Unusual Partners: Foreign Tiger 5:
Shadowed Lives

by Fur and Fantasy
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

About ten days into the trip to Felsinor, Jake noticed that Nathan was becoming noticeably moody and uneasy. He spent a lot of time looking at landscape shots of his homeworld, especially shots of the northern continent.

"Remembering good times?" she asked quietly, coming up to nuzzle him gently.

"Trying to see if anywhere looks familiar." Nathan said quietly. "And trying to decide how I feel about this idea that I might actually still have family."

"I thought he said they were dead?" Jake asked gently.

"No, I mean that the extended family might still acknowledge me." Nathan said quietly. "I'd always thought that was a lost cause."

"Oh," she nodded, not getting that at all but willing to accept it was important to her mate, and deciding if 'freak of nature' could be applied to anything, it was going to be the kits, his ... whatever was going on there ... and mentioning that was not a good thought now. "I take it you were from somewhere not really on the maps."

"No, not really. That was part of the point. It was in one of the large undeveloped areas of the planet." He said quietly. "Problem is, I don't ever recall seeing it from the air."

"So we narrow it down other ways." Jake said simply. "What do you remember there?" she asked and settled to take control of the portable console, bringing up a search field.

"Lots of trees, a big mountain lake, and big cabin, which probably isn't there anymore." He said quietly.

"River?" she asked as the searched narrowed down to a few dozen options. "Approximate elevation?"

"I seem to recall a river." Nathan said quietly. "I have no idea what the elevation was. It's not something a five year old thinks about."

"Okay," she nodded, scanning the remaining sites. "Do you remember if the lake was inside a mountain, volcanic in origin, or not?"

"A mountain valley, I think." Nathan said trying to pull the pictures together. "Glacial formation, I believe."

"Well, that narrowed it down to about a dozen sites," she murmured. "Any large grassy areas? Was the treeline all the way down to the lake, or was there a boarder there, of grass or sand or rock?"

"Grass down to a short sandy beach, as I recall. The trees weren't that dense as you got closer to the lake."

"Well, that knocked out three of them at least." she considered the list and sorted them for probability in her own opinion before handing it back. "Maybe one of those will look familiar. It's at least a good short list for when we get on the ground."

"Thanks, Jake." Nathan smiled softly, as he took the portable console in one hand. With the other hand, he pulled Jake in close for a loving kiss that was returned with the gentile passion that had become the former tom's usual inclination since getting pregnant.

"Alliance Shuttle, this Felsinor Space Control. What is your destination?" A polite female voice asked as the shuttle approached the blue-green world.

"Try to get us cleared to Dashkar." Nathan asked quietly. "It's the major northern starport."

"Requesting clearance to dock at Dashkar," Jake replied with a female voice that was beginning to register as her own.

"Acknowledged Alliance Shuttle." The female voice said politely after a brief pause. "Please follow flight path two-seven-three-Delta, until you reach Dashkar Control airspace."

Nathan quickly brought up the flight path on the air-space control system, and altered the shuttle's path into it.

"Understood, Felsinor Space Control." Jake nodded to himself as he answered and clicked the link off.

"Good." Nathan said quietly. "Dashkar's significantly smaller than the capital." He said as they dropped through the clear blue skies.

"It's also closer to most of the locations we need to check out too," she leaned back a little and watched the world so much like Aristal approach. Of all the ways she thought she might see another world, this was not on the list.

"Wow." Dar and Ker said simultaneously looking out the windows. "Is all that blue water?" Dar asked quietly.

"Yeah, it is." Nathan smiled as they dropped lower. "You two have never seen a planet before?"

"Nah, just space." Ker said quietly.

"To be honest, I've only seen a few in passing." Trace said quietly, also looking out a window. "Most Mephit worlds aren't this pretty."

"Somehow, I am just not surprised," Jake murmured, her eyes fixed on the slowly rotating globe until they were close enough only the shuttle's movements showed.

"Alliance Shuttle, this is Dashkar Airspace Control please pick up beacon three-two-zero and follow it in. Please report to Customs once you've landed." A young male voice directed.

"Understood Dashkar Airspace Control," Jake answered as the shuttle gracefully veered to the new course.

"Look at those beaches." Nathan commented quietly, as they came in over the ocean toward the bustling spaceport. "White sand, blue water and lots of sun." He smiled softly.

"And so many people." Trace commented quietly.

"Fewer than where I'm from," Jake murmured, still awestruck by it after so long in space and away from anything vaguely resembling a real world. "But the beaches look similar."

Nathan was quiet for awhile as he threaded the shuttle through the traffic around the spaceport. He wasn't used to flying anything as large as the shuttle in actual traffic. With a fighter it would've been a no brainer but the shuttle was an entirely different beast. "Landing gear is down and locked." Nathan said as the shuttle touched down softly. "Engines off. Reactors to idle." He said as he released his safety harness and stood. "Shall we go deal with the bureaucracy?" He smiled, extending a hand to Jake.

"Better now than later," she smiled wearily and warily as he took his hand and moved close to his mate. "Come on guys, let's get it over with."

The three bats fell in behind Nathan and Jake as the hatch opened and they descended to the smooth concrete of the landing pad. The sun was bright and warm, with a cool breeze blowing in off the ocean. Other craft were taking off and landing, and various announcements could be heard coming from the spaceports PA system, though they couldn't be understood over the roar of engines.

"Sunglasses." Nathan commented as they headed for the terminal building. "Knew there was something I was forgetting."

"Easy enough to pick up," Jake nuzzled him gently while shading his eyes.

"True." Nathan smiled, as they entered the climate-controlled main building. "Ah, there's Customs." He smiled pointing to the busy office across the observation deck from them.

"Now for several miles of paperwork, no doubt," Jake cracked something of a smirk.

"I'm hoping my cousin gave them enough to keep it under a mile." Nathan chuckled. Trace and his sons were staying close to the two felines, but were still watching the crowds in the terminal in fascination.

"Excuse me." A polite female voice next to Nathan said, causing him to look at the young female Lynx in what he guessed was a Custom's uniform. "Are you Nathan SwiftClaw?"

"I am."

"If you and your party will come with me, I'll show you to Immigration." She smiled. "Though we're part of Customs, we have our own office. Captain Setzen told me you'd be coming through."

"Did he now?" Nathan asked curiously. "You know him?"

"Good friend from college." She smiled. "He asked me to keep an eye out for a Tiger, a cinnamon feline and three bats. I thought he was joking."

"No joke." Nathan smiled. "Why don't you lead the way?" He gestured with the arm that wasn't around Jake.

"This way." She smiled and led them up the stairs that overlooked the observation lounge to an office considerably less busy.

"Okay, if you all take a seat we can start filling out all the required paperwork." She smiled as the five took available seats. "Just need to flesh out some details that the Alliance paperwork overlooked. Trace, Dar and Ker do you have last names?"

Trace shook his head. "Our culture does not use them. But if would make your paperwork easier, you could use Chiran as a 'last name'." He suggested.

"Thank you, though not required it does make the paperwork computer happier." She shook her head. "Jake, what is your species called? I'm surprised to see that medical never asked."

"Kat," she said quietly. "With a K. He probably figured I was close enough to Felsin to pass for one."

"Close but enough difference to be noticed." She nodded. "But it's just for record keeping, and so medical professionals don't make assumptions." She nodded. "Seeing as your all refugees of one kind or another, you'll be assigned a case officer whose job will be to help you get settled and find a place in Felsin society. The Immigration Bureau also provides financial support for refugees while they figure out what career they wish to pursue. Am I correct that you will need support, that you didn't bring funds with you?"

"Support would be appreciated," Jake nodded quietly, hating being in this position with ever fiber but not willing to let her pride make things harder than they already were, especially with kits coming in a few months. "We don't have much but ourselves."

"That's the case with most new arrivals who've had Mephit run-ins." She said politely. "What was your previous occupation? And is it something you want to continue?"

"Jake's got a pregnancy to deal with now." Nathan stepped in. "But I've got a solid military background, you'd be hard to match except someone else with 10 years on the frontline." He said simply. "But I'm not really looking to return to the frontline."

"Understood." She nodded. "That still leaves a lot of options in teaching and consulting, as well as home guard duty."

"Or a security consultant." Nathan said quietly. "I know a lot about security systems and how to bypass them."

"You don't want to fly?" Jake nuzzled him gently.

"Oh, and I can fly anything with wings." Nathan grinned sheepishly. "So test pilot is an option too." He chuckled before kiss Jake gently. "Thanks, partner."

"I'm a good power maintenance engineer." Trace volunteered. "Or fluid transfer engineer, or a lot of other things that involve the flow of things, especially power or fuel. Dar and Ker are kits, and should be studying something."

"How old are they?" She asked curiously.

"They're both ten. Same litter." He explained. "Though if I understand your system, they already have what you would call a high school education."

"We'll probably want to have them take a few education background tests, to be sure but sounds like college would be the next step." She nodded. "Actually, there'll probably be a fair number of tests for all of you, since your backgrounds aren't documented. Jake, are you planning to pursue a career after the kittens are born?" She asked curiously, catching the former tom completely off guard.

"Urr, haven't gotten that far," she murmured sheepishly. "But certainly when they're older. I'm a top-notch gunner, and good mechanic. Nathan can do nearly photographic quality artwork too," she added as she tried to sort out just what she was good at. Her mate definitely had all the skills.

"By good mechanic, Jake means he can make jets do things nobody expects. Probably can design from scratch to, if he wanted to." Nathan smiled, not entirely sure what pronouns to use. There weren't any for a male mind, in a female body.

"I can," she nodded. "I can do a good number on motorcycles and cars too. And a few oddities I'm not sure what to call. It shouldn't take me long to catch up to speed on the local tech."

"And only a little longer to start pushing the edge of it." Nathan chuckled.

"Well, you could always do home study." She suggested. "The major universities have distance learning arrangements, so you could get a degree without having to make the daily trip to classes."

"Fortunately it'll be about another nine months locally before it's critical to choose," she said softly with a hand on her still flat belly. "Truth is, I can do almost anything I decide to."

"And he's not exaggerating." Nathan said supportively.

"Somehow I think the biggest difficulty is going to be for you three to decide what you want to do." She smiled. "Case officers love working with that sort of problem."

"I bet they do. Looks good on their track record." Nathan grinned. "So when do we meet this case officer?"

"He'll be along presently." She nodded. "Any questions I can answer in the mean time?"

"How ... rare ... is female to functional male conversions?" Jake asked quietly. "This body wasn't exactly my idea."

"They're not common, but that's mostly because of the psychological testing required before a Healer will perform such a conversion. But the technique was developed a century ago, and has been improved dramatically in the last twenty years with developments in nanotechnology and retroviral genetic engineering." She explained easily. "However, since you were male originally there won't be any question of your sincerity in wanting to switch back. Which is what the psych testing is for."

