Chapter 29: Change
My mind was in the fog again, moving towards something I couldn’t quite make out. I heard a low rumble, it felt like it was coming from somewhere deep inside. It washed over me, making me happy. “Who’s there,” I asked in my mind.
I saw something moving, a diffuse shape coming towards me. The fog cleared, and the big cat sat down, looking at me as I looked around the jungle surrounding us. She was beautiful; light tan in color, big dark brown and black rosettes along her sides and back, stripes on her chest and stomach. “Are you…” She walked towards me, I moved towards her and knelt in front of her, our foreheads meeting. I was filled with pride and awe, she was beautiful in all ways, strong and deadly, and she was mine.
“Mate is here,” she said to me. “Safe.” She tucked her head onto my shoulder as I held her tight.
“Where are we?”
“Safe place in our mind. We must accept each other, Mate will help.” I looked over, seeing a huge black panther moving through the thick undergrowth towards us. I would recognize him anywhere.
“How is he here?”
“He is our mate; his cat and I are connected. We can visit each other’s dreams.” Gunny moved up, placing his big head on my other shoulder. I wrapped my arms around both of their necks. “I’m so lucky,” I told them.
“So am I,” my cat purred.
“I need you to focus on your cat, Rose. Open your mind, let her in. Show her your memories, your dreams, your thoughts. She is you and you are her now.” I closed my eyes, focusing on my cat. I felt her move; her body was moving into mine, making space for herself inside my mind. In a moment we were together forever.
I didn’t even notice Gunny leaving, we were busy as I walked her through my memories. Her thoughts, her desires were melding with mine, and eventually the desire to sleep overcame us both.
I heard a scratching noise, my mind alerted to it. I kept my eyes closed, feeling my ears move to hone in on it. “Mouse,” I heard Gunny say in my head. “You’re awake, you’re safe my love.”
I opened my eyes and looked around, everything looked different. The room was almost dark, just a monitor screen that displayed my pulse and respirations provided a soft glow of illumination. I could see everything in the room, it was sharp and kind of grey. I moved my head up, yawning I realized this wasn’t the body I went to sleep in. “The change is over,” my cat said to me, “and we are in my body now.” I sniffed the air, taking in the scents; it almost overwhelmed me how many and strong they were. It was like going from a tiny black-and-white screen to a full size HDTV image, it was such a change.
My tongue went out and licked my nose as I felt Gunny’s cat move behind me. He moved his tongue down my neck, causing me to purr loudly as I relaxed into the feel of his grooming. “You’re beautiful,” he said. “I’m so happy right now.”
We took a few minutes to explore each other in our panther forms before it was time to let the others in. “The Alphas are outside,” he said in my head. “Your cat has to submit to them, accept the Pack bond.”
“Craig? Ella? Please come in,” I sent to them over the Pack link he had taught me to use just after I was bitten. They came into the room, their eyes quickly finding us on the bed. Ella shifted, her big cat jumping up on the bed as she started to rub her face and neck against mine. Craig shifted into his large wolf; the bed was full, so he put his paws on the rail and leaned over with his muzzle. “My Alphas,” I said as my cat rolled back, exposing her throat to them in submission. They each took my neck gently in their teeth before moving up to lick my face.
“You’re so beautiful, Rose. Your coloring, it’s like a normal jaguar, not like the black pigment of Gunny and I,” she said.
“Is that all right?”
“Perfectly fine,” Gunny said. “The black color is the outlier, your natural color being lighter you didn’t take it. You are so beautiful, I could spend hours gazing at you,” he said. I could feel his lust starting to build through the bond.
“Come on, some people want to meet you,” Ella said as she jumped down without a sound. “They are outside waiting on you.”
Gunny shifted so he could help me stand, once I had started to figure out the four legs with the help of my cat, I moved off the bed. I wasn’t as graceful and silent as Gunny was when he shifted and jumped down, but at least I didn’t faceplant. Craig used the rope and rubber ball connected to the door, pulling it open so we could all exit. My eyes took a few seconds to adjust, and when they did I was blown away with how good my vision was. I moved slowly at Gunny’s side as Ella led us to the door of the clinic.
As soon as I exited the clinic, the smells of the Pack hit me full on. I stopped and looked around, the entire Gila and Belden Packs filled the driveway and grass between me and the Pack House. I started looking, but there was a loud shriek as Charlotte ran to me, grabbing me around my neck. “MOM!! Oh my God, you’re beautiful!” My cat was pleased, and I was so happy to see her, I rubbed my cheek and neck against her as her fingers explored the patterns in my body. Josh came up to stand by her in his wolf form, we sniffed each other and rubbed cheeks.
“Wow, Mom, you are an amazing cat,” he told me over the link. “So pretty.”
The other cats in the Pack all shifted and came over to greet us. Most of them were black or mostly black in color, except for Olivia- she was a little darker on the base color than me, but close enough. I heard Alpha Robert let out a long, celebratory howl, joined by Alpha Craig and then Renee and Ella roared. The next time they started, the Packs had shifted, and all the wolves joined in, then the panthers. I joined them, feeling my chest rumble as I roared my happiness to the evening sky.
“Come on,” Ella said, “We’ve got a party set up out back, and we have to see who won the pool for when you would join us,” she said. “You’ve got to be starving.”
My cat rumbled her approval of the idea, I wanted meat. I lifted my nose, finding the scents of the cooking as we moved off. My cat was mine, I was heard, and sharing meant that I could pick up movement in this form faster. It only took a couple dozen yards before I was gliding silently along my mate as we followed the Alphas to the back yard.
