Affairs of the State and Heart part 1 of 2
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M
R for Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Commander Ulysses Feral scowled as he spilled the contents of the plain brown envelope out onto his desk. What he saw was enough to inspire and angry, rumbling growl that echoed around his office. He stood up for behind his desk and crossed to the door, locking it to ensure that no one could come in on his unawares, before returning to examine what he'd been sent more closely. Photos, each from a difference scene dating back upwards of nine years from their dates and contents, and a single scrap of paper tucked in amongst them. 'Call me' the note said in plain type, with a local phone number beneath.

The huge tom's face was dark as he leaned back in his chair. He wasn't accustomed to being threatened. He took a moment to compose himself, then reached across for his phone. He dialed the number and waited as the phone on the other end rang.

"I see you do not question the authenticity of the package, Commander." An electronically distorted voice purred.

"I was there at the time," Feral growled down the line, less and less happy with the situation all the time, "Which should be evident enough."

"Yes, just as I understood, you face things head on." A trace of approval made it through the distortion. "If you don't want that to land in hands that will use it, you will follow the instructions in the package that arrives in three hours. Be in your office to receive it."

The line went dead before Ulysses could reply.

He snarled angrily and slammed the receiver down. He sat looking at the photos, wondering what he was going to do with them. The safest thing would have been to burn them, eliminating the evidence, but their nature encouraged him to keep them. He reached forward and grabbed one up at random, a close-up of a young, sandy-furred face, eyes squeezed shut and mouth hanging open. Delicious. He should have thought to take photos from the beginning.

He sat there contemplating them for a few more moments then gathered them up in the envelope. One of the lockable drawers in his desk had a hidden compartment built into it, that should keep them safely away from prying eyes until he could finally decide what to do. With that taken care of he unlocked to door again and returned to his work, expecting the arrival of another delivery with anticipation and dread.

Anyone walking in that was unfamiliar with the lean cinnamon tomkat hunched over a mass of wires would probably think he was crazy; not only for what he was attempting to build, but for the strange techno music turned up to bone-thrumming levels. Outside of his fingers and the slight rise and fall of his chest, the only sign of life was a slight twitch of his tail to the synthetic beat drowning out all sound.

Feral knew better, of course, though he had been counting on the smaller tom's incredible single-mindedness to cover his approach. As it turned out the music was doing that more than adequately.

The slim tom wasn't really to his taste he realized as he watched, but then his tastes had very little to do with what was about to happen. He moved slowly and carefully until he was standing right behind Clawson then made his last movement swift and sure, wrapping a powerful paw around his unsuspecting neck and swinging his other arm around to press the knife blade against Jake's crotch as he pulled Jake out of the chair.

There was a fraction of a second of tense shock before Jake went lax, not even trying to speak or turn to see. But there was something in the manner that was disturbingly familiar from five and six years before. There was little doubt in Feral's mind Jake knew exactly who was behind him, even if he didn't quite know why yet.

Feral snarled by Jake's ear, not even sure that he could be heard over the pounding music. He increased the pressure of the knife blade, turning the tip upwards until he felt the fabric of Jake's pants giving way as he slashed the front of them open.

Even though he'd clearly gotten the tom's attention, and even smell the first traces of fear on the lean tom's scent, his pray remained very still except his a sharply increased breathing. But under the lax, compliant body, Feral could just barely feel the tension building for the lightning fast strike Jake and Razor were both known for, even as the music suddenly stopped, leaving the Hanger to an eerie silence.

Another moment and the hand with the knife was inside the remains of Clawson's pants, the tip of the blade against the base of the smaller Kat's sheath with just enough pressure to let him know that Feral was serious.

A low tremor flashed through Jake's frame and the buildup dissipated, leaving the lean tom utterly submissive as far as Feral could tell.

The larger tom carefully unwrapped his hand from around Jake's neck, giving him a little prick with the knife to keep him in line. Then he reached down to undo the smaller kat's belt, the only thing which was keeping his pants in one piece.

As the cloth fell away a slow tremor passed through Jake's frame again.

"Why?" Jake whispered without moving, his voice a half broken sound Feral had difficulty correlating to what he knew of the Kat before him.

"I have no idea," Feral snarled angrily, running his free hand up along Jake's thigh and over his rump. He could feel a gentle trembling beneath the soft cinnamon fur that had nothing to do with impending action on the smaller Kat's part as the bone-throbbing music kicked in again on a new song. It wasn't what he'd expected of this at all.

"No." Jake whimpered a pain-filled denial that was obviously not directed at the Kat behind him, but at something he was far more afraid of.

Then with a last terrified shiver, Jake went still and calm. As submissive as any broken and trained slave, even his scent began to mellow into an accepting numbness.

Feral wanted to snarl again, but he couldn't find it in himself. This behavior was nothing like the Jake Clawson he knew. He carried on regardless, his hand impelled by the consequences of holding back. He didn't even hesitate a moment as his fingertip brushed across the tense ring of muscle beneath Jake's tail, pushing forward hard and burying him in the smaller Kat's body up to the second knuckle to remarkably little physical resistance, and absolutely none on the mental level.

Even as Jake's body relaxed to accommodate the intrusion, he shifted ever so slightly to make it easier for Feral to take him, every line and reaction telegraphing this as a well trained behavior Jake probably didn't even realize he was doing.

Feral shook his head and wrenched his finger out of Jake, quickly divesting himself of his pants. "Fucking hell," he snarled, "Let's just get it done."

Felina pulled the car up in front of the Salvage Yard and looked over at a slightly drunk Chance, smiling.

"Well, Hotshot, you said you had something you wanted to show me."

The tabby chuckled, shooting her a wide grin. "Oh there's all sorts of things I could show you."

"Really now? Do I have to guess what they all are? Or will you be telling me when we get around to them?"

Chance giggled as he unbuckled his belt, leaning in closer towards her. "Oh, I think we should discover them one at a time. Wouldn't want to ruin the surprise."

Felina leaned closer to him herself, within an inch of his face. "I think I'm going to like your surprises - though you just might be in for a few of your own."

"It takes a bit to surprise me," he replied, his voice so low it was almost a growl. "Though you're welcome to try."

Felina reached down and undid her seat belt quietly. "We should probably go inside before we try those surprises. They're best in private."

She leaned over the rest of the way and gave him a quick kiss on the lips before reaching back over to pop her door open, giggling.

Chance opened his door and climbed out of his car, fumbling for his keys without ever taking his eyes off Felina. "Well that's up to you, really, but it's not a secret anymore if you decide to show everybody."

Felina turned around and looked at him with an odd mixture of surprise and curiosity in her expression. "Just what sort of surprises do you have in mind, Hotshot? Or do you have some photos I don't know about?"

Felina followed along, flicking her tail over his. "Play your cards right handsome, and you might get some. Play real well, you might get something better. Don't think I'd go telling anybody else about them, though."

"I'm not so good at cards," he admitted as he tried the door, finding it unlocked. "I always preferred to play other sorts of games."

There was a playful gleam in her eyes as she watched him, and appreciative purr in the back of her throat as she watched him move. "Oh? And just what sort of games might those be? And if you say something about video games, I will hit you. Hard."

Chance laughed as he slipped through the doorway drawing her after him. "That's not quite what I had in mind. We'll have to play carefully though, looks like Jake's still around here somewhere."

Felina smirked. "Who else would take those pictures you wanted? Besides, don't you think it's more fun when somebody might notice?" She ran her hand down his back, running her fingers casually over the base of his tail.

Chance raised an eyebrow, smirking. "Jake? He's not my type. Besides, I think I know a place we can go where we won't be disturbed. Scenery will take your breath away."

"Oh really? I can think of a few things I'd rather have take my breath away, personally. But if the scenery's that good, then you'd better lead the way."

"Hell yeah," he said with a cocky grin. "This is gonna knock you flat." He stepped through into the corridor and opened up a hatch in the floor, revealing a ladder leading downward. "Shhhhhh ... it's a secret."

"Apparently," she said quietly, thinking about what could be down there, and what might be in Chance's mind right now. She started climbing down, just a bit, before looking up. "You coming? Or are you just going to close that hatch and keep me down here until you're ready for me?"

"Right behind you," the tabby said as he followed after. The climb down wasn't too far, though Felina was surprised to find the concrete bunker at the bottom, brightly lit. She could hear the loud thump of techno music coming from somewhere nearby.

She stepped aside and looked around, putting together what she was seeing with what it had to mean, and wondering why he was telling her about this. The drinks must have had something to do with it, but still ....

"Is this where I think it is," she asked as Chance came down behind her. "I think somebody's down here already."

"That depends on what you think it is," he said cryptically as he hopped of the ladder. "Sounds like he left his radio on. C'mon, we'll go around and turn it off so we can get some peace."

"Well, if I'm right, then I guess I can stop worrying about figuring out who my favorite vigilante is," she said as she turned to follow Chance. She spoke louder, so he could hear her over the music.

"Hope he just left the radio on - it'd be kinda hard to explain why I'm down here if he was here."

"Nahhh, it's no problem," Chance said casually as they rounded the corner. "I can ... what the fuck?"

Felina followed, thoroughly distracted by the things around her until she heard Chance's outburst.

"What's - holy shit!" Felina's jaw dropped at the scene she saw, her mind not entirely accepting it - her Uncle? And Jake?

The Commander had Jake bent over some sort of workbench, the smaller kat's pants lying in shreds around his ankles. Neither of them seemed to be paying much attention to the world around them, as Feral pumped himself into Jake with steady even strokes.

That didn't last long.

Chance was moving before Felina even realized what she was looking at, grabbing Feral with both hands and pushing him off his partner. Felina couldn't quite make out whatever it was Chance shouted at the taller Kat, but the fist in the face said everything.

Jake didn't move for a long moment after Feral had been forced off him, and when he did the look on his face as he turned around to see his partner and attacker was a strange mixture of confusion and numb hatred.

Felina was still trying to sort out what had just happened, but her training took over when she saw Chance hit the Commander. She lunged forward, trying to pull him back before anybody got hurt too badly - or worse.

Chance struggled against her grip for a few moments, pushing forward toward the Commander, but soon relented and turned his attention toward Jake instead. He stood over the cinnamon tom, looking down at him with a profoundly distressed expression painted across his face as the half naked tom looked at him.

Though there was recognition in those amber eyes, there was very little life, and no fire behind them as Felina moved over to her uncle quickly.

"What the fuck were you doing?" she whispered at him as she tried to help him to his feet. Something told her that she had to get him out of here - Chance's reaction, if nothing else. But if he wasn't going to work with her, she couldn't do that without a lot of luck.

"What was necessary," he growled back at her as he got to his feet. He was glowering at the tabby, but made no move forward towards him. Chance wasn't moving either, just staring down at Jake, stunned by the sight of his broken partner.

"Gods...." What he said ran through her mind time and again as she realized what it probably meant.

"I think we should get out of here before those two click with everything that's going on. Because I don't know if I could stop both of them," the 'or if I'd want to' remained unspoken, though it flashed through her mind, "or if you could handle them both."

"I can deal with Furlong," he said confidently, "And I'm not ready to leave just yet." He pushed past her as crossed the space to where Chance was standing quickly, catching the tabby by surprise. Chance was almost lifted of the ground as Feral pushed him into the wall.

Jake's gaze was slow to shift, but it eventually followed the movement of the two larger Kats.

Felina's gut response was to leave then, keep from seeing anything more - but then she remembered that Jake was still there. She couldn't leave until she knew he was all right.

'Just don't think of who it was that did this,' she thought, 'just do what you were trained to do, and then keep your uncle from killing Chance. Get him to a hospital or something - make sure he hadn't been hurt too badly. Hell, girl, he'd just been raped - how could he not be hurt too badly?'

She went over to Jake and prayed that he'd be stunned enough that he wouldn't realize the Commander was still in the room.

"Jake?" She tried to get his attention, a sick lump forming in her gut when she saw the numb expression in his eyes. "Jake, can you move?"

He nodded reflexively and stood, his attention focused on her much more quickly than he'd followed the motion of the other toms.

"Can you get to my car? I need to get you to a doctor, somebody to check you out, see how badly you were hurt." She looked around for an exit besides the ladder, hoping there was something besides the launching ramp - but resolving to use that if she had to.

Jake nodded again without much reaction to his surroundings, except to step fully out of his shredded jeans to head back to the ladder without direction, or apparent concern for his partial nudity.

He didn't get too far though, before Feral's hand landed on his shoulder stopping him in his tracks. "Just where are you going?" the commander asked in an even voice, apparently no longer concerned with Chance at all.

Jake stopped without resistance as turned his head to look at the Commander for a moment before answering in a low, neutral tone. "To Felina's car."

"You're staying here, with Chance," the Commander told him firmly. Then he lifted his face to lock his gaze on Felina. "I will be leaving with Felina."

The statement didn't seem to carry any weight with the cinnamon tom as he made a sudden, lightning fast move to remove Feral's grip and continued out towards the ladder exit.

Feral growled softly, but made no effort to chase after the smaller tom. Instead he turned to where the tabby sat propped against the wall. "Go after him," he said, his voice making it clear he had every expectation of being obeyed. "Felina and I have some things to discuss."

The tabby slowly lifted himself up to his feet, shooting the Commander an unreadable look before he headed up the ladder after his partner. He caught up to the cinnamon tom just as he reached the front door.

"Jake, stop," he called out to no response from the lean tom.

"Jake!" Chance was right beside his partner now but couldn't bring himself to reach out and touch him. "C'mon buddy just ... just listen to me for a minute."

The lean tom looked at his partner only after he'd reached Felina's car, his eyes still empty, beyond submissive or accepting, to something very close to dead.

"Jake?" the tabby asked softly, noticing the smaller tom's odd manner for the first time. "Aren't you gonna say anything?"

"What do you want to hear?" He asked in a low, submissive tone, not quiet meeting the tabby's eyes, though he did look up at him.

"I want ... I just ... fuck." Chance subsided into silence, uncertain what to say. "Just come back inside. I'll make you warm milk."

"She ordered me to her car." Jake countered quietly, though there was a flicker of something in his eyes.

"And Fe ... and he said you should stay with me." Chance snarled softly in frustration. "I mean, hell, if you're gonna fuck him you can at least hang around after."

Jake cocked his head slightly as he regarded the bigger Kat. "He took me, no more." He said quietly.

"Besides," Chance continued on as though Jake hadn't spoken, "Since when do you take orders from Felina? It's not as though we're answerable to her anymore."

Jake simply stood there as what little life was visible in him faded to the accepting numbness again.

"Jake! C'mon don't pull this blank crap on me." The tabby stood there staring at him for a few more moments and then sighed and turned away. "Fine, do whatever."

Felina watched as Chance went after Jake, trying to decide which instincts to go with - the one that was telling her to be angry, or the one that was telling her to shut down.

She tried to fight the growing numbness, but it seemed like a better and better idea the more she thought about it. Just shut down and run on instincts and training. She opted for a third.

"Sir," she said, swallowing a lump in her throat, "he should have a doctor look him over. Make sure he wasn't injured too badly, physically."

"There's no need to worry about that," the Commander growled softly. "I'm rougher with my lovers than I was with him ... and he just stood there and took it. I swear, it was like screwing a corpse."

Felina closed her eyes and decided to ask the one question that she couldn't come up with a decent answer for. "Why? Why would you do something like that to anybody? It doesn't make sense."

"No, it doesn't," he agreed, "And you don't know the half of it. This isn't the place for explanations though. Jake and Chance need some time and I doubt it will be safe for either of us to be here once that tom comes back to his senses."

She fought the urge to growl at the non-answer, remembering who she was talking to. Instead, she worried about the second part.

"Probably not, given this," she nodded towards the jet and other pieces of equipment in the hangar, thankful for something else to focus on for a bit - getting somewhere safe. "Hell, might not be safe anywhere once he's back with the real world. Where should we go? I don't think headquarters is a good idea at this point."

"If Razor decides to become a terrorist he'll do it without T-Bone, you can count on that. Still, we'd best get on the road. Where we go is less important than that we leave."

"Yes, Sir. I assume you didn't bring your own vehicle, since I didn't see anything on the way in. Mine's out front, assuming that Chance did what you said, it should be the best option."

"Indeed," he agreed gruffly. "Let's get going. We're going to have a good deal of work to do."

"Yeah." Felina followed him out, still trying to figure out just what the hell she was supposed to do.

Terry's intuitive sense of things was nagging him the entire way out to the Yard. He'd been planning to drop by after he finished some surveillance work anyway, but something told him it was important. He pulled into the Yard, and noticed a car he thought he recognized, but wasn't sure. Then he saw a small figure standing outside, and pulled his black SUV to a stop next to it.

As he got out he instinctively grabbed an emergency blanket from the back seat. He flipped open a panel on the dash, and entered a pass code. "Standard trouble mode. Full observation. Link and contingency programming." He said setting the usual options for an uncertain situation.

He walked over to where Jake was standing, staring blankly towards the main building, his dark red shirt not really covering his nudity.

"Jake, are you alright?" He said gently, as he came close.

The lean tom visibly startled, his eyes still dead as he turned his head to face his dark gray LifeMate. Slowly recognition and life creped back into them as Jake relaxed a fraction.

"No." There was significantly more fear in his voice than anything else.

Terry's nose told him enough to keep for later. Sex, violence and Feral combined with everything else said enough. He put the blanket gently around his battered LifeMate. "C'mon, Jake. We're going home, you need medical attention." He said quietly, gently turning Jake toward the SUV, and met neither resistance nor real comprehension from the broken Kat, who was clearly running on a very base line of instincts, even if they weren't ones that made much sense with his personality.

"That's okay, Jake." He said reassuringly, as he guided the shaken tom to the SUV. "We'll figure things out." He said as he opened the door, and let Jake in. Once the Kat was in, he went around to the driver's side and got in. As he started the SUV, and pulled out of the Yard he pressed a button on the console, alerting the staff doctor that he'd be needed.
As they drove, he considered which apartment to go do, and decided to go with the penthouse. Jake had been rather taken with it, especially the large whirlpool bath, so Terry thought it a good choice.

After several minutes of silent stillness, Jake slowly shifted to curl on his side, tail tucked tightly between his legs and his head and hands seeking to be as close to Terry as possible without disturbing the dark tom.

Terry put a reassuring hand on Jake while he drove, well practiced at piloting the SUV with one hand. He concentrated on how to help Jake, as opposed to revenge, which was what his heart screamed for. He turned the SUV down into the underground parking garage, and parked in the secured executive lot. He pressed several keys on the dash, releasing all data recorded to his office computer.

He walked around, and opened Jake's door. He offered the lean tom a hand down from the SUV, which was quietly accepted. While Jake couldn't make himself look at his LifeMate, he was clearly more aware of the world around him than when they'd left the Yard.

As they rode the private elevator to the penthouse, Terry kept an arm around Jake, holding him close protectively. "Jake, I know you don't like doctors, but just this once you need to have one check you over." He said quietly. "He's my own private doctor, and he and his assistant can be trusted." He said putting emphasis on the fact that they could be trusted.

"All right." Jake's voice spoke volumes of how numb he still was.

There was a knock on the door as they entered the penthouse from the short hallway. "That'll be the doctor." He said, waiting to see if there was any reaction from Jake.

While the cinnamon tom didn't look happy, he didn't fall back into the aggressive, defensive mode he typically greeted the thought of the medical profession with as Terry opened the door.

The doctor was a mature black and gray tomkat in his forties, and his assistant a gray and white tom in his late twenties. Both were carrying typical doctor bags as they entered.

"I'm Doctor Davon Tallridge, and this is my assistant, Will Travers." He said in a mature, reassuring voice as he extended a hand to Jake. "I'm Mr. BrightClaw's personal physician, he's asked me to check you over physically. Is that alright with you?" he asked very professionally.

Jake cast an uncertain look at Terry before he nodded and turned his full attention back to the doctor and accepted the handshake a little uneasily.

"Okay, now just so I know what I'm getting into ... this was a case of sexual assault, is that correct?" He asked as he opened his bag.

"Yes." Jake said very quietly as he watched the doctor move with wary intent.

The doctor took out a black electronic device the size of large TV remote. "This is just a medical scanner. It allows me to check vital signs, and a few other things without resorting to all those other medical gadgets you're probably used to seeing." He said gently, as he touched it to Jake's lower arm. He made some notes on a pad his assistant handed him, and then handed it back.

"That was the easy part, and it looks like there wasn't any upper body, or head trauma." He said confidently. "I understand that it's probably the last thing you want, but I need to examine the site of the assault." He said in a very clinical, yet still reassuring manner.

Terry put a gentle, reassuring hand on the Kat's shoulder. "I'm right here, you're in no danger." He said softly as Jake fought an internal battle that his trust of Terry won. He let the blanket slip to the floor and moved his tail out of the way as he turned his back to the doctor.

Jake never took his eyes off his mate, and that internal battle was fought for each second that passed.

