wasn't going to get him very far.

He stilled, tail lashing beneath the bench seat as the full officers moved in stealthily to see what was going on and locate the shooters they were sure were there.

Not only was he stuck here with Feral and Blackthorn, but he was stuck here while the Commander's niece went into the line of fire. The only consolation for Chance was just how sure he was that Feral wanted to be out there as badly as he did.

Of them, only Jake seemed to be relaxed with the situation.

Not far away, Felina had far too much on her mind to be relaxed. On the one hand, she wanted to stop this before it went any farther. On the other hand, she wanted to get back on the move, find the werewolf.

Only the fact that she knew where this scenario could go kept her focused. She raised her blaster as she spotted one of the shooters, a lean Cheetah with a hunting rifle on the second level of the parking structure.

"If you even start to pull that trigger, you won't last long enough to see if you hit," she warned him quietly, and smiled just a bit when he jumped and slowly lifted the rifle in one hand as he raised his hands in surrender.

"Put it on the ground, slowly," she instructed him even as she activated her radio. "One in custody," she reported as she handcuffed him.

"We've got two more," Sergeant Helis replied quietly as the car parking beneath them and the door opened.

"I've got the last shooter, if we trust him," Sharten added. "Says there were only four of them."

"Looks like he's right. We're in position to cover the Lions," Sergeant Black, one of the SWAT officers, told them quietly as Sefra climbed out. "Half the team ready for the takedown."

The Lions started to climb out too, their eyes on the Cheetah who was flaunting her sleek form for them.

It wasn't long before she realized something was wrong though ... and as the Lions approached her, Felina could see the fear pass through her expression. The shooter she'd cuffed had a stricken look on his face; he glanced at Felina and her weapon, then decided to chance it.

"Run Sefra!" He bellowed.

She took that advice as the Enforcers rushed out of their concealment, weapons drawn.

The Lions looked around in confusion, not sure what was going on. Then they tried to pull out guns and knives to take on the force rushing in on them from all sides. It wasn't any good against fully armored commandos though, much less champion MMA fighters trained to take down groups armed with machine guns.

"Uncle, she's running!" Felina snapped into her radio, even as the girl picked up speed into the burst that almost nothing could catch.

She watched, helpless to do anything more, as a small form launched from the personnel carrier. It intercepted the streak of the Cheetah at an angle that sent them both tumbling, and ended with the commando-dressed one on top.

The officers made quick work of subduing the Lions, and they started out with their prisoners. As they reached ground level again, she realized that it was Jake on top of the Cheetah fem, who had gone submissively limp, though her tail twitched to show her displeasure.

"We've called in backup," Feral told Felina as they came out, Lions and Cheetahs both cuffed, though one of the Cheetahs was visibly fighting to keep from trying to go after the prey he'd been waiting for. She didn't doubt that it was only the number of keyed up officers around them that really stopped him.

"Here," Felina offered Jake her spare cuffs after she'd turned over her prisoner to the regular officers that were arriving so they could go back on the hunt.

"Thanks," Jake nodded and twisted up and off his prisoner without ever losing control of her as he hauled her to her feet and cuffed her.

"Once they're under control, load up, fast," Feral ordered them gruffly. "We've got to get back on the move and find the one who really started all this!"

Rock roared as the massive Wolf in his home slipped his claws through loose skin and into his flesh, giving the sadistic ... thing that had replaced the smaller tom what it wanted.

Ironically ... he'd taken worse before.

His ass was dripping a pink, frothy mix of semen and blood, tender skin and muscles ripped by the thick knot at the base of the cock that bobbed in front of his face. He knew he looked a bloody, needle-decorated mess, and every nerve in his body was burning with pain ... but he knew he'd taken worse, in terms of actual damage. Between sadists who didn't know what they were doing, and the ones who really knew it, he'd nearly been killed more than once already.

He just wasn't going to point that out to the werewolf that would set its mind to besting them if it knew.

Lierok looked down at him, growling lowly and picking him up by the scruff of his neck.

"You're good at putting on a show," he rumbled darkly. "I'm not playing though." He slammed a fist into Rock's stomach, and the buff tabby felt his ribs crack. Long claws came out, sinking deeper into his flesh this time, blood flowing freely from the long, ragged wounds that raked down his chest.

This was going to hurt.

His ears twitched at a knock at the door, desperate for any distraction from the damage he was taking.

Who? Jake wouldn't knock. Neighbors were quite used to these noises from his place. At this hour, no one else should be coming by.

The knock repeated to the werewolf's growl, and soon Zach's form was standing in front of Rock.

"You be good and stay quiet," he growled at his prisoner before stalking to the front door, his tail lashing.

