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Under the Skin

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“I can’t believe you’re making me do this!” Danny complained as he tripped over another root, the whole damn forest was trying to break his ankles, or his neck, which ever came first.

“You agreed to it.” Steve said as he stopped and turned to look at him. The bastard wasn’t even sweating in the sticky heat. “Come on, we still have a way to go before we get to the cabin.”

“Then why couldn’t we just drive to it!” Danny asked as he shouldered his pack a little to make it more comfortable.

Steve just laughed at him. “Because there isn’t a road to it anymore, the forest took it over.”

“You promised it had fresh water?” Danny gasped, if there wasn’t a road then how the hell did it have running water? “You said there would be a working shower… Oh… Oh. Don’t tell me! It’s going to be a plastic bag with holes in and hung from a tree!”

“It’s got a fresh water supply, Danny.” Steve called back. “We will have to stoke up the boiler for you to have a shower though.”

“Great… just great.” Danny sighed but kept walking. He looked at his feet trying to keep up with the wild man in front.

The imaginary trail they were following started to get a little steeper and Danny was sure he could hear running water. “Are you sure we are going the right way?”

“Yes.” Steve said and Danny didn’t like his tone.

“If you’re leading me off a cliff I am NOT going to be impressed…” he shivered a little as the temperature seemed to be plummeting. “And is it me or is the wind picking up?”

Steve paused. “You’re right. The weather report said there might be rain.” Then he started walking again, only faster.

“Hey wait!” Danny said as he tried to keep up. “What’s up, why the rush?”

“Feels like a storms coming in.” Steve called back as the trail got even steeper.

“You said you checked the forecast this morning!” Danny yelled. “I remember you saying it should be fine!”

“Should.” Steve answered. “I said it ‘should’ be fine… looks like it’s not, pick up the pace.”

Danny did his best as he all but jogged after Steve. The wind was getting a distinct chill as they started slogging along the side of a stream with a high bank to their left.

He looked up to see Steve quite a way ahead clambering up some rocks where a small waterfall fell into a pool below. “What’s that sound?” he shouted over the noise of the wind in the trees.

He watched as Steve turned, looking surprised. “Danny RUN!” he shouted gesturing for Danny to come to him. “MOVE!”

“Wha…” then he heard it, the sound of rushing water, a LOT of rushing water, and he started to run.

He didn’t make it.

He saw Steve scramble higher up the rocks as the waterfall suddenly went from a pleasant trickle to a torrent, then it all but disappeared in a fall of solied dirty water that was heading straight for him.

He saw Steve unbuckling his pack and drop it on dry land as the water started to hit Danny.

Danny tried to shove himself up the bank, but it was too high and too steep, any vegetation he tried to grab onto just came away in his hands as his legs were washed from beneath him and he was plunged into water cold enough to take his breath away as he went under.

He floundered in a blind panic as he tried getting to the surface to get some air but he was disorientated as he was being spun like a top.

Next thing he knew his back was slammed into something hard and he was pinned.

Stone at his back and the water pressure keeping him in place. His lungs were screaming for air but he couldn’t find ‘up’ as debris battered into him then spun away.

He felt himself getting light headed and weak as something suddenly clamped around his elbow and he was being pulled.

He tried to fight it because it hurt like hell but as his face broke water he took in a gasping lungful of beautiful air before he was plunged under again, the pressure around his elbow was insistent though, but he was no longer pined and he seemed to be going in a direction, across the currant.

It didn’t take long before he felt ground under his feet and he struggled to get to the blurry green mass in front of himself.

The pressure on his arm let go and he felt something solid at his side pushing him towards what he assumed was the bank.

Once again he found himself grabbing at vegetation, but this time it held firm as he dragged himself onto dry land, then collapsed. He coughed then threw up some water as he tried to breathe.

He wiped the crap from his eyes as he fell onto his back. When he blinked he could finally see the trees swaying in the wind above him. Then he saw something out of the corner of his eye that made him flinch.

“Fuck!” he cried as he reached for his gun while pushing himself back as a large tiger turned to look at him with dark hazel eyes.

It took him a moment to realize he wasn’t wearing his gun as he tried to get to his feet, but his legs shook so bad he fell back down. “Don’t eat me, don’t eat me.” He sobbed as he backed into a tree, panic getting the better of him, he had no idea Hawaii had wild tigers.

The tiger got to its feet and made a growly type sound Danny didn’t like at all, not one fucking bit. Then it made a strange puzzled type sound as it looked down at its paws, then sat down on its haunches looking stunned.

It took another moment for Danny to realise that the Tiger was wearing Steve’s t-shirt and khaki coloured cargo pants.

Danny relaxed a little before tensing again. “Oh my god!” he exclaimed in anger. “You’re a Shifter?!” he accused.

The tiger lifted its head, still looking startled.

“How the hell!” Danny said as he slumped to the ground, he was actually feeling a little hurt. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Tiger Steve just looked at him, his head cocked a little to one side, he let out a piteous squeak before looking down at himself again. If it was possible, Danny thought the tiger looked confused and a little distressed.

“Well just change back!” Danny snapped as he got to his wobbly legs. He was soaked through and he was already regretting the loss of his stuff as he whipped the mud off his hands onto his pants.

Tiger Steve gave a yawl.

“How the hell should I know?!” Danny sighed as he looked at his arm where he now realised Steve had grabbed him in his mouth and dragged him out of the flood. “This was a new shirt.” He mourned as he looked at the holes in the cloth, but he was happy to see he wasn’t bleeding, but it hurt like hell, so there would be bruising, but he imagined he would have a lot more elsewhere soon enough, he felt like he had been though a grinder.

Tiger Steve gave another pathetic whine as Danny saw him get to his feet too and noticed how bedraggled the large cat looked.

With a sigh he took a step toward his friend, reaching out a hand, but he hesitated to touch the large animals head. “You okay?”

Dark hazel eyes looked up at him before the cat gave a huff and nodded his head.

“So… what now?” Danny asked straightening up as his back gave a twinge of pain. “Oh for Christ sake!” he growled as he felt rain start hitting his head. “Ok, let’s start heading back.” He said turning to look the way they had come.

Tiger Steve gave a snort and moved past Danny, up the mountain, not down.

“That’s the wrong way!” Danny yelled as he automatically moved to follow the tiger. “We need to go back to civilisation!”

Steve Tiger gave a snort that Danny was sure wasn’t anything polite, but he kept moving up, even if Steve’s movements were impaired by the clothes he was still wearing.

“Do I look like a Shifter whisperer?!” Danny demanded as he struggled over a tree root, now they were pushed off whatever Steve had taken for a trail, the way was even more treacherous and it didn’t help that the wind and rain were picking up.

He kept his eyes down as the rain was beaten into his face as he kept going, when he finally looked up he could see the orange tiger clearly ahead and he seemed to be pulling something with his teeth. “What the hell?” he asked as he realised it was Steve’s pack, his own had been lost as he struggled to breathe in the flood that washed him away. “You made me struggle up here so you could just get your stuff?” he asked angrily. “You could have got it yourself!” he shouted over the storm that was still picking up. “Now can we go?”

Steve just glared at him. It was strange how it was such a Steve type glare. Then the tiger turned and kept walking up hill and into the storm, dragging the pack in his mouth.

“This is insane.” Danny muttered to himself as he carried on following.

 

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Danny wasn’t sure how long he had been walking, his legs were ready to give out, never mind the trip hazards every step, he was also walking against the wind and rain that was cold enough to make him shiver whenever the canopy broke and it was like having buckets of ice cold water poured over his head.

He just caught himself from falling on his face again when he heard a gruff yup from ahead. Looking up and wiping the rain from his eyes with little success he could see Steve up ahead, standing at the side of a cabin. “Finally.” He laughed. He had expected it to be some run down hut. Instead it looked like a very nice cabin that was well kept.

He quickened his step, sighing in relief as he staggered up to the door, the wind and rain finally let up in its shelter.

He reached for the door knob and turned. Nothing happened. With frustration he threw up his hands. “Great!” he growled. “Locked! You better have the keys!” he snapped down at the tiger that now stood at his side.

The tiger opened its mouth then nodded as it turned its head to look at its left hip.

“Oh you can’t be serious!” Danny exclaimed. “Why don’t you just Shift back and sort this out yourself!”

Steve shook his head.

With a sigh Danny moved closer and with hesitation he reached into the pocket at Steve’s waist and pushed his hand into the pocket the cat had indicated. It was hard as the material was pulled tight over a tiger’s frame, Danny was sure it couldn’t be comfortable for Steve right now.

Danny’s fingers came in contact with something very key like and he pulled them out. Without a word he moved and opened the door. “After you.” He said sarcastically to the cat.

Steve just slunk inside, dragging his pack with him.

Danny followed him and shut the door on the crappy weather. When he actually looked into the gloom he could see a largish room, with a wood burning stove at one end, with a little kitchenette off to its side, facing it were two rustic looking sofas. At the other side of the room was a table with three chairs. Past that on the back wall were two doors.

“Please tell me this place has a bathroom.” He begged as images of a bucket outside sprang to mind, which would be Steve’s version of luxury.

Steve lifted a paw and pointed it towards the nearest door, before he dropped the pack and made his way to one of the sofas and started to climb on top.

“What the hell!” Danny cried as he went over and pushed Steve away. “You’re soaking wet!” he explained as the tiger glared up at him. “If you’re going to be a stubborn SOB and not Shift back, then you have to get out of those wet clothes."

Steve sat on his haunches and whined a little.

“You’re lucky I’m such a good friend!” Danny snapped as he bent to the waist band of Steve’s shirt and t-shirt and began to tug them up towards the cats head. “Lower your head.” He said as he made sure his hands didn’t go anywhere near the tigers neck. With a lot of tugging and swearing Steve’s head popped out of his clothes. Then Danny pulled and pushed Steve’s wet fury body so he could get the clothes off his front paws, throwing them towards the stove and he guessed the only source of heat. He just had to get it going first.

“Get on your back.” Danny sighed knowing what was about to come and it wasn’t something he ever thought he would be doing for the most stubborn man he had ever met.

Reluctantly Steve got down then rolled awkwardly onto his back, Danny couldn’t help but grin as Steve’s four legs waved in the air. Then he grimaced as he reached out and started to undo the button on Steve’s cargo pants. With a deep breath he looked up as he pulled the zip down then stuck his thumbs into the waistband, also snagging Steve’s boxers and pushed as quickly as he could. It was difficult trying to get the pants off a strange anatomy without looking, but what he wasn’t expecting was something long and wet smacking him in the face.

Spluttering and fell back in horror at the moment the pants came off to fall on his ass. He finally looked to see a long orange tail swishing about in the air. With annoyance Danny reached out, grabbed the tail and pulled. “Watch where you stick this thing!”

Steve let out a roar of surprise then growled as he pushed Danny away with his front paws and moved back onto his front.

“Stupid cat.” Danny growled back as he threw the rest of Steve’s clothes into the pile as he got up. “And for god sake will you Shift back, I have no idea how to get this stupid thing going.” He said looking at the stove and the pile of dry wood by the side of it. “You better have a lighter.” He complained, he’d lost everything to the flood and he was damn sure he wasn’t going to be rubbing sticks together to get a fire going.

He turned when he was aware that Steve was being rather quiet.

Steve had moved his ass onto the sofa and was now curled up with his head turned into the back of the cushions.

Danny just shook his head as he went to Steve’s pack and began pulling everything out of it.

There was a change of clothes and an extra t-shirt, some dry goods, MRE’s and, thank heavens, coffee. There were some other stuff but he finally found a lighter. So at least they weren’t going to freeze to death.

 

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Steve moved his head to watch Danny fussing with trying to get a fire going. And at any other time he would be laughing at his friends efforts. But right now he just wanted to crawl into a corner and disappear.

When he had seen Danny being hit by a wall of water he hadn’t though as he let his SEAL training kick in, he just threw off his pack and jumped in after his friend. Before he had hit the ice water he had experienced a moment of searing pain all over his body before he hit.

He had braced for the usual cold that would take his breath away for a moment, but it never happened as he began to swim to the surface. He could see Danny’s progress being halted by one of the boulder’s near the bank and made a frantic effort to get to him. Again it was easier than he expected.

He had grabbed Danny by the arm then dragged him towards what was left of the bank.

It had confused him as Danny started to panic when he looked at him, but that was before he looked down at himself.

His blood ran cold when he saw large paws instead of his hands. He tried to say something and it came out as a guttural growl. Then Danny had said something that struck him to the core.

‘You’re a Shifter’

But that was impossible… he would have known before this, he would have been tested as a child, there was no way they would have let him in the military if he was a Shifter.

For god sake, someone would have figured it out by now!

But there was no denying he now had fur covered paws instead of hands.

And it was freaking him out.

It also didn’t help that he had no fucking idea how to change back and be normal.

He turned away form Danny’s antics as he curled up on the sofa and thought.

There was no way he could go back to humanity like this. He would be thrown into a Shifter Dormitory the moment anyone saw him, and there was very little chance he would ever be let out as an un-bonded Shifter.

Then there was the fact he would be stripped of his rank and taken away from the job he loved and the life he had build for himself here.

He couldn’t give the danger and excitement up. It’s what he lived for, the next adrenalin rush, that feeling of euphoria as they took down the bad guys, the thrill of the chase.

He would be taken away from it all and locked away.

“Oh for… This is ridiculous!” Danny suddenly exclaimed and Steve turned his head enough to look at Danny through the corner of his eye. “How hard can it be to light a damn fire?!” he carried on muttering but as always, Steve turned out the words and just listened to his friend rant.

For some stupid reason it was soothing… even in their short two years together, Danny was one of Steve’s best friends.

Danny didn’t have a personality that Steve ever thought he could get along with.

He was loud and had a bad temper that was like a force of nature when he got going, which in Steve’s case was most of the time. He always seemed to do something the smaller stocky man would disapprove of, then complain about for hours, loudly.

But as much as Danny pissed him off and argued with him, he always made Steve smile. If he was honest, he laughed more with Danny than he fought with him.

He moved on the sofa so he could watch his friend a little better.

From the first time he had clapped eyes on the detective in his father’s garage, Steve had been inexplicitly drawn to the other man.

At first, Danny was a means to an end. To be the cop on his team, to help find his fathers killer. But as Steve formed the task force, he hadn’t even asked Danny to join, he had just taken him.

Just like Steve seemed to have claimed everything that was Danny’s.

His career, his car, his free time, his anger, his smiles, his family, his personal life and most of all, his friendship.

There was very little about Danny’s life that Steve didn’t have a part in. Danny even shared his daughter with him whenever he could. Though Steve was sure Danny didn’t realize how much that meant to him.

Steve had taken it all without a thought, just instinctively knew that Danny would follow wherever he led.

There was something about Danny that always drew Steve.

He had always just thought it was the strange friendship they had. Steve had never really questioned the trust he had with the shorter man, he gave it and expected it from Danny like it was just a given.

Steve had always had an instinct about people, like he trusted Chin without a thought, never believing he was a criminal. He trusted Kono too with very little effort, even if she was young. But that trust only went so far. But with Danny it was different and never questioned and it went very deep.

And that was another thing that was confusing him.

After Danny’s first shock at seeing him as a tiger, he had got over his shock very quickly and didn’t seem bothered about being in the presence of a large predatorial animal. He had just accepted it was Steve and wasn’t really acting any different towards him.

Steve was sure if their roles had been reversed, he wouldn’t have been so understanding or accepting.

Slowly Steve pushed himself up as curiosity started to over shadow his crushing shock. He needed to know why Danny was being the way he was.

“At last!” Danny laughed as the fire finally started to get going in the stove, then he was getting to his feet. “Ok, now how to get our clothes dry…” he said to himself as he picked up Steve’s wet clothes and went over to the dinning chairs. Steve watched as he brought one over to the stove and put it in front of the fire and began draping Steve’s stuff over it. “You know this would go faster if you had hands.” Danny glanced at him as he snarked.

Steve tried to talk again, but it just came out as grunty little roars and snorts, he slapped a paw down in frustration. He still had no idea how this worked.

Danny sighed as he sat perched on the other sofa. “Ok… so we are going to do this none verbally… and I never thought I would see the day you couldn’t argue back.” He grinned and Steve wanted to slap him. “So, just nod or shake your head.”

Steve frowned but nodded his head; he could at least do that.

“Are you registered?” Danny asked.

Steve shook his head. If he was, he was sure someone would have said something before now, and this wouldn’t be quite so distressing.

“Ok, so your unregistered… but with your background that’s understandable, or you wouldn’t be a SEAL. And the Shifter Registry would never have let you keep that death wish you seem to have.”

Steve shook his head again emphatically.

“So you’re not unregistered or you don’t have a death wish?” Danny grinned.

Steve shrugged his shoulders as best he could. He also intensified his glare, it was unfair to ask two questions at once, but Danny seemed to ignore that fact.

Danny sat back on the sofa, folding his arms across his chest as he stared at Steve like he was thinking. “Fine… so you’re having trouble Shifting?”

Steven nodded.

“When was the last time you Shifted?”

Steve growled again, he had never Shifted in his life as far as he knew, he was human and normal for gods sake.

“Ok, ok, calm down… Yes and no questions only… So, I’m guessing you haven’t Shifted since you were a kid?” Danny asked with a frown.

Shrugging Steve slumped a bit, this was impossible.

“You can’t remember Shifting before?”

Steve nodded a few times, it was almost right.

Danny sat forwards, putting his elbows on his knees as he whistled. “Are you telling me you didn’t know you were a Shifter?”

Reluctantly Steve nodded once, surprised Danny actually got it so quickly, but that’s was what made him a good cop.

“Wow, right, ok.” Danny let out a long breath as he rubbed his hands together. “Are you sure I haven’t slipped into one of Grace’s Disney stories?” he gave Steve a raised brow.

Steve shrugged as he shook his head.

“Fine.” Danny gave him a grin. “So you’re now stuck as a tiger?... a very handsome tiger I might add.” Danny teased.

Steve gave a snort of surprise and was glad he couldn’t blush right now, even if it did send some warmth through his chest. He nodded answering Danny’s question.

Danny scratched the back of his neck like he was thinking again. “I remember Sally telling me that it was like Prince Adam turning into He-Man…”

Steve frowned at the childish analogy; he also didn’t know who Sally was, so he gave a questioning grunt, thankful it actually came out right.

“Oh… Sally was my next door neighbour. We were friends till she was shipped off to the New Jersey Shifter Dormitory when we were eleven… I never saw her again after that. I heard she bonded with some banker somewhere in Canada.”

Steve couldn’t help but react to the sad regret in Danny’s voice, so he stepped down off the sofa and went to his friend putting his hand… paw on Danny’s knee consolingly.

Danny smiled at him and patted his paw, then left his hand there. “She was a lioness and we used to play together all the time… I always promised her that when I was old enough I would marry her, but she was already Bonded before we got a chance… I doubt she even remembered me.”

Steve whined as he placed his head on top of Danny’s hand.

“Sap.” Danny teased with a smile as he patted Steve on the head with his other hand. “It was years ago and doesn’t help your dilemma now.” He sighed. “It also doesn’t help mine.”

Steve lifted his head and gave another questioning snort.

“Stuck here with you, like this, in a storm.” Danny answered. “And it sounds like its only getting worse.”

Steve had ignored the relentless pounding of rain on the roof, or the whooshing of the wind as it ripped around the building and through the trees. As he listened he realised that it had in fact intensified since they had got to the cabin, it seemed more severe than just a normal storm.

“So… Why don’t you try doing the ‘by the power of grey skull’ thing and see if you can turn back into Prince Adam…” Danny grinned down at him. “Unless you want too stay as Cringer for the rest of your life?”

Steve snapped his teeth together angrily making Danny laugh. But he really didn’t want to be a cat anymore… he never wanted to be one in the first place.

 

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Steve sighed as he relaxed on the sofa.

He had tried for hours to Shift back to being a human. All to no success. He was stuck.

Danny had tried helping him, getting him to relax and do some breathing exercises, Steve was sure Danny was using Lamaze on him. Steve rolled his eyes, but had tried, it hadn’t worked. He had also thought ‘By the power of Grey skull’ till he had gotten a headache, still nothing.

Danny had finally left him to it as he found some canned food in the cupboard and with the MRE’s had made a passable meal for them both.

But eating it out of an old tin bowl after Danny had cut everything up was a little embarrassing, especially when he also had to awkwardly lap at a bowl of water.

When it had finally gone dark, Danny had lit a few old oil lamps and they both settled down to watch the fire in the stove as they listened to the storm carry on outside as it rattled around the walls making soothing whooshing sounds.

It hadn’t let up at all and Steve suspected it would last for a while, he was almost happy he couldn’t tell Danny this as he mourned the loss of both their phones, Danny’s literally and Steve’s to water damage. His friend would only bitch about not going back to the car.

Finally he let out a yawn.

He was tired, despite the stress he was feeling, all he wanted to do was curl up warm and go to sleep.

“You’re right.” Danny suddenly broke the silence as he stretched. “Bed time. Sooner we go to sleep, the sooner we can get up and get out of this backwards cabin and find civilisation.”

Steve stretched too as he slowly slunk off his sofa and made his way to the bedroom. The door was still closed and he couldn’t open it.

“Move.” Danny said and Steve found a leg pushing him to the side as Danny opened the door. “What the hell!”

Steve looked into the room to see a double bed, wardrobe and a chest of drawers. It smelled a little damp, but the bed was made and it looked fine.

“Where’s the other bed?” Danny asked as he walked inside.

Steve snorted a laugh, he hadn’t really thought about it. After all he was military and bunking with other guys had never been a problem, even if he did have to share. He guessed Danny was going to put up a stink now.

“There isn’t another bed is there?” Danny sighed with resignation. “It’s a good job you’re a bloody cat right now or I would be so yelling at you!”

Steve grinned at his friend then frowned as Danny went to sit on the side of the bed by the door. For some reason he didn’t like it. So he pushed his way between Danny and the bed, then began forcing him towards the other side.

“What the hell?” Danny snapped. “I can’t even sleep on my side of the bed? I always sleep on the right side! What is your problem?”

Steve just growled as with one shove of his shoulder he forced Danny to sit down on the left side of the bed with an oof.

“I’m not even going to argue with a stupid cat!” Danny growled back. “And so help me if you shed on me I’m going to shave your ass bald in the morning!”

Steve laughed as he jumped onto the bed and with a paw he pulled down the slightly musty smelling sheets, then wriggled into them as best he could, making sure he was facing the door as he lay on his side.

He listened as Danny fussed about, probably taking his pants and shoes off, then the bed dipped and he felt Danny get in.

“Stupid cat.” Danny muttered but Steve felt the sheets being pulled up over his shoulder. “You better not snore.”

Steve felt Danny fussing about some more before he felt Danny’s back up against his own.

“Shut up.” Danny snapped. “This bed is small and your fat ass is taking up most of it… So help me if I end up on the floor in the morning, when I get a gun, I’m going to shoot you.”

Steve gave a growl of protest, even if he was smiling.

“Goodnight.” Danny said, then Steve felt him settle down.

For a while he just listened to Danny breathing before his friend became a quiet lump at his back. Steve though it would take him ages to get to sleep. But the sound of the storm outside was lulling him and along with the comforting sound of Danny’s shallow breathing, he drifted off to sleep.

 

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Steve woke to the sound of something very large and very wooden, breaking. He lifted his head and waited to see if there was any other sound. But all he could hear was the wind and rain. It sounded worse than when he had gone to sleep. If he didn’t know better, it almost seemed like a hurricane, but there had been nothing on the forecast that would suggest that.

He was still sure he hard a tree falling over. From what he could see through the shutters on the window, it was very grey outside, so he wasn’t sure what time it was.

But he was awake now and as he laid his head back down with a sigh, he realised he was still a damn tiger. A tiger with a full bladder. With a snort, he started to get up, or tried too.

“To early…” Danny said behind him and Steve felt his partner’s fingers fist into the fur on his back and shoulder. It was the strangest feeling.

He froze though when he felt Danny nuzzling into the back of his neck. Every now and again as Danny moved his face, Steve experienced a shock of electricity through his whole body. And with a sickening realization, he was lowering his head to his chest as his dick began to get hard.

With a start, and when Danny’s face moved away from the place that was turning Steve on, he kicked out and managed to fall out of bed onto all fours.

“Wha…” Danny asked in surprise. “What you do that for?”

Steve looked up at his friend in a mix of emotions he really didn’t want to think about right now.

He was straight for god sake. He’d had girlfriends, though he’d never done anything with them, but he had them and he had never looked at guy, not in ‘that’ way… yet Danny had just given him an erection?

“Don’t look at me like that!” Danny protested as he half sat up and glared down at Steve. “I’m a snuggler!” he protested. “And you’re fluffy and soft; it’s like sleeping with a hot fluffy teddy bear.” He grinned teasingly. “And I don’t know if you noticed. But it’s fucking cold!”

Steve relaxed as he shook his head, letting Danny switch from mood to mood as he talked and started to get out of bed too.

“Now I need the can, and I’m wide awake thanks to you and this damn storm… move your tail before I step on it.”

Steve did it without even thinking as he followed Danny out into the main room and to the door where the bathroom was. “What? You want to watch me piss now? Is that it?” Danny asked as he opened the door.

Steve let out a grumble as he pushed his way inside, stared at the loo, then up at his friend.

“Don’t look at me…” Danny was grinning at him. “Here.” He said as he leaned over Steve’s back and lifted the seat and lid. “I’m going to make coffee… you can figure this one out for yourself… just… don’t piss on the floor.” Then he was gone, pulling the door closed behind him.

Steve first tried climbing up with his front paws, but couldn’t quite maneuver the rest of himself to get a good aim. Clumsily he got back down.

He tried closing his eyes, thinking of himself with real hands and a proper human body. But it didn’t work and his bladder was protesting a bit more. With a sigh he turned and backed up towards the toilet, then standing on tippy toes, that wasn’t easy, he managed to get his appropriate parts over the rim.

With a purr he began to relive himself. When it was over he pulled himself off and looked to flush it, but it was an old type chain pull that he had no way to use, and there was no way in hell he was going to use his mouth. Even for him, there were some limits.

He was also stuck in the room.

He went to the door that opening into the room and tried to use the handle and failed. Then he scratched at the old painted wood, trying to get his friends attention. Still nothing, he could hear Danny moving about, but not coming to his aid.

He took a deep lung full of air then let it out in a deep rumbaing roar. It echoed around the small space and even drowned out the sound of the storm.

“Fine, fine!” Danny said as the door opened and Steve huffed in relief. “I guess I have to flush? Did you wipe? Want me to do that too?” Danny snarked as he pulled the chain. “Wow, this place does actually have running water! You know for a moment there I thought you had lied to me… so, is it safe to wash in too?”

Steve sighed and nodded. He really should have told Danny that only a few hundred feet up the mountain and a bit to the left, there was a road to the village just over the other side. And the reason he had come to the cabin was because it was closer to civilization than turning back.

But right now, civilization was the last place Steve wanted to be. Especially not like this.

“Are you going to watch me?” Danny asked and Steve beat a hasty retreat.

Danny had been true to his word, and he could smell the coffee, but the fire in the stove wasn’t lit. With a whine he sat down on his ass and looked at the pot mournfully.

He jumped when he heard another tree start to fall over in the howling gale outside. It was close, too close.

He went to the door, but again, there was no way he could open the round handle.

“What the hell is that?” Danny asked loudly.

Steve pawed at the door. Then stepped back as Danny opened it and they were both hit in the face by cold wet air as the wind blew rain into the cabin.

Outside was grey and misty, the trees were all moving violently in the force of the storm and everything was drenched.

Danny slammed the door shut. “Are we in a hurricane?” he asked in alarm.

Steve shrugged, but he guessed it was something close.

“How long do you think it’s going to go on for?” Danny was asking as Steve shrugged again. “I have Grace tomorrow…” Danny began pacing. “I can’t give Rachel any excuse to try and take her away again!”

Steve couldn’t really say anything to that, so he just rubbed his face against the side of Danny’s leg, then Danny was patting his head absently.

“Yeah, I know… It’s not your fault. Come on, I need to get coffee and YOU need to Shift back so I can yell at you properly.”

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

For the rest of the day they just sat and listened to the storm while Danny played solitaire with a pack of cards he had found in the food cupboard. All the time chatting away to himself.

