3-10-2002

New Alliances: More Than What We See (Part 00/10)
by Heidi <beaglepack@earthlink.net> and comet <comet@ao.net>

Disclaimer: Anita Blake and characters, as well as the Gundam Wing characters, do not belong to us and are the property of the copyright owners. All original characters belong to the authors.

Warnings: Spoilers for Narcissus in Chains.
Rating: R

Notes: This is a crossover. The Gundam Wing characters have been packed up and moved into the Anita Blake Universe and into that timeline as well. They're not Gundam pilots but many of the traits they have in that universe exist here.

Archiving: Permission to list archives, all others ask. Can also be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~beaglepack/vault

Thanks to LisaP, Miracle, Leah and Toni for taking the time to alpha and beta read this story. It was (and is) greatly appreciated. Any remaining typos belong to the authors.

Feedback: Any and all comments are welcome.

Pairings
Anita Blake: ABxMCxJC
Gundam Wing: 1x2, 3x4, 5xOFC

*** is a time/place break
===== is a section break
_word or sentence_ is used to represent italics
*word* is emphasis (bolding)

Translations: We're putting the list of translations here and at the end of part 10. Hopefully you won't need them as we tried to put the meanings within the same paragraph or the paragraph that followed.
Je t'aime, mon petite. = I love you, my little one. (french)
Ai shiteru = I love you (japanese)
Koi, koibito = lover, love (japanese)
Wo ai ni. = I love you. (chinese)
mon minet = my cat (french)
Caraid anam = literally translated it means "my soul friend" (scots gaelic)

And, if you recognise Nica, well that's because she's a slight variation on Veronica Morgan from our Life Rules Series but in a new form <g>.

One more thing, two story parts will be posted each night. The story as a whole will appear on the website around night 4.

New Alliances-More Than What We See

 

Duo stared at the men then shook his head, puzzled. "Oh well," he muttered as he climbed onto the back of the bike, his hand resting on Heero's leather-clad shoulder.

The young Asian man with his hair pulled into a low ponytail looked over at his friend as he climbed onto the back of the other boy's bike. "What was that about Maxwell?" Wufei, quietly asked from were he sat perched on own his bike.

"Alpha wolf with a stick up his," the rest of his comment was muffled as his sister appeared behind him and covered his mouth.

"And his little alpha bodyguard over there can hear you," Nica said, a mischievous look in her hazel eyes. A look that was almost perfectly reflected back at her from her brother's violet gaze.

Duo moved his sister's hand away from his mouth. "And I care, why?"

"Visitor's in their city," Quatre answered with a look that held a small warning for the siblings as he took his place on the back of the third bike. Trowa ran his hand down Quatre's thigh feeling the tight weave of his chinos under his hand as his lover settled into place.

Wufei reached a hand out to the only girl in their little group. "You ready," he asked when she took his hand after pushing back the sleeve of her oversize shirt and leather jacket.

"Oh yeah," she answered, climbing on behind Wufei and wrapping her arms around his waist as he started his bike.

The other two bikes started, and together the three motorcycles pulled away from the restaurant.

The alpha bodyguard watched them leave. He knew they were something but wasn't exactly sure what. They were good at covering up their energies, but with all six of them together, there was a quiet hum around them.

"Shang Da," a black man with his hair done in long cornrows with white beads at the ends called from the store's door, "Richard is waiting."

***

"Don't you have to go be someone's dinner?" Shang Da asked, contempt and disgust evident in his voice. He didn't particularly like being at the Circus of the Damned, a carnival and entertainment place in vampire district, but Richard was meeting with Jean Claude so he had to be here.

The young, blonde werewolf just grinned, "Nah, not my night. Besides, going dancing."

A snort of laughter came from the other person in the room. "You're a stripper, Jason, you dance a lot."

Jason looked over at the wereleopard lounging in the easy chair with his feet hanging over the arm. "Not working at Guilty Pleasures tonight," he said, "going to The Raven."

"And why not at Danse Macabre," Asher asked from the doorway, having just come in and caught the tail end of the conversation.

"Not the right crowd," he replied looking at the tall blonde vampire.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" asked Asher.

"Come and see," is all Jason said as sauntered out the door, his cobalt blue shirt billowing and the tight leather of his pants accenting his body as he moved.

***

Jason danced out on the floor and moved closer to the center and the small group of people circled around another dancer. The closer he got to the group the more he understood the draw of the person dancing. The aura and the way the person moved to the driving beat, hips swaying, hands moving in the air, a thick braid flying with every twist and turn of the lithe body. Jason was shocked when the dancer turned towards him and smiled. The dancer was male and wearing an outfit similar to his own with black denim instead of leather and his shirt a deep violet that matched his eyes.

Jason moved into the crowd, slowly matching the movements with the other young man as he approached. The two danced together, bodies barely touching, through the end of the song. As the song changed, Jason inched closer trying to touch the other dancer, but was stopped by a sudden burst of power and a low, quiet growl.

Jason withdrew his hand and looked at the newcomer dressed in similar black jeans and a tight black shirt. He quickly noticed the dark blue eyes that didn't match the rest of the Asian features and the hand that rested possessively on the other man's shoulder.

"Who's your dance partner, Koi?" the Asian asked.

Duo smiled at Heero, "Don't know yet, haven't asked."

"Jason, my name is Jason," Jason said.

Duo smiled at Jason. "I'm Duo, and this is Heero," he said as the trio slowly made their way towards a set of tables near the deejay's platform and out of the main dance area.

Jason noticed that Heero stopped at what appeared to be the only empty table in the entire club. Obviously the table was reserved for the Asian man, Heero. Jason sat down across from the pair, noticing not for the first time, Heero's possessiveness of the longhaired man.

"What are you?" Jason finally blurted out to Heero.

Heero smirked. "What do you mean what am I?"

Jason pointed out towards the dance floor. "Out there, what you did. That display of power, that wasn't human?"

"Nah, really," Duo answered, jokingly, a wicked looking grin on his face. "Wouldn't have guessed that one."

Jason gave Duo a surprised look, not expecting the same type of humor from the braided man. Jason's reaction didn't last long as Heero reversed the question back on him asking what flavor he was.

Jason looked around the immediate area, making sure no one was listening. "Wolf."

"A small one at that," came a voice from the shadows.

"Going to join us, Fei?" Duo asked, "Or just insult my guest?"

Jason turned to see another Asian man, this one with long straight black hair pulled in a ponytail, brown eyes, and a smirk on his face. He wondered if they had a monopoly on black denim the same way Jean Claude seemed to have taken stock in leather. This one, however, wore a dark blue-banded collar shirt that was buttoned high on his neck.

Smiling, Jason replied. "I may be small, but I have my uses."

"Great," Wufei commented to Heero while pulling two of the high-back stools to the table, "another one of them."

"Hai," Heero answered. "How long until her break?" he asked, pointing to the empty chair.

"Two songs," came the reply.

Duo looked at his confused guest, and simply said, "wolves."

Jason looked at the three men he was sitting with, and was suddenly nervous. He knew these men weren't part of his pack. "Does Richard know you're here?" he asked giving his Ulfric's name.

Duo's answer of "sort of" did nothing to help Jason's unease.

"I don't understand," Jason said.

"We tried to see him early last week when we arrived in St Louis," Duo started to say, but he was interrupted when two more people joined them at the table. The small blonde man took the empty seat and finished Duo's sentence, "he wasn't interested in seeing me."

Jason looked between the two well-dressed newcomers--a blonde, a few inches taller than himself with bright aqua-colored eyes and a tall, thin man with green eyes that he'd only previously seen on a vampire.

Duo grinned. "This is Quatre," Duo indicated the blonde, and then pointed to the other still standing, "and that's Trowa."

"Hey, what about me?" a girl's voice asked from behind Duo. Jason recognized the girl as the club's new deejay.

Wufei stood while Duo did the last of the introductions. "And that's my sister, Nica." Pointing to the girl who was now sitting on Wufei's stool.

Jason looked around the table then focused on Quatre. "You tried to see him, are you their Ulfric?"

The hint of surprise in Jason voice made Quatre smile. "Yes," he answered, then asked Jason how he thought his Ulfric would react when he found out there was a visiting pack of wolves in town.

And, Jason thought, a pack that apparently consisted of only six wolves and all of them alphas if the fact that they could hide their lycanthropy was anything to go by. "Probably, not real good," Jason answered honestly.

"Then he should have seen us last week at the Cafe," Trowa quietly commented speaking for the first time.

Jason looked at the blonde. "The first Saturday of the month is the were council meeting."

"I see."

Nica leaned back in her chair and whispered to Wufei, "I want to dance." The two departed hearing Jason's last statement of "this isn't going to be good when Richard finds out."

=====

Jason walked into Jean Claude's private room and was surprised to see not only Jean Claude and Anita but Richard and Shang Da as well. It was late afternoon so Jason wasn't surprised to see Jean Claude awake, the vampire Master of the City had been rising much earlier of late.

"You wanted to see me?" Jason asked the vampire.

"No. Richard asked to see you," Jean Claude answered, straightening the ruffles on his shirt.

Jason looked between the tall vampire with his long black hair falling in waves around his face, and Anita, who was dressed in her typical outfit of black jeans and polo shirt, her hair long and falling around her shoulders, just as Jean Claude's did. He was confused as to why they had gone to the trouble of all being there -- unless it was something bad. "Why here and why the crowd?" he asked. "I'd have met Richard anywhere he wanted me to. You know that."

"We do," Anita reassured him. "I'm just here to make sure the conversation turns out okay," she added.

Jason looked between the four people. "Should I be worried?" he asked Anita.

"Rafael," the wererats equivalent to a ulfric, "tells me you've been socializing with another pack? A pack I didn't know was in town," Richard said between clenched teeth.

Jason knew the bad feeling he had at the club about Richard's reaction to his new friends wasn't unwarranted. Kneeling down, submitting himself to his ulfric, he crawled on all fours toward Richard. "Honest Ulfric, I didn't know what they were until I was already sitting with them," Jason pleaded for understanding.

"You didn't know?" Anita asked, suddenly interested. There were few lycanthropes who could hide their power and all of them would have to be alphas with tremendous experience. This was curious especially since Ronnie and Louie had told Rafael that they were all young.

Jason looked at her briefly before looking back toward Richard. "No, I didn't. They covered it well. I didn't know until they told me," he explained leaving out the fact that he'd felt Heero's power on the dance floor and knew he was a lycanthrope but not what kind.

Richard growled. "And you didn't see fit to tell me immediately. I had to find out third hand from Rafael?" Richard yelled raising his hand to smack Jason.

Anita stepped between the two wolves. "Richard," she said quietly, "You promised," she reminded him. Jason was her friend and no matter how much he might have broken protocol she wasn't about to let him be hurt.

"Anita, he needs to be punished for keeping this from me. Aren't you the one always telling me that I need to keep the respect of my people and not coddle them -- you're coddling Jason," Richard accused.

Anita stood tall in front of Richard. "I am not coddling Jason. I am, however, insisting he be given a chance to explain fully before you try to punish him."

Richard glared at her but held his tongue.

"Go on, Jason," she urged turning to Jason who was cowering on the floor in front of her and Richard. When he raised his head up and looked at her she moved aside and returned to Jean Claude's side.

"Quatre said he tried to talk to you when he came to town a couple of weeks ago, and then a second time. He said he would try again. I didn't know that he hadn't."

"No one came to see me," Richard accused Jason of lying. "No one has even tried to see me."

"They said they went to Lunatic Cafe."

"Richard," Shang Da interrupted hesitantly, he knew his Ulfric wasn't going to like what he had to say. "A group of people did try to see you but it was during 'the meeting' and Paris sent them away. I didn't know what they were or what they wanted. Did she not mention them?"

"No," Richard growled. "She didn't. She should have but then so should have you," he told his bodyguard. He didn't like the idea of another pack in his territory uninvited especially with all the trouble they had been having. "Another Ulfric in town and you didn't see fit to tell me?" he growled at Shang Da his beast rising. Richard turned on his heel to leave and smacked Jason out of his way, the force of the blowing throwing him several feet away.

"Ma petite," Jean Claude started to say putting a hand on her arm. He knew Anita wouldn't be happy with Richard's reaction or the fact Jason was hurt. Anita had a soft spot for his pomme de sang--his apple of blood.

Anita pulled away and ignored Jean Claude for a moment, to walk over to Jason, stopping both Richard and Shang Da from leaving as well. "I warned you Richard," she said as she kneeled next to Jason, checking to see how injured he was. Satisfied he wasn't very, she turned slightly and asked the Hati, "Did they appear malevolent?"

Shang Da stared down at Anita. "I don't know," he answered honestly, "They were young, and they just seemed different."

By this time, Jason was sitting up. "I'm sorry," he whispered to Anita. He reached into his back pocket and handed her a small card. "I was going to give this to Richard if they were still unable to not get a hold of, of..." He refrained from saying Richard's name again.

The small card simply read: "To the St. Louis Ulfric, when you have time to meet I can be found at The Raven, your Lupa said you were a very busy man. Thank you for your time, Quatre."

Richard growled again and made a move towards Jason.

Jason shrunk back away from his Ulfric and closer to Anita. "Come to me, Jason," Richard said, voice commanding, "now."

Jason looked between Anita, Richard, and Jean Claude then slowly crawled towards Richard. Richard gently put his hand on the side of Jason's face, pushing a little power into Jason to show he was forgiven. Turning to Anita he said, "We will visit them later this evening before the club opens to the public."

Jason nodded, accepting the forgiveness from Richard.

"Anita will you and Jean Claude accompany me tonight?" Richard asked. There had been enough going on in the shapeshifter community that he wanted to make a show of power to this uninvited pack even if he hated asking for their help.

"Oui," Jean Claude answered. "Asher and Damian will come with us."

Anita nodded. "Yes. I want Jason there since he knows them and Micah will accompany me," she said looking back to where Micah had been lounging on the bed after feeding Jean Claude.

"Then tonight, mon ami," Jean Claude told Richard, "we will find out who visits our city."

***

The Raven was a converted warehouse turned dance club located, depending on your perspective, either within Blood Square--aka, the Vampire District or just outside of it. It was opened Wednesday through Sunday from eight in the evening to three in the morning. And, during the last three weeks, had enjoyed an increase in business across the days.

This Saturday was going to be no different.

"I'm sorry folks," the girl at the counter cheerfully said, "We're not open yet."

"We're here to see Quatre," Richard said gruffly.

The girl looked at the large group. "Um sure, let me see if he's still here," she said, disappearing through a hidden door behind the counter that led into the club.

A minute later, Quatre and Wufei came through the main doors to the club and into the lobby. "Yes?" he asked.

Even after Jason had described this new Ulfric, Richard was still shocked. This boy that barely whispers of power is their Ulfric, he thought, sizing up the small built boy.

Anita, however, wasn't thinking that. Her thoughts were running more along the lines that his power, what she could feel of it, tickled and comforted. It was an odd mixture. And the one with him, what she could feel of him spoke of power and fire.

"I believe you've been trying to get a hold of me," Richard said.

Quatre nodded. He recognised the six-foot plus, brown haired man from Jason's description. "We can talk in the club, Mr. Zeeman."

Quatre sighed to himself. This Ulfric wasn't happy and he'd brought a lot of friends -- three vampires, and a handful of shapeshifters--wolves unless he missed his guess. He wasn't sure what the woman was at the moment, but that could be settled during the introductions.

When they entered the main area of the club, the lights were moving in some pattern but the music that had been playing a few minutes earlier had stopped. Quatre lead them to the same area that Jason and them had sat in last week. "Duo, Nica stop the checks we have guests," Quatre called up toward the deejay platform, while indicating that they could all have a seat.

"Sure thing," a female voice called.

"We'll need to re-wire the computer system," a male voice muttered, "again. Old shit that's here, sucks."

"Hn," a third voice agreed.

Jason had quietly whispered the names of the people to Anita and Richard as they spoke or appeared. Heero, Duo, and Nica walked down from the deejay platform to join Quatre and Wufei. While Trowa, joined them from where he had been working on the lights up in the catwalks. "Computers?" he asked Heero.

Heero nodded before going to stand behind Quatre.

Several tables and stools had been pushed together to form a meeting a table. Quatre sat down on the middle stool on one side while Duo and Nica took the stools on either side of him. The other three remained standing.

Richard chose to sit directly across from Quatre--Ulfric to Ulfric--while Anita sat down across from Nica, and Jean Claude sat down across from Duo. The other vampires and weres stood behind the seated three with the exception of Shang Da and Jamil who stood at either end of the table.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Zeeman, I'm Quatre Winner," Quatre told him, then introduced his pack, giving no titles because to them they didn't need titles. The last thing he did before turning introductions over to Richard was to look Jean Claude directly in the eye. "I was unaware that the Master of the City would be this interested in our politics. Nonetheless, it's a pleasure to have you here."

Jean Claude's face remind unreadable, but his interests were peaked even more than they had been. This young pup obviously paid attention to local preternatural politics.

"Allow me introduce my companions," Richard said introducing Anita as his Lupa, having agreed with the approval of his pack that she would continue in that position until Richard found another mate.

Quatre started forming questions then, that was not the woman he'd meet at the Cafe. And, of course Quatre had already identified Jean Claude as Master of the City but Richard then furthered the introduction by telling them that Jean Claude had the power to call wolves, all types of wolves. "Shang Da and Jamil are my Hati and Skoll," he said pointing to the two large men on either end of the table acting like bodyguards. And then to the Vampires, "Asher and Damian are with Jean Claude." He left Anita to introduce Micah who was standing behind her.