The doctor's examination was surprisingly gentle. As he examined the Kat, he was careful to preserve samples of any hair, skin or other organic product not belonging to his patient. The scanner quietly noted that they all belonged to the same Kat.

"Okay, Jake. I'm done." The doctor said gently. "The damage isn't bad, and you should be okay in a few days assuming you take it easy. You'll be a bit sore till then. Over the counter pain medications should be sufficient, but if they aren't give me a call and I'll prescribe something stronger. Any questions I can answer?" He offered gently.

Jake shook his head. "I know what to do." He said quietly. "There won't be any changes filed."

"That is, of course, your decision." The doctor said, though his tone clearly didn't agree. "Well, if there are any questions later on. Terry knows how to reach me." He said as he packed up and left, accompanied by his assistant.

As the door closed, Terry looked at Jake. "It would be a little futile to file charges. They'd be buried so fast it wouldn't be funny. You want to get washed up now?" He asked gently.

"Yeah." Jake nodded quietly. "It wasn't his choice, Ter."

"Of course it was his choice." He said quietly, as he headed for the bathroom. "He could've not done it. Shower or would you prefer to soak in the whirlpool?"

"Shower, then pool." The Kat nodded. "With you." He added as he leaned against his mate. "Terry, he didn't want to. Someone got enough control over him to order it." He shivered. "She's coming back for me."

At the mention of her Terry growled quietly. "Well, she can't have you. I won't let her." He said without hesitation as he adjusted the shower the way he wanted it.

Jake nodded as he pressed close, clearly wanting to believe very badly, but having difficulty. "She can get anything she wants, Ter. She got Feral to do her bidding."

"Jake, if you mean blackmail then he hurt you to protect himself." He said quietly, doing a very good job of keeping a cool head. As the water reached the desired temperature, he stripped down and then led Jake gently into the shower.

"Yes, he did it to survive, not out of desire or hate." Jake spoke in a strangely calm tone. "He's not dangerous on his own."

"Jake, you haven't seen what I can do, yet." The gray Kat said dangerously. "I don't play the family card very often, but this time I will." He paused. "Jake, I've been kind of vague about my family in the past, I guess it's time to be clear." He said quietly. "Not that I've ever lied about them, I just didn't volunteer anything." He said working up to explaining things. He knew 'family' was a problematic concept for Jake, considering how poorly he'd gotten along with his even at the best of times.

Jake settled his chin on Terry's shoulder and nuzzled against the darker Kat's neck. "I trust you." He murmured softly.

Terry gently stroked the Kat's hair, and held him close. "Unless you don't feel up to it, I was thinking maybe this would be a good time to get away for a day, maybe a couple of days. Introduce you to some of my family, like I should've done before." He said quietly.

"All right." Jake snuggled a little closer under the hot spray. "Just tell Chance."

"I will." Terry said wondering where the tabby had wandered off to, leaving his partner standing half-naked in the Yard. The scent had been there, and fresh. "He should know that you're alright." Terry said picking up the shampoo. "Scrub your back?" He offered gently.

There was a flicker of unease before Jake nodded and tried to let himself relax as his mate's familiar hands worked through his silky fur. "He ... really wasn't very rough with me." Jake murmured. "She's using him, to break me."

"That'll probably keep him alive." Terry said quietly. "I don't think it worked, you seem to be recovering." He said gently. "Do you feel any different?" He asked as he scrubbed gently.

Jake was silent for a long moment before he sighed and nodded. "It hurt." He said, plainly not referring to physical pain.

Terry thought about it. "As in you felt betrayed?" He asked, hoping that maybe they could work through it before any damage became lasting.

"Scared." Jake mumbled, focusing intently on the swirling of water into the drain.

Terry gently rubbed the Kat's shoulders reassuringly. "You're not used to being scared." He said understandingly. "Things were taken out of your control, something you are careful to avoid." He said softly, sympathetically.

"And I submitted." Jake shivered in a mixture of rage, hatred and pure terror. "I felt myself accept it, and I couldn't stop the training from taking over." He was shaking hard, his fists clutched tightly enough to draw blood.

Terry reached down and gently rubbed the clenched fists until Jake relaxed them. "Jake, you were in a contrived situation that rarely happens. I assume he used some threat of physical violence to keep you from fighting back?" He asked gently.

"At first." Jake admitted, then shook his head. "Nothing I haven't stopped before. Just a knife to the crotch."

"Sharp object down there, probably caused a mild flashback to what she did to you. Did you stop resisting before or after he made it clear that rape was his intent?" He asked gently, determined to reduce the situation to something Jake could deal with.

Jake shivered as he replayed that segment. "Before. I think. At least before I really realized it."

"Probably the sharp object then." He said gently, hugging the lean tom reassuringly. "You went through five months of pain and agony, that you keep mostly to yourself. That you have some extreme reactions, is not unexpected." Terry said in an attempt to be comforting. "But I think she's counting on you blowing the reaction into something big. She probably told Feral to use the knife, knowing it would cause that kind of reaction. It was a unique situation, nothing more." Terry said confidently. "Just believe in yourself, Jake. I do. You're a lot stronger than she realizes, and maybe then you give yourself credit for."

"I'm strong because you are too." He murred as he relaxed into the embrace. "We are strong."

"Very true." Terry agreed quietly. "We're each other's greatest strength, always have been. Together, we can handle anything."

Jake nodded, willing himself to believe.

Felina settled into the pattern of driving as soon as she could, and went on mental auto-pilot. The last thing she needed to do was try to find a new place to drive to now.

"Hope you don't mind going to my apartment. Should be a safe enough place to talk." She was quiet for a moment.

"Would you at least tell me why you did it on your side of things? I don't care about anybody else, I just need to know who to be right now."

"I told you," he said, staring out the window at passing traffic. "I was doing what was necessary."

Felina sighed. "Why was it necessary? I need to know more - I can't imagine ANY reason it'd be necessary to - to do that to somebody. Not that doesn't involve things that don't fit. I can't imagine you doing something like that without a good reason - but I can't think of any good reason for it."

"The fact is that I know little more than you do," The Commander admitted. "Clearly someone has a motivation to harm Clawson in an intimate and humiliating fashion. They didn't choose to share their motives with me, however."

"Why did you help them? What could anybody do that would make you do that? I don't care why they did it yet, I just need to know why you did so I know what to do. So that I can do my job."

"Felina," Feral's voice was a frustrated growl. "You disappoint me. Do you imagine that I would do something so potentially damaging if I had a choice? After all that has gone on with the SWAT Kats, that I would risk shattering them completely?"

"That's what doesn't work! Everybody you care about can take care of themselves well enough to make capturing them damned tough, not to mention noisy. I think it'd take more than somebody threatening you to make you do that, and ... and I can't imagine anybody less likely to let themselves be blackmailed. But that's all that's left, isn't it? I should've known better. Can't imagine what you'd be blackmailed with, but you couldn't just be covering your own tail to do that. Right track?"

"That's more what I expected of you," the huge tom said approvingly. "Very good."

"Like I said, you're the last person I'd expect to ever see blackmailed. Any plans for finding out who's responsible?"

"Of course. Alexander has sent me some people, good people who can't be traced back to me. All we need is time, it's simply unfortunate that Clawson is the one who has to pay the price for it."

"That's one way of putting it. Though anybody who notices somebody poking into their business probably won't need to trace them back to you, unless they make a habit out of blackmailing people, so I hope they're good enough not to get caught." Felina pulled the car up to her apartment, and stopped the car.

"Have you ever seen your grandfather's agents Felina?" her uncle asked as he got out of the car. "Aside from the fact I actually had to ask him for them there's no-one I'd rather have working the case."

"Good point," she admitted, climbing out herself. "I wonder why they decided to have you do this, and not somebody he trusted, if they were trying to break him like you say."

"I've no idea. To be honest I know very little more about their motives than you do."

"Anything else we should sort out about this situation? We should probably go inside if there is - I know my place is clear, but I can't be completely certain about everything outside."

"I don't think so," he said with a shake of his head. "The Enforcers will not be seen to be investigating this in any way whatsoever and I'll handle relations with the SWAT Kats myself. Everything is covered."

"I don't like it, Uncle. There's still something missing, something other than the obvious points. Like the way they acted earlier. That just doesn't fit either of their profiles, not the parts I've read before at least."

"Indeed. There is a great deal more to this business with Clawson than either of us know. For now."

As Terry held his LifeMate, relaxing in the whirlpool's warm water, Jake shifted from snuggling close to lean back to look at the black tipped gray tom, his face a mess of fear, pain and fighting reflexes.

"Something the matter, Jake?" Terry asked gently.

"Everything." He whispered, looking away. "Everything but you holding me." Jake shuddered. "Doesn't make sense."

"In what way?" He asked sympathetically.

"Felina was down there ... Feral's alive ... Chance ... he obeyed Feral, over me." Jake squeezed his eyes shut against the traitorous thoughts gaining voice.

"I didn't know Felina was there." He said softly, suddenly realizing who's car was outside. "I don't understand Chance's behavior either." He sighed. "But Felina's a Feral first, so her behavior isn't that hard to figure out. She's inclined to obey him on two levels, as his niece and as his subordinate."

"Chance brought her." Jake mumbled as he settled against Terry's neck again. "Can't be real."

"Wish I could say it wasn't, but I'd be lying to you." He said quietly. "I don't do that, never have, never will." Terry said quietly. "He was at least partially intoxicated, there was alcohol in his scent." He said, trying to find a reason for the tabby's disturbing behavior.

"Ter," Jake hesitated before letting the tension in his body go, all but molding against his mate. "Is ... I don't want to remember this as real." He fought with himself to say what his heart was begging for. "Something ... let it become just another a bad dream.

"Jake, I know you don't want to remember it, but this more serious. Remember who you told me is behind this. If she's really after you, you can't afford to forget. It would make you more vulnerable." Terry hugged his mate close. "Besides, who says she won't order Feral to do it again." he said quietly. "As painful as it is, it is real. And to be honest, I don't know of any memory suppressant drug that doesn't have serious side effects. And none are reliable, the memories could slam into you without warning."

"Hallucinogen." Jake mumbled. "Stardust, or Rainbow."

"I wish I could make everything better that easily, but honestly it would probably cause more serious problems. For one thing, most of those drugs can't be targeted. Who knows how much you'd lose." He said nuzzling the Kat tight.

"It'll just make a while before and after so flaky ..." Jake sighed and let go again. "Feral I can take ... what Chance did ... oh, Gods Ter ... how could he do that?"

"Clearly, they have a relationship neither of us is aware of." Terry said quietly. "After all, Feral knew where the Lair was."

Jake's head shot back, his eyes wide in shock and denial. "He hates Feral."

"Jake, the only person who can answer that question is Chance. But there's another concern, and a reason to stay away from the drugs. Can you really trust your life, as Razor, to a partner with divided loyalties?" He sighed. "If only I'd gotten off work an hour earlier." He said softly, with some regret.

Amber eyes closed as Jake looked sharply away. "Razor is no more. He died down in his Hanger, where he belonged."

Terry nodded. "That's your decision, Jake. You have my support, as always." He said completely sympathetic and supportive, just as the phone rang.

Terry looked over at it, half ready to let it ring. But something said he should answer it. "Jake, I'll be back as soon as I take care of this call. Which won't take long." He said gently, as he climbed out of the tub and grabbed a towel to dry enough, not to electrocute himself.

"BrightClaw residence, Terry speaking." He answered politely as Jake watched from the tub.

"Terry, uhhhhh yeah, it's Chance," the tabby's voice sounded weak as it came down through the phone line, devoid of his usual easy confidence. "Listen, ummmmm, Jake's not around here. I don't know where he is."

"Hi Chance." Terry's voice had a distinct edge, but it was not really directed. "Jake's home with me."

"Oh. Well, good. I mean, at least he's with someone."

"Some reason he wouldn't be?" Terry asked curiously.

"He ... he wasn't in the best way, right? And then he kinda took off, and I didn't know where he'd gone. But, I mean, if he's with you then that's okay. I just wanted to make sure."

Terry refrained from growling, barely. He had been hoping the tabby wouldn't lie to him. "Given what happened, he's as well as can be expected." Terry said shortly.

"Yeah," Chance said softly. "Well, like I said, I just wanted to make sure where he was. I guess I'll see you round."

Terry carefully put his hand over the receiver. "Do you want to talk to him?" He asked very gently of the wet tom standing in the doorway between the bathroom and living room. "You don't have to, if you don't want to." He said clearly supporting whatever Jake decided as the unsettled Kat decided.

With a barely visible nod Jake stepped forward.

"Actually, Jake would like to talk to you, Chance." He said before handing Jake the phone.

"Hi, Chance." The lean tom's voice was surprisingly calm for what Terry could see, and smell, going on inside.

"Hey," the tabby replied softly. "You kinda gave me a scare, taking off like that."

"You would have known, if you'd stayed ... or listened." Jake said before closing his eyes. "What were you doing with Felina?"

Terry said nothing, but put a supportive hand on Jake's shoulder.

"We went to a movie. Venom 3."

"And in the Hanger?" He prompted, still in a remarkably neutral tone.

"Oh. That. I guess you're mad, huh?" Chance's voice was soft and reluctant, like a kitten who knows he's done something wrong.

"That you didn't ask me first, yes." He sighed. "That was our secret ... I just figured I counted for more than I do in who to tell it to. Don't worry about it." He continued without waiting for a reply. "Why isn't Feral dead?"

"Oh God Jake I ... it's just not so simple. I'm sorry."

"How can it not be simple?" He requested softly. "You hate him more than anything I've never known."

Terry blinked at the sudden turnabout, but couldn't help but agree with the sentiment. He tactfully kept quiet, sticking to being a supportive presence.

There was silence on the other end of the line, and for a while Jake began to suspect that Chance had hung up, except for the lack of a dial tone. "Jake, we need to talk about this, properly. Will you come around here tomorrow?"

"All right, face to face." He agreed with a bit more strength in his voice than before. "But here, and now."

"Okay, I think I remember the way. I'll be about ... fifteen minutes."

"I'll be ready." Jake agreed with a soft sadness before hanging up and leaning back against his LifeMate. "I can't go back there." He murmured sadly.

"I understand, Jake." He said putting his arms around his mate. "I'll send someone to meet him. I'm sure he's going to the apartment." He said quietly. "I picked the penthouse, because only a few people know about it."

He picked a comm unit off the table. "SunClaw to security. Greg, would you take a car around to the apartment and bring Chance Furlong back here. Security state Bravo."

The older tom's voice came back. "Understood, bro."

"Thanks." Jake nuzzled the gray tom holding him. "Let's dry off and get dressed. "No way this is going to be pleasant. Just no way ...."

"You're welcome." He said as they walked back to the shower, where Terry turned on the airjets. "It's hard when things end like this. But just remember I'm here for you, lean on me as much as you need to." He said with a strong hand on the Kat's shoulder to reinforce the statement.

"Whoever said ignorance was bliss, knew what they were talking about." Jake closed his eyes as the warm air coaxed the water from his fur.

"That's just what I thought when I found out that Ryan was working for the ShadowClaws." Terry sighed, as he let the warm air dry his fur.

"For all the good it brought me, I do wish that could have ended differently." Jake sighed. "As much as I don't want to know, I don't think I can just let this drop. I just hope he doesn't try to lie to me."

"I hope he doesn't, it would make things a little easier." He said quietly. "But what will be, will be."

"Maybe it's past time for a change, anyway." Jake tried to shrug, but his heart wasn't in it. "Not like it's all I'm good at."

"Not hardly, love." Terry said reassuringly. "Not hardly."

"Chance Furlong?" A deep voice that turned out to belong to a large burly tom in a black and gray 'uniform', asked as the tabby wondered why no one was answering the door at Terry and Jake's apartment.

"Yeah, who wants to know?" The tabby moved back a step, his stance defensive.

"My name's Greg SwiftClaw, I'm Terry's brother." He said easily. "Terry asked me to come by and bring you to where he and Jake are. If you'll come with me." The nearly seven-foot tall tom said simply.

Chance's eyes closed for a moment and he nodded. "Yeah, okay."

Greg lead Chance outside to a large dark gray sedan with tinted windows that was waiting with the engine running. He opened the back door. "If you'll get in." He said with a gesture to Chance.

Greg got in after Chance, closed the door and pushed an intercom on the back of the seat. "Location Sierra Two." He said before leaning back, as the car pulled out.

The tabby just sat quietly throughout the trip, staring at the opaque window without really seeing it.

About twenty minutes later, the car stopped and Greg got out. "This way." He said leading the way through a dark parking garage to an elevator, that he activated with an electronic key.

"Penthouse." He said after they both got in, and the elevator rose smoothly to the top.

"It's that door over there." Greg said as they exited the elevator, with a gesture toward the only visible door on the small hallway.

Chance just nodded and walked down the hall, stopping at the door to knock loudly.

Terry opened the door, dressed in casual slacks and a collared shirt. "Come on in, Chance." He said evenly.

Chance swallowed nervously and followed behind Terry, his eyes cast down towards the carpet.

"Hello, Chance." Jake's voice was soft as they entered the main room. "Have a seat."

Terry took a discrete position in the archway between the main room, and the dining room. His posture was distinctly protective of Jake, as if he was Jake's bodyguard in addition to LifeMate.

Chance's eyes flicked up towards Jake as the smaller kat spoke, a grimace flashing across his face before he looked away again. He flopped down in on of the chairs, looking distinctly uncomfortable despite his surroundings.

"So tell me, how is it so complicated?" Jake prompted with surprising calm.

"It's ... hard," the tabby murmured, his voice little louder than a whisper. "There's a lot you don't know."

"Start with the earliest event." Jake suggested, just sort of an order. His growing irritation making itself known.

"Well, uhhhh ... Feral set up SWAT deliberately. He knew we could do it, and the city wouldn't give him the money to do it above board."

Jake froze, something utterly unreadable crossing his face.

"So ... you knew this from the beginning?" The lean tom hissed, the hard edge on his voice doing little to conceal the rage building just under that relaxed exterior.

Terry blinked, a little surprised. After all the noise and condemnations of SWAT from Feral, to find out that he had deliberately created it was a shock. But to find that he had done so, without telling Jake was an outrage. Terry remembered the pain that being booted from Enforcer to junkyard Kat had caused Jake, and he would've been more annoyed at Feral, if that was possible. Instead, he got annoyed at Chance for keeping this from Jake.

Chance flinched at the harsh note in his partner's voice, nodding. "Yeah. Originally he wanted us to go into SWAT from the Academy, all official, but he couldn't get the money."

"And I wasn't told because?" Jake had nearly abandoned his attempt to be calm and rational about this. This he wasn't prepared for.

"I don't know," Chance said miserably. "Jake, I swear I don't. It wasn't my choice."

"And when were you told?"

"I knew he was planning it in the Academy, but I didn't find out about what was going to happen until the day before. I swear Jake, it's the truth."

"And just how did you get so close to the tom you've pretended to hate so intently all these years?" Jake rumbled. "Just what is between the two of you that you'd manipulate and betray your own gunner like this?"

"He ... we ...," Chance whimpered softly and covered his face with his hands. "Please Jake, we couldn't let anyone find out. Anyone."

For a long time Jake's rage gave way to confusion, his mind refusing to accept the only answer it came up with. "You ... you and Feral ...."

Chance just nodded miserably. "Since our first year," he whispered softly.

Nothing even breathed for a long, stunned minute as Terry suddenly realized where the blackmail was. Feral had crossed a very serious line, one that could cost him his career. The Commander and a cadet: that was definitely a breach of Enforcer regs; and one of the few that could bring down a powerful Commander like Feral.

Suddenly Jake exploded, a fighting knife in his hand from nowhere as he crossed the distance between them. Before anyone could do much more than blink, the sharp blade found its mark in the back of Chance's neck, angled to take out the artery as it came down.

Chance flinched at the sudden movement, but otherwise sat perfectly still as he felt the knife against his skin, then slice threw the strong tendons and tender flesh of the left side of his throat, spilling more than just a little blood as the artery was severed.

The tabby cried out as he felt the knife biting in to him, hot red blood spurting out across furniture and carpet in spite of the paw trying to keep the would closed.

Terry was across the room almost as soon the blade hit, but the damage was already done. He held Jake's knife hand with a gentle but unyielding force, even as the Kat let it go, willingly, in favor of his claws for the next strike, all but oblivious to the hand on his wrist.

"Jake, snap out of it." Terry said pulling the enraged Kat around to face him, which only eared him a reflexive claw strike at his face. "This is way out of line, for lying to you. If it was Feral, fine."

Greg came into the room with a doctor about the same time. Both quickly moving to staunch the loss of blood as Terry struggled with his mate.

Chance lay in the chair insensate as the doctor worked on him, most of the right side of his body covered in blood. The doctor was able to bring the bleeding under control fairly quickly, using medical tape to seal the wound.