Sweet Bastet, he hoped it wasn't Jake ... whoever it was, he prayed they'd just ask a question, get a brief answer, and then head out without any violence.

He didn't entirely understand what was going on with Zach, but the scrawny tom answering the door wasn't the same one he'd known. The Wolf was in control, and he was sure there would be more deaths if he thought there had to be. He closed his eyes, praying for whoever was on the other side.

"Zach? What the Hell happened to you?" Brad's voice asked from the door. "Jake I'd expect this with, but -" Mallion's voice stopped abruptly. "Back, against the wall, hands up," he said firmly.

Rock couldn't see him, or the other way around, but the blaster Brad hadn't yet turned in from his patrol was out, trained on Zach. It wasn't the blood on his hands, chest, or abs that had convinced him something was seriously wrong.

It was the smell of a Wolf in the room. He hoped he was wrong ... he really did ... but he wasn't about to take any chances on that.

"I don't think so," Zach's voice dropped to a deep growl, though he did take a couple steps back into the living room to give himself space.

"Zach, don't do this," Brad warned him, then opened fire as the small tabby's body warped, twisting and growing with a howl of agony that had nothing to do with the four blaster bolts that seared into his chest.

Brad wasn't a fool; as the werewolf charged, he dived to the side, pulling out his communicator.

"Werewolf sighted!" He shouted into it, firing a shot at the monster as he ran for the door. "Four-oh-seven West Chaney Lane, follow my location!"

He just hoped it would follow him ... and that he could stay ahead of it.

"Acknowledged," the female in the control center responded almost instantly. "Teams in route to your location."

"You aren't getting away that easily," Lierok snarled in a mixture of pain and rage and lunged at the retreating tuxedo tom in Enforcer fatigues.

Brad made it out to the street, dropping to the ground as Lierok dove for him. He fired a shot at the werewolf's back, scrambling to his feet and doubling back, going the other way, running as hard as he could, already panting from adrenaline and exertion. He could hear sirens approaching. He just needed to make it to backup.

He needed to keep the monster chasing him too, so that backup could stop him.

With a single movement he twisted, his feet off the ground, fired as he came around to face the monster only yards behind him, and hit the ground without missing a beat.

He had just enough time to realize how well that had happened when he felt a foot go out from under him.

He hit the ground hard, and tried desperately to roll out of the way of Lierok's massive swipe. He almost made it, but the werewolf grabbed his tail, hauling him up off the ground. Desperate to try and free himself, Brad brought his blaster around, firing it point-blank into the monster.

All he got for his efforts was a snarl before his arm snapped, then came off in that massive mouth. He screamed ... then was silenced as massive claws ripped his guts out, half his lungs with them.

"We have a sighting!" the driver of the slowly patrolling personnel carrier called out as he hit the gas. "Four-oh-seven West Chaney Lane, cadet is being chased by it."

"Fou ... oh dear god," Jake paled only a moment before Chance did.

"Who?" Blackthorn demanded, his tone designed to get an answer out of someone in shock.


"Cousin," Chance added, gripping his weapon tightly. "Rock Furlong lives there."

"Get us there now," Feral ordered the driver, the sirens on the transports blaring as they peeled off. "Why would he be attacking there?"

"Maybe we pissed him off," Jake shivered, forcing his mind back into thinking mode. "We were the first to screw up his plans."

"Jake, if the Enforcers are there, he won't stick around," Chance told him, taking his hand and squeezing it. "He doesn't like to stick around and fight, remember?"

"For whatever reason," he nodded. "Just wish I knew if it was before or after he got Rock."

"I think you'd know if Rock was gone," Chance murmured quietly. "Come on, focus on finding them."

"Cadet down!" A voice came across the radio. "Cadet... oh holy shit!" There was the sound of glass breaking that interrupted the sick-sounding Enforcer, followed by blaster fire and a howl of rage.

"Drive faster!" Feral roared, infuriated by being completely helpless to do anything while he had to listen to his officers die.

"Suspect on the move!" The officer told them. "Units in pursuit!"

"Keep us appraised," Feral growled, settling in for the unsettling trip.

Miles away, Lierok was panting hard as he ran from the Enforcers. He'd taken too many shots from that tuxedo tom before finishing him off, and too many after that ... he needed to get away this time. Really needed to. He knew one sure way to arrange it; he ran towards the broad river that flowed through the city, trying to stay ahead of pursuit vehicles and their armed inhabitants.

He could feel in the back of his mind the fire mage that was closing in on him, though not fast enough, and who he was sure was Jake, who was far too close for comfort.