"Asher is my second in command," Jean Claude said pointing to the tall blonde vampire standing behind him. He knew they made a striking pair, one light and one dark. "Damian is... Well Damian just is," he said acknowledging the vampire with the blood red hair and bright green eyes. He didn't quite know how to define Damian.

"This is Micah," she said reaching up to touch the hand he had resting on her shoulder. "He is my Nimir-raj for the Blooddrinkers Clan."

Quatre looked at her closely again, she's a lupa and a nimir-ra...

"Jason, I believe you already know," Richard ended the introductions sarcastically.

Nica looked through the confusing group after their introductions and then directly at Jason who stood next to Micah behind Anita. "What happened to your face, Jason?" she asked.

"A misunderstanding," was the quiet answer she received from him.

"Because of us?" she pressed.

Jason didn't answer. The sharp looks from Richard and Shang Da stopping him.

"You deny him the right to speak?" Duo asked. "So, what did you do to your imposter Lupa then?" Out of sight of the others and from his position behind Quatre, Heero ran his hand down Duo's braid to give him comfort and to restrain him a little. He knew Duo didn't like people he considered friends to suffer for things he did, but not playing their political game now could be dangerous later.

A prickle of power floated around the room. Anita glared at Richard for a second but answered. "She'll be handled." For some reason, Duo believed her instantly.

"Jason knows his place," Richard answered.

Duo looked at Anita, "You let him do that?"

"To Jason or my leopards. No."

"Then why does he have bruises?" Nica asked. She liked the young wolf who reminded her of her brother.

"Because I wasn't in a position to stop him," Anita admitted.

Richard growled," He is my wolf and I can punish him how I see fit."

"Stick, ass," muttered Duo under his breath, earning him a glare from his sister and a tug on his braid from Heero.

Micah had been silent through out but he cleared his throat, "Maybe we should talk about the matters at hand," he suggested. "You're in St. Louis because," he offered.

"We are in St Louis because I got a job here at Raven and where I go the pack goes," Nica answered.

"Then you are his Lupa?" Richard asked.

"Ah, no, don't think her boyfriend would like that," Duo stated, his grin growing at the idea of Quatre and his sister in any type of relationship besides that of very close friends.

"Neither would mine," Quatre added. "The club," Quatre clarified, "hired Nica and Duo to spice up their show. And, they brought in Heero and Trowa to help them." Quatre shrugged. "It's business."

"No, I wouldn't like that at all," Trowa said under his breath from where he leaned against the wall, just loud enough for Quatre and Wufei to hear earning him a smile from both.

"I believe you are very good at your jobs, if the decline in my business is anything to go by," Jean Claude commented.

Quatre smiled. "It's the atmosphere, music, and age of the clientele."

"I'm happy for you both," Richard started to say, but Anita interrupted him. "There's been some 'problems' in town lately."

"What kind of problems?" Wufei asked stepping forward until he was pressed against Nica's back.

"Ah, and you want to know how long we've been here, how long we're staying, whether we did it?" Duo questioned.

"Yes," Anita answered matter-of-factly.

"No politics," Quatre said. "I love it."

Nica leaned forward on the table. "We'll answer your questions, if you answer ours."

"I think we can do that," Anita agreed.

"What would you like to know?" Jean Claude asked, showing his willingness to cooperate as he leaned forward on the table instead of his usual slouch

"We've had people attacked," Jason said answering Wufei's earlier question. "Two humans and three lycanthropes. The most recent of which died before she could shift."

"Jason!" Richard threatened, not liking the fact that Jason liked them and trusted them with pack business so readily.

Moving closer to Anita and Micah, Jason replied, "What? I know these people. They are shifters and have a right to know too, since she," he said pointing to Nica, "Could be in danger."

"The one's from the paper?" Nica said, looking at Anita instead of directing her questions to Richard.

Anita looked at Nica and nodded.

Heero spoke for the first time. "MO?" He was his group's Skoll, one of two enforcers or protectors for his pack and their safety was among the highest of his priorities. Besides he didn't want to see what would happen if Nica were hurt because they weren't informed of some danger. Duo would surely kill someone and if not him then Wufei.

This time Shang Da answered. "We know very little."

"What can you tell us?" Wufei pressed for more information.

"Not that I'm not enjoying this," Nica said. "But I've got to open in less than an hour. If you're staying in the 'dead zone', I'm going to work on the sound system. I'm mic'ed so I can hear and talk to you from the platform via Duo."

Quatre nodded as Nica stood to leave, Wufei taping her on the nose. "Keep it down, if you can," he told her.

Asher stepped up and addressed the young woman. "Ms Maxwell, would you mind if I see what makes your music so special?"

Nica looked at the vampire wondering why he hid part of his face behind his hair in a way that reminded her of Trowa. "It's Nica, and sure," she answered, looking the vampire directly in the eyes. There were enough people around that she felt safe granting him his request.

Jean Claude didn't miss the way she looked at Asher and met his eyes. Who was this woman and what kind of power did she have? His curiosity about this new pack peeked just a bit more.

"Merci," he said, following her up the stairs. Thank you.

The exchange of information started well, or as well as could be expected. The guest pack was given a quick overview of the attacks on the weres. There'd been five of them so far--three weres and two humans. All female. Only one person, were, had died, but the humans would be in the hospital for a while.

"When we get more information we'll let you know," Richard told them, knowing that Anita had already been called in on the case and would have access to all the police reports soon. The RPIT, a police unit that dealt with preternatural cases and often called on Anita for her assistance, if they hadn't already called her, they would be.

Quatre looked across the table at the three people sitting there, he knew there was something else about the three of them, he could fill the power strumming through them. He could also tell that Richard was hiding something about the reports. "You're lying to me," Quatre said quietly, unmasking some of his power letting it roll over the other Ulfric.

Richard immediately bristled as he felt Quatre's power roll through him. "How dare you?" He growled also letting his beast free and opening the marks between he and Anita and Jean Claude, letting some of the power from the triumvirate flow across the visiting wolves.

"Mr. Zeeman, I am not Ulfric of our little band without having my own powers. Like Anita, there are powers that are individual to her as a human, I had my own powers before I was affected and one of those was the ability to 'read' a person," Quatre explained. "I know that you haven't told me everything you know," he continued. "However, since people are starting to arrive, I suggest we meet again another time," Quatre suggested pointing behind Richard to the few customers entering the bar. At the most they would only have another thirty minutes before the early arrivals became too many people.

"We expect to have some answers," Heero added to Quatre's statement. "I want to know if there is anything we should be aware of that will cause any harm to us."

"Just who do you think you are demanding answers?" Shang Da asked from his position at the end of the table closest to Heero.

"I am Skoll and it is my job to protect Quatre and the pack," Heero answered.

When Richard pulled the power from Anita and Jean Claude, Nica and Asher stopped their conversation on the music and light system and the additional harmonics and pitches used in the music to stare down at the tables. Nica pushed a button on the gear she wore over her ear and asked her brother about what was physically happening since she could hear most of the conversation. "Politics," she muttered under her breath.

She'd almost forgotten the vampire was there until he answered with an, "Oui" and a tired smile.

She smiled back. "I think the meeting is breaking up and I need to change before we open." She pushed a few buttons on the console and a canned set started--music, lights, and all, before hoping off the front of the platform and heading for a backroom. "It was nice talking to you," she threw over her shoulder. "Maybe we can talk again." She never saw Asher's nod of agreement or his silent assessment of her as she left.

Shang Da saw the female werewolf jump off the platform and head for the backroom. He growled quietly to himself. To him, she'd basically discarded Richard's power in the city when she'd left the table. Then, then she had agreed to let the vampire accompany her. He'd had too many run-ins with vampires in the past and didn't like them. He only tolerated Jean Claude's vampires because of Richard and the fact that he knew in no uncertain terms Anita would kill him if any harm came to Jean Claude and a select few other vampires.

Micah nudged Anita and tipped his head toward Shang Da and the statement on his face. Anita nodded, understanding what her mate was telling her. "Why don't we plan to meet again, maybe tomorrow, and we'll give you any information we have," she suggested hoping to break the tension between the two packs.

Quatre saw his remaining people nod. "That's fine. Here?"

Anita nodded. Sunday afternoon would be fine. It would be just the weres. Anita, reached under the table and squeezed Richards leg in a 'make nice' message. "That would be fine," She agreed and her acceptance was echoed by Jean Claude first and then eventually Richard.

***

It was late when Anita finally fell into bed, sandwiched between Nathaniel and Micah. She had gone back to Circus of the Dammed with Richard and Jean Claude and proceeded to listen as Richard ranted about the nerve of the interlopers in his territory. The rising tempers and the extra emotions flowing through the marks from Richard pressed on her own powers until she could feel the ardeur rising in her and needed to escape before she had to give into it. Jean Claude had promised to try and calm Richard down as she left with Micah, knowing his control of it was better than hers.

Leaving the Circus and getting away from the high emotions had calmed her own emotions. She and Micah had picked up Nathaniel from Guilty Pleasures after he danced the early set and headed to her little house in the middle of nowhere.

Now she was comfortable in bed with Nathaniel's comforting warmth pressed against her chest and the scent of vanilla filling her nose. Micah lay pressed behind her, his hand caressing her hip.

"This isn't going to be good," he whispered against her ear, nibbling slightly.

"I know," Anita agreed rolling over so that she could see Micah's face.

"Richard is wound too tight and it's only going to get someone hurt."

Anita knew who Micah was referring too when he said someone. That someone meant her, she was Bolverk, by choice and because Richard needed someone to do the dirty work for him since he was too squeamish to do it himself. She didn't want to fight the newcomers. She'd gotten a good feeling from them. There was an energy that flowed around them that didn't just speak of untold power but of something else. Maybe it was the group mind Rafael had spoke of before she and Micah merged packs. Was that how she, Micah, and the leopards felt to others? It made her want to get to know them better.

"Why don't you go get to know them before Richard has his next meeting with Quatre. They aren't our enemy," Micah suggested leaning down to kiss her lips.

"Maybe I will," she agreed sleepily, reaching up to push back a curl from his face and run her hand through his loosened hair. She rolled back over and spooned against Nathaniel who never budged when she moved. She felt Micah return to his position behind her, his slim body solid and comforting behind her.

=====

Anita found herself standing in front of The Raven at one o'clock on Sunday afternoon. Richard and whomever he brought with him weren't due to arrive for several hours. She tried the door and to her surprise found it open. There was no one behind the counter so she continued on into the club.

"Duo Maxwell!" Anita heard Nica exclaim. "That's not funny."

"Yes," he said, dancing out of the girl's reach, "it is."

Anita couldn't see exactly what they were doing, but could tell it was just in jest between the two siblings. That was another interesting thing--siblings both being infected and by the same flavor. And, if her guess was right, it had happened at the same time.

Anita cleared her throat to gain their attention. It was a little strange when they both turned to her at the same time and with very similar expressions. It was Duo that spoke first. "You're very early, you know?"

It was a rhetorical question, but she answered anyway. "Yes, but I thought it might be better to get to know you before the others arrive and we get mired down in politics again."

Duo shrugged. "Sure, I can see that. Have a seat." Duo gestured to the same area and tables they'd sat at the day before.

Anita noticed that like the day before they both wore what appeared to be comfortable clothing. Both had jeans on, Duo's black while Nica's were just a faded blue. Nica had on a baggy, long-sleeved green shirt that proclaimed the name of a Performing Arts School. Duo had a red t-shirt with a long sleeve black button up shirt, unbuttoned, thrown over it. They looked like they belonged on a college campus somewhere.

When Nica sat down across from her, Anita noticed the embroidery on the shirt. It was for a college and obviously Nica had attended the school.

Noticing the attention to her shirt, Nica answered the unasked question. "I have a Masters in Fine Arts for theatre staging--lights, sets, sound, etc." Pointing to her brother, "He's got one for costuming, make-up and set design. Basically, he designs, then we build."

Anita looked between the two, maybe they had misjudged their ages. "Exactly how old are you?" she asked.

"Almost 25, " he said pointing to himself, then pointing to his sister, "23."

Or maybe not, Anita thought. She had taken them for much younger but they were, in actuality, only a few years younger then her.

"Wait. You're an almost and I'm not?" Nica glared at her brother. "My birthday is before yours."

"And I'm still older."

Anita was smiling. "How do you put up with it?" she asked.

"What?"

"All the guys? I'll admit I'm not a good go out with the girl friends kind of person but..." Anita said. She didn't understand sibling bantering, she'd never had that and other than Ronnie, she'd never had a close group of friends. Although maybe she should revise that never before she was sucked into the Jean Claude and Richards world had she ever had a group of friends like Nica did.

"I'd like to strangle them all sometimes," Nica answered, "but then my life would be boring and very quiet." She smiled and shrugged. "Oh well."

"So," Duo said, interrupting while glaring at his sister, "what do you want to know?"

"How long you've been weres, how you got infected, where you came from, how you all meet, general information like that?" Anita figured that was good to start with, she could ask for more if needed.

"Basically everything then," Duo said, laughing. At Anita's no he continued, "The first I can answer," Duo said, "but some are for the others to answer themselves." Anita nodded knowing how someone got infected was personal and not his to just share.

"Between eight and almost ten years ago," Nica answered for her brother. "Duo and I were last. And," she added, "if it helps I'm the youngest. Trowa, Wufei and Heero are all 25. Quatre's 24, like him." She nudged her brother.

"What happened to the two of you?"

Duo and Nica looked at one another and Nica shrugged, it was her way of telling him it was okay to tell Anita their story. "We were attending a special school for performing arts...

..."Come on, Duo!" the auburn-haired, pony-tailed girl exclaimed, pulling on the hand of the boy with her, "we're going to be late."

Duo planted his feet, bringing them both to a halt. His long cinnamon-colored hair pulled back into braid flew forward then back. The girl stumbled a step as her forward motion was stopped. "Nica," he said, moving them from the center of the sidewalk, "we're both in, stop worrying." He smiled at his younger sister. This was the first time since their grandmother had become ill that either had been happy. He pushed her forward a little with a "slower" and then they took off again.

Five minutes later they found themselves in the offices of their new high school--a school for the performing arts--filling out last minute paperwork.

That had been four months ago, now Duo found himself laying in a hospital bed and yelling at this lady in white. "I don't give a shit what you think!" he yelled. "Untie these things, I want to see my sister!"

The nurse backed away from the angry young man and out of the room. Duo grinned, he'd gotten her out of the room, now to get what he needed. He moved around on the bed until his hand could move enough to reach his braid and the tools hidden within. His grandmother was a woman of many talents. Thanks Grams, he thought when less than two minutes later he had his hands released and then his feet.

He was out the door and moving down the hall before anyone noticed, or so he thought. A fast moving blur stopped him, pushing him gently into the wall. "You're not supposed to be up," said the blur that had turned into a young man with Asian skin tones, unruly brown hair, and the deepest blues eyes Duo had ever seen.

Duo's thought that the boy was very cute only lasted a second as he remembered that his sister was here somewhere. He relaxed against the wall then shoved with all the strength he had against the boy moving him enough to get around him them shoving him into the wall not so gently. "I want to see my sister!" he demanded.

The boy's face showed the shock of not having expected that move from the injured young man. The boy pinned to the wall stared into the violet, unwavering gaze that spoke of the other doing anything he had to get down the hall.

A quiet, kind voice interrupted both the boy's thoughts. "Heero, show Duo to his sister's room. It will calm him down."

Heero nodded at the newcomer, a small blonde boy who radiated both power and peace at the same time. Duo too, seemed to relax and allowed himself to be guided down the hall. But, Heero could tell that the boy was still alert and would spring into action again if he didn't get to the room soon.

Duo stood stunned in the doorway to his sister's room, he slowly approached the bed. "What's wrong with her?" he whispered, his violet eyes starting to pool with unshed tears. Not again, he thought.

"The same thing that's wrong with you," the blonde, who's name he discovered was Quatre, said. "You both were attacked by a werewolf." Duo nodded, remembering the horrible run in with the madman. "Your wounds are almost healed," Quatre continued. For the first time since he woke up and started yelling at the nurse, Duo noticed the badges on his chest and arms, and the slight bit of pain. Not to mention the chills that came and went.

Duo stood there. "What about Nica?"

"Her wounds were worse than yours," Quatre answered, "but she's healing." Duo nodded as he dragged the chair in the room closer to the bed.

Quatre wasn't going to tell the boy that he couldn't stay in the room. It would probably take the devil himself to get the boy to move and that wouldn't even be towards the door. If Duo started shivering or complaining of being cold then he'd worry about getting Duo back to his room.

"Where are we?" Duo finally asked. "What are you? I can feel you standing there."

Quatre spent the next twenty minutes explaining things to Duo, knowing that some of it was sinking in and other parts would have to be repeated when the young girl on the bed didn't hold the majority of Duo's attention. Duo heard enough to know that both he and Nica had been infected with lycanthropy, wolf lycanthropy to be precise. And, that the blonde was his sponsor--the person to help him through the changes that would and were occurring.

At that moment, a tall thin youth and a youth of obvious Chinese descent walked in with an older girl. "I am Lucrezia Noin," she said, "I'll be your sister's sponsor."

"No," Duo said, thinking this meant they were going to break him and his sister apart, "she stays with me." The whole time Duo had sat in the chair he'd been holding his sister's hand, he didn't let go when he stood and turned to look at Noin.

