Story (c) 2000 by Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Roxikat (c) John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Mr. Canis, Dexter Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy Vixxen, and Wanda Vixen(c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley. Character ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris. Character Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character James Sheppard and Marvin Badger (c) James Bruner. Character John Silverback (c) Himself Character Kittiara and the restaruant "Callahan's" (c) "Kittiara" Character Katja (c) Herself Character Mark the cheetaur (c) Mark White Eric W. Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. Michael Jones (c) Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge (c) Keith Dickson. All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners.
Identity Crisis - Chapter 37
Can one challenge fate?

  Bjorn had thought about what the bear had said regarding Sheila.  They had been together for such a long time, that he just naturally assumed that she would welcome him.  When she had told him about her new boyfriend, he had naturally presumed it was just another flickering flame that would soon burn out.

  The odd thing was that their attitude had changed.  Sheila was still happy to work with him, but she wasn't showing much affection to either him or the bear lately.  Thinking about the bears comment about not getting in the way, Bjorn knew that he was missing important pieces to the picture.

  To top it off, he also realized just how much he cared for Sheila.  He had become complacent with their relationship, counting on her just being there whenever he was in town.  It had been a rude awakening to discover that he had been pushed out of top billing.

  To make matters worse, Sheila was the only real reason he was still working with Zig Zag.  Sure Zig was a fun romp, and could definitely rattle his bones, but she was retired now.  Tammy and the others were fun, but there wasn't a spark with them like he had with Sheila.

  Driving back to the apartment, Bjorn contemplated his situation and how to make good with Sheila.  She was too good a catch to let slip off the hook.

  Daniel Khansman didn't hate all tigers, just one.  She was getting to be more of a pain than that pesky cop.  The news that his latest hired gun had been snipped by a mysterious guardian had not been entirely unexpected.

  This time, things were going to be a little different.  He had hired a professional mercenary team that specialized in high profile assassinations.  They had taken out the head of the Green Party in England last year with such precision that the explosive obliterated their target, but left the people sitting beside him untouched.  They had also gotten away without a trace.

  When they heard that Tigger was acting as a guardian angel for the bear, they had been most happy to agree.  She had stolen several of their contracts and, on one occasion, actually killed one of their team so that she would get the target.

  The enemies of my enemy... It was enough to restore his faith in the underworld.

  Now all he had to do was sit back and wait for the good news.  They had estimated a kill within two weeks, maybe sooner.  As long as he could keep the cop chasing his tail, there was no rush.

  Revenge is a dish best savored over time.

  Helping Zig Zag with the dishes, I washed and she wiped.  Thinking about what we had been through I realized I was going to miss Zig Zag, more sooner than later because this would be the last night in her house.  She had mentioned that the work on Sheila's apartment was done.

  "I guess you'll be happy to get rid of us tomorrow, eh?"  I asked, handing her a dish.  Taking it, she just held it a second, "Actually, it's been kind of fun.  I normally don't bring anyone here."  She replied.  Drying the dish, she continued, "But I've got to say, I'm pretty used to having my own quiet time without having to worry about some nosy bear trying to be helpful all the time."  Grinning, she elbowed me as she took the next plate, "I can't say everything's been fun and games, but I am glad everything's working out."

  Nodding, I watched the sink drain while drying my hands.  The swirling waters mirrored my emotions ever since I got here.  "I want you to understand something Zig Zag.  I never wanted to be a problem, and I certainly never wanted to bring danger into your life.  But when all is said and done, I'm damned glad to have had this time to spend with you."  I told her sincerely.

  Handing me the towel, she watched me dry my hands, "Hey kiddo.  I'm just kicking you out of the house, it's not like I'm going to fire you."  She said.  I just shook my head, and said, "Zig Zag, I've been pretty lucky."  Counting on my fingers, "I've been hit by a car, shot in a drive-by, almost got Sheila killed in her bed and slmost got you shot at James's house.  Then, to top it all off, I go berserk and charge a guy with a rifle across an open field with no cover."  Leaning heavily against the counter, I watched the waning moon ripple in the pool, "For all I know, someone could try again tomorrow.  Hell I could just have the dumb luck to choke on a bone."