Roof to roof, he cut across streets at angles that would make it as hard as possible for the Enforcers, even as the low thudding of helicopter blades heralded a pursuer that would be much harder to lose.

He leaped across the street as he heard the chopper approaching, blaster fire riddling a rapid-fire path behind him as he landed on the next building. He jumped down to a lower building, leaving a dent in the metal roof as he started running again, the smell of water and fish getting stronger as he rushed towards his goal.

If he could just make it to the water, he could lose them ... they could never track him in the current, or the bay.

He felt the bone in his lower leg snap from a heavy caliber bullet only a fraction of a second before it cost him his balance and he fell forward into a roll. It only took him a moment to put the bone into place and heal, but it was a moment too long as two more choppers closed in and opened fire, tearing into his body with bullets that would heal fast, but hit hard enough to knock him around.

He scrambled towards an access shed on the roof, ripping the door off and hurling it up at the choppers. He caught the blades of one of them, his body healing itself as the disabled vehicle crashed into the second one, buying him a few badly needed moments as the fireball distracted everybody.

His fur soaked in blood, his and otherwise, he took a massive leap off the building he was on, towards the river below. He plunged into the icy waters, and let them carry him away, holding his breath to stay beneath the surface as long as he could.

When Lierok finally had to surface, his lungs burning, he saw the choppers and lights behind him, and took the risk to stay up long enough to really fill his lungs. He slipped under the surface again and swam as hard as he could downriver, hoping that he'd be in the bay before they could block it off that far down.

Zach felt like shit the next day. There was no other way to say it; he ached, he thought he had a cold coming on, and his ass felt like he'd sat on a fencepost wrong.

Still, when he'd heard the news reports in the morning, heard that Rock had been hurt ... he knew he had to try to find Jake.

So he was carrying a bagged lunch up for his friend, who he was sure hadn't eaten since the night before. It was something to do ... even if Jake didn't eat, it would help him get his mind off the niggling doubts that were becoming harder and harder to keep quiet. The feeling that he was hiding from something he didn't want to think about, didn't want to do.

He got out of the elevator on the fourth floor and glanced for the floor plan placard that would give him a clue where to do. A quick examination turned him to the right and down a long, wide hallway with rooms to each side and periodic nurses' diamonds in wider sections where they kept the paperwork and such for that group of patients.

What was it about hospitals that always smelled so bad?

"Who are you here to see?" a prime-looking nurse that managed to convey an ability to kick anyone out she cared to asked him as he approached the end of the hall an ICU.

"Jake Clawson, who's probably here for Rock Furlong," Zach said quietly. "I heard Rock was hurt, and I'm a good friend of Jake's ... figured he'd be here and need some lunch."

She nodded and picked up the phone, speaking briefly before she hung up. "Room 617."

"Thanks," Zach nodded and walked through the heavy double doors that separated ICU from the rest of the floor. Inside, it smelled cleaner, somehow, and was a lot quieter.

"That one, sir," a young blonde pointed him to a room closed off by a curtain from the central nurses station. "Rock is asleep, but Jake's awake, and even less cooperative than Chance."

"That's why I brought food up," he nodded, indicating his bag. "Sounds like Jake." He followed her finger, poking his head into the closed off area.

"Jake?" He asked gently. "I've got lunch."

He winced when his old friend actually jumped slightly before turning his head. The expression on his face, if it was possible, was worse than after he'd broken up with Greg in the aftermath of being blacklisted. The stains of a long time crying were still clearly visible in his dry fur and reddened eyes, and he didn't make any effort to pull himself together to face someone.

"Hi Zach," he mumbled, subdued and uneasy.

"Hi," Zach murmured, stepping in, pulling a sandwich out of the bag and handing it to Jake, along with a can of soda. "Not much, but I figured you wouldn't be eating on your own."

"Midnight would have gotten to me," he said, though he accepted the food numbly and began to eat without any appetite; he just knew he had to. "She dragged Chance down to the cafeteria a bit ago."

"Yeah, well ... you've got more than just one friend," Zach smiled slightly. "So ... what's the prognosis?"

"He'll live," he let out a long breath and reached out to caress a bit of exposed fur. "They have enough blood for him, and the rest ... he'll hurt for a long time, but it won't kill him without complications," he paused and glanced up at Zach. "Any idea why Lierok went after Rock?"

"All I can think of is that he might've found out he was important to you," Zach murmured. "You've interrupted him twice now ... he might've wanted to try and send a message. Or it might've been a pure coincidence too; he was going somewhere there weren't as many Enforcers and Rock was unlucky enough to catch his attention. I ... I just don't know."

Jake nodded weakly. "You hear who else hot hit last night?"

