Shadows of the Kat 1:
Secrets Too Deep
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
T-Bone lay on the bed, naked but for his mask, trying to keep himself from throwing up. He wasn't sure how long he'd been lying there but gathering the energy to stand just seemed to be beyond him. He didn't want to think about getting up, about leaving this hotel room or about going back home. If he started thinking about things then he'd have to think about what had happened this evening, and then he really would throw up. The very thought of it, of the only thing inside him he had to bring up, set his stomach churning even more.
He groaned and rolled out of the bed onto the floor, ignoring the ache under his tail as he moved. He stayed down on his hands and knees for a moment before struggling to his feet. He slowly made his way across the room to the fridge, crabbing one of the cans of cheap soft-drink inside. He threw his head back and gulped it down, the sweet liquid soothing his stomach and washing the taste of Feral out of his mouth.
Bile rose to the back of his throat at the thought and he coughed and spluttered around half a mouthful of cola, spraying most of it out across the carpet. Feral. No matter now much he tried to ignore it he couldn't deny what had happened. Feral had forced himself into T-Bone's body, and the SWAT Kat had Feral's seed in his stomach and under his tail, more of it than he'd ever thought one Kat could produce. He finished the soft drink and tossed the can into the bin, staggering back across the room and through the door into the bathroom.
He stripped his mask off as he stepped into the shower, throwing next to his street clothes which lay neatly folded on the bench, and turned on a heavy stream of hot water. He stood beneath the showerhead, trembling softly as he let the water run over his body. He hung his head and leaned against the frosted glass wall, unable to keep the thoughts of it at bay any longer. The urge to vomit had passed but he wrapped his arms around his chest as he thought of himself bound and gagged on the floor in the bedroom, Feral's hands moving slowly and confidently across every inch of fur. That hadn't been the worst thing, though. Nor had it been when he'd had to beg Feral to stop fucking him, or the way he'd gagged as he was forced to take he Kat's cock deeper and deeper into his throat. The worst thing, the most horrible thing was that Chance had let him do it. Despite the struggling and the cursing and the time he'd actually managed to bit his former commander, there's never been any real question that Feral would be getting what he wanted. After all, Chance had come here freely, even risking the possibility that Feral would tear his mask off and discover who the SWAT Kats really were.
"And what the fuck is up with that?" he asked himself, hating the thin wretched note in his voice.
His eyes fell on the small bottles of soap provided by the hotel and he unscrewed the tops of them, choosing the one with the strongest scent and starting to rub it into his fur. There was absolutely no way he could go back home covered in Feral's scent. Though Jake had never come out and said anything about it, Chance knew his partner had a much better sense of smell than he did himself, and could usually tell when Chance had been out rolling with some fem-kat. After the screaming argument they'd had this afternoon Jake would be mad enough at him if he jumped to that conclusion, but it he somehow found out what had really happened ... Chance didn't want to think about it.
His sheath pulsed hot with blood as his soap slicked fingers moved between his legs. He snarled softly as he felt Feral's fingers reaching out of memory to tease him, though anger faded to a familiar sickening feeling in his stomach as his cock began to emerge from it's sheath.
"No way," he growled, anger flaring again. "I am not getting off on this." His finished cleaning himself as quickly as possible, doing his best to ignore the erect flesh between his legs, and the way it twitched as the cleaned up under his tail. He dried himself quickly and thoroughly, suddenly anxious to leave this hotel and everything that had happened here behind him. His movements became more and more hurried as he dressed, jamming the T-Bone mask into the inner pocked of his jacket
He let out a exasperated growl as he was putting his second boot on, his foot uncomfortably scrunching something inside. He pulled out a small piece of paper bearing an e-mail address and the word 'Anytime' scrawled in Feral's unmistakable handwriting. Chance snarled and slid the paper into his pocket beside his mask as he hurried out of the room. He was going to throw it into one of the bins in the foyer.
"Jake!" Felina opened her apartment door as the sun set and quickly pulled the dejected-looking Kat in. "You okay?"
"Physically, yah." He sniffed the air and backed towards to door. "I'm sorry, I ..."
"Don't you dare." The tall, dark shekat growled softly. "Dinner can wait." She softened and pulled him close, catching a pungent nosefull of anger turned to despairing fear and tipped his chin up. "What happened?"
"I'm sorry, Fel ..." He pulled away from her fingers and buried his face against her chest. The tears he'd kept back for nearly three hours finally escaped his control. "I'm so sorry ...."
She held him, doing her best to hold back the urge to interrogate the truth out of him, at least until he stopped sobbing. She wasn't very sure which disturbed her more; that he was crying, or that he'd encountered something that could cause him to.
Felina Feral lay in her bed; too disturbed to sleep, too concerned for the sleeping tom curled against her side to dare move, much less get up. It had taken far too long to coax him to settle down to risk disturbing him.
Her mind drifted through possibilities, and just as quickly discarded them.
Perhaps he'd broken the law and was afraid of how she'd take it -- but she was sure she would have heard about it already, and pretty sure he knew it wouldn't matter that much to her.
It could have been an accident. His anger had turned to disturbed fear. But again, she should have heard about it. There was no way her 'friends' at HQ wouldn't jump at the opportunity to point out that her choice in lovers was less than desirable, again.
An affair? A fling she hadn't agreed to? Surely he knew she wouldn't be that angry. Not after all the squirming he did trying to tell her about him sleeping with Chance.
Or maybe it was that ... or at least something about Chance. The tabby was one of the centerpoints of Jake's life. She'd heard them argue about the tabby's dating habits before. Not that she could ever make much sense of the two tom's relationship, but it would hardly be the first time Chance had hurt Jake deeply, intentionally or not.
And of course, there were always the other aspects to the toms' relationship -- being business partners, seeing each other nearly 24/7, having to work together under the shadow of the past, being the SWAT Kats and all that implied. Despite extreme curiosity, she wasn't so sure she wanted to know how Jake did it. How the SWAT Kats equipment came about.
A slight shifting of the body of lean muscle next to her caught Felina's attention and she looked down to meet distressed amber eyes. "Mind telling me what that was all about?"
"I'd rather not." He murmured, then took a deep breath and inched away from her. "But I'm going to have too."
Felina narrowed her eyes at his resigned tone and pulled him against her, fur on fur. She caressed his back, kneading hard muscles that were even more tense than usual. She smiled as he relaxed fractionally, almost against his will. "It can't be as bad as you think."
Jake closed his eyes and drew a deep breath before speaking, his voice nearly dead. "I can't see you any more."
"What?" Felina froze completely. "Why?"
"Felina. I care for you ... too much." He bit his lip and met wide brown eyes. "I ... I'm to the point I'm not willing to keep secrets from you." He dropped his head to avoid her searching gaze. "But my biggest secret isn't just mine. And my ... partner ... refused to agree to me telling you."
"You're biggest secret?" Felina's brain raced, plotting at a speed that would make her Uncle proud. She cocked her head and asked gently. "You mean that you're Razor?"
It was Jake's turn to freeze in pure shock and scramble for answers. "How ... how did you know?" He asked very quietly.
"It wasn't that hard to figure out." She kissed him tenderly. "Between Chance's flying style and your gift for building things, plus the timing of when you missed a date, and a few other things."
"I get it." He relaxed with a whoosh of air and kissed her soundly. "Thank you for being so smart, Fel."
"Thank me by making dinner." She chuckled, then got a wicked look in her eye and ran a hand from his hip to tickle his balls. "Mmm, but first and appetizer."
"Anything you want, Fel." Jake rolled to his back as she tossed the covers back and raked a possessive gaze over him.
"I have what I want." The dark brown shekat purred deeply as she ran strong hands along his body, pushing the fur against the grain before settling both on his hips and brushed her cheek up his half-showing erection, thrilling in feel of rough bristles of the barbs against her skin.
"Fel ... please." Jake barely breathed, his eyes desperate and hungry as she looked up. "Let me ...."
"Of course, lover." She purred playfully and rolled to her arms and knees, her crotch over his mussel. She shivered in anticipation as he grabbed her hips and sought the best position.
The first touch of his tongue brought a rumbling groan from her as the slick underside pushed through her labia. He circled it just inside her body, bringing first the rough front of his tongue, then the silky backside against the slick, muscular walls, happily drowning in her taste and the intoxicating whimpers and involuntary thrusting of her hips.
She let her head drop between his legs, nearly oblivious to everything but his tongue as he shifted his head just slightly to slide up the deep crease between swollen flesh to tease her glistening, erect clit with the lightest of touches.
"No ... more." Felina managed to groan when he rolled his tongue, rough side up, back to her throbbing opening.
A deep chuckle reverberating against her crotch and his casual obedience answered as she nearly screamed with the first rolling wave of an orgasm and thrust against his hard, sharp teeth. The flicker of pain only made it better as she surrendered the last of her control to the pending storm of sensation he always brought.
She breathed deeply as the shuddering slowed, then leveled into a pleasant exhaustion. She made no attempt to help or hinder him as Jake gently rolled her off him and twisted to rub his entire body against hers.
"Rest there, sweetheart." He kissed her deeply, letting her taste herself on him. "I'll bring breakfast."
It was dark and silent at the MegaKat City Salvage Yard when Chance returned, taking care to avoid all the detection mechanisms in place around the building. It didn't look like Jake was home, but if he was Chance wanted to be able to get in without him knowing. A quick look around one he was inside made it obvious that his partner definitely wasn't around, and Chance didn't need any clues to figure out where he'd gone ... or more importantly to who he'd gone.
"No Jake," he grumbled to himself as he made his way into the hangar where the TurboKat rested, "Of course I don't mind that you're getting all lovey with Felina. With a ranking Enforcer." He pulled the T-Bone mask from his inner Jacket pocket and tossed it into the locker with the rest of the costume, giving if a quick sniff to make sure there was noting of Feral still lingering about it.
"Of course I don't mind that you want to marry a woman whose uncle I hate more than anyone else in the world, whose uncle has just tied me up and ... tormented me for the last two and a half hours." Chance's bitter monolog continued as he headed back into the living room, flicking the light on now that he was sure he was alone. "Two kats who would like nothing better to see the two of us locked away for life." He shuddered at the thought of what could happen if he found himself locked in a cell if Ulysses Feral was the one holding the keys.
He reached into his jacket pocket again and pulled out a small scrap of paper, an e-mail address scrawled across it. He'd meant to get rid of it as he left the hotel, but he'd realized that it really didn't make any difference. The words written on it were firmly stamped on his mind.
An anonymous account with one of the largest public e-mail providers on the net. And the word 'Anytime', as though it were some sort of invitation. Surely Feral couldn't be expecting him to actually send a message to the address. He couldn't possibly think that Chance had enjoyed it ... that he'd want to do it again. The kat was twisted. If Chance hadn't known that before now, the events of tonight had certainly proved it for him.
"Too much thinking Chance," he murmured to himself as he stepped through into the kitchen, "But you've always known how to fix that." He opened one of the cupboards and reached a hand in, grabbing a bottle at random.
Rum. Black label, over-proof rum. Perfect.
He twisted the top of the bottle and lifted it to his lips, taking deep greedy swallows. The liquid burnt his throat as it went down, though it was a smooth silky burn that promised quick oblivion and a raging headache in the morning, rather than the rough sensation that so often proceeded a night of groggy haze and vomiting.
He sighed softly at the familiar, welcome sensation of the alcohol as it's numb warmth began to spread through his body. He tossed his head back and lifted the bottle again, downing the rum almost as easily as he had the can of soft-drink earlier. Let Jake do whatever the hell he wanted.
Chance walked back into the living room and threw himself down on the couch, taking another long swallow from the bottle of rum, reveling in the feeling of warmth as it spread throughout his body, the caress of a vice he'd long resisted. Jake thought Chance didn't know he was keeping spirits in the house, but Jake wasn't as smart as he sometimes thought he was. Obviously so, if he wanted to just spit our the secret of the SWAT Kats to the Enforcers. Of course Jake would probably do quite well out of it, with the way the Ferals had been so desperately trying to reproduce some of the weapons that Jake had designed. They'd be falling over themselves to get him into their R&D department, which was fine if you happened to be Jake Clawson.
The phone rang as Chance was taking another swing from the rapidly emptying bottle, and he grumbled softly as he crossed the room to pick it up.
"I don't really wanna hear it Jake," he murmured, taking one last swallow before he picked up the phone.
"What?" He asked, deciding the pleasantries were best ignored.
"Well," the voice on the other end replied, stretching the word out until it was almost a purr and sending shivers down Chance's spine. "If it isn't my new toy."
"Fuck you Feral," Chance spat back, amazed at the gall of the kat that he'd call him here, and not even from private judging from the vague voices Chance could hear in the background
"Oh no, I don't think so," the Enforcer chuckled, "Even if you begged as sweetly as you did tonight, just like a naughty kitten caught in the act." Chance's mouth hung open slightly as he realized that the other voice he could hear coming down the telephone line was his own, the moans and pleas that Feral had wrung from him as he'd been bound and defenseless.
"You twisted asshole!" Chance snarled into the phone, only to have Feral's mocking laugh come back in the other direction.
"Oh you'll do well, very well indeed. I'm going to enjoy giving this little kitten what he deserves."
"Like hell you will! I don't know what game you're playing Feral, and you're damned lucky that I'd get nowhere reporting you, but I'm not going to be a part of it."
"Oh really now?" Feral's voice carried an amused note underneath the words. "We'll see about that but a truly naughty kitten, a tough kitten, a street kitten, might learn to love the lash. I'll see you kneeling at my feet again." He hung up abruptly, leaving the phone buzzing in Chance's ear.
Chance slowly set the phone down, turning his eyes to the bottle. He took a quick swig and set it down on the coffee table by the couch as he passed by. He headed back into the kitchen and swung Jake's liquor cupboard open, quietly complementing Jake's taste as he picked out bottles of his favorites, all the best quality. When he walked back into the living room he was carrying five bottles which he put down beside the rum, and then set about emptying them into his belly, drowning thought and memory in a warm, comforting darkness.
"What's wrong?" Lt. Feral kissed Jake softly as she readied her gear to go on shift.
"Probably nothing, Fel." He shied away from the question with a fiercely possessive kiss before backing off. "Just a bad feeling."
She studied him intently, then drew a breath. "I can take the day off ...."
Jake stood stunned for a moment before shaking his head weakly. "No need."
She cocked her head at him, trying to figure out the one piece of this puzzle she didn't have. "Jake, when was the last time you were this upset?"
"Never." Came far too easily from him before he grasped her hand and pulled her tight. "A lot's happened in the last 24, I worry about you is all." He shifted to meet troubled brown eyes. "I can't ask you to deny such an important part of yourself. Just like you won't ask me to give up being Razor, I can't ask you to give up being an Enforcer, no matter how we worry or hurt."
"It's one of the things I love about you." She smiled tenderly. "As much as it scares you, you understand I need this." She tapped her badge. "I'll be careful."
Jake caressed her arm as she turned to double check her blaster. "Give a call when you get off. I'll have dinner ready."
"Hmm?" She cocked and eyebrow at him.
"I'd rather not deal with Chance for a while." A hint of the anger of the previous day flared up. "Give him some time to think about not having me around."
"And you some time to decide if you're going to forgive him." Felina observed dryly.
"Yah. That too." He looked away from her knowing gaze. "I'm not so sure I can any more."
"Just because of me?" She arched an eyebrow at him and glanced at the wall clock.
"That was just the last straw." Jake shook his head quickly. "There's ... a few other things."
"Jake." She caught his chin and forced him to look at her. "Just don't make a choice you'll regret because you're mad at him."
"I won't, love." He stretched up to kiss her lightly. "Take care of yourself."
"I will." She smiled uneasily at him before turning to leave.
Jake waited until he was sure her car was well out of range before turning to do a little cleanup and let his mind wonder to it's own conclusions as he body went on autopilot.
"Goddess, I'm glad I'd already moved most my stuff to my new apartment." Jake shivered at the cold knot in his gut as he rolled his motorcycle into the Hanger from one of the side passages and parked it on the far edge of the huge area. "I'm going to miss this place, but at least I won't have to come back."
He stopped dead as the TurboKat came into view and the knot turned to pain.
"I'm sorry, Blackie." He patted the sleek jets' side. "Take good care of T-Bone, he needs you more than I do right now. I'll take care of you when he doesn't need you anymore. Promise."
Jake turned away from the focus of most of his free time and thought for the last six years and spared a moment to find out how hard he'd have to sneak around to avoid Chance.
"What the hell?" Disbelief and disgust warred with each other and the wave of relief that washed over the lean tom as he saw his partner's state, and the obvious cause of it. He cocked his head and muttered. "Well, I guess this ... might ... change things. But what I came for first."
He moved with quiet grace though the building, more out of habit than any concern for waking the snoring tomkat on the battered couch. With the long, heavy silver and black spiral-pattered jewelry box safely secured in the motorcycle's storage compartment he turned back, determined to not leave on a bitter note.
With the sun nearly to it's zenith Jake sat on a small table near the couch and surveyed his morning's work. The building was clearer than usual, everything in its place; even the six empty liquor bottles were cleaned out and in the recycling bin. Notes were laid out on how to do the tasks he'd always done, and the SWAT Kats gear was immaculate. All that was left was to explain the one personal possession he intended to leave in this place.
"Well ... love ... when you're ready to come to me, I'll be here for you." He stood and shivered as he set a large silver jewelry box on the table with a note on top of it.
I'd be surprised if you have any idea how much this hurts me, and I'd be even more surprised if you cared right now.
I can smell the rage and hatred on you even now, and the sex and Feral of all Kats. I don't care what happened that made you turn back to the bottles I got for you -- for the day I knew would come when you needed them more than you needed to stay away.
It wasn't always this way. I still remember when you smiled most days. I only turned to Felina when you turned away from me.
And I didn't tell her about our hobby, BTW. I didn't have too. She knew before I started seeing her. Figured it out herself.
When you figure out what the thing in the box is here for, and if it means anything you want, come talk to me. I doubt I'll be hard to find.
The lean cinnamon tomkat fingered the paper for a while, then picked up the box and opened it. With trembling fingers he removed a thick gold engagement collar with an azure and crimson ying-yang. He hesitated, then stepped up to the couch and draped the object along Chance's throat.
"I would kill to see you wear that because you wanted to, you know." Jake studied the strange image for a moment longer before returning the collar to its case and regarded his partner with a choked throat. "No, you don't know. I doubt you know I can kill. I doubt you even begin to comprehend how much I love you. Hell, I doubt you even know what you want these days."
He knelt next to the Kat that had been the center of his life for over seven years and brushed the worst of the hair from Chance's face. "I hope you find what you need to get through this, because it's clearly not me, and I can't let you drag me down with you."
Then Jake stood returned to his bike, walking through the Hanger for the last time and tried not to stop at the TurboKat, the culmination of his lifetime's skill and experience; the kitten he assumed he'd never have in flesh and blood.
He chuckled to himself a little bitterly as the bike started to roll out. "Like Felina's any more likely to have a kitten with me than Chance is." Then his face fell and he looked back at his only true home. "I'm sorry, but at least she wants me."
Chance gave a long, low moan and tried to roll over on the couch. It took him two tries. Once he'd been able to drink like he had last night and wake drunk enough that his hangover didn't bother him. Obviously those days were long gone. He reached up to grab a hold of the back of the couch and hauled himself up into a sitting position, rubbing at his face. Beginning to feel vaguely like himself again he cast his gaze around the room, wondering if it was worth the effort the drag himself into the kitchen. He blinked, just staring at the scene before him for a few seconds before it sunk through into his brain and he lowered his body back onto the couch.
Jake had cleaned.
That he had come and gone without bothering to let Chance know wasn't such a surprise, not with the condition he must have been in and the way that things had been between the two of them. But he'd cleaned, and he'd cleaned around Chance's drunken body. Even the bottles were gone. It was Jake's way, of course. Everything had to be clean and tidy and neat. He couldn't have left the place the way it was, looking lived in, he would have felt obligated. It was goodbye, and Chance knew that it was the big goodbye. The place looked like a show home. Chance sighed and dropped his head into his hands. He'd even left a note to explain, just in case Chance was too drunk or too think to understand.
"It's OK Jake," he whispered softly, "I get the message. Loud and clear."
He sighed softly, rubbing at his forehead and trying to gather his thoughts. He glanced over towards the phone, wondering. Jake would be at Felina's, almost certainly, but he couldn't call there. Felina could be home, and he didn't want to talk with her, not since she'd almost certainly heard that Jake and he had argued. Jake was never very good at keeping things from her. The Ferals weren't exactly his favorite people at the moment.
He grabbed the phone and dialed the number for Jake's new apartment. He couldn't begin to guess when Jake might get any message he might leave, but he didn't suppose that it'd make any difference. The phone rang six ... seven ... eight times and chance was just beginning to wonder if Jake had even attached an answering service when it picked up.
"Uhhhhh Jake it's me. Listen, please I ... I just ..." he trailed off as his eyes wandered around the room again. It was meticulously clean. It must have taken him almost all the morning if the whole house was like this, as Chance had no doubt it was. This wasn't something Jake had decided quickly. "Nothing. Don't worry about it. Goodbye Jake."
Chance wasn't sure what he'd expected to feel sating those words, but this wasn't it. He should be sad, to be breaking with Jake after so long, he should be beside himself, or relieved that the tense agonized circling around one another was finally over. He wasn't. No more Jake. It wasn't something he'd never thought would happen but now it had and he was letting his friend slide away as though it hardly mattered, and as much as he wanted to he couldn't make himself care.
No more SWAT. Without Jake there couldn't be, at least not for him. Jake would be able to provide better weapons and equipment to the Enforcers and SWAT wouldn't be necessary, or maybe Jake and Felina would fly the TurboKat. No matter how it went, T-Bone wouldn't be a part of it anymore. There had been times when SWAT had been the only spark he had to warm himself around, and now he couldn't rouse himself to the effort of trying to keep it. Maybe he was still drunk, somehow.
That was a silly hope. Chance wished he was drunk, then he wouldn't have to wonder why he wasn't feeling anything. He sat silently, head in his hands, staring at the note that Jake had left sitting on top of the pretty silver box. He didn't really need to read it to know what it said. Goodbye, sorry, come see me when you've got your act together. All the things that Jake would say. Calm, sensible things. Find your own space, figure yourself out, deal with your problems.
Find your own space. And why not? There was nothing to keep him here.
Chance grabbed the phone and dialed.
"Falcon Lines, may I help you?" The she-kat on the other end sounded professional and friendly.
"When is the next bus to the Freemantle area please?" Chance asked her.
"Not until Monday now, sir. It leaves at two in the afternoon."
"Could I book a ticket for that?"
"Certainly. Your name?"
"Chance Furlong," he murmured after a few moments wondering if he should call himself something else, and deciding that was too much.
"You're booked in Mr. Furlong, how will you be paying for the trip?"
"Ahhhhh, can I pay in cash when I get the ticket?"
"You can," she replied, the tone of her voice suggesting dubious things of the people who would want to do so, "But you'll need to collect it two hours before the trip, which would be noon."
"I won't forget, thank you very much."
He set the phone back down, not sure that he was doing the right thing but feeling a little better that he'd at least done something. Freemantle was a farming area, orchards and grain crops. There would always be someone looking for another pair of hands and a strong back to help out, especially with fruit picking seasons approaching. His touch keeping the machinery going might be even more appreciated. He might not be an engineering wizard like Jake, but he'd kept his share of things going long past the time they should have collapsed into a rusted heap. He was good enough.
He pulled out his wallet, setting aside money for the ticket, as looked at what he had left. More than enough to keep him happily drunk in MegaKat City over the weekend, maybe even for a couple of bottles to keep him pleasantly numb while he got set up on some farm. Hell, as long as he was leaving ...
Chance took the stairs two at a time up to his room, not questioning his impulses, just glad to have them again after his moment of blankness. He grabbed a bag and tossed clothes into it, enough for three or four days. He tossed the bag over his shoulder, glancing around the room for anything else he might want to take. It was no big surprise that there was nothing he couldn't do without, nor that he couldn't find anything down in the living room either. His eyes fell on the phone and he hesitated for a moment. He couldn't call Felina's, and he'd sound stupid leaving another message at Jake's. He grabbed up the phone and dialed, fishing his keys out of his pocket and tossing them down on the table beside Jake's box as it rang.
"Enforcers." This kat was crisp and businesslike, and probably none to happy to be manning the phones.
"Lieutenant Felina Feral please." Chance asked, and waited while the other kat checked his boards. For a long moment Chance worried that she might actually be in, but he released his breath when the kat's voice returned.
"The Lieutenant is out on patrol at present, would you like to leave a message?"
"Please. Tell her that everything here's just as he left it, I haven't touched anything, and if they want anything then they should come down and get it because I won't be needing it."
"I see," the enforcer said slowly, trying but failing to conceal his irritation. "I'll just assume that all that makes some sort of sense to her then. Your name is ...?"
"And would you like to leave a num ..."
Chance set the phone back in it's cradle, cutting the kat off. There wouldn't have been much point in leaving a contact number anyway. He had no way of knowing when the message would reach Felina, but it couldn't possibly be before the next time she radioed in to headquarters and as long as she didn't turn up in the next two minutes it really wouldn't matter.
He ran his eyes around the room one more time, checking one last time to make sure there wasn't anything he'd miss. He locked the front door on his way out, pulling his jacket close around him against the wind. It was a little colder than he'd expected, but no big problem. He walked out into the yard, his eyes running across pretty much everything. He stopped and looked at the bikes for a long moment before walking out towards the gate. If he took a bike, he wouldn't be able to drink.
Besides, it wasn't like he had anywhere to get to in a hurry.
Jake Clawson listened to his former mate's message with an aching heart and calm mind in the silence of his barely lived-in apartment. With a soft sigh he dropped into a chair and flicked on his computer, then picked up the phone and dialed a sixteen-digit number by rote.
"Hi, Jake." A slightly harried but pleased female voice answered as his machine whirled to life, an ASCII 'BLACKNET' staying on the screen. "Wa's up?"
"Hell and a break-up." He offered simply and typed a few keys with his left hand. "Just giving you a heads up I'll be around Cathedral pretty much full time soon, without Chance."
The silence on the other end lasted almost long enough to get him to hang up before she replied. "Is this something I can help with, love?"
"Sorry, Pat. Even you can't fix this mess." He closed his eyes against an errant tear. "He just doesn't want me around any more. As Razor or Jake."
Pakitra sighed. "And when are you going to get to the part about why you aren't at the Salvage Yard changing his mind?"
"I just don't have the heart for it any more, Pat." Jake shook his head slightly and typed several more things that sent his computer searching. "I want to live, be happy, more than I need to have him in my life."
"Pakitra!" He snarled, the hurt and strain clear in his tone. "Can't you just be happy for me? I just ... I did what I needed to."
"Jake, Jake, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that." She spoke quickly and softly. "It's good you're doing what you need. I am happy for you and Felina. The timing's just bad for me and the squad, that's all." She took a breath. "You're more important than any plan we had."
"I know the timing's bad." He whispered. "I held out as long as I could."
"I know you did, love." Pakitra purred gently. "Longer than was probably good for you." She hesitated at the small sound he made. "Please, let me know if there's anything I can do."