  Putting her hand on my shoulder, she gave me a reassuring squeeze, "I wouldn't worry about it."  She said.  I gave her a "Are you nuts?" glance.  "You've been telling me about this dragon spirit or whatever you call it.  Maybe it's not some ordinary dragon, maybe it's a luck dragon."  She told me.

  I had to smile.  It made a weird sort of sense.  Turning, I reached out and gave her a gentle bear hug (like I can give any other kind?).  Returning the hug, I could feel her claws rubbing against the old stitches.  "Say Zig Zag, can I ask a small favor?"  I asked.  Sighing against my chest, she went semi-limp, "Only if you stop calling me Zig Zag." she quipped, "You're the only person who insists on that.  Try Zigs or something for a change will ya?  I feel like I'm talking to a stranger sometimes."

  Letting go of her, I opened up a drawer by the sink and took out a pair of small scissors.  Holding them out, I offered them to Zig Zag, "Would you mind removing the stitches from my back, Zig Zag?"  Taking the scissors, she just crossed her arms and stared at me.  It took a moment for it to sink in, "Ahh.. Umm. How about Zigster?  Zigarooni?  Zigmeister?  Ziggy Wiggy?"  I quipped, grinning.  With that last one she held up her hands, "No.  Not that one.  Never that one if you value your life.  Ziggy I can live with, but not that!"  She laughed.

  Turning around, I leaned against the side counter so she'd have a clear shot at my back, "Whatever you wish Mistress."  Chuckling, she snipped the first one, "Better be careful there kiddo.  I'm the wrong one to use that line on.  You never know what might happen."

  Returning to the bedroom, I saw Sheila sprawled out, face down on the bed.  She hadn't even bothered to take off her clothes.  Removing her shoes, I began to massage her feet.  Kneading the sole of her foot, I listened to her moan.  "Tell me something. Why is it, of all the performers at the studio, you are the only one who doesn't let me work them over at the shop?"  I asked. "Why do it at work, when we can have so much more fun here?"  She answered.  Got to admit, she has a point.

  Changing from using my fingers to using my claws, I began to tickle her feet.  Giving a small screech, she yanked her feet away, "Hey!  No fair.  I thought you were giving me a massage!"  She yelped.   Sitting down on the bed beside her, I leaned over, "I was, but I changed my mind.  Women haven't quite cornered that market yet."  I replied.  As we kissed, she suddenly clamped down on my tongue with her teeth.  My eyes flew open in time to see her grinning at the look of shock on my face.  Keeping a solid grip on my tongue, she ran her claws down the side of my ribs and began tickling my sides.  Trapped, I was unable to escape so I did as any good bear would: I retaliated.  Taking my claws, I started digging in around her ribs.  Laughing, she inadvertently released my tongue.

  Lurching back, I fell rather unceremoniously off the bed and on the floor.  Before I had a chance to catch my breath, I saw Sheila airborne.  She almost looked like a cat going for the kill.  Landing on my stomach, she interrupted my scream of terror and drove the wind out of me.  Tickling me mercilessly, she wouldn't give me a break to catch my breath.  Trying to fight her off, I was forced to grab her in a bear hug and roll over, pinning her and knocking over the chair with my luggage on it.  Now, finally able to catch my breath, I luxuriated in the feel of her squirming beneath me, trying to get free.  Freeing my arms from beneath underneath her, I lifted up and began relentlessly ticking her.  Squealing loudly, she returned the favor, eventually driving me back.  Trying to catch our breaths between laughing we both tried to get control of ourselves.

  Pausing for a good breath, I heard Zig Zag laughing.  Looking over, I saw that she was in the doorway.  "It's a Kodak moment," she said, holding her digital camera.  Shaking my head weakly, "No fair.  Remember our agreement about no cameras."  Hearing this, Sheila lost it again.