"Brad," Zach nodded softly, pulling up a chair. "And a couple other officers... sounds like Brad saved Rock though, from what I heard downstairs."

"It's how I heard it too," he nodded and made short work of the rest of sandwich without really tasting it. "Nobody's sure what he was doing at Rock's place."

"At least somebody was," Zach murmured. "Sweet gods ... somebody's gotta stop him."

"He's lost even me twice now," Jake nearly sobbed, somewhere between desperate and angry. "I'm not sure anyone can catch him."

Zach wrapped an arm around Jake's shoulder, an unconscious gesture of sympathy he couldn't really say. He knew there was something he was missing. Something important.

"There's still the spell the Karalanol mentioned, right? Other mages might figure something out too...." He trailed off, squeezing Jake's shoulder and felt him relax against him, the lean tom's head against his shoulder.

"I know there are tracking spells, but they only seem to work when Lierok is out and in Wolf form and he's not using his own magic to hide," Jake squeezed his eyes shut. "We don't have anything to track the Kat he's riding. Not for months at least. He could kill thousands by then, and maybe those who could cast the spell."

"Jake ... it'll be okay," Zach murmured, turning to wrap his other arm around him, hugging him. "Somebody will stop him. It might not be pretty, but it'll happen."

Two words came to him, almost in a flash. The Wilding Tome. He hadn't taken the book back to the library yet ... he knew it had spells in it that dealt with wolves, that might help find this one. There might be something in there about how to stop a werewolf, or at least find one.

"I know," Jake said, then completely lost it and began to sob against his friend. Everything was stripped from him in a few minutes to show the lonely, terrified Kat Jake worked so hard to keep hidden.

Zach hugged him close, rubbing his back and nuzzling his head.

"Shu," he murmured. "Shh ... it'll work out, Jake. I promise." He hugged the younger, but larger, tom tenderly, remembering the last time he'd done anything like this.

Such a different situation.

"Jake ... I have to go soon," he murmured. "I've got an idea, but if I'm going to stop him before dark, I'll have to work fast."

It was more than enough to get Jake to pull himself together again, though only just barely.

"Need help?" he asked, his voice still carrying the tears that were drying on his face but his expression gaining strength on the hope of having something to do.

"I might," he admitted. "But ... if I have to ask you to go, please do. I don't know if having you nearby might screw up the spells."

"All right," he nodded and stood a little more shakily than he would have liked. "Just give me a minute to clean up, 'kay?"

"Okay," Zach smiled slightly, standing as well. On his way out, he paused by Rock's bedside, reaching down to give his shoulder a gentle squeeze before walking out to give Jake a moment of privacy before they left.

"I know there's something in here about werewolves ... there's everything else in here about wolves, has to be something about how to stop them," Zach murmured, looking through the heavy book. "Find anything in my notes, Jake?"

"Nothing about werewolves at all," he shook his head. "Any other name you might have used for it?"

"Skinshifters, spirit-binding... something that would unbind the spirit would be great, if you can find it," Zach explained, going back to the passage he was reading through. "This'd be a lot easier if the author hadn't started getting incoherent," he murmured. "Best section on werewolves in the whole thing, and I'm starting to think he was a raving lunatic."

Jake raised an eyebrow at him. "Even compared to the day I got drunk and you asked about Bastet and all that?"

"That was ranting, Jake. This ... this is somewhere between a sermon, a confession, and ... shit." He turned back several pages, reviewing the first part on werewolves, and what came before. His fur started to fluff out as he read, and Jake could smell his distress.

"You found it," he didn't have to guess as he stood to walk over and see if he could read over Zach's shoulder.

"I found why he was starting to go insane," Zach murmured. The writing was hard to follow, riddled with idiosyncrasies Jake didn't recognize and occasional spots of shaky handwriting. "Gods Jake ... I'm so sorry," he whispered, starting to shake and tear up as he closed the book.

"Zach?" he frowned and knelt to hold his friend in a strong embrace. "What happened?"

"I fucked up royally, and that's only half saying it," Zach told him softly. "I ... shit!" He shook his head sharply, focusing on what had to happen. "I've got to find an unbinding spell, and we've got to cast it fast. If we don't get it by ... eight," he said, glancing at the clock on his VCR, "you've got to get the Enforcers here with everything they've got. 'Cause they're going to have to stop me unless I'm very, very happily mistaken." He opened the book, flipping back through again, heading for the end of the passage he was reading.

"You bound Lierok to yourself when you cast that spell to protect yourself," Jake murmured, saying out loud what he had suspected since the raid on Amanda's village. "And you can't control him."

