The Future is Wyld 3:
Wolf in the Fold

by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13 for Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Maurice Cavelle's eyes darted back and forth, watching every motion made beyond the heavy door of his padded cell. Every orderly, every guard, going the same places, the same order, time and again. It was a wonder there weren't grooves in the floor.

It made him sick.

On the plus side, it also made what he was planning so much easier.

Tomorrow, he would be taken to his weekly therapy session. And that's when the fun would start. He closed his eyes, imagining just what he would do to Dr. Farview, her whimpers and screams as he violated her in the most intimate ways he could imagine.

And, after ten years locked in his cell, he could imagine quite a bit.

"Will you beg," he pondered, feeling a familiar tightening in his body as he imagined the woman's body beneath his. "I *know* you'll scream for me. And you thought you were 'making progress,'" he chuckled. "Of course, you'll call for the guards, but that's just when the fun starts."

When he was done with her, he'd get out as fast as he could, run far and long. North sounded good. They didn't know him too well further north, especially not now. Fresh hunting grounds; the idea was appealing enough that he almost just wanted to get going, wait until he was free to start again. As a matter of fact, leaving her be was more and more appealing… no. After ten years, he deserved a little immediate gratification. He'd still escape, and the north would still be there. He licked his lips in anticipation, listening to the sound of his lunch being brought down. The orderly knocked on the door, and he stood, walking up to it.

"And what's on the menu today, Jonathon," he asked the wiry Otter. "Steak and lobster perhaps? Or maybe a nice fresh salmon, well-smoked, with a hint of lemon?"

"Can it Cavelle," the Otter muttered gruffly. "Ham on rye, the usual trimmings, you know the deal. And it's John."

"A shame," he said dryly, not making any motion to step back from the door. "You know, there are some who would consider the same meal for ten years cruel and unusual punishment."

"For you? Hell, you're lucky they feed you at all, anything worth eating at least. 'Specially after that last time. Now back away from the slot, so I can pass this through to you."

"I never said I wanted something with silverware," Maurice chuckled, backing up a bit. "How is dear old William doing? I do hope he doesn't miss that kidney too much."

"Hell of a lot better now that you're back in here," John muttered, passing a wrapped sandwich through the slot for the Wolf's meals and locking it again. He stepped back as Maurice picked it up and unwrapped it, watching John carefully through the window as he started to eat. When he was finished, he took the wrapper and inhaled the scents on it deeply, chuckling.

"You know, Jonathon, you don't need to hide your fear from me. I've smelled it ever since you started this route."

"Just pass the wrapper back through, Cavelle," the Otter said firmly, undoing the latch on the slot and stepping back. Maurice chuckled, balling it up and passing it through as he had every day for a long, long time.

"It's good that you're afraid of me, Jonathon. When I get out of here, it's fear that's most likely to keep you alive." John laughed at that, smirking at the Wolf through the door as he stepped back to let the Otter lock the slot again, and take the discarded wrapper with him.

"If you think you're ever getting out of here again, you really *are* crazy."

"History repeats itself, Jonathon. Your predecessor got too comfortable with me, and look what happened. After ten years, a lot of people here are comfortable with me; I'm like the chairs that have been sitting in the lobby for thirty years, they know me, know what to expect."

"Yeah, and that's exactly why you *aren't* getting out of here," John pointed out, getting ready to head on to the next cell. Maurice chuckled, standing up as the Otter headed down the hall, focusing his will on the next cell.

The click as the lock on the door opened was barely audible, but Maurice knew it had worked. Fairly easily this time too - he'd be able to break out of here without breaking a sweat if he didn't want to. The door to the next cell opened to the musical sound of a rage-filled howl, as its Ursine occupant took advantage of the sudden opportunity.

"Fucking HELL!" John scrambled back, hitting his alarm before the Bear hit him, tossing him down the hall like a rag doll. Maurice grinned from his cell, watching as the Otter tried to escape, only to be caught and tossed around again as the alarms blared, and the other inmates howled with fear, rage, and sheer madness. He could hear the guards running towards the scene, smell the confusion and terror that was flooding the hallway, almost strong enough to taste… it was a meal far, far more satisfying than the one he had just finished. Part of him wanted to use his newfound powers to open *his* cell, and really wreak some havoc, but he couldn't run that chance, especially not with the guards on their way already.

Instead, the wolf simply watched as the insane Grizzly tried to tear John apart, reveling in the chaos of the scene, licking his lips and imagining what it would be like in the days to come, when he was finally outside of these damned walls.

All he wanted to do was get far away, and make those fantasies a reality again.

"Good morning, everyone." Tamerin Jurnix greeted his growing combat qualified team in the large high-tech briefing room several levels below the main floor of the mansion.

"Good morning, Professor," Charlie and Melinda said in almost perfect unison as everybody filtered in and found their seats. All any of them knew, so far, was that some sort of strike was being planned. Whatever it was, Jurnix had asked for the entire team to attend, including its newest members.

Both of them were feeling a strange mix of uneasiness and excitement, more obvious in the Salamander, who had a vacant seat on either side of her thanks to it.

"You sure you don't know what's up," Kris asked Sandy quietly as the two Lions sat down themselves. As far as they knew, only the Foxbat, and maybe Gaia, knew the story so far.

"Suspicion, but not sure." She told him simply and firmly. "We are going after new mutants."

"Again?" He looked at her curiously, shaking his head a bit. "Everybody's coming out of the woodwork, if that's true," he mused, looking up towards Jurnix along with the others.

"Yes," the Foxbat nodded solemnly as they all settled in and he took a silent appraisal of the group. Five students, all combat hardened, Surauli and himself. "A maximum security psych ward in New Garanda has a mutant developing as we speak. His powers have just begun to manifest."

"And he's not a guard, either." Sandy said with a certainty born of knowing the telepath and his briefings.

"Since you've called all of us down here," Charlie said with a bit of a frown, "I'm guessing it's a patient instead. Locked up because of their powers?"

"Fortunately not." He inclined his slender head to the equine. "He is imprisoned for being a serial killer, among other things." Jurnix said simply, letting the rest sink in in it's own time. "His powers have only just begun to emerge after eight years in the ward."

"We're going to break him out, aren't we?" Gaia said softly, dreading the answer she knew was coming.

"It's a *good* thing that he's a serial killer instead of a prisoner," Melinda frowned slightly. "How does anybody figure that?"

"Same they did to me," Kris broke in with a quiet rumble.

"Yeah," Gaia sighed and leaned back. "This one's a full head-job. Right, Prof?"

"Most likely." The Foxbat nodded. "He is truly twisted, and his gift makes him a true danger to everyone."

"Then why not just leave him there?" Charlie asked. "If they've kept him for that long... unless he's likely to escape on his own, it sounds like he deserves to be where he is."

Sandy and Gaia exchanged a look before the blue eyed Percheron turned to her lover. "One, because his mutant powers are just emerging, so they won't be holding him much longer, even without our intervention. And two ... he's more useful after we get done with him." She hesitated, then sighed. "Remember after you told me about yourself, I said that if *you* were telling me, then it was okay?"

"Yes," Jurnix nodded with an approving smile for their newest member.

"You're going to change his whole mind the way you took out that impulse," Melinda said softly, nodding a bit. Charlie frowned, shaking his head.

"But what about what he's done before? Can you change him enough it won't happen again?"

"Yes, though like Kris, he won't ... exist ... like that anymore." Gaia said carefully. "We are capable of cleaning his entire mind out, fixing the biochemistry that's off, and starting him over. With us."

"And everybody else? I mean," Charlie explained, "the authorities will be really be okay with us breaking in there, breaking out a dangerous criminal, just to say that 'he's better now' the next time they see him?"

"That won't be an issue." Jurnix said simply. "He will not seem to be the same individual. To anyone."

"So how are we going to pull him out?," Charlie asked after a moment, accepting that they'd done this before, and would be able to do it again.

"We aren't," Sandy supplied after a look at their leader. "He's going to get himself out. We nail him when he's out."

"Less security to worry about that way." Gaia added.

"So what is his power, that would get him out so easily?" Melinda broke in to ask. "After all, it's a max-sec outfit - they might not have force-fields, but they'll have enough guards that he'll probably be swamped in no time, unless he turns invisible or something."

"His power is ... unique ... to say the least." Jurnix began. "He has the ability to cancel things. Laws of reality, other mutants, likely anything he focuses on hexing will be warped. It is why we're all going."

"Too many targets at once." Sandy nodded grimily.

Charlie whistled lowly. "That is one hell of a power. Lucky he's still there as it is, if he knows about it."

"Won't be for long," Kris said certainly, "and he won't be able to stop all of us, so he won't be loose either."

"Correct." Jurnix nodded. "I have managed to implant an escape directive that will lead him directly into an ambush. Even so, be prepared. He has a very sick mind right now."

"Probably not too much he'd be able to do though," Melinda asked, as though looking for clarification, "not just after breaking out of somewhere like that? I mean, it's not like he'll be armed, and his powers shouldn't be able to cause all of us that much trouble."

"Never underestimate a clever killer," Charlie pointed out, shaking his head. "Just because he doesn't have built-in weapons, even if he runs right into us, he might grab something from somebody on the way out."

"Ah, right," she nodded. It was hard to remember the more mundane threats once in awhile, especially when dealing with somebody who had something 'better.'

