A Triad Through Fire, Darkness and Death part 2 of 7
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for friggen Everything
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"No!" The sound was ripped from Jake throat before he even began to comprehend what had hit him.

"Jake?" Felina turned in the large shower to grab him, and held him steady as he started to shake "Jake? What's wrong?"

"Don't know," he threw her hands off and scrambled from the spraying water, trailing a river from his soaked fur as he bolted to a small comm unit.

Felina followed him, a towel wrapped around herself and carrying one she draped over his shoulders as he brought the unit to life.

"Sheir, answer me." He made no attempt to hide his terror.

"Jake, be calm." A deep, resonantly commanding female voice came over the other end "That wasn't me."


"I assume Nathan SolGard..."

"Oh, god, no." Jake cut her off.

"You know him?"

"He's my partner ... Medic ... the third SWAT Kat." Jake started trembling for real "He shouldn't be back for another week."

"Well he is back, in Cathedral, and rather upset." Sheir Kahn replied calmly "I'm tracking him now."

"I'll be there." He closed his eyes and didn't collapse to the floor only by Felina's strength "Oh, dear Bastet, no."

"I'll send a V-Skimmer for you." The soothingly sure voice on the other end washed over them as Felina let Jake slip to the floor and stood to answer.

"Thank you, ma'am He's not fit to drive, and I don't know where to go."

"You'd be Felina Feral?"


"Good, try to get him dry and dressed, and out to the boat mooring It'll be there in about five minutes."

"Yes, ma'am." Felina didn't question the instructions as she set her mind on getting a completely unresponsive tomkat in a condition to travel.

"I can walk, Fel." Jake growled and pushed her away as a sleek black jet appeared from nowhere to settle with its wing almost level with the rocks they were standing on.

"No pilot?" She gave the two-seat fighter a suspicions once over as Jake walked confidently out on the wing.

"This is Amerith," he dropped into the back seat and motioned her to the front, "a PsiJet She's a full artificial intelligence."

"So why have room for pilot and gunner?" Felina asked as she settled in and tried not to jump as the canopy slid forward without a sound.

"Because I'm a team player." A silky female voice responded as they swung up and East, towards MegaKat City "Just because I'm a jet that thinks doesn't mean I don't need friends and partners."

"Oh, I'm sorry." Felina murmured through her shock "I've never met an AI before What's your relation to Jake?"

"I like her, Jake." Amerith purred, her voice stronger in the back seat, then shifted to the front "Jake's my gunner Patrik Celest, BlackFire, is our pilot."

"What happened to the V-skimmer?" Jake broke in, his tone half teasing, half serious.

"I told Central I'd pick you up." Amerith hedged "This is very serious, and not just about your friend."

"Start talking, Amee." Jake settled back and glared at the display screen in front of him.

"Yes, sir." Her voice drifted to a quiet worry "We didn't do it intentionally, but he was broadcasting so loud ..."

"Start with which 'he'." Jake interrupted with a low growl "And at this point, you're not going to get in trouble for anything you can tell me."

"Okay," the jet actually made the sound of letting a held breath out "Nathan SolGardin came into the Hanger without his body SheirKahn said it was called Astral Projection."

"That's new." Jake murmured to himself.

"Selkie said it felt like he didn't understand that he was there, but not there." The jet continued as they crossed the beach line on MegaKat City's northern edge and sped over increasingly jagged mountains as they headed inland "He 'felt' around a lot of stuff, especially me ... spend a good chunk of time on my canopy ... and I know he got something he didn't like, but he didn't seem to notice when we tried to talk to him I even yelled."

"And when was this?"

"Just before that roar that rattled everyone's head." Amerith sighed "Then he bolted."

"Dose he still have a wrist-com on?" Jake tensed and shivered.

"No The tracing signal was lost just outside the Hanger's main entrance."

"This isn't going to be fun." Jake whispered, mostly to himself "Where's Sheir Kahn?"

"In the Hanger She was tracing Nathan before you contacted her She's not having any luck either." Amerith sounded decidedly disturbed.

"Good Tell her find a quiet spot for us to work I think I can find him, but I'll need her skills."

"How?" Felina finally spoke up.

"We share a ... bond ... of some kind." He sighed and sank into the seat "Sometimes I can feel where he is, or what shape he's in."

"But you're not mates?" She asked curiously.

"No," Jake sighed and closed his eyes, "as much as I care for him He lost his lifemate when they came here ... left him to die to save me It's ... it would be wrong to press him while he's still grieving I thought I'd have time before he came back ... gods, he hates me now."

"Jake," Felina twisted as much as she could and touched his ear, "we'll sort this all out."

"Just have to find him first." Jake shivered and squeezed his eyes shut against an errant tear.

As the roar's echo died down the tiger stood in dazed confusion His mind was still reeling from what he had discovered Part of his mind recovered enough to think that Chance might be in danger from the same forces that had scrapped SWAT in the first place As the conscious mind reeled an instinctive mind took over. This was not the simple instincts of a tiger, but the trained instincts of Special Forces Commando.

All that mattered to the tiger was that Chance was in danger and the tiger had to warn him The tiger knew that his strength was running low and though he might be able to reach Chance to warn him, he wouldn't have the strength to protect him The tiger had to think hard to remember where Chance was, Ameliorate The tiger growled in annoyance since Ameliorate was too far for him to run Then the tiger remembered the high-speed subway line connecting Cathedral to Ameliorate He tore into a run, heading for the subway connected to Cathedral.

As the tiger raced through the corridors of Cathedral he became dimly aware of others looking for him He didn't care who they were or why they searched for him; he simply couldn't let them stop him from warning Chance The tiger's instincts guided him in the best way to avoid pursuers while still heading for the subway platform.

Eventually, the tiger reached the corridor leading to the subway platform He peeked around the corner to discover two Kantin guards at the entrance That made sense to him since he recalled that the tunnel went through MegaKat City, which would make the tunnel a weak point in the defensive arrangements.

The tiger stood thinking for several minutes about how to get past the guards He didn't have the energy to get into a fight with the two of them and part of his mind was opposed to the idea anyway It took him a long moment of plotting before he remembered that the thing on his foreleg granted him access to all but the highest security areas It was sure to grant him access to the tram.

With a steadying breath he walked out to the door in plain sight of the guards, who only gave him a cursory glance for the wristcom, and another as the door beeped to admit him to the platform He was half surprised, and rather grateful, to see it deserted.

The tiger paced the platform until the train arrived several minutes later As soon as the doors on the rear car opened he rushed in and carefully lay down out of the way. As much as he hated to, all he could do now was wait for the train to reach Ameliorate, and hope nobody found him before then.

"You should rest while you can, kit." Caito said in a calm, reassuring voice.

The tiger woofed quietly, too exhausted to care that once again one of the Triad had appeared out of nowhere.

"Don't worry I'll stay and keep watch."

Another a woof and small growl was the tiger's response.

"The dreams are really that bad, Nathan? I think you absorbed way too much from that mask Want me to get Fel? She's good at fixing this sort of thing." The small tom looked at the tiger with great concern He considered showing Nathan enough of the truth to prove that what he saw wasn't what he thought He sighed deeply; Felsira had specifically forbidden that sort of interference: if Nathan couldn't handle this crisis, the ones to come would certainly be too much Knowing the reason didn't make him feel any better about it; he wanted to help.

The tiger shook his head and growled, more forcefully this time.

Caito looked surprised "What do you mean, you need to remember? Nobody needs memories that bad."

A deep rumbling growl came from the tiger.

The trickster was taken back a bit "You need to be angry enough to what? Fel was right You're becoming more your father's son every day Just try not to lose who you are in all that anger."

The tiger put his head on his paws and woofed quietly He didn't want to talk and Caito's concern was becoming irritating.

Caito nodded "I understand I guess maybe you do need some time to think Just try not to do anything rash, okay? And Nathan..." The tiger just looked at him "Don't be so hard on Jake, he hasn't had an easy time lately either." He added before disappearing in a multicolored display of light.

The tiger sighed deeply He didn't know how to feel about Jake because there were too many emotions involved all at once He tried the various mental disciplines to clear his mind but nothing worked The fact that he was also worried about Chance didn't help matters any He hadn't felt this totally lost since Rhymar died.

It took almost all of the tiger's will to remain awake for the time it took to reach Ameliorate He knew that he was nearly out of time because each application of the biofeedback technique had less effect than the one before it He realized that he must be nearing the adrenalin saturation level at which the technique simply couldn't produce enough to make the body notice It didn't matter as long as he reached Chance first, after that he didn't care He'd failed at just about everything else of importance lately; he simply had to make sure Chance had enough warning to get away.

And he'd promised to see the tabby that evening.

The tiger wandered through the halls of Ameliorate, not sure where to find Chance No one seemed to notice him and that suited him just fine He was beginning to get desperate; the base seemed so large and he was so tired Just when he was about to give up he caught a familiar smell nearby: Chance! Spurred by hope the tiger sprinted to catch up with the tabby.

He turned the corner and though his nose told him that Chance should be there; there was no sign of him As the instinctive mind became confused, the conscious mind recovered enough to assess the situation Looking around he saw someone who seemed familiar but she wasn't facing him He meowed to get her attention When she turned around he realized that it was Brandy, the recruiter who had brought the tabby pilot here He woofed in amusement realizing that he smelled his friend because she'd spent most of the day with him, and his sense of smell was a lot better than he was used to.

Brandy turned at the meow to face a very large tiger wearing a Cathedral wristcom Her nose told her what her mind didn't really want to believe; that she'd missed something very major about Nathan SolGardin.

She took a breath and gave the exhausted individual before her another critical once-over "Nathan?"

The tiger nodded and mewed again with some impatience in the tone.

"Can I hazard a guess that being a tiger wasn't part of your plan for this evening?" She tried to usher him along the wide hall.

The tiger nodded emphatically and went along with her, only a little shaky on his feet.

"Can you go back to your Kat form?" She paused at a door and tapped the touchpad next to it and stepped in when it slid open to reveal large living quarters.

Nathan reluctantly nodded, then shook his head.

"I understand that this is a more powerful form, and judging from how badly you're shaking now I doubt you'd last long as a Kat, but you must realize how difficult a conversation is going to be like that."

Nathan growled at her with ears flat as the shut the door behind them.

"These are my quarters There's no way you'll make it to Chance's as worn out as you are, so you make yourself comfortable, tell me what in the nine hells happened and I'll get him for you."

He regarded the Brown Hyena before he sighed and stood up on two shaky legs.

"Thank you," she touched his arm and guided him to the bed as he reached to braid unruly red hair "Let me, you talk What happened?"

Nathan felt his body's desperate need for rest as he sat down but pushed it away ruthlessly "So you want to know what's going on?" He didn't object as Brandy's fingers began to make sense of his long, tangled hair.

Brandy looked him in the eye "It affects one of my recruits, I need to know."

"Hmmph How much do you know about the SWAT Kats?" He asked.

The question earned him a curious look "Right now, very little." She turned to her computer and typed her ID and password in "I've never had any need to find out." She turned to him as a query screen appeared for her "What should I look for?"

"I'll trust you have the clearance to read this." Nathan rested his head on his hands and tried to focus "I ... Chance, Jake and I ... were the SWAT Kats T-Bone, Razor and Medic respectively."

"Were?" She arched an eyebrow at him and typed on the keyboard one handed without looking.

"Yes, past tense SWAT no longer exists, it's history." The bitterness in his voice changed to sadness tinged by anger.

"What happened?" She asked with one eye on the screen "The file says it's still active, just on medical leave." She raised an eyebrow, "and that you aren't due back for a week."

"Medical leave?" He couldn't help but laugh, then looked at her in confusion "But ... Jake left ... how could ... it wasn't because he was supposed to?"

"Supposed to?" She left the terminal and sat on the bed next to him, carefully getting the confused tom to lean against her and held him "Tell me what you thought happened." She asked soothingly, and began to groom him in a motherly fashion.

"I thought the guys had broken up arguing again, but that wasn't really what happened at all." He said his voiced strained by fatigue and sorrow "We were betrayed, destroyed from the inside by someone we thought we could trust." He hesitated, having difficulty finding the words "By someone I thought I could trust."

"Who?" She prompted softly when he fell silent.

"Razor." He swallowed hard trying to continue speaking.

"What brought that out?" She encouraged his slow relaxation against her.

"Before this evening I wouldn't have thought it possible, but what I saw earlier made sense of so many things that hadn't made sense There's simply no other answer, as much as I wish there were." He started to ramble.

"What did you see?"

"A squadron of fighter jets similar to the Turbokat but better in every respect And the design couldn't have been by anyone but Razor He built a squadron of jets superior to SWAT's so as to replace us." A mixture anger, bitterness and sadness tinged his voice.

"Black Phoenix." She murmured.

"You know about it?" He looked up, his brain hurting too much to fight his confusion anymore.

"Not exactly," she licked the top of his nose "But it doesn't take much to figure out if you hang out here much Black Phoenix has been taking my best pilots and gunners and mechanics since it was started about eight years ago And I know Jake Clawson's well involved in it."

Nathan started to talk again, almost as if he hadn't heard her "At first it didn't make sense I mean, corporations don't build entire squadrons at R&D facilities; they build concept prototypes But then I remember the concept of commercial law enforcement, where large corporations provide backup support to law enforcement for a steep price The first step is convincing local law enforcement that they need the support Setting up SWAT covertly was a brilliant corporate strategy since it minimized the company's risk while achieving the objective. The second step is to build a military force similar in nature but superior in size and firepower to whatever force was supporting local law The last step is to remove the original force and then when the crisis arises offer the corporation's support, at a price."

He took a deep breath before continuing "Step 1 was done easily enough and the company put Razor in place to make sure that SWAT behaved as the corporation needed it to In the mean time Razor was designing the jets that would replace SWAT when the time was right Step two was completed with the recent completion of Black Phoenix. The first phase of Step 3 was completed when Razor dumped T-bone when he was most vulnerable T-bone was so devastated that he simply walked away; who knows what would've happened if I hadn't come back early That's probably the only place the plan failed ... I came back early If I'd come back when I was supposed to, T-bone would've been long gone beyond my ability to find him; and Razor would be ducking my trying to contact him." Nathan hesitated briefly. "Just like he is now At first I thought the timing was mere coincidence, but looking back it's so obvious He knew when the jets would be ready, and therefore when SWAT needed to be trashed, and the conference was the perfect excuse to get me out of the way." He blustered, angry with himself for having fallen for it.

"So why would he need to get you out of the way?" She prompted as his eyes slid closed for a second.

"'Cause I had a knack for getting them back together after their fights, which would make it difficult to use a fight to get rid of T-bone Therefore, he needed me to be elsewhere... no wonder he thought the conference was such a good idea I should have gone with my instincts and stayed home Of course now I'm not sure if I was actually getting them back together or not... I don't know what of the last year was real and what was just part of the act." Tears were welling in Nathan's eyes "I thought SWAT meant something to him I thought I could trust him." He paused looking up at the ceiling "By Felsira! I thought we were friends." He was openly crying against her chest "Now I don't know what I can believe."

Brandy did her best to sooth him with touch and tone as he trembled against her "Nathan, let me tell Chance you'll see him in the morning I can see this is important, but if you're not making sense to yourself, don't you think it might do more harm than good to talk to him now?"

Nathan struggled to his feet "No, I told Chance I'd talk to him tonight Too many people have let him down already, I won't be one of them." He started unsteadily for the door.

Brandy easily stepped between him and the door "Nathan, be reasonable Chance will be fine tonight, you can tell him tomorrow I'll tell him you tried He can see that you're out cold if need be."

Nathan sighed, unconsciously leaning against her hands "Okay, if you'll help me finish something."

"If I can."

"Just a report I need access to a terminal to put an addendum on it, and your help getting it to the right person."

"As long as it isn't against regs, you have my word Just sleep here tonight." She turned him around and helped him to her desk "Just use this one."

Nathan nodded gratefully and pulled the disk from his jacket pocket, and popped it into the computer He began typing.

To: Ms. Pakitra Dyne, Commanding Officer, Cathedral
From: Colonel Nathan SolGardin, Chief Medical Officer, SWAT

RE: Personnel Transfer - Medical Issue [Jake Clawson aka Razor]

It has been brought to my attention that Razor has decided that he longer wishes to have anything to do with SWAT or the members thereof Due to this decision leaving SWAT without technical personnel, the unit is effectively disbanded effective immediately Though I regret that it was impossible to resolve the personal problems within the unit, I respect his decision.

Therefore, it is my final duty as CMO of SWAT to ensure that the medical concerns of former SWAT personnel are properly transferred to the medical directors of their new units However, due to the sensitivity of the medical issue involved I am sending the report to you, and will trust in your discretion to see that it is taken care of properly.

Enclosed please find a report detailing a serious medical issue concerning Razor Included is my analysis and my recommendations as to an appropriate medical course of action I am aware that the techniques and methods proposed will be unknown to your medical personnel.

Though I am capable of handling the issue I believe that it would be better if you selected someone to have me train in the procedures required Should my concerns be shown to be correct, I will be available to provide the protocols necessary to correct the problem. I believe that it is best someone else handle the case, since that will spare Razor seeing someone he clearly no longer wishes to associate with.


Colonel Nathan Solgardin, on leave from active duty.

"Are you sure you don't want to see Jake again?" Brandy had been reading as Nathan typed and wasn't convinced.

Nathan saved the file and placed the disk back in the disk carrier "It's what he wants." He handed Brandy the disk carrier "Please see that Ms. Dyne gets this as soon as possible, time could be critical." He stood up, wobbling as he did.

Brandy looked at the disk and sighed "I'll take it to her as soon as I'm sure you'll sleep But if he betrayed you ...."

Nathan laughed quietly. "Yes, I probably should hate him, shouldn't I? That's what makes this so tough After what's happened and after what he's done all I can manage is to feel hurt and betrayed And somehow I wonder if this isn't partly my fault ... was there something I missed that could have changed things; did he try to reach out to me looking for help and I just didn't see And maybe, just maybe if I'd ... well, maybe things would have gone differently."

He continued to ramble as she led him to her bed "Maybe if I'd admitted to myself sooner that I loved him I think he was looking for someone to love who'd take him more seriously who wouldn't be so casual about the relationship If I'd just seen that sooner, I could've done that for him But I was too wrapped up in my own grief and self-pity to see."

"Sit." She ordered softly, helping him remove his boots and jacket before he suddenly bolted to his feet, nearly knocking her over before collapsing into her waiting arms "Whoa! You're not going anywhere, remember?"

He looked up at her dizzily. "Oh right, sleep Brandy, just one bit of advice ... if you want to keep Chance flying for Cathedral, keep Commander Feral away from him, completely."

"Why?" She asked as she got him under the covers.

Nathan looked directly at Brandy, his eyes yellow-green "You have no idea of the monster that guards your city, nor the depths to which he'll sink to get what he wants Chance barely survived their last meeting emotionally, I don't think he'll survive another If you value him at all, keep Feral away." His voice drifted off as consciousness finally gave up its attempts to remain.

Brandy looked at the envelope she was holding, the unconscious Felsin in her bed and all the things he'd said and sighed "So much for an early night."

The first thing that Nathan became aware of was that he wasn't where he'd fallen asleep, but it was very similar, and quite comfortable.

Then information about the others in the room reached him and he extended his awareness without opening his eyes Jake was there; awake, angry, resigned, scared, and feeling very guilty Further away was Chance, deep asleep No one else seemed to be around.

"Jake?" Nathan queried softly as he opened his eyes and stood, reflexively taking in the large, tastefully done room with three doors, all closed, a table with four chairs and another used bed Definitely a Cathedral style place, they were probably still in Ameliorate, or maybe Cathedral itself It was hard to tell how long he'd been out, but considering he felt fine after the beating he'd given his system, it had to have been a while.

"Nate ...." Jake's voice trembled more than his body as he turned to face the Felsin, but made no other move "I ... gods I'm sorry it turned out this way I never meant it to be like this."

"Jake ... what happened?" Nathan closed the distance between them, stopping less than an arms length from the trembling Kat, but didn't touch him when the smaller tom shied away in obvious pain, and with no small trace of fear He didn't even need his empathy to catch just how conflicted the gunner was.

"I'm sorry," he whispered over and over as he sank to the floor and started to curl into a ball, guilt and fear giving an unpleasant, pungent overtone to his scent and a decidedly black taste to his aura.

"Jake, whatever happened, it'll be okay." Nathan's instincts and training to comfort through touch overcame his reluctance to go against Jake's apparent wishes. Their first physical contact sent a wave of conflicting emotions though him; desire, desperation, guilt, self-hatred, contentment, acceptance; all in a swirling bundle with no apparent order or cause.

"Jake, listen to me," he paused when the tom curled in his arms sobbed once, and froze when Jake twisted to grab him. "Jake?"