"Jake, I didn't have any idea," Zach said, looking back at his friend, his eyes somewhere between terrified and utterly, completely remorseful. He could almost watch as all the pieces from five nights of terror fell into place for him. "You have to believe me, I didn't know this was going to happen, it wasn't supposed to work like that!"

"Zach, if you get out of this alive, promise me you won't cast another spell," he said firmly, as close to a demand as anything Zach had heard from him. "Not without a damn good teacher watching you."

"Just one last spell," Zach promised. "To try and get us all out of this ... will you help me with that much, Jake?" He asked, looking up at his friend from the book as he found one, written shakily, as if the author had been fighting with himself while he worked on it.

"I will," he promised, leaving it unsaid that if it failed, he'd do what he had to, even to one of his best friends. "What do you need?"

"I should have most of it here ... here's the things that I don't think I do," Zach said, grabbing a list and starting to scribble it out for Jake.

"Thank you for agreeing to this," Jake spoke softly to the elegant brown tabby walking next to him in the full regalia of a territorial High Priestess of Bastet, and the most powerful one on Aristal. "Both of you," he nodded to the black-furred Panther-Wolf hybrid on his other side that was wearing the golden feather-cape and armor of Halikar's High Priest.

"Jake, whatever you may think of my interest in you, I am sworn to protect this city with my soul if need be," Fela spoke softly but firmly. "My life is nothing if it will stop this creature."

"Hopefully, it won't go that far, but you know that I feel the same," Hailen Farseer nodded in his agreement, pausing at the door, sniffing the air. "It seems your friend has made some preparations of his own."

"He did say he had some supplies already," Jake nodded before shifting his bag to one hand to knock firmly on the door.

"He will need a healer if he survives," Fela murmured. "Several of those are toxic."

Zach opened the door, taking a deep breath of the fresh air as the others all caught a hefty whiff of the heavy incenses he had burning.

"Jake ... High Priest and Priestess," he said with respectful bows to the both of them. "My apology for the smells, but I want to hedge my bets this time. If I'm right, I could unleash a powerful Wolf spirit, and if I'm wrong, I might summon him by mistake. I want him as weak as possible if either happens."

"We understand," Fela smiled softly at him. "Three others are expected shortly. The high priests of Rarzyn, Sheliel and Lyris have agreed to help as well."

"Sorry about calling in this much firepower, but I can't let him out again," Jake apologized, his choice still not sitting well with him, for all he knew without question it was the right one. "I'm willing to do what I have to, but it might not be enough."

"I understand, Jake," Zach nodded. "Honestly... if it's what it takes, I want them to kill me rather than let him go again. If they can restrain Lierok for a night, that'll buy us another month to do this, but otherwise ... better one more death than another score of them." He seemed disturbingly resigned to the idea, really. "Besides ... odds are, I'll be on death row after this anyways." He turned and headed in, to where he'd already prepared the casting circle.

"Only if you want to be," Jake said softly as he walked inside with Fela and Hailen. "There are more than a few extenuating circumstances here, you know."

"Jake, I've raped and murdered over a dozen people," Zach pointed out, his voice cracking as the stress of realizing just what his body had been used to do started to show. "I'm... I've just got to stop him, then they can do whatever they want." He said, getting a grip on himself again. He'd reviewed the spell he needed to cast time and again. He had to be in control for once in his life. Needed to be able to break the contract he'd unwittingly signed with the Wyld Lord's beta.

It was why the one time before that it had been cast, it hadn't worked. And that had been with a weaker spirit than Lierok. He just had to hope that it was the only reason, and not a flaw in the spell itself.

He stripped down, preparing himself, the knife he'd used in the first spell at his side as the two representatives of Aristal's Gods set themselves to be ready for the worst.

Zach was only absently aware when Hailen answered the door to the next knock and admitted three others to the circle preparing to deal with one of their own elevated to godhood and out of control.

He pushed the distraction to the side. He needed to focus on this. On what he was doing, and why he was doing it. He did have one advantage ... he knew who and what he was dealing with.

He took the last few ingredients Jake had gathered, and prepared them; a piece of fresh, still-bloody meat and a small statuette of a wolf. He set them together, etched a smaller circle around them, similar to the one around himself, and lit the candles, beginning the spell.

"Lierok, Dire Lord, I call you from my body," he intoned, taking up the knife and cutting across his wrist, blood welling from the wound, his fur turning a dark gray where it flowed. "I call you to answer the charge of breaching our Oath, of going beyond the limits set by our Oath."

Power flowed from him, all of Lierok's strength slipping from his blood with the spirit himself.