Well, Steve did put in some grunt and growls from time to time, but he couldn’t really do much else, other than lean against Danny’s side while pointing out moves with a claw every now and again.

And that was another thing Steve found a little disturbing.

He liked being close to Danny, he smelled of spice and musk that stopped Steve from thinking to deeply about his current predicament. Danny sometimes reached out and touched him from time to time, it wasn’t anything unusual in their friendship, but now it felt better, like it was more intimate. Though Steve was sure it meant nothing special to Danny, he was just patting a cat. But for Steve it was… he didn’t want to think about what it meant now.

So as night drew in and the storm eased up, Steve was sat on the sofa with his head laid on Danny’s lap as they both watched the little fire in the stove. Danny’s fingers combing through the fur on Steve’s head. In return Steve couldn’t help but purr at the simple pleasure.

“We should be able to get out of here tomorrow.” Danny broke the silence.

Steve closed his eyes, there was no way he was going anywhere like this.

“Soon as I get to a phone, I’ll phone Grace, and then I guess we get you to the Shifter Registry and see what’s what.”

Steve growled as he pushed himself up to sit and glair at Danny, he shook his head.

“We have to do something.” Danny protested. “You can’t stay as a tiger the rest of your life; they might have something that can help you Shift back.”

Steve shook his head emphatically.

“No!” Danny demanded and Steve could smell that he was getting angry. “There’s not talking to you right now.” He said without a hint of irony as he moved to pull the kettle off the stove. “I’ll drag you down this damn mountain hogtied if I have to. Crap!”

Steve watched as Danny picked up the kettle then instantly dropped it. He had burned his hand on the handle and was now holding his wrist and cursing loudly as he went to the bathroom.

Steve followed in a hurry, the smell of pain and scorched flesh was thick in the air and he needed to help his friend.

“Shit, shit!” Danny growled loudly as he held his hand under the tap. “I hate this!” he grimaced as he grabbed a towel and shoved it under the tap too.

Steve whined as he put his paws on the toilet to try and get a better look at the damage, he nudged Danny with his shoulder till his friend moved his hand from the water, and held it so he could see.

“See… better now?” Danny huffed. “Just a little red, no blisters… just stings a bit.” He said as he wrapped his hand up in the wet towel. “Come on, I need more coffee.”

Steve padded after his friend. Then watched as Danny put a towel around the kettles handle and gingerly lifted it from the stove and start making the coffee. He really wished he could help. The urge to make sure Danny was okay had been overwhelming, but he still couldn’t Shift back.

What if Danny actually had a more serious accident? Steve would be totally useless. Sure he had saved him the other day the only way he could, which left him as a fucking cat.

“Here.” Danny said, breaking Steve out of his thought.

He looked up as Danny placed a bowl of coffee at his feet.

“And stop thinking like that!” Danny said huffily as he went to sit down on the sofa with his own mug. “I am NOT putting myself into some other life or death situation for you to save me!” he sipped his coffee. “It probably wouldn’t work anyway, and I would just end up dead in the middle of nowhere with snakes using my skull as a playpen!”

Steve shivered at the thought as he tentatively sniffed the coffee, still too hot to start lapping at.

“But in the morning, we ‘are’ going home.” Danny started talking again. “We just need to smuggle you into your house, then I can go get Grace.”

Steve glared at his partner.

“No.” Danny pointed a finger at him. “You are ‘not’ staying here! I can hit the net when we get back. There should be something online that has information on how to help your stupid furry ass.” He grinned, then the accusing finger moved closer and began to scratch behind his ear.

Steve found himself purring at the pleasure of the simple action. He guessed that Danny was right. Though the urge to stay in the cabin was strong. He couldn’t spend the rest of his life here.

“Don’t you worry.” Danny said softly. “I’ll find a way to help you… I promise.”

Steve didn’t doubt that as he closed his eyes and leaned against his partners legs.

--

That night, Steve faced his friend in the bed. Hoping not to have a repeat of the night before. But in the morning, he was spooned up with Danny’s chest against his chest, his forelegs encasing the smaller man as he slept on.

Steve had just pushed his head against the back of his friends, and gone back to sleep easily with his partners sent in his nostrils.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

“Get in…” Danny said as he opened the back door to Steve house. “And stop grumbling, I’m sure no one saw us.”

The tiger still grumbled at him as he darted into the house.

Danny followed, shaking his head.

On the way back in the car, that luckily still worked. The news on the radio was still reporting about the tale end of a typhoon that hit the islands. Which would explain all the damage they had seen on the way back. Most of it was superficial, which was a good thing, because most scumbags weren’t stupid enough to need 5O’s attention while the storm hit.

He also wasn’t sure how Steve had stuffed himself down into the footwell in the back of his car.

As he entered the kitchen, to actually get some proper food. He guessed it was time to start trying again to convince his stupid partner that going to the Shifter Registry was a better idea that him hiding in his own home.

“You know, if I was a proper friend, I should be dragging you to the Registry right now.” He said as he opened the fridge, beer right now was better then food. “I’m sure it’s against the law not to take you.”

Suddenly the fridge door was slammed shut in his face as Steve glared at him, his paws still on the fridge where he had put all his weight against it.

“I’m serious…” Danny snapped as he twisted the cap off his bottle. “You think you can just stay like this for the rest of your life?” he asked as he took a swig.

Steve just grumbled something, then stalked away.

“Don’t think just cause you can be all moody and silent now, don’t think I don’t know what you’re thinking!” Danny said as he followed Steve into the living room. “Shit!” he jumped as Steve’s house phone suddenly went off. “Williams.” He answered.

/”Danny? Finally.”/ Chin said on the other end. /”Where are you guys, and I can’t get hold of Steve. Both your cell phones are down.”/

Steve hung his head low as Danny gave him a look.

“We were off in that damn cabin when the storm it.” Danny said hurriedly. “We’re both gonna need new phones… So, what’s going on? Are we needed?”

/”Luckily no. We just needed to know if you were okay.”/

Danny could tell Chin was laughing at him. “Well, we are back now… err… think Steve came down with something...”

/”Will he be okay?!”/ Kono yelled in the background.

“Yeah… think it’s just a tummy bug…” He answered as Steve actually rolled his eyes. “I’ll get him some medicine later. But if everything’s okay I’ll be in tomorrow.”

/”That’s fine; we can hold the fort here. Later.”/

Danny frowned at the phone. Chin sounded like he was amused about something. “Why do I get the feeling they were laughing at me?” He asked the handset.

Steve just snorted as he carried on looking around the living room, then made his way into the dinning room. Danny was just about to follow when the phone went off again. “Who…” then he realised who it was and a cold dread filled his gut. “Hey Monkey!” He said cheerily into the phone as he looked at his non existent watch, then ran into the kitchen to see that he was already late to pick his daughter up for the weekend.

/”Danno.”/ She replied. /”You’re late?”/

“I know Monkey.” He said as he began to run upstairs. “Uncle Steve ran into a little problem, so I’ll be over to pick you up in about ten minutes. Okay?”

/”Is he okay?”/ Grace asked worriedly.

Danny shoved Steve’s bedroom door open, then picked up a book left on the table next to the wall and threw it down to act as a doorstop. “He should be. Look, you just sit tight, and I’ll be with you soon.” He did the same with the on suite bathroom, using the bin. “Love you.”

/”Love you too Danno!”/ She said as she hung up.

Danny couldn’t help but smile as he also propped the master bathroom door open and lifted the lid on the toilet just in case. When he came out, Steve was looking at him from the stairs. “I have to go get Grace. Is there anything else you need me to open?”

Steve just shook his head.

“Great.” He said patting the large orange head as he walked down the stairs. “I won’t be long! Don’t answer the door to anyone.” He chuckled as he left the house, locking the door behind him.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve wandered about his home restlessly. He was glad and a little surprised that Danny had left doors open for him. He hadn’t even thought about it. But as he padded around, he couldn’t seem to get away from all the smells around the place. He had never really noticed before. Certain places he could still smell his dad, so he avoided going near the garage or his dads old desk. He could also smell his sister, but over laying it all, was the smell of Danny.

He never thought his partner could have spent so much time in his home to leave his scent almost everywhere. Sure Danny had lived here for a week or so when he was looking for another place to live. But that was months ago. So why his smell should still be infesting everything was a little odd.

It didn’t help that he found himself on the sofa, his nose pushed into the cushions as he kept taking slow deep breaths in through his mouth and over his pallet, it seemed to intensify the smell, Danny’s comforting scent.

With a snort he got up and began pacing the room again. He had ‘not’ just been purring like some contented pet cat.

He flopped down on the floor in annoyance. But he still couldn’t get away from Danny. With a snort he just laid his chin on his paws.

He shouldn’t be so annoyed with himself. If it wasn’t for Danny, he didn’t think he would have got through these last few day’s. Sure, he wouldn’t be in this situation if he hadn’t tried to rescue his annoying friend. But in the long run, Danny’s instant acceptance of him suddenly being a Shifter had soothed Steve’s panic immeasurably.

So, of course he would find the man’s smell comforting. And he shouldn’t think to hard about that, or what happened back at the cabin. He just had to make himself human again, and forget this was actually happening.

He was just about to get up and see if he could somehow open the fridge and get a beer when he heard a car pulling up to the house.

He tensed then slunk into the kitchen doorway. He was less visible here from the windows. Then he caught the sound of voices, instantly recognising Danny’s. But he couldn’t make out the person with him.

Then the front door was being opened and Steve slunk back into the kitchen as he listened.

“Now… Remember what I said. You can’t tell anyone about this. Not your mother or anyone at school.” Danny was saying as the front door closed.

“I remember, and I won’t. Not if Uncle Steve doesn’t want me too.” He heard Grace answer.

Steve sighed, just before he got angry. What the hell was Danny thinking, bringing his daughter here!

“Oh, I’m sure he will want this to be your little secret.” Danny was saying, then, “Steve?”

Steve just slunk backwards into the kitchen as silently as he could. He heard Danny sighing.

“Why don’t you go put your new dvd’s by the TV, while I go find our host.” Danny said as Steve heard him walking his way.

He pulled his lip up over his teeth as Danny came around the corner. But his snarl had no effect on the man. In fact Danny just rolled his eyes.

“Will you stop being stupid.” Danny sighed. “It’s only Grace. Or maybe you should Shift and come and greet her properly?”

Steve snorted as he moved his head away stubbornly.

“Will you stop acting like a little child and just get out here.” Danny said as he came forward, then Steve felt knuckles hit the top of his head and he growled up at his partner. “Shut up!” Danny said, doing it again. “Now move… We’re up for a day of Disney movies and take out later.” He said walking away.

With a huge huff, Steve got to his feet and slowly went into his own living room. He still had no fucking idea how to actually Shift back. And he liked Grace enough to know she was a bright kid.

“Here he is.” Danny said as Steve saw him sit down on the sofa. Then he looked over to the TV where Grace was stood. Her eyes wide as she stared at him.

Steve felt his heart miss a beat, she looked scared. And so she should, after all she was laying eyes on a tiger not ten feet away from her. So he lowered his head and sat down. The next thing he knew, little arms were around his neck and hugging him so tight he thought he might chock.

“Ah.” Danny said hurriedly. “Remember what I said?... not about his neck, just lower your arms a little.”

Steve took in a breath as Grace moved her arms to either side of his shoulders.

“Uncle Steve?” Grace said softly into his ear.

He glanced at Danny, who was grinning at him, then he turned his attention to the little girl and on impulse he licked his tongue up the side of her face. She squealed with delight as she pulled away.

“Great, now she’s covered in all sorts of germs.” Danny sighed.

Steve just gave his partner a grin as he nudged Grace with his nose, making her giggle some more.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Danny yawned as he sat on the sofa. He had one arm around Grace as she cuddled up against his side, fast asleep. His other hand was on Steve’s head as he stroked the soft warm fur.

The action brought back fond memories of Sally and his childhood. Even if it was a little disjoined as Sally had only been a cub at the time and a lot smaller.

He looked down at his friend as he played with a fluffy ear absently, sure Steve was asleep too. It was nice having a friend who was a Shifter again, even if it was annoying that Steve was still stuck in cat form. It had been three day’s now Steve had been a cat and still he hadn’t Shifted. And Danny could do nothing but worry. He didn’t know much on Shifter lore, but he was sure it wasn’t healthy to be in cat form for so long.

He knew he would keep Steve’s secret for as long as he could. But the longer Steve didn’t Shift, the more Danny knew he would have to find some advise and soon.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

[Three days later]

 

Danny sat in his car, staring at the building across the street.

He had been sitting here like a stalker for ten minutes. All his training and instincts were telling him to go over to ‘that’ building. But his loyalty to his partner was keeping him in the damn car.

He took a deep breath as he tightened his fists on the steering wheel.

Steve was still stuck as a tiger. And for three days Danny had been fencing off Kono and Chin along with anyone else who wanted the commander of 5O.

Every night, Danny had stayed over at Steve’s house, searching the net for anything that might help. But apparently the only thing people said was to go to the Registry where they had mysterious people that could help. They had tried all the home made ideas that were littered about. But nothing had worked and Steve was still stuck.

With a growl, he angrily got out the car and walked across the road, stomped up the steps and under the sign that read ‘Hawaii Shifter Registration, Main Branch’.

The inside of the Registry looked like any well appointed government building and at least had air conditioning. The man at the reception desk looked up and smiled at him when he approached.

“Can I help you?” The man asked.

Danny looked at the man’s name tag. “I hope so… err, Troy.” He said as he picked up a leaflet about Shifter lore and started fiddling with it. Desperately trying to tell himself he wasn’t nervous about what he was about to do. “I have a friend of a friend…” he started lamely with the worse excuse in the world of excuses. “… and they got themselves stuck in cat form.”

Troy nodded understandingly, looking concerned, though Danny could tell it was a little forced. “Well, if you can bring this ‘friend’ in, we can see about helping them.”

“Err… no I can’t do that…” Danny fidgeted some more with the leaflet in his hands. “They are a bit of a stubborn recluse… Look, I just need some advice so I can help them. And everyone can get along with their lives.”

Troy was quickly losing his smile as he turned to his PC behind the counter. “If you would just give me the Shifters name. I can check to see if they have had trouble like this before, and what they did then.”

Danny sighed in frustration. “I can’t do that.”

“Unregistered?” Troy said his tone even.

Danny watched as Troy’s hand moved over to a switch board, one finger hovering over a red button, which was ominous enough to send a chill down Danny’s spine. “Yeah know what.” He said backing away, giving the man his best smile. “I think they will sort it out themselves. I’ll just go…” he winced as he heard the door automatically lock behind his back.

“I’m sorry sir.” Troy said as he stood up. “But it’s illegal to not register a Shifter. Especially one who needs help.”

“Fine.” Danny said as he reached for his badge. “I’m a member of 5O,” he held the badge up. “So I think I know the lore, and right now I have cases I need to get back too. So if you would open the door, and I can be on my way. Keeping the streets safe.”

Troy just frowned at him and he was about to say something when a tall Hawaiian woman walked through another door at the back of the reception desk. Troy turned to her. “This man knows about an unregistered Shifter… Who’s apparently in distress.”

“Oh?” the woman said softly as she looked over to Danny with surprise. “Are they hurt?” she asked Danny directly.

“No, they aren’t hurt… they just can’t Shift back to normal, and all I want to know is how to help!” He bit out in frustration. “Now, if you will just let me out of here.”

The woman came around the desk towards him; “Why don’t you just come to my office, and we can see how to help?” she smiled at him. “Will that be okay?” she held out her arm and turned a little.

Danny looked back at the locked doors. He knew he should have listened to his heart.

--

Danny moved in his chair as the woman who had met him in reception smiled at him across from her desk in a small office she had led him too.

She had told him her name was Aolani Keawe and she was the Hawaiian Registries officer in charge of health care. Thought Danny suspected that it was more than just signing off on bills. And with all the surveillance cameras he saw in the halls. He knew they were even being watched now. Which was disturbing.

“So… Your friends stuck as a cat?” she asked softly.

“I never said he was my friend.” He said as he eyed the camera in the corner of the room.

“So, I’m guessing ‘he’s’ not registered?” She smiled.

Danny winced, but didn’t show it. He hadn’t even meant to let that much slip. But it was pointless denying it now. “Yeah…” he leaned forwards and lowered his voice. “Look, I just need to help him turn back to normal. Then I’ll be able to convince him to come in and register.”

Keawe nodded as she sat back in her own chair. “How long did you know he was a Shifter?”

Danny took a deep breath to try and calm himself. “I didn’t know… and as far as I can communicate with a large cat… nether did he.”

That made Mrs Keawe frown and lose the supercilious smirk. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” He answered.

“So are you his Bond Mate?” She asked coolly, though her eyes were intense.

Danny blinked at her. “What?... no!” he protested.

Keawe smiled. “Does he have a Bond Mate.”

Danny sighed. “No… I’m the only person who knows he’s a Shifter.” He wasn’t going to mention his daughter, this bitch didn’t need to know that.

“How old is your friend?” She asked, at least her concern seemed real.

Danny shrugged. “About as old as me.” He answered vaguely.

“Late thirties then.” She said matter of fact.

“Whooo!” He stated to protest, but one look at her and he knew it was useless. “Fine.”

“Then you need to tell me where he is. If he has never Shifted before then he could be in a lot of trouble.” She said as she got to her feet and went to the door behind him. He turned to watch her as she leaned out into the hall.

“Mike!” She shouted. “Mike!”

A few moments later and Danny heard a door open. “Yeah?”

“Can you get a team together?” Keawe was saying. “We have a stuck Shifter in need of help.”

“Sure… where?” Danny heard the man call.

Danny got to his feet as Keawe looked at him. “Look, if this is serious and my friend ‘is’ in trouble. Then I’ll talk to him and bring him in!”

Keawe’s face darkened as she glared at him. “I can already tell your friend has been stuck for a while, or you wouldn’t be here. We need to get to him as soon as possible!” she snapped. “So if he is your friend, I suggest you tell us where he is.”

Danny felt his blood pressure rising as he reacted to her growing concern. She wasn’t faking it. “Okay, okay. I can bring him in today. I have to talk to him first.”

“No.” She snapped as she took a step toward him. Danny didn’t back down, even if she was taller than him. After all, most people were. “Your friend needs our help and he needs it now…”

Danny sighed as he looked into her eyes. Knowing he had no choice. He had run out of options and despite what Steve thought, he needed help. He just cursed he wasn’t the one who could give it.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve sat looking out the window, watching the world go by through the blinds as he rested his chin on the back of the sofa.

Danny should be back by now with lunch and Steve’s stomach was already protesting at him for food. It was annoying that he had to depend on Danny for everything right now. And he knew, once all this was over, he would owe the man big time. But he grinned at that. It just meant he would have to stick close to the other man and make sure his debt was never paid off, it would drive Danny insane.

He let out a huff of air then flinched as something twinged on his thigh. He turned to nibble at it, hoping to all hell he wasn’t getting flees. The thought of Danny dusting him down with flee powder was amusing, but at the same time terribly embarrassing.

He also hadn’t had a shower in five days, so he stated planning on how to get Danny to help him out with the shower. The thought actually made him happy, he needed to get clean, he was starting to smell funny.

The itch finally went away, so he moved back to looking out the window for Danny. Then he smiled and sat up as he heard the familiar sound of Danny’s car pulling up out front.

What he did not expect was the screech of tyres and Danny running up to the front door.

Steve got up and climbed off the sofa as Danny threw himself inside, then locked the door behind him, which sent alarm bells ringing in Steve’s head.

Steve could smell the stench of sweat on his friend and something sharp, like fear. He let out a grumble of concern.

Danny finally looked down at him. “Ok… we have to get out of here.” He said hurriedly as he began to walk through the house to the back door. “Maybe we can lay low at my place… crap, ok, I can ask Kamekona to find us somewhere.”

Steve followed, picking up on his friends panic, making him even more jumpy.

“I’m sorry.” Danny finally said as he opened the back door.

Steve gave a grumble of confusion as he went to go outside. He hadn’t been out in days and it felt good to have the sun on his fur.

“Shit!” Danny snapped, then Steve found Danny pushing him back inside.

Steve caught the sight of someone coming around the side of the house with a rifle. He let Danny lock the door then he was pushing his friend back toward the front room. If there was someone out back, then there would be more out front. So he started forcing Danny towards the stairs. They could get out of the bathroom window and make it out from there.

He had no idea who was after Danny, but it wasn’t good. Maybe it was a case they had been working without him.

“How can they be here so fast!” Danny was cursing as he moved where Steve was pushing him without protest. But they weren’t quick enough as the front door came flying open and a man with another funny looking rifle came bursting in, two more behind him.

“Stay where you are!” One of the men shouted at them.

Steve crouched, ready to pounce when Danny stepped in front of him, his hand up with no gun in them.

“WAIT!” Danny shouted. “Just wait!”

“Please move aside… unless the Shifter will come willingly.” The man said as Steve realised he was holding a tranquiliser rifle and his blood ran cold.

“I said I would handle this!” Danny protested, then he was turning to Steve, ignoring the men by the door, or the two that were now coming in from the back door. “I’m sorry.” Danny said again. “I didn’t know what else to do!”

Steve gave him a frown. If there was ever a ‘what the fuck’ moment, it was now.

Danny sighed deeply. “I had to go to the Shifter Registry…”

Steve took a step back, Danny had said he wouldn’t. The sudden shock of betrayal gave him a bitter taste in his mouth.

“I had to find someway to help you!” Danny protested, angry now. “This was the last resort… they know how to help you! Apparently it’s bad for you to be Shifted this long!”

Steve cocked his head to one side, backing away as Danny crouched down and tried to reach a hand out to him. He knew that with Danny’s help, he would Shift eventually. But his partner and friend had shopped him, to the last people he should have done.

“You just have to go with them and they can help you!” Danny said in frustration.

“If you don’t come we can make you.” The goon behind Danny spoke as he walked up behind him, then laid a hand on his shoulder.

Steve didn’t like that, not one bit and he started growling as he moved forward, pushing Danny aside, knocking him on his ass, as he glared up at the man, his teeth bared.

The man backed off instantly, then raised his gun and fired.

Steve felt the sting in his shoulder, which made him flinch. Then another gun went off as something slammed into his hip, and his back leg went out from under him.

Then Danny was there, crouching over him and screaming.

“What the hell!” Danny was saying as Steve snarled as Danny started pulling the tranquilizer darts out of him, they hurt more coming out.

“You need to step away!” The man who first shot him snapped.

“What’s going on here!?” A woman’s voice filled the room. “Terry?”

“The Shifter was going for me.” The man answered. “He wasn’t going to come quietly.”

“I told you to wait for me.” The woman was saying angrily. “There is no need to make this more traumatic for the man than it already is!”

Steve felt himself getting dizzy as the tranquiliser began to kick in, and he staggered, then felt Danny’s arms around him as he collapsed against his friend. Thankful that Danny was helping him slump to the ground as he started panting.

“I think it’s traumatic enough that you break into some guys home and point guns at him!” Danny was snapping at the intruders. “You agreed you would help me convince him, Keawe, not scare him to death!”

“I am sorry, Mr Williams.” The woman Danny had called Keawe said as she came closer.

Steve pushed up against Danny’s chest in a vain attempt to ward her off. She seemed to take the hint, and backed off a step.

“I know what we agreed,” she said softly as she slowly sat on the end of the coffee table.

Steve was relived she made sure he was between her and Danny. He watched her as best he could as his vision began to dim and he slouched back against Danny, whose hands fisted into his fur.

“And I’m truly sorry about how things have worked out…” Keawe said. “But Mr McGarrett really needs our help. And we need to make sure he’s safe and with his family.”

Steve growled weakly at that. He was just fine where he was.

“He’s safe right here!” Danny snapped. “Or he was!”

Steve smiled at that. Trust Danny to know what he was thinking, so with appreciation he licked the man’s arm. It was sloppy and awkward as his lips started to go numb and he felt all the strength go out of his muscles, slumping against his partner as his eyes finally closed.

The last thing he remembered as reality slowly slipped away, was Danny stroking his head, promising things he couldn’t quite catch and the sound of his own purring as he slipped away.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Danny watched in distress as the bastards who had burst in and shot his partner, carrying Steve into the back of their ambulance.

He had wanted to sink his fists into Steve’s fur to stop them taking him away. But he had just let them load Steve onto a gurney and strap him down. A fact Danny was feeling guilty enough he wanted to be sick.

He flinched when he felt a hand on his arm, then looked over to see Keawe next to him.

“I thought you said you weren’t Bonded?” she frowned at him.

“We aren’t.” Danny shot back, still angry at her.

She gave him a look that was a little close to pity. “You do know what Bonding takes?” she asked.

Danny snorted at her. “I never touched the back of his neck!” he snapped indignantly. “I know how to behave around Shifters! He’s my best friend…” he trailed off as he heard the doors slam shut on the ambulance, and it sounded like a part of his life, he had come to take for granted, had just been taken away from him. “I’ll follow in my car.” He said, moving to his own car, but the hand on his arm stopped him.

“You can’t see him.” Keawe said softly.

Danny just glared at her, ready to start flashing his gun around.

She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr Williams. But if what you said is true and he never knew he was a Shifter and this is his first Shift… then the Registry will want to help him through the transition…”

“What the hell does that mean?!” He growled, then turned to watch the ambulance pulling away and into traffic.

“It means we will have to keep him in seclusion for a while.” Keawe answered.

“Seclusion?” Danny gasped, desperately trying to keep his temper under control, and failing fast. “He’s not a criminal! You can’t keep him locked up!”

She shook her head. “No… but he’s vulnerable at the moment… We have to keep him safe from abuse, and from himself.” Then she turned to walk away. “I’ll keep you up to date on how he is doing.” She smiled at him knowingly. Though what she knew escaped Danny at that moment. “You have my number if you need anything… until then, be assured we will help him.”

Then she was getting into her car and driving away.

Danny watched her go as he just stood on the sidewalk. Not quite understanding why this felt very similar to when Rachel had divorced him and took Grace away.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: The Dormitory

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve woke up…

… and started screaming.

He had never known such agony, his whole body convulsed as he tried to get away from what ever he was held down too. His body was burning as all his bones felt like they were fracturing and reforming. His skin burned like a million blunt pins were being shoved through his flesh from head to toe.

He opened his eyes, but he couldn’t see, his vision blurry and the light above was too bright.

There was also a sound that was piercing into his skull and he wanted to be sick.

He was in agony.

He heard someone talking to him, it sounded reassuring but he couldn’t make out the words, or who they were, or care.

He just wanted the pain and the sound to stop.

He found the breath to scream again as suddenly the screeching noise stopped abruptly and with it the pain left like it had never been.

Leaving him gasping as he stared up at the ceiling, wondering what the hell just happened.

“You’re okay now.” Someone said at his side.

He turned his head to see a woman, closing the lid on an old wooden box that looked like it had a blue/white crystal inside. She smiled at him as she put the box aside.

“The old remedies are always the best.” She smiled at him. “How are you feeling, son?”

Steve just blinked at her as he tried to sit up, but realised he was strapped down to the bed he was laying on.

The woman was reaching out to his hands, then he felt something tighten around his wrists, digging into the underside and he found all his muscles suddenly going limp. Before he started struggling and fighting against his bonds.

He knew he was human again, but he couldn’t revel in the fact as all his instincts started to kick in to get away.

“Hush, hush…” The woman was saying as she put a hand on his forehead. “Please, you have to calm down; I don’t mean you any harm.”

Steve glared at her as he stilled, knowing that struggling would actually get him nowhere. He just needed to wait for an opportunity to escape.

“That’s better.” She smiled at him. “Oh… and my name is Kate, and I was just helping you Shift back to your human form.” She said as she sat back. “We were lead to believe that you had been stuck for almost six days?”

Steve glared at her then looked away as he remembered Williams had betrayed him and turned him in too the Shifter Registry. So now he was stuck, only in a bad way.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve wasn’t sure how long it had been since Kate had finally stopped trying to talk to him and just left. But it was long enough for his muscles to start cramping from the strap across his chest, waist, knees and ankles. He had struggled and tried to get free, but the straps were too thick and every time he moved his arms, the cuffs on his wrists pressed into sensitive nerves and he went limp for a few seconds.