"Sorry ..." The shaking tom managed to whisper before he pulled Nathan into a bruising kiss, invading the Felsin's mouth when it opened in surprise at the fresh rush of emotions and a distantly familiar need.

It was a long, shocked moment before Nathan gathered himself enough to return Jake's advance, and longer still to sort out what the root of what he picked up from the tom was; an old, half formed mind-bond tearing him apart as multiple sources sought to complete it.

"You ..." Jake whispered in confusion as their mouths separated, arousal and desperate fear heavy in the air around them.

"I love you, Jake." He murmured, leaning forward for a soft, chaste kiss and smiled to himself when the tom relaxed significantly "Do you know what's happening?"

"I'm losing control." He trembled and looked away to stop himself from grabbing Nathan again "Losing my mind."

"Jake," he urged the lean tom to the nearest bed, still warm from his body heat, "you're injured, not losing control."

"Injured?" He sniffed the air, his ears flicked back in surprise "You love me?" He swallowed before loosing his fight to stay still and leaned into Nathan's personal space again, pressing their bodies together with a low groan when his muzzle found a welcome against the Felsin's neck.

"Yes." Nathan closed his eyes as the rush of sensation the threatened to shake his focus "I love you, and I welcome your attentions But we must see to your injuries."

"Nate ..." Jake's breath became a little more ragged as he started to pull the other tom's shirt up with shaking hands.

"Jake, please ..." he let his voice drift off as a low growl against his throat reminded him in a hurry that the warrior pressed against him, in such dire need of healing, was doing what anyone in pain does; whatever they thought it took to ease that pain.

"I'm sorry, Nate." Jake choked and caught a fair amount of Nathan's throat in his jaws; closing them just enough to ensure the tom didn't fight.

"No need for force, love." Nathan spoke softly, willing his body to say the same as he carefully stroked Jake's back, pulling the lean tom's shirt out of his jeans to give him access to soft cinnamon fur "Unless you want it ...."

"No," Jake whispered as he let his jaws go and pulled Nathan's shirt over his head "Just need ... I ...."

"You need to mate," Nathan finished for him and sealed the statement with a long kiss "I would be pleased to be with you."

"And Rhymar?" Jake forced the question out as Nathan trailed light kisses down his jaw and neck, tracing around the silver collar standing out so well again cinnamon fur.

"He would understand," Nathan murmured softly and brought Jake's muzzle up to face him squarely "I have mourned him, I will never stop loving him, but that is no reason not to love another And I love you." He hesitated a moment before plunging on "Will you trust me to heal you and ease this pain?"

Jake closed his eyes and nodded, his body going almost completely lax despite it's need "I trust you."

Nathan swallowed hard and opened his psychic senses to their fullest extent, feeling along the rough edge that was his half-formed bond with the cinnamon Kat for the weakest spot in the gunner's mind The chaos that greeted him only confirmed what he'd already feared; he was severely out of his depth already, and the worst not even guessed at He'd need a fully trained telepath, a Mind-Healer, to put it completely right Fortunately, he did have one of those handy.

Nathan breathed in deeply to focus just on the first step; helping with what he could He let the heady arousal wash away all concerns but indulging every physical pleasure he could give the lean male next to him, who was watching him with such expectation and open trust.

"Let me see you naked, love." Nathan spoke softly in Jake's ear, earning him a nod and low whimper before the lean tom moved.

Shoes toed off by the bed, Jake stood and turned a full circle before striking something of a pose His belt undone and jeans unzipped, he slid both hands under the layers of clothing just barely staying on his hips "Show me, first."


"You've seen, touched, every part of me already, even if your mind was on healing at the time." Jake purred, easing one hand around to palm his erection and sighed in pleasure "I think this is the first time I've seen you without a shirt on Never knew you were a tabby, much less a tiger-tabby."

"I wasn't trying to hide anything." Nathan shed his pants and shoes quickly "It's just cooler here than I'm used to."

"I understand," Jake murmured as he traced thin, black tiger-stripes across Nathan's back with light fingers, "but such beautiful stripes shouldn't be hidden." He licked the taller tiger-tabby behind the ear and purred, "come under the covers with me I wouldn't want you to get cold."

Nathan knew he made some kind of affirmative noise before his world narrowed to Jake's touch and the increasingly loving, calm presence of the tom in his mind.

Jake could barely breath as he lead his willing, almost eager, mate to the bed that was still warm from the Felsin's body He took a deep breath and growled before pulling Nathan into a possessive kiss as they knelt, then sank to their sides, pressing against each other, rubbing sensitive, bare skin against fur covered, combat hardened muscle.

Then he slowed, using every trick he knew about himself to control the lust burning in his body; to go as slowly and pleasurably as the situation demanded To give what he was given it's due, no matter how much it hurt to hold back No matter how desperate the need in his mind was.

He caught a whisper next to his ear, lost to the sensation of eager hands rubbing his back and the scent of mutual arousal until it was repeated.

"Let go, sate yourself." The words came with a hungry kiss and thrust from the male pressed against him "There'll be time for tender later."

Jake groaned as those whispered commands stripped the veneer of control he'd held on to so desperately With a lustful growl he pushed Nathan to his back, locked mouths, and ... let go.

"Well, that was interesting." Caito nudged Keltin in the ribs "Think we should get Felsira?"

"It would be a good idea if you went and got Fel I should remain here, just in case." The dark blue, uniformed Felsin suggested without taking his eyes from the pair in the bed.

"In case of what, Keltin? Hoping to learn something?" The smaller tom shot back.

Keltin smiled patiently "The little one's stability is still less than certain and he is my responsibility, if you recall."

"Hmmph I remember. " Caito kicked himself mentally for trading off watcher duties with the warrior The tabby pilot had been too emotionally wrecked to be interesting and Felsira wouldn't let him do anything to fix that "Keltin, you realize Nathan's still in love with Chance ... won't that complicate things?"

The larger tom considered the pair in the bed "Things are complicated already, Caito Both of them love the pilot, but they need something he isn't ready for and may never be ready for They are both incomplete and in pain; it is good that they have finally realized that they help complete each other." Keltin sighed thinking about the tabby Though he had traded watcher duties with Caito, Chance was still in his domain and therefore his concern.

"Yeah, they've got a perfect set-up for a triad but I don't know if the pilot is ready for that kind of commitment Of course, it might help if one of them actually talked to him about it. " Caito quipped, thinking that mortals had an incredible gift for complicating things unnecessarily; some more than others.

There was a brief glow of golden light, and the golden-furred form of Felsira appeared slightly behind the two toms "Did one of you two plan to actually come and get me, or were you going to spend all day arguing about who was going?" She commented casually in amused frustration.

As Keltin and Caito stood looking somewhat sheepish Felsira stepped around them to survey the scene "Well, I don't think I'm needed quite yet They seem to have things well in hand, as it were."

Keltin nodded "True enough, but Jake seems to have an amazing amount of psychic damage; no wonder he's been erratic of late It's beyond mine or Caito's ability to heal."

Felsira considered the cinnamon Kat more carefully "Yes, that he does Indeed, I'm surprised he's remained as stable as he has However, Nathan knows what needs to be done, and though I don't think he's aware of her yet, there is a mortal telepath present capable of handling things I won't interfere unless Nathan asks, since Jake is one of mother's children and I would prefer not to tamper unless absolutely necessary."

The large blue tom looked dubious "If you say so, Fel But I still think I should stay until things are more stable."

Caito leaned forward as though on an invisible railing "They do seem to be having fun though Say Fel, any ideas on what the kits'll be like?"

Felsira laughed and patted the little trickster on the head "You silly fool, that would be an issue on Felsinor but it's unheard of here."

Caito grinned "Yeah, but Nathan knows the technique and technology required."

"True, but his mate does not have the same cultural background and might not be open to such an idea." The golden shekat responded thoughtfully "But with mortals one can never be sure of anything What will be will be."

Keltin leaned against a not-there wall "Then all we can do for now is watch, and wait to see if we are needed. "

The Triad then settled back to keep an eye on one of their favored mortals, and his new mate ... just in case they were needed.

Chance gratefully collapsed on his bed after a challenging flight in a combat helicopter that would put anything on the planet to shame He still felt flushed from Brandy's honest praise when he'd set them down, and her playful grin when she told him the second flight would be a 'real' challenge almost made him want to invite her to spend the down time with him.


Then that dark tendril of memory crept up and silenced the thought before it reached his lips.

The big tabby sighed as he closed his eyes, suddenly too tired and unwilling to get undressed and shower, despite his sweat soaked state and need to make another good impression He'd have to remember to thank Nathan when the tom came by, and tell him that it was no problem about last night He understood stuff coming up, way too well And it wasn't like he'd been awake long enough to talk.

"You called for me, Mother?"

"Yes, Soron I have an important mission for you."

"I am at your service, as always, Mother."

"You are going to be responsible for guiding a new clan in the making into existence, and it will be a trip much like your own, and Wintergreen's."

"I understand, Mother Does this clan have a name yet?"


"Odd name."

"No odder than Darshar, and it has as much meaning to it's members You will see."

"Yes, Mother. My apologies."

"Accepted, pretty one I also grant you the powers you will need for this mission, and I trust your judgment to see to its completion by whatever means necessary."

"Thank you, Mother."

Jedi Master Sheir Kahn shifted and strengthened her mental shields once again to compensate for Jake's lack of training as his Force-abilities began to access the biological realm through the growing bond with his new mate She resisted the urge to sigh and contacted her Padawan daughter through their training bond.

"*Shereth, is Felina Feral aware of what's going on?*"

"*Yes, M-M She seems most ... pleased ... with it.*"

"*Thank the Force for small miracles We do, however, have a problem Judging by what has happened, Jake should not be exposed to any emotional distress or distraction, particularly Chance, for at least three to four days.*"

"*Any particular reason why, M-M?*"

"*Be careful when you address me so casually, Shereth.*"

"*Always, Master-Mother.*"

"*Imp Nathan and Jake are forming a soul-bond, but it is very slow going I will not interfere with this either Jake is in no shape to handle rushing it He is forming it as quickly as he can handle, and not even my assistance will change that.*"

"*Understood, Master-Mother I will see to it.*"

"*I know you will do well.*"

Nathan took advantage of Jake's apparent willingness to just lie close and trace lazy patterns in the Felsin's fur to take a closer look at their bond, and the mind on the other end.

Their link was a good deal stronger than the Impressioning Felsira had indicated, even when he accounted for the new strands wrapping around it And on the other end ....


A mind so comfortable in its pain that it no longer recognized the scares or damage done by such constant noise and strain One that didn't even begin to understand what it was, or could be ... or even what it was doing now.

Nathan scrambled to cover his shock before it penetrated Jake's languid awareness and went for as critical an analysis of his mate's condition as the situation allowed.

A telepath, a very strong one, but on a frequency so far off the normal range he hadn't even notice it before.

Basically untrained, but with a reasonable set of experience-taught skills cobbled together.

There were several dozen weak bonds were competing for attention, all of them with an odd feel to them The next strongest was the most normal of them, with Felina, though it was not one that would survive long without constant reinforcement The one after that was far more stable, and with a strange feeling female ... Amerith Chance ... there was something there that resonated to him, but it was terribly weak, and very damaged.

Jake also had other senses beyond the expected six, a physical environment awareness that didn't work the way Nathan was used to It felt more like empathy than anything, but definitely wasn't.

"You don't have to be so careful in my head, Nate." Jake nuzzled him affectionately "I won't break Best I've felt in a long time."

"Why do you keep calling me 'Nate'?" He swallowed a serge of guilt for invading Jake's mind True, with a bond, it was acceptable to look at anything unshielded, but the Jake didn't know how to shield And if this was the best he'd felt ....

"Huuph?" The cinnamon tom rolled up a little to look Nathan in the face, then settled back to his side, partially draped over the Felsin "I nickname my mates, those I'm very close to It's kind of an endearment, I guess."

"I've never ...." He heard his own jaw snap shut.

"No," Jake sighed and stared into space, "as much as I care for him, I know I don't mean that much to him Nicknames aren't something I think about, or do intentionally, they just happen when I'm ready, and when it's mutual."

"Oh." Nathan couldn't help but flash back to the first time Jake had used the endearment with him ... before they had even kissed, much less done more When Jake thought ... must have thought ... he was going to ... to ... to use force ... to gain what he needed.

"Wha'cha' feeling guilty about?" Jake prompted with a feather-light touch along Nathan's inner thigh and a tentative lick to one exposed nipple peaking out from reddish fur.

"I shouldn't have gone so far into your mind without permission." He sighed as another thread began to wind its way around their bond, strengthening it, and settling them both in the comfort of being that much closer.

"Don't worry about it, Nate." Jake purred, absently rubbing his hardening erection against the Felsin's thigh "You can look at anything in there." He paused for a moment, his eyes downcast "Though there's a fair amount you probably would be better off not seeing I've got some ... unpleasant memories."

"Only share with me what you are ready too, love." He cupped the Kat's face and brought their eyes level "It will all come in time."

Jake smiled with playful seriousness and leaned forward to claim a kiss "Less talk, more sex."

Nathan couldn't help but chuckle as he complied.

"Master Dyne," Shereth bowed politely when the white shekat shifted her attention from the monitor displaying the events in the room "Master Kahn says that Jake and Nathan will need solitude for the next half-week to complete their bonding."

"How, what?" Felina shot the silver on black tigress in white and brown laired robes a curious look.

"My Master-Mother and I share a training bond we can communicate silently though as part of my Jedi training, ma'am." Shereth bowed to the tall brown shekat "Master Kahn knows what they need because she is monitoring their condition through the Force and her telepathic skills."

"Oh." Felina swallowed and glanced at the monitor again before turning to Pakitra "Could you spare someone to give me a lift to ClawCrest Marina?"

"Sure, why?" The petite white shekat cocked an eyebrow at her.

"To pick up my car." Felina stood uncertainly "If I'm not going to be needed for at least a few days, I really should get back to duty Especially with them OOC." She poked her thumb back at the monitors.

Pakitra regarded the tall, brown shekat for a long moment before nodding "Come on."


"We have a few things to discus before you go back to the real world." She stood and placed a hand on Felina's arm "And you are right, the city does need you with the boys out like this." She tapped her wristcom "Robotech project."

"Yes, ma'am?" A slightly nervous male voice responded almost instantly.

"Get the Kilsola in top shape and paint her Enforcer colors with our insignia on the inside of the tail." Pakitra smiled at the startled shekat next to her "Then get her and whatever you need for her maintenance over to Enforcer headquarters She's to be Lieutenant Commander Felina Feral's personal craft until we have better to offer."

"Yes, ma'am." The male on the other end replied before she shut the link down.

"Urrr, not to sound ungrateful, but why?" Felina asked as she followed Cathedral's mistress into the hallway, then down it.

"Because I'll never forgive myself if something happens to you and I could have prevented it." She smiled sadly at the bewildered Kat following her "You mean the world to Jake, and you're the first to not hurt him for this long Loosing you, especially now, would probably destroy him As bad as that would be for my company, I ... he's my friend, one of very few I can trust implicitly That is worth more than anything to me."

"Why 'especially now'? He's got Nathan now." Felina swallowed to see the most powerful shekat on the planet, and possibly beyond, so unsettled Furs like her, furs of power and responsibility, like her uncle, weren't supposed to have friends that could influence them this much And definitely didn't admit to it.

"And you saw how that happened." The white shekat sighed softly "When he starts to think beyond the next second again, what do you think he'll be afraid of?"

"Of me being angry at this." Felina nodded with sigh and a stray touch to her collar "It's a good deal more than just a casual fling."

"That it is." Pakitra let it go at that, then let the silence stretch as she figured out the best way to broach the next subject "How much influence do you have with your uncle, where the Enforcers are concerned?"

Felina shot her a suspicious glare but answered "Very little."

"Then I understand that I am asking a great deal of someone with little reason to do it, save that it will be best for Jake, and the city." Pakitra sighed softly "But I still ask that you do what you can to get him to accept the S.W.A.T. squadron proposal, the Black Phoenix project, when he sees it Miss Briggs has already accepted in the name of the mayor's office, and that is technically all we need, but we have enough trouble in this city without having law enforcement and defense under different commands."

"Can you show me a copy of this proposal?" She went into full ranking Enforcer mode almost instantly, suspicious killing edge and all "If I agree it is for the best, I will do what I can."

"Easily done." Pakitra smiled thankfully and nodded as she led them into a small elevator room and sat down She proceeded to tap a series of commands into her wristcom before looking up as it began to move sideways "A hardcopy will be in my skimmer-jet for you."

"Thanks." Felina sat down as the elevator began moving up.

Pakitra locked eyes with her guest, glacial emerald to earthen brown, both born to command "I do trust that you understand that everything you have seen here is so far into the classified range that it doesn't exist outside these walls."

"Yes, Miss Dyne." Felina nodded in quiet acceptance "And there is no need to explain the penalties, and that not even I'm immune to them In that, we share a common law."

"Good, now on to less morbid subjects." Pakitra smiled as Felina shook her head in amusement "But no less important ones." Her smile faded to a small, sad one "Has Jake explained his family and kittenhood to you?"

"Yes, and that you were raised together; or rather, you nearly raised him, and fought for his rights when he had none." Felina touch the CO's shoulder "For that much, I thank you And I don't blame you for what I know went wrong."

"I wish to thank you, Felina." Pakitra inclined her head regally "I know you weren't there to know him before, but I want you to know, you've been very good for him, as well as to him." She kissed Felina lightly on the cheek before leaning back "As much as has been going on, for all the pain he's going through, I can see him finally start to heal wounds I thought would never stop bleeding And it was you who did the most for it As bad as it sounds, this is probably the best shape he's been in, mentally, in a very long time."

"You really do care for him."

Pakitra smiled sadly "A little too much at times, especially like now, when there is so little I can do to help him."

"It seems to me that you've done a lot."

"Just not enough." Pakitra leaned her head back and closed her eyes "You may wish to remember that; that there no amount of money, power or skill can always ensure the results you want." She looked Felina directly in the eyes "If it could, Jake's life would have been very different."

"I don't doubt it." She sighed sadly and let the rest of the ride fall to silence.

"What a mess." Soron muttered to himself as he staid out of sight of the Felsin Triad to assess the extent of his job "No wonder the Queen-Mother wanted me to handle things Well, I guess I should go introduce myself." He sighed and let himself become visible to the three feline gods.

"Who are you?" Keltin stepped in front of the others, and between the dark, leather-winged humanoid and the mortals they were all watching.

"I am Soron, of the Darshar Clan Wyvern." He bowed, draping his intricately tattooed wings over his shoulders to form a cape, much as his lifemate did "The Queen-Mother sent me to ensure this situation ends correctly."

"With all due respect, we have things in hand." Keltin didn't back down an inch until Felsira put a hand on his shoulder.

"I can see that," Soron snorted dismissively as Keltin and Caito riled.

The little trickster's eyes narrowed and his ears flattened back "Like a servant of her Divine Indifference should be criticizing anyone's handling of anything." He deliberately turned his back on the Gargoyle.

Felsira placed one hand on Caito's shoulder to quiet him. "What interest does a Darshar Gargoyle have with Kats?" Felsira asked evenly.

"Very little, honestly." Soron chuckled at their startled looks "My specialty is multi-racial clans, which this is to become." He waved in the general direction of the bed and leaned against a not-there wall, mimicking the pose Keltin had been in when he arrived "Now are we going to get along on this one ...."

"Does Mother think we can't handle this ourselves?" Caito snapped before Felsira could stop him.

"Actually, she didn't mention the three of you at all." Soron shrugged "My orders are to get this to work by any means I see fit, and since you're here, I see no reason not to take advantage of the fact Saves me the trouble of bringing in my own Healer, who doesn't know them yet."

"We will work with you." She overrode the males' sputtered objections "How much healing is allowed?"

"As much as he'll let you." Soron chuckled at her raised eyebrow "Oh, come now, you must remember one of your own oaths."

"Why would he refuse healing?" She gave Jake a sharp look.

"He has his reasons, and you'll hear them soon enough." Soron smiled "But first the stage must finish setting itself A little patience."

Keltin walked over to where Caito was quietly fuming He chuckled quietly and whispered to the small tom "All that to suggest we wait like we're doing in the first place." He hugged Caito reassuringly. "Don't worry about it, love We'll protect them as we need to, nothing changes that."

"I know, Kel." Caito replied quietly "I just don't trust Her, you know that."

The big warrior held his mate close and whispered quietly "I know." The passing of millennia had done nothing to repair the hurt his mate had felt when Fel's Mother seemingly abandoned the Kats who would later become the Felsin Keltin would defer to the shekat's judgment on this, but he did not care for the Gargoyle's superior, patronizing attitude.