As they continued to struggle Terry was at a disadvantage. He didn't want to hurt Jake, while his enraged mate seemed to have no compunction about hurting him, or anything. "Jake, you've made your point. But killing him isn't going to solve anything. It'll just make going after the ones responsible more complicated." He shouted trying to break through the rage that possessed his mate.

In the end it took both Greg and Terry to contain Jake. With the option of fighting taken from him, Jake gradually calmed into a sobbing, unresponsive heap.

"Get him out of here, and over to clinic Delta." He said quietly, as he sat with his arms around Jake.

"S'allright," the tabby said groggily. "I can take care of myself." He lifted himself up out of the chair and made his unsteady way towards the door.

"You can barely walk, have heavy trauma to your neck which needs repaired, and if you stumble into something and that bandage comes off, you could bleed to death." The doctor outlined the tabby's problems. "You are most certainly not alright. Now you can either be cooperative or be sedated, your choice." The doctor said brusquely with a manner more reminiscent of a drill sergeant.

Chance chuckled weakly. "And staying here would be so good for me. I'll go to Morning Star, don't worry."

"Who said you're staying here? We're getting you out of here, before he comes round." The doctor said. "You're not leaving on foot, anyway. That would compromise security."

"In case you didn't notice your boss just tried to kill me," Chance turned on his heel, swayed uncertainly for a moment, but made it to the door on his own to feet. "No fucking way am I going with you guys."

"Actually, our boss is the one that pulled Jake off you." The doctor said defensively. "You can thank Feral for what just happened. If he'd kept his filthy, stinking paws to himself Jake wouldn't be in this state." He growled.

Chance didn't even reply, opening the door and almost falling through it and into the hallway beyond. One of the stretcher attendants in the hallways reflexively stepped in to catch the stumbling tabby.

The sound of Chance's voice arguing was enough to rouse Jake from his stupor with a vicious snarl and blind rage. "Traitor!" Exploded out of Jake's throat as he lunged for the tabby's retreating form.

Greg quickly reached out and caught the snarling tom, with a speed that belied his size. Terry quickly stood and helped Greg restrain Jake. "Why the hell is he still here?" He growled.

The Doctor quickly escorted the tabby into the hallway, the door closing behind him.

"Want me to stay?" Greg asked quietly.

"No, I'll be fine. Just see to that situation, would you?"

"Of course, bro." The big tom said easily.

As the door closed the second time, Terry sat quietly holding Jake as the cinnamon tom, fur stained brown and red with his former pilot's blood, sobbed uncontrollably. Silently Terry wondered if he'd done the right thing. But he wasn't convinced that killing Chance would've been good for Jake. The only thing he was sure of, was that Feral had a lot to answer for.

Vivid dreams of extreme violence directed against a helpless Chance Furlong shook Terry from a light sleep as he held Jake, who was not resting much better, and reeked of rage and aggressive satisfaction.

Terry looked at the clock, and figured that Greg would have put the Clean Slate contingencies into effect by now. He could look after Jake without worrying about Feral profiting from his deceptions and vile behavior. The clinic would keep Chance quiet until later in the day, not hard considering his injuries.

Satisfied that everything was taken care of, he lay there holding the angry tom and gently stroked Jake's hair comfortingly as the imagery continued to flow, some of it sexual, some of it just for pain.

But it was the backing to it that was even more disturbing, and told Terry that this was definitely from his LifeMate's mind. A mixture of first hand knowledge of what these tortures felt like, and frustration that the screams did little to sooth the betrayal that had shattered far more than the strong partnership he'd had in SWAT.

Terry had a guess where the first hand knowledge was from, and it didn't help. Dreams weren't something he could do much about, except try a few tricks he'd heard could modify disturbing dreams. Keeping his arms tight around his mate in a protective embrace, he nuzzled the lean tom affectionately, hoping that the affectionate contact combined with the scent of a caring concerned mate, might ease the dreams.

It was a long, tiring, mentally agonizing time before the dream ran it's course, with a final, almost merciful strike threw Chance's visible, beating heart.

In dream and reality, Jake sobbed and physically collapsed, before finally sinking further into the darkness beyond the dream level of sleep.

Terry relaxed a little, knowing that the best sleep was the kind that occurred beneath the level of dreams. He lay back and let himself doze again, just in case.

Terry's light doze was broken by the phone ringing, a sound he almost ignored till he noticed the time. He gently unengaged himself from his sleeping mate, and walked quietly over to the phone in the living room.

"SunClaw, go ahead." He said quietly, and he sat down on the couch as Jake, his fur slightly spiked in distress, sat down next to him silently and rested his head on Terry's free shoulder.

"Shadow teams report mission Clean Slate a success. All tech has been secured and is en route to Gamma Base." Greg's voice came back.

"Any difficulty with security?"

"A few mods not in the description, but Crypto was able to handle them. Only injury was a sprained ankle."

"Understood, any difficulty recovering Ebony?" Terry asked as he put an arm around his mate and pulled him close.

"Took longer than expected. Crypto was seriously impressed by the security system, he's never seen anything like it on a facility much less a mobile system."

"Site is clear?"

"Yes sir. As intended they don't profit from what they did."

"Very good. Hopefully I'll see you in the next couple days."

"Probably, I've got to come back for one last task."

"You don't have to, you know." Terry said softly.

"Yes I do. It's a matter of principle and family."

"Understood. SunClaw out." He said leaning back as he hung up. It was done, though events of the morning had made it easier.

"You cleaned out the Hanger?" Jake asked quietly, a mixture of curiosity and approval in his muted tone.

Terry nodded. "They don't deserve what you worked so hard to design." He said protectively.

"I would have built more, all he had to do was ask." Jake shook his head. "I'm glad no one got hurt, though I guess security wasn't nearly what I thought I'd managed."

"Oh, it was. Just remember, you told me a lot about the security measures when we first discussed Clean Slate." He smiled. "And Crypto's the best infiltrator I know of, he doesn't design 'em, but he's damn good at getting past 'em."

The cinnamon tom blink, then chuckled weakly. "I forgot about that."

"When Crypto complains about having to take longer than expected, that's a serious compliment." Terry nuzzled his mate.

"What now?" Jake returned the nuzzle before looking at his mate uncertainly.

"Honestly, I think some time away from the city and everyone in it." He said quietly. "My family has an estate to the south, I thought maybe we could spend some time there. Give you an opportunity to meet my family, the ones I'm close to." He said affectionately, wondering why he hadn't suggested this before now.

"After I check the gear, make sure it's all there." Jake nodded with a tired sigh. "I don't really want to sleep. Dreams are bad tonight."

"The gear's headed down south as well." Terry said quietly. "And I won't dispute the dream angle. If it gets too bad, I can probably get the doc to give you something so you can get some sleep without them. Can't use them for long, but they might help a little."

"I just want to do something, Ter." Jake shook his head. "The last six years ... and three before it ... Chance was just using me." He trembled as he fist drew blood. "All that ... SWAT was for him. He wanted to get in the air, a good Kat again."

"You will, Jake. There's a lot of things you can do. But this time, you can be somewhere you know you're appreciated, not just used." Terry said supportively.

Suddenly Jake curled into a tight ball, trying to sob with constricted lungs.

"Gods, I love that Kat, Ter." Jake cried, unable to hold it back any more. "I wanted to be his mate so badly ... I did everything for his approval." A deep sob broke his voice. "He refused me because he didn't sleep with toms, he said. And he'd been Feral's for years." Jake finally broke down completely.

Terry wrapped his arms around the sobbing Kat. "I know you love him. And I know how much you wanted his approval." He nuzzled the tom gently. "But it's his loss, Jake. He just couldn't appreciate how much you cared for him. I just wish you could've found out sooner, maybe it would've been easier." He said softly. At a loss for words, he settled back into holding Jake close as the lean tom cried himself out.

The sun was well on its way to its zenith when Jake finally ran out of tears, settling into a clinging embrace with the occasional sob. Only then did his stomach remind them both that it hadn't been fed in more than twenty-four hours.

Terry gently stroked Jake's hair back. "You sound hungry. Feel up to eating anything?" He asked gently.

Jake tried to nod again his mate's dark shoulder. "Not even Marissa hurt me this much." He whispered, utterly numb inside.

"That's because she didn't betray you. You loved Chance, and found out that he was using you. There's no pain like betrayal. Physical pain stops after a while, and you can learn to resist it. I've never known anyone who got used to being betrayed by someone they love." He said sympathetically.

A miserable nod accepted that truth, sort of.

"But don't stop living because of that. You're strong enough to get past it, I know you are." Terry said with fervent belief as he tipped Jake chin up. "Just remember, even in the pain you're feeling you're not alone, ever. I'm here for you, I always will be."

"You always have been." Jake whispered weakly. "I trust you, I love you, I wish I could offer my entire heart. But always, you protected me." He added in a very soft tone, the voice of warrior accepting the help of an equal. "You always made surviving worth it ... somehow."

"You offer what you can, and I accept that." He said sincerely. "Now we should deal with that hunger. When the spirit is hurting, one should try and keep the body strong." He said softly.

"Never was good about eating." Jake tried to chuckled, rather unsuccessfully.

"No, you get too focused to be bothered usually." He said quietly, remembering the times he'd brought Jake meals at the Yard 'cause the Kat hadn't eaten recently.

Then Jake leaned forward a little to kiss Terry gently, a contact that gradually gained strength and fire. With gentle care Terry encouraged the contact, enjoying it despite the lack of arousal in his mate's scent.

"Take me, Ter." Jake whispered as he hand trailed down his mate's chest to caress the gray tom's balls. "I can't stand him being the last to touch me."

"You only had to ask, love." Terry whispered gently, as he ran a caressing hand down Jake's back to feel the curve of his ass. "How do you want it?" He asked, seductively. The tone of his voice, and his scent made it very clear that love was what moved him.

The cinnamon Kat held still for a long moment, trying to answer that. Gradually he pressed his mate back, along the couch. "Put me under you when I'm hard." He rumbled with a bit more aggression than usual as he stretched sideways to dig a small bottle of lube from under the couch.

Terry rumbled excitedly, and reached a hand down to cup and fondle his mate's balls. He nuzzled the lean tom affectionately, trying to keep a balance of sex and love that he thought especially important as Jake rose to straddle his abs.

Gradually the lean tom closed his eyes and sighed with a touch of pleasure. "Oh ... gods, Ter ... just love me." Jake groaned, willingly surrendering control to his mate.

Terry continued his gentle fondling while his other hand gently pulled Jake down so he could lick teasingly at an exposed nipple. It had been ages since it had taken so long, but eventually his attentions were rewarded as Jake's scent grew aroused, and his sheath began to swell.

Terry slowly slid down so he could probe the Kat's swelling sheath with his tongue, seeking to tease the hard pink flesh from it. His hands caressed the Kat's back, and down the curve of his ass as Jake moaned softly.

Gradually Jake knees slid forward and apart, opening himself up a little more even as it moved his hips in position to slowly slide in and out of his mate's mouth as his cock began to emerge.

As Terry felt sensitive flesh emerge from its furred retreat he teased at with his tongue, playing the sensitive barb hairs with the skill of long familiarity.

"Oh, Ter ...." Jake moaned as he truly began to feel the pleasures his mate was giving. "Terry ..." he whispered, his mind and body keying up as he rocked against Terry's muzzle.

As Terry continued skillfully sucking and licking the Kat's hardening cock, he opened the small jar of lube and very generously coated two fingers. He placed one against the pucker of his mate's asshole and pushed gently, seeing if the Kat still wanted what he'd asked for earlier.

There was a spark of tension as Jake froze, his breath skyrocketing to near hyperventilating. Even more than the physical responses, Terry could actually feel the internal battle that raged between trust and several fears, with physical discomfort adding a dissenting note to it.

Terry backed off for a moment for more lube, and then resumed a slow penetration with his finger, while his mouth and tongue entertained the Kat's cock.

"More," Jake groaned softly as Terry he gently worked his finger in and out. But the gray tom still felt the physical soreness and mental unease, even as his mate's voice called for more.

Terry very generously coated up the second finger before adding it to the first finger. He wanted to be sure the Kat was loosened up before he tried fucking him, like Jake had asked.

In the end, Jake's patience ran out before Terry's and he moved back, pulling his hard cock from it's warm home and leaning down to kiss his mate.

Terry raised a questioning eyebrow as he claimed a passionate kiss from his mate, and was answered before they broke as Jake slid his hard erection along his mate's.

Terry lifted his hips pushing his cock against Jake's in a rubbing action. He figured maybe Jake had changed his mind, it would be understandable given the soreness.

"I'm hard, lover." Jake whispered in a polite reminder.

"So I see." Terry smiled, and put Jake on his back so he was under Terry, and they were face to face. Hoping the Kat was loosened enough, Terry generously lubed his cock, and slowly pressed into the Kat's asshole, until he got his sensitive barb hairs past the first ring of muscle.

He could feel the internal flinch, the pain and unease that the penetration caused, but also there was the desire for this, pain or no, and the knowledge that this hurt was nothing compared to what he'd known.

Terry leaned forward as he began to thrust slowly. "I love you, Jake." He whispered as he kissed his mate, a maneuver that was welcome with open arms and heated desire. Though his mate wasn't nearly as active as he usually was, the emotional feedback that danced across their nerves was both comforting and disturbing, all at once, as Jake struggled between desire for this and fears that he still didn't dare give name.

Terry did his best to satisfy the desires, as he skillfully thrust in and out, changing speed to keep things interesting. And then when he felt himself approaching the edge, he aimed for that special spot that always sent Jake over the edge. He thrust in, as the muscular spasms began draining his seed from him in hot spurts and Jake moaned and squirmed under him, but didn't come.

Terry stayed buried in Jake's ass, and slowly stroked the Kat's cock with his hand, as he leaned forward to claim a passionate kiss that was eagerly accepted. As Jake's increasingly desperate cries were swallowed by his mate, his body began to respond aggressively as it neared it's own climax.

Terry held the kiss, and stroked more vigorously in response as Jake began to shudder as he crossed the line of no return. Despite Jake's near silence, his shudders and sudden spurts of hot come gave Terry his answer as a flash of intense pleasure ripped threw his body from his mate's.

Terry slowly rolled them to one side so that they could cuddle face to face, as he came down from the unexpected flash of pleasure. He gently pulled the lean tom close, as they both caught their breath, and Jake nuzzled and licked him affectionately.

As Terry was busy with making breakfast, Jake stole a few minutes to set his own plans in motion with a phone call.

"Hi, Raven." Jake's voice was soft and neutral, betraying nothing of what it was actually saying. "Do this, and we're even."

"Deliver my former partner to the Tavares Royal Palace, a gift for Murolla."

"Yes, that's all. No, you don't want to know. Just do it." Jake said before handing up and dug out some of Terry's stationary to write a short note.


I bet I'm the last person in the world you're expecting to do you a favor, but I know who took those photos of you and Chance screwing back in Academy.

When you get past all the messengers and servants, the one you are looking for is Crown Princess Marissa Jarungu, heir of Teveris.

Good luck,
Jake BrightClaw

PS: I don't blame you, but I'm not forgiving you either.
     For a LOT of things.

He sat in silence, looking at the words before shaking his head and folding it to stuff into a plain envelope. Then stood and walked back into the kitchen, envelope in hand.

"Terry, I'd like a messenger to deliver this to Feral."

Terry nodded. "Sure thing. If you'll bring the comm unit that's on the table next to phone in here, I can do it now." He said without interrupting preparations.

"Thanks." Jake nodded and fetched the small device.

Terry pressed a button. "This is Terry, I need a courier to the penthouse. Secure message to go to Commander Feral." He hung up. "Should be here shortly, depending on how busy the courier service is."

"Thanks." Jake hugged his LifeMate from behind, careful not to disturb his actions.

Terry considered something while finishing preparations. "Since I don't know what's in that message, I'll suggest something I thought of earlier." He said quietly. "Ever consider telling Feral just exactly who's blackmailing him? Let the two fight it out, and then finish off the weakened winner." He suggested casually.

"That's what's in it." The lean kat chuckled. "And that's the reasoning."

Terry smiled as he began putting breakfast on to two plates. "Great minds think alike huh?" He grinned broadly.

"Or we've been together so long we share a mind." Jake chuckled as he stole a quick kiss.

"That would explain the dreams." Terry said as he set the plates on the table, and went back to get a pitcher of juice from the refrigerator as Jake froze.

"Dreams?" He turned around to look at his mate, a mixture of shock, regret and fear in his eyes and slightly poofed fur.

"Early this morning." He said gently. "Some very angry dreams directed at Chance, and I know they weren't mine." He shrugged, as though it didn't bother him. He noticed the fear. "It's not that big a deal, Jake. I kind of knew you were mad at him already." He said reassuringly.

"I ... I'm sorry, Ter." Jake whispered as he tried to smooth his fur. "I didn't ... mean to broadcast like that."

Terry sat the pitcher and glasses on the table. He walked over and put a reassuring hand on Jake's shoulder. "It's alright, Jake. No harm done. Can you actually do that deliberately?" He asked curiously, since it wasn't one of Jake's unusual abilities that he was aware of.

Jake nodded softly. "It's very dangerous, I don't like too." He sighed softly. "That it happened means I'm loosing control."

"You were extremely stressed out this morning, so a little loss of control is not unexpected." Terry said understandingly. "My great-grandmother could do it too. She rarely did though."

"Just ... which dream did you catch?" Jake asked quietly.

Terry tried to sort through the jumble of anger and violence to describe it. "The one where you killed him, repeatedly." He said quietly, wondering if that had been one dream, or a string of them.

Jake swallowed. "I'm sorry, that you had to witness that." He looked down.

Terry put a gentle hand under Jake's muzzle, and lifted the Kat's gaze to meet his own. "It's okay, Jake. That's what being LifeMates is about, good times and bad times." He said sincerely. "Besides, I'd already knew you wanted him dead." He added quietly, without any hint of disapproval.

"That dream ... that was a lot more than dead." Jake lowered his eyes, even if he couldn't lower his head. "That was sick."

"You can probably blame her for that one, I doubt you would've thought of it otherwise." He said, easily blaming that creature. "But you know it's sick, so it's just an angry fantasy. People often have fantasies they'll never act on, it's normal."

While Jake nodded, it was still clearly still an open battle.

"Besides it makes a certain sense. He betrayed you in more ways than one, so on a level you probably feel like he ripped your heart out. The dream was just repaying that pain, in a more graphic fashion."

A soft, slightly unstable giggle found it's away out of Jake's throat. "I guess so."

"Don't worry, we'll just keep plenty of distance between you two. That way you don't have to worry about what the dreams are saying." He said quietly.

"Good," Jake nodded and relaxed a bit. "I can't trust myself around him, or Feral, anymore."

"We should eat, the food will get cold." He said softly. "And you do need to eat something."

"Yes," he agreed before leaning forward to kiss his mate. "Thank you ... for being you, Ter."

"You're welcome." He said as they sat down to eat.

The first thing Chance noticed, even before opening his eyes, were the smells. They were distinctly antiseptic, and just screamed 'hospital'. He felt a needle being removed from his arm, and he felt like he'd slept way too much.

He moaned and shook his head, hoping to clear some of the fogginess away but having precisely the opposite effect.

"Wha'?" he mumbled incoherently.

"Careful, Mr. Furlong." A gentle female voice nearby said. "You've had quite of bit of trauma to the side of your neck." She said quietly.

"M'not gonna forget't," he slurred, trying hard to marshal proper control over his speech. "Where'm I?"

"You're at SunCoast General Hospital." She said gently.

"Wha?" He struggled up into a sitting position, his head still reeling. "M'not meant to b'here."

"In your condition, you definitely needed to be in a hospital. And since you were unconscious when you were brought in there was no reason to send you elsewhere." She said gently, putting a support behind him as he sat up. "You're just lucky some concerned Kats brought you in after you got mugged."

"Heh. Lucky. C'n I get s'm water?"

"Of course." She said warmly.

"Here you go." She said putting the glass to his lips. "Just sip at first. Anesthesia just wore off."

Chance did as she said, his head feeling clearer with each passing moment. "Thanks. When can I get out of here?"

"Now that you're awake, I can have the doctor check you out. Mostly we just want to be sure the anesthesia's completely worn off. Don't want you stumbling into traffic. You'll want to have your own doctor look at the stitches in about two weeks." She said easily, as she put his hand around the glass in place of hers.

"I'll go get the doctor." She said, as she turned to leave. "The red call button will summon a nurse, if you need anything." The tall, attractive light brown shekat said as she closed the door.

"Fuck." His voice rang out in the empty room, the only possible expression of the way he was feeling.

About ten minutes later, a black and gray tabby tom came into the room. "So how are you feeling, Mr. Furlong?" He asked professionally as he crossed the room.

"Better if you've come to tell me I can leave," he replied honestly.