He had almost worn himself out. He knew rationally that it was better to conserve his energy and wait for an opportunity to get free. But he was to frustrated and angry to care as he tried to pull at his bonds again, to no affect.

He growled and the things pressing into his wrists made him go limp again. All the fight left him for a moment, even though he had tried not to move his arms.

He growled louder as he banged his head into the thin mattress he was pressed against, the pillow someone had placed there long gone in his struggles.

He stiffened when he heard someone in the corridor outside, three someone’s. One of them sounded annoyed, but they were all whispering and he couldn’t make out the words.

Finally they fell silent and he watched as the door opened and a tall woman walked in, she looked vaguely familiar. Then he remembered. She had been the woman who Danny had been talking too. He resisted the urge to snarl at her and just went for glairing.

“Mr McGarrett.” She said as she closed the door firmly behind her, all but slamming it on the other people outside. “I’m so sorry for this treatment; it wasn’t what I asked for.”

“Really?” He snipped sarcastically. He was surprised when it came out croaky and he realised he hadn’t talked in over a week. Sure he had grumbled and whined, but not words. It had worked; Danny had always seemed to know what he was thinking anyway.

“I wanted you in this…” The woman said as she held up something that looked like a collar. “And not strapped down like a mental patient.” She said, her tone angry, but it wasn’t being directed at him as she gave a quick look over her shoulder. “Will you let me put this on you so we can talk?”

He glared at her. He wasn’t a fucking dog!

“Ah.” She seemed to cotton on quickly that if she tried he would fight. She eventually sat down on the chair where the other woman had been. “I’ve been informed of your work history.” She said softly, still not introducing herself. “I know you were SEAL, so you’re highly trained, and I’m sure you could find a way to escape if we let you free. But for your best interests, we can not allow that. Please, don’t look at me like I’m the enemy.” She sighed.

From Steve’s perspective, she was his fucking jailor.

“I’m also aware you will have lots of enemies.” She made her voice soft and reasonable. “Once they learn you are a Shifter, they will be able to use that against you. And we do not want to see you hurt, or worse, dead.”

Steve hated the fact that she had a point. If he could be incapacitated by a pair of cuffs, then it could prove enough of a distraction to get himself; or worse, someone else killed.

“So, may I please put this devise on you?” she asked again lifting up the collar with a small black box attached. “It should not affect the back of your neck. But it will prevent you from Shifting for the moment, as well as incapacitating you, should you decide to try and leave the protective walls of this facility… but I would like to be able to talk to you more civilly.”

Eventually Steve nodded once. He would have more freedom if he could at least move.

He watched as she came forwards with the collar in hand. It took a bit of fiddling and he hated it even though she was being gentle, he still had to bite down hard to stop from sinking his teeth into her hands as she fastened the damn contraption.

Eventually she moved down to the straps pinning him down and began releasing them, once she released his chest and waist, Steve resisted the urge to sit up as the woman undid the last straps on his knees and ankles.

He waited till she stepped back before he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Then he grit his teeth as the room spun a little and his body screamed at him to lay back down. Everything felt stiff and odd. He had to grip the side of the gurney he was sat on as he struggled to get the world to stop spinning.

“Take it easy.” The woman said softly. “You were in a different body for a long time. You might need a few moments to find your balance.”

Steve glared up at her to see a smile on her face, but she didn’t look like she was mocking him.

Her smile broadened. “I’ve been told it can be very disorientating. And now we can actually talk properly. My name is Aolani Keawe, I’m the Officer of the Hawaiian Shifter Registry’s Health Care, and I’m in charge of your case, for the moment.”

Steve nodded, but he knew it was useless returning the favour, she probably knew more about him than he cared for her to know.

“Oh. Would you like something to drink? Eat?” she asked.

Steve was about to refuse, but his mouth was still dry, “Coffee…” he croaked.

Keawe nodded as she got to her feet and went to the door and opening it she began talking to someone outside.

Steve reached up and felt the collar about his neck while she wasn’t looking, he could feel the buckle, but there was some kind of lock attached to the large box that was resting at the base of his throat. He would examine it more once he could find a mirror. He moved on to the collar itself. It had a soft leather inside, with a synthetic outer layer were he could feel two thick cords of steal stitched into it.

“It’s mostly to prevent you from Shifting.” Keawe said as she came back and sat down across from him. “It will also shock you unconscious if you try to leave the designated areas.” She actually winced as she told him that. Not like it helped Steve’s mistrust any, she had been the one to put the damn thing on him.

“So… I’m guessing you have some questions for me?” She asked expectantly.

Steve had a million and one questions. But there was only one he needed right now. “When can I lave?” he croaked.

Her smile turned sympathetic and he wanted to wipe it off her face. “I can’t answer that one.” She said. “Eventually, we will be able to give you more freedom with a Chaperone. With the new laws, we would prefer to release you into the custody of your sister, as you only surviving next of kin. But with her background at the moment, that doesn’t look feasible… I’m sure you understand.”

Steve nodded as he thought about his sister. He couldn’t help but wonder if she knew yet, or who was going to tell her they had been living a lie, that her big brother was a Shifter all along. He wondered is his dad had known… or his mother.

He closed his eyes, not wanting to go there.

He moved his train of thought to his team… he couldn’t help but feel his gall rise as he imagined Williams telling Chin and Kono their boss was a big cat. He wondered if Williams would also tell them how he betrayed him.

“Well…” Keawe said with a little awkward cough, bringing his attention back to her. “Someone is working on your itinerary right now. They want to get you into classes as soon as possible. Also Doctor Mike Francis wants to get you into one on one counselling to help you get through this change in your life…”

“I don’t need a shrink.” He growled, he just needed to be left alone. He was happy with his life! And he sure as hell didn’t need ‘classes’.

Keawe just smiled at him. “I’m afraid it’s not optional. All our wards have to attend. Though for you, we have to tailor make your schedule.” Her smile turned more into a knowing smirk. “They won’t be putting you in for ‘Mathematics’ or ‘Confidence building’… and I don’t think you would appreciate ‘Correct Posture lessons’.”

Steve just kept glaring at her. Finally she lost her smile.

“Anyway. They are sorting out your own room. Any personal items we can try and get your sister to bring, or we can get one of your colleagues to ship them over for you.”

Suddenly Steve had a shiver of cold run through him. “What about my house?” he asked. He was just starting to get the place feeling like his own. Who would pay the bills… However much he loved his sister. He knew if she got it, she would end up selling it to get something on the mainland.

“Don’t worry.” Keawe said hurriedly. “We don’t get many cases like yours. But we will contact all your supply companies and have everything suspended, and bills you have will also be put on hold, if we can not get them nullified. We will also lock up the house and send a housekeeper in once a month to make sure everything is taken care of. Your mail will also be forwarded to us for the time being. That is if we can not find someone to do it for you?”

“Detective Daniel Williams.” He said instantly, before he had time to think.

“Oh?” Keawe said a little surprised as she produced a small note pad and pen from a pocket and began jotting something down. “I’ll contact him and see if he’s willing to look after your house for you.”

Steve grit his teeth. He didn’t like the traitor at the moment… But he hoped Williams was having enough of a guilt trip to give him an ulcer, and would guiltily do anything Steve’s new jailors asked.

“Would you like me to also get you anything for now?”

Steve shook his head. Then something clicked as to what she said earlier. “Shipped over?” he asked.

Keawe looked down at him. “From Hawaii.” She said as matter of fact.

Steve blinked at her. He couldn’t remember being flown anywhere. “Then where the hell are we?” He demanded.

“We are in the South Los Angelis Shifter Dormitory. As protocol we moved you to be closer to your sister. She has been informed about your current location, but she will not be able to visit you for a while.”

Steve sank his face into his hands. He never liked not being in control of his environment, and here he was at the total mercy of people he didn’t know or trust.

“Okay.” Keawe uttered as she put her note pad away as she got to her feet. “Come with me and let’s get you settled in.”

Steve moved to get up too, but soon as he got to his feet the world spun and he sat back down, hard.

“Oh, sorry.” Keawe said softly, then there was a knock on the door and she answered it.

Steve looked up to see her taking a small tray from a man outside. It had two mugs on it with a small jug and a sugar bowl. She put it down in the end of the bed.

“Why don’t we just have a drink, it should help you to get your human legs.” She smiled some more as she took her own mug of coffee. “I’m here to help you get settled in.”

Steve ignored her as he took his own coffee and gave it a sniff, then a sip.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

[Two Weeks Late]

Steve woke up on his narrow bed and looked up at the ceiling. His head pounding.

Yet again his attempt to walk out of the ‘compound’ he found himself, had ended up with his collar electrocuting him to the point he passing out.

He had tried just walking out of the main entrance this time, instead of using one of the emergency exits. But yet again, someone had picked him up and put him back to bed in his room.

For two weeks he had been forced to see the shrink, he had flat out refused to join in the ‘Classes’ on ‘how to be a Shifter’. He didn’t want to be a bloody Shifter, why did he need to take classes for it!

It didn’t help that most of the people in the ‘compound’ were from the ages of twelve to nineteen. Who all looked at him with fear filled eyes, or with awe he couldn’t understand.

There were a few older Shifters wandering about, but a lot of them had found their own lives and didn’t really pay him much attention when they were about, but did give him a wide berth.

He growled when there was a knock on his door.

“Steven? Can I come in?”

Steve felt like throwing his pillow at the door like a stroppy teenager. But instead he just sighed deeply. “Do I have a choice?” he called, then winced. His head pounding.

The door opened a crack and Dr Francis poked his head inside, giving him a bespectacled smile. “Not when you go around trying to just walk out of the Dorm.” Franks said as he came inside, shutting the door behind him. “You really want to stop that. Or you will be put in lockdown.” He came in and pulled the desk chair over to the bed and sat down. “Now, we discussed the reasons for your resentment at being confined. But why did you try escaping this time?”

Steve rolled his eyes, and even that hurt. “I haven’t heard anything from anyone I know!... I thought they might at least be able to write to me!”

“Oh,” Franks said a little shocked. Then he glanced heaven wards as a look of realisation crossed his face. “They will be recording and saving all the correspondence that come into us.”

Steve sat up with another wince. “Then why can’t I have them now!” he demanded angrily. “I can’t reply to them, why can’t I at least see if my friends are doing okay?”

Franks smiled his annoying Shrink smile. “Because you are still not ready for that. You can still be influenced by your well meaning friends. But we need to make sure you are balanced and know how your world now works. Once you stop fighting us and realise we mean you nothing but the best, the sooner we can inform some of the people you know, they can come and see you.”

A burst of Danny’s smile flashed through Steve’s mind, before he ruthlessly squashed it. The bastard had put him here; Detective Williams could go fuck himself for all Steve cared! But the prospect of seeing Chin or Kono were tempting, he even wanted to see his sister. “How long will that take?” he asked.

Franks expression turned to one of ‘sympathetic’ shrink which made Steve grind his teeth. “As long as it takes.” Franks answered annoyingly. Then the man was leaning forward. “Look, I know this is hard. I can’t personally begin to imagine what you’re going through, but you have to trust us. We have been doing this a long time.” Steve was just about to growl something when Franks held up his hand. “Fine, we normally just deal with kids, but you’re not our first Shifter who somehow fell through the screening. You need to work with us and the sooner we can get that collar off and you into some kind of release program.”

Steve pointed at the thing around his neck. “That’s another thing!” he snarled. “I don’t see anyone else wearing one of these!”

Franks nodded. “It’s not something we like using,” the man said as he sat back. “But as you have been told already. You got stuck, so once you start cooperating, we can get it off and start with supervised Shifts. We don’t want you stuck again now do we?”

Steve glared at the shrink, then just eased himself back down onto his bed to stair up at the ceiling. This was beyond frustrating. But he wanted the collar off and he didn’t want to be here… He knew cooperating was his only option. So he would cooperate, and as soon as he could scale a wall, he would be gone. “Fine… so I have to start going to classes?” He heard Franks give a relieved sigh.

“Tomorrow if you’re up to it… I can go get you a schedule now.”

Steve heard the other man get to his feet then leave. So this was his life for now.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve growled at the kid who glared at him. He guessed he was sitting in her place at the back of the class, but if she wanted to fight him for it, he would take her on. He couldn’t help but give her a smile that he was sure made him look a little manic, or so Danny told him once… but fuck that guy!... the girls eyes widened considerably, before she backed away and went to sit at the other side of the room. He thought he would have a moment of satisfaction, but he just felt hollow.

“Good afternoon everyone!” A tall plump woman said as she entered the classroom. She looked about in her early forties; she was also dressed casually in black pants and a frilly white blouse. She was carrying a stack of folders under her arm. “So, did you all do your homework and do that search I asked for?”

On mass the other Shifters groaned as they all gave affirmatives in varying degrees of un-enthusiasm.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” The woman smiled, “So, if you haven’t already put your paper on the desk, do so now.”

Steve watched a few of the kids get up and did what she asked. Then he caught the teacher looking at him. She had a smile on her face, but her eyes were narrowed a little.

“Hello Steven.” She said easily. “My names Mrs McGonagall…”

Steve just smirked and was about to asked if her first name was Minerva. Gracy loved the Harry Potter movies, and he had promised her he would try and read the books when he had time.

“No.” Mrs McGonagall sighed dramatically.

“Her first names NOT Minerva!” The whole class chimed in, half of the kids sighed, the other half giggles.

“It’s Anna. Which is what most of this rabble call me, so feel free to use it.” She finished as she turned back to the class and began talking about whatever the class was doing today.

Steve didn’t listening as he glanced out the window onto the bit off grass, a path and the high white washed wall that kept him prisoner. The thought of Gracy shot a shaft of icy grief through his heart, he would never see her again, never finish teaching her to surf, never make her popcorn as they all squashed onto the sofa and watched Disney cartoons while they listened to Danny ranting on about how the plot didn’t work, or the way Danny would smile as Gracy swatted at him to shut up, or the way Danny would glance up at him and…

Steve growled to himself angrily.

It was the bloody stupid bastards fault he was here in the first place. If he hadn’t been such a klutz and been quicker. Steve wouldn’t have had to rescue him, wouldn’t have changed… wouldn’t have ripped his fucking life apart.

“Steven!”

Steve jumped a little as he was ripped from his seething anger. “What?” he asked, glaring at McGonagall.

The woman just smiled at him, “How have you made an impression on someone…. Steven?” She asked, and Steve remembered this was supposed to be a ‘Social skills’ building class or something.

 “Umm…” look around at all the impressionably young faces. “I threw a bad guy into a shark cage once… and dangled someone else off a building… those made impressions.” He grinned. “Or I just shot them. One way or another, they never forgot me.”

McGonagall looked a little pale. “Yes… well, thank you for that. But it wasn’t quite what I was looking for…”

Steve shrugged. “I’ve never been known for my charm.” He explained. “Not about to start now.”

“Is it true…” One of the kids next to him asked, a kid with wide eyes and ginger hair.

Steve just glared at him. “Hu?” he asked tersely. Mike had tried to convince him that his dislike of Shifters came from some hidden memory that he didn’t want to be found out. As Steve had explained, it didn’t help that he couldn’t remember ‘being’ a Shifter, never mind meeting one or not. He could tell that the only person in the room who wasn’t a Shifter was the teacher, and the rest just brought the hairs up on his arm.

The kid wiped his nose on his sleeve as he blushed a little. “Is it true that you used to be a cop?” he asked softly and Steve could tell the kid was shy and probably always got picked on. Especially in his dorky shirt and glasses.

“I was a SEAL, before I became the head of the special task force in Hawaii.” He said softly back as the kids eyes widened with awe, then his smile broadened and leaned forwards.

“Did you really have to shoot people?” the kid asked excitedly.

“Only when they pissed me off.” He grinned back.

“How many people did you shoot?” A girl asked from behind the first kid.

“Did you kill any of them?” Another boy asked.

Suddenly all the kids were crowded around him, asking exited questions.

Steve didn’t even try to answer as they all talked at once, he was holding his hands up and trying to shush them when there was a loud crack from the front of the class.

“If you would all sit down!” McGonagall demanded and all the kids slunk back to their seats. “That’s not really what young impressionable minds need to know.” She said a little tartly as she looked around the room, her eyes ending up on Steve. “Steven had special circumstances leading to his life in such a hostile occupation, which none of you will ever have to face, luckily.”

Steve didn’t like the sound of that, then remembered an email from a friend, something about the US Air Force looking for Shifters to join up. He had only given it a quick once over before he shut his emails down. He was sure Sheppard wouldn’t be offended, after all, it usually took years for the guy to answer anything anyway.

“Why not?” He asked allowed, putting a note of curiosity into his tone.

McGonagall’s frown deepened. “Because Shifter shouldn’t be exposed to that kind of violence.” She said crisply.

“I’ve heard that the Air Force is actually looking for willing Shifter with their Bond Mates.” He answered back.

Her eyes narrowed. “Also, it’s highly unlikely they will find a Bond Mate in that sort of vocation or willing to take it up. Or even Chaperone who would be willing to accompany them.”

“But…” He tried to protest. After all, he had been career military before his dad was murdered, and enjoyed almost ever damn second of it.

But McGonagall lowered her voice as she cut him off. “It’s also not nice to get their hopes up Mr McGarrett.”

Steve swallowed a little anger and resentment, feeling like a little kid who just got told off. He guessed she had a point as he looked around at the young impressionable wide eyes that were all staring at him.

What hope did any of these kids have at doing something dangerous or exiting? They were being groomed to be lap cats, to sit at their master’s side and not humiliate them by picking up the wrong fork on the wrong course! For gods sake, he had seen that class!

“Sorry.” He uttered as he went back to staring out the window as McGonagall carried on with her planned lesson. When she handed out the homework he ignored that too. It wasn’t like was going to be coming back to this class, but he gave McGonagall a nod as he left.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

“Is it true?”

Steve tried not to sigh as the ginger kid sat down besides him at the dinner table he had so far managed to secure for himself every meal time. “What?” he asked, noting the girl who had been behind the boy, also sit down with a tray. Both their eyes huge as they stared at him.

“That the Air Force is looking for Shifter to join up?” The kid asked.

“Err…” Now he wished he had actually paid more attention to what was in the mail. “I think so, I never got a chance to read the email I got properly, never mind ask for conformation.” He told them honestly, hoping they might get bored and leave.

The ginger kid looked around the food hall, then leaned in conspiratorially. “If you can remember your passwords and stuff…” he looked around again, making sure no one was near. “I can hack into your email account.”

Steve blinked as he felt a jolt of excitement run through him. Finally, here this little kid sat, offering him a link to the outside world. “Really?” he asked. Leaning closer to the kid. “You can do that?”

The kid snorted as he sat up straight and proud. “I used to hack into NASA all the time before I was brought here.”

Steve grinned at the kid. Ready to drag him off to the library before the girl finally spoke.

“But we can’t.” She said softly, still staring in awe at him. “He’s not allowed to go near any of the internet linked computers, I heard one of the councillors telling Mr Dawson that a few weeks ago.” Then she was elbowing the ginger kid in the side. “And you know if you get caught again they will really take all your internet privileges away… for good this time.”

Steve felt his heart sink as the ginger kid physically did the same. “I forgot about that.” he sighed. “And I guess you are still on lockdown, as a newb…” He sighed.

“Newb?” Steve asked, confused.

“A new bee, you just got here.” The kid explained quickly. “Everyone who first comes can’t contact the outside world for a while. Till the councillors make sure we aren’t gonna try and convince anyone we know to come and apply to Bond with us.” The kid rolled his eyes.

“Only parents and siblings are allowed to visit.” The girl elaborated as she began eating her sandwich.

“Do you think they will have a recruitment page on the air force website?” the ginger kind asked as he also started eating. “I was thinking of trying to get into NASA, but I don’t think they will want me now.”

“No.” the girl said sarcastically. “Not after they wanted to prosecute you but couldn’t.”

Steve carried on eating his own food, but couldn’t help but ask. “How come?”

“The day they sent the FBI around his parents home, was the same day the Registry came to pick him up.” The Girl grinned.

The ginger kid suddenly threw his hands into the air, “And the Registry won!” he hooted. “Dad was baffled, but mom knew I was up to something.” He grinned as he settled down. “But it also means no net without one of the cronies looking over my shoulder.” He said looking glum.

“If you ever get Bonded,” the girl was grinning evilly at her friend. “You’re gonna forget who they are.”

The boy chuckled, as he looked at Steve. “My memories not that bad!” he grinned too.

Steve found he didn’t actually mind sitting with these two kids, who were more teens as he guessed they were around fifteen or sixteen. But as he guessed the ginger kid was a sci-Fi fan, and though the girl looked like she should be one of the popular, cheerleader types, she was also well into her sci-fi. Which baffled him a little, but listening to them talk he couldn’t help but be caught up in their excitement over films and TV shows they were waiting for. It wasn’t his thing, but it was nice to actually have a conversation with someone who wasn’t trying to get into his head, or holding the keys that kept him prisoner. Also, their innocence was refreshing.

They were having a conversation about the merits of Star Trek the original series verses Wormhold X-Treme!, Steve could at least remember watching reruns of Star Trek with his dad, when the bell rang for the end of lunch, when the next set of classes were about to start.

“Crap!” The girl cursed as she got up. “I hate maths.” She signed.

“It’s free time after.” The boy said as he also got to his feet. “Steve? You wana come and Shift with us after?”

“Collar!” the girl hissed, once again elbowing him in the side.

Steve instantly reached up to feel the cursed thing.

“They will have you Shifting freely soon.” The boy assured him. “I remember when Fred was here, before he got Bonded, and he got stuck too before coming here. They had him right in a week!”

“Err… sure.” Steve smiled. “Oh… what are your names?” he asked as they started to turn away.

The girl rolled her eyes, “I’, Claire. And this here is Kevin.”

Steve smiled, he should have guessed at ginger kids name, “Nice to meet you. Maybe we can hang out later?” he offered with sincerity.

Both kids grinned as they nodded. “Sure!” Kevin said as they walked away, talking animatedly with each other.

Steve shook his head as he watched them go. He was sure if those two weren’t Shifters, in a few years they would have a couple of kids, a menagerie of pets and in-between going to conventions and work, they would be the happiest couple in the world.

But as he had learned, when he had asked Mike about why the whole place was unisex and not segregated. After all, most of the Shifter were between thirteen and nineteen, and in his experience, most teens were horny and had to be avoided at all costs. But Mike said it was because Shifters just didn’t mate between each other. And from some inhumane experiments through history, not one child had been produced. So having Shifters of both sexes together wasn’t an issue.

With a huff, he got to his feet and went to find the book he had been reading.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

“What the hell do you mean ‘Sex Ed’!” Steve demanded as he slapped his hand down on the arm of his chair.

Mike was sat across from him grinning. “I know you’re a virgin, Steve. It’s not really a secret.”

“It’s none of your business!” Steve hissed angrily. He had had years of practice hiding, lying or avoiding that little fact. After all, military men were not shy about sex, or their conquests when it suited them. And to fit in and avoid awkward questions, he always had a convenient long distance girl friend in almost ever port. He had it down to such an art, it was hard to have someone throw his virginity in his face, especially when there was such a stigma attached to it.

“It’s pretty obvious.” Mike continued. “Or you wouldn’t be here now.”

Steve fought not to get to his feet and pace, instead he just glared out the window. “I had sex-ed in school many years ago, and been around enough to know what it’s all about.” He growled, feeling like a total fool, even though, now, he knew why he had never wanted to actually sleep with anyone. It still didn’t help.

Mike chuckled, but like always it was like a shared joke than mocking. “There is a little bit more to know when you’re a Shifter.” He said.

“I’ve seen movies.” Steve answered. And he had seen them, but not actually watched ‘them’ bits. It had always made him feel uncomfortable. The whole Bonding thing just made his skin crawl, he could never imagine giving himself over to someone else like that, then being all submissive and obedient. It rubbed him up the wrong way beyond tolerance. But as he stared out the window at the white walls that surrounded the compound, he knew it was really the only way out of here. He just wasn’t sure he could do it.

“The movies don’t show everything. You do know there is a mental as well as physical element to the whole Bonding process?”

Steve just shrugged one shoulder noncommittal.

“As you’re soooo interested.” Mike said sarcastically. “I shell begin.”

“Fine.” Steve said as he slumped into his chair, looking across at the shrink.

- - - -

Steve was sure he was too old to be blushing at such things as ‘sex ed’. He understood the physical act, but when Mike asked him about his ‘preferanc’ his mouth had gone dry, his mind instantly giving him images of a short stocky body with broad shoulders and chest.

An image of Danny smiling up at him, his blue eyes shinning with a shared joke.

He found his cock swell before he growled and banished the image.

He didn’t like the fact, his hate for his betrayer didn’t come as easily as it did for anyone else who crossed him.

“What was that about?” Mike was asking quietly.

Steve blinked at the shrink, “Just something unpleasant.” He answered.

“To do with your sexuality?” Mike inquired; his brows drawn together, when Steve didn’t answer quick enough the shrink started jumping to his own conclusions. “I imagine the army might hold some bigoted ideas about homosexuality…”

Steve sighed loud enough to stop the other man talking. “They have a hard line about ‘Fraternisation’ among the ranks, full stop.” He informed the man. “Despite what the news tells you, the army isn’t full of ‘Hetro-Purist’ lunatics.” He admonished.

Mike nodded, like he understood. “So, have you ever found yourself more interested in men or woman?” he tried again. “Is there an actor or singer you liked the look of?... I’m asking on more of a physical reaction than an emotional one.”

“There is a difference?” Steve asked, bored with all the questioning. Especially as he really didn’t want to answer a question he hadn’t really thought of before. Well, apart from where it was to deflect this kind of questioning from friends and colleagues where he usually just answered with whoever was popular at the time.

“For a Shifter?” Mike said. “Very much so.” He steepled his fingers together, which Steve associated with a lecture. “As a whole, Shifters have a tendency to be attracted to a persons personality, or as I’ve been informed, their soul. And the physical sex of that person is immaterial, but saying that, I’ve been told it can also have something to do with their smell.”

Steve got a remembered whiff of sharp spice and a deep musk and found his eyes closing as his mouth opened like he could smell that scent right now.

“So even if the physical sex isn’t much of an issue, it helps the Registry filter out requests for potential Bond Mates.”

Steve sighed. “I don’t know.” He confessed, trying to change the topic from something he didn’t ever want to think about to something he just wanted to avoid. It didn’t help he never really had ‘pin-ups’ as a kid, he just wanted to be a SEAL and he didn’t think cars or guns counted as a sexual preference. “Cant I just go with Asexual?” He asked, he had never seen the point of sex anyway.

“Have anyone you couldn’t live without?” Mike asked softly.

“Da…” He started to say, before a cold jolt of realization washed through him, but it was quickly followed by anger.

“Daniel Williams?” Mike asked.

Steve just glared at the mans knowing smile. He had talked extensively about ‘Williams’, about his betrayal, how Steve thought he was a trusted colleague, a friend. About how Steve now knew why criminals despised snitches and why they usually ended up very dead. “I do not want to talk about him.” he growled, it was still too early to forgive.

“So he’s the first person you’ve ever had an emotional connection with?... Who isn’t part of your immediate family?”

Steve gritted his teeth, but something inside him couldn’t deny the fact, he couldn’t say no. so instead he just nodded his head once.

“So you are attracted to males? Or just Mr Williams?”

Steve looked away as his chest tightened painfully. If he couldn’t deny it, he sure as hell wasn’t going to admit it, even if a lump of something formed in his throat.

“Shell we just assume that I need to go into the finer points of a homosexual encounter?”

Steve looked over to the door, pondering just walking away, but there was nowhere he could go that Mike wouldn’t bring this crap up again.

“So, should I begin with a dominant roll?” Mike asked. “Or a submissive one? Which is the usual roll for most Shifters.”

Steve glared some more at the other man. He was sure the bastard was enjoying this shit. But the though of another man pinning him down? That just wasn’t going to happen anytime ever! “I think you’re enjoying this way to much.” He snarled.

Mikes smile turned into a shit eater grin. “Dominant roll it is then.”

Steve groaned into his hands.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve fought with himself not to get up and pace the back of the classroom. It wouldn’t look good to be stalking about like a caged animal, especially when he was supposed to be getting his bloody collar off, for good, in a few hours.