  Rolling over, I jumped unsteadily to my feet.  Seeing this, Zig Zag let out a squeal of her own and hauled the door shut as she backed into the hall.  Yanking the door open, I saw the flash of her tail as she headed out into the living room.  Digging my claws into the carpet, I sprinted afterwards in pursuit.  Rounding the corner I saw Zig Zag hastily pull the memory module on the camera and discard the camera on the couch.

  Spotting me, she ran around the couch, trying to keep it between us.  Not deterred in the least, I jumped over the couch, one hand on the back to help stabilize the landing.  Seeing this, Zig Zag darted around the couch yelling incoherently for me to stay back.

  This was getting fun.

  Launching myself again, I followed her back down the hallway to the bedroom she'd converted into a study.  As I was closing the gap she made it through the door and tried to shut it.  Putting my foot in the opening, I prevented it from closing.  Laughing as I slowly forced the door open, I heard her give out a small curse as she realized she was trapped.  I almost fell flat on my face as Zig Zag pulled away from the door.  Stepping in, I gave her the most sinister looking, lecherous grin I could find.

  Back against the wall, Zig Zag looked for a way out.  Seeing the look on my face, she straightened up, got a sly smile of her own.  I paused trying to figure out what she was thinking, when I saw her hold up the chip for a second.  Before I could grab it, she pulled the elastic on the front of her shorts out and dropped the card in.

  "No!"  Laughing at my reaction, she gloated at her apparent victory.  Leaning against the wall, she crossed her arms, her tail pulled up between her legs waved at me, egging me on.  Narrowing my eyes, I gave a small growl, "You don't think I'll do it, do you?"  I growled.   Breaking her smile long enough to stick her tongue at me, she laughed.

  Fighting with myself for a second, I came to the conclusion that it was time to call her bluff.  Just as I started forwards I heard a voice behind me, "What the hell is going on in here?"  It was James.  She had been saved by the bell.  Fighting the overwhelming desire to strike and get the chip back, I knew that James would totally freak out.

  Standing there in mid stalk, like a statue, Zig Zag strutted by.  Giving me a little pat on the muzzle, she said, "You know, you're kind of cute when you're annoyed."  Stepping past me, she gave me a hard goose with her claws.  Startled, I let out a yelp and jumped about a foot forward.  Giving a giggle, she led James away.

  Returning to the bedroom, I shut the door none to gently.  Proceeding into the bathroom, cranked the water in the shower on.  Letting the heat soak into my fur, I tried to relax and let the tension out.  The game had been fun up until James walked into it.  There's no way he would have understood me ripping off Zig Zag's shorts for any reason, although the look on his face might have been worth it.

  While I was contemplating my missed opportunity to annoy James, Sheila climbed in the shower.  Rubbing her fingers through the fur on my back she asked, "She got away with it eh?"  "If James hadn't walked in, I'd have won that round," I replied, nodding.  "Somehow I don't think he would have appreciated me ripping off her shorts no matter how good the reason."  I told her.  Smiling at her laughter, I let the last of the tension flow out of me.

  Still leaning forward on the tiles, I almost purred at the feeling as Sheila rubbed the shampoo into my back.  Working her way down the back of my body, I was somewhat disappointed at the fact she didn't try any tricks.  After finishing up, she turned and let me work on her back.  As I worked on shampooing her fur, I tried every trick I knew to get her to loosen up without success.  Giving up, I continued grooming her fur in as impersonal manner as possible.  After rinsing the shampoo out and doing the conditioner cycle, I waited for Sheila as she dried off.

  Other than her question when she first got in, she hadn't said a word.  She had almost given me the cold shoulder, but for the impersonal grooming.  It was as if I was something to be dealt with.  Watching her in the dryer, I realized that she might already be lost to me.

