Author's Note: This is a sequel to 'The beast does not control me' and will make little sense without reading that one first. Thanks go to Spud and Fluffybunnies for idea help, and being able to answer random questions whilst in the middle of something else! Thanks to Norah Jones for providing a better title for this fic! Apologies to Betas for mucking this up!
Pairing: I'm not going to tell you! Guess. You'll find out eventually.
Disclaimer: Mutant X and all other recognisable characters belong to Tribune Entertainment and the rest. I am making no money from this; I do it for fun, honest! The song just fits, it's I love you by Sarah Maclachlan.
Every time I'm close to you,
There's too much I can't say,
And you just walk away,
And I forgot to tell you I love you,
The night's too long
And cold here without you,
I grieve at my condition,
For I cannot find the words to say,
I need you so.
Sarah Maclachlan, I love you
A silent wraith she slipped from shadow to shadow, noiseless. As insubstantial as a ghost. Only the glint of her golden eyes betrayed her, but she kept them half closed, leaving only slender slivers in the dark alleyway.
There were six of them; she knew that, although there was no scent or movement yet. Two would be feral, like her, one would be molecular, although his particular power was unknown to her as of yet. Two would be human, strong and well trained, but still no match for her individually. And the last one, her final challenge. A fire elemental, the only mutant power that could instil true fear in her. The pure animalistic terror of the flame.
Two leather-clad figures stepped out of a side alley. One was feral and the other was the molecular. She watched as the molecular pushed his hand through the wall nearest to him; showing off his powers as the molecules of the wall shifted under his touch as though dreading contact. The feral's eyes glowed, temporarily matching her own. An unspoken challenge.
She dropped into a fighting stance, preparing for the attack. The feral moved first, but a solid kick to his chest and a high, inhuman jump-kick floored him temporarily. A quick hand gesture from the molecular flung Shalimar into the hard brick wall behind her, but she landed on her feet, already crouched and prepared for her next move. Launching herself to one side she dodged the next sweep of his hand and was able to turn quickly and come back at him from the other side before he'd had a chance to turn towards her. A blow to the back of his neck as he bent to protect his stomach floored her second opponent.
Even as he went down she could see two more emerging from the same alleyway. The second feral and a human this time. The human dropped almost immediately to a blow that threw his head back and sent him flying to the floor, his shock-stick falling unused from his limp hand. The first feral was, by this time back on his feet and joined the second feral. Now she was up against two ferals, both with more height and weight than she had.
She matched them both blow for blow as they fought, every movement smooth and calculated, as though by some secondary force within her. She surrendered herself completely to the movement, not giving or taking until she saw her opening. She dropped into a crouch just as she saw both ferals swing; one from each side, perfectly mirrored. Fists colliding, before they could retract their swings, with each other's faces.
An elbow to the human - who had just managed to right himself - returned him to the ground.
Trying to calm her breathing she watched as the two ferals righted themselves and moved forward to return to the fight, the molecular was also just about to join them. She breathed deeply, soothing her racing heart, preparing for the three-way attack. The rest of Mutant X couldn't help her here, It was just her and them.
The feral on her right moved first, stepping forward into striking range. The molecular moved up behind him and the second feral moved so that he was stood behind her, a constant threat. The first feral moved quickly, almost pushing her back into the second as she dodged the blow. She responded by dropping to the ground and flooring both ferals with a wide sweep of her foot. Both caught themselves and were back on their feet almost immediately, but it had had the required effect. Both were now fuming and no longer playing with her. More aggressive with their moves they left themselves open to hers. The feral behind her was on the floor quickly; the first was proving to be a bit harder to beat. Blows flying left right and centre Shalimar didn't have enough attention to spare for the voice that broke into the fight.
"Shalimar!" With her focus lost a kick escaped her notice, taking her legs from under her and causing her to land hard on the asphalt. The molecular saw this and helped the floored feral to his feet as they began to circle her. She pulled herself off the floor and into a crouch, growling softly as they advanced. As the nearest feral moved closer she pounced, every single ounce of power she had going into that jump.
What she didn't expect was that - seconds away from contact - he would disappear, along with the others and the alleyway itself, to be replaced by Sanctuary's dojo. Unable to retract her jump and too late to twist away, Shalimar contacted hard with one wooden wall.
Groaning slightly she looked down to find the source of the voice who had called her name and found Adam at the dojo's controls. "You did that on purpose!" Adam couldn't help but laugh at his feral, slightly ruffled, very hot and holding one shoulder where she had impacted with the dojo's wall.