As soon as Duo had stood, the Chinese boy had placed himself between Noin and Duo. Noin shook her head no at the same time she squeezed Wufei's shoulder to let him know it was okay. "We're not going to separate you," she told the distressed boy, "but she may feel better about having another girl to talk to." She let the end of the sentence hang in the air.

"Oh," Duo relaxed a little, looking down at his sister and then back up at this Noin person, "okay."

The next several months weren't easy, far from it. The siblings had to learn to balance their old lives with their new ones. Duo's transition was easier than his sister's. He'd quickly become friends with Quatre and then Wufei. Heero, he didn't know what to think of him. And Trowa, well Trowa was just too quiet sometimes.

Nica though, while she talked to Noin, their pack's lupa, she shied away from everyone but her brother and Quatre. She wasn't shy, but the attack, injury, and infection had affected Nica in ways that her brother didn't have to worry about--she needed longer to process everything. You could say she stopped processing one evening when she'd finally had it with Wufei and snapped, pushing him into a wall with more force than she'd meant.

Their fight had broken up when Trowa came into the room to tell them that someone had spotted the attacker from Duo's drawing and Zechs, their Ulfric, had ordered the hunt....

..."You killed him?" It was more of a statement than a question from Anita as Duo finished his story of how he and Nica became infected.

Duo just smirked. "Of course."

"Good," Anita declared nodding. She liked Duo. He was as matter of fact about taking care of business as she was. That boded well for them being able to work together to catch this stalker.

"That answers another question," she muttered to herself.

Duo snickered. "Which question?"

Anita forgot for a moment that they were weres. "Sorry. I was just letting a few pieces fall into place."

"Like," Duo prompted.

Anita shook her head. "Who Quatre and the tall one, Trowa?" she prompted and Duo nodded, "were talking about."

"So, have you figured us out?" Nica asked, curious to see if Anita could get the pairings right, most people couldn't unless they saw them out somewhere, like on the dance floor or out on a date.

"Not by a long shot," Anita answered. "But, the boyfriends that wouldn't be happy about you being lupa, correction," she said, "being romantically involved with Quatre are Trowa and Wufei?" she prompted.

"Yes," Nica answered, "but whose is who's?"

"You are all very subtle, when you want to be," she answered. "But you've each picked a person that balances you out. You have Wufei and Quatre has Trowa. And, Jason hinted at the fact that Heero seemed 'possessive' of Duo, is that true?"

Duo's checks colored a little, that was all the answer Anita needed. "Thought so."

"And how will the very heterosexual Richard react when he finds out?" Quatre asked. He'd appeared at the table and she hadn't even felt him approach.

"Honestly," she looked at the visiting Ulfric, "I have no clue."

Quatre came up and stood next to Anita, "Does that worry you?"

"Yes would be an understatement," she answered, "but he'll just have to deal." She paused for a moment, the conversation with the siblings had been going well, but she had to wonder now if their Ulfric would share as openly.

Quatre hated to read people, but Anita's thoughts were a bit loud in his head. She didn't want to offend, but she also wanted to keep her people safe, so he helped her by just answering what he thought she wanted to know.

"I was fifteen and some of my sisters wanted the family business so they contracted out," he said, nonchalantly. "They wanted me gone, an outcast. That part of their plan worked, but I found another family. Now I just eat away at their businesses and they never know it's me since most of them think I'm dead."

"Nice sisters you have there," Anita commented not really expecting an answer.

Quatre only nodded as he pulled out a chair and sat down next to her.

They continued to talk--some of it about the stalker who was attacking women and some of it just conversation about St Louis and preternatural stuff. They hadn't realized how long the four of them had been sitting there until the door to the club opened and several people walked in.

***

Richard walked into the club with Sylvie and Shang Da behind him. He figured after his show of power last night in the meeting that had including the vampires and Anita's leopard lover that he would go with minimal people today, or at least not the leopards and the vampires. Paris, while not being someone he wanted along because of the animosity between her and Anita, and he needed Anita there, had invited herself along and was only being allowed to remain as long as she kept quiet and didn't interfere with the plans as they were being made. Jason had of course come because Anita insisted he be present. Now he just needed to know where Anita was. He'd called her house several times as well as calling the Circus of the Damned and couldn't find her, no one knew where she was or if they did they were unwilling to tell him. Sometimes he got the feeling her leopards purposely lied to him when they could get away with it.

Finding Anita already at the club and apparently being quite chummy with the other pack was not what he wanted to see. How was she to remain loyal to his pack, Thronos Rokke Clan, if she was out making friends with the others?

"Anita," he said as he walked across the floor to greet Quatre and his pack and spotted her sitting there with him. "What are you doing here?"

"I got here early," she told him, leaving it at that. She didn't feel the need to tell them that she'd been here for the past several hours getting to know them and finding that she liked them and the kind of people they were.

Richard sat down across from Quatre again after introducing Sylvie and Paris to Quatre's pack as they took a seat on either side of him -- Sylvia sitting in the empty seat between he and Anita and Paris taking the seat between him and Jamil. Jason took a seat on the other side of Anita.

"Oh look it's the one who started all this trouble between us," Duo said under his breath causing both Nica and Anita to smile.

Richard glared at the two women when he heard the stifled snicker.

Sylvie leaned closer to Anita and whispered, "What's going on?"

Smiling a little more at Sylvie's question, Anita just said, "I'll tell you later."

Nodding Sylvie leaned even closer, "You like them, don't you." She stated rather than questioned, knowing Anita had already made up her mind and it probably wouldn't bode well with Richard.

They turned their attention to the meeting and the plans that were being made. Thursday was several days away and they needed to get things in order before then so everyone knew what they were doing. Now it was time to pick the 'lucky' person to pick as bait for the stalker.

"One of yours plays bait," Richard said. "One of mine, one from Rafael's, and one of hers." The last obviously meaning a wereleopard from Anita's pard. A wolf, a leopard, and a rat, representatives from the three most powerful groups of lycanthropes in St. Louis not counting the hyenas who refused to participate. "One or two at a time, rotating them if necessary."

"Looks like I'll be the bait...again..." Nica commented dryly.

"I'll do it," Sylvie offered.

"No!" Richard ordered. "Someone else can do it, but not you. I can't have my Geri put in that kind of danger."

"Richard, I won't put anyone into a situation I won't go into myself. I'm doing it," Sylvie told him firmly, making sure he understood.

"We'll discuss this later," Richard said through clenched teeth. He didn't need her challenging his authority right now, she was beginning to sound like Anita and that was something he didn't need either.

"Rafael can choose one of his people and I'll talk to Elizabeth. She's the strongest of my leopards but she also fits the profile of the women being attacked," Anita offered.

"No you can't," came a voice.

Anita whirled around in her seat and saw Merle coming across the floor. "What do you mean, 'No I can't'?"

"Lillian called," he said. "Micah sent me to tell you that Elizabeth was attacked last night and has been taken to a local hospital. It appears whoever has been attacking us got Elizabeth." He moved closer to Anita. "He has gone to the hospital to check on her and sent me to get you," he explained.

"You should go to your cat," Quatre told Anita. "This meeting can be postponed."

"You," Richard said, waving his hand in Quatre's direction, "are not in charge here,"

"That doesn't rule out the fact that she should go to her cat," Quatre replied, frankly.

Anita glared at Richard. "And neither are you. I am leaving to check on my leopard. You will NOT make any decisions that affect me or my leopards without me," she stated bluntly, leaving no room for argument. She said a quick good-bye and rushed out the door. Elizabeth was far from one of her favorite people, but she was still one of her leopards and her place was there with them and Micah.

When Anita left the club with Merle, Richard turned on Quatre. "Listen puppy," Richard's voice grew angry. "You are nothing here, watch your step."

Quatre's eyebrow quirked a little but he said nothing, instead it was Trowa that spoke. "I wouldn't be threatening him."

"You're a bunch of kids," Richard sneered.

Sylvie tried to interrupt but the glare that he shot her stopped her from making a sound. She knew Richard was barking up the wrong tree here and whatever he was doing could cause their pack trouble later.

"In your eyes we might be," Quatre replied, "but we are far from that."

Richard growled. "Oh really? And just what are you if you aren't kids?" It was close to the full moon and his temper was showing.

"We are the Pax Idun, we are from Pax Mani," Quatre answered, his voice never angering or changing.

Shang Da moved towards Richard as soon as the small blond had said 'pax'. The only werewolf clan he knew called Pax was in Seattle. He'd heard a lot about the northwestern clan when he lived in San Francisco. It was said that the Seattle Ulfric had killed the only Master Vampire in the area that could call wolves. "Richard," Shang Da said, trying to calm his Ulfric down. He knew that name could mean trouble for them if they weren't careful.

Richard shrugged him off. "And that means what to me?"

Trowa said two words. "Zechs Merquise."

Richard paused. He vaguely recalled Marcus, St. Louis' old Ulfric, mentioning that name but he couldn't remember in reference to what.

"Don't threaten us," Wufei said calmly, "You will not like the results."

"Now who's tossing threats?" Richard accused.

Quatre shook his head. "No one. We're not here for this, we're here to help find a stalker. A stalker killing weres."

For the first time since Richard entered The Raven that afternoon, Nica finally commented. "Richard," she said quietly to him. "Do you know what 'Idun' means?"

"No," he answered, looking to see if any of his people did. They didn't.

Nica had been sitting cross-legged on the stool, but dropped her legs down to the bar so that she could turn to look at Richard. "It means eternal youth," she explained. "The lot of us," she gestured to her group, "were infected before our seventeenth birthdays." She looked him in the eyes. "We're comfortable with who or if you prefer, what we are," she continued. "We don't like politics. Ten years is a long time to be involved in this game. Do you understand now?"

Shang Da was silently fuming. First the one called Wufei and then the girl. Did they have no respect for his Ulfric?

=====

Asher entered The Raven to a massive stimulant to the senses as the lights flashed and moved to the driving beat of music. He knew Jason was probably somewhere in the club, his friendship with the new wolf pack and the fact this place was new was the perfect draw for a young man like him. If he concentrated he could probably find the little wolf he knew the feel of Jason from the many times he'd fed off him. The lights changed their movements, their rhythm as the song changed. The crowded dance floor was moving--twisting, turning, caressing, and more with the lights and sounds.

Asher glided around the dance floor so he could get a better view of a small crowd circled around two dancers. As he closed in he could see that it was Heero and Duo. The couple danced seductively to the sounds. Asher listened to the words of the song as he continued to watch the couple dance. _Never made it as a wise man, I couldn't cut as a poor man stealing, and this is how you remind me, this is how you remind me of what I really am._

Until now, he wasn't sure how the taciturn boy, Heero and the long-haired emotional Duo could have any type of serious relationship together--romantic or otherwise. Obviously, opposites really did attract and those two seem to fit very well together as they danced to the music, seemingly unaware of the people watching them.

He spotted the tall boy and the little blonde ulfric by the bar, they looked like they were checking on business for the night. Asher had to wonder if Quatre was getting ready to get more involved with or buy the club. He'd done enough research of his own to know that Quatre was a businessman, very good one at that.

Walking around the dance floor to the other side of the club, Asher found a small area were he could stand, mostly in the shadows, and watch unobserved.

"Come on people," a female voice called over the sound system. Asher recognised the voice and turned to look at the deejay platform. "Dance!" The lights and music changed to a song with a faster beat and lyrics that wanted to know what the club goers were there for if it wasn't to dance. The crowd started moving and yelling a response every time the singer asked the question.

The next several songs were similar--fast paced, heavy beat driven. The crowds kept moving. Those not able to keep up took breaks and headed to the bar or tables. The club was at what it considered maximum capacity, but if they'd wanted to they could have let in another hundred.

The music changed, still a beat but more exotic. From the angle he now stood he could clearly see the platform. Nica was dressed in what looked like green silks. The top flared open a button below her breasts and bared her stomach, it was long enough that it reached to the cuffs of the matching shorts. She was moving with the music one of her hands wrapped around the neck of the person dancing to her back, the other resting on his thigh. One of the dancer's hands was splayed across her stomach, the other rested on her waist.

Asher stood their transfixed. He would not have believed that Wufei could or would move like that. Then again, he'd seen Heero dancing with Duo, and that had been unbelievable as well. The young Chinese man was dressed simply--nice fitting black jeans, and a grey t-shirt that hugged his body. The swayed and moved together as if they were alone up on the platform in an empty club. They are unique, Asher thought.

Nica brought her hand down from Wufei's neck to caress his other thigh, squeezing it gently before pulling away from him to manipulate the controls on the boards in front of her. Again, the lights and sounds changed, and again the lights almost seemed to make the world within the club vibrate with music and color.

As soon as she was done Wufei's hands were back, bring her back to him, turning her so that lips could meet. The kiss was passionate, and so was the new dance they were doing together. _Do you ever question your life? Do you ever wonder why? Do you ever see in your dreams all the castles in the sky? Oh tell me why, do we build castles in the sky?_

Asher stepped back into the shadows, he longed for that again.

=====

St. Louis had a moderate Asian section with shops and restaurants, and many people bustling in out of those stores and restaurants. There were several apothecary shops and marts--only one or two that specialised in truly exotic wares.

Wufei was looking for nothing in particular, though he did find a little restaurant that he knew he would have to bring everyone to tonight.

Shang Da turned a corner in the same area of town and spotted the Geri from the visiting pack of wolves. He purposely changed his path to coincide with Wufei's, so Wufei would run into him. "Well, if it isn't the Geri from the little Idun pack of puppies."

"What do you want?" Wufei asked of the taller man.

"From you? Nothing," Shang Da answered He didn't like Wufei and everything he learned about the boy caused him to like him even less.

"Then why are you in my face?" Wufei questioned.

"I don't think you have any honour and I don't like people who have no honour."

"And what did I do to make you think I don't have honour?" Wufei asked between clenched teeth, his power simmered just below the surface, being fed by his raising anger.

"You were Geri of the Pax Mani and you lost. You lost to a boy and now you let him lead you," Shang Da said in contempt.

"No, I didn't lose. I stepped down to avoid killing a friend. Quatre is my friend and to me...or rather us...friendship is more important than political games." Wufei tried to explain.

Shang Da wasn't listening though. "That is a weak excuse."

"No," Wufei said, "It is neither weak nor an excuse. It is a statement of fact," he paused. "And that 'boy' as you called him is far from weak."

"So you say," Shang Da said, "but we'll see." Wufei started to side step around him, but was stopped when Shang Da grabbed his arm, "And your bitch," he sneered, "is barely an alpha, she has no power."

Shang Da wasn't able to say more, Wufei had reversed the hold the on his arm as soon as he'd started his next sentence. "Oh, she's more then barely an alpha don't you worry. Piss either of them off and they'll show you just how alpha they can be," Wufei said, giving Shang Da a little shove to clear the way, then walked down the sidewalk and away from the older man.

Both men were silently fuming. Wufei wasn't quite sure what Shang Da's problem with him was, but he would keep an eye on the Hati just in case. He silently laughed to himself, he to had thought Quatre weak when he was first brought to Zechs. That was no longer the case...

...Wufei had been with the Pax Mani since the time he'd become infected, and had fought his way to Skoll and then to Geri. He'd been the youngest in the pack and now was considered the most dangerous under their Ulfric, but he had to question why no one considered their lupa dangerous--for he had seen the power she could wield when she wished.

Five months after Wufei became a member of the Mani, two boys arrived in the area from Canada. Like Wufei, they'd been infected early and like Wufei, Zechs had made sure they had a pack to belong to--a place to call home, Noin had said. Heero and Trowa had quickly adapted then ousted the old Skoll and Hati for their jobs.

Then came the small blonde boy -- small in statue, but not small in power or mind. He moved into the Freki position without having to kill anyone. The challengers had been tough, but had probably kept Trowa worrying more than Quatre.

Within several months he'd stood and looked at the two more new members of his pack. A long-haired boy and his sister, infected because he, Heero and Trowa had been too slow in catching the runner. They'd had to wait on finding the runner--he'd gone to ground--until the two new ones were settled in. However, Duo had given them the one thing they hadn't had before, a picture of the runner's face. The boy could definitely draw.

A year or so after that the blonde asked him to switch positions with him. Quatre had proven he had power, lots of it. And Wufei was hard pressed not to admit that while he could beat Quatre in a physical challenge and both were mentally capable of being Geri, but heart was something he didn't have and Quatre did. He'd be kind when needed and tough when called for; and with the Idun, as Zechs had started calling their little group, Zechs was a force to be feared.

As for Nica, who'd have thought that the one person he would let throw him into a wall would become his mate, the one that completed him. But that's what happened...

...Shang Da for reasons still unknown to himself, just didn't like the younger boy and his 'girlfriend.' And their, Hati was starting to rub him wrong as well, he just had no idea how to hold his tongue.

***

Sylvie entered the hospital room and stood at the foot of the bed as she looked at Anita worriedly. "How did Jean Claude take the news about the Pax Mani?

Anita looked at Sylvie confused. "I have no idea what you're talking."

Sylvie backed up a step. "I thought Richard would have told you about the Idun, the Mani." Sylvie was now reconsidering her next move.

Anita looked up at her from where she sat next to Elizabeth's bed. "Just tell me, Sylvie, I won't shoot the messenger. Richard maybe," she joked. "But not the messenger."