  After getting out of the dryer, I saw that Sheila was already in bed, under the sheets.  Turning off the lights, I climbed in next to her and tried to cuddle up.  Again I got the cold shoulder.  Rolling onto my back, I decided to try to break the mood.  "So, how was work today."  I asked.  Shrugging, she gave a small, "Eh," of a noncommittal nature.  Giving a snort, I laughed, "Wow.  Bjorn must really be slipping."  I commented.  No reaction.  "The poor guy's performance only rated an 'Eh'.  I better find him some ginseng or something like that before it's too late."  I joked.  She kicked me.  I had lost her.

  "Tomorrow I'll ask Zig Zag to spot me the money for an apartment.  You won't have to worry about me any more."  I said dejectedly.  Rolling away, I tried to get comfortable, missing the close feeling I had grown accustomed to.  Lost in thought about my dismal future, I almost missed it when Sheila started talking.  "It's not that I don't want to worry about you, I just don't want to get too close to you.  I don't want the pain of losing you to be any harder than it is now."  She explained to me.

  Rolling back over, I put my hand on her shoulder, "I never wanted to hurt you.  You know that."  I told her earnestly.  I could feel her nod.  My leaving was going to do far more damage to her than I thought.  I had been responsible for opening a very special part of her heart, and now she was afraid of the pain.  She might be gun shy in the future from ever letting someone get this close again.

  Duty and Honor, those are the ways of the Dragon.  But I'm a bear.  Despite the fact that Dragon now supports me, I will always walk the path of bear.  But by my own actions, I will be condemning that which I claim as my own.  If that's the case, then so be it.

  Scooting over next to her, I put my muzzle on her shoulder and spoke softly, "Tell me not to go."  I told her.  Turning her head, she gave me a questioning grunt.  "If you tell me not to go, then I won't.  I'll stay here with you."   I said again.  Rolling over, she looked at me in the dimness of the room, "But what about Nanuk and the Dragon?"  She asked me.  Shaking my head, I caressed her muzzle, "To hell with them.  Sometimes the needs of the one come before the needs of the many.  I promised I would never leave you for as long as you would have me.  Again I say, tell me not to go."  Reaching up, she pulled my hand from her face, "You would do this for me?"  She asked.  Cupping her head with my hand, I pulled her forwards into a kiss.  "I would live or die for you.  How could I not stay for you?  I love you."  I told her.

  Hearing this, she began to silently cry.  Bundling her in my arms, I held her close, rocking back and forth.  Once again, I tapped my inner reserves and sang the woman I loved to sleep.

  In the back of my head, I could hear the dragon roaring with rage.  Screw him, I wasn't going to destroy the woman I loved for his or anyone else's sake.

  Tigger wasn't a happy camper.  It was absolutely blind luck that had allowed her to spot the leader of Echo Team today.  He could only be in town because of Khansman.  If they were here, then odds are they would target the bear in an attempt to get to her.  This was escalating to a level she didn't like.

  Technically she didn't owe the bear or cat any protection.  She had done it just to piss off Khansman.  With Echo Team in town, she was now the prey.  It was time to make a decision.

  She could abandon the hunt and admit defeat.  This was not a viable option for her.  She'd never turned down a contract, especially if it was with herself.

  She could simply take out Khansman.  Without his backing, it's possible that Echo Team would pull out.  They hated her, but profit was foremost in their mind.  To them, her desire for revenge was a deficit.  She considered it an extreme hobby.

  She could bring in some extra help and work on containing Echo Team.  If she could keep them tagged and located, they wouldn't be a major threat.  If she could track them to an appropriate location, she might even take some of them out.... But using outside help would be cheating.

  Lastly, she could try to handle them herself.  It would be difficult, even suicidal.  But if she managed to pull it off, she would have proven herself to be the Queen of the Hill in her profession.  No longer would there be any dispute over who was better.

  Yes, she'd take them out, one at a time, nickel and dime, obliterating their memory from the face of the earth.  Then, just to reward herself, she'd cap Khansman for dessert.

Chapter 38