"And this one is a Wolf," Jurnix nodded in approval to Charlie. "While not the most dangerous set of natural weapons out there, his jaws are not weak."

"And if he knows where to bite, he can do a lot of damage," the Equine mused. "Just in case, probably best to put somebody who can take a few bites and not be seriously injured, like me or Kris, up front, so he can't hamstring somebody."

"That includes me," Gaia snorted in reminder. "I'm just as damage resistant as you to that stuff."

"But you are needed to control his mind." Jurnix reminded her quietly but firmly.

"Yes, sir."

"So, sounds like we've got a plan," Kris said after a moment. "When are we heading out after this joker?"

"Now," the Foxbat answered simply.

The expression on Maurice's face when the guards brought him down to the therapist's office was typically a bored one, as though he had no real interest in being there.

Which, admittedly, was generally the case.

Today though, the Wolf had a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and didn't seem nearly as annoyed by the handcuffs restraining him. The guards stepped outside the door, glancing up to make sure the camera was on before they closed it, waiting to take him back.

"And how has your week been, Doctor Farview?" he asked, almost as soon as the door was closed.

"Quite busy," the Golden Retriever smiled at him. "You are in an unusually good mood today."

"Yesterday was the first real entertainment I've had in years," he smirked. "Interesting, how that door just happened to unlock when it did. A pity it wasn't my cell."

"I believe everyone here had wished it was their cell." She said simply and easily. "How are you feeling, other than the entertainment?"

"Like stretching out," he said simply, looking around her room. "You know, it's been some time since I appreciated just how much privacy you have in here, compared to the rest of this place. No guards in the room, only one camera... nice and cozy, almost. I've always liked a little privacy."

"It is good for helping people relax," she nodded simply, suddenly nervous, though she didn't show it.

"And do you want *me* to relax, Doctor?" The question was innocent enough, as was the Wolf's face... but his tone was enough to make somebody seriously wonder if 'yes' was the right answer.

"I want to help you," she said simply. "With the right care, you could be free again."

"With the right care, this could be free again," he corrected her, nodding down towards his body. "Do you really think that I, me, the person inside here now, ever could be?"

"Yes," she nodded easily. "The impulses and desires that brought you here are not the sum of your being. There is a good Wolf in there."

"Maybe," he admitted, "but you know something? I'm not overly fond of him, if he's anything like the 'good people' I've known. Wolves weren't meant to be sheep; we were meant to be predators. Is it my fault that I happen to be a particularly good one?"

"Even predators take care of their own," she countered easily. "Especially canines. You don't have to be a wimp to function out there."

"I functioned out there just fine," he smirked for a moment, turning it into a smile afterwards. "And I will again, without having to change a thing. Just won't be functioning by the same rules. You know something though? I'm pretty good at breaking rules and getting away with it."

"I know," she nodded simply. "I am aware of what you did before, and between, your stays here."

"And I'll make sure you're aware of what I do after this one," he promised. "Intimately so, for part of it." Above them, almost unnoticeably, the light on the camera that indicated it had power went out.

"I do try to keep in touch with those that make it." She smiled, covering her growing discomfort flawlessly.

"You read the papers, don't you?"

"Of course," she nodded.

"Then you should be able to keep up with what I'm up to without any trouble," he smiled. "I'll make sure you get the clippings from papers you don't read, if you'd like," he added, pulling his hands from behind his back, the cuffs still dangling from one wrist, and resting them in his lap.

"I see you have learned a new trick," she murmured, her gaze lingering on the free hands even as she used her tail to activate the alarm. An alarm that didn't go off.

"Several new tricks," he nodded, his smile slowly spreading to a menacing grin as he stood up. "You think the guards out there are going to be able to help you? You think anybody will?" He started to walk closer, almost like he was testing her ability to control her fear. "Or do you think I'll be able to do anything I want to you, before they know anything's really wrong?"

The Golden Retriever looked at him squarely. Despite the fear he could see in the finer motions of her body, she remained calm. Too calm. "The later." She admitted.

"We'll see if you're so calm about what's going to happen when I've got you beneath me," he growled and lungwed at her. He froze completely just as his claws dug into the wood of her desk.

/Run,/ his mind was screamed at him even as she stared at him calmly with fear filled eyes. /They're coming for you, if you touch her she'll scream and they'll be on top of you, *run*!/ The same insecurities that had been gnawing at him the entire time he'd been planning his escape came crashing down, completely overriding his ability to think past them like he had before.

With an enraged growl, he turned and bolted, smashing through her door, and into the hallway. The guards who'd been waiting for him looked at him, completely surprised to actually be needed this time. His instinct was to attack while he had the chance, rip their throats out and go from there - but instead, some other impulse took over, and he ran towards an exit he hadn't seen in years. The guards tried to shoot, but their guns both jammed. By the time they were chasing after him, he was out of sight.

The rest of his escape was shockingly quiet - almost dull, some part of his mind thought, disappointed. He knew that he'd screwed up their communication systems, but he had thought he'd run into at least *some* guards. Even the inmates were strangely calm; usually, something like this would raise a ruckus among them if nobody else.

No need to worry about that now, it was as much blessing as disappointment. Another door, and another, heavier this time, but when the electronic locks 'malfunctioned' he flew through them with ease. The halls behind him almost faded from his mind as he ran, as though they ceased to exist once he'd left them behind. An emergency exit was right ahead, just a little further, just a few feet further and he'd be loose

!He steeled himself for the impact with the door, and hit it hard, knocking it open and finally setting of an alarm that he'd forgotten to disable with his newfound powers. He paused for a moment, taking a breath of the fresh air and letting out a triumphant howl - he was free

!Now, just to make a break for the forest, and they'd never find him again. He took off, running north according to his inner sense of direction, towards the thick woods that offered protection and complete freedom from his imprisonment.

This time, they'd never catch him again.

The treeline. Protection. It was all over with now.

"Very correct." A powerful male voice spoke from above him. A voice that was familiar in the part of his mind that was paranoid.

"Time to say nighty-night Maurice." An herbivorous female rumbled as bolts of confusion cracked his focus on everything, even his own movements.

He was vaguely aware of swearing, though he wasn't entirely sure he'd been the one to make the words as the world stopped making sense. He lashed out clumsily with his abilities, but whatever was happening to him didn't seem to be affected. Taking a few steps forward, he fell to his knees, groping for something to hurt.

All he found was earth and leaves. He was drowning in commands from outside his own mind. Commands he couldn't fight even when he recognized them as not his own. Commands to be still. To sleep. To submit.

Threw the chaos of his own mind, it hit him.

He was being removed. He no longer wanted to fight. He wanted to sleep, to obey the Foxbat he now knew was above him. In one horrified moment before everything collapsed, Maurice realized that his worst fears of being 'fixed' were coming true.

*He* would no longer exist in a few moments, and he didn't even have it in him to fight back.

He groaned, blinking as he woke up on what felt like a... cot of some sort. At least, that's what he thought it felt like.

No, too large and too soft.

"Where am I?" he muttered, gradually opening his eyes, blinking at the bright lights, and looking around to try and figure that out.

And, for that matter, who the *very* attractive wolf sitting near his cot was.

"Welcome back to the world of the living, Chester." She smiled at him warmly. "You had us very worried there for a while."

"D-do I know you?" he asked, sitting up slightly. "I'm sorry, I - where is this?"

"Here is the Jurnix Institute for the Gifted," she smiled and let a firm, gentle hand on his shoulder. "My name is Gaia, and no, we haven't been formally introduced. We were expecting you, but not to arrive quite the way you did. I'm sorry we couldn't do anything more for you."

"Chester Wilson," he smiled by way of introduction. "Uhm... what *did* happen to me," he asked, frowning and glancing down to see if he had any obvious injuries and found only minor scrapes and burses. "I only remember... I don't remember anything, really."

"I know," she squeezed his shoulder gently. "We don't know exactly what happened either, but you came tearing right for us like the devil was on your tail. When we finally got you stopped, you passed out."

"Whatever was after me, I hope it stopped," he said, shuddering slightly at... not so much a memory of what it was, but a feeling that he *really* didn't want to know. "I don't suppose you could tell me why you were expecting me here?"

"You are gifted, like the rest of us here." Gaia smiled at him. "This is a school and refuge for people that don't really fit into the rest of society."

"And I guess I didn't tell you why I didn't when I came here." He sighed, frowning a little but shrugging it off. "Thanks for bringing me here though, Gaia. Sounds like I'm lucky I got off as well as I did."

"We know what your gift is, at least as well as it can be explained." She patted his shoulder gently. "It's pretty unique, even for around here. You can warp the laws of reality, or something like that." She frowned. "I can't say I understood it all that well when the Prof told me."

"Oh...kay...." Chester drew the word out as he thought that one over, shaking his head again. "Weird.... So, uhm... are there many other people with these 'gifts?'"

"Everyone here does," she nodded with an easy smile. "Thirteen of us at the moment, and growing every month."

"Cool," he smiled a little. "Kind of a small school, but probably not too many people who really fit in here yet.... Where do I fit in though," he asked softly.

"You are a student," she smiled easily. "You came to us to learn how to control your gift in a safe environment." She paused, pretending uncertainty for a moment. "With what happened, you might end up in some kinda basic normal school classes too. We all have though to deal with those too."