"And it'll be at least a year before it's an option at any rate," she nodded, relaxing a bit. "Not until the kits are weaned."

"Of course." She nodded. "Though I'd recommend you look for a qualified Healer for the procedure before then. It takes a fair amount of time to design the procedure."

"Unlike the one that got me here," she chuckled mirthlessly. "I expect I'll be seeing a lot of Healers in the next couple years." Jake sighed in resigned acceptance of the reality. "Between kits, alien and that."

"Not by yourself, you won't." Nathan said a little protectively.

"Relax, partner," she abruptly shifted her focus to the Tiger to calm and reassure him. "You're not getting cut out of my life again."

"I'm just not leaving you in the hands of anybody I'm not sure of." He said quietly. "Not after what we've been through." He said, calming down slowly.

"I know, partner," she nuzzled him and pressed as close as the chairs permitted. "Take it on the bright side; we're together, we're going to have a family and things are looking up again."

"Yeah, I know." Nathan smiled softly. "Letting my guard down doesn't come easy. But things are good, partner." He said softly, and relaxed into the tender, reassuring kiss his mate gave him.

"And we have the skills to make sure it keeps getting better. For all of us." Jake rumbled with both determination and a complete willingness to take on another galactic power to ensure it was true.

Nathan nodded, and smiled. "All we have to do is decided what we want to do," he chuckled playfully.

"Don't feel like you have to rush that decision." A strong male voice belonging to tall, powerfully built Black Lion said casually. "Darin Stormguard, I'm your case manager." He said extending his hand which Nathan stood and shook firmly. "According to the medical files I was forwarded, the doc wanted you guys to take it easy for a while."

"Not my strong suit, Darin." Nathan chuckled. "I'm Nathan SwiftClaw, that's my partner Jake Clawson." He patted the shekat's shoulder. "And that's Trace, Dar and Ker." He gestured to the sleepy looking bats.

"A pleasure." He smiled, and extended a friendly had to Jake as well.

"I don't think it's any of our strong suits," Jake chuckled and accepted the handshake firmly, judging this Lion as he did everyone.

"Well, why don't we get the five of you settled somewhere so you can consider options." Darin smiled. "Any preferences or requirements in an apartment?"

"We have kits coming, probably two or three, so space for that," Jake started with what was first on his mind. "A good kitchen." He glanced at the five of them. "I think we're looking at something out of town for a permanent home."

"Then what we'll be finding today, won't be permanent." He nodded. "Just something to give you time to relax and look at your leisure."

"Master bath should have a large tub, preferably whirlpool." Nathan added to the list of requirements. "Master bedroom should be large."

"At least bedroom, should be able to be made completely dark." Trace asked quietly.

"Any preference for view, floor, or doesn't it matter?" The Lion asked.

"Not overlooking the municipal dump would be a plus, but either an ocean or forest view would be nice." Nathan suggested. "I don't particularly care what floor it's on."

"Within walking distance of either public transportation or the basics of a shopping center would be a definite plus." Jake added softly. "Since none of us has a drivers license here, or a vehicle. The shuttle is a bit much to take for grocery shopping," she added with a quirky smile.

"The public transportation network is very well-developed so there are few places that aren't." He nodded. "Though I imagine Nathan at least will probably be getting his driver's license in short order."

"Actually, I was thinking about my pilot's license." The Tiger chuckled. "But driver's license is good too."

"Getting all that stuff sorted out is good," Jake chuckled as they followed the Lion. "Especially before I start getting big and cranky."

"Ideally, I'd like to get our permanent place before that happens." Nathan said quietly. "Last thing you'll want to be doing is house hunting and moving."

"I think we've got four or five months before it gets bad," she supplied more quietly. "Though cranky can hit a lot earlier."

"We can take my SUV." Darin suggested as they reached the parking lot. "Fortunately, I got one of the big ones." He added as the reached the forest green luxury vehicle.

"Yes, we're a rather large group," Jake chuckled and slipped into the back seat with the bats.

"But a very attractive one." The Lion grinned, as Nathan got in the front passenger seat. "I've got a couple of potential places to look at. They're all set up to bill Immigration directly, till you get on your feet."

"Sounds good," Jake answered as she fastened his seat belt and turned to show the bats how.

Darin easily maneuvered the SUV through mid-day traffic, though the traffic wasn't even as heavy as Haven's. Though that was probably partially due to the fact that the traffic grid was operating in three dimensions instead of two. Jake spent most of the trip staring in lusty fascination at the flyers.

"We'll just have to get you one." Nathan said softly, when he looked back and saw his partner's fascination.

"After I learn how to fly it," the shekat purred, her eyes never leaving the traffic display. "It'll be useful when we settle a ways from the city too."

"That it will." Nathan nodded. "I still like the look of those." He said looking at sleek, high tech racing bikes in the traffic pattern.

"Mm, oh, yeah." Jake rumbled as she diverted her attention for a moment to catch what her partner was looking at.

"Here we are." Darin said as he pulled into a large parking garage. "Well, actually this is the parking garage attached to Starlight Towers. It was the closest of the places that fit your requirements." He said as he got out.

"As good a place to start as any." Nathan said, as he opened the door for his partner and the three bats.

"You can sort all that in your head that fast?" Jake blinked in surprise as he got out and snuggled against Nathan.

"Not exactly." Darin chuckled. "I've got a cyber implant that allows me to interface with the various databases. I ran a few searches."

The lean Kat blinked a couple times, then chuckled softly. "Cool trick."

"It was extremely valuable when I was in the military." He said as they entered the actual apartment building. "Made coordinating security details much easier."

"I can bet," Jake purred in fascination. "Are cybernetics like that common?"

"Not common, but then people still aren't entirely comfortable with the concept of implanted technology." He admitted. "But it's a reliable enough technology."

"I heard that the tech for letting two males reproduce isn't too strange either," she said hesitantly as they stepped into an elevator. "Having two fathers and no mother isn't something to be stared at?"

"Not hardly. That tech is moving into its third generation. We've got those kits having kits, both normally and lab."

"Good," Jake murmured and relaxed against her mate as the lift rose.

"Worth noting that we haven't seen any problems with the kits from that technology that are any different from kits produced the natural way." He smiled.

"Are there many doing more than two parents?" Nathan asked curiously.

"That's happening more often as triads become comfortable with the idea, but it's still quite uncommon."

"Most triads have a female, don't they?" Jake prompted.

"It's the most common arrangement, but you also have single gender triads, as well as triads of two females and one male." Darin explained, as they exited the lift. "That doesn't even get into the arrangements in the Joinings that are larger than three."

"A female in the group would really reduce the interest in looking at the technology." Jake said simply.

"Unless you want kits who are blood-related to all three." Darin explained. "That doesn't happen without technology."

"That's true," she nodded easily.

"Here we are." Darin announced opening the door into the large apartment. The living was large with a large balcony and glass sliding doors that opened onto a view of the ocean. There were two large overstuffed couches and a couple of padded chairs, along with an entertainment center. The decor was utilitarian, being done in fairly neutral tan and beige.

"How many bedrooms?" Jake asked, already calculating a new color scheme as he took in an initial good impression. "Very nice view."

"Four." Darin said, after checking. "And two bathrooms."

"Very good," Jake purred, more than a little pleased with it so far. "Why don't you show the kitchen to the cooks while I look around?"

"Okay." Darin smiled. "If the cooks will follow me." He said leading the way, through the dining room that was off the living room, followed by Nathan and Trace. Dar was examining the entertainment center, while Ker opened the sliding glass door an went out on the balcony to look out over the city.

"How's the kitchen?" Jake asked as she came back in to find both cooks still working around and Nathan making mental notes. "The rest looks great, except for no washer-dryer set."

"Excellent." Nathan grinned. "A bit low on stocks, and some pots and pans, but a trip to the store will fix that."

"Jake, did you see white cube about as tall as my waist, in the back?" Darin asked.

"Yes," he nodded. "That's the local version?"

"It's called a sonic 'fresher and it does the job of both the older devices." Darin nodded. "But is much easier on clothing."

"I am so not surprised," Jake nodded with a soft chuckle. "We are going to have to pick up a few other sets anyway," she nuzzled her mate playfully.

"Considering that we have one set a piece, I think so." Nathan chuckled, as he pulled the shekat into a close embrace that was quickly returned and melted into.

"Trace?" Jake's voice took on an edge of real concern when she couldn't rouse the normally very light sleepers. "You okay?"

Trace reluctantly opened his eyes, and blinked a couple of times. "Just tired." He said groggily. "Is something wrong?"

"No, you just always wake up easy," she looked at him in real concern. "We were going to get some of the personal shopping done today. Would you rather sleep till afternoon?"

Trace nodded, and started to drift off. "I think it's just the change of environment." He said lazily. "Never been on a planet before."

"All right, sleep well," she nodded and turned to leave the bedroom, still concerned but not enough to push it to medical. Especially not with how messed up she was feeling.

"So, they coming?" Nathan asked, as he met Jake in the living room after doing the breakfast dishes.

"No, they want to sleep," she said a little worriedly. "Trace thinks it's just adjusting to being on a planet for the first time. I'm not so sure."

"Well, there's that and the fact that they're away from their community for the first time." Nathan nodded. "We should keep an eye on them, just in case."

"I'm sure all sorts of stuff is going on for them," Jake murmured, empathizing with a lot of it far too well.

"For all of us, partner." Nathan said gently, nuzzling his partner, who quickly leaned into the contact.

"Yeah, they want to sleep, I'm horny with serious nesting instincts, you have to deal with all of us."

"As well as deal with the fact that I keep thinking I'm on some mission, and I've blown my cover." He shook his head. "That's an incredibly unnerving feeling, not that it ever happened to me in the field."

"You're far too good for that to have happened if you didn't choose for it to." Jake said with complete conviction.

"Second only to my father." Nathan smiled fondly. "Gods, I wish he and mother were here."

"I'm sure they know, wherever they are." Jake murmured reassuringly. "And are proud of you."

"It's not that." Nathan said quietly. "I just always felt safe when my father was around." He sighed softly. "And with all the medical issues, I'd like to have mother's expertise. There isn't anybody alive, who's as gifted a healer."

"Yes, we'll have to find a trust-worthy doctor, and soon," she sighed. "I don't expect that'll be all that easy."

"I've got a few ideas on how to find one." Nathan said softly.

"I'm listening," Jake looked up intently, her inner turmoil quite visible in her large amber eyes.

"It's not as much something I can explain here." Nathan tapped his head. "Just gut instinct, a little empathy and finding a Healer who takes their oaths seriously."

Jake nodded, accepting that. "And doesn't flitch at what we're asking them to do."

"We're not asking for anything that unheard of." Nathan said gently. "Though putting you back to yourself, will require more of a specialist than anything else."

