Story (c) 2000 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. All other characters are (c) Hikaru Katayamma.  This story contains adult situations and language. By reading it the viewer agrees not to hold this or any other person responsible for any content they may find objectionable. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Identity Crisis
Act II
Chapter 10

If it returns, it's yours. If not, hunt it down and kill it!

  Prepared for paradise, I was not disappointed. I was standing in a garden, surrounded by flowers, the sound of bumblebees carried on the breeze as it blew around me. "Where are we?" I asked looking around for Bjorn. To my dismay I could see no sign of him. "Bjorn?" I asked, searching the area for him.

  "He is not here, young one," The voice came from beyond a tall hedgerow. Curious as to its source I walked to the end of the hedge and peered around the corner. I was surprised to see a large, bi-pedal dragon sitting on a stone bench. "It's safe to come over. I won't eat you," he said with a small chuckle. Remembering what I learned in Sabrina's office, I was distrustful.

  Screwing up my courage I stepped out into the open and approached the dragon. "So just what kind of dragon are you?" I asked. With a hand he patted the seat beside him. He waited until I had sat down. "My name is Illiam. I deflected your transit across the barriers to bring you here. I am the guardian dragon for this realm. I am here to help you regain your lost life, to set you back on the path of your quest," he stated plainly.

  He was here to help me regain my life? Was that possible? Were the dragons powerful enough that they held sway over life and death itself? It all seemed too incredible to me.

  "How can you bring me back to life?" I asked, awed and confused. He let out a full-bodied belly laugh. "It is not necessary to restore your life; someone else has done that already. The only component missing is your spirit," he said, pointing a claw towards me.

  My body was alive. I could return to Sheila, my love. All was not yet lost! "What must I do?" I asked anxiously. Smiling, he nodded his head with approval. "Within the castle," he said, gesturing to the building behind us, "is your body. If you pay close attention you can feel it drawing you back to it." I allowed my emotions to settle, I centered myself and I felt the pull.

  "I feel it," I confirmed. "Good. Now hurry along. Our time is short. Do not delay, for all may still be lost," he said, slowly vanishing from my sight.

  I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland having just talked with the Cheshire cat. With a shake of my head to clear it I stood and proceeded quickly to the castle. Pulled along by the faint pulse of my heart I rushed up the stairs, flying through people in my urgency to reach my body. As I rounded a corner I saw Fish, tears rolling down his face, exiting a room.

  A small shiver ran down him has I passed by and through the door. Inside I saw Sheila sitting on the bed, his back to me. In the bed, under a layer of covers, I could see my body. As I watched, Sheila took the Tanto that he held within is hands and reached out towards the throat of my body.

  "Goodbye, my love," I heard him say. "No!" I yelled, diving for his hand. As my arm passed through his, I felt my paw sink into his flesh as I grabbed at the Tanto. Fire engulfed my paw and arm as it settled within Sheila's. Fighting for control of the Tanto, I felt him struggling against me, trying to complete the action.

  All the emotion that I held, love, anger, hatred, jealousy, and an infinite variety of others were summoned forth, strengthening my spirit as I fought Sheila for my life. Howling in rage, I forced his fingers open from within, causing the dagger to drop on the bedding in front of my neck. Letting out a shriek, Sheila yanked his arm away from my body, *spun off the bed and came to rest on the floor, kneeling, crying.

  With a sigh of relief I reached down to my body, caressing its face. The touch was amazing. It felt electric as I brushed the fur with my fingers. It was the first touch I'd been able to feel since my death except for Bjorn. A smile flittered over my face as I bent down over myself. I smiled at the imagery of what I was about to do as I pressed my ethereal muzzle against that of my corporeal body and exhaled myself into it.

  Nothing happened.

  Trying to press through the flesh of my living body I found myself rebounding from it, as if barred. Frantic, I began to try to fight my way in, to do anything to get in, but to no avail. I stood before myself, shivering in terror, trapped. Why couldn't I get back in?

  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and tried to calm down. Panicking now wasn't going to do anyone any good. Obviously I was missing something here.

  An idea occurred to me. I had tried forcing my way in, but maybe it was something subtler. I stepped through the bed, positioning myself so that I could lie down on top of my body. Relaxing, I tried to concentrate on feeling the pulse of life that pulled me. I hoped to sink into my body even as I tried to become more attuned to it.

  That didn't work, either.

  Now I was getting pissed. With a low growl I hopped out of the bed and began pacing the room. "Damn you, Dragon! What the hell am I supposed to do?" I yelled, demanding an answer in my fury. Of course he didn't bother to answer. Those damn dragons were really beginning to piss me off.

  Sheila was stirring from where he had been kneeling on the floor. He stood and unsteadily returned to the bed. I took up a position close by as he picked up the dagger, holding it shakily before him.

  "Why can't I do this?" he asked aloud. "What's preventing me?" With a determined look on his face Sheila again bent over the bed, preparing to strike with the Tanto, intent on ending it. What the hell? Couldn't he take a hint?

  Angry at being denied, I kicked Sheila in the chest, trying to drive him back. Surprise showed clearly on is face as he fell backwards from the bed, landing in a rather undignified heap on the floor. As he got up I hit him again, tackling him against the far wall. My hand lashed out, striking his wrist, forcing him to drop the Tanto.