"Well, I'm going to check your vital signs, and then we'll see if you can walk a straight line without stumbling." He smiled warmly. "Assuming everything's where it should be, the you'll be able to leave." He said as he checked the Kat's pulse. "You will need to take it easy for a while, sudden head movements could rip your stitches." He cautioned.

Chance nodded, taking another swallow of water. "I'm not in any hurry to do that," he agreed. "I'd just like to get away from here."

"I'm not surprised." He said as he checked the big tabby's eyes with a penlight. "Most Kats don't like to be in the hospital." He said making a few notes in a three ring binder.

"Okay, vitals are good. Let's see if coordination has returned." He said easily. "Turn and put your feet on the floor, and then stand. Tell me if you suddenly feel dizzy." He said firmly.

Chance swung his legs out to the side and, very tentatively, shifted his weight onto them and stood. After a moment he stretched his arms out to either side, smiling. "Feels okay to me."

"Looks good so far." The doctor said stepping away. "Now walk to the far end of the room and back."

Chance began walking slowly but quickly regained his confidence and made the walk easily, feeling much better than he had even a quarter of an hour ago when he'd woke.

The doctor smiled as Chance got back to where he was standing. "Well, I don't see any reason to keep you in any longer. Your clothes are in the closet over there, and I'll be back in with your discharge papers in a few minutes." He said easily.

"You're one tough Kat, Mr. Furlong. That neck wound would've kept most Kats down for a full day, at least." The doctor said, as left the room.

Chance shook his head as he pulled his clothes out and got dressed, taking extra care as he pulled his shirt over his head. He certainly didn't feel like much of a tough kat after what had happened the night before. He sighed as he pulled his shoes on and stood up straight. "No point worrying about it now," he murmured to himself.

He found a mirror and stared into it while he waited for the doctor to show up, scowling at the ugly line of stitches running along his neck. It was a few moments before he realized that his clothes weren't covered in blood the way they had been ... and then another few to figure out these weren't the clothes he'd been wearing last night at all. An involuntary shiver ran down his spine. Another good reason to get the hell out of here as quick as he could.

"Here are your discharge papers." The doctor said easily, before setting out a bottle and a medium size tube. "These are in case there's any pain from the injury. One every four hours, if needed." He said indicating the bottle of pills.

"The cream you'll apply to the wound twice a day. It'll reduce the likelihood of scarring and help it heal faster." He said putting them both into a small bag and handing it to Chance, along with two slips of paper. "These are prescriptions for more of both. Should get you by, until you see your own doctor."

"Any questions?" He asked openly.

"Only 'Which way to the door?' Thanks for your help though Doc. I appreciate it."

"This way." He said opening the door. "You're quite welcome." He said as he should the tabby to the front door of the hospital.

Standing at the front of the hospital, Chance could tell he was in one of the well-to-do sections of MegaKat City. The streets were reasonably clean, and the cars expensive. The Kats he saw appeared to be mostly the high-power business types, both male and female.

The tabby took a quick look along the street in either direction, and spied a public phone. It took a moment to dredge the number for the cab company out from his memory, but before long he was on his way back toward the Salvage Yard.

Chance tossed his bag on the bed and took a look around, shaking his head. It certainly wasn't a luxury hotel. Feral was probably going to have a fit when he found out he was staying in a place like this, but it was the last place Jake or Terry was likely to come looking for him.

It was a dump, but it was a dump with a bed, and locks on the door. It was also a dump with a phone. He stood there looking at it for a few moments, trying to think up a reason not to call. None was forthcoming.

"Feral," the Commander's voice was gruff after the much more appealing receptionist.

"It's me."

"Ahhhh," the voice on the other end lightened, but not as much as Chance had hoped it might. "I was expecting you this morning."

"I know," Chance said softly. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I hit you too."

"It's forgiven, although I trust you've calmed down some by now. Is that why you weren't at Arden street?"

"No." Chance swallowed, trying to find the least awkward way to put it. "I ... well, I was in hospital."

"What?!" Feral's reaction was entirely as expected. "Why?"

"After ... what happened ... I was talking with Jake. I just couldn't lie to him, not after that. He stabbed me."

"He knows about us?"


"And SWAT?"


"And he stabbed you?"

"I've got forty-five stitches and medical tape along my neck."

That raised a growl. "In the neck? Clawson tried to kill you."

"No," Chance said quickly. "Well, I guess he did, but he was mad. I've never seen him so upset."

"I want to see you," Feral insisted, not sounding mollified. "I've got meetings all afternoon, I can be back at Arden by six."

"Sure. I'll be there."

"Where are you now?"

"In a hotel," the tabby admitted. Even when he was on the other end of the phone it was so hard to resist him. "West of the Breakneck. Wait, just listen, please. They're never going to think I'm down here, Jake'll be expecting you to put me up somewhere swank. There's locks on the door and I really need to get some more rest. It'll be safe."

"I want to see you tonight," Feral said firmly.

"I promise. Just ..." Chance paused, licking his lips nervously. "Don't send anyone to hassle him. Please."

"I'll see you at six."

The phone line buzzed as Feral hung up and Chance sank back onto the bed. He sighed softly up into the empty air.


"Terry, it's good to have you home." The older tom who greatly resembled Terry said as they embraced. "And good that you've finally brought your mate."

"Thanks, grandpa. It's good to be home. Can we hold off on discussing just how bad things got, for a little while at least?" He asked, as much for himself, as for Jake. "Jake, this is my grandfather, Augustus Pellatier. Grandfather, this is my mate, Jake Clawson." Terry said by way of introductions.

"Welcome to Haven, Jake." Augustus said warmly. "I hope you'll come to think of this as home, like Terry does."

"And just call him Augustus." Terry said in a stage whisper. "He hates to be called Mr. Pellatier by family."

Jake tried hard to smile, though his handshake was firm. "Good to met you, Augustus."

Augustus smiled. "Well, why don't you two go get settled in? Dinner will be at six."

"Of course, it always is." Terry chuckled as he grabbed the bag he'd packed. "This way, Jake." He said as he led the way out of the hanger and across the well-manicured campus toward the family mansion at the center.

"Here we are." Terry said as he opened the double doors into the large bedroom, complete with heavy wooden, four-poster bed big enough for four or five.

"Home for a while?" Jake asked as he set his bag down, eyes darting around in much the same way he'd greeted everything since leaving MegaKat City.

"As long as we want." Terry said easily, completely relaxed. He sat the bag down and flopped on to the bed. "This has always been more home to me than MKC. Except that it didn't have you." He said warmly as Jake began a nervous, stalking tour of the room and it's connected balcony, bathroom and closets.

"You really think it's safe here?" Jake asked as he judged the sniper possibilities of the balcony.

"Yeah, nowhere safer." He said easily. "Especially since, everybody still thinks we're in MKC. Nice thing about that penthouse, the jet is used often enough by the corporate officers in the offices below that no one knows just who is leaving on the plane at any given time."

Jake nodded, only just accepting the statement as he settled on the bed next to Terry, but couldn't manage to relax past the sitting position.

Terry sat up and scooted back a little so he could gently massage Jake's shoulders. "Still worried, love?" He asked gently.

"At least back in MKC I knew my way around: where to run, where to arm, were to hide, who to trust." He admitted softly. "I don't even know where to put my back here."

"Jake, you're among family here. And that means loyalty and trust, at least here it does." He said fervently. "I wouldn't have brought you here, if I didn't know it was safe." He said softly, beginning to feel the fatigue of the last twenty-four hours.

Jake bit his lower lip as he fought an internal battle between experience and instinct. Eventuality weariness made the choice for him, and he closed his eyes to lean back against his LifeMate.

Reflexively, Terry put his arms around Jake before letting his eyes drift close. Here he knew he could let his guard down, for a little while at least. The effect on his mate was more than worth it as he felt almost all the tension, worry and fears drain from Jake as the worn cinnamon tom sagged back, utterly spent.

Terry gave the exhausted Kat a gentle kiss, as he waited for him to actually go to sleep, which took all of a couple minutes.

Jake slowly opened his eyes, feeling a mixture of queasiness and disorientation without panic at his brain refused to figure out for a long minute. The strong arms holding him clued in the lack of panic. The disorientation was eventually placed as a strange bed. The queasiness he just didn't want to think about. Ever.

But even brushing up against the rabidly building blockade was enough to cause him to moan miserably.

Terry woke, and focused fairly quickly. "What's wrong, Jake?" He said quietly.

"Last twenty-four-something." He squeezed his eyes shut as his stomach turned over. "Godda be a nightmare."

Terry sighed. "Sweet Bastet, I wish it was." He said quietly, rubbing the Kat's shoulder. "'Fraid it's not though."

"Do I even want to hear a recap?" Jake looked over his shoulder at the only real stable feature in his life, and felt himself relax. Not to the numbness he expected, but to a calm kind of security as he rolled the rest of the way over to snuggled against his LifeMate tightly. "Don't answer that."

Terry put his arms around Jake comfortingly, and didn't answer the question. Sometimes it just made sense to be quiet.

It was a long time before Jake spoke again, his face still buried against Terry's hard chest.

"Ter ... it really does ... I mean ... what happened, that I just let ...." his voice trailed off as he began to tremble.

"That you just let what Jake?" He asked quietly, holding the trembling tom tightly.

"Let him fuck me." Jake murmured with surprising ease.

"That's what you told me." Terry said quietly. "But I don't think it was nearly as simple as 'let'."

"Doesn't bother you?" He mumbled against his mate's chest.

"The only thing that bothers me is that he hurt you. Whether you tried to fight him off or not isn't important." Terry said quietly.

Jake fell silent at that for a long time, not moving for long enough Terry almost thought he'd fallen asleep again.

"What hold could he have over Chance?" He whimpered softly. "Turned him like that."

"He's probably got Chance convinced that he'll be in trouble for what they did during Academy, as much as Feral will be. But truth is, you can't court martial a civilian.

"First time," Jake mumbled. "Chance ... fems only. Rape ... Feral ... I can't believe he's like that."

"That Feral will do whatever he has to, to protect his career. I don't find it that hard to believe." Terry said quietly, and angrily. "I'm still trying to figure out how I was so wrong about Chance, I'm usually a better judge of people." He said softly, a little miffed at himself.

"Fooled everybody." Jake shivered. "Even Callie."

"Oh gods, that reminds me. She ought to know that SWAT's down." He said quietly.

"I better call ..." he reluctantly stated to get up. "Just hope she doesn't ask too many questions."

"She'd probably have Feral's hide, if she found out the truth." Terry said as he went to the phone.

"Might be worth telling her, just to watch." Jake murmured, pride warring the vicious pleasure of the thought.

"Give me a sec, I'm going to set up a relay through CommStar One, keep it looking like your still in the city."

"Haven Communications Room, Samantha speaking." A voice on the other end said.

"Hi, Sam, it's Terry. I need you to relay a call through CommStar One. Call needs to look like it's originating inside MKC."

"Give me five, Terry." The pleasant voice said. "Okay, go ahead and dial you're all set."

Terry looked over at Jake. "Okay, all set." He said handing him the phone. "Deputy Mayor's office is on speed dial, star-eight-six-one."

Jake nodded, still thinking as he pressed the number.

"Deputy Mayor's office, Calico Briggs speaking." The feisty shekat's voice responded.

"Hi ... Callie." Jake hesitated. "It's Razor."

"Razor, now this is a switch." She said. "There's a problem, isn't there?" She said, responding to the hesitation in his voice.

"Yes, ma'am." He fell back on the more comfortable, less intimate way of speaking to her. "SWAT's out of commission, probably for good."

There was a brief pause. "What happened, Razor?" She asked gently, as she made a couple notes. She knew there hadn't been any significant villain activity, so it was unlikely they'd been injured.

There was utter silence in both rooms for a long time as he tried to work out just what, and how, to explain.

"We aren't partners anymore."

"You and T-bone had a fight, I take it." She surmised. "Any chance of you two fixing things?" She asked evenly.

Jake flinched at the suggestion. "Not after betraying me like that."

"Betraying?" Callie actually sounded surprised, though she recovered quickly. "I'm sorry, I didn't know. Are you okay?" She asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

"Getting there." He answered softly. "I just thought you deserved to know, before something happened."

"I appreciate that, Razor." She said quietly. "I hope you've got someone to talk to, sounds like you'll need them. You will be missed, you know." She said, but the tone of her voice wasn't really the Deputy Mayor anymore. "And not just when there's a crisis."

"I do, and thank you." He said quietly. "Please watch your back ... and don't trust Feral." An edge of hatred and pain she'd never heard from him before crept into his tone. "He's been compromised."

"Compromised?" Her tone became very serious. "Razor, can you at least tell me to who? This is important." She said, actually sounding worried.

He had to struggle to say it, his voice caught in his throat. "Tavares Royalty. Marissa. She has proof he was screwing my partner in Academy, and never stopped." He finished with his voice barely above a whisper, and hung up before she could respond.

Terry put his arms gently around Jake, as he hung up. "She's known who SWAT really is for a while, exactly how long I'm not sure. She's rather fond of you, you know."

"I know," he nodded weakly, drawing strength from the contact. "I wish I could have returned it."

Back in her office, Callie looked at the phone for a while before hanging it up and turning to her computer. She quickly requested everything the city had on Teveris, and specifically one royal named Marissa.

"Chance and Feral?" She said quietly. "I guess he's just good at pretending."

Ulysses Feral was still staring at the paper in his hand when the lift opened and he stepped into his luxury apartment in the Arden street complex. The smell of Chance was heavy in the air, tainted with misery, and Feral had no trouble finding the tabby curled up on the couch. The TV was on, so presumably he'd been watching it at some point, but with his head buried in his arms it was doubtful he was doing so anymore.

The taller kat reached down to pick up the remote and switched he set off, settling onto the couch beside his wounded lover. Ever so slowly Chance uncurled from around himself, shifting his position so the he could set his head in Feral's lap.

The Commander reached down to scratch the sandy-furred kat gently between his ears, something he knew Chance was particularly fond of. "How are you feeling?"

Chance grumbled softly under his breath, before making a reply that could be understood. "Crappy. Aside from the whole neck thing I feel like an absolute ass. Jake's never gonna want to see me again."

Feral nodded slowly. After all, it was probably true. His hand slipped down past one of Chance's ears, tracing out along his neck. The tabby figured out what he was after fairly easily, tipping his head away so the Feral could see the dark line of stitching that marred his fur from below the left ear to nearly his windpipe.

"Nasty," Feral growled softly as he traced a finger along the slash line, "That's going to scar."

"The doctor gave me this cream for that," Chance said softly.

"They always do. Trust me, a wound like that never heals cleanly."

Chance just whimpered softly and pressed his face in against Feral's fur.

"Chance," Feral said, his voice taking on a soft but more businesslike tone, "I need to talk with you about business for a few minutes, all right? Can you do that?"

The tabby nodded miserably, taking a deep breath and lifting himself up into a sitting position. "Yeah, I can do that."

"That's the way, there's just a few things I need to ask. What do you know about a woman named Marissa Jarungu?"

The tabby thought for a few moments and then shook his head. "I've never heard of her," he said softly. "Who is she?"

"She's heir apparent to a rather odd country a little ways form here." Feral replied gruffly. "According to Clawson she's also the person responsible for blackmailing me."

"Wait. He knew?"

"Apparently. He sent me this." Feral drew out the note and handed it to Chance. "This'll make the process of tracking down the local agents much easier. With any luck my agents will have them before the end of next week, and we'll be out of danger. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Clawson."

"What do you mean?" The tabby leaned in and set his head against Feral's chest.

"He may already have fled the city. A sensible move, perhaps, but one that puts him outside our jurisdiction and thus outside our protection. Which may be what this Jarungu woman was intending all along."

"Do you want me to try and talk to him again?" Chance's voice was hesitant, eager and yet afraid at the same time.

"No," Feral growled firmly, putting his arms around the tabby and drawing him close. "Not unless I have no other choice. I'll send Felina first."

Chance signed and nodded, pressing in closer against Feral and nuzzling under his chin. The larger kat shook his head slowly and drew his lover forward into his lap, slipping his arms around his chest. "None of this is your fault Chance," he said softly. "It's all down to me and this foreign woman."

"That's not what Jake thinks," the tabby sobbed softly, hot tears spilling out over Feral's neck. "It's not what I think either." The larger kat couldn't do much more than hold Chance in his arms, comforting him with his strength as the tabby sobbed and trembled against him. It took almost half an hour for the tears to subside.

"Hurt me tonight," Chance whispered hoarsely as he turned his face up towards Feral's. "I know you like to."

"No." The Commander responded quickly, though both his face and his voice betrayed his surprise. "I'm not going to do that to you, not because you feel guilty."

"You have to," Chance whimpered miserably. "I deserve it."

"You listen to me," Feral said sternly, pushing the tabby away enough that he could look down into his face. "You do not deserve to be hurt, and even if you did it's not me you owe. He nearly killed you. He's had his blood from you." The larger kat lowered his face towards the tear-streaked one before him, brushing his lips across Chance's softly. "I'm not going to torture my lover when I know he doesn't enjoy it."

Chance trembled and leaned in against Feral's body again. "Stay with me."

"I will Chance. You and I are both going to stay right here."

"I think we agreed to be somewhere." Jake said as he glanced at the clock, showing just after 6pm.

"Since we're awake we should go to dinner." Terry smiled. "Though grandpa probably half expects us to sleep through it."

"I'm hungry anyway." He leaned against his mate. "I really don't feel like laying around doing nothing."

Terry chuckled. "Me too. And Grandpa's chef's are pretty good."

"If they're anything like you, I might even be tempted into eating regularly." Jake managed a bit of a grin. "Has the gear gotten here? Or will it be a while?"

"Where do you think I learned?" Terry chuckled lightly. "I'm not sure, I can check after dinner." He said opening the door. "I'd expect it sometime tonight at the latest though."

Jake gave an accepting nod before shifting to move without breaking contact with his LifeMate. "It'll give me something to do."

Dinner was in a small, clearly informal dining room. Augustus was sitting at one end of the table with a formally dressed female Doberman sitting at the end opposite him. "Ah you made it." The old tom said approvingly as he stood to greet them. "Jake, I'd like you to meet Akisha, my personal assistant and confidant. Akisha, this is Jake Clawson, my grandson's mate."

Akisha stood, and extended a hand, which he accepted firmly, meeting the taller female's gaze evenly. "A pleasure to meet you Jake." She said politely, though Jake couldn't escape the feeling that she was sizing him up.

Not that that wasn't exactly what he. was doing to her. "Good to meet you as well, Akisha."

Terry sat down to his grandfather's right as the mutual sizing up broke by silent agreement. Next to him was an open place that Jake quickly claimed.

Dinner was served shortly after Jake and Terry arrived with several Kats efficiently placing the food, and bringing in cold glasses of milk for everyone, except Akisha who requested water.

"Terry, you may want to take a look at the cinnamon rose in the morning." Augustus said as everyone began serving themselves. "It seemed a little down today."

Terry nodded. "I'll take a look. Maybe some other plant is getting closer than it likes."

"So will the two of you being moving down here permanently?" Augustus asked casually.

"Maybe, we haven't made any decisions yet. It hasn't been that kind of day." Terry said, trying to remind his grandfather that he didn't really want to talk yet.

"Of course, well you know you're welcome here as long as you want. This is your home, after all." The old tom said, clearly including Jake, who nodded acceptance with a slight smile.

A kind of uneasy quiet descended with everyone concentrating on eating. Between Terry not wanting to talk, and his grandfather trying find a topic that didn't lead into the subject, nothing was said. Akisha ate silently, simply watching and listening as she always did.

It was eventually Jake who broke the silence, though his voice was very low as he considered his milk glass idly. "Do you have any top grade pilots here?"

Augustus nodded. "Halycon employs quite a few top grade pilots. Our R&D division requires them to test the new prototypes."

"Any actually capable of pushing the next TurboKat past her limits?" He raised an eyebrow.

"That would be difficult to say without seeing the specs." Augustus said simply. "I know we have at least one who would certainly try. Mason Remillard, our pilot recruiter and quite likely the best pilot flying."

Jake nodded agreeably. "Is he available to fly in the next couple days?"

"He can be." Augustus said. "I take it you'd like to see how good he really is?"

"Yes," He inclined his head slightly. "It's far easier to design for the highest performance when you know the pilot, and Blackie's got more than a few quirks, even for the piecemeal prototype she is."

"True, that's the limiting factor on production aircraft. You can't design to the highest, because there are so few pilots of that caliber." Augustus said understanding. "I believe the pilot who flew the TurboKat down here referred to her as exhilarating, yet temperamental."

The statement hit Jake like a ton of bricks. "Flew down?"

Augustus nodded. "Of course, that was the top priority on the Clean Slate agenda; removing the TurboKat to Haven. Flight was the most effective way to do it. Especially since the team needed to be clear before anyone thought to secure the Yard."

Jake nodded slowly, rattled on a level he couldn't quiet name. "Of course. Who flew her?"