Nathan silently thanked Felsira that Jake's need for sex was interspersed with these quiet periods of simply being together In his years with the Corps Nathan had studied many alien races and could only recall one with a behavior like this in the male of the species And given the Ferrin dislike of extended space travel and the isolation of this planet, he found it extremely unlikely that any of the Jake's cobbled together genetic code was from one of them.

His train of thought was distracted by the pleasant sensation of another tendril winding its way around his bond with Jake, strengthening it When he took a closer look at the structure of the bond, and realized that though the tendrils strengthened it, they did not affect the underlying, damaged and incomplete, one He realized that in order to heal the damaged bond, a full Bonding would be required in addition to the instinctual bond that was forming now.

Considering recent events in retrospect, Nathan realized that his psi-potential appeared to be expanding His ability to examine the bond in detail was certainly beyond his previously determined limits In addition, he noticed that the noise level at the edge of his normal shields had increased as though he was 'hearing' more than he was used to After considering what he knew about psi-potential and theories regarding the possibility of abilities increasing later in life he came up with two likely possibilities The first was that the latent telepathic abilities that Cazi had hinted at where beginning to emerge, probably for the same reason his other latent abilities where emerging The other possibility was that his bond with Jake, an untrained yet powerful telepath, might have triggered latent abilities In either case, Nathan wondered if his shields where sufficient to keep his thoughts in, since they were undoubtedly getting 'louder'.

Nathan felt that he needed to test this new 'telepathic' ability of his, but that required a target mind, and trying to read Jake wouldn't tell him anything since their bond was almost strong enough to do that casually Then he remembered that he had sensed Chance nearby when he first awoke The thought of the tabby caused several conflicting emotions to spark briefly; concern for his friend's well being, guilt for doing the one thing he had tried not to, and a lingering fear that his hurting friend might think that Nathan had been lying to him during the weekend.

Cautiously Nathan extended his mind, looking for the familiar patterns of the emotionally injured pilot As his mind ranged further he realized that his strength had definitely increased Finally, he found Chance's mind and the brief contact told him that though the tabby was frustrated, he wasn't in any danger Nathan withdrew his mind quickly, as suddenly thoughts began to come across the contact Nathan discarded them before 'reading' them, but still he was shocked; he had never gotten thoughts before Clearly, further experimentation was required His concentration was abruptly returned to the present by the sensation of an insistent nuzzle He looked down to see Jake looking up at him.

"Nate?" There was concern in the smaller tom's voice.


"You're a million miles away, something wrong?"

Nathan sighed realizing that he had been terribly distracted at a time he definitely shouldn't have been and grinned weakly "Nah, haven't got the range."


Nathan chuckled "Sorry, old joke from the Psionics Academy." He sighed and pulled Jake into a hug "I am sorry love, I was distracted I've always had problems being off-duty, even when I want to be." And he did want to be off duty for a change To leave the problems and concerns to others for even a little while.

Jake ran his hand lightly across his mate's chest, teasing the hardening nipples he found "You need to stop thinking so much." He gently pulled the larger tom into an intensely passionate kiss "And if I can do it, so can you."

Nathan realized that Jake was right; he did need to stop thinking But before he could let go he had to take care of one thing Carefully, he wrapped his mental shields around Jake so he could send one message that Jake didn't need to hear Using the formal tones of invocation he sent out a telepathic message focused so that only the trained and very strong could hear it.

"*Guardian and Protector Spirits of this place, hear my plea I ask you to see to the safety and well being of my beloved friend, so that I may focus on the needs of my lifemate Gentle spirits, I do not know your names but I entrust my friend and partner Chance to your care, until the time comes when I may resume my duties This I ask in the name of Felsira, mother guardian of the Felsin people.*"

Duty taken care of, he banished all thoughts of anything but his mate and the pleasure they shared For the first time since kittenhood Nathan truly took off his uniform, which he had always worn mentally even when off-duty.

Keltin whistled in surprise "Never thought I'd see anyone get Nathan out of that mental uniform of his Even Rhymar never quite managed that."

Felsira nodded silent agreement as she watched the two below After Rhymar had died, Felsira had been worried that Nathan would retreat to the nearly emotionless state that Rhymar had coaxed him out of Fortunately Nathan's friendship with Jake and Chance had been enough to keep his emotions alive.

The golden shekat turned to Caito "Caito, there's something you need to do."

The trickster looked up at her "Fel, do I have to? He's got who knows how many mortals keeping an eye on him ... what do you need me there for?" Caito pouted, tired of watching the tabby do little or nothing.

Felsira bent down and hug the small tom close "I need someone there I can trust, and who can handle things ... should they need it."

Caito nodded "Okay Fel." He stood up and walked over to the warrior still leaning against the not-there wall "Kel, would you do something for me?" His voice was quiet and reserved.

The large blue tom raised an eyebrow at him "Depends."

"Let me watch here, through you Please, Kel."

The warrior put his hands on Caito's shoulders "It means that much to you, beloved?"

The small tom nodded "Nathan means as much to me as he does to the rest of you, and its important for me to know how things work out." His shoulders sagged remembering how badly messed up things had gotten.

Keltin regarded his mate with some concern The usually impudent tom had taken the events of the last week very personally "Of course, love." He gently cupped the little trickster's muzzle and lifted it so their eyes met A silver light flowed between them for moment.

Caito vanished in a multicolored shower of lights "Thanks Kel I'll think of some way to repay you ... when we have some time alone."

Keltin smiled wistfully, thinking that the two of them had not spent nearly enough time together lately.

Felsira watched the two males and sighed quietly Sometimes she envied their closeness for while she was mate to both; she had never been as close to either as they were to each other The shekat chuckled briefly at her own foolishness; it was hardly surprising given that the two had been mates for time unknown before she met them She was grateful that Caito had fallen in love with her deeply enough to propose the triad to his quiet and somewhat reluctant mate.

Felsira looked down at the two mortals below, and wondered how they would manage to patch things up with the pilot She had no doubt the pilot would be mad at Jake, and she shared Nathan's concern that Chance would be mad at him by extension She sighed remembering Nathan's long held dream of things finally working out and SWAT becoming a complete triad She knew his mind realized that it was unrealistic ... but she wondered if his heart would ever come to terms with it.

Keltin put his arms around the melancholy shekat and held her close "Don't worry so much, love Things will work out, you'll see Destiny holds those three together but sometimes it takes mortals awhile to realize how much they need each other and even longer to realize that they are needed."

Felsira snuggled against the big warrior's chest and sighed "I know but I hate seeing them stumble about in such pain I will never understand how Mother became so indifferent to it all, and perhaps I don't want to."

Keltin nodded as he absently stroked her long blond hair while keeping watch on the mortals below Sometimes it was better to be silent than to try to figure out what to say.

"Hungry?" Jake murmured softly in Nathan's ear as the tiger-tabby tried to catch his breath.

A rumbling growl from his midsection answered for him and Jake laughed The simple, clean amusement trickling through their bond made Nathan smile in real pleasure "You don't do that nearly enough."

"Do what?" Jake regarded him curiously with a playful grin.

"Enjoyed something so ... so cleanly." He brushed the cinnamon tom's cheek ruff "As long as I've known you, you've always seemed to be in so much pain."

"Life hasn't been kind to either of us." Jake kissed his mate gently "Survival has usually come at the cost of living."

"Something changed," Nathan stared up at him, "and it's not me."

"I broke." Jake looked away, a trace of shame growing in him "I'm not sure how much of the Jake Clawson that became Razor still exists, but I know it's not a lot I'm too tired of living a lie to keep it up like I was."

"But you're not much different ...."

Jake silenced him with a finger "Do you know why I was in those caves, when you first found me?"

Nathan blinked in confusion "I assume chasing Dark Kat." He couldn't stop the cold shudder that passed through him at the thought of that time.

"Yes, I was And I was alone."

"So ...." He looked up, searching for the obvious thing he was missing.

"Even with T-Bone and full gear we rarely defeat him to any real extent I sought him out alone so I could die He's the only one I was sure could do it." Jake didn't so much as blink as Nathan's eyes went wide "It was months before I forgave you for making me live another day."

"Because of Felina?"

"No," Jake shook his head," though I'll admit now that I'm grateful for the opportunity to have had her in my life I forgave you when I realized that as bad as I hurt, and as far as I'd broken, I could still do what I promised for a while longer."


"Then you made me realize, by just being yourself, that I didn't have to live the lie to get the job done." Jake's fingers played a random pattern in the Felsin's fur "And somewhere in there, I realized that I wanted you in my life Not just as Medic, or Nathan SolGardin, or even necessarily like this ... that's why I wanted you to go to that conference I needed to see what was really left between me and Chance, with you gone What would happen ... I knew I'd do anything for you, even stay with him far too long for anyone's good." He met Nathan's eyes "I still will, you know, if you ask me I'll apologize to him and make nice, somehow." He glanced away, his voice very low "I can't refuse you anything It's not in me anymore."

"And what is there, for Chance, now?" He could barely breath against the whirlwind of conflicting emotions brewing in his mate's mind.

"That I love him as dearly as I ever did, and I would marry him in a heartbeat if he'd have me." Jake let his eyes drop completely "But what he's willing to give me isn't enough anymore Just being fuck-buddies and such ... I need a partner that I can let my guard down with, that I can turn to, to hold me and convince me it'll be okay in the morning when the nightmares come I do trust Chance, I trust him with my life and the lives of those I hold dear, but I can't trust him with my heart anymore He's hurt me too many times, even if he didn't mean to."

"But what changed?" Nathan eased Jake's muzzle so they faced each other again "Why walk away now?"

"Because I had to There wasn't any other option Up to last week the city needed the SWAT Kats and SWAT needed both of us But we finally got the last kinks worked out of Amerith, Kellra and Shagreth, though he's still a little shaky about the finer points of his new body With having to stay not longer required of me ..." Jake shook his head as his voice trailed off "I almost ... I can't trust myself around him The night before I left ... we got into a fight I don't even remember about what, but I damn near killed him, and he didn't even realize how close I was to loosing control and tearing him to shreds He doesn't even begin to understand what I'm capable of, and ... and I can't tell him No matter how badly I want to come clean, he wouldn't understand He'll hate me for what I am, for what I've done, and what I know I'll have to do again."

"Jake, it'll be okay." Nathan did the only thing he could thing of; he held the crying tom close and did his best to comfort him "Things will work out."

"Yes, when I'm far away from Chance, for good." He buried his face against Nathan's neck "I did my best I set him free with every advantage I could, even left him with the option of coming back, if he wanted to give what I need But it's still for the best that he's gone I'm not so sure he can handle a PsiJet I doubt I could handle it if he can't."

"Umm, Jake?" Nathan stroked the shaking tom's hair until he settled somewhat "I'll fix something for us I think you need to eat as well Hunger never makes things easier."

"No, I'll do it." Jake pushed himself out of bed before kissing the startled tom still there.

Nathan was about to open his mouth to object when he caught the backwash of how important this action was to Jake So he settled and waited for breakfast, and listed quietly to ebb and flow of emotional energy on the other side, pleased as it slowly leveled out to a nervous excitement.

"*Jake?*" Amerith hesitantly prodded the back of his mind for access "*Can we talk?*"

"*Of course, baby.*" He didn't miss a beat from slicing the small, red fruit he was adding to the plate "*I know I've been a little out of it lately, but you're always welcome.*"

"*He doesn't feel that way.*" A mind-image of Nathan accompanied the hurt complaint.

"*Amee, please, be nice about him You know how much he's done for me ... hell, if it wasn't for Nathan, you wouldn't exist, because I would have died over a year ago.*"

"*I know.*" She growled half-heartedly "*It doesn't change the fact that your bond with him is stronger than mine and he's not of the Squad.*"

The silence between them settled for a moment, Jake's from shock, and Amerith's from misery.

"*Are you leaving us?*" She finally asked.

"No!" He cried out verbally as well as long his entire telepathic spectrum "*I would never ...*"

"Jake?" Nathan bolted into the small kitchen "Jake, what's wrong? I heard ... I don't know what."

"I need you to do something, Nathan." The lean tom spoke in a nearly dead voice as his mate embraced him "Something I don't really have a right to ask you to do."

"I'll do anything I can for you." The absolute certainty in his voice relaxed Jake slightly "Anything."

"You would have learned about all this eventually, but we're kind of out of time." He reached and picked up the half-full plate of chips, meat and fruit "We'll eat, then I need to do some introductions."

Nathan followed the lean tom out, more than a little bewildered, and not at all assured by the fact that the only clear thing he knew was that something has scared the fight out of his mate.

"You can go back to Jake and Nathan, if you'd like." Soron's voice was gentle as he appeared behind Caito as he watched Chance get dressed in a white and gold flight suit. "I'll watch things here."

"I don't need any favors from you." The small tabby spat.

"Then will you grant me a favor?"

"Depends." He glared at the huge, furless creature.

"Tell me why you're so angry with me." Soron resettled his wings. "Have I insulted you? For I did not intend to."

The little trickster looked suspiciously at the Gargoyle wondering why one Her servants was pretending he cared what someone thought. "Sure, why not."

He jumped up to land on a not-there wall and sat down. For no reason other than whimsy, he switched to his faerie form, a small male with delicate features and mischievous grin. He had modeled the form after a long time friend of his, Puck the trickster of Avalon. They'd fooled more than a few with the similarity, including Oberon himself.

The trickster stared down at Soron. "Let's start with the fact that you show up out of nowhere in the middle of a situation we're handling and act like you're in charge. On top of that, you suggested that we weren't handling the situation. You haven't the first clue what's going on here, or just how bad things were before ... or how bad her Divine Indifference let things get. And don't even get me started about how we have to tip toe around and not use our powers too much in order to avoid offending Her."

Caito disappeared and reappeared sitting on the shoulder of an Exo-Frame, wings fully extended, painted in SWAT colors. "Look, Nathan's important to us for reasons you don't understand. That means that Jake and Chance are also important, because Nathan's Bonded to Jake and he's rebuilt his world around the two of them. All this would be tough enough but the kit's going through hell on his own now that his past is waking up."

The faerie disappeared and a large winged jaguar appeared sitting watching Chance. The jaguar didn't speak but projected in a strong, pained mental voice. "*See, She didn't care about the Kats who would later become the Felsin when they were lost for generations in the void. And I don't think She cares now; I think this some game of Hers. Well, I won't have it. Jake and Nathan have been through more hell in their lives than anyone deserves, and just maybe this time things can work out. Felsira will play nice about it and put up with you playing superior Gargoyle-in-charge; but Keltin and I will do what we have to to give them a shot at being happy, and if things work really well, we'll even be able to get SWAT back together. As for your watching things here ... you don't even know what threats we're watching for. It'd be a whole lot easier if Fel would just let Kel deal with the monster the way he wanted to. But nooo, we can't risk offending Her Divine Indifference, so the monster runs lose unpunished.*"

The jaguar disappeared and the small black on brown tabby appeared He was lying on the ground, head resting on crossed arms as he watched Chance. He spoke in a quiet, fatigued voice "So you see, Gargoyle, it isn't really you I have a problem with, it's Her But you work for Her ... and I'll never trust Her."

Soron regarded Caito for a long moment before they followed Chance out to a sharply angled combat helicopter to begin his first test flight of the day. "Would you tell me exactly how Mother wronged you, and of this monster you could not kill for fear of Her? Why does She restrict your powers?" Soron asked cautiously as Brandy joined Chance in the chopper and the blades began to turn. "I make no contention that She is not as attentive as She should be, and has chosen badly more than once, but I have never heard of such a proclamation. She's usually more direct than that."

The little trickster sighed. This Gargoyle was confusing him by asking such questions. "It was a long time ago, back when the Kats who would become the Felsin first left this world. There were others here to take care of things but Mother ordered Keltin and I to stay here and not go with the evacuation ships as we wanted to."

He got into position to follow the copter discretely. "We watched from here, but it became more difficult as the distance increased Our abilities weren't as refined as they are now, back then. Then the evacuation ships became lost in the Great Void, we begged Fel's Mother to let us help. All we were ever told was that it wasn't the right time yet. And that was all she would tell us for thirty mortal generations, and all we could do was watch as they wandered lost, without hope. They trusted us, and we couldn't do anything for them."

The small tabby looked into the sky. "Then came the Silence, for over a hundred years we heard nothing from Her. That's when Kel and I decided to leave to help the wanderers. We didn't care anymore if She didn't approve, we just couldn't stand back and watch anymore However, the Void is a difficult place even for us and it took longer than we expected to find exactly where the evacuation fleet was. That was when Felsira found us, we had never heard of her before but there was something warm and caring about her that we had missed for a long time. She had decided to take the wanderers as her own people, and she asked us to help guide and protect them. That's the last time, before now, that we've had anything to do with this world."

"And that silence continued for over a millennia, and when it was broken, Mother was very different." Soron's voice was choked.

"What?" Caito did a mid-air somersault to come face-to-face with his companion.

"Mother died, Caito." His voice was very low as he continued to peruse the helicopter. "Killed by one of Her own."

"You're lying." The tabby growled and caught up easily.

"I was there when she fell, and when she was reborn." He shook his head. "It was a brutal time for all of us. Not many survived. Those of us that did were never the same, after learning to live crippled and hunted. We're still piecing together the Realm."

"You can't kill ..."

"Then don't believe me." Soron shrugged. "I spoke the truth. Now, what is this monster?"

The winged jaguar easily flew casual loops around the copter to settle himself down. His mental voice turned angry. "*As for the monster, its a vicious rapist that hides under color of authority here and no one knows it for what it really is. It brutally attacked and used Chance, and Nathan had one hell of a time trying to pull Chance back from the brink. Nathan still has scars from dealing with the problem, and because the monster is still loose he can't even be sure it won't happen again.*"

The 'voice' became somewhat sad though still angry. "* What I hate is the fact that to protect Chance, Nathan feels he may have to kill the monster himself. Nathan's never killed anyone before, he shouldn't have to now ... we're not sure his mind can take it ... because it's in such opposition to who he's always been. But I know the kit will do it if he thinks he has to. He'll kill to protect Jake or Chance ... no matter what the cost is to him personally.*"

The tabby appeared sitting calmly on one of the copter's struts. "As to why Kel can't do it ... we're back to not offending Her again, because the monster is a Kat." His ears went back and his voice became low and dangerous. "It calls itself Commander Ulysses Feral, and if it tries to get near Chance again ... I will kill it. I don't care if it offends Her or not, Nathan shouldn't have to suffer any further because of its actions."

As Chance put the Copter through its paces, the little tom smiled. "He really is good, all we have to do is get him to remember that SWAT does need him." Caito ran a quick systems check of the copter just to be sure, when he detected no problems, he settled back to enjoy the ride ... he'd always preferred letting someone else do the piloting.

"Unless you'd like me to stay, I have a few head to rattle down in Records." Soron grinned mischievously at that tabby, who actually blinked in surprise before waving him off.

The trickster lay back enjoying the ride after Soron disappeared. He was curious to know what the gargoyle had meant by 'rattle heads down in Records.' In fact, he'd almost been curious enough to follow, but he put his curiosity aside for once because if something went wrong and he wasn't here ... he'd never forgive himself, never mind the centuries of grief he'd get from the others.

He kept thinking about what the gargoyle had said about Fel's Mother. As inconceivable as the idea was Caito couldn't deny that Soron seemed sincere in what he said. It was that sincerity that caused the little trickster the most problems ... once he stopped acting like he was in charge, the gargoyle was almost ... likeable. It didn't fit what the tabby remembered about Her servants at all.

Confused by it all Caito decided to let his more serious mates handle it, at the very least Fel needed to know what the gargoyle had said. He collected conversation and sent the entire mental package across the link that bound the Triad together.

Serious matters taken care of, Caito made a mental note to ask Soron if he knew the Gargoyle clan on Earth that he'd run into when hanging with Puck. For some reason he couldn't come up with the clan name, but he remembered the name of the big one, Goliath. The little tabby sighed remembering how he'd been daydreaming about that hunk for weeks after he'd last been on Earth. It had driven poor Keltin to distraction ... he didn't think Keltin would leave him alone on Earth again after that bit.

He chuckled thinking that maybe having the gargoyle around wouldn't be as bad as he thought. After all, it looked like he might actually have a decent sense of humor when he wasn't being the high and mighty leader.

The meal passed quickly in uncomfortable silence, both toms eating much as they would in the field; going for maximum nutrition in minimum time and fuss.

"Nate ... how far have you gone into my mind?" Jake looked up as he finished the last of his meat slices.

"Not far below the surface, and along the bonds." He answered nervously.

"Did you see enough to know I have a lot of bonds, most of them much less intense than the one we share?"

He nodded silently.

"Did you recognize any of the folks I'm bound to?" Jake settled easily to his side and watched his mate intently.