"Don't be so sure of that, partner." Jake shook his head. "I've got no intention of feeling the birth." He paused. "Well, maybe it isn't odd here. Back home they didn't like it."

"If you don't want to feel it, you won't." Nathan said simply. "I'm not even convinced you should, since we don't know if the Mephits bothered to give you the higher pain threshold."

"And I'm am so not inclined to find out," she shuddered and pressed close to her mate. "The next ten months is going to be hell enough from what I'm already feeling."

"Which is why finding a good Healer is essential." Nathan said softly. "Ideally, a female Healer who's certified as a Midwife."

"Can't be too hard to do, right?" she looked up hopefully.

"I'm hoping it's a matter of looking in an on-line directory." Nathan smiled gently.

Jake nodded and nuzzled him. "Then let's get some basics sorted out in the morning, and see about hunting down a healer for me in the afternoon. I'm seriously into denning mode."

"So we should probably include a paint store and an interior decorating store, along with clothes, linens and the local art supply store." He grinned.

"Mmm, I was thinking mostly cloth for now, since we'll be moving soon, but paint is good too. Need to make sure it's a safe kind for me to be around," she added, vaguely remembering something about not painting while pregnant.

"No fumes or volatile compounds." Nathan nodded. "Cloth probably is better. I'd forgotten about the moving bit." He chuckled softly.

"Something else to do ASAP, along with figuring out how we're going to make a living."

"Probably figure out making a living first." Nathan suggested. "So we'll have an idea what we can afford. I don't think money will be a problem though."

"Hopefully not," she nodded and nudged him towards the door. "Though it might be kind of tight when it's only yours, and maybe Traces, and eight or nine to feed."

"We'll see." Nathan said reassuringly. "I've got a couple of hunches to play still, but I think we're in good shape."

"We'll make do, no matter what," Jake smiled bravely and grabbed her keys. "It kinda sucks that all my training is useless, the technology's so much higher."

"Jake, you'll have this tech mastered in no time." Nathan said confidently. "In a few years, you'll be making way more than I do."

"Have you decided what you want to do?" she looked up, eager for a different topic as they walked to the elevator.

"Still need to check a few things out." Nathan said as they boarded the elevator. "Something civilian though, or maybe home guard. Nothing that's going to involve any serious amount of traveling."

"Not until the kits are grown at least," Jake nodded and smiled. "Then it might be interesting to travel around, see the universe and all that."

"That's a few years off." Nathan smiled. "Speaking of the kits, I'm sure there'll be at least one shifter in the litter, just going on my genetics."

"Probably more, given the amount of tweaking they did," Jake shook her head slightly. "I wouldn't be surprised if they all were."

"At least they aren't coming out in Primitive mode." Nathan added. "That was the most frustrating two years of my life."

"Wouldn't that make the helpless faze very short?" she looked up uncertainly. "You'd be a teen in those two years."

"We don't age that way." Nathan said quietly. "We age at the rate of our Felsin form, no matter what form we're in. I was terribly precocious though, I was operating at a five year old level a couple weeks after birth."

"That doesn't surprise me in the least." Jake chuckled, then winced when she moved wrong and bumped her breast the wrong way.

"Yeah, but trying being a bright six year old, with no opposable thumbs." Nathan shook his head. "Not fun."

"Yeah, I can see how that would be really frustrating." Jake nodded and stepped out into the into the front lobby of the apartment building.

"Not that my uncles and parents didn't try to keep me too busy too notice." He chuckled, as they walked outside into the bright morning sunshine. "Nine commandos, one of the Alliance's top hackers, and a gifted Healer; all trying to keep one overly bright kit entertained."

"And I bet you still managed to get into trouble." Jake snickered.

"Of course." Nathan grinned back as Jake swatted his ass with his tail. "With the family background I have, it was expected."

"And we're going to have three or four to keep track of," she groaned in good humor. "We're going to be the terror of the territory."

"School teachers will be in for a major shock." Nathan chuckled as they walked.

"And will fear for their minds when they see ... we're going to have to sort out what name to use." she sighed deeply. "That's another collection to sort though."

"Well, there's always the hyphenated approach SwiftClaw-Clawson, or Clawson-SwiftClaw." Nathan suggested.

"SwiftClaw is the one I like," Jake smiled softly. "I wasn't sure if you wanted it though."

"I do actually." Nathan smiled. "It's the name I was born to."

"Good," she murmured and pressed close as they walked, though her eyes took in everything at a rapid rate. "Sounds like we're agreed on that much at least. First names could be harder."

"Well, I think we should wait till we have an idea how many and what gender, before we start picking names." Nathan grinned as they walked and then he grinned wide as he spotted a familiar name. "Oh cool, we're within walking distance of a Modori's." He said excitedly, and then paused. "It's a combination restaurant and ice cream parlor, with really good ice cream. My parents took me there when I was little."

"Why don't we stop in their first," Jake suggested with a grin. "Ice cream sounds good. Chocolate ice cream."

Nathan blinked. "But you said you didn't like chocolate." He said curiously, as they waited for a break in traffic to cross the street.

"I don't, but it sounds good right now," she shrugged in irritation.

"Okay, chocolate it is then." Nathan smiled as they crossed to the tastefully decorated restaurant. It was clearly a casual dining place, judging from the attire of those leaving and entering.

"Welcome to Modori's." The female Lynx said politely. "A party of two?"

"Yes, please." Nathan smiled.

"If you'll follow me." She said leading them to a booth. "Can I get you something to drink to start with?"

"A large milk sounds good." Nathan smiled.

"And for you?" She asked, addressing Jake.

"Umm, a large milk too, please." He said after a moment's hesitation.

"I'll be right back with your drinks." She smiled, and left.

"There's a separate menu for the ice cream." Nathan smiled, as he pulled one of the laminated three-fold cards out of a slot next to the booth and hand it to Jake, before taking one for himself.

"Right," she nodded, noticeably distracted by all the scents as she looked through the options. "Ohh, this looks good," she pointed to a triple scoop of different flavors with three different sauces, whipped cream, nuts and fruit.

"Banana split." Nathan smiled. "Always a good choice."

"Looks big though," he considered. "A split because you split it with someone?" she purred and leaned over to nuzzle him affectionately.

"That's certainly done." Nathan smiled, leaning into the nuzzle. "Thought the name, actually comes from the fruit that's split in two to make the bottom of the desert."

"Oh," she nodded and shifted her chair over to be able to press against him. "That works too."

"But honestly, I'm feeling a need for a chocolate overload." He grinned. "They make a chocolate ice cream, called Death by Chocolate that's out of this world. If you like intense chocolate that is."

"I'm sure," she chuckled softly and rested his head against Nathan's arm.

"Here's your milks." The waitress said politely as she set a large glass in front of each of them. "Are you ready to order, or do you need some more time?"

"I think we're ready," Jake smiled at her. "A banana split."

"What three scoops of ice cream did you want?" She asked with a polite smile.

"Umm, Death by Chocolate, strawberry and mint chocolate chip."

"And what three toppings would you like?"

"Chocolate, blueberries and raspberry," she sort of grinned.

"Very good. Did you want the whipped cream, nuts and cherries on top?"

"Definitely." Jake nodded and grinned, looking forward to the sugar feast.

"Very good choice." She smiled and turned to Nathan. "And for you?"

"Oh, just the basics. Hot fudge sundae with Death by Chocolate ice cream. Nuts and whipped cream, hold the cherries." He smiled.

"Very good." She smiled. "I'll be back with your deserts." She said as she left and Jake nuzzled her mate, momentarily more interested in getting close to him than anything around them.

It was a closeness Nathan encouraged, nuzzling Jake back and putting an arm his partner's shoulders while they waited for their deserts, and as best they could while eating them.

"Shall we see what else we can find that's more interesting than shopping?" Nathan asked with a playful grin when they'd both finished their desserts.

"What did you have in mind?" Jake grinned up, game for being sidetracked for the time being.

"Actually it was more of expecting there to be something." He chuckled. "It's not like I was looking for this place when I found it."

"Then we'll see what crosses our path on the way there." Jake chuckled and nuzzled him before standing.

"So, which shopping did we want to do first?" Nathan asked as he stood, handing his debit card to the waitress.

"Clothes," Jake nodded. "It's going to be the most irritating part."

"Certainly, the part I find least interesting." Nathan nodded, as his card was handed back. "Never did it much."

"You've got the easy part," she grumbled slightly. "You know what you can wear."

"Well, you should probably stick to loose fitting stuff." Nathan suggested.

"No kidding," she grumphed as they walked out. "And something to support these breasts before they get any more sore than they already are."

"Clothing store it is then." Nathan nodded as they left. He referenced the store locations he'd memorized and headed for the nearest clothing store.

Jake grumbled, as irritated by the random mood swings as the poor one her body had dropped her into right then. It didn't help any that she was looking at a list of female healers with midwife certifications and another list of those who did sex change operations. It only served to remind his male mind that it was stuck in a pregnant female body.

"Anything I can do to help improve your mood?" Nathan asked softly, as he came up behind his mate at the computer.

"I don't think so," she sighed and leaned against him for support and contact. "Just trying to narrow now the list to a manageable set to interview."

"Try adding 'Society of the Golden Star' to the search parameters." Nathan suggested. "They take the Healer's oath much more seriously than most."

A quick nod and Jake pulled up the search parameters, adding it under 'not a Moonstone' and ran the list again. The list was narrowed by about a full third with that restriction

"Try adding 'Shifter natal difficulties certified.'" Nathan suggested quietly.

"Oh, yeah, that would be a real possibility." He nodded and added it.

"Especially if one of them tries to be born in primitive." Nathan said quietly, as he looked over the list, that was now a tenth the length it had been. "Could you cross-index the two searches? Let's see if we've got anybody who's qualified in both."

"Oh, yeah, that would be awesome," she grinned and clicked though to do it. "That many fewer times all this has to be explained."

"Well, that narrowed it fast." Nathan grinned. "Five Healers."

"It's a hell of a requirements list," Jake chuckled. "Between female, oaths and training, I'm surprised there are that many."

"Well, female isn't as big as limitation as you might think." Nathan grinned. "I think females outnumber males two to one, or maybe a bit more in the Healer ranks."

"Ready to start tackling the interviews?" she looked up over his shoulder.

"We really should." Nathan nodded. "Waiting is definitely not to our benefit."

"No, it's not," he nodded and printed out the list with contact information. "At least it's only five."

"Guys, this isn't natural." Jake shook his head at the three lethargic bats next day.

"Not normal, no." Trace said quietly as he munched on a piece of pizza while they watched television.

Jake sighed and shook his head and dropped to a crouch next to him. "Do you know what's going on?"

"Not sure." Trace said quietly. "I'd heard that sometimes Whites will go through metamorphosis when left on a planet for long enough. No details though, it wasn't deemed something I needed to know."

"Definitely time to see the Healers then," he said firmly. "We've got enough unknowns running around here already."