Sylvie relaxed and sat in the empty chair. Then started at the beginning, telling her about Richard's threats to Quatre's pack--the Pax Idun, the Pax Mani, and ex-Master Vampire.

Anita appeared pissed yet calm. "Damnit," she said. "When is he going to realise that if it effects one of us, it effects us all?" She'd be the first one to admit that when it came to saving the life of someone important to her, she didn't always take the easy route and often ended up hurt because of it. But no matter how much she and Jean Claude tried to impress upon him that it wasn't just his life alone he was playing with anymore it was all three of theirs, Richard never seemed to think about it. He wasn't happy with himself most of the time and wasn't happy with the triumvirate but saw it as a necessary evil to protect the wolves. The only thing Anita often wondered is who would protect the wolves from Richard.

"I don't know, " answered Sylvie. And she really didn't. She was in the unique and not enviable position of hearing both sides to an argument between Anita and Richard and being a neutral person she could understand both points of view, even though her own tended to run towards Anita's rather than Richard's.

All further discussion was halted by a knock at the door. The door slowly opened to reveal Nica. "Is this a bad time?" she asked. "I wanted to check on you and your leopard."

Anita waved to Nica to come in. "She'll be fine. We'll need to move her soon before the full moon but we have a couple days to play with and Lillian will help us spring her once she's healed a little more. Other than the girl who died Elizabeth has been the worst case. He seems to be escalating." Anita answered. "We need to talk, but not here. Galen?" she called, referring to the wereleopard standing guard outside the door.

Galen poked his head into the room. He was a tall, lean white man who'd come to St. Louis several months earlier, and when he spoke he had a light British accent. "Yes?" he inquired.

"Please stay with Elizabeth," she said, "It's time for a little girl talk at the coffee shop," Anita said as she stood and crossed the room to stand with Nica and Sylvie who'd stood as soon as Nica came in.

Galen nodded and as the three women left came all the way into the room, taking the chair Anita had previously occupied and sat down beside the bed.

Anita didn't mind leaving Elizabeth in Galen's care, she trusted him. She trusted him with her life and she trusted him with Nathaniel's safety when the younger man wasn't with her. She felt an affinity to the man almost as soon as she met him...

...Anita didn't know why Louie had asked her to the party he was throwing for the Anthropology department at his house. It wasn't her type of party and he knew that but he'd asked her to come and bring Micah with her as a date. So she and Micah had dressed up suitable for normal people--Anita in a pantsuit and Micah in a suit and tie that matched his eyes--and went. The minute she walked into the door she knew why Louie had invited her. He wanted her to meet someone. She'd long past learned the feel of the various shapehsifters she associated with on a regular basis in the way a connoisseur can tell the difference of a fine wine.

"Anita, Micah, I'm glad you came," Louie said as they walked through to the living room.

"Louie, thanks for inviting us," Micah answered.

"I'd like to introduce you to Galen. He recently joined the Anthropology department."

The minute Anita touched him she knew he was a shifter, she could feel the tickle of power that leaked through his control. She just didn't know what flavour. "Galen, it's good to meet you," she said releasing his hand so he could shake hands with Micah.

"It's a pleasure," he said with a soft British accent. "I've heard good things about you."

Anita raised her eyebrow. "Should I be worried?" she asked smiling.

Galen smiled. "Not at all. Knowing you were here is part of the reason why I took the teaching assignment in America."

Now Anita's curiosity was peeked. "Oh really?" she questioned.

"Oh yes. The reputation of how you take care of your people is well know among certain communities."

"You're famous," Micah teased, running his hand down Anita's back and resting it on the small of her back.

"Infamous is a better word," Anita said laughing.

"I'd like to talk to you more sometime in another setting," Galen asked.

"You can meet me at Circus of the Damned later tonight. I'll leave your name at the entrance and you will be shown through," Anita told him. She hadn't intended going back to the Circus she had been planning to go back to her house for an evening alone with Micah. This was something she couldn't pass up, however. Louie wouldn't have introduced her to Galen if he wasn't a leopard and she and Micah needed to meet with him, if only to find out his intentions. She leaned a little closer to Micah, they would have to put their special night off. In the six months since they'd met they had started spending some time alone together once in a while to strengthen their relationship beyond what the ardeur and the fact that they were the mated leaders of the leopards had thrown them into.

"That will be fine," Galen agreed before moving off to talk to more people.

Anita and Micah had accepted his request to join the pard and audition for the position of bodyguard. She'd had a surprise the first time she'd seen him shift, which he did almost as effortlessly as Micah. She was used to the normal tawny coat and Micah and Elizabeth's black coats, but his was a smoky grey tinged with gold and was thicker then any of the other leopards in the pard. They soon learned he could be trusted when without being asked he'd helped Nathaniel out of another potentially bad situation. To Galen the pard and its safety was important and that, in Anita's eyes, made him more than welcome and also made him her chief enforcer as Merle was to Micah...

...Leaving the hospital, the three women walked down the block to nearest coffee shop. Ordering so they wouldn't be accused of loitering, they then took a table in the back of the shop to talk. Anita sat quietly for a moment then looked up at Nica. "I'm going to get straight to the point, is Jean Claude in any danger?"

Nica looked confused. "I don't understand."

Sylvie explained that she told Anita about the events at the club after Anita had left.

"Ah," Nica replied, then muttered, "shouldn't that have been Richard's job."

A look passed between Sylvie and Anita, Nica was slowly catching on as to how business with Richard often went. Anita answered. "Yes, but that wasn't my question."

Nica looked directly into Anita eyes and answered. "No, not unless he hurts a member of the family. Nothing less than what you would do."

Anita nodded at that and finally took a drink of her coffee now that she knew Jean Claude wasn't in any danger, but still questioned. "Yours or the Mani's?"

"Both," she replied. "We are all Pax. If something happens to the Idun, Zechs will react." She shrugged. "I didn't think it would be an issue here, but would you do less if you were in his place."

Anita shook her head. "No, I'll do whatever it takes to keep my people safe."

Sylvie nodded at that answer. She knew Anita well enough to know that she meant what she said and she'd proven that many times over from rescuing her, to Gregory and Nathaniel, to Richard himself.

"That is Zech's opinion as well," Nica replied. "It is what he lives by. That's why he killed Crawford."

Anita had a feeling there was a story there, but she decided to save it for another time. Especially with the almost invisible shiver that coursed through Nica's body at the mention of the vampire. Anita wondered if Nica even noticed the small reaction.

The three all sighed in relief, then laughed. They were definitely living in interesting times.

***

Wufei had been right when he said that the Idun would like this place. The Emerald House was a dim sum and sushi restaurant that served wonderful Chinese cuisine. The Idun sat at a table near the back of the restaurant quietly eating and talking about the people they'd met in St. Louis. They'd been here almost a month, coming in right after the last full moon with the next one in a few days.

They'd quickly found a house in the city with a two-car garage, a necessity with three motorcycles, a car, a Jeep Liberty, and a huge truck. The question, and they still hadn't come up with an answer, was how long were they going to be in St. Louis. They liked to travel, but having a home was nice too. And, while they knew they could always go home to Seattle, and would do so if Zechs or Noin called them, they wanted to be out on their own for a while longer.

It was obvious that Duo didn't have a high opinion of Richard. No one really knew what Richard was thinking and it seemed to all of them that his pack didn't either if Anita's comments were anything to go by. Nica seemed to think Sylvie made a good Geri and Wufei told them about his run in with Shang Da.

"He's a prick," Duo commented between bites. Wufei's only response was to tilt his chopsticks in a shrug-like motion.

Quatre looked around the table. "Opinions on the Master of the City?"

Heero finished chewing then commented, "I called Dorothy."

Quatre nodded. "Probably a good idea. Did she or the Master know of the vampires here?" he asked. Knowing that Relena Dorlian, Seattle's Master of the City, liked to have her fingers in everything. And if she didn't, her Human Servant--which no one really thought the word 'servant' went with Dorothy, but what's in a title--would.

"Not personally, no, but they had heard of Jean Claude and knew of his reputation with the council and the fact he had a long history with Asher although they weren't sure what. But the name Anita Blake is known among the vampires. She was once and probably still is known as 'The Executioner'. I got the impression from Dorothy there is a lot we don't know about Anita and that she's not someone to take lightly," Heero relayed.

They found Anita to be very eclectic she was a necromancer, a werewolf lupa or their Bolverk--dispatcher of evil--just depended on who you asked, a Nimir-ra, and a member of a Triumvirate. And as Heero just pointed out, 'The Executioner.'

"Her plate's full," commented Trowa. "Must compartmentalize."

"I could have told you that," Nica replied a little sarcastically. Trowa and Heero glared at her for a moment. "Girl talk," she added with a grin.

"You've talked to one of vampires one-on-one?" Heero asked, his glare gone an inquisitive look replacing it.

Not looking up she replied that Asher only looked sad and seemed to be interested in what made The Raven tick and if it could work for the JC Corporation's businesses.

"He seems to play referee between Anita and Richard," Wufei commented, going back to the original question about Jean Claude, while stealing a piece of beef off Nica's plate with his chopsticks.

Nica turned her head to look at Wufei, he smiled at her and held out his chopsticks for her to eat from.

"It must be hard on their triumvirate," Duo said, moving his empty plate away from him. He grinned at Wufei when his friend signaled for the waiter to bring the cart with the pastries to their table.

"I'm sure," Nica commented. "I wonder how they work it if they don't talk to one another?"

"Maybe they have another person who can, I don't know channel Richard, when they need it," Duo replied.

"Hn," Heero said, taking the cup of coffee away from Duo, his lover didn't need another cup so soon, "but is it as effective as having the alpha ulfric present?"

"Maybe it's not the fact that he's an Ulfric, maybe it's just the marks between them, and another member of the pack who is tied to him can call that power for them," Trowa suggested.

"Guess Nica could ask," Duo grinned over at his sister. "More of that girl-talk stuff."

"I could," she said smiling. "If you make it worth my while," she said teasingly.

"And what would you like," Wufei whispered suggestively in her ear.

Duo glared at both of them, "Knock off you two."

"Yeah," Trowa laughed, "You're almost as bad as Duo and Heero."

"Funny," Heero replied, "I was thinking the same of you and Quatre."

The group ended up laughing. They knew each other far too well.

"Let's go home," Trowa suggested, reaching across the table to take Quatre's hand.

***

"This pack isn't exactly stable," Quatre said, as he and Trowa entered their room, shucking his coat.

"And you're worried," Trowa guessed. He took Quatre's coat and hung it up shedding his coat next and hanging it next to Quatre's

"Yes," Quatre said as he watched Trowa, embracing him as soon as his lover's hands were empty.

"You're always worried, Little One." Trowa walked his lover towards their bed. "I can take you mind off of it for a while."

"Please," Quatre said leaning into Trowa's embrace.

"You think the troubles here will come back on us, don't you?" he asked his smaller lover.

Quatre sighed, running his hands up and down Trowa's back. "Yes, I do. But I don't want to think about that tonight."

"I'm sure I can come up with something to distract you," Trowa said quietly as he leaned down and captured Quatre's lips.

"Mmm..." I'm sure you can. You usually do," Quatre answered as Trowa pulled away and started to undress him.

With their clothes littering the bedroom floor, Trowa gently laid Quatre back on the wide bed. He kissed a path down his smaller lover's body, making sure that no inch was left unkissed, uncaressed. The more Trowa aroused his lover the more his own arousal was stoked. Reaching the end of his own endurance, he crawled back up Quatre's body, fitting their erections together as he embraced Quatre, rolling them over so that Quatre was lying on his chest. Slowly they started to move, rocking together until they both came with muffled cries.

Reaching off the side of the bed, Quatre grabbed Trowa's discarded t-shirt to clean themselves with.

"I hope that wasn't a good shirt," Trowa said, amused as Quatre pitched the now sticky shirt back off the side of the bed.

"Me too," Quatre answered as he snuggled down next to his lover, his head resting on Trowa's chest.

"Je t'aime, mon petite," Trowa whispered to Quatre before they both feel into a restful sleep.

***

Another coffee shop, another day. "A girl after my own heart," Anita said.

Nica laughed. "Just don't let Duo know I came here without him." She looked up at the menu. "Correction, don't let the other four know either," Nica said as she ordered a vanilla-caramel-cinnamon concoction. "They seem to think there's more coffee than blood in my system.

"A good cup of coffee can brighten the day," Anita replied.

"Or night," Sylvie joked.

Laughing about their addiction to coffee, they didn't notice the group of men who'd come into the coffee shop until the group sat at a table next to them.

Nica caught the eye of one of them and smiled at them before turning back to Anita and Sylvie and laughing.

"If I were still in college, I'd go over," Anita said enjoying the attention but not enough to encourage them more.

"I would have too," Nica admitted. "Before Wufei, that is."

"And before my life became so complicated," Anita commiserated, taking a sip of coffee.

"And your life is definitely complicated," Nica teased.

"So speaks the woman who lives with several men," was Anita's teasing response.

"Oh, as if you don't have a life full of men too," Nica retorted.

"I just don't understand how either of you can live with all the men," Sylvie commented, holding her cup with both hands and leaning back in her seat.

"Well yeah," Nica muttered, "but we could all walk around my house nude and only one person would show any reaction." Nica snickered. "I live in a house with four gay men. They appreciate the human form, but we're just not what turns them on."

"The leopards are like a big pile of puppies there's nothing sexual with them," Anita said. "Except Micah, of course." Anita answered, not mentioning the ardeur and the fact that Nathaniel was her pomme de sang, they didn't need to know that.

"What about Richard?" Nica asked about the ulfric.

"What about him?" Anita asked, leaning forward in her seat, no longer relaxed.

"Well, I know you have the Triumvirate-thing with he and Jean Claude, and that well," she paused. "You and Jean Claude are involved, what about Richard," she asked delicately.

Anita laughed and relaxed, putting her coffee cup down on the table. "I can see how that might be confusing. Richard and I aren't intimate anymore. He can't accept his beast, or the fact that I've accepted who and what I am. I'm not human enough for him anymore if I ever was in the first place," she answered almost whistfully.

"That's a shame. It seems he's accepted it, but he's not comfortable with in his own body," Nica commented before taking another sip of her coffee. "What about the triumvirate? How does that work if he stays away from you and Jean Claude?"

"We've, Jean Claude and I, discovered that Jason can channel Richard's mark through his connection with the pack. We need Richard to make the 'magic' happen, but Jason can balance us if Richard isn't around."

"Are you and Jason," Nica left the rest of the comment unsaid.

Sylvie laughed and Anita shook her head. "No, but it's not because of a lack of interest on his part. And to be perfectly honest, if things were different..." Anita started to say but never finished. "I'm not willing to risk Jason's life Richard would kill any wolf that I slept with." Or then maybe not, she thought to herself.

"Just because he doesn't want Anita," Sylvie continued where Anita left off, "doesn't mean he would allow any of his wolves to have her either."

"I don't understand him," Nica said shaking her head.

Anita and Sylvie both laughed hard. "Join the crowd," Sylvie finally said, when she could catch her breath.

"Guess that seems to be a universal sentiment then," Nica commented, holding her cup at a different angle so she could lick at the caramel stuck to the straw.

"Oh yeah," Sylvie answered. Richard was her Ulfric, but she was well aware of his shortcomings including the fact he contradicted himself quite a bit.

"You know, we should make this a regular 'date'," Anita commented draining that last of her coffee.

Setting her now empty cup down, Nica agreed, "I like that idea. It's nice to have other women to talk to. I love the 'boys' but sometimes they just don't get it."

"I'm so glad I don't have to worry about that," Sylvie remarked. "The men of the pack are enough for me. I'm happy to go home to Gwen."

Looking at her watch, Anita, sighed. "I have to go. I promised Dolph I'd come in early tonight so we can go over the case." She grabbed her bag and headed out the door, leaving the other two women to continue to talk.

=====

They released Elizabeth into Anita's care a few days after she'd been attacked. Anita took her back to her place and instilled her into one of the guestrooms with instructions to rest. Elizabeth however had other plans and when Anita had gone to check on what Micah was cooking for them to eat, Elizabeth shifted and with Caleb as an accomplice took off and went hunting.

"Damn her," Anita muttered when she returned to find Elizabeth's room empty and a puddle of clear goo on the floor, indicating she had shifted.

"What happened?" Micah asked as he came up behind Anita with a tray in his hand.

"She shifted and left," Anita said coolly.

"She'll heal faster that way," Micah said matter-of-factly heading back down the stairs to return the food and tray to the kitchen.

"That's not the point, She was supposed to wait for Duo to get her so she could give him a description for him to sketch," Anita said, fuming.

Micah walked into the kitchen and sat the tray down before turning toward Anita, his eyes flashing. "Don't you care about what's good for your leopard? You know her shifting will heal her faster. Or is the police work more important than your own 'family?'" Micah accused as she started to walk out.

Anita spun around and glared at him. "You know better than that! You know the pard is important. Elizabeth is important. But we need to catch this guy so Cherry, Vivian, Gina or Violet isn't next. Elizabeth is stronger than them what happens if he catches one of them and we don't get to her on time? Is Elizabeth waiting a few more hours longer to shift worth losing one of our lesser pack members?" Anita was angry and more than angry she was scared. Scared that they would miss the stalker and they would lose a leopard, one shapeshifter had already been killed and she didn't know what she would do if it had been one of her's.

