Broken Souls
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M and M/F
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Terry was waiting in the Hanger when the badly battered TurboKat was lowered from the launch ramp and Razor, in little better shape than his jet, pulled himself from the back seat. He was quick to help his mate down, and into the locker room that had been partially converted to a first aid station. He helped the battered tom out of his ragged uniform, and began cleaning the wounds and checking for any that required professional treatment.

"Jake, you're going to get yourself killed if you keep this up." Terry said with far more worry than anything else in his voice. "Even you, can't be SWAT by yourself."

"I know, but until Chance gets back." He closed his eyes in exhaustion and partially slumped against his LifeMate. "SWAT has to fly. It can't be much longer, I've searched most of the planet."

"Jake, I've covered what you haven't with satellites. The possibility is quite likely that for whatever reason the implant is no longer functional." Terry said quietly, not adding that the distant possibility existed that the tabby simply was either no longer on the planet, or at least not in the present time.

"Or he's dead and it's been damaged by it." Jake shivered.

"Jake, I've got another possibility ... something I worked up in case ... well, in case SWAT was ever lost." He said, not wanting to think about that actually happening.

"Such as?"

"I used SWAT as a prototype, and created the production model. A fully funded and supported operation with the same flexibility and autonomy as SWAT. Six highly trained people who have proven their trustworthiness, and three top of the line jets. The best available, outside of what you design."

"And when we get Chance back?"

"Then we have four jets, instead of three. It would mean that the two of you wouldn't be on-call twenty-four hours a day." He said quietly.

"Sounds nice." Jake murmured as the adrenaline in his system began to wane.

"It would even give us an opportunity to take a real vacation. Or at least spend more time together." Terry said as he carefully bandaged wounds.

"That sounds really good." Jake murmured as he held abnormally still for the care.

"Well, you're not in any shape to go up again, and neither is the Turbokat from the look of her. You need to relax and sleep, and you're not going to do either here in MKC." He said with worry in voice, body language and scent. "A few days away to relax, and take a look at my project will do wonders."

"I have to fix her," Jake mumbled in a protest he really wasn't behind.

"Then we'll bring her along. She looks like she can handle one short flight. And there's somebody who can give you a hand, if you'll let him."

"Callie ..." he mumbled, then let a breath out. "Help me get dressed ... autopilot can handle the flight."

"I'll call Callie as soon as we land." He said while helping Jake get dressed, and out to the TurboKat.

"All right." Jake nodded weakly, too fatigued to even wonder why she'd accept Terry's word.

"Hay, Mirage!" Jake caught up with the lanky Cheetah pilot late in the afternoon after his shift six weeks after Chance had disappeared. "Do you have some time to talk?" He inclined his head at his office in the hanger.

"Sure, Jake." He said, following the much shorter tom into the office.

"This isn't about a problem," he said quietly as he shut the door. "But I hope to preempt one."

"Okay, what problem do you wish to preempt?" He asked in his usual calm, almost serene voice.

"One with a ranking female." Jake said as he leaned back against his paper-cluttered desk and met deep orange eyes. "I don't want to pry, but with MKC's second in command and Deputy Mayor both female, I do want to understand at least the basics of it."

The cheetah slumped into a chair, no longer serene. "How can I explain the Witches of the Desert to one who has not felt their cruel claws? To see what females become when they gain power without restraint." He said quietly, deep pain imbuing his scent, and making his voice break and drop to a whisper. "To be nothing more than a toy for their amusement and pleasure. Never again, never." He was shaking noticeably.

Jake swallowed and moved over to him. He put a hand on the Cheetah's shoulder, giving a light contact of true understanding in that pain. "Teveris?"

The Cheetah looked up in surprise. "That's the name they give the land they were cast out of." He said quietly.

"Cast out of?" Jake lost all the color under his fur and most of his strength. "There are worse than the nobles?"

"I don't know why they were cast out, only that they were." He said quietly. "I've never encountered a noble so I do not know which is worse. I do not wish the opportunity to compare, I survived them once and that was enough."

Jake shuddered as he sank to the ground next to the Cheetah's chair. "I wouldn't wish that on even Dark Kat."

The Cheetah looked at Jake much more seriously. "You've suffered from them as well." He said sympathetically, putting his large, slender hand on Jake's shoulder.

The lean tom could only nod as he pulled himself back together.