"I got the name Amerith from a strong one, as well as Felina and Chance, but other than that ...."

"I need you to meet them, and accept joining our pack." Jake spoke very quietly "I'm very sorry about how this is going, I haven't ...."

"Jake, I understand." Nathan shifted to bring his body close to his mate's "What will this entail of me?"

"I can give you a little choice there." Jake tried to smile "You can meet, accept and be accepted one at a time, or as a group It does involve entering our group bond as well."

"Umm, I'd really prefer to do it one at a time, and after we finish bonding." Nathan shook his head, trying to project just how important this was "We need to complete our bond before any more are attempted."

"*Amee?*" Jake caught her attention, ensuring Nathan could hear them this time "*Are there any actual objections, or is this because I'm not following procedure and you're feeling ignored?*"

"*Amerith,*" Sheir Kahn's mind broke in, "*the Felsin speaks the truth. They need to finish first.*"

"*Who are you?*" Nathan tried to pinpoint the source that was far too close for his comfort.

"Go ahead and show yourself, Ka." Jake chuckled slightly "I don't think Nathan's heart is going to take too many more surprises."

"Greetings, Nathan SolGardin." A very tall, flame-furred tigress shimmered into existence in the far corner of the room "I am Jedi Master Sheir Kahn, and a member of Jake's Black Phoenix SWAT Squadron."

"Nate! Easy." Jake caught his mate as the Felsin swayed dangerously close to fainting "She's a friend." The last word came out something of a squeak as he hands contacted much rougher fur that expected and his brain struggled to process what was standing next to him.

"I mean no harm, Nathan." Sheir Kahn didn't miss a beat as biped Felsin flowed into quadruped tiger.

"*Nate?*" Jake's mind scrambled along their link, half scared, half fascinated, even as he felt the now far too familiar urges rise in him again "*That you?*"

"Now why would I ever think we'd have some privacy in Cathedral?" Nathan growled in exasperation more than anything as he stood back on two legs and turned to face his mate "I was going to tell you ..." his voice was cut off but the look on Jake's face Not shock, or disgust, or even fear ... those he was half expecting ... but lust "Jake?"

"Now that's something I've never tried." Jake grinned predatorily "Do switch back."

"Umm, Jake, really ... isn't that taboo or something?" He actually took a step back, more than a little relieved to catch their watcher walk out the door shaking her head.

"How so?" Jake purred with an advancing step.

"Mating with a beast ...."

"You're no more beast like that than you are now, Nate It's not like we're the same species anyway." Jake nuzzled his lover's neck insistently "Please?"

"That's cheating." Nathan shook his head and laughed slightly before shifting into tiger form "*Now what?*"

Jake murred quietly as he assessed his mate's new form, one that outweighed him by over three hundred percent, and about that much in the natural weapons department as well.

"Most impressive." He knelt and cupped the uncertain tiger's face and placed a kiss on its wide mouth "Hmm, roll over." He helped guide his perplex but willing mate to his back, and ran explorative hands along the white belly before coming to rest on large, furred balls and a nearly invisible sheath.

"*Jake?*" Nathan tucked his chin against his thick neck to look down his chest and belly to where his mate was alternating between trying to get a response from him and just exploring the tiger form.

"Relax, Nate." The mixture of frustration and distress in Jake's voice mirrored that in his mind "*Please ....*"

"*I don't know what to do like this.*" He whispered between their minds "*Sorry.*"

"Think sexy things if I'm not enough A fantasy, Rhymar ... anything."

"*Just thinking of you was enough for over a year and being with you is more than I ever imagined.*" Nathan quickly sent reassurance across the link "*It's just I'm unfamiliar with this form, don't understand it very well.*"

Jake managed a painful growl as he resisted an urge deep in his mind with the screams at always accompanied it "*I don't ... the other way ... I don't want to mount you like this, just pleasure you Just touch, taste you.*"

Nathan twisted up to two feet and pulled Jake close before the smaller tom even registered the change, his full focus on the quickly buried flash of pain-memory "What's wrong with mounting me? What hurts so much?"

"I ... the full story is a long one." Jake accepted the warm embrace, and groaned as Nathan's hand began to stroke him purposefully.

"Is that why you've always bottomed to Chance?" Nathan shifted his grip; grateful for the tricks his therapeutic massage teacher gave him by accident to bring this to a quick end.

Jake just nodded against Nathan's chest as the cinnamon tom's breath can faster "And I got good with my tongue for the girls." He let a low, grunting moan out as his body reached the edge, quickly followed by a stuttering howl as the stroking was replaced by hot, wet suction and all thought ceased for a moment.

"Better?" Nathan murmured as he licked the escaped drops of Jake's cum from their fur.

"Yah," he leaned against the tiger-tabby "I really hope this calms down soon."

"It should," Nathan smiled gently "You were going to tell me why you don't like to top."

"Muurph, I guess." Jake sighed "I'll get into the long of it later, but basically, Pat and I lost our virginity to each other, and, umm, it didn't go very well when I ... entered her." He closed his eyes and shivered in the strong embrace supporting him "I've never stopped hearing that scream."

"How old were you?" He wasn't all that sure he wanted to know.

"By best guess, thirteen."

"Best guess?" Nathan raised his eyebrow, even knowing Jake couldn't see it.

"Long story, Nate." Jake pulled himself to his feet and hugged his ribs with turned his back to the tiger-tabby "No one really knows how old I am, or even exactly what I am Most of the records regarding my creation and early days were destroyed before Mr. Dyne's crew found me But it bugged Pat to have her prize pet not have a birthday, so she took a good guess, picked a day she liked in the right range and had the paperwork done Same way I got my name, really I was AS50-4 before."

"You're her pet?" He couldn't help the rage that flared inside him.

"I was, Nate Calm down." Jake turned to face his friend and mate "When they found me I was a ball of fluff that looked like it may grow up to be a big cat, but definitely not a Kat It was Pat that gave me an identity as a citizen when she realized what I was becoming She made sure I had a good education even before I could stand on two legs or talk She let me do what I wanted, even when that meant leaving her direct service."

"But a pet?"

"Nathan, it's the past I've been many things, and that was one of the least offensive." He smiled at the mixture of memories of the white shekat "She was a good owner, and she's a good partner and friend now."

"How could she let you go like that?" Nathan tried to work his brain around the idea with little success.

"I never really asked, honestly." Jake shrugged "But she treats me as an equal now, so I never really worried about it." He smiled a little sadly at Nathan "I think, maybe, she always thought of me as something a little more than a pet I was her only real companion, playmate ... the only anything that was close to her in age and interests She's always had a lot of power, but until Cathedral, she's never really been allowed any friends." Jake caught Nathan's eyes "So now you know my most painful moment, will you share yours?"

Nathan swallowed and sank onto the bed "I was kind of planning on dealing with this during the Sharing, but ... are you sure you can handle this? It involves Chance."

"You're worst memory ..." Jake's ears flatted.

"Something very bad happened to him," Nathan looked down and fidgeted, "and when I was scanning the base, trying to find out what happened, I got a huge psychic backwash from his mask."

"What happened?" Most of the color drained from Jake's face "And when?"

"Don't know when, but fairly recent." Nathan blinked at the cold, killing rage gathering in Jake's mind "And, umm, Ulysses Feral raped him, as T-Bone."

"How much proof do you have?" Jake's entire demeanor shifted, reminding Nathan far too much of the worst he had heard of his father, and that little part of his soul he prayed would never come out.

"More than enough back home ... I got a full replay of everything from the mask."

"Show me." Jake's low growl contained nothing but demand.

"I'm not ..."

"Show me."

"Let me show you something else first." Nathan steeled himself for the inevitable and backed away before shifting to the war-form, then back to the Felsin one after Jake had gotten a good look "I can barely control that form, and ...."

"You'll shift in a frenzy." Jake nodded quietly "Do you want to call Felsira, or should I ask Ka to come back in? We should have a couple witnesses anyway."

Nathan stared at his mate in real surprise "You think she's real?"

"As real as anything." Jake shrugged with a slight smile "She's hardly the strangest type of creature I've met."

Nathan shook his head in sheer amazement "Is there anything that can phase you for long?"

"Oh, I'm sure there is, but I haven't met it yet." Jake nuzzled him gently "Now please call her so we can get this over with."

He nodded and sighed "I need to ask her to heal it anyway It'll be nice to sleep again But we should go somewhere private."

"Nathan, there are no secrets from the Lords of Cathedral Pakitra, Sheir, Kendra and I know of anything we want to that happens within these walls." Jake spoke softly "They're just watching this close because I have them very scared with how irrational, and suicidal, I've been lately."

Nathan watched his mate with eyes and mind for a long time before speaking "I can't say I can really fault them for that You had me scared too." He looked up as strange memories of another place where there were no secrets flooded back.

"Pat does hate it when I get the systems to go against orders." Jake couldn't help but snicker "*I know you were all listening, so please do stop As far as everyone is concerned, this room does not exist except for my requests.*" He smiled at the jumble of affirmative replies and the various passed on scenes the 'disappearance' of the room caused.

"Urr, are you going to let me in on that joke?" Nathan shot a pleading look to his mate before he was pushed to his back on the bed.

"Do you know what a TechoMage or TechPsi is?" Jake purred as he lounged on top of the bigger tom.

"A mage or psionic that deals with technology?" He hazarded.

"Well, yes, but that's only part of the answer." Jake took a deep breath and closed his eyes "Come into my mind, as far as you can, and listen."

Nathan swallowed and did his best to wind his way into Jake's almost completely unshielded mind without leaving himself too vulnerable He was ready for the chaotic storm this time, but not for what it actually was to the other tom.

Thousands of voices; a few coherent sounding adults, a few dozen more that seemed to be young, very focused children, and hundreds upon hundreds of others that were just sort of there.

"*Listen closer.*" The lean tom murmured "*It takes practice to translate all this, as few of them actually speak our language.*" He picked one of the weaker voices that even upon close examination didn't seem to actually be saying anything, but it was still making noise "*This is the locking mechanism of the door It's telling itself to stay closed and locked regardless of the keys tapped, because I asked it to keep everyone out That echo over it is Cathedral, the computer system mostly, backing it up.*"

"*The door's intelligent?*" Nathan felt reality start to spin as he slid out of Jake mind and welcomed oblivion.

Keltin growled quietly as he assimilated the conversation that Caito had with the Soron He agreed with his mate on many points, including the fact that the gargoyle's behavior was not what he expected It certainly appeared that Soron believed what he was saying about Fel's mother, but it was to monumental a statement to be taking on the word of a stranger The large warrior sent out a telepathic call to one of his oldest companions, and sat down to wait.

Keltin shook his head in amusement as he remembered Caito's last encounter with Gargoyles on Earth The little trickster had been on vacation and hanging out with his friend, Puck When he got back all he talked about was this Gargoyle named Goliath.
If Keltin was prone to jealousy he certainly would have been but instead he simply
patted his mate on the head and stoically put up with the deluge of Goliath memorabilia that Caito decorated their mutual residence with He chuckled remembering that there
were still several life-sized stone replicas hanging around.

There was a blast of cold air and a large winged panther appeared sitting next to Keltin The large black feline carefully folded his wings back and meowed questioningly at
the blue tom. "*You wanted something, Midnight?*"

Keltin chuckled and scratched the big cat between the ears. "Yes, Shadow I have something important for you to do for me I need you to find Mother wherever she
is now, whatever form she has taken Check her old familiar places, the high places, the places of power and even those places you know of that I don't If you don't find her
in those places, travel to Earth and look for the gargoyles; one of them named Soron
seems to know much and may know where she is."

The panther nodded. "*What should I do when I find her?*" He asked in a mind-voice that contain no hint that he might not.

"Do nothing Merely return to me and report all of what you have seen I have received a disturbing report and I need to know the truth of it That is why I'm sending you, old friend, I know I can rely on you."

Shadow nuzzled the big warrior affectionately. "*And the fact that I've known Mother longer than any of you, doesn't have anything to do with it.*" There was a quiet chuckle in his mental voice.

Keltin smiled "I haven't forgotten that Mother sent you to be my companion when I was still learning the ways of this life That is why I need to know what has happened."

"*You realize she'll probably see me when I find her, what should I do if she questions me?*" There was hesitation and concern in the winged cat's mind-voice.

The warrior reached down and hugged his friend "If it is truly Mother than you have nothing to worry about And you should answer any questions truthfully, of course."

The panther stood up, roared his goodbye and left into the air As he disappeared in a blast of cold air his mind-voice drifted back "*Don't worry, Midnight, I'll find her.*"

The blue tom watched his feline friend depart and wondered what the big cat would find.

Felsira watched Keltin and his friend Shadow She knew little about the big cat save that he was completely loyal to Keltin and had been raised by Mother, until Mother sent him to guide the big warrior in the somewhat bewildering ways of the outer realm Since she had 'read' the report that Caito sent, she had a very good idea what Shadow was being sent to do She was thankful that the warrior was taking care of the search since that freed Felsira from having to attend to it.

In her heart she feared that what the mysterious Gargoyle said was true It explained why Mother had been silent, and why she had never come looking for them in all these centuries That one of the Others had killed Mother disturbed Felsira greatly, as did the fact that the Gargoyle had not mentioned whether the killer still lived.

There was a bugle blast and a winged white female Felsin appeared wearing old style chainmail and gold tabard with a silver leaf on it She carried a sword and shield and had a rolled up scroll tucked into her belt "You sent for me, milady."

"Yes, Takira I have received strange and disturbing news and I needed it relayed to the Spirit Court and our allies on the other worlds especially Starfire, Queen of the Dracon and Rozar the cunning Canem warlord But before attending to that, return home and tell Sentinel to conceal the Court from eyes that should not see I do not know if the enemy knows of us or cares, but we dare not risk it."

"It will be done, Lady Felsira Will that be all?"

The golden shekat nodded regally "For now, Takira But remain alert, I may have need of you in the near future."

The white shekat bowed deeply, and disappeared in a rush of wings.

Felsira sat back and thought about the implications for the future if what Soron had said was true She had to consider that might need to split her time between Felsinor and Aristlan, since the Kats of Aristlan had always been important to Mother That also meant she would have to seek the other spirits from the old days to see which of the benevolent ones remained, and which of the baneful ones needed to be dealt with.

Felsira was left wondering silently if Mother had been reborn why hadn't she let her daughter know what was going on Felsira wasn't sure she wanted the answer to that question.

"Good morning, Elisa." Soron waved a greeting to his mate's human love "You sure got The Crown off fast.

"You know how I feel about being the Queen-Mother like that." She retorted gently "I may be a detective, but not even Homes could make heads or tails of this mess."

"You'll get the hang of it," he smiled in warm understanding "And all complains aside, you're doing very well given the circumstances."

"Thanks, bro." She patted his arm "What are you back for?"

"Oh, that mission you sent me on was missing some serious chunks in the briefing Things are under control right now, so I'm seeing if there are any answers in what's left of Records."

"And to catch Goliath for a few minutes?" She winked at him.

"It crossed my mind." He ran a teasing tail up her leg and grinned "Maybe you'll join us?"

"Mmm, it rarely fails to improve my mood." She grinned at him "I believe he's in the Upper Library.

"Come on, Nate." Jake's half worried, half exasperated voice penetrated the darkness "Don't tell me the alien from a great galactic civilization can't hand the realities of a TechoMage."

"That's some reality." Nathan managed a weak retort.

"Oh, and the door's not intelligent, at least not in the traditional sense, but it is aware." Jake dropped to his side and lounged next to the still stunned Felsin "Much like a tree is aware, but at least the ones around here aren't what I'd call intelligent."

"Okay." He took a deep breath "I think I can handle that."

"Now, about calling Felsira ..."

"All right." Nathan started to send the telepathic message to get her attention, then he stopped and looked at Jake. "Before I let you see what I saw I need you to promise me something."

"Anything I can."

"Promise me you won't go off on your own in response to what you see. I've seen your temper and I just want you to remember that what happened was aimed at all three of us, and whatever happens ... we need to deal with this together."

Jake was silent a long moment before he nodded "I won't go this alone."

"Thank you." Nathan sat down on the bed tired in more ways than one. He looked over at Jake, gratitude showing in his eyes. "Truthfully though, I'm glad it came out because I'm so tired of handling it by myself. The worst thing about it is, I can't even help him deal with it because he never told me and doesn't know I know."

"Did it ever occur to you that Chance knows about your ability to read objects, and you did learn about it legitimately?"

"Umm, no." Nathan shook his head and sighed as he located his pants on the floor and talked as he searched the pockets. "Maybe you should call Master Kahn back in, I don't know that the Triad count for much as 'witnesses'." He thought for a moment about the links his mate was carrying. "Jake, you'd better warn Amerith and Felina about what's about to happen. The psychic impression is very loud and will probably cascade into their links as well. I don't how much information they'll get but the psychic buffeting could be painful if they're caught by surprise."

"*Okay, kids, you heard that Watch your ears.*" Jake focused on a single link "*Cathedral?*"

"*Setting up the shielding now, sweetheart.*"


"Did I just hear you have a conversation with Cathedral?" Nathan asked as he found the carefully concealed pocket and pulled out a palm-sized gadget made entirely of plastic, except for a metal plate at one end. On the one side was the symbol of MegaKat City General Hospital. He flipped it over and carefully unlatched the backplate, then moved the indicator from red to green, nodding at the quite whine as the metal plate extended forward several centimeters.

"Yes," Jake nodded, "she's quite the conversationalist when she gets the chance."

Nathan walked over to Jake, put the device in his hand and closed his hand over his mate's. "Jake, the last time I experienced the full power of the impressions I lost control and before I knew regained control I was across the Hangar and had punched a hole in the reinforced concrete." He placed his free hand on the cinnamon Kat's shoulder. "The device your holding is a stunner configured to stop the war-form, it would probably put a normal Kat out for weeks ... but it should just render the war-form unconscious, which will cause reversion to my normal form."

His eyes were extremely intense. "There aren't many shots in it ... because I converted in from a piece of medical equipment, but I know you won't need many. Whatever happens, please don't let that form hurt you ... I'd never hurt you myself, but he's not rational. I don't like risking your safety this way ... but I said I'd let you see and I will. Please forgive whatever he does, I can't control him in frenzy."

Nathan grasped his gold medallion, and opened his mind to reach the Triad. *"Felsira, Mother-Healer I need your help. And please bring Keltin, he may so be needed.*"

Nathan nodded to Jake. "I've called, she'll probably be here soon with Keltin. Unfortunately, she can't heal me until after I show you because the healing would dim the images and this one last time they need to be sharp."

As he tried to relax to deal with the storm once again he sent a quiet message across the bond. "*Jake, whatever happens please stay with me. I nearly lost myself to the storm, I don't want to lose you.*"

The lean tom pulled Nathan into an embrace and nuzzled him "I will stay with you, Nate, no matter what happens with this."

As they waited for Felsira to arrive, Nathan willing his body and mind not to reveal the nervousness he felt He knew that she liked Jake from things she said, and more importantly the fact that she had Keltin watch over him He felt like he was introducing Jake to his parents, which he supposed was true in a sense Felsira and Keltin had been, in a way, the only parental figures he'd been close to in a long time Caito was more like the cousin who's always getting you into trouble.

Jake nudged him "Wha'cha nervous about?"

Nathan chuckled quietly. "It's hard to explain, but I guess it's like how others said taking their future mates to meet their parents is like."

Jake looked at him curiously. "Others said? Didn't Rhymar meet your parents?"

Nathan shook his head sadly. "My parents died when I was very little, and my adopted father had 'problems' with my relationship with Rhy."

"You don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to."

"Actually, I finally feel I can talk about him But the problems were mostly because my adopted father was a 'traditionalist', or that was his explanation His first problem was that he expected me to Bond with female and produce the next generation, if I wanted to add a male playmate later he didn't care, but the primary Bond should be to produce kits, and he didn't believe that the technology for two males to reproduce was acceptable His other problem was that he felt I was Bonding 'below my station'."

"Huh? What'd he mean by that?"

Nathan sighed "My adopted father's family had been healers and artists for generations My father was surgeon of galactic renown, and his wife was a painter of equal fame So it was expected I would Bond similarly, preferably to a female from some equally prestigious family Because of my less than perfect choice of profession even another Medic would have been acceptable, but Rhymar wasn't any of those things And I didn't care, I loved him for who he was."

"What was he that your adopted father objected?"

Nathan smiled fondly. "He was a military aerospace engineer, from a family of no particular fame or prestige If it had wings he could design a better one My Exo-Frame was one of his favorite projects, his way of looking after me He was brilliant and I never thought I'd meet anyone smarter Just goes to show I don't know everything."

