(Summary: Tiberius Munin has a normal life. He gets straight Cs, smokes a few cigarettes now and then to impress his friends, and puts up with a father who coined the phrase "oblivious." That normal life ends, however, when two "aliens" show up at his door, needing his help. He is about to find himself in a world where men can shift into wolves, people have "healing hands," and many, many people want to kill him….

Disclaimers: All of the characters, creatures, worlds and plotline belong to yours truly. If you try to steal them for your own work, I shall not be amused.

Warnings: There will be shounen ai, GRAPHIC violence, GRAPHIC talk of sex, MAJOR profanity, and DEATH. Got it, folks? My characters will use tons of profanity, succubi and incubi will seduce pretty boys and girls, people will get torn limb from limb (incidentally, that also covers the whole death thing), so be prepared.

Author's Notes: *sheepish look* Okay, so I haven't finished Oistin or TMB or Amends for the Dead or…uh, anything I've written yet. TMB *is* getting nearer to its end, so I figure I can get away with starting another story. Plus, Cathal leaped into my head…. Bloody bugger. Well, enjoy the prologue of This Passing Strangeness!

~Cinaed)

This Passing Strangeness

By Cinaed, Born of Fire

Prologue

Even before they reached the house he could smell the strangeness, the musk of something desirable but deadly. A low growl began in his throat before he could rein in his emotions, and his partner shot him a startled look.

"Fuck, Cath, can you already smell the bitch?" The growl rose in volume and answered his companion's question. Toviel sighed and spoke into the gem embedded in his palm. "Cathal's got the scent already. We're going into the house, if that's all right with you, boss."

He stalked forward, past the bright yellow tape that declared this a police scene. His nose searching out the scent that didn't belong in this house, he grumbled softly to himself. So many people had trampled through here once the boy's mother had called the police that it was hard to tell whose scent was whose, and so he knelt, pressing his face to the ground and sniffing for the trail. In the back of his mind, the Wolf stirred at the prospect of the hunt, and his demands began. Find-find-find-hunt-hunt-kill…. 

He pushed the bloodthirsty commands away for the moment, inhaling deeply. Aha, there it was! She had wandered through this house, leaving dark desires and death in her wake. Still growling, he scrambled forward, and followed the scent up stairs that smelled like lemon disinfectant and cigarette smoke. Toviel called after him, profanity coloring the statement, but he ignored his partner. She was here, somewhere. He would find her; he would hunt her down and kill her—

He realized that the Wolf had managed to influence him without his knowledge…. 

He faltered for a moment. Carefully standing upright to remind him that he and the Wolf were separate parts of his soul, he moved forward, slower than before. In the hallway, the smell of cigarette smoke seemed to enfold him, and he wrinkled his sensitive nose in disgust. The boy and his mother had obviously been chain smokers. Either that, or a couple of the policemen had smoked like a chimney during the investigation and filled the building with the nasty smell. 

The smell of death had increased as well, and he whined quietly, soft enough so that Toviel wouldn't overhear. Now the odor had a tinge of fear to it, a signal that the boy had been terrified in his final moments. He followed that fear, walking down the white-walled hallway where pictures of the boy and his family had been carefully hung. One had been knocked askew. Toviel would fix that when he too came up the stairs. His perfectionist nature wouldn't be able to resist.

He opened the door that had a childish "Tony's Room – Keep Out!" sign nailed to it, and was assaulted by the smells that had permeated through the room. Another whine escaped his lips, for he could smell death. The sour scent burrowed itself into his nostrils, trying to get him to gag. Whimpering softly, he moved into the boy's room, and attempted to ignore the nauseating scents.

The room was an average one for a sixteen-year-old's—messy, with unwashed socks littering the floor. The police hadn't moved much around, except to put bright yellow tape around the bloodstain that was the only physical signal that something had gone amiss. He, however, could smell her, and knew she had devoured the boy, ensnaring him like a black widow and killing him with his own lusts.

But where was she? He whined in frustration, and dropped to all fours once more. The Wolf was louder now, more insistent. She-is-here-she-is-here-find-hunt-kill! The Wolf wanted to bear his fangs and draw blood, to hear a shriek of pain from his prey. He once again pushed the Wolf aside, and instead sniffed deeply. Her scent grew stronger the closer he got to the rumpled bed, and he moved towards it. There was the smell of deadly beauty, mixed in with the damp, sharp scents from the boy's sweat and guilty desires. He sniffed at the covers, recognizing the smell as something sexual, and then glanced under the bed.

"Are you looking for something, sir?" The husky alto came from behind him, and he yipped softly in surprise before he turned to blink up at the person who wasn't Toviel. The woman was stunningly beautiful, with an amused smile toying with her crimson-red lips. "Are you looking for…something?" She shifted, and the front of her chemise loosened to give him a better view of her ample endowments.

The Wolf howled in recognition, and he found himself howling as well. He leapt at her, forgetting he wasn't in his true body, teeth bared and eyes glowing with hatred. His hands had curled into pseudo-paws, and he growled when he couldn't claw the succubus's eyes out.