"Think we can get them to come here." Dar asked quietly. "It's awfully bright out there."

Jake frowned. "I'll try. We can get you shades if not." He said and stood to put a call into their general medical contact.

"Dr. Irison." A mature female voice answered the phone.

"Hello, this is Jake Clawson," he replied. "Trace, Dar and Ker are having some problems. Trace thinks it might be a metamorphosis."

"What sort of problems are they having?" The Healer asked professionally.

"Excessive sleeping, lethargy, sensitivity to light."

"That would be consistent with a metamorphic state." She said quietly. "Keep them quiet, make sure they're getting plenty of liquids and whatever amount of food they seem to want. I'll be over in an hour or so to take a look at them. Oh, keep the room dim if you can."

"No problem," she nodded sharply. "I'll see to it. Thank you."

"See you in about an hour then." She said before hanging up.

About forty-five minutes later, the door buzzed. "Yes, Jake Clawson? I'm Dr. Irison." The seven foot tall Black Lioness asked when Jake opened the door.

"Yes, please come in," he nodded and stepped aside, closing the door behind her. "Trance and the boys are in the living room watching TV."

"After you." She smiled. "Are they expecting a Healer?"

"Yes, I told them you were coming." she nodded and lead the large female into the dimly lit room.

"Trace is the parent, is that right?" She asked before they entered the living room.

"Yes," Jake nodded easily. "Guys," he caught the bat's attention. "This is Dr. Irison."

"Hello, Doctor." Trace said looking up from the television. The two kits waved politely, still mostly focused on the television.

"Okay, Trace. I'm just going to take a few scans of you. Just hold still."

"I think I can manage that." He grinned.

The Healer spent a good fifteen minutes running a variety of scans, and then proceeded to repeat the procedure with the two kits. "Aside from not having much energy, do you feel normal?" She asked Trace, when she was finished.

"Pretty much. I think we're eating more than usual though." He said after a moments thought.

"Not surprising." She nodded. "I'll need to discuss these scans with a metamorphic specialist, but I don't see anything that indicates this is anything but a normal process. However, if you experience anything that resembles sickness such as pain, fever, or nausea, I want you to contact me at once." She said. "Is that clear?"

"Yes, Doctor. Do you know what kind of metamorphisis this is?"

"Not yet, that's what I need a specialist opinion for."

"Okay. Thank you for coming." He said quietly.

"My pleasure, I'll be back when I have more information." She said with a smile and turned to leave, Jake showing her out.

Two days and no word back from Dr. Irison about the bats, but their pending metamorphosis was almost the last thing on Jake's mind. Her own was. Her new body, it's less than desirable condition, and having to go face to face with someone who was going to be poking and prodding his female body for the next nine months or so, local time.

There was a ring of the front doorbell, which Nathan answered. A few minutes later, Nathan led a Lioness who was a bit taller than himself into the living room where Jake was. "Jake, this is Doctor Samantha Calison. Doctor, this is my mate Jake Clawson."

"A pleasure, Jake." The Lioness said in a deep, almost musical voice, as she offered a friendly hand that was accepted with more caution and calculating intent that Jake preferred, but she couldn't help herself. Her eyes were a warm brown as they looked over the clearly nervous and uncomfortable shekat.

"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, doctor," she inclined his head slightly.

"From the briefing I got, I think it's important you be under medical supervision as soon as possible," she said, sitting down in a chair at Nathan's gesture. Nathan sat down next to his mate, supportively, when Jake settled and clearly was grateful for the contact.

"Yes, it's not likely to be an easy two or three years on the medical front." Jake said softly, resisting the urge to withhold as much as he could and just touch things out. The kits, however unplanned, were far too important to risk on a bit of stubborn pride. "We chose you as one of only five on Felsinor that held all the qualifications we wanted to handle my medical needs though the pregnancy, the kits first year, and my return to being a male."

"Midwife certified Healers who are also certified at handling functional gender reassignment aren't common it's true." She nodded. "But are there other difficulties you're expecting with the kits?" She asked curiously.

"Nathan has a very strong shifter heritage, something my race doesn't have at all," Jake nodded. "I was also in heat for two full weeks before conception. Three or four days is more normal. I was kept in that state unnaturally. What effect that has, I don't know, but it's a consideration. Size and number may be an issue as well. I'm fairly sure it will be a larger than normal litter, and Nathan is a big tom compared to me."

"What is normal litter size for your species?" She asked.

"One to three, though up to six is known, if rare. Between my size and a first littler ... most were single births, sometimes two. I didn't pay a lot of attention, but I don't remember many large families."

"Well, Felsin are normally single births, or occasional twins, with the rare triplets." She explained. "However, we also don't have a heat cycle. When you get to three months, an ultrasound will definitely be a necessity." She said, and then turned to Nathan. "How strong is the shifter tendency? How many parents and siblings are shifters?"

"All three parents were, my second father exceptionally so." Nathan said quietly, with the touch of sadness and longing that usually entered his voice when he spoke of his parents. "I don't have any siblings. I'm a shifter myself."

"I see. Three parents? Genetic engineering?"

"Some on my mother's part to make the pregnancy possible, as I understand it. I believe there's a difficulty in her family with breeding outside a certain range of families."

"What was her name, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Nareena Moonstone."

"Ah, the Moonstones do have a problem with breeding at times." She nodded. "Your fathers' names?"

"Ebon SwiftClaw, and Cazimir Sunfire." He said softly.

"Not anyone I'm familiar with. Both Felsin?" She asked.

"Ebon was genetically engineered from base matrix. But I think he was mostly Felsin. Cazi was Felsin, as far as I know."

"How many forms?"

"Mother had three. Ebon had four, and Cazi had as many as he could think of."

"I see." She said taking notes on a computer pad. "Jake, you said that Kats don't have shapeshifting ability?"

"Nothing I've ever heard of, not even in rumor." He nodded. "Aristal doesn't have shapeshifters."

"Then this pregnancy will definitely bear watching." She said carefully. "The stronger the shifter genetics, the more likely the kits are to be born in Primitive. Normally, the mother shifts to Primitive for the last three months in that case. But you probably don't even have dormant shifter genetics to activate." She said thoughtfully. "Though I think a very thorough genetic workup of both of you should be done soon, no matter who your Healer is."

"At least one me," Jake nodded in acceptance. "Considering I may not even be fully Kat anymore. If I am, I have another nine months or so, locally. As best we've figured out, the six months on Aristal is ten months here, give or take."

"Well, I don't think any assumptions can be made with this pregnancy. A Felsin pregnancy would last six months locally." She added. "Despite the current trend toward 'natural' childbirth, and minimal pain medications during delivery, I would have to recommend as much pain medication as you need, since you're not female originally. That assumes, of course, that you can carry to delivery and that no emergency measures are necessary."

"I have no interest in feeling any of it." Jake nodded firmly. "I'm getting used to the idea of being a parent and all, but birth isn't something I care to deal with any more than I have to."

"Having been through it twice myself, I don't blame you one bit." She smiled. "Actually, if you're mate has any of his mother's talent, I could probably teach him a few things to make the pregnancy easier for you."

"I don't have any medical training beyond first aid." Nathan said quietly, not mentioning that first aid training had been almost unnecessary for him.

"I expected that to be the case, but you're young enough to learn new things." She smiled gently.

"If it'll make this easier on Jake, I'm willing to try."

"I'm not at all surprised."

"You're never too old to learn new things," Jake nuzzled him affectionately. "And you excel at everything you set your mind to, same as me."

"I think you two are going to have your hands full with however many kits you have." She smiled. "Exceptional parents tend to produce exceptional kits."

"That I have no doubt of," Jake grinned, her spirits lifted from the immediacy of her condition to the result a year down the road. "That I am looking forward to."

"That's good. You're handling an unplanned pregnancy better than many." She said approvingly, almost instantly drawing the completely serious combat gunner to the fore.

"We are warriors, ma'am," she said with soft seriousness. "Nothing is ever accomplished by panicking. You take what comes, make the best of it and do what you need to to survive and be ready for the next day," she blinked, his mind suddenly taking in what she said. "You have unplanned pregnancies?" she asked, more than a little surprised.

"It happens." She nodded. "Not often, between chemical birth control, surgical birth control and biofeedback control, but once in a while."

"Oh, right, you don't know when you're fertile," she nodded, reminding herself of the odd concept. "How long does it take to do the gender change?" she abruptly shifted tracks.

"Setting up the procedure takes up to three months." She said. "I can't be more specific without doing the detailed scans required. Then it takes about a week in the tank to make the actual change. That's a week you won't notice because you'll be unconscious." She added. "After that, you spend about a week in the hospital making sure there aren't any side effects."

"Not too bad," she nodded. "And easy enough to time. Do you have cycle suppressants? I shouldn't enter heat while I'm still nursing kits, but I really don't want to take that chance."

"I'm sure we could work something up, but since Felsin don't have heat cycles, we've never needed to suppress them." She said softly. "And I wouldn't assume that you'll be nursing. That may not be something you're capable of." She added softly as Jake flicked her ears back in shock, and then distress. "Depending on just how good a job of transformation it is."

"Oh," she murmured, more surprised at how much that thought hurt. "Kits need to nurse, though." she looked at her for an answer when she didn't have it.

"That's what bottle feeding is for." She explained gently. "Even females who started out that way can't always nurse. And we've got infant formula figured out to the point that it's as good for the kits as nursing."

"Immunities and all?" she asked, not sure if she believed that, but willing to consent that the tech difference may have figured it out.

"The immunities was the tough one." She nodded. "But we have a special formula for the first six weeks that stimulates them the same way."

"I want to nurse them, even if it's only for a week," Jake said quietly but firmly.

"Let's get that far first." She said gently, earning a nod.

"Yes, there's a fair amount of time in all likelihood to sort some details out."

"A fair amount, yes." She nodded. "Did you have any other questions I could answer?" She asked politely.

Jake paused, running over what he wanted to know and found the list finished. "No, I think that's about it. You've given me a few things to think about as well," she added softly and looked up at his mate.

"Well, then I hope to hear from you soon." She smiled, and stood.

"You will, regardless of what we decide." Nathan said politely as he stood. "Thank you for coming, Healer."

"My pleasure." She smiled. "It was a pleasure meeting the both of you." She nodded politely and stood as Jake did.

"Yes, thank you, especially on such short notice," Jake smiled and extended his hand to her. "It is good to have some answers."

"You're welcome, Jake." She said shaking her hand. "And if you come up with any other questions before you decide on a healer, please feel free to call me."

"We will." Nathan said politely, as he showed her to the door. "So what did you think?" He asked, once she'd left.

"I like her well enough," he nodded. "She seemed to be on the same side we are on most points. Especially that birth thing."

"Agreed." Nathan nodded. "Anything bothering you?"