Jake closed his eyes and shuddered. "Could ... would you ... well, just have your friends keep an eye out for him, make sure he's okay? Just that he's not hurt or something."
"Of course." She managed not to sound very surprised. "You didn't have to ask for that."
"Yeah, well, I guess I'm not that sure of a lot right now." He paused to glance at his computer, but didn't really see it.
"Give yourself whatever time and space you need, Jake. And remember, you are loved. I ..." Pakitra's voice was cut off by a loud crash and cursing in the background. "Oh, hellfires!"
Jake managed to chuckle. "Go take care of whatever that was, pretty. I'll be fine. Talk to you later."
"I'm counting on it." She breathed a grateful sigh as she hung up.
Lt. Comdr. Feral pulled off her helmet and shook her longish black hair out in the late evening air, more grateful than usual it had been one of her rarely enjoyed quiet shifts. Her pleased mood vanished as she passed the dutykat at the main desk on her way to her car and asked if there was anything for her.
"Yes, ma'am." He barely paused at her startled jerk and handed her the note. "A Chance Furlong called."
"Thank you." She kept control of the cold knot of her stomach until she reached her SUV, three levels down and half a block away. Then it couldn't be stopped as she read, and the contents sank in.
"Oh, guys." Felina closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat. "What has gotten into you two?"
"Well now, what do we have here?" An attractive Brown Hyena fem in a red leather outfit tight enough to show all her assets and just enough there to be legal, focused on a newcomer to the bar. "Off duty or not, this guy needs my attention. Looks like you'll be getting your next test pilot sooner than expected, Pat."
The burley chocolate on gold tabby tomkat walked directly to the bar and dropped a small tote bag on the floor before settling in and ordering without really looking at anyone or anything. He didn't blink or twitch as the sauntering, silky line of brown and red settled down next to him and leaned into his personal space.
"Hi, handsome. I'm Brandy." The female rumbled. "Up for company?"
"You must be desperate." He didn't even look at her as the bartender arrived with his drink.
"Humph. Hardly." She ran slender fingers through her long, wavy chestnut hair and appraised him critically. "But you look to be, for an escape." She smiled hungrily at his grunt. "Escapes from present circumstances are something of a specialty of mine."
"How much do you charge?" Chance finally looked up slightly, taking in her provocative dress and pose and the stirring interest in his crotch with muted acceptance.
Brandy blinked, then chuckled. "I'm not a hooker, handsome. I don't charge. Not for sex, anyway." She leaned on the counter a little more and sipped her drink, regarding the growing bulge between his legs with interest. "How about this for a deal; show me what you can do with that," she nodded at his crotch, "and if I can't take your mind off your troubles, I'll buy the drinks for you to."
"Lady, you have a deal." He downed the remains of his drink and stood up and grabbed his tote, forcefully squashing his half formed misgivings.
"What should I call you, handsome?" Brandy chuckled sensually as she took his free arm and led the way out.
"Uh, my name's Chance." He blinked when it registered that she hadn't actually asked for his name.
"Well, Chance," she smiled in pure delight as they stepped into the warm night air and she guided him to a cherry red convertible. "My place or yours?"
"Yours." He didn't even have to think to answer it. That he didn't have a place anymore barely entered his awareness. "Nice car."
"Thanks, handsome." She chuckled. "I like things fast, powerful and sleek."
"Like you." He settled in to the passenger side, uncomfortable to not be behind the controls but determined to accept it and the interest of the exotic creature next to him, just as he had accepted Jake leaving him.
"I suppose." She shrugged and turned the key, bringing the engine purring to life and pulled into the light traffic with her foot on the gas. "Hold on, handsome. It's showtime."
"Ja ..." Felina's voice trailed off as she opened her apartment door, full tote bag in one hand. It barely looked like the same place. Candles flicked as the only illumination, caressing soft lines and folds in draped, dark blue cloth that hid all hint of the room's actual shape or age. The rarely used dining table was set for two, with simple white floating candles and a service set she hadn't seen before.
"Welcome home, Felina." Jake's voice was soft, but still betrayed his nervousness as he took her gym bag from loose fingers. "I hope your day went well."
"Quiet, for once." She accepted his subtle urging to step inside so he could shut the door. "What is all this?"
"A little something I still keep from my heritage." He rested a hand on her on the small of her back and looked up. "I've laid out clothes for you, if you'd be so kind as to change and join me for dinner."
"Jake." She caught his other hand and turned to face the lean tom, unconsciously noting the slightly nicer than normal dress and the terrified excitement in his eyes. "What is this about?"
He squirmed a little under her searching gaze before answering. "I've got something important to ask you."
"Then spit it out." She straitened, then cringed internally at the hurt she saw so quickly concealed and offered what she considered a weak excuse. "Chance left a message for you with the front desk for me. He left everything as you left it."
"Oh." Jake closed his eyes and looked away.
"Jake, this is serious." She grabbed his shoulder. "He ...."
"I know it's serious, Fel." Jake shook his head. "But it's his life, and not part of mine any more."
"What happened?" She relaxed slightly into a stance she could hold comfortably for several hours.
"I just came to a decision about my life." He meet her worried eyes and sighed. "I still love him, but I want to be happy more. I can't have him in my life like this, when he doesn't want me." Jake managed a half convincing shrug. "I left him the SWAT Kats gear, and our place and what he means to me ... paid off the debit so he's free. He can come look for me if he wants me. I can't fight him any more."
"And this is because of that?" She shifted to sit down, pulling a chair away from the beautifully set table and motioned around the drastically changed room.
"No." Jake shook his head sharply and motioned around the room. "This caused the last fight, but not the problem. It's not why I left. Refusing me ... when Chance decided he couldn't trust my own judgement and then ... it was the last straw."
"May I remind you that you were going to leave me until I said I already knew the big secret?" She leaned forward just inside his personal space; half angry, half bewildered.
"I ... I know." Jake looked away from her and flushed slightly, shame creeping into his scent. "I've been with him longer, I usually prefer males. We're the SWAT Kats. How could I break that up? The city ..." He shuddered and raised his face, candlelight flickering across teary eyes, more black than amber now. "I could have killed him this morning. He's sleeping with your uncle, but ...."
"He's WHAT?" Felina was on her feet in a heartbeat.
Jake rose with her, his voice subdued and still a little angry. "I smelled him on Chance, despite a good shower. They had sex last night, a lot of it."
"My uncle ... and Chance?" Her disbelieve shown clear on her face. "No way."
"Fel ... I don't want to get into this." Jake growled and sat back down. "Chance doesn't want me, as Jake or Razor. He's said it clearly enough. I've accepted that. It's over between Chance and me. Everything between us is over."
"Felina, please." He stood and took her hands, then pulled her tightly against him in a desperate embrace. "I wanted tonight to be special, not like this."
"But Chance ..."
"Pat and friends are keeping an eye out for him, like they always do." He brushed her cheek with a thick thumb. "He'll be okay until he gets himself together. I can't let him drag me down with him this time."
"What, what is tonight about?" She kissed his thumb when it swept close to her lips.
Jake stayed silent for a long time, then turned to fetch a large black and silver spiral-pattered jewelry box. "I wanted to do this with at least a little tradition, but it's fitting it didn't work out that way." He offered it to the tall female with a tight throat and whispered. "I bought this about three months ago, for us, if you want it."
She forced her shocked mind into a semblance of action and nodded weakly as shaking fingers unwound the ribbon that held the box closed. She stopped as it tell to the floor and meet the maelstrom on Jake's face. Her voice trembled as she spoke. "Why do you want me like this?"
"I love you, Felina Feral." He offered hopelessly. "I want a mate and family ... a home to return to and fight for. Something permanent."
"Why didn't you ..."
"He said no." Jake cut her off, tears threatening again as anger rose in him. "I was good enough to fuck and live with, but not to keep."
"I'm sure it wasn't like that." She set the box down and pulled Jake close, rubbing his back until he relaxed a little against her chest. "Jake ... I really don't know what to say." She tipped his chin up so their eyes met. "I'm not ready for marriage yet, but I'd like it to be with you when I am."
He signed and burred his face between her breasts and hugged her tight. "That's a yes, just not right now?"
"Yes, love." She relaxed slightly and picked up the box. "Are you willing to not have a date set, even while we wear collars?"
"Yes." Jake shivered and purred. "That is more than fair."
"You trying to get Enforcer attention?" Chance grabbed hold of the door handle and seat as adrenaline momentarily overtook everything else and stared at her in raw disbelief as she bolted past an Enforcer and a Police car on a traffic stop.
"I said I liked things fast and powerful, handsome." Brandy laughed in sheer delight. "They've yet to catch me."
"Where the hell'd you learn to drive?" He yelped as she took another corner at high speed, sirens blaring to life behind them. Even he didn't drive this crazy.
She grinned wildly at their pursuers and then waved at them before turning that mouth of sharp teeth to him as street lights flashed by. "In demolition derbies."
"Oh KRUD!" Chance's eyes went wide as the bay came into view, and the land lost to it a moment later as they skimmed over the water, spraying a huge fan of water behind them.
"Relax, handsome." Brandy patted his arm as he tried to detach his claws from the seat. "The car's aquatic."
"Now she tell me." He growled in exasperation, then realized that he was already calming down, too used to these kind of surprises from Razor to stay freaked for long. He twisted to look at the Enforcers and their vehicles lined up on the shore, even spotting one very distinctive form among them. "Can we do that again?"
"You got it, handsome!" Brandy roared in delight and swung the sporty aquacar around, aiming right for line of officers.
"Fuck with me, will you." Chance growled low in his throat. The hatred that had simmered for six years and was fanned to full fruition the night before was finally given it's head.
"Not a Feral fan?" Brandy cocked an eye at him as the shore approached, and Enforcers drew their weapons nervously. Feral stopped shouting and went still, watching them with an unreadable expression.
Chance turned his head to stare at her. "Turn back to the bay. I want the wheel for one run." His voice was completely calm, and cold as an arctic winter.
"Urr, okay." She twisted them around, spraying the shore with a small tidalwave, and put the car to idle well into the middle of the bay as three choppers approached, their Night-Sun searchlights scanning the water.
Chance grabbed her neck and pulled her into a forceful kiss when Brandy shifted to trade places.
"Not like I'm objecting, but what ..." She stammered as he released her slowly.
Chance just smiled as he got behind the wheel and she settled next to him across the trunk and wormed a small object out of his tote bag. "You just gave me something I want more than anything, Brandy."
"Umm, and that would be ..." She blinked, mentally scrambling for options as she identified the blaster he held, apparently ready to fire.
"Feral." He gunned the sleek craft strait for the Commander of the Enforcers, wondering who her mechanic was that it ran as well as anything he had as T-Bone. There weren't that many that could even understand a craft like this, much less keep it running this well.
"You're not ..." She made a grab for the steering wheel as they came closer. "Murder is not a game."
"Neither's rape, lady." He snarled, keeping control by brute force as Commander Feral come into view well enough to see his shocked expression as the tabby pulled three shots off.
"No!" Brandy screamed and made a renewed effort to get control as they flashed by the collapsing giant tomkat, his gray overcoat splashed and stained bright red.
Chance shivered once as something snapped inside him. A single, powerful move sent the struggling Hyena into the water. Another sent his blaster deep into the bay as he swung around again and gunned the engine to it's limit. He didn't even trying to avoid the rain of bullets and laser fire that tore through the auquacar, and him.
"In other news, several enforcers were wounded in a firefight just under an hour ago. Both enforcer and MCP units engaged in a high-speed chase with a single high performance vehicle near the bay. The chase culminated with an exchange of blaster fire between enforcers and the drivers of the runaway car, with several officers and the offending driver removed to the enforcer's Serenity Thorn medical facility. This is Ann Gora, with news as it happens ..."
Felina swung between fury and concern as she paced back and forth across the corridor, mildly pleased to hear that Ann's newsgathering network wasn't quite as omnipotent as it sometimes seemed. As angry as she'd been when she'd slipped away from Jake; now she just wanted to hear that Ulysses was all right. Then she was going to kick his ass. Whatever the hell was going on between him and Chance might not be the source of all their problems, but it clearly wasn't helping, and if Chance had any idea what he was doing to Jake then he was going to be next on the ass-kicking list.
"Toby!" She called, recognizing a familiar face and heading towards him at a brisk pace. "That is, I mean, Doctor Black."
"Lieutenant Commander Feral," the albino chuckled as she approached, "Always a pleasure."
"Tell me," she replied tersely.
"Well he took two blaster shots, one in the shoulder and one in the side," the doctor told her, resting a finger against her right side to show exactly where each shot had landed. "As you know we see more weapons fire injuries than any other type, so we're very well equipped for them. Your uncle won't be doing anything fantastically energetic with his right-hand side the way it is, but he'll be perfectly fine. It's just as well you're here actually. He's insisting that he be discharged in the morning."
Felina raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said he'd be fine."
"He will, but I really would prefer that he stay in for observation somewhat longer than overnight since he's bound to ignore whatever instructions I give him. Frankly I'm glad I'm not your family doctor ... I'm not sure how she puts up with you lot."
"We pay her very well," Felina chuckled, reassured by Toby's good-natured grumbling. "Can I go up and see him?"
"You'll tell him he has to stay here?"
"I'll try Toby," she told him with another chuckle, "But I can't promise anything."
"Room 291. I'm sure you can find your own way."
"I can indeed," she called as she headed off down the corridor. "Thank you very much doctor."
He looked fine through the window. Apart from the immobilizing sling around his right arm, Ulysses Feral didn't seem ill or wounded in the least. She should have known it would take more than a drive by to put a serious dent in him.
"What are you doing with Chance Furlong?" She demanded as she entered, not quite as forcefully as she might have liked but she made up for it with a good healthy slam of the door. The grin that spread across his face made her want to slap him.
"You really have to ask?" he said suggestively.
"I really need to know," she replied, this time with the bite she wanted.
"Felina?" he asked, just a touch of uncertainty creeping into his face and voice. "Admittedly Chance isn't officially an Enforcer anymore, but T-Bone makes him just as desirable. More even."
Felina blinked, caught for a moment before her brain caught on to what he was saying. She clenched her fists and quickly scanned the room for something she could lash out for, having to satisfy herself with a snarl when she found nothing.
"You and your accursed games! Do you have any idea what you've done Uncle?"
"No," he replied calmly. "Whatever else you might think about all this, you must admit that after so much time I know what I'm doing. I was expecting to have some trouble with Chance, but this ... something is wrong, and I rather suspect you've come to tell me what it is."
"I ... he ...." Felina floundered for a moment in the face of his unexpectedly reasonable manner. "He and Jake have had some sort of break up. I think he was planning to leave town, and Jake just doesn't seem to care anymore." She paused for a moment, running through his sentence in her head. "Chance is the one who shot you?"
"Yes. I've had him admitted to the high security wing, he's in considerably worse condition than I am and ..."
"He shot you?" Felina interrupted. "Chance Furlong shot you and you're just sitting there saying you expected 'a little trouble'? Dammit Uncle! What are we going to do about the SWAT Kats?"
"Felina! Be calm!" Ulysses growled, showing just for a moment why he was Commander of the Enforcers. "SWAT was in trouble anyway, if Furlong's planning to leave the city, and I can't decide what to do until I know what's going on. Tell me."
"How can you ..." Felina began, but wasn't allowed to continue.
"REPORT Lieutenant Commander!"
"Sir!" Felina replied on reflex. "Jake and Chance have been having issues with one another for a while now. As long as I've been serious about Jake, at least. They've just let things pile up between them, which I might expect of Chance, but Jake's usually a little better about things like that. Over the last couple of days things have just collapsed."
"I see. Surely Clawson can't be jealous, he's all but engaged to you."
"He proposed to me this evening," Felina admitted with a sigh, "But I think he's settling. He's convinced he can't have Chance ... but that doesn't mean he's stopped wanting him."
The wounded kat chuckled softly. "He should be thanking me then. Furlong's certainly not about to start sleeping with toms of his own accord."
"What?" Felina shrieked, staring at her uncle in a mixture of shocked incomprehension and mild embarrassment at the tom's frank manner. "Chance and Jake have slept together. He had quite some difficulty admitting it to me."
"Yes, I know. Once. When Chance was too drunk to put one foot in front of the other and Jake just couldn't keep his hands to himself anymore." He smirked at Felina's expression. "I take it he didn't mention those details."
"No," Felina said quietly, shaking her head, "It was more than that ... if you heard the way he talked about it ..." she trailed of as Ulysses reached his free hand out to take one of hers.
"I've no doubt that Jake wanted it to be much more than that, but you've said yourself that Jake hasn't been acting sensibly where Chance is concerned ... and for quite some time by the sounds of it. Our Mr. Furlong isn't in the habit of sleeping with guys."
"So what happened with you?" She asked skeptically. "And if you raped him I really don't want to hear it."
"I was forceful," he admitted, "but if he hadn't wanted it then he wouldn't have swallowed me so prettily. You may rest assured that I make absolutely certain of what I'm doing before I put any part of my anatomy into another kat's mouth."
"Yes, I'm sure you do," Felina sighed again, sitting down on the side of the bed. "It's always so much easier when there's one person to blame."
Her uncle chuckled softly. "Me? I suppose I am a little, it certainly sounds like the timing was bad, but it's certainly not all down to me." He paused for a few moments. "It may, however, be down to us to make things better."
Felina smiled and nodded. "So you'll leave Chance alone?"
"No, Felina," he said firmly, "Absolutely not. That would be giving him what he's wanting, and it seems to me that both these kats have had too much of people standing back and giving them what they want. I intend to go on as I have been, and give him what he needs whether he knows he needs it or not. The city needs the SWAT Kats."
"Uncle, I really don't think that's the best idea."
"You let me worry about Furlong. You'll have your hands full enough as it is. After all, when was the last time you tried to convince Jake he was wrong about something?"
Felina swore softly and stood. "Speaking of which, I'd best get back to him. You'll have to move quickly if you want to make the charges against Chance disappear."
"Nonsense ... I'm the complainant after all. It won't be a problem."
"Oh Uncle. Sometimes I think the only reason you're here is to make my life more complicated."
"It's what family are for," he replied with a smile.
"Damnit Jake, where are you? No matter what number I call I keep getting your answering service. All right, listen. It's Pat and we've just had a rather wet and bedraggled recruiter come in, saying some pretty serious things. I really think you need to come down here and hear for yourself. Really. Call me when you get this and I'll send a V-skimmer to pick you up."
Chance didn't look up as he heard the door open and close. If it was another nurse she could go ahead and do whatever it was she had to without his input, and he couldn't think of anyone who might visit that he would actually want to see.
"My, my, they certainly do have you all wrapped up don't they?" The voice raised a sick feeling in Chance's stomach.
Ulysses smiled as he sat down by the bed. "Good morning to you too. I imagine you spend most of the night under anesthesia."
"What do you want?" Chance asked softly, his voice flat.
"The direct approach, I should hardly be surprised." Feral's voice was light and amused as he reached his free hand under Chance's bedclothes, flipping aside the gown he was wearing and sliding his fingers up between Chance's legs. "It's simple," Feral purred softly, "I want you. I want to look down and see T-Bone crouched at my feet, ready and willing to please."
Chance's head jerked up, his eyes staring into Feral's face. "I don't know what ..." he began, but the bigger tom silenced him with a gentle squeeze.
"Don't bother denying. I've known from the very beginning that you and Clawson were the SWAT Kats ... and even if I hadn't it would have been quite clear to me in your mewling Thursday night."
Chance turned his head away, cursing the way he grew heavy and warm under Feral's hand and the splints and bandages that prevented him from doing anything about it.
"However," Feral continued, his voice hardening as he removed his hand, "I am not interested in cowards, or weaklings." He threw a small paper folder down onto Chance's lap. "Your bus tickets are paid for. The doctors tell me that you'll be uncomfortable, but able to travel at that time. I've detailed two Enforcers to see you from the hospital to the terminal. All that's left is for you to get yourself the hell out of my city. Any questions?"
Chance stared dumbly at the ticket folder for a few moments. "Why?" he asked softly.
"Because I've had you, because I know you know what it feels like to have me inside you, and because no matter how far or how fast you run you'll never be able to get away from that. Though it'll be interesting to watch you try."
He stood and left without sparing Chance so much as a backward glance, leaving the tabby staring blankly at the tickets in his lap. For a long time he just stared at them, hardly able to believe that even after Chance had tried to kill him, one of the kats he hated most in the world had just walked in here and given him what he'd wanted in the first place. Feral was letting him go.
Feral was throwing him out.
He was being thrown out of the city because he hadn't rolled over nicely when Feral dropped his pants. Chance almost laughed. Feral didn't want weaklings, but he couldn't stand a kat who didn't want the Commander of the Enforcers inside him. He'd heard rumors about Feral, all through the academy and maybe once or twice a year afterwards, about 'special training' or 'extraordinary disciplinary measures'. He hadn't believed a word of it at the time, the other kats involved had just laughed whenever anyone mentioned it and they'd all been the kind of guys that Chance wanted to turn out like. Tall and strong and confident, hardly the sort you'd expect to spend their downtime with their faces buried in the Commander's groin.
Except that maybe they had ... and so had Chance.
He growled softly, not sure if he was angry at Feral or himself. If he'd just put up a bit more of a fight instead of sucking meekly like a kitten at it's mother then he wouldn't even be in this situation, and if Feral hadn't ... manhandled ... him, then and now, he wouldn't be lying here trying to ignore the fact that he was hard.
He stared down at the ticket folder in his lap. Only a couple more days at most and he'd be out of here, away from Feral, away from Jake, and away from all the good things he'd had here which had gone bad. His injuries aside, the hospital was a much more comfortable place to spend his time than the street, though he would have killed for just a drop of something. Just a little of that comfortable warmth inside him.
"Because no matter how far or how fast you run you'll never be able to get away."
Chance growled again, and this time he knew it was for Feral. He was playing games with Chance's head. From the very beginning Feral had been in a win-win situation. After what had happened Chance was lucky he didn't end up in a small cold cell somewhere, the penalty for attempted murder of an Enforcer was severe ... all of which meant that Feral could get rid of T-Bone and down the SWAT Kats at last. On the other hand, if it had turned out that Chance actually liked being treated that way, and who knew where he'd gotten that idea from, then Feral scored a new lap-toy to play his filthy games with.
So no matter what he did now, Feral won. It was a thought that brought the bile rising to the back of Chance's throat. Not only that, but he'd known about SWAT from the very beginning. T-Bone and Razor had been part of Feral's plan all along, and you could bet that Felina had been in on it. So all this nonsense with Jake lately had been worthless, not that it really made any difference. Too much had happened between them for Chance to even start to patch things up between them in the time he had left, even if he could get to Jake somehow.
He sighed and dropped his gaze back to the tickets, letting yet another soft growl escape his lips. The ticket folder had slid to the side and fallen to the floor, a victim of Chance's arousal, which now lifted the sheets into a pronounced slope. Just the thought of Feral touching him sent an uneasy shiver along Chance's spine, but no matter how much he might curse the kat, he knew in his gut that what Feral had said was true. Chance could never run from the knowledge of what had been done to him.
Worse, he couldn't run from the way it made him feel.
Feral had called him a coward and a weakling, and as much as Chance hated to admit it, he might be right. He'd done nothing but run since he'd left that hotel, and he hadn't even blinked at stealing from Jake to keep from having to face up to himself. Old habits die hard. He'd done just about everything he could, but in the end he hadn't been angry enough, or strong enough. If he'd really wanted Feral dead, as hard as he'd tried to convince himself he did, then the kat would have died on the end of his blaster bolts. He'd killed at that range before and was a better shot at speed than he was stationary. He would have thrown himself out of the bed and tried to open Feral's neck with his teeth, instead of turning away and letting him have his way. He would have bitten, and kicked, and thrashed.
He sighed and squeezed his eyes shut, wanting to scream and lash out at something, but was too heavily bandaged to be satisfied. No matter what he thought he was starting to figure out, it didn't make any difference. He wasn't sure what time it was, but he couldn't have more than two days before he was driven out of the city, and that to be spent in a high security hospital. No matter what he figured out in his head; he was going to leave ruined shards of a life behind him in Megakat City, two Enforcers had been ordered to make sure of it and there was only one kat who could call them off.
The nurse turned from the darkened windows in surprise as the kat cleared his throat. He'd silently shunned all the other staff since he'd woken; even the doctors who'd come to see him had had a hard time getting anything out of him. She supposed it might have helped if he'd had visitors, but here in the secured wing of Serenity Thorn that was unlikely.
"Is there something I can do for you sir?" She asked nervously, hoping she hadn't misinterpreted the sound.
"If I gave you an e-mail address could you send a message for me? I'm a little tied up." It was a weak joke, given the quantity of bandaging wrapped around his upper body, but she considered it a good sign.
"Yes, of course. It will come from the hospital system but I can put your name on it so they know who it's from Mister ..." there was a brief pause as the nurse scanned the paperwork at the foot of his bed, "Furlong. What's the address?"
"ENFR999@katmail.com," he said quietly, pausing to give her a chance to scribble it down.
"Enforcer 999 huh? You should tell your partner to get a more secure e-mail system. What's the message?"
He paused, staying silent for so long that she thought he might have changed his mind. She was just about to prompt him again when he spoke, his voice barely more than a whisper.
"Just put 'Wayward kitten seeks good home'. He'll know what it means."
Felina listed to Pat's message with a mixture of guilt at invading Jake's privacy in the tom's own apartment and fear at what the other female might know, with the distress so clear in her silk coated steel voice. She let one shudder run down her spine before she grabbed the tape from the machine, quickly replacing it with a fresh one on reflex. She barely remembered to lock the door as she bolted to her vehicle, the reason for coming completely forgotten.
The hour and a half drive to her own apartment was easily the longest of her life, but it gave her time to think and compare and get thoroughly frustrated with all the inconsistencies.
She finally relented and gave into using her most desperate tactic from her days as a detective, no matter how silly talking to herself over classical music looked. She clicked to her favorite thinking channel and sighed at the traffic jam stretching in front of her.
"Okay, Fel. Time to get that detective's brain of yours into gear. What do I know?
"Jake wants Chance as a mate very badly.
"Jake is willing to settle for a second choice to have a marriage, though he's unwilling or unable to settle for just me as a bedmate. Unknown: If being non-monogamous with me is because he needs a male partner periodically, is he holding out hope for Chance, leaving himself a way to have him without sacrificing his relationship with me if the opportunity arises, because it is simply his nature to love more than one at a time, or some other reason?
"Chance has refused a serious sexual relationship with Jake, though how blatantly the question was put forward is not known and becoming suspect. Also unknown is the exact nature of whatever sexual relationship Jake and Chance do or do not have.
"Jake states it was mutually consensual, though not nearly as serious as he wants; more periodic fuck-buddies and a warm body on lonely nights than an actual romantic relationship.
"Ulysses believes, presumably from Chance, that the only time Jake and Chance were intimate was when Chance was too drunk to refuse. If this is true, I'm not sure which is worse, what Ulysses did or what Jake did to that tabby.
"How could you possibly force your partner?" She shook her head in violent denial. "If Jake did force himself on Chance, then he hides that side of himself from me very well. If he didn't, then why the hell did my uncle say that?