Apparently his good behaviour (and boredom) for the last three months, meant he was going to be trusted enough not to run. It also helped that Mike had promised him he could have his mail tonight. And his sister was due for a visit at the weekend, well, that was if she remembered to show up.

He stuck his fingers under his collar then ran them around his throat, a gesture he almost did without thinking. He’d only had it off once a week for the past month, under supervision from the nurse, as they tried to help him Shift. So far he hadn’t, but then he really wasn’t interested in Shifting, but they didn’t seem to take ‘I don’t want to’ as a healthy option. The threat from the nurse was always the same, that if he did Shift again, he would more than likely get stuck again. He didn’t tell them he never planed on Shifting ever again anyway.

So now he sat in one of Anne McGonagall’s other classes. This time it was a small class, only for the kids over eighteen who were eligible to start interviewing Bond Mates. It was mostly about the law, and how the general public were to respect their status as a Shifter, what they could not be forced to do, like wear tie’s or laced up shoes or boots. It was mostly stuff Steve had learned on the ‘outside’ and wasn’t anything new. So he tried not to yawn too much, or daydream about what was going to be in the letters he had waiting for him, or who had actually written him one.

“So if your Mate is in danger, or injured, by another living being, you might find yourself protecting your Mate, and it’s not unheard of for this to end in violence if not death of the attacker…”

Steve had only been half listening until then, when his brain decided he really should be listening to this.

“Yes, Molly?” Anne was asking one of the kid with her hand up.

“Like in the movies?” The teen asked.

“Well…” Anne was about to go into another lecture no doubt, but then another kid was holding his hand up.

“Wouldn’t that make us murderers though?” The kid demanded. “I saw it on some TV show my dad liked watching, this Shifter killed this guy who murdered her sister or something. And they were getting tried for murder… umm, I duno how it ended…”

“Don’t be stupid.” One of the older Shifters scoffed. “We can’t be charged with murder if we are protecting our Mates. Everyone knows that!”

“But I don’t wana be a murderer…” Molly sounded like she was about to cry or something.

“It’s not murder, stupid, if defence!” The older kid said snidely to the now sobbing girl.

“RICKY!” Anna scolded. “That is no way to speak, apologise to Molly this instant!”

“Sorry Molly.” The kid, Ricky, said, not sounding a bit repentant which made Steve smile. Then the kid was looking at him. “Have you killed anyone?” he asked and instantly all the other kids turned to stair at him.

Steve found his back straightening as he unconsciously moved himself as far back as he could. He glanced at Anne, her lips drawn thin in a line of disapproval as she shook her head minutely. And however much he didn’t really care for her, he knew she was right. That and William’s voice thundered through his head telling him how he couldn’t corrupt the innocence of youth, or something equally mundane.

“I was a soldier.” He shrugged. “So I can neither confirm nor deny.” He grinned at them all.

“But you were a cop or something too.” Ricky insisted; his brown eyes a little too intent.

Again he shrugged. “I can’t talk about my cases.” He said. “Sorry guys. My life just isn’t… wasn’t that exiting.” He lied, managing a crooked smile, holding up his hands.

It had the desired effect as most of the kids looked disappointed as they turned around.

“Let me just assure you, that non of you will ever be put in that position. But if you are, then in the eyes of the law, you will not be held accountable.”

Steve’s ears pricked up at that and he couldn’t help the little grin that came to his lips. It meant he could kill perps, and maybe not have to fill out reams of paperwork. But his jubilation got smothered quickly, it wasn’t like he was ever going to get back his job.

The boredom he was experience right now was crippling, but the thought of living some even more mundane life as a bloody house cat was more depressing.

He let the rest of the lesson wash over him as he once again tried to think of the letters he was going to get.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve sat in his room, just looking at the stack of letters Mike had given him.

After all his anticipation of this moment, he found himself hesitating.

With a growl, he shook himself then grabbed the top letter and ripped it open. It was from Kono in her scrawly handwriting. It was mostly about her shock at him being a Shifter, that she missed him, and hoped to see him soon, and get in touch the moment he was off lockdown.

He smiled sadly, wondering if he would ever actually see her again. He lifted the paper to his face and sniffed it. It smelled faintly of her deodorant and salt and it made his chest tight. He put it down next to the pile and smoothed out the paper, then reached out for the next letter.

It was from Joe White, once again, it was about his shock and disbalife. And that he will see him as soon as he can.

As Steve went through the stack, all the letters were pretty much the same as Kono’s. Chin, Kamakono, even Eric which had been a bit of a surprise, but Danny’s nephew had at least tried to put in a few jokes which made Steve laugh at lease. Then there had been letters from some of his squad, the ones why were probably more open minded.

Then there was the last letter, and as soon as he looked at the name on it, his breath caught in his throat.

‘To Uncle Steve.’

He took more care in opening this envelope, then pulled out the single sheet of pink paper from inside and unfolded it. Once again he couldn’t help but bring it up to smell it. It smelled like her and a need to hug her washed through him, making him actually gasp out in surprise at the rush of emotions came over him.

He pulled the paper away, not wanting to address his feelings right now as he focused on the purple handwritten note.

‘I hope you are doing ok.

We learned about Shifters in school last week, and no one believed I actually knew one until mom told the teacher.

Uncle Eric said you will be coming home soon, that you have to also learn how to be a Shifter. But mom said it would take a long time. I wish it wont take long! Danno is sad without you. Anuti Kono and Uncle Chin miss you too!

Come home soon! I miss you.

Gracie’

Steve scrubbed at his eyes. As he folded the note and put it back in it envelope, then placed it ontop of the others.

He leaned back in his chair looking at the pile as he crossed his arms.

He missed her too… more than he thought.

But as he blew out a breath and looked at the blank wall in front of him, he couldn’t believe his mother hadn’t written to him, surely in three months, someone would have found his mother and told her what was going on with him… there was no way she wouldn’t know about his Shifter-hood. And it was burning at him to know what she had to say for herself.

He had already fathomed it might have something to do with her going undercover. That maybe having a Shifter child could attract too much attention to her and the rest of the family. But that didn’t explain why she never saw fit to tell him. He also wondered if maybe Mary knew. But as she hadn’t sent a letter, he guessed she would just have to question her later.

He startled when there was a knock on his door. “Yeah?” He called as he turned, seeing Mike.

“You ready to see if today’s the day you Shift?” Mike smiled at him. Steve saw his eyes drift over to the stack of opened letters.

With a sigh Steve stood. Then hesitating, he reached down and picked up Gracie’s letter. “Can I reply to these now?” He asked.

Mike seemed to ponder the question, before he nodded. “I’ll make you a deal.” He said as they began to walk down the corridor. “If you shift today, I’ll post them out tomorrow myself.”

Steve nodded to that as he looked down at the letter he held in his hand. A resolve to actually get out of here just became a top priority. He would try and get himself moved back to Hawaii and their dormitory. And from there he could get chaperones and go see his friends.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve rubbed his neck as his collar was removed, it felt so good to get the damn thing off.

Then he removed the rest of his clothes.

It had all become part of the frustrating routine. Collar off, cloths off, crouch in the middle of the white room, have someone tell him what to think, nothing happen, then back into his clothes and collar back on, back to six days of waiting for nothing to change.

But today he focused on the envelope that he had placed ontop of his clothes. and as he crouched down, a memory came to him as he drowned out the drone of the nurses voice as he tried to get him to do some meditation BS that hadn’t worked in the past.

He-Man.

He needed to stop being Cringer! Damn it. he had been a SEAL, he needed to be Battle-Cat!

He growled, then roared while thinking ‘by the power of Grayskull!’ but instead of lifting his arm up he felt himself falling forwards. Before his hands hit the floor it felt like his skin was covered in pins and needles, all the bones in his body seemed to shift, it was odd and uncomfortable but didn’t hurt per-say as his muscles seemed to crap all over. And when he opened his eyes, still crying out at the sensation he found himself looking at paws again.

He roared again, in shock and relief as he got up on all four legs. He shook himself, feeling his fur move all over. It was still strange to him. he heard his unseen observer congratulating him. but he ignored the voice as he took a deep breath through his nose. And his head came up to see Gracie’s letter and he quickly trotted over to it and nuzzled it with his nose. Breathing in her scent… but with a gasp he opened his mouth and took another deeper smell. Underneath he could smell someone else.

Danny…

He could smell Danny and he growled again as he turned to the door.

The compulsion to go, to escape, to run, to burry his nose into the other man and never come out again was overwhelming.

Without much conscious thought he grabbed the envelope in his teeth then charged at the door, throwing his shoulder into it.

Pain shot through his shoulder as he screamed in frustration as the door held.

There was no handle on this side and he needed out!

He had no idea how long he kept up his futile attempt. But finally he found himself on his side. Panting as he glared at the damn door.

“Steven?” He heard Mike asking, and he lifted his head towards the camera in the corner of the room and glared at that instead.

“Nod if you have calmed down.” The shrink asked.

Steve laid his head down on the floor, but managed to nod.

“That’s good… Now, we need you to Shift back. Do you think you can do that for me?”

Steve closed his eyes, he didn’t think he could do anything right now.

“Your sister is waiting for you. Wouldn’t you like to see her?” Mike asked and Steve grumbled as he pulled himself up so he was sitting. “Would you like Tom to go through the reverse instructions with you?”

Steve pulled his lips over his teeth, but otherwise didn’t respond, they hadn’t helped in the first place. So closing his eyes, this time, instead of thinking about becoming Battle-Cat he thought about actually becoming He-Man.

The Shift this time was also as easy, a prickling over his skin as bone and muscle morphed back into his normal shape. Then he was up scrabbling to put his clothes back on. Wincing as he moved his shoulder, knowing it would be bruised beyond all hell in a few hours. But it wasn’t anything that would slow him down.

When he turned to the door he saw Gracie’s letter on the floor, it was crumpled and damp but he quickly scooped it up, clutching it in his hand as he looked at the camera.

“Let me out!” He demanded. The need to run was still there. But he could wait for that. Knowing Mary had actually turned up was a priority right now. Maybe he could get her to help him out.

“First can you tell me what caused your outburst?” Mike asked in his annoyingly calm shrink voice.

Steve sighed and turned away from the camera. “I smelled something… good.” He paused cursing himself, what good could come from the guy who betrayed him and put him in this special kind of hell. “Beef for dinner?” He asked, forcing a smile on his face as he looked at the camera again, then shrugged. “I am kinda hungry.” Which wasn’t actually a lie. He hadn’t eaten much at lunch, more anxious for the letter and seeing his sister.

There was silence before he heard the door click and it open to show Mike smiling at him, even if Steve could see the wariness in the other mans eyes.

“Do you need to eat before seeing your visitor?” Mike asked as Steve walked into the corridor with him.

Steve tried not to fidget impatiently. “I want to see Mary.” He said.

- - - -

Steve saw his sister through the large windows of a room, as he walked up a part of the building he hadn’t been to before. And he quickened his pace to get to the door.

When Mary saw him, she instantly got up out of her chair and made her way around to him. the instant she was in arms reach, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tight against himself as he breathed in her scent.

He closed his eyes and almost chocked on the groan of emotions he was suddenly feeling. They might have never seen eye to eye on a lot of thing. But she was family and familiar and he loved her dearly. And in his new world of imprisonment, she was a balm to his restlessness.

“Oh, Steve! Steve!” She cooed at him in her husky voice. “What happened, how did this happen. They even dragged me in to test if I was a Shifter too!” she was saying as she was holding him just as tightly, before she pulled away a little. “They didn’t have any records for me either.” She said.

Steve’s stomach dropped. “You’re not…?” he whispered.

Mary rolled her eyes as she thwacked him on his uninjured shoulder. “Don’t be stupid.” She smiled at him. “They held some crystal thing up to my face… apparently if I was a Shifter, my eye would change or something.” She shrugged. “I begged to see you sooner but they kept telling me you weren’t ready.” And he could see her get angry for him, and it warmed him some as he smiled at her. She could be stubborn when she wanted to be. “Ant Deb’s been asking after you too. I tried to get her to come, but they said she couldn’t for now.”

Steve’s pulled away from her, grabbing another chair he steered her to sit as he sat across from her, ignoring the fact he kept hold of her hand, like if he let go she would disappear. “Is she okay? They only gave me everyone’s letters today.”

Mary pulled a face. “Sorry I didn’t write you one, I just wanted to see you face to face more.” She said, “But Deb’s doing fine. She’s angrier she didn’t know you were a Shifter. I think she’s taking it as a personal affront or something. But she’s desperate to see you.”

Steve nodded. “I really want to see her too…” He looked over to the large mirror that no doubt was two-way and Mike was probably watching and listening in. “I’ll get someone to set up another visiting time for you guys to come and see me again, before you leave.”

“I’m not leaving without one!” She said glancing over to the mirror too, before turning back, and leaning forwards she whispered. “Do you think dad knew?”

Steve looked down at his hand on his sisters, then nodded. “Yeah… I’m thinking that’s some of the reason why he sent us away.”

“Yeah.” She said softly. “I’ve been thinking that too…”

They fell silent for a while, just lost in memories, but looking back at the old hurts they both had, maybe they could start to heal?

“So!” Mary cut the silence as she grinned at him. “What it like to Shift?” she grinned at him.

Steve rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair. “Weird.” He answered. “But I managed to shift today and back again… so maybe they will let me out soon.” He said trying to reassure her and himself as he reached up and felt his throat free of the damn collar. It felt so good.

“So what are you?” she asked excitedly.

“I’m a tiger.” He said, smiling to her delight.

“You aren’t a rare coat are you?”

He shook his head. “No. But I don’t have any markings.” He said gesturing to himself with his free hand, managing not to wince as his shoulder protested at the movement. “Which makes me a pure breed or something“

Mary laughed, “Trust you. But I guess if you did have anything to give you away, getting all hot and sweaty in showers with other buff guys they might have said something.” She grinned at him. “So I have a pure breed tiger for a brother… I guess I could do worse.”

“The bragging rights are all yours.” He said managing not to sound bitter.

Then the conversation moved to other toping. How she was doing, who she had talked too and who was asking about him, messages she was asked to pass on, most of them much like the letters he had received. They seemed to talk for ages before she finally asked if there was anything she could bring him, or get sent from Hawaii.

“My clothes.” He answered immediately. The jeans and tee’s the dormitory provided were okay, but they just didn’t seem to fit right.

“Is that it?” She asked sceptically.

“I don’t think shrimp or malasada will travel well.” He grinned at her. “And I don’t think they will let me have my gun.”

She leaned forwards and whispered jokingly. “I would if I could.” And they both laughed. What he would give to shoot his way out, or at least scare his way out.

“Actually, there is something else.” He said when he sobered up. “Duvet covers.” He watched his sister frown. “I mean some of my own.” He clarified. “I just need someone familiar, yeah know?”

He has glad when Mary didn’t try and make fun of him for the silly request. It wasn’t even like he had cared much about it before, so long as it was a good colour and didn’t itch, he hadn’t given it much thought. But with no home comforts it had been grating on his nerves.

“Sure, I’ll ask Danny to ship them over tonight.” She smiled.

Steve’s chest went cold. “Wha… why?” He stammered. “Get Chin to do it.” But Mary just looked at him like he was stupid, then her eyes widened.

“Do they tell you anything about whats going on?” She shouted indignantly as she looked at the mirror again, gesturing to him as she did so. “Steve, Danny’s apartment got blown up… so he moved into the house while you’re away. They didn’t think you would want someone else looking after it.”

The thought of Danny in his home made him angry, but most of all it warmed him up in other ways he really couldn’t deal with right now.

“Kono said you wouldn’t mind.” Mary said sounding unsure. “They were all looking after it, but they didn’t think you would like the registry’s cleaners rummaging around in it.”

He finally nodded. He should be thankful someone was actually living there. After all, it was a small payback; he remembered how much Danny hated the sound of the ocean. “No, it’s fine.” Then something else she said hit him. “His apartment got blown up?”

“Kono said it was some case they were on. Some guy found out where he lived and took exception, or something. But they were out looking for the guy at the time, so Danny is fine. He just lost what little he had.”

‘payback’ echoed through Steve’s mind vindictively. “Oh. That’s good then.” He said lamely.

 “Don’t sound so enthusiastic.” Mary deadpanned. “What happened? You two were joined at the hip.”

Steve ran his hand over his face. “He put me here.” He sighed. “He betrayed me.”

Mary laughed nervously. “Danny would never…”

“When I couldn’t Shift he went to the Registry and shopped me to them!” He growled as he released her hand and pushed his chair back. “He’s the reason I’m stuck in this hell!” he slammed his hand down on the desk, making her jump.

“You couldn’t Shift.” She said.

Steve stood, “No, I was stuck…” He looked down at the floor, trying not to hit the walls. “I would have figured it out…” he growled again.

“Really?” Mary snarked annoyingly. “They told us you were stuck for longer than was safe or something, that you only changed back because they have a way to force it.” she said angrily as he saw her get to her feed. “You even said you only just managed to Shift today! You’ve been here for three months Steven!”

Steve found himself blinking at his sister.

“I’m also damn sure Danny did what he could for you!” She carried on, this time jabbing him in the chest with a finger. “You think he would want you over here where he doesn’t have your six?!”

At that last bit, Steve just blinked at her, his anger having drained away with force. “My six?” he asked before he smiled tiredly.

Mary also smiled a little. “It’s what they say on cop shows.” She defended.

Steve collapsed into his chair again, as his sister did the same. It was rare, but sometimes he forgot his sister wasn’t as stupid as she sometimes seemed. After all they were siblings and she could read people better than him when they were younger, he guessed nothing much changed. And the way she had put things together so easily? Maybe she would make a great profiler… but he also knew the suggestion might get him hit.

“Thanks.” He said, once again reaching out to take hold of her hand. “I just hate this.” He confessed as she squeezed his fingers.

“I know.” She replied softly, then she was pulling him forwards. “Come here.” She said as she put her free hand on the back of his head, till his forehead rested on her shoulder. “Hold it together okay?” she whispered in his ear. “Stop being such a stubborn SOB I know you can be.”

Steve chuckled thickly as for a moment he just rested against her. Letting himself hide for the moment.

He was just about to sit up when there was a nock on the door and he felt himself tense up instantly.

“What?” Mary snapped at the person behind him.

“Sorry, but the public part of the building is closing for the night, so I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” Mike’s voice echoed in the small room.

“It’s been over two hours?” Mary asked, shocked this time.

“Ask the receptionist on your way out for an earlier time.” Mike said. “So next time you can have long as you like.”

“But only till seven.” Mary’s sarcasm was just what he needed as he grinned at her, where Mike couldn’t see.

“Sorry.” Mike replied in his typically calm shrink tone.

Mary stood, tugging Steve up with her. “Great, but next time I’m bringing our aunt!” her tone brooked no argument. “And I want a room without that!” She pointed at the mirror.

“I’ll see what I can do.” And now there was amusement in Mikes voice, which made Steve hackles rise.

“And I’m bringing take out, I assume he’s allowed to use cutlery…” Then she glanced at him sideways. “I’m assuming I can also trust you with chopsticks?”

He grinned at her as he pulled her into a tight hug. “No, but I promise to try and not stick them in anything but my mouth.”

“Good.” She said before pulling away, then Steve was watching her walk away, giving Mike the eyeball as she walked past him and out the door. “See ya later bro!” she called as he heard another door unlock then she was gone.

As the unseen door clicked shut, the smile slipped from his face. Another reminder of the jail he was locked in… Where he didn’t even have a release date, never mind parole.

“I will be allowed everything I asked for?” He asked the other man.

Mike shrugged. “I don’t see why not. Come on, I asked the kitchen to keep something warm for you.” He smiled.

Steve didn’t want to see it as he walked past the shrink, back into his gilded cage.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve spent the next few days walking around on auto pilot, always waiting for the mail to come; Hoping Mary was good on her word. But as he watched the kids getting their mail, he became more sullen and he knew it was irrational. He was a navy SEAL for god sake.

Rationally he knew he had been in more difficult circumstances, life and death situations full of stress and boredom combined. But he was starting to think he was going mad. He had managed three months, and he was loosing it after two days.

He had also stopped responding to Mike’s shrink sessions. He just didn’t want to open up to the guy anymore.

His only slight reprieve was Kevin and Claire. They didn’t ask any questions. Claire just patted his shoulder when she saw him, saying ‘It gets easier.’ And Steve knew she mean seeing family, then watching them walk away.

Steve had seen some of the kids looking glum after coming back into the dormitory from where the visiting rooms were. He had resented them, now he understood them.

Now, on the third day of having nothing. He was sat with Kevin and Claire eating their dinner, pushing his roast beef and vegis around his plate as he listened to the two rattle on about some show they were watching when the mail guy came up to them, hading the two kid’s their mail, then Steve found him holding out a letter for him.

“Finally.” John the mail guy smiled at him before moving on.

“At least you’re off mail lockdown.” Kevin said as he used his gravy covered knife to open the little box he had been delivered.

“That’s great!” Claire enthused. “You should ask for a list of people you can reply too, then they might let you start call people.”

“Just make sure the ones you make to Hawaii are loooong.” Kevin laughed as he began pulling out boxes of the cards he collected from his mail. They said ‘magic’ on the boxes which made the young man whoop with delight. “Look! These are the new packs!” He started telling Claire.

Steve let them talk as he opened his letter with more caution that Kevin had done.

He pulled out the peace of paper, and was disappointed that it seemed printed. But then he saw the name at the bottom of the letter. It was from Catherine and for the first time in days, he felt himself smiling.

‘Dear Steven.

What have you gotten yourself into now?
They told me what happened at your work. I can’t quite believe it.
All this time and we never knew?
Does this explain why you always gave me that line about ‘no sex before marriage’ shpeal?’

Steve swiped his hand over his face. He had known Catherine was always interested in him, and where he loved her as a friend, he had never seen her like that, and she had never seemed too bothered about his excuses. He had also thought she had been more interested in Billy Harrington. After all, he had shared a bed with her now and again when she was in port and had no where else to stay. The last time being when Mary was staying with him.

‘When I called to talk to you, (Wanting to know if I could beg somewhere to sleep for free while I was on shore leave.) They told me all about it and where you were.
I have some leave in a month or two, so I’ll make my way over to you…
I’ll be trying to sort out a “visit” when I get there.
When you can, try and give me a call. We NEED to catch up!
Do the rest of your old team know about you yet? I can let them know if you want me to? But I’ll wait for your say so.
I’ll wait to hear from you, write soon!
Keep safe!

Yours
Catherine.’

Steve put the letter back into the envelope and put it into his pocket, then he found he had an appetite again as he finished off his cooling food.

“Who was that from?” Claire asked.

Steve grinned at her as he chewed his beef.

“Oh… a potential Mate?” She asked, grinning.

Steve splurted out some gravy as a bit of beef went down the wrong way as he began coughing, enough to make tears come to his eyes. “No… no!” he tried denying as he choked.

Claire was relentless though. “Get them to apply.” She said as she rested her chin on her hand as she carried on. “Do they make your heart flutter? Do you want them to squeeze your wrists as they kiss you? Hold your neck as they lay you on the bed before they take you?” She was purring at him.

Steve wiped at his eyes, managing to glare at her. “Young kids shouldn’t say such things.” He wheezed, waggling a finger at he tried not to blush. “And no!”

“Ugg, Claire!” Kevin protested too as he looked in disgust at his friend.

Claire laughed as she punched Kevin in the arm. “I bet this year you’re gonna go into heat, then you are gonna know what it’s like!”

“I’ll go into rut!” Kevin protested, shaking his head as he went back to opening his cards.

 “Oh!” Claire exclaimed as she turned her attention back to Steve. “You would have gone into rut for years!” she said, her eye filled with too much wonder. “How did you cope?”

“Hu?” He managed weakly.

“They haven’t told you about it yet?” Kevin asked, glancing up from his cards with a frown.

Steve remembered Mike saying something about it when he was dieing from embarrassment and trying not to blush.

Clair leaned forwards as she lowered her voice. “Don’t you find yourself getting horny in June?” she asked conspiratorially.

Steve saw Kevin roll his eyes before becoming uninterested again.

“I do.” Claire said when he was silent to long for her. “Apparently it gets more intense when you have a Mate… or so I read. But whooo” she whistled. “I cant imagin that.” she finished dreamily.

“You read too much.” Kevin said as he started looking though more cards.

“So…” Claire ignored her friend, keeping her focus on Steve himself. “how have you managed all these years and not just Bond with the nearest normal?” She asked, using the slang word Steve found most of the Shifter using when referring to non-Shifters.

Steve sighed, finding he wasn’t hungry again. “I duno.” He said. And as he gave it a little thought, he had always just thought it was something to do with summer and the heat. And he had kinda hated it. Finding his dick in his hand and sweaty as all hell as he cooked in the heat could be an uncomfortable as all hell sometimes. And an inconvenience when he had been on missions… but back then… he had never found the need to go looking for someone to bang… that was until two years ago… but as always, he felt most angry at those thoughts now than anything else.

“But…”

“Stop embarrassing him.” Kevin came to his defence and Steve could have hugged him if he was his side of the table.

“Fine.” Claire finally relented as she sat back in her chair. “So, you wana come Shift with us after dinner?” She asked, then pointed at her neck. “Will they let you? now you have that off.” She said, meaning the collar he was now free of.

Steve frowned. “I don’t know.” He answered honestly. He still wasn’t comfortable with the whole Shifting thing… but the look both kids were giving him made it hard to refuse. “We’ll see.” He hedged.

--

Thirty minutes later and he was in his room with Kevin and Claire as they began to take their clothes off.

“Hey, hey!” He said desperately as he tried to get them to stop.

“But Leon said it was okay.” Claire said as she just pulled her tee over her head.

Steve turned away as she stood shamelessly in nothing but her knickers and bra. “I’m sure he didn’t mean this though.” He said vaguely.

“Do you know how to get to the field?” Kevin asked. He was also busy pulling his clothes off with no shame at all. “Or how to get through all the doors?”

“Yeah, we are gonna show you!” Claire said and Steve looked over his shoulder as he saw her releasing the clasp on the front of her bra and he quickly turned back round. “Oh my god. Are you shy?” she was laughing at him now.

Steve sighed. “You’re a young woman.” He said firmly. “It’s not appropriate.” Then they were both chuckling at him.

“We are Shifters.” Kevin said, and Steve could hear the implied ‘durr’ in it. “It’s not like we are gonna Bond or anything… you do know we cant Bond with each other right?”

“Yeah.” Steve answered. Mike had said the same thing when he had queried about all the same sex living situation, especially with hormonal teens. Apparently, Shifters never had sex with each other, so it had never been an issue.

So, with another sigh, he began removing his clothes. Still with his back turned.

“Okay, we are ready.” Kevin said, “Do you wanna try and Shift first. Steve?”

Steve nodded as he turned a little then crouched down on the floor, thinking of He-Man as he did so. And suddenly he was on all four paws and he turned to his young friends and tried to say he was ready, but it came out as a whine. He frowned with a spell of panic, before he remembered he couldn’t speak. He even tried to form a word, but it was just coming out as chocked squeaked as he tried to get his throat and tongue to work, but they just wouldn’t.

“You’ll get used to that.” Claire said with a wince. “But for now just follow us.”

Steve nodded his head as he watched Claire and Kevin Shift. He hadn’t seen them before and was a bit surprised when he was faces with two lions, one with the starting’s of a sparse mane. They were also not as large as him, but he guessed that would change when they were both adults.

Claire in her lioness form waved her paw at him before turning to the door. At first he thought she would reach for the handle, but instead she hooked her claws into a hole in the mettle kick bored at the bottom of the door, pulling it open with a tug.

Steve had wondered what the holes were for, he guessed now he knew.

He followed the lions through the dormitory, letting them open doors, or if they met anyone, they would hold the doors for them. Then their eyes would follow him, he could feel their stairs on his back, making his hackles rise.

When they finally got to the field behind the dorm’s the two lions ran off instantly, bumping into each other as they did so, trying to knock each other over. Steve went with a bit more caution.

He had been out here before, usually for his daily run as the place had no pool he could swim in. He had seen other Shifters out here But he had stayed away from then, which was fine, as they gave him a wide birth too.