"Well," he chuckled a bit, "probably a good thing... I mean, I'm sure I went through school and everything, but I don't honestly know if I could remember that much of it if I really had to."

"I'm sure you'll catch up fast." Gaia smiled reassuringly. "Hopefully studying isn't something you learn to hate." She giggled a bit. "We get a lot of it, though not much homework."

"We'll have to see," he chuckled. "Don't suppose anybody here'd be interested in helping somebody who's probably a good decade older than them get back to studying, hmm?"

"Flatter," Gaia giggled and grinned. "Be happy to, Chester. It's kind of why I'm hanging out waiting for you to wake up. I should warn you though, I have a boyfriend already."

"Duly noted," he chuckled. "He's a lucky guy. I guess I'm supposed to get up for some sort of tour then, hmm?"

"When you feel up to it," she nodded easily. "There's no real rush."

"Well, I should probably at least try moving," he chuckled a bit, sitting up more. "How long have I been out?"

"Most of two days," she told him softly, not wanting to have to explain the three weeks it had actually taken to rewrite his brain and make the physical changes for new fingerprints and black fur. "I think most of it was probably whatever took your memories out."

"That could explain why I'm kind of hungry," the black-furred Wolf said sheepishly. "Don't suppose there's anywhere I could grab something to eat quick, before the tour?"

"We'll just hit the kitchen first." She grinned and offered a hand up. "We do have formal meals, but it's generally a free for all between Sunday dinners."

"I'll keep it in mind," he smiled, taking her hand and standing up a little shakily. "Uhm... did I have any clothes with me besides these?"

"We did a little shopping on your behalf," she smiled easily and motioned to the dresser drawers. "Though it is a limited selection. I will wait outside the door for you."

"Thanks," he nodded, waiting until she was out and opening up the drawers, picking out jeans and a t-shirt that was in better shape than his current one. Pulling on the sneakers that were sitting next to the dresser, he couldn't help but be surprised that they'd managed to get everything to fit so well.

"Somebody's good at guessing sizes," he smiled, as he left the room and found Gaia again.

"Well, we did have access to you for a bit of measuring." She chuckled softly. "And a couple shapeshifters for impromptu fittings."

"Shapeshifters?" He shook his head a bit. "Sorry, going to take a little getting used to, I guess. Uhm... is it rude to ask what people can do around here, generally?"

"Not at all, though you'll find out just watching." She smiled easily. "One of the great things about the Institute is that we don't have to hide our true natures here, like we do on the outside. It's really cool to be free like that, and it's a big estate."

"Well, from what you've said, I'll probably want to avoid the recreational uses," he chuckled rubbing his head a bit. "'Warping the laws of reality' isn't something that can be good to do very often."

"Well, it depends on how you use it," she smiled a little brighter and started the walking tour with a bent for the kitchen. "You could probably use it to fly, without hurting anyone. And you may have other gifts, that's just the one we know about for sure."

"Well, whatever it was, I obviously didn't know how to control it enough for it to help be a couple days ago. I'll have to see what develops I guess."

"Don't worry about it," she put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. "This stuff takes time. Just talk to Ginny about frustrating training." She grinned. "The pup is good, but she gets *so* fed up with some of the lessons."

"Another of the students here?" he guessed. "Think I'll hope that I can get it to work by the time I need it again."

"Yes, one of the younger ones," she said softly. "She does this cool gravity manipulation thing. Haven't a clue how it works, but it's interesting to watch."

"Sounds like it," he smiled. "How young are the students here? I mean, I'm probably the oldest, but...."

"Well, the youngest is SnapShot at fifteen but most are in their late teens or early twenties. Professor Jurnix and Surauli are the old folks. It's changing all the time though. Next month we could have a very different age profile overall."

"It does give me a feel for what the folks I'll be with now are like though," he pointed out with a smile. "At least I won't have to worry about getting nostalgic around them," he chuckled a bit.

"True," she chuckled softly as they entered the large dinning hall. "This is where we eat the formal mean Sunday night. Most nights you'll find most of us here too, but Sunday is the big one. We do week in review and what's coming up then. Tends to be the team conference room, though that's not intentional. Just something about everyone together and food leads to that stuff."

"Couldn't say what," he chuckled, "but it makes sense, somehow. Everybody thinking together, maybe? What sort of things does the team talk about?"

"Just about everything." She shrugged and led the way into the restaurant grade kitchen. "How classes are going, the news, new laws and public attitudes, new tricks if anyone's figured something neat out, changes or improvements for the Institute, concerns we have. Just about life and everything."

"Ah," he nodded. "Sounded like it might be something more than that."

"Not really." She smiled and made quick work of building a meat-intensive sandwich for him. "Sometimes it can get pretty wild, but it's usually just chat."

"Okay," he chuckled. "I could do that, if you'd like," he added, noticing the sandwich she was putting together.

"If you want," she chuckled and stepped back. "It's old habit, from when Kris was first here."

"Couldn't put food together to save his life?" Chester chuckled, finishing putting the sandwich together. "Don't know that I'd be much better, but sandwiches aren't that hard."

"Something like that," she smiled with a light chuckle. "He's not our brightest boy, but I wouldn't piss him off if I can help it."

"One of the biggest?" Chester chuckled a bit, closing the fridge and taking a bite of his sandwich, glad to get something in his stomach. "He your beau?"

"And by far the toughest." She chuckled softly and shook her head. "No, he's Sandy's guy. They're the Lions in residence. Charlie's mine, he's usually the draft horse around, but not always."

"Okay, one of the shapeshifters," he guessed, smiling at her. "Must be fun trying to keep track of him."

"Oh, it's not too hard," she grinned conspiratorially. "But I have an edge. His mind doesn't change when his body does. At least not usually. That and I'm one myself."

"Oh," he said, a little surprised. "Didn't know that. So... is this how you usually look?"

"Nah," she smiled and let her form flow smoothly into the dapple gray, blue eyed mare noticeably bigger than he was. "This is my natural form." She said before slipping back into the she-wolf. "We just figured having another Wolf to greet you when you woke up might be easier on you, and there isn't another real Wolf here."

"Okay," he nodded. "Makes sense, and thanks. Might be a bit before I'm used to all this, I guess," he chuckled, taking another bite of his sandwich.

"It usually does," she smiled and relaxed against the counter. "Don't worry about it. We all still remember what it's like. Just don't let the flying fire fox scare you. She's the doc around here. Quite harmless, really. Just flashy."

"Something tells me that the first few days are going to be an exercise in surreal life," he chuckled. "Is there anybody I should keep an eye out for?"

"Well, you'll probably meet everyone here during the tour," She considered thoughtfully. "Try to avoid startling the Salamander, Melinda, too badly. She's fairly good now, but she's a pyro. Makes and controls fire. Shecan scorch you pretty bad if you catch her off guard. And don't make a pass at Sandy, the Lioness, with Kris around. He's rather possessive and quite willing to pound others into jam for it. Most of of us are fairly harmless though, if you don't try to start a fight. No statements about it after that."

"Well I'd have to be crazy to go *looking* for trouble around here," he chuckled. "I'll keep it in mind though; don't want to end up being singed for saying 'boo.'"

"Oh, she's not *that* jumpy." Gaia laughed with a grin. "And if you get knocked over by a flash of black and white wind, that'd be SnapShot, our resident speedster. If it's a golden wind, it's Lightning, though he's out traveling at the moment."

"Bet that hurts," he winced, chuckling a bit. "Any heads up before the impact most of the time, or you just learn to look both ways before crossing a hall?"

"Oh, he hasn't hit anything, yet." She laughed. "But the wind he draws in his wake has been known too. Surauli, our weather witch Eagle, got most irate with him one day in the gardens for it."

"Ouch," he laughed, imagining it. "I hope he's a bit more careful around things that might decide to follow him along now?"

"Sometimes," she chuckled softly. "But a fifteen year old Border Collie pup is difficult to keep up with even normally, never mind the ones that exists on super fast forward."

"Any fifteen-year-old is hard to keep up with," he chuckled. "I think it's in the job description. I'll be careful about leaving loose papers around."

"A very good idea," she grinned. "He's gotten even worse since he's got a girlfriend now." She shook her head. A speedster and a gravity manipulator. What a combination those two make."

"Tell me they don't have a practical-joke streak," he chuckled ruefully. "I don't think anybody'd be safe."

"Fortunately not much of one," Gaia grinned in honest gratitude. "Though with two telepaths on site, it's not that hard a habit to break."

"Well, from the sound of it, you'd have a harder time catching them than figuring out who did it either way," he chuckled. "Very good to hear though."

"Oh, but they live here." She grinned. "Catching is easy. Just wait at the dinner table.

"Everybody has to eat some time, hmm?" He smirked a bit, finishing his sandwich. "All the same, think I'll be glad to avoid the whole situation."

"Good," Gaia nodded. "It's crazy enough around here some days without any help." She chuckled softly. "So care to see the place?"

"Probably be the next thing to do," he smiled. "After you?"

"Of course," she smiled and headed off towards medical. "I'll keep the wind down for you."

He followed behind her, trying to figure out what that meant without any real luck.

"Keep the wind down?"

"In case one of the speedsters blows by at full throttle." She chuckled softly. "I'm a good wind block as a horse."