The woman stumbled backwards, and a look of shock mingled with hatred contorted her beautiful visage. For a second, she lost her disguise and became a humanoid monster with enormous, leathery wings and sinister, crimson eyes. Then she was back in her beautiful form, a cold smile hardening her features. "So…you must be Cathal. I've heard talk about you." Her voice was the same husky quality, alluring and seductive. One hand lifted to expose a bit more of her body for him, and she said sweetly, "Are you certain that you don't desire me? I can offer you more pleasure than you've ever imagined…."

He stayed silent, his nonexistent hackles raised, a low growl rumbling from his chest. He resisted the urge to lunge at her once more. Toviel would be up with the cage any second now, after all—

Realization flared in those hypnotic eyes, and the succubus smiled, an expression of victory on her face. "But you don't desire me…. I see…. You want something different, something more than just sex…." The victorious gleam never fading, the succubus fell to all fours. In the next instant, a silver wolf gazed up at him with adoring eyes. She rolled onto her side and whimpered softly, her meaning obvious. Have me. I will be your mate and raise our cubs. We will be happy, so very happy together. Just have me now….

He and the Wolf whined as one, their confusion overlapping. He knew it was the succubus, but at the same time there was no death lingering in the air, just the musky scent of a wolf in heat. The Wolf wanted this female—he hadn't seen another in months, and the desire to take her was overwhelming. He itched, suddenly, and scratched at his face, moaning in despair when he saw that he was beginning to revert to his wolf form. Where was Toviel? He was going to fall under her spell and die if his partner didn't….

Then the female whimpered for his attention, and the wolf's thoughts focused on her. He sidled forward, eager to mate; his toenails made no sound on the carpeted floor. When he reached her, she greeted him with delighted licks, her tongue flicking out to taste his nose, his jaw, his muzzle, his neck—

Pain seared through the wolf, and he half-howled, half-whined, torn between confusion and agony. The female didn't release her death grip on his throat, and instead shook him roughly, her fangs burrowing deeper into his neck. The wolf felt sticky dampness trickle through his fur, and yelped, lashing out at her with his paws. This wasn't how one was supposed to mate! She kept shaking him, ignoring his attempts to escape. Her paws scrabbled against his own; she scratched his legs, gouged at his eyes and luckily missed, but nevertheless sent more pain to muddle his brain.

A non-wolf presence filled his senses, mixing in with smells of blood and fear—his fear—and then someone yelled, "Cathal! Cathal!" There were three thunderous blasts of noise, and the female yelped and released the wolf, who immediately limped away from the insane female. The wolf hunched down and tried to lick his leg wounds, but any movement made his throat hurt more, and he simply whimpered, huddling upon the ground.

"Take that, you fucking succubus! I'm not putting you in a cage—it's death for you!" The non-wolf was furious, his harsh yell hurting the wolf's damaged ears. The wolf whimpered, feeling weak. The female had been bad, very bad. Why had she attacked him? She had promised him cubs…. There were three more thunderous blasts, a half-yelp from the female, and then silence before the non-wolf hurried over to him.

"Cath, are you all right?"

The wolf wearily sniffed at the paw that stroked behind his less-damaged ear, and he whined as he recognized the scent. This was a member of his Pack, one of the other males. Whimpering, the wolf could feel something cry out in the back of his head, something that called out the name of the Pack member with anguished desperation. Toviel, please, I'm hurt, oh please, it hurts so much, Toviel, please, oh please….

The wolf whimpered a final time, his tongue reaching out to try and lick at his Pack member's paw to reassure him that he would be fine. Then the darkness that had been lurking beneath his furious struggles washed over him, and the pain drifted off like some nightmare that had never been real.

*

"Cath?"

He opened his eyes, confused for a moment. Why had he dreamt of a silver female wolf with blood on her muzzle? It had to have been a dream, because he felt no pain. Then he caught the scent of peppermint and mentally groaned. It hadn't been a dream. The pain had simply been taken from him by Dýr's magic.

"Cath?" Dýr leaned over him, his eyes a tempest of turquoise. That was never a good sign—the Reliever's eyes were only that shade when he was very emotional. "Don't try to speak—you've got quite a few Lestans working on your throat right now."

It was only then that Cathal could feel the miniature creatures pressed against his throat, carefully stitching the torn flesh and veins back together. He immediately wanted to swallow, but resisted the urge, knowing that might damage his throat even further. Instead, he gazed towards Dýr. His expression had to reveal his confusion.

"The succubus tore out some muscle and caught a vein in your neck, Cath. If Toviel hadn't been there, you'd be dead." This was said matter-of-factly, but the Reliever's eyes were still the same brilliant turquoise. "She also gave you quite a few nasty scars on your face and arms."

"Which leads me to wonder…what were you thinking?" Zuriel shoved Dýr aside, his features tightened with anger. His lack of profanity was a very bad sign. The leader of their crew, the Celestial always used swear words to spice up his language, except when he was filled with such fury that profanity would only detract from what he was trying to say.