"Could they both believe they are saying the truth? Okay, how could that work?" She paused to take a deep breath and turned the volume up.
"Okay, Ulysses' information would have to be second hand at best. Chance could have told him anything while they were ... together, and the odds are good it would be what would make the situation worse for Ulysses, not necessarily the truth. Assuming the information came from Chance, and not an even less direct source.
"Jake ... be honest Lieutenant Commander Feral." She growled at herself. "Jake is capable of existing that far in a fantasy. After watching him work ... but how long could he maintain it ... especially with contradictory information coming in daily?
"Fuck it. The answers are with Chance." She flicked the turn signal on and gave a snarling glance to the lane on her right, mildly amused in the back of her seething mind that drivers reacted to her in civvies about the same as they did to the uniform and patrol car -- her path was clear in three lengths.
"What do you mean I can't see him until the morning?" Felina Feral growled with all the authority and training of her heritage and station. The small satisfaction she got at seeing the station nurse pale slightly vanished quickly with his response.
"I'm sorry, Lieutenant Commander." The light-furred Retriever Kantin kept his voice fairly level, and completely resolved. "But he's been put on heavy sedatives for his own safety."
Felina swallowed with a scowl. "What happened?"
"He did the usual -- pulled out his IVs, attacked the orderlies that came in to stop him. He'll be fine, but we did have to restrain him completely and do some patch work."
"Damn." Felina added a few other choice words under her breath and nodded at the nurse. "When will he be conscious?"
The duty nurse glanced at a chart and nodded. "He should be coherent enough for questions between seven and eight in the morning if all goes well."
"I'll be there." She assured him and stalked off.
"Jake?" Felina called as she opened the door to her dark apartment not long after sunset. "Jake?"
A quick search turned him up, dead to the world, in her ... their ... bed. She shook her head and dropped both hands to her hips at the sight of her fiancé completely relaxed and chuckled. "You know, Jake, if you weren't so damn cute like that ... I guess all this can wait a couple hours. You don't sleep enough as it is."
She did a quick sweep of her apartment, not in the least bit surprised that it was obnoxiously spotless.
"Everyone has their own form of stress relief." She murmured as she turned the ringer on her phone back on and took note of the dosage gone from her sleeping pills. "Okay, more like it can wait till tomorrow afternoon. I guess I'll be talking to Chance first after all." She glared at Jake a moment longer before relenting and stripped for an early night, a not quite formed thought nagging at the back of her mind as she snuggled against his back, her hand brushed against the silver and amethyst engagement collar he wore, the matching one for her own.
"Good morning, Chance." Felina tried to sound less irritated than she really was and to keep the rock in the pit of her stomach at his condition under control. As much as she'd wanted to pound his ass only yesterday, now she only wanted to cuddle him until it was all over. She was marginally grateful that she had the authority to send his guards away; so they were alone in the small, sterile room.
She wasn't too surprised that he didn't respond, but it didn't change the fact that she intended to get some answers and her uncle be damned, she'd even stoop to his tactics to get them if she had to.
"Look, Furlong," she sat uneasily on the edge of his bed. "I know I'm one of the last Kats you want to talk to right now, but I need some answers from you and I need them now."
"Fuck you, Feral." His voice was harsh and there was an element in it Felina couldn't quite identify that disturbed her deep down, where the reactions she counted on to keep her alive dwelled.
"That's my uncle's approach, not mine." She let every bit of the grim sickness in her gut show on her face as he blinked at her. "Ulysses Feral has already admitted he forced himself on you." She paused, but didn't give the tabby a chance to speak when his jaw dropped. "I'm here to talk about another case. Just answer two questions and I'll leave, okay?"
"O-okay." The stunned Kat murmured, staring at her with wide golden eyes.
Felina took a deep breath, preparing herself as much as she could for the answer she desperately didn't want to hear, but would have to accept if it was said. "Has Jake Clawson ever forced his attentions on you?"
She grimaced and forced herself to look him in the face. "Have you had sex with your partner when you didn't want to?"
"What the hell is this about, Lieutenant?" The angry growl echoed throughout the otherwise still room. "Jake ..."
"Jake's in love with you." She cut him off, searching with every fragment of training and instinct she had, to tell what he wasn't saying. To know for herself, even if not for a court of law, if Jake had really done what her uncle had said. "Did you know that?"
"We're just partners, Lieutenant." He looked away, but the hurting heart he carried was clear in his voice.
"Have the two of you had sex?" She pressed.
Chance stared at the far wall for a long moment, his brow furrowed. His voice was very quiet when he finally did speak. "Why does it matter?"
"Because if my fiancé is a rapist, especially of his partner ..."
"He's not, lieutenant." Chance cut her off with a hateful snarl. "Jake never did anything like that. It's not in him."
"Did the two of you have sex?" She asked again, surprised at how easily she was getting information out of the tabby. And very pleased, deep in her soul, that Chance's strongest reflex was still to protect his gunner. Maybe it wasn't as bad as everyone assumed.
"Yes." His voice was very soft, but clear.
"Good." Felina slumped as most of the tension melted from her body, nearly ready to cry with relief.
"Lieutenant?" Chance's whispered question brought her back to the situation in a snap. "He ... Jake proposed to you?"
"Yes." She nodded with a light touch to the silver and amethyst collar she now wore. "One last question and you can be rid of me."
"Lieutenant..." he interrupted her hesitantly, not willing to meet her searching eyes. "What have ... what did he tell you about us? About Jake and Chance."
Felina softened, seeing the opportunity to maybe settle this without her uncle getting his paws on the tabby again. "Over the last year," she ticked the points off on her fingers, "I was told that while he loves me, Jake isn't willing to give up you or the other two he's in love with. I'm fine with that arrangement, by the way."
"Two?" Chance's jaw dropped again with the whispered question.
"With your confirmation, I'm fairly certain Jake's version is closest to the truth that I have."
"Two others?" Chance repeated, staring at her with an open request on his face.
"Greg Alon and Pakitra Dyne." She smiled softly at him. "He didn't tell me about your hobby with that gorgeous black jet, and neither did my uncle. I figured that one out watching you fly her, a good five years ago. You should know as well as anyone that a top pilot has a style as distinctive as a fingerprint."
Chance fell silent for a long moment, digesting this. "Why tell me all this?"
An idea flashed through her mind and she grabbed it, her uncle, Jake and the rest of the universe be damned. "Because you ... Chance Furlong, the SWAT Kat T-Bone ... are important to me and this city." She held up a hand to forestall whatever he was going to say to that and locked eyes with him, showing herself to be every inch the commanding officer she was raised and trained to be. "I know you already know I'll do anything for this city; die, kill and go against my better judgement or orders if it's for the good of my protectorate. Whether you want to admit it or not, I know you and Jake and Miss Briggs and even my uncle are like that too.'
"Spit it out, Lieutenant." He finally snapped, flinching only inwardly at the sharp look he earned for the outburst.
"Everyone involved in this mess, myself included, has done some very stupid things in the past few days, but I'm not going to let that destroy what little chance my city has of surviving. If you aren't willing to sort this out with Jake of your own accord, you'll do it under my protection or under my uncles'." She stood quickly and moved towards the door, pausing with her hand on the knob. "Think about it Chance, and decide who you would rather have at your side; Jake and me, or Ulysses Feral. Because I will tell you this much, you're going to have to deal with a Feral in your life whether you like it or not."
Jake woke slowly, comfortably, wrapped in the warmth and scent of one he loved. He let a soft sigh of contentment escape as his bedmate shifted to embrace him.
"Afternoon sleepyhead." Felina's playful voice whispered in his ear as a strong hand ghosted down his body from chin to sheath. "Ready to face the rest of the day?"
"Afternoon?" He blinked at the digital clock, brain eventually translating that it was nearly three in the afternoon. "And you're still in bed? Aren't you on duty..."
"Gone and back." She chuckled with a nip at his ear. "You've been out nearly twenty-four hours." She traced a sharp claw around the edge of his filling sheath. "And you seem to still be a little wound up."
"And this is a surprise to you?" Jake twisted his head to see her face and chuckled at her smirk. "Tease."
"Not in the least." She purred back as her hand wondered up his hard abs and chest to scratch his jaw. "Just waiting for you to be conscious enough to tell me something."
"And that would be?" He tensed slightly.
"What your greatest fantasy is."
"Honestly?" He rumbled as she played her silky tail over his hip and groin.
"It's the best policy." She chuckled.
"To ..." his breath caught in a low groan as she nipped the crook of his neck. "To be between you and Chance. Bound and fucked 'till I can't think or move any more."
"You're a bottom?" Surprise mingled with delight in her voice.
"Whenever I can." Jake glanced back. "Not many ... it doesn't work very often."
"Why?" Felina rubbed her entire body along his back and purred in his ear.
"Because..." his voice mingled with a purring groan. "Because I have to trust so much, and I have to accept ... ummmm, ohhh yesss, accept him as my ... my better."
"You trust, respect me enough for that?" Felina maneuvered to put most of her mass over him as she continued to slide along his willing body, feeling and smelling the answer long before he said it.
"Yes." Jake met her eyes for an unguarded moment before he locked his soul away again. "If you could."
"What's that supposed to mean?" She huffed, grazing sharp teeth along his exposed throat playfully.
Jake closed his eyes as his body shuddered under her increasingly dominating touch. "How can ... ohhh, could you take me?"
"Oh, you just have no imagination, love." Felina grinned down at him, then turned deadly serious. "Do you want to be bound and fucked in the ass by me?"
"Sweet Bastet, yes." His breath caught when she kissed him as possessively and passionately as any fantasy he'd managed during his more lonely years.
"Stay right there, handsome." She rumbled and slid off him and out of bed, returning a moment later with several lengths of white silk. "Put your wrists where you want them." She couldn't keep the hungry note from her voice; the desire in his scent urged her on as much as the openness of how he held his body and the want on his face as he rolled to his knees and stretched his arms out, most of his weight resting on his forearms.
"You've done this before." Felina observed dryly, wrapping one silk tie around his wrist and then around the center bar of the headboard and around his other wrist, all while deftly avoiding his attempt to nuzzle her slick crotch.
A low whimper was his only reply as she moved away and selected a short strip. With practiced care she covered his eyes, pausing at his sudden tension. "You okay with this, love?"
"Ye-yes." He took a brief moment to control the surge of cold fear that ran through his body. "Yes, I'm okay with you blinding me."
"Jake?" She touched his shoulder gently, feeling for the truth in his tension.
"I trust you." Jake felt something snap deep inside him, and accepted the distant joy of it as his body relaxed under his mate's touch. With an uncertain purr that slowly grew stronger, he simply felt her move behind him to bind his knees to the headboard with long strips of silk. He closed his eyes behind the blindfold and sighed softly in the rare comfort of not being able to do anything but kneel and accept the pleasures a trusted companion chose.
He felt the weight on the bed shift as she left it, then the scrape of a drawer opening and closing. His own breathing and the rustle of soft cloth and something harder moving in the air and over fur was the only thing besides soft cloth under and around him as his world narrowed to touch, sound and smell. Then the bed dipped near his head, bringing his attention to the right.
"Show me what you do for your toms." Her voice was softly commanding as strong fingers combed his hair and along his ears, guiding his muzzle forward just a little. "Please me."
He relaxed almost completely on reflex to accept the enticingly familiar shape that pressed against his lips, hesitating only slightly before exploring with a relish he'd long given up on feeling. He knew it was a dildo, it had to be, but it even tasted right. The illusion was nearly perfect. From a subtle unevenness in the barb-hairs that responded with just the right resistance and motion that dragged increasingly desperate whimpers from the Kat above him, to the slightly bittersweet musk that screamed 'Felina' to his delighted mind and body. Only a very small corner of his mind didn't buy the idea that he was suckling on Felina's cock, bringing her closer and closer to the edge with every teasing motion.
But even with all this so close to his perceptions, his mind flicked between memories of two very different toms, both larger and thicker than what he was eagerly nursing. Memories of their very different musks nearly overrode what he actually tasted. That small corner of his mind that recognized this wasn't a real cock in his mouth also gave thanks that the dildo turned both whimpered names into indistinct groans.
"Ohhh, Jake ..." Felina barely managed to gasp out that much of a warning before the first shuddering contraction hit, curling her around his head and forcing his nose against the rougher fur of her crotch as her body took over, too desperate for its building climax to take much care in it's rocking thrusts.
Jake relaxed his throat and mouth by practiced ease and let the illusion melt as her movement became less and less masculine even as her orgasm-rich scent tugged his arousal higher. He barely felt her claws draw blood from his scalp, and made little secret of the delight surging through him at her final howling thrust that pulled the strap-on from his mouth roughly as she collapsed on her side, gasping for breath between tremors.
He stretched sideways, following his ears and nose to nuzzle her hair, the only part of her body he could reach and asked quietly "did I do well?"
"Very well, love." She rumbled after a long moment to regain her composure. She reached up to scratch the base of his ear until he purred and went nearly limp in the restraints. "Well enough to be rewarded." She smiled when he didn't even react to the statement, too absorbed in what was happening under her fingers to listen. She took her hand away, crooning comfortingly when he whimpered in distress. "How do you want to come?"
"With you in me." He barely breathed enough to get the words out. "As hard and deep as you can."
"Like it rough when you're receiving, do you?" She chuckled and shrugged off the lethargy she always felt after coming to retrieve the lube from her nightstand.
"Yes." He hissed in anticipation as she settled behind him with his legs between hers, and strong, slick fingers eased him open.
"My, my, you've been a busy tom." She laughed playfully as she withdrew her fingers, caressing the velvety fur of his balls and full sheath before leaning over his back, the tip of the dildo not even up to the first barb-hairs inside him. "Ready?"
"Yes," Jake whispered as she bit his neck-ruff, pulled his head back and impaled him in one swift motion. "Oh .... yes."
He shuddered as she did exactly as he'd asked, putting her greater weight and full strength behind each thrust. Then she rested against his back, letting him carry both their weights to free her hands to play along his body, one crossing his chest to add more force to her thrusts by pulling him back into them, the other stroking his unsheathed cock until it pulsed with need.
Jake whimpered as he felt what little self-control he had left slip in response to the absolute domination and pleasure granted by his mate. When the first wave hit he started to thrash, only his bonds and her skill keeping him from throwing her off. In the end his body settled on a grunting scream as his balls emptied themselves on the cotton sheets and her hand.
Felina caught them both with the hand that had been milking his cock as he collapsed. She pulled out of his too lax body, cutting the silk bonds with her claws in her haste to release him, then shook her head and laughed harder than she could remember doing before. Her entire body trembled with her mirth as she lay down against his side and held him, waiting for unconsciousness to drift into regular sleep and amused at how much she was enjoying a not so lazy day in bed.
"I knew I forgot something." Felina let out a small groan and shook. "Pat called your apartment."
"Mmmuph?" Every shred of sleepy ease fled his body. "What's wrong?"
"She wasn't very specific, just that a recruiter came in, in kind of bad shape, and she'd send a v-skimmer to pick you up when you called. What's a v-skimmer?"
"Shit." Jake bolted out of the bed and grabbed the phone, punching in sixteen digits almost too quickly to see. He looked at Felina as the other end rang. "It's a small VTOL transport. We don't use them in public."
"Oh." She rolled out of bed and grabbed some clothes for herself. "Anything in particular?"
"Hi, Pat." Jake dropped the receiver to his chest and glanced at Felina with a grateful smile laced with worry. "Jeans, shirt." He turned back to the phone. "What happened?"
Felina pulled her own clothes on as Jake listened to his long-time friend and some-times lover, his stance growing ever more distressed until he replied in a very subdued tone. "I'm coming, okay? I can't take living with him, but I hardly hate him." Another pause. "I'll be ready, seen you soon."
"Can I come?" Felina held out a set of clothes for him.
"Urr, I guess so." Jake shivered slightly as he hurriedly dressed. "You ever been to Cathedral?"
"Which cathedral?" She cocked her head and followed him out on her small third story balcony.
"I'll take that as a no." Jake smiled at her. "The Cathedral. PumaDyne's. It's the R&D facility Pat runs, and SWAT came out of, among other things. It's where I'll be working for the most part."
"Oh." She fell silent as a slender, very SWAT Kat-looking aircraft VTOLed down until its wing was level with the cement patio floor.
"Come on." He stepped on the wing and unhesitantly walked to the door that slid open for them.
Felina gave the craft a wary look but followed the tom inside and sat in the first row of three comfortable chairs in the dimly lit interior. She blinked when the interior went nearly pitch black as Jake locked the aircraft's door down. She barely felt the movement of air as he joined her, taking the seat next to her.
"Hold on tight. V-Skimmers are an unsettling ride." He reached and grabbed her hand, then planted a gentle kiss on her cheek.
"Howwwww ...?" Her question blended into a silent scream as the natural darkness of a windowless space snapped into a gripping nothingness. Thought, touch, smell ... gone. Only a dim awareness of things being terribly wrong remained in her mind as the natural darkness returned.
"It's hard to explain." Jake leaned against her comfortingly as her freaking heart started to calm down. "We call it 'gating' or 'jumping' but it's more of ceasing to exist for a little while and coming back somewhere else."
"You use technology no one understands?" Her voice was far closer to a shriek than she appreciated.
"All the time." He joked, then grew serious as they felt the craft settle and dim lights flicker on. "How do you think the TurboKat does what she does? It's all alien technology and a few extreme prototypes derived from them. I understand parts of it and a few others get other bits, but for the most part ... no, we don't understand much about the weapons we use in this war. Only that they work."
"And we need them." Felina sighed and nodded, keenly aware that she did it too, every time she went up in a jet. She just held on to the assumption that someone close by knew how the birds she flew worked. That they were the works of Kats, and therefore those Kats could deal with any issues. But she really didn't know where or how any of her gear was developed, in truth.
"Yes." He sighed and stood. "No more questions on this, Fel. Please." He bent to kiss her gently. "I've told you too much already; any more really requires Pat's permission."
"I understand." Felina nodded and stood to follow him out, but stopped as he turned and claimed a searing, nearly desperate kiss. Her voice was barely a whisper as their lips parted. "What's ... never mind."
"You if can see me the same after the next few hours ..." Jake shook his head sadly. "I don't know. I was never the same after Pat showed me, and it was much less then."
"Okay." She wasn't sure what else to say in the face of his apparent dread, so she simply followed him out the hatch in voluntary silence. It wasn't three heartbeats in the light beyond that hatch that the Enforcer's Lieutenant Commander Felina 'Artemis' Feral's understanding of reality was turned sideways.
To every side the ... the hanger for lack of a better term ... stretched past her ability to discern walls from air, despite good lighting. Scattered throughout were aircraft and things less easily identified, in various stages of construction and repair. Though there were mostly Kats, she picked out seven different races working and moving between the widely spaced vehicles.
Seven races on a world that only knew three, none with wings. Her mind rebelled as a large, metallic blue ... creature glided in to stop on top of a TurboKat near look-alike and started giving what looked like directions to the Snow Leopard Exath Kat and a ... a something with dark brown fur ... working on it.
"Welcome to Cathedral." Jake smiled understandingly back at her and urged her to follow him down the stairs to where a small, almost blindingly white shekat and a very large lioness with braided and beaded hair waited for them. Both wore similar dark blue uniforms with red highlights too similar to what the SWAT Kats wore to be a coincidence. Even the dragon-like creature wore something resembling it.
Felina managed to place the white female as Pakitra Dyne even as the back of her mind was commenting on how inaccurate the publicity photos she'd see were. The lioness was almost assuredly security.
"It's good to finally meet you, Felina." The white shekat's voice resonated slightly with both warmth and worry as she held her hand out to the tall female. "I'm Pakitra Dyne. This is Kenya Mulgin, my Chief of Security." She motioned to the lioness.
"Welcome to Cathedral, Lady Feral." Kenya's voice was a deep rumble as she inclined her head in a regal nod. "I could wish it was under more pleasant circumstances."
"Yes." Felina's voice drifted off as she took in the casual attitude Jake and the others seemed to have about what was around them. Not even facing Mulitor had prepared her for this. And these were ... allies?
"I'm sure you have a few thousand questions." Pakitra smiled a little playfully at her stunned guest and motioned for them to follow her. "You'll have at least some of them answered soon."
"Yes, thank you." Jake cut in a bit tersely as they walked to a black, yellow, and red outlined pathway between the open work areas. "What happened with Brandy?"
"She ... ran into Chance while off duty, before she heard to keep an eye out for him. Didn't know who he was." Pakitra shook her head. "You really better hear it from her. She saw a few things that didn't make it into any reports, and I've dug up a few things in the meantime that just aren't looking good." She twisted her head to look Jake directly in the eyes, her expression grim. "And Chance's little adventure isn't the only thing I need to talk to you about, either. Jessika damn near had a heart attack when the test results from your last physical came in."
"Such as?" Jake raised an eyebrow at her as they stopped at an intersection and Kenya tagged several keys on her bracer. "Steady." He caught Felina's arm as the shekat nearly bolted off the lifting ground. "It's just a lift."
"Just a lift." She growled at him, exasperation almost covering her startlement. "You need visitors from the real world more often. There's nothing 'just' about anything around here."
"Sorry, Fel." He nuzzled up to her arm. "But take a look," he waved out and down to the hanger floor, now almost a hundred feet below. "There's no view of the heart of Cathedral quite like this one."
"Umm, yah." She blinked and took a deep breath, trying to correlate what she was looking at with what she had assumed her entire life. "Promise you're going to explain what I'm looking at before we leave?"
"As much as I can, love." He held her steady as the ceiling opened to let the lift pass and settle even with the floor.
"This way." Kenya nodded at them, and each Fur they passed as they walked through the long, wide hallway.
Pakitra gave Felina an uncertain glance before she stepped back to whisper in Jake's ear. "You're lineage is showing in the DNA scans."
"Krud!" The low curse escaped clenched teeth, bringing Felina's attention to him with a silent request for an explanation. "Urr, it's a long story, Fel."
"Before this," she tapped her collar, "becomes permanent?"
"Much sooner than that, I think." He shuddered at the curious look he got from all three females as Pakitra opened a sliding door set in the smooth metal and stone walls with a palm-scan.
Felina found herself relaxing slightly in what was finally a somewhat familiar looking environment -- a briefing room with a single occupant, an attractive female Brown Hyena in a Cathedral uniform that looked like she'd had better weeks, stress-wise.
"Hello, Brandy." Jake greeted her with muted curiosity as he dropped into a chair across from her. "Report."
"Yes, sir." Brandy settled into a recount considerably more coherent and detailed than the first one Pakitra heard. "Friday night I was off duty and in MKC's bay bar district looking for enough company to keep me entertained for the weekend. While I was scooping out the offerings at the Brayberin I saw a tabby tom come in that had 'top notch pilot at loose ends' plastered all over him. Off duty or not, he was just too tempting to not try to recruit him, and he looked to be what I wanted for the weekend on top of it." She shrugged hopelessly. "I offered to buy the drinks to forget his problems if I couldn't make him, and he went for it."
"Let me guess, the tabby was Chance Furlong." Jake injected coolly.
"Yes, sir." Brandy nodded. "Though I didn't have his first name yet, and it was an Enforcer that told me his last." She shook her head slightly as Jake's tension went up by a factor of ten. "I only asked what I should call him. Anyone in as bad a shape as he was ... it really helps to put them at ease when you don't require them to tell you the truth, even about such little things as a name."
"Brandy, you don't have to defend yourself." Jake tried to smile at her. "I understand recruiting methods. I was the one half of them got developed on." He did manage a real smile for a moment. "Take it as confirmation on your ability to spot a good pilot no matter their condition. So you headed off, and ..."
She nodded with a grateful look his direction and did as ordered. "I wanted to see how he responded to speed and crossing Enforcers. Once the initial shock wore off, and he accepted the idea of being a passenger from the look of him, I think he enjoyed it. He also passed the hydro-test spectacularly and seemed to enjoy it when I gave our pursuers on the bank a splash-test. Then he asked for the wheel, to do a pass himself." She looked into her lap and fidgeted.
Brandy didn't look up as she continued. "I thought something wasn't quite right, but I let him anyway. I figured it was just the alcohol, nothing more serious than a little bravado. Sweet Bastet, was I wrong." Her muzzle sank between her hands. "He pulled a blaster from his bag and started the run. When I tried to stop him ... well, it came out that Feral had raped someone, or he said the Commander had. At least he was gunning for Ulysses Feral because of a rape. Then he threw me overboard and made the run. I saw him nail the Commander at least twice before the officers there put a few hundred shots through my car, and Chance."
"You're joking, right?" Jake's trembling voice all but begged her to nod.
"No, sir." Brandy finally looked up at him. "I wish I was. I didn't find out until the Enforcers pulled me out of the water what his full name was. It's wasn't until I reported to Pat in the hopes of getting him out of their hospital and into ours that I found out who he was. I'm sorry, sir. I would have been more careful if I'd known."
"How ... Chance's in an Enforcer hospital?" Jake's wild, sick look hit all three of them.
"Not any more." Pakitra laid a controlling hand on his shoulder. "He was checked out under high security clearance before I could get him transferred. We don't know where he is now, but it's not a hospital or jail, and all changes were dropped."
Jake's gaze landed hard on Felina. "Can you find out? There has to be paperwork ..." His voice drifted off. "Unless your uncle has him."
"I'm pretty sure that's the case." Felina offered hesitantly. "I can't even get someone checked out without a trail, but the Commander can, if he's willing to threaten enough."
"But why?" Brandy desperately asked for a reason other than the one she'd kept silent on.
"They're lovers." Jake shrugged, his voice betraying his pain. Then his eyes narrowed at the Hyena fem as something registered in his brain. "Did Chance say who was raped?"
"No, sir." She shivered at the raw hatred boiling to the surface behind his eyes. "Only that he was gunning for Feral because of a rape."
"He ... he didn't say, sir." She swallowed. "But I'd judge it was fairly recent, or at least the most recent incident was."
"Damn that Kat and his pride." Jake growled low in his throat before he turned to Pat. "Do what you can to find Chance, and Feral. I've let things go on far too long between us."
"Jake?" Felina caught his attention. "What are you talking about?"
"Urrr," he glanced at his fiancé with a decidedly uncomfortable expression.
"I think you need to bring Felina up to speed." Pakitra chuckled as she gave Jake a shove towards the door. "I'll find the missing toms and put the Squad on alert. Operation Black Phoenix is officially entering Stage Three as of now. Kenya, you handle the Yard"
"Yes, ma'am." The lioness nodded sharply and disappeared through the door at a fast clip.
"Yes, ma'am." He laughed, but shot her a very displeased look as he led Felina out, Brandy and Pakitra following them to head the opposite direction -- back the way they'd come.
"Is there someplace private to talk?" Felina asked softly.
"My quarters." He placed a gentle hand on her arm. "This way."
"Just how many places do you live?"
"Umm, six, including your place and the Yard." Jake cocked a smile at her. "There are two you haven't seen yet."
"And how many surprises like this," she waved a hand to include all of Cathedral, "do I still have to take in?"
"Urrr, quite a few." He glanced away and stopped her at a metallic blue door with an undecipherable symbol embossed in deep red on it. "Trans are used to get between living quarters and the working areas. It's a bit far to walk."