"Oh," he chuckled. "That strong? I might not be a brick house, but I don't think I'll blow away."

"I was joking, kind of." She gave him an apologetic look. "He hasn't knocked anyone over in awhile."

"Oops." The black-furred Wolf blushed beneath his fur, a sheepish look on his face. "Should've guessed, really."

"It's okay," she smiled back. "You've had a hell of a week."

"I guess so," he nodded. "Think I'll ever...." Suddenly, the question of whether or not he'd ever get his memories back seemed not only unimportant, but actually distasteful. "Never mind," he shrugged, not wondering at the response.

"You'll have plenty of time to settle in here," Gaia promised him, privately thrilled that the blocks they had so carefully put in place were working.

"Probably the rest of my life," he nodded. "At least as far as I can guess. Have to say, I could think of worse places to start over."

"Definitely," the she-wolf shivered. "In government hands for starters."

"Personal experience?" he asked softly.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I was a military brat. It's not a good place to find out your *different*."

"I'm sorry," he said softly. "Sounds like it was hell for you."

"Yeah, it wasn't fun in a big way, but it's over." She said firmly. "And I don't have to go back to them. Ever."

"How'd you get out?"

"Slipped threw the bars and ran like mad." She chuckled softly. "Ended up running straight into the Prof. Found out later he'd heard of me and was out looking. Right then I was just grateful for a place to hide."

"He's got a habit of being somewhere for people like us to run straight into, I guess," Chester chuckled slightly. "Glad you got out, though I guess it'd be hard to hold a shapeshifter in a regular cell."

"Yeah, it is," she snickered. "And now he's got more of us to help pick up those he finds. Not everybody here is on the team, but I really enjoy it."

"You guys want me on the team, once I've figured out how to control everything better, don't you?"

"If you want," she smiled encouragingly at him. "It's not a requirement on anyone here, new or old timer. It's just something that we ended up doing, so it ended up official."

"It'd be something to do with myself," he admitted, smiling a bit. "What does the team do, in general? Besides wait for wayward mutants to run into it," he chuckled and got a grin for it.

"And going in places to rescue the ones that can't run." She half chuckled, though it was clear she was dead serious. "That's really most of what we've done," she added after thinking threw things.

"I think I could handle that," he nodded with a smile. "Eventually, at least."

"Hay, there's no rush." She patted his shoulder with a smile. "There's a lot to take in around here. You'll probably get lost regularly for a couple weeks."

"Inside the house, or out on the grounds?" He chuckled a bit, glancing around at the impressive surroundings. "At least I'll always be able to find my way back to the house," he chuckled.

"And if you get really turned around, just think 'help' really hard and someone will by there shortly." She grinned, though she was clearly serious.

"I'll keep it in mind," he chuckled. "Don't think I'll get *that* lost though, unless the wind starts doing something screwy."

"Well, between the speedsters and the weather witch, it's always possible." Gaia chuckled softly as their steps took them out of the normal looking mansion on the first floor and into an area that was decidedly medical.

"Good point," he nodded, looking around the facilities. "Pretty fancy."

"Thank you," a bright eyed red Vixen greeted them as she came out from the back. "It's good to see you up and about Chester. You had us worried there for a while."

"Sorry," he said, rubbing the back of his head. "Sounds like I was pretty much out of it. You're the doctor?"

"Yes," she smiled and extended a hand in greeting. "Dr. Sandra Keller. The Persian Cat around somewhere is my nurse, Kelly Sanders."

"Otherwise known as the Doc's girlfriend." Gaia added with a wink.

"Sounds like everybody's dating around here," he chuckled.

"Close," Gaia chuckled. "The Prof and Surauli aren't yet."

"Well, they aren't the only ones anymore then," he chuckled. "Not yet at least."

"Don't forget our resident amphibian," a fluffy white shekat came up. "Good to see you moving around, Charlie."

"Thanks," he smiled. "Miss Sanders I presume?"

"That it would be." She chuckled softly. "You clean up quite handsomely, I might add."

"Thanks again," he chuckled. "Chester Wilson, though you probably already know that," he smiled, offering his hand.

"Yes, I do tend to know the names of my patients," the shekat chuckled softly and shook his hand. "How are you liking to tour so far?"

"It's just fine," he smiled. "Just glad I made it here."

"Us too," Gaia smiled and patted his shoulder. "And this is a section you hopefully see less of than some of us."

"Yes, I thing the Professor *still* has that cat locked in the shielded rooms." Sandra shook her head. "That is one seriously wounded psyche."

"What happened to him?" Chester asked quietly.

"We pulled him out of a corporate 'project'." Gaia began before the doctor could begin ranting about TRGI. "They did a real number on his head to control him. Basically broke his will." She said softly. "It's not an easy thing to put right, even for us."

"One of the team rescues?" he asked, pretty sure he knew the answer already. "That sort of thing happen often?"

"Too often." Gaia nodded grimly. "Though not often as bad as Lyal got."

"Fuck," he said softly, shaking his head.

"Yeah, it can be bad out there," Gaia nodded and guided him out of medical. "But we're here, so they don't always get away with it any more. Some good places like this exist."

"That's good," he nodded. "Glad I found one of them to help out. Nobody deserves to be hurt like that."

"No, no one does." She nodded easily with a bit of a smile. "Just don't get too hyped on playing hero. It'll be a while before you're ready, even if you do learn as fast as you are cute."

"Understood," he chuckled, blushing at the compliment. "Still, it doesn't hurt to have a goal."

"Not in the least," she smiled encouragingly and showed him the way outside, towards the back of the building. "Goals are very useful, especially when things get rough."

"The outside as impressive as in here?"

"More impress, I think," Gaia chuckled softly. "But I have a fondness for space and we own more of it than I can really fathom."

"I get the feeling I should just start being surprised and not stop for a week or two," he chuckled, shaking his head.

"It would probably save you the trouble of having to get surprised." She snickered, though her tone was a bit serious. "This place takes some real getting used to."

"Well, it's not like I have anything 'normal' to compare it to," he pointed out with a chuckle. "Not really, at least."

"Hay, it just makes this place easier to adapt to." She grinned at him as she spotted their youngest residents. "And those are the puppies, SnapShot and Ginny."

"Whi-" Whatever he was going to say was cut off by a sound almost like a gunshot as the Golden Retriever motioned upwards with her hand, and then forward, raising a tennis ball and sending it forward, faster and faster, until it snapped into a yellow-green streak, followed promptly by a black-and-white one.

"Scratch that," Chester chuckled slightly. "Snapshot would be the one who isn't there anymore."

"Yap," Gaia grinned as the younger canine bolted back with the ball in his mouth and tail wagging frantically. "They've found a way to turn practice into play, for them both."

"Certainly looks like they're having fun," he chuckled, watching as Ginny took the ball and kissed SnapShot with a giggle. "Should we leave 'em alone?"

"Probably, though they put on a hell of a show when they forget where they are," she winked at the Wolf.

"Teenagers," he chuckled, shaking his head. "That sort of thing common?"

"The show in the halls? Thankfully not." She chuckled softly. "But we do seem to have a love but buzzing around, with eight out of twelve people in a pairing of some kind."

"Well, as long as I remember to knock I think I'll be okay," he chuckled. "Can't blame anybody, that's for sure, everybody I've seen so far seems to be pretty attractive here. Present company included," he smiled.

"Thanks," she smiled back with a slight blush. "And it is kind of a teenager thing too, which we have plenty of."

"Hardly a bad thing," he chuckled. "Everybody seems to be getting along well enough, after all."

"For the most part," she nodded and moved into the rest of the tour. "Kris doesn't like SnapShop, but it's not that serious. I think Sulauri still makes Charlie nervous, but that's cause she's a weather witch and he's particularly vulnerable to electricity. But having the telepaths and empaths around that we do, it's fairly easy to catch problems before they turn into big things."

"Probably important, with so many people with so much power," he nodded. "A fist-fight could get ugly pretty fast, I'd imagine."

"The understatement of the year." She shook her head with a bit of a chuckle. "Fortunately, those get stopped before serious collateral damage results."

"Probably another advantage of being a telepath, huh?" He chuckled again, taking a deep breath of the outside air. "Don't know why, but it feels real good to be outside."

"Probably because you've been stuck *inside* for days." She smiled at him. "But I always thing it's nice to get out of the house."

"Yeah, plenty of space," he nodded, looking around. "Just how far do the grounds go?"

"Further than you can see from the roof," she chuckled softly. "It extends to the fence line in all directions, and to the ocean that way," she waved towards the cliffs. "Several thousand acres, as I understand."

Chester whistled lowly, shaking his head. "Like a small city."

"Not quite so self contained, but if our numbers reach what the Prof expects, we will be in a few decades. A very self contained small city."

"Probably with one of the lowest crime rates in the world," he chuckled. "Nobody'd be crazy enough to try anything with what their neighbors are capable of."

"I'd credit that more to what the telepaths can find out, than that." She shook her head. "As testified by the existence of the Institute, such things do not discourage all inappropriate behavior."

"True," he admitted. "Speaking of rules, anything that common sense doesn't cover?"

"I doubt it," she smiled at him. "The big 'odd' one is to avoid using your powers visibly around the mundanes. Don't piss of Kris, the big black Lion, is an unofficial one, and avoid mentioning TRGI around the doc unless you're free for several hours and not afraid of fire."

