My thanks to Rick Coona and his alter ego, Joe Martelle, for their kind permission to write this story in their universe. Their comments and encouragement have been instrumental in bringing this story to life.

George Woodrow IV – 2009 - 2011

Kassir Ujinkhan, Joe Fenris, Carol Fenris, Jeff Salters, Michelle Musteline, George MacInnes, Tim Johansen, Bill Richards, George Leonis, Phil Leonis, Leona Felis Leonis, Lynne Smyth, Michael Pardis, Christine Uncia, Karl Ursiris, Richard Kassir Charles Procyon, Kelso Gwenwyfar Procyon, Janice Lynne Ujinkhan, Alexander Kassir Ujinkhan, Harold Hendrikson, Susan Blackstone © Chuck Percy

TigerMark, MarcBrannigan © His Player

Rick Coona, Gwen Smith Coona, Kacy "KC" Coona, Kirk Otterman, Mike Ferretti, Cassy Bhunny Ferretti, Max Badger, Kath Badger, Bill Badger, Ted Badger, Bruno, Lupé Carlotta, Panda Phil, Jo-Ann Procyon, Charles Procyon, Marcus Procyon, Jack Canus, Esmerelda Smyth, Richard Coona, Helen Coona, Max Coona, Sally Coona, Kacy Kelso Coona, Richard Randolph Coona, . © Joe Martelle

Vince Panthris, Veronica Dae Wynne, Kessira "Ghost" Tigris, Valerie Vulpes, FursList, FurMail, Dwight "Scratcher" Daniels, Molly Daniels, Clyve "Spots" Asher, Purity Spices, Janice Wyld, Albert Wyld, Lance 'Gnasher' Fenrir, Claire Kurisawa, Dwight Lupin, William 'Wild Bill' Strynger, Tymoth Edwards, Annalisa Snowpaws, Mykhail Friedrich, Geoffry Oceanis, Annette Oceanis, Sylvia Oceanis, Stevie, Cliff, Malachi, Zeke, Deke, The Children of the Pure Moon, Wylde Longstride, Reginald Blackfeather, Blake Paguma, Miz Swenson, Sylvia Paguma, Julio Vulpes, Francine Woolmyra, Zarius Zoaster Wylfgar the Third, Quinn Tallman, Lancir Concolor Pantheris, Anisu Christie, Simon Whyte, Kodi Adams, Klauss , Rusty McCloud, Kumiko Tigris, Jazmyn Panthris, Candice Panthris, Deidre Panthris, Zorin Lynxicata, Dennis 'Raix' Stringer, Jayce Terwilliger, Sid Maul, Chuckie Sweil, Luke Feriss, Dicer, Dionn Shage, Blackie Felin, Keitaro, Harry Panthris, Royce Grummand, Charity Skye, Raynor Shipping, Manius Zathur, Amber Stareyes, Carmine Ferretti, Isabelle 'Izzy' Ferretti, Natalie Aardwolf, Carlise Bennet, Jaxen Margay © George Woodrow IV

Any resemblance to any fur, living, dead, or imagined by anyone else is purely coincidental and unintentional.

A/N: This chapter is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, who recently passed on, at the age of 89. She was one of the most open and welcoming people you could ever wish to meet. I believe she was an embodiment of universal love, but I may be biased.

Chapter 5 – Barbecue and Revelations

Kass stirs, then he gets up, checking the time, noticing the early hour, "Even on the base I don't get up this early. I must be a bit nervous about what's going to be happening today." He then checks on his wife, who he sees is sleeping quite deeply, "Not too surprising, seeing as she got home at three in the morning."

Stretching as he gets up, his mind turning to all the tasks that are ahead for the day, "Might as well get things started. I know I want to get dinner set up and ready, especially for Vince."

He smiles as he remembers meeting Jo-Ann's fiancé, the past weekend, when she brought him over, partly so that her 'family' could meet him, but also to show off the engagement band Vince had startled her with.

He had liked Vince almost immediately, liking the fur's laid-back attitude once he had gotten comfortable with the Coona clan. He also remembered raising an eyebrow at the armor Vince had left in the disrobing room. Jo-Ann had smiled, then had Vince recall why he felt the need to wear the stuff, even off-duty.

Kass smiled at his recollection of the tale, eyes widening at the mention of the fox seen before each purchase. He did get a chance to access Vince's aura as well, definitely powerful, and a feeling that Shamanism will give him a lead on his actual path of learning, "If I had to put a NAME to what he is, the closest I can guess would be 'Bard', like in the old medieval tales."

He then moves quietly to the kitchen, starting to gather all the supplies he'll need, separating one pan for Vince's dish; a variation on the Mongolian Beef he'd prepared when he'd first joined the Coona clan, but quite a bit spicier than even he could tolerate it. He'd questioned Vince rather thoroughly about his tolerance, and what sort of dishes he'd like. He chuckled, remembering Vince describing the nuances between various crops of habanero peppers, and how they each accentuated meat in different ways.

Kass then got out the gloves he'd purchased for himself, for prepping Vince's dish. He had a very good reason for prepping and handling the hybrid's meal, as he didn't want to affect anyone else who didn't have the same tolerance for heat as the big fur.

Hearing noise behind him he turns in time to see Kacy Coona enter the kitchen. Giving the vivacious femme a smile, "Figured I'd start some of the prep now, so that when things get started, there's less chaos."

KC nods, then smiles, "I see you're being extra cautious with that batch, hon. Any reason?"

Kass smiles, "This is for Jo-Ann's fiancée. The guy's a serious chili pepper aficionado. He eats Habanero peppers and can taste the difference between where they're grown."

The raccoon femme's eyes widen, knowing the sort of heat described, and knowing how carefully she'd have to prep anything like that at her restaurant, "Well, let me help you do some of the other prep, so you can concentrate on the male who's spicing Jo-Ann's life up."

Shaking his head at the word play, the snow leopard smiles, "Rick out-did himself in finding the meat for this barbecue, why don't you see what sort of preparations you'd like to do?" He then gets the gloves on, the reinforced tips preventing his claws from breaking through easily, gathering the separate cutting board and knives he'll be using for the dish.

KC nods, letting Kass concentrate as she gathers her spices together. Seeing the available cuts, she gets out a couple crock pots and puts a pot roast in one and a selection of thick ribs in the other, adding a medley of spices and a barbecue sauce she'd made up before coming up north.