"Shhhh... " Micah whispered as he grabbed her and held her struggling body to him with brute strength. "We won't lose one of them, I promise. I'll send Merle to look for them and bring them back. Okay?" he tried to reassure her, understanding now what her fears had been and why she was so driven to find the stalker. It wasn't Anita being a cop, it was Anita being an Alpha and protecting her pard.

Settling Anita down on the bed and pulling a quilt over her, Micah went to call Merle to ask him to come over and help find Elizabeth. Once his call was complete he want back and sat next to her on the bed. He wished Nathaniel was around to stay with her so he could go find Elizabeth and Caleb on his own, but he didn't want to leave her alone so he stayed.

Merle had been unable to find them after searching the forest and surrounding areas so he returned to Anita's to wait for the wayward pard members with Anita, Micah, and Duo who'd arrived while he was gone.

Elizabeth and Caleb no sooner cleared the door when they were both met with a backhand from Micah. They had been gone several hours and Micah and Anita were at the end of their patience.

"What was that for?" Elizabeth asked, holding the cheek that had just been struck.

"For disobeying and leaving," Micah answered. "You will sit down here and give Duo a description of the man who attacked you so we can find him before another member of our pard gets hurt." Micah's words and tone of voice said there was no disobeying him.

"And you," Micah said directing his next comment to Caleb. "Get out of my sight before I kill you. Staying with Elizabeth does NOT mean helping her disobey Anita." Micah was angry and half shifted hitting Caleb with a black claw like a cat smacking a mouse. Caleb retreated, not giving him another excuse to hit him.

Elizabeth sat down meekly after seeing Caleb's punishment and gave Duo a run down of what had happened the night she was attacked and what she remembered of the man--tall and lean wearing a long trench coat with a narrow face and dark hair. She couldn't give him any particulars about his facial features, other than the fact he had a rather prominent nose.

Duo sketched what he could erasing several times when Elizabeth remembered something else or said it wasn't right when she looked at the sketch. Once she pronounced it done and her memory couldn't be jogged any more, she relented and returned to bed to rest for one more night before going back to her apartment in the city.

Shaking his head as she went back up the stairs, Duo muttered, "She's a tough one."

"Yes, she is," Anita agreed.

"I've got to go, I have to work at the Raven tonight. But I'll have copies of this made and I'll get them to you to hand out." Duo headed to the door with Anita and Micah both following him.

"What are you doing for the full moon?" Micah asked as Duo stepped out onto the front porch. Like Anita, he liked the young, almost carefree, pack of wolves and he had a feeling hunting with them would be fun.

Duo turned and looked at the leopard leaders. "Richard invited us to the lupanar," he answered. "Will you be there?"

Anita shook her head. "No. Not this month."

"We will be here, and will hunt in the forest behind the house. Some pard bonding time after Elizabeth was hurt. If you change your mind you may join us," Micah offered.

"Thank you," Duo answered as he walked down the walkway and left.

"I like them," Micah commented as he watched the young man drive away.

"So do I," Anita echoed as they closed the door and Micah pulled her into his embrace.

=====

Richard invited the Pax Idun, not to be nice, as much as it was a good way to keep an eye on them. No matter how much Anita and Sylvie liked them he didn't trust them. He didn't trust that Quatre wouldn't try and challenge him no matter what assurances had been given. Though, given the fact that Quatre was five foot seven and appeared to weigh very little, in a fight it wouldn't matter, Richard would win if Quatre played fair. Nor did he trust that they weren't behind the attacks. Everything seemed too coincidental with their arrival and the attacks starting. So he'd issued the invitation that made his Geri and Anita happy and he'd be able to keep them under watch.

He watched as the pack gathered around the lupanar waiting for the moon to reach its zenith. The lesser wolves, feeling the pull of the moon, had already changed and only those strong enough resisted the pull waiting for the moon to reach its height before changing and beginning the hunt. For the first time since Anita had taken her position as Bolverk, eight months earlier, she didn't come to the lupanar. She chose instead to stay at home with her leopards, having called Richard to remind him to play nice with Quatre's pack.

Full dark was almost upon them and Duo could feel the power of the moon as they walked into the Lupanar. It had been several months since they had shared a full moon with anyone other than themselves, and he had to wonder what the other pack would think of their way of dealing with the urge to hunt.

"Duo, where are you?" Nica asked, laying a hand on her brother's arm.

"Just thinking, that's all. Wondering how they are going to take it when we don't join in their hunt." He shrugged and kept walking toward the gathering group.

"But we will hunt," Heero said quietly.

"We can't ignore the call of blood. We just don't do it in the same way," Trowa added.

Duo looked over at Nica. "What about you?" he asked.

Wufei answered instead of his sister. "We're going to move off ahead of you," he said. "You can catch up." Wufei grinned, his hand entangled with Nica's.

"Look here comes Jason," Nica pointed out watching as their friend headed toward them in a pair of well-worn, holey jeans and a ripped t-shirt.

"I'm glad you came," Jason said as he joined the visiting pack.

"Jason, would you like to join us in the hunt? Or does your pack do something special?" Duo asked.

Jason paused before answering, "No, we don't. I'd like to join you," he looked over his shoulder toward where Richard was watching him, "later in the night."

"Cool," Duo said. "We like to have fun and play."

"Play?" Jason asked. He'd never played during the full moon. He never knew you could with the blood call and the need to hunt.

"Hide and seek," Trowa answered quietly.

Jason looked at them incredulously. "Hide and Seek?"

"Yes," Heero said. "Don't you do fun things," he looked over at Duo and winked, "while you're a wolf?"

Before Jason could answer Nica spoke up. "Jason, we were kids when we were infected and our Ulfric encouraged us to continue to be children even though we were werewolves," Nica continued. She didn't understand this pack and its politics. Zechs had a hierarchy but it was nothing like the seriousness of this pack. Was this the standard and Zechs' pack different?

Wufei and Nica pulled away from the others as they continued toward Richard and the rest of the Thronos Rokke Clan. He stopped them for a second to give his mate a quick kiss before moving them off into the direction of the tree line.

Quatre approached Richard and Sylvie. "Thank you for the invitation," he told them.

Richard nodded. The moon was moving into its crest and some of his people that had been waiting had already turned into full wolves, others stood in wolfman form, only a very few were still human. He took off his shirt and began to walk away. "Enjoy the hunt."

"Stick, ass," Duo muttered again as Richard walked away. Quatre shushed him.

"If you don't mind me asking," Sylvie started, ignoring Duo's comment. "Why did your sister and your Geri, Wufei is it, not come all the way up here with you."

Duo grinned and shrugged his head off in their direction. "They wanted time alone," he said, which for the most part was true, just not the whole truth.

Once into the trees, Wufei pulled his hand free, then broke the rubberband that was holding Nica's hair up. "And," she said, "that's why I stopped wearing my scrunches during the full the moon."

Wufei laughed and gently pushed her against a tree, claiming her mouth once again. "But I'd rather see you in nothing," he whispered into her ear, while pulling the summer-like dress she wore over her head.

"I know," she grinned at him, before divesting him of his shirt. "It's almost time," she said.

Wufei ran his hands down her chest, softly massaging her breasts. "Then change for me my mate," he told her "Wo ai ni." I love you.

"And you my mate."

Back where the others stood, they heard a wolf's howl. "The search is on," Duo said, before pulling on Heero's shirt. "It's our turn now."

Trowa leaned down and kissed Quatre. "Let's go Little One," he said.

"You can still join us," Quatre told Jason, before following his tall lover. "Just howl, and one of us will find you."

Soon there were no 'humans' left in the lupanar.

The Pax Idun quickly found their two missing members, Duo's tracking skills where very good. But, Heero was better at hunting for prey. He sniffed the air, then took point, quickly running off to the right. He knew the others would follow him. When he knew they were close to their target, he stopped moving. Trowa and Wufei coming up beside him then fanning out to the right and left, their brown and grey fur concealing them in the darkness. The three crept closer. Quatre, Duo and Nica taking up positions right behind them. The deer didn't even know they were there.

The call for blood answered. Duo licked a spot of blood from Heero's face, before leaning down to poke Heero in the chest with his snout. A clear sign of 'tag you're it.' Heero growled but walked a few paces from the group and turned his back on them. The others scattered.

Heero waited a minute then sniffed the air. He turned around to an empty clearing and sniffed again. He slowly slinked off after his lover. Heero liked to find Duo first, plus he knew his lover's scent like the back of his hand, or tonight, his paw.

Duo loved the shadows and was very good at hiding in them, his darker brown coat helping him. He watched Heero cross within two feet of him. Ha, he thought, knew that roll in the leaves would pay off.

Heero sniffed the air again, then spun around and stared directly into Duo's pale-purple wolf eyes and gave a wolfish grin. Duo backed up a step, but not fast enough as Heero pounced towards his lover, rolling them over and around on the forest floor. That was until Heero finally got Duo pinned under him. _Now we find the others._

Heero led the way, Duo next to him. He'd learned many years ago that if Duo walked behind him, his lover would nip at his tail. _Quatre._ Heero nodded. The two split up and circled around, but they were too late, Quatre was already running. His light brown fur giving him the appearance of a shooting star sailing through the night's sky.

Quatre angled himself to run through the dense underbrush and a fallen tree, knowing that Heero and Duo couldn't both make it through the hole that was there. What he wasn't counting on was Duo going up and over the fallen tree to land in front of him. _Damn. Should have thought of that._

The three wolves faced each other. _Nica._

Duo jumped up on the fallen tree and started to sniff the air. He paced along the tree back and forth then halted in mid-return and jumped down. He swung his head in a direction then took off. The other two quickly followed.

Wufei watched the three leave the area and took off in a direction that would take him on a parallel course. A single howl stopped all four running wolves and brought the other two out as well. _Jason._

Within moments of his howl, Jason found himself tackled and then surrounded.

Nica heard Jason's howl and with Wufei joining her from where he'd been, they raced off to find their friend and get back to the game. As she neared the spot Jason sat she slowed and snuck up on him, pouncing, then licking his face as he rolled. With a nudge of her muzzle then Wufei's they encouraged him to follow unaware that as they raced off Paris had been watching from the shadows--her black coat blending in with the darkness of the forest.

It was probably good that no one noticed Paris spying on them, she would have just ruined their fun. Jason watched as Quatre walked up to Trowa and poked him the ribs. _You're it._ Like before, the chosen one walked a few paces ahead of everyone and waited. Jason understood, and everyone scattered.

The rest of the night was spent playing games. Jason enjoyed his time with the Idun, but soon it would be daybreak and time to change back. It was time to go some place safe for the change, and to slept for the next ten hours. He yawned.

The others were already laying or sitting. Duo too was yawning and Heero pushed him over to lay on the ground. _It's time, Quatre said, we will see you sometime tomorrow, Jason._

Jason nodded his head and started back for the lupanar and his car, the call of the full moon nearly over.

=====

Anita had lost track of the number of times she'd met with Richard and Quatre and their packs by this time. This was either the third or fourth 'official' meeting and she wasn't even counting the unofficial meetings she'd had with them in an attempt to get to know them better or trying to make Richard see reason about the fact that they really weren't here to threaten his power base. But Richard being Richard, stubborn as ever, wouldn't listen to her.

Jean Claude had offered for them to meet at Circus of the Damned this time as it was neutral territory or more neutral than The Raven or Lunatic Cafe. He'd know how tired she was of the bickering and offered his place for the meeting so he could act as referee once again when Richard lost his cool. Besides he wanted another chance to observe the young pack. They intrigued him. He knew Asher was also interested in the pack and he wanted to see how his old friend interacted with them as well.

They were all there this time. Rafael and Louie and Josephine, Joey to her friends, and Claudia represented the rodere. Anita, Micah, Galen, Nathaniel and the newly heeled Elizabeth were there for the leopards as well as Micah's bodyguards Merle and Noah. Richard had once again brought Sylvie and Paris as well as his two bodyguards Shang Da and Jamil. Jason was there because he was still enjoying his job of feeding Jean Claude and lived there. The vampire presence was kept to a minimum with only Jean Claude, Asher and Damian.

Tension was high in the room and if Anita thought the bickering was bad before it was even worse now. They had made one attempt to catch the stalker preying on female shapeshifters but he'd slipped through their fingers. They were going to try again but once again they were bogged down with details and Richard's hard head.

"I'll go as the bait this time," Joey offered since she'd been the back up to Sylvie last time.

"Are you sure?" Louie asked. He wasn't happy to have Joey there no matter how much Rafael and she insisted she would be fine. But then he knew his protectiveness of her was due to the fact that he was her sponsor as well as her professor.

"No let me go," Claudia insisted. "You have exams," she reminded her roommate.

Joey, sighed, she knew when she was beat and if the look on Claudia's face was anything to go by she was definitely beat. "Okay," she relented.

"Thank you," Claudia whispered, reaching under the table to take her hand and give it a squeeze.

"Your wolf can also go out too, since she was part of the back up last time," Richard said to Quatre.

"Are you going to guarantee her safety?" Trowa asked, speaking up for the first time that evening.

"Yes," Richard said, making an effort after he'd been warned by both Anita and Jean Claude that he'd better change his attitude toward the Pax Idun. "Hopefully this time we can catch him before anymore women get hurt."

"Hopefully?" Anita and Sylvia questioned at the same time from opposite sides of the room.

"Yes, hopefully. I can't guarantee we'll catch this person. I can only guarantee we'll do our best to 'hopefully' catch him," Richard said barely keeping his temper.

"I could," Anita said under her breath, loud enough for only Micah and Jean Claude to hear, earning her a smile from both men. They knew her and knew that she meant what she said.

"I don't give a rat's ass," Duo said, only pausing to apologize to Rafael. "She's not going to be the bait so that you can 'hopefully'," Richard's presumptions and overall attitude had slowly gotten on even Duo's nerves, even if it was slowly changing, he still didn't like this, "catch this guy, guys. We're still not sure..."

Duo couldn't finish his rant with Wufei's hand over his mouth. Wufei turned them so they could look each other in the eye. "No harm to her," he promised. The look in Wufei's eyes promised a painful death to anyone who got in his way from keeping that promise. It was a look Duo only saw when Fei was protecting his 'family'. He also knew that if Nica caught either one of them right now, Fei would be sleeping out in the hall and she'd find a way to get him back--probably by involving Heero.

"I know," he told him. "I'm just pissed at his demands, not the idea itself. I want to catch this guy too. I like these people, but..." Duo muttered quietly to Wufei while they worked out how to go about setting the trap a second time.

"Boys?" Nica questioned with just a bit of threat in her voice when she looked over and saw her brother and mate whispering. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing, Nica," Duo declared then proceeded to tell her how he didn't trust Richard's assurances. He was being truthful, he just didn't tell her the bargain between he and Wufei to insure her safety. Turning her attention back to the discussion Nica agreed, "I'll do it." She made her decision partially because it was the right thing to do and partially because she knew they would try and not let her do it out of some misguided guise of protecting her.

"Good," Richard nodded. Pleased she agreed to be a part of the set up.

"We'll have to make sure the little wolf doesn't get her pretty white coat dirty though," Paris said sarcastically.

"What is your damage," Nica asked of Paris, she'd had enough of this supposed Lupa.

"White wolf?" Richard asked. "Is that why you left before you changed?" It was very rare for a wolf lycanthrope to be white. Many clans believed that a white wolf was omen for good things, that the clan would be blessed.

Nica nodded. "I don't let my wolf form be seen by too many."

"Because you're white?" Anita asked, not knowing the full impact of what a white wolf meant.

"People are superstitious enough as it is," Nica responded. "And, I'd rather not be hunted for my fur. I rather like it on me than as some rug."

"Anyone who hurts you will answer to me," Jean Claude said surprising everyone by speaking up.

"And I," Asher seconded, from where he leaned against the wall with Damian, observing rather than participating win the meeting.

Nica was knocked speechless. That was new, she thought. "What exactly do the vampires drink around here?" she questioned. The only other vampire that had expressed an interest in her coat wanted to possess her. Why did these two want to protect her?

"Me," Jason said, from where he lounged on the settee, not really taking part in the meeting.

Nica shook her head, her ponytail swooshing around her head. "That almost explains it," she joked back.

"But," Asher interrupted, "If I may, I would like the chance to see you as a wolf." Asher noticed Wufei's statement--she's my mate, it said. Asher made a point to remember to talk to the two of them privately before they left. He'd hate to find a stake in his heart because of a mistake.

"A white wolf is sacred to the pack and must be protected," Richard said quietly, looking at the girl in a new light.

"We protect her as much as she will allow us too," Quatre stated.

"I don't like to be coddled," Nica said. "I will not be treated any differently just because of my fur colour." Jeez, Zechs doesn't have this problem, she thought, and damnit he's a white wolf as well. Male though, he's definitely male. Her thoughts stopped wandering when Paris started talking again.

"Oh, isn't that special," Paris said sarcastically. "She has you all wrapped around her little finger. Next thing you know she's going to end up as Lupa to the Thornes Rokke."

Nica looked at Paris wondering when she'd sprout a second head or something. "No. I don't want to be Lupa of anything."

"You won't either. I won't let you become Richard's Lupa."

"Paris, that sounds an awful lot like a challenge. Are you challenging Nica?" Richard asked.

The other woman thought for a moment. "Yes," she finally said, one way or another it was a way to get rid of the intruding bitch who had the men of her pack wrapped around her finger not to mention her own Ulfric, Richard, and that slut puppy Jason.

Nica shook her head. "I don't want this. I don't want him."

"Do you accept or not?" Paris pressed circling the table until she stood over Nica, trying to intimidate her.