"No, I didn't, and I'm sorry you got yourself hurt, but you mustn't commit yourself so fully to such dangerous moves unless you're sure they'll connect. Your opponent had enough time to move out of the way and you would have had the same problem." Nodding, she conceded the point. She had been angry that she'd allowed herself to be distracted and had not stopped to think out her moves.
"What did you distract me for?"
"There's a call for you. A young feral, dark hair"
"Onca!" Shalimar shouted, jumping past Adam and running up the steps to the monitor on the balcony. Throwing herself into the computer seat she opened up the incoming call and smiled as her friend's face appeared on the screen.
"Hey Shalimar." She grinned. "Dus, oh mighty leader of mine, asked if I'd contact you."
"We're having a party, for someone to take leadership. Hopefully people will vote sensibly and Dus will step up to take leader place. Thought you might want to come along for the party."
"Cool, a party! I'll have to ask Adam though; he hasn't been letting me out much. The eyes are a bit of a giveaway if anyone wanted to start trouble."
"I know, I can see them from here. Is there still much of the virus in you?"
"According to Adam, not enough to keep my eyes feral. He's worried it might be a permanent side affect to being infected twice."
"I'm so sorry Shal."
"Hey, it's not your fault. But is there anyone going to be there that would have a problem with it?"
"We're a feral Pack trying to find a new leader after the death of our first in a feral epidemic. You think we're inviting just anyone? The Pack want you here Shal. There are people here who never got to thank you for what you did for us. Look, I have to go, come if you can. I'll send you directions." And with that the message screen blinked out and an information transfer box appeared.
"The Lion's Paw." She read from the address. "Nice."
Shalimar parked her bike as close to the front door of the club as she could; wanting to get inside without anyone seeing her eyes in the bright orange form that they had been in since she had been re-infected by the feral virus. A large feral stopped her at the door.
"Sorry Ma'am, there's a private party on today. The club is shut. We'll be open for normal business tomorrow evening." Shalimar smiled at him, lifting the softly tinted glasses she was wearing that had masked the colour of her eyes while she was riding her bike.
"I was invited by Onca." She added, just in case he hadn't got the idea. The large man smiled.
"Of course, my apologies. Go right through."
Shalimar walked through the short corridor towards the source of soft music she could hear in the distance. Suddenly she stepped into a huge cavern of a room and the music was amplified until it vibrated through her ribs. Grinning at the effect she stepped backward into the hallway and the music was once again soft and in the distance. Stepping into the crowds in the big hall she looked around for anyone she knew. She could feel the ripples her exposed feral eyes caused and hoped Onca was right when she said no one would take offence.
A hand on her shoulder made her jump as she span around, coming face to face with Fel, one of the women of the Pack who had helped with the extraction from enemy territory when they had been trapped. Happy to see a familiar face Shalimar was quickly relaxed in the crowded club.
"Hey girl, how's life been treating you?" Fel shouted over the music.
"I'll be happier when my eyes are brown again."
"Don't worry about it. You're not going to be the only one for this evening." Fel pointed out two men and a woman who had eyes the same yellow-orange colour that graced Shalimar's eyes. "Some of them have learned to hold it without the adrenaline rush. They think it's 'cool'." Fel led her out of the crowd and through a pair of double doors labelled 'private'. Entering a second room that looked like a large storeroom Shalimar spotted Dus and his wife Brice with a young child.
"Dus." Fel called. "Your honoured guest is here. I thought Onca was meant to meet her?"
"Oh, Shalimar. You're here." Dus took Shalimar into an embrace, his large form almost hiding hers. "It's good to see you OK. How are you? Onca said you were OK, but she was worried that your eyes might be permanent. Anyway, it shouldn't"
"Dus, be quiet a moment!" Brice interrupted the stream of distacted words from her husband. "Ignore him, he's nervous." She told Shalimar. "How are you dear?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"Onca is around somewhere. She was helping set up, so she's only just got around to getting herself done up." A small hand pulled Shalimar's attention downwards.
"You're like us. Why aren't you part of our pack?" A small voice asked her. The voice belonged to a blond girl of about six with a thin face and hair in long pigtails.
"Shalimar, this is my daughter, Kitten." Brice introduced them. "Her true name is Cathryn, but you can't expect a nickname like that not to appear living with a pack of ferals."
"Nice to meet you Kitten." Even as she spoke, a chime rang out around the whole building drowning out her voice. When the resonance faded away Brice looked up.
"I hope Onca's out there already or she's going to miss her own speech." And with that she headed out into the main room again where the music had been turned right down so it was nothing but a quiet hum in the background.