"Who're they?"

"A cooperation out to use mutants to control things." She explained quietly. "Or at least control all mutants. It's a serious hot button with the doc. Almost a third of our residents are from a rescue raid we did against them a couple months ago. Lyal's still recovering."

"Poor guy," Chester said softly, shaking his head. "Sounds like they're a bunch of real bastards."

"That's the general assessment," Gaia nodded as they approached an Olympic sized swimming pool with several smaller ones nearby. "The big black one trying to swim is Kris." She giggled a bit at the giant black Lion that clearly did better simply walking on the bottom than trying to float.

"And I thought most felines didn't like water," he chuckled, shaking his head at the sight and then looking at the Lioness and Eagle by the pool, wondering who they were.

"Sandy is the Lioness. Kris's girlfriend." Gaia supplied with a chuckle. "The Eagle is our weather witch, Surauli."

"One of the teachers," he nodded, recognizing the name. "He do that often," Chester asked, referring to Kris' attempts at swimming.

"Only when Sandy starts to show of her skill." She grinned unrepentantly. "Kris is good at many things. Swimming is not one of them."

"What does she do," he asked with a chuckle. "Toss him in?"

"Nope, he follows her in, forgetting that he's too heavy to float, much less swim."

Chester tried, with mixed success at best, to keep from laughing as he pictured it.

"Well, at least he seems to be okay for walking out," he said after a moment, when he could control himself again. "Better than drowning."

"I don't think he *can* drowned." She regarded the irate Lion curiously. "At least not in metal form."

"Something tells me he'd rather have some help getting out than us wondering how he stays down," Chester chuckled slightly. "Too bad we don't have a crane handy... couldn't he just turn back to normal and come up?"

"Nah, Sandy'll bring him up when he calms down a it." She snickered a bit. "Telekinetics are useful."

"I'll bet," he nodded.

"Incoming." She grinned with a glance skyside. "Chester, this is Professor Jurnix, our headmaster." She introduced the Foxbat as he madea perfect touchdown in front of them.

"A pleasure to meet you, Professor," Chester said politely, extending his hand. It felt a little weird to shake hands with someone who had half their fingers elongated into a wing. The bones felt so delicate under the strength of the muscles in it.

"It is good to meet you awake," Jurnix smiled back at him. "How is the tour going so far?"

"Educational," Chester chuckled, careful not to tighten his grip. "And a little surreal."

"I believe that is a common reaction." He smiled reassuringly. "It becomes more normal in time."

"And probably weirder at the same time," Charlie chuckled agreeably. "I mentioned it to Gaia already, but thanks for getting me in and taking care of me before I woke up."

"You are most welcome," the Foxbat smiled warmly. "I consider it imperative that we take care of our own."

"Just a little strange to think of people who don't know anything about me being this nice," the Wolf smiled.

"Well, we did know a few things," Jurnix smiled softly.

"That you were one of us, for starters." Gaia added with a grin. "It's all we really needed."

"Oh yeah," he chuckled, "I'd told you I was on the way. Forgot about that," he admitted sheepishly.

"It is quite all right," Jurnix smiled and patted his shoulder. "You have had quite a morning already."

"And it's not over yet." Gaia added with a teasing grin.

"Yeah, we're only about half way through the tour," Chester nodded. "A pleasure to meet you, Professor."

"I will see you at dinner, then." The Foxbat smiled and nodded before launching himself skyward.

"Now, to hunt down Charlie and Melinda."

"Any gue- you don't need to guess," Chester reminded himself with a chuckle. "I'll sort it all out sooner or later."

"It takes time to get used to us," she nodded with a smile. "Melinda's probably in her workshop. She's our pyro, and quite a skilled welder with it."

"Cool," he grinned, his black tail wagging behind him.

"And one of the two unattached females on campus." She added with a grin.

"Why do I get the feeling that you're *trying* to set me up?" he grumbled good-naturedly, smirking back at her.

"Not really," she chuckled. "I don't think you really go with either of them, but after the pass you made on me, I thought I should mention it."

"Thanks," he chuckled slightly, rubbing his head sheepishly. "Though one of those wasn't *meant* to be a pass, honestly."

"I don't mind, honestly." She smiled at him. "But by boyfriend can get a little jealous sometimes."

"I'll keep it in mind," he chuckled. "Not that I expect it to be a problem - I can behave."

"I'm quite sure of it." She chuckled as they entered a metal worker's shop with it's smells of metallic things and the crackle and hiss of the torch. "Our Salamander should be around here somewhere."

"That way," Chester said certainly, nodding down one of the corridors that had been formed in the shop. It wasn't that the metal-shop was a mess; it was actually remarkably neat. It was just that the idea of organization seemed to be paid an unusual sort of lip service; one project or another, most of them finished or awaiting some final touch, was stacked off to the side. The paths were wide enough though, and the stacks thinned out the closer the two of them came to where Melinda was working.

"Behind the line," the Salamander warned them, extinguishing the flame she was working with and setting her project off to the side.

"Sorry," she explained, flipping up her mask. "Like to keep people out of casual range, just in case something goes screwy."

"Not that you've had that problem recently." Gaia chuckled at her. "Melinda, this is Chester, that rescue we grabbed a few days back."

"When you're the only one who isn't actively combustible, you be careful anyways," Melinda smirked, offering her hand to the Wolf. "Nice to meet you, Chester. Glad you're up and about."

"Not half as glad as I am," he chuckled. "Your work's pretty good, been doing this for long?"

"Month or two," the Salamander shrugged. "But thanks - it's a lot easier when you're a living blowtorch," she winked.

"In a place that doesn't mind it." Gaia chuckled.

"Of course," Melinda nodded as Chester took a slight step back. "On the other hand, if anybody ever asks how I do it, I can say 'trade secret' without feeling guilty," she chuckled.

"It's hardly a lie, after all." Gaia nodded and glanced over the current project. "What is this one?"

"Actually," Melinda chuckled a bit, stepping out of the way, "I'm not entirely sure. Trying out junk sculpture a bit, and it's not really something you want to tell somebody they're inspiration for," she admitted, ducking her head a little.

"Oh?" Gaia raised a curious eyebrow at that, resisting the temptation to just go look at the answer.

"The Professor," Melinda admitted, chuckling a bit and reaching over with her tail to pull it a bit more into view. It actually was a fairly good likeness, if you were trying to build a robot of the Foxbat out of the contents of a recycling bin.

"I expect he'd be flattered, given your first reaction to his name." Gaia smiled approvingly.

"I don't know," Melinda giggled, "if you think about it, I've been burning him in effigy."

"Do I even want to ask," Chester asked dubiously.

"Something my old 'employers' saddled me with," the Salamander growled, snapping her tail before shaking off the mood.

"Remember how I told you we do rescues?" Gaia looked over at the male Wolf. "Melinda was one of them."

"Okay," he nodded slightly, not really sure what, if anything to say.

"Hey, don't worry about it," Melinda said, grinning a bit. "I'm here, not there, and one of these days they'll decide it really wasn't a good idea to keep us there. Assuming they haven't already," she chuckled.

"If they haven't, we'll just have to remind them." Gaia grinned predatorily.

/"How much of what's been going on can he hear?"/ Melinda asked, keeping the question in the front of her mind, but not saying it, so the telepath could catch it without Chester overhearing.

*'All of it.'* She replied more directly but just as silently. *'He knows we do rescues and is interested in being on the team, eventually.'*

"Wouldn't mind reminding them at all," Melinda smirked after the split-second mental aside. "Or seeing that the public finds out what they're up to, but that's another thing entirely. At least they don't have their mutants anymore."

"And it's going to stay that way." Gaia nodded firmly.

"They even try and they're going to learn a few lessons about how they treated their first batch," Melinda said darkly. "And their families."

"Much to their regret." Gaia nodded, though her tone was soothing.

"Sorry," the Salamander said quietly, still noticeably agitated. "Just not as over things as some of us are," she added.

"It's okay," Gaia smiled gently and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I don't think anyone is 'over' anything, so much as dealing with it differently."

"Probably different things to deal with too," the Salamander admitted, calming down a bit further. "Just...." She shivered a bit, shaking her head. "Sorry," she said, looking over at Chester. "Don't usually get that wound up, honest," she added with a bit of a chuckle.

"It's okay," he nodded. "Sounds like you've got plenty to be wound up about."

"I don't think there is anyone here without metal scars of some kind." Gaia admitted softly. "Some more obvious than others, but life does not seem to be kind to our kind."

"Less to some than to others," Melinda agreed. "You know if the Professor is making any progress?"

"Some," she nodded. "Lyal's not civilian ready by any means, but I think he'll be able to stay in a room with us within the month."

"That's good," the Salamander nodded. "If he's starting to get better, he's probably starting to get a little stir-crazy in there most of the time."

"I know he's been out a couple times, with an escort," she nodded with a soft smile. "He seems to be doing much better. At least he doesn't cower all the time now."

"Great," Melinda smiled softly. "It'll be nice to get to know him, after he's better."

"So far, he's really sweet. And it's not in a faked way either." Gaia shook her head slightly. "I think he was always a kind of soft person, even before he got hurt."