He hugged Jake close and mind-spoke. "*What little I know of your serious projects is enough to show me that you're even more of a genius than I thought.*"

There was a sudden glow in the room, which dimmed to reveal the golden-furred form of Felsira and the larger midnight blue furred form of her mate She was dressed in a white tailored business suit with gold accents, while Keltin was in his usual military uniform.

"You needed me, Nathan?" The shekat asked in a quiet, reassuring tone of voice.

"Yes Mother, for several reasons, some of which are easier than others."

Felsira smiled "Why don't you introduce us to your friend first?"

Nathan nodded and led the pair over to Jake. "Mother, Keltin, I'd like you to meet my friend and mate, Jake Clawson."

Nathan took a breath and gestured to the golden-furred shekat "Jake, this is Felsira, mother-guardian of the Felsin people and patron of the Medic Corps." He indicated the quiet warrior standing to one side. "And this her mate, Keltin, Protector and Guardian, patron of warriors and, and ... oh what else is it that you do?" Nathan smirked mischievously.

The big warrior mussed Nathan's hair. "Guardian of the Aerospace Corps and patron of pilots ... as if you forgot, 'ya silly kit."

Nathan grinned. "Oh right, that too."

"Hey! Don't leave me out of this." The tabby trickster appeared standing in one corner.

Nathan laughed "And of course, Caito; trickster, spirit of invention, and patron of engineers. He's also in charge of mischief, and rarely uses his own appearance."

Caito grinned broadly. "Yep, that's me. Mischief all around, and I'd love to stay and chat but I've got a wayward tabby that I'm supposed to be keeping tabs on. Later." With a giggling laugh, the tabby disappeared in a multicolored splash of light.

Felsira smiled brightly as she stepped close to Jake She spoke softly to the cinnamon Kat "You have my thanks, Jake, for what you've done for Nathan even without knowing it You may not be Felsin, but you will always be special to me."

The big warrior simply stood behind Felsira, but the smile on his face conveyed his agreement with the shekat's words The midnight blue tom's eyes on the other hand, conveyed a much different message; they expressed an interest on a very intimate level.

Nathan turned to Felsira. "Mother, I need your help in healing an injury that is beyond my ability."

Felsira nodded wisely. "You mean, the dark impressions you took from the mask? I was wondering when you would ask for help with that."

The tiger-tabby sighed "Until now, I needed the impressions to stay angry enough to do what I would have to do, alone." Nathan looked affectionately at Jake. "I don't have to handle it alone anymore Besides, it would be nice to sleep for a change."

The shekat nodded. "Of course, Nathan What you ask is simple enough for me to fix, so what was difficult?"

Nathan looked at Felsira, then at Jake and then back to Felsira. "Mother, Jake and I are becoming lifemates but we both have damaged bonds, which I think will require a full Bonding to fix and heal us both. And I promised to let him see the storm for himself and I think the Sharing is the easiest way to do that. Mother, would you be willing to facilitate the Sharing?"

Felsira looked over the two toms closely Nathan's conclusion was correct the only way to give the two peace from their damaged bonds was for them to Join She also saw that some unusual form of bonding was already taking place but that it would not be sufficient to heal the damage.

"Nathan, I am happy to see that you have finally stopped denying your heart, and while I am willing to facilitate I think there is a better choice."

Nathan raised an eyebrow. "Who, Mother?"

"Jake, your tigress friend is full telepath, is she not? And she is already part of this 'squadron' that Nathan needs to become 'bonded' with? I think it would be better to let her facilitate, since it will allow this 'squadron' to feel more involved in what is going on I will, of course, observe to make sure nothing goes wrong."

She placed her hand gently on the cinnamon tom's shoulder and spoke gently. "I'm not sure if you truly understand what the Sharing entails because it is not part of this world The Sharing is the final step for Felsin to become lifemates, and it involves the dropping of all masks and pretenses between those being Bonded. At this point, you will have to decide which matters more to you: the masks, pretenses and fictions you have surrounded yourself with, or your bond with Nathan I am not trying to scare you but you need to understand what will be required."

The golden shekat smiled reassuringly "Nathan faces the same choice, because though you may not realize it; he has almost as many things to hide as you do For the Bonding to work, you both have to stop hiding from each other."

Felsira smiled, shifted to lion form and lay down. "*You should think about what I told you, and when you've decided, Bring in your tigress friend. We will wait.*"

Jake swallowed hard and hit the bed with a thud when Felsira's words finally sank in He turned to Nathan, then back to her, his voice shaking "All secrets?"

"Yes, kitten." She stood and stroked his ear affectionately, her concern growing as the fear in him bubbled into full-fledged terror, then depression.

"Jake?" Nathan did his best not to panic as lean tom pulled his knees against his chest and shook.

"I'm sorry, Nate." Jake buried his face between crossed arms "*I would, but that's just not my right to give.*"

"*I don't understand.*" Nathan tried to ease some tension in his mate's body with little success "*What were you planning before?*"

"To share myself." Jake's voice was nearly flat "Everything about me, I'll give you that, no hesitation But there's a lot ... things I'm involved in, I can't hand over their lives too."

"*We're not asking you to.*" Felsira interrupted gently "*You don't need to share those kinds of secrets, just yourself.*"

"Have you actually looked at the state of my head, Felsira?" Jake looked up and glared at her "I am my squadron I can't share everything about me without giving up them as well That's not my right."

Nathan started at the lean tom for a long, distressed moment before relaxing next to him "I know what you mean."

"Hu?" All three others in the room looked at him.

"Your mental uniform's so ingrained in you, you don't even realize you're still wearing it, do you?" Nathan cupped Jake face gently and smiled "You've handed over your duties for a time, true, but you still haven't taken it off."

Jake opened his mouth, then shut it and closed his eyes "You want that?"

"Yes." Nathan nuzzled him reassuringly "That's the real you, the rest is circumstances."

"*Okay, I'm just going to butt in here and pull rank as the Squad's Medical Officer.*" An unfamiliar, rather testy female voice echoed in all their brains "*We've taken a vote, Jake Shut up, stop worrying, and get this over with.*"

"*What the hell is going ....*" Jake's demand was cut off before he even finished the thought.

"*A war's started.*" Amerith broke in "*Look You trust Nathan The Jedi do, I do, Pat and the others do Even Cathedral likes him We've agreed he can see our secrets if they come out He's one of us, after all He's a SWAT Kat Now will you get on with this?*"

"*Thanks, guys.*" Jake relaxed almost completely into Nathan's arms "*And send Sheir in, will you?*"

"*On my way.*" Her mind voice had barely died before the door slid open and the tall tigress stepped in She nodded at the two new Felsin before focusing on her leader.

"Felsira thinks it would be for the best if you facilitate our Bonding." Nathan supplied to her unvoiced question "Since you're of the squadron already, and you are a full telepath."

"Yes, I can, but it would be more efficient for a Mind-Healer to do that part as well as the healing I'm not capable of." Her expression softened a little "That is part of the reason for this, is it not?"

"I will heal what you can not, but it will still be best if you do most of the work." Felsira bowed regally to the Jedi Master "And there really is very little you can not fix, that I can."

Nathan lost focus on his surroundings somewhere between Jake's silent conversation with his squadron and Felsira and the Jedi settled plans as his telepathy took another detour in deciding just how strong it was going to be The first serge left him wishing fervently that it would stop fluctuating and just settle down already Not only was it giving him a first-rate headache he couldn't cure that made communication difficult and hearing nearly impossible.

And the worst of it, what he did catch of the conversations around him only served to fuel his sense of uselessness All that talk of the future and Black Phoenix and his place in it ....

It convinced he was sure there was something worse than having the guys put up with him, at least they occasionally found his skills as Medic useful, but a squadron as established as Jake's would have a medical officer.

"Nate?" There was a lot of concern, and a touch of warning in Jake's voice and mind.


"Spill it." Jake growled, his ears flat "What's wrong?"

Nathan closed his eyes and tried to focus enough to answer that question "I hate being useless."

"And this came from ....."

He sighed as his body sagged, refusing to meet Jake's glare "Just look at the facts Black Phoenix already has a medical officer No squadron is large enough to warrant two MO's That leaves me as worse that just a token ..." The words were cut off by a fist impacting squarely with his jaw.

"How dare you." Jake's snarl was right in his face as the smaller Kat pinned Nathan down on the bed "*You may be my mate. You may be bonding into the Squad But you have a hell of a lot of gall to assume you're going to be our MO because of it I don't care how good you think you are Combat posts are eared.*"

"I figured out for myself that I'm not your damned MO, but I'm a Medic, that's all I am A squadron doesn't need more medical personnel than you've got, so I'm not needed Which is what I said in the first place, if you were listening." He pushed Jake off and stood up. "By the way, you get the first hit free... but I'm nobody's punching bag."

"Guys, can we discus this reasonably for a moment." Master Kahn brought her deep voice into the calm, completely neutral range Master Jinn has taught her when she was a new Knight with her first Padawan.

"No." The males responded in unison, glaring at her.

Then Jake started to snicker as everyone stared at them He grinned at Nathan and laughed harder before he flopped to his side and patted the bed in front of him "I'm sorry Nate, but think about what we just said." He reached out to the angry Felsin with his mind, "*Please, come here love I think the last few days have gotten to us more than we've admitted.*"

Nathan sighed as his shoulders slumped, "I guess." He sat stiffly on the edge of the bed and accepted his mate's gentle request to lay down with only a little resistance, too bewildered to do much else.

Jake purred softly and nuzzled him apologetically as he curled around the bigger tom's body until Nathan started to honestly relax a little "That's better." He squirmed up for a quick kiss, then rested his head on the bigger tom's chest and spoke quietly "What did you think I meant when I said I needed you to join the squad's bond?"

Nathan took a moment to regain his focus He spoke quietly "The only thing I could. Felsin units are often bonded, joining the bond is the same thing as joining the unit ... there's no difference And besides, I guess I thought maybe fighting at your side in SWAT would have proven myself by now ... I guess I was wrong."

Nathan was silently for a moment. "I'm sorry if I misunderstood, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to accept the bond as an outsider, it just doesn't seem right somehow." He hugged the little tom closer "This doesn't change that I love you, Jake. Please understand that, but I don't know that I can bond to unit that I'm not part of. I could accept bonding with strangers both because unit bonds often start that way, and because you asked me to." He sighed "But this ... I don't know, I just don't know I'm sorry."

Quiet tears started from Nathan's eyes as he tried to find some answer to this problem He was sure what he'd just said would hurt his mate, and that was tearing him apart, but he just didn't have an answer As he searched for a solution, he didn't realize that he wasn't shielding properly and maybe he just wasn't worrying about it.

Sheir Kahn allowed herself a small feeling of triumph that her intervention had succeeded and both toms were touching again as Felsira come up next to her.

"*That was an interesting trick, stealing his rage.*" The Patron of Healers' mental voice was laced with approval and curiosity "*Effective as well.*"

She regarded the Force powerful stranger for a quiet moment before nodding *As useful as it is, it is something I'd appreciate you not mentioning I do.*"

"*Not completely by the book?*" Felsira cocked an eyebrow at the Tigress.

"*Not against it either.*" She countered calmly.

The Lioness laughed softly and smiled honestly "*I like your style, Master Kahn I'll trade you; teach me that trick and I'll make sure no one ever hears about you using it.*"

Jedi regarded Goddess for a cool moment before nodding regally "*Lady Felsira, you have a deal.*"

"*Good.*" She grinned at her new mortal friend "*You really are more of a Diplomat and Healer than you give yourself credit for.*"

"*Necessity is the mother of invention, Lady Felsira.*" Sheir smiled slightly in return before regarding her leader and his mate, who were beginning to touch as lovers again "*We have quite a pair, don't we?*"

"*That we do And when they're healed, they will be incredible.*"

"*What can you tell me about Nathan SolGardin?*" Sheir Kahn chose her words very carefully "*I've read what we have, but given the situation, anything you know may help me help them."

The Lioness thought about it. "*I can tell you a great deal, but I would prefer that it not end up in Cathedral's files, and I would rather not have to have Caito remove it.*"

Sheir nodded. *"Not everything needs to be recorded, some things are not the business of records.*"

Felsira smiled gracefully. "*Thank you There is a great deal that no one knows about Nathan, including Nathan himself.*"

The tigress raised one eyebrow curiously.

Felsira nodded. *"Nathan has a number of mental blocks that circumscribe his mind Some placed by his mother in hopes of protecting him from Citadel, and some by Citadel itself to make him unaware of his time there.*"

"*Who is this Citadel?*"

"*They are a shadow organization on Nathan's homeworld that has been trying for decades to overthrow the legitimate government by any means necessary Including methods as despicable as the so-called Kitten Commandos.*"

"*Kitten Commandos?*" The tigress asked hoping to be wrong about what she thought the Patron of Healing was talking about.

"*They are just what they sound like, promising kits taken from their parents and trained to be guerilla commandos and black op specialists.*" Felsira sighed mentally, sometimes she wasn't sure about the wisdom in minimal interference.

Sheir nodded, she had heard of such things elsewhere. "*Was Nathan ...*"

Felsira nodded "*Yes, he was one of Citadel's most adept students, with one serious flaw Though he mastered every skill on a technical level, he was unable to kill The block his mother placed ensured that he would not kill, save for two reasons: protection of family, and protection of friends Eventually, Citadel decided to return Nathan to normal society, in the hope that the block would break down naturally.*"

The Lioness hesitated momentarily. "*The block has, however, spared Nathan one memory he doesn't need to suffer from During a training exercise, his best friend, partner and gunner was killed Though there was nothing Nathan could have done to prevent it, Citadel told him that his friend died because Nathan was not fast enough completing the exercise Nathan still blames himself for that, though he doesn't remember.*"

Sheir looked questioningly at Felsira. "*Is this why there is so much guilt infusing his aura? For all I've heard he has accomplished, he has a great deal of self-doubt.*"

The lioness sighed looking at the larger of the two toms. "*It is the root cause, though much of his pain comes from his feeling that he failed SWAT when they needed him most, and that the collapse of SWAT is somehow his fault.*"

The Jedi nodded. "*He is not the first healer I have encountered who takes more responsibility on himself then he should.*"

The golden lioness smiled wistfully "*Nathan tends to be worse than most because he has come so far, so fast He lost his kittenhood to Citadel, and by the time he was twenty he was a full physician By twenty-six he had been promoted to Sector Command He's used to trying to keep up with his reputation, it makes it difficult for him to try and prove himself again.*"

Felsira smiled down at the two toms who seemed to be settling back into the loving behavior they'd started the day in. "*If dealing with the crisis of SWAT wasn't hard enough, Nathan also had to deal with a large chunk of self-discovery that couldn't have come at a much worse time.*"

"*And that would be...?*" The tigress prompted.

"*Nathan discovered that he is a product of a very complicated genetic engineering project, and centuries of planned genetic manipulation He discovered that his father was a genetically engineering super assassin, for lack of a better word These things wouldn't have been that bad, since Nathan has no problem with black ops in and of themselves His problem came when he discovered that like his father he was engineered to be a top-notch black ops specialist He thinks this heritage makes a mockery of the life he's led, dedicated to saving lives.*"

"*Nathan is feeling torn between his two friends, because they are having such problems. Nathan loves both of them and is terrified that he will be forced to choose between them.*"

"*One last thing: In Nathan's mind SWAT is gone, and now Jake is going to another unit, Black Phoenix That last conversation makes Nathan feel that he's being kept away from Jake and he can't accept that If he's not part of the unit, he'll still find away to follow Jake into combat He won't let Jake be at risk without him being nearby to fix what happens Nathan has lost one lifemate already; he'll do whatever it takes to keep that from happening again If he can't prevent it, he has no plans to survive it the next time.*"

The lioness looked at the Jedi. "*Anything else you'd like to know, or maybe questions that I didn't cover?*"

Sheir Kahn cast her nervousness to the Force and faced Felsira squarely "*Are your oaths on healing the same as Nathan's?*"

The goddess nodded curiously.

"*Are you capable of healing both their mental wounds?*"


"*What is required for you to heal their minds? What must happen first?*"

Felsira considered the damage to both minds. "*The most important step at this point is to complete the Joining This will heal the incomplete bond that they both have which is having repercussions for both; though it seems to be more painful for Jake The Joining will also take them through the Sharing which will allow Nathan to show Jake what Jake wants to know about what happened between T-Bone and Ulysses Feral It will show them each a great deal else but that is the important one, because once that is done I can heal the damage that they psychic storm is doing to Nathan.*"

Then she turned to the cinnamon tom "*The greatest difficulty in healing Jake, is Jake himself I can sense that he does not want me touching his mind, and as long as that is the case there is little I can do for him It pains me to see him suffer, but I can not force healing on him, he has to want to be healed He has to let me heal him.*"

The tigress nodded her understanding "*You care a lot about Nathan, all three of you.*" She made it a simple statement of fact "*Just as I care a great deal for Jake Not just as my commander, lover, and the one who saved my life while I was still heavy with my daughter and new to this world, or for the light bond we share I have felt you watch and scan many who come close to Nathan to determine their intent You are too strongly shielded for me to determine this of you, beyond the obvious So I am asking you to tell me honestly as much as you will of why you are so interested in him, and your interest in Jake and Chance."

Felsira considered for a moment, and then consulted mentally with the other members of the Triad "*Our interest in Nathan started with certain signs when he was born He was born to the Fatherless and the Daughter of Time to quote prophecies handed down to us from early prophets among the Dracon, who see what is likely to be most clearly of all According to the prophecies, he will stop a great evil that will threaten our galaxy, and he will bring back the lost healing techniques to the Felsin The first is important for obvious reasons and the second I find interesting because I am unaware of these 'lost techniques'.

"*The complication is that the second can not happen until the evil has been stopped And the prophecy is quite clear that the Chosen can not stop the evil alone The prophecy refers to a Triad born through trials of fire, darkness and death Originally, we thought that Rhymar was the first of the missing pieces to the Triad, but his death confused things, as did Nathan being stranded here on Aristlan.

"*When Nathan formed friendships with Jake and Chance it seemed as though the triad had been found, but there have been difficulties Jake and Chance have serious problems in their relationship, and Nathan is losing hope that he can help them Mostly because of what Jake told him about almost killing Chance out of frustration and rage.*"

Felsira smiled. "*Those were our reasons for getting involved with Nathan so many years ago But we've been doing it for so long that we don't think about it much Nathan has become like a son to Keltin and myself, and Caito sees him as something of a younger brother.*"

"*Our real interest in Jake and Chance is that they mean everything to Nathan He lost his lifemate, the Corps and everything he knew when he was kidnapped to Aristlan He rebuilt his world around two friends, and though he has a few friends outside of them ... they are still the foundation of his world Jake is special to me personally because he kept Nathan from collapsing when Rhymar died If Jake's wounds hadn't required Nathan's complete attention, Nathan probably would have gotten himself killed attacking Dark Kat to avenge Rhymar's death.

"*Keltin's interest in Chance is professional, as pilots are one of his areas of special concern Keltin's interest in Jake is however far more personal, but in a well-behaved sort of way. He has been watching over Jake since this trouble really erupted to make sure nothing happened.*"

"*Caito, who I'll have to introduce at some point, is interested in Jake because Caito loves gadgets and is always fascinated to see what mortal inventors come up with He's currently watching over Chance to make sure the tabby stays out of trouble and that nothing untoward happens to him I'm only sorry that I didn't put Caito to watching him sooner, much grief might have been avoided.*"

Sheir spared the large, blue Felsin an understanding look "*From what I know of the guys, it's not likely You may have delayed it, or changed the exact nature, but I've learned that those two will create their own crisis is none will provide itself Jake in particular does not do well when he's not being nearly overwhelmed, though he complains of it.*"

Felsira shook her head in wry amusement *"Nathan is not so different He chose the path of the Medic instead of the calmer path of the Healer because he has a need for danger He is something of an adrenalin addict and always has been Though he doesn't realize it and would probably deny it, part of him needs crisis situations He only feels truly alive when he's protecting, saving or healing others He's also never been what one could call 'a civilian' and I think the thought of not being part of a combat unit frightens him more than he's likely to admit.*"

"*I think it's a trait shared by all who are attracted to the battlefields of body or mind.*" Sheir added examples from her own experience to the thought.

Felsira nodded agreement before turning to consider Jake again. "*Is this latest chaos normal for him, though? I will admit we don't know him as well as we'd like, because we only started watching recently But something about this seems ... different somehow.*" Felsira cocked an eyebrow at the cinnamon tom as he got out of bed. *"Besides I think Nathan would have had some warning ... despite the fact that he saw things through a very particular lens.*"

The Lioness considered the tiger-tabby and sighed quietly. *"Hope can give one strength when things are dark and desperate. But sometimes, when held onto for too long it can be dangerously blinding.*"

"*Well, this is a bit extreme.*" Sheir Kahn consented "*But several of us have been expecting him to break this completely fairly soon It needed to happen.*"

Felsira looked back at Jake and then at Nathan "*Could I ask you to not mention that where Nathan could hear of it? He'd feel guilty for not having seen it coming, and he's taking on enough guilt right now, perhaps too much And it may be awhile before he forgives himself for going to the medical conference, if he thought that Jake's problem was one he should have forseen ...*" The Lioness let the statement trail off.