Augustus thought a moment. "Oh that's right. BlackFire flew her down, last minute substitution cause the regularly assigned pilot was down with a bad cold."

"BlackFire still around?" He asked, clearly a still agitated, though he did finish his plate.

"I think he went home for the day, though I'm not certain." He said, raising an eyebrow at Akisha.

The angular female stood and walked over to a console concealed in one wall. After a moment she sat back down. "Patrik hasn't signed out for the day, so he should still be on base." She said easily.

"I'd like to talk to him after dinner, then." Jake tried to get his unexpected reaction under control.

"Certainly." He nodded to Akisha, who had finished eating.

"If you'll excuse me." She excused herself as she stood.

"I'll have him come up to the house in a little while."

"I'd rather meet him at the jet." Jake inclined his head.

"Easily done." Augustus said. "Terry knows where the special projects hangars are."

Terry nodded, as he set his empty glass down. "Anytime you're ready."

"Now." Jake relaxed a fraction before looking at Augustus. "I'll try to make it over for breakfast." He winked. "It was good eating with you."

"I'm glad you decided to join us. Terry's said that meals are something you aren't big on." He smiled.

"Jake, are you looking to create a new SWAT?" Terry asked quietly as they walked across the compound.

"No, I'm looking to find out who had their hands on my jet." He finally let the emotional jumble crystallize into what it was: possessive jealousy.

"No, I meant when you where asking Augustus about a top pilot." He corrected quietly.

"Somebody has to fly her, and it is easier to work with a pilot at this level." Jake shook his head. "If you were that good, I might consider it, but I'm not looking for another pilot to fly with."

"Just checking." He said quietly, as they came up to the Hangar door. "Try to remember that this pilot flew her down here, to keep her out of the wrong hands." He said giving his mate a quick kiss, before opening the door.

"I know Terry." He sighed. "I know I said to do it ... I never said this was a rational reaction." Jake chuckled slightly. "Though I think I know what a jealous lover feels like now."

"True, but you did give permission." He smiled as he used his electronic key card to open the door.

The Hangar was big enough to accommodate two fighters, though the first bay was empty. As they enter the second bay, they could see small, lathe figure in a black and gray jumpsuit on the fuselage of the TurboKat. His strait, silky black hair was neatly tied back in a ponytail with several bands along its trail to mix with an equally silky black tail. From the figure's body language, it was very clear that he was completely focused on the work he was doing. As they got closer, his scent made it clear that not only did he take what he was doing very seriously, but that loved doing it as well.

Jake just barely managed to stop himself from rushing up and breaking the small Kat's neck, but didn't suppress the shiver of disbelieving outrage that accompanied it.

"BlackFire?" Jake's voice held more challenge than question as he stalked up.

"Yeah, that's me." The surprisingly young voice responded, still completely engrossed in what appeared to be maintenance. From the fluffy black and white tail, it could be surmised that the tom was a distinctly longhair black and white.

If it wasn't for knowing exactly how much damage he could do to the jet by simply ripping the other tom away, Jake would have. As it stood he settled for jumping up next to the pilot and grabbing his scruff, pulling the significantly lighter Kat away to face him only after BlackFire had gone lax.

"Didn't anybody warn you about touching other people's toys?" He growled roughly.

BlackFire's eyes were completely wide, and he had gone totally submissive with his scent radiating intense fear in addition to submissiveness as he long, fluffy tail curled up between his legs and his ears went limp. The Kat, probably in his late teens, regarded Jake with fear and numb acceptance of whatever was going to happen.

A couple deep breaths latter Jake set the young tom on his feel, though his tail was still lashing. "Now, what were you doing to my bird?"

The tom was trembling noticeably, as he pointed a paper that had Jake's own handwriting on it. "Maintenance log said Speed of Heat needed microcalibration, and she told me it wasn't aligned right. Asked me to fix it." He said softly, clearly expecting Jake to hit him, but not doing anything to avoid it.

"She asked you?" Jake raised an eyebrow as all the aggression drained from his frame.

The young tom nodded silently, still numb with fear.

Jake gave BlackFire a curious look before he knelt to touch the electrical system threw the fuselage, and blinked in surprise. "Well, that's new." He looked up at the terrified tom, a mixture of curiosity and apology in his manner. "You're not just a pilot, are you?" He asked softly.

BlackFire blinked not sure what Jake wanted. "Good pilot knows how to take care of his jet." He said quietly, very slowly relaxing. "Some will tell you, if you listen."

A soft chuckle found it way from Jake's throat. "Kit, that is a very rare trait. I've flown with some of the best, not many know how to keep the plane happy."

BlackFire smiled weakly, at what he chose to interpret as praise. "This one's not like any I've ever met." He said quietly. "She's a lot more 'aware' than the others. You're Jake, right?" He asked very softly, as if afraid of going to far.

"Yes, I designed and built Blackie." He nodded, settling down on the fuselage. "I guess I'm more than a little defensive about who touches her. But she likes you, and that's enough for me. I can count on one hand the number who she likes."

BlackFire nodded. "I understand." He said quietly. "Wasn't easy talking her into coming down here. She wanted to look for you first."

"Loyalty's kept us all alive for years." He patted the fuselage affectionately. "Even if her frame's been blown apart half a dozen times." Jake shifted to gaze to take in BlackFire more rationally, and decided he liked what he saw. "I seem to remember you were doing something before I snapped on you?"

"Uh huh, microcalibration." He said, as he began to feel a little more comfortable. "Shouldn't take more than another 15 minutes."

"Well, if you can take me watching over your shoulder, why don't you finish up?" Jake suggested, relaxing a little more about this stranger touching his jet.

BlackFire nodded. "I can do that." He said quietly, as he turned back to working. His delicate hands worked quickly and precisely, making the repair. It was very clear he enjoyed what he was doing, though he wasn't as focused, since he seemed to be watching Jake as well.

"I'm not going to hit you, kit." Jake said quietly as BlackFire finished up, slightly disconcerted with the level of submissive distress radiating from the small tom. "And I'm not angry with you, either."

"You're not?" BlackFire asked, clearly surprised as he secured the access panel. From the tone of his voice, it sounded like his surprise was in response to both. "But I didn't ask first." He said softly apologetic.

"You had her permission." Jake shook his head. "I was just so wound up, I didn't bother to check. That's my bad, not yours."

Jake's apology seemed to confuse the young tom, but he recovered a little more quickly. "It's okay, no harm done." He said as he carefully put his tools away on a soft cloth that he'd been using to protect the paint job.

"Now, I heard you call flying her exhilarating, yet temperamental." Jake chuckled softly. "Was she really that naughty?"

"Well, it was exhilarating 'cause I could feel the power that was available, and all the responsiveness. It's really like no plane I've worked with." He said admiringly. "But she kept trying to get me to try things out. I think she knew I wanted to, but I knew I shouldn't cause she's not my plane. That's how I found out about the calibration problem ... she offered to demonstrate Speed of Heat for me."

Jake's chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh. "She does like you." He shook his head and slid off to land next to Terry. "Go fly, just have her back by dawn."

"You mean it?" He said, smiling honestly for the first time since Jake had met him.

"Yes, I mean it." Jake chuckled. "I hardly need to hear her bitch at me for the next six months over it."

"I will. I'll take good care of her." BlackFire said as he ran across the hangar to get his flight suit.

Terry smiled as Jake landed next to him. "That went better than I expected."

"What did you expect?" The cinnamon tom raised an eyebrow as he started to walk out of the hanger.

"Given the aggression I could smell on you, I was expecting some serious bruising before I pulled you off him." He said quietly, as they left the hanger.

"Kits got good survival instinct, at least against me." Jake shook his head. "I have to be a lot angrier than that to hurt after a complete surrender. I bet there's some serious abuse in that past though." He added quietly. "Reminds me too much of me, especially after I got back."

"That's the general opinion." Terry said quietly. "BlackFire is something of a mystery. What isn't a mystery is his piloting skill, I've only seen a handful of pilots in the same class, and some days I think he beats them all."

"I can guarantee you he can." Jake shook his head. "He's literally fifty years too young the way he talks. Blackie's probably the first jet that comes even close to what he should be flying."

"You're probably right about the abuse. What you saw is pretty normal when he's on the ground. Male aggression causes him to fold entirely, total submission. We encourage him to stay on base for just that reason. He's too easy a target, for certain predators." Terry said quietly.

"Well, you've got a hell of a bargaining chip in that now." Jake turned his head to watch the TurboKat lift into the sky on a VTOL accent before roaring off, his eyes a little sad. "I'll probably give her to him in a couple months."

"Do you think she'll accept another gunner? Assuming we find one who's a good match for him." He asked quite serious.

"She's taken a new pilot, if he likes the gunner enough, she probably will." Jake shrugged. "It's not like she really needs a second person in there, it's just what we had."

"It's not her that needs the second person, it's him." He said quietly. "He's convinced he has to have a gunner. He's just hard to pair up."

"I know the feeling." Jake nodded sadly. "I can at least keep him entertained and out of trouble in the meantime." He shook his head. "Hell, find a gunner that can deal with Blackie and you've probably found a good match for him. She likes him more than Chance already."

Terry nodded. "I'll pass that along to personnel, see what they can do with it." He nodded. "Does she really? Well, he is pretty likeable."

"He listens to her." Jake chuckled. "You wouldn't believe how far that goes with that jet. Apparently he's got a light touch too. There are days I swear that jet has a libido."

"Most of the females I've known respond well to being listened to, so I guess it's not that surprising." He chuckled.

"Try to tell that to your average hotshot pilot." Jake shook his head. "Enough testosterone for six Kats in most of them."

Terry snorted. "Tell me about it, I've got three brothers who are. And then there's Syrina, female hotshot pilot, and just as bad."

"They seem to be." Jake chuckled. "Though if BlackFire can't handle male aggression, have you found out how he gets along with her?"

"Syrina? No, can't say I have." He said curiously. "She's an Enforcer currently and a pilot to boot. She doesn't really have the personality to be a gunner."

"Might want to check out how he deals with a female." Jake suggested. "I know they're not common, but he might take to one better. Assuming Blackie does. The only female she's been around is Felina, and she hardly counts as a 'she'."

"But seriously, most pilots don't really talk to their plane, they talk at them." He said quietly.

"Trust me, I know." Jake rolled his eyes. "I've gotten to hear about it every maintenance session since she woke up two years ago."

"So was her waking up something you were trying to make happen, or did it just happen?" Terry asked curiously.

"A little of both." Jake chuckled. "The first bit was an accident, the rest was with encouragement."

"Pretty impressive accident." Terry said admiringly. "Self-aware jet."

"It's not nearly as difficult as the computer geeks would have us believe." Jake said quietly. "At least not if you're willing to deal with what shows up, and not insist on having exactly what you want. Just like with a kit."

"I've wondered about that, watching Rik with some of the prototypes."

"They've probably got potential, if they aren't already predominately aware." Jake commented. "Think about what is built into those fighters: sensor arrays, communication systems, complex, decision-making computers for the weapon systems, emergency autopilots. If you think about it, a modern leading edge fighter must be fairly aware, just by definition of its duties."

"True, and I honestly hadn't really thought about it that way. I suspect the determining factor probably relates to the level of integration of the various systems."

"And the complexity of the main computer, along with how varied its duties are." Jake added easily. "A jet like Blackie, who's asked to do *everything* and them some, with high-level integration and a very advanced computer core for a jet, it's all but a given. It just takes some time."

"The trick then is recognizing the fact that system has woken up. The ability to really talk to systems and hear their response isn't very common."

"But it could be easy, as long as the crews knew what was coming, if we included a simple language program linked to the comm unit." Jake suggested.

"Might be an interesting test, to upgrade the comm system on the Narwhal that way." He said, thinking out loud.

"And Blackie." Jake added. "I only avoided it because there was no way he'd take it well. BlackFire seems to be able to handle it fine, and she's kind of wanted it for a while."

"I think he'd be absolutely thrilled." Terry smiled.

"I just hope I didn't make him permanently scared of me." Jake shook his head. "He's going to be a pilot I want to work with, especially with Remillard having another job."

"I'm not entirely sure of the psychology here, but you've become someone whose approval is very important to him." Terry said gently.

"Well, if he keeps up the kind of skill and caring he was displaying before I grabbed him, he'll get plenty of it." Jake nodded. "I'll keep that in mind, though. Make sure he knows when I like his work."

"Probably do him a world of good." Terry smiled.

"I remember what's it's like." Jake said softly. "To crave approval and not get it. And he deserves it."

Terry nodded. "No argument here. Though he has gotten it here, but still it's going to take time to heal what I think was a kittenhood of abuse."

"On top of a basically submissive personality." Jake murmured. "You don't get like that without starting out as something of a beta. Though it does mean he'll listen to the praise easier than someone who isn't." Jake said sadly. "Strong personalities are harder to break, and harder to heal."

"True, and I'm beginning to realize why I've been rather protective of him since he first showed up." He smiled affectionately at Jake.

"He's very endearing." The lean Kat chuckled as he bumped against his mate affectionately. "Even without the overt submissiveness he all but radiates 'come protect me' to us protective types."

"Not a quality you find in pilots very often." He shook his head. "But then again, he's not exactly your usual hotshot pilot, even if he is that good."

"And that will make him a truly outstanding test pilot." Jake chuckled with a bit of a smirk. "Hotshots have their place, but the calm ones tend to do better with the truly unknown. They survive it longer too."

"He does tend to handle the unusual well. Most of the pilots didn't even buy the Sea Dragon concept." He chuckled.

"Now before I make that one up, care to explain?" Jake asked, focused and curious even as his mind began it's own initial designs.

"It's an submersible jet. Fully functional sub fighter, as well as multi-role fighter jet. Niles came up with the initial concept, and Mayri over at Brainstorm finished it."

"Oh, like the mods I made to Blackie last year." Jake grinned. "T-Bone hated it, but he couldn't deny it could save out hides."

"Rik had the SeaDragon down to a mile deep before the engines started complaining. He wasn't happy when they made him bring it up for recalibration, he was convinced it could handle another half-mile down at least." He chuckled.

"And I'm sure he was right, unlike most hotshot's opinions when they're pushing limits." Jake chuckled. "I think I might just really enjoy working with him."

"Probably be good for both of you." Terry said approvingly.

Jake suddenly subdued. "Probably, but I so don't want another pilot right now. Even one like him."

"Just think of him as a research assistant if that makes it easier." Terry suggested gently.

"I'll figure something out." He leaned against the dark gray tom. "I don't suppose I can get some sleeping aids for tonight?" Jake asked softly. "I really need the rest. Quiet rest. Just for a couple nights, till things calm down a little."

"I'll get some from the house doctor. They're a little better than your average sleep pills, though still only good for a few days. Basically, modify the sleep cycle so you don't dream."

"A few days is all I want, Terry." Jake murmured as they found the way to their bedroom. "Just a few sort of sane days to try and think."

"I'll go talk to doc then." He said gently. "Might use 'em myself, at least tonight."

"Then let's go, and get some real rest." Jake smiled weakly and leaned against Terry to kiss him.

"After last night, we can both use it." He agreed, pulling the Kat close and claiming deep kiss.

Fear. Loss. Pain. Fear. The dream started as a swirl of unfocused emotions, that slowly focused, but still remained somewhat hazy. The dream caught the dreamer in a mirror, it was Terry but younger, his early twenties. He didn't no where he was, but the scents and sounds were unmistakably a hospital.

All the faces were hazy and indistinct, but it didn't matter ... he was looking for something, no someone. Then he heard the familiar voice, Jake! He remembered that he had to find his friend, and he started running but the corridors and stairs were all the same, and there were no signs. He could hear his friend in pain and he ran faster, but never seemed to get closer.

He came to a wall, and he could hear Jake just on the other side, but he couldn't get through. He tried to find a way around, but always the wall. No matter how fast he ran the wall always got there first, he was always too late. He ran harder pushing himself to the limits and beyond ... he could feel his heart racing, his pulse pounding but never enough, always too late. And always Jake's voice calling to him, the pain so clear it brought tears in blinding torrents. And then just as he turned another faceless corner there was a searing, ripping pain as though his entire body had been set ablaze.

Terry bolted upright, sweat dripping from his pores and his pulse pounding at his temple. As he looked around fearfully, and realized Jake was holding him, trying to comfort him, though the cinnamon tom was clearly almost as badly rattled.

"Just a dream, love." He tried to whisper soothingly. "It can't hurt you anymore."

Terry shivered quietly. "Just a dream." He repeated, clearly not certain. "I thought they were gone." He said quietly.

"Probably all this stuff about when I was missing brought them back." Jake murmured into his mate's hair. "Stress'll do that."

"Maybe." He said leaning against his mate. "I remember now, sleep drugs don't work on me. At least not any you can use without medical supervision."

"Well, I guess it's my turn to take care of you." Jake said softly. "Let's get all this scent off us."

"Yeah." He said standing slowly. "Sorry for waking you." He said quietly. "Doesn't seem sleep is in the cards around here."

"It's okay, love." Jake murred softly as he nuzzled his LifeMate. "It's long past time I got to take care of you for a change. I've kept you up enough nights, as I recall."

"Once in a while, I think." He grinned weakly, leaning into the contact.

"I swear it's more nights than not." Jake shook his head and kissed Terry's cheek. "Come, let's soak in the hot tub."

"That sounds good." He said quietly, as they headed to the bathroom. "And I never minded a bit." He said softly.

"I know." Jake murmured affectionately as he scanned for the controls. "You've always been good to me."

"Over here." He said demonstrating by starting the water, and then the whirlpool.

"Come in, then." Jake smiled and extended his hand as he stepped into the warm, swirling water as the pool filled.

Terry took the extended and slipped into the water, snuggling up to Jake. The dreams seemed further away when they were touching.

For his part, Jake was more than happy to sit there in the warm water and comfort his mate as he'd been comforted many a night. It helped push his own problems away to help his mate.

The warm water, and Jake's presence slowly washed the tension out of Terry until he was dozing in the water, completely relaxed as Jake looked down at him softly.

With a warm feeling of having paid back at least a little of what Terry have given him over the decades Jake settled into a light, resting awareness he got most of his mental rest in.

It was just after dawn when Terry slowly opened his eyes, and chuckled. "Fell asleep in the bathtub. That's a new one." He chuckled softly.

"You needed it." Jake purred and nuzzled the dark gray tom as he easily focused back on the room.

"Much better than the way I slept it off the last time." He rumbled quietly, nuzzling Jake back.

"No doubt." He murred and shifted to kiss Terry lightly, leaving it open for his mate to choose how far it went.

Terry claimed a slightly more passionate kiss, which he held for a while, enjoying the contact. "If you ignore the cause, this is a pretty comfortable place to wake up." He said with humor that was a little forced.

"That it is," Jake smiled at him. "But waking in your LifeMate's arms is usually a nice thing."

"Always has been." Terry smiled back as they settled into a comfortable silence for a long, relaxing time.

"Up for something to eat?" Jake asked softly.

"Yeah, feels like I've had days of heavy activity." He said quietly, nuzzling Jake affectionately. "Kitchen should be up for breakfast now." He smiled.

"Nightmares can do that." Jake smiled softly as he helped his thoroughly soaked mate from the whirlpool. "Do you know what that was a memory of? It kind of felt like one."

"Memory of a nightmare actually." He said quietly, as he got out. "I was having trouble dealing in the real world, and my dream world didn't do much better." He said as he turned on the blowers in the shower.

"It was when I was missing, wasn't it?" He murred softly as he stepped in behind Terry, and hugged him close from behind.

"Yeah, I didn't mean it to come out." He said quietly, leaning into the hug. "Guess I just didn't have it locked away as well as I thought."

"Same here." Jake hugged Terry tightly. "I never meant you to see what I survived, much less what it made me capable of."

Terry turned so he could take Jake in his arms. "I'm not sure how, but I think I knew before." He said quietly. "That was one of the less graphic dreams."

"I'm not surprised." He sighed softly, then tipped Terry's muzzle up for a gentle kiss. "Do you have any plans for the day?"

"Not really." He said quietly. "I figured plans weren't a good idea for the next few days. Just see what comes along."

"Well, what do you think about watching me work?" Jake half offered, half asked. "You seem to find it entertaining, and I'd like to get some time in with those pilots."

"Works for me, and it'll give me a chance to see if my ability to 'read' people extends to thinking machines." He said easily as Jake nuzzled him.

"Then let's get dress, fed and see about something interesting." Jake managed to sound nearly normal.

Terry nodded as the last of the moisture was washed from his fur by the warm air. Feeling a little more stable, he got dressed though not as quickly as normal.

"Kit's efficient, you have to give him that." Jake shook his head as they walked into the hanger to see the TurboKat fully refueled and the post-flight check written up in a flowing handwriting.

"And very attentive to detail, according to the other pilots. Some pilots breeze through certain items on the post-flight, but he actually does each one in detail." He smiled. "Surprised he's not still here, maybe he actually went and got some sleep."

