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Chapter 09

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      Marlot straightened up with a start and looked around momentarily confused. He'd been sitting next to Trembor's bed for hours, nodding off every so often. He looked at the lion lying there peacefully with a tube running out of his good arm.

      He'd followed the ambulance to the hospital. When they tried to prevent him from accompanying him in the evaluation room because he wasn't family he told them. He didn't care about the consequences; he wasn't going to be separated from him. He told them they were mates. The supervising medic, a gorilla, gave him a long look before telling him to go wash up before joining them.

      Trembor broke a leg in the fall so they put it in a cast. His shoulder injury wasn't severe, but the bullet was still in so they had called a surgeon. Every time the Medic touched the lion during the examination Marlot had to fight off the urge to shove him away. He knew that all he could do was watch, but he couldn't stop the need to protect Trembor, to be the one who made him better.

      They moved the lion to a room and gave him a mild pain killer so he could rest. All Marlot could do was wait. They'd promised him the surgeon would be over as soon as he was done with his current operation. He kept wishing it was now, so he could take his love home. To avoid falling asleep again he took out his pad and started up his report.

      Marlot looked up when the door open, expecting to see Bahamel's head poke through. Instead a mature lioness walked in, followed by a younger version of her and then two cubs, around six. They smiled at him and then went to stand on the other side of the bed. A moment later a lion entered the room.

      Marlot put his pad down and stood. There was no mistaking the family resemblance between him and Trembor, but that wasn't why he stood. The male was obviously the Patriarch, and the sense of power he read in his body language made him feel like he was back in front of the town councilors again.

      The lion studied him with piercing eyes for a moment and Marlot couldn't help swallowing. When he spoke with was with a deep voice he kept low for the benefit of his sleeping son. "The officer said you were the one who killed the male who did this to my son."

      "Yes, sir," Marlot tentatively took the hand the lion offered.

      "Thank you," the lion said, shaking it, "if there ever anything I can do for you don't hesitate to ask. You avenged my son; that almost makes you family."

      There was a chuckle from the bed, "a little more than 'almost' dad."

      "You're awake," exclaimed the younger lioness before draping herself over Trembor and hugging him.

      The lion took a sharp breath, "watch the shoulder sis."

      She let go of him as if he'd burnt her, "oh! I'm so sorry."

      The two cubs took that as a signal it was now ok to climb the bed and sit at the end of it. The older lioness placed a hand on his, "how are you doing?"

      "I'm ok mom, I can barely feel the bullet."

      His sister's ears folded against her skull, "sorry," she said again in a soft voice.

      "What did you mean by that?" his father asked.

      "He's the one," was Trembor's reply.

      His mother and sister's face lit up in delight while the cubs frowned, "but he's not a lion," said one.

      Marlot didn't have time to react to that, or even worry about their reaction. Trembor's father pulled him in a hug. "Welcome to the family. My name's Torim, but you better get used to calling me 'dad'."

      "Yes sir," was all Marlot was able to say.

      "Why don't you two go hug your new uncle," Trembor told the cubs.

      "Can we get his pad number?" ask the one who had been silent until now as she stood and extended her arms to the wolf.

      "No," Trembor said, "I'll explain later," he added to Marlot when the wolf looked at him, hugging one cub and then the other.

      After that he had to give a hug to his mother, Arina and sister Elin. When that was done he excused himself and left them alone. He leaned against the wall opposite the door and tried to get his hands to stop shaking. He'd been ready to defend himself when Trembor announced their relationship to his family, not to be so easily accepted.

      "I thought they might chase you out of there." Bahamel said, "How'd it go?"

      Marlot looked at the bear sitting a few feet away. "It went ok," he said, composing himself.

      She watched him for a moment before asking, "do they know?"

      "About what?"

      "You and Trembor."

      Marlot stared at her and then instinctively looked for an escape. He stopped himself from running. "How did you know?" he asked instead.

      She smiled sweetly at him, "I'm not blind, you two all but screamed 'I love you' when you got him to focus on your case. Then there's Cristan, you killed him for hurting your partner; you're normally more professional than that."

      Marlot nodded and sat next to her. "Have you figured out where he got the gun?"

      "It's too early, Ballistic's going to look it over, run the serial number against those we are missing. If nothing comes up we're going to have to send it to the military for them to check it against their inventory. By the way, I'm pretty sure he was the rapist. We found a box of souvenirs near where you killed him. I wouldn't be surprised if has something from every one of his victims." She handed him Cristan's PRT card. "Do you want us to keep the body for you?"