Kass sniffs the air as KC opens the jar of barbecue sauce, "Ooooh, you'll have to share the recipe for that one, hon. It's making my mouth water even before it's heated up." He then sets about dicing the peppers for Vince's dish, leaving the seeds in, as requested.

Grinning, KC says, "Sure hon. Remind me before I head home." She then covers the crock pots, setting them on 'fast', so they're pretty much done in four hours. After making sure that the covers are secure, she switches to making breakfast for the clan, knowing that once the meats start cooking, folks will be coming out of the woodwork.

Sure enough, half an hour after the scents of slow-cooked pork waft from the room, the first of the other occupants enter the kitchen, noses a-twitch. Rick is leading the way, first giving his twin a hug, "Well, that's an interesting thing to wake up to. Normally it's a bunch of Screaming Bed Wenches that wakes us up of a morning."

Kass smiles over his shoulder at Rick, "Kel's likely to be the last to wake up, she was too tired for anything last night." He then pauses to think, smiling at Gwen when she meanders in, "Gwen, could you do me a 'wee' favor?"

Gwen looks at Kass, tilting her head, "And what might this favor be, Kass?"

Raising an eyebrow at the beautiful skunkette, "Could you check and see if Mike's gran decided to play more tricks on us?" He looks her in her eyes, "She's been a lot more tired lately, though I haven't noticed any issues with food, yet."

Eyes widening, Gwen nods, then smiles, "Once I've woken up enough, I'll look in on her." She thinks on Straga Nona, the grandmother of Michael Ferretti, who had been quite a powerful witch in life, and still had quite an influence, despite passing to the other side of the veil several years ago.

Kass nods before turning back to the last of the preparations he's made for Vince's meal, letting the spices saturate the meat for a couple hours. He then slips off the gloves and deposits them in the trash, a new pair waiting for him when he returned to the meal.

Rick raises an eyebrow at Kass, a questioning look crossing his muzzle, "That Vince's dish, Kass?"

The snow leopard nods as he washes his paws, "I know I can't handle the level of heat that fur can. And if you aren't careful, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble by getting the oils somewhere that reacts badly to them."

KC pats her brother's arm, "Trust us, brother, the capsicum in those peppers could easily blind a fur, if it were to get in his eyes and there was no relief readily at hand."

Both eyebrows raised, Rick shakes his head, "Well, all I can say is that he's definitely a good compliment to Jo-Ann. Cool temper balanced by spicy tastes."

Kel then pads into the room, barely awake, but smiling as she looks at all her family, snugging Kass when she gets close to him, "Lover, could I bother you for some light crackers? And I might re-think the spice level of what I'm having too." She then peers at Gwen, "Gwen, could you double check me, hon? I'm kinda foggy minded this morning and I don't trust my senses."

Gwen smiles, "Well, seeing as the spotty one who's your mate asked me to check you out as well, I'll be glad to." Her eyes then grow unfocused as she looks at Kel, using some of the healing techniques she'd learned over the years. What she 'sees' is not what she expected though, and looking up at Kel, she smiles, "I don't know how to say this hon …"

The red and cream vixen looks at her friend and squirms as the prognosis is drawn out, turning to Kass and pouting, "Kass, Gwen's teasing meeeeee!"

This exclamation draws a laugh from the other furs there, KC shaking her head at the antics, smiling at the love that she knows is embodied in this house, "Stop teasing the poor girl, Gwen!"

Smiling the skunkette comes up to Kel and caresses her tummy, "Let's just say I'm glad you're not doing the Olympics any time soon." She then kisses the vixen's nose, "I'd use a Pregnancy test to make sure, but from what I see, you and Kass will be parents again."

Kass hugs Kel to him, "So, my lovely vixen, it seems we have reason to celebrate, doesn't it?"

Kel nods, then kisses Kass on his lips, "I wasn't too late, but little things kept hinting at it hon." She then swishes her tail, "Just hope that the rest of the surprises are pleasant ones."

Rick nods, grimacing at the reminder of the ugliness when they'd had a visit from an errant Paladin, hoping the new group of purists weren't going to target their group, or any of their friends.

# # #

Nervous eyes scanned the horizon as a lone wolf drives his SUV up to the gates of a long abandoned military base, the weeds and wildlife showing decades of disuse, only a small trail, one that appeared to be left by a feral elk, showed any sign of life anywhere in the vicinity. Lance Fenrir smiled to himself, "Good old Manius Zathur. Knew how to hide from the feds, no one would imagine that The Children of the Pure Moon would operate out of a place like this." He then drives a way along, until he comes to a break in the fencing, just barely big enough for his SUV to pass through, with what appeared to be a storage building in easy driving distance. The shrubbery in the area was a bit more beaten down, but it seemed as if someone had taken pains to ensure that it appeared natural, as if animals made a habit of using the building for shelter from storms.

Lance then slowly drives into the shelter provided by the building, killing the engine and pocketing the keys. He then lopes over to the far corner, where one of the many entrances to the warren of corridors below the base existed.

Lifting up what appeared to be a rotting skull of an elk, the large wolf accessed the keypad that opened the hatch to the Lair. "Manius isn't gonna be happy, though. The news I'm bringing isn't the best. And I hope nothing else has gone wrong since I've left the base. Bloody mixer feline was keeping an awful close eye on me as of late."

As he lowers himself into the tunnel revealed by the open hatch, Lance smiled, nastily, muttering aloud, "At least here I have the pleasure of the company of my own kind."

Lance then closes the hatch above him, dropping down to the tunnel, which would look different from what any fur who had served on the base might remember, a nasty smile crossing his muzzle, "If any were still alive to remember this place existed." He then takes the next left, heading deep into the center of the Lair, giving recognition signs to the sentries he passes, nodding to the few he recognizes.

Manius looks up as Lance enters the main den, what once held the hardened operations center for the base, all the equipment stripped before the base had been decommissioned. He beckons Lance to approach him, "I hear you bring news, Gnasher."

Lance smiles at his Hunt name, which tells him that his Alpha won't be taking the bad news out of his hide, "Indeed, Deamhain. I bring worrying news. Of Pack members brought low by mixers and traitors."

The big wolf then passes on the hardcopy of the news he was entrusted to bring to the Alpha. This was part of his duty to the Pack, bringing messages from the Lair to those out in the field that shouldn't be traced. He had partly earned this honor through right of passage, and partly due to the fact the Alpha was his sire.