"Breakfast and a shower." Jake shook his head and chuckled. "Gods, he's as bad as I am without you."

"Similar reason, I expect." Terry said understandingly.

"Probably," Jake murmured as he slipped next to his mate to hold him tightly. "At least I always had you."

Terry smiled affectionately. "We had each other." He said quietly.

"And now we have a very cute black fire." Jake chuckled and buried his nose against Terry's neck. "He just walked in the far door."

"So I noticed." Terry chuckled.

"Hi Jake. Hi Terry." The young tom waved, as he saw them.

"Hi, Rik." Terry said with a smile.

"Did you have a fun night?" Jake asked with a grin, though he made no move to leave his spot in Terry's embrace.

"Yeah, we went all over." He grinned. "She wanted to get to know her new home." The grin spread ear to ear. "It was so incredible. Even the advanced prototypes aren't anything like her." The pure happiness in his scent was unmistakable.

"Well, she's been a working girl her entire life, it leads to some interesting priorities in design." Jake chuckled and moved away from his mate. "Now, beyond incredible, what do you think of her? Specifics."

"She handles like a dream, even better than the Wraith." He said focusing. "Though I think the flight stick needs replaced, the bearings are worn from heavy use. She said the previous pilot was a bit heavy handed."

Jack chuckled. "Among other things."

"Acceleration is really good, but I was wondering are you using the latest generation in igniters?" He asked hesitantly. "It doesn't quite feel like it."

"No, I haven't gotten a hold of any yet." Jake shook his head. "Not that there's a piece of factory anything in her."

"We've got 'em here." Rik smiled. "Halycon manufactures them. I can get 'em from Stores if you'd like." He offered eagerly.

"Why not." Jake nodded with a smile. "It'll be good to see how we handle upgrades."

"I'll be right back!" He said with broad smile as he took off for Stores.

Terry smiled, and watched the young tom leave. It was hard not to smile around that kind of eagerness.

"I'm going to have to keep an eye on him." Jake shook his head. "He's going to be far too easy to take advantage of."

"He's very eager to please, especially where you're concerned." Terry nodded. "It's endearing, but it leaves him vulnerable."

"Hopefully he'll become more secure with a bit of approval, and real success."

"Probably, he's already gotten a lot better from when he first arrived. It's just not a quick process."

Jake smiled sadly. "It never is."

"True." Terry said giving his mate an affectionate nuzzle from behind. "But always worth the effort to help."

"And maybe I can pass some of that care on." Jake smiled up and reached his arm around to scratch Terry's ear, causing the gray Kat purred contentedly.

"Got 'em!" Rik called out as he came pushing a cart with several boxes on it.

"He's fast too." Jake chuckled as he went to great the fluffy black and white tom. "After we get these in, we can head up to see how she goes threw the paces."

"Cool." Rik grinned. "Got a new flightstick too. They didn't have the bearings for the old one, and this one is compatible with the socket used by the old one."

"Is it the one you like best?" Jake prompted as he checked out the new igniters. "Socket compatibility aside."

"Not really, the Photon II on the Wraith is far more responsive, but not many systems can handle the fully optical design." He explained. "Is it true you built her from stuff in a junkyard?" He asked curiously.

"Yes," Jake nodded easily as he leaped up to the top of the fuselage and opened the engine cover. "Would you get a Phantom II control stick? Blackie's got a lot of optics in her, and more is possible."

"Sure thing." The young tom said as he took off again while Jake went to work making the minor reconfigurations required to get the igniters to work.

"Got it." Rik said as he came back with another box. He walked over to see exactly what Jake was doing, careful not to get in the way as the cinnamon tom made some final tweaks to the engine configuration, with his claws, not any tools.

"Good," Jake looked up and shifted to squat and look at the young tom. "Let's see what it hooks up like."

Patrik nodded, opened the box and lifted the flight stick assembly out. It was clearly cutting edge, and actually consisted of the primary optic control circuits and a more tradition mechanical back up.

"Mmm, it'll take some rewiring, but it's just taking the weapon control structure I installed to the control level." He murmured as he considered the set-up. "Shouldn't be too difficult."

Rik nodded, and watched intently, fascinated.

Across the Hangar, Terry watched quietly. In the back of his mind, he was somewhat concerned about what his older brother might do. The big tom had taken the whole affair even more poorly than Terry had, at least on some levels. Terry hoped he'd resign quietly, if he was going to do that.

Terry was watching Jake and Patrik working on reconfiguring the TurboKat when a blonde shekat arrived with a hearty, flavorful lunch for the three of them, on a rolling cart.

"Jake! Rik! Lunch!" Terry shouted, echoing a bit in the hangar.

Jake chuckled as he set down what he was working on, and carefully disentangled himself from the guts of the jet's control system before jumping down.

"Some things never change." He walked up to his mate for a quick kiss.

"Nope." Terry chuckled. "You still forget meals, if I don't remind you." He said, giving the Kat a quick nuzzle.

"He does it to me too." Rik smiled. "When he's down here."

Terry smirked. "Never even thought about it, guess I must have developed a habit of delivering meals to hangars."

"Because you've developed an interest in types that hang out in hangers, and need the delivery service." Jake chuckled as he investigated the offerings.

"Yeah, old friends and new." He smiled warmly, examining lunch. "Looks like the kitchen has done its usual spectacular job."

"And who's surprised?" Jake smirked as he selected a thick, meaty sandwich and several fruits.

Rik quietly walked over and picked up a sandwich, not seeming to pay it much attention, as he started eating.

"Surprised, not hardly." Terry chuckled. "I may enjoy cooking, but it is nice to have someone I can trust it with."

"Trust?" Jake raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me my last attempt at cooking was that scary."

"Love, you have a great many wonderful talents." Terry said with a warm smile. "But cooking is not one of them. Kind of like my attempt at say, auto repair." He chuckled, remembering a very unsuccessful attempt as Jake winced.

"Point taken." The cinnamon tom chuckled as he worked on the sandwich. "Though I'm not the worst cook in the world."

"The worst, no definitely not." He chuckled. "Greg is definitely a worse cook. Burned water once."

Rik sipped at his milk and observed quietly as Jake snickered, slowly dissolving into a mirthful ball of cinnamon fur.

"Oh, that is bad."

Terry was laughing broadly, sitting down next to the ball of fur as Jake uncurled. "Yeah, it's always been my counter to the fact that he actually has artistic talent."

"We all have our gifts." Jake chuckled, then rolled his head back to look at Patrik upside-down. "So, you got a hobby, besides flying like no one else?"

Patrik blinked, apparently caught off guard. "Ummm, not really." He said quietly, though the tone of his voice said that he'd never really thought about it before.

"Care to check some possibilities out?" Jake smiled reassuringly.

Rik smiled. "Sure. I guess maybe a little time out of the hangar would be good."

Terry chuckled. "Yeah, it's good some fresh air once in a while."

"Ter," Jake shifted his gaze to his mate, though he made no effort to sit up. "Are there riding horses here?"

"Yep, one of the old family hobbies was horse breeding. Though it was a bit more of a necessity when they started."

There was a moment of uneasy thought. "How far out does the secure line go?"

"You mean as in phone communications? We can secure communications pretty much to anywhere we need to, why?" He asked curiously.

"Area security." Jake tried to clarify. "How far out is it safe to ride?"

"We've got a five mile radius from the main buildings secure. Security sweeps are covering out to ten miles, but beyond five there's the risk of sniper activity." He said easily.

"Sounds like a nice beginners ride, and refresher course for me." He chuckled before pushing himself up and looked at Patrik. "Unless you already know you don't like riding or horses."

"Never tried." He shook his head.

"Well, then after we get the install and test-flight finished, care to try?" Jake offered. trying not to sound pushy.

Rik nodded. "Sounds like it could be fun."

Terry smiled. "I'll let the stables know. Jake, you've ridden before, any preference in mount?"

"Something reasonably well trained and cooperative." He chuckled. "It's been years."

Terry chuckled. "Okay, I'll tell the stable to leave Brimstone home." He smirked, as he turned to walked over to the phone.

"Unless you're riding him." Jake shot back with a laugh as he grabbed a second sandwich.

"I just might." He smirked.

"But then, that would take out fooling around on horseback." Jake winked.

Terry chuckled. "Well, we could always share a horse." He smirked.

"If mine's well trained, at least." Jake purred back, then relaxed to his side to look at Patrik. "Are you seeing anyone?" He asked curiously.

Patrik shook his head. "No."

"Well, I guess it'll just be the three of us then." Jake shrugged, then focused on Patrik. "BlackFire ... if our playing makes you uncomfortable, please say so."

"Why would it bother me?" He asked confused. "It's not like everybody doesn't know how crazy he is about you. You're both happier when you're playing."

Jake smiled softly. "Some people prefer it when mates keep their activities calm in public. I just wanted to make sure it doesn't bother you."

Rik smiled. "Don't worry, it doesn't." He said easily.

"Good to know." Jake twisted easily to his feet. "Finish up at leisure. I've got a good hour left before she's ready to fly." He smiled at the pilot.

Patrik finished eating quietly, and then went back to watching Jake work on the TurboKat, completely fascinated by how each repair was done.

"Okay," Jake let out a breath as he secured the last panel in the cockpit. "She's ready for a test run."

"Cool. I'll change into my flight gear." Patrik said excitedly, before hopping down from where he was watching, and running off.

Terry chuckled. "I'd don't think he walks anywhere."

"I remember those days." Jake smiled nostalgically. "It's been a few years for us though."

"A few." Terry smiled, climbing up hug the lean tom. "A lifetime ago, it seems sometimes."

"I wouldn't mind if it really was." Jake said quietly and he leaned into the contact gratefully. "I wish you could come on this test." He whispered softly.

"I know." Terry said quietly. "And it's a two-seater." He said gently. "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere." He said hugging the Kat tight.

"You're not the .... I have to go up, BlackFire has to fly." Jake leaned close. "It's going to be a while before I'm going to be able to be alone." He said very softly.

"I wish I was a better pilot." Terry said quietly. "But this is just not something I can do." He apologized softly.

"I know, I don't blame you." He nodded against the warm chest.

"Jake, my grandmother's grandmother once said that once two people had shared dreams, they were never truly apart. So in a way I am going to be with you." He said trying to offer his mate something to lean on.

"And I trust Blackie to get me home." Jake took a deep breath and pulled away gradually. "I'm going to feel a lot better when she's dead and gone."

"Why's that?" He asked, confused by Jake's statement about the plane.

"She won't hunt me once she dead." Jake said quietly, not meeting Terry's gaze. "She's probably the only thing I'm honestly terrified of, of being taken back there."

"Sorry, I misunderstood." He said quietly. "And I understand. The thought of losing you again, scares me more than anything. But it's not going to happen. If I have to level her whole stinking country, it's not going to happen." Terry said fiercely.

"I know." Jake forced a smile as he heard Patrik running back. "I'll survive. I don't plan on a long flight."

"You can handle it." Terry said nuzzling the tom affectionately. "I believe in you."

"Okay, I'm ready." Patrik said as he stopped next to the jet. "Ready, Jake?"

"Ready as I'll ever be." The cinnamon tom nodded and grabbed his helmet on reflex, freezing as he looked down at his lost past in red and blue.

Jake squeezed his eyes shut, desperately trying to make the memories and thoughts go away.

Terry put his arm around his mate, and pulled him into a tight hug, gently encouraging him to let go of the helmet until he fell from numb fingers.

Patrik quietly walked back to the storage locker and got one of the spares that he judged would fit Jake properly.

With a shuddering breath Jake shook his head. "I can't ... I'm sorry," he looked at Patrik. "You ... you can take her up to test if you want, Rik. I can't do this yet."

"It's okay, Jake." He said quietly. "I'll take good care of her." He said as he climbed up.

"I know, you're a good pair." Jake said approvingly as he accepted Terry's gentle guiding out of the way, so the TurboKat could take off.

Terry watched as the plane took off, amazed that he could see a bond beginning to form between plane and pilot, like he'd seen so many other alliances. The gray Kat sighed quietly, wondering if maybe he'd made a mistake not letting Jake kill Chance, maybe the death would've given Jake some freedom from the pain the tabby caused.

"Just as well I can't fly gunner anymore." Jake said softly as he watched the jet perform under her new pilot's touch. "It's not like it was my first choice of lives, anyway."

"What was your first choice?" He asked quietly, amazed that they'd never really had this discussion. "You never really explained why you enlisted." That had been a time when Jake hadn't told him a lot of things.

"It was the best option I saw." He shrugged slightly as he stared at the sky. "When no one would buy or hire me on my designs ... it was too much to turn down, to be pursued for my skills after that. It wasn't like I didn't like the idea of being an officer; it had its bright points. I like helping."

Terry sighed, looking back at the departing jet in the distance, and remembering a design no one could place. "You submitted very early sketches of the TurboKat, right?"

"Yeah." Jake murmured as he pressed close to his mate, his eyes drifting close. "They weren't perfect, but the core of it is still flying."

"Good enough that my grandfather is still trying to find where those unlabelled sketches came from. They were found in the safe of a manager who made a habit of making decisions without authority, including not hiring designers." He said quietly.

"It's past, Ter." Jake murmured. "It's not like he was the only one. I went to all six fighter houses."

"Well, the other five I don't know what their problem was. I just wished I'd known you were trying. I could've helped." Terry said, a little of the pain from the months when Jake hardly acknowledged him sneaking back. It had been almost as bad as the missing months.

"Some things you have to do on your own, even if it's to fail." Jake said quietly. "You, know?"

"I guess." He said quietly. "Its just the corporate route would've been better." He said thinking how much pain could've been avoided.

"Maybe." Jake shook his head. "It's not like it actually matters. "I am not going to play the time travel game over this. I'm going cooperate now, we're LifeMates, we have a good future ahead of us." He turned to meet his mate's troubled gray-blue eyes. "Let it go, Terry. We'll deal with the fallout, but don't cloud the future with it."

Terry nodded. "You're right. Letting go never has been my strong suit." He said quietly.

"Not like it's mine, either." Jake smiled before wrapping his arms around Terry's neck to pull him into a long, tender kiss.

"Jake, as long as we're talking future I think we need to consider where that's going to be." He said quietly. "You don't have answer now, but I'd like you to consider staying down here." He sighed. "I don't really want to go back to MKC."

"Neither do I." He murmured. "I can learn to like it here, once I know it." Jake said with some certainty. "It's just the newness is stressful."

"Maybe tomorrow we can do some sightseeing, it might help you feel more at home." Terry suggested gently, not pushing.

"Not like I'm going to object," Jake chuckled softly and rubbed his head against Terry's neck. "But it's just going to take time. Though pointers on weapon catches and armored spots would be a very good start."

"We can cover that after dinner if you'd like. At least enough that the house will seem more secure to you." He offered.

"That would be nice." Jake smiled softly. "Where to arm, where to hide, who to trust. At least having something in each column would help."

"One thing you might want to do is get comfortable using middle ages weaponry. There's usually something like that not too far away no matter where you are in the main house." Terry chuckled. "Great Grandfather was a serious collector of old sharp objects."

"I know a little." Jake smiled with a chuckle. "Knife and staff so far, I expect others wouldn't been too hard. Not like I'm ever without my knife."

"Yeah, so I noticed." He chuckled. "You've got the reflexes, I'm sure the others will come pretty easy." He added confidently. "Just for reference, there's a weapons cache behind short red lockers in the changing area, and a security room here." He said elbowing the wall causing a panel to slide aside. "Secures from the inside."

"Nice." Jake purred softly before turning his full attention to his LifeMate and wrapped his arms around Terry's neck. "We're going to make it through this." He whispered before leaning forward for a kiss.

"Yes, we are." Terry said quietly, as he claimed a warm, loving kiss from his mate as Jake gently pressed him back, against the wall.

With gradually bolder hands he slid down Terry's sides to hook his thumps inside the gray tom's pants.

Terry purred with growing excitement, as his hands caressed Jake's shoulders and back encouragingly.

"You are mine." Jake growled with unusual possessiveness before claiming a fierce kiss and unbuttoning Terry's jeans.

Terry returned the kiss with passion while he freed the Kat's shirt from his jeans, allowing his hands to work sensual patterns in the soft cinnamon fur.

With a low chuckle Jake sank to his knees to alternate between nuzzling Terry's thickening sheath, and suckling the gray tom's balls.

Commander Feral had only been gone half an hour when the doorbell rang at the Arden Street apartment.

Chance lifted himself up off the couch where he'd been watching TV and made his way to the door. Not expecting any visitors he hit the button on the intercom panel rather than opening the door immediately.

"Hello? Who's there?"

"This is Lt. Amstead of the Enforcers, I have a message for Chance Furlong from Deputy Mayor Briggs." A very professional male voice answered.

"I'm Furlong," Chance told him.

"Deputy Mayor Briggs would like to see you in her office, regarding an important matter. She says you know what she means by that." Amstead said simply. "I'm here to transport you to her office."

Chance took his finger off the intercom for a moment so that he could swear in private. "Sorry Lieutenant, I'm not going anywhere. I'm here for my own protection and there is no way you're getting me on the other side of that door."

"Mr. Furlong, Deputy Mayor Briggs told me to ask first. But I do have a warrant to bring you in for questioning. I will use it if you force the issue." He said evenly. "You can come willingly, or otherwise. Choice is yours."

"If she wants to talk, then I'm more than happy to talk. Here. Fact is, the Deputy Mayor has no authority to summon a private citizen to her office against their will, and unless you have specific charges to lay against me you can't force me to go with you either. I was an Enforcer myself, and I know my rights."

"Actually, you appear to be forgetting the Special Investigations Authorizing Act, which does allow it under circumstances where the city's defenses have been compromised by actions direct, or indirect, of the Enforcer Commander. If I have to use this warrant, then this becomes an official investigation. If you come willingly it isn't."

Chance sighed softly, resting his head against the wall. If there was an investigation then all these years of keeping it secret would be for nothing. All the hurt that Jake had suffered would be for nothing.

"Lieutenant," he said slowly, his voice resigned, "I have a genuine fear for my life. Two days ago I was subject to an assault with intent to kill, and the Commander has sufficient cause to believe it won't be the last time. This is his apartment after all. I wouldn't be here unless he was concerned for my safety. I am not trying to avoid speaking with the Deputy Mayor, but I am the target of some very dangerous people and I would rather like to live."

"Mr. Furlong, I appreciate your concerns. But the Commander's apartment is simply unacceptable due to the situation." He said evenly. "We are trained to protect and transport people threatened by powerful and dangerous people. If you're at risk with us, then you're likely at risk in there as well."

"All right," Chance caved in, knowing he really had no choice. "Can you give me five minutes to find a shirt?"

"Of course." He said politely. "Please don't complicate matters by calling the Commander." He advised quietly.

Chance didn't even reply to that, heading into Feral's bedroom to grab the shirt he'd worn yesterday. For the first time he wondered if he should have let Feral buy some clothes for him and keep them here, but he didn't have much time to wonder about it. He slipped his key into his back pocket, turned off the TV, and hesitantly opened the door.

"Thank you, Mr. Furlong." The tall, athletic brown and white tabby tom said easily. He was flanked by two large burly toms, who didn't have their weapons drawn, but who Chance could tell were wearing body armor. "If you'll come this way." He said, indicating that Chance should follow the one tom, as the other followed along behind Amstead.

A van was waiting at the outside door as close as it could get to the door providing maximum cover. "Wait." Amstead said.

"All Clear." A female voice said after a moments pause.

"Okay, you can get in now." Amstead said, getting into the comfortably appointed, but windowless van. "City Hall." He said to the driver, and leaned back as the door slid shut, and the van started off.

Chance sat in silence, visibly unhappy with the situation but equally aware that he had no choice but to do as he had.

The security measures were equally tight as they pulled into the secure garage behind city hall. The guards carefully checked before motioning to Chance to get out. A secure elevator took them to the floor Callie's office was on.

As they walked down the hall, a large tom in jeans and a collared shirt passed them going the opposite direction.

"Nice to see you, Derek." He said in deep voice, that Chance found familiar.

"Long time no see, Greg." Amstead acknowledged with a smile.

As the tom turned a corner, Chance placed him. He was the big tom who'd pulled Jake off him the other night.

Chance froze in place as the realization hit him, shrinking in against the wall as the tom disappeared from sight and hurrying forward one he was gone.

Amstead looked at Chance curiously, but didn't say anything. He stopped at the door to Callie's office and knocked before opening the door.
"Deputy Mayor Briggs, I brought Chance Furlong, like you asked." He said.

"Thank you, send him in." The shekat's voice sounded a bit fatigued. "And leave the warrant with the clerk, since its not needed."

"You can go in." The tom said stepping out of the way, and closing the door behind Chance once he went in.

The peach shekat was dressed in her usual pink business suit and was sitting behind a desk that was mostly buried by two piles of paper. The normally open windows were covered by impressive metal security shutters.