"I broke no Oath," the great Dire Wolf snarled in outrage, though deep inside he recognized the potent divine power of the five gathered outside the circle, the untrained power of the sixth, and feared it for it's ability to destroy him.

"I never gave you permission for the sort of slaughter you've committed," Zach countered, trying to be stern, though he felt weak as a kitten now. "Our Oath was for the strength to overcome my enemies, and for that I promised a follower in this world. I never promised my body and mind for the atrocities you've committed!"

"Your enemies are dead," Lierok pointed out with a low growl, stalking around the scrawny tom. "I gave you the strength to overcome them. My end of the bargain has been fulfilled, and now you do as I wish."

"That was not what was agreed upon; I never offered that sort of servitude," Zach growled himself. "The Oath has been broken, by you. You killed my enemies, but you also killed innocents, my best friend, his mate ... even if I had asked you for the deaths of my enemies, rather than the strength to face them, you have gone too far!"

"I have not," Lierok countered with a bit of a smug look. "You are too weak to demand anything of me beyond what I have done for you."

"I don't want you to do anything more for me," Zach pointed out. "I didn't want you to do as much as you have."

"And now you lie," Lierok smirked. "You wanted those three dead, and you wanted them to suffer more than they already did. You're just too much of a coward to admit it."

"You will leave my body, one way or the other, and return to the spirit world," Zach said firmly. "It is your choice if you will do so willingly, or by force."

"No. It is not a matter of choice, mageling," Lierok growled lowly. "The pact was made, the promise sworn. We are both bound by it. If you did not understand what you did, that is not my fault."

Zach was quiet for a moment. He hadn't wanted things to reach this point. He'd been half-hoping that Lierok would be as happy to be rid of him as he would be the other way.

But it didn't look like that was how it was going to play out. Just like the last time the spell had been cast, the spirit had followed the letter of a very informal agreement ... the Oath hadn't truly been breached, merely the expectations of someone whose heart had been in the right place ... once.

It was time for his last-ditch effort.

Zach picked up the knife again, opening the wound, drawing it further down his arm, extending his hand to drip the blood onto the meat.

"If you do not return to the spirit world, I will see that you are returned there," he said, giving Lierok one last chance to back out.

"I would like to see how," the Dire Wolf growled with low contempt.

"Very well." Zach swallowed hard, his head swimming from the influence of the incense and the blood he was losing. There was only one more way he could think of to break the Oath. Go over Lierok's head.

"Wyld Lord; your Beta has stepped beyond the limitations I had thought were placed upon him," he spoke. "I ask of you the power to set things right, to return Lierok to where he has come from and no more. In exchange," he said quickly, feeling the power begin to gather already. He didn't want to set an even stronger spirit loose to be rid of Lierok; that wouldn't help anything. "In exchange, I offer you my power, my Gift, the talent I thought I could control, but was beyond my skill. To you, and your purposes, I give it, for all time."

There was a long, still moment ... then a low howl from the statuette, which leaped upon the meat, seeming to swallow it as the agreement was made.

It felt like Zach's soul was being ripped from his body. He let out an unearthly scream, something like blue smoke flowing from his mouth and into the Icon as it swallowed the meat and spun about, seeming to grow as it faced the Dire Wolf, a four-legged wolf of porcelain that positively crackled with power.

"But Wyld Lord," Lierok cringed back, his tail tucked between his legs to avoid angering his Alpha any more than he already had by being summoned.

"No," the low response came. "What more would you do? It is not time for more. It is the season of the hunt; you belong at my side."

"Yes, Alpha," Lierok gave no more debate, and they both faded out of the mortal world, though the Wyld Lord cave a look over his shoulder at his successor's successor's territorial high priest before joining his pack in the spirit realm.

Zach dropped the knife, moving to put out the candles ... but he collapsed before finishing the job, utterly drained by what he had done.

"Get the windows open, and fresh air into the room," Hailen told the others, moving to finish putting the candles and incenses out. "Jake, call for an ambulance."

"Yes, sir," he nodded and hurried to make the call as Lyris' high priest knelt by Zach and did what she could to help him, even as an unnatural breeze swept the fumes from the room.

When everything was cleared out, Jake turned to the representatives of the gods around him. "What did I just see?"

Tol-Na, the powerfully built Wolf who served Rarzyn, looked back at the scene as he opened the last window. "You just watched him take a very big chance," he said softly. "When Lierok wouldn't nullify the agreement they'd made, he summoned the Wyld Lord to make him break it. Things are going to be ... very interesting over the next few years."

"As if a convergence of Champions won't be," Fela nearly groaned. "What is likely to happen?"