Manius' lips writhe in a snarl of distaste, "That ScumBreed Fuzz caused us to lose much honor. Damn feline set Dionn and his crew up to get caught. Lost us eighteen good strong Pack members, unless we can figure a way to spring 'em from the Fed pen that they're likely to be held at."

Lance grimaces at this news, nodding at his father, "At least Dionn's crew knows enough to keep their traps shut." He points to the hardcopy, "One of the crew sent to leave a message for the mixer fuzz turned canary. They even caught the 'specialist' who was sent in to shut him up."

The elder wolf blanches at that, "Must have had some experience dealing with such furs in the past. Wouldn't expect that out of such an ordinary precinct. Perhaps I should do a little research on the furs who call it home."

Smiling, grimly, Lance hands his father a slim file, "Brief history of the place. Was in the news a couple years ago with that Belleview Butcher nutter. They seem to have a friendly relationship with the local Feds, due to something that's got a higher security level than I can access."

Manius blanches at that, looking into his son's eyes, "Wasn't there something to do with another Purist group a couple years ago. Brotherhood of the Pure Strain, I think it was, right?"

Lance thinks, then nods, "And here's where it gets convoluted. The C.O. of my base, Captain Ujinkhan, was involved in that, or at least what files I could access without tipping my hand led me in that direction."

Shaking his head wearily, Manius growls, "You be careful around him, then. He can probably sense more than he lets on." He then beckons his son closer, "Why don't you go enjoy yourself while you're home, son."

Grinning, Lance nods, "It's been too long since I've spent time with my mates." He then strolls out of his father's 'office' and makes his way deeper into the Lair, finding his way to his own quarters, where several naked femmes greeted him.

If anyone with a degree in psychology were able to witness the scene, it would be quite evident that most of the femmes were scared out of their minds, and that they had been conditioned to accept their fate.

Lance smiles as he freely fondles and gropes the femmes, reveling in the scents that greet him. He then callously grabs the youngest of them, a young girl barely past puberty, and gestures for the rest of his harem to follow him to his bed, "I plan on spending time with all of you," a meaningful leer gracing his muzzle.

The youngest femme, shivering at Lance's touch, closes her eyes as she resigns herself to her place in the Pack. "I am but a lowly Omega in the pack, this is all I can be. I should feel honored that the son of the Alpha has chosen me for his harem." A tiny part of her mind arguing with the conditioning, screaming at her to do something to make her life better.

Feeling the shivering, Lance cruelly kisses the young femme, his claws brutally pinching her nipples, "Amber, you little slut, why do you fear my touch? Don't you desire to do your part for the Pack and bear as many males as you can?"

Amber Stareyes, nods fearfully at Lance's words, knowing he held her life in his paws. She submits to his rough pawing, eyes closing as she concentrates on the brief view she'd had of the outside while Lance had been away.

# # #

Lynne sits up in her bed, panting in reaction to the vision she'd been witnessing. As she calms down she takes a pad from the bedside, noting down everything she remembers from the dream, including a general feeling of the furs she'd witnessed.

She then makes her way to the kitchen, smiling as she catches Kass and Kel teasing each other, then catching Gwen's eye, letting her cousin know that something was up.

Kass turns to the skunkette as she enters, "Something up, Lynne?" He senses a surge of nervousness coming from the femme.

Kel also focuses on her friend, then hugs her, comfortingly.

Lynne nods at Kass then smiles as she hugs Kel back, "I just got woken up by a really horrific dream, and I'm hoping against my instincts that a dream is all it was."

Gwen nods, then takes the pad from Lynne, "Quite detailed hon. This male wolf seems a bit familiar to me, for some reason, though I believe I've never met anyone who matches the description you've written down."

She then passes it to Kass who peruses it, his eyebrows rising when he gets to the description of the wolf. He looks at Lynne and then, quietly, asks, "Hon, are you sure of theses dimensions for him?"

Lynne nods, "I saw him next to several pieces of equipment that I knew the height of, why?"

Kass growls as he puts the pad down on the table, a rather disgusted look crossing his muzzle, "Because, unless I'm wrong, you just described one of my Trainees. The one who set off quite a few warning bells with not only myself, but Jeff and Kel as well. I had phoned NCIS to start an investigation on him before I came home."

Kel brings her paws to her muzzle, eyes widening as she remembers who her husband and mate was describing, "I told you I could feel the hate rolling off him any time he saw us together, hon."

Rick and Gwen look at each other then Rick looks at Kass, "You think a Purist has infiltrated the Navy and your training, Kass?"

The snow leopard nods, grimly, "I hope that I'm wrong, but so far every shred of evidence I've come across seems to lead in that direction."

Gwen's eyes grow large, "That is not good. Not only will it be miserable dealing with him, but the backlash could be memorable."

Kass looks at Gwen with a wry smile, "Memorable indeed. Though a lot of good may come out of this as well." He nuzzles Kel's ears, "Depending on the outcome, this might be what the higher-ups have been waiting on. Though, to be honest, I think I would prefer to go into the reserves once all this mess is over."

Kel looks up at Kass, nuzzling the underside of his muzzle, understanding what he was saying, knowing that her husband wanted a quieter life, to slip back out of the spotlight that he hated so much.

Lynne looks to Kass and says, "I will tell you this much. I would warn those who do go in on the raid to be ready to deal with many severely abused furs." She then looks down at her paws, "After what I saw, I wish I could talk to someone like Nona, to unburden myself of the horrors that I witnessed before I woke up."

With a sparkle and a yip a tiny feral fox appears out of the bushes that help shroud the patio. The fox then pads up to Lynne and places its forefeet on her knee, as if trying to give her a hug.

Kass blinks at the fox before releasing one arm from holding Kel and snugging Lynne one-armed, "Lynne, I have long ago learned to be wary using the word 'wish'." He looks down at the fox and tilts his head, "Keitaro?"

The little fox nods as he keeps his forepaws on Lynne's knee.

Both Gwen and Rick come up and hug Lynne after Kass does, Gwen chirring, "Never forget, Lynne, each of us here would never betray the trust you've given us, and we're here if you ever feel the need to talk or vent." She then looks at Kass, "A friend?"

The snow leopard looks at Gwen, "He's Vince's Spirit guide. I met him just recently, while meditating." He catches Gwen's startled reaction, and nods, "Yes, this spirit can manifest in the physical world."