"*Nathan has had no reason to see it coming, he met Jake after the downward spiral was well underway.*" Sheir Kahn nodded unhappily "*But not telling Nathan is not a problem, though I can not guarantee he will not find out Not in the mood Jake is in.*"

"*Thank you I realize that he may find out from Jake, but that can't be helped.*" The Lioness glanced over her shoulder at the large blue warrior silently watching the two lovers. *"You might be interested to know that Keltin's a Jedi as well, though he doesn't use the title Something about if he used all the titles he's earned he'd be several days getting to his name.*"

"*I thought you felt of our training.*" She bowed in the traditional manor to him "*Who was your Master?*"

The large warrior smiled as he returned the bow, it had been centuries since he had encountered another Jedi. *"It was some centuries ago when I trained, my Master was Sho'len'mar.*" Keltin projected an image of the powerful wolf-morph Jedi in the traditional garb The strong force aura radiated even through the image, as the dark-grey furred wolf stood ready in a combat stance with her amber saber ignited.

"*I would be interested in hearing more of her Master Sho'len'mar was my Master's Master.*" Sheir Kahn cracked a small, mischievous smile "*Perhaps, when things calm down a tad, we can meet for dinner, discus philosophy and whatever occurs to us?*"

Felsira smiled "*That could be interesting, though I'm not sure when things will calm down ... even once these two sort things out, there's still a matter of the tabby to deal with.*"

"*I intended to refer to when these two passed out from exhaustion for a few hours.*" She inclined her head to the dressing toms.

The Lioness smiled in amusement. "*Well, if Jake actually passes out, I'll give Nathan a few hours sleep because it will be a day or two before he exhausts the limits of the biofeedback routine he uses to avoid sleep and the nightmares therein.*"

Jake lay quietly as Nathan spoke, and through the beginnings of the Felsin's guilty search for an answer He searched the foreign calmness in his own mind for a reason to his behavior, then gave up with a shrug.

He took a deep breath and got out of the bed, more than slightly amazed at how obvious the best path was He shot a suspicious glance at the three others in the room, then gave a reassuring smile to Nathan, and went with what his heart told him.

"Please, get dressed Nate." Jake spoke softly as he found his own jeans and pulled them on "I want to begin our courtship properly, if we can." He held a hand out to his mate and sent as much assurance and respect along their strained bond as he could figure out how "*I've done nothing right in my lovelife, Nathan, including how I came to you It's inexcusable of me to treat you like that, even though you let me, even welcomed it.*" He steeled himself and met the confused Felsin's stare "Please, let me do this right Even if it will only be the motions, with the answers known," he dropped his gaze to the floor, "let me do it right this once."

Nathan nodded and got dressed, watching Jake match his motions from the corner of his eye When he finished he gently lifted his mate's muzzle to bring Jake's gaze up to meet his own. "Jake, if you need this, then of course." To support his words Nathan did something he remembered someone doing for him once; he focused his mind on warmth, love and understanding and wrapped his thoughts around Jake's as if to block out the cold world, just for a little while.

He wasn't quite prepared for sudden, absolute stillness of the Kat in his arms as Jake closed his eyes Then a soft purr reverberated against his chest as the mind wrapped in his carefully 'looked' around in awe.

"*How ...*" Jake mind-voice was very small, almost afraid in its amazement.

"*My mother made me feel safe by doing this.*" Nathan gently nuzzled his mate. "*When I was a kitten ...*" He let the thought drift off before it disrupted the mental embrace.

"*Safe.*" Jake's mind rolled the word around for a while before Nathan felt him store this experience as its definition.

"*You've never felt safe before?*" Nathan did his best to bury the sick knot in his stomach behind his strongest shields.

"*Nothing like this.*" Jake tried to snuggle closer, oblivious to everything but the calm in his own mind and the desire to keep it there, and pull it closer around himself like a warm blanket on a cold night "*Never not felt the need to be on guard, or afraid of losing control.*"

"*Oh, Jake.*"

"Time to move, handsome." Brandy's voice chuckled in Chance's ear as she shook him awake "SlipStream's here with Amerith for you're second flight."

The tabby blinked and got up with a groan, taking a moment to find his legs.

"Something wrong?" She touched his arm, but kept out of his personal space.

"Just some wild dreams." Chance shook his head and grinned at her "I'm ready, let's see this plane."

Brandy smiled back and lead the way back to the same hanger they'd taken the helicopter from.

"So this is the pilot that says he can fly anything with wings." A strong, female voice challenged them.

"Yes." Chance faced the direction of the voice and his mind rebelled at the sight of the large, black jet and her pilot dressed much like a SWAT Kat "What the hell kind of joke is this?"

"No joke." The pilot, a coal black Malamute Kantin, leaped down and extended her hand to the tabby with a welcoming smile "I'm Kassy 'Rumble' Iniqua, a gunner for Black Phoenix And yes, Amerith does look like the TurboKat, though she can outfly the original."

"Why?" Chance focused most of his attention on the sleekly beautiful fighter, already assessing it, and grudgingly impressed.

"Because when they're no longer able to fly, or get too outclassed, we'll take over." She gave a fond look at the jet "At least now that we have operational aircraft."

"You just came out of a firefight." He made it more of a statement than question, getting both females attention.

"Yes," Kassy nodded and grinned "T-Bone and Razor didn't make it up, so we handled the invasion force Did pretty well for our first mission."

"So who's your pilot?" He asked for small talk, hoping to buy a little more time to assess a craft that set off every warning alarm in his head as a difficult one to handle And to get a grip on the fact that a battle for the city had been won without him.

"Well, we're kind of hoping you will be." Kassy chuckled as he twisted to face her with wide eyes "Amerith isn't my craft, she's our squad leader's The one my pilot and I will fly is still under construction, but if you can fly Amerith, you'll be able to fly him."

"And if I can fly her, but don't get along with you?"

"You'll be a godsend to all of aircraft R&D." She shrugged "They've wanted their own PsiPilot badly for a while now."

"So I fly this bird, and I can write my own ticket?" He looked at Brandy.

"Pretty much." She patted his shoulder "There's only a dozen or so that can handle a PsiJet, and they're all with Black Phoenix."

"Though I should warn you though," Kassy grinned and handed him a midnight blue helmet, "you won't get out of flight testing by joining the squad We do a good 60% of it around here."

"Hay, I sighed up for test pilot, anything more is a bonus." Chance pulled the helmet on with something very close to his usual flair "Let's see what she can do."

"And what you can do, darling." A new, silky, female voice chuckled.

"And you'd be why not many can fly a PsiJet, wouldn't you?" Chance felt his mind slid into the too-familiar mode of just rolling with the strangeness that crashed through his life far too often.

"You've met an AI before?' Kassy raised an eyebrow at him.

"No, just too used to the unexpected to get too rattled by anything." Chance chuckled and shook his head as he leaped to the front seat.

"I like you so far." Amerith purred as they strapped in "Ever been tested for psionics?"

"Whatever that is, no." He regarded the smooth, slick-black display area in front of him and complete lack of apparent control means with irritated determination.

"It's not as hard as it looks, if you have the gift." Kassy thumped his shoulder in assurance "And you do, if any of the scans are correct."

Chance took a deep breath and forced himself to remember that he was back to square one of learning, back to the first time he'd seen the TurboKat, and that would be the norm if he wanted to fly such fine craft.

He let the breath out and asked, "okay, how is a PsiJet controlled?"

Caito watched in utter fascination as the thinking machine made the first mental contact with Chance, then grinned widely as the chocolate on gold tabby accepted it without help.

"Oh, yes, Chance Make Keltin proud And make life easier for all of us and do well without me tweaking things." He regarded the forward swept wing jet with a critical eye "I don't think this one will cooperate as well as the TurboKat, or that skimmer-jet thing Not that you really needed much help."

His ears perked up as Amerith began to explain how she was piloted.

"Are you aware of that part of your mind that feels like it turns on when you get in a plane? It should be the same place you felt my contact the strongest." She began confidently "Focus on it."

"Okay," he closed his eyes and searched the back of his mind until he felt a slight 'click'.

"There, did you feel that?" Amerith asked.

"Yes." He looked down at the now lit, and fairly familiar-looking, control panel before him "Now what?"

"Now, the simplest explanation of what you do it all the impulses that you usually send to you hands and feet to control the craft, you send there instead You think what needs to happen, and the craft does."

"Sounds fast." He hesitated.

"It is, and for this flight you'll only have partial control." Amerith continued "I will be keeping us level and at speed, you will be handling the maneuvers It'll all be blue sky for now, and Rumble will be giving the directions."

"Just one question." Chance leaned back and closed his eyes as he tried to absorb the most intensive, and important, lecture-lesson of his life "Why do you need a pilot?"

"Because I'm not one." She replied matter-of-factly.

"But you're a jet ..."

"Not exactly I'm an intelligence that currently resides in a jet." She corrected him gently "While I have very fine understanding and control of this body, it does not make me the equivalent of a combat pilot There are ... things ... pilots do ... a way you see and think and react ... that drastically enhances our combat ability It is the same reason I have a gunner, though not all do And some have gunners and not pilots My greatest skill is utilizing resources, battlefield planning and the big picture I'm a leader I'm only adequate at combat, though I've kept myself in one piece in the solo practice missions But with BlackFire and NightRazor, nothing stops us, or even touches us."

"Oh," Chance took another deep breath, let it out, and set his mind to proving his words.

"*Thank you, Nate.*" Jake nuzzled his mate and pulled away before lifting troubled amber eyes to meet his mate's emerald ones "I know there isn't time to court you properly; neither my body or your head is going to allow that luxury." He stopped, trying to put words to what he felt With a frustrated growl he simply tried to send the conglomeration of expectations he had along their link "Make any sense?"

Nathan took enough time to get the gist of what the lean Kat wanted, and smiled They were simple things: a romantic meal, dancing, showing off his home, work and friends, sharing truths, a slow seduction continuing well into the next day, an exchange of tokens "Yes, love." He claimed a gentle kiss that was eagerly returned "It makes perfect sense."

Jake smiled back, then turned to Sheir Kahn "Whatever you did to me, that's keeping me this calm, keep it up." He chuckled when the Jedi blinked "There's no point in trying to look innocent, Ka I know your touch I don't know how you did it, but I appreciate it For now."

The tigress inclined her head in a regal nod "I am pleased to be of service."

Nathan blinked in surprise as the sudden switch of behaviors made sense Using a very old pathway shielded by the Triad he asked Felsira to relay a message to the tigress. "*My thanks as well, I greatly appreciate it.*" He knew he could send it directly, but this way it would stay in the quiet, since Jake seemed of two minds about being calmed down.

Felsira smiled mentally and relayed the message precisely as sent, including Nathan's unspoken relief that a fight had been avoided.

"Now, if you'll save both of us a headache later, convince Pat I'm safe to go wander around." He grinned impishly at her "You can shadow me, and you know Cathedral will be, not to mention those two," he jabbed a thumb at Felsira and Keltin.

"I'll do what I can."

"Or I'll ask Cathedral to lock her in her quarters." Jake smirked "And I don't think any of us want that."

"You really should be careful about rubbing her nose in the fact that the base likes you better." Sheir Kahn warned.

"That's why you're getting first shot," Jake flicked his ears back, "but I am not staying locked in my room unless I consent to be." He bowed slightly to Nathan and extended his arm "Please allow me to show you around my home."

The tiger-tabby smiled and accepted the invitation with a nod "I would be honored."

Chance growled in exasperation and focused as the female behind him, and the one around him, kept encouraging him to do For all that they were telling him to do what he was beginning to understand he'd always done, having a thinking, opinionated aircraft on the other end made it difficult Not having any familiar controls as backup made him edgy The combination was just pain unnerving.

"Got it." He let his shoulders relax fractionally at the now familiar 'click' in the back of his head as he made the connection with Amerith's control system again and concentrated on the maneuver Rumble had requested.

"You're quite good at this for your first day out." The approval in Rumble's voice was unmistakable "Now bring us around and back to the hanger."

"You got it." Chance didn't bother to suppress his relief that the flight was over, or the pride that he'd done it, and done well He focused on that part of his mind that could control this craft and set the command sequence needed to get them back to that small point of light that was home.

He nearly lost it when he realized it really was Ameliorate felt like home A feeling he finally acknowledged hadn't really been in the Yard for almost two years, though Nathan had helped for a while.

"I've got us for the landing." Amerith eased him out of the connection and came in for a VTOL setdown only a few feet away from Brandy.

"You're definitely good enough for the team." Rumble took her helmet off as the canopy slid back.

Chance followed more slowly, not speaking until they were both standing near the Recruiter He looked between the two females, and fiddled with the helmet before handing it back to Kassy "I appreciate the vote of confidence, Rumble, Amerith, but I don't think I can handle another partner so soon."

Kassy and Brandy exchanged glances before the wolf bitch nodded and extended her hand "I understand, Chance." She smiled sadly "It was the better part of four years before I was ready to even try to accept a new pilot We were serious about you being good enough, though When you're ready, give Black Phoenix a call We'll always need a pilot of your caliber."

"Thanks," he shook the offered hand and smiled "I lost my gunner ...." he let his voice drift off, suddenly unwilling speak out loud what he felt in his heart.

"If you ever want an understanding shoulder to pass out on, I'm available." Kassy thumped his shoulder.

"Thanks, Rumble." He cupped her shoulder in return "I'll remember that."

"Do you still want to fly with us?" Brandy lead them out of the hanger as Rumble got back in Amerith.

"Yes." Chance smiled at her "Just having a Gunner again is asking too much right now."

"Then shall we have dinner and finalize things?"

"Sounds good to me." He chuckled as his stomach growled in agreement "I think I'm going to like it here."

"Do talk to me if you don't," she turned serious for a moment, "I may be able to help, and that's part of my job too."

As Chance headed off with Brandy, Caito grinned happily This development would take a serious load off of Nathan's mind Which was probably just as well, all things considered As Caito sent a replay of events to Keltin he winced thinking of how insufferably smug his mate would be Caito had been sure he'd have tweak things at least a little, if only to keep the test fair Keltin had bet him that not only would Caito's help not be needed, but that the test would be fair Caito hated being wrong, especially where technology was considered.

The little trickster put a watcher link on the tabby and headed off to find the PsiJet Chance had been flying Caito was sure that this Amerith was the same one that Nathan had sensed linked to Jake Caito chuckled remembering how Nathan had reacted to the idea of the door being 'aware' and wondered how he'd react to the idea of a telepathic plane The little trickster decided he wanted to know more about this Amerith and it would give him an opportunity to look into Black Phoenix more.

Caito had felt the uncertainty about Black Phoenix building in Nathan's mind and worried that it might make his Bonding with Jake more difficult That Jake had gone to another unit was causing enough difficulty but the fact that there was no real place in it for Nathan was going to cause real problems.

Caito switched to winged jaguar and zoomed off to find the right hangar He just hoped Amerith would be willing to talk to him.

"Yes!" Keltin shouted out loud as he got the message from Caito He looked around and blushed a bit as he realized that everyone was looking at him. "Sorry, just got some very good news."

Felsira smiled knowingly at him. "*May I assume that Chance's second test flight went well?*" She had harbored some concerns about the tabby's mental state, not his skill.

The midnight blue tom grinned ear to ear. "*Flying colors, as I predicted. Caito didn't have to tweak anything even once I would just love to see what he'd do with one of the Aerospace fighters.*"

Felsira nodded with an amused smile. "*Probably the same thing he does with every plane he flies, love But seriously, is he flying with Black Phoenix now?*" She was seriously divided on this, if both of Nathan's friends went to a unit that Nathan felt had no place for him ... it would be heartbreaking for him.

The big warrior shook his head. "*No, he turned down the offer for the time being, but he'll be flying for Cathedral though It seems he's still recovering from the break-up.*"

The golden shekat nodded. "*As Nathan thought, Chance is as hurt by the separation as Jake is The difficulty will be getting both of them to admit it.*"

Nathan smiled at Keltin's outburst and apology, only one thing would get that big a reaction out of the warrior right now; Chance must have passed the second test flight Nathan relaxed a bit mentally, thinking that perhaps things would really be all right since things had now improved for everybody.

"I'll show you our central control room first." Jake purred as he led the way out "Give you a better understanding of what I mean by Cathedral, and what everyone else does It's big."

"Remember who you're talking to." Nathan teased "I'm hard to impress."

"So am I, and this place floored me when I first saw it, and that was well over 25 years ago." Jake grinned playfully as he nearly pulled Nathan into the hallway with a determined step "We've done a lot since then."

"I don't doubt it." Nathan smiled and followed without resistance.

"So, any suggestions on a good place to celebrate around here?" Chance asked with a grin as he finished signing papers over dinner.

"Depends on how you like to celebrate." Brandy grinned back "I'm pretty sure we've got something you'll like Cathedral's quite self contained."

"Ohh, I was thinking of a pretty girl, some dancing, a few drinks, maybe catch a stripper show, head back to my place for the night." He winked at her, a determinedly confident expression set on his face.

"Want Willa's number?"

"I was asking you." Chance muttered and looked away "You mentioned you were interested."

"I'd love to," Brandy planted herself on his lap and draped both arms around his neck before he could even blink and murmured in his ear, "I didn't think I was your type, and it's dangerous for a Recruiter to presume."

"Right now, you are my type." He licked her neck, enticing a shiver that ruffled her long, thick coat "Willing, interested, and nice."

"Well, so is she." She rumbled teasingly "And I'm sure she'd love to help us celebrate."

Chance shook his head and laughed "It's bad manners to tackle more than you're up for handling." He sobered slightly, but stilled grinned "I like you."

"Mmm, flattery will get you everything but good test score." She nipped his neck experimentally "And you hardly need help on those."

Nathan stopped and leaned against one wall chuckling quietly, earning a curious look from his mate.

"Something funny?"

Nathan looked back with a wide grin "Not really, it just hit me why my security clearance here was higher than I would have thought People kept saying I must have connections and here I figured it was a computer glitch." He chuckled a little more.

"You've been possessed?" Jake shot a suspicious look at Sheir, who shrugged.

"Urr, yah." Nathan swallowed, suddenly unsure of the wisdom of saying it "About six months ago."

"Oh," Jake opened his mouth to say something, then shut it and nodded "So what parts of Cathedral are you familiar with already?"

"Well, it was supposed to be a surprise in a couple of weeks, but ... well, that was then So, I guess I'll just surprise you with it now ... I figured you'd be more interested anyway." The tiger-tabby oriented himself and headed off toward the lab He quickly sent a slightly apologetic thought. "*Sorry about the detour, but I'd prefer to show you myself rather have you see it for the first time on some report.*"

"You're talking like a major project's a bad thing." Jake chuckled, then focused on a private message to Cathedral "*Full reports on this project NOW.*" He devoted just enough attention to walking to keep in pace with his mate and notice if his attention was required as he possessed the massive download of information.

Nathan stopped at the outside door to the Exo-Frame lab and sent another message, slightly more apologetic "*Jake, I just want you to understand that I went out on my own for this because I needed to prove to myself that I could still function independently And anyway, I knew I'd need major R&D facilities, beyond the Yard's capacity ... and I had no idea you had these kinds of connections Please don't take this the wrong way, it was only about me proving something to myself ... losing your entire world can make one a little insecure.*"

"*I know.*" Jake replied with as much comfort as he could and tried to shield just how stunned he was.

"Wista!" Nathan grinned enthusiastically as the exotic King Cheetah shekat did a backwards somersault from the top of the rigging to land near them as the door shut.

"Hi Nathan." She smiled at him and gave Jake a quick salute as her long, tightly braided black hair settled along her back "I was wondering when the brass would take an interest in this thing."

"I was starting to wonder why I haven't seem much of you in the Main Hanger." Jake chuckled and slapped her hip "And it's more along the lines of Nate showing off to his new mate." He gave a more than cursory sweep of the area with eyes and tech-telepathy before settling back on the tiger-tabby with real interest "So do let me see what a Cathedral crew managed to do with an Alliance design."

"You got it." Nathan led them down into the main work area With a big flair he took the protective covering off of it "The General-Purpose Mission Configurable Exoskeleton Framework, or Exo-Frame in more general usage This is the basic configuration of the Search and Rescue model sometimes referred to as the Medic Corps Special Configuration The R&D team designed it based on specifications and technical data from yours truly." Nathan turned to Jake and grinned proudly "So, wha'dya think? Not bad for somebody who never took an engineering course."