"If I have to, I accept," Nica finally said shaking her head.

"This is not a good idea." Was muttered from several people around the table.

Richard sighed, this was not what he wanted. He may not like the other pack, but he didn't want physical conflict between them. "Alright In two days we'll meet at the lupanar again to settle this challenge. In the mean time we have something else more important to deal with..." Richard told them trying to get the rapidly degrading back on track.

Paris growled her satisfaction at the acceptance of the challenge. She knew this was a way to prove her worth and Richard would have no choice but to choose her as his new lupa.

"Can we get back to business now?" Galen asked with contempt for Paris and her grandstanding. He'd never liked her or her conniving.

She just glared at him but wisely kept her mouth shut.

"Dolph gave me a copy of all the police reports including the human attacks. I've read through it several times. I can't find anything we don't already know. The attacks are happening on Thursday nights after the clubs in Blood Alley close. He seems to be going for women that are on the medium to tall side. Also talking to the victims and their families--all the women are confident and they show their confidence in the way they move and interact with people," Anita outlined once again for them.

"He was attacking every week?" Duo questioned, "He missed a week."

"Not necessarily," Heero commented.

"What does that mean," Jamil asked angrily. "Do you think..."

"What I'm saying," Heero interrupted. "Is, are all the city's weres accounted for?"

"Too diplomatic," Duo said. "What he wants to know is have you checked on your junkies, whores, the ones that you only see when you have too or during the full moon? Or maybe a group with only one or two members?"

Richard glowered. "How dare you!" he growled not liking the implication.

"Dare or not, the question still stands," answered Heero.

Anita knew Heero was right, the question was a legitimate one. "My leopards are accounted for," she answered. "But to be sure we'd have to ask at one of the were council meetings."

"I can call a meeting for this weekend and have everyone take an accounting for their members," Richard conceded. He may not like the implication, but if he thought about it, the concern was valid and one he really should explore.

"Until then let's put our plan together. I'll have some vampires to help with the protection of the 'bait' so when this person is caught, those who don't want to be known as shape shifters can disappear when the police are called," Jean Claude tried to urge them back to the discussion before it degraded once again.

"Why don't we have our people come out of the clubs at closing time," Rafael said. "The girls can come out alone and backup will be in groups."

"If we aren't with them how can we insure their safety? I saw what they did to Elizabeth," Galen asked, his question echoed by Merle and Noah.

"There will always be someone within range of them at all times," Duo promised, it was his sister that was being sent in as bait. He'd be damn sure that she was going to be safe.

They finished their plans for the night and left early. This soon after the full moon they were still susceptible to changing when tensions were as high as they had been--especially with the challenge between Paris and Nica.

***

Anita had never been happier then when the only people left in the room besides her, Jean Claude and Micah were Jason and Nathaniel. Tonight she and Micah would join Jean Claude in the big bed behind the heavy curtains, leaving Jason to lead Nathaniel off to his room and his, often complained about, under used bed.

"I'm glad that's over," Anita sighed going over to sit down on the large bed.

"So am I," Micah and Jean Claude both echoed.

"Je t'aime, mon petite," Jean Claude whispered, pulling Anita into his arms as he sat down next to her. "I have missed you."

Anita sighed, it felt good to be in Jean Claude's arms. She had been so busy with trying to work this case and other police work Dolph had for her that she hadn't spent the night with Jean Claude in a while. She missed him. He always made her feel safe and right now she wanted to feel safe. The stalker was still troubling her, as was the tension Richard was causing between all of them. She may have given up on Richard but the feelings she still had for him made it so he could still cause her pain. Micah had curled around the back of her, holding her to Jean Claude, increasing that feeling of security. Tonight she didn't want to be strong, tonight she wanted to let these two men take care of her.

Tonight he would share her with Jean Claude and tomorrow Nathaniel and Jason would be here with him when she awoke and the ardeur demanded its fulfillment. Theirs was a unique relationship but it worked for all of them, especially with Jason's ability to fill in Richard's marks.

Micah pulled one arm away from Jean Claude and used it to push Anita's hair aside, kissing the back of her neck.

"Why don't we all take a nice long soak?" Jean Claude suggested, knowing Anita could use the relaxation of a long hot bath.

Anita nodded while Micah answered, "Sounds good."

Untangling themselves from each other Jean Claude went to start the water while Anita and Micah undressed. Donning the robes Jean Claude kept for them before joining him in his lavish bathroom.

By the time they joined Jean Claude the room was filled with steam and the scent of the forest and rain with a hint of flowers.

"Very nice," Anita said as she took a deep breath to inhale the scent.

"I had it mixed especially for the two of you," he told them. "It reminds me of you when you are not here with me."

The three of them settled into the tub and cuddled Anita between them. Their desire for one another rising like the steam from the tub as they touched and kissed one another, oblivious to the water sloshing over the rim of the tub as they moved around each other.

"May I feed mon minet?" Jean Claude asked Micah. My cat.

Micah had once told him that the next time Jean Claude bit his neck it had better be in foreplay and over the course of time it had turned into a lot more than just foreplay. He nodded and settled into Jean Claude's lap his back to Jean Claude's chest, fitting himself to the vampire, and allowing himself a few moment of self indulgence to feel Jean Claude's hand skimming over his chest as the vampire nibbled his neck. Finally holding out his hand to Anita, Micah beckoned her to join them.

Anita took his hand and allowed herself to be pulled to the two men. Kissing, first Micah and then Jean Claude.

"Je t'aime, mon petite," Jean Claude whispered again as he helped Micah guide her to their already joined lap. I love you, my little one.

Anita sighed as she felt Jean Claude's hands guiding Micah into her as she settled in their lap. Wrapping her arms around both of them she kissed Micah and knew the moment Jean Claude sunk his fangs into him. Together the three of them fed--on blood, on the ardeur, on their passion--rocking together, one into one and out of another slowly until they no longer could distinguish where one began and the other ended. Their beasts rolling together until they exploded.

When the hunger hand been satisfied they lay together in the cooling water all three still connected together. Slowly they separated, stretching cramped limbs.

Anita was the first out of the tub and wrapped herself in a large fluffy towel. She watched as Jean Claude kissed the spot he'd drank from before releasing Micah.

Micah followed after rising from Jean Claude's lap. The burn of his muscles more acute from having Anita's weight in his lap and Jean Claude's length buried inside him. Holding out his hand, he assisted Jean Claude, handing the vampire a towel as soon as his feet hit the cool tile.

Without a word the three of them returned to the bedroom and curled around each other to enjoy the last bit of cuddling before the sun rose.

With dawn pressing on them, Jean Claude pulled away and stood, wrapping himself in his black fur trimmed robe. Neither Anita nor Micah stirred as he ran a possessive hand down their bodies, whispering "ma petite," and "mon minet," to each of them.

***

After the meeting ended Asher asked Wufei and Nica to join him in his office for a moment where they could talk alone. He closed the door then gracefully moved to sit on the edge of his desk. "Because I loved a white wolf once," he said, before Wufei could say anything, "and I lost her to a poacher who taunted me with her death by sending me her pelt. Nica is the first one I have seen in several hundred years." He closed his eyes and then admitted one more bit, "I'd just like to sink my hand down in her fur and feel the heat of a live body. Instead of the cold lifeless pelt I was left with."

"It's up to her," Wufei said resting his hand on Nica's shoulder and squeezing gently. He was willing to grant this vampire his wish. He could feel the pain radiating off the vampire as he spoke of his white wolf.

"Tell me about her," Nica asked.

"I wouldn't know where to begin. She left her pack when the threats to her life became too much for her pack to keep her safe. Her Ulfric appealed to me to keep her safe and she came to live with me. Merrilee was to me what Jason is to Jean Claude. She was my pomme de sang. We hunted together and we became lovers," he ended quietly, hanging his head, his pain palatable to the other two.

Nica stood and walked over until she was standing right in front of Asher. "Let me see what you hide from everyone," she asked reaching out to him.

Asher looked down at her, meeting her eyes, and then slowly pushed the hair covering the scared half of his face aside so she could see his entire face.

Nica raised her hand and touched the marred cheek then raised up on her toes and kissed the spot she'd just touched. "I won't ask. I know it was very painful for you, but my answer is yes, scars and all," she said watching Asher's eyes. She would do this for him. She would change and allow him to caress her fur, if for no other reason than to erase some of the hurt she saw in his eyes.

"Merci," he whispered, taking her hand away from his face and kissing the back of it. He looked up at Wufei and repeated his thanks, knowing that if this man had disapproved of her changing for him she wouldn't have done it.

"Thank you for your friendship and you're honesty," Wufei said coming up to stand next to Nica. It wouldn't be a bad thing to have a Master Vampire and a Master of a City on their side if the need ever arose.

Asher just nodded and released Nica's hand. "I'll leave you to join your fr...family," He corrected himself. "I didn't feed fully when I woke so I must feed again soon and Anita has been kind enough to share Nathaniel with me. Thank you," he said one more time in English and watched as they then turned and walked out the door hand in hand.

***

Nica and Wufei walked into the house they rented when they came to town. Heading up the stairs they passed the closed door of the other two bedrooms indicating that their occupants were home and had retired for the night. As soon as they entered their room, Wufei quietly closed the door behind them and pulled Nica into his arms.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked, knowing that she would understand his question.

"Yes," she whispered against his chest. "I could feel his pain and the love he felt for his white wolf. I can't explain it but I trust him and I have since I first met him and you know I don't trust vampire easily."

"I know," Wufei answered, quietly pulling back just enough to begin undoing the buttons to her large denim shirt--her hands mirroring his until they tangled arms trying to push the offending shirts off the other's shoulders.

Laughing, Wufei said, "You first," and dropped his hands allowing her to push his shirt off his shoulders leaving him standing in just his jeans and boots.

"Mmm..." Nica murmured as she leaned forward and began to run her tongue along his shoulder and down his arm until she came to the arm band that matched her own.

Wufei took a deep breath and pushed the shirt the rest of the way off Nica's shoulders as she continued to kiss her way around his chest teasing him until all he could do was push her back until they fell sideway across the bed.

"Fei," she whispered before he claimed her mouth. "Love me."

"Wo ai ni," he whispered, his lips against hers. He kissed her deeply then proceeded to move down her body in a straight line between her breasts and across her taunt stomach until he reached the waistband of her jeans. Quickly he divested her of her jeans, shoes and socks then stood back to remove his own clothing before joining her once again on the bed. The white gold armbands on their left forearms the only thing either of them now wore.

"My love," he whispered in Mandarin as he stretched his body on top of hers.

"Fei..." she sighed wrapping her legs around his and holding him tight against her. The moon was still close to full and the draw she, they, felt had little to do with the hunt tonight and had everything to do with passion--the moon just intensifying their beasts a little. She wanted to feel him inside her, taking her to places only the feel of his hands on her body and his body pressed to hers, could take her. And when he made them one they flew, moving together, their beasts rolling together in their passion until they cried their release together. And when they slept curled together, Nica on top of Wufei, their armbands shining in the night, Asher, the stalker, and everything else could wait until tomorrow.

=====

Nica was surprised how many people still milled around the streets after the bars and dance clubs closed. She would have expected this on a Friday or Saturday night but not the middle of the week. She also would have thought that the stalker who'd struck six people now would scare them away but the people still on the street spoke otherwise. As she passed through the crowd she saw the members of her family watching over her as well as Richard's Hati, Shang Da, and Asher stood hidden partially in the shadows.

She turned down the alley as planned knowing that Shang Da and Heero had already made the turn ahead of her and would watch for anything out of the ordinary. As she turned the corner, the crowd thinned greatly but there were still people roaming the considerably narrower street. For some reason seeing the people made her more comfortable, not that she was uncomfortable walking alone, she had long ago learned to defend herself so she would never be helpless again. As much as she wanted to catch this guy for the sake of the other weres in St. Louis, she really didn't want to be the bait that drew him out.

Relaxing and letting her guard down a bit, she continued down the alley, smiling as she passed Heero, leaning against the wall nonchalantly with her brother doing his best to seduce him, or pretend he was at least, she knew without a doubt their attention was focused on her. She was about even with where Shang Da was hiding in a darkened doorway, she could feel his presence, even though she couldn't see him, when a man bumped into her.

"Sorry," she said, at the same time she felt the sharp sting of a needle in her arm and the immediate numbing of the tranquilizer. "Fei!" she cried before she fell into the strange man's grasp.

Nica came to, her head resting in Wufei's lap as the others argued around her. She could hear some of their words but was still fuzzy enough to miss large chunks of the conversation. Her lover's fingers running through her hair helped her concentrate until she collected her thoughts.

"There was enough tranquilizer in there to stop an elephant," was the first full sentence Nica heard.

"Did you get him?" she asked weakly from Wufei's lap.

Duo turned to look at his sister. "No, but Shang Da and Noah are chasing after him," he answered with clenched teeth, he wasn't not happy with the Hati from the other pack. He knew Nica would be okay. And, looking down at his injured friend, he knew Wufei had kept his promise--having seen the knife Wufei pulled from his shoulder. Shang Da on the other hand, he was another story.

"I don't think it was our stalker," Heero surmised. "It didn't fit the MO except for the night."

"He was high on something, you could smell the drugs in his system. It's no wonder he got the drop on you," Trowa said looking down at where Nica lay against Wufei.

"Are you sure you weren't smelling the tranquilizer?" Asher asked, appearing next to them. He'd been positioned down near the end of the alley with Noah to watch as Nica came out. When a man appeared with Shang Da behind him, Noah had followed and he'd gone in search of Nica.

"Positive. I know the difference in smell between medicinal drugs and recreational drugs," Trowa verified.

Anita arrived after being called when Nica was attacked with Galen in tow. Ignoring the discussion about the drugs used Anita knelt down next to Nica. "How are you feeling?" she asked, reaching out to lay her hand on Nica's arm.

"A little fuzzy, light, but okay," she answered, sitting up, but not moving out of her lover's embrace.

"Good."

Standing back up, Anita looked at the group arguing in the alley. "This isn't accomplishing anything," she said interrupting them. "We're moving this Guilty Pleasures. It's down the block and Nica can lay down in Jean Claude's office." It was a statement, not a suggestion.

The group nodded and Asher moved closer to Nica. "May I?" he asked Wufei, pointing toward the injured shoulder with blood still seeping through his shirt. At Wufei's nod, he picked up Nica and carried her down the alley and around the corner to the back door of the club.

"I could walk you know," Nica complained. She looked over at Wufei, worried about his shoulder and not wanting to be carried. His eyes told her he would be fine and that he'd feel better if she didn't over do it right now.

"Yes," Asher answered but didn't loosen his hold on her.

"You aren't going to let me are you?" she asked, hopefully.

"No," Asher and Wufei answered in unison, smiling at one another.

Nica sighed she couldn't fight them both, so she leaned her head against Asher's shoulder and enjoyed the ride.

Walking through the back door to Guilty Pleasures, Anita led them directly to Jean Claude's office.

"Ma petite!" Jean Claude exclaimed when she walked in without knocking. "Put her here," he suddenly said when he saw Asher carrying Nica. "Is she okay?"

"She is fine," Nica said sarcastically as Asher laid her down on the sofa.

"I see you are," Jean Claude answered with a smile. "What happened?"

Heero gave him the short version of what had happened. The rest of the detail could be given later, once Nica was cared for. "He didn't know what the hell he was doing."

"He reeked of sex and drugs," Nica added, her head once again resting in Wufei's lap, while Duo tended to Wufei's shoulder.

"He was so high he probably would have fucked a corpse," Duo concluded.

"Well, that makes me feel a whole lot better, Duo," Nica said standing up finally with Wufei's assistance.

Both siblings looked at each other, then at the two vampires standing nearby. "Sorry," they said echoing each other.

Asher acknowledged them with a tip of his head and a smile, as did Jean Claude. Duo's humour, if it could be called that, amused them both.

"It still amazes me that he took me down like that," Nica commented, remembering the feel of his hands on her breasts and the stench of his breath.

"It was the drugs and the tranq--enough to take someone down three times your size," Trowa told Nica. "The drugs made him feel he could take anything on and the adrenaline gave him the strength," Trowa finished.

"If she had had more power, she could have fought him off better," Shang Da said as he and Noah came through the door catching Nica and Trowa's remarks. Glad that if someone had been attacked it was the little slip of a girl instead of a member of his own pack.

"WHAT!" Duo exploded and lunged toward Shang Da.

Quatre stepped in front of his enraged Hati just as Asher and Heero caught Duo's arms, holding him in place. "Duo," Quatre warned.

"What of the man who attacked Nica?" Quatre asked, taking charge.

"We chased him right into a local cop," Noah said smiling. "Told the nice officer what happened and said that we'd bring Nica down to make a statement tomorrow. The fact I used to carry a badge comes in handy once in a while."

"At least something was done right," Duo said relaxing enough to make Asher and Heero think he'd calmed himself. As soon as they released him he walked a short distance away and then turned toward and lunged Shang Da. Before anyone could stop him again he landed one solid punch to the other man bloodying his mouth. "That was because you hesitated and Nica got hurt."

Shang Da was quick to respond, but Duo ducked out of the way--faster and more agile than most people gave him credit for. In a span of a few seconds, several things happened. Those in the direct path of the fight moved, Wufei intercepted Shang Da's next attempt while Heero pulled Duo to him and out of the fight.