"And these are?" She gave a suspicious glare inside the small room with padded seats around the walls.
Jake managed an honest laugh. "Sorry Fel, but they're just elevators that go sideways as well as up and down. Cathedral's almost a tenth the size of a MegaKat City, and over twenty levels deep in places."
"You and that 'just' again." Felina growled almost playfully. "Nothing that's just an elevator goes sideways."
"You'll get used to it." He purred and pulled her inside before the doors closed. "There are a lot of advantages to putting up with the weirdness."
Felina blinked as her eyes adjusted to the dimmer lighting Jake flipped on in his quarters. She stayed just inside the closed door to take in her new surrounding.
In many ways, it looked like a typical officers barracks room with a simple bed, desk with a computer, and a couple chairs; all in materials that would stand up to a fair level of abuse. But that was the end of any level of recognition Felina could summon for this room and it's contents.
"Look around, Felina." Jake's uneasy voice drifted softly from the bed, where he'd laid down, watching her intently. "Ask what comes to mind. I'll answer you truthfully."
She gave him a quizzical glance before making a very slow, careful inspection of the personal effects scattered about the room. A place, that for all its numerous personal touches that didn't seem to be from the Kat she knew, barely looked lived in.
"Do you spend much time here?" She tried to sound casual as she inspected the one item in the room that actually looked right to her, a sizable collection of trophies and ribbons, many with marksmanship motifs. A clear and detailed public record of what she'd long known to be true; her mate-to-be was as skilled as his interests varied.
"No, though that will be changing."
She tried to ignore the almost fearful tightness in his voice as she moved on to a set of five simply framed, old black and white pictures hanging above the desk. "Who are these?"
"Never let it be said that a Feral doesn't have a gift for finding the hardest question to ask first." Jake sighed as he rolled to his feet and walked over to her.
"Ummph?" She jerked in surprise and stared at him, then back at the photos. "Something else ...."
"No." He smiled weakly and touched her arm. "It'll get the worst over with first. If you can still ... want me, after this ..." he shook his head to stop the denial on her tongue. "I've never actually told anyone this. Everyone else who knows found out the same way I learned the details, or was there when it was discovered and the subsequent investigation." He paused as he brushed light fingers over the glass covering a black and white photo of a graying female Martin in a well-decorated dress uniform. "Do you know who any of them are?"
"Umm," Felina studied the pictures a little more closely. She traced light claws over a decidedly proud, battle-scarred Cheetah tomkat in a sharply cut Third Fleet pilot's uniform with double bars on the collar. "That's Admiral Itashar of the Third Fleet, back when he was a Captain, and still flying."
"The day of his promotion, actually." Jake smiled. "Know of anyone else?"
"I think that's Hassur Tursidi VelKimm," she tapped the picture of the Martin. "Tugythin's top sniper about forty years ago. I don't think her record's been broken yet."
"Not officially, anyway." Jake nodded. "Yes, that's her."
"I'm afraid I don't recognize the others." She turned her full attention to the shorter Kat. "Who are they?"
Jake took a deep breath before nodding and pointed at the top left photo; an unremarkable looking brown and tan shekat in her mid twenties sitting in a chair. "This is Samanthia Littlegreen. She's not anyone to know, just the daughter of someone who was very involved in my ... existence. Chosen because she was crippled, sterile and very important to her father, who had the power to choose."
Felina waited silently for him to gather his composure and continue, fighting down the questions she dared not interrupt him with just yet.
"This is Dr. Brandin Tinian," he moved to the top right photo, one of a sharp-eyed, classical black on tan Alsatian Kantin. "He's a genetics specialist and from his notes, the most scientifically cold creature I've ever known." He shifted quickly over the bottom left photo of Tursidi to the center one; a slender, midnight black tomkat with the poise of a dancer, the face of a prince, and the eyes of an assassin.
Felina shivered in recognition, not of the kat in the picture, but of his qualities and how she usually saw them used. And of the traitorous thought that she knew those qualities in the tom next to her.
"Something wrong?" Jake made an aborted move to touch her.
"He reminds me of too many I've brought in." She shivered again at the cold acceptance and utter remorselessness of the murderer with that look she'd captured only a few months before. "Who is he?"
"Damian Shadowclaws," his voice was very low, with almost a confessional tone in it.
"The ... the ...."
"Black Death." He finished for her, his head bowed and body trembling slightly in distress. "Yes, the same."
"So, umm, who are these folks to you?" She looked again at the strange mix of characters to avoid the growing turmoil standing next to her.
Jake took a slow breath and let it out before answering. His voice was level and sure when he finally spoke. "They are my parents by blood."
"How?" Felina surprised even herself with how calm the question came out with her mind swimming around dual impossibilities; the number and the species involved, and that the races couldn't interbreed ... but this was the realm of the impossible already ....
"I was ... conceived in Dr. Tinian's a laboratory. His first, and to our knowledge, only, success." Jake didn't resist being lead to the bed, or the protective embrace she wrapped him in. "I didn't even start as a fertilized egg, you know. I was literally pieced together on the genetic level." He shuddered and tried to bury himself in the accepting warmth embracing him. "I don't even begin to understand how ... but I ... I know why."
"Jake," she interrupted gently as her fingers scratched his jaw in an instinctive act of comfort. "Look at me."
The silence held for long moments as he trembled in her arms, fear and desperation in his scent magnifying with every breath. When he finally looked up to meet soft brown eyes, he managed to speak before she did. "I'm a Black Op, bred to kill."
"I know, love." She tipped his mussel for a kiss, ignoring his shocked lack of response.
"You ... can still ...."
"Remember what you said when I asked how you could love a Feral?" She interrupted the stammering denial.
"That heritage didn't matter."
"I love you," she made him meet her steady gaze. "That your entire lineage isn't Kat, that you weren't born as I was, none of it matters to me. It doesn't change who I love."
"But it changes what ..." he stopped, struggling for the right words. With a hard swallow, he forced himself to continue with his face downcast, "but it does change what I can offer you ... as a mate."
"As a ... oh." She pulled him a little closer, trying to sooth his shame-filled trembling. "Jake, I know kittens are something you want ... but there are other ways to raise a family."
"That's ... not it, Felina." He curled against her even more. "I'm fertile, most of the time, just ... just not always ... " he took a steadying breath. "Not always with the same race. That's what Pat told me in the hall. The genetic stabilization is wearing off. I ... I really don't want to go through it again."
"Then you won't." She growled fiercely, earning a bewildered look from the Kat she held tightly. "You've got powerful friends now; Ms Dyne, the Deputy Mayor, and don't forget me. Hell, don't underestimate yourself. Do you have any idea what you could make happen if you wanted it?"
"I'm a freak of science, Fel." Jake whispered as his body relaxed a little. "Nothing important."
"How dare you." She gave into the rage that flashed to the surface of her soul and slammed him to the bed with her full weight over him. "How dare you think so little of my choice of a lifemate?"
"Mmurrph?" He went completely limp under her; shock, , surrender, and fighting reflexes competing for control.
"Jake Clawson is the mate-to-be of a ranking Feral." Felina felt the rhetoric of her great-grandmother surge to the surface easily even after years of denial. "We are one of the finest bloodlines in the world. Only the best and brightest are allowed into our ranks. Understand?"
"Yes, ma'am." He shivered before purring slightly as his limp body relaxed into compliant desire.
"Damn, you really are into subbing." She rocked up to rest on her heels and regarded him, still straddling his thighs. "Tell me how your personality ended up a Gunner. You seem much better suited as a pilot."
"It's a long story." Jake murmured low in his throat as he stroked the inside of her thighs. "But I am a Gunner around everyone I don't take as my better. I'm just a quiet leader."
Felina chuckled as she started to work his shirt off. "You make yourself sound way too much like my uncle, 'cept for that 'quiet' part."
"I know." He groaned and arched up as she nipped an exposed nipple.
"You know," she purred with her throat against the nub of bare skin surrounded by luxuriant reddish fur. "I always wondered by males had tits ...". She paused as her brain possessed his statement and raised her body to look him in the face. "You know?"
"We know each other fairly well, though not as well as he thinks." He answered softly.
"I'm not the first Feral to sleep with you, am I?" Felina sighed and settled on his chest.
"No." He regarded her curiously. "Does it matter much to you?"
"I guess not," she sighed softly. "Just one more thing my uncle neglected to mention when I asked him."
"I'm not surprised, I drove him nuts half the time." Jake smiled slightly at the memory, then turned grim. "And it hardly ended well. I'm not on the list of conquests that went well."
"Explain." Her entire body went tense with a growl.
"We just weren't compatible in the long run." He shrugged. "I like Uly in bed, it was the rest that didn't work well. He's too controlling for me, and far too smug to have bedded me in the first place."
Felina scowled. "Smug?"
Jake considered for a moment before responding. "Maybe smug is the wrong word. He never listened when he was wrong." Jake closed his eyes, "he never hurt me, but it wasn't what I wanted. It was so close, though, we both felt it, and it hurt to leave." Jake met her considering brown eyes for a moment. "It never really ended for him, and maybe not for me either."
"You think this has something to do with what happened with Chance?" She almost regretted asking the moment the words were out. The flash of soul-deep pain across Jake's face made her ache for them.
"No. Uly's not that stupid." Jake shook his head. "You're uncle does a lot of things I don't like, but he wouldn't rape my partner."
"Why not?" She held her breath as he stared at her through narrowed eyes, wondering why in the nine hells that had come out of her mouth.
Jake finally answered with pure venom behind his voice. "Because he knows on a very real level what I'll do to him if he does. I'll make him beg for death before that mercy is granted, and beg a lot more than anyone in his bedroom ever has."
"Do you know what you just said?" She shuddered and pushed herself up, pinning his wrists. With a desperate effort she managed to control her rippling fear to stare him down.
"I'm putting you in a very bad position if it ever happens." He said simply. "I said I'd tell you the truth of anything you asked here. I meant it."
"Who do you think my uncle raped then, that Chance cares so much about?" She slowly slid to lie on her side next to him.
"I don't know." He whispered, taking the opportunity to roll to his side away from her. "Probably no one. He may like pushing that line, but I don't think he'd actually cross it." Jake fell silent, the rest of his thought stuck in his throat.
"Jake ... you said you wouldn't lie, I'm asking you not to fudge on this one either." Felina pulled his back against her chest and held him tightly.
"Me," the word was barely more than a sob.
"What?" She was too stunned to explode as he curled up and shook, the fear and shame in his scent a caustic assault on her nose.
"It just happened, we met at a bar. I was waiting for Greg, but he never showed." Jake shook harder, but his voice was painfully even. "I wanted to be fucked like that badly."
"Yes." He whispered. "It took a couple days to get his scent off me, and it was rough. If you didn't know I'd asked ...."
"So why'd Chance have sex with him?"
"I don't know." Jake finally let the first deep sob go. "This is wrong. Chance is my partner." He cried quietly as the last of his defenses crumbled. "Shouldn't end like this ..." He barely felt Felina move him under the covers and hold him as grief-filled, restless sleep claimed him.
Pakitra Dyne stepped into Cathedral's bustling Central Control Room a commander on a mission. A quick sweep of her eye told her everything was running more or less at a quiet normal, and definitely under control.
The main screen showed a single flight test in progress; Patrik Celest had their newly refurbished Veritech fighter, Kilsola, on speed runs. She gave a moment of sheer appreciation for the furless bipeds that had built such a fine craft, and regret that the jets original pilot hadn't survived whatever had brought them to Cathedral's doorstep three years before.
She shook it off and focused on more pressing matters; finding Chance Furlong. She quickly descended the flight of stairs to the lower control ring and all but pounced on a half asleep black Alsatian Kantin at a station on the right.
"Tap into the satellite tracking system." She draped herself over the startled canine's shoulder as if she did it all the time. "Find Chance Furlong for me, I and R coordinates."
"Yes, ma'am." He tapped several keys at the terminal, breezing through various screens until a set of coordinates and a map of the ocean over a hundred miles out to sea appeared. He barely controlled a startled shiver at the fire he saw clearly in her emerald eyes as she read the data over his shoulder, and refused to acknowledge the sharp pain as her claws dug into him.
Pakitra twisted to face the upper row of stations and raised her voice. "Get a sub with investigation, tech and med crews out to the coordinates of Chance Furlong's homing beacon. Find out why it's not attached to him anymore. And operation Black Phoenix is now entering stage three. Get ready and get SWAT in the air." She stalked up the stairs, rage covering raw fear and glared at the personnel available. "Now!"
She stormed out of the room to a muted chorus of 'yes ma'ams' and a level of tension that had yet to be matched.
Some time later Pakitra wasn't the least bit surprised to find herself standing in front of a sharply angled, gloss blue and gold strike helicopter. She smiled slightly as she tapped the communicator in her wristband. "Cathedral, I'm taking Cobalt Blue out. No mission plan."
Struggling to assimilate the last couple hours as Jake slept restlessly, Felina wasn't sure what to make of the day, except it was going very badly, and very strangely, even for her life and MKC. For a ranking officer of defense in a gigopolis that got trashed by a supervillian or monster at least once a month, that was saying something.
She surprised herself with how easy it was to accept his heritage, even that The Black Death was his father, one of three, and that he had two mothers. Even that he wasn't all one race didn't jar her as much as she expected, or as much as he'd so clearly feared.
The idea of kittens that train of thought brought shook her much more; most pointedly with the realization that she did want kittens of her own, Jake's kittens preferably. Perhaps even sooner than later ... with only a month and a half to decide before her next heat ... and it wasn't just her decision anymore, either. And he didn't seem to be in any condition to deal with being a father at the moment.
That brought her back to the first argument she ever developed against becoming a mother; what were the odds she'd see them grown, given her choice of careers? And with a father like Jake, there was next to no chance of both of them making it that long. Razor may be good for the city, but as a father, he had a less than desirable life expectancy. Even if his genetics were probably excellent to pass on, mix-breed or not.
Which was all the more reason to breed with him, and soon. She could take time off and the city would survive. It did well enough before she graduated; Silvereye was a good officer and would do well as second-in-command while she was gone. Plus Felina had some serious suspicions that Cathedral housed far more than just prototypes and research. It was far too military ... far too familiar to one bred and raised to be a Feral and Enforcer. And whatever 'Phase Three of Operation Black Phoenix ' meant, she seriously doubted it was good news for the bad guys. Which was good news for her, at least.
Silvereye ... she really should tell him, and HQ, that she'd be indisposed for a few days. He deserved a chance to shine, and this was as good an opportunity as any to let him show his stuff. How often would both she and her uncle be out of commission at the same time, anyway?
She carefully worked away from Jake, intent on his restless form in case he noticed her departure in his dream world. Once clear of the bed, she moved as silently as she could to the second door in the room, hoping it would lead to a bathroom, or someplace similarly private to make the call. The last thing she needed was to explain this to headquarters and Jake at the same time.
She breathed a sigh of relief when the door slid open quietly to reveal a private bathroom ... complete with a soaking tub. She leaned against the counter, her back to the mirror, and pulled a small, hard-cased cellular phone from her pocket and tapped in the code to get her to the personnel office at headquarters.
"Personnel Office, Officer Featherfur speaking." A breath of relief escaped Felina as the other shekat's familiar voice came through clearly.
"Hi, Sasha, it's Felina.
"Hi, Fel." The warmth on the other end was welcome. "I heard you got engaged."
"Well, yes, I did. No date set." Felina forestalled the next question. "I'm just calling to tell you I won't be available short of full emergency for a few days, and maybe not even then."
"Having fun with him?" Sasha's tone spoke of nothing but approval.
"I wish." She sighed, suddenly very tired. "Lieutenant Silvereye's going to be in charge until one of us gets back on duty."
"On record." Sasha replied quietly. Want me to transfer you to him?"
"I guess I should tell him myself." She wrapped strong fingers along the edge of the counter.
"Felina ... is there anything I can help with?" The concern in her voice was very clear. "You've been a good friend to me ...."
"Thanks, Sasha, but this isn't anything ... it's just a mess that will take some time to clean up." Felina closed her eyes against bitter tears. "You'd better transfer me."
"Just promise you'll ask if there's anything, okay?"
"I will. Promise." She consciously let as much tension go as she could while she waited through the beeps of the transfer system. First his desk, then onto the radio bands as she had authority to, when he didn't pick the phone up. "Lieutenant Commander Silvereye, return to headquarters immediately. You are acting Commander until further notice by the authority of acting Commander Lieutenant Commander Felina Feral. Feral out."
She turned the phone off with a guilty look, but if her uncle could do it, damnit, so could she. It wasn't like this wasn't a big deal. Then she grinned slightly at the small, black chunk of plastic and circuitry. The blasted thing had cost almost a month's pay, but it was well worth it with a range and clarity none of the official gear could come close to. She grinned to herself, wondering if the Free-Kat Cellular would want to use this in its adds.
'Crystal clear even from the depths of Cathedral to Enforcer HQ!'
Her grin faded as she turned to deal with Jake again. If this was the result of a single question, getting through the rest of his memories was going to be an entirely new kind of hell for both of them. Never mind the future and what she wanted to ask him about her thoughts. So many important questions, so little stress he could take in answering them.
Captain Kenya Mulgin of Cathedral Security and Operations regarded the expanse of The MegaCat Salvage Yard with mixed emotions as the main transport helicopter landed her and her core crew near the only surface building on the site. They waited until all three choppers had landed and settled before disembarking and spreading out to their initial survey duties without a word.
For Kenya, this day held a great deal of regret and worry over the circumstances that brought them here, excitement over finally seeing Black Phoenix to its next stage, and not a small bit of anticipation over finally getting to see the SWAT Kats Hanger for herself. If only T-Bone and Razor were there to show her around, it would have been perfect. As it stood, it was a frightening prospect, both in implications and physical danger to her crew. She seriously doubted Jake had lost his habit of tinkering with things and not thinking of reporting it. The tall lioness quietly shook off her mood and signaled to her special weapon against any traps this place had she didn't have the codes for.
A grayish-purple skinned biped female with long silver hair nodded and followed her leader inside the first floor of Jake and Chance's garage/ home. She raised a charcoal black hand and closed her eyes. A dim sparkle flickered around her black hand, then up her arm to encase her entire body before oozing into the floor and creeping further out.
"Syreth?" Kenya asked when the dark Gargoyle turned pupilless ruby eyes to her.
"You were right to bring me." Syreth answered in an echoing voice that still managed to send a chill up the lioness' spine. "He has done a great deal to the area since the plans were last updated. Blackie and the others are very upset about all this."
"Blackie?" Kenya twitched an ear at her best technomage, causing her three gold hoops to jingle.
"The TurboKat." Syreth smiled, giving her an almost friendly appearance despite the spiraled horns and utterly alien looks as she caped wide leather wings over her shoulders and walked forward with confident ease.
Chance hovered unnoticed in the doorway, suddenly unsure of himself now that he had Feral in front of him. He hadn't seen the other Kat since they arrived here this afternoon, although Chance had spent most of that time curled in bed amazed at how sore his body was and glad that he wouldn't have to take that bus trip in this condition. In front of him Feral sat in bed, absorbed enough in the files he was going through that he hadn't noticed the door opening. Chance swallowed nervously, not even sure what to call the other kat, let alone what he was going to say afterwards.
"Urrrrrrr ... Sir?" He ventured quietly, falling back on what he'd called Feral the last time the two of them had seen each other face to face and immediately regretting it. Feral looked up, an expression of mild surprise painted across his face.
"I thought you'd still be in bed."
"Well, ahh, I was." Chance said uncomfortably
"Don't just stand there then," Feral told him, flipping back the bed covers, "You'll get cold."
Chance froze, fighting down the impulse to run back out into the corridor. He'd known that somewhere along the line his choice was going to mean he'd end up in bed with Feral, but he'd always seen that as a problem for the future, something he could get around when it happened. Now the time was upon him and he couldn't think of anything except that he'd managed to get himself in over his head again.
"Scared kitten?" Feral asked in a much softer tone than he'd ever have expected the Commander to use. He'd set aside his files and his attention was fixed firmly on Chance, making the tabby wonder exactly how long he'd been standing there lost in indecision. Denial was on Chance's lips as he opened his mouth to respond, but somewhere in the process of drawing breath his bravado evaporated.
"How did you know?" He asked softly, recalling Feral's comments about cowards and not wanting to admit to what he was feeling. The question drew a wry chuckle from the other kat.
"It wouldn't take a genius to figure out. On the other hand I'm quite practiced at reading people's emotions, more or less comes with the territory. Given how much I know about you from your files, how much I've seen the way you act around others, you're going to find it impossible to lie to me. I'll know when you're hiding something from me, when you're enjoying something, when you think you can get something out of me, just how far I can push you, and how. You'd best get used to it."
Chance swallowed nervously, becoming more and more apprehensive about the situation. It had been so long since he'd spent any amount of time near Feral that he'd forgotten how incredibly alert the kat was, and his reputation for being able to read people like books.
"Those tickets are still valid," Feral said conversationally as Chance stood frozen in the doorway, "You could sleep in tomorrow morning and still make the bus."
That galvanized Chance into action, his feet shifting forward before he'd really thought about it. A couple of days ago booking those tickets had seemed like the natural thing to do, but now he wasn't so sure. This time even leaving wasn't an easy way out. He'd crossed the room and was standing by the bed before he realized how easily Feral had manipulated him.
"Damn," he whispered as his slid hesitantly into the bed, "I've been doing exactly what you wanted all along."
"You've managed to surprise me rather nastily on a few occasions," Feral admitted as he flipped the covers back over Chance's body, lending the tabby some welcome warmth, "But it's turned out more or less as I expected, yes."
Chance stared up at the ceiling in silence as he digested the words, holding his silence for a long time.
"Even SWAT?" He asked eventually, sounding nothing like the confident, unshakable pilot he liked to think of himself as.
"Especially SWAT," Feral confirmed, watching Chance's face intently as he rested a hand lightly against the other kat's chest. The tabby's body tensed at the unexpected touch but slowly relaxed as Feral began to comb his fingers through Chance's fur. "I counted on your needing to prove me wrong."
"I hated you," Chance growled, the rumbling deep in his chest making Feral's fingers pause for the briefest fraction of a second. "Every time they talked about us on the news and it was 'the SWAT Kats and Enforcers,' even when we were the ones everyone was talking about they just reminded me of what you'd done to us."
"Jake never felt that way," Feral murmured, gently tracing his fingers over Chance's fur. "He saw that you were more effective outside the official structure."
"Jake!" Chance turned his face away from Feral as he spat his former partner's name. "Jake was happier as a mechanic. It never bothered him that we'd never fly under our real names again because he was just as happy tinkering with his high-tech toys. I dunno what he was doing as a gunner in the first place when he's go good at that stuff."
Feral either didn't have an answer or chose to keep it to himself, saying nothing as his fingers continued to cross and re-cross Chance's chest. The tabby tried to suppress the shiver that ran through his body, but knew it would have been noticed. Though they didn't do anything he would have considered suggestive the fingers on his body brought up memories of the last time he'd been so close to Feral. He was suddenly very glad of the boxers he was wearing, and wondered for the hundredth time exactly why he was doing this.
"Did I hurt you?" Feral whispered by his ear, sending another shock of tremors through Chance's body. It took Chance a few moments to figure out what he was talking about, and then another couple of seconds before he could talk around the realization that Feral was following his train of thought better than he was himself.
"No," he said softly, despite the temptation to say otherwise. "No, it wasn't you." Feral's body tensed beside him, the other kat's arm sliding around his chest and drawing him back against Feral's body.
"What do you mean?"
Chance added concern to the list of unexpected things that had happened tonight. He tried to relax a little more, but Feral's body against his wasn't making it easy. Nor was the conversation.
"I did some pretty stupid stuff," the tabby said quickly, half hoping that Feral's uncanny perceptions would reinforce that he didn't want to talk about it. For once things seemed to go his way, as the larger kat held him a little tighter and chanced the topic.
"You're not comfortable." It was very clearly not a question.
"I ..." Chance began before trailing off as he realized he didn't know what he wanted to say. "No, I'm not. I mean, I'm trying and I know I told you I wanted to do this, but you want to ... you're going to ..." he trailed off.
"Fuck you?" Feral asked with a raised eyebrow. "Yes I do want to, and yes I will if you stay here. But not tonight." He paused for a moment. "Unless you're in a hurry."
"No!" Chance replied, a little too quickly. "No, I'm ..."
"Not ready." Chance countered, beginning to feel a little more like himself again. It was a feeling that faded quickly, as Feral's chuckle by his ear was joined by a hand sliding into his boxers.
"My, my," the Commander murmured as Chance's body tensed up, "You're a skittish kitten tonight, aren't you?"
"Yeah, well, my mum told me never to screw a guy on the first date." Chance replied, managing to sound a lot more flippant than he actually felt. He was rewarded with a full-throated laugh as Feral's fingers traced down the inside of his thighs.
"Well there's no problem there," Feral murmured by his ear, "You're not screwing anyone."
Chance didn't have any answer to that, Feral once more proving his ability to stir Chance's body to arousal despite the tabby's apprehension and resistance. He shifted uncomfortably, relieved to note that Feral's arm around his chest had loosened, the commander bending more and more of his attention to the fingers that coaxed Chance's shaft from it's sheath.
Chance swallowed a sigh as practiced fingers touched his swelling flesh, each passing moment making it harder and harder to deny his pleasure. There was no telling what sort of situation he might end up in if he let Feral keep going this way, keeping him from making a clear decision. If he didn't get out of here quickly ...
Feral moved only a split second after Chance did, the lingering ache in Chance's muscles giving the commander the edge. Feral's lower arm tensed as the upper was knocked away, keeping Chance from getting any further than his knees. The upper arm went with the momentum the shove had given it, swinging around to catch first one of Chance's arms and then the other. The tabby ended up on his knees, his weight pulled back off center and supported by his arms, which Feral kept pinned in place with a paw holding tight to his wrists. If there had been a textbook to cover bedroom wrestling the move would have been in it. It wasn't the most comfortable of positions but Chance was sure he could hold it for quite some time if need be, at least he would be able to if he hadn't recently been shot full of holes. What he wasn't sure of is what was going to happen now.
Feral didn't seem to be in a hurry to let him know. With Chance's weight balanced so far back the Commander only needed to pin Chance's hands to keep him from going anywhere, leaving his other hand free. He sat up in the bed beside Chance, running his fingers slowly through the tabby's fur, taking his time as he moved down over the curve of Chance's chest and the flat plain of his stomach. Chance trembled slightly under that touch, so confident and relaxed. His breath was rushing through his throat, his chest rising and falling with each deep, gasping inhalation. Feral smiled as he watched.
"It would seem," Feral murmured softly as he slid a finger under the waistband of Chance's boxers, "That we have a problem. There's something in here that wants very badly to get out. There's something in you that wants to get out too."
Chance gasped as Feral tore his boxers away, his erection swaying slightly from the motion as it stood revealed. Feral slid his fingers slowly along the swollen length of flesh, and Chance could feel him taking delight in each and every tiny response. He couldn't keep himself from moaning as Feral slowly stroked him, squeezing his eyes shut as though that could somehow suppress the feelings running through his body. He moaned again as Feral's hand left his length, screwing his eyes shut even tighter at the pleading note that crept into his voice.