Rick tilts his head, his own path of learning quite different than either Gwen's or Kass', a thought running through his head as he tries to puzzle things out.

Lynne giggles as she relaxes, "Thank you all." She then offers her free paw to the tiny fox, as if asking to hold him, "Would this little scamp have any relationship to TM's 'friend' Tani?"

Kass nods, then catches Rick's startled gaze, "You're about as surprised as I was when I met him for the first time. Little scamp likes surprising folks too. But I think that's just part of his nature."

Keitaro leaps up into Lynne's arms, nuzzling her in a comforting fashion, he then looks at Kass and says, ##Could you tell her this? Tell her: Remember that your family is always there for you, young lady. Never forget that burdens shared are often burdens halved. The burden of what you've seen may never go away, but in sharing it, the magnitude of the pain can be lessened. ##

The snow leopard nods, then smiles at Lynne, "He said to tell you 'Remember that your family is always there for you, young lady. Never forget that burdens shared are often burdens halved. The burden of what you've seen may never go away, but in sharing it, the magnitude of the pain can be lessened.' That is quite good advice."

The little fox then nods before fading back out of sight, still in Lynne's arms, the last bit of him to vanish being the tips of his tails.

Marc enters the kitchen to see the group hug and several furs with gobsmacked looks on their muzzles. He comes up behind Lynne and caresses her tail, "Another bad one, hon?"

Lynne shivers at Marc's touch then nods, "And we had a rather unexpected visitor as well. One who provided needed advice."

The others nod then release Lynne slowly, each letting her know in their own way that they're available if she ever needs to talk or simply needed a cuddle, Kass being the last to release her, "Take a moment to collect yourself, and just relax."

The younger skunkette nods before turning to Marc and kissing his nose, "Now, hon, let's get breakfast and then see about getting a bit more rest? I know we're still on Rome time, or only halfway back to ours. We want to be ready for the barbecue later, don't we?" The way she's teasing him hints that there might be other reasons for retiring back to their bed.

Rick shares a smile with KC and Gwen, knowing that Lynne and Marc were more than simple friends, yet not pushing them to show more affection publicly.

Gwen returns the look and smiles, knowing her cousin to be a lot shyer than she was, and knowing Marc was a good match for her, someone who would not only balance her, but be able to calm her down before she did anything too rash.

Marc smiled down at his mate and then nods at her, happier than ever to have met the vivacious and spunky femme.

# # #

Jo-Ann stretches as she awakens, smiling as she feels her fiancée spooning up behind her, his large frame radiating comfortable warmth, a soft purr letting her know he was still asleep. She shifts slightly, trying to disentangle his arm from her waist, nature announcing that she needs to visit the bathroom quickly. "Today's the big barbecue. I'm nervous, despite Vince and Kass hitting it off when I introduced them. Kass set it up so he could get a good feel for Vince, and also question him about his spice tolerance. I know Kass is planning a special dish or each of us . . . tho I don't remember hearing that Veronica or Kessira were asked about their meals."

She stretches as she gets up, tail merrily swishing behind her in an unconsciously sultry fashion as she makes her way to the bathroom, a wide grin on her muzzle as she remembered the past week.

Best thing that happened this past week was learning how Vince and I meshed as a team. Seems a lot of those assholes who tried to 'teach him his place' had a long list of priors, some with Narcotics. We're forming another task force, though it's decentralized at the moment. Vince has been a godsend to us, though. His knowledge allowed him to go through the files which are being put on the police database and find connecting evidence between those perps and quite a few unsolved cases.

Jo-Ann gives a mental chuckle at how excited the Captain was, "Though when Special Agent Annette saw what he did, she covered her muzzle with her paw and shook her head."

Vince used several simple search engines to organize the findings. Seems like this bunch of Darwin Award Nominees has been around, in one form or another, for over forty years. Started off as a single entity, which is called 'The Pack'. Bunch of Canine Purist nimrods gathered together and figured they'd be better off working together than as lone wolves.

She thought about the lists of crimes that were attributed to this group; kidnapping, murder, extortion, rape, possession, possession with intent to sell, money laundering, arson, grand theft auto, theft, robbery, terrorism, smuggling, slavery, forgery, jury tampering, sedition, fraud, election tampering, and a whole slew of other crimes. "A veritable hive of Scum and Villainy. And each generation that followed them just piled more depravity on top of what was already there."

Jo-Ann then sighs and slips back into bed, snuggling up to her fiancé, determined to put all the negative emotions behind her. When she notes the time she smiles to herself, then sets about waking Vince in a rather unorthodox, but quite pleasant, fashion.

Vince smiles as he awakens, a rumbling purr announcing his good mood. He then gazes at his fiancée and tilts his head at her, "Good morning, beautiful." He then ruffles her ears, "You know, being woken up this way, well, it could prove to be addictive," he teases, enjoying just how well suited he and Jo-Ann seem to be.

# # #

Kessira stretches as she wakes up, feeling refreshed, then gazes at the sleeping form beside her fondly. She shakes her head at the whirlwind of changes that had happened to her over the last couple of weeks.

First an old ex-lover had surfaced and attempted to do her bodily harm; then she had moved her drum kit over to Veronica's house, partly due to the fact it would make things easier once Twisted Pair started practicing, but also partly due to the fact that said ex was a Purist piece of trash who couldn't be counted to stay out of her life.

She smiles at the memory of driving into Veronica's spacious garage, her little sister sitting next to her. She introduced Kumiko to Veronica before she brought the drum set to the practice area.

The form next to her stirs and then, as the fur wakes up, a beautiful muzzle is revealed as Veronica awakens, a sleepy, yet adorable chirr is uttered as the femme slowly gathers her thoughts.

Kessira smiles, stroking the side of Veronica's muzzle, "Good morning, my sweet lady. We have folks to meet today, Gwen's barbecue, remember?"

Veronica nods, then smiles and nuzzles Kessira, slowly enfolding the other femme in a loving embrace, "Indeed, my love. I wonder how surprised they'll be by our announcement?"

The ice white tigress smiles, "I doubt they'll be surprised at all, my love. Hell, if you remember, Gwen was practically throwing me at you."

Shaking her head, Veronica smiles before cupping Kessira's bosom, remembering the dream, triggered by the book that Gwen gave her, that made it almost a fore-gone conclusion that she'd at least ask Kessira out, "I'm glad she did, my love. I'm so glad I found you, my ionúin Tigress."