Wufei was just as unhappy with Shang Da as Duo, but if what Duo suspected was true then this was partially his fault because of his earlier run in with Shang Da. Wufei also suspected that part of Shang Da's problem was that he wasn't with Richard and was pissed about that. Though, he also suspected that Richard had directed Shang Da to this team to keep an eye on the Idun.

Ducking and spinning out of the way, the still injured Wufei got in several strikes that had Shang Da on his knees. Less than three minutes from the time Duo had punched Shang Da, Wufei had brought the fight to an end. "This is personal," Wufei told him, "not between our packs. But us."

Shang Da said nothing, getting up and moving towards the opposite wall away from everyone. He was still fuming, but had to admit that Wufei was right.

Anita finally spoke, "Maybe we should call it a night. You guys, take her home. She needs to rest." She saw Nica roll her eyes but also saw the small nod that Nica understood the reason behind the phrasing. They would respond to her needing assistance before anything else.

As did Quatre. "I believe you are right," he said. "I thank you all for your assistance tonight.

After the Idun left and she'd sent everyone else home too, she stood in the office with Jean Claude and Asher. "Opinions?"

"Interesting fight," answered Asher, who gracefully moved to sit on the couch where Nica and Wufei had been. "They were both holding back."

"Who? Shang Da and Wufei."

"No, ma petite," Jean Claude said. "The young Wufei and Duo. Shang Da has read them wrong. His first impressions, I'm afraid, were probably very wrong."

Anita nodded. "More than likely. I think many people have been reading them wrong if that is the case." She sighed. "I'm going home. I'll take Nica by the station tomorrow so she can give her statement."

***

Heero led Duo into the darkened and still house. Duo had been so keyed up from Nica being hurt and his abbreviated fight with Shang Da that they had walked around the streets for several hours until Heero had finally convinced his lover to return home and go to bed. They hadn't talked the entire time they'd been out walking, or rather he hadn't talked, Duo had muttered under his breath the whole time. He'd managed to catch expletives in Japanese and French with a few Chinese thrown in, but mostly it was Gaelic, a whole lot of Gaelic. It was only when he stopped muttering in Gaelic that Heero knew it was time to go home, his lover had calmed down enough.

Walking through the house, they headed to their bedroom at the end of the hall, it was the only one on that side and got the morning sun.

"He deserved it," Duo said as they walked in and closed the door behind him. "He didn't act fast enough. He got her hurt. I know he doesn't like us but..."

"Shut up," Heero demanded quietly. "You stupid jerk. You didn't have to take him on."

"Yes, I did."

Spinning around and pushing Duo up against a wall, Heero said, "No. You. Didn't." Heero punctuated each work with a hard kiss, bruising Duo's lips.

Duo hung on to his lover, pulling him tight against him and opening his legs for Heero to slip between.

Glad that they had worn older clothes for their surveillance, Heero pulled back just a little and ripped Duo's shirt from him. Running his hands up his lover's smooth chest, he pushed the remaining bits of shirt off Duo.

They fumbled around pulling clothes off each other, buttons flying, until they tumbled back on the bed nude wrestling for dominance while their hands took stock of each other's body.

Finally Duo ended up on top, sitting up he straddled Heero. "What do you want, Love," Duo asked wiggling against his lover.

"You," Heero growled sitting up and holding Duo in place on his lap. He reached across to the stand and grabbed the tube of lubricant. He prepared his lover, loving the feel of Duo's hands on him, stroking, teasing, and even tickling every part of his chest and back. "Now, Koi," he whispered settling Duo in place on him.

They sat together, kissing and gently rocking back and forth. No matter how frenzied they were to start this was always slow and gentle until they couldn't take it any more. When the raising passion became too much for them Heero pushed Duo over backward so their heads were now at the foot of the bed for a final few thrusts that finished them both off, sending their beasts spiraling through each other.

Panting, he rested partially on Duo's chest trying to catch his breath. Finally he rolled them one more time so his exhausted lover now rested on his chest. Heero pulled the rubber band free and unwound the braid, running his fingers through the long cinnamon coloured hair. "Ai shiteru," he whispered. I love you.

"Caraid anam," Duo replied half asleep. My Soul.

Heero smiled and watched the sun start to streak through the window at the head of their bed.

=====

A week after the full moon, Duo found himself standing in the St. Louis' pack's Lupanar again. That idiot Paris had issued some stupid challenge to Nica. Why he still couldn't figure out. Petty jealousy and stupidity was high on his list.

They'd tried to reason with Paris, but she'd have none of that. And, Paris thought Nica would be an easy challenge especially after hearing about Nica having been hurt. Nica never carried herself in a manner that suggested she could be dangerous. No, she carried herself like someone who was okay with who or what she was. Paris had mistaken that for weak.

"Your little white wolf," Paris sneered, "won't move in my ulfric." She was dressed in short shorts and a shirt that showed off her cleavage. It was like she was dressed to show off and not fight.

"She's a fruitcake, you know," was all Duo could say to that. Why the fuck would his sister want Richard. He was far from the type of man she was interested in, and besides, he wasn't Wufei.

"If we're going to catch this stalker person, thing, can we hurry this along?" Trowa said having complete faith in the fact Nica would win.

"It is not time yet," Jamil answered, the Skoll for St. Louis didn't like Paris, but he was still going to follow procedure.

Off to one side Micah stood with Asher and Jean Claude. They weren't supposed to be here since it was pack business, but they wanted to be witnesses to this challenge. Micah tilted his head a little when Anita and Sylvie approached Nica. This, he thought, is definitely going to be interesting.

Nica looked between Anita and Sylvie. "She's whacked, you know?" There wasn't anything the other two women could say as they were thinking about the same thing. "Is this to the death, first blood, someone surrenders?"

"You don't get many challenges do you?" Sylvie asked.

"A few," Nica answered with a shrug. "But none over something as stupid as this." She shook her head, then pulled her hair back into a low, tight ponytail. "Hello, have a mate, not planning on making St. Louis my permanent home--nice place to visit mind you. And, no offense, but Richard? Come on?"

"Will you have a problem should this be to the death?" Anita asked, slightly amused with Nica's attitude even if she didn't exactly agree with her assessment of Richard. She might not be 'with' him anymore but the feelings she had for him once upon a time hadn't completely died.

"No," Nica answered. "It's just a stupid reason for her to die."

Sylvie and Anita both looked at the younger girl. She never really felt of power and they couldn't tell what type of shape she was in physically, as she always wore baggy clothes.

"Duo?" Nica called her brother. As he and Wufei approached, she removed her sweatshirt. She now stood there in a grey tank top, baggy sweat pants, and bare feet. On her upper left arm she wore an armband with two dragons etched into it, obviously made of white gold as the skin around the band would have been reddened had it been made of silver.

Anita and Sylvie quickly changed their opinion of Nica's physical fitness and readiness. Obviously she worked out, they thought. Her baggie clothes did well in hiding the muscles she possessed, they also did a good job of giving off the impression that she was harmless.

When her brother and Wufei stood next to her, she handed Duo her sweatshirt and the set of knives that she normally wore hidden on her person. Wufei reached out to her arm and removed the band, but not before kissing her on the cheek. "Have fun," her brother said, cheerfully. "She's a fruitcake." He repeated his earlier comment.

Richard called for everyone's attention, and a circle began to form around the two combatants and Richard. "A challenge has been called and we are here to answer it."

"I will make yours a painful death," Paris said, trying to intimidate Nica.

Richard glared at Paris, but finished the ritual then stepped back out of the way. "You may begin," he said.

Nica backed up a step and dug her feet in, she wasn't going to make the first move. She wanted to see how Paris would move. Paris wasted no time and came rushing at Nica, fist swinging toward Nica's face.

She easily moved out of the way while landing a blow to Paris' side. Nica could tell that made Paris angry. Paris' next move also missed, but so did Nica's. The trading of blows back and forth continued for several minutes until Paris started to bleed her power into her blows.

Nica took a shot in the ribs that forced her to the ground, but she rolled up and out of the way of Paris' next move, a kick that would have connected to Nica's stomach had she not moved. Nica used her movement to sweep Paris' other leg out from under, bringing Paris to the ground hard.

"Bitch," Paris said icily, moving for another strike.

"Takes one to know one," Nica taunted back.

Nica could tell that Paris was starting to change, she was leaking power and her blows were becoming fiercer. Nica's next shot hit and drew blood. Several long lines appeared on Paris' face from where Nica's fingernails had hit.

Paris struck out blindly, her hands forming into claws and one successfully connecting with Nica's side.

Nica grimaced but blocked the next two blows and on the third rolled to the ground and out of Paris' way as Paris changed into her half wolf form. Nica shook her head, bad move on, she thought, Paris was wasting energy and power.

Paris took Nica's actions to mean she was afraid and rushed the younger woman again. She was going to show the white wolf what it meant to be an alpha.

After several more scratches, strikes, and blows--some connecting, some not--Nica could tell Paris was tiring. However, Nica was somewhere between the winded and nice-workout stages. Her first workouts, many years ago, with Wufei and Heero were a lot rougher than this. She'd learned to not fight angry and only change when it was really needed. She was neither right now. Her next strike hit Paris in the side of the head, with a follow-up that caused Paris' nose to begin bleeding. Paris tried to attack again, but Nica blocked the blow. Paris tried rushing again, and again it was blocked.

Nica was getting tired of the fight itself, there was no point or real reason to this challenge except this fruitcake's, recalling her brother's comment, jealousy and need to prove to her pack that she could be lupa. Something she couldn't be, and didn't think the pack thought she could be either.

After Paris' next pass, Nica unleashed just a little of her beast, her power and with Paris already bleeding and shocky, caused the woman to stumble. "Go to the ground," Nica told her, "and it ends with you still living."

Paris dropped. She had no choice.

Quiet and not so quiet sighs were heard around the lupanar. Nica turned to glare at Shang Da. "Power," she told him in perfect Mandarin, "doesn't always have to be seen to be there, nor used to its greatest strengths."

She turned back to Paris, who was still sprawled on the ground but glaring up at Nica. "This fight was to the death. I spared your life, now it belongs to me. Remember that."

Wufei walked up to his mate and replaced the armband around her arm. He leaned down and swiped his tongue over her lips, licking the blood away before kissing her. Duo cleared his throat and tossed the sweatshirt back to his sister. He'd return the knives later.

"Coffee?" Anita suggested, knowing Nica's addiction ran along the same lines as her own not to mention the fact that right now she could use a good jolt of caffeine.

"Absolutely," Duo and Nica said in unison.

"Oh god," Heero and Wufei muttered following the siblings and Anita.

=====

Another night, another meeting, Anita was getting sick of the meetings and the seemingly petty conflicts between the two wolf packs. The meeting this time was held at her house and she'd insisted that only the "leaders'" be there. Sylvie arrived in place of Richard, as he had a parent teacher night to attend. Rafael was there as was Quatre. Jason had driven Jean Claude over and then along with Nathaniel, made himself scarce. Micah stayed but made himself busy working on a project for his new job as a photographer for an advertising agency. She had a feeling some of their leopards would have new jobs as models very soon.

The meeting was more civilized than the rest had been, maybe it was because Richard wasn't here, or maybe it was because everyone was tired of the weres being attacked and wanted to solve it before anyone else got hurt. Rafael had consented to allow Joey to try this time and would be her back up along with Louie and Claudia insisted she be along too. Gwen had volunteered for the wolves and although Sylvie was hesitant to allow her lover to be bait, the wolves would back her. A third person would go out as bait instead of the two teams that had gone out previous times, so the leopards would be guarding Cherry. And it was decided that at least one vampire, probably more, would accompany each group as an extra bit of backup.

With the business out of the way, they ended up relaxing around Anita's living room with Jason and Nathaniel coming back at Jean Claude's call and Micah leaving his cameras and darkroom to join them. The conversation flowed, not about personal things, but art, history, and science.

The doorbell rang startling many of them because they weren't expecting anyone else or being on the look out for anyone.

"Richard," Anita declared from her place on the sofa as Nathaniel went to get the door, she could feel him through their bond.

Richard walked through the door Nathaniel held open for him, not acknowledging the leopard as he passed. No matter how much the young man showered, he smelled of Anita and of things he could never possess. "Well isn't this a quaint little gathering," he said sarcastically as he walked into the room and saw everyone sitting around relaxed. "Anita," he said when he turned and saw her lounging on the sofa, her head in Jean Claude's lap and her bare feet in Micah's lap.

"Join us, mon ami," Jean Claude said waving his hand toward an empty chair.

"I thought this was supposed to be a meeting to plan another trap for the stalker?" Richard said as he took the chair.

"It was, and we did," Rafael answered from where he sat in the easy chair that matched the one Richard now occupied.

"So quickly?" Richard asked.

"We've been here for three hours," Jean Claude pointed out, having looked first at the clock, neglecting to say that they had been in pleasant conversation for the past two.

Another knock at the door interrupted them before Richard could comment again. "That'll be Gwen," Sylvie said as she unfolded herself from the corner of the love seat she had occupied with Quatre. "She was going to pick me up after she got off work. See you later," she called as she left the room, escaping before she had to answer any questions from her Ulfric.

Rafael filled Richard in one the plans that had been made as Anita got up and went to make a fresh pot of coffee. She had to get out of the room and Richard's presence, his aura vibrated so red that it appeared black with his anger and jealousy and he managed to fill a wonderful evening full of tension.

"He's jealous, ma petite," Jean Claude whispered appearing by her side.

"I know," Anita sighed pouring the water into the coffee maker. "I thought he'd gotten past it and moved on, I guess I was wrong."

"Not wrong, I believe he has to some extent, but he also hasn't seen the three of us so intimate before," Jean Claude pointed out.

She knew Jean Claude was right, cozy afternoons and evenings sitting curled up on the couch had been what she and Richard had always had together, but why should she have to behave differently in her home just because Richard was uncomfortable. He'd given up his chance to be with her and Jean Claude several times, but the stipulation of giving up Micah was too high for her, and her leopards, to pay, besides *she* didn't want to give him up, he was the first person besides Jean Claude who accepted her for what she was and had no ulterior motive except to keep the pard safe.

Walking back into the living room with a fresh pot of coffee, Anita automatically filled Micah's cup and handed a cup to Richard, filling it before giving it to him, then held up the pot to Rafael and Quatre who both shook their heads.

"I'm going to go as well," Quatre said. "Trowa is waiting for me at the club so we can go home. It's not often we get the house to ourselves and we like to take advantage of it when we can," Quatre continued as he stood. "Thank you Anita for your hospitality tonight. Richard, Rafael, Jean Claude, Micah," he acknowledged before turning to leave.

"Quatre," Richard said stopping the young blond man before he left. "Will you be joining my wolves when we set the trap?" he asked making a try to be nice.

Quatre had turned around when Richard had called his name. He smiled and nodded. "We'd be glad to assist if you wish. Call me tomorrow and we can work out the details," he answered.

Richard nodded as Quatre left.

"Time for me to go too, I have a date," Rafael said, setting his cup on the coffee table and standing. "Richard, I'll talk to you later. Anita, thanks again, we should do this more often. Micah, Jean Claude."

"Let's get though this and we will," Anita said as she followed Rafael to the door, letting him out.

"Thank you," Anita said to Richard when she returned and once again sat down on the sofa with Jean Claude and Micah, this time however Micah was between them as she curled into the corner.

"I didn't do it for you," Richard said accusingly. "I did it for the packs."

"I know," she answered as Micah stretched out, mimicking the position she'd been in earlier with his feet in her lap. "But thank you anyway."

Patting Micah's head, Jean Claude helped the leopard king move so he could stand, motioning for both of them to stay seated. "I should go, ma petite, I have work at the Circus that demands my attention. Shall we dine together tomorrow, ma petite, mon minet?"

Anita and Micah looked at each other then both nodded "We'd love to," Micah answered for them.

"Then until tomorrow," Jean Claude said leaning down to kiss both of them then stood and called Jason to him before bidding Richard, "Au revoir." Good-bye.

Seeing Nathaniel take Jean Claude's place on the sofa and begin to rub Micah's feet as the leopard once again stretched out on the sofa, this time with his head in Anita's lap. "I think I'll leave you three alone," Richard said, his voice tight and cold.

Anita patted Micah's head much the same way Jean Claude had and watched as he once again sat up but this time Nathaniel laid his head in Micah's lap. "You don't have to leave," Anita told him.

"Yes, I do. The three of you are way to cozy for my comfort," Richard said nodding his head toward the two leopards cuddling on the sofa.

Anita followed him to the door to let him out and lock up after he'd gone. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.

Richard leaned on the door jam, reaching out and running a finger down her cheek. "So am I. I've accepted that it cannot be between us. We have both sealed that possibility with what we will and will not accept of the other but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt when I see you with them as we once were," he explained.

"I wish..." she started to say but he stopped her with a finger to her lips.

"Don't," he said. "We both know it won't get us anywhere."

Anita nodded and kissed the tip of his finger before he pulled it away, then watched him walk out to his car and drive away. Once he was out of the driveway she turned and bolted the door for the night before returning to Micah and Nathaniel and letting them hold and comfort her. Richard's angry she could deal with, but when he acknowledged he still felt something for her and missed what they had--she couldn't.

=====

Joey walked out of the dingy bar on the wrong end of Blood Alley. Not many people haunted this end of the vampire district, not even the tourists seeking the seedier side of the preternatural. It was strictly a place for the shapeshifters and freaks to hang out. The only clubs that hadn't had attacks outside of them, in fact, had been the ones Jean Claude owned. It was almost as if the stalker was afraid of what the Master of the City would do to him if he was found. They wouldn't even have thought to come to this end of town if they hadn't heard from Narcissus that one of the few female hyenas had been attacked outside this club. She was the missing person from the week everyone had thought the stalker hadn't struck.