The Commanders chuckled softly as his hand slid back up over Chance's torso as it heaved with his panting breath. The tabby gasped as Feral traced his fingers along his fur, the touch against him feather light but somehow tearing each breath out from his lungs. Feral's fingers slid up over his neck and chin, pressing lightly but insistently at Chance's lips, the tabby's mouth opening without resistance and sucking gently on the two fingers that slid forward.
"Good kitten," Feral purred softly by Chance's ear, his breath washing hotly over the side of Chance's head. He let Chance suckle on his fingers for a few seconds before drawing them slowly back out of his mouth. The slickened fingers were lifted straight down to Chance's groin, without the extended teasing Feral had indulged in before, drawing another ragged groan out of the helpless kat as they slid along his length, now rock hard and beginning to drool precum from the tip. The Commander's hand slid back and forward in slow, even strokes, spreading saliva and precum in a slick layer over Chance's red, swollen shaft. He noted each and every small collapse in the tabby's resolve, every tremble, each slight deepening of his moans, every time he squeezed his eyes tighter closed and, eventually, the subtle thrusting of his hips in time with the even strokes. Feral called on all of his extensive experience to bring Chance to the very brink of orgasm.
Then he stopped.
Chance let loose a low wail of frustration and need as Feral lifted his hand away, thrusting his hips up into the air, blindly seeking the stimulation he craved.
"The first rule," the Commander whispered, his lips almost brushing against Chance's ear, "Is that I call the shots, I say when you cum. You won't even touch yourself without my saying so."
"Please," Chance gasped, his eyes still tightly shut as he begged. "God please, I need ..." He trailed off, ending in another frustrated whimper.
Feral chuckled softly, stroking Chance's cheeks gently with the fingers the tabby so badly wanted elsewhere. "What will you give me kitten, if I let you have what you want?"
Chance couldn't manage a coherent reply, opening his mouth to speak several times but never producing a better answer than his needy gasps and whimpers.
"The second rule," Feral continued in a soft whisper, "is that the answer to that question is always 'anything you want'."
"Anything you want, sir." Chance gasped immediately. "Anything."
Feral smiled as the words gushed forward and relented, grasping Chance's rampant shaft and pumping it roughly. It didn't take much to push the desperate tabby over the edge, and Feral let go of the kat as his cock began to pulse, letting Chance fall back on the bed as he came hard. It was almost half a minute before Chance was capable of anything beyond trembling and spurting seed out onto his fur, covering his belly in it, but as his breath began to slow from it's rapid pace he extended a leg out of the bed and slowly drew himself up to his feet. Feral reached out and grabbed his shoulder, turning him back around.
"I ... I have to go," Chance stammered, his eyes downcast. "I really have to ..." he trailed off again, swallowing nervously.
"You just promised me that I could have anything I wanted from you." Chance's eye's flicked up to meet Feral's, a wild, unreadable emotion shining in their depths. The tabby's head shook jerkily from side to side as he pulled back away from the bed.
"What I want," Feral said softly as he moved forward to slide his other arm around Chance's waist to keep him from escaping, "Is for you to sleep here tonight. With me." He closed his arms gently around Chance's body, suddenly realizing that the other kat was trembling.
"Just ... sleep?" Chance asked softly, his voice barely audible.
The commander nodded as he slowly, gently drew Chance back into the bed and drew the covers up around them both.
"Just sleep. I promise."
Jake greeted reality with the aching mind and body of sleep without rest and too much thinking without resolution. It took him a long moment to place his location as his bed at Cathedral, the one in his quarters, not Pakitra's. It took even longer to figure out why the large Kat inspecting things around the room was there, and who she was.
"You look like hell warmed over." Felina observed dryly as she came over and sat on the bed next to him.
"Thanks, about how I feel." He pushed himself up on his elbows and watched her nervously.
She stroked his hair gently. "We both need to eat ... it's been at least thirty hours for you, and I'm feeling it too. This place have a cafeteria or something?"
"Krud, of course." Jake pushed himself off the bed, almost collapsing when his balance shorted out for a moment. "I'm sorry, Fel. I didn't think ..."
"It's okay, love." She supported him deftly until he found his balance again. "We've both had a lot on our minds. But now, we eat. More talk later."
"Right." Jake rubbed his temple to try to make the headache go away, then gave up after a moment, realizing it too was the result of critically low blood sugar. "We'll have to hit a cafeteria, I don't keep food here." He smiled a little wickedly at her, "unless you want to go to a club ...."
Felina laughed, then shook her head as he wavered again. "Maybe later. I want real food."
"Ohhh," Jake leaned against the wall as the world started spinning again. "Yah, real food."
"Up for a little more explaining?" Felina hugged Jake closer to her body, not sure what to make of his lack of arousal with both of them naked in bed.
"I guess," he shrugged and snuggled in with a low purr. "I owe you enough of them."
"How did you get hooked up with Pakitra Dyne?" She scratched his jaw, grateful that he didn't tense up much.
"I was a gift to her." Jake sighed and scratched the spot between her breasts as Felina went rigid. "It's not like that, really. Pat was a very persuasive two year old with a love of small furry things, and I looked like a ball of fluff that might grow up to be one of the big cats, but definitely not a Kat."
"Her dad had just taken over EryssCorp, which along with it's more legitimate, and profitable, projects, had a less than legal and very unprofitable genetics lab."
"Where you were created." She supplied softly.
"Yes. Jason shut down the lab, and when he was asked what to do with the only surviving test subject, he looked at me and decided I'd make a good plaything for Pat. After all, baby big cats are kind of hard to come by, even when you have that kind of wealth."
"And involve a lot of red tape he wouldn't have to deal with, with you."
"Yes," Jake sighed as he absently started to play with her left breast, then stroke her side.
"So, umm, how you yet from there ..." her voice trailed off uncertainly.
He closed his eyes and nuzzled her before curling against her a little more, purring slightly in her protective embrace. "I went everywhere with her, including to her tutors, and when she was playing with machines and in the library. Pat's always been a voracious learner, and has a real teacher's bent. She liked to read to me, pretend I could understand when she pointed to a word or object and said it, or explained how something worked.
"It took the better part of two months before I was strong enough, old enough, to follow her around on my own four feet. I ... I didn't know ..." Jake swallowed hard and hugged Felina tightly, bringing an equally strong embrace from her. "I didn't understand for years that I wasn't normal. She was very excited when I wrote my name in her sandbox with my paws. It was very frustrating for both of us that I was almost five before my paws developed into hands and could write. I ... understanding language came pretty easy for me, reproducing it never has.
"I was never mute ... I could usually get a point across, but ... I ... not everyone I was expected to work with those years was so understanding. Just after we celebrated my fourth birthday ..." Jake closed his eyes against swelling tears and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. "I wasn't biped yet, no hands or real speech ... I ... one of my 'teachers' ... he didn't believe that I was intelligent. I hated him ... he made me feel like I was back in that little cage ...."
Jake dug his claws almost unnoticed into Felina's side, his voice a heated snarl as he shook in the full grip of the memory. "I'm not stupid. I hated him so much, the first blood on my hands. I can't take back what I did ... didn't regret ...."
"Shu, love." She shifted to her side, bringing their chests together and stroked his back as another set of sobs racked his body. "You're brilliant and gifted and caring, and no one can take that away from you if you don't let them." She held him and crooned until he settled slightly.
"I killed him Fel." His voice was very quiet and deadly calm a long moment later. "I wasn't even clean about it. I didn't know how to fight; I just had instincts, sharp claws, and fifty pounds of kitten muscle. I can't even regret what I did."
"But it hurts you." She started to counter.
"It hurts remembering what he did to me." He shifted to look her in the face and pawed as much of the teary mess from his fur as he could. "That I've spent my life constantly having to remind myself that he's wrong." He let a breath out and locked eyes with her. "I can't say I regret anyone I've killed."
"What about the warehouse?" She countered with a raised eyebrow.
"Even if they had died, I didn't kill them, something I did, did it." He sighed at her clearly unbelieving look. "I can regret those who died or were injured because of my actions. I can't make myself regret those I've killed. Those I choose, by conscious thought or rage, to take the life of."
"Oh." She continued to stroke his back, waiting for him to continue.
Jake slowly settled down to her side again and sighed, his fingers playing through her fur. He took a steadying breath before speaking. "Felina, how can you stand to be around me after all I've told you?"
Her soothing touch froze for a second before continuing. She stared at the ceiling as she answered. "Most is nothing you can control. The rest ... I can hardly hold against you what I'm just as guilty of."
"You've killed ... outside the line of duty?" He looked up, bewilderment and concern competing for control.
"I really don't want to talk about it." She shivered, moving both their bodies.
"Then don't." He squirmed to kiss her warmly. "I never want to force anything between us." He tucked his muzzle against her neck, nuzzling her until she purred. "I never want that in a relationship again."
"Good." Felina closed her eyes and surrendered to the yawn. "I can't be tired."
Jake actually chuckled a little and caressed her face. "Emotional stress can be as draining as physical, or even worse."
"At least it gets you to sleep." She blinked. "Why'd you take my sleeping pills anyway?"
Jake sort of huffed. "I'd just ... I did something I wasn't ready to face the consequences of."
"Have to do with Chance?"
"Yes." He tucked his head further down.
"Tell me when you're ready." She tried to sooth him, combing his short hair with her fingers. "For now," she slid her fingers further down, eventually caressing the inside of his empty sheath. "I think we both need to burn some stress off."
"Mmmm, I don't suppose you brought that dildo?" Jake rolled to his back and opened his legs, his hands busy teasing her nipples.
"No, and I want regular sex; you actually inside me. We hardly ever do it." She grinned at him, but it faded at his hurting eyes.
"I'd really rather not."
"Why?" She settled on her side again and draped an arm across his chest.
"I really don't care for it, honestly." Jake rolled his head to look at her. "It's nothing to do with you. I just ... it brings back bad memories."
"Of ..." she flattened her ears.
He looked up at the ceiling. "Please don't be angry. I ... Pat and I shared a first time, hers and mine. It didn't go very well. I've never ... I can't stop hearing her scream when I do it like that."
"Oh, goddess." Felina let herself collapse. "I ... is there nothing in your life that went well?"
"You love me." He whispered very quietly. "It's more than I ever dared hope for. Please," he rolled to brace his chest against her side, "let me please you. Let me do as I want."
Felina smiled sadly and pulled him forward into a long kiss. "If it pleases you, my body is yours."
He lowered his head for another deep kiss. "It does, and will."
When Chance woke in the morning he was curled up alone in bed, with the covers bunched about him. He groaned softly as he stretched, wincing as a thousand tiny aches sprung up all over his body, but enjoying the warmth and the knowledge that he had on particular need to get up. He lazily drew himself up into a sitting position, casting his eyes around the room that he hadn't had a chance to examine the night before. His gaze fell immediately on a scrap of silk, the only object marring the otherwise clean floor.
The remains of his boxers, lying where they had fallen when Feral tore them from his body last night.
He kicked the covers away and almost fell over himself in his hurry to get out of the bed, his desire to linger there extinguished by the memory of what had gone on the night before. He scooped up the scrap of silk and just stood, running it through his fingers and over his hands. His heart pounded in his chest, urging him to get out of the apartment, of the building, of the city. To just run as far and as fast as he could. It was an instinct that had gotten him out of trouble before, but Chance knew that even if he could gather the determination to leave he wouldn't even make it to the door. Feral just had to touch him and he'd roll over and do whatever the other Kat wanted. The Commander hadn't even had a hold of him for 24 hours and he couldn't leave, and he wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to anymore. He couldn't remember the last time he'd come as hard as he had last night.
Shaking his head at the situation Chance opened the door and stepped out, heading for the room he'd dumped his bag in and something to cover himself up with. He hadn't taken two steps before the smells of breakfast found his nose, prompting growls of hunger in his stomach and tempting him in the opposite direction than he'd intended. It had been almost four days since he'd had a decent meal and his licked his lips at the thought of sizzling bacon. It only took a moment for his stomach to overcome his misgivings, after all Feral had done much more than just see him naked, and send him searching for the kitchen.
It didn't take him long to find what he was after, though the sheer range of food to be found sent Chance rocking on his heels. He'd found the bacon he was after, but there was also a wide range of fruits, eggs and omelets in a variety of styles, even an assortment of pastries and Danishes set out on the serving benches framing the table in the center. He'd been to hotels with a more meager breakfast menu that Feral seemed to enjoy. The Commander himself chuckled softly as he looked up from his own plate to see Chance standing in the doorway.
"There's a café on the ground floor, a little pricey but worth every cent. It's much easier for me to have breakfast sent up than worry about cooking for myself in the mornings." Feral told him, brushing a spray of crumbs of the sleeve of his black robe.
"But you can't possibly eat all this," Chance said weakly, dropping into a chair opposite.
"Certainly not!" Feral said, laughing at both the question and the stunning effect the spread was having on the tabby. "I just wasn't sure what you ate. If there's anything that's not here I can call and have some sent up."
"Urrrr, no," Chance replied, shaking his head slowly. "I'm sure I'll manage to find something."
Feral chuckled again as he turned back to his own meal, waving Chance in the direction of the food with his other hand. The tabby grabbed a plate and set too, all concerns about his nakedness melting away in the face of the glorious meal ahead. He piled his plate high with bacon and eggs, adding a couple of slices of melon as an afterthought, and dug in with relish. The food was wonderful, especially in comparison to the bland meals they'd served him at the hospital and he rapidly made his way through his first helping, forcing any comparison with Jake's cooking down with a vengeance. He headed back to the serving benches, picking up more bacon, a croissant, a pair of little cakes and some more melon. He was halfway through this second helping when he realized Feral was watching him.
He'd just glanced up towards the other Kat, not expecting to see him watching so intently, to be pinned by his gaze. His fork hovered between the plate and his mouth as a smile crossed the Commander's face.
"It's good see someone who enjoys what they're eating," he commented casually.
"Oh I ... ummm ... it's been a while since I ate properly," Chance replied, self-consciously.
Feral's smirk grew fractionally wider. "So I see. I hope you understand that things like that won't be a problem while you're staying here."
Chance set his fork down and did his best to put on a confronting attitude. Given what had gone on last night it wasn't his best performance ever. "Look, I know you're loaded and everything but I'm not the kind to be a kept kitten." He cursed himself silently for referring to himself that way. Feral just widened that maddening smile a little more.
"True, and I've got some ideas about that which I'll share with you later, but first I've got something for you." He drew something out of his sleeve and tossed it across the table to land next to Chance's plate. A square envelope of flimsy transparent plastic, containing something black. Moving slowly Chance picked up the package and opened it, shaking out the contents and unfolding them. It was the T-Bone mask, more or less. Flat black with details done in white. Chance's fingers trembled as they traced along it, immediately noting the differences between this mask and the last one he'd worn. The eyes were only drawn on. There were muffled sections that could be folded over his ears. It was a mask that was meant to blind him rather than hide him, and to deafen him into the bargain.
"You want me to wear this," he said eventually, his trembling voice barely more than a whisper.
"Yes," Feral replied simply. "Put it on."
Chance didn't move. For a moment he couldn't move, his entire body shaking. He eyes flicked up to meet Feral's but even if he'd know what he was looking for he wouldn't have found it in the other Kat's granite face. He managed to swallow, though his throat still felt dry. He knew he should say something, anything, but he could barely open his mouth let alone form a sentence.
"I ..." he managed, but didn't get any further. Feral drew himself up, sliding his chair out of the way as he took two short steps towards Chance.
"Put it on," he repeated, his voice quiet but showing all the steel required to make him Commander of the Enforcers. Chance's hands reacted instinctively to the commanding tone, bringing the mask up towards his face as Feral stood over him, and swallowed nervously. Pulling the mask down over his eyes plunged him into absolute darkness, the tugging of Feral's fingers as he made sure the mask was seated properly and the reassuring solidity of the chair beneath him became the only things in Chance's world.
"Stand up," Feral's voice instructed out of the void, a soft but firm whisper by his ear. Chance trembled and lifted himself up out of the chair, resisting the growing urge to reach out for something to hold onto. He took a couple of small steps to one side; just enough to satisfy his need to show that he wasn't completely helpless.
"Very good. Now go into the living room." Chance could feel the tension melt out of him as he reached up to take off the mask, only to have it return in greater strength when his wrist was caught in Feral's grasp. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear," the Commander hissed. "Go into the living room, without removing your mask." The blind tabby's jaw hung loose, denial forming in his throat but not quite making it to his lips. Even if he'd had a good grasp of the layout of Feral's apartment he wouldn't have been able to make it to the living room without slamming into every available wall and piece of furniture. Just the thought of the futile attempt brought hot blood rushing to his cheeks and he was thankful that the mask would hide his embarrassment at least.
"You're waiting for something?" Feral prompted him, releasing Chance's wrist and leaving him standing alone in his personal darkness.
"I can't do it," the tabby mumbled softly, turning his head away from the other Kat's voice.
"And why not?" This time the voice came from a different direction and Chance had a sudden vision of himself, blinded, with Feral stalking around him in circles just like a cadet who'd screwed up.
"Because I'm blind, sir." He pulled himself up and spoke with less defiance, though he couldn't quite muster the confidence to strike a parade stance.
"Indeed you are," Feral agreed, his voice coming from behind Chance. "But the answer to that is simple. Just walk towards my voice."
The next few minutes were one of the most nerve-wracking times Chance could remember, every moment certain that Feral was leading him into some obstacle or another as he slowly moved through the apartment. Eventually Feral told him to stand still, and a moment after Chance heard the sound of curtains being drawn and felt the warmth of sunlight on his fur, though it did nothing to penetrate the darkness.
"Now," Feral whispered from close behind him, making Chance's ear flick in surprise, "Get down on your hands and knees." The blind walk had drained whatever resistance the tabby might otherwise have offered and he sank compliantly to the floor, resigned to the fact that the moment he had been expecting and dreading since he arrived had come. His head and tail both hung limply down, his heart thumping like a jackhammer in his chest as Feral traced a finger down his spine.
"I'm going to the bedroom for a moment," Feral said, a softer note making an unexpected appearance beneath the commanding tone he'd used before. "Don't move."
Feral smiled as he stepped back into the living room a little more than a minute later, naked. Chance was, as expected, still kneeling by the large windows, the sunlight picking out every detail, every slight tremor. The smile widened as he approached, setting the things he'd brought with him down on the coffee table where they'd be easily accessible. The mask had been a gamble, but a good one as it turned out. The air around Chance was already filling with the scent of his arousal, though Feral doubted the tabby even realized the way his body betrayed him, or was willing to admit to himself exactly what he was feeling. Yet.
Of course there was no small amount of fear evident in Chance's scent as well, but nothing short of experience would cure that. Feral set his fingertips on Chance's hips, tracing them slowly down his thighs before sliding across to move up the insides of his legs. Chance's sheath was warm and heavy already, but as Feral's fingers glided along it he could feel the tabby's cock swelling within, it's shape becoming more distinct. Feral left one hand cupping Chance's sheath as the other slid away, through the tabby's legs and towards the base of his tail. The tabby's body teased up as Feral brushed his tail aside, exposing the entrance to his body. The tip of Chance's tail lashed against Feral's leg as he drew a fingertip across the twitching pucker, at the same time squeezing the blind tom's sheath gently. A smile crossed Feral's face at the soft whimper that escaped Chance as his hand slid away from his groin. He reached down and grabbed the tube of clear gel up from the coffee table, squeezing a generous glob out onto his fingers.
Chance's back arched as Feral's fingers slid back underneath his tail, circling gently around the tight ring of muscle, coating it with the gel.
"Damn, that's cold." The tabby gasped, his body trembling softly as Feral's fingers continued their work.
A soft, low chuckle was offered in response. "It won't bother you for too long," the commander promised. "You'll have other things on your mind."
Feral ran one hand along Chance's side, stroking him gently as he set a slick fingertip against the blind Kat's opening. He pressed forward, sinking his finger into Chance and dragging a ragged groan out from his chest. The tabby's breath came in loud, rapid gasps as Feral's finger moved inside him, doing as thorough a job of coating his insides with gel as he had the outside. Feral's other hand reached through Chance's legs, reaching up to take hold of the other Kat's cock, now grown thick and hard. Inside Chance's body a finger moved slowly back and forward, starting to loosen the clenched and nervous flesh, while the motion was motions were echoed by the hand curled around his cock.
The tabby cried out wordlessly as a second finger joined the first inside him, the trembling of his body growing more and more pronounced as they slid back and forth. The Commander kept his movements slow and even, confident that he could take his time. Only when he was good and ready, when Chance was silent but for soft, wordless sounds as the fingers pushed forward and precum drooled freely from his cock, did Feral draw his fingers back out of the kneeling Kat's body. The larger Kat grinned as he picked up the other object he'd brought back from the bedroom. Chance's rapid, gasping breathing was the only sound in the room as Feral smeared gel over the surface of the dildo, smiling. He didn't keep any toys that were bigger than what he had between his legs, but he'd had a few Kats kneeling on his floor who'd struggled to get around this one early on.
Chance whimpered softly as the end of the dildo rested against his opening, his head hanging limply down between his arms and the musk of his arousal hanging heavy in the air.
"Oh God," he moaned softly. "Please."
"Please?" Feral repeated, a smile spreading across his face as he teased the blind Kat. "But of course the real question is please what?"
"Please!" Chance repeated, almost sobbing as the dildo pressed briefly against his tailhole and then slid away.
"Shhhhhhh," the Commander murmured, running a hand along Chance's side. "Poor little kitten, you can say it."
There was a long moment of silence before Chance responded, his voice soft and raw. "Please. More." He groaned through clenched teeth a moment later as Feral slid the dildo through into his body, stretching him wider and wider. Once again, the commander saw fit to take his time, moving the dildo smoothly through the tabby's passage, removing it completely just to penetrate Chance's body again. Eventually, once he'd wrung every moan and groan out of the other Kat, Feral slid the dildo all the way forward until it's wide base was pressed against Chance's flesh and the dildo was buried deep inside him.
Moving slowly and silently, Feral stood and padded around to Chance's front. The tabby was sweating and trembling, his attention no doubt occupied by the solid length of dildo buried in his ass. Smiling, the Commander got down onto his knees, carefully maneuvering his hips so that the tip of his rigid cock brushed against Chance's lips.
The surprise was obvious on the tabby's face, even through the mask. "How?" he murmured hoarsely.
"Never you mind how," Feral growled, taking hold of Chance's head and sliding his cock past those lips. Chance eagerly did his best to please but the larger Kat's lusts, stoked by the extended games, soon had him thrusting his hips forcefully. "I'm harder, and thicker, and longer than that piece of plastic you begged for," he said, reinforcing each boast with a thrust deep towards Chance's throat. "And I'll ride your ass just as hard as I fuck your face." He only needed a few more thrusts before his cock spilled its seed out into the tabby's mouth, long thick ropes of cum that the smaller Kat struggled to swallow.
Feral's hands slid under the mask to draw it off as he moved away. Chance just uttered a soft sigh and rolled over onto his back, his limbs tangled round him. Slowly he reached one hand between his legs to grasp the dildo and, aware of Feral standing over and watching, slowly draw it out of him. He held it up so that he could see it, the trembling of his body visible in the way the tip of the dildo wobbled.
"Thicker than that, huh?" He murmured softly as his other hand drifted between his legs as well, feeling too drained to lift his voice.
"Thicker than that," Feral confirmed, grabbing Chance's wrist just moments before his fingers reached his straining cock. "I hope I don't have to come into the shower with you to make sure you don't play with that." Chance's eyes flicked to focus on Feral's face, only to find the Commander's steel gaze staring back.
Chance held that stare for a few moments but wasn't too long about turning his eyes away, as both Kats had known he would.
When Chance emerged sometime later, showered but still not dressed, he found Feral standing by the windows, looking out across the city. He grumbled softly as he perched himself on the couch, sitting uncomfortably. Feral turned from his contemplation of the view towards the tabby, his manner grave and businesslike.
"I have decided it's time to tell you the truth about the SWAT Kats. It will help you to function more effectively." His voice was flat and quiet.
"The truth about SWAT?" Chance replied, some measure of his frustration finding an outlet in his voice. "The only thing I need to know about SWAT is that I'm not a part of it anymore, and I doubt I'll be forgetting that in a hurry."
Feral absorbed the statement silently, though his eyes shifted focus to stare intently at Chance. "Not a part of it?"
"Damn right. I could not be less a SWAT Kat if I was Dark Kat himself."
"Chance, SWAT has to fly. I do not exaggerate when I say the city will not survive long without them."
Chance gave a dismissive shrug. "Get someone else."
"What? I don't understand." Feral's head shook slowly from side to side as he took a few steps towards the other Kat.
"Get someone else," Chance repeated, raising his voice a little. "It shouldn't be that hard to understand. There is nothing you can do, or say, that will get me in that jet, so if SWAT is so important to you you're gonna have to get someone else."
"It's not that easy!" Feral growled, standing over Chance now. "T-Bone and Razor are a finely turned team. You know how much work goes into getting that balance right. You have a responsibility to he people of this city."
"Like hell I do!" Chance shouted back, getting up to his feet and pointing out the window. "Let me tell you something about those people Commander. They have a lot of Kats defending them. The have the MCP. They have the Enforcers. They have people like you and Felina, damn probably your whole family, who devote their entire lives to the defense of this city, and those jerks down there will never know it. Aren't you just great? You're so noble. So selfless." The tabby lifted his eyes to stare into Feral's face, almost snarling. "I'm not. I didn't do it for them. I did it for me. I did it because I thought it would piss you off. So you can take your responsibility and shove it."
Before Chance even realized the commander had moved a muscle he was on top of him, one hand grabbing him around the throat, the other between his legs holding tight to Chance's still-rampant cock and balls.
"You're certainly right about one thing Chance," the Commander hissed softly by his captive's ear, "I will do anything to ensure the safety of this city. Whether you like it or not you are an integral part of our defenses and I will not let you walk away from that." Chance started to make muted choking noises, but it wasn't for a moment that Feral realized that he was trying to speak and loosened his grip with a curt apology.
"Pilots are never made to fly with gunners they don't trust. Even in Academy." The tabby gasped.
"That's right," Feral replied, unsure how it could be relevant.
"So don't make me fly with Clawson." For a moment, both Kats were absolutely still. Then Feral gradually eased his grip and stepped away.
"Because I can't fly with him," Chance continued, rubbing at his throat. "I don't want to talk to him. I don't want to see him. If he asks, you might as well tell him I left on that bus, because I don't want be hearing 'How are things going?' or 'Felina and I are just great' or 'Are we okay?' What he did ... what he did is not an okay thing." Feral just stood in place during Chance's tirade, watching the other Kat intently.
"There's more." The commander said softly when he was sure Chance had finished.
"How would you know?" The tabby spat.
"I don't know what went on, but I do know there are things he hasn't told you. You know, now, that SWAT was a project sanctioned by the Enforcers."
Chance nodded weakly for a moment before the implication sunk in. "Jake knew?"
"Why? Why did you tell him, and not me?" Chance asked shakily, sitting himself back down on the couch.
"We didn't," Feral replied softly. "He told us."
"You're saying it was his idea?" Chance's voice grew shakier with every word. "That's ... that's nuts. I mean, he was there. When I thought I'd never fly again, when I was insanely angry with you. He ... he pulled me out of bars and ... and ... and it's all his fault?"