"I'm not sure," he hesitated. "The nursing thing ... not sure if she was really telling the truth or just isn't much for it. May be silly, but it's important to me to do that. Didn't get much on kits, but I got that."

"She was telling the truth." Nathan said quietly. "Some females just can't nurse. And I'll be honest, I'd had the same thought. I don't trust the Mephits to have realized it was necessary."

"And right now it's far too dangerous to do all that much about it, that won't endanger the kits."

"One thing at time." Nathan nodded as Jake leaned against him with a sigh.

"How much I wanted to hear all good news is coloring my opinion," she admitted quietly as she soaked in Nathan's strength. "After how all this started, I just wanted to hear it was all going to be okay."

"Jake, I don't think anyone can say at this point exactly how things are going to be." Nathan said softly, putting his arms around his mate. Silently, he asked Felsira to look after his mate and kits, putting his trust in the great Healer, and mother of the Felsin people.

"As good as we can make them," Jake rumbled with determination her body wasn't telegraphing.

There was a knock on the door shortly after Jake and Nathan finished eating breakfast, but before Trace and the kits had risen for the day.

"I'll get it." Nathan said as he pushed his chair back and stood.

A few minutes later he came back. "Jake, Doctor Irison is back with some news about Trace and his sons."

"I'll rouse them," he nodded and slipped up, hissing lightly when he bumped one swollen breast with his arm before going back to the bedrooms to get the reluctant bats out of bed.

The bats were indeed reluctant, but Trace roused more willingly when told why. "Let the kits sleep." He said softly, getting to his feet groggily. "I'll explain things to them later."

"Right," Jake nodded after a momentary consideration. "If they have to go in we can get them up then."

"Hello, Jake, Trace." The doctor smiled and stood to greet them. "Sorry for coming so early, but I wanted to let you know that a colleague of mine finally made some sense of the sensor readings I took."

"Okay." Trace said as he and Jake sat down. "Not too fast, I'm not awake."

"Well, I was right. The transformation is a natural one." She started. "Apparently, your species had glider wings at some point in the past."

"We are bats." He said quietly. "But who needs glider wings in a starship?"

"Probably why they disappeared. However, you aren't on a starship now." She said gently. "And from the look of things, your body is setting up a transformation back to the winged form."

"How long?" Trace asked curiously. "And will they be functional?"

"Looks like you'll have a few more weeks of lethargy while your body builds up energy reserves for the transformation." She said simply. "And I expect they will be."

"Very cool." Jake grinned at Trance. "Are there any other bat-races in the Alliance?" she suddenly asked. "Or anything that knows how to use such wings at least."

"Bat races, no the Chiran would be the first. Our major glider race would be the Dracons, though some of them are true fliers. The Arborans are another glider race, flying squirrels."

"If they are what I think they are, the Arborans sound like they are closer relatives." Jake commented quietly. "Is there anything we can do to make this energy build-up phase go better?"

"Mostly it's a matter of making it so they don't have to expend much energy." She explained gently. "Which you seem to be doing. You'll probably want to stock up on high energy foods, carbohydrates are good since they store quickly." She added. "I'm going to leave this medical scanner, and I'll want readings on all three of them, three times a day. Metamorphosis, even when natural, is not something to take for granted."

"I'll handle the scans." Nathan said, taking the scanner from her. "I just plug it into the computer to transmit the readings to you?"

"That's correct."

"Are there any readings we should take quick action if we see?" Jake asked, focusing on her charges as much out of loyalty as to avoid thinking about her own condition.

"The scanner is preset to flag certain readings that need to be attended to immediately." She explained, pointed out on the readout screen. "If you get a red light during a scan, call me immediately. Also, sleeping shouldn't occupy more than sixteen hours in twenty-four. If it goes much beyond that call me." She added.

"No problem," Jake nodded sharply, setting his mind to keep track of it. "Any there any supplements or such they should take?"

"For now, it seems that they're getting what they need. But if the readings indicate otherwise, I'll have the appropriate supplements shipped over. The important thing is lots of fluids, doesn't really matter what kind. Except for alcohol." She said looking at Trace seriously. "I don't know if you do, but until this is over alcohol is strictly prohibited."

"That's okay, I don't like it." He said sleepily.

"Good. 'Cause with the way your body is processing things you'd end up in the hospital."

"Is sunlight something they should avoid?" Nathan asked curiously. "It seems to bother them."

"Yes, they've developed a heightened photosensitivity and will probably burn exceptionally easily." She nodded, glad the Tiger had brought that up. "If it's necessary for them to go outside, bundle them carefully and don't forget the sunglasses."

"No problem," Jake nodded. "They don't seem to inclined to want to go out and play right now." she smiled fondly at the smaller male.

"Too bright out." Trace said quietly.

"Other than that, there shouldn't be any problem. This is something their bodies are designed to handle, even if it rarely happens." She smiled softly. "But feel free to contact me at anytime, if you have questions or if something seems wrong."

"We will," Jake nodded. "At least this one is natural."

"Well, Trace, you look like you want to go back to bed." The doctor smiled. "Which is probably what you should do," She said as she stood.

"Thank you, Doctor." The white bat said before he turned and groggily wandered back to bed.

"You may need to tell him again later." She smiled softly. "I'm not entirely sure how much he'll remember."

"Don't worry, we'll make sure they all understand over dinner." Jake smiled reassuringly.

"Very good." She smiled. "It was good seeing all of you again." She said as Nathan walked her to the door.

"So our bats are going to be gliding." Nathan said with an amused smile after he'd closed the door behind the doctor.

"Yes," she shook her head in bemusement. "Everybody's a air-nut," she chuckled softly and stepped up close to her mate with less than subtle intentions to get him undressed.

"Well, they're living with a pilot and his gunner." Nathan chuckled as he encouraged his mate's intentions.

Jake and Nathan were lying in bed relaxing in the afterglow and snuggled close together, when something occurred to Nathan. "Jake, as far as the house goes; Do we want to buy something that's already built, or buy land and have something built? My understanding is that the costs are similar."

"Mmm, while timing and effort would make pre-built really appealing, I so doubt there is anything like the lot of us will need built, especially on land we want. You have to admit we're not a low-demand group."

"Not even close." Nathan chuckled softly. "There's five of us currently, and three or four more on the way. And we all have special interests that need rooms."

"Not to mention the airstrip, gliding places for the bats, security ... yeah, building is just so much more practical. Plus the places for whatever the kits take too," she shook his head. "Enough to make my head swim."

"I expect we'll be building additions as the kits grow older." Nathan smiled. "Not to mention, if we decide to have more later, in a more normal fashion."

"That'll take real getting used to," Jake chuckled, shaking her head. "And the idea that a kit can have more than two genetic parents."

She ghosted a hand down, over her still flat female belly. "As irritating and weird as it is, this is what I'm used to thinking of as how kittens happen."

"Well, it is normal." Nathan said softly. "If you're supposed to be female. Otherwise, it's not."

"Yeah," she let a soft breath out and snuggled a little closer, having to shift more than usual to get comfortable. Between sore breasts and slightly different musculature, she couldn't relax in the position she instinctively sought.

"'Sides, I rather miss the male you." He said gently. "Physically that is. But I love you, regardless of what outside you're wearing." He nuzzled his mate affectionately.

"Hay, no apologies necessary," Jake chuckled and turned the nuzzle into a languid kiss. "I miss the male me too. A lot. I miss getting to plays with girls too."

"Well, you can do that once we get you back to your old self." Nathan smiled lazily. "You'll probably have them falling all over you again." He chuckled.

"I'm going to be so out of practice," she made a face despite the humor in her voice. "A year without a shekat, " she shook his head. "I never thought that'd be happening."

"I doubt you ever expected to be a pregnant female either." Nathan said gently, though there was light humor in it. "I sure never expected to be a father."

"Yeah, that too," she chuckled a bit, then winced as a ripple of small cramps laced his belly.

"Are you okay, Jake?" Nathan asked a bit worried.

"Just muscle cramps," she muttered in irritation. "Nothing much."

"Something new, or has that happened before?" He asked curiously, not having a clue.

"I've had cramps," she shrugged slightly and relaxed as they finally dissipated. "Not like that quite, but I know what it feels like."

"Well, just let me know if they get too bad." Nathan said quietly, feeling a bit out of his depth will the medical issues that were flying around.

"I will, love." Jake smiled and nuzzled him. "Back to the house ... I know it sounds incredible and all, but it takes a lot of money, or a whole lot of sweat equity, to build something like that. Even an apartment this big must cost a small fortune when we're paying for it."

"We may have more than we think." Nathan smiled softly. "I'm still pinning down the details, but I guess some members of the government felt that the government bears serious responsibility for not doing something about Citadel. It seems there's a government fund that pays defectors from the Kitten Commandos." He chuckled. "From the sound of it, it'll be like getting back pay for those years, plus interest. I'm still trying to find out what the catch is."

"If it's anything like the defector programs I'm familiar with, they'll expect you to give all your information on the SG, and refrain from associating with people or places known or suspected to be linked to them." Jake murmured, letting out a breath and relaxing. "Have you thought about what you want to do in the future?"

"Well, I was going to tell them anyway. And I don't want to have anything to do with the SG." He said quietly. "I've thought a lot about it. Both my real piloting options; test piloting and Home Guard look promising. I've got offers from Home Guard, and Shivastri Aerospace. But I'm not rushing to make a decision."

"The test pilot leaves the most options for the future, and usually much better pay." Jake commented absently. "More flexible hours ... it's not as exciting or fulfilling for defense, but it's better for a family. But Haven didn't have anything that wasn't expected to see combat like Home Guard seems to be."

"Actually, I'm not sure I want to go back into a combat role. And there's other talents I have, that I never got the opportunity to consider exploring. So I want to take a little time." The Tiger said quietly. "This is really the first time, I've gotten to decide what I want to do with my life."

"Honest, Nathan, I don't want you back in combat." Jake said softly and pressed close. "It was one thing when we were partners and only responsible for each other, but now we've got Trace, two near-teens, and a litter on the way. There's risk in everything, but combat is more than I want to face with you. At least till they're grown."

Jake took a deep breath, controlling the near-tears her body was trying for at the thoughts that come up. "And exploring those other talents is something being a civilian will let you do. It's so much easier to walk away from a civilian job than the military."

Nathan was quiet for awhile, as he held his mate close, gently caressing her comfortingly. "Then I won't go with the military, love. I think fifteen years in various military services is enough. It's just natural for me to consider it, after all, there was only one non-military person in the family I was born to."

"I know," she murmured, getting his body's feminine responses mostly under control. "I think we both considered it seriously, it's what we know. Just the thought of loosing you now ..." her voice choked off at the torrent of agonized sensations racing threw her mind and body.

"You're not going to, Jake." Nathan said gently, holding his mate close. "Heck, one of the alternatives I was considering was chef." He chuckled playfully.