If I thought barbecue smelled amazing as a human, this smell went to eleven. I lifted my nose, taking deep breaths of the food. “I know, I couldn’t get over the difference either,” Gunny said into my mind. “Just wait until we can go back to the island; there is nothing like fresh boar over the coals with that mango sauce.”
I watched as people shifted back, the men pulling on shorts and most of the women pulling on sundresses. “Is it wrong that I don’t want to shift back?”
“I don’t want you to, your change has taken energy from you, if you shift back now you’ll fall asleep again.” He led me to the front, where the Alphas were sitting with their plates. “Ours will be served differently,” he said.
Sure enough, a large plastic platter containing the rear quarter of an antelope was placed on the ground in front of the table. “Go ahead,” he told me. I looked up at the Alpha’s table, they were all smiling and laughing. Josh and Charlotte were at the end, taking the places Gunny and I were normally given. I raised my head to the sky and let loose a roar of pleasure, then I pounced. The meat was amazing; perfectly cooked and moderately seasoned, the taste exploded on my tongue. I ripped chunks from it with my big teeth, swallowing them whole. “Take your time, you don’t want to get sick. You haven’t eaten for days,” he told me.
I moved aside and let him go to the other end, and between us we reduced the leg to a few bones in ten minutes. I balanced the leg bone in my front paws, my claws holding it, while my jaws cracked it. I licked out the marrow, my cat was happy and satisfied. When I let the bone drop, Gunny started to groom my face and paws, cleaning the remains from me as I did the same for him.
“Come on,” he told me. ”Time for cat lessons.”
My cat coughed at him. ”She says she knows what I need,” I told him.
“Then catch me.”
He took off for the trails in the back yard that led into the scrub hills and canyons surrounding their pack house. My cat was up in an instant, but I wasn’t comfortable running yet so I lost sight of him. “We can track him,” she told me, “just use your nose.” I kept it up, picking up the scent of my mate and knowing which trail to take. I grew more confident in my body, my paws finding the right places to land on the trail, my powerful legs propelling me forward. We dropped down into a canyon, the sheltered area was heavily forested, and I lost the trail.
“Problems, my love?”
I closed my eyes and sniffed, letting my senses help me out. “In the trees, love?”
I ran back to where I lost the scent and looked up in to the gathering darkness, spotting his dark form on a branch. I leapt onto the tree, my claws digging in as I climbed. When I was nearly to him, he took off, leaping for another tree. The game of chase continued, this time at altitude, before he jumped from a branch into a deep pool of the creek. I jumped after him, splashing him, before we paddled to the edge and got out. “I love how we can climb and swim,” I told him.
“We can’t run long distances like the wolves, but I like our skills better. There’s nothing like napping on a branch, or dropping down onto unsuspecting prey. Much more fun than all that chasing,” he said. “But with you, I like being caught.” He moved around me as I lay on the warm rock, his tongue bathing me. It felt so amazing, I closed my eyes and started to purr loudly. When he got to my haunches, I was already getting excited and he quickly noticed it. His tongue lapped at me, my tail moving to the side as the pleasure shot through me. “Bring your haunches up,” he said huskily in my mind. My cat and I were one, we wanted him, we wanted him now. I raised up as he moved over me, his teeth grabbing the scruff of my neck to hold me in place as he found home.
I’d felt him in cat form before and it was uncomfortable, but now that I was the same it was amazing. We both had been waiting too long, we needed each other too badly, and I melwed in pleasure as he ravaged me. He started to come, filling me with his seed, then ripped it out. The barbs sent me over the edge as I came as well. “Wow.”
He laid next to me as I collapsed onto the ground. “Wow is right.” We drifted off to sleep, it was dark when I woke up. The dim moonlight was plenty for my new eyes, and my movement woke Gunny up as well. “Come on, Rose, we need to go back,” he said as he got to his feet. He put his head under my neck, helping me get up. We set off through the trails, he let me lead so I could practice scenting again.
“Gunny, what happened on the investigation while I was out?”
“Not much. We’re putting a net around Luis. As for Maitea Jennings, she has disappeared. Renee had her brother’s pack investigate, she sold her home three months ago and cleaned out her bank accounts. So far she’s off the grid, probably using a false identity because we’d have a hit if she used her own. We’ve got photos, fingerprints, every Pack has been alerted and instructed not to say why we’re looking for her.”
“The FBI investigation?”
“It’s moving along. The disturbing thing is that Maitea should have popped up a week ago when we built the database. Someone erased her information or made sure it didn’t get in.”
“Maybe. Josh and his team are still working on it. Luis may have other people doing his bidding, Rose.”
We reached the back yard and crossed silently to the back door. “Hi guys,” Renee said as she opened the door. “Have a good night.”
We went up the stairs and Gunny shifted, letting us into our room before pulling on some clothes. “Now we need you to shift back, baby. I want you to close your eyes, go meet your cat in your mind, and imagine yourself in human form. Fingers, toes, your hair…” My bones started to crunch and reform, and moments later I was back in my normal body. He caught me before I could hit the floor, I was wiped out. He carried me to the bed, tucking me in and kissing my forehead. “Josh says Charlotte is worried about you, can she see you before you sleep?”
I nodded, making myself comfortable in the bed. A few minutes later Charlotte rushed in the room and knelt at the bedside, Josh staying by the door. “Mom, are you all right? Did it hurt?”
I nodded at her. “Char, baby, being a cat is amazing. You’d love it,” I said sleepily.
“Oh hush Mom, I’m making her into a wolf when we mate.”
I laughed. “It’s your choice, baby. Either way you’re going to love it.” She was cupping my face as I closed my eyes, and in moments I was asleep.