"This will be a smaller situation than that, for you," Tol-na reassured her. "However, I suspect that the Wyld Lord or one of his servants may challenge for the leadership of our gods, within a generation at least. Lierok's children and this increase in power ... Zach may not have been a powerful mage, but his power, willfully given, is a potent boon at any rate."

"So my successor may be dealing with his high priest, instead of Rarzyn's?" Fela nodded. "I hope it will be less bloody than when Kram took over from the Wyld Lord."

"Likely. Kram was far more ... primitive than the Wyld Lord. Less bestial, but more primitive. It's a strange distinction, but an important one. The Wyld Lord's priests will be more sociopathic than vicious, by modern standards. This, of course, is assuming a total takeover, rather than some other sort of shift in the pack dynamic. Rarzyn, unlike Kram, is willing to settle for a result other than the death of one or the other."

"As I understand all three, Rarzyn is by far the most moderate of them," Hailen commented evenly.

"I suspect that even with more raw power, Wyld Lord is not suited enough to the modern world to hold the Alpha position for long. Not in the cities at least," Chema, the Golden Tigress serving as Sheliel's high priestess, added. "It is the trouble that my Lady has."

"Quite true, though I suspect he'll hold power quite well in Lothos, once he has it there," the Priest nodded easily. "His philosophy will do well in most Wolf-dominant nations, particularly the ones who pride themselves on their traditions."

"There's a disturbing thought," Hailen mused. "Wolves with the dedication to their traditions that the Karalanol have ... no offense," he said with a nod towards the other priest.

"None taken. I agree with you, honestly ... it could be difficult for those who are in the cities. We already have difficulties because of those who adhere to the old ways too strongly, like the ones who set this tragedy in motion," he said with a nod towards Zach, whose wrists were bound and breathing more steadily as they heard the sirens of the approaching ambulances.

"Then here is hoping that we do not lose this convergence," Fela murmured. "I would not wish to see the results of the Wolf nations becoming ultra-national at the same time we fall into a Dark Age again."

"That... could be a nightmare. Though again, it would depend on how Rarzyn handled the situation, I suspect. He might serve as a balancing factor in the pack, if he were to join. These are concerns for another time though," Tol-na offered. "For now, I suggest we work on making sure we have the story straight for the Enforcers when they deal with our former mage."

"I'm fairly sure Zach is going to tell the most negative bent on the truth that he thinks of," Jake said quietly from where he was holding his friend's head in his lap while Windis did what he could to ease Zach's pain and injuries.

"The truth will serve us well here, I believe," Fela spoke calmly, taking her natural place at the head of the group. "The Enforcers already know much of it."

"Yes ... is there anybody else close enough to him that they might know about this, and what he did when it happened?" Tol-na asked Jake. "Somebody else who might know, and not put the spin on it that he's likely to. The Enforcers aren't going to have much sympathy for what I expect he'll say."

"His girlfriend, Amy Piercin," he suggested. "Abi Sinnian might as well. I suspect his best defense will be the five of you," he looked up and around the high priests. "We saw how it ended, you understand what happened. Possession is a strong legal defense, if it can be proven."

"It can be," Fela said firmly. "He may have to move, to get away from the consequences the public will have in store for him, but it can be proven, legally. That he came so close to killing himself to end it will speak in his favor as well."

"I doubt moving will be much of an issue for him, honestly," Jake smiled gently at his friend. "He's always loved field work, and his family has contacts all over the world."

"We'll hope he has the opportunity then," Fela smiled slightly, then turned to get the door as the paramedics knocked briefly on the way in. The two toms at the door froze momentarily when they saw five high priests of the city in full regalia, but focused on their job as soon as they spotted the unconscious tom on the floor.

Two weeks later, Rock was snuggling up with Jake, still sore but whole again. Melia had helped patch him up, coming in from the temple to help with his healing.

What he'd been surprised by, really, was how well he'd healed on his own up until that point.

Jake was still a little subdued; he'd heard about what had happened with Zach, it had been all over the news, but he still didn't understand all of it.

Or how it was affecting his lover.

"You okay?" Rock asked him gently, scratching his chest lightly and felt Jake's eyes close.

"Honestly? I'm not sure," he managed to say. "I'll be okay. I can't believe I didn't pick up on Zach's condition.""

"Jake, how could you have picked up on it?" Rock pointed out. "From what I've heard, it wasn't like he was a Champion or something... you wouldn't have been able to tell unless Lierok was in control. And except for right at the end, he was always that ... thing instead of Zach when that happened."

Jake nodded weakly and tried to relax. "Did you hear what Zach's fate will be?"

"Only that he's not going to prison, and that it sounds like we've got a few different lynch mobs trying to figure out where he is so they can be the reason why."