Whatever Feral had been going to say in reply was lost in the blast of an explosion outside the window, sending both Kats diving instinctively for the floor. Feral's head came up again, moments later, gazing out to see an unpleasantly familiar sight. Aircraft exchanged fire in the skies about MegaKat City, stray shots exploding against buildings and downed planes crashing onto the streets below.
He was on his feet and headed towards the door in a moment, training and instinct doing their work, but he was bought to a halt by the sight of Chance, curled up and huddled behind the couch.
"Chance ..." he began, but was cut off as an enforcer jet chased an unrecognized crimson and burgundy aircraft right past the window.
"Go on." The tabby snarled when the planes had passed. "Go save your precious people."
"Are you ..."
This time it was Chance himself who interrupted. "Just get the fuck out! It's not like there's anywhere I can go before you get back anyway."
"You're not coming?"
Chance lifted his head to stare at the Commander, growling softly. "And why in hell would I want to do that?"
Ulysses Feral's face was a fearsome thing when he was truly angry. His rage was apparent in every aspect of his person; in his stance, in his gait, in his voice, but it was his face which people went to the most trouble to avoid. There were always a number of people in the lobby of the apartment building, but Feral found a path clearing before him even faster than usual as he stalked from the doors to the lifts, and slammed the call button.
It wasn't so much that he'd been needed on one of his very few days off. It wasn't that he'd been called away from what was shaping up to be a very interesting and enjoyable situation with Chance. It wasn't even that someone had had the gall to fly attack craft into his city, although that was enough to put him into a dark mood on it's own. What was really riding the Commander's back was that by the time he'd gotten into a position to be of any use to the situation, there hadn't been a situation left. Even the clean up crews had gotten there before he had. There was no denying that Silvereye was a capable officer, but Feral knew exactly what the Enforcers had, and even with SWAT they couldn't have cleared the skies that quickly.
The lift opened and he stepped inside, swiping a keycard through the reader to disable the locks keeping the lift from stopping on his floor. In the privacy of the moving lift the Commander finally allowed the growl that had been fighting it's way up his throat to be heard. As much as he desperately wanted to find out the details of what had happened, he knew he wouldn't have a chance until tomorrow. Bulling around in the middle of the cleanup was no way to find what he wanted; the secret he was after would find too many places to hide in the chaos. Better to wait until the morning, when things were quiet and he could hunt the truth down properly. Still, the tension in him made his palms itch as he stepped out of the elevator. He was going to grab that tabby and push him to the floor and ...
The chain of thought stopped the moment he came through into the living room. Chance was curled up on the floor, just where Feral had left him more than an hour and a half ago.
Feral was down on his knees beside the striped tom in a heartbeat, holding the Kat's head in his hands and probing gently to make sure it was whole. Chance tried to tug his head away but Feral switched his grip, pressing Chance's head into his lap and stroking the fur over his neck and shoulders. The tabby fought him for a few moments before relaxing, lying still with his eyes closed as Feral's hands ran across his naked body.
"I'm going to assume you haven't been lying on the floor just for the fun of it. What's wrong?"
"What's right?" Chance grumbled softly. "I swear I'd kill for a drink just now."
Feral answered with a soft growl. "It's a wonder that it's never killed you. I'm sure that by now you've discovered that I'm not keeping any here."
"More's the pity." The tabby fell into a sullen silence, eventually speaking only when it became apparent that Feral wouldn't. "Did we win?"
"The city stands. We won, although I'd love to know how." He spoke softly, his fingers constantly moving through Chance's fur. "I won't be able to find out until tomorrow, but there's not much that can keep itself secret from me for long." Chance made a soft, ambiguous noise in his throat and moved to rise but Feral wasn't having any of it. "You might not want to do this, but I will know what's had you lying here," he said calmly as he pressed Chance's face into him groin. "Unless you can think of another task we might turn that tongue of yours to."
The tabby hissed and spat, but Feral had him at a disadvantage and he only struggled for a few seconds. "When were we chosen for SWAT?" He whispered softly.
"Jake was part of it from the beginning, it was stipulated to us that he would be involved. When the two of you scored so highly as a pair in the Academy, and then lived up to those scores in real situations we knew that you would be his partner."
"Stipulated? By who?"
"Cathedral," Feral replied in a slightly darker tone. "The group that Jake works for. SWAT was a joint project."
Chance shook his head slowly. "That can't be right. They'd have had to choose him before he was trained. It doesn't make any sense."
"Jake ..." Feral hesitated for a moment, taking a moment to choose his words. "Jake didn't come to the Academy for training. He went through to take advantage of our pairing techniques. Even wearing the uniform he wasn't really an Enforcer."
The tabby drew himself into a sitting position, batting Feral's hands away. "He must have been! He must have ... he had a badge number and records and stuff. Just like me."
"True," Feral nodded, "and like yours those files are sealed and secured. Ultraviolet, two levels of security above what we admit to the public. The difference is that his were there from the beginning."
"And he knew." The words spat themselves out of Chance's mouth. "The pair of you have been manipulating and using me since the beginning."
"And you have been a very effective tool, make no mistake. But even the sharpest tools need to be directed properly to get a job done." Feral reached across the space between them to take a firm hold of Chance's shoulder. "I'm loathe to put away a piece which has been so effective."
This time the tabby snarled, shaking the hand off and showing his teeth. "And what if it just jumps off the board? You can fuck me all you like, but I won't be involved in this. I don't share your high ideals, remember?"
"Frankly, I could care less why you do it. You might remember who you're talking to, the Kat who's manipulated you since the beginning, who would use any means, any means, to protect the city. Do it because it gives you a thrill, do it because I'm fucking you, do it because I'll pay you to, or just because you like to shoot people. Do what I say, when I say it, and you can have whatever motivation you want."
Chance leaned back, turning his face down towards the ground. "I don't like to shoot people."
"Maybe you'll learn to," Feral replied with a smirk. "But I think I know what you would like. Top of the line gear. Operational discretion. Short hours. High pay. More security clearance than most people even know exists." He paused for a moment, watching Chance intently. "I call them my Teeth, and naturally they only answer to me."
"Real 'Secret Agent Kat' stuff." Chance murmured softly. "Of course, you're pulling my strings again."
A small smile crossed Feral's face. "I am, but at least I'm honest about it. You'll always know where you stand."
"How sweet." The acid was thick in Jake voice.
"Wha ..." Chance eyes went wide, then narrowed at the sight of his former partner leaning against the balcony's sliding glass door in a uniform that resembled Razor's, but wasn't quite. "You ..." he growled as recognition kicked in.
"What are you doing here?" Feral was on his feet in a moment, placing himself squarely between the former partners as he glared at an apparently unconcerned Jake.
"What I didn't have the guts to do before." He locked eyes with the naked tabby sitting on the floor. "Tell you all of what's happened, not just what you've asked about."
"You mean how you've been in on this all along?" Chance was on his feet with fists clenched. "That I've just been a patsy for you? That you've lied to me from the beginning?"
"Yes, I've been in on the SWAT project from the beginning. It was my baby, my idea. Still is." Jake crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes in turn as Ulysses unobtrusively shifted out from between them and watched in utter fascination. "But I never lied to you, and you were never a patsy."
"Like hell ...."
"I never told you the full truth," Jake inclined his head slightly, "that's true. But I never told you a lie."
"Like crap!" Chance all but exploded. "You told me you were an Enforcer."
"I was." Jake snarled back. "I earned my badge and rank just like you." A low hiss escaped his throat. "I didn't get cut any breaks because of why I was there." His razor-edged gaze shifted to the Commander for a moment. "I better not have been."
"You weren't," Ulysses acknowledged reluctantly. "Neither of you were."
"You said we were partners." Chance barely acknowledged the exchange. "You spent all that time dragging me out of bars when I thought I'd never fly again. You told me SWAT would be a good way to get back at him," he continued, stabbing a finger towards Feral, "when it was your fault. Your fault."
Jakes shook his head and growled. "That's not the way it was."
"I was there Jake, I remember exactly how it was. So now you're here to make up?" Chance snapped back. "Pretend it's all better?"
"No," Jake voice lost most of it edge to sadness as he shook his head. "Any ... option ... we may have had for making amends and remaining partners was lost years ago."
"Years? Well thank you so much for telling me Jake. Sure, you're better at this stuff than I am, but you don't think it was worth a mention?"
"And accomplish what?" He hissed with ears flat. "SWAT had to fly, and don't you dare try to tell me you didn't enjoy it. That we weren't compatible outside the cockpit was moot until Black Phoenix was ready to fly. Something that your self-centered, close-minded ego forced out two years before we were ready." Jake's voice went utterly cold. "You should have been the squad's premier pilot, our squadron leader. But instead you're playing kitten for the Commander you hated so much."
"I am no one's kitten!" Chance roared in raw defiance and lunged for the lean tom.
"Hay!" Even as Feral stepped in to separate them it was over. Jake was in a defensive stance and Chance was sprawled on his back against the balcony railings.
"Then why are you naked in Uly's apartment, with your face in his crotch no less?" Jake crossed his arms with a snort as the tabby got to his feet and Feral stepped between them again. "I can smell what you've been up to here easily enough." A thoughtfully cruel expression flicked across his face. "Maybe if I'd let you remember everything we did, you'd play kitten for me, and you'd still be flying the TurboKat."
"At least he's being level with me." Chance made an unconscious attempt to cover his nudity and growled. "And we never ...."
"Oh, no? You want to know why you didn't bleed for a week that first time Feral took you? Cause I know he wasn't all that careful. Want to know why you're not bleeding from it now, why it feels so damn good even as it makes your mind sick and you don't know why?" Jake spat, his fur half bristled as both toms stared at him. "It's because your body's used to it. Your mind may not remember my touch, but your body does, and likes it."
"What is Black Phoenix?" Ulysses cut in before Chance could muster a reply, very much not wanting to hear any more of that discussion.
"A SWAT squadron." Jake answered softly as he shifted his attention to the brown tomkat. "We have three teams ready, including mine. We're what sent the current invasion packing so fast."
"So this was your plan all along?" Chance hissed as he dropped into a crouch. "Glad I screwed up the timing for you. You come around here saying 'should have been' and 'would have been' and trying to make it all my fault. You're perfectly happy to be responsible for your project when it's going well ... why not just have the guts to admit you screwed me over?"
"No, it wasn't the plan." Jake shook his head. "You should have been SWAT's premier pilot, our squadron leader, but you can't fly the jets we need, or have." He met the pilot's glare with a steady gaze. "I've had to let the TurboKat fall well behind the technology curve so you could keep flying her."
"I don't believe you."
"You want proof?" Jake snarled in a sudden explosion, the pain of years rumbling from his chest. "You want to try to fly a true SWAT Kat's jet? One of the Black Phoenix?"
"I can fly anything." Chance shot back, shrugging off Feral's hand and standing under his own power.
Jake stood silent for a moment, then smiled, giving him a truly sadistic look before he whistled. "Get dressed, Chance. Here's your chance to prove me wrong." He growled softly as a pilotless sleek black and red aircraft VTOLed down to hold steady on level with the balcony. "Fly Amerith and she's yours, along with anything you want from me."
The tabby chuckled softly, gracing Jake with a vicious look of his own. "You know sure shot, it turns out there's something we agree on. I'm not a SWAT Kat. I'm going back to live my life the way it was going to be, before you hi-jacked it to play your little game. So I'm gonna fly your pretty jet, and I'm gonna take her from you, but I'll be damned if I ever fly so much as a kite with you again."
"Fool Kat." Jake hissed under his breath as the tabby stalked off to get dressed.
"What will you claim when you win this wager?" Ulysses asked quietly as he came to stand near Jake, his eyes never leaving the two-seat fighter from another world as it hovered silently outside.
"Nothing," the lean tom shook his head and glanced at the giant next to him. "There's nothing I could do that would come close to matching him knowing I can fly a jet he can't." Jake walked out to pat the fuselage affectionately. "Give him the ride of his life, Amee, and give him a fair chance. If he really can fly a PsiJet, we need to know."
"You know I will, on both counts." A silky, feminine voice crooned from the cockpit. "I'm not Flight Leader for nothing."
Jake actually chuckled. "You're Flight Leader because you're mine."
"And I'm bloody good at the job." The jet huffed. "Kellra keeps trying, but I'm just better than her."
"That you are, Amee, that you are." He stepped away as Chance came back into view and walked to the jet with a sneer for Jake, and under Feral's concerned eye.
"I hope you're ready to loose her." He grinned with an appreciative eye for a craft he had to admit did look far superior to the TurboKat. He jumped on the wing and into the cockpit with nearly his usual flair, and froze in the seat.
"Something wrong, hot shot?" Jake's voice was pure mocking.
"What kind of jet doesn't have a stick?" He hissed, ears flat in a mixture of rage and confusion.
"A PsiJet." Amerith informed him evenly, making him jerk back slightly. "I use the most advanced control interface yet developed."
"So where's the helmet, or whatever?" He glared at the blank panel in front of him as it lit up and ignored Jake's snicker.
An exasperated sigh emanated from the jet. "There isn't one." She informed him bluntly. "Place you hands on the control surfaces. Look, just rest your arms naturally and see where they land. That's a good boy."
Chance managed a low growl before the canopy slid forward and sealed shut.
"Well, that should knock his ego down a few notches." Jake smirked as the Amerith made a lazy slid away from the building and up to blue sky.
"Why did you come, really?" Ulysses asked as they watched the black craft shrink into a dot.
"Don't worry, she won't hurt him." Jake smiled slightly at him, a friendly smile, then sighed. "I came to offer him a future in the air, if he wanted it. Not to fight."
Feral couldn't help the smirk that crossed his face. "You've given him his future all right, though probably not the way you intended. I doubt there's anything I could have said which would have convinced him to return to the tower as surely as your little visit has."
Jake sighed in defeat. "I know."
"He told me that everything he did on SWAT was motivated by his hatred for me. He flew to infuriate me, to show me up and to prove himself better than me. It was about revenge for what he thought I'd done. It not easy to produce motivation like that, but you've done nicely." The big tom jerked suddenly. "Wait, you know?"
"I'll do anything to protect this city, and my friends, you know that." Jake's eyes lost their focus. "If he can't work with me, I can at least provide him with the motivation for being something more than a fuck-toy for you. I owe him that much for what I did to him."
"You really hurt him, walking away like that."
Jake nodded and hugged himself. "I knew I would hurt him doing that. Didn't think he'd take it this bad, but I didn't have a choice. Another night ..." he shook his head, "I would have killed him."
"That bad?" He arched an eyebrow at the small Kat still staring into the empty sky.
"You know me, Uly." He met sharp yellow eyes. "You know how much I can take. And I know you know what happens when I can't take any more."
The big tom couldn't help the shiver that flicked through his body at the mention of that night; the one time he'd seriously misjudged his bedmate. He still carried deep scars from witnessing a much younger Jake Clawson snap, and a deeper gratitude that the tom had been relatively untrained at the time. He shook his head to make the image of Chance facing the combat hardened version of that night go away. "Was it really just the sex?"
Jake shot him a curious look and shook his head. "No, like I said, I got that from him."
"Somehow I doubt the sex is what he'll have the biggest problem with. How's Felina?" Ulysses abruptly changed the subject before his stomach decided to make him regret digging.
"Alternating between shock and a kit in a candy store." He smiled for real. "She's at Cathedral, she got to fly a Veritech in the last battle. She's got quite the head for it apparently. Kellra and Sheir think she might be strong enough to fly a PsiJet when Queth is finished."
"Don't you dare try to take my .... "
"Relax, will you." Jake waved at him dismissively. "She does far more good as an Enforcer than she could as a SWAT Kat. But I'll be damned if I don't give my fiancé the best chance at survival I can."
Ulysses actually managed a chuckle at that. "That's one thing I can't fault you for."
"And don't even bother warning me to treat her better than I've treated Chance." He didn't even look up at the bigger tom as he tapped the silver collar. "I know you remember the conversation these came up in."
"Yes," Ulysses nodded slightly. "I remember that." He was interrupted half way through forming a question by a beep from Jake's wrist.
"NightRazor here." He answered immediately into a wristcom.
"Sorry sir," a young, excited male voice responded, "but we just got confirmation that a bomber fleet with fighter escort is incoming. Cathedral and the Enforcers are scrambling, and Pat wants you and Lt. Comdr. Feral to lead the intercept."
"Understood," Jake nodded as Amerith came back into view at high speed. "I'll meet you at Enforcer Headquarters."
"Urr, okay. BlackFire out."
"I'll give you a lift if you want," Jake nodded to Ulysses as Amerith came to a hover against the balcony.
Chance climbed out of the silent jet, sweat-soaked and completely shaken. He refused to look at either tom watching him intently, and gave no resistance when Ulysses stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"I have to go, there's another attack coming." Ulysses spoke softly, not making any attempt to conceal his concern for the tabby.
"Then go." Chance managed to hold his voice steady, even as his body and scent betrayed him. "I won't be going anywhere anytime soon."
"Just go!" He snapped and pushed the big tom's hand away. "I need a shower."
Ulysses hesitated only a moment longer before leaping into the front seat of the jet.
Jake waited only until the canopy closed. "Be besides getting the spirit scared out of him, how'd he do?"
"Pretty good, really." Amerith's perky tone startled Feral. "The initial scans were right about him not being a PsiPilot, but he's slightly better than reports gave him credit for too. He'd do very well in a Heritage or Veritech, anything short of an AI or PsiPilot/ TechoMage relationship, really.
"And just what did you do to shake him up that badly?" Jake prompted.
"Nothing, really." She shied away from the question. "I never broke six G's or level three maneuvers."
"And that means?" Ulysses asked in as they came in for a VTOL landing near a petit black and white longfurred tom in a Black Phoenix uniform.
"Nothing he hasn't done in the TurboKat." Jake explained as the canopy slid back. "Good luck."
"Uh, thanks." Ulysses shot him one last look before swinging down from the wing as the longfur jumped up, claiming a kiss from his gunner before taking the front seat and lifting off.
Chance stumbled from the living room towards the bathroom as Jake's jet lifted away from the balcony, carrying Commander Feral away with it. There was something wrong with him, he realized as he made it into the bathroom, he couldn't keep himself walking straight, he was having trouble focusing. His hands trembled as he struggled to strip his clothes off, some of the buttons took him two, or even three attempts. In the end he just gave up and tore them away. He spun the water on and stepped into the shower, running the water hot and steaming to drive out the chill he felt, standing under the stream of water and resting his head against the wall, trying to recover his self-control.
That jet had done something to him. Jake's Jet. Of all the stupid things he'd ever done, letting that Kat goad him into sitting in that chair had to be amongst the dumbest. Chance could fly anything with wings, and a few things that didn't, but that damned jet wouldn't so much as turn at his command. Of course in hindsight it wasn't hard to understand why. No-one could fly a plane that had be designed not to be flown, and Clawson seemed to have the resources to spend on tormenting Chance.
The tabby let out a frustrated roar and slammed his head against the wall, blurring his vision for a moment before it sharpened again. That was a little better, though the water wasn't doing much to warm him. He turned the heat up and grabbed a bottle of soap, rubbing it through his fur to try and clear away some of the sweat. He couldn't remember ever being so terrified, even though the jet hadn't done anything that he'd never done in the TurboKat himself. There was the difference right there, Chance realized as he rinsed the soap away from his shoulders and chest. Flying was always something he'd done, never something he'd had done to him. Jake had put him in a flying box and shaken it just as hard as he could.
And the jet had laughed at him the whole time.
Laughed and mocked and tried to give him flight lessons as though he'd been ground-bound all his life. He set the soap down for a moment and took his head between his hands. She'd done something to him, aside from the terrorizing, something to his head. Constantly trying to get him to 'open up', just so she could get inside his head and screw him up, just like the kat who made her.
His mind shied away from where that though was headed. He turned the heat up again, filling the shower with steam as he picked up the soap again and squeezed some into his hands. If he never saw Clawson again it'd be too soon, he told himself as he rubbed the soap into the fur covering his thighs. The kat had made it quite clear that he wanted nothing to do with Chance, and as far as the tabby was concerned that was just fine. The Commander was giving him a place in the Enforcers, a good place, and he turned out not to have been responsible for the things Chance had blamed him for anyway. Not to mention the other things between Feral and the tabby. His fingertips brushed against his sheath, slick with soap, and he snatched them away, Feral's prohibition coming instantly to mind. One day he might cross that line, but not today. With the way he was feeling there was no need to push things, but with his mind set to that track it was hard to steer it away. It seemed longer, but it was only a few hours ago that Chance had been blinded and on his knees, Feral's cock in his mouth. Just the thought of it made Chance's blood run hot, disbelief that he'd actually enjoy it swamped under by the enjoyment itself. Impossibly he found that he wanted Feral to fuck him, looked forward to it.
He lent against the wall and released a breath he hadn't even realized he was holding. Feral had been right, admitting it hadn't hurt much, although it was still a strange feeling. Just a week ago he'd never have even thought about sex with another tom, let alone actually done anything about it. Feral had only touched him for the first time a few days ago, and already Chance didn't think he'd be able to walk away. He hadn't taken to girls this quickly, and he'd been quite notorious around the Enforcer's Academy, during those times when he could keep himself sober. It didn't make all that much sense.
Unless the things that Jake had said were true.
Chance's stomach rolled as the thought he'd been avoiding came crashing down on him. Jake had raped him. Even after the things he'd learned over the last day or so Chance could scarcely believe it. If he hadn't been standing there listening to Jake then he wouldn't believe it, but with the tone of Jake's voice ringing in his had Chance knew that it was true. The only thing he knew for sure that Clawson had told him true, and Chance would rather never have heard it.
He wrapped his arms around his body and concentrated on holding back the sobs that were fighting their way up through his throat. It must have been so easy. Clawson would only have had to be a little less careful, let Chance go a little further than he should. Then everyone could see him swoop in and bundle Chance off home, the good friend taking care of his partner. Half the time he wouldn't even have needed anything more than the alcohol, but Jake would have had something at hand just in case. He could even lecture Chance about him drinking the morning after, and that had certainly happened often enough.
The thought of Jake's hands on his body made him sick, but he couldn't escape it. Clawson hadn't even mentioned anything like this to him, hadn't dropped any hints, hadn't even given Chance the smallest signal. He'd just taken what he wanted. His body shuddered, and he suddenly realized that the water was running cold. From somewhere he summoned the presence of mind to shut the water off and step out of the shower, suddenly glad for his scattered state of mind since it meant that even simple tasks like these took his entire concentration.
"You asshole!" The tabby screamed suddenly, slamming a fist against the tiled wall of the bathroom, but barely feeling the impact. There had been times when Jake was the only person he'd trusted, damn near a month where he'd barely spoken to anyone else at one point, but he was coming to learn that the Jake Clawson he'd trusted didn't even exist. He'd just been bait this other kat had used to dupe Chance into flying his jet. Chance felt something give way inside his chest, oblivious to the tears running down his face.
He screamed. Again and again.
Felina Feral resisted the impulse to make a victory roll as the last enemy plane went down, though it wasn't easy. This jet that the Cathedral people had given her was incredible, she'd never felt so much like she actually had wings herself. She could only imagine what the Black Phoenix must be feeling. She scanned the sea below for any sign that the pilot might have gotten out of his plane before it sank beneath the waves, but didn't spot anything. There'd be Enforcer coverage crews out here shortly anyway, crews who's long hours of experience made them very good at what they do.
"Felina, will that thing you're in support 018?" Her uncle's voice buzzed in her ear.
She made an exasperated noise in her throat and ran an eye over the comm system. "I think I could make it," she replied after a moment, "without too much difficulty."
Felina rolled her eyes as the end of signal click followed the Commander's curt reply, turning her attention to the panel. Enforcer Protocol 018 had been designed to be relatively simple to implement on unfamiliar equipment, and Felina was pleased to find that the Cathedral system had no serious problems with the re-configurations. She wouldn't have wanted to pit her meager hacking skills against Cathedral-style defenses.
"Felina on 018, confirm." She announced, in accordance with the protocol. This was followed by a series of electronic tones as equipment on the other end analyzed her transmitters.
"Tower confirms 018," The Commander's voice come after the tones, "And I do hope you'll remember to clear these settings before you send that thing home."
"Of course, though if you really wanted security this isn't the way to do it. What's up?"
"I need you to get to my apartment," he told her, "The one on Arden street. I'm going to be occupied here for some time yet and there's a situation back home that needs an eye kept on it." Felina didn't miss the irritated note running under his voice, although most probably would.
"I can deal with the Tower if you want to go yourself," She offered.
"No, you're signed out from duty ... at least you're signed out from duty for us." Felina flinched a little at the acid tone. Today would not be a good day for anyone who decided to cross the Commander. "Besides, there are things that need my personal attention here. I want you in that flat as a private citizen and as my niece. Must you always question the things I ask of you?"
Felina took a moment to choose her words before replying. "Often, but I wouldn't be a Feral if I didn't. Do you really think he's in danger?"
"I think he'll be safer if you're there," he snapped, though he seemed unconcerned that she'd guessed what this was all about. "I'm not keen to have him back in hospital."
"Nor am I," Felina agreed with a sigh. "I'll be as quick as I can." She didn't bother with the proper sign off procedures, quickly re-adjusting the systems to put her back in touch with Cathedral.
"Felina Feral to Cathedral Control. I'm needed in the city, can I just set this thing down or do you need me to bring it back out there?"
"Go ahead and keep Kilsola, Artemis." Razor's voice came over the comm. "She's yours anyway, until I can build something better for you."
"Got that. Clear skies Black Phoenix." She smiled as she adjusted the transmitter again, this time onto an Enforcer operational frequency. "Flight Control this is Lieutenant Commander Feral. I'm coming back to the barn."
She turned the jet smoothly and headed straight back towards the city, still marveling at the fantastic response from her new craft. Her landing was possibly the most graceful she'd ever performed, and she couldn't help but smile at the faces of the support crew as they gaped at the machine she was in. Let someone else get Cathedral-shock for a change, even if it was just a little.
"I'm going to need ..." She began, addressing no one in particular, only to be cut off by a shout from near the exit to the hangar.
"Over here Felina!" The voice belonged to a tall, slim, very elegant looking shekat, her dark blue suit contrasting sharply with her clean white fur. Felina only hesitated a moment before heading over towards her.
"I thought you were out of the city." Felina said bluntly, forgoing the pleasantries.
"My flight has been cancelled, and the next suitable plane is not for two days." The other kat replied as she turned and headed into the corridor, clearly expecting Felina to follow. "It is highly inconvenient."
"Yes, well, we all have these little problems." Felina muttered under her breath, hurrying to keep up with the woman's brisk stride.
"In the meantime," the white kat continued as though Felina hadn't spoken, "I'm to take you to the Commander's private apartment. Immediately." She turned a corner sharply, heading towards the garages.
"Right, just let me change and then ..." The white kat stopped, turning to face Felina with a raised eyebrow.
"Immediately." She repeated, pausing only a few moments before heading off again. Felina growled softly, and muttered a few choice words under her breath before following. There was no point in arguing with the woman, she'd tried that before and all she'd gotten was a headache. The white furred automaton was a member of her Uncle's personal staff though, and if he'd actually used the word 'immediately' in her presence then she could no more fight it than she could fight gravity. She sighed and hurried down the corridor.