After several deep breaths he managed to speak. "I was a prize stud in Teveris' Palace, Crown Princess Marissa's personal pet."

"I was the prize toy of Lady Cartesa and her court. A challenge to see which of them would break me. Among other games they played." He shuddered.

"And neither succeeded, at least completely." Jake nodded, as much to himself as Mirage. "But the scars ... do either Callie or Felina remind you of her?"

"I don't know, I've only seen them." He said quietly. "Even Cartesa looked harmless enough."

"Just wondering ... you react badly enough to Lt. Cmdr. Syndri." Jake skirted the fractionally safer topic. "Triggers are different, for each of us."

"Syndri is demanding and authoritarian." Mirage said quietly. "She thinks we should obey her, though we're not under her command."

"Ah," Jake nodded. "Neither Felina or Callie are like that. At least outside of the 'watch out' category of orders." He managed a slight chuckle.

"You trust them, then?" He asked completely serious.

"With my life," Jake answered easily. "But not in bed. Not yet, at least."

The Cheetah nodded. "Then I will do my best to do the same." He said quietly, then gave Jake a curious look. "Your mate is willing to share? Odd, from his interaction with the Tiger I would not have thought that."

"Share?" Jake looked up curiously, then shrugged. "I haven't asked. I've known Felina and Callie longer than Terry and I have been mates." He considered. "I expect he'd be okay, if I found anyone I really want to be with. Why, and what Tiger?"

"Oh, just the 'not yet' statement, and it was just surprising." The Cheetah said calmly. "Oh, I presumed you'd met Azra at some point. He's courted Terry, since Terry was with the accountant. He just hasn't gotten anywhere."

"Oh, him." Jake chuckled. "I tend to forget about him, since Terry's been pretty clear about his lack of interest. The 'not yet' was more about the positive thinking Terry managed to grind into my head. Just because I can't bring myself to bed a female now, doesn't mean it'll always be that way. And I do kind of like both of them."

"He's about due for another visit. Though this is the first time the two of you have ever been here at the same time." The Cheetah said quietly.

"Should be interesting." Jake commented absently. "That was slightly more traumatic than I expected this conversation to be." He sighed as he stood on reasonably steady legs. "I am sorry for that. Please say and rest here until you feel steady enough to face the world again, Mirage."

"You simply did what you thought best, you need not apologize for it." The Cheetah said as he slowly regained his focus. "I never expected to encounter another who had survived the same torment."

"Neither did I." Jake agreed. "At least none with their mind and will intact."

"One day the evil that Teveris unleashes on the world will return to it tenfold." The Cheetah said as he stood. "And I think that day is closer than any imagine."

Jake shivered. "I know. Terry's just waiting for a good excuse to take them out." He shook his head. "It won't take them long to give him one that'll stand up to the international community."

"The protector spirit is strong in him, not surprising considering his heritage." Mirage nodded. "It must chafe leaving an obvious threat not dealt with."

"More than even he cares to admit." Jake shook his head. "There are days that leaving MKC to you guys gets to me too. Ten years is a long time to walk away from."

"If you could find a pilot you could work with, you could join us on those days." Mirage suggested gently.

Jake sighed sadly with a far-away look in his eyes as he hugged himself. "There are several I can fly with. But fly a TurboKat in combat? That's asking more than it's worth."

"That is something only you can decide." The Cheetah said quietly. "But never deny the truth of your spirit, you are as much a warrior as any of us." He stated simply.

"Even warriors sometimes need to leave the battle to others." Jake quoted something he only half-believed in. "Pilot's aside, I'm still more use to the team back here." He cracked a small smile. "And it keeps Terry from having a heart attack every couple days over the risks I take."

"As long as you can find satisfaction in it, that is what is important." Mirage said calmly.

Jake smiled slightly, a thoughtful look crossing his face. "It's enough, for now." He patted Mirage on the shoulder. "If you'll excuse me, I have a mate to find." He chuckled with a smirk as he headed for the door.

Mirage nodded. "And I am supposed to meet Patrik so he can give me pointers on 'listening to my jet.'" He chuckled. "It's a fascinating idea, but it would certainly explain much."

"Yes, he's the finest example of what a pilot should be as I've met." Jake commented as he opened the door. "Anyone who can win the TurboKat's affections in a single flight and hold them this long is something special."

"One of your mate's earliest successes in recruiting." Mirage commented as they left the office. "He was the only one to see past the apparent age, to the talent that was there."