"They won't find him," he murmured. "He's not in the city anymore. Lierok is a spirit, a servant of the Wyld Lord, and possessed him with the full moon. Just before Zach surrendered, Lierok was forced back to the spirit realm. Five high priests were witness, and so was I," he shuddered. "I never understood how you could miss possession until now."

"Jake, it isn't your fault," Rock told him firmly. "From the sound of it ... it wasn't really anybody's fault, except maybe a spirit who's well and truly beyond anybody's jurisdiction. So ... wherever Zach went, do they know about it? I mean ... if he was possessed once, we won't know it won't happen again until the next full moon."

"Oh, Lierok isn't coming back, at least not by Zach. The Wyld Lord will see to that. And yes, they know. Zach wouldn't agree to any relocation without full disclosure before his hosts agreed. They still took him in. I think it shocked Zach a lot."

"Knowing him, probably would've been shocked if they'd taken him at all," Rock murmured. "So ... what about Amy? How'd she take it?"

"Freaked out completely and dropped out," he sighed unhappily. "I hope she's just trying to lay low for a term and enroll in another university, but here ... she's too well known as Zach's girlfriend not to be ostracized for not turning him in, even though she didn't know."

"Damn," Rock sighed. "Not that I can blame her, really ... hope she doesn't let this screw up her life too badly. Even without what it'd do to Zach, she doesn't deserve it."

"No, she doesn't," he agreed and snuggled close. "The only person who deserved to get hurt didn't. Lierok got out of this pretty much scot-free. It's just the mortals who paid for his little romp," he nearly growled.

"But it was another spirit who stopped him in the end," Rock offered gently. "Jake ... Zach's right about one thing. Ultimately, it's the mortals who put things in motion too. Not all the ones who paid for it, but the ones who started it. Besides ... who knows what's happening to him back with the rest of the spirits."

"Maybe," Jake acknowledged quietly and tried to put the level of injustice of it all behind him. "It just seems like it's not right."

"And it probably isn't," Rock agreed. "So ... have they held Brad's funeral yet?" He asked softly. "I feel like I ought to do something for him ... or his family."

"Yeah, it was three days after it happened," he murmured. "Pyre cremation by family tradition. It was kinda strange. They'd probably appreciate a hand-written card or something. They can put it in the memory box they made for him."

"Wish I could've been there," Rock murmured, hugging Jake close. "Wish I'd noticed something was wrong before it got bad at all."

Jake stiffened briefly before he forced his body to relaxed again "He didn't just break in ...."

"Jake ... I thought you knew, from the fact the door was in one piece," Rock sighed. "Like I said ... that night, he used Zach's body, his shape too. He ... tricked me into letting him in," he said, clearly trying to hedge around something.

"I really should have killed him when I had the chance," he growled softly, only to let it go with a breath. "I'm sorry," he nuzzled Rock gently. "I didn't see the place until a couple days before you came home when I came by to make sure it was cleaned up. I figured any bad damage had been fixed by then."

"Jake, it wasn't Zach," Rock said firmly. "Hell, he's almost as much of a victim, given what happened. I think... I think that spirit enjoyed taking control like that."

"I was talking about the spirit," Jake muttered. "I had a shot at him when he was dragged out of Zach's body. I should have taken it."

"Maybe... but if you had, and it hadn't worked, it might've been even worse," Rock murmured, hugging him close. "C'mon... it's over now. It's time for us to move on, right?"

"Time for everyone to try," he nodded with a sly smile and slid a hand between them to play his fingers along Rock's soft sheath. "Feeling good enough to do a little riding?"

"I think I could be convinced," Rock chuckled lowly. "As long as I'm the one doing the riding."

"You'll never hear a complaint from me when you are," he kissed his lover, slowly pressing his tongue into his mouth as knowing fingers took their time to arouse.

Power Games 2: Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory

NC-17 for M/M, M/F sex
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is High
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

970 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written September 4, 2007 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: SWAT Kats

Primary Races: Kantin, Kat

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe, DarkFic, Death, Exhibitionism, Rape (M on M), Rape (M on M), Rape, Gang, Sex (BDSM), Sex (BDSM), Sex (BDSM), Sex (BDSM), Sex (Public), Supernatural, Violence (Graphic), Violence (Sexual), Voyeurism

Pairings: Chance Furlong/Midnight Raven, Jake Clawson/Rock Furlong, Zach Tanner/Amy Piercin, others

Blurb: With two terms together, just about everyone has settled a fair amount, and Jake's growing interest in detective work is being noticed by more folks of importance.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

Page Hit Count from December 3, 2007    1294