"That sounds about right... I didn't know him well, they kept us all apart until we were 'conditioned' properly," Melinda explained. "But I remember that he always felt that way, when he wasn't cringing. Either that, or kind of scary, depending on why... but he shouldn't be like that anymore, after this, I hope."

"Sounds like he was a nice guy... will be, I guess," Chester said softly. "What do you mean, scary?"

"Everything he had bottled up inside him... if he was broadcasting, sometimes he seemed to break through to an angry part of him, one that could be violent if he had the nerve to."

"Everyone has that, somewhere in them." Gaia nodded slightly. "And it's true, too. One of the biggest tasks we have is getting him to understand how to let go of emotions that strong without broadcasting." She shook her head. "I really hope he doesn't want to be on the strike team." She added softly. "I don't think it would be good for him in the long run."

"No, it wouldn't," Melinda agreed, shaking her head. "I don't think he will, though. He's never fought in his life, physically, and he didn't like doing it mentally, as far as I could ever guess."

"That matches up with what I've seen in there." Gaia nodded slightly. "I am *so* going to kick that mage's butt when we catch him." She rumbled with a very Wolf-ish growl.

"Get in line," Melinda chuckled darkly. "Assuming the four of us can even touch him yet, he's going to be learning new definitions of employee dissatisfaction. I don't care what sort of spells he tries to use, he's going to need a resurrection when that happens."

"If there's enough of him left for *reincarnation* I won't be done with him." Gaia rumbled dangerously. "That cat needs to *die* and never come back."

"If you can find a way to do it, feel free," Melinda rumbled, licking her smooth lips to wet them. "Though somebody like him wouldn't come through reincarnation happily, I'm sure."

"Somebody who does what he's done...." Chester trailed off, shaking his head. "Forget it. Not my place to comment, sorry."

"It's okay, Chester." Gaia turned and squeezed his shoulder. "We don't usually get so worked up about things. It's just still pretty fresh for both of us. We shouldn't have gone off like that."

"It's okay," he nodded, shaking his head. "Just didn't like what I'd been thinking."

"That's not a bad thing, Chester." Gaia smiled gently at him. "The world would be a better place if more people didn't feel okay with the idea of extreme violence."

"Especially some of those ideas," he shuddered a bit. "Not that anybody'd really do those things."

"This guy might have surprised you," Melinda grumbled a bit. "You read minds? If you do, that might be where they came from... I can be noisy when I'm on that subject."

"No... probably something out of some movie I saw sometime," he shrugged. "Not going to worry about it."

"That's the spirit." Gaia grinned at him approvingly. "Now, care to track down the last of our little family here? You haven't seen Charlie yet, and Lyal might be up for company for a bit too."

"Yeah, we should probably let Melinda get back to work too," he smiled, shaking the Salamander's hand again. "Nice to meet you," he said sincerely. "And your work looks good."

"Thanks," she grinned. "See you around!"

"At dinner," Gaia shot back as they walked out. "I think he was headed for the beach. Something about trying on some fins for a change."

"There's a joke in there somewhere, but I think I'll keep my mouth shut," Chester chuckled as they worked their way out of the metal shop. "Does he do that sort of thing often?"

"Flying forms more than swimming, but we both do." She smiled at him and headed for the sealine.

"Just wondering if I needed to be careful about shooing off any stray cats wandering around or something," he grinned, following after her. "Bet there's all sorts of fun you can have with a power like that."

"Oh, it is," she grinned at memories new and old. "Honestly, the stray cats won't be us. We are largely limited to our original mass, more or less. It would be difficult at best to manage to squeeze almost three hundred pounds into a form that small."

"Either that, or a stray cat that'd knock down a wall," he chuckled. "So he'll probably be a dolphin or a shark or something?"

"Shark, or a dolphin with gills." She nodded with a chuckle for the mental image of a 300lb housecat. "He's coming in to shore now." She added as they neared the sandy waterline. As they watched, a dolphin leaped out of the water, shimmering in mid-air before it splashed back beneath the water.

"I'm guessing that's probably him," Chester grinned, just before a half-horse, half-fish pulled up onto the beach.

"That was me," it confirmed, grinning and winking at him. "Figured it'd be polite if I at least had hands," Charlie winked, extending a remarkably dry one to Chester.

"Have a fun swim?" Gaia grinned at him and claimed a shameless kiss in her natural form before slipping back into a shewolf.

"Not the most fun," Charlie winked, shifting his lower half into jean-clad legs, "but good, given that I wasn't watching out for you to come shooting out of nowhere. So you're Chester," he asked, turning towards the black-furred Wolf and putting an arm around Gaia's waist.

"Yep," he nodded, half-grinning. "And I think we've agreed that you're Charlie."

"He better be," Gaia said in mock sternness. "Or I'm going to have to hurt somebody." She snickered. "I like my horsie."

"And he likes his, even when she's a Wolf," Charlie grinned, kissing her playfully. "So, how's your tour going?"

"It's getting more entertaining with every stop," Chester smirked unrepentantly.

"You think we're bad, wait until you meet Snapshot and Ginny," Charlie winked.

"We did, though they were playing fetch with a tennis ball at the time." Gaia giggled. "Didn't stick around long enough to see anything else."

"With that pup, you might not see anything else," Charlie pointed out with a chuckle. "Doesn't always mean it didn't happen. Okay, so maybe we're the worst you've seen so far, but we're still dressed."

"Don't worry about it," Chester chuckled. "You're behaving, right?"

"So far," she grinned at him with a wink. "No promises after you're back at the house. Water games are fun."

"Well," he chuckled, "if you'd like, I should be able to find my way back from here."

"Don't worry about it," Gaia grinned and walked over to him. "It's not like we don't have plenty of time to play, and you haven't met Lyal yet. The Prof has him out and about right now."

"That's faster than the last time," Charlie observed. "Must be doing better. Glad he's responding so well."

"Sounds like he really went through the wringer," Chester agreed.

"More like the meat grinder," the Draft Horse winced. "But he's getting better, that's what's important."

"Yeah, he's still pretty easily spooked, but he's almost ready to have a room upstairs with the rest of us, instead of down in medical." Gaia nodded. "It'll be months yet before he's ready for the outside, even with one of us, but at least he won't be stuck in that little room all the time."

"Just hope that doesn't make him more nervous," Charlie mused. "Though the rest of us adjusted pretty well to the extra space, so hopefully he will too."

"He does seem to like getting out, though couple times we've given him litter tours of the place." Gaia commented quietly. "I think he'll adapt fine."

"I hope so," Charlie nodded as they moved towards the mansion. "It'd be nice to see him getting along with the world for once."

"Yeah, especially with his power." She shook her head slightly. "I think the world will appreciate not feeling it too." She suddenly grinned teasingly. "But what a rush he'd be in bed."

"Just remember babe," the Clydesdale chuckled, shaking his head, "you'll probably 'hear' him, if that ever comes up."

"Like I don't hear the puppies all the time." She rolled expressive bright blue eyes. "I can shield when I don't feel like catching it."

"I think we all hear them," Charlie snickered. "And only earplugs shield against that."

"Something tells me that I'm in way over my head here," Chester chuckled.

"Sorry," she smiled sheepishly at him. "We're one big family for the most part. We tend to tease everyone."

"I think every family does," he chuckled. "I was just thinking along the lines of what it'll be like trying to sleep, from the sound of things," he winked.

"Oh, that's what the soundproofing is for." Gaia smirked. "It's just occasionally that somebody forgets to keep it to the bedrooms.

The black Wolf chuckled, shaking his head. "Somehow, I'm not surprised. Any preferred spots, so I know if I should knock first before heading into, say, the gym?"

"Mmm, well, we tend to forget when we're skyside." She blushed slightly under short dapple gray fur. "The puppies ... anywhere there is water, especially the hot tubs. The docs are pretty good about keeping it private. Oh, and the movie room if there's a particularly hot movie playing, which is most nights now."

"Figures," he chuckled. "Sounds like I'll need to start dating somebody in self-defense."

"If not, I know I good adult shop for toys." Gaia offered innocently.

"Uh - no thanks," he said quickly, blushing beneath his dark fur as Charlie chuckled. At seventeen his girlfriend knew more about sex and toys for entertainment than most folks three times her age.

"Just offering." She smiled reassuringly at him. "Do you know what the Internet is?"

"What it is, I think so, though how to use it I'll have to brush up on," Chester admitted. "

"I think so," Chester nodded. "Probably going to have to brush up on how to use it again, though. Probably going to want to pick something a little tamer for the subject matter though," he added with a blush.

"No problem," she grinned at him. "I think I warned you how this is a bunch of teenagers. At least I intended to."

"Yeah, you did," he admitted with a chuckle. "Guess I just didn't quite figure out how serious you were," he half-grinned.

"Lyal's in the garden, feeling the birds and flowers," Gaia informed them and led the way with long familiarity.

Chester cocked his head curiously as he followed with Charlie. "Feeling them?"

"Yeah, or at least that seems to be what he's doing." She shrugged slightly. "I think that empathy thing he has goes both ways."

"I'm pretty sure it did," Charlie confirmed.

"Sounds kinda strange," Chester admitted. "Didn't know flowers had feelings to pick up like that."

"Hasn't been outside since he was a kid, until he got here," the Clydesdale pointed out. "Probably picking up some strange things from them, but new things too."

"Poor kid," the Wolf said softly.