      He took the card and looked at it for a moment before reaching for his pad. "Eat it, or burn it, I don't care," he said, remembering it was still in Trembor's room.

      She nodded and hugged him. "I'll donate it to the shelter. Don't wait till you need to see me on a case to drop by next time wolf." She stood and walked away.

      Marlot looked at his hands, they weren't shaking anymore, but he wasn't comforted. Bahamel had noticed. Who else knew? He'd been so careful about how he acted around Trembor; or at least he had thought he had been.

      He leaned back in the chair and chuckled. Did it matter anymore? There had been three medics present when he'd told Trembor he loved him. He had no idea how many people had been there when he told the medic in the emergency room he was his mate, and now Trembor's family had accepted him, just like that. No one had struck him down for loving another male.

      He smiled and allowed himself to believe that Trembor had been right; there really was nothing wrong with being who they were.

      * * * * *

      Marlot parked the car in its spot in front of their office and quickly got out of it to open the other door. Trembor gave him a slightly exasperated look before letting the wolf help him out of the car.

      With Trembor leaning against it Marlot took the crutch out of the trunk. As he placed the lion's arms over his shoulders he noticed a daschund in her thirties getting up from the steps leading to the office door.

      "Are you Investigator Blackclaw?" she asked timidly as she walked to them. Her petite size and behavior made her seem younger than her scent indicated.

      "Yes, I am." Marlot answered.

      Trembor noticed the worried glances she gave him as she looked at Marlot. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself, looking down to the ground. Marlot was confused at her behavior, but the lion had seen it multiple times in his sister when she had to admit something she'd rather not be witnessed.

      He took the crutch out of the wolf's hand. "I'll see you in the office when you're done here," he told him as he placed it under his good arm.

      "What do you think you're doing?" Marlot asked, grabbing the lion's good arm.

      "I'm giving the two of you some privacy," he smiled at Marlot's worried look and placed his hand on his cheek, "I'll be fine. It's not even twenty feet to the door; no one's going to attack me between here and there."

      Reluctantly Marlot let him go and watched him hobble up the steps.

      "I'm sorry," the daschund said, "I didn't mean to get in the way."

      Marlot sighed in relief when the door closed behind the lion. "It's alright," he said looking at her again, "he's right I've been getting over protective since his hospital stay." She wore a conservative gray business suit, "what can I do for you?"

      She dug through her purse and pulled out a cash card, which she presented to him. "I wanted to give you this."

      He looked at it without taking it, "why?"

      "I found out that you killed the man who rrr . . .," she tried to get the word out, but couldn't, even after multiple time.

      Marlot didn't need to hear it to know what this was about. He closed her hand on the cash card and held it in both of his. "How long ago?" he asked.

      "Th, three years," she answered, "this is part of my savings, I want to help you pay for his PRT."

      "He wasn't worth that much," Marlot told her. He'd actually been surprise at how low the male's PRT had been considering he had owned a successful business. He had known his crime would reduce it, but not so much. He had had to check with the PRT Administrative office to confirm the amount was correct.

      "I don't care," she said firmly, her eyes wet, "You've made it that I can sleep again. I want you to have it."

      Marlot could hear the misery in her voice, and got the feeling that he was the first person she had told what had been done to her. "Alright, I'll take it, but only on the condition that you go see a councilor about what happened to you."

      "I can't," she said weakly.

      "You have to, if you don't he's always going to haunt you." She looked at him with fear. "I know one, her name is Dauro, promise me you'll talk with her."

      She hesitated a moment and then nodded.

      He let he hand go and took out his pad. He brought up the councilor's information while he waited for her to take out hers. When she nodded he sent it to her, and took down her pad number in return, making a note to contact Dauro to arrange to pay part of the sessions.

      He took the card, and then he hugged her, before watching her walk away.

      He smiled at Hela'han as he entered, but didn't pay attention to what she said; Trembor was standing, leaning against their desks.

      "Shouldn't you be sitting?" Marlot asked as he hurried to the lion.

      Trembor rolled his eyes, "I'm fine. Who was she?"

      "One of his victims, she gave me a reward for killing him, but I going to use it to pay for the councilor I got her to go see."

      Trembor smiled, "you're a sneaky wolf." He grabbed his hand and pulled him close. "I love you," he said before wrapping his arms around Marlot and kissing him.

      Marlot froze for a moment remembering the door was open and Hela'han was on the other side, and then forced his worries away so he could enjoy it. He heard her give an amused chuckle and then the door was closed quietly.

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