Felina was fuming by the time she stalked into Uly's apartment building, heading straight for the lifts as the whitefur approached the security desk to see about getting past the locks on his floor. Whoever was on duty had her sympathy. She stood in the lift, watching the panel until the unfortunate behind the desk caved in and the button for Uly's floor lit up. It didn't take too long.
Felina let out a long sigh as the door closed and the lift started upwards. It was no wonder that woman spent most of her time in other cities, her uncle probably sent her to work with his enemies and irritate them until they went mad. She took a deep breath and tried to settle herself. At least watching over Chance shouldn't be too much trouble.
She was stripped of that illusion the moment she stepped into Uly's living room. It looked like a storm had gone through, furniture upended, the curtains torn down, massive gouge marks in the carpet. For a moment she just stood and stared at it, but it was a moment too long.
Just as the feeling of foreboding was beginning to make itself known Felina was blindsided by something by something big and heavy and wet, which drove her to the floor. She struggled blindly with her assailant, managing to keep his claws away from her neck but not able to throw him off. They growled and grappled with one another on the Commander's living room floor, a tangle of hissing, spitting limbs, but his greater weight was just too much of an advantage. She quickly found herself pinned beneath him, her arms trapped under his knees as he straddled her, looking up into the blank eyes and snarling mouth of Chance Furlong.
He drew a fist back and drove it down towards her face, slamming it hard into the floor as she wretched her head to one side. The second blow almost caught her across the forehead as she threw her neck back in the other direction. She growled and threw both her knees forward into his back, pushing upwards with her arms to throw him off balance. If Chance had been entirely himself the move might not have worked, but in his current state it sent him sprawling across the floor. She pushed herself up and landed with her full weight on his back, her hands grasping for some hold on him. He growled and spat beneath her, almost bucking hard enough to dislodge her, but her hands found one of his wrists and twisted it back up behind him and wrenched it as hard as she could. He spat and twisted more violently beneath her, but she refused to let go and eventually he began to calm, until he just lay beneath her, panting heavily.
"You know," he said after some time, his voice sounding sore, "I'm almost getting used to your family pinning me to the floor, but you're really hurting my arm."
"Welcome back," Felina replied, trying not to think about what Chance's words implied. "Have you been skipping your medication or something?"
Chance chuckled softly. "Yeah, sweet ninety proof medication. Got any?"
Felina shook her head slowly, getting up. "Last time I checked your profile if didn't include mad rage, but this is twice in a week. And you're wet."
"So I've got some issues to work through," he grumbled, propping himself up on his elbows. "And I've got a headache."
"Uly's got some aspirin in the bathroom," Felina sighed, shaking her head. When Chance made no move to get up she headed off to get it herself. She paused in the doorway of the bathroom, surveying the damage. There was broken glass everywhere, the shattered remnants of the mirror and the glass walls of the shower stall. It crunched under her boots as she crossed to the cabinet and dug out the aspirin. By the time she got back to the living room Chance had righted one of the chairs and was sprawled in it oddly, looking almost as though he might pass out. He took a couple of the tablets from her and swallowed them without water.
"Poor substitute." He grumbled quietly, leaning back into the chair.
"Damnit Chance," Felina snapped. "You know we can't give you alcohol. Especially when you're this mixed up."
The ghost of a smile played around the tabby's lips. "So it's 'we' is it? If there's anything to learn from all this it's to be very careful using that word." He hadn't seemed to respond to her temper, but his ears folded back as he noticed the collar fastened around her neck. "After all, you might end up a part of the 'we' who thinks it's a really good idea to get me drunk. Start of a good night, for some people."
"What the hell are you talking about? Did Uly do something to you?" Felina's voice wasn't quite as calm and confident as she would have liked, it couldn't be with a chill down her back telling her she didn't want to hear the answers.
"Oh he's done plenty," Chance said, almost purring as his smile grew wide. "He never drugged me though, never let me get drunk on purpose. Hell, he likes it when I fight back, so he's not likely to want me so drunk I can't move."
Felina swallowed, struck by a sudden nervousness. Chance, on the other hand, seemed to be recovering before her eyes, leaning forward with a vaguely disturbing smile.
"Now who could possibly want that?" Chance asked her, a cruel note in his voice as he slid one hand through the wet fur of his chest. "Who would know about it, for starters? It's not the sort of thing I advertise about myself." Felina couldn't take her eyes of his fingers as they moved downward, combing through his fur. "And how many of those would want me that way, utterly at their mercy?"
Felina turned her face away as his hand slid between his legs, suddenly and sharply aware of the tabby's nakedness. "No," she said softly. "We'd know if anyone had done that to you. We'd have done something about it."
Chance laughed, though it was without humor. "You'd know? That's the great thing about this plan, I didn't even know, I would never have known if he hadn't told me. Stood there and gloated over me, twisting it in me for all he could get."
"Who?" She demanded, hardening her voice and unwilling to play this game anymore.
"You know who." He replied quietly.
"Felina, he did this to me and he was proud of it. Boasted like it was something we'd love him for. A big achievement."
"NO!" She yelled, twisting back around to face him. "You need help Chance, you need supervision and medication and to get away from my uncle. You need to sort out whatever is going on in that crazed head of yours, and making impossible accusations isn't going to do that!"
"You don't believe me, that's fine," Chance told her, his voice much to clam for someone she'd just told should be committed. "You wouldn't believe the Commander either, I'm sure, but that's not a problem either. Your boyfriend drugged me and raped me, and then he gloated about it in front of us because you wouldn't believe a word of it. I know who you will believe though. The jet. His fucking talking jet was outside the window and I'll bet she heard the whole thing." He stood up, a touch unsteady but with enough confidence to move her back out of his personal space.
"You just love Cathedral planes, don't you Felina? Let's see how much you love them after you hear what this one has to say."
"I'm sorry Lieutenant Commander," the kat behind the desk told her, "he left about 15 minutes ago for a meeting."
"A meeting? All right, never mind. I'm taking that new jet I brought in earlier back out, I'll be back in an hour or so." Felina was more irritated at her uncle's absence than she let on. Whilst he hadn't actually ordered her to stay with Chance, she was fairly sure that that had been his intent. Not to mention her own lingering doubts about leaving him alone in his current state. Still, with the lift locks enabled no-one else could get up there to aggravate him and he'd probably be fine. Probably. Assuming he didn't decide to go skydiving without a parachute. She kept telling herself he'd be fine, that if he hadn't tried to jump already, he wouldn't now that he was calmer as she made her way to the plane.
The Veritech responded effortlessly to her commands as she flew out from the tower and turned it towards Cathedral, a rout she still only knew via air, though she was getting a good gist of how to find it along the few roads that far out. The single paved pass through the mountains into their testing valley was obvious, and obviously well guarded once you left MegaKat City's territory.
Running out on Chance wasn't the right thing to do, she knew. She also knew that if she didn't get to the bottom of what was going on she was going to go nuts. She was used to the feeling that something was going on in the background, it was a part of the natural state of her family, but never before had she felt it quite so personally. Something serious had happened to Chance, and whenever she tried to find out what it was the answers always came back to Jake. The first time Uly had told her Jake had taken advantage of the tabby she'd dismissed it out of hand, her uncle certainly had a habit of pointing the truth in the direction he wanted it to go. When Chance had said it, though, she'd known every word before it came out of his mouth. She couldn't believe that Jake would be capable of something like that, she wouldn't believe that he'd do it to his partner, and yet doubt had crept into her mind somewhere along the way and now it wouldn't give her any peace.
"We weren't expecting to see you back so soon Artemis." A professionally friendly voice came though on the com. "Are you coming home or just taking Kilsola out for a ride?"
"On my way in Cathedral," she replied, silently berating herself for getting so distracted. "I've got some business with the Black Phoenix after today's firefight."
There was a pause, and without reason Felina found her heart thumping in her chest. She did need to speak with Amerith as soon as possible ... her statement hadn't actually been untrue.
"No problem ... they're not all available, but you can set down and wait for them if you'd like. Jake'll likely be several hours."
"I don't need to see them all," she replied, tension flowing out of her body. "If I can't get hold of the people I need then I'll just have to make do."
"I'm sending you authorization for landing in the Black Phoenix Hangar, and welcome back."
A real welcoming warmth Felina wasn't used to infused the last words as she turned Kilsola towards the far northern edge of the underground complex, where the huge doors to the BP Hanger stood open for her.
"Morning, Artemis." Amerith's still hyper voice rang through the comm. "You want a Veritech flight lesson or just a quick landing?"
"A quick landing, I need to talk with you."
"Okay, the 'net's up for you." Amerith replied, curiosity lacing her voice. "What do you need to talk to me about?"
"After I land." She insisted, her gut clenched more tightly than in her first firefight as she brought Kilsola in for rolling touchdown, and very rapidly growing appreciation for T-Bone's skill as the sky disappeared into a corridor not even half again as wide as her plane. Then sharp deceleration as Kilsola was caught in the energy capture net.
"Okay, so what did you want to talk about?" Amerith asked even before Felina had jumped down.
"Umm," the shekat found her nerves strained at being verbally, and almost physically, jumped by a fighter jet. "It's about Jake ..." she swallowed and shifted plans, leaping from her cockpit to just behind Amerith's and sat down. "I need you to tell me what he told Chance, when you were outside the window of my uncles apartment."
There was a long silence before the jet answered. "Do you want to know what he said, or what happened between them?"
"Both." Felina clenched her jaw and prepared herself for the worst.
"Jake told Chance that the reason Chance responded so easily to Ulysses' sexual advances was because he and Chance were lovers, that even though Chance didn't remember any of it, his body did like the touch of another tom."
"What happened was just as ugly, for both of them." A young, male voice caught her attention from behind as a petite black and white longfurred tomkat dropped next to her. "I'm Patrik 'BlackFire' Celest, their pilot."
"How do you know?" She swallowed the bile that rose in her throat.
"Because Amerith, Sheir and I are the ones that put Jake back together, and made sure Chance didn't remember." He spoke softly. "Nineteen months ago Chance fell off the wagon, and got royally drunk while Jake was out. When he came home, he tried to put Chance to bed, but in the stumbling, they ended up in a rather ... intimate position. Between that, his own intoxication, and six years of very intense fantasies, Jake took advantage of the situation."
"They were both drunk?" Felina asked, almost hopefully. She couldn't remember any situation in the past when Jake had drunk himself to intoxication, but then living with someone like Chance that wasn't so surprising.
"Jake wasn't drunk, but he wasn't completely clean either." Patrik shook his head and focused on his hands. "I'm not that sure what he'd taken, or exactly what happened past what I've said, but he called me less than an hour afterwards to say goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Felina felt her hackles rise as her instincts provided the answer her mind wouldn't accept.
"One of the very few things Jake holds dear is protecting what he cares about." Patrik forced the words out. "He loves Chance, and no matter what he says, he still does, and he's doing the best he can for him."
"He's not doing a very good job," she murmured to herself, the image of Chance's face devoid of reasoning rising up before her mind's eye.
"That night," Amerith took up the narration with difficulty as Patrik lost his voice, "Jake raped his partner. Thinking he hurt an innocent was nearly enough to make him give up being Razor, this wasn't something he was willing to live with."
"It took some work, but we eventually convinced him that he was over reacting." Patrik recovered enough to go on. "We knew it was going to be trouble in the long run. If nothing else it fuelled Jake's delusion that he had a sexual relationship with Chance." He regarded the shekat as she tried to deal with the information. "Ask Jake about this. It's not an easy thing for him to talk about, but he will, if you ask him. There are things I don't have a right to say."
Felina nodded slowly, trying to assimilate the information and turning up some uncomfortable conclusions. Her uncle had been telling the truth all along, which was a vaguely unsettling idea in itself. He wasn't known for his commitment to objective truth. Jake, on the other hand, had lied and was continuing to lie about this whole situation. It was a type of behavior which she was quite familiar with, as a Feral it was nigh-on a part of her genetics, but not one that she'd expected to find in Jake, even with the second life he'd built as Razor. Given some of the things he'd revealed to her recently it was an uncomfortable realization.
"Flight control said Jake was going to be busy for a while," she said eventually, "and I still don't know my way around here very well. Could one of you guys help me get back to Jake's quarters?" There was a moment of heavy silence before Patrik nodded.
"Sure, I'll take you," he said in a subdued tone, turning and heading out of the room with a backward glance to make sure she was following. It didn't take long to reach one of the transport tubes that shuttled people throughout the facility.
The ride was uncomfortably silent. Jake had mentioned Patrik to Felina a couple of times by way of explaining his life at Cathedral, and she knew the two of them were very close. She was suddenly very aware of the engagement collar around her neck.
"What did you mean before?" The question came out of nowhere, perhaps this soft-spoken tom was as unsure around her as she was around him.
"What did I mean by what, exactly? I'm afraid it's been a confusing day."
"Back in the hangar you said 'he's not doing a very good job', I don't think Amee noticed but it didn't make much sense to me."
Felina sighed softly. "Jake's skill with people hasn't ever extended to Chance, really, and this time's no exception. If it were up to me I'd be thinking about having Chance committed, except that doing that would probably send him all the way over the edge. All's not well in that tom's head."
"Jake gets odd ideas sometimes," Patrik replied sadly. "He gets close to people and it distorts the way he looks at things. He paused a moment and regarded her. "Commit Chance? I'll grant you he seems to need help almost as much as Jake, but he wasn't that whacked before the battle."
"How would you know?" She glared at him, quickly finding herself at the very edge of her tolerance.
"I heard from both Jake and Amee." He edged slightly away from her, submissiveness radiating from every strand of fur. "What did he do?"
"He wrecked the apartment," she said shortly, "and attacked me. That's not what worries me though; he's always had a nasty temper when he gets worked up, but this time ... it was like he wasn't even there, as though his brain had shut down. I don't think there was any personal malice in the attack, for him it was just like throwing the furniture around.
"Jake's is just around the corner," Patrik said. "I can come with you if you'd like."
"No, that's fine. I remember the way from here." She stepped out of the tube-car without another word and watched it speed away. Jake's place offered her a place to sit and think, and try to put the pieces of this puzzle together. She only had a couple of hours before she saw Jake, and the inescapable feeling was that whatever he told here it wouldn't be the whole truth.
After all, why should he be different from anyone else? Even if he had promised her the absolute truth in this room.
Patrik took in the ruins of the apartment, and the naked Kat in it, with a calculating eye from the balcony, and had to agree with Felina's assessment that the tabby had gone off the deep end in a serious way.
"Hello, Chance." He got the lounging Kat's attention.
It took the tabby a few moments to look up, and then even longer to respond to what he was seeing.
"Who the hell are you?" He growled softly, seemingly unconcerned with how Patrik had come to be there.
"I'm ... a friend of Felina's. She thought someone should come check up on you." Under the circumstances it was the safest story he could think of, and it wasn't a complete lie. Chance's eyes narrowed as he looked the petite, black and white longfur in tight jeans and a dark blue T-shirt, over again, then he shrugged and turned away again, returning to the blank state he'd been in.
Patrik stepped tentatively into the apartment, keeping a safe distance from the tabby as he took a better look around the room, curiosity about seeing a little about Ulysses Feral for himself getting the better of him for a moment.
He was more than a little disappointed that there were no real revelations in the apartment, even though it was plainly well lived in. He paused at the Enforcer files on a bedside table, but a quick scan told him nothing of interest that wasn't already in Cathedral's database.
With a disgruntled sigh he turned his attention to the kitchen, and a less than systematic search for tea makings and something solid to offer the tabby in the demolished living room.
"Chance?" He waited patiently with the plate of breakfast leftovers in one hand and a mug of tea in the other, for the tabby to look up at him before offering the food. "What happened?"
Chance blinked and cast his gaze around the room, ignoring the food. He took his time examining the scene, as though seeing it for the first time. He shook his head slightly as he returned his attention to Patrik.
"Nothing," he said flatly.
The small tom put the food down and sat on an upturned chair. "Chance. Something is obviously going on ... even if Felina hadn't said someone should check up on you, the room's wrecked."
The tabby narrowed his eyes, his gaze drilling into Patrik's young face. "It's none of your business, Felina's friend. Better spend your time chasing after her." His voice dropped to a soft, almost conspiratorial whisper. "She's going somewhere very nasty."
Patrik could guess what he meant, and had to swallow the first reply that came mind. "She isn't so worried about that. She is worried about you."
Chance's laugh was soft and utterly devoid of humor, such a strange sound it took Patrik a few moments to realize what is was. "She'll worry, though. She should. She's smart enough though, she'll figure it out and then she'll believe. You know she only really believes the things she figures out for herself."
Patrik nodded, he knew that much about her, and it was a common trait of those in his life. "But what set this off?" He pressed, motioning around the room. "Surely you don't hate Ulysses enough to ...." his voice drifted off as his brain registered what the rest of that sentence was. "What did he do to rate this kind of treatment of his home?"
The statement earned him another blank look. "Feral? He's never done anything," a wide grin suddenly spilt the tabby's face. "At least he's never done anything that I'd care to share with you. The room ..." He trailed off into silence, and it was so long before he spoke again that Patrik wondered if he'd lapsed back into that blank state. "The room was just there. He'll understand."
Patrik let out a long breath and took another look around. "I wish my landlords were so accommodating," he muttered.
"He's easy enough to get along with, as long as what suits him suits you. He's helping me."
There was a short pause before Chance replied. "With my business. It's not like the Ferals to make nosy friends." Another brief pause. "No-one pokes into their affairs more than once."
"Depends on who you are." Patrik flicked his ears back. "And who you're being nosey for."
Chance leaned forward, a quiet growl rumbling in the back of his throat. "Not for the Commander, and not for Felina. So who sends a lying kitten, flying kitten, to come at me?"
"No one sent me." Patrik growled back, unconcerned that he was outweighed by at least a factor of two. "Felina's worried about you. I can see why. I came to make sure you were all right, and you're clearly not."
"Not your business!" Chance all but roared right into Patrik's face. "Fly away kitten, take your tender bleeding heart to someone who wants it. All you'll find here are my teeth."
"I am not a kitten." Patrik growled back, his long fur starting to stand on end, giving him a slightly fiercer appearance. "And I'm a better pilot that you ever were."
Chance's growl was fierce as he leapt to his feet but once there he made no further move, standing as still as a statue with his eyes fixed on the smaller kat.
"A pilot," he said softly, almost sighing. The word hung between them for a moment and then was gone, Chance's temper returning. "I know you now kitten." He growled, stepping forward into Patrik's personal space and then pressing further on, forcing him to stand and give ground. "I know what you are. I know where you come from. I know what you do ... and now you're very much my business."
"You don't know anything about me." The smaller tom hissed as he shifted to a defensive stance.
"BlackFire," a female voice familiar to both of them broke in, "come here."
Chance moved before Amerith finished speaking, a muscular explosion that grabbed Patrik by the throat and dragged him to one side. The pair of them hit the floor, half-hidden behind the righted lounge chair, though Chance had no intention of staying there. He tangled his fingers into the smaller kat's long hair and dragged him across the floor, keeping a low profile as he moved back to put the breakfast bar between himself and the balcony.
"You're his." He hissed into Patrik's shocked face when he felt some measure of protection from the fighter jet hovering outside. "This just gets better. Sharp and shiny and biting deep, for him and the bitch together."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Patrik snarled as he squirmed, then suddenly went completely limp as the breakfast bar exploded in a shredding of wood and marble and Chance was flung the rest of the way across the room, dragging Patrik with him.
The small tom used his opponent's momentary shock to disentangle himself and made a bolt for the balcony, more out of obedience to the jet's order than any real fear.
Chance made a desperate grab towards the retreating figure but Patrik was too nimble for him to achieve anything more than a few superficial scratches to the other kat's calf with his extended claws. He swore explosively then, realizing how exposed he was, scrambled along the floor and into the hallway and from there into the bathroom, where he paused to gather his breath, and assess the damage.
His right arm was numb, hanging limply at his side, and his shoulder bones had been crushed by whatever had hit him. He absently wondered why he didn't feel any pain as he assessed the situation.
A fighter plane had just fired into the Commander's personal apartment, not something which the Enforcers were likely to let slide. All he had to do was wait until that bitch and her kitten flew off, and then get himself to somewhere they wouldn't be able to reach him. And maybe get some medical attention. Loosing his arm wasn't a good thing.
But the damn jet just hovered there. He could almost hear it think, plotting against him.
Chance let loose a frustrated growl and crossed the bathroom, not even registering the broken glass on the floor or the long shallow cuts it put in the soles of his feet. If she could wait, then he could wait. The Enforcers would be here in a few minutes, and if they weren't he was pretty sure there was a phone in the bedroom he could use hurry them along. He lifted himself up onto the bench and ran warm water into the basin, awkwardly dabbing it onto his bloodied fur with a washcloth with his good hand.
He'd have to wait. Unless he felt like taking a long dive onto the concrete the only way to get down was by the lift, and heading back out into the lounge room would be suicide. It wasn't quite that desperate yet. He frowned and wondered where all the blood had come from. His shoulder and arm were understandable ... whatever that jet was loaded with, it wasn't playing games, but his hands were also covered in the powdery remains of dry blood. They weren't sore.
Maybe the Enforcers would send someone up to see if anyone had been in the apartment. Where the hell were they?
"Now what?" Patrik caught Chance's retreat and the obvious damage he'd sustained out of the corner of his eye as he settled in the jet's front seat.
"*Now we go get him.*" Amerith answered calmly between their minds as a hypo-syringe appeared next to him. "*I've got enough of Jay's knock-out gas on board to put him under for a week.*"
"*Understood.*" Patrik injected himself before taking the heavy dart pistol from the hand weapon compartment on his left.
"*Ready.*" He nodded and leaped from the jet back onto the balcony as misty red gas flooded the apartment.
Patrik waited several minutes for visibility to reach an acceptable level before stalking carefully forward towards the bathroom and the only large infrared signature in the place. "Here kitty, kitty. Be a good boy and you won't get hurt any more before we take you to the vet."
"*BlackFire!*" Amerith snapped in his head. "*Be a little more professional that that.*"
"*After how much he's hurt Jake, I'd like to see him take a hard dive to the ground floor.*" The young tom bristled. "*And I am being professional. I'm not going to kill him, or even hurt him anymore, and he will see Medical.*"
Patrik ducked his head around the doorframe, quickly taking in the scene. It was hard to tell what the original decor had been like, but the room's most striking feature now was broken glass. It was everywhere. It took him a moment to find Chance, sitting in the far corner of the room, his legs splayed out and upper body propped against a cabinet. The tabby slowly lifted his head as he became aware of Patrik watching him.
"Damn," he swore to himself, "couldn't you just go down the way you should?"
Chance lifted his good arm, extending out towards Patrik. Clutched in his hand was a long shard of glass, it's point wavering in the air thanks to the tabby's soporific state. The shard must have been sharp on all edges, judging by the rivulets of blood Patrik could see running down Chance's arm.
"Get. Out." The tabby's voice was slurred and hazy, though it was a miracle that he was conscious at all.
"You need help Chance, and you're going to get it whether you like the idea or not. We're not going to hurt you."
Chance made a strangled choking noise which might, under other circumstances, have been a laugh. "Someone else. Must have. Shot me. Gassed me. Get out."
"As much as I'd like to, that's not an option." Patrik took his time in aiming the dart pistol, and sank a perfect shot into the tabby's heart. "Believe me, I'd like to see you dead for what you've done, but I'd never be forgiven."
Commander Ulysses Feral made a conscious effort not to scowl as he was lead through the corridors of the Cathedral installation. He knew that this was not going to be pleasant meeting. Pakitra's message had suggested that they needed to 're-evaluate the position of the city' and Feral couldn't agree more, though he was certain that his ideas of what that meant would be quite different to Ms. Dyne's. Selene walked calmly by his side, seemingly unaffected by the foreboding that occupied her employer. Feral silently thanked the Fates for the delay to her flight. If things had gone according to plan then she would have flown out of the city yesterday, and wouldn't be here where she was needed so badly.
Doors slid open before them and they were led into a spacious conference chamber, dominated by a large circular table. Deputy Mayor Calico Briggs, wearing her standard pink business dress, sat on her own off to one side and greeted the newcomers with a nods and a quick smile.
Across from her sat the Cathedral contingent; Pakitra, Jake, a striking tiger-woman and a large lioness he recalled as Cathedral's Chief of Security, Kenya. They presented a serious and unified front, even if a little odd looking. Kenya, in her Security Dress Grays, and the tigress, in a strange brown and white robe arrangement, were both nearly as tall as he was, and positioned on the outside; Kenya to Pakitra's right and the tigress on Jake's left, leaving the two Kats in the center both shorter than the Deputy Mayor. Pakitra was wearing a dark blue business dress, made even more severe by her petite frame and silvery-white fur, though she was clearly making an effort to be polite. Jake, on the other hand, was wearing a grim expression and a dark blue and red uniform vaguely reminiscent of his Razor costume, but much more formal, and significantly less friendly.
Positioned strategically around the outside of the room were security guards, two behind each place at the table. The pair behind Jake looked by far the most dangerous, and nervous, to Feral's experienced eye. He was thankful for Selene once again, even if she sat silent for the whole meeting she'd at least bolster the numbers. Then it registered that he was significantly outnumbered at the table another way; he and Jake were the only males of the seven present.
"Good morning," Commander Feral said gruffly as he took a seat, "are we expecting anyone else?"
"No," Pakitra replied, her tone showing the same dearth of enthusiasm as his, though with a touch more professional friendliness. "We're all here. If you're both prepared then we can begin."
"There is one small matter I'd like to get out of the way before we get to our main discussion," Feral told them. He extended a hand towards Selene and took the papers she produced from the briefcase she'd bought. "These are estimates of the revenue arising from fines against PumaDyne corporation in relation to the events of the last few days." He passed the papers across to Callie.
"You're doing what against whom?" Pakitra asked pointedly.
"Cathedral is a wholly owned subsidiary of PumaDyne corporation, which makes Jason and his board responsible for your actions."
"You're mistaken," she flicked her ears back and growled across the table, all trace of friendliness, though not professionalism, gone from her in a heartbeat. "Cathedral is an independent body, both financially and organizationally. If you intend to go after my father's company to get at mine this meeting will be suspended until he arrives, as well as more experienced legal aid."
Without speaking Selene reached back into her briefcase and produced another set of papers which she passed to Feral. He glanced over them quickly, then shot his white-furred aide a sideways look. "These," he said, passing the papers on to Callie again, "refer to fines against Cathedral regarding events of the last few days. As Pakitra has kindly pointed out the first set I gave you are in error."
"Here's a radical idea," Pakitra said acidly, "how about we not punish the people who have been saving the city?"
"Just hold your tempers for a moment you two," Callie got in before Feral could reply, doing her best to keep things from devolving into a screaming match. "A number of these have to do with licensing of pilots, planes and weaponry. How is it that licenses haven't been granted on a joint project Commander?"
"Traditionally a joint project involves both parties knowing it exists." Selene said quietly, without a trace of irony in her voice.
"Hu?" Pakitra snapped a sharp, disbelieving look at Feral and his Tooth.