"Chef?" she looked up, so startled she forgot about the maelstrom in her new body. "You are good enough," she blinked. "Can't say I thought about anything so low-adrenaline."

"I have." Nathan nodded. "I'm pretty sure I get part-time test-pilot work. And if I really feel a need to hit someone I can always take up martial arts of some sort."

"Yeah," she smiled up. "No reason you can't do both."

"But I haven't made any decision, yet." He smiled. "After what we've been through recently, I don't feel a need to jump into anything this minute."

"I guess not," she chuckled softly. "I'm just not used to being dependant on others. Kinda nerve wracking to not be able to take care of myself." Jake admitted quietly. "I had my fill of that before the Academy."

"I'm just looking at this as a vacation." Nathan chuckled. "After all, I had ten years in the SG without anything that really passed for one."

"Hadn't thought of that," she smiled slightly and snuggled close. "We have earned one after that mess."

"Definitely. So we can take it easy for a little while, do some house hunting, keep an eye on the guys, and whatever else comes to mind." He said as he held his mate close, and nuzzled her affectionately as Jake let her mind let loose of her concerns for a while.

"House hunting ... architect hunting ... is going to be interesting. And checking out those sites we found. Maybe the right one will even be for sale."

"I guess we should be property hunting." Nathan chuckled. "A number of those sites are close enough to do in a day, and still be back by nightfall. Though I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of leaving the guys alone that long right now."

"Well, for the checking out if it's the site you remember, you don't really need me along." Jake said softly. "I can keep an eye on the guys and play technology catch-up."

"I guess I hadn't thought of that." Nathan said a bit sheepishly. "I guess after four years and some, it's just got to be a habit to think of doing things together."

"I'd rather, but sometimes splitting up has its advantages," she murmured softly. "Or we can just take one site a day. Only a couple hours when they're sleeping anyway shouldn't be too dangerous."

"I'd kind of figured on doing one a day." He nodded. "And I think I can set the scanner up to alert the doctor if there's a problem."

"That works too," Jake nodded. "And I'm sure you can."

"I'm still learning how this medical stuff works." He chuckled. "And surveillance was never something I did. But it's not that hard."

"Of course not," Jake purred and ran a playful finger down Nathan's chest and abs. "Nothing is all that hard when my brilliant Tiger sets his mind to it."

"You'd probably have it figured out in half the time." Nathan chuckled. "Tech always responds better to you." He grinned, as he kissed Jake playfully on the nose and ended up with a full mouthful of his mate.

"Maybe," she rumbled, her palm moving firmly over the Tiger's sheath and balls, clearly interested in more attention. "We each how our gifts," she smiled and shifted to lay on top of Nathan, her curved and rounded body rubbing against the hard one under it.

"Yes we do." Nathan rumbled as he hands began caressing his mate's still strange feminine body in a more intimate fashion as Jake started to purr deeply and the scent of her arousal filled the air between them. "Between the two of us, we can handle anything."

"Can, have and will." Jake rumbled, nearly a growl, in stubborn determination and stretched forward to kiss her lover intensely.

It was an intensity Nathan matched, as he continued to caress his mate's body, that was both familiar and unfamiliar. In the back of Nathan's mind there was still the war between the part of him that rejected being with a female, and the part that loved Jake too much to care about the outward form. As always, the part that loved Jake won very firmly.

They were almost out of sites that were close enough, when they set the flier down in another forested glacial valley with a lake and a beach. Nathan stepped out, sniffed the air and looked around before padding down to the shoreline. He stopped and knelt down at the waters edge, rolling something over in his palm as he looked out across the clear water, deep blue and warmed by the summer sun.

It was a familiar pattern, one they'd repeated a half dozen times already, and as before Jake waited for Nathan to choose. All the sites were lovely as far as the Kat was concerned, though all were also more isolated than he has a real taste for. City born and bred had its influences.

It was still lovely land though.

"This is it." Nathan said softly, and turned to look at the forested part of the valley. "This is it."

"Good," his mate nodded and came closer. "One mystery down, at least."

"This is awfully isolated. Makes a good summer home, or vacation spot." Nathan said quietly. "But maybe we should look at land a little closer to the city for building our home." He suggested softly, thinking that the SG wouldn't have launched such a large offensive if they'd been closer to a major population center.

"We know, that's the important part," Jake knelt and hugged him. "And I have to agree with the isolated part. At least now we have different search parameters to look. Ones that the computer and an agent can be of more use in finding.

"Yeah. But I want to look around a little bit longer." He said quietly. "Just need to put some closure on that part of my life."

Jake lifted the Tiger's face to his and kissed him gently and firmly. "We take as long as you want. We, or you, can come back any time you want."

"Thanks, Jake." Nathan murmured quietly, hugging his partner close and felt the embrace returned on the sunny lake beach.

The doorbell rang about an hour after Nathan left to meet with another MegaCorp's test piloting division. When Jake answered the door, a youngish male Leopard in some kind of civilian uniform was standing there holding a box. "Nathan SwiftClaw?" He asked uncertainly.

"I'm his mate, Jake Clawson," she responded fairly easily, eyeing the box and the youngster with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.

"Yes, I'm with Felsinor Parcel Service. He's got a package from the Medical School." He explained. "Can you sign for it?" He asked holding out an electronic signature pad and pen.

"Yes," she nodded easily, taking the pen and pad and scrawling out her signature before handing it back and accepting the package. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, and have a nice day." He smiled pleasantly, as he headed quickly to his next delivery as the door was shut. It left Jake with the package, which was surprisingly heavy being no bigger than it was, and a real curiosity as to just what his partner was getting himself into, following the family that threw him and his mother to their deaths for daring to love.

It was a very long hour and something with that box on the table and unhealthy questions in his mind before Jake heard the door open, followed by his mate's voice talking with Trace and the kits who were camped out on the couch watching television. After a few minutes, the Tiger walked into the office where Jake was working on the computer. "Hello, love." He smiled, and came around to kiss Jake on the cheek. "How goes it?" He asked looking at Jake's study of technology.

"Slowly," she sighed and closed her eyes briefly. "I get to a point a bit above what I'm used to and I just stop being able to follow it beyond usage. I can drive a car here with a little practice, but I'll be damned if I could fix it."

"Well, it's only been a week." He said quietly. "Jake, when you learned to work on jets, did you study them first or did you just start taking them apart?" He asked curiously.

"I just started tinkering," she said softly, rubbing her eyes. "But a lot of systems I had to understand the manuals before anybody let me touch them just for safety reasons, and I'm just glazing over here."

"But you'd probably tinkered with cars or something else before that, right?" He asked, trying to work out how to help out.

"And TVs, VCRs, bicycles ... whatever I could get my hands on," she nodded. "I am going to be so pissed if those bastards screwed up my head when they turned me into a girl."

"Well maybe we should see about getting you some stuff that you just take apart without worrying about whether you can put it back together again." Nathan suggested. "And maybe the name and number of a local tinkerer you could consult with."

"Why not, the worst that can happen is I can't handle machines like I used to," she sighed softly. "Sorry, it hasn't been a great day."

"Oh, something else besides uncooperative technology?" Nathan asked gently.

"You saw the package that came for you?" she asked softly. "On the kitchen table."

"No, I haven't been in the kitchen yet." He said. "It must be the books I asked the Medical School for."

"That's what the box said," she nodded slightly, looking at the screen without seeing it and very torn up inside.

"Okay, partner. What's bothering you about the package? It's just some medical textbooks." Nathan asked gently.

"Just an unpleasant connection with some people I don't like thinking about," she tried to be diplomatic about it, even if her heart was seething with a hatred she couldn't really explain and was decidedly uncomfortable with.

"Jake, my mother was a Healer." He said softly. "One of the best ever. I spent most of my life being like my father, which was something neither of them wanted." He sighed. "I just want to see if there's anything of her in me."

"You know there is," she said softly, knowing in her heart it was true. "It's just a family of healers that threw her and you to your deaths for having the audacity to fall in love. That's what I see first when a Healer is mentioned. You're better than that."

"Jake, the Moonstones are in most of the intellectual pursuits, and a lot of the arts." He said quietly. "But I can't reject what my mother was because her father had a problem with my father. Her father wasn't even a Healer, he was the Dean of the Sciences at Aurora University." Nathan said gently.

"It doesn't change what got stuck in my head," she sighed softly. "Moonstone = Healer = sick bastards that killed your mother for falling in love. I'm not claiming it's logical, or even that much related to reality, it's just what got stuck in there."

"Jake, that's just terribly unfair to the huge number of healers who are decent people and who'd never hurt another." Nathan said seriously. "Especially since my mother is one."

"I know. It doesn't change how I feel about it," she sighed softly. "Being wrong doesn't change how I feel. I hate him more than I do Mephit."

"Hating him is entirely different from hating all Healers." Nathan said quietly. "That'd be like blaming all Kats for the actions of one serial killer."

"Nathan, you're trying to argue logic to something that doesn't give a damn if it's logical or not." Jake rumbled in frustration. "And it's not all healers, just Moonstones."

"So what's the problem with my considering being a Healer?" Nathan asked a bit confused. "I'm not a Moonstone."

A deep, frustrated sigh echoed threw the room as Jake tried to put a gut level visceral reaction into words.

"I just don't like it," she finally said, clearly not happy with how vague it was, but not able to explain any better. "It's nothing that has a real reason. I just feel that way."

Nathan had no idea what do with that, so he leaned against the wall and sighed. It seemed Jake was opposed to the two career paths that were most intrinsic to him.

"If you want to be a healer, do it," she finally said in the descending silence, though even Nathan's weak empathy could tell it was something she knew she should say, rather than a choice she liked.

"But you don't like it." Nathan said quietly.

"No," she sighed and set her face in finely boned hands. "No more than I want you to go back to the military. But if that's what you want to do, you should do it. I'll get over it."

"I don't know if it is or not." Nathan said quietly. "I don't know much about it, yet. I just want to know more about what was so important to my mother."

"So learn." Jake shook her head in frustration. "If it's important to you, do it."

"It just worries me when you get so upset over a couple of books." Nathan said quietly.

"Yeah, I know," she sighed softly into his hands. "Right now, the weirdest things set me off. I'm not handling things very well."

Nathan walked over and put his arms around his mate. "Maybe we need to get a healer to look at your blood chemistry." Nathan suggested. "Maybe something is out of balance."

"Nathan, I'm pregnant," she finally fumed. " I've got sore tits and body parts I shouldn't, my cock and balls are gone, I'm so far away from home I'll never see it again and I can't even get the damn oven to work right for me," she snarled and pressed tightly against her mate. Being near tears only managed to piss her off further and made it all worse. "If something is in balance it'd be a surprise."

Nathan gently caressed his mate comfortingly for a while before saying anything. "But chemistry being out of balance might be complicating things. You've got enough to be angry and upset about, without chemistry adding to it." He said gently. "You're handling it better than anyone else I know would." He said quietly. "Me included."