Kessira grins back at Veronica, "I'm glad to have found you, my love." She then lets the covers slowly slip off her lithe frame, revealing only her fur, "Now, what shall we do until it's time for us to leave?"

Veronica smiles, shifting the covers, revealing herself to be in a similar state of undress, her ample curves well maintained, "I think we can keep each other occupied. Though Gwen did say that the hot tub and sauna will be available starting noon time. Why don't we make sure we're in need of both?" she says with a saucy wink and, drawing Kessira to her, she kisses the other femme passionately.

Kissing back, Kessira purrs, deep in her chest, slowly cupping her partner's breasts, she keeps the kiss going as long as possible before breaking it and smiling, "I have a feeling we'll both be glad that Monday's a holiday. I have a feeling that tonight will hold many happy surprises."

Replying enthusiastically, Veronica lets her hands and body do the talking, remarking to herself just how lucky she was, finding someone who loved her for who she was, no matter what odd things happened. "At least now I understand why my garden is so green, and how I manage to get things to grow that I've been told shouldn't thrive in this climate."

# # #

Kel was puttering around the kitchen as she watched Kass prepare Vince's dish, having taken over the rest of the prep work, sharing that chore with Rick's sister, Kacy. She smiled at the vivacious raccoon femme, "I'm looking forward to having everyone together. We haven't had one of these where more than the core Family has gotten together in the longest time."

KC nodded then snugged the buxom vixen, "I know, hon, and I hope we don't scare off the new furs we're meeting today." She then checked on the large steak that was being seared to make sashimi, carefully timing the cooking to perfection. She also checked on the rice, buffalo steaks, vegetables, noodles, and the other various foods that were being prepped for this get together.

Giggling, Kel smiles, "Veronica shouldn't be easy to scare off, she's been here from time to time. And from what Kass told me, Vince takes things in stride, very little phases that fur. Kessira's the one I'm worried about. Though, she does come from Bruno's old haunt, so I would think she doesn't spook easy."

Tilting her head at the vixen, KC asks, "Kessira knows Bruno?" Curiosity written all over the femme's muzzle, "I wonder if she'll be willing to let any juicy tidbits about his youth slip," a mischievous grin beginning to form as she thinks about her 'honey bear'.

Laughing, Kel grins, "Had a talk with the big bear, seems he 'adopted' Kessira as his little sister, back when she was growing up. Protected her from those who picked on her since she was a hybrid." She thinks for a moment, "She went into the military service as well, though she went Air Force rather than Army like he did."

Nodding, KC flipped the last steak, "Shouldn't be phased by us, then."

Smiling, Kel shook her head no, "Didn't seem phased when Gwen said that this was a 'clothing optional' household. Figured 'warned ahead is armed ahead'."

KC chuckles at this saying, "Kass is rubbing off on you hon, that's classic Military thinking there."

Kelso's eyes widen, then her muzzle fluffs, "Kass keeps telling me that those things'll creep into my vocabulary," a wry look crossing her muzzle, "That Shaman's gonna get good and Pounced," she mutters loudly enough for her husband to hear.

Kass chuckles, having overheard the conversation, "Just as long as that Healer realizes that Pouncing may result in other things happening as well!" He fondly remembers the last time Kelso really 'pounced' him, back after the Olympics were over and she'd gotten her last Gold Medal. That was when Straga Nona had caused his lovely mate to not only come into heat, but get pregnant with twins.

KC just laughed at the expression on Kelso's muzzle, which was a combination of surprise, wonderment, and desire, "Looks like the vixxie's ready to be in a family way again," a soft grin crossing her muzzle, this time thinking on whether or not she'd ever think of slowing down and having a family of her own. She then thought of the Sous Chef, Kirk, who was helping cover for her while she was away, "It's a tie between him and Bruno for who I'd like to be the daddy, if I did decide to settle down more. Too bad Bruno can't."

Kel smiled at her husband, "Well, one result has already happened, my love, but I do so love getting my paws all over you, every chance I get." She then kisses Kass' nose, affectionately.

# # #

Vince grimaces slightly as he gets into his car, having enjoyed his morning with his fiancée, but his knee was giving him a hard time since he got out of his shower. Looking over as Jo-Ann gets in on the passenger side, still having a little issue with the fact she's on the left side, he murmurs, "Hope your friends don't mind if I'm a bit short-tempered, hon. My knee's been acting up a lot this morning." He then readjusts the knee brace, which seems to not be sitting right, for some reason.

Jo-Ann smiles and pats his paw, "I'm sure they won't mind, hon." She then grins, to herself, "And if I'm right, you'll get an introduction to Magick tonight. I know Kass mentioned something about it, to me. And I know Kel will feel your pain from a mile away, so she'll want to do something for you. All we need to do now is convince you we're not looney." She then looks at Vince and knows that he'll be all right, in the end.

Smiling as he backs out of his 'assigned' parking space, Vince double checks that everything is working as it should. The GPS unit on the dash was pointing him in the right direction, the radio wasn't too loud, and all the dials and lights on the dash were reading correctly. He then turned to Jo-Ann, "Let's get there, shall we?"

Chuckling a little at his attitude, Jo-Ann nods, "Can't wait for you to meet them all, hon. I know they'll adore you." She then checks on the kits, who were strapped into their car seats, "Ready to have fun at Aunt Gwen's?"

Both Richard and Kelso nod emphatically, looking forward to playing with all their 'cousins'. "Then we're gonna be spendin' tha night at Gran Kath's."

Vince smiled as he pulled up at a light, enjoying the odd looks he got because of Black Beauty, "Though I seriously need to think of a better name for her. She's definitely not the same make and model as the car used in those old 'Green Hornet' shows, after all."

Shortly thereafter he pulls into one of the spots set aside for visitors at Casa Coona North, carefully parking so as to leave plenty of space for anyone else, "I know Jo-Ann's Dad and brother will be here, as will the Badgers, Bruno, Kessira's bringing Kumiko and Veronica with her. Going to be a bit tight, but I don't have anywhere special to be tomorrow, so I don't mind getting blocked in."

He then helps Jo-Ann extricate the cubs from their seats.

Kelso giggles, "Wanna Piggy-Back Ride, mistah Vince!"