"Steel Clan?" Sheir Kahn whispered under her breath "You know Xanatos?"

"Urr, no." Nathan turned to face the Jedi as Jake got absorbed in studying the armor "It's based on a design from planet called Earth that the Alliance found useful several centuries ago." He wondered why the Jedi was interested in whether he knew the Terran Ambassador about the 'Steel Clan' reference, he'd never heard the armor called that, even in the historical documentation.

"Then it is based on Xanatos' personal armor." She regarded the eight-foot tall power armor for a long moment "A fairly accurate rendition for a modified production line." She murmured "Do you know much about Earth in that timeframe?"

"Not really." Nathan shook his head "History isn't exactly my strong suit."

"I understand," she nodded and stepped forward to join Jake.

"You've got hardpoints with no weapons or sensors attached." Jake commented as he swung around to face his mate, approval and curiosity shining clearly in his eyes "Any plans for them?"

"I was kind of hopping you would." Nathan felt a huge load lift from his mind at the lean tom's reaction.

A delighted, almost evil grin crossed Jake face "Oh, that I do." He leaped down and draped an arm over Nathan's shoulders "I don't suppose she's flight worthy yet."

"Hi Nathan, Wista, sir, ma'am." Terry greeted them as he walked into the room, a folder under one arm and a carefully neutral expression on his face.

Nathan smiled at his project assistant "Hi Terry Sorry about disrupting the testing schedule for today." He walked over and stage whispered. "The mess I told you about took a very unexpected turn."

Terry's face fell. "I understand."

"Really, you do? Then maybe you can explain it to me, 'cause I'm still a bit confused Seriously though, we need to talk once things calm down a little." Nathan sent a quick thought to Jake across the bond. "*Terry's been interested in me for several months and I only found out Sunday ... which was a bad time since I was trying to cope with the world falling out from under me Nothing happened but a conversation we had probably gave him the idea that something might He's been a good friend and I don't want to hurt him if I can avoid it.*"

"*I'll help with what I can.*" The level of understanding in Jake's tone made Nathan wonder.

Terry looked him "That really isn't necessary, sir."

Nathan sighed "Terry, you're the best assistant I've ever had and more importantly you're a good friend For that alone, I do owe you an explanation ... I just can't right now."

Terry stared at the floor for a moment before looking up "This was the really important relationship you mentioned, right?"

Nathan nodded. "One of them."

Terry smiled weakly "I guess I should've guessed it was that sort of problem when you couldn't give me an answer either way." He sighed a little, and then smiled. "Well, I'm happy things worked out All that moping was really kind of tiresome, you know." He grinned mischievously. "Sooo...this is how you managed to get this project approved so easily?"

Nathan shook his head in mock amusement, and bapped his assistant "Imp." He led Terry over to where the others were standing. "Jake, I want you meet Terry, best project assistant I've ever had ... and that's covering multiple planetary systems Terry, I know you who Jake is ... but I guess it clarifies things to say he's my mate."

The tiger-tabby turned to Jake "Actually, it is flight worthy, theoretically We were supposed to be field-testing it today, but I hadn't realized that I'd be in 'executive meetings' all morning ..." he grinned broadly.

Jake snickered in a level of amusement a little too high for what had just happened "Would you mind if I tweaked with it?" He went deadly serious for a moment "I had a couple ideas ."

"As long as you can put it back together if they don't work." Nathan smirked at the absolutely indignant glare he got for that statement before Jake shook his head.

"Don't worry, I won't be touching the real thing yet." He winked, then growled to himself, his entire demeanor changing in a heartbeat "*Are you sure Ulysses Feral raped Chance?*"

"Huu?" Nathan blinked at the unexpected question, then nodded "*As sure as Chance is I relived those moments.*" He shuddered and pushed the maelstrom back down.

"*Good enough for now.*" Jake nodded as he got a pair of silvery-blue gloves from a wall cabinet, stalked into a small storage room and shut the door "Cathedral, log me into the security net and contact Chief of Security." He kept his voice low.

"Hi Jake." A very uneasy, deep female voice answered him "What needs my attention?"

He took a deep breath "I need you to arrange for the arrest of Ulysses Feral on rape charges Cathedral jurisdiction."

"And have it done without the city exploding." She added softly "You never ask for little things, do you?"

"Little things I can handle myself." He squeezed his eyes shut "And as much as I'd like to handle this one myself, there are too many complications."

"Who was the victim?"


"Oh, gods." She sucked in a breath "I can see why What kind of proof are we working on?"

"A very strong memory impression on his T-Bone mask." Jake sighed softly "There aren't many ways for this to be wrong."

"No ..." she sighed, "I'm sorry."

"Not half as sorry as he's going to be if this is right." Jake growled deep in his chest.

"I don't doubt it." She murmured "I'll see to it."

"Thanks, Kenra."

"Anytime, Jake." She whispered as the connection was cut.

Jake deep a deep breath to try to calm himself before he exploded at Nathan again and walked out into the main room.

He barely stopped himself from ripping the Felsin's throat out when Nathan pulled him into a dark corner of the room and pushed him against the wall with a possessive kiss as his hands trailed down to the Kat's jeans and unzipped them.

Nathan wasted no time in dropping to his knees and swallowing the hard flesh, supporting the weight of the tom he was suckling with a hand on thrusting hips He barely paused as the balls he was fondling began to tighten, lifting closer to the body as they released their goods to be eagerly swallowed by the Felsin.

"What was that for?" Jake gasped as he tried to recover his breath and Nathan zipped his pants back up.

"Felt like you needed it." Nathan chuckled and kissed his flushed mate before pulling him close "I like making you come You get such a pleasant energy around you."

"No arguments here." Jake murmured as he relaxed into the strong body holding him.

"What the?" Chance stammered as closed the door to his quarters and turned to see Brandy frozen half way through a step

Keltin smiled warmly at the bewildered pilot "It's just a little time bumble so your friend doesn't see me Nathan wanted to come himself, but he's gotten tied up in something that will require several days to extricate himself from He sends his congratulations, and says that he never had any doubts how things would turn out He also said that he'll talk to you as soon as he manages to disentangle himself Which should be in a couple of days."

The midnight blue tom smiled and continued "Of course, I wanted to congratulate you on behalf of myself and the rest of the Triad We're all very impressed, and I might add that's not easy to do Well, I can see you have plans to celebrate so I'll leave you to them, but Nathan just wanted to make sure you knew he hadn't forgotten Oh, I almost forgot ... if for any reason you should want to get in touch with Nathan in the next few days, just call my name ... I'm doubling as his beeper while he's ... tied up."

The warrior disappeared in a silver glow leaving no trace that he had ever been there.

Caito drifted around Amerith trying to decide just what he was looking at The concept of a machine that thinks wasn't foreign to the trickster, but a telepathic machine was something of a novelty He floated above the canopy examining the control interface, which resembled the Direct Linkage Control System but differed in several aspects.

Eventually the little tabby tired of trying to puzzle this machine out so he landed in front of the nose of the plane, and created a 'window' in his invisibility that should make him visible to her, deciding on her since the voice had sounded female, and the name felt kind of female too.

"*Hi there.*" Caito opened cheerily "*Are you the Amerith that's bonded to Jake Clawson?*"

"Yes." There was more than a touch of wariness in her voice as the systems around them flicked on, and the two other jets sitting nearby powered up to pay attention "Who are you?"

The little trickster grinned at the plane. "Name's Caito, but that doesn't tell you anything really As to 'what' well that's not an easy question," he continued to the next obvious request, "some have called me a 'god' though I think that's a tad pretentious I suppose I'd say I'm a spirit with a great of deal of power though far from omnipotent, and I'm sure as heck not omniscient After all if I knew everything, I wouldn't need to ask would I." The little tabby smirked and looped about "Around here I'm Nathan's big bro, after a fashion and Chance's guardian spirit I look after Jake when I can, but that's really Keltin's job." He paused and looked at her carefully "By the way, thanks for playing fair with Chance today."

"As if I'd do any less." She tempered the insulted tone in her voice as much as she could, but didn't manage to completely eliminate it "I am the squadron leader It's expected of me to be fair."

He nodded as he felt several series of scans wash over him as all three craft started to exchange information on a half radio, half telepathic frequency at very high speed.

"The tiger-tail is Kellra, and the starburst-tail is ." Amerith spoke up after a long moment as the other two rolled closer, but kept a reasonable space around him "Why would I want to not be fair to Chance?"

"Well, with the fight he and Jake had, we weren't all that sure you'd want to let him in the squad." He could only shrug "I guess this means you think things are repairable between Jake and Chance?"

"Should be." Kellra rumbled "They don't hate each other Any insights on that count, Caito? We're not having much luck, except for trying to get them in the same room."

"Yah, a mopy, angry, skitzy Jake is just not fun to deal with." Amerith huffed "He's enough to make me head hurt, though I'm getting to like his taste in distractions."

"Umm," Caito stopped to think, "getting Jake on an even keel would probably be the best place to start."

"And that means bonding with Nathan." Amerith huffed.

"You don't like Nathan?" He asked carefully.

"I don't know him, but I don't like what he's doing to my gunner." The sleek jet growled hotly.

"You don't like that they're bonding?" Caito flicked his ears back in displeasure.

"That's just it, they aren't." She snapped back.

"They are forming two very different kinds of bonds, neither of which is being completed because neither understands what needs to happen." Kellra explained "Jake's nearly given up trying to form the bond he needs because he doesn't know how to explain that it's different from the one Nathan wants with the Sharing."

"And it's driving him crazy." Amerith added "And taking us with him I can't shield from him that much without breaking our bond, and I won't I'll kill that damn Felsin before I let him destroy my partner."

The little tabby hovered in mid-air thinking a moment "Well, we're seeing the same problem from two different angles here Both bonds are necessary; the one Jake needs for just that reason and the one Nathan wants because it will repair the damaged mind-bond they both have Oh, I might point something out before anyone gets too aggressive ... killing Nathan probably will destroy Jake at this point; they're close enough that the death feedback would be quite destructive and Jake's fragile as it is."

The trickster looked at all three in turn. "Well, I can sum up Nathan's problem with the bond Jake needs in two words: Black Phoenix Jake and Nathan were partners in SWAT and that meant a lot to Nathan; now Jake's moved on and left Nathan behind, and that outburst of his made it pretty clear to Nathan that there's no way for him to follow This makes this group bond Jake needs the equivalent of bonding with a roomful of strangers to whom he has no connection The worst thing is that Nathan would do that, but he knows that such a bond wouldn't hold; it would collapse the moment he went to sleep."

The trickster shook his head "I don't have a solution right away, and Nathan doesn't either; and that's driving him crazy Nathan would do anything he could for Jake ... it hurts him more than you can understand to know that there's something he can't do He's even trying to get past the DLCS memory block to find if there's some way he could be useful to Black Phoenix, so he can give Jake that bond he needs I just hope he doesn't destroy his own mind trying to stay with Jake ... it would be terrible for both of them And whether you believe me or not, none of us want to see Jake hurt either."

The small tabby floated in mid-air wondering how to resolve this mess, and wondering if he'd said the right things ... Felsira was so much better at this sort of thing.

"Nathan doesn't have a combat place with us because it's not in his makeup to be that promiscuous." Kellra corrected calmly when Caito fell silent "I know Jake would have never said he couldn't have a place with us We're too short on skilled healers."

"She's right on that much." Amerith agreed "And I wouldn't kill him, it'd hurt Jake too much Doesn't make me any less mad about it."

"That and Jake's having a terrible time shielding himself isn't helping any." An exhausted male voice added, drawing everyone's attention outside the small knot to a petite, longfurred black and white tomkat "It's making all of us edgy."

"Hi, Rik." Amerith greeted the newcomer when he walked in and patted her fuselage "This is Caito We're trying to come up with a better plan to get this mess over with before it gets too much worse."

With a closer look, even Caito thought the tom looked very wrung out "You don't look so good."

"Probably about as good as I feel." He sighed and leaned against his jet with eyes closed "The backwash from what Jake's going through is doing more damage than we expected."

"Have you seen a healer?"

"Dude, this is with a healer's care." Patrik sighed "I'd be in a Sarcophagus by now if it wasn't for Shereth Jake's burning an unbelievable amount of energy."

"If you don't mind, my mate can probably help." Caito nodded to Patrik "This entire situation is very much in her sphere." He waited through feeling the four pass shielded, rapid-fire comments back and forth without including him, then as they reached further out, for their teammates that weren't present.

"We'll certainly listen." Amerith spoke for the group.

After a brief delay there was a soft golden glow in the hangar which solidified into the gold-furred shape of Felsira, standing next to Caito.

The little tabby turned to Felsira. "Hi Fel, thanks for coming 'cause I think we need a healer's perspective on things. Fel, this is Amerith, Kellra, Gurath and Patrik." He indicated each in turn. "Black Phoenix, I'd like to introduce Felsira; the Triad's healer and telepath."

The shekat bowed regally before turning her eyes to Patrik "But I think my skills as a healer are needed first." Felsira walked over to the pilot, stopping a little more than an arms length away "Patrik, if you'll permit me I can give you some relief from the effects of what's happening."

"I'd welcome it."

The Healer smiled sadly as golden energy flowed between them,

Felsira thought for a moment "The problem Nathan's having with the bond that Jake needs comes down to basic Felsin psychology; Felsin only bond to those they have some connection to. The 'unit bonds' of the military are the closest equivalent to what Jake seems to be asking of Nathan."

The shekat paced slowly "The problem is that Nathan had concerns regarding whether he was in fact needed This was based on his understanding of military organization, which would preclude two medical personnel assigned to a unit as small as a squadron This is, of course, Alliance military organization and may not apply here However, when Nathan expressed his concerns to Jake, Jake hit him."

Felsira shook her head. "Of course, Nathan's method of expressing his concern was not the best, but given his own stressed out state, not entirely surprising. The problem is one of communication, not surprising given that the crisis was largely one of communication, but the problem is that there is little the Triad can do This is because, in order for Nathan to give Jake the bond Jake needs ... Nathan has to somehow feel connected to Black Phoenix."

The golden she-kat leaned up against a not-there wall "The issue of combat place is really a non-issue because a medic isn't combat personnel, he's combat support and in Nathan's case ... damned good at it Nathan's really just looking to keep doing what he was doing with SWAT Though you might want to keep in mind, just in case it ever becomes important, that Nathan is a combat pilot, and a good one He just hasn't been needed in that role lately, so he hasn't said anything about it He tends to be what he feels he's needed to be, which has been Medic for a long time."

She looked at the four members of Black Phoenix present "The Triad wants these bonds completed as much as you do, and we'll help in any way we can But the issue really is between Jake, Nathan and Black Phoenix."

"Can you arrange to teleport Jake and Nathan here, once the rest of the squad has arrived?" A new female voice asked as its owner came up "I'm Heron, the squad's Senior Medical Officer."

Felsira turned to face the jet black Gargoyle that bore more than a passing resemblance to Soron "Well, yes, I can, but I'd rather not interfere if it's not necessary."

"If we want this resolved this week, intervention on your level will be necessary." Heron resettled her wings into a cape and crossed her arms "It's very dangerous to interrupt a TechoMage when they're doing their trance-engineering, and Jake's tend to last several days, especially when he's working with Pakitra." She sighed in frustration and leaned against Gurath "If Sheir Kahn's report is any indication, he's sunk beyond my ability to pull him out safely with any speed."

"While I want this resolved, I really need his permission ..."

"I'm his MO, and I do have a valid medical reason to override his implied refusal." Heron interrupted "Face it, the boys are not dealing with this on their own, and you just pointed out the fact that all of Black Phoenix needs to be involved To settled misunderstandings, if nothing else Because here, the MO is a combat post, as is communications, for that matter."

Felsira nodded reluctantly "I can't disagree that they aren't dealing with this. I will bring them here, but it will not be quick since I will have to be more careful than usual Before you attempt to settle misunderstandings, I will repeat what I told Master Kahn: Whether he is part of the unit or not, in a combat position or not; Nathan will do whatever he has to protect Jake He's still recovering from the loss of one lifemate ... he won't lose another without having done everything in his power to prevent it."

"Thank you, Lady Felsira." Heron bowed slightly.

"*Black Phoenix gather.*" Amerith's mental call cascaded through the links that bound the unit together.

The golden she-kat began focusing power to bend space in a more delicate fashion than was the norm "I do not pretend to know what a promiscuous nature has to do with combat ability But you are perhaps presuming much of Nathan ... even he is not sure what his nature is these days."

"That's one of the issues we'll be dealing with." Heron sighed "It's Jake's assessment, but we're going to sort it out."

Felsira nodded closed her eyes as she began studying the patterns of space and time that comprised Cathedral so as to determine the best path of translocation, and the very delicate touch that would be required to bring the two Kats out of their trance without hurting them Heron had not been joking when she said it would require as powerful a touch as hers to do it.

Caito spoke quietly. "Tell me when you want them brought in, Fel's too focused on the pathways to hear anybody but another member of the Triad."

"Understood." Amerith spoke up.

Nathan watched in utter fascination as his mate as his first girlfriend worked without a sound around and in a holographic schematic of the Exo-Frame; expanding, zooming in, shifting focus, making changes They wore matching silvery-blue gloves and the focused, not-quite-there expressions he was long familiar with from Rhymar, and descriptions of himself in the middle of a project He couldn't help but compare it to a finely tuned ballet; two dancers who knew the moves and each other so well no communication was necessarily.

And from the inside, that was something to marvel at While Jake was there, he weren't paying attention, for lack of a better description Almost in a trance, his mind was in hiperdrive, focused on the design they were dissecting and rebuilding, but just barely on a conscious level, and while independent, they were working in tandem.

Almost the most amazing of all, Jake's troubled mind, body and soul all went quiet, without an effort or intent on his part Every part of the tom's being settled into its purpose without reservation.

"Quite a sight, isn't it?" Sheir Kahn spoke in a low tone to the three individuals next to her.

As he 'watched' the pair work Nathan felt an inner calm he hadn't known in what seemed like forever He sighed quietly to himself, and whispered. "Rhymar, my first love I wanted to see your final design through as best I could ... now I see I've found one who can truly finish what you started. " He mused quietly with odd image forming in his mind.

The Jedi noticed tears on the Felsin's face "Is something wrong, Nathan?" She asked quietly.

Nathan smiled and shook his head "Not wrong, but truly right The Exo-Frame was Rhymar's last design and the first one we really worked on together since our areas of expertise didn't normally overlap Watching Jake work on it ... it's the juxtaposition of the two who have meant more to me than anyone else The tears aren't because I'm upset, I'm just moved beyond words." He said quietly, never taking his eyes off of Jake.

"They're truly amazing." Terry murmured, his eyes wide as he watched what had built Cathedral into the R&D capital of the planet in action.

"*Master Kahn,*" Felsira's private mind-voice got the Jedi's attention "*Could you please arrange for Terry and Wista to not be in the room when I move everyone that needs to come?*"

"*No problem.*" The tigress nodded, then tapped their shoulders "I need you two to leave."

Cheetah and Kat sighed in unison and nodded, and Wista lead them out with a wistful look at the working pair.

"What was that about?" Nathan asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Felsira asked that only those involved in this mess be here." Sheir Kahn replied easily "The fewer witnesses the better."

Nathan chuckled quietly "Oh dear, Mother's decided to take the gloves off I wonder what prompted this." He quietly scanned out along his link to the Triad, at a distance he felt Keltin's watchful presence surrounding Cathedral "Whatever's up, the Triad is taking it seriously, Keltin's watchers are all over the place."

"Don't even think it." The deep growl froze Ulysses' hand before it had even slid part way under his pillow "I am quite willing to blow your brains out here and now, given an excuse."

"What do you want?" He blinked into the darkness of his quarters, picking up only the bleary outline of a very large individual out of strike range, and a great deal of barely leashed hatred in a Lionesses scent.

"What I want is irrelevant." She shook her head slightly "What I'm here for ..." She took a breath and settled her voice into her more natural, and commanding, tone "Ulysses Feral, you are under arrest by Cathedral for the rape of T-Bone."

"What?" His training fled for a moment as shock brought him bolt upright in the bed "This is a very bad joke."

"Hardly." Kenya growled, her ears flat "Do you really think we wouldn't find out? Or is it that your rank should protect you?"

"Will I get a trial, a chance to prove this fallacy for what it is?" He forced himself to calm down and face this rationally, even as he felt the room start to sway.

"Of course." Honest surprise laced the Lionesses voice and stance.

"What did ..." He groaned before collapsing.

"You are one tough Kat." She shook her head before securing her blaster and hefting the unconscious tom over her shoulder "That dose should have knocked you out before you took two breaths."

