Dark Cat

It had been a grueling couple of months with little sleep and even less peace of mind.

Since Gabrielle's attack, his time within the Carpathian community had been marked by one revelation after another, many of which hit much closer to home than he could have ever imagined. His mind, usually adept at mastering complex ideas and connections, was overwhelmed.

His life had been forever altered. His whole concept of who he was and even, what he was had been turned upside down. Even now as he sat reviewing his own genetic markers for the hundredth time, it was almost impossible to grasp.

However, in his soul he knew the truth. He was jaguar. His family was jaguar and with that, irrevocably tied to the Carpathian people.

Looking at his past through the new lens of this information, he could see this theme, the genetic directive running through his life, motivating and driving him toward this unknown destiny.

While in college, his older sister had abruptly married a man and soon lost touch with his family. He was only a small boy at the time but he remembered his parents' grief over the situation. He remembered his mother's intense reaction, her suspicion that her daughter had somehow fallen under the influence of someone or something otherworldly.

These early experiences, these fuzzy recollections from his childhood, had somehow planted a seed of interest in him that had driven him to seek out the unexplained even as he studied traditional science in school. By the time he had earned his doctorate in Biochemistry from Tulane at the young age of twenty-four, his interest has become an obsession. When the Morrison Institute approached him with an offer that entailed researching what most would consider mythological creatures in one of the most cutting edge research labs that money could buy, he couldn't believe his luck.

Now, he knew. He knew he had been caught like a fly in a spider's web. He had had no idea and he had to wonder how many other people were innocently caught in the same damn web. If it hadn't been for Gregori and Savannah; well, he didn't want to think too much about it. God forbid, what if he had become as research subject verses a researcher or even worse, one of the tormentors with their fanatical views, how his life could have easily taken a much more sinister path.

Gary shook his head in an effort to clear his murky thoughts. It was almost sunset; Gabrielle and Shea would be heading to the lab soon. Jubal was coming too. They were working on plotting a rudimentary family tree for all of those with jaguar blood. Once persons were identified and plotted, blood would be drawn and full genetic workups completed.

It was been an arduous undertaking. Simply ordering the most state-of-the-art genetic equipment from all over Europe had taken weeks. But finally, the bulk of what they could gather was in front of them. Now the real work began, work that was far more nebulous and frustrating than simply drawing blood and running tests. He wondered if a background in detective work might have served him better.

A fragrant burst of wind blew through the lab heralding Gabrielle's entrance. She had managed to master the Carpathian manner of travel without any difficulty. He wished he could say the same for many other of the changes that she had no choice other. Still, it was wonderful to see her, to be in her company.

She was of medium height with moderate curves in the places where women should be. She would say she was average if you asked, but he would beg to differ. The mere shape of her pleased him to no end. He could watch her move through the lab for hours, studying her with as much concentration as he would the most challenging sample. Her hair was a glossy dark brown that had only become more luxurious since her turning. In the course of a few months, it had grown from just below her ears to the middle of her back. She coped with, what she fondly called her "mess of hair" by trying a variety of various clips that she ordered over the internet. She shared that she was trying to find "the right one".

When he turned he saw that today she had pulled the hair nearest her face back and left the rest hanging loose. He knew from hours of careful observation that she hated to have her hair hanging in her face while she worked. She looked well, flushed with good health; she had obviously fed prior to coming.

Just that one thought kicked him straight in the gut. The intense feelings brought on by the thought of her taking blood from another man bit at him like nothing he had ever known and in moments like this, he could almost feel that he was indeed, jaguar. He fought to turn his attention elsewhere.

"I'm glad you're here." He said softly. His simple statement came out more like a confession to his ears.

She blushed. It hadn't been that long that she had been together enough to be up and out as regularly as she wanted to be. There were times now when she could almost imagine that nothing had changed. That she and Gary were closed up in their cozy, little world filled with microscopes and computers. Then, something would happen and her carefully concocted charade would vanish. Tonight it happened quickly; she could hear his heart beat speed as he looked at her from underneath his long dark blonde lashes. She could scent the subtle fragrance that she had begun to associate with Gary. It was so faint that she didn't pick it up as a human but now she warmed whenever she caught it – a woodsy, slightly musky smell that struck a cord deep within her.

She smiled, "I'm glad too. I would miss this for the world." She was sincere when she said this but she quickly turned to her work on the far side of the lab where she could comfortably hide behind a bank of computer equipment.

Gary followed her briefly but stopped as she turned the corner to what he liked to think of as Gabrielle's "space." "I feel like we are finally getting somewhere. I feel like the answers are in front of us, that all the pieces of the puzzle are here if only we could fit them together."

She peeked around the corner to answer, lured by his optimism. "I hope so. I really do."

There was so much more that she wanted to say but she was frightened that if she started, she wouldn't stop. With that thought, she retreated again.

Gary returned to his work. He felt calmer with her here, just knowing that she was near and safe. Past that, he felt no immediate need to push it any further.

The amount of information recently gained regarding the means by which Xavier and his minions were attempting to eradicate the entire Carpathian race was staggering. He wished he could forgo sleep for a month or two until he had processed the bulk of it.

********

It was 7:00 am before he tried to sleep in the quarters he kept above the lab. He had long ago stopped abiding by any sort of normal time table. Before Sara had hired her nanny, he often stayed up a portion of the day with her younger children but his scientific pursuits and their importance had now superceded all other responsibilities.

Still, he had come to depend on the things he could rely on his body to accomplish. He could function well on less sleep than an average human being. His strength and muscle mass was superior although he had rarely had an opportunity to exercise on a regular basis. His health was excellent by all accounts and tests and he often had results of a man fifteen years his junior.

He found he could function well on around five hours of sleep in any given 24 hour period. Longer than that and he would just toss and turn. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had been affected by the Carpathian blood flowing through his veins. He went through a short period where he journaled every minute alteration that he discovered in his physical self. The researcher in him could do no less. He found that thinking about these somewhat frightening changes was better done in third person.

He knew he needed to go back through that work and look at it with the understanding that he was also jaguar but he just couldn't bring himself to do it as of yet. Here was yet another unforeseen twist in the road.