"Tonight we would choose a new leader." Onca's voice seemed to come from nowhere. "Decisions must be made, and everyone here has a chance to lead us tonight. Your votes will decide all of our futures and we would ask you to choose wisely." Finally Shalimar pinpointed the small stage in one corner that held her friend. "But this is not our only matter today. We would offer a place in our family to Cane, as his family were lost in protection of our own. We are forever indebted to them and we can never repay that. Also, to the members of Mutant X we would offer our aid and the safety of our home if it should ever be of use to them. Many of us have had lives touched by the support of these people even before the illness and we are eternally grateful for the rescue from danger. To Shalimar, to whom the rescue came at a cost, we offer a place in our home, though her work with Mutant X would take ultimate precedence. What you did for us means more than you know." Shalimar blushed as she felt the power of many eyes on her. This was unexpected, but not unpleasant. There was some great attraction to her in living with a pack. To truly belong and not have to worry about Mutant X, her friends and responsibilities. To be with her own. As the bussle of the crowd moved towards several tables set up around the room, Shalimar stood thinking of her future and the future she had been offered with these people. She didn't notice Cane walking up to her in the crowd until he was stood in front of her.
"Hey, lil' lady. How are you?" She grimaced at the greeting.
"I'm really not that small." She objected. "You're just tall."
"Yeah, well, the question still stands."
"The virus is nearly out of my system. I'm me again."
"That ain't what I asked."
"I'm good. A little bored, but good."
"Girl, you're gonna be bored every minute you're not hung on to the edge with your fingernails. It's genetic." She laughed.
"Yeah, I suppose it is."
"So what you gonna do about this invite then? It's quite something to be invited into the Pack, or so I'm told. But you got people back home depending on you."
"I haven't thought it through yet. What are you going to do?"
"I got nowhere better to go, the only reason I didn't join the pack originally was Sara, and then Jamie. She wasn't as comfortable with that side of herself, she wasn't willing to join the Pack 'coz to her living like an animal in a pack was getting too close to accepting what she was."
"You fought well that night, Shalimar. I couldn't have expected any better. There were too many of them for us to protect ourselves."
"I'm still sorry."
"Then I thank you." The loudspeakers turned back on as Onca re-emerged grinning widely.
"The people have spoken. Dus, you have carried out people through the death of our leader and watched over us here. The pack would see you as our next leader! Tomorrow you will lead us. Tonight we will party!" Applause erupted throughout the crowd and the music returned to its previous volume and a wave of calm passed into the room. It struck Shalimar then that in those few moments anyone could have been raised to leadership, anything could have happened to the pack and people were very happy to have Dus as their continued leader. Smiling softly she moved through the crowd to find the large man and congratulate him.
"Shalimar?" She turned from the bar as Onca appeared at her side, carrying the young Kitten, who looked half-asleep.
"Hey." She greeted.
"I have to take this little one to bed. I wanted to show you something."
"Sure." Standing, Shalimar followed the dark haired feral through the crowds of people and out of the room through another door labelled private. The corridor ended in a small room that seemed to have no doors out of it. Smiling at her confusion, Onca simply grinned at Shalimar and jumped upwards, landing on a small platform above her head. It was a jump only a feral could have made and a sensible safely feature she realised, following them quickly before she got left behind. They were now in a second corridor that led to another dead end with another jump to the next floor. The end of this corridor though, had a door at one end and another adjacent to it.
"Take your shoes off." Onca told her, doing the same with her own and leaving them in the small room that was to one side. Stepping through the other door, Shalimar found herself in a huge room. Flicking a lamp on from one of the four tables that stood in the corners of the room, Onca revealed a huge mattress that took up almost the whole room. It could easily hold the whole pack - which was what it was for, Shalimar realised as Kitten grabbed a pillow and a small blanket from the pile in one corner and curled up in the middle of the mattress. There were six doors around the room other than the one they had entered by. Seeing the direction of her gaze, Onca explained, "There are six other rooms, for privacy. Not everyone enjoys communal sleeping all of the time. There are more downstairs, for the disgraced or anyone who isn't pack. You've got one saved for you down there. I just thought you should see this. This is what I joined the pack for, the feeling of home."
Checking that Kitten was safe for the night, Onca turned off the light and headed out of the room. Grabbing their shoes they made their way back to the party. Stopping her friend before they stepped back out into the loud music, Shalimar spoke up. "Thanks, that meant a lot to me, all of this does."
"Hey, girl, we all want you with us, even if it is only when you can get time away from your team. Now let's get back to that party, before they start to miss us."