He still couldn’t help but look around the high perimeter fence, all the security on top of the wall faced outwards, designed to keep people out, not in. But the wall was still too high, too smother and there was nothing he could used out there to get over it. The few trees and play ground area ware all close to the building, but also not high enough to use to get onto the roof.

He was just giving the wall another look, it just seemed taller from his lower angle, when he suddenly found himself being jumped on from the side. He growled, then flailed on his side, his limbs not working as they should to get him upright to face his attackers.

He heard delighted yipping and looked up to see the two lion’s laughing at him. With another growl, he managed to get to his feet as he gave chase.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

“I heard you were out in the field yesterday causing mayhem.”

Steve tensed, he hadn’t heard the door open. “Something wrong with knocking?” He asked Mike angrily as put down the letter he had been reading from Catherine, before he added it to the small stack he had.

“I did.” Mike answered as Steve turned to see the shrink leaning up against his open door. “I guess you were too engrossed with your latest letter?”

“Something like that.” He said as he pushed the small stack to the back of his table. “I didn’t think we had a session today?” He deflected, not wanting to talk about Cat.

“We don’t.” Mike said before he turned and began pulling on something. It was a trolley with a huge box on it. “This arrived today.” Mike said.

Steve got to his feet, his eyes fixed on the box. “It’s been opened.” He said, for a moment he had been exhilarated, now he his anger was coming back.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Mike said. “But we have to check packages this large. Don’t worry, the mailroom uses gloved if you’re worried about cross-contamination of scents.”

Steve hadn’t been, but as he drew closer he could smell Hawaii coming from the box. He reached out and tried to lift it, then with a grunt, he managed to lift it onto the bed. It was heavy.

“I guess I’ll leave you to it.” Mike said, which Steve ignored as he opened the box and breathed in deep as he heard his door close. It smelled of home and his chest tightened with homesickness, something he hadn’t felt since he was a kid and his dad sent him and Mary away.

On top was a stack of tees, some of his caro-pants, a pair of his running shorts and a few shirts. He gave a chocked laugh when he found a plush toy of a blue dolphin, around its neck was an elastic band with a pink bit of paper beneath.

/Uncle Steve, I sent you Mister Flipper to keep you company. Gracie./ The note said. He put it with the letters, then turned back to the box.

He found some Hawaiian honey, a jar of his favourite coffee and books that he had had on his bedside table. Then he laughed as he found three copies of ‘Gun & Ammo’ magazines, and yet another note.

/Cant send you your gun bro, so we sent the next best thing. Kono/. It joined the other letters.

Finally he pulled out two duvet covers and pillow cases, they smelled of his detergent and he breathed it in.

The Dorm would give him almost everything he could ask for, but he didn’t realize how something as everyday as detergent could be something he would miss.

Then he realized something else was also in the box and he pulled out a heavy blanket that he usually saved for guests. He guessed it had just been used for packing until he caught a whiff of it and instantly he was pulling it to his face. He closed his eyes and breathed in deep as his knees buckled and he fell to the floor, clutching the blanked to him tight. He felt his eyes sting, as his homesickness overtook him.

Yet again, he felt an overwhelming need to escape and found himself getting back to his feet, he needed to go home.

As he took a step towards the door he recognised the smell as a memory came to him, of a compact body sleeping on his couch for over a week, of him being angry about the TV being on ever night, but how he mourned the silence when it was gone.

With a growl he yanked it away from his face. Ready to throw it into the corner of his room, to toss it in the trash, to take it into the kitchen and burn it… instead his fists clenched the material painfully.

With a huff he slumped onto this bed, clutching the offending item on his knees.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat, staring at the grey and cream blanket when he was startled out of his paralysis by a knock at his door. “ya… Yeah?” He called.

“Coming to lunch?” Kevin asked as his head popped around the door, then his eyes widened. “You okay?” the kid asked as he slipped into the room. For once, Claire wasn’t with him.

Steve straightened up. “Yeah… I just got some stuff from home.” he said gesturing to the rest of his belonging on the bed.

“Oh. The soft toy too?” Kevin asked with a slight smile, though his eyes still looked worried.

Steve managed to crack a small smile too. “It’s from a fr… colleagues kid, Gracie.” He answered, looking over at the large toy.

“Don’t let Claire see it, she’ll try and keep it.” And they shared a chuckle.

“Doesn’t she have enough already?” He asked. The girls bed was smothered in soft toys.

“Not according to her.” Kevin rolled his eyes. “So? Coming?”

“Sure.” Steve said getting up.

“You bringing that too?” Kevin asked as he paused at the door.

Steve looked down to the blanket he still held, then he was going to throw it on the bed like it was nothing, but he just couldn’t. So quickly he folded it into a ball then pushed it under his pillow. “Let’s go. I heard there might be sushi.”

He saw Kevin give him a too knowing look for someone so young, before he was opening the door again. “Vegetarian.” The young Shifter said with a suffering groan as they went to get food.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve was loping around the field two days later when he spied one of the security guards come out of the main doors. As soon as the guy saw him he gestured to him to come over.

“Your sister and aunt’s here to see you.” The guard said. Steve thought his name was Pete or something, but he didn’t care right then as he pushed past and ran through the halls till he stood by the door to the visiting rooms. Then he had to stand, moving from paw to paw till the Pete finally came into view.

“You want to change first?” Pete asked with a kind smile.

Steve paused for a moment, then shook his head before making a questioning sound. Luckily Pete seemed to know what he meant.

“Sure, sure, just go into the corridor when you wana change, and I’ll let you back in… They are in room six.” He said opening the door.

Steve gave the guy another questioning grunt.

“Ah, yeah, sorry man. Halfway down on the left. Door opens in; just push it to get in.”

Steve waved his paw in thanks as he went, finding the room quickly. He paused outside taking a deep breath in. They hadn’t seen him like this before and he wondered if it was such a good idea. But as he turned to go get changed the door suddenly opened and he heard his sister take in a sharp breath.

“Steve?” Mary questioned.

He turned to look up at her, seeing the shock on her face. He cocked his head to the side, then nodded.

She sighed as she rested a hand against her chest. “Err… come on, get in here?” she moved aside and he walked in slowly, only to see his aunt sat in one of the two comfortable chairs in the small room. He flattened his ears against his scull as he lowered his head.

“Steve?... is that really you?” his aunt asked and he could hear her voice crack.

Without thinking he padded over to her, he could smell the tears as they rolled down her cheeks and he wanted to hug her, but realised he couldn’t.

Then she was leaning forwards taking his face into her hand and he went still.

“I’m sorry.” She said through her tears. “I didn’t know… and now I see you… I’m glad I didn’t…”

Steve grunted in surprise and shock as his sister let out a shout of disbelief.

“Aunt!”

“I mean it…” His aunt smiled sadly at him. “You’re stuck here now… but if we had known… just think of all the adventures you wouldn’t have had… all the lives you wouldn’t have saved… The people you wouldn’t have met.”

Steve blinked… He’d never thought of it like that, he had thought she had known, just like his dad and mother must have known. It’s why she hadn’t taken him in like she had his sister. But with a huff he let that little resentment go as he pushed his head against his aunts.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

And that was the starting point where he was finally allowed to have more contact with the outside world. He was finally allowed to call anyone he wanted once a day. So he was abusing the privilege, or at least he was phoning at awkward times to try and catch Kono or Chin before they went into the office. But the register didn’t seam to care about the long distance calls.

But as his pseudo freedom grew, his relationship with Mike just got worse. The guy just didn’t seem to understand him.

So he was ready to just sit in his chair and let Mike talk for the hour it would take to get it over with and he could go back to writing letters and teaching the kids self defence techniques. But as he walked into Mike’s office. There was an oldish woman sat behind the desk.

“Oh, Hello Steven.” She said as she got up. “I’m Sharon Booth and Mike has asked me to come and see if I can get through to you, as he thinks he isn’t helping you the way he thinks I can.”

Steve wanted to protest. But then he had to give it to Mike, he had finally realised they won’t working. “You going to tell me how much I should just accept this life.” He waved his arm in the air. “And be happy about it?” he asked warily.

She just stared at him before indicating the chair at the other side of the desk. Mike usually liked to sit in the arm chairs by the window to do his shrinking. So Steve took the chair offered.

“Mike thought I might be better suited to understand your unique situation.” She was saying as she sat down too across the desk from him. “Don’t look so sceptical.” She scalded him. “I used to serve too.”

“Oh?” Steve asked. Okay, so he was vaguely interested.

“Marines.” She said. “I saw combat, lived to tell the tail, medically retired with full honours with prosthetic legs paid for for my entire life. So now I work for the registry on… difficult cases.”

“In action?” Steve asked.

“Somewhere out there.” She finally smiled. “I was career military before that. But I soon found sitting behind a desk all day was not for me.”

Steve razed an eyebrow, pointedly looking at the desk that now separated them.

“This is not my desk, and the admin work is very minimal.” She said.

Steve could relate to that, he usually got Danny to do his… but now that bastard just had to do his own, the traitor!

“STEVEN!?” Sharon suddenly barked, with a sharpness to it he hadn’t herd since his training day’.

“Ma’am?” He clipped out automatically.

“Why were you just growling?” She demanded.

He blinked at her, then images of Danny pulling a face as Steve handed him more paperwork, and accepting it, popped into his head. “Nothing.” He growled. Not looking at her. “Just remembering someone I don’t want too.”

“Oh, your partner Mr Williams?” she asked matter of fact. “He was the one who informed the registry of your original predicament.”

Steve looked back at her, not knowing if he should be angry or just get up and leave the room.

“I have read all your case notes and Mike has conferenced with me about how best to help you before I offered to do it in person.” She said. “Does that piss you off?”

Steve blinked at her blunt tone.

“Army” She said pointing at herself. “I know not to sugar coat anything with you or you wont respect me.”

Steve managed to give her a nod of recognition to that. “Just not what I expect from shrinks.”

“I’m not a shrink.” She told him. “I’m a lecturer and a liaison between the military and the Shifter Registry; I go from civilian schools and the pentagon.”

“Impressive… but what’s the military need with a lecturer about Shifters?” He asked, actually vaguely interested.

“Things are changing.” She smiled. “But it used to be for those chosen to be potential Mates, and that they can’t be dicks.” She chuckled. “But mostly it’s just promoting understanding and education.”

“So why have you been drafted in to fill in for my shrink?” He asked sitting back in his chair.

“Because I think you still don’t understand why you are here.”

Steve snorted. He was here because his partner betrayed his trust.

“You think we are punishing you?”

He just gave her a look.

“Then let me put it this way… How many times has an enemy got close enough to your back?”

Steve blinked at her. “Not as much as they would have liked.” He said proudly.

“And what would you have done if one of them knew you were a Shifter and just grabbed your neck?” She asked, lowering her voice.

Steve found himself reaching up to the back of his own neck, even the thought made his stomach squirm.

“They would have incapacitated you instantly. I’m taking it it’s just been dumb luck they hadn’t done it sooner.”

Steve couldn’t argue with that. “Better class of scumbag I guess.” He uttered.

“And what would your enemies do now that you’re registered? Don’t look so surprised, I’ve read your work history… And I know you will have adversaries that even you don’t know about yet, and they will be willing to use any means against you… And I believe the Registry has already had some interest from parties in Hawaii as to your Bond status.”

“Really?” Steve felt a little disgusted, but he was more intrigued. “Can I have their names… so my team can look into it?” He asked, wondering how many bad guys they could sweep up with.

“Your team…” She mused, but it wasn’t a question or a dismissal like Mike would have made it. “I will look into it, if you think it would help?”

He shrugged. “Couldn’t hurt… So I take it that it’s common knowledge I’m a Shifter over there then…”

“I have no clue… But would you like to look over the list of names too?”

Steve nodded, feeling a familiar thrill as his mind began running through who he would contact, how many calls he could get away with.

“And if you find a name that you know… would you be interested in Bonding with them?”

“Pfft, no.” He said automatically before he fully realized what she had asked.

“So sure?”

“Yes!” He said angrily, but it wasn’t at her. “Why would I want to Bond with someone I don’t know?” He tried to cover himself. “Let alone with a criminal.”

“I asked if it was someone you knew.” She said calmly.

Steve glared at her. “I thought you said you weren’t a shrink.” He said flatly.

“Deflecting?”

Steve carried on just glairing at her, wondering if he should just start repeating his name and rank.

“Fine.” She nodded at him, “I’ll let you mull that one over for a few day… so how are you getting on with the other Shifters here?”

Steve was glad with the change of subject, and didn’t mind talking about Kevin and Claire for the rest of their session.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

“So how did it go?” Mike asked when Sharon finally came into the small staff room where he had been waiting, He watched as she sighed, then began pouring herself a cup of coffee.

“He still thinks he’s invulnerable, that we are punishing him, not protecting him.” He watched as she took a sip. “But I think you did the right thing, calling me. He responds to authority… to some extent.”

Mike nodded, trying not so sigh in frustration. “He is stubborn.” He said sharing a smile with her. “I really like him… but I have no idea how to deal with someone with his background.”

“I’m guessing it’s not just because he’s not a child who’s scared but known what they were?” Sharon asked.

He nodded. “I’ve had a little experience with older Shifters who come in, but they have usually been hiding their entire lives and are scared.”

Sharon smiled at him. “Not used to dealing with someone who’s angry, independent and never knew they were a Shifter?”

“Something like that.” He smiled back. “Do you think you can get through to him that what we are doing it trying to keep him safe?”

“I can try.” She said honestly. “It might take time… do you think we should let him know about the chaperone system? He’s old enough to qualify.”

Mike shook his head. “Not right now, maybe in a few more months, when he really understands that even the people who love him can hurt him.”

Sharon nodded. “I think you’re right. He needs more time; though I think it’s going to have to be an option. He’s going crazy being locked up in here.”

“I know, and it’s not helping him. But what else can we do?” Mike asked. Wishing he could truly do more for the Shifter.

“Nothing for now.” She answered. “But we’ll get through to him eventually, even if I have to bark orders at him while I make him do a thousand push ups.”

Mike shivered at the idea. “If you think it would help.”

She laughed. “With his background, it’s probably his morning routine anyway. So, where can a woman get a decent meal around here anyway?” She asked. “I haven’t eaten since I flew in.”

Mike stood straight as he gestured for her to precede him out of the staffroom. “I have an hour free, why don’t I take you to the nearest café?”

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve bound down the corridor to the visitor’s rooms. Mary was bringing Catherine again. The Registry had let Cat off with some intensive visiting, as she only managed to get two weeks shore leave, so they had let her visit Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But today was her last day, and he wanted her to see if she could try and track down some of his old friends.

After they had finally let Joe White come see him last week, the old man had kept his promise and emailed Sharon and Chin some contacts where they might find his old buddies. It didn’t help that Joe shared the shrinks concerns about his safety, and that this was the best place for him right now. He hadn’t wanted to be angry with his old mentor. Even though Steve had rolled his eyes good naturedly at the time; he sill couldn’t help but resent Joe’s opinion. Joe hadn’t trained him to be stuck in a cage.

“Hey Cat!” He said happily as he entered the visitor room. “Oh, where’s Mary?” He asked as he flopped down on the sofa where he usually sat with Mary.

“She couldn’t make it today.” Cat said as he watched her get up, then come and sit with him.

“Oh?” He asked, concern running through him.

“She was taking your aunt to the dentist.” Cat said slightly to dismissive for Steve’s nerves. “It’s nothing serious!” Cat assured him, laying a hand on his arm as she leaned closer. “Mary said she lost a filling last night and it was painful. She hoped you wouldn’t mind?”

“No.” He said, then looked down at the hand on his arm. It was something she would do through their entire friendship. But she hadn’t touched him these last two weeks though… and he knew she would have been told not to touch him before being allowed to see him. Hell, last week they had only been allowed in the observation visitors room. But this week they were full up as two new arrivals had come in and their families were using them most of the time.

“Nice isn’t it?” Cat asked softly, and he looked up to see her staring at him… there was something in her expression that made his chest feel hollow for a moment.

“Familiar.” He offered with a forced smile as he tried to move, so her hand would fall away naturally. But she followed his movements, pressing her thigh up against his own. Until he was pressed into the corner of the sofa uncomfortable as she all but loomed over him.

“Cat…?” He asked confused. He could easily push her away. But he loved her; she was one of his best friends. And there was no way he wanted to hurt her.

“I always wondered why we never had sex. All those nights you let me sleep in your bed…” She said, still looking at him like he was a new gun she really wanted to use. “I always thought you might be gay, or asexual.” She whispered as she moved closer. Now pressing up against his arm. “I never believed that bullshit about ‘saving yourself for marriage.’ You’re not that religious.” She chuckled and he managed to smile awkwardly.

“Yeah… I guess we know now.” He said trying to push her away a little as he moved. Like he was trying to be more comfortable. It didn’t work, and to be honest what she had mentioned was something he had wondered.

Mike had said all Shifters could be classed as Asexual until they found the right person. He had said It was mostly something to do with smell and/or personality, with looked very rarely coming into it, as far as other Shifters had reported.

Steve could understand that. He had grown up with normal horny teens, and he had hated that period in his life. But here he was caged with mostly teens and where as they did talk about meeting their dream Mates, sex wasn’t really on their radar. Sure It was something he had heard them whispering about, but just like himself, it was an abstract notion. Sure, when the kids got a moment alone, they would masturbate. The smell was unmistakable. But again it was nothing like he was used to in his own youth.

“I always thought that one day I might be able to crack you.” Catherine was saying, her breath brushing against his cheek.

“Yeah.” He said lightly as bile rose in his throat and he managed to push her away enough to get to his feet. Then made for the small beverage table in the corner, so his back was to her and he could try and clam down. “I guess that’s not goanna happen now.” He managed regretfully. Even though he had never thought the same way about her. “Want a coffee?” He asked.

“No.” She said and he could feel her behind him. “Steve… Steven…” She insisted when he didn’t turn. But with a sigh, he did. “Bond with me.” She whispered at him, her eyes intense as she moved into his personal space again, pressing her chest to his own. “Bond with me and we can walk out of here today…”

Steve tried to shake his head as he was backed into the small table.

‘No’ was on his lips instantly before her last words sank into his brain as he looked past her to the door…. Freedom?... he could leave?

“We could go back to Hawaii…”

He felt her hands on his arms like she as holding him in place and he closed his eyes as her words washed through him with worm waves of hope.

“I would let you go back to work.” She said softly and he gasped involuntarily as she was promising him everything he wanted. “I wouldn’t let you rot away in a cage… You’re too good for that, Steven.”

He felt her lift a hand to his shoulder as he leaned his head forward until it was resting against her forehead. He breathed in her familiar sent.

“Let’s go and take your life back?” She whispered.

She had been there for him when many hadn’t, she had always understood him in a way no one else had while he was career military. He trusted her and always had. He had always thought that maybe one day he might have proposed to her anyway, it was always a fantasy he had mused over whenever his thoughts had turned morose and he didn’t want to grow old alone… but they were only passing desperate thoughts and he had shaken them off quickly.

It would be so easy thought…

Too give in…

Catherine was a better choice than some random stranger… Better the devil you know than the one you didn’t… right?

They were friends….

“You trust me, don’t you, Steve?” Catherine whispered in his ear as he felt her right hand move to the bottom of his neck as her right was heading for his left wrist.

He nodded mutely… he did trust her… but bile was rising in his throat again, his heart fluttered in his chest as his hackles rose as her right hand started moving up his neck,

Then his whole world stilled when her left hand encircled his right wrist and her fingers dug into the underside of his wrist.

No one had ever don’t that before and he heard himself groaning, and it wasn’t anything good… as he started growling a warning.

“Shhh…” Catherine was whispering softly. “This is how they do it in the movies.” And there was a playful hint to her tone.

But there was nothing funny about this!

He felt sick as all his muscles tensed as he was about to push her away. He did NOT want this… Not with her! She wasn’t the one he wanted! Not when there was already someo…

Fingers were touching the back of his neck, just below his skull, they were digging in and it was nothing but pain.

His world suddenly shattered around him.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Mike was hurrying towards the visitors rooms. He couldn’t believe that Sonia had thought it perfectly acceptable to let and old friend be alone with Steven without his sister present, and defiantly not in a normal room, She should have waited till a viewing room was free, or at the very least sent in a security guard with them!

That damn woman was going to find herself moved to admin, if he couldn’t fire her outright. It wasn’t like this was the first time, or even her first warning!

He could even see the door to the room Steven was in was closed! But he was still some way away when he heard it.

Steven was screaming.

Then suddenly doors on either side of him were being thrown open as he recognised Shifters running into the corridor with him, and as one, they were rushing to the room Mike was trying to get too.

As he reached it, being buffeted by more Shifters rushing past him, he saw the woman who had accompanied Steven’s sister being forced into the corridor by two very angry lions, while also being shoved by more Shifters who were also growling at her, screaming at her to get out, but above it all, Mike could hear the anguished cried from Steven.

“Mike!?”

Mike looked over to see Pete as the other side of the throng of Shifters. “Take her into custody!” He shouted over the noise, pointing at the woman. “Get the others to secure the other families and get everyone else to help calm them down!” He saw Pete give him a thumbs up, then Mike was pushing his way into the room.

Steven was on his knees, from what Mike could see, he had one arms around his head as he growled and gasped mournfully into his other hand that was covering his face.

Those that had Shifted were rubbing their faces against their downed companion; others were reaching out with hands, trying to sooth his distress. But as Mike tried to get closer, to try and talk to the Shifter, the others who were not in physical contact with Steven, turned on him, baring their teeth.

Mike razed his hands and instantly backed away as more sharp teeth and fists were aimed his way. “Easy.” He said softly. “What’s going on here?” Then he saw Claire turn to look up at him from where she was plastered to Steven’s side.

“That…That…” She spat as she looked out the door. Then back at him. “Just tried to force a Bond on him!”

“How?” He blinked at her, it wasn’t like any Shifter here had ever witnessed a Bond actually happen, and she was looking at him now a little confused herself.

“We aren’t stupid, Mike.” Ryo, one of the older Shifters at the dorm said a little angrily. But he was also looking a little baffled as he glanced at some of the other Shifters. “We… We just felt it… and it was so wrong… what she did.” He shrugged.

“He’s already got someone he wants!” Clair snapped as Steven began to retch at her side. Then all the Shifters attention was back on Steven, Mike went to try and help again, but he was once again blocked.

“We’ll take care of him.” Ryo said firmly, actually stepping between Mike and Steven.

“Clear the corridors of all humans.” Alexis said as she too came to stand with Ryo. “We’ll take him to his room.” She looked at the older Shifter and they both nodded to each other. “We can look after him… err… can you tell my mom I’ll see her next week?” she asked.

Mike looked around at the eyes that were now on him, and with a sigh, he nodded. “I’ll talk to everyone families, don’t worry. Give me fifteen minutes to clear the way.” Then he left.

The corridor was full of security trying to keep the other family members in their rooms, while more Shifters were rushing in from the direction of the Dorms.

“Can all families please remain in their rooms for the moment, please!” He shouted over the noise. There were some shouts of protests and more questions, but he didn’t have time for them. He had a failed Bond to try and sort out and a whole dormitory full of Shifters to soothe before he could deal with all the humans.

It was going to be a long day, and he wasn’t going to get home to his own wife and kids any time soon.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Sharon looked at Mike. “Has he said anything?” She asked.

Mike was shaking his head. “Nope, and they wont let us near.”

She looked back at the security feed from Steven’s room. All the rooms had one, but they were only used in special circumstances, like now.

Steven was curled up on his bed, and apparently hadn’t moved since the other Shifters had carried him there from the visitor rooms almost thirty five house ago. They had also helped him to the toilet, then back again twice in that time.

He was also being guarded by nearly every Shifter in the Dormitory. They seemed to be taking it in shifts, and if any human got too close, they were met with a wall of bodies.

“Who’s that?” She asked as she watched a young female lion snuggling up to Steven’s back on the bed.

“Claire.” Mike answered, “She and Kevin take it in turns to sleep with him.”

She recognised the names, Steven had talked fondly about them when she knew she had taken their talks into less dangerous territory. “Have you talked to either of them?” She wondered.

“Not yet, but trying to get to them isn’t easy. They only come out for food.”

“Go get Kevin?” She asked. Then carried on watching the monitor as he left the room.

As she watched, she saw the other lions that were lying on Steven’s floor, move their attention from the TV to the door. Then as one, they seemed to move, blocking the door. She looked over to the general monitors to see Mike wasn’t even close to Steven’s room, but still the way was blocked by bodies, cat and human forms alike. Then one kid stepped forwards and she guessed that was Kevin. Once Mike left though, all the other Shifters relaxed and went back to watching TV.

When Mike got back with the young Shifter and introductions were done, Sharon found himself under the scrutiny of the young redhead.

“You’re Steve’s new shrink?” he asked, as he eyes her warily.

“Kinda.” She smiled at him. “We were just wondering if you could shed any light on how we can help your friend.”

Kevin looked at her like he was assessing her, “For the moment?” He shrugged. “We are just doing what feels right…. He’s not said anything. But we can feel he’s hurting, and when someone ‘normal’ comes close we know he don’t like it.”

“Can you sense anything else from him?” She wondered,

Another shrug, then he was looking between her and Mike. Then he was looking at the monitor and his eyes went wide.

“I know you have seen the camera light on in his room.” Mike said, gesturing at the monitor. “We really do only use them if we really have too.”

She tried not to smile when Kevin was glowering at Mike distrustfully.

“What were you thinking about before that?” She asked, knowing he wanted to tell them something but was hesitating about it.

The young Shifter looked at her as he was biting his lip, then he seemed to make up his mind as he pointed at the monitor. “You need to find whoever that blanked belonged too.” He said seriously.

Sharon looked more closely at the image on screen. Even though Steven’s back was to them, she could see he was clutching something near his head and chest.

“It was in the first box he got sent from home.” Kevin carried on, “He keeps it under his pillow, but wont let anyone else touch it.” He let out a long sigh. “Claire will kill me for this.” He said getting her attention again. “But I think who ever it smells of.. is his real Bond Mate.

“Really?” Mike asked, sounding surprised.

“You’re his shrink.” The kid shot back. “But even Ryo thinks so, and you know how pessimistic he is.” Kevin rolled his eyes. “And you might wana start introducing him to anyone with a collage degree despite what he’s been saying.”

“I’ll take that into consideration.” Mike answered dryly, giving the kid a smile, “But I have to agree with you, I think he had already found someone he wanted to Bond with before even coming here.”

Now it was Sharon’s turn to look at the other man questioningly, after all, Steve hadn’t really let anything like that come up in their conversations, but then she hadn’t really been looking for it. She was brought in because of her military background to maybe get it though the SEALS thick skull that he wasn’t invulnerable anymore.

But that was until she had watched him be sweet talked by someone he used to trust into letting them try and Bond with him… promising him sweet dreams of things that his heart desperately wanted, freedom to go back to his old life like nothing had happened.

She had seen rejected attempted Bond’s before and she was sure Mike had see more. They had just never seen one go so wrong around other Shifters, and where they knew it was painful for the Shifter, physically and mentally, they were usually up by now. Steve still looked like he was in shock, and they all knew that his health was also suffering because of it, just like with any rejection. Though the medical staff were only going to step in if they really had too, and apparently, for the moment, they weren’t overly concerned Steve was in any immediate danger of cascading organ flier.

“Well it sure as hell wasn’t that stupid bit…  err… woman.” Kevin said with a growl under his voice. “He told us she was a really good friend, but Claire said she was probably gonna try something… who dropped the ball? Was it Sonia again?”

“Okay, weren’t you on your way to get some dinner?” Mike said, crowding the young Shifter towards the door. “Josh, can you take Kevin back for me?”

Sharon heard the security guard give a confirmation, then Mike was with her again.

I should make some calls.” He half stated, half asked.

She nodded. “If you think you are sure who it is and they pass the checks, get them here ASAP… All we can do is hope the kids are right.” She sighed heavily, turning the monitor and camera off to give the Shifters some privacy. “What’s happening with the person who did this?” she asked.

“She’s going to be charged with assault, an attempted unsanctioned Bonding, malicious coercion of a Shifter to Bond, She was also under caution and had signed the documents declaring she wouldn’t try touching him, never mind trying to Bond with any Shifter while on premises, and I’m sure by the end of it, they will throw in non-consensual attempted rape... it’s been a few years since anyone’s tried this, so they are going to throw the book at her to make an example.”