Vince looks to Jo-Ann to see if she minds, then boosts the little raccoon femme onto his shoulders, "Just warn me if I need to duck for you, sweetie."

The little femme giggled madly, gripping Vince's hair carefully, "Okie dokie!"

Jo-Ann simply shook her head at the antics of her daughter, who one moment would act years beyond her age, then the next would revert to behavior which would be expected from a child her age. She then made her way to the interior door and held it open for everyone, knowing the ceilings just beyond the doorway would provide plenty of room, so there weren't many hazards for her daughter.

Entering the hall, Vince took a few moments to take a sense of the furs here, an inner voice that he'd learned to trust over the years telling him he's safe here. "Anyone home?" he calls out as he enters the living room, mindful of his passenger, who was giggling madly from her perch.

Kel called from the kitchen, "We'll be right there, just checking on the food prep."

Kass pads out from the kitchen and smiles at Vince and Kelso, "Little Kel, you keep getting bigger each time I see you. Won't be much longer before you can't beg rides from Vince here!"

Kelso giggles as she clings to Vince's hair, "Is fun though!" She then points back at the hallway, "Mommie an Ricky are comin' too."

Gwen smiles as she came in from the patio area, "Seems you've got your hands full there, sir."

Vince turns to see Gwen and is momentarily stunned by her beauty, but recovers swiftly and purrs, "At least she's playful." He then extends his paw, "Pleasant to meet you, Mrs. Coona. My name's Vince Panthris, though I tend to answer to most any nickname based off my first name." He then cringes a bit, remembering the teasing he'd gotten when the movie 'My Cousin Vinnie' had come out.

Smiling as she takes the extended paw, "Call me Gwen, Vince. Mrs. Coona always makes me feel as if there's a stiff-necked matron behind me, scandalized by my behavior."

Shaking his head and chuckling at the riposte, Vince purrs, "I think you and my mum would get along famously."

Vince lowers himself into a chair, mindful of his passenger, "How long until the rest of the crowd's here?"

Rick shakes his head, "Cassy and Mike'll be here shortly, Max and Kath Badger will be here just before dinner's ready, and Kessira just called to say she's on her way with her sister and Veronica."

Kass purrs as he comes up behind Vince and tickles the raccoon kit that shares his wife's name, "Food should be ready by the time everyone's here, even with all the dishes that need special attention."

Just then the door opens and reveals Mike and Cassy, who have brought along their children, Carmine and Isabelle.

Cassy hops up to Jo-Ann and gives her a hug, giggling, "Heya!" She then looks at Vince, "And you must be the fellow who's swept this coonie off her feet!"

Jo-Ann play-swats at Cassy, "Silly bun. Only you would call me a coonie."

Vince smiles up at Cassy, who is doing her best to give him a good view of her ample assets, "My name's Vince, Mrs. Ferretti." He then looks up at Jo-Ann and smiles, "I can only hope I swept her off her feet, for she took my breath away the first time we met."

This is met with a chorus of 'Awws' and the sight of Jo-Ann blushing furiously. The raccoon femme recovers swiftly, however and gives Vince a solid kiss on his lips.

The door bell rings and Kel strides over to open it, welcoming in Max and Kath Badger, who are immediately swarmed by all the cubs present, each wanting to welcome their honorary grandparents.

Max recovers first and helps Kel hang up his and his wife's coats, then looks to Rick, "Brought the big van tonight, Rick."

Rick nods, then heads over to his boss, "I've got their bags packed, except for last minute items, want me to start putting them in the back?"

The badger nods, "I'll help, just so we can keep the load balanced." He then leads the raccoon out to the van, which is more along the lines of a converted school bus.

Rick smiles when he sees it, as it was a gift from the 'Family' to the Badgers, Kass had commissioned one of the local custom vehicle shops to make it. Somehow the shop had converted one of the little shuttle-style school buses into one of the coolest people movers on the road.

All the seats had been replaced with bench seats, with integrated child seats and safety harnesses. The whole frame had been reinforced after the run-in with the Brethren, replacing the glass with bullet resistant variants. Each seat had a small monitor which could display a variety of things, but the coolest function, according to the cubs, was when they were hooked up to the small turret-mounted cameras that dotted the roof. Each turret had its own controls and the kits all seemed to enjoy spotting things.

Kass had kept his muzzle shut on how he'd convinced the furs in charge of the shop to do the customization, which led most of the other adults to believe that the crew boss was one of the Snow Leopard's old Seal buddies.

As Rick loads in the last of the overnight bags the cubs were taking, he smiles seeing Veronica's car pull in, two other femmes with her. He waves cheerfully as she parks, walking over to them, "You're the last we're waiting on, so come in and make yourselves comfy."

Veronica smiles as she looks to Kessira and Kumiko, "Shall we mingle?" She helps Kumiko up out of the back, grateful that they'd taken Kessira's Crown Vic, as she's certain that Kumiko wouldn't have fit in the back of her Mini.

Rick pads over and offers his paw, "Welcome to Casa Coona North, my name's Rick, and I hope you feel comfortable here."

Kumiko blushes a bit at the gallantry, placing the paw not extended to take Rick's over her muzzle, shyly, "Thank you, sir. M'name's Kumiko, m'big sis figures it'll do me some good t'meet new folks."

Nodding as he takes in the young femme, Rick chirrs, "Well, I do hope that you'll enjoy yourself today, Kumiko." His eyes taking in a rather striking femme, who, while having the same eye and fur colors as her sister, was almost the opposite physically, showing more of the Polar Bear heritage, though he could tell the femme worked out regularly.

Veronica giggles a bit at this, then leads Kessira inside, "Let me show you around a bit, hon." She swishes her tail playfully as she leads her lover inside, knowing Kumiko is in good paws.

Jo-Ann smiles as she sees Kessira and Veronica entering, "Hey you two, glad you could make it." She'd heard, through the grapevine at the precinct about the attack on Kessira's place, "Bloody idiot Purists couldn't stand that one of their own got taken out by a femme. I'm just glad that Kessira knows how to take care of herself."

Kelso and Richard smile as they see Veronica and then run up to her, yelling, "Auntie 'Roni, we's glad to see you again!" before hugging the femme's legs.

This led to the eruption of the majority of the cubs from wherever they had been, converging on the hybrid to give her a welcoming hug.

Shaking her head at the display, Gwen smiles, "Food will be ready in about half an hour, and the last furs will be here before then. Welcome, all, to Casa Coona North's first annual Get Together and Barbecue."