"Terry's good at that." Jake smiled affectionately. "Among other things."

"No doubt." The Cheetah said evenly, with a mischievous wink as he headed across the hanger.

"Jake, you gotta minute?" Valkyrie's soft voice asked just loud enough to get Jake's attention from his current project six months into the new SWAT Squadron's existence. There was an apology for disturbing him in the subtleties of her voice.

"Of course." He set the welding torch down after turning it off to give her his full attention as he always did.

"Please tell me if I'm totally off-base here." She said hesitantly. "But I think from the way you watch me that you're interested in me, romantically." She said, sounding very uncertain and hesitant.

Jake took a deep breath and nodded. "You're not off base at all."

She nodded. "Assuming I'm interested, is your relationship open enough to allow anything to come of it?" She asked nervously.

"Yes," Jake nodded slightly.

"Good." She relaxed a little. "So's mine." She said quietly.

"So ... is this a request for me to back off further, or ..." He swallowed nervously. "Or is this interest?"

"Interest." She said quietly. "But I just needed to know the other people we're both involved with are okay with it. Not all mates can handle the idea of sharing."'

He nodded quietly, a flicker of pain darting up from long buried memories of his tabby lover, and the troubles they'd had. Though quickly buried again, it robbed him of what little idea he had of what to say to her.

"*I'm sorry, didn't mean to wake old pain.*" She thought quietly across the distance between them, in a voice that was very apologetic.

That startled the hell out of him, and it showed in every line of his lean frame.

"There is little that doesn't remind me of old pain." Jake shook his head slightly. "Like you, I've learned to live past it as best I can."

"Better than I have, I think." She said quietly as he drew what courage he had and walked up to her to brush a hand along her cheek.

"*This isn't something to judge, Val.*" He whispered silently, terrified even as he let what he felt for her begin to color the thoughts. "*We survive, everything else is a bonus.*"

The shekat nodded. "*What frightens you so?*" She asked gently.

It took a long moment for Jake to organize his thoughts enough to even try to answer that, and longer to figure out how to explain anything without traumatizing her.

"*I was hurt very badly by the last female I let even this close.*" He did his best to shield her from the worst of what that statement brought up for him.

"*Oh, like Mirage. I understand.*" She said understandingly. "*I'm honored that you're letting me close.*" She thought with warm appreciation, and some confusion as to why.

"*I trust you, like I trust Terry.*" He explained to the unasked question as he drew a little closer to her with more than a trace of arousal. "*I've missed female company more than I've dared admit.*"

"*I'm flattered.*" She thought quietly, with an unspoken understanding of how valuable trust was. She gently reached a hand out to brush his cheek, and was greeted by a hesitant, soft kiss to her fingers he shifted his head to meet them.

A tiny voice, quickly silenced, in the back of his mind prompted about whether she was truly interested, or just responding to her superior officer and hero the way he couldn't help but respond to her. Responding as he'd learned to respond, to preserve his life all those years ago.

It was enough that he carefully withdrew from the intimate mental contact. "I'm sorry. I can't help the doubt, now that I'm the one with rank."

"Jake, this is between you and me. Two people, not the uniforms we wear." She said gently. "I am interested in you." She said firmly. "Rank doesn't mean as much to me, as it does to the others. It never has."

"Thank you," he whispered before slowly leaning forward to kiss her, while giving her plenty of opportunity to avoid it if she cared to.

The reddish shekat didn't avoid it, she welcomed it, though she let him choose the intensity. But in restraining herself from simply claiming the passion she felt, she found that he gradually intensified the contact, responding instinctively to her desire, as well as his own.

As much as Val enjoyed their contact, she carefully avoided sending any signals as to what she wanted. She'd handled one wounded male badly; she wasn't going to make the same mistakes this time. The one clear thing in her scent was that she liked Jake a great deal, and it was more than just physical attraction.

He was rumbling deep in his chest and breathing faster when they finally parted mouths, though their bodies were much closer than when they'd started. He hesitantly lowered his muzzle to nuzzle her neck, as his hands grew a little bolder in their perusal of her sides.

She purred gently as he nuzzled her, and gently moved her hands around to sensually caress his back as his arousal made itself physically clear against her flat belly.

There was a moment frozen in internal conflict before Jake slowly moved his hands under her pull over shirt, and up her back.