"Yeah, it's rough. It's *so* tempting to just clear all that pain out and give him a fresh start, but it's not what he wants." She said softly. "Same with Melinda and Lightning, though they weren't nearly as bad off."

"They still want to take things out on the people responsible, especially Melinda," Charlie said softly. "Can't say I blame them. Lyal... I don't know why not, but it might be the same thing."

"Or maybe he just doesn't want to lose who he is," Chester said softly.

"Probably not," she nodded thoughtfully. "Same reason I didn't want my bad memories erased, just dulled."

"Did he take that much?" Charlie asked softly.

"It honestly wasn't an option." Gaia sighed. "There wasn't enough decent times in there to use normal therapy to any real effect. Not and give him any kind of life while he was still young enough to enjoy it."

"They got him young," Charlie sighed. "I think I remember when he came in, honestly. Just a kit."

"Bastards," Chester growled softly.

"Yeah, it's one seriously sick mage, and a company not much better." Gaia muttered. "I think we're all looking forward to taking them down."

"Painfully," he agreed, shaking his head. "How'd you get them out, without doing the job then?"

"They were prisoners," Gaia explained quietly. "It was a infiltration and rescue strike. We were only four, going after nine."

"I gave them the info to get in and get out as fast as they could," Charlie explained. "Didn't have to fight anybody in the end."

"Sounds like a good thing," Chester agreed, nodding a bit. "Sorry."

"It's okay, Chester." She put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure you'll get your chance."

"Probably," he agreed. "Just have to see what happens - he'll get it in the end, one way or another."

"Very true," she nodded with a determined look as they approached Professor Jurnix and a very skittish looking tabby tomcat.

Charlie and Chester both waited quietly, not wanting to startle him from his half-focus on the living things surrounding him in the garden. After a short moment, he snapped out of it and turned around to look at them.

"Oh! Sorry," he said shyly, "didn't notice anybody coming."

"No problem." Gaia smiled warmly at him. "Our newest resident wanted to meet you." She motioned to the Wolf behind her. "Lyal, this is Chester."

"Hi," Chester smiled back. "Nice to meet you."

"Thanks," Lyal blushed, his tail waving a bit behind him. "Nice to meet anybody," he chuckled a bit, glancing at Charlie.

"Good to see you out and about, Lyal," the Clydesdale grinned. "And relaxing a bit."

"Thought it was you," the tabby nodded after a moment. "And thanks, for helping them give me the chance."

"We're glad he did." Gaia smiled gently at the feline. "No one should have to live like that."

"No," he shuddered a bit. "Sorry I've put you through so much trouble, though, you and the Professor," he said, looking up at the Foxbat.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Lyal." Jurnix said firmly. "Only the one who did this to you and the others."

"Yeah," she smiled at him. "We're glad to help."

"Thanks," he nodded, a little uncertainly. "Just... you've done so much, and I know I haven't really been easy about it, especially not early on. Don't know how I'll repay all of you."

"By not letting that monster win." Gaia said firmly. "He tried to take your life away. Having a good life is the best payback you can give us."

"Okay," he said shyly, nodding a bit. "I'll try."

"Not too hard." Jurnix said gently and put a firm hand on Lyal's shoulder. "It's not an order or mission. It is something you deserve to have."

"I'll try to keep that in mind," Lyal nodded, though his expression as he looked up at the Foxbat spoke volumes of just how alien both concepts were - being told something that wasn't an order, and the idea that he deserved something like that.

"It'll be easier than you think," Charlie smiled. "You can trust the people here."

"I'm figuring that out," the tabby half-grinned, his pleasure at that being true spreading to the unshielded minds of Charlie and Chester before he caught himself, taking control of his powers again.

"Sorry," he said softly, ducking his head.

"Hay, it was a good feeling." Chester grinned at him. "I didn't mind at least."

"Still need to try and keep it down," Lyal blushed. "But thanks."

Chester started to say something, then ducked his head.

"You'll get used to it." Gaia told Lyal even as she looked at Chester curiously.

"Yeah," the tabby nodded, cocking his head slightly as he looked at the larger black Wolf. "Is there something wrong?"

"Nah, I'm fine." Chester shook his head.

"...Okay," Lyal nodded, reminding himself not to confirm the response.

"So are you going to be joining us for dinner tonight?" Gaia asked pleasantly, curious as hell what Chester was reacting to, but hoping it would tern out good for both of them.

"I think that's up to the Professor," he said, looking up at the Foxbat. "Not sure if I'm safe for something like that yet."

"I believe it would be a good idea," he smiled at both the newcomers. "Between myself and Gaia it should not be difficult to keep things under control."

"As much as they ever are." She snickered.

"Okay," Lyal said shyly.

"It'll be great having you with us, Lyal," Charlie smiled. "Melinda'll be happy to see you out too."

"I think there's time to catch one more spot if you want to." Chester smiled fondly at the still easily spooked tabby tomcat he'd been playing natural world tour guide to all day and having the time of his short life with.

"If you don't mind," Lyal nodded shyly, smiling at the black-furred Wolf. He'd been having a blast today, and actually been fairly comfortable despite the crowds at the zoos they'd been to. "Thanks for coming with me today, Chester," he added, his tail swaying happily behind him.

"I wouldn't have suggested it if I minded." He chuckled and put a strong hand lightly on Lyal's shoulder. "I like being around you when you're having fun."

"Thanks," the tabby smiled, blushing a bit, though he didn't pull away from the contact like he used to. "I like being around you too."

"Good." The big Wolf smiled, then grunted in pain as a hard blow cracked against the back of his skull, sending him to his hands and knees with a tenuous grip on consciousness.

Lyal spun around, stumbling back a step or two as he saw the terrifying dead-eyed looks he'd long associated with those broken even further than he'd been. Those with broken minds as much as spirits. Reflexively, he lashed out at the one who'd hit Chester, channeling his fear and confusion the way he'd been taught for years, though with the control he'd only been learning for weeks.

He reeled back about the same time the huge canine opposing him did, his mind awash with the chaotic feedback of a mind so hyped up on drugs it didn't comprehend fear ... or anything else sane. It was a struggle, but the tabby closed off his mind almost like slamming a door shut, trembling even as he stood his ground, praying that they'd go away.

He glanced around slightly, trying to figure out if there was anybody else around.

"Wh-what do you want," he asked, trying to keep most of the tremble out of his voice, and not doing the best job of it ever.

"Maybe just your money." Another of them, a dark feline nearly as big as the leader smirked as they advanced. "Maybe that tight ass of yours."

Something deep inside the scrawny tabby started to wake up at that suggestion, but he kept it under control. Even so, memories too numerous for the Professor and Gaia to completely erase and leave anything of him intact started to resurface, bolstering his flagging resolve.

"Here," he said, pulling out his wallet and holding it out to them, "everything I've got, take it. Please."

Before any of them could react, much less choose, a black explosion of rage and outrage stole the choice from them. Instincts and muscle knowledge that predated his current defensive training took over Chester's thoughts with a single directive: Kill.

Lyal staggered back out of the way, anything resembling a plan disappearing in a flash as the Wolf tore into the drugged thugs. Part of him knew he should call for help of some sort, but he couldn't say anything, frozen and feeling distinctly useless as he watched Chester bite and claw and hit with all his power and the thugs tried to scramble away as they realized a demon was in their midst.

By the time sirens were heard Chester was panting, blood dropping from his jaws and hands while he loomed over the body of the leader and something in him stopped him from pursuing the other two into the darkness.

Lyal's first instinct was to get out, get away before the cops were there, and he ended up in trouble for what had happened. Fortunately, it didn't win out. He told himself that they hadn't done anything wrong, and they hadn't really had a choice in the matter.

Something also told him that Chester wasn't likely to be coherent enough to make that choice. The tabby tried to calm himself, at least about what was about to happen, and tried projecting that into the Wolf, still operating nearly on instinct.

"I'm sorry," he murmured softly, hoping it would work. "Just stay here, Chester, we'll be okay.... We'll be okay," he repeated, convincing himself as much as, or more than, the blood-soaked Wolf he was hoping to.

Much to his relief, Chester nodded and forced himself to stand. He shook his entire body, sending blood flying everywhere. With a deep breath he turned his head towards the flashing lights of the oncoming police, the small crowd that had gathered and then down at himself and the bloody pulp that was the gangster.

"Go to the car." He instructed quietly. "No need for you to face them if they don't *ask* for you."

"Okay," Lyal nodded, swallowing hard and going to the car, climbing in quietly, but watching the scene to see what developed. He was almost certain they'd want to talk to him. Unless something went very, very wrong... and he wasn't quite sure what he'd do if that happened.

Chester focused on breathing deeply to calm himself as much as he could and push the questions about why being blood-soaked made him hard as a rock in his jeans. The cops pulled up to the scene, lights flashing as the officers got out, looking at the scene in disbelief.

"Holy Hell," one of them, a tall Shepherd, muttered, looking at the Wolf with his hand near his sidearm. "What happened here?"

"This one and two accomplices attacked me." He said simply, meeting the Shepherd's eyes evenly without concealing how badly the entire event had rattled him. "I fought back."

"I'll say," the cop said, looking at the bloody, barely-recognizable remains. "Anybody else here see what happened?" he asked, looking at the gathered crowd while his partner called for the coroner and backup.