The door from the garage opens just as the last of these words are uttered, Max and Kath Badger lead the way while Charles and Markus brought up the rear, Markus' fiancée being shown through the door by Rick, who's also guiding Kumiko.

Jo-Ann smiles as she gets up and hugs her brother, "Mind introducing your friend, Markus? Dad did say you had someone special now."

Markus Procyon smiles as he hugs his sister back, "Sis, everyone, I'd like you to meet my fiancée, Natalie Aardwolf."

The vivacious and pretty femme smiles as she's introduced, grinning as she sees all the kits, "Hi. Y'all can call me Natalie, or Nat. I met this hunk of 'coonie a couple of years ago, and we've been datin' for a spell. He popped the question jus t'other night." Her voice a lovely southern drawl.

KC grins as she pads up to the two, "Congratulations, then, you two."

Max laughs, then speaks up, "My twins won't be joining us, they're both out on dates today, at separate locales!"

Rick laughs at this, "Bill and Ted finally found femmes willing to date 'em? Will wonders never cease." He then gestures to the porch area, which is set up with a long trestle style table, "Why doesn't everyone find a place to sit? Food'll be ready any moment, and Kass has whipped up a few surprises for us all."

Kass and Kel pair up, along with Mike and Cassy, Jo-Ann pads over to help Vince up, then leads him to the table, settling next to him. All the cubs giggle as they release Veronica and swarm the triplet of card tables that have been set up or them.

Veronica curls her arm around Kessira's waist, then leads the femme to the table, seating herself beside her mate, though she hasn't told anyone, officially, yet.

Gwen notices this, tilting her head a bit at both Veronica and Kessira, but her senses tell her that they're happy together, in these early stages of things.

Rick starts bringing out the food, taking extra care to bring the specially prepared dishes to those who requested them. The kitchen being deemed too small for things to be done buffet style, a large table is set up along one side of the patio area, where the rest of the food is set up, citronella candles set up to keep most of the insects away.

Standing up at the head of the table, Rick smiles at those who are attending this get together, and then says, "I would like to thank you all for coming here today, friends both old and new." He then smiles broadly at Gwen, "Now, before I start making speeches, I'm going to sit down and tuck into this meal, and I suggest you all do the same."

Laughs erupt from around the table as those gathered start eating what's before them, Vince, in particular, seeming to be beyond words as he tastes the dish prepared for him by Kass.

Kel smiles as she curls her tail so it rests next to her mates', and murmurs, "Thank you, hon." She then kisses his cheek before resuming eating her dish.

Kass, with experience born of a happy marriage, simply smiles and doesn't need to question why he's being thanked.

Mike shakes his head a bit at the byplay between Kass and Kel before turning his attention, briefly, to the children's tables, checking to see if any words need to be said to get a child to eat what's in front of them. He is relieved, however, to see the cubs behaving themselves, even his two were eating, and he knew Izzy was a bit precocious.

Cassy smiles as she notices Mike's gaze and tickles his side, lightly. When she gets his attention, she grins, "They'll be good because they want to impress their new friends."

Max and Kath start chatting with Rick and Gwen as they eat, talking about the twins, and what new plans are being made for Open Season. The last suggestion, a karaoke night, had garnered a fair amount of steady traffic and Max was trying to figure out what might suit the bar on one of the other free nights, yet not overwhelm their steady customers.

Jo-Ann laughs as she hears Vince's quiet enjoyment of the dish Kass prepared, the fumes enough to cause her eyes to tear a bit, "Tasty, hon?"

Vince nods, then turns to Kass, "Thank you, Kass. Your skills as a chef haven't been exaggerated, if this is an example of what you can turn out." He then lifts a forkful of the dish, "You've done what few furs can, balanced taste and spice." His expression turns a bit wry, "Too many times, I find that chefs go for heat rather than taste, and it ruins the experience."

Kass smiles, "I had a bit of help from KC here, but, yes, I do know of what you're talking about."

KC laughs as Kass defers to her a bit, "I'm the head chef at a chi-chi five star restaurant, Vince. I've learned, through experience, how to balance things like that, but I do agree, most of the chefs I've come across can't do subtle if they tried." Her face getting a look of distaste as she thinks of the 'possum that her boss keeps going to each time she takes a vacation.

Lynne and Marc have decided to simply enjoy being with family and aren't participating much in any of the conversations, Lynne speaking up when she's asked what new things she's found. "Well, I did find this great source of salt, but the quantities are a bit limited. Marc and I came across this small village that had a salt flat near it. The mineral composition of the salt was rather unusual, and added new textures to the food served in the local inn. But, the quantities we agreed upon for export will still make it a luxury spice."

Marc nodded, "Fortunately the salt is being refreshed each year, we don't want to exceed what's being deposited."

Everyone nods at this, then Gwen asks Max about the girls his twins were going out with.

Max smiles, "William's found this nice Chinchilla femme, by the name of Carlise Bennet. Theodore, however, has found a wild child of a feline, by the name of Jaxen Margay. I'm holding my judgment on them at the moment, and seeing how things progress. It's only the second date for both of them, and they insisted on going to different places."

Unbeknown to all the adult furs at the table, while Max is speaking, a small fox leaves the bushes behind Vince and, using what cover there is, scampers to a position underneath the large hybrid's chair. Janice and Alexander, however, do spot the fox, their eyes widening as some of their father's teachings allow them to notice something odd about the fox.

As the meal progresses, most of the adults make trips between the table and the food, Vince being one of the few that doesn't make as many trips, stating that his knee seems to be flaring up.

On one of her return trips, Kel notices the fox and looks at Kass, meaningfully before whispering to him, "We have an unexpected visitor, hon."

Kass' eyebrows raise, then he peers in Vince's direction and puts his palm over his muzzle, "Let's hope little Keitaro is patient enough to wait until Max and Kath leave with the cubs," to which his mate fervently agrees.

One by one the cubs finish their meals and place their dishes in the sink, rinsing them briefly before heading to the bathroom and washing up.

Max and Kath smile as they settle into the front seat of their van, grinning as the cubs have all settled themselves, Kath then says, "You guys ready to have fun?" To which there is a resounding cheer of affirmation.

Charles, Markus, and Natalie also excuse themselves, Markus chiming in with, "I need to get Natalie home before her parents send out a search party," at which the pretty femme's muzzle fluffs in a slight blush before she playfully swats Markus, "It's not that bad, sweetie."