It was enough to crack the last of Jake's resolve and she pressed tightly into the Tiger's embrace and sobbed, trembling as the maelstrom of conflicting and coalescing emotions and sensations overcame what little resistance the cinnamon kat could offer any more.

Nathan held Jake close, and caressed him gently as his mate sobbed. It seemed the best thing for now, though he still thought that there might be something physically wrong. It wasn't like the Mephits knew that much about Kats. It wasn't like anyone in this galaxy knew much about them.

Even with the weak empathic gifts he had, Nathan felt the edges of the storm raging inside his mate and let out a low breath when it finally broke into the numbness of being completely spent physically, mentally and emotionally.

"Bed? Or would you like a soak in the whirlpool first?" Nathan asked gently.

"Whirlpool sounds good," she murmured into the Nathan's chest, his body nearly limp.

Nathan gently guided Jake to the bathroom, and held him close with one arm, while the other adjusted the water temperature. As the tub filled and began to bubble, he helped his exhausted mate out of his clothes and into the tub, joining him once he was settled and felt Jake sag against him, worn out and wiped out.

"Good afternoon, love." Nathan rumbled as he walked into the bedroom to find his partner waking. While still in a poor mood, the cinnamon kat was at least feeling physically better. A little bit at least.

"Morning," she mumbled, grudgingly shoving herself out of the bed naked on the demands of her stomach.

"So what would you like for breakfast?" Nathan asked, as he walked around to embrace his mate affectionately.

Despite her bad mood Jake melted into the contact, though she wasn't purring. "Chocolate chip waffles with strawberries and whipped cream," she sort of grinned. "Actually sounds pretty good."

"I think we've got the makings for that." Nathan smiled. "I'll go start them." He said gently, as he let go and headed for the kitchen, Jake plodding along not far behind after pulling on a pair of sweats. She was still fumbling with her bra to keep her breasts from hurting more than they already did when she came into the kitchen with her head threw a sweatshirt, though the rest of it was still resting on her shoulders.

"Morning, Jake." Trace said over the back of the couch, as Jake and Nathan passed through the living room on the way to the kitchen.

"I think that's a first." Jake chuckled ruefully.

"He's up kind of early." Nathan chuckled as he started pulling out ingredients to make breakfast.

"And I'm up very, very late." He shook his head and relaxed back against the counter. "Any luck on that government money you're owed?"

"A few more days to clear up all the paperwork, they say." Nathan chuckled.

"Was I right about what they wanted?" Jake prompted, both curious and a bit anxious.

"Yeah, I've spent hours telling them what I know." He smiled. "And yeah, the restriction too, though I made it pretty clear that if any of my family turned up alive, I didn't really care what uniform they were wearing."

"Do they know who your family is?" Jake asked softly.

"Yeah, they do." He nodded. "They're accepting for the moment, that the NightBlades stopped working for the SG years ago. It kind of explains some things they couldn't figure out."

"Like why they stopped making raids?"

"And why some SG stuff blew up without any reason they could figure out." He smiled. "The NightBlades didn't stop making raids, they just changed targets."

"That too," she chuckled softly and shifted to come up behind her mate and embraced him tightly. "Sorry about yesterday."

"It's okay, Jake." Nathan said softly. "You're having a rough time in all sorts of ways. Doctor warned me you might get seriously emotional at times."

"Even without the rest of the crap," she sighed and nodded against the Tiger's back. "It just makes me feel so totally useless."

"You are not useless, Jake." Nathan said quietly, but very seriously as he turned to face his mate. "Learning yes, useless no."

"I'm trying to believe that," she murmured weakly and pressed her face against Nathan's chest. "It's just hard. I'm so far behind, feels like I'll never catch up."

"You will." Nathan said without hesitation. "I believe in you." He said quite seriously, as he put his arms around Jake and held her close. "Just believe in yourself."

Jake simply nodded and soaked in the strength of his mate for a long time, before the smell of breakfast drew her attention to the ignored pancakes. "Mmm, I think it's done."

"That they are." Nathan chuckled, and turned to turn the pancakes over. "Fortunately, I was using low heat."

"Have you thought about what you want in our home?"

"Really nice kitchen, a library and a den." He nodded. "And a good home gym and padded area for martial arts workouts."

Jake nodded and shifted back to lean against the counter again. "An art and crafts room, and lots that has to do with the kits. Rooms for each, nursery, playrooms, safe places outside to play," she added softly, aching inside at just how feminine it all sounded, and how unlikely she was to return to her old male hobbies in technology and mechanics.

"A fairly well equipped playground I think, is in order." Nathan nodded. "Oh, and a pool, carefully secured to keep the kits out when they're little. Though swimming will come pretty naturally if they're like my family."

"Right," she nodded. "And a house built as kitten proof as is possible, from the start."

"I'm not sure kitten-proof will be possible with the heritage they're getting, but we can try." Nathan chuckled.

"Well, it is 'as possible'." Jake smirked at him. "Food?" she looked at the growing pile of waffles.

"Just about done." He smiled. "Strawberries and toppings are in the fridge."

"Right," Jake turned to fetch them and start setting out the table. "Is anyone else eating?" she called out loud enough to be heard in the living room.

"They've got two large pizzas in there." Nathan chuckled when there was no response from the living room. "Along with soda and chips. I think it's just you and me."

"Works for me," she murmured and nuzzled her mate as Nathan brought the chocolate chip waffles out. "Just you an me. I've been missing that recently."

"It has been awhile, hasn't it?" Nathan said softly as he set the stack of waffles down on the table. "Juice, milk or both with breakfast?"

"Milk," she nuzzled him again and chuckled. "My cravings aren't that weird yet."

"Nothing weird about it." Nathan chuckled as he poured two large glasses of milk. "Both was the norm when I lived with my parents." He smiled, as he handed one glass to Jake.

"Juice with chocolate chip waffles and strawberries?" Jake cocked an eyebrow at him and sat down when the Tiger did. "Seems odd to me."

"Normal for breakfast." Nathan shrugged with a smile. "Just one of those things Mother was big on. Though some would argue that chocolate chip waffles and strawberries is almost dessert." He grinned.

"The way you cook, they definitely could be." Jake purred back and started to doctor his up.

"Actually for dessert, there's a big waffle called a Belgian waffle that works better." He grinned, having seen it in a cookbook he'd been skimming. "Especially warm with ice cream."

"Oh, that sounds good," Jake rumbled between large mouthfuls of chocolate, whipped cream, berries and waffle. "With powdered sugar and blueberries."

"We can do that once I get a Belgian waffle maker." Nathan grinned between bites of waffle, berries and whipped cream.

"Oh, yes. And the rest of your kitchen," she licked her whiskered eagerly. "Between you and Trace we are going to eat so well."

"Yes, having the two of us will make it much easier." He grinned. "A skilled extra pair of hands is very useful."

"For many things," Jake purred and leaned over to kiss her mate playfully. "And his sons are old enough to be helpful for many things as well."

"Some things at least." He nodded, as he kissed Jake back. "Don't want to give them too much to do, they need time to be kits."

"Kittensitting younger siblings comes with the territory," she said with a chuckle. "It can be a lot of fun."

"They're not really old enough for kittensitting yet." Nathan said quietly, going on what he'd heard others say without any experience to go on. "But three or four years. Which is when the extra hands will be really useful, unless they're born in primitive."

"Then it'll be needed very soon." Jake nodded. "We'll just see what happens."

"Very true." He agreed. "Even Healers can't tell until the last two months, whether the kits are going to be born in primitive or not."

"Not fun," Jake shook her head and went back to scarffing breakfast. "Have you gotten a chance to check out homestead spots?"

"Just one, and I wasn't all that happy with it. Too close to a highway for my taste."

"Was that picked out with a real estate agent's help?" Jake asked curiously.

"Nah, that was one of the on-line searches I did." He chuckled. "I think I forgot to mention highways as a bad thing in the search parameters."

"Given our requirements, it wouldn't be a bad idea to get someone to help with it. They'd have the contacts in the building and design industry too."

"Building, design, and all the nagging legal details like permits and such." Nathan shook his head. "I guess we need a real estate agent and an architect at the very least.

"And a building contractor," Jake added quietly. "I'm not very interested in doing the building myself."

"That would be a little more time consuming then I'm interested in." Nathan chuckled. "Though I expect the architect will have some good leads in the building contractor area."

"Same for the agent." Jake added. "It's part of their jobs. We just have to find a good one."

"Depends, some real estate agents just sell homes. Not all of them deal with building from scratch." He said easily. "Real Estate NorthEast seems to have the largest network around here, we could start with them."

"Picky, picky," Jake rolled her eyes a bit. "Any agent that only sold houses wouldn't exactly be any use to us, since we want an empty property. But that'll work. It can hardly hurt to ask."

"True." Nathan chuckled. "I think it's like how some places sell cars and others sell motorcycles, but rarely does a place sell both."

"That's mostly because of different needs," she cracked a smiled after several more mouthfuls. "Cars needs big lots, and motorcycles are usually inside big buildings."

"And most people buy pre-existing homes." He chuckled. "What we're doing is a much smaller part of the market."

"Not as small as on Aristal." Jake said. "You've got a lot more empty space here."

"We've made an effort to keep growth and expansion under control." He smiled.

"As opposed to what some cities back home did," she sort of chuckled before humor failed at the memories of her lost home.

"We had memories of big cities from Origin." Nathan nodded. "But we decided that uncontrolled growth wasn't a good thing, long term."

"Probably not," he nodded and relaxed back with an empty plate. "How do you manage the population control part?"

"Social Engineering mostly." Nathan shrugged. "By the time we arrived here, our farming was better than the level were maximum number of kits is a serious advantage. And the other factor, kitten survival rate, was already pretty good." He smiled. "The leaders simply didn't encourage things like celebrating large families. Take away the positives for large families, and a lot of people will stop having them. You'll always have the exceptions, but when the average family drops to having between one and four kits, you don't have the serious population ramping."

"Oh," she blinked, nodding slowly. "I guess a few thousand years will do that."

"That's about how long it took." Nathan chuckled. "But our population wasn't that large when we arrived, so we had time."

"I guess that is an advantage when you're trying." Jake nodded slowly. "Hard to think of anything being given that much time to work."

"We had the advantage of few helpful spirits pointing out that it was working, if slowly, whenever we got discouraged." He chuckled, to which Jake nodded.

"I don't think that would be taken so well on Aristal," she murmured. "Too many things like that are aggressive. Especially in the places it's really needed."

"Well, the ones giving advice were the ones that saved us from an eternity drifting in deep space." He smiled. "We're inclined to view them a little positively."

"No doubt," Jake chuckled softly. "I doubt many on Aristal would believe such things though, no matter how popular Bastet seems to be."