"You could have just phoned or something," the tabby grumbled softly as he seated himself, hunching himself down in the chair.

"Really. Somehow, T-bone, I doubt you'd appreciate that." She said evenly, her choice of words precise and leaving no doubt as to her certainty. "And I'd prefer to keep the impending crisis off of things like phones that can be tapped."

She the looked up and fixed bright green eyes on Chance. "You want to tell me your side of what happened?" She asked quietly.

"Basically, no," he said bluntly. "I wouldn't even be here if not for the fact your boy would've broken the door down anyway."

"I see." She said quietly. "That just leaves me with Jake's statement that you betrayed him in some fashion that was serious enough to warrant breaking up SWAT. If it wasn't for the anger and hatred in his voice, I wouldn't have been inclined to believe him. Though I could see how he'd take an ongoing romantic relationship with his rapist as betrayal." She said bluntly.

"You know if you've gone to all this trouble just to drag me up here and try to make me feel bad you've really wasted your time. I doubt there's anything you can say which'll make me feel worse than I do already."

"No, actually I didn't know about that until a few moments ago." She said quietly. "I'm just trying to understand why Commander Feral has sabotaged a key component of the city defenses, and why you're helping him do it. I guess I was hoping maybe you'd had a change of heart.

"Foolish sentimentality, I suppose." She said as she stood and turned to look toward the closed shutters. "I hoped I might be able to fix things before innocent lives are lost. I just hope whatever the two of you are protecting is worth the lives it's going to cost. I guess I was really hoping for the hero. Clearly, he never really existed." She said quietly. "I'm finished with you. You can leave."

"You are so full of crap," the tabby said viciously. "If your office had approved funding for SWAT any of the times Feral had asked for it then Jake and I wouldn't have had to loose our badges for it. You can't do crap on the grounds of 'the city's defenses' because SWAT was never a part of it." Chance became more animated as he went on, pain and bitterness just flooding out of him. "We were awfully convenient for you, but you'd never pay for us. Hell, as far as the law's concerned there's two less lunatics with weaponry flying around."

"Oh dear. Commander Feral's spreading that one around again is he." She chuckled. "He pulls that every so often. He never actually wanted to detail what he wanted the money for. Just a blank check increase, no explanation. And as for what he did to you and Jake, that was his unilateral decision.

"And in seven years, he never once suggested that we fund SWAT. He had the authority to deputize SWAT and make it legal, but he never did. I don't know what game he's playing, but frankly I don't have time.

She pulled out a file, walked over and handed it to Chance. "This the paperwork making SWAT official. Every year I send it to Feral, and every year I get it back unsigned. Maybe he should explain that."

"Now I know you're full of shit," the tabby snarled. "He built SWAT up for me. It was gonna be me and Jake all along, and I've seen the budget rejections from city hall, itemized and everything." Chance took a deep breath, trying to reign himself in a little. "Did he tell you he just lay there under Feral? Even after Felina and I walked in? The Commander had a harder time convincing me into bed than he did Jake."

"And here's the budgets submitted for the same years." She said hauling papers out of a file cabinet. "No itemization."

"Jake didn't tell me, Chance." She said quietly. "And it doesn't matter whether Jake lay there or fought tooth and nail ... rape doesn't require resistance." She said angrily. "And no rapist is fit to command."

"So that's what all this crap is about. You must be so glad you can finally pin something on him."

"Far from it." She said quietly. "Frankly, this is going to cause more disruption than we need in the Enforcer ranks. But the law applies to everyone, and that includes the Commander."

"Except to people who you find convenient, like the SWAT Kats. Feral does a damned good job, and you know it. He did what he did to protect me, and he's more concerned about all this than you know. If Jake leaves the city he could end up in serious trouble."

"I'm glad you can live with him raping someone who was supposedly your friend to protect you." She growled. "And the SWAT Kats never did anything that came close to rape.

"His concern is touching, and if we're lucky won't cost the Enforcers a major supplier. You may be able to rationalize rape so you can sleep with him, but there is no way it can in good conscience be justified."

Chance snorted and turned to leave. "You weren't even interested in anything I might have to say. You've decided about everything already." He shot the words back across his shoulder as he stalked out.

"If you'd actually said something I might have been." She shouted.

"What?" He whirled on his heel to face her again. "Exactly what is it I could possibly have to say that would matter against what Jake wants? I can sleep with whoever the hell I choose, and if you think I'm gonna be with him for ten years and then just walk out because some foreign bitch blackmailed him then you're off your head."

"Jake hasn't said he wants anything." She replied. "And has it ever occurred to you how dangerous it is for the city to have its military commander taking orders from a foreign power? And if he's willing to commit rape to protect his career what else can she get him to do? And the penalties for the Commander sleeping with a cadet only apply to military personnel, you can't punish civilians in military court."

Chance sighed miserably and leant back against the wall. "I know. I know all this, and it's not as though I'm happy it happened. Jake did his best to kill me when I tried to explain it to him, but I'd do it again. I really need him to understand this. And he knows about all about this woman, who she is and what she wants. It's all about him." By the time chance had finished his voice had subsided into little more than a low mumble, hard for Callie to make out from across the room.

Callie sighed, thinking maybe she saw a glimmer of the Chance she had admired in the past. "Chance, if you want to explain things to Jake then you'll have to talk to his mate and convince him. Terry's the only way you'll get to Jake."

Chance shook his head and pushed himself off the wall. "It's not gonna happen, he hates me more than you do. Are you done with me now?"

Callie sighed. "Hate, no." She said quietly. "A bit disappointed, yes. And if Terry actually hated you, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

"It's not Terry's opinion I care about," the tabby muttered softly.

"Yes, you can go." She said sadly. "Just be careful, Chance. Everything else aside, Feral's misjudged things badly this time. And we're all going to pay for it."

Chance nodded, reaching for the door. "We are all paying for it Miss Briggs, him included. If you charge him, then this pain has been for nothing ... think about it before you do anything." The tabby slipped out through the door, resting against the wall outside for a few moments before he started down the hallway.

Felina was reviewing a number of reports that had found their way to her desk when her cell started to ring. Sighing in relief, she opened it and turned it on. Anything had to be better than the paperwork.

"Lieutenant Feral speaking."

"Lieutenant, this is Deputy Mayor Briggs. I need to speak with you in my office. As soon as you can get here would be best." Callie said polite, but clearly not making a request. Felina could also hear some tension in the shekat's voice.

'Well,' she thought, 'at least it's something other than paperwork - probably not good, though, given the tone of her voice.'

"Yes, ma'am. I'll be out there as soon as I can." Felina closed the files and locked them in her desk.

"I'm on my way now." She hung up and stood to leave - then realized what this was probably about, given the Deputy Mayor's connections, albeit unofficial, with the SWAT Kats.

"Damn. Never thought I'd be glad I don't know much." Felina walked out to her car quickly, and started for City Hall.

The deputy mayor was standing looking out her window when Felina arrived. A pile of papers covered her desk, including what looked to be a courier envelope between the Deputy Mayor's office and Commander Feral's office. Felina thought she could detect the scent of an agitated Chance in the air.

"Thank you for coming, Lieutenant." She said turning to face the much taller shekat. "Please have a seat." She said evenly.

"Thank you." Felina sat down politely and sorted through what she could put together. If Chance had been here, he'd probably told her about what had happened. Not good.

'Okay, Fel,' she thought to herself, 'just play it by ear - and don't think about what happened too much if you can help it. You've just managed to sort things out to the point where you can keep working under him, don't blow it now.'

"Miss Briggs, if you'll forgive me being somewhat blunt, what's wrong? You sounded upset over the phone."

"I hope you'll forgive my being equally blunt, Lieutenant." The shekat said quietly. "To the best of your knowledge, has Commander Feral committed any felony crimes in the last seventy-hours?" She asked, no indication in her posture or voice as to what answer she was expecting.

Felina closed her eyes as the various justifications and excuses she'd been coming up with on her way over evaporated. "Yes, though no charges were brought or seem likely to be, I don't know why not."

"As a law enforcement officer, surely you're aware that rape victims are often unwilling to come forward." Callie said gently. "However, that isn't why I asked you here. As second-in-command, you need to be aware of the situation and the potential crisis facing the city."


"It has been suggested that he committed the crime due to blackmail by a foreign source. Though an explanation, it is not a justification since there is none possible." She said firmly. "It is extremely dangerous for the military commander to be in the control of a foreign power.

"Commander Feral's rape of Razor has destroyed the SWAT Kats, who while unofficial were an important part of the city's defenses." She said quietly. "In addition, it's beginning to cause personnel problems in the Enforcers. It's also damaging our relations with one of the major military suppliers." She said, tiredly.

"By the book, I should hand this over to Special Investigations, relieve Commander Feral of command and place you in command pending the outcome of the investigation." She said quietly. "This is a scandal the Enforcers don't need." The shekat paused watching Felina's reactions.

Felina tried to keep her expression neutral, but she could tell that she wasn't doing nearly as good a job as she'd like - anyone who wasn't blind could tell that she was trying to keep a lid on a mix of emotions that had come up during Callie's explanation of events. Mainly the defensive anger that had flared up when she was talking about the blackmail, and a sense of resignation when the consequences had been mentioned.

"Those are all very good points, Miss Briggs. To tell the truth, I've thought of a lot of them myself, although I wasn't aware of the issues with the suppliers yet. You're absolutely right about the scandal, though. I take it you have a suggestion for avoiding that and dealing with the other concerns?"

"The supplier issue is due to Razor being LifeMates with one highly placed member of the family that owns it. I think you can understand that they are outraged to say the least." She explained.

"I can understand a lot more than outrage. Just hope that they don't decide that whatever solution is reached isn't enough." Felina nodded.

Callie shook her head. "If that was the case, they wouldn't have bothered making an official complaint to my office. Other things they could've done quietly." She said. "I would recommend your uncle watch his back for Razor though.

"A suggestion I made myself." Felina commented quietly.

"As for suggestions, I've only come up with one so far that will relieve the problems, and it's less than perfect. If the Commander resigns on his own, then SI doesn't have to get involved because the only issue remaining is outside their jurisdiction. It also removes the problem of blackmail, because a civilian can't be punished for a military offense of this nature.

"It's not perfect, and we lose the Commander's experience but keeping him has cost one experienced officer already and given the family connections, I'm expecting more resignations this afternoon." She said tiredly. "Frankly, he would've been hard pressed to pick a more disastrous victim if he tried."

"This is not his fault. Not entirely, at least. But you're right about the solution, I'm afraid. Though I don't see how his resignation could protect anybody from the blackmail unless I misjudged him quite a bit." Felina tried to keep the part of her that was saying she was betraying him quiet - she knew that Callie was right, regardless of what she felt about the situation.

"He's being blackmailed with pictures of him having sex with a cadet, Chance Furlong." She said simply. "As a ranking Enforcer that's a court martial offense. However, as a civilian he couldn't be tried by a military court, and it's not a criminal offense. I'll assume that he was trying to avoid the scandal a court martial would've caused the Enforcers." She said trying her level best to be generous.

Felina couldn't help the confusion from registering in her expression.

"What the - him and.... That explains a few things, though, I guess. But if the people responsible were to release those photographs after his resignation, while it would avoid the court-martial, it would still spark quite a bit of controversy. And the whole thing depends on his being willing to resign."

"Controversy we'll deal with, a little spin will make it look like he did the honorable thing and resigned to spare the Enforcers any embarrassment. And I know it does, I'm hoping you have some leverage with him. Before I've got too many Enforcers on 'temporary transfer' to SI just so I can put them on 'administrative leave'.

"I know that sounds convoluted, but it was the only way to keep a decorated fifteen year veteran officer from resigning over this." She said. "I know this can't be a comfortable position for you, and for that I'm sorry." The Deputy Mayor said sincerely.

"Trust me, it's not nearly as uncomfortable a position as I was in a few nights ago. At least not until I talk to him.

"One thing to consider is that my 'leverage' with him is not likely to extend that far, unless he can be convinced that it is for the best, and that there is a way to protect everybody involved. And, while you might be able to spin any controversy for the public, think of what it'd look like for the Commander to run away from his own lapse in judgment. That's at least one of the things he'll think of, I'm sure. I just hope he'll be willing to listen."

"Perhaps by avoiding the word 'run'. Actually it's simply facing up to the consequences of that lapse in judgment. Hopefully, he'll be willing to spare the Enforcers and the City any more problems, than have already occurred." She said evenly. "I'll hold any further action as long as I can, to give you time to talk to him." She added. "I just hope things stay quiet."

Felina stood and nodded. "So do I, Miss Briggs. I should probably go talk to him now, then. While I still know it's the best thing to do."

"Of course." The pale peach shekat nodded. "And thank you." She said, as she opened the door.

Felina walked out quietly, and went out to her car. When she was ready to leave, her shoulder's slumped.

"I think I would have preferred the paperwork." With that, she turned the key and started back towards headquarters, trying to figure out just how she was going to say this to him.

Jake was still on his knees, licking his mate clean when they both heard someone making an effort to let them hear her coming on high heals.

"Company, Love." Terry said as he made himself presentable. "Akisha from the sound of it."

"At least she waited till the fun was over." Jake murred as he stood for a last kiss, letting Terry taste himself.

"Discretion is one of her strong suits." He murred as their lips parted.

"My apologies for disturbing you, but a call for Razor has been relayed from the Brighton Street apartment. It's from Deputy Mayor Briggs." She said. "She's holding on the phone in the telemetry office." The Kantin said, indicating the back office with a nod of her head.

"That's something to be disturbed for." Jake's eyebrow shot strait up even as an uneasy knot made itself felt in his gut.

"Thank you, Akisha." Terry nodded, as he led the way to the back office where he finished the connection before offering the phone to Jake.

"Just press the 'Talk' button." Terry said quietly.

The cinnamon tom took a deep breath and did so. "Jake BrightClaw here." He said quietly.

"Hi, Jake." Callie's voice replied, though it seemed more tired that he was used to hearing. "I just found out about what Feral did to you ... are you alright?" The concern in her voice was completely honest and personal.

"Getting there." He answered quietly. "I've got a lot of support here."

"Good, I was worried about you." She said relaxing. "Are you planning to file charges?" She asked gently.

"No," Jake shook his head. "No point of it. He wasn't the source." He added with more strength in his voice than he felt.

"The blackmail, yes that's been confirmed a couple of times." She said easily. "Jake, I'm trying to figure out why that person is messing with my city's defenses to get to you, but I don't see a reason. Why does she hate you so much?" She asked, sounding more stressed than she usually didn't during a Monster-of-the-Week situation.

Jake quietly grabbed a chair to sit down, searching for the least painful way to give her what she'd need.

With a deep breath, he spoke. "It's not hate, it's desire. She couldn't break me on her own, now she's fighting dirty. I don't know why she waited eleven years. I don't know why she chose what she did. Maybe she's after more than just me ... always was ambitious. I am sure this won't be the end of it, against me or Feral. He failed her, she won't forgive that." He got out in a rush, before he could change his mind.

Callie didn't want to think about what kind of monster would want to break someone she desired. "Well, I won't forgive her hurting a good friend, or costing the city a valued officer." She said, anger replacing some of the fatigue. "I'm just glad you've got a LifeMate with enough connections to protect you."

"And the desire to." Jake murmured softly as he reached with his free hand for Terry.

"Jake, Feral didn't have anything to do with SWAT's formation did he?" She asked, though her tone said that she'd heard something that she didn't quite believe. "I mean, aside from the obvious."

Her last words were nearly drowned out by a roar of raw outrage as Jake lunged to his feet. "Who the FUCK said that?"

"I take that as, no." She said quietly. "It seemed unbelievable but since Chance told me I had to wonder. Something about Feral getting turned down for funding, though I've got a stack of budgets that say he never really asked."

Jake was trembling in pure rage as he spoke. "Thank you." His voice was tightly controlled. "Can I clear up any other mysteries?"

"No, that was really the only mystery. Besides, I really called to see if you were alright." She said quietly. "Anything I can do to help you?" She offered, clearly still concerned.

"Just do what you can to keep MKC safe." He said much more softly, though his body language belied the more relaxed tone. "So I don't have that on my mind."

"That's kind of my job, Jake." She chuckled lightly. "Don't worry about the City, Felina and I can handle it. You just take care of yourself." She said with a bit more confidence than she felt. "I'll talk to you later." She said before hanging up.

Terry put a reassuring hand on Jake's shoulder as the line closed.

"That Kat is so dead." Jake rumbled in utter fury. "It's not enough to betray me, he gives credit to his lover for all my work."

"If you really want to be vicious, just let him live to deal with Feral after he's been stripped of his command. I don't imagine that'll be a pretty sight." He chuckled a trifle more maliciously than intended.

Jake quirked an eyebrow at Terry. "I'm missing something there."

Terry nodded. "Callie used the phrase 'Felina and I' in reference to protecting the city. And she never used Feral's title." He explained. "Politics are something I understand intuitively, even over the phone, and its pretty clear that Callie either has removed Feral from command or is planning to. And she had already made the decision before she talked to you."

"Oh, I got that." Jake frowned. "And it'll be good for the city. But what's so bad about living with a deposed Feral? They've been together nine years."

"The Kat has no identity that he doesn't attach to his career. That career has been the focus of his life for his entire adulthood. And simple fact is, Chance only slept with him, he didn't live with him. I expect that'll be a world of difference." Terry explained as a trace of comprehension flicked across Jake's face. "I don't know that Chance is up to handling a depressed, angry Kat like Feral on a twenty-four-eight basis. Face it, neither of them will have anything to do but each other." He chuckled. "And they'll have so earned it."

"They have what they want, each other." Jake growled. "It'll do for a while at least."

"And how long before Chance realizes that he's effectively grounded again, only there's no one to help this time?" Terry added to Jake's malicious chuckle.

"Okay, this could be satisfying." Jake nodded with a vicious grin.

"This way we don't have to waste any effort on the past." Terry said easily. "Like you told me a little while ago, we can't let the past put a cloud over our future together." He said emphasizing the future.

"And no messy legal stuff to deal with either." He murred and relaxed, moving to hug his mate.

Felina walked into the Commander's office and closed the door behind her. She took a deep breath, and got his attention.

"Commander, we need to talk. Now."

"Indeed," he replied gruffly, not looking up from what he was doing.

"I think you should pay attention to this one. It's about what happened a few days ago. It's not just between the people who were there anymore, and it's starting to have an affect on the Enforcers as a whole."

"I am aware of this, yes. I am also aware of the goings on in Miss Briggs' office this morning. I had not expected, however, that it would be you she sent to do her work for her."

"I am not here for her." Felina growled softly. "I'm here because, of the various outcomes, there are damned few that anybody considers acceptable - and I'm hoping that you'll take the one that seems to present the best possible results."

"You expect me to capitulate?" He scribbled one more note in the file in front of him and closed it, finally lifting his eyes toward Felina. "If I had thought that would do any good I would have done it in the first place."

"And why wouldn't it work? At this rate, we'll lose our suppliers, a large number of our best officers, and have to deal with the dual issues of no SWAT and a split between the Enforcers who support you and the ones who don't. If you were to resign, it could work out in such a way that, even if the pictures were released, your reputation could survive, and most of the damage repaired."

"You've not seen the pictures though," he told her with a chuckle. "My relationship with Chance is ... robust. Nonetheless, to address your issues, Halycon is hardly the only company that produces the things we buy from them. Cheapest, perhaps, but you should know me better than to think I haven't considered other options."

He pushed his chair back and stood, walking around the desk. "What concerns me is the leadership of the Enforcers. Had I not insisted your father send you here it would have fallen to Steele. Can you even imagine it? Miss Briggs might like you to hold the office, I know she finds you 'agreeable', but that will not last. I guarantee that the moment I depart those pictures will be released, and all your new Enforcers will be looking at you and wondering just when you will show your true colors."

"You're right, they're not the only one - just among the best, and probably the most influential. Halycon's just the only company I've heard of so far. As for the rest - the reason that this is an issue isn't because of the content of the photographs, it's because of what you did to keep them under cover. Let's assume that they are released after this is finished, which isn't assured - it's also not assured that they won't be released, or used again, if you maintain command.

"They would be a black mark, but depending on how they were handled, possibly not a permanent one. And I can deal with the fallout that catches me. It might take some help, it might take some work, it might even take me being removed from a command position, but I can keep things from falling apart. We're not the only people qualified to run this place, after all."

"Who then Felina? Who is there that would do what was necessary regardless of the consequences? Who would strip their lover of his rank for the sake of the city? Not a BrightClaw," he snorted, "Just look at the way they run around hysterical, desperate to assuage their own sense of outrage. Not Jake's. I know they think me cold, and ruthless, and manipulative, and I do not deny it. It is what is required to protect the people of this city, to be willing to ignore the demands of politics, to simply see what needs to be done and to do it regardless of the cost. The BrightClaws are merchants and deal-makers and they look very pretty in their uniforms. They do what they do very well, and so do I."