"I wasn't?" Cathal mouthed in a meek fashion, wishing he could sink through the floor. He'd been such an idiot, letting that succubus get the upper hand…. He couldn't imagine what Toviel had gone through, bursting through the door and seeing two wolves locked in a bloody struggle.

"No, you obviously weren't." The Celestial's lavender eyes glittered with disgust, and his golden wings kept shifting and fluttering, another sure sign that he was furious. "You went in, unarmed, without telling Toviel, and nearly got yourself killed. Did you consider any of the consequences?"

He started to shake his head, and then thought better of it. He continued to mouth what he wanted to say, knowing that Zuriel could read lips. "Not really." Cathal had no excuse—he'd allowed the Wolf to take over, and they both knew it.

"Then you must not know how you thoroughly screwed everyone over!" Zuriel shouted the words. "You're on probation, Toviel is in rehabilitation, and we're going to get—" His words faltered as Cathal threw himself upright on the bed, scattering Lestans left and right.

Ignoring the melodious complaints of the Lestans, the Mingan stared at Zuriel. "Why is Toviel in rehabilitation?" The question wrenched itself from his throat, and he was grateful to Dýr for using his powers to take away the pain. It didn't matter that he was probably damaging his throat beyond repair. "What happened?" His gaze flickered between Dýr, who looked grim, and Zuriel, who looked…tired.

Had their leader ever looked tired before? In the fifteen years that Cathal had stayed by Zuriel's side and worked with him to rid the different worlds of the creatures of darkness, the Celestial had never seemed weary. "You didn't see him do it?"

"Do what?"

Zuriel rubbed at the area between his eyes, and closed his eyes for a moment, as though to gather some needed strength. When he spoke, it was in a low, almost hesitant tone. "Toviel killed the succubus, Cathal. He used his powers and ripped her to pieces."

Cathal stared. Kind, teasing Toviel, rip a living creature to shreds? Besides, Celestials just didn't kill. Mingan did, often, and occasionally Manjit, but the Celestials and Relievers were races that would let themselves die before harming another creature. Cathal remembered the six thunderous blasts (a Celestial's magic was effective, but noisy), but that couldn't possibly have been Toviel murdering the succubus! Even as he glanced between Dýr and Zuriel, however, he knew the truth.

"What's going to happen?" He went back to mouthing the words, settling back on the bed as grumpy Lestans fluttered around his injuries and got back to work. Toviel was in deep, deep trouble. Cathal had never heard of a Celestial committing murder and not immediately killing himself out of anguish for the deed.

"I told you. He'll go into rehabilitation and learn to 'control his anger,' whatever that's supposed to mean. The Shivu said we'll be informed of when he's allowed back into society." Zuriel snorted in disgust at the trouble his fellow Celestial was putting him through and the mention of the government that they worked for. "Which means I'm going to need two replacements. The healers say you won't be well enough to track for another three, four weeks, and Toviel will be gone for a few months."

A few months? The Wolf inside him whimpered at that. Toviel was Pack, and he didn't want the Pack separated for months. Still, Cathal kept quiet. He'd brought this upon himself. He only hoped Toviel would be all right. The Celestials were pacifistic, but that didn't mean they couldn't be cruel in their own way.

Dýr turned to Zuriel, and a slight frown marred the young Reliever's features. "Have the Shivu offered us any replacements yet?"

The leader of their band shook his head. "They mentioned something about a human with 'potential.' Name's…. Damn, I think it began with a T. T-something Munin." Zuriel snorted. "So instead of getting another Mingan or even another Celestial, we're gonna wind up with some fool newbie. Fucking wonderful. Remind me to thank you later for this, Cath." The Celestial raked a hand through his curls of gold and mumbled another profanity. "Bloody government—the Shivu just like watching me suffer."

At least Zuriel was back to cursing. That was always a good sign. Still, the Wolf silently growled. A human in his Pack? Never! The fact that Zuriel mentioned this new one coming sent the Wolf mentally pacing. He was the alpha! While he would step aside once in a while to listen to the Celestial who thought himself alpha, the Wolf was the true leader nonetheless. Whoever tried to wedge their way into his Pack would regret it. And if this human tried to usurp the Wolf's control? Well, then, this human called Munin would have to either die or submit. It was as simple as that.

"Quasim and Olathe are dealing with the whole situation right now," Dýr informed him in a soft voice. "Some neighbor heard the magic and thought the blasts were gunshots. There was too much blood for us to clean up before the police arrived." The Reliever made a face. "That's another reason why Toviel's in rehabilitation. The humans think he murdered the succubus and the boy."

Great. Just great. Cathal wanted to bury his face in his hands but knew if he did, the image of the silver female wolf might reappear. Instead, he focused on thoughts of how to keep this Munin man from seizing any of his power. A growl formed in his chest, waiting to be released once the Lestans finished their task. He would protect his Pack from any foolish newcomer….

At all costs.

(To be continued….)