She gently worked his shirt free of his pants, and her hands up under it; running them through the soft cinnamon fur, drawing a pleasured, if nervous, purr into his rumbling.

Jake was breathing hard as his fingers touched the edge of her bra. With a little more certainty he brought his hands around to slowly feel her small, firm breasts through the silky cloth.

Val rumbled approvingly, and nuzzled Jake's neck while her hands worked down to caress his ass through the material of his jeans.

"What do you want?" Jake whispered against her neck in his uncertainty.

She looked at him curiously. "Have you ever been with a shekat, Jake? Not counting the one that hurt you?" She asked, with a gentle kiss suspecting she knew the answer.

"*Not willingly ... not this part.*" He touched minds again, not able to make his voice work. "*She ... wanted sex, not love.*" He murmured, his mind carrying more than a single identity with the statement.

"*I guess I'll have to give pointers then.*" She said quietly. "*But don't feel you have to do anything I say, if something bothers you or makes you uncomfortable please tell me.*" She said sincerely. "*This is supposed to be good for both of us.*" She thought trying to emphasize that his pleasure was as important as hers.

"*I remember,*" he murmured as he shifted to kiss her gently. "*Terry taught me that much. I won't do what I don't want to.*" He promised softly.

"*That's a special one you've got.*" She said quietly to his tender smile. "*Just let your hands explore, get used to the differences.*" She suggested, as she undid his pants, and let them drop to the floor.

With a slight nod he worked her shirt over her head, then undid her jeans to let them slide down, but left her underwear on. She smiled, and worked on unbuttoning his shirt before rubbing her body against his, while she nuzzled his neck as it fell off his arms.

For all the uncertainty and restrained fear dancing in his scent and across his nerves, it seemed to bring things into a realm he was more familiar with as his touch grew more steady, and sure of what he was doing.

"*So soft.*" He murmured as his hands swept down her back and along the curve of her ass to either side of her flowing brick red tail. "*Even muscled, you're so much softer than him.*" Jake commented absently as he nuzzled one bra cup to the side while his tail trailed between her legs.

Val purred warmly, enjoying his touch as she let her hands explore his muscled back and sides, before working a hand between them to gently fondle his balls. She carefully suppressed the slight discomfort at the comparison as he groaned into her fur.

It wasn't long before the tip of his tail was wet with her fluids soaking through her underwear, and she felt him fumble with her bra snap.

"Like this." She whispered gently, guiding his hand to unfasten it, letting it slide to the flood to one side as he rumbled and gave each nipple a light nip and lick before sliding to his knee in front of her.

With his breath hot and fast Jake nuzzled her belly as his hands slowly caressed down her sides to hook his thumbs under the elastic of her underwear. As he traced the curve of her ass with his fingers and that of her hips and abs with his thumbs, he gradually revealed the last of her fur to his nose and curious tongue.

She purred her approval at his attentions, while her hands sensually massaged the soft fur of his ears. She was breathing hard, her flesh pulsing under his stroking fingers as Jake stood.

"Care to take this to the bed?" He nodded to a pile of fluffy blankets, pillows and furs that occupied the back corner of the room.

Breathing hard, she nodded and lay back on soft pile looking up at him affectionately, her knees raised and spread open to reveal herself to him.

Behind the curious look as he sank to the bed over her was both the arousal burning in his body, and serious consideration about just what he could take.

She leaned up to kiss him gently, as one hand reached to encouragingly fondle his balls and hard cock, earning a low moan as he closed his eyes.

"Over." Jake's voice was low and a little husky as he shifted back to give her a little more room.

Val murred, and rolled over to hands and knees, flipping her tail at him playfully as she got it out of the way.

She felt his fingers slide over her slick privates a few times, then a single finger pressed inside her as his tongue took in the furless pucker just below her tail. She murred a little in surprise, before purring encouragement as he set up something of a rhythm.

Then the fingers disappeared as his warmth and weight moved up her back. He wrapped one arm across her chest to grab the opposite shoulder as the other spread her labia, using his palm to stroke her fully extended and engorged clit as he pressed his cock inside her slick opening.

Even before he'd buried himself fully, his jaws had clamped down on her scruff and pulled back a little harder than necessary.

Val yipped a little involuntarily. "Easy, lover." She said gently, and quietly.

