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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 at 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.

At 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, he 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 his arms around his head as he growled and gasped mournfully into his hands that were 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 firsts 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 the 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, when 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. had been helped 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 it 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