Hi everyone. This is my third piece with this character (Cassie, my shapeshifter)—which is a new record. She's beaten Lia as most-frequently-appearing—isn't that shocking? I apologize in advance if Warren is OOC. Cassie and Warren may end up together—I haven't decided that far, and I'm afraid of the flames I may get (puts on fireproof armor)…
Important note: Cassie is a full shifter, as I have said before. This means she can turn herself into anything, animate or inanimate—and she can also shift clothing. She can use telepathy as a result of this power, regardless of whether she is shifted or not. The "red-dragon" thing is a D&D reference—using a partial /internal shape of this creature confers fire immunity. Even though she's a shifter, she can lose control of the animal(s)' mind(s) and this can prove disastrous…

Warren ducked from under the eaves and padded out into the rain. Ahead of him, a slender figure stepped onto the street, zipping up a jacket and flicking back a black ponytail—then he recognized her. "Cass!" he shouted.

The lithe young woman turned, saw him, and stopped to wait for him. "You just got off work?"

"Yeah." He glanced down at the girl—she surrendered five or six inches of height to him, but refused to admit defeat in any form. "What were you doing?"

"Mom asked me to make an errand run." she replied as they walked along the deserted street.

The two walked on in silence, before Cassie suddenly shivered. Her street clothes shimmered into her bodysuit, a cheap jumpsuit that she wore when not shifting in combat. "Something's wrong… look out!"

He leaped aside just as a snarling beast's jaws closed on the air where his wrist had just been. In a blur of motion, her hand turned into a tiger's paw, which hurled the creature back and down, claws scoring bloody tracks across its muzzle. As it lay stunned, Cassie glanced it over and spat in distaste. "Hyena. A mutated one, at that."

"There's more than one." Warren pointed out as a chorus of eerie yips and howls rang out around them. Hyenas lunged at the teens, snapping and snarling, forcing them to retreat farther and farther down the street.

"They're herding us." Cassie gasped, then gripped Warren's arm tightly. "Listen, Warren, if this turns out to be a villain ambush, you have to pretend to be a villain who's kidnapping me."

"What?" Warren couldn't believe his ears. "Why?"

She frowned up at him. "It's the only way I can think of that we'd both survive! If I tell you to attack me, or leave me and run—do it, okay?"

"I won't abandon my friends." he shot back.

They were nearing an alley mouth—with a swift glance at Warren, Cassie grabbed his hand, slammed it down on her wrist, then screamed, "Let me go, you jerk!" Hardly moving her lips, she hissed, "Play along!"

He gripped her wrist harder as she struggled, then laughed coldly as they were herded into the shadowed alley.

"Ah, Warren. So good to see you." The voice was familiar—Warren turned to see two young men walking casually towards them. He recognized them both—twin pyrokinetics.

"Ignasio. Night Burn." He greeted calmly. "Why're you here?"

"Just… prowling." Ignasio leered at Cassie as he said it.

"You set me up, you bastard!" Cassie snarled at Warren angrily.

"I didn't know about them being here, but yes, I did set you up." Warren changed his grip so he held the smaller girl's wrists in one of his big hands.

"Monster!" Cassie spat, dark eyes blazing hate.

Ignoring the young woman, Ignasio glanced at Warren. "What were you planning?

He shrugged, trying to find a way to get them both out unhurt. "Dunno, really."

"Tsk, tsk, Warren, poor planning." Night Burn chided. "Tell you what, we'll help. Burn her, then break her."

Warren glanced down at his friend—she broke free, then folded her arms across her chest. "Do what you want to me. I won't fight." The set of her jaw spoke determination, but her eyes were begging him to comply. Please, Warren. Do it. You won't hurt me.

Staring into her eyes, he shook his head slightly. 'I won't do this to her. I am not my father. I can't do it.'

Damn you, Warren! DO IT! she screamed in his mind. Attack me!

Igniting his hands, he began hurling fireballs at her—as she said, she wasn't harmed as her unusually red-tinted skin absorbed the flames. After a few minutes, the twins stepped forward. "We'll give you a hand, shall we?" Night Burn drawled as he and Ignasio hurled fire at her—at the same moment that Warren launched his own handful of flames.

Too late, Warren realized what the twins had done—he let out a horrified yell as Cassie's scream of pain split the night air. The shock of three fireballs hitting at the same moment had made her lose the shape and thus lose the fire immunity that her part-red-dragon shape had conferred. Immediately, Ignasio and his brother threw more fire, burning her severely and making her scream again—the high-pitched scream suddenly dropped in pitch to an ominous groan, then it became a full-throated roar of pure fury as a gigantic polar bear suddenly stood where the girl had just been. The bear reared to its seven-foot height and released an awesome roar of sheer rage. Looking at the dark eyes of the enraged bear, Warren saw only animal instinct and fury—all traces of his gentle friend were buried beneath the wounded animal's mind.

Ignasio and Night Burn threw fireballs, setting the bear's fur ablaze—roaring with pain, it dropped to all fours and charged the duo. Alarmed, they hurled even more fire, but it was no use. The bear was already maddened past the point of feeling any pain. The giant paws swept down on Ignasio's head, dropping him like rock—Night Burn hurled more fireballs at the bear as it knocked him down with a casual paw-swat, then lunged at him in a flash of teeth—

The bear turned its head to fix Warren with a dark-eyed stare, blood dripping from its jaws and staining the white fur with crimson. Warren gulped, praying she'd recognize him—but the bear collapsed, its burning fur extinguished as it turned back into an unconscious, severely burned young woman lying on wet asphalt in an alley.

"Cass?" Warren approached cautiously, horrified at the sight of her burns. Her arms and legs had taken the worst of the damage, but there were some nasty-looking burns across her chest and stomach. She was breathing shallowly, unresponsive to her name or his cautious shaking.

Steam was rising from the burns where the fine drizzle bathed the wounds in rainwater. "Oh, God." he whispered, horrified. Gently, he wiped a trickle of blood from her mouth, before carefully, tenderly scooping her into his arms. Her head was lolling over his arm—almost gingerly, he touched her dark hair, then tucked her head securely against his shoulder.

Covering her face, Warren ran out of the alley, heading for a refuge where he knew he could get help.

So what do you think of it? Leave a review (hint hint) and let me know!