"Hi, Heron." Soron draped himself over her shoulder "I see I got back just in time for the fun."

"Hueee?" Her eyes went wide before they rolled up and she went limp under him.

"Hay, fainting is not fair." He caught her easily, using his wings to cradle her as much as his arms and body "I said I'd see you again."

"And you would be?" Amerith requested calmly.

"Soron of Darshar Wyvern." He nodded at the jet "You guys seem to have generated a lot of attention from off world."

"Considering few of us are natives of this world, I can't say I'm surprised." Shereth spoke up, her silver-tipped tail twitching slightly "What is your interest in us?"

"The Queen Mother wanted me to make sure Jake's clan goes together properly." He answered Heron pushed herself out of his embrace only to twist around and kiss him soundly.

"Now would be a good time to bring the others." Amerith commented after doing a headcount of the gathering "Everyone's here."

"*Now, Fel.*" Caito passed the request on, then settled back to watch as golden energy shifted and flickered into the forms of Jake, Pakitra, Nathan, Sheir Kahn and Felina He shot her a curious look to see the Feral, but the Healer was focused completely on untangling Jake and Pakitra's minds from each other and what they were doing.

Ulysses Feral cracked his eyes open to take in his surroundings, and was not pleased Though the room was sizable, comfortable, and very modern, it was clearly a cell, and one meant for long habitation under high scrutiny.

When he sat up to take a better inventory his eyes fell on a folded pile of civilian clothing on the table, clothes that he recognized as from his quarters Next to them were a file folder, and a plate of fruit, breads and juice.

"Your lawyer will be here in an hour." A male voice drew Ulysses' attention to his visible guard, a creature that didn't exist "No, Feral, you are not seeing things Your guard is a giant, biped lizard that talks." He flicked a forked tongue out "Get used to it That pile of papers is the evidence against you."

"Thank you." Ulysses nodded and got up He began skimming the contents of the folder as he dressed and ate The further along he got, the more worried he became The evidence was strong, even if it was gathered in a manner that wouldn't necessarily be accepted in a MegaKat City court, it was obviously accepted here.

"I do hope you can give me something that's not in there." A deep, troubled male voice drew the Kat's attention to a Rottie Kantin in a charcoal gray business suit as he walked into the cell "I'm Devin Kilmori, your attorney."

"I don't get a choice?" Ulysses raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, you do." Devin sat down next to his client and raised an eyebrow in turn "If you know anyone familiar with Cathedral law ...." He stopped when the Kat shook his head with a sigh "Is there anything you can tell me about what happened?"

"I wasn't there." Ulysses met the Kantin's dark brown eyes "I didn't do this."

"Do you have any way to prove that?" Devin regarded his client curiously "I'm not going to sugar coat this You are in a lot of trouble, and there is next to no way for those scans to be wrong."

"They are wrong I wasn't there and I didn't touch him." He growled animatedly.

"Ulysses, please work with me here." Devin put his hand on the Kat's broad shoulder "Rape carries a death by torture penalty here Unless we can somehow prove those scans are incorrect, or there are at least mitigating circumstances, you will be found guilty, and you will die very painfully."

Ulysses sighed with another look at the evidence "It happened on one of the few nights I had off I don't think there's anyone that can account for my movements as I spent the timeframe driving around."


"I was restless." The big tom shrugged "It happens a lot when things have been quiet, like they were before this morning." He looked up at his attorney "The city's never quiet, unless it's the quiet before the storm I was out looking for the storm before it broke."

"Did you stop for gas, food, to talk to anyone?" Devin prompted "Did you see anyone who knows you?"

Ulysses closed his eyes and settled his head against his hands for a long moment, replaying that night He finally looked up and shook his head "Not until well after all this," he thumped the folder, "was supposedly over with I stopped for a burger at Milly's, and they know me quite well, but that wasn't until almost one am."

"Are you willing to submit to a psi-scan to prove your stance?" The Rottie spoke very carefully "If we can't prove your innocence in a more traditional manner, and you are truly innocent, we can use the same methods for you as against you."

"I've never touched him." Ulysses growled in pure frustration "If that's what it takes to prove it, so be it."

"Have you wanted to have him?" He watched the tom carefully "Be honest with me, it's important."

Ulysses shut his mouth before the reflexive denial made it out and nodded reluctantly "He's a very attractive individual Hearing Jake talk about him ...."

"You're on intimate terms with Jake Clawson?" Devin arched an eyebrow as a couple things fell into place.

"On and off since he graduated." He nodded "But we haven't been together in almost two years, since my niece caught his eye."

"Have any of your fantasies involving Chance been, how shall I say ...."

"Domineering, violent, involved bondage?" Ulysses met concerned brown eyes squarely "Yes I enjoy bondage and borderline non-con, aggressive sex But I have never forced myself on a partner They always have a choice before starting, and a safe-word to stop me at any time And yes, I have had fantasies about doing those things to Chance Furlong, but I have not and would not act on them without his permission."

"I see." Devin nodded and took a steadying breath "You are absolutely sure you have never been with Chance?"

"Yes." He gritted out through clenched teeth and growled "I'm positive."

"I'll arrange for the scans then." Devin stood and gave the big tom another appraising look-over before turning to leave "I suggest you get some sleep, these are not pleasant, and tend to leave nightmares for several days."

"Wonderful." He rolled his eyes and flopped down on the bed "Could you bring news about how the city's doing when you come back? Who's running things? How it's going? Maybe why they aren't looking for me?"

"Sure Though that last one I can tell you now We set up a paper trail and witnesses showing you are on a two-week vacation to Farvia If you are proven guilty, you simply would not return If you are innocent, you'd have a very pleasant vacation memory and souvenirs when you wake up in a hotel there to catch your return flight, feeling much better about life." The thick-boned Kantin nodded as he left, leaving his client to wonder who was doing such an excellent job of setting him up, and if there was anything he actually was in control of.

"Commander Jake Clawson," Heron stepped away from Soron and towards her leader with her wings flared into a halo around her, displaying her tattoos to full extent "You are hereby placed on medical leave and under house arrest until your medical issues are dealt with."

Jake blinked as his stance went from confused, to furious, to submissive with a slow nod to her before looking around to see who else was there "I take it that 'taking things slow and see how it goes' is no longer an option?"

"That would be putting it mildly." The Gargoyle let a slow breath out "This has strained all our abilities to cope, especially Patrik's."

"Felsira healed a lot of the damage." The young tom added when Jake's concerned gaze landed on him "But you've run me ragged, burning energy like you have."

"I didn't mean to." Jake took the couple steps needed to embrace his pilot, and got an affectionate nuzzle in return.

"You could at least spend some of that energy on me, you know." Patrik crooned "It's not the same with someone else."

"Jake," Heron caught the Kat's chin to get his attention as he ran apologetic hands along the petite tom's sides, "while that's the gist of what needs to happen, we're going to have some order this time." She gently separated the pair.

"Say that for the thought challenged." Jake blinked at her, trying hard to focus.

"You will pick one bond to complete." She met his unsteady gaze "Just one."

"Okay ..." he stared at her for a tense moment before the implications sunk in "Why?"

"Because you need to have them prioritized in your own mind." She spoke softly "It hasn't mattered until now, but you are being pulled in three directions and it's tearing the team apart."

"Oh," he met the eyes of each friend and lover present and shivered.

Patrik, Amerith and the rest of Black Phoenix Home, purpose, first place he'd felt like he'd truly belonged, individuals that wouldn't hesitate to do anything for him, those he wouldn't hesitate to do anything for, and a prospect of adrenalin, conflict and loss until he died.

Felina A strong soul he could surrender too, who cared for and loved him, but could he accept seeing her put on her uniform every day, while he stayed safe at home?

Nathan Safe That wonderful, warm feeling no one had ever showed him before There was a strength missing in the Felsin that made true surrender impossible, but the combat drive in him was focused on healing, made a chance at a life off the front line at least a possibility There'd been such approval over the Exo-Frame ideas.

Pakitra The first to touch him with care in his life, but she held so many expectations he couldn't fulfill anymore Sure, she'd let him do what he wanted, but how often had he turned to her for comfort lately? How long had it been since he hadn't been uneasy about her growing focus on power instead of exploration?

With a deep breath he turned back to Nathan as he began to close off the links to everyone but the Felsin "I'm tired of fighting."

Nathan sighed, his mind objecting to this heavy-handed intervention 'Orders' had no place in a Bonding Nathan pulled as much order as he could into his tired mind and looked at each bond in as analytic a fashion as he could He walked over and put his hand on Jake's shoulder. "Love, I can see which bond you need more at this point ... of course, it's the one I can't figure out how to make work...as much as I want to I could force my mind to accept the outside bonds that you need me to accept ... but they'd never last A bond is never stable where there's no real connection." He shook unsteadily until the energy boost kicked in. "I wish I had a solution ... but this is one problem I just don't know how to fix." He sighed deeply. "*Jake, I'd suggest using the bond I'm familiar with...but its not where the problem is I still want that, but you need the other one more.*"

"I've chosen you." The lean tom shook his head, the pain of perceived rejection flickering for a moment before settling into numbness.

Nathan carefully looked at the bonds that he wasn't as familiar with, and using what mental energy he could spare he reinforced and repaired the bonds. He knew that drawing off energy was a risky move, given the problems he was having holding things together ... but he didn't know what else to do at this point.

Jake sank to his knees as he felt his LifeMate began to work with the bonds he was trying to cut off and ... surrendered He let go of the stranglehold that would have broken the extra bonds in time and allowed himself to be guided wherever the Felsin felt was best.

Nathan sensed the Jake's numbness and the cause of it He knew he'd need more strength than he had right now Suddenly he remembered how positively Jake had responded to the one gift Nathan had learned from his mother and saw a possibility Quickly he sent his mind into its clouded recesses until he found the areas he usually avoided, the realm covered by the mental blocks He chose what he thought was the oldest and pushed his mind against it.

The pain lurking in the memory was unexpected but Nathan managed to push it aside into another mental block Behind the pain was what he sought, more memories of his mother; the healer and telepath whose strength far eclipsed his own at both As he watched the brief memories of his mother he felt a strength surging in his own mind He sighed relieved, Cazi had been right after all.

He quickly returned to the conscious world, grateful for the speed at which the memory realm moved The first thing the tiger-tabby did was use his new-found strength to strengthen the bonds Jake needed, so as to leave no doubts about acceptance Then he pulled the lean tom close "*Jake, I'll try to explain as best I can But understand that the problem in no way is me rejecting you; I simply can't do that because I love you too much The problem is in the bonds you need me to form with Black Phoenix; in order for those to work I would need to somehow be a part of that part of your life.*"

The Felsin used the technique that Jake had responded to so positively to try and heal some of the damage the chaos was causing He paused for a moment considering how best to explain the problem "*Jake remember back before you brought me into SWAT, how I'd follow you on missions? I did that because even then I loved you too much to let you go into danger without trying to be there in case something went wrong I haven't changed, and perhaps now it's easier to say that I want to be part of your life, no matter what that may be.*"

Nathan focused his mind, trying to keep the lingering self-doubt away. "*I know its asking a lot, with the way you're feeling; but can you tell me why you don't think I'd fit in with Black Phoenix? There's something I'm not seeing But know this, the medic's motto is: Preserve and Protect We preserve life at all costs, no matter how difficult the path That's the healer in us, and it's the strongest aspect of any medic and it often obscures the second part; Protect: we protect life against the forces that would destroy or demean it, we defend the injured and the places of healing That's our warrior aspect, and though we prefer peace if possible, we aren't naive enough to think that it will always be an option Many miss the warrior that stands behind the healer and think we lack the will to fight ... but it's far from true.*"

Nathan nuzzled his mate and spoke quietly "I love you and I want to do this for you, but I can't do it alone This time I don't see so clearly, and I need you to help me see what I'm missing."

Jake shook his head, trying to focus and make sense of what he was being asked "Those are two issues that are now separate I'm not asking you to join Phoenix any more I don't think I'll be staying with them; I'm tired of fighting, of losing friends But I said you weren't suitable ..." he swallowed hard, "*because I don't want to risk or share you anymore All members of the squad are mates Even if you could like that, I'm not sure I could take it It's why I never brought Chance in It's not in me to accept ... I love you both too much to share like that, even though I need the sexual bond with my comrades.*"

Nathan smiled gently. "*In that case love, I don't see a reason to hold off finishing what we started; save to find some place a little more private.*" He smiled mentally "*Well, the whole squad being mates isn't so strange; after all I was raised by a commando team that was the same way But truthfully, I prefer smaller groups myself.*"

The tiger-tabby looked off in the distance somewhere. *"Jake, what you just said about Chance ... I guess that's something else we have in common.*" He gently let one of the old images he'd held about SWAT drift to the surface *"It was part of the reason I tried to hold things together for so long ... I didn't want to lose either one of you.*"

The Felsin grinned. "But I think we need to deal with one thing at a time." He smirked "I think its time we stopped you from driving your squad bonkers, can we find someplace reasonably private around here? There's way too much noise in here to Bond properly."

"My quarters." Jake nodded with evident relief "*It's probably the only place in Cathedral without surveillance as well.*"

"Lead the way." He spared a look at those he was chosen over, not very surprised at the mix of reactions; disappointment, understanding, confusion, shock ... but it was the image of Patrik, of Jake's pilot, crying in the arms of his squadmate that was burned into his mind.

"Will someone please explain what's going on?" Felina turned to the only familiar face in the room as Jake and Nathan left.

"Beyond the obvious, I wish I knew." Pakitra shot a questioning gaze at Heron.

"It's complicated." The Gargoyle warned.

"We'll make the time." Felina growled "Now what did we miss?"

"Welcome to my quarters, my home." Jake waited for the door to slide shut and locked it "And the biggest lie I've ever told." He faced Nathan squarely "I don't know if you've seen me in a cold rage ... it's been a rare even in the past thirty-two years." He hesitated, took a breath and started over "I'm sure you've gotten the gist of what the things in this room mean to me, especially those pictures."

Nathan cast a glance at the set of five portraits, nodding when his mind came up with a general indication that Jake considered them his parents.

"The story I tell about them, about my heritage, even to myself, is at best a half truth." He dropped his gaze to the floor, unable to continue for a long moment as Nathan shifted to hold him "I don't know what I buried, the truths that I hid even from myself, so you'll be finding out with me." He looked up, a tendril of fear creeping through even the numbness in his mind "I don't know what I'll be when we're done either."

"We will be LifeMates." Nathan spoke softly as he stroked Jake's hair with a kiss to his ear "You're not the only one that has parts of his life and mind locked away."

Jake nodded and pulled back slightly "Please ask Felsira to come now She can heal your mind, there's no need for you to hold onto the memory of what happened to T-Bone anymore."

"But ...."

"I handed it to Security to deal with." He placed a single finger across his mate's lips "They have the mask, and the memories There is no longer a need for you to show me."

"Let her heal your wounds too." The words were out of his mouth before Nathan realized just what he was asking It was only the reflexive panic, so quickly squashed, that reminded him just how hard it was for his mate to trust his mind to anyone.

"You trust her that much?"

The question surprised him, but he nodded It was the truth after all "I trust her completely."

"All right."

Nathan sighed inwardly This was not how it should be "*Felsira, could you come here please?*"

"Yes Nathan?" She smiled gently as she appeared with a golden glow.

"Would you temper my impressions from the mask?" He continued to stroke Jake's hair as the lean tom stared at her, his turmoil obvious.

"Of course." She smiled brightly as they settled on the bed "They are no longer needed?"

"The situation has been dealt with." Jake nodded wearily and leaned against his mate a little more "I don't need to know what happened from Nate anymore."

The Lioness smiled and let golden energy flow between her and Nathan, caressing his mind as she took the intensity from the memory while leaving its contents intact All under Jake's rather intense scrutiny.

"I am a Healer, kitten." She used her most calming voice to address that Kat "It is against everything I believe in and am to do harm to those I heal."

"First do no harm." Nathan repeated the Medic's oath.

"Would you permit me to heal you?" She asked very carefully, watching his reasoning as much as his voice.

Jake started at her for a long moment, trust and hard-taught paranoia warring to give the answer Finally, he stood and walked right in front of her He raised his hand, fingers spread, and smiled, bowing his head, when she matched the gesture, touching their fingertips, then palms.

"Can you make the screaming stop?" Dark amber eyes held a mixture of hope, desire and uncertain fear as he looked up.

"Yes kitten, just as I did for Nathan." She spoke very softly, all too aware of how fragile this offering of trust was, and of how easily she could make him bolt back to the safe familiarity of his pain "If you permit, it is all I will touch." She promised, aching to do more as Nathan came up to embrace the Kat's shoulders.

Jake took another breath, leaning back into the protective warmth "Yes Nate deserves that much, and I ... I would like to ... to be whole."

Nathan tried very hard not to react to the level of fear and self-recrimination in his mate's mind at asking such a thing for himself "*There is nothing wrong with asking to be healed You should do this for yourself, not me.*"

"I know." Jake sighed and tried not to flinch as golden energy caressed his mind, carefully taking the intensity of the memory down to a normal level, then soothing the scars it left across his mind "I can't."

"Oh, love." Nathan held the tom close when he nearly collapsed, staring wide-eyed at Felsira as she knelt to touch his face.

"Have I proved my intent, Jake?" She asked softly with an understanding smile as he scrambled through his mind, checking over her work and trying to absorb what it meant.

"Thank you." Jake murmured and cast a sideways glance at Nathan before meeting her steady gaze "Would you facilitate our Joining?"

"I would be pleased to do so." She looked at Nathan "Perhaps it would be good for you to explain a little of what this is, first, though.

Nathan nodded and carefully reviewed what he remembered about the Joining from when he went through it with Rhymar He figured the religious aspects would probably be skipped since Felsira was facilitating and it probably wasn't Jake's brand of religion anyway, if the Kat even had religious beliefs.

He turned to look at Jake "I'll try to explain what the Joining is like, as best I can Each Joining is, however, mostly unique since it is dependent on the individuals being Joined The first part is referred to as 'The Laying Aside of Masks' It's a separate experience for each and is preparation for the main part It's necessary because in order for the Joining to work we both have to be willing to let the other past the masks and illusions we've put up for the world Some Bonds run into problems here, but I honestly don't think we will; we're already closer than most pairs are before Joining."

"The second part is where the Bond actually forms, referred to as 'The Sharing' The simplest explanation of it is that our two minds get close enough that memories become, temporarily, shared The one constant is that the memories are seen in a kind of 'guided tour' fashion We'll be real enough to each other inside the memory, but none of the characters in the memory will be aware of us An important thing to remember is that one can not be injured by a memory experience; shocked, surprised or such is possible but not actual injury Which memories appear, and when is not controllable, though the memories 'usually' remain until 'fully explored'."

"Felsira's role is to get us past the resistance that sentient minds naturally have to being too close to each other The other thing she'll be doing is seeing that we don't ended merged, instead of Bonded For non-telepaths this wouldn't be a problem, but we're both telepaths so she's needed to keep us out of trouble."

Nathan paused for a breath "So, any questions or did I just completely overwhelm you with that spiel of mine?" Nathan grinned mischievously.

"I understand." Jake nodded quietly, his acceptance very obvious, as was that it came through surrender "I'm as ready as I'll ever be." He looked between Nathan and Felsira "Can we begin?"

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3         Part 4         Part 5         Part 6         Part 7        

A Triad Through Fire, Darkness and Death part 2 of 7

NC-17 for friggen Everything
Het Level is Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

214 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written April 1, 2001 by Rauhnee Ranshanka, Todd McCall, Vorex and Lailokos

Setting: Galactic Alliance, SWAT Kats

Primary Races: Darshar, Felsin, God, Kat

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Abuse, Betrayal, Death, Mpreg, Violence

Pairings: Nathan SwiftClaw/Jake Clawson/Patrik Celest and many others.

Notes: Part of the infamous STD set of stories that began the monster that is Fur and Fantasy. This was the first spin off, and second story we ever started.

Once upon a time, on a list called SWATKats_Adult, a conversation resulted in Vorex posting a snippet to the effect of 'Chance as requested; fucked, abused and a little confused' and invited me to add the Jake parts to the series that would become Secrets Too Deep.

Around pt 7 of that, a nut case going by Todd McCall joined the fray and created a divergent timeline with me, which became this beast, Variant B. Known elsewhere as 'Secrets Too Deep: SWAT Kats Three' and 'STDB', among others.

Now the six of us involved in writing various variants have taken over our own list for it, because we chatter too much.

Originally released in 41 parts, it's now compiled for archiving.

Blurb: With the third SWAT Kat away at a medical conference, all hell breaks loose at the Yard, and getting his partners back together are the very least of Nathan's concerns soon enough.

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.

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