"I did," a small Sheltie spoke up, her thick fur all puffed up in distress. "I had dinner at the table next to them. Sweet guys. They were headed for their car when that big one," she motioned to the body, "clobbered the Wolf with a pipe, dropped him to his knees. Then they went after his friend when Kristy," she nodded to the darker Sheltie next to her, "called you. Next thing I know the little cat is offering his wallet and they aren't taking it and the Wolf just exploded. I've never seen *anything* move like that outside Animal Planet."

"What cat?" The officer's partner asked Chester.

"Friend of mine," Chester said, trying to fight back the nerves he was getting talking to the cops. "He's pretty shaken up."

The Malamute nodded as his partner continued to gather witness statements. "Where is he?"

"In the car," he sighed slightly. "You don't have to talk to him though ... right? He wasn't hurt, stopped them before that happened ... he couldn't tell you anything they can't," he added, nodding towards the crowd.

"We have to talk to all the witnesses and participants." He explained simply and firmly. "Especially in a death case."

"Good luck finding the two who were with that one," Chester muttered, glancing at the body near his feet, wondering at the mixed feelings he had about it. "Should I go tell him to come out?"

"No, you stay by the squad car." He instructed firmly before turning to go to the only car with an occupant and motioned him to step out.

Lyle climbed out slowly, looking every bit as rattled as he was inside, looking back at Chester for any sort of sign that things were going well, and getting a reassuring look from the Wolf.

"Y-yes, Officer," he asked, looking at the Malamute and licking his dry lips.

"In your own words, what happened here?" He asked simply, moving to block Lyal's line of sight to Chester.

"Ch-Chester and I were coming back from dinner," the tabby explained, trying to get a hold of himself again. He took a deep breath and continued, a bit more sure of himself now. "We were heading for the car when one of those people hit him from behind, the dead one. I asked what they wanted, and another one of them, a dark Cat, said they wanted our money, and maybe...." He shivered, shaking his head.

"I tried to give them what I had, but they didn't look like they were going to take it ... they were on something, don't know what, but they were high on something. I don't know when Chester woke up, but that was when everything sort of went crazy. He's not hurt, is he? I ... I couldn't be sure...."

"He's not claiming any injuries." The Malamute told him simply. "Who saw what happened?"

"I don't know," Lyal said, frowning a bit as he thought. "I didn't see anybody else on the street, but there were people in the restaurant and shops. I was kinda focused on what was happening," he admitted.

"That's all right." He said more gently. "Please stay next to your car's hood."

"Okay," Lyal nodded, doing as he was told, turning his nervousness about the entire situation back in on itself, keeping the worst of it from showing as the cops kept an eye on him while they tended to everyone else and did their routines.

Eventually Chester let out a breath and happily trotted back to the car. "Lets get the hell out of here."

"Everything's okay," Lyal asked hopefully. "You're not hurt, are you?"

"Just a headache." The big Wolf smiled reassuringly and quickly got behind the wheel. "Now buckle up before they change their minds."

"Okay," Lyal nodded, climbing in and buckling up quickly. "Let's go home."

Lyal was waiting nervously outside the briefing room as they talked to Chester inside. They'd already talked to him about what had happened; he'd finished cleaning up sooner, and ended up getting to go over everything first.

He didn't *think* Chester was going to get in trouble, but he still couldn't shake the 'what if' out of his head.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the door opened, and the black-furred Wolf walked out.

"You're not in trouble, right," the tabby asked quickly, hopping to his feet and looking up at his friend hopefully.

"No, no trouble." He smiled down and gently squeezed the cat's shoulder. "I just defended us, nothing more."

"Okay," Lyal smiled. "Your head's okay, right? He hit you pretty hard...."

"Yeah, head's fine." He grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Doc's good at fixing headaches."

No, she should be, unless she's a real pessimist. She may not be 'late' however. If she reacted like me, she won't have a cycle at all.

"Good," Lyal smiled, sighing in relief. Suddenly, impulsively, he shifted to hug the big Wolf close. "Thank you."

After a moment of surprise, Chester returned the hug, but much more gently.

"You're welcome, Lyal." He smiled softly. "Are you going to be okay?"

"I... think so," he nodded slightly. "Don't think this'll bother me."

"Would ... you like someone to stay tonight?" He asked just as uncertainly. "To keep any nightmares away?"

"'s not a problem," Lyal smiled shyly, looking up at Chester. "I don't want to be a bother, you've already done so much."

"You aren't a bother, Lyal." He squeezed the lean cat gently.

"You're too nice," the tabby blushed, squeezing Chester back. "I'd like that though.... Chester? If I get 'noisy,' wake me up, okay? You don't need that," he explained softly.

"I will." He promised with a soft smile, privately doubting it would be a problem.

"Thanks," Lyal smiled, not seeming to realize he was supposed to let go at some point for a moment. "Sorry," he blushed, once he realized how long he'd been wrapped around the Wolf.

"Hay, it's okay." Chester smiled down at him easily. "I kinda like you there."

"Good," he blushed, nuzzling his chest lightly. "'Cause I kinda like being here."

"Let's get to your room before someone complains." The Wolf chuckled lightly and licked one thin triangular ear.

"Yeah," Lyal giggled a bit, stepping back. "Not that most folks around here have any real right to. C'mon," he grinned, leading the way towards his room.

The Wolf knew the way, but he was happy for the guide as his mind was elsewhere, mostly trying to figure out how to breach the subject of where he was going to sleep. Fortunately, Lyal seemed to have that covered as he opened the door.

"I've only got the one bed in here," he explained, walking into the sparsely decorated room. "You mind sharing it? It's big enough we should both fit pretty easily."

"Yeah, no problem." He nodded and quickly dealt with question two: just how much did he get to undress? Shoes to be sure, maybe his shirt, but probably not more.

"Uhm ... I'm gonna go change quick," Lyal explained, looking back at Chester as he fished around in one of his dresser drawers. "Make yourself comfortable?"

"Sure thing," he nodded more at ease than he felt. After a moment's hesitation he stripped down to his boxers and got under the sheets, putting himself between where Lyal would be and the door.

A few minutes later, the gray-furred tabby came out of the bathroom connected to his room, dressed much as Chester was in dark shorts and nothing else. He climbed into the bed and snuggled up with the Wolf shyly.

"Thanks again," he purred, sinking into the thick black fur a bit. "You're soft."

"Thanks," he smiled back, somewhere between shy and pleased. After a moment's hesitation, he shifted to loop one arm around Lyal and drew him a little closer without confining him.

"So are you." He murmured, his fingers playing along the cat's side.

"Thanks," Lyal blushed, running his hands along Chester's back lightly, privately surprised at how good this felt inside. "And thank you, for waking up when you did... don't know what I'd have done if you didn't, but it would've been bad either way."

"I wasn't knocked out," the Wolf rumbled softly, forcibly keeping his arousal in check. "Just down. I couldn't let you get hurt again."

"That's an idea that'll take a little getting used to," Lyal chuckled weakly. "Wish I'd been able to do something to help... felt like I just bounced off the first one."

"That's kind of what it looked like." He nodded slightly. "I'm sure they were high as a kite on a half dozen things."

"They were," Lyal nodded, a shiver of tension running through his frame as he recognized the familiar, if faint, scent of Chester's arousal, and the conflict between what he remembered that scent meaning, and the safety he felt with the Wolf, started deep inside him. "The first one at least. If the other two were that bad... all I could've done would be start a riot...." He shook his head a bit, both at that thought, and the ones deeper down.

"Yeah," Chester murmured, stroking Lyal's side absently. "It's okay now. You're safe now."

"Yeah... I am," Lyal nodded, trying to make himself believe it as he held the Wolf close. "You won't hurt me," he added with a soft murmur, almost whispering, even as he reflexively tucked his tail up between his legs.

"No, I won't." Chester looked at him very seriously. "I will never hurt you. I'll never force you into anything."

"I thought I was the empath," the tabby chuckled weakly. "I... I want to trust you. I do trust *you*, it's just... deep," he said, closing his eyes helplessly. "It'll be okay."

"I understand." He nuzzled the cat gently. "It'll come in time. You've got a lot to cope with."

"And you shouldn't have to deal with it," he murmured softly. "You're better than that.... Uhm... I'd still like you to stay here tonight, if it's okay?"

"I care about you, Lyal." He said softly but firmly. "And I take care of those I care about." He paused to nuzzle him lightly. "I want to stay."

"You're staying then," Lyal smiled softly, returning the nuzzle, trying to figure out exactly what Chester had meant by the first part. "I... think I care about you too, Chester," he added softly, as he started to put together the feelings he'd picked up on and matched them to the way the Wolf always made him feel.

"Don't stress about it too much." He advised the cat with a warm smile, heartened by the statement. "This is good."

"Okay," Lyal smiled, nuzzling him gently and starting to purr, a slightly raspy, underused sound coming from him. "Sleep well, Chester."

"You too, Lyal." He smiled softly.

The Future is Wyld 3: Wolf in the Fold

PG-13 for Violence

87 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written April 17, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: JIG

Primary Races: Bat, Canine, Equine, Feline, Mutant

Contents: Furry. Gen. Violence

Pairings: None

Blurb: When a homicidal rapist begins to display mutant powers, a side of Jurnix's school comes to light for some of the newer members.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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