“Good.” Sharon snarled. “I imagine she had already been dishonourably discharged?”

“It’s already being sorted.” Mike nodded, then he was sobering up. “The only bad thing is, is if she had gotten away with it, there wouldn’t be much we could have done.”

Sharon sighed. They couldn’t have punished her, without punishing the Shifter they were all sword to protect, it was very rare a Shifter was turned bad, and it was always because their Bond Mate was unstable or a criminal already.

It was one of the unwritten personality traits of a Shifter, it had surprised her to learn, as a whole, they were kind and peaceful, and this was a given… but they were also firstly protective of their Mates. And before they found a Mate, they focused that protection onto other Shifters, or the public in general. After all, it was law that if a Bonded Shifter attacked and killed someone, the Shifter was never accountable for it and all blame would be placed on the one who was attacked.

So it shouldn’t have been much of a reach to see Steven gravitating to the military, as he didn’t have one person to protect, he would just protect them all. And now he was being protected by all the other Shifters. It really was something humbling to witness, even in such dire circumstances.

It also confirmed to her the new research that had come out in the last few years. That Shifters were originally warriors, That in history, they were the ones who protected, not the ones who needed protecting as the modern world would have everyone believe. But she guessed some things could never really be taken from the human collective memory. During any wars or strife, Shifters were always moved to safely and hidden away, it was why a Shifters Passport was global, and no country could refuse them in times of war or civil unrest. 

“Come on.” She said. “Let’s not think too hard on the negative. She’s not going to be our problem and we have some people to call.”

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve gasped as he opened his eyes.

He wasn’t sure if he had just had a dream or a true nightmare. But as soon as his eyes saw a hated white wall in front of him, he forgot what it was that had woken him. It just left him with a new hollow feeling.

He pulled his knees close to his chest as he scrunched his eyes closed, mostly so he didn’t start screaming. Because he was scared that if he let out his rage, it wouldn’t stop.

He had trusted Catherine!

The moment her fingers had touched the base of his skull and squeezed, he knew instantly she wasn’t the one.

His body had felt like he was on fire as he had pushed her away and collapsed. It was like he was being flayed alive while also having all his organs squeezed beyond reason.

He wasn’t sure how long he had been out of his mind, but when his body had needed the head he had been surprised by all the kids in his room. At fist he hadn’t wanted them to touch him. Bt they had given him very little choice as they , as one, moved him to the bathroom, given him no privacy before taking him back to bed.

The next time he was more aware and knew that the other Shifters were not letting any humans near him at all, he felt the change in the air whenever anyone tried to get close though.

Claire and Kevin had both gotten him to drink some water and forced him to sip at some beef broth. But now he was hungry. So he forced his aching limbs to move so he could sit up. From the light from the window it looked like it was around noon. “Kev?” he asked. When an adolescent lion looked up at him from the side of the bed. “Think I can get up now?” He smiled at the kid, then watched as he Shifted till he was sitting next to Steve, his eyes wide.

“You sure?” the kid asked as more heads turned their way.

“Yeah… I’m kind’a hungry.” He confessed as his stomach rumbled loudly, making some of the other kids laugh.

“Someone can get you something if you wana stay here? Kevin said. “We don’t mind.”

Steve waved at him. “Na, I gotta move.” He smiled, he felt like his skin was made of dry brittle paper and his insides were just hollow and densely packed at the same time.

”Move. Move!” Kevin said as he scrambled off the bed. “Tell um we are going to the dining hall and clear the way! He was telling the Shifters that were by the door and in the hall, then he was turning back to Steve and pointing at him. “You stay here till we come get you¬! Then his skinny naked ass was running out the door.”

“You wana change clothes?” Someone asked and Steve tried not to jump out of his skin as he looked up at Ryo, a tall Asian young man he hadn’t really had much interaction with before.

“Yeah…” before he could say anything else, the kid was handing him a new change of clothes, then shooing the other Shifters into the hall, but telling them to wait there. Then he was closing the door. To Steve’s chagrin, the kid wasn’t on the other side of the door.

“You need help?” Ryo asked as Steve saw him picking up a plastic bag they used for trash.

“No, I can manage.” He said as he began to pull his tee off. Someone had removed the shirt he had been wearing the day… that day… and as he pulled the Tee free, Ryo was holding the bag over to him and Steve saw his shirt already inside.

“Even we can smell… her.” Ryo said softly with more compassion than Steve thought possible from a kid, or more, young man, his age.

Steve threw the Tee inside and quickly started to pull off the rest of his clothing, but as he went to stand, he realised he was still holding the blanket, for a split second he was going to raise his hand and throw it into the bag… instead he reluctantly stood and forced himself to let go, it wasn’t easy and he couldn’t take his eyes off it as he put the rest of his clothes in the trash. For a moment he thought about taking a shower, but gritting his teeth he threw on his fresh clothes and grabbed the blanket again, feeling himself instantly calm down, especially when he brought it up to his face and breathed in. It didn’t really smell of anything anymore, but the action eased his shattered nerves.

He couldn’t help but grin at himself mockingly. Here he was, originally a career Navy SEAL, trained to withstand all kinds of torture and still come out the other side like it was nothing… and like a child he was clutching a security blanket too himself like his life depended on it and knowing he couldn’t let go of the damn thing right now.

He jumped when there was a knock on the door and Ryo answered as Steve turned to see Claire waiting for him

“Are you ready?” She asked as she came into the room, reaching out to put her hand on his arm consolingly.

He nodded managing to give her a smile. ”Yeah, can’t sit around moping all day.” Though as he moved to the door, he kept his feet moving, even if he just wanted to Shift, slink under his bed and never come out again.

“Lisa is making you stake, just the way you like it.” Claire was saying as she tugged him towards the dining room, “It’s been ages since you really ate, so she said some red meat would be best. Then she was whispering. “She’s even leaving off the salad!” She laughed.

When they entered the large room, Steve’s mouth instantly began to water as he smelled the meat cooking. Then his eyes were taking in his surroundings, Just as promised, all he could see were Shifters, even the ever present security was absent. He could smell Lisa in the kitchen, but she was a sweet little old lady, he just hoped he didn’t have to see her right now, Then Claire was pushing him into a chair in the middle of the room. He flinched when the kitchen door opened, but it was Kevin who was coming in, plate in hand and rushed over as soon as he saw them,

“Lisa’s making us all stakes!” He grinned as he all but threw the plate down in front of Steve, “She’ll make another if you’re still hungry after that one,”

“Can I get a coffee?” he asked as he shoved his blanket into his lap, then started to rip the succulent meat apart with his fingers and shoved it into his mouth with gusto.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve was sat back in his chair, one hand holding his cooling coffee, the other fisted into his blanket as he watched the Shifters around him talking and laughing as they ate. And still, the only human anywhere near was Lisa in the kitchen, who he couldn’t see,

It was strange and comforting to just be in the presence of so many beings just like him. There wasn’t any expectations and all the kids seemed like there was no schooling today… but then he guessed they had all been on edge while he was comatose and they were finally able to relax a little now he was up and about.

He felt humbled and grateful to them all… he didn’t think he could have got through this if Mike or Sharon had tried to talk him through it.

“We said no!”

Steve turned to see one of the adult Shifters who only spent two night a week at the dorm, trying to block the main doors, Then other Shifters hurrying over to make it impassable.

“Hey, Steve!” The older Shifter whose name Steve was sure was Victor, called to him. “Mike wants to know if he can have a ‘word’.”

Steve found he had pulled the blanket up to his chest as he swallowed hard. He wasn’t used to feeling scared, and for fuck sake he didn’t want to feel it now!

“Sure… But…” He didn’t get to say more as Victor had turned back to put his head past the door.

“You stay two tables away and you don’t go any closer.” Victor was growling, Then Mike was being pulled into the room as Victor marched him over to a few tables away, then forced him into a chair as other Shifters crowded around the man.

“This is all very exiting.” Mike was trying to sound light hearted, but even Steve could smell his unease. After all, Steve had been the cause of a coup and the Shifters had taken over.

“Tell that to him.” Victor growled, gesturing in Steve’s direction. “You know it took me two weeks to get to where he is now. So say what you came here to say, then go!”

Steve blinked at the older Shifter; he had suffered a bad Bonding attempt too? And suddenly he just wanted to talk to the other Shifter, ask him if the feeling of being made of paper got better and would his skin stop crawling?

“Ah, sorry, yes…” Mike said and Steve tried not to flinch when his old shrink looked at him. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Like crap.” Steve offered. Then he glanced at Victor. “But I’m guessing it’s gonna pass?” Victor gave him a half smile and nodded once.

“Eventually.” The Shifter affirmed. “Just goanna take a few days, longer for the emotional crap.” He shrugged one shoulder. “We weren’t the first and we sure won’t be the last.”

Steve actually felt a little reassure by the guys words.

“If you need anything more, just let us… or someone know.” Mike said, eyeing the Shifters who surrounded him. “We also thought you might want to know the fate of your… attacker?”

Steve felt his meal try and resurface in his throat as he clutched his blanket to his belly.

Even though he had listened to her pretty words and let hope seep into his soul. The need to be out there again was so strong, and she had promised to give him his old life back… and he had so wanted it, dreamed of it, fantasised.

He thought that he should be blaming himself.

She had offered him the world… and he had wanted to given himself willingly.

And it was he, who had rejected her; it was his fault she would now be in so much trouble.

If he had just said…

No…

If she had not tried to take advantage of… him?

If she had not thought that she could save him by trying to Bond with him…

He gasped as he looked down at his hands, fisted into the grey fleece.

He was so slow!

Both Mike and Sharon had tried to explain all this to him.

When he thought they were torturing him, trying to keep his friends and family away from him, the Registry was just trying to stop this from happening.

He had been talked into this by someone he respected as a friend, who in turn thought they were doing him a favour, but not understanding all the consequences, and it had all turned into a cluster fucking mess.

But he still couldn’t fully blame her, not really.

“It wasn’t her fault.” He whispered, still looking down at his lap.

He heard Mike shuffle in his chair, “Steven,..” The shrink said his tone soft. But for a change, firm. “She knew exactly what she was doing… Every one of your friends, have to read and sign an extensive document saying they are not to attempt to Bond with you…”

“But…” Steve said imploringly, looking up at the other man.

Mike shook his head. “No, Steven, If she wanted to Bond with you, she could have put in an official request and if you were open to the idea, we could have started things rolling.” Mike held up a hand when Steve was about to protest again. “She knew this could have been a possibility. She chose to take advantage of your sisters absence. She chose to tap into all your insecurities. She decided to manipulate you while you were in a vulnerable state… Would you go so easy on a ‘perp’, who did all these things to someone you were charged to protect?”

Steve snapped his mouth closed, He wouldn’t.

He glanced up at Victor, knowing that he would, even now, throw whoever hurt the Shifter into the deepest darkest hole he could find.

Catherine wasn’t stupid…. She had more than likely known exactly what she was doing… she had probably planned to make a move if Mary had just gone to the bathroom during her last visit.

He wasn’t going to kid himself that he wouldn’t, on some part, blame himself for her fate. But she was a big girl, as she liked to remind him, so she would have to take her punishment,. Whatever that might be. And he was sure he didn’t want to know… not right now… not when he was still hurting.

“I don’t wana know what’s happening to her.” He finally confessed, feeling like a coward, He was sure he would hear about her fate eventually.

“That’s fine.” Mike said quickly, holing up his hands. “Your sister is still welcome the moment you can put up with being around us ‘normal’s’ again.” That got a twitter of laughter from some of the kids. “Then we will see about expanding who you want to see again. But we will be a lot more vigilant with them.”

“I get it.” Steve said, sitting back in his chair, letting some of the tension leave him. “I get it.” He repeated, meaning everything they had tried teaching him.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Three weeks later and Steve was still feeling a little jumpy around the human staff.

Though things had, mostly, got back to normal around the Dorm. Even if his fellow Shifters still kept an eye on him whenever anyone got too close.

He was taking his classes with a little bit more grace.

He was still seeing Sharon, who he was thankful she never tried to use what had happened with Catherine against him. He guessed she was happy enough when he was a little but more open with her. But when she had inquired about his blanket after the first week, he had reluctantly cut a strip from it, then made that into small squares that he could easily carry around in his pockets unseen.

Now Steve was sat teaching Claire, Kevin and Ryo the finer points of a card game and how to cheat your way into winning. When Mike came into the rec room, calling out to them as he came closer. Something he always did to let Steve now he was there, he had also got the rest of the staff to do the same, which had been a great help, it was dumb lucky he hadn’t punched anyone for surprising him yet.

“One of your friends just flew in from Hawaii.” Mike smiled at him. “Feel like a visit?”

Steve blinked as he clumsily put his cards down, forgotten.. “Who?” he asked getting to his feet. The only person who he wanted to visit had been his sister and his aunt. He had refused anyone else’s requests to date.

Mike shrugged. “One of your former colleagues? Sorry, Sharon didn’t give me much information, but she thought you would like to see an old friend and sent me to get you. Coming?” He asked turning to leave.

“Want us to come?” Kevin asked. “Till you know who it is?”

Steve looked down at the kids, they were just kids, but he knew they were a force to be reckoned with when Shifted. “Thanks.” He said numbly as he started to follow Mike. Maybe it was Chin or Kono, they had promised they would come out as soon as they cought a brake in their cases, but the bad guys were giving them hell in his absence, so maybe just one of them could come out.

They followed Mike until he was opening the heavy fire doors that lead to the observation visiting rooms and a scent hit him, making him reel back into Ryo, who had also tagged along.

Mike turned to look at him with a frown. “Whats wrong?” He asked in alarm.

“Who…?” Steve found himself growling, till his eyes landed on a woman stood next to Sharon and as she turned to look at him he growled louder.

He remembered the other woman… she had been there the day they had taken him away, and then the day he had woken up in his hell. She had been the one to ruin his life and take him away from his home, his family, his life!

“Mister McGarrett.” The woman said smoothly. Totally unfazed by his hostility. “Do you remember me? My name is Aolani Keawe from the Hawaiian Registry. We met briefly…” She paused and a look of regret swept across her face before it was gone.

“I remember!” Steve snarled, aware the three kids behind him were taking protection detail around him.

Keawe lowered her head to him a little. “I regret how your case was handled; the people responsible for their callousness have been fired or put through vigorous re-training, to make sure that it does not happen that way again.”

“Too late for me thought.” Steve seethed, knowing he was being slightly unreasonable, but miles away from caring.

“Why don’t we let Steven meet with his visitor?” Sharon interrupted. “Aolani was concerned about what happened to you, Steven, but we will talk about it later, Now…” She gestured to the door leading into the visitor’s room.

Steven looked at it, then back at the humans around him. “Fine.” He offered them, then waited till they stepped away from the door. keeping his eyes suspiciously on them, he opened the door and stepped through knowing his friends were at his back.

Then Steve paused as his eyes fell on the other occupant of the room

“Danny!” He snarled angrily.

 

 + + [ # ] + +

 

TBC

 

 

Chapter Text

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Chapter 3

 

“Danny!” He snarled angrily.

The man who had been pacing at the other side of the room when he had opened the door stopped and was looking at him in horror, then Danny was striding over to him.

Steve didn’t know if he should punch the other man, or just walk away. He could hear Ryo and Kevin behind him getting ready to move. But Danny was in front of him before he could make up his mind as to what he was going to do.

“Oh my god!” Danny was growling. “Do they not feed you here?!” The indignation in the mans voice was at once so familiar and… and what? Rage enduing…. comforting…

Then Danny’s hand was on his cheek, the other hand clutching Steve’s bicep. “You’re so thin!” Danny was complaining. “And pale! Did they keep you in ISO all this time?!” Danny’s tone was turning angry as he now glowered at Ryo and Kevin in turn.

“Take your hands off him.” Kevin was snarling angrily as he stepped forwards. But Steve put an arm out to block the younger Shifter as Danny at least removed his hand from his face, but didn’t remove his hold on Steve’s arm. If anything, it got tighter.

“Who the hell…” Danny was asking looking the Shifter up and down as he puffed his chest out.

“Kev…” Steve said as softly as he could manage, but not taking his eyes from the man in front of him. “Ryo… It’s okay… you guys can wait outside?”

“But.” Kevin protested, unsure.

“Come on.” Ryo said and Steve felt them leave and the door clicked closed behind him.

“Friends of yours?” Danny asked.

“Shifters.” He answered, still feeling bizarrely numb. “How…?” and he wasn’t sure what he was asking.

“I have no idea!” Danny was saying as Steve let himself be pulled over to the sofa at the back of the room. “Sit, before you pass out.” Danny muttered as he pulled Steve down with him. “And it wasn’t for lack of trying.” He was saying cryptically. “Every damn Monday morning I was at the Registry trying to get visitation, and nothing till a few weeks ago…” Steve blinked at that information. “I heard about Catharine.” Danny whispered and Steve felt Danny’s hand tighten on his arm, but the other man was now looking over to the mirror on the parallel wall. “I guess we are being watched.”

“Yeah.” Steve uttered.

“Well, ‘they’ decided that maybe I could come and finally visit you! Chin and Kono send their ‘Hello’s’ but thing have been insane. Still, we manage.” Danny finally smiled, “Gracy also wanted to come, but she packed a whole suitcase full of stuff she thought you might like… I warn you now; I think there are more stuffed toys.” He rolled his eyes and Steve felt a smile trying to tug his mouth up. “But there’s a lot of stuff from people all over the island. So at least it will keep you busy for a while… IF these… people will let you keep any of it, and not take half of it for themselves.” Danny grumbled as he was looking over to the two way mirror again.

Steve found himself reaching out to his old partner, he didn’t want Danny looking over there… away from him… he needed Danny’s attention just on himself.

“What?” Danny asked, turning back to look at him and as those blue eyes settled on him, he felt more settled. Like he hadn’t in a very long time.

“I…” He managed. For three weeks he had hated any ‘normal’ even in the same room with him… and here he was, letting a human keep a hand on him, as he in turn had his hand atop Danny’s, and he was holding it tightly.

Jesus, he was mad at this guy, he had betrayed him damn it! Because of Williams he had been imprisoned against his will for months! Robbed of the life he had carved for himself, of the people he had loved and from a job that had given his life so much meaning it was unfathomable, and had fed his need for adventure, to suddenly have it all stripped away and thrown into a dead stop.

“Oh!” Steve watched as Danny’s blue eyes widened, then looked down and pulled his hands away. “Sorry!” Danny was apologising franticly as he was pushing himself away. “They lectured me that I shouldn’t touch you! You should have said something!” He said as Steve watched him turn his glair once again towards the mirror as he was standing up.

But when Danny’s hand finally slipped away from his arm, Steve found himself moving, catching the smaller mans wrist, using it to pull himself to his feet as he also threw Danny off his own balance.

Then he had the other man in his arms, pulling him tight against his chest. His arms wrapping around the stocky frame, one arm around Danny’s waist, as his other arm pulled across Danny’s shoulders.

“Steve!?”

Steve growled as he pushed his face into the side of Danny’s head, as he took a breath in, then a shiver went through his whole being as he lifter his arm from the other man’s shoulders, to secure Danny’s head in the crook of his elbow as he pushed his nose into Danny’s neck. Every deep breath he took, he was filled with the warm musk, letting the heavy scent wash through his nose and mouth like a sweet wine.

“STEVEN!”

Steve growled again and tightened his grip as he felt his… his… what? But in his moment of confusion his pray tried to push him away, and he couldn’t have that, wouldn’t as he fisted his hands into what he could, forcing the other being back against himself, where they should be.

He growled when something made the being in his arms flinch and Steve growled at the sound of banging, he opened his eyes to focus on the mirror in the room, as it showed a reflection of the door, then he was aware of voices from the other side of the door. They sounded angry and instinctively he turned, moving so his back was to the door as he glared over his shoulder. Then he growled when the door was thrown open.

Beyond there were too many people. Ryo and Kevin had their backs to him as he saw Mike and a security guard he didn’t recognise tying to get it.

Steve snarled, baring his teeth as a calm anger boiled up inside him. He turned, letting his hold loosen but didn’t let go as his left hand found the others wrist and gripped it hard as he strode over to the open door.

“Leave.” He snarled menacingly at the two humans as he then grabbed the door and slammed it shut, quickly reaching over and grabbing a chair and jamming it under the handle, then kicking the legs to secure it in place. It wouldn’t last too much pressure; he needed something more to barricade the door with.

“Steve?”

“Hu?” He grunted as his eyes landed on the sofa, it might be heavy enough, and he went for it, pushing the table in the middle of the room aside when he heard a groan of pain, and he turned his attention to the sound in alarm. Needing to know what was hurting his Mate.

“You’re hurting.” Danny was wincing and Steve looked down to where he was still holding the other mans wrist.

Instantly, reality seemed to reassert itself around him as he immediately let go, shocked that he would have done such a thing, knowing the social taboo about holding someone’s wrist, even more now it actually meant something to him. No one had done it to him until Catherine had, and it made him feel sick.

“I…” He tried to say, but he couldn’t keep away from the other man as he put his hand on Danny’s shoulder, instantly feeling more grounded, but quickly he moved his hold down Danny’s arm till he was holding onto skin and not cloth, and he sighed with relief.

“Ok… so are you with me again?” Danny asked, though his tone was soft with concern and not it’s usual annoyance.

Steve nodded as he looked back up into those blue eyes that had haunted his dreams.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you.” Danny was giving him a little smile. “But do you know how much trouble you’re probably getting me into right now?”

Something cold shot through Steve’s chest as he instantly went to pull Danny back into his arms as he glared at the door. But a hand landed in the middle off his chest and he turned his attention back to the other man.

“Will you just calm down?” Danny was saying a little bit more like the annoyed tone Steve was used to. “They had me sign enough paperwork half a rainforest is decimated, saying I wouldn’t touch you.”

Steve smirked a little at that, “You broke that the moment I walked in.” He bantered back, then grinned as Danny pulled an aneurism face.

“I’m pretty sure it should be working the other way around too.” Danny deadpanned back, glancing down at the hand’s Steve still had on his arms.

“No.” Steve said; the typical banter they shared gone as he tightened his hold. There was no way he was letting go! And with that, he knocked Danny’s hand from his chest then pulled him into his arms again, burying his face once again into the crook of Danny’s neck.

The world fell away as he closed his eyes and just breathing in the spicy musk.

The anger he had been desperately clinging at to keep, while he was locked away, the horror of what Catherine had done to him, the need to flee… all just slipped away as he held desperately to what he wanted, what he needed.

Then he found his lips moving as he whispered into the other mans ear. “Bond with me.” He felt the other stiffen in his hold.

“Steven?” The answer was as quiet as his own statement, and breathed into his ear, making his whole body shiver with pleasure. “I…”

Steve tightened his grip as he shook his head. He did not want to hear Danny say no... he couldn’t as he realised home wasn’t Hawaii, or his team or even his family… home was right here… they could lock him away for eternity in this place so long as he never let go of the man in his arms. Home would always be right there.

“Please.” He shivered, not sure what he was begging for, he just didn’t want to hear anything negative right now. Not now.

“Did I say no?!” Danny was growling softly at him, so those who were no doubt still watching couldn’t hear. And Steve heart beat a little faster, till Danny carried on talking. “But if this is what you… we… want… then we need to do it officially.” Steve felt Danny begin to rub a hand up and down his back. “I can put in an official form… Jesus, I can’t even believe I’m even considering this! But you need to let me go.”

“No!” Steve knew that was something he could not do… he knew if he did let go… no… he knew he couldn’t let go. Without thinking he did pull away, enough so he was resting their foreheads together as he looked into the other mans eyes. Then he put his left hand under Danny’s right arm, then began pushing his arm up, his hand slipped over Danny’s as he moved their hands to the back of his own neck.

He watched as Danny’s eyes widened when he realised what he was doing. And he was trying to pull away again.

“Steve!” Danny was saying desperately, “We have to think about this! This isn’t a chase! You can’t just drive us off a cliff or throw around bombs! This is our lives!”

“I know.” Steve answered, not letting Danny’s hand go. “And I’ve had enough time to think about this.” He lied, he had though about nothing but the pain he was in because of the man in his arms, but the moment Danny touched him, the moment he breathed in his scent again… he knew this was where he had to be.

Danny was sighing as Steve watched him close his eyes, and was relieved when they looked at him again. “Look… They told me what happened with Cat… I can’t… I can’t hurt you like she did.”

Steve felt a moment of remembered pain, but this was nothing like with Cat, Danny wasn’t promising him anything. At least not with words. Danny wanted to do this the official way, the right, non crazy way… But it was way too late for that.

“You can’t.” Steve said firmly as he leaned in and pressed his lips to the other mans. And he wasn’t sure what he was doing, but god it felt good, just a simple touch of intimacy, and he wanted more, needed it but he had no clue as to how to get it.

“I don’t want too.” Danny whispered when Steve pulled away a little.

“Then do this.” Steve said as he pushed Danny’s hand up his neck, and when Danny’s fingers brushed that part, just below his skull, Steve groaned as electricity tingled down his spine and his hand around Danny’s forced the other mans fingers to tighten, but before he got them in just the right place, something slammed loudly into the door.

And Steve’s world burst into a thousand colours as it also zeroed in on the man he was holding. His whole body felt warm and his awareness of the other man seeped into every part of his being. Then he was pressing his mouth to his Mate’s again as he felt the other man let out a huff of air.

Steve was vaguely aware that Danny’s other hand, had found its way to his face and then Danny’s tongue was licking at his lips and he opened his mouth and when their tongues touched more electricity flowed through him as he pulled the other man tight against himself as he knew they were slowly crumpling to the floor, and he groaned when Danny’s hand, that had tightened on just the right place on his neck slipped up into his hair.

He was dimly aware that he was rubbing himself against Danny’s leg, desperately trying to find a little friction before he was gasping into his Mate’s mouth, staring into dilated blue eyes as he tried to breathe in every last drop of Danny’s musk. He came harder than he had ever done before.

It took him a long time before he was aware of anything but his own breath and Danny’s solid weight against his chest.

“Fuck…” Danny uttered breathily. “Fuck…”

“Yeah.” Steve answered with a chuckle, he hadn’t felt this good in a long time. Then he pulled back as he could look at the other man. Danny’s eyes were still a little dilated, his cheeks flushed, but he did have a slight smile on his face.

“You okay?” Danny was asking as Steve felt him put a hand on his cheek.

“Yeah.” He said, smiling as he put his own hand over Danny’s again.

“What the hell just happened?” Danny asked as he looked down between them. And Steve moved so he could see the damp spot on Danny’s slacks that matched his own.

“I think we just Bonded.” Steve grinned back up at him.

Danny sighed as he slumped back against the wall, Steve couldn’t remember being next too. “I guess the movies got one thing right.”

“What’s that?” Steve couldn’t help but ask as he slumped against the wall with his shoulder, still facing Danny, unable to take his eyes off him.

“It is actually a two way thing… I thought I was too old to just come in my pants. That was something else.”

“Yeah.” Steve couldn’t agree more as he tried to shuffle closer. Putting an arm over Danny’s belly, pulling him closer with his hand on his hip.

“I’m in so much trouble.” Danny sighed, putting his free hand over his eyes, the other still clutching Steve’s arm.

“We.” Steve stated. There was no way he was letting Danny out of his sight any time soon, if ever again.

Danny gave him a surprised look, before he nodded. “Are you reduced to one word communication now?” he asked a little snarkily, but the smile told Steve he was still in a good mood.

“Maybe.” He grinned as he leaned in, pressing his lips to Danny’s quickly.

“What now?” Danny was asking as Steve followed his line of sight to the mirror.

Steve didn’t know the answer to that one. Despite everything Mike and Sharon had said to him… they actually hadn’t said anything about what would happen if he Bonded to someone. “I have no idea.” He whispered as he moved his gaze back to his partner. His Mate. He felt himself grinning again.

“Don’t give me that look.” Danny grumbled at him.

“Hu?” He asked, feeling his grin widen some more.

“That goofy, ‘I just took something else from this schmuck, and he didn’t even put up much of a fight.’ Look.” Danny groused, though the smile on his own lips and the twinkle Steve saw in those eyes took any sting out of it… it was true after all.