"Essentially Selene has the right of it," The Commander elaborated. "The first I heard of Black Phoenix was when one of its pilots deigned to take time out from invading my home and harassing my houseguest to fill me in. The group also violates the city's Special Threats policies regarding private military buildup."
"It's unlike you to be so poorly informed, Commander." Jake's low grow held more malice than anger as he claimed center stage. "Cathedral has been politically and legally separate from MegaKat City for over seventeen years now." He settled slightly and crossed his arms across his chest. "Your laws do not apply to us." He met the defiant, disbelieving stare of his former Commander with a sneer. "If you wish to take our actions as a declaration of war, you may, but you have no treaty with us, and no legal grounds for stating your laws affect us."
"Jake ..." Kenya's warning growl was ignored.
"Actually Mr. Clawson you're not entirely correct," Feral replied. "Regardless of what it may say in your charter, or whatever degree of self-government you believe you have, you are missing the most important thing required by any sovereign state: the recognition of other governments. I know this is true because I have spoken with several of them this morning, against precisely this eventuality. Not only do you lack the support of major territories, upon explanation of the circumstances many of them agreed that our situation was untenable. Unsurprisingly the prospect of a private army that believes itself immune to the laws of other principalities does not inspire much confidence in people. As a result I'm in a position to see your gambit of war with the city, and raise the stakes by way of war with the Eden Prefecture, the Republic of Stroma, the Combined Vedec States, and the Tze-wai nation."
"Furthermore," Selene continued, smoothly picking up as the Commander finished speaking, "We've obtained undertakings from a further 20 territories, including fully half of your top revenue list, indicating that your company will be prohibited from trading, owning property or shipping goods through their land or airspace, unless they can be adequately convinced that you are willing to respect their laws when operating inside their borders."
A stunned silence fell over the table.
"You've had a very busy morning," Pakitra said quietly, assessing the information and forcing her smoldering rage into a back corner to deal with later.
"Exceedingly," the commander replied, "though the precautions were obviously warranted."
"You haven't the authority for that!" Jake hissed angrily, "Besides it doesn't matter how many people you drag into this I'm still going to ..."
"Jake!" Pakitra all but barked directly into his face, and back it up with a mental roar. "That is enough!" She settle back in her seat and turned to the Deputy Mayor, making a 180 degree shift in her manner. "Callie, may I see the paperwork on the fines?"
Jake shot her a soundless snarl of pain and disbelief, then shifted his gaze to the tigress next to him before settling down in angry defeat.
The Deputy Mayor, who had been watching the exchange with a vague look of shock, took a moment to realize she was being spoken to directly. "Of course." She got her hands to move the pile of papers across the table, where they were placed in front of Kenya, who promptly began to scrutinize them with the assistance of a compact computer terminal that rose from the table in front of her.
Pakitra then shifted her attention to the other white shekat. "Selene, did you bring the actual documents for us?"
Feral's Tooth nodded and pulled a much larger pile of papers from the briefcase and handed them over.
"Thank you." Pakitra nodded.
She passed them on to Kenya as a gray speckled white Greyhound Kantin strode into the room and sat down next to the lioness without a word. He wasted no time in starting to process the forms, quickly sorting them into three piles as Kenya worked with those he placed into the largest pile.
Pakitra glared at the two males before turning back to the Deputy Mayor. "It seems it's quite past time to cut the males out of this conversation. I, and Cathedral, do not have any intention of entering a war or any other conflict with you. It's bad for business." She glared back to the Commander. "And I knew that before you attempted to tarnish my good name with my other customers. For that, I'm not going to forgive you anytime soon, and you have lost this company's good graces, for whatever it matters to you, if anything."
Jake shot her a curious, half hopeful look, but kept his mouth shut.
She turned back to Miss Briggs. "The city should receive payment on the fines we don't intend to challenge, and the paperwork on those we do, by the morning."
Callie nodded to cover her shock, and smiled with a trace of the gratitude she felt that the other shekat was being more rational than either of their military leaders. "Can we get back to why you called this meeting?"
"Of course." Pakitra nodded, pointedly ignoring both Feral and Jake. "My intent was to explain the Black Phoenix project and it's relation to SWAT in more detail than the memo I sent the Commander when we made the internal name change, and renegotiate the contract for our military assistance to protecting the city to take them, and our other new resources, into account. We weren't expecting those jets to fly for at least another two years. Circumstances dictated otherwise on very short notice."
"It is worth noting at this time that, in light of recent events, the Enforcers consider any agreements with Cathedral to be made in poor faith. If you insist on a renegotiation we will consider alternate sourcing of the services you currently provide."
"Funny, I was thinking the same thing might be a good idea." Pakitra kept her focus on Callie. "But I did make a promise to protect MegaKat City, and I intend to do my best to keep that promise."
"I see." Callie sighed, shooting a curious look at the Commander before focusing on Pakitra. "Do continue."
The white shekat nodded. "I called it here, instead of your office, because I wished to show you what we have, to give you a better understanding of what we can provide, and why we are asking for the changes in the contract. That is also why I included Kenya, Jake and Sheir Khan. They each are experts in areas of the project and what we have to offer, things I understand the basics of, but can't answer many of the specific questions I expected to be asked."
"Speaking of which, what are the changes you want made?" Callie asked before turning a glare on Commander Feral, silently demanding he, and his aid, keep their mouths shut.
"I am asking for this project to enter Phase Four, with the modifications I have outlined in blue." She handed a thick folder to each of them.
"Now wait ..."
"Commander." Callie growled at the giant tom. "Shut up. Now." She turned back to the head of Cathedral and began skimming the blue sections of the project description. "Anything else?"
"Yes." Pakitra sighed. "With the damage the Commander has done to my business this morning by spreading his nonsense charges planet wide, I must insist on charging an actual fair mark value for the Talons and other vehicles we provide MegaKat City."
"As a matter of fact," Selene replied in her customary even tone, "we have spread neither nonsense nor charges. What we have done is made other principalities aware of the way in which you have conducted your business with us, and discussed possible courses of action based on probably outcomes of this gathering. I remind you that it was your aide who first threatened a state of war. Naturally you are welcome to charge whatever you wish for your products ... just as we are under no obligation to buy them from you."
"And it was Commander Feral who has lied outright about how we have conducted business here." Pakitra leveled her gaze on the Enforcer and his aid. "Despite his claim, he has been informed, as per the contract, of all major changes in the project on our end. We have kept the records, even if you have conveniently destroyed your copies." She smiled slightly. "But how about we stop talking about ghosts, Commander. Lay your cards on the table; exactly what have we done to warrant your 'precautions'? Do tell me how we have conducted business with you."
"Intriguing," Selene cut in before Feral could say a thing, "have you also records of where these communications were sent? I can assure you that they did not come to the tower."
"Of course that information was recorded as well." Pakitra cut in calmly and tapped a few keys on the compact terminal that rose from the table in front of her. "The one I know that is in contention, about the project name change internal to Cathedral, was sent by secure e-mail to the Commander's account at 10:42 pm on July 36, 2109, and was logged as being downloaded and decoded at 11:02. The paper copy was delivered by licensed courier the next morning. Our records, from the MegaKat Courier Company, indicate that Commander Ulysses Feral signed for the package at 9:15 am on the 37th." She looked directly at Selene. "Now if Ulysses did indeed not receive this information, just how could he have signed in as receiving both copies? If he did receive them, what do you think that tells me about your intent?"
"Your data is in error," Selene stated bluntly. "Internal security protocols at both the tower and the Commander's private residences prevent him from directly receiving deliveries, regardless of their apparent origin. He has thus not signed for anything in almost 2 years. Your database has been modified to reflect events which could not, in actuality, have occurred."
"Really." Pakitra's voice was dangerously low as she focused completely on Feral. "Do speak for yourself Commander. Just when did you intend to inform us that the procedures you insisted on for security were no longer in effect? I know you used to sign for those reports when I delivered them, and I really want to know who you have given access secured data that no one outside Cathedral besides yourself was authorized to see."
"Oh so now I have your permission to speak?" The Commander asked. "The cessation of the reports was I surprise, I'll admit, but since they were mostly collations of the SWAT flight data that we were gathering anyway and you had indicated they you wouldn't be bringing them around anymore it seemed explainable. Especially since the agreement on reporting only requires that reports are made during project development cycles. We simply assumed that you were cutting out the redundant generation of data. You had, after all, assured me that the communication systems you provided were absolutely tamper-proof."
"Well, there are three things I can see here as options." Pakitra leaned back and crossed her arms, her gaze nearly daring Feral to come up with an answer that didn't make him look bad. "Either you have not actually been sent anything on this project in over two years and for some reason did not deem that abnormal enough to mention it. Or someone else has been signing for those reports and downloading and decrypting the e-mail that only you were actually cleared to do. Or you are lying outright about not seeing and signing for that material. Or is there an option four?" She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Yes." Kenya spoke up before anyone could respond, meeting her employer's curious gaze with a nod and spoke calmly. "Option four is an outside party is feeding all of us misinformation, most likely in the hopes of precisely this occurring, without the calming factors that stopped the males from turning this into a world war."
Feral turned towards Selene, raising an eyebrow.
"It is certainly possible," she said calmly, "and would match what little we know for certain. That the culprits have managed to penetrate Cathedral's system limit the range of suspects ... If I had access to the Vault I may be able to assemble a preliminary list."
"And you're waiting for ... ?" The Commander prompted. Selene nodded and pulled out a mobile phone.
"Will this function?" She asked, receiving curt nods from across the table. She dialed, waited, and then keyed in a long sequence of numbers from memory. She set the phone to her ear and waited to be connected.
"Access the Special Threats database and ..." She began in her customary tone, then paused at whatever was coming down from the other end. "Say that again?" The whole room saw the way Uly responded to the seemingly innocent question, his eyes drawn to Selene as though she was about to declare some prophesy of apocalypse. She nodded as she listened, making curt affirmative noises as the report went on. "This was how long ago? ... I see ... Yes, I'll attend to it." She set the phone away slowly and deliberately. "Ms Dyne ... can you tell me exactly where the Black Phoenix jets are at this very moment?"
The petite white shekat's eyes unfocused for a moment as she watched the screen in front of her before answering. "All three are in their Hanger."
An explosion of motion next to her waylaid any response as Jake roared silently and went for the door. Sheir Khan grabbed him by the arm and slammed in back in his seat without missing a beat, or her neutral expression changing. Though silent, the rage and betrayal was clear in his body language.
"You going to inform us of what that was about?" Pakitra caught his attention, clearly very displeased.
He barred his teeth in a soundless growl at the tigress next to him before turning to his CO and nodded, his tail lashing and ears flat.
"Keep it civil." Pakitra warned quietly and nodded at the tigress.
"Rik an Amee broke orders." Jake hissed, his attempt at obeying her just barely keeping his temper contained. "They brought that ... that tabby ... here."
"He was injured." Amerith's voice came over a speaker set invisibly in the table near Kenya. "Cathedral's medical was the only real option available to stop him from doing more damage to himself or others."
"Why the hell were you there in the first place?" Jake snarled as he rose to his feet, only to be pushed back down by the tigress. He gave her a dirty look but stayed put.
"He attacked Felina, and she was worried about him." The jet explained.
"So?" Jake snapped. "That's cause to kill him, not bring him here."
"Now just a minute." Pakitra broke in. "He's still project personnel." She shrugged at his disbelieving look. "I didn't see this as any different from the last three times you couldn't stand being around him anymore. I haven't removed him from the list yet."
"That better change." Jake growled quietly.
"Once Hathin releases him from Medical." She nodded, her posture brooking no augment. "Until then, he's still one of yours." She locked eyes with her second in command until he looked away. "Back to the actual topic." She turned to the lioness as a holographic list appeared over the table.
"That is, in fact, false." Selene insisted, the brief disruption to her calm demeanour done with. "There are a number of facilities in the city capable of containing Chance Furlong, he is relatively easy to handle unless provoked."
"But not available for that pair to take him too." Sheir Khan spoke for the first time. "A talking jet and a teenager are not suitable to demand secured medical care out there."
"Pakitra," the Commander growled, his voice firm and cold. "I would appreciate a word in private. Now." He stood without waiting for her to reply.
She shot Jake a stern look before rising herself and waving Feral towards a side door. The pair of them stepped through into the small room beyond, the eyes of the entire room on them as they left.
"Firstly, understand that I am massively pissed off." Feral growled once the door was closed behind them.
"You and me both."
"Your operatives have been given a great deal of leeway, but you had best have an excellent explanation if you don't expect me to pursue this officially."
"I want to talk to Felina, first." The shekat wasn't the least bit phased by the glowering tom twice her height, but kept the confrontation about her to a minimum. "While I agree this was poorly handled at best, if Chance really did attack her, and she mentioned it in Patrik's presence, he was at least justified in checking the report out. Chance is still his teammate." She sighed, shaking her head. "It is reasonable for him to assume Chance was in some kind of trouble, and as a member of the project, he'd bring his teammate back here for care if injured, in mind or body."
"In which case I am removing Chance from the project, offically, effective as of midnight tonight." He released a soft, frustrated growl. "Frankly you people are the single most damaging influence to him right now. I don't want any more well meaning 'incidents', and Chance has made his feelings on this quite clear. More importantly we need to get Chance out of here as quickly as possible. If you will provide a transport Selene and I may be able to get him to Serenity Thorn before he recovers from whatever it is that was done to him. I know he didn't come here of his own free will. Quite simply, as long as he remains here he is in danger and all personnel that come in contact with him are also in danger."
"I noticed." Pakitra nodded. "A transport is not a problem, though such a hurry is unnecessary. He won't be conscious until desired, and his physical injuries have been healed." Sharp emerald eyes locked with angry yellow ones. "What is of a good deal more concern is how his mind was injured, and the healing of it. And that is an issue you'll have to take up with Hathin. She's put a phych-hold on him." Pakitra shook her head. "And she outranks us both in that department. You'll have to choose a good psychiatric care facility to get him out of her possession. You do have contacts with one, don't you? I'd rather not have Jake and Chance within a hundred miles of each other if at all possible. Having both in the same phych-ward would be hell."
"My family retains the services of an excellent clinic, on the basis that they come to us when they are needed. There are secured areas in the Vault that can be set aside for the purpose of his treatment, which will allow us complete control over who he sees. It is not the first time we have had to do this. I still insist, however, that we get him out of here immediately. I agree that it's best to get him away from Clawson and I'd like to get that done before your kat gets any ideas. There's another thing though, if Chance comes to realize that he received treatment here it would be disastrous. For all the trouble we almost got into back there this is a professional issue for me, but Furlong is taking it very personally."
"Agreed." Pakitra cast a gaze at the ceiling. "Cathedral, have Chance prepared for transport. The Feral family's going to take care of his treatment." She shot a look at Ulysses. "The Atoll It's one of the fastest available for what you need, if you don't mind me flying. Otherwise, you can take anything you can fly."
Feral shook his head. "At this point speed is the only issue. Might I suggest that we take a couple of days to review our respective positions and reconvene this meeting when a little more constructive preparation has been done?"
"That is probably the best idea I've heard all day." She nodded. "Though I'd appreciate if you also bring information on anyone you think would have cause and capability to completely blindside both of us." She cast a sideways glance at him. "I'm working on the assumption that you aren't lying, and neither am I."
The Commander nodded. "I'll have Selene go through the special threats database, there can't be too many groups with that sort of expertise."
As they walked back into the meeting room, Feral couldn't help but notice that Jake was rather conspicuously gone, as was the tigress, and Miss Briggs looked to be recovering from a real fright.
He shot Pakitra a troubled look as he crossed towards Selene. "Pack up, we're leaving immediately," he told his Tooth. "Cathedral is providing transport for us directly back to the Tower, and you and I both have business to attend to." He paused, glancing again at the empty chairs. "We'd better hurry before this gets any worse."
"Miss Briggs, are you all right?" Pakitra placed a gentle hand at the tall shekat's shoulder.
"Yes," she made a visible effort to pull herself together, "I'm fine."
"Kenya, please see her to wherever she wants to go, personally."
"And answer what you can." Pakitra nodded and motioned Feral and Selene to follow her. When they were out in the hall she spoke without breaking her fast stride. "Chance has been removed from the project list, as has Jake Clawson."
The three walked is tense silence along a short length of corridor, and the multidirectional ride in the lift. When they entered a small hanger with sixteen folded wing, gloss white craft with the Cathedral logo painted on the tail, Pakitra went tense at the sight of a Lioness nearly as tall as the Commander waiting for them next to one of the planes, her arms crossed and clearly displeased.
"Consider this a formal complaint." The Lioness growled softly at her CO. "Chance should not be outside of professional care for a second, much less out of a secured facility."
Pakitra shrugged, "Like it or not, Hathin, having Jake and Chance in the same facility is an even worse idea."
"It's the only reason I agreed to this."
"This is not the only building in the area with a security system," Selene interrupted, bluntly. "Chance will be more than adequately secured in the Vault ... and you may rest assured that we do not intend to turn his care over to chainsaw-wielding amateurs."
"Besides, you know full damn well Ulysses will take good care of his boyfriend." Pakitra pointedly ignored the tactless comment and rolled her eyes at the look her CMO gave both of them before shifting her attention to a muscular Black Lab Kantin that walked out of her craft. "Are all the records on board?"
"Yes, ma'am." He dipped his head in a submissive nod. "Just as you requested."
"Good." She turned back to Hathin. "And Chance and his records?"
"And enough trancs to keep him down for a couple more days, as necessary." She huffed and turned to Feral. "Physically, he's in top shape. Mentally, he's the biggest mess I've seen in six decades." She sighed and regarded the brown giant critically. "I hope you love him, Ulysses. He needs someone that gives a damn about him."
The Commander shot the medic a scathing look, and for a moment it seemed he was just going to turn away without comment. "Well," he murmured grimly, "almost anything would be an improvement on his previous living situation."
"As much as I don't want to know what happened, I have little doubt of that." Pakitra shivered before turning professional again. "You'll have plenty to keep you busy over the next few days."
Pakitra motioned the Commander and his Tooth inside the craft, and spared a glance at the unconscious form of Chance Furlong resting comfortably, though restrained, on a bed on the right side of the plane, where four seats had hurriedly been removed, before turning for the cockpit.
"Those boxes are for you. They contain every record, communiqué, and update from our side of the SWAT Project." She paused to look at him. "I was serious when I said I would keep you up to date. Future reports will be delivered in person again, either by myself, Kenya, or a member of the Squad. And Commander, when you decide that I have not acted in bad faith in this deal, I would appreciate you explaining that to the leaders you contacted."
"Miss Feral?" A deep female voice asked.
Felina looked up, and nodded at the large, dark blond furred lioness standing just inside the closed door to Jake's quarters and tried to place the light accent. "Who are you?"
"I am Dr. Hathin, Chief Medical Officer of Cathedral." She kept her voice very level. "I understand you're waiting for Jake."
Felina nodded again, her body going tense at the familiar tone of a doctor about to give bad news.
"I'm afraid I have had to commit him to Cathedral's high security Phych Ward." Hathin sighed softly in real regret. "He tried to kill his second in command during a meeting."
"Oh, gods." The tall shekat's gut clenched tight.
"I realize this is not pleasant news, but it might help him if you are willing to see him." Hathin kept her voice professionally hopeful. "You mean a great deal to him, you may be able to reach him."
"I ... I'll try." She controlled the trembling that threatening to show as she stood by force of will alone.
"Thank you," Hathin inclined her head. "I realize this may not be easy, but please try to remember that his is not particularly responsible for his actions at the moment."
"Just how long has this been going on?" She demanded sharply, not sure whether to be scared or furious, no matter what the answer was.
"He attacked Sheir Khan less than an hour ago." The lioness hesitated before deciding what to say. "We have known he has been unstable for several years, but I did not suspect he was anywhere near this far gone."
"Unstable?" She snarled, her fists clenched tight enough to draw blood. "What the hell isn't under 'unstable' for you?"
Instead of answering, Dr. Hathin regarded the other shekat with a critical eye. "Likely whatever you are referring to with that question."
"You're dodging." Felina growled softly.
"No, I am significantly out of the loop where Jake Clawson's behavior is concerned, much of that quite intentionally done by his teammates." She corrected and brushed an errant strand of dirty blond hair from her face. "I would appreciate anything you can tell me. Black Phoenix is being less than forthcoming with details, and at the moment, even if I could ask Chance about it, I trust his answers about as much Jake's." Her tail twitched in displeasure. "How those two managed to do this well this long, I will never understand."
Felina raised an eyebrow in inquiry.
"Neither one of their conditions is something that happens suddenly." She explained. "It's been building for at least two or three years, if not much longer."
"Just what is their condition?" Felina pressed.
"Come down to the psych ward and I'll explain in more suitable surroundings, and you can see Jake for yourself." Hathin shook her head. "This is not what you could call public information at the moment."
"I understand." Felina nodded tersely and motioned for the tall Lioness to lead the way.
"Any change?" Dr. Hathin asked quietly as she and Felina entered a medium sized control room.
"Yes, ma'am." The black and azure feathered Avian bobbed its head without shifting it's attention away from the readouts for more than a second. "He has calmed down significantly, though Padawan Shereth still has him psychically sedated."
"Well, that's something at least." The Lioness sighed. "Akk'agia, please put Felina Feral on the list of authorized visitors."
"Yes, ma'am." It bobbed its head again before tapping several keys with long, slender fingers tipped in large claws.
"If you would follow me," Hathin smiled apologetically at the slightly shorter shekat, "maybe he's be reasonable."
She nodded and bit back the retort that wanted to come out, and was grateful for her restraint an instant later as the door slid open to the next room.
A stunningly exotic silver striped tigress in odd brown and cream layered robes was the first thing that caught Felina's attention. Then she saw what the young tigress was so focused on, and her world turned sideways again.
Jake was shaking, kneeling on hands and knees in a bare room with a force field wall, a twisted expression of hatred and terror marring his face. He seemed completely oblivious to everything around him, only what was going on inside his head.
"What happened?" She couldn't stop the near shriek, though she pulled herself together quickly afterwards.
"It will take more work to be sure," the tigress answered calmly, "but it seems likely he is being partially controlled by an outside force."
"What?" Hathin looked at the other tall shekat sharply. "How?"
"I have found three separate compulsions that do not appear to have originated within him." The Padawan nodded slightly. "I can not be sure, but it looks very similar to something Master Khan encountered before coming to this world."
"She know how to fix it as well?" Hathin arched an eyebrow at the younger healer.
Shereth nodded. "If I am correct, she can undo the compulsions with my assistance. The more difficult part will be repairing the damage done to the rest of his mind." She shook her head slightly. "Even under the best of conditions, which this is not, it will likely take months, even with his cooperation." She cast a glance at the hurting tom behind the force field. "Which is something I am not sure we will have."
"So where is she?" Felina demanded, her eyes never leaving her fiancé's distraught form.
"She is determining what, if any, damage has been done to the rest of the squadron, and arranging for NightRazor's extended absence."
"Jake?" Felina knelt just in front of the force field separating her from the tom. After a very long moment he looked up at her.
"Hi, Felina." His expression flickered between recognition, guilt, humiliation and resignation as he shifted to sit, not quite looking at her and still trembling.
"What happened?" She asked softly, knowing full well just how loaded a question she was asking.
"I tried to kill a Jedi Master." He shrugged. "Stupid move. She's my second in command too," he shot a look around his surroundings, "though I'd guess she's squad leader now." He looked over at Hathin. "You really should have just put me to sleep when you had the excuse."
"Now just why would I even think to do that?" The Lioness regarded him, clearly displeased, and disturbed.
He stared back at her blankly for a long moment before he shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I'll die for it anyway."
"For what?" Felina snapped.
"For raping my partner, among a couple dozen other things." He spoke calmly, apparently completely unconcerned by the reality of what it meant. "It carries a death penalty here."
Only instincts and experience made Felina take note that the other two females in the room were even more distraught by the statement that she was. "You raped ... death penalty?"
Jake focused his full attention on her. His voice was utterly calm when he nodded. "Rape carries a death by torture penalty in Cathedral. Murder, the kind I've done without authorization, also carries a death penalty."
"How the hell can you be so calm about this?" She growled low in her throat.
He regarded her carefully before looking away. "Because I am very, very tired of living a live on barrowed time, Fel. I did those things. I earned my fate. Now that I'm not required for the city's survival, it's time I faced it."
"I seriously doubt you'll be tried for anything Mr. Clawson." Hathin's voice was coldly certain. "Considering you are legally insane ... incapable of understanding your actions ... and in my opinion have been for some time ... your actions won't even reach II until I let you out."
"So I die in the psych ward," he shrugged, "same difference."
"Don't you care what happens?" Felina snarled, trying to hide her hurt with minimal success.
"O ... only to the extent of what it will do to you." He looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this. Hurting you was the last thing I wanted to do. But just like Chance, I can't trust myself around you." He finally met her eyes and the sick fear in them was his sole emotion. "What if I do that to you? I never wanted to hurt him, but it didn't stop me." He dropped his eyes to his fidgeting hands and shivered. "Once is bad enough, I should have been killed then and there for it, but I lived, and I did more," he closed his eyes and relaxed, "and finally something is going to be done about that sick monster."
"Well, you're right about that." Hathin growled deep in her throat. "Something is going to be done about the sick individual in my care."
Felina stood still, desperately trying to figure out which set of instincts to go with.
Half of her told her to turn around and leave as quickly as possible; that this situation was never going to be anything but bad. Turn around, walk away, get back to her apartment and her regular life and forget Jake Clawson ever existed.
The other half of her remembered his desperate attempts to come clean with her, the guilt that was so clear in him over his actions, no matter how despicable. And a tiny voice reminding her she loved him, and lovers forgive ...
And Enforcers do not.
Did she love him enough to forgive ... trust him again ... knowing this?
Felina swallowed and looked around the room, anywhere but at the Lioness and cinnamon tom who were now arguing vehemently.
"Jake, you only have one choice here." Hathin finally growled at him. "You can cooperate with us or not. Either way, I choose your fate, not you." The Lioness turned to Felina. "I'm sorry, but I think it is time to leave for a while."
She placed a gentle hand on the shekat's shoulder and guided the unresisting female out. "Akk'agia, get security to escort Miss Feral to guest quarters here, or her home, whatever she wants." She turned to Felina. "I have some work to do with him, I will keep you informed of our progress."
"Thank you." She nodded weakly.
Shadows of the Kat 1: Secrets Too Deep
NC-17 for M/M
Het Level is Low Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
283 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written March 15, 2001 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Vorex
Setting: Generic Furry, Star Wars (Furry), SWAT Kats
Primary Races: Digital Sentience, Feline, Kat, Xanith
Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Angst, DarkFic, DarkFic, DarkFic, Rape (M on M), Rape (M on M)
Pairings: Chance Furlong/Ulysses Feral, Jake Clawson/Felina Feral, Chance Furlong/Jake Clawson
Notes: This is the original first 20 chapters of Secrets Too Deep, compiled and put under this series in case you didn't read it on it's own.
Blurb: Everyone has secrets they want to keep, and desires capable of destroying them. We're going to make sure at least most of those secrets and desires come out, and make everyone survives it ... somehow.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from August 1, 2007