It was strange; Cali had never considered himself to be the nurturing sort. The leader of a pride, of course. All male lions would want that. He was no exception, and he’d taken steps to do just that by creating a dwelling for shifters. Even so, he found that taking care of Jacob was almost enjoyable. Cali felt both needed and responsible for Jacob.
As soon as he thought that, guilt settled heavily on his shoulders. Jacob was very ill, and there was no reason he should find anything good in that.
Over the next few days, Jacob spent more time sleeping and in a feverish state. The websites and articles he continued searching out didn’t seem to be providing anything useful.
He did remember being told that once upon a time, hundreds of years back, shifters who were also shamans had existed. Were they healers, too? Cali wished he’d asked more questions of the old lion shifter who’d taught him the basics of their kind.
Cali squinted, picturing Donal, the instructor his parents had employed to teach him up until Cali had could control his shifting abilities.
Donal had been two hundred if he were a day, and in incredibly good health. He’d had thick, white hair with streaks of darker grey in it, and small, orange-brown eyes that Cali would have sworn could see through to his mischievous intentions. Donal had caught him before he could do much of anything bad.
Cali had liked Donal, and when Donal simply didn’t show up one day—or ever again—Cali had fought so hard not to cry that his head had pounded for hours.
“Wonder what happened to him,” Cali said to himself. Perhaps it was better for him not to have an answer.
Thinking back on the time spent with Donal was how it began, an idea to save what history Cali knew of.
When he wasn’t taking care of Jacob, he was sitting at the desk across the room from where Jacob slept. Cali wrote up everything he could remember about shifter history. It seemed like the more he wrote, the more he remembered. Sometimes he wasn’t even certain the memories were his, or real, so he made annotations to that effect.
It occurred to him that while he had created—hopefully—a safe-haven for shifters, he’d done nothing to preserve their history. Keeping any kind of written records was risky, but he felt it necessary. Cali used a new laptop he’d had delivered, one he would never connect to the internet. It might not prevent someone from getting to the information he was compiling, but it was the best idea he could come up with.
When he wasn’t using it, he’d keep the laptop, along with a self-destructing external hard drive he used to back up the laptop on, locked in his safe. No one was going to be able to break into that.
Jacob wasn’t having any increase in lucid moments, nor did he appear to be getting worse. For the most part, he slept, cried out when his fever was hottest, and talked in his sleep about losing his pack.
It was Jacob’s screams full of agonized loss that wrenched at Cali’s heart. The deaths of his parents had been tremendously painful; he couldn’t imagine losing an entire pack or all his pride members-- if he’d had a pride.
On the fifth day after his arrival, Jacob came awake with a loud, sudden gasp. It startled Cali so badly that he almost knocked the laptop off the desk when he jolted. He pushed the computer back and got up, striding quickly to the bed, his heart thundering with fear. “Jacob?”
Jacob sat upright and gasped again. His gaze darted around without pausing.
Cali was swamped by the scent of his fear.
“Jacob—“ He knelt on the bed and placed his hands on Jacob’s shoulders. “Look at me. Look me in the eyes.”
Jacob shivered, gulped, and shivered again.
Cali called to his own inner lion, letting the beast rumble.
The sound caught Jacob’s attention and his gaze shot to Cali’s.
Cali gently squeezed Jacob’s bony shoulders. “You’re okay. You’re here, with me.”
At first he thought Jacob was trying to squirm away. Cali let go of him, but Jacob cried out and grabbed at him. Jacob’s fingernails cut into Cali’s wrists, and a desperate cry escaped from Jacob.
Then Cali understood what Jacob needed. The man was terrified for some reason. Probably for many reasons. Cali maneuvered himself to Jacob’s side, then eased him over until Cali held him, with Jacob half-lying on him.
“It’s going to be okay,” Cali said, stroking Jacob’s hair. He hoped he wasn’t lying.