“My schmuck.” Steve grinned harder as he tightened his hold for a moment.

Danny sighed, “Yes, yes.” He agreed as Steve leaned into the hand Danny razed to his cheek. “But just to try a little reality here… I think someone tried to get in earlier.”

Steve moved a little so he could look at the chair he had jammed under the door handle, it still looked secured, but he knew he didn’t want to go out there… it was like the time after Catherine… he couldn’t face anyone else right now… He wanted to take Danny and run, but to where?

He growled when he heard a knock at the door he was still looking at. Without thinking he got to his feet, pulling Danny with him and pushed the shorter man into the corner.

“Steve!” Danny was protesting. But Steve just couldn’t face whoever was beyond that door. “Who is it?!”

Steve growled at his Mate, he needed him to be quiet. He needed to keep him safe, away from anyone else.

“Err… We cleared the way to your room, Steve.”

Steve heard Kevin call through the door, and his body relaxed a little. He didn’t even like the thought of other Shifter being close to Danny, but he trusted them all, they had kept him safe for weeks, and he knew he could trust Danny with them too.

“Do you need more time?” Kevin was asking.

“No.” Steve managed. “You sure no ones close!?”

“Yeah. Mike’s made sure it’s like it was before.”

Steve looked down at his Mate for a moment; Danny was just looking at him, waiting for his go ahead. “Okay, we are coming.” Then he put an arm around Danny’s shoulders, securing him to his side as he made his way to the door. He pulled the chair away, then carefully opened the door, seeing only Kevin beyond, looking nervous, but also smiling.

“Hey.” He said as he opened the door so they could both get through.

“Hi.” Kevin smiled, then gestured for them to go back to the dorms. “Mike isnt happy, but that new lady started ordering everyone out.” Kev was saying as he walked infront of them, opening doors. “She said food will be left for you outside your room, and she said to tell you that she’ll be here till you’re ready to come out again. Just gotta let us know when you are.”

“When we are read?” Danny asked.

“Yup.” Kevin said opening another door. “I think someone’s also bringing your stuff over too… err…”

“Danny.” Steve supplied the blushing kid.

“Bond Mate Danny.” Kevin grinned at them both, with a cheeky gleam in his eyes. “Anyway, I don’t think you’re gonna need your clothes too much.” He giggled and Steve rolled his eyes. The other Shifters were gonna gossip about this for months.

“But you need anything, just yell for someone, we’ll hear.”

“Thanks.” Steve said as he quickened his pace, as they were walking down the corridor to his own room. Then when he had a hand on the handle, he turned back to the young Shifter. “Tell everyone else thanks too,” Then he was pushing Danny inside his own little domain in the place he had been forced to call home for so long.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Aolani felt herself smile as they watched the monitors as Steven lead his new Bond Mate down the hall to the Dorm’s bedrooms.

For months, she had had to witness Detective Williams coming into her office every Monday morning asking for any information, and each time she could tell him nothing, she watched him seem to get more weary each time.

Finally, she had tried giving him papers to ask for a formal request to become a Bond candidate, but he had denied the offer, saying he needed to talk to Steven first before he would even try going down that rout.

So, once she heard about what had happened with a forced Bond, and how Steven had rejected it, she knew her first suspicions about the relationship between Steven and Detective Williams were true. Even though Williams had said he hadn’t touched the back of the Shifter’s neck, something had happened, and she had pulled out all her clout to get Williams here, then for them to finally be left alone in a room together… It had been underhanded of her, and totally against all regulations, but she would deny any knowledge of her suspicions if pressed, and stick to her original argument of Steven just needed to see a friendly face to help him recover from his traumatic Bond.

Mike Franks had been resistant to it, but Sharon Booth had been on her side the whole way, and they had finally talked Franks around.

Now Franks was angry at her. And as they had watched Steve trying to make Williams Bond with him, Franks had banged on the two way glass to distract them both to no avail, then run out into the hall. Where the Shifter who had come with Steven to the room, had stood guard and denied the man entrance. But once security showed up, and Franks had got a kick in on the door. More Shifters had suddenly showed up, and had forced all humans from the aria.

One of the younger Shifters, Sharon had called Kevin, told them that Steven had just Bonded, and they could all feel it.

“Just great!” Franks was huffing as they watched Shifter and Detective disappear into one of the rooms. “What the hell are regulations for if everyone is just going to go around breaking them?!” He yelled. “I said a guard or one of us should have been in that room with them!”

“Well it’s to late now.” Sharon was saying. “We all agreed that Steven needed to see his old partner. This was the man that helped him while he was stuck in his Shifter form.”

“To ‘see’ him! Not to Bond with him!” Franks seethed. “You said he was ready to put in a formal request!”

Aolani nodded as Franks turned his attention to her. “They needed to see each other.” She said firmly. “I suspected that they had connected on some level already… And you saw what we all did. Steven initiated this. And from my enquiries with his old colleagues, they all mentioned how close Steven was with Detective Williams, I did send you the reports.” She finished.

“That doesn’t mean you can just throw them together!” Mike snapped. “Steven was still trying to get over the trauma of a failed Bond! He was in no state of mind to go and Bond with someone else so soon!”

“I will agree with you.” Sharon said softly, and Aolani felt her heart sink, before the other woman carried on talking. “But not in this instance…” she said. “Steven wanted his old life back, and would have done almost anything to get it, but that’s not what I saw in him today… Today, I saw a Shifter wanting to claim what it knew to be its true Mate.”

Aolani nodded again. “Williams did try and resist.” She offered. “But I imagine Steven is a man who Williams has not been able to say ‘no’ to in a long time.” She looked back at the closed door on the monitor. “Williams is a man who likes to do things by the book, but I imagine he would have eventually just tried to storm this place to get Steven out eventually.”

“He should have tired earlier.” Sharon was chuckling, “Wasn’t he trying to escape all the time when he first came here?” she asked Franks.

Franks seemed to relax a little. “Every other day.” He sighed. “So what now?”

“Now, we wait.” She said. “I’m thinking he will not want to come out for at least a week?”

Franks nodded. “With his failed Bonding not being to long ago, he will probably need a bit more time… I’ll set up a food schedule then… You both can explain it to the head of the LA Registry. He likes things to go smoothly by the books. So have fun with that.”

Sharon snorted a laugh, “I’ll make sure his feathers aren’t ruffled too much.” She promised.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Danny yawned as he rolled onto his back, he was stiff and his back was sore as he tried to stretch a little bit.

For the past three day’s they had been locked in this room. Every meal time someone would knock once on the door, and Steve would get up and bring them in the food that had been left.

Now he was looking at his sleeping friend, who lay tight against his side on the cramped bed they hadn’t really moved from since getting here. Apart from a few fumbled hand jobs in the shower and that one time on the floor that they were never doing again… at least not without a thick rug or something!

But they had been like teens discovering mind blowing sex for the first time. And it had been mind blowing, especially when they found their own pace. It hadn’t helped that going in, they both didn’t really have a clue about same sex, sex.

Sure Danny had done anal before, but he had never don’t it with another guy, or been the receiver, and Steve was very adamant that Danny was going to be the receiver, which he hadn’t been to thrilled about at first, but once he coached Steve through what he should be doing, the guy, as always, had thrown his all into it. And Danny had found a new kink he never knew he had. Sure he had heard about prostate massage being good, but jeez, no one had told him it was going to blow his mind seven ways from Sunday!

He guessed though, it had been more of a shock to know Steve was a bloody virgin. Sure he knew Steve was a Shifter, but to actually be faced with the reality he didn’t really have a friend with benefits in every port, had skewed his image of the other man a little. But that was till he was screaming the other mans name as he came. Repeatedly.

He had also picked up on Steve’s unease whenever they heard someone moving outside.

When he had suggested that they maybe stretch their legs, Steve had adamantly refused, finally confessing that he just couldn’t leave right now.

Finally, Danny had written a letter, asking that someone call Chin or Kono, letting them know he was okay, and then asking if they could tell Gracy that he was okay and he would be home soon. They had left the note with their left over food dishes, and some kind soul had left a note saying it was done.

Now he reached out and laid a hand on Steve’s stubble covered cheek. And not for the first time he wondered what he had gotten himself into.

Sure Steve had run full tilt into his life, at first taking his case, then his career, throwing him into all kinds of dangers and thrill rides, then infiltrated himself into even Gracy’s life like he owned her too. And now, the infuriating man had taken his life too.

He knew that whatever happened now. They would be together for the rest of their lives. No take backs, no do-overs.

Steve belonged to him now, as much as he had always belonged to Steve.

He was wondering who would drive the other insane first though. And he found a chuckle well up inside, he would be driven insane first, and he feared it had already happened.

“Humf?” Steve asked as Danny felt himself being squeeze tight.

“It’s almost lunch time.” Danny said instead of voicing his thoughts, it wasn’t something he hadn’t already told the guy in the quiet moments before they were to caught up in each other again.

“Ugg.” Steve stretched, squeezing Danny harder as he did so. “Hope it’s not sandwiches again.”

“Not like there is a menu.” Danny said back, then he was slapping Steve’s arm. “Come on, I need the bathroom.” He complained.

Then, as always, they moved together out of bed, Steve pulled him to his feet as they made their way across the room to the other side, when there was a knock on the door. Danny kept walking as he felt Steve move to the door. Then he froze.

For three days, Steve hadn’t been able to let go of him physically. When they had accidentally lost contact, Danny had watched as Steve almost collapsed before launching himself into Danny’s arms, and they had waited till Steve controlled his breathing, telling Danny never to let go again.

When he looked at the Shifter, Steve was looking back at him, his eyes wide. But there was no pain or fear there now.

“You okay?” Danny asked stupidly.

Steve nodded. “Yeah… err… don’t shut the door.” He demeaned.

Danny nodded as he backed towards the bathroom. When he lost site of the other man he called out. “You still okay?”

“Yeah…” A pause. “I guess this is progress?”

Danny smiled as he was finally able to go to the toilet alone.

When he came back out, Steve was waiting for him and outstretched his hand to him, which Danny took as Steve opened the door with the other. And sure enough, there was a tray with some wrapped sandwiches, two juice bottles and a coffee pot.

“Sure we cant go get something else?” Danny asked with a grin. but Steve shook his head as he picked up the tray with one hand.

Danny sighed as he helped bring the tray in. he guessed they were gonna be there a little while longer.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Two days after Steve could finally stand not to be in physical contact with Danny, his Mate had finally convinced him that maybe they could leave the room and go get something else to eat other than sandwiches. That Danny was sure was someone’s idea of a joke.

So here he stood, one hand on the door handle the other clutching Danny’s hand.

“You know it helps if you turn it and pull?” Danny said softly behind him. “Are you sure I can’t just pull you along? I could hold your wrist?”

Steve actually took a moment to think about it. They had experimented with Danny holding his wrists, and the way it made Steve feel. It was like someone just sucked all the stress from his body, where all his attention would focus on Danny and nothing else mattered. Pressure and angle were also a thing. And now he fully understood why it was such a taboo, he would do anything Danny asked without question, like his brain had been shorted out of his own consciousness to some extent.

He shook his head finally, “No.” he answered. “Think we have to do this together… Also. Don’t want you getting lost.” He grinned at his Mate who just rolled his eye’s, then reached forward, putting his hand over Steve’s and pushing down.

“Then lets do this together, or it’s gonna be suppertime before we get anywhere.” Danny said as he began to pull the door open.

When the door was open, Steve took a deep breath, then stepped out into the corridor, pulling Danny with him.

There was no one there but that wasn’t anything unusual this time of day, till he got closer to the dining hall. Then with another deep breath, he pushed the door open.

It was still early enough that there were not many Shifters there, only one guard and the cooks and servers behind their food lines at the other side of the room. And as soon as he took a step in, all eyes turned to them.

Steve saw one of the younger Shifters get up and go running out the door to the rec room and fields out back.

Steve gave a nod to the room in general as he pulled Danny through the room to the food line.

“We too early?” He asked Kerry behind the line.

She gave him a warm smile. “No, honey, but if you want the lasagne, your just gonna have to wait a few minutes. It’s still in the oven.”

“What else do you have?” Danny suddenly pushed forwards at Steve’s side, as he was looking at what was on offer.

If it was possible, Kerry’s smile got wider as she began listing off the dinner menu.

“Can we get two burgers then?” Danny was saying happily. “Salad on the side, some hash browns, oh, and extra cheese for him?” He finished as Steve felt an elbow nudge him in the belly.

“He knows you well.” Kerry said, giving Steve a wink as she began prepping Danny’s order.

Steve gave a suffering sigh she would hear. “It’s why I picked him.”

“So you can be lazy…” Danny gripped, before he turned to Kerry. “I don’t have to pay for this do I?” he asked and Steve couldn’t help but laugh.

“Oh, no, honey.” Kerry said a little confused, giving them both an amused frown.

“Great!” Danny said. “If we eat out he always just happens to leave his wallet somewhere that isn’t in the vicinity of a cash register.”

“Really?” She asked as her smile returned.

“Every time!” Danny was griping. “He won’t even let me drive my own damn car! Just walked into my home whenever he felt like it.”

“I didn’t hear you complaining.” Steve grinned at his Mate.

Danny glared at him for a moment. “I did… a lot… you just didn’t listen.”

Steve shrugged, he couldn’t deny it, nor would he feel guilty about it. “You always came back for more.”

“Like a glutton.” Danny was sighing, but Steve felt his Mate lean into him a little.

“Sounds to me like you have your hands full.” Kerry was saying to him. “My husbands never let me pay for anything when we were courting though.” She shook her finger at Steve, though she was grinning at him.

“We weren’t courting at the time.” Danny bemoaned, before Steve found himself looking into accusatory eyes. “Oh my god! You were forcing dates on me! All those little presents! And I just thought you were feeling guilty about always almost getting me killed every other day!”

“I was…” Steve pouted. “You never complained.”

Danny sighed as Steve saw him deflate. “You are such a sneaky asshole.”

Steve smirked. “I was a SEAL. It was kinda in the job description.” He offered which just made Danny scoff and start laughing, which warmed him up inside.

“Here’s your burgers.” Kerry said as she put their food on top of the counter on a single tray. “What do you want to drink? I can bring it over.”

“Two coffee’s please, Kerry.” Steve asked and before he could reach for the tray. Danny was already pulling it down.

“Like you can take your hands off me.” Danny smirked at him as he turned, then stopped.

Steve turned and then tensed up.

While they had been bantering with Kerry, a crowd had quietly formed in the dining hall.

“Um… Hello.” Danny said a little awkwardly.

“Hey guys!” Steve sighed at all the kids around them.

“Move! MOVE!” Ryo was suddenly there, shooing the other Shifters back, “Get food or get out! Not the first time you’ve seen a Bond Mate!”

“First time we seen a new one!” A girl called from the back and there was an exited twitter among the kids.

Ryo grinned at him, “She’s got a point. Sorry.” He shrugged.

“So nice to be gawped at.” Danny muttered darkly. “Think we can sit down and eat? Or do we have to go back to our room?”

“We can sit.” Steve said, though his nerves were a little on edge. And luckily enough the crowd did thin out and there were allowed to eat in some kind of peace, even if they were being stared at by the other kids. Steve was just thankful the guard stayed where he was, and none of the cooks came out to clean up.

But it was only to last until they had finished eating. That was when Claire came in, looking a little harried as she ran up to them, her eyes mostly on Danny. Before she started talking.

“Sharon and Mike are coming over.” She said quickly. Kevin tried to keep them at bay, but once they knew you finished eating, they set off.”

“Thanks Claire.” Steve swallowed as he put his arm around Danny’s waist. “I guess the show starts.” He uttered as Claire sat down at his other side.

Danny just shrugged. “So long as they don’t throw me in jail, or something, I’m good. Any idea what to expect?”

“Nope.” Steve answered honestly.

“They can’t separate you now.” Claire said quickly. “Hello by the way, I’m Claire” She grinned at Danny, giving him a little wave.

“Hi, Claire.” Danny acknowledged her and the young Shifter blushed furiously at him, to which Steve rolled his eyes.

Then they fell silent as Mike and Sharon came in. Mike didn’t look like his normal annoyingly cheerful self, but at least Sharon was giving him a warm smile.

“Hi.” Steve said as they came up to their table. “Time to face the music?” He asked to which Danny actually hissed at him.

“Steven!”

“What?” He asked his Mate with a grin as he pulled him a little closer.

“You are such an idiot.” Danny rolled his eyes, but didn’t try and pull away. Instead the other man was folding his arms across his chest.

“It’s nice to finally see you both up and about.” Sharon was saying, then she was looking at Danny and Steve found he didn’t like her scrutinising his Mate so much, but there wasn’t much he could do. But all she did was introduce herself. “I was also one of Steven’s councillors. So It’s nice to actually meet you.” She said.

“I bet.” Danny said to her. “He give you a hard time?” he asked. “He’s like that.”

Sharon’s smile widened. “I think we managed to reach some understanding.” She answered. “But we actually came to see if you are both up to coming with us and signing some paperwork now you are officially a Bonded couple?”

“I am.” Danny said, then Steve found Danny looking at him. “Are you?”

Steve sighed. He still felt a little on edge. Being in a room full of Shifters wasn’t bothering him at all. But he still felt his skin crawling being so close to, well, normals. The urge to go back to his room with Danny was very compelling. But as he looked into Danny’s eyes. He knew he would have to bare it. He knew Danny was his now, but he also knew he had to share the other man on some part with his daughter, and Danny would be anxious to get back to her, even if he hadn’t really said it out loud yet.

“I’ll manage.” Steve nodded.

“If you are not ready!” Mike suddenly said, “Then I insist you take some more time here, there is no need to hurry this.”

Steve sighed. Mike really was like a mother hen when it came to him only thinking of the best for his charges. To making them all feel safe and happy, to protect them with all his might. And it was commendable. The man had a heart of gold. But he was still only used to the younger Shifters and their needs.

“I appreciate your concern,” Steve said softly to him. “But Danny’s missing his daughter.”

“What!” Mike sounded shocked. “This is not about your Bond Mate; this is about your mental well being!”

“Gracy knew I might be a while.” Danny said, mostly over Mike. “I can cope with just a call if you really do need more time?”

Steve shook his head, feeling genuinely warmed by both men’s concern, “I’m good.” He said as he got to his feet, pulling Danny up too. “Lets try and get through this.” He said, then offered. “If it gets too much, can Danny phone his daughter?”

“Of course!” Mike said. “If I had knows sooner, I would have arranged a phone brought to your room.”

Before Steve could answer, Danny did. “We were a little too preoccupied for that,”

Steve gave his Mate a smug smile.

“Shut it.” Danny growled up at him before turning back to his old shrinks. “So, lead the way?”

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

“So all our assets will be pooled from now on?” Danny asked as he blinked down at the new document he was having to sign.

“Yes.” Sharon said, as she sat besides a clerk the LA Shifter Registry had sent over to the Dormitory. The guy looked bored as he kept pulling out papers from his briefcase and muttering about how it would have been easier if they had just gone to the Registry to do this.

Which was something they were going to do, after all, the Registry wasn’t that far away, but soon as Steve had gone from the interview rooms, into the main lobby of the Dormitory, the Shifter had stopped all forwards momentum. Even though the lobby only had a few family members waiting to visit, Danny knew it was overwhelming for his friend, and had pushed him back the way they had come.

So now, they were in a little cramped office, with Steve’s councillors and this little annoyed clerk whose name Danny chose not to remember.

“Well it’s a good job you like my car so much,” He grinned at his friend, “As that’s all I have.” Steve huffed at him with a slight smile. Thankfully Steve’s humour had come back once Mike had insisted they stay a day or two more. Something Danny wasn’t happy about, but he did not like feeling how shook up Steve had been.

“Hu? Guess that goes both ways.” Steve grinned at him, in that annoying way he had. “As it means my Marquis is also yours!”

Danny groaned. “I’m still not helping you fix that damn thing!” He groused, turning back to the document before him. “So, shared bank accounts, deeds for property and any assents, inheritances, bonds, dividends… basically everything we both own has to be put in out joined names?”

“Yup.” Aolani answered. “We will also over seen any and all your medical needs from here on out.” She said. “We are also here to help financial if needed in any other way.”

“Really?” Danny asked, a little surprised. “Even if either of us is medically retired?”

“To a reasonable extent.” The clerk answered a little waspishly. Which Danny wanted to take exception too, but instead of snapping at the man, he just glared at him.

“I read you have a daughter but aren’t by law forced to pay alimony anymore.” Aolani said.

“No, but I buy her anything she wants, and you can make me not!” Danny said defensively.

Aolani held up her hand, “No, that is not what concerns me.” She said. “You still have contact with your daughters mother?” She asked. And Danny noticed Sharon sit up straight, her eyes going wide as she looked over to Aolani.

“Yes… why?” He hedged. He actually had more contact with her than he should have while he was guilty about losing Steve, and Stan was away on the mainland. But a week of weakness for the pair of them was all it had been. But he also knew Aolani wasn’t asking that.

Both women looked at Steve. “Have you met Daniel’s ex-wife before?” Sharon asked.

Steve just shrugged. “Yeah, she’s okay I guess.” But Danny felt the way Steve’s muscles tensed a little when talking about Rachel.

“Steven?” Sharon asked again a little more forcefully and Danny guessed she hadn’t missed Steve tensing up.

“Fine… I don’t like the way she still looks at him.” He muttered.

“This could be a problem then.” Sharon was saying to Aolani and the other woman was nodding.

“Does she still have romantic feeling for you?” Aolani was asking him directly and Danny felt his heart sink as he felt himself getting defensively angry. Because until that week they spent together over two months ago, he had wanted her back, he had still love her, he still did, she was the mother of his precious daughter!... But when she had gone back to Stan… he knew it was over between them, and that Monday he had gone back to the Registry to ask after his friend. After all, he had let her walk away before, even with Grace, because at that time, when he had had a choice to make… he had chosen Steve.

“I did.” He said letting his anger go. “But she chose her husband over me…” he let out a deep breath as he looked at Steve for a moment. “And I chose this idiot over her, more than once.” Which earned him a goofy smile. “But I will still see her because I still have to see my daughter. I still have some custody.”

“And you have met Daniel’s daughter before?” Sharon asked.

“Oh yeah.” Steve answered. “I love Gracey, she’s a great kid…” Danny saw him glance at him. “She saw me when I was stuck, and she didn’t mind.”

“Does your ex-wife come over to your home?”  Aolani asked, her tone level and serious, enough to make even Danny’s hackles rise. “How much contact would Steven have with her?”

“Not often.” Danny answered, not liking these questions at all. “I don’t think she’s ever been over Steve’s house before… Why?” He watched the woman look at each other again, and the clerk looking like he wanted to be anywhere else.

Sharon took a deep breath. “Shifters can be very protective.” She said.

“Tell me about it.” Danny said, looking at Steve, who didn’t look apologetic at all.

“They can also be extremely possessive, especially when it comes to ex-spouses… And Steven, knowing your personality, I’m guessing even now, the thought of even seeing Daniel’s ex-wife right now is making you feel uncomfortable?”

Danny watched as Steve pulled an unhappy face and shrug. “Really?” he asked.

Steve nodded.

“What interactions do you have with your ex-wife now?” Aolani asked.

“I might talk to her when I’m picking Grace up for her house?” Danny said. “Look, what’s going on?” he demanded.

“Steven would, more than likely, try and attack your ex-wife if she were to approach you, and more so if she touched you…” Aolani answered straight out.

“And if she was still attracted to you and Steve could smell it, he would be going for her throat.” Sharon finished.

“No way!” Danny was angry now. “Steve would never do that!” he stormed as he tried to get to his feet, but Steve’s grip on him tightened, keeping him in his chair. But he wasn’t going to sit there willingly. “He’s met her. And there is no way I’m not going to let go of my visitation rights to my daughter!”

“We are in no way suggesting that.” Aolani said softly. “What we will have to insist on, is that your ex-wife will have to drop off your daughter at the Registry, or another neutral place where your daughter will be safe between her being dropped off and you or Steven being able to pick her up.”

“Oh…” Danny quelled as he let Steve pull him back against his side. “I guess that’s doable.”

“I remember you talking fondly of Daniel’s daughter.” Sharon was saying to Steve. “I’m assuming you have no ill feelings towards her now?”

“No!” Steve said instantly. “It’s half the reason we want to go home.” He said, his voice softening. “I know how much Danny will be missing her… and… I have missed her.”

“I will have to insist that your first meeting with her will be at the Registry.” Aolani said, then she was holding up her hands to calm them. “Would you rather she be safe, than to put her at an unforeseen risk that might not happen?”

“Can we arrange it for the moment we get back to Hawaii?” Danny asked.

“Once we know what time we will be arriving, I will try and have everything arranged. If not, then the next day.”

“Well, I don’t have visitation till the weekend.” Danny said. “And Rachel might not like it.”

Aolani waved a hand as she smiled. “The Registry will insist. This is a matter pertaining to a Shifters wellbeing and it’s Bond Mate.”

“You can stomp all over court ordered visitation rights?” Danny gasped.

Aolani nodded. “To some extent. And if the matter is ever disputed in the future, we can also wade in as representatives. Though we will also be taking into account the welfare of the child involved. But for a simple safety meet and great, the family courts allow us some leeway in where and when.”

“Wow.” Danny grinned. “Okay. That sounds great. Steve?” He asked, looking at his Mate.

“Sounds fine to me.” Steve said with a nod, “Though I would never hurt her.”

“I know that.” Danny rolled his eyes. He had always trusted Steve with her, and that wasn’t about to change now. “So, keep away from Rachel, sort out a meeting at the Registry, then get back to life?”

“That’s’ about it.” Aolani said.

“What about my job?” Steve asked suddenly. “I wana go back to my job.”

The woman looked at each other again. “If the position is still there… I don’t see why not?” Aolani said, though she was looking at Sharon for conformation, Danny guessed.

“I don’t see why not. It’s what he’s trained for.” Sharon answered.

“Danny?” Steve was asking, his voice so full of hope it was totally strange to hear.

“Your jobs still there.” Danny sighed. Then was engulfed as Steve didn’t hold back as Danny found himself smothered in Steve’s arms, all but pulled onto the taller mans lap.

“We still have photos to take and documents to sign.” The clerk suddenly said. “And I have work to get back to, so if you wouldn’t mind?”

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve didn’t know what he felt as he walked up to his front door.

He was almost in tears when he could see the islands from the plane. He had just held Danny’s hand a little tighter.

They had spent another two nights in the Dorm in LA, asking Aolani to arrange flights back and to arrange for a meet and greet with Grace. While Steve became comfortable with other normal’s around, and they had both packed what little they had, Steve had given Claire the dolphin plush Grace had given him, while giving Kevin the pack of cards he had. It wasn’t much, but the kids took them happily enough. He had also given them his address, phone number and email. For if they ever needed him, or to call him if they ever visited the islands.

Then they had left with a lot of well wishing and tears from the kids and he was sure he saw a tear in Mike’s eye too. He had also got to say good bye to his sister and his aunt before they left. They were also full of tears, and his sister had smirked at them, saying she wondered why it had taken them so long. But his family had promised to come over when they could.

Then they went to the airport with Aolani in a blacked out SUV, then were escorted quietly into the business class lounge, taken on the plane first, and they were the first to get off, then taken through the airport to another SUV and Aolani had wished them goodbye in the car outside his home. With promises to meet them tomorrow at the Registry at three, which was the earliest time she could arrange for meeting Grace. Danny hadn’t been happy. But Steve knew he just needed to reconnect with his life after being gone over four months.

Danny had also told Chin and Kono that they were coming home, but he had asked for them to put off coming over till tomorrow. Which they hadn’t been happy about, but they understood.

So now Steve walked into his home.

There were a few things out of place, but otherwise the place looked like it had the day he had been taken away. Though this time, as he took a deep breath he could smell nothing but Danny. And where as he thought it would irk him, it was making him smile as he turned to look at his Mate. And without thinking to much about it, he reached out and took the smaller man into his arms.

“Welcome home you big goof.” Danny was grinning at him.

“It’s good to be here.” He grinned as he leaned down to steal a kiss. But as he was about to make things a little bit more romantic he heard a rumbling coming from his belly, then Danny laughing.

“Come on. Lets eat, then we can go to bed.” Danny said, slapping a hand against his chest so he would let go.