Jake growled, but relaxed his jaws as the hand that has been between her legs moved forward to hug her tightly across the hips. Even without the feedback she was feeling across his nervous system, it was obvious he wasn't going to last long. But the overlay from his mind and body gave her an understanding of the battle in his soul and the desperate need for control he couldn't believe behind the gradual increase in pressure from his jaws and claws.

As the pain increased Val's sense of it diminished, as she learned to ignore pain when it was gradual. Sharp pain was difficult, but slow gradual pain she could do. The side effect was that her sense of him inside her also diminished. She was still aroused though, and purred her arousal to encourage him, since she could feel that he wasn't aware of it.

Even as his internal terror from suppressed memories reached a sharp peak, memories of the burning pain that made this permissible supplied enough relief for physics to take over. With a roar that was nearly as much scream he thrust into her blindly, desperately willing this to be over with as his body passed mostly from his control.

She concentrated on feeding back as much approval and pleasure as she could, trying to counteract the bad memories and the ones that required pain. Wordlessly she tried to convey that pleasure alone was sufficient as he all but collapsed on top of her, letting his jaws go loose. She slowly rolled to slide him off onto the bed, and then turned to put her arms around him gently as he shuddered. Her sense of touch was still foggy as she held him.

That lasted less than a heartbeat before she felt, and foresaw, the uncoordinated strike that seemed more about escape than true attack as he panicked in nearly blind fear.

Only the uncoordinated nature of the attack kept her diminished sense of contact from being disastrous. Dodging it, she focused to bridge the space between them. "*Jake, you're in no danger.*" She projected with warm reassurance. "*No one's going to hurt you.*" She thought breathing heavy, the effort of projecting under stressful circumstances draining much of her strength.

He stilled, panting, once physical contact was broken. Gradually he coaxed his body and mind to calm down.

"Sorry," Jake managed to mumble, his eyes still closed as he continued to breathe hard. "Felt too much ... like being held."

"You mean restrained." She said understandingly, as she tried to get her nerves back in order. "I understand, I wouldn't let anyone hold me for a long time." She said, still breathing very hard.

He nodded against the now-wet fur of his napping bed as his breathing gradually slowed and held a hand out to her across the bed.

She reached out to take his hand, her grip clumsy and uncertain as he opened his eyes a bit.

"Terry's coming, if you want to cover up," he murmured, relaxing and moving a little closer to her. "Thank you, for this."

She smiled, not really moving because she didn't want him to see the clumsiness. "You're welcome. Why would Terry be coming?" He had a meeting that should've lasted a hour or two."

"I think he felt me freak." Jake said softly, then looked at her seriously. "I hope you'll let me make it a little better." He murmured, one finger picking a bit of blood from her fur from where he'd driven his claws into her shoulder. "I didn't mean to draw blood."

"You drew blood? I didn't notice." She said quietly. "He can feel when you freak?" She asked curiously, since she'd thought it was kind of unique that Avon could pick up her distress.

"The more extreme the mood or response, the more likely Terry is to notice." He nodded and scooted closer, slowly growing bolder in his caresses as he stretched forward for a kiss. "He knows when I'm feeling very good too."

"Bet he's part of a lot of those though." She smiled, and accepted the kiss though her clumsiness was still evident, as she switched from little response to overeager and back.

"He is," he smiled at her, brushing a bit of hair from her eyes. "Are you okay?"

 "I'm not sure, it's like my sense of touch is numb." She said quietly. "I think it's happened before, but it's been a long time."

There was a quiet knock on the door.

"I know the feeling." Jake shivered. "That's Terry, if you don't mind?"

"It's alright." She said quietly, pulling a comforter around her. "You said he's all right with this."

"Come in." Jake called just loud enough for his LifeMate to hear as he relaxed and sat up. He was gently licking her shoulder wound clean as the door opened.

Terry walked in, still breathing heavy from the run from the other end of the compound. "Are you alright Jake?" He asked, worry still heavy in his scent.

"Whoa," Jake looked up in a bit of alarm as he stood and crossed the room quickly to embrace his mate. "Yes love, I'm fine." He nuzzled Terry gently. "It was my reaction to being inside Val."

"Any injuries on either side?" He asked, as he held Jake close. "That was a pretty severe reaction." He said leaving the 'what' Jake was reacting to unspoken.

"I drew some blood." Jake admitted quietly. "And it's a lot less sever than it used to be."

"That's a good thing." He nodded. "Fortunately, I brought a first aid kit."