She then turns to Gwen and grins, "Dad's a bit protective."

Markus shakes his head, "That's like saying the ocean's a bit wet, love."

Gwen laughs at the byplay between the two, shaking her head at the playful teasing going on.

Rick smiles as he watches the Badgers and the Procyons drive off, his arm around Gwen's waist, "That was too close."

Gwen nods, "I'm surprised that Keitaro showed himself the way he did. From what Kass has taught me, they typically don't manifest in a way that mundanes can see them."

The two of them then make their way back to the living room where everyone else was gathered.

Vince is grimacing as he seats himself in an overstuffed arm chair, his knee definitely having a flare up, he jokes to Jo-Ann, "Sorry, love, but I'm afraid I won't be doing much dancing tonight."

Kel seems almost beside herself as she holds back from just Healing Vince's knee, long experience telling her that until he acknowledges the existence of Magick or he asked her for her help, she could do nothing.

Jo-Ann smiles at her mate, then starts as she spots Keitaro, who is ghosting his way next to Vince.

Kass notices this, and then peers at Vince, using all of his senses and abilities. His eyes widen as he sees the potentials that are becoming visible. He then speaks up, trying to sound calm, "Jo-Ann spoke to me about the fox you seemed to notice before you bought a piece of armor, Vince. Do you remember anything specific about it? Odd colorations, whether or not other furs noticed it, little things like that?"

Vince cocks his head to the side as he thinks, "Jo-Ann made me think about this recently, so I may have a few things that come to mind."

Cassy and Mike smile, the rabbit femme saying, "Don't worry if it sounds odd, Vince, we won't judge. We won't hold anything you say here against you." Mike nodding at this.

Vince smiles at this, then takes Jo-Ann's paw in his, "Thanks, that does help. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that I never noticed the fox ever having a shadow, and there were times where a shadow would have been evident."

Gwen nods, "Go on, Vince. We'll let you know why we're asking this soon enough."

Vince gives a soft chuckle, "Right." He then purrs, "Second thing that comes to mind is that his tail seemed blurred, as if there was the image of two tails superimposed over each other."

Keitaro chooses that moment to put his front paws on Vince's calf and look up at him, giving a soft chortling 'yelp'. ## You saw my tails, young one? ##

Vince sits up straighter at the touch, then looks down at the fox who seems to have spoken to him, his eyes growing wide, "Y-y-yes, I did. How am I hearing you? What are you?" He then looks at everyone else to see if they see the fox as well.

Mike's eyes widen as he sees the little fox, then hears it speak, but having experienced seeing Straga Nona after she had passed on, he was a lot more accepting of strange things than he used to be.

Cassy's fur stands on edge as she hears the fox, then sees him as Vince speaks back, a weird smile creasing her muzzle, glad to be witness to this occasion.

Gwen shakes her head, then laughs, "You little scamp, you just had to do things this way," speaking directly to the fox, giving no doubt that she sees it.

Kelso simply giggles, then starts preparing her energies, "Leave it to a fox to make mischief."

Kass spares Kelso a look, then smiles, "Vince, don't worry, you're not going crazy."

Vince's eyes widen, then he tentatively extends his paw to Keitaro, "Can anyone explain what's going on? This is stranger than the stories I've heard about my great great grandmother..."

Kumiko comes up behind her sister, then smiles at what's happening, "If your Ancestor is anything like ours, Vince, then there is truth to some of those stories."

Kessira turns to look at Kumiko, then her eyes widen, "*She Who Walks The Frozen Path was seen?*" she whispers, in an awed tone, slipping unconsciously into Chinese.

Kass turns briefly to look at Kessira and Kumiko, then glances at Veronica, to ascertain if what he thinks is happening is transpiring.

Vince looks up at Jo-Ann, seeking her eyes, then shakes his head, as if clearing his thoughts, "What my grandmother told me about her grandmother, and the things she supposedly did." He then looks to Kass, "Great great gran was a rare mix, she was born of a Florida panther who traveled north to the Carolinas, her mother was from the Oconee Tribe and her father was from the Cape Fear Indians, and she was supposedly raised as the Shaman's Apprentice, but wasn't just taught Women's Magick."

Kass' jaw drops, slightly, at this bit of history, "Vince, that bit of history puts a new spin on things." He then looks to Gwen, Marc, and Rick; then Kel, Jo-Ann, and Lynne; then finally Kessira, Kumiko, and Veronica, "Each of you who are here now are touched by Magick in your own way." He looks to Vince, "The being before you is your spirit guide, if you choose to follow the path of Magick which is open to you, Vince."

The large hybrid's eyes widen as he takes in this news, then looks to Kel, first, "Kelso, my instincts are screaming at me to trust you all."

Rick smiles, "We do understand, Vince. It's a lot to ask, to believe in Magick."

Lynne nods, "I was skeptical when I first learned about this, but the rewards have so far outweighed any troubles." She then snuggles against Marc.

Mike smiles, "I firmly believe that if it wasn't for Magick in my life, I wouldn't be alive, let alone be married to this sweet bunny and have two kids."

Vince nods, "I'll take whatever training I can get, plus any help you're willing to give." He then curls his tail around Jo-Ann's ankle, "For some reason I feel as if I wouldn't have met this lovely coonie without something nudging me along."

Kel smiles at this then comes close to Vince, "Vince, if you mean that about accepting help, I would like to attempt to give you some relief from the pain your knee is giving you."

Kass looks at Kel, grinning fit to split his muzzle in half, knowing that the Healer within her is aching to help Vince, "First, Vince, could you give me the name of your ancestress?" Thinking to himself, "If she is as strong as I think she was, to learn not just Woman's Magick but Warrior's as well,we may get a surprise when we form the Circle."

Vince looks to Kass, then thinks, "From what I was told, she was only known as 'She Who Walks With The Night' … the tales lead me to believe that she took after the darker side of my family." He then looks at Kel, his eyes seeming to become unfocused briefly, "Healer, I ask thee to use thy talents to aide this humble aspirant," his voice taking on a slightly odd tone before he shakes his head and, with a smirk, "Kel, if you can make my knee feel less like there's millions of tiny beetles crawling around inside of it, I think that I'll be in your debt for quite a while."

~ ~ ~ (End, Chapter 5) ~ ~ ~