"Willing to ignore the demands of politics? Bullshit. You don't bother with politics when you think you can get away with it, but I can name at least three separate occasions you've let politics dictate policy.

"The name David Steele ring a bell? Hell would freeze over before he was a competent officer, let alone second-in-command, and yet there he was, sitting in your chair twice when you were out of commission. Or maybe I should bring up a number of incidents at MegaKat Towers?

"As whether or not the BrightClaws are qualified to command, I'm beginning to think that might be a good option. If there wasn't any fallout from what happened, I'd be worried. The fact there is shows that they're still concerned about what's right or wrong. Which I'm beginning to wonder if you are."

"Ah Felina you disappoint me. Mostly because you come here on Briggs' behalf to oust me. What is right is that the city is defended, and for all their beautiful morals the BrightClaws are not doing that. In exactly," the Commander paused for a moment to check his watch, "Seven minutes there will be an explosion in the city, and three of this woman's agents will learn that they have most decidedly chosen the wrong side in this. It may well be the only thing done so far to address the real threat in all of this."

"Terrific. You kill or maim three of her agents. Just what, pray tell, will that do as far as the real threat is concerned? Let's assume that you kill the person who blackmailed you, the person who took the pictures, and somebody else intimately involved with the situation. What have you got? Three dead agents. If whoever did this doesn't have lots more, then there's something seriously wrong. If whoever did this gives a fuck, I'd be surprised. Those photos will still be around, unless they're some damned poor blackmailers, and they will be back to haunt you again. Probably when you can least afford to have to deal with them.

"And I told you already, I'm here because the Enforcers are already being torn apart because of this. That Briggs suggested one course of action is simply what got it through my head that it couldn't be covered up. We're already under equipped and over budget - how the hell are we supposed to get by without our best suppliers? Or our best officers? Damn it, would you PLEASE just stop and think about it - the city needs the Enforcers to survive, especially without SWAT, and if the Enforcers are falling apart, then we're useless. There's a chance that things can be held together if you step down - if somebody replaces you, there's a possibility that we'll get by. As it stands, can we really survive what's going to happen if you remain in your position?"

Feral narrow his eyes, glaring at her with a fury she'd rarely seen him display before. "Get out," he hissed angrily. "If you want this office I have no doubt that your friends will get it for you before too long. In the meantime it remains mine, and you will not presume to lecture me in it. You are insubordinate Felina, and I am still your Commander for now."

Felina fought back the urge to do exactly what he said, reminding herself that the only reason he was still the Commander was because she was being given a chance to let him back out and maintain a level of dignity. And she couldn't let him pass up that chance.

"If I wanted this office, I'd have let Briggs fire you. I'm sorry, sir, but I can't let her ruin you." With that, she took a step back, and drew her blaster, firing directly at the Commander's head.

Feral hit the floor, deeply ingrained reflexes saving his life again. He rolled toward her, kicking upward to catch her under the chin. "Stupid girl! You're well past being able to have things both ways. This will be yours now, whether you like it or not, and shooting me won't accomplish a thing."

Felina hit the ground, but rolled to a defensive position, doing her best to ignore the blurring at the edge of her vision, praying that nobody decided to check on the sounds of a fight in the Commander's office.

"I'd rather die a traitor than see you destroyed by this, damn it. If you'd resign, we can keep the damage to a minimum - if you die, then I can catch the fallout myself. If Briggs has to remove you by force, there's nothing that can protect what's left of you! Please, don't make me do this."

Feral snorted as he got to his feet, shaking his head. "I'd thought you knew better than this Felina, and I'm sure your father did as well. You're entirely too late to save anything, and speaking with the wrong person. No one is served by having the both of us eliminated. Now get out of here. You'll have a great deal of work to do over the next couple of days, and I require a few moments to myself."

Something snapped inside Felina as she holstered her blaster and turned to leave the office.

"I'm sorry," she said as she walked out, not entirely sure why she bothered to say it. She closed the door and tried to look as normal as she could, hoping she could come up with some sort of explanation that would work before she made things any worse than they already were.

Commander Feral's secretary, a petite dark brown shekat, looked up from the phone as Felina came out. "Lieutenant Commander Feral, I heard blaster fire. Is anyone injured?"

Felina shrugged and smiled weakly.

"No. Stupid mistake on my part - safety was off. The Commander noticed, mentioned it, and I took a look to see if it was jammed. Damned thing went off, but nobody got hurt." She rubbed her jaw gingerly. "Got slugged for it, too, but can't say I didn't deserve worse. Could have killed some...body...." Felina shook her head as if clearing something that she didn't want to think about out of it, and chuckled a little.

"Guess I'm getting too old for this, huh?" She started back towards her office, hoping she could get back there without any other questions - she still had to figure out what to say if Miss Briggs called to see what happened, or at least how to ask for more time.

Jake watched eagerly as BlackFire brought the TurboKat down, VTOLing into the hanger easily to a gentle stop, putting it back right where it had started. After the canopy opened, he stayed in the cockpit as he began the post-flight checklist.

Jake wasted no time leaping up to stand next to him, relishing the conflicting hot and cold of the metal after a flight. "I take it went well." He grinned at the pilot. "Any quirks?"

Rik looked up at him, grinning broadly. "Yeah, it went great. There's a slight but noticeable pull to the right during Speed of Heat operation. According to Blackie, we broke her previous speed record." He smiled a bit loopy, clearly jazzed.

"I am so not surprised." Jake grinned, enlivened by the pure, honest enthusiasm. "The pull is something I've never figured out how to counter, at least not without compromising more important things. You'll get used to it, to where you don't even notice." He promised.

"That's what she said, but I was taught that a good test pilot reports everything that might be correctable." He smiled.

"It's also good to report, because if a known problem goes away, it's something of note as well." Jake chuckled and patted him on the shoulder. "Unless someone who ranks me counters it, I'd like you to spend the rest of the day working with Blackie. See if you can think of any improvements, or just ideas for changes. I'll check with you about lunch tomorrow?"

Rik looked over at Terry who smiled. "Don't worry Rik, unless Grandfather or Akisha tell you differently, you can."

"Thanks, Terry." He smiled appreciatively before turning back to Jake. "I mentioned our 'obstacle course', and Blackie wanted to see if it was at all challenging. Is that okay?" He asked hopefully.

"Anything you want to do, as long as you both come back able to talk." Jake grinned. "She'll be your bird, when I finish up with the mods."

"Cool." He said excitedly, as he did the checklist a bit faster, without actually being any less careful. The reality of her being his didn't really register, since he knew she was Jake's and that was what she thought too. But he got to fly, and that was all he cared about.

Jake smiled and patted the jet. "*I'm not leaving you, Blackie. But you deserve to fly, and he really likes you.*"

A soft grumble of irritation, acceptance and excitement flickered back before Jake broke contact and jumped down to Terry.

"I think it's time to have a chat with Augustus, coordinate plans and such." Jake said quietly as he came even with Terry.

"Definitely. Make sure we're all on the same page." He said as they left the hanger.

Augustus' office was spacious and a mix of old and new technologies. The furniture was old wood and leather in classic designs, with state of the art computer equipment sitting on top of it. Solid wooden bookshelves filled with books lined the walls, with the exception of a large monitor on the one wall.

"So what brings you by?" The old tom asked with a smile as they entered. "Have a seat before you tell me." He said indicating the luxurious chairs in front of his desk.

Jake nodded and took a seat, glancing at his mate over who was actually going to start this.

Terry sat down quietly. "I'll assume you know by now that the situation is a little more serious than just a run-in with Feral."

The old Kat smiled. "Yes, I suspected as much but had it confirmed when Deputy Mayor Briggs called me personally to warn me concerning a threat to Jake from one Marissa of Teveris. She wasn't sure if Jake would tell me himself, and she needed to make sure her friend was protected. What I need to know is how active a threat is she." He asked looking at Jake.

"Given what she just did, I have to assume a very active one." Jake answered quietly. "The blackmail she has on Feral dates back at least ten years, but I hadn't heard anything from her since I escaped. I don't know what changed but I ... it probably means she wants me back." He swallowed, fighting to keep in control enough to get through this.

"I'll repeat what I'm sure Terry has already said; that's not going to happen." The old tom said firmly. "I will not allow it. Sounds as though some direct action is going to be required. Though that will require prep time, so I'll take some indirect action first. I don't know the name off hand, but I'll bet they do business outside their country.

"Or at least they used to." He said with a dangerous gleam in his eye.

"This is what Black Lightning and Rolling Thunder were created for." Terry said quietly.

"Agreed, activate them and begin preparations."

"Check ... see if you can find out if anything's happened to Marissa's heir." Jake murmured uneasily. "It's the most likely reason for the sudden interest."

Augustus looked at him curiously. "Okay, but what does her heir have to do with you?"

"If the last one's dead ... she'll want another sired." Jake murmured. "It's what I'm for, to her."

A very dark look crossed Augustus' face. "Well, she's in for a very big surprise. I believe the Deputy Mayor said this person is Crown Princess, would I be correct if I assumed that she's not violating any cultural taboos by what she's done and probably intends to do to you?"

"Heir apparent." Jake nodded. "It's how she's expected to treat a male mate. That she couldn't break me before I escaped ... doesn't look very good on her."

"I wonder how bringing a war crashing in on her country is going to look on her." The old tom growled quietly, as he typed at the computer on his desk. "I know Deputy Mayor Briggs is inclined to treat the blackmail incident as an act of war."

Terry cleared his throat. "Ummm, I expect there's a lot of common folk who don't really have any say in things, who'll get hurt in open war." He said quietly. "Maybe it'd be better to get a strike team or four in and simply wipe out the leadership and upper class, they're probably the problem."

"And ... ur ... don't be too hard on the Enforcers." Jake said quietly. "Please don't punish good Kats just trying to do their job for the actions of one."

"Looks like Deputy Mayor Briggs is handling that problem. Sometimes you just have to make it clear that problems have to be taken care of. Besides, Halycon's displeasure is intended to convince Feral that his continued presence is a liability.

"I'll have to have a word with Melton BrightClaw though, his clan really needs to calm down a little." He shook his head.

Terry blinked in surprised. "They do? I never even told dad." Then he remembered his older brother. "Oh gods, what did Greg do?"

"Resigned effective immediately on the grounds that he refuses to take orders from a rapist, even an unconvinced one."

"He didn't." Terry started. "Yes he did. I knew he was taking the whole affair way too personally. Gods I hope he had enough sense to keep some of the details quiet."

"From what Syrina told me the story making the rounds is that Feral attacked your LifeMate and is using his position to escape prosecution."

Terry sighed. "Well, at least he just made it assault."

"They didn't need this kind of dissention." Jake said quietly, looking at his hands. "With SWAT down, the Enforcers will have to stand united."

"Hopefully, Ulysses Feral will see that and resign quietly." Augustus said. "I can hope that he still places more importance on the Enforcers than on his own ambitions."

"If the BrightClaws start resigning in protest, it's gonna take a fair number of others with them." Terry said quietly. "Aside from the loss in manpower, the loss of experience will be hard to recover from."

"Ms. Briggs has crafted a temporary solution and is putting those Enforcers who refuse to follow Commander Feral on administrative leave. Gives her time to work on getting Feral out, without losing Enforcers."

"She always was a smart leader." Jake smiled slightly, though it was shadowed by more than a bit of guilt. "Though there's enough here ... maybe to put a kind of SWAT back up. Not as good, but it might be enough."

Augustus smiled. "Don't worry, Jake. When I found out about SWAT, I moved one of my elite combat squads in to help out. You don't need to worry about MKC."

"Jake, this isn't your fault." Terry said quietly as Jake nodded to Augustus. "I suppose I should've seen Greg's reaction coming, but I wasn't paying attention. But ultimately, there's only one Kat responsible."

"That much trouble ... just over me." Jake shook his head and sighed. "I'll be glad when I can forget your family's this powerful." He shivered slightly trying to suppress the fear building in his soul.

"Jake, it isn't just over you." Terry said quietly. "It's the principle that a commander who can do such things to maintain his own position can no longer be trusted. That's a principle this family has held for a very long time."

"Without that power, we'd just be huddling in MKC waiting for whatever predator came along next." Terry said quietly. "Whether it was Feral, Marissa or whoever. The world's a dangerous amoral place, a powerful family is the only safety you can trust."

"Just because I know that, doesn't mean it settles well." Jake half growled, then looked up at Terry apologetically. "Look, I've got nothing against your kin, I just don't like being reminded any one person has that much power. Much less that half a dozen of them are playing a game I'm a central pawn in." He sighed and reached his hand out to his mate. "Illusion or not, I liked being able to pretend I was just another Kat on the street."

"Guess I never really had that illusion." Terry said quietly, taking Jake's hand. "I always knew it made you uncomfortable, that's why I waited this long. It was easier, and with the Wraiths I could do both at once, without them intersecting."

"Perhaps strategy discussions can wait, I think there are more important things." Augustus said, as he quickly crossed the room and left, closing the door behind him.

Jake watched him leave, more than a little distressed. "I didn't mean ...."

Terry shook his head. "Don't worry, he just thinks we need to talk." He said quietly. "He told me, back when we became LifeMates, that I was making a mistake not telling you then. I just didn't like the way it made you uncomfortable. Not the first time I've tried to hide who I am."

Jake looked down, tears threatening as he stared blankly at his knees for a very long time, trying to come up with anything to explain just how horribly out of place and threatened he felt here among the rich and powerful; those that could actually say they were going to declare war and crush a country and it wasn't a joke.

"I'm sorry," was all Jake could eventually say, hurting almost more than he could stand; knowing he'd failed the most important person in his life.

"No it's not your fault." Terry said quietly, kneeling in front of Jake. "I didn't give you any time to adjust, and I knew it would make you uncomfortable. I forget how overwhelming it can seem when it's not the world you grew up with." He said nuzzling Jake gently. "If it helps any, I'm still a bit stunned at my grandfather just declaring war."

With a difficult swallow Jake nodded, though there was little conviction behind it. "I don't know what to say, Ter." He whispered miserably. "I felt more at home on the Aquarian's ship than I do with this. I would have married you even knowing, but ... this," he waved a hand around, "is everything I've hated my entire life. The rich and powerful that can just do whatever the hell that want without thought to what thousands will be hurt by it.

"I know I lied to myself these years." He sobbed and buried his face his hid hands. "I always knew there was a lot of power behind you, even before I knew just what. But you were so normal, I could usually just forget about it. I told myself you had things just because you were good at your job, even when I knew better.

"This isn't my world, Terry." He tried to look at the gray tom. "It never will be. I don't want it to be. I am just a working kat, Terry. I am." His voice drifted off softly with the denial.

Terry simply shut down. There wasn't any fight left in him. He could deal with rapist commanders, psychotic females, traitorous tabbies but Jake rejecting him on every level he couldn't handle. Everything just ceased to matter, if he couldn't have Jake in his life none of it mattered, none of it at all.

Externally, it was a puppet with the strings cut; slumped on the floor, eyes lifeless staring at the floor, with complete and utter failure the only scent. The one Kat that ever mattered to him had just told him he wasn't wanted.

"Ter?" Jake abruptly snapped into focus. "I'm sorry, Ter." He slipped to the floor and gathered his LifeMate in his arms. "I'm sorry. Don't hate me. Gods, please don't leave me for this. I'll learn." He started to panic for real. "Terry, please, I love you. Nothing'll change that."

Jake's panic triggered enough of Terry's consciousness to hear the rest. "Couldn't hate you, I love you too much." He said weakly. "Just couldn't take the thought of you leaving me." He said softly. "The agency was just me, just had the family if things went wrong.

"I tried to be normal, but I can't deny who I am." He sighed. "I don't want to have to choose between the two most important things in my life. I don't think I can."

"Family and me." Jake half asked, resting his head against his mate's. "We'll make it work, okay? Don't know how, but I love you even with all this. I would have married you even knowing all this. We can have another wedding, a real one, if you want. I'll deal with it. I'll figure out how."

"Truthfully, we're not into big weddings." Terry smiled. "Big dinners sure, but not big weddings. If I recall the story right, I think grandfather and grandmother eloped. It's really a lot more normal around here, when we're not threatened."

Jake nodded, not daring to let the turmoil just below the surface show.

"I mean think about how most parents react when their kits are threatened, that's what grandfather was doing, he just got carried away because the threat was coming from a country. We don't really have the armed forces to carry on a full-scale war."

"I'll learn how to deal with this." Jake promised fervently, his fear of loosing his LifeMate crushing everything else for a while.

"Maybe after this is all over." He said quietly. "We could get a place in Port Haven, just work up here." The gray Kat suggested trying to get things back to something like normal.

"We'll work it out." Jake nodded, holding Terry close as the intense fear passed, to leave an even more terrifying realization deep in Jake's soul. "When this mess is settled, we'll figure something out."

"Yes, we will." Terry said clinging to that unity. "You do realize how much designer/ inventors of your caliber make, don't you?" He said gently.

"No," Jake shook his head slightly. "Never bothered to check. More than I'd ever need I'm sure."

"Beginning designer with a set of hot plans and college degree can pull 150K easy, with more demonstrated ability 175K. An experienced designer/inventor with broad skills makes 250K minimum. And that doesn't include things like royalty agreements or prototype sales." Terry smiled. "That's what they're worth ... has nothing to do with connections."

"Okay," Jake could only look at him in confusion. "What does it matter?"

"Not much." Terry shrugged. "Just not exactly working Kat level, you've always been worth more than that. Especially to me." He said with a warm smile that clearly said he wasn't talking anything monetary in the last statement.

"Oh," he nodded and snuggled close, quite willing to not move for a long time.

Terry was more than willing to just snuggle for a long time, at least partially cause he was too tired to feel like walking.

Jake watched eagerly as BlackFire brought the TurboKat down, VTOLing into the hanger easily to a gentle stop, putting it back right where it had started. After the canopy opened, he stayed in the cockpit as he began the post-flight checklist.

Jake wasted no time leaping up to stand next to him, relishing the conflicting hot and cold of the metal after a flight. "I take it went well." He grinned at the pilot. "Any quirks?"

Rik looked up at him, grinning broadly. "Yeah, it went great. There's a slight but noticeable pull to the right during Speed of Heat operation. According to Blackie, we broke her previous speed record." He smiled a bit loopy, clearly jazzed.

"I am so not surprised." Jake grinned, enlivened by the pure, honest enthusiasm. "The pull is something I've never figured out how to counter, at least not without compromising more important things. You'll get used to it, to where you don't even notice." He promised.

"That's what she said, but I was taught that a good test pilot reports everything that might be correctable." He smiled.

"It's also good to report, because if a known problem goes away, it's something of note as well." Jake chuckled and patted him on the shoulder. "Unless someone who ranks me counters it, I'd like you to spend the rest of the day working with Blackie. See if you can think of any improvements, or just ideas for changes. I'll check with you about lunch tomorrow?"

Rik looked over at Terry who smiled. "Don't worry Rik, unless Grandfather or Akisha tell you differently, you can."

"Thanks, Terry." He smiled appreciatively before turning back to Jake. "I mentioned our 'obstacle course', and Blackie wanted to see if it was at all challenging. Is that okay?" He asked hopefully.

"Anything you want to do, as long as you both come back able to talk." Jake grinned. "She'll be your bird, when I finish up with the mods."

"Cool." He said excitedly, as he did the checklist a bit faster, without actually being any less careful. The reality of her being his didn't really register, since he knew she was Jake's and that was what she thought too. But he got to fly, and that was all he cared about.

Jake smiled and patted the jet. "*I'm not leaving you, Blackie. But you deserve to fly, and he really likes you.*"

A soft grumble of irritation, acceptance and excitement flickered back before Jake broke contact and jumped down to Terry.

"I think it's time to have a chat with Augustus, coordinate plans and such." Jake said quietly as he came even with Terry.

"Definitely. Make sure we're all on the same page." He said as they left the hanger.

Go to Part 1         Part 2        

Affairs of the State and Heart part 1 of 2

NC-17 for M/M
R for Violence
Het Level is None
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

213 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written February 15, 2002 by Rauhnee Ranshanka, Todd McCall, Vorex and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Haven, SWAT Kats

Primary Races: Kat

Contents: Furry. Slash (M/M). Betrayal, DarkFic, Rape (M on F), Rape Recovery

Pairings: Jake Clawson/Terry BrightClaw, Jake Clawson/Ulysses Feral, Chance Furlong/Ulysses Feral

Notes: This starts out dark, and gets darker, and very, very little is as it first appears. For the curious, Vorex brought in Chance and Feral, Todd has Terry, Rauhnee's Jake, and Jason's Felina.

Blurb: Jake has survived some brutal times he keeps to himself, things that not even Terry, his LifeMate of three years, can sooth. But it is a secret Chance and Feral share that may finally break him.

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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