"It's a lot easier to believe when they're standing right in front of you." Nathan chuckled. "Though meeting Caito on Aristal was a bit of a surprise."

"You did?" Jake blinked in surprise.

"Yeah, when I was living with the tribe in the Autonomous region of Midrasha." Nathan chuckled.

"What did he want with you?" she asked, suddenly nervous.

"Oh, he was just checking up on me." Nathan chuckled. "Felsira wanted to make sure I was handling things okay."

Jake looked at him funny, then shook her head. "They have the time to check on everybody?"

"No, not everybody." He shook his head. "They just think there's something important about me."

"Besides the obvious qualities?" she purred and shifted to nuzzle her mate. "Who wouldn't think you're important."

Nathan chuckled, and nuzzled his mate back. "Yes, besides the obvious." He grinned. "Though I was dating Caito for two weeks before he told me who he really was, the silly shapeshifter."

"You dated a god?" Jake's jaw dropped in shock.

"He's not a god." Nathan chuckled. "At least that's what he insists. He's just a spirit with above average power, and for all either of us know, you may have too."

"If I did, I'm glad he didn't bring it up," she said softly. "I like thinking I have a chance against my dates when I need to."

"He doesn't bring it up, unless he's sure the person can handle it." He chuckled. "For a guy with two mates, he still dates a lot."

"Some people are like that." Jake acknowledged. "Not much my thing, but I can see the appeal."

"Caito just doesn't settle easily, or at least he hasn't in the last five thousand years or so, according to Keltin." He chuckled.

"Did he ever say why he's a spirit and not a god?" Jake asked curiously. "He sounds like a god."

"No, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he doesn't think he's a god." He chuckled. "But then again, I think as far as he's concerned gods are just spirits that mortals get more excited about."

"Maybe," Jake nodded, leaning back to think about it. "Terminology can be a lot, without meaning any different."

"It's also important to note that Caito is extremely irreverent about most things." He chuckled fondly. "From what I've seen there's little he won't or hasn't made fun of."

"And the rest simply a matter of time and his awareness?" she chuckled softly.

"For most of it." He grinned. "He doesn't make fun of Bastet, but she's very special to him. However, I'm pretty sure he still teases her when the opportunity offers itself. He teases anybody he happens to like."

"She's real then?" she asked curiously.

"So I'm told." Nathan nodded. "I've never met her myself, but all three members of the Triad have."

"Oh," Jake murmured. "Is she black like Haven has her, or brown like in MegaKat City?"

"Actually, I think Caito said she was a White Tiger." He said quietly. "But then she is a spirit, and quite capable of changing form."

"Oh," she blinked in surprise. "I never thought about that. They can?"

"I've only met three spirits, but they're all able to change form, even if two of them don't normally." Nathan nodded. "And since Bastet is supposed to be the mother of Felsira, it would make sense that she could as well, if she wanted to."

"Might explain all the different descriptions of her," she nodded thoughtfully. "Every territory seems to have a slightly different idea of what she looks like."

"Which makes you wonder if she really appeared." Nathan nodded. "Though it may be that each territory simply perceived what they saw differently."

"Or a whole lot of things," Jake nodded thoughtfully. "They don't seem to make much of an effect on the lives of most people. It's kind of questionable for a creature that's supposed to care so much."

"My people kind of lost track of Bastet when we left Origin." Nathan said quietly. "But the Triad's been there when we've really needed them."

"I guess that would make them important," she nodded slightly. "Can't say I've ever really believed in any of them much, but belief has helped enough people out I don't complain much either."

"I had my doubts, before I met them personally." Nathan said quietly. "It's a lot easier to believe in someone who's standing in front of you."

"Can't argue with that." Jake chuckled softly and leaned over to press close. "Not much different than aliens."

"Living in Haven would've made not believing in aliens a bit difficult, I would think." He chuckled, and kissed his mate gently.

"You'd be surprised," she murmured and shifted to straddle her is mate's lap and snuggled against him. "Most people I knew didn't really think about it."

"Well, I guess most of the aliens did tend to stay up at the compound, as opposed to in town." He nodded, as he wrapped his arms around Jake and held her close, ignoring the strange curves of the body.

"Ah, welcome gentlemen," the sleek, small spotted female Felsin smiled brightly at the unusual fivesome and guided them politely into her office at Real Estate NorthEast's main Dashkar office.

"Thank you." Nathan smiled. "I'm Nathan SwiftClaw, this is my mate Jake and our friends Trace, Dar and Ker." He nodded to each in turn.

"Please sit and make yourselves comfortable." She smiled at that. "I am Sera SunShadow. From your message, I understand you are looking for property to build on, and a rather extensive requirements list."

"Well, there's five of us and three or four kits on the way." Nathan nodded as the five of them sat. "That alone makes for extensive requirements, even before you get into accommodating our hobbies and interests. The property itself has a few requirements mostly in that it needs to be in the 'country' without being completely isolated."

"And the price range for the property, and the entire project?" She asked professionally while she entered a few things and began the narrowing down process.

"Well, I can put down about five hundred thousand, and I've got guaranteed income from a Special Ops military pension." He said remembering how his military contact had told him to explain things. "I'm afraid I've been out of civilian circulation for a long time, and I was a military brat." He chuckled sheepishly, not really having much of an idea about how purchasing a home went.

"Which puts an upper limit around fifteen million, including the construction." Sera told them and added the parameters with a few graceful taps. "That is a great deal of flexibility in today's market." She smiled at them. "Particularly as country lots go. How many acres are you interested in?"

"Just how big is an acre roughly?" Nathan asked curiously. He'd never needed the measurement for anything and it hit him that he was having a hard time visualizing how much space it was.

"Mmm, a square mile is 640 acres." She offered. "An average lot in the suburbs is less than half an acre."

"Well, we're definitely going to need more than one of them." He said thoughtfully. "Space for house, pool, playground for the kits, landing space for one or more fliers, and enough buffer space to keep development from coming too close if it happens to get out that far." He said looking to Jake. "Did I forget anything outside?"

"In a location where we can buy surrounding space as we have the income." He added quietly.

"All right," she nodded with a smile as the list began to shrink. "Any preference for what climate or location?"

"Actually, I happen to like this area." Nathan smiled.

"And reasonably close to a warm beach, if it's possible." Jake added. "It get nasty cold around here in winter."

"It's probably not necessary to mention around here, but lots of trees. We'll probably end up doing some clearing to give the kits open lawn to play on, but lots of trees to start."

"Do you care if you need to do demolition before construction?" Sera prompted with a soft smile while the list shrunk all the more.

"Depends on what needs demolished." Nathan said with a curious look. "We'd rather not get into old industrial sites. You never know what's buried in some of the really old ones."

"Old farm houses or government ranger outposts mostly." She smiled understandingly. "Have you discussed plans for the buildings with an architect yet?"

"Actually we were hoping you might have some recommendations for architects."

"Certainly." She smiled brightly. "Do you have an idea about what style of building you are interested in?"

"Style?" Nathan blinked. "I've lived on military bases my whole life."

"Urr ... sort of contemporary." Jake suggested hesitantly, not too sure himself. "Lots of color and interest and lots of places to put things."

"I think I know who you'd do well with." Sera said with reassuring certainty. "Jeremy Carter, an albino male Leopard that works with this office on it's more demanding designs."

"Sounds good to me." Nathan nodded.

Sera nodded and clicked a few things into her terminal. "He has an opening next week. Wednesday at 3pm."

"Where's his office located?" Nathan asked curiously.

"Northstar Office Complex, 6th floor, suite 602." She replied from memory. "It would be good if you can come in with an idea of the features you want." She said as she leaned over to pull a sizeable folder from her desk drawer. "Though he is prepared to take it from scratch, it can be a timesaver if you have a few ideas." She handed the folder-book to Nathan. "These are some examples of various building and design styles. You might also find it useful to go around and take pictures of buildings that have features you like, be it colors, decoration, outline, features or anything else."

"We do need to do a bit more looking around." Nathan smiled. "We've been a bit too focused on getting everything set up to really sight see." He smiled as he opened the folder-book where Jake could get an easy look as well, as the three bats came around behind the two of them.

"We've found that the more you know about what you like, and don't like, the better we can match your needs and desires up with what will really work for you." Sera smiled as the five skimmed the book. "You are welcome to take that home to go through more carefully. These are major decisions to make."

"Thank you." Nathan smiled. "With kits on the way, it is important to get the home right. And our collective experiences are of limited applicability, except maybe Jake." He added realizing he really didn't know much of his mate's life before they met in the Academy.

"Not really. I don't want the kits to deal with what I did," she shook her head with a low voice. "It's no way for them to grow up."

"Okay, in that case none of our experiences really apply." Nathan smiled at the Servil.

"That's not a problem." She said reassuringly. "That is part of what we are trained to assist with. Many are not sure what they want that they can afford when they come in. I'm sure the next week will give you a much better idea of the options available to you."

"Probably, we don't do anything by halves." Nathan chuckled. "We do appreciate the help though. Shifting from military to civilian life isn't easy, especially when it wasn't something any of us expected."

"No, that much we don't," Jake chuckled, speaking up for one of the few times that day despite his generally sullen mood.

"It is rarely easy." Sera smiled understandingly at them with the knowledge of experience. "There are a great many resources available to help you out if you find it too difficult."

"Yeah, my military resettlement coordinator gave me a data crystal full of them." Nathan smiled. "But thank you for mentioning it."

"You are welcome," Sera nodded and glanced at her computer screen. "Would you like to see a few properties today, or wait until you have a better idea of the house you want to build on it first?"

"I'm up for looking at few, just to get a feel for them." He said easily. "How about you, Jake? Guys?" He added looking back at the bats.

"We're always up for sightseeing." Ker grinned.

"Sure," Jake nodded. "Might be good to get out and look around a little more."

"Excellent," Sera smiled brightly at them and tapped a few commands into her terminal to print off three she thought were the best match. "There are three I think you should see. To get a feel for what I understand you want if nothing else."

"Sounds like a good place to start." Nathan smiled. "And it's nice day out as well."

"Yes," she nodded and stood with the papers in hand. "An excellent day to see country properties. Would you like to come in my vehicle, or follow in your own?"

"I think we'll follow." Nathan smiled and stood, the others easily following with Jake being unusually clingy and quiet.

Unusual Partners: Foreign Tiger 5: Shadowed Lives

Het Level is Low
Slash Level is
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

112 KB, Story is Complete, Series is in Progress
Written March 13, 2003 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Galactic Alliance, Haven

Primary Races: Felsin, Kat, Mephit

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). All Original Characters, Crossover, Gender-shifting, Mpreg, Relationship (Cross Species), Relationship (Established), Romance, Sci-Fi

Pairings: Jake Clawson/Nathan SwiftClaw/Trace

Blurb: Settling in on Felsinor turns out to be more complicated that originally thought and Jake's mental quirks are not making things any easier.

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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