She could feel the presence of a member of her rodere as she walked down the dimly lit alley. No doubt Claudia, one of the rodere's enforcers, was there as well as Louie and Rafael. The vampires Jean Claude had promised had turned out to be Anita's very own Damian and Willie McCoy. She knew Asher was across town with the wolves, watching Gwen who'd volunteered this time. And Jean Claude and Anita were with the leopards guarding Cherry.

Several people jostled her as she came out of the alley into the main street that, if possible, was as dimly lit as the alley.

"Joey, head down Jefferson alley," she heard a voice whisper from a darkened doorway as she walked past.

Not making an obvious acknowledgement, she turned and headed down the long alley that would take her behind most of the clubs. Ignoring the clinks from the street people living behind the dumpsters and in the cardboard huts, she kept walking her head held high.

She heard the slightly high pitch electronic sound only moments before the bolt of electricity hit her, knocking her off her feet. "Shit," she uttered as she felt the current from the high-powered tazer strike her again, that was her last thought as her world faded to grey.

"Joey, come on Joey, wake up."

It was the first thing she heard as she started to come around. Looking up into the face of Willie McCoy she asked, "What happened?"

"You got zapped with some kind of tazer," he explained helping her sit up a little. "They left me with you while the rest of them chased the guy down."

A commotion down the alley stopped anything else she would have said when Rafael shoved the crumpled body of a man down next to her. Damian and Claudia stood to either side of him incase the man tried to make a run for it.

"Is this him?" Joey asked.

"He's the one who attacked you, yes," Damian answered.

She turned and looked at him. "Why?" she asked.

The tall thin man in an oversized trench coat spat on her. "You filthy beasts. You all deserve to die."

"Enough of that," Rafael said shaking the man. "Answer her question."

"My daughter. You ruined her life," he accused.

"How did we ruin her life?" Louie asked, kneeling next to Joey.

"She was a doctor and happily married and pregnant when some beast attacked her. She was infected. She lost everything. Her baby, her job, her husband, and when she couldn't take it anymore she killed herself. She was my only child and you filthy beasts killed her," he sobbed.

Damian pocketed the cell phone he'd been given. "I called Anita. They will be here soon."

***

Anita, Jean Claude and the rest of the leopards were the last to arrive on the scene. They had to send someone into the club after Cherry who'd been detained by someone she knew from her previous life. When they arrived, Anita found a man huddled on the ground with a large group standing around him, debating his fate.

"What do we do with him now that we have him?" Joey asked.

"Kill him," Jean Claude said nonchalantly, he had no qualms about killing this person.

"You can't kill him," Richard protested.

"Why can't I? It's what he deserves for killing one of your people and wounding the others." Heero growled and paced away from the stalker.

"Killing him, we are no better than he is," Quatre reminded his skoll.

"The cops won't do anything to him," Elizabeth raised her voice. "They don't care that a bunch of shapeshifters got attacked."

"It wasn't just shapeshifters. Two of the victims were human," Anita reminded them.

"It doesn't matter, there won't be any justice for our people getting hurt," Merle said.

"Does it matter where the justice comes from?" Trowa quietly asked from behind Quatre, "Just that the justice happens?"

"I want him put away for what he did to everyone," Anita said. "If we make an issue out of this with him, then we will be in a better position to have more rights overall."

"You talk all high and mighty for someone who isn't a lycanthrope?" Richard said sarcastically.

"I may not change my shape, but I carry a beast within me. I lead the leopards and I can call the munin from your pack, that makes me as much involved in this as you," Anita stated simply and calmly, not raising to Richard's bait.

"Don't I get a say in this?" the attacker asked from where he still sat on the ground with Damian, Galen, Merle and Shang Da standing over him.

"NO!" was yelled from several people.

"Lets take a vote. Yes, we take him to the police. No, we kill him," Richard finally said, realizing that their debate wasn't going to get them anywhere. "Rafael?" he asked the rat King

"Police," Rafael said reluctantly, with Louie nodding in agreement.

"Anita? Micah?"

They looked at each other for a moment and Micah shrugged, leaving the decision up to Anita. "Police." There was no other answer for her.

"Jean Claude?"

"Kill him, of course," his answer was echoed by Gretchen.

"Police," Damian and Asher answered.

"Elizabeth?"

"Kill him," she said snarling.

"Joey?" Richard asked the other woman who'd been attacked.

"It goes against my better instincts, but police," she answered from where she stood in Claudia's arms.

"Richard, your vote?" Rafael asked.

"Police," he answered.

"Quatre? What does your group say?" Richard asked the visiting Ulfric.

Quatre looked between the other five members of his family and they all nodded including Heero reluctantly. "Police," he said knowing that if Nica had been attacked, the answer might have been different.

"Police?" Merle questioned the siblings from the Idun. "You killed your attacker."

"Yes, I did," Duo answered, plainly. "And if he'd," Duo pointed to the man on the ground, "been a shifter I'd have voted for death." Duo sighed, and pushed his hand through his bangs. "But this one's not a shifter, this one's mortal--a grieving man who reacted. He needs help."

"The overwhelming response is to call the police so I'm going to call Dolph. Anyone who doesn't want to be outed better scatter before he gets here. Joey, I'm afraid you'll have to stay," Anita said pulling out her phone and punching in the number to the RIPT.

"I don't mind," she answered.

"Joey, what about school?" Louie asked.

"I'll deal with it as it comes. If we can get this guy and make the public respect us better or not be afraid of us, it will be worth being outed," she said bravely. "Go. You can't afford to be outed, nor can Richard."

Slowly those who came with the wolves and rats who couldn't afford to have the world know what they were left. The leopards stayed as did the vampires, and one rat--Claudia.

***

Dolph and the RPIT team came and took statements from Joey, Claudia, Damian and Willie McCoy. As well as from the grieving father, whose name turned out to be Tom Kirby. Zerbrowski just looked at her standing with the vampires and Jean Claude's arm around her and for once didn't say a word he just went about his job.

"What?" Anita asked, just by the way Dolph looked at her after the uniforms hauled Kirby away, Anita knew there was more he wanted to say, to know.

"You going to tell me the rest of it?" he asked, moving them off to a quiet section of the scene so they could talk without being overheard.

"You got their statements, you know what happened."

"I know what you want me to know. But I also know that a set up like this would take more than two lycanthropes and three vampires. Especially since the women being hurt were more than your friend Joey over there. Where are the rest of them?" Dolph asked.

"What if I said they couldn't risk being outed by the publicity?"

"How many of them were there?"

Anita did a mental count in her head. Rafael and Louie. Richard, Sylvie, Gwen, Shang Da and Quatre's family. Micah, Merle, Galen, Cherry. "At least fifteen between the three teams. But only two others with Joey."

"Damnit it Anita I need to talk to these people to make this case stick," Dolph cursed.

"And they can't risk their jobs. Dolph they are teachers, nurses, therapists. Do you know what will happen to them if they are discovered?"

"The law doesn't discriminate," Dolph tried to protest, but couldn't look her in the eye.

"Yes, it does and we both know it," Anita retorted.

A noise made them turn and they saw Joey being lead by Claudia. "Sergeant Storr, may we go now? Claudia asked.

"What do you do?" he asked them, curious as to what they were risking by talking to the police.

"I'm a bodyguard," Claudia answered.

"I'm a student working on my PhD in Anthropology," Joey answered.

"And you risked being outed?"

Claudia stood taller. "They know what I am," she replied.

"If it means stopping this guy from hurting others then yes. Karin was my friend and a pack member…" Joey replied, hanging her head, tired and wanting to go home where she could lay in Claudia's arms and feel safe again.

Karin Richards, the only death accredited to the "stalker". Dolph may not understand the monsters but he did understand what Joey was saying and why she was doing what she was doing. Loyalty to a lost family member. He'd paid attention to Anita enough to know the pack was family. Dolph sighed, "I understand. You may go but I will need to talk to you again."

They nodded and walked away leaving Anita standing with Dolph.

"Go be with your monsters. The vamps are waiting for you. I want you in tomorrow," he ordered.

Anita didn't say anything, she knew she'd been given a reprieve from Dolph's wrath for the night. She also knew she'd have to answer some very specific questions in the morning. Questions about why they set themselves up as bait without telling the police and questions about the missing people from the scene? Could they make the case stick without Rafael and Louie testifying, or could they make it with just Joey's testimony and that of the other women attacked? She didn't have all the answers right now but she knew she better have some before she saw Dolph tomorrow. The rest would get answered as she talked to Dolph.

=====

It was over and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. The police had decided that they could make the case with the evidence given by the victims and the confession of the man himself. They knew that whatever battle had done with the police to keep their identities secret had been a hard won victory and once again pack and rodere would owe her. They only hoped she hadn't burned too many bridges this time.

Jean Claude had decided to throw a party for everyone to celebrate at Danse Macabre, allowing Nica and Duo, with help from Heero and Trowa, to work their magic on his club. As the festivities wore on no one noticed when Nica took Asher's hand and led him outside to her waiting jeep.

"It's time my friend," she said climbing in next to him while Wufei drove. "I promised you this," she said turning to sweep the hair away from the scared side of his face.

Asher closed his eyes and remained silent. He didn't think he could express his feeling about the gift he was being given so he didn't try.

They had already talked to Anita about going to her place and having the run of the woods surrounding her house--it would be a safe place for Asher and the two wolves to sleep the day away afterward.

"Wufei is going to change with me so we can all run through the woods," she told him as they walked to the end of Anita's yard. Neither wolf seemed to notice Asher's gaze upon their nude forms as they neared the forest's edge.

"I understand," Asher said finally finding his voice. He understood, the two were one.

He watched as she embraced her lover--no, he corrected, her mate, her soulmate--then began to change, dropping to all fours as her bones shifted and her fur began to cover her skin. And when she had completed the change, her coat gleaming in what was left of the moonlight, she walked up to him and nuzzled his hand, as if saying it's okay.

Asher looked up to see Wufei nod before sinking to his knees to run his hands down her back, sinking his fingers deep into her fur and taking a deep breath. He could smell the faint scent all the wolves carried on their skin as well as the blood pulsing below her skin. He leaned his head down and rested his scarred cheek against the warmth of the fur feeling it slide over his skin as she moved under him. He could remember nights when after the hunt, Merrilee had curled next to him and he'd rested his head on her until it was time for her to change back.

He stood leaving his hand rest on her back and watched as her mate changed into wolf form. He could see why these two called to each other. Then with a nod the three of them were off, racing through the woods dodging trees and leaping over fallen logs along the way as if they were weightless and obstacles meant nothing to them. Asher felt free and actually happy for the first time in a very long time.

An hour or so before dawn approached the three returned to Anita's house. At the back porch, Wufei shifted from wolf to wolfman form and knelt down next to Nica, kissing her. Asher stood a step away from the pair and watched as the white wolf once again became a young woman. "It was fun," she said, her voice a bit rough from the change. "We'll do that again." She leaned on Wufei. "Tired now, Fei," she whispered.

Wufei picked up Nica and carried her into Anita's house and down to the basement. Before going out, Wufei had put together a pallet for he and Nica to sleep on in the darkened room, he laid her on it, caressing his hand down her body while reaching for the blanket and their armbands that rested on the foot of the pallet. Asher watched all this with an eye of interest as he leaned against a coffin Anita kept in her basement in case she had guests of the vampire persuasion--like today.

"Sleep, love," Wufei whispered, kissing Nica on the temple as he brought the blanket up around her naked body. "She'll sleep for the next five hours or so straight," he told the Asher, standing up to face vampire. "She's been over doing it the last few days."

Sometime between the time he knelt down next to the pallet and stood up, Wufei had shifted back to human form. A very nice human form, Asher thought. He watched Wufei approach him with no thought to his nudity. "We will talk more tonight, my friend," he said. "For now sleep with your new memories." Wufei lifted his hand and brushed away the hair that blocked Asher's face before turning away and returning to the pallet where he gathered Nica close to him and succumb to the need for sleep.

Asher stared at the couple on the pallet. The blanket had shifted down when Wufei drew Nica to him. Her head rested on his shoulder, her hand reaching up to his other shoulder. His arms around her. They were a beautiful sight to see, Asher thought as he touched his face, the scarred side of his face where both of them had gently brushed his hair away. To say that he was a might confused would have been right, but he could feel the sun pressing down on him. He took one last look at the two wolves then closed the coffin's lid.

***

He woke to the beats of three hearts, raising the coffin's lid Asher saw Nica asleep on the pallet. Actually, she was asleep on Wufei, he thought, smiling to himself. Wufei was sitting propped up, a small pair of wired-rimmed reading glasses sat perched on his nose while one hand held a book and the other one was moving in random patterns through Nica's long hair and across her shoulders and back up again. Asher looked around Anita's basement for the third heartbeat and found Nathaniel lying on the ground staring up at him.

As Asher approached him, Nathaniel sat up and smiled. Asher knelt down near Nathaniel and told the wereleopard to come to him. Nathaniel did as he was told, positioning himself against Asher's chest and tipping his head back to expose the line of his neck, signaling Asher he was ready for him to feed.

Nathaniel had begun to purr while Asher fed, and was still purring a few minutes later when the vampire pulled away from his neck.

"He does seem to enjoy that," Wufei said dryly, a small smirk evident on his face.

"Yes."

Asher looked to were the wereleopard now laid still half cradled in his arms looking very pleased with himself as he drifted off to sleep. "I did not think you would be here when I woke," he told Wufei quietly. "Or that she would still be asleep."

Wufei gave his head a little shake, and if Asher wasn't mistaken, he also rolled his eyes. "We slept for about three hours before someone from your club decided to try and re-wire all lights and sound system." Wufei grimaced a little, then smirked. "From what I understand it was quiet the show of sparks, though the melting plastic did smell." Wufei took his glasses off and placed them with his now discarded book. "We came back here a few hours ago. Everything should be good to go for tonight now," he said. "And she needed a few mores of sleep before she goes to work tonight."

Asher stood, settling Nathaniel on the nest of blankets he'd been sitting on before standing. "I'm sorry they called her," he said to Wufei, looking at the girl who slept on.

"It was not a problem."

Wufei watched as Asher nodded a thanks before excusing himself to go upstairs to the shower. Wufei laughed to himself. Poor vampire, he thought, just doesn't understand want he's gotten himself into. As soon as the thought came Wufei was quietly laughing.

***

Nica walked hand in hand with Wufei toward the lupanar. She couldn't believe this was the second full moon that they had spent in St Louis. They hadn't planned to stay in the city but a few weeks for the job at the Raven. But Quatre bought the club and The St Louis Theatre Company had offered her and Duo a job when they heard the siblings were in town so they had stayed.

She didn't mind too much, although she missed the milder Seattle weather to the extremes in St Louis but the friends she'd made here were well worth it. She had a weekly girls day out with Anita and Sylvie and Gwen and Cherry sometimes joined them. She had a job she loved in the field she was trained in. And her family, if not fully wanted, were at least welcome to come and go from St Louis with Richard's blessing. Again it wasn't Zechs and home but it was something.

Then there were the vampires, or rather Asher in particular. Not since Crawford had she been comfortable around vampires, even Relena, Master of Seattle. Asher was different though and through him and Anita she'd gotten to know Jean Claude and Damian better and could actually say she had vampire friends.

As they approached the ring she found the rest of their family waiting near the edge along with Anita and Micah. "I thought you'd be at Anita's?" Nica commented to the nimir-raj when she reached the small group.

"Naa… We're hunting with the wolves tonight, make peace kind of thing after Anita and Richard have been at each other throats for the last month," Micah answered.

"Let's hear it for shapeshifter unity," Duo said sarcastically before going up to greet his sister. "Hey sis."

Nica didn't answer him but she did smack him. He'd never learn.

Jason joined them already stripped down to nothing but a pair of faded, holey jeans, even his feet were bare. "Hey guys. Can I join you tonight?" he asked remembering the invitation to hunt with them after the last full moon.

Quatre nodded smiling at the young man, "Sure."

A hush fell around the lupanar as Richard and Sylvie stood in the center. "Tonight we are joined by the Pax Idun who will be visiting us for a while and the Blooddrinkers Clan, both will hunt with us once again. Hunt well," he finished and left the throne with Sylvie behind him.

People started to move off and change until soon the only human left was Anita. As the Idun left together with Jason and Micah they never saw the vampire that watched them from the shadows.

- Authors' Notes and Translations -
Notes:
1) the song lyrics "Never made it as a wise man, I couldn't cut as a poor man stealing, and this is how you remind me, this is how you remind me of what I really am." are from Nicekelback's "How You Remind Me"
2) the song lyrics "Do you ever question your life? Do you ever wonder why? Do you ever see in your dreams all the castles in the sky? Oh tell me why, do we build castles in the sky?" are from Castles in the Sky mixed by Ian van Dahl, song by Marsha

Translations:
Je t'aime, mon petite. = I love you, my little one. (french)
Ai shiteru = I love you (japanese)
Koi, koibito = lover, love (japanese)
Wo ai ni. = I love you. (Chinese)
mon minet = my cat (french)
Caraid anam = literally translated it means "my soul friend" (Scots Gaelic)

End of New Alliances: More Than What We See