“We ordering in?” Steve asked, as Danny had taken his hand and was leading him towards the kitchen, where he started to smell someone else, and it took him a moment to realise he was smelling Chin and Kono’s scents.

“Didn’t Kono say she would get us some stuff in?” Danny said as he plucked a note off the fridge, “Welcome home bra, Cleaned out the new life forms, Kamacona insisted on leaving you some fresh shrimp, enjoy. Kono.” Danny read the note. Then opened the fridge to find a couple of boxes of Kamakono’s shrimp laid on salad.

“I wonder how much that’s gonna cost us.” Steve laughed, as he reached for one, plucking a cooked prawn out the box to chew it and he closed his eyes as he savoured it. It was so good. Nothing could compare what the ex-con could do with the little morsels! And again it made him deliriously happy, knowing he was home.

“So, what do you want, coffee or beer?” Danny was asking.

“Beer!” Steve said instantly, if that was one thing he wasn’t allowed it was alcohol. Or he was, but he could only drink it if he had permission to use the staff room and it was just more hassle than it was worth.

Danny was just handing him a bottle, when they heard someone knocking on the front door.

They both froze.

“You.” Danny said to him, poking a finger into his chest, “Stay here! I’ll get rid of them.”

Steve wanted to protest, he didn’t like being to far away from his Mate. And they had already discovered that they physically couldn’t be more then fifty yards apart before Steve felt a compulsion to go to his Mate. Mike had promised that with time it would get better.

So as Danny walked away, he angled himself so he could still see his Mate as he went to the door, but he was mostly out of sight.

Then his hackles rose as he heard who was stood on the other side of the door.

“Oh, so you are home?” Rachel was saying, she sounded a little surprised.

“How?” Danny was asking as Steve saw him pull the door a little more closed while remaining in the house.

“Stan said he saw you in the airport.” She was saying a little pissily.

“Yeah, well, We are home… Look, you really shouldn’t be here…” Danny looked over his shoulder at him, looking apologetic. But Steve really needed her to go.

“But Gracy wanted to see you.” Steve saw her shadow move through the glass.

“You’re supposed to be taking her to the Shifter Registry tomorrow after school.” Danny snapped. “And didn’t the Registry warn you you had to stay away right now?”

“Well, yes.” She scoffed, and Steve felt his lips pull back from his teeth. “But this isn’t true is it? You didn’t go and Bond with McGarrett?”

“Where is Grace now?” Danny asked instead.

“She’s in the car; I wanted to make sure you were home first.” He saw her move again. “Now answer my question.”

“Yeah, we Bonded.” Danny told her firmly.

“Oh Danny…” Steve heard her utter, like she was upset for him and that broke Steve’s last nerve as he strode towards the door, then snarled when he saw Danny flinching back as Rachel was trying to reach for his Mate!

“Shit!” He heard Danny swear as Steve reached for the door and managed to throw it open, he took one look at the woman’s face as he breathed in her scent and the next thing he knew he was falling forwards as he was reaching for her. He was snarling as he tried to right himself, someone had kicked his legs out from under him, but then something slammed into his back trying to pin him down, then the world went still as he felt a hand clamp onto the back of his neck. A place that had proved to bring him such pleasure was now being used against him, and there was nothing he could do as his body went limp of its own accord.

“Calm the fuck down!” Danny was yelling at him. “Rachel, Leave!” he was also yelling.

“But?”

Steve managed to growl again and tried another weak attempt to get up and make her go away, permanently. But the grip on his neck tightened.

“Just go… I’ll see Grace tomorrow!”

Steve watched as finally, the woman started to back up, then she was gone and Steve felt himself finally calming down, though his anger wasn’t cooling down.

“Can I let go now?” Danny was asking.

Steve managed to nod a little as he felt the pressure on his neck finally let up, then he was pushing himself up, ready to turn on his Mate, but before he could push himself to his feet and back away, Danny had his hands on either side of his face.

“Jesus.” The other man was saying, and Steve was suddenly aware of the fear in the other man, and he didn’t understand it. “Your eyes.” Danny was saying. “You were going to kill her!?”

Steve blinked, feeling his anger trying to surface again.

“Stop growling at me!” Danny snapped as he let go of Steve’s face, but as Steve was about to get up, Danny was wrapping his arms around his head, pulling him tight against his broad chest. “Your eyes had no white in them.” Danny was explaining a little desperately. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He was lamenting, then he was pulling away a little. “Did I hurt you?” Then Steve found his head being pulled down as Danny went to his knees to loom over him. Then fingers being run over his neck. “Shit, it’s gonna bruise. Does it hurt anywhere else?” Then Steve was being forced to look into his Mates concerned eyes again. “Talk to me?” Danny pleaded.

Steve opened his mouth, then closed it again.

Here was the man who he had tried to hate for months. The man who had betrayed him, thrown him to the wolves when he was in such a vulnerable state. Then blundered back in with apologies and his own guilt and Steve had forgiven him instantly. And now, Danny was just sat here, pushing all Steve’s anger away like it was nothing,

Danny suddenly sighed, then was sitting back on the floor in front of him, though his hands were now holding Steve’s between them. “Though I’m sure you would like to kill my ex.” Danny was giving him a weary smile. “I really don’t want our first night home being us talking to cops all night while I explain to my daughter why you just ripped her mother’s throat out.”

“Awkward.” Steve managed to utter, feeling a little more grounded. Trust Danny to voice reason.

“And that doesn’t mean you can try again another time either.” Danny warned as he shook their held hands a little.

Steve looked down at their hands. He wasn’t going to promise anything. Now he had a moment to think about it, he had been surprised by his own actions and lose of control. He really had been out for blood.

“Look… If we see her again, I’ll take your wrists and do that thing.” Danny was suggesting as Steve felt his Mate reach out his index finger to run it across the undersides of his wrists, making him tingle all over, making him sigh as he really did finally relax. “That good?” Danny was asking, then Steve watched as Danny wrapped his right hand around his left wrist, then dug his fingers into the soft skin on the underside. Steve let out a contented sigh as he leaned back against the door that was still open.

“Feels so strange.” Danny was whispering. “Does it really relax you?”

Steve nodded. “Yeah.” He smiled.

They stayed on the floor for a little longer before Danny started to pull away, much to Steve’s displeasure.

“I’m still hungry!” Danny protested. “Lets eat, drink a beer, then you can Shift while I lock up and we can go to bed.”

Steve liked that idea as Danny began to lead him back to the kitchen, his hand still around Steve wrist.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Aolani watched as Steven was sat with Daniel’s daughter, as the little girl grilled the Shifter about his time away while also telling him about everything she had done since she saw him last.

The meeting had gone well. Better than she had expected, with what the two men had told her happened last night. A fact Aolani was still angry about. But at least Daniel had proved himself more than capable with controlling the physically larger Shifter. If he hadn’t, then she would have been filling out forms all night over a lawful Shifter homicide. And the fall out was never petty.

She was about to leave the couple alone, while she went and had a word with Mrs Hollander who was being kept at the other side of the Registry building, mostly so Steve might not smell her. And she would let her know how she had almost made her daughter motherless, while also letting her know, now that she had seen Grace and Steven together, that their joined custody would now also include Steven.

Sometimes Shifter’s wouldn’t take well with any children their Mate had before Bonding, and just couldn’t seem to pull the child into their protective bubble. But Steven seemed to have already included Grace as part of Daniel, so she would never be in better hands. So she was relieved that was something off her mind.

She took a step towards the door. “If you will excuse me.” She said to the three other people in the room. “I just need to be about half an hour.”

“Wait.” Daniel said as he got to his feet. “Can I have a word?”

“Of course.” She said stepping into the corridor. Then watched as Daniel rested his hands on his Shifter and daughter, then came over to her, closing the door behind himself. “What can I do for you?” she asked.

“You’re going to talk to Rachel?” He asked straight out.

She nodded. “While she is in the building I thought it would be best coming from someone in person.”

“That she almost got herself killed last night?” Daniel asked.

“I wouldn’t put it so bluntly, but yes.” She answered.

“Can I come?” He asked, which surprised her a little.

“If you think it’s wise?” She said. “Steven will probably be able to smell her on you.” She watched as he took a moment to think it over. Before he turned back and put his head into the privet waiting room.

“Hey! You guys play nice, I’ll be back in a bit.”

“Bye!” The girl called.

“Don’t be long.” Steven was saying, and from the look on his face, Aolani knew he had guessed what was about to take place and wasn’t pleased about it, but was willing to let it happen.

It took them a minute to get through all the fire doors and a few check points until they came to a room with a security guard stood discreetly at the other side of the corridor. “She still there?” She asked the woman, who nodded.

“I got her some water earlier, but she’s just been looking at her phone.” The guard answered.

Aolani thanked her, then opened the door and stepped inside to find a slight woman sitting up and putting her phone away.

“Mrs Hollander?”

“Yes,” Came an English accents, “Is Grace alright?” she was asking as she then looked at Daniel and got to her feet. “Daniel?”

“Your daughter is perfectly fine.” Aolani answered as she went and stood next to one of the other chairs around the only table in the middle of the room. “Shifter McGarrett has no problem with her…”

Mrs Hollander let out a huff. “That’s not what he was like last night.” She snapped. “He was going to attack me! I wouldn’t have brought her here but for the threats!”

“Threats?” Daniel asked. But Aolani saw he was looking at her, not his ex.

“They said if I didn’t bring her in, they would send around people to collect her!” Mrs Hollander was saying. “And the choice was up to me!”

“If you had any prior engagements.” Aolani answered smoothly. “We had to have this supervised meeting between the two individual happen as soon as possible, so as not to infringe too much on your own custody rights.” Which earned her a discussed look from the other woman. So Aolani sat down, gesturing for Mrs Hollander to do the same, which, thankfully, she did.

“I still did not appreciate the implied threat.” Mrs Hollander said waspishly. “You are expecting me to leave my child in the company of someone who tried to assault me last night! Is she alone with him NOW!?”

“Rachel, please.” Daniel said, as he moved to stop her getting to her feet again. “Grace is fine with Steve, you know that!”

“I thought he was fine with me, until last night!” Rachel snapped.

“About that.” Aolani said as she pulled the other chair out for Daniel, who thankfully sat down next to her. “Your daughter will be perfectly safe. Shifter McGarratt see her as an extension of his Bond Mate, Mr Williams, and in so doing will protect her as fiercely as he would his Mate.”

“And that’s a good thing?” Mrs Hollander asked, sarcastically.

“Very much so.” Aolani answered straight faced. “It would be a very tragic thing, is your daughter could no longer see her father, don’t you think?” She watched as Mrs Hollander’s eyes widened a little as the moved to Daniel. Then back at her.

“I suppose.” Mrs Hollander answered finally.

“However.” Aolani said, adding a more serious and less sympathetic tone enter her voice. “That regard does not extend to you.” She saw Mrs Hollander’s eyes narrow again, but before she could say anything, Aolani carried on. “I believe you were informed not to approach either Shifter McGarrett, or Mr Williams.” She watched the other woman shrug and look away, so she had known. “It is a very serious matter, and you put your own life at risk.”

“But we have met before.” Mrs Hollander insisted. “He’s been in my house for heavens sake!”

“That was before he Bonded with Mr Williams.” Aolani said a little more sympathetically. “His Shifter side, will now see you as a threat to his relationship with Mr Williams.”

“What… but…” She was looking at Daniel again.

“What we shared a few months ago,” Daniel was saying softly. “Before you went back to Stan…” but before he could finish Mrs Hollander spoke over him.

“So you just thought you would run off and Bond with Steven the first chance you got because I saw sense?!”

Aolani wanted to wince at that.

“When you went back to Stan I finally realised what I really wanted.” Daniel said deathly calm. “I loved you Rachel, I still do.” He was leaning forwards a little now. “But as the mother of my wonderful daughter… And if I hadn’t managed to stop a fully trained combat SEAL from reaching you last night, I would be consoling my grieving daughter who just lost her mother, and trying to comfort my Mate who would be beating himself up with guilt for making our daughter cry.” He sat back. “He was bad enough last night after you left realising what he had almost done. I don’t want to see him go through that again.”

The room fell silent for a bit as Aolani watched Mrs Hollander process what had been said.

“I just… I just wanted to see for myself.” Mrs Hollander was saying softly. “I didn’t want to believe it I guess.”

“These issues can sometimes be softened by time.” Aolani said. “But Shifter McGarrett will always be hostile towards you, because I am surmising; you still have some romantic feeling towards Mr Williams.” She didn’t wait for an answer, as she was sure this woman’s pride wouldn’t let her admit anything. “And Shifter McGarrett will be able to scene that and his Shifter instincts will always try and eliminate it.”

“But they are Bonded, how can I affect that?” Mrs Hollander demanded a little weakly.

“Because Bonded Shifters are bound to the one and only bond they will ever form with another human, and if that human, for whatever reason, starts to reject that bond, say, falling back in love with an ex-partner, then it can, and usually does, end with the Shifter dieing soon after.” She said, seeing the other woman go a little pale. “Which is why at the moment, he sees you as a threat to his very existence.”

“Wait!” Daniel said at her side. “That isn’t just a movie thing? He will literally die from a broken heart?!”

Aolani nodded. “It’s cascading organ failure, so yes.”

“Shit.” Daniel swore.

“So…” Mrs Hollander whispered. “For him… Steven… It’s kill or be killed?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way, but yes.” Aolani answered. “To look at it another way, He also cant protect Mr Williams if he’s dead.”

“Wait… wait.” Daniel was turned to her now. “Mike, he said something about organ failure when Catherine tried to Bond with him?... right?”

Aolani nodded. “We were not able to get close to him at the time to check, but it is one of the symptoms of a failed Bond. Though the Shifters usually recover quickly with no ill affects.”

“So he’s okay now?” Daniel demanded.

“You were there for his last medical before we came back.” She smiled reassuringly. “He had a full bill of health, we made sure.”

“Okay, good.” He said as he got to his feet. “So, we can drop Gracey here for now when I have visitation, or I can ask Chin or Kono to pick her up. That okay?” He was asking Mrs Hollander, who nodded.

“Yes, that fine.” Mrs Hollander answered, looking more subdued than righteously angry now.

“I will set everything up.” Aolani assured. “If you have to communicate urgently with Mr Williams, I would advise a single text, or contact the Registry and we will forward the messages.”

“Right, well… I have to go.” Daniel was saying as he started backing towards the door and Aolani gave him a knowing smile, he had been away from his Shifter long enough, and no doubt, Steven would also be getting a little angsty.

“Go.” She said. “Before he comes looking for you.

“Bye.” He quickly said to Mrs Hollander, then he was rushing out of the room. Aolani just hoped he wouldn’t get lost.

“I didn’t mean them any harm.” Mrs Hollander whispered when the door closed. “I just needed to make sure.”

“You were lucky.” Aolani answered. “Now, I need to get your contact information, then I will deliver your daughter back into your care.”

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Danny took another swig of his beer as he stretched a little as he watched the ocean.

After they had visited with Grace at the Registry they got pizza, eaten it and now Steve was out swimming somewhere. He had tried to get Danny to join him, but there was still no way he was going to set foot in shark infested water, and the fact he was letting Steve do it should be more than enough, thank you very much.

So he was just trying to relax as he pondered the difficulties he would face, trying to keep his Shifter Mate away from his ex-wife so said Shifter wouldn’t kill her. And wondering how he had gotten himself into this. And convincing himself that it was probably mostly Steve’s fault anyway. Which he damn sure was Steve’s fault, cos the animal couldn’t wait to do this by the book.

He took another long sip. He hadn’t got more white hair sick with worry for months, to then finally fly out all the way to LA with the woman who took Steve away, with the hopes of Bonding with the guy. He had just wanted to make sure Steve was okay and to maybe get him moved back to Hawaii so he could at least visit when he wanted.

He was still a little stunned he had actually considered Bonded with the guy as Steve was forcing the issue.

Sure, as a kid, he and Sally had talked about Bonding when they grew up, that was just childish dreams. He didn’t think he had ever actually thought about it since… till he was laying eyes on a wet tiger who was wearing his friend’s shirt.

It didn’t help that Steve also infuriated the hell out of him, even on good days. Now he was stuck with the man for the rest of his life. But it wasn’t like nearly everyone they met made some stupid quip about them being married. Well… It was official, now… for the most part.

He was just about to take another swig of his beer when a cold dread swept through his gut.

He had hated Steve just throwing him into dangerous situation all the time, getting him shot at. Steve just never seemed to get it, he always needed to go home for Gracy. He lived for his little girl… and now he had two people he couldn’t get killed for! For fuck sake! If he died, so would Steve! Just great!

He downed the rest of his beer, then reached for Steve’s and downed half of that too before he put a hand over his eyes. Like he needed his life to get any more complicated.

“Hey, bra.”

Danny groaned as he moved his hand to see Chin grinning down at him.

“Where’s Steve?” Chin was asking as he sat down next to him.

Danny waved his hand at the ocean. “Out there somewhere, probably getting his scrawny ass eaten by sharks.”

Chin laughed at him. “He’s not that scrawny.” The man said as he saw the cooler between the chairs and reached for a beer.

“He is now,” Danny muttered as he relaxed in his chair. “Stupid idiot didn’t eat enough while he was… away. And I know how good they feed their charges!” he said, remembering the damn good food he had every day while there. At least he had made sure Steve was eating properly now.

“I’m guessing he was more stressed out than he wants to let on.” Chin said, matter of fact.

“Yeah.” Danny sighed. “They did warn me he might not be to pleased to see me before I got there.”

“Seems he was more than happy to see you.” Chin was looking at him out of the corner of his eye with a smirk on his face. “Congratulations.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “Thanks.” He said anyway.

“To tell you the truth.” Chin carried on. “Despite how you two argue, I never thought you swung that way.”

“I didn’t swing.” Danny sighed. “I was forcibly sucked his way, pulled in by the ever present vortex that is Steven’s will’s and wants.”

“So, regrets?”

Danny sighed again, “No.” then he couldn’t help the smile as he recalled their day’s together, stuck in Steve’s small room as they found out what worked for them, or that morning, where they had the pleasure of a large bed and nowhere to go all morning. He was still a little sore, but it was a good hurt.

“Hu… nice to see you smile again.” Chin said and instantly Danny felt his hackles rise. “You haven’t since we lost him.” He finished quietly. And Danny calmed down. Chin was always observant like that.

“I’ll stop when he’s dragging me into another shoot out.” He muttered to cover his feelings.

“So he’s coming back to work?”

“You tell him no!” Danny huffed, waving his hand at the ocean. “And lets face it, we could do with him right now.”

“Yeah.” Chin said. “We got a lead on another case. Kono’s looking into it before she’s going home for an early night.”

“That a hint?” Danny asked.

“A little.” Chin grinned. “But it will wait till morning. If you’re up for it?”

Danny was hoping for a few more days to take them over the weekend, but work had been insane of late. “Don’t ask me.” He said as he saw Steve, wet and lopping towards them.

“Jesus!” Chin swore as Danny saw the other man push himself back in his chair, almost toppling the thing.

“I thought a shark had finally eaten your furry ass!” He called to the tiger who was running up to them, then he was grabbing a towel from the side of his chair and holding it out to the Shifter. “Kitty wana a rub down?” he asked it a childish tone, then laughed when Steve stuck his big orange and white head into the towel as he huffed and growled, meaning he was trying to say something.

“Kono’s busy tonight.” He told his Mate as he wiped water from Steve’s eyes, then started rubbing down the rest of his mussel. “And Chin’s over for dinner, beer and to beg me to go into work tomorrow.” Then he sighed as he found himself lifting the towel to cover Steve’s human modesty.

“Chin.” Steve said, greeting the other man.

“Give a bra some warning!” Chin scolded. “That was creepy on so many levels. Not everyone is used to tigers just running around the place!”

“Get used to it.” Danny teased with a grin at his colleague, and the man who had tried to keep him sane over these long months.

“I’ll try.” Chin grinned.

“So… what case are you working on?” Steve was asking as he finished wrapping the towel around his hips, then instantly sat down on Danny’s lap, stealing his beer back to take a swig as he put his free arm around Danny’s shoulders.

“This is definitely gonna take getting used to.” Chin sighed as he rolled his eyes dramatically.

Steve huffed with a grin. “Bitter that Kono won that little bet you two had?”

“It’s Kamacono actually.” Chin sighed. “Kono thought you would just eventually get around to doing each other.”

“So what the hell did Kamacono bet then?” Danny gasped.

“That we were all going to be invited to your wedding before we knew about it.” Chin grinned at him. “So he is technically right.”

“And you bet we wouldn’t get together.” Danny said, at least someone had some sence.

“Na, bra. I bet Steve would get so jealous of your latest girlfriend, he would just take you over his office desk eventually.”

Danny spluttered as he listened to his Mate start laughing and he was thinking about pushing the larger man off his lap. “So no one thought we actually wouldn’t get together!”

“Oh, no.” Chin was laughing now. “Sang Min said it would never happen…”

“At least someone had some sense.” Danny offered.

 “… because you two were too far in Narnia!” Chin finished with a chuckle.

Danny did push Steve from his lap then, but it only ended up with him sprawled across the mostly naked Shifter as he pulled him down too as he laughed.

 

+ + [ # ] + +

 

Steve felt like his skin was itching. When Danny had finally yelled at him about being fidgety and Steve confessing his feelings. Danny had just given him an indulgent smile, telling him it was just anxiety, and he didn’t need to worry.

Steve tried, but he hadn’t been to work in month, thought he would never get back there again. Then the way everyone there would see him now? He wasn’t sure how they would react, how HE should react to them… it all seemed to be going so fast. But for fuck sakes, he was a trained SEAL, done the darkest of shit, he was trained not to crack under torture… and here he was terrified of meeting friends he had known for years!

Now Danny was pulling him into the office, after managing to get up to it without seeing anyone, a miracle in itself.

Then he was facing the smiling faces of his friends as they all stood around the command table. He was thankful none of them came towards him. He still felt a little raw. He was only just coming to terms with himself being a Shifter, never mind now having to deal with people shift in perspective of him.

“Hey bra!” Kono was grinning at him and he could see she wanted to get in his personal space, but was keeping herself rooted to her spot by the table. “It’s nice to see you back!”

“Thanks.” He grinned at her. “It’s great to be back, though my holiday on the main land was getting a little boring.” He joked.

“Can you Shift?” Kono suddenly blurted out as the neared the table, “I’ve never seen a Shifter in person before.”

Steve froze, feeling awkward as his emotions warred between angry and embarrassed.

“What the HELL!”

Steve didn’t flinch on the outside as his Mate exploded, but he could feel Danny’s anger hit him, and he felt a modicum of relief.

“Even on this stupid island I thought you had etiquette and social niceties!” Danny was seethed as he blustered himself in front of Kono, and conveniently keeping Steve at his back.

“I didn…” Kono tried to apologise as she moved uncomfortably on he feet.

“It’s like asking him to get naked!” Danny was on a rant roll as his arms began to flail around. “Would you ask paraplegic to look at their stump? Oh! I know, can I look at your boobs?”

Steve tried not to roll his eye as he watched Danny began doing motions like he was lifting his own shirt. And Kono looked both embarrassed and pissed. A fact he could empathies with, as she had just made him feel the same way,

“I can fight my own battles.” Steve ended up growling. Trying to ease the tension, anything to stop the fragile sense in the air. But Danny spun on him.

“Oh sure,” Danny waved a hand at him. “Then why don’t you do what she asked?” the hand waving back to take in Kono.

Steve didn’t miss the fact Danny hadn’t ordered him to Shift. Something he was stupidly thankful for.

Instead, he stepped into his Mate space so he could look down on him, a small dominant thrill went through him as he forced Danny back a step. “I fight my own battles.” He said in an even, but no nonsense tone.

Danny blinked up at him, then Steve saw the steel come into his Mates blue eyes.

“Fine.. Fine!” Danny seethed at him as he sidled to the side. Then started waving his arms around the room. “You see this.” More arm waving as he spun around. “All this?... Work…”, then Steve found a finger pointed at himself. “Is all yours. You can stomp around like some proud cock… DON’T EVEN SMIRK!...” Steve swallowed as he tried to hide his smirk. “You can be the dominant one all you like here.” Then his finger was waggling between them both. “Us, again, you seem to want to be obsessively domineering, and fine, I know what I was getting into…” Steve couldn’t help the smug smirk this time, but all he got was a glare. “But THIS!” Suddenly Danny’s finger was making little circle motions up and down Steve’s body. “All this… is mine! So if I want to protect this…” More circling finger. “Then I will!”

“Really?” Steve asked, feeling a squirming in his belly as he advanced on his Mate.

He grinned when Danny’s eyes suddenly widened and he began backing away, “No..NO!” Danny shouted at him. “Not in the office!.. umf!”

Steve didn’t stop as Danny backed himself against a wall, he just kept pressing up on him, trapping the shorted man with his own body. He began to lean his head down, wanting to taste that down turned mouth.

“You promised…” Danny let out in a whisper.

Steve growled as his lust left him in a rush. He had promised.

“Oh, Don’t mind me.” Kono singsonged at them. “Please, carry on.”

Steve closed his eyes as he just pulled Danny away from the table and into a hug, knowing Kono would love to see them make out. Which was why Danny had made him promise nothing would happen on the job.

“Pervert!” Danny growled sullenly at Kono.

“Hey!” Kono snapped. “I’m not dead, I can appreciate pretty things.”

Steve rolled his eyes.

“I’m pretty now!” Danny shouted indignantly.

Steve let his Mate go as he advanced on the young woman. He would have stepped in and tried to calm things down, but Kono was grinning and giving as good as Danny was giving.

“Welcome back.” Chin was saying as Steve stepped to his side of the table.

“So, want to bring me up to speed on the case?” Steve asked as his friend smiled at him and proceeded to do just that.

It was nice though, before they left to go run down a perp, Kono had come up to him to apologise, and he knew his old self would have given her a hug, now he knew, at least for the near future, he just gave her his best smile before jogging up to his Mate, grounding himself as he put a hand on the shorter man’s back.

Maybe now he could start to feel normal again with his friends around him. He wasn’t just going to be a Shifter… he was Steven Magarret, he was just extra now.

 

The End.

 

Epilogue:

 

Steve was beyond rage and had slipped out the other side and instead of finding calm, had just found more rage.

As soon as the perp knew he couldn’t ruffle Steve, he had moved his attention to Danny, and there was no way on earth he could put up with that. He had thought he could control his protective Shifter side, but he was having trouble right now just thinking beyond his rage.

Steve was ready to explode, pull out his gun and shoot the perp in the mouth, instead he began pacing, Danny’s eyes on him the whole time, he knew his Mate was picking up on his rage.

It didn’t take Danny long to snap though. “Just because we’re Bonded!” Danny yelled. “Does NOT give you the right to shoot whoever you WANT! So don’t even THINK about it!”

“But he was pointing the gun at you!” Steve growled, his eyes once again on the perp who was looking up at him with fear in his eyes and a bloodied lip, while cowering on the curb where Steve hand thrown him. “He was about to pull the trigger!” he snarled taking another step toward the quivering man, and Steve found his rage could go up a notch at the terror in the man. He just wanted to rip the guys throat out for even looking at his Mate wrong.

“Oh…” Danny said, loosing all his bluster and annoyance. “Carry on then, just don’t get any blood on yourself, I’m bored of apologising to the dry cleaner.” He answered flippantly, but also like he was bored.

Steve finally took his eyes of the terrified bad guy to look at his Mate. Danny stood with his arms firmly across his chest, eyes following him intently.

“I could kill him an no one could say anything.” Steve offered. His rage calming a fraction.

Danny shrugged. “I should think you wont be able to get away with it all the time.” He said with a flip of his hand. “Just save it for those who really deserve it?”

Finally, Steve relented as he walked over to his Mate and held his left wrist out. Danny studied him for a moment, then reached out, his fingers digging into the underside of Steve’s wrist with just the right pressure, letting all the built up frustration and rage drain away. Before he knew it, he was pressed against his Mate, breathing him in. The quivering perp forgotten about as he held his living and well Mate against himself.

It still astonished him how one small action from the man he loved could feel so amazing.

“Feeling less homicidal now?” Danny asked, un-sarcastically.

Steve just hummed happily.

 

The end