  Terror. That's what I could see in Sheila's eyes---terror. He had no idea what was happening. I reached down for the dagger, but my hand passed through it as I tried to lift it. Not to be deterred, I concentrated on trying to move it, and again I failed.

  What the hell? I couldn't affect anything. I could walk through walls, doors, and obviously pass through my dagger. The only thing that offered any kind of resistance was my body and Sheila.

  No... Sheila's body and MINE! I had been able to affect my old body when I needed to. I couldn't do that with Sheila's. There was some kind of barrier preventing me from accessing what I had come to consider my body.

  A small groan escaped my lips as the answer came to me. "You asshole! You could have saved me the angst and just told me!" I yelled, knowing the dragon would be listening. The hollow echo of his laugh resonated within the room. That bastard had just made my shit list.

  Now, knowing what I needed to do, I stood up and looked for Sheila. He stood by the door, looking hesitantly at the dagger as it lay on the floor, and I could see he was preparing to beat a hasty retreat from the room. "Oh no you don't, love," I said, walking towards him.

  As he turned to make his escape I quickly stepped into my old body. I felt as if my entire being had been engulfed in flames as I merged with my old form. I could hear Sheila's voice screaming vainly in my/his head, not understanding what was going on. "I'm sorry, love, but I need to borrow my body for a bit," I forced my/his body to say aloud for him to hear.

  What I said penetrated Sheila's terror a bit, and I felt him calm down a little. He now understood some of what was happening here.

  I had to concentrate on each move, forcing every step as I walked back over to the prone body on the bed. Taking the amulet from around Sheila's neck, I placed it on the vixen's chest. "I'm going to release you now, love.... Please don't do anything," I begged of Sheila.

  With a mental scream, I released my control of Sheila's body, allowing myself to be flung outwards from it, ending the torment I had to endure while possessing it. We both stood by the bed, shaking at what had just happened to us.

  "OK, Illium, if this doesn't work I'm going to track you down and rip you a new asshole," I snarled, preparing myself for what I hoped to accomplish. I looked at the medallion. The great dragon had once described it as a key to the barriers between the spirit realm and the realities. Although I was literally standing here beside myself, I was still part of the spirit realm. To transit into the physical world I would need the use of the amulet.

  Hesitant at the possibility of failure, I slowly reached out and touched the medallion. As my hand came in contact with the surface I saw the medallion dragon's eyes glow, gaining intensity until I was blinded. With the eventual passing of the light I opened my eyes and realized I was back in my body, Sheila peering at me in anxious anticipation.

  I took a deep breath, reveling in the feeling of air as it rushed in my body. Luxuriating in the feeling of being alive again I stretched my back and shoulders until I was suddenly reminded of the damage to my ribs and arm. While the pain wasn't sharp they were still sore, and they kept me from properly stretching my muscles.

  "Arden? Is that really you?" Sheila asked, cautiously sitting on the bed next to me. "Hi, honey. I'm home," I quipped, smiling, tears of joy in my eyes. Sheila grabbed me up in a hug, holding me tight to him, his strength causing me to squeak as he crushed the breath out of me. I returned his hug for a moment, and then weakly pounded on his back, trying to gasp some breath.

  Slowly relaxing his grip Sheila held me at hands length, peering into my eyes, a mix of emotions painted on his face. "Oh Arden, I'm so glad you made it back," he said with a slight sob. I was surprised when his expression changed to one of anger and he dropped me, quite rudely, back on the bed.

  "You bastard! Just what in the hell did you think you were doing?" he demanded. "You scarred the hell out of me!" All I could do was give a sheepish smile and a shrug. "Actually, love, I'm technically a bitch," I said, trying to deflect the conversation. "Don't give me that!" he complained sternly. "Do you have any idea what you've put me through?"

  I allowed my smile to fade. My eyes locked on his, I reached out and grabbed his head, pulled him down to me and kissed him deeply. God, I had missed him. The though of losing him was almost too much for me. As I came up for air I pleaded with my eyes while begging him, "Can you ever forgive me?"

  Sheila was having trouble maintaining the scowl on his face. "That's not going to work on me, babe. I've used that very maneuver on more men than you could ever know," he declared, trying not to smile. With a smile and a wink, I raked my paws along his ribs. "Don't try to tell me it didn't work," I said impishly. He decided to reply by kissing me again. A girl couldn't have asked for a better answer.

  Our little celebration was interrupted as someone barged into the room. Startled, Sheila spun about, looking to see who it was, dropping me, again, in the process. With a small annoyed growl I lifted my head to look at the door, spotting some old geezer with gray hair and a tall, red haired woman with a silver headband standing just inside the door. They were both staring, jaws agape at what they saw. Apparently it wasn't what they had expected.

  "Excuse me," I said, slightly peeved, "but don't you people know how to knock?" The tall woman's jaw worked up and down for a second as she tried to speak. "I...I'm sorry. We though...we mean, we were told..." she said, trying to find the words. I heard Fish interrupt her. "Arden!" he yelled, darting out from around back of the pair.