Jake nodded and moved back over to Val. "He's better at this than I am, but if you'd rather he leave, I'm not incompetent."

Val smiled. "Jake, if I can't trust the Commander, I'm in the wrong unit." She said nuzzling him gently. "Besides, he was nice enough to share."

Terry chuckled as he gently cleaned her wounds. "Like I've ever been able to deny him something he wants."

"As if that wasn't mutual." Jake smirked and kissed Terry's neck. "Though this does give me some ideas."

Both Val and Terry turned and gave him curious looks.

"Hay, you can't blame a guy for wishful thinking." Jake ducked his head a bit.

Terry chuckled. "Well, we'd have to make it a foursome to be fair to Avon."

Val recognized the teasing and smirked. "Or we could wait till your Tiger friend visits and make it five."

"I'm not sure about them." Jake said, quietly serious.

"Just kidding, love." Terry said, quietly nuzzling the lean tom, which Jake turned into a rather intense kiss.

"*I wasn't.*" He whispered silently. "*To be between you ...*"

"*I'll think about it.*" He said quietly. "*Threesomes are definitely a lot of talk on my part, and I haven't been with a shekat in a long time.*"

Jake nodded and let it lie at that. "Feeling better?" He turned his attention to Val.

Val nodded. "It's starting to fade, I should be okay in another ten minutes, I think."

Terry looked at her. "Is there a problem?" He asked with quiet concern.

"My nerves damped themselves, they're coming back though."

"Okay, but have Medical check you over before shift. If there's any residual impairment we should find out as soon as possible."

"Yes, Sir."

"Seeing as everyone is fine, I'll leave you two alone." He said with a smile. "See you at dinner, love." He said kissing Jake gently before leaving the workshop.

Jake waited for the door to close, then leaned forward to kiss her softly. "Would you like to be groomed, or to come, first?"

"I think grooming sounds better." She smiled, as they parted. "The diminished feeling makes sex kind of uninteresting."

"Then we'll get you all pretty and brushed out, just to ruffle your fur." He traced a playful hand up her belly. "I'd like to be with you, without the blood getting involved."

"I like being with you. And without blood is definitely better." She smiled. "Besides we wouldn't want to make Terry run all the way back." She smirked.

"I'm going to have to make it up to him tonight." Jake chuckled and shook his head as he stood and pulled out a small leather package from between the wall and pile of sleeping softness.

"He doesn't mind." She said nuzzling him gently. "It's amazing how much he reminded me of Avon just then." She said quietly.

"I've noticed." Jake leaned into the contact and slowly slid his arms around her to nuzzle back. "Holding me now is okay." He whispered into her fur. "You remind me a lot of myself. The pain's a little different, but you're like looking at myself, with a little different luck."

She put her arms around him gladly as he relaxed into the contact. "Guess we were both lucky to find them." She said quietly. "And I see what you mean, we both were hurt by others and we're still trying to overcome that."

"*And maybe we can help each other heal scars our mates can't.*" He murmured with an affectionate nuzzle. "*I don't know what it is, but you do something to me ... I like.*"

She gently brushed his hair back, as she floated along on the mingled thoughts, and then she jumped a little. "*You'd really consider having kits with me?*" She thought, more than a little surprised.

"*I ... sorry ... I didn't mean.*" He swallowed as it dawned on him she wasn't angry. "Yes, if it was something you wanted, and Avon didn't mind.*"

"*What would Terry think about it?*" She said deliberately going back to the more intimate contact. "*I know the two of you have one son already.*"

"*We've discussed it a few times.*" He nodded, his hands running along her sides. "*He likes the idea. More if it could be his and mine by blood, but that's kind of tough.*"

"*That's good. Though I'm not sure if I can.*" She said quietly, hating to disappoint him.

"*Then you don't.*" Jake murmured softly, trying to reassure her. "*It was a thought, Val. I'd enjoy kittens with you, but it's hardly what matters.*"

She sighed, and leaned against him. "*It does matter, to me. I don't know if I can, and I'm terrified to ask. As long as I don't ask, there's that small hope.*"

"*Have you tried, with a tom you know is fertile?*" He wrapped his arms around her and tried to be comforting.

"*For that to even help I'd have to know when the right time was.*" She said despondently.

Jake held her for several moments, utterly dumbfounded. "*You ... don't have a heat cycle?*"

"*Not in the eleven years, I can really remember.*" She