  With a small leap he jumped up onto the bed and hugged me. I let out a small squeak of surprise and then laughed, hugging him tight. "Hey, Fish. Good to see ya!" I said, rubbing my snout against the side of this head. I could feel him crying as he held onto me. "Hey-hey. None of that now," I gently chided, patting him on the back. "I'm sorry, Miss Sheila," he said between sniffs. "I though...I---I'd never see you again."

  Remembering what had happened, I thought about how I wouldn't be here if it weren't for this realm's guardian dragon. "I know, Fish. I didn't think I'd make it back either," I admitted. I wanted to hold on to him forever, but I knew I couldn't. With a sniff of my own, I pushed him away. As I watched him wipe his tears, I smiled. "Enough of this crying stuff. I won't have any squire of mine blubbering every time I cheat death," I said, trying to break the mood. "Yes, Miss Arden," he said with a small embarrassed smile.

  Annoyed, I let out a small snarl while bearing my fangs, inwardly pleased at the look of shock on his face. "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me 'Miss Arden'?" I demanded with a small smile. "I'm sorry, Arden. I forgot," he admitted sheepishly. He was trying so hard. I laughed as I shooed him off the bed and attempted to sit up. Damn, I felt weak. How long had I been lying there anyway?

  The other two were still standing just inside the door, staring at the spectacle. "Excuse me," I said, snapping my fingers, "but admission is two gold Imperial's, each." Sheila smacked me in the arm. "Arden!" he said, in a scolding voice.

  "That's quite all right, Lord Sheen. We were staring rather rudely," I heard the woman say. "We are the Duchess Rossini, and this is our court healer, Reskin. We are most grateful to find you still alive---despite information to the contrary." The last part was directed quite pointedly towards Fish.

  The boy didn't know how to handle the accusation. He had expected to find me dead. Sheila, however, saved him. "I must apologize, my lady, but it was my intention to end what I believed was Arden's suffering," he said, deflecting the Dutchess' anger.

  "Please don't be too hasty in judging him, my lady," I quickly said, trying to defuse the situation. "If it hadn't been for the help of an old friend, I dare to say I wouldn't have been able to make it back." The healer's eyes lit up hearing this. "Interesting. An old friend, you say?" the old man queried. "Curious. Never before have I heard of someone finding their way back. Perhaps we can talk about this in depth some time."

  The Duchess laid her hand on the old man. "Some other time. Right now, we believe that we were interrupting a reunion. If you will excuse us," she said politely. Stepping back out the door, she paused. "Thomas," she said, getting the young boy's attention. "Oh," he said, realizing she intended for him to leave, also. After Fish had exited, the Duchess gave a small nod and then closed the door behind her.

  Sheila turned and sat back down on the bed next to me, taking me in his arms. "So, where were we?" he asked. I embraced him, restating my apology in a most enthusiastic manner. "Whoa," he said, taking a deep breath and then smiling. "You keep that up and I'm going to need a cold shower."

  I couldn't help but laugh. I felt wonderful. "That, my love, would be a waste of a perfectly good cold shower," I said, pulling him forward as I again lay back in the bed. "Hey. Aren't you rushing this a little?" he asked, concerned. "I mean, it's only been a few days since they...." His comment trailed off as he realized what he was reminding me of.

  The smile on my face faded as the memory surfaced. "I was dead. To the best of my knowledge I was headed for the afterlife when I stepped into the light. To find myself here, given a second chance at life..." I said, trying to describe how I felt. "I remember stories of the Japanese. Prepared for seppuku, a warrior might be saved at the last minute by his master ordering him not to do it. Given a reprieve, they would find themselves in an altered state of consciousness. It was considered a form of rebirth. Their old life gone, they started over. That's the way I feel."

  I took Sheila's face in my hands. "I was dead. My spirit returned to the studio. If Bjorn hadn't shown me how to escape, I would have been trapped there. Doomed to haunt the halls of ZZ Studios," I explained, trying to make him understand. "Bjorn helped you?" Sheila asked, conflicting emotions apparent on his face.

  The moment lost, I let out a moan and released him. "Yes. Bjorn came to me," I confessed. "He explained why I was trapped there. He explained my mistakes to me. When we stepped into the portal I fully expected to be transported with him into the afterlife." For a moment I was saddened by the thought that Bjorn had returned to the afterlife while I was still alive. Remembering our promise about Sheila though, I realized that he would be just as happy with me here, taking care of Sheila.

  As I watched, I could see Sheila remembering Bjorn, and what had happened. Trying to break his mood, I pulled him close and kissed him lightly. "Bjorn reminded me of a promise," I said quietly. "We promised each other that whatever happened, your happiness was paramount. I couldn't do that by dying."

  Reaching my hands up over my shoulders, I allowed the sheet to fall from my breasts. "So, are you going to climb in here and let me make you a happy camper, or are you going to sit there and be the tight ass I used to be?" I asked, knowing it was the most loaded of questions. Sheila got a most interesting look on his face as indignation fought with lust. My body shook with laugher as I saw the latter of the two win out.

  God, I just knew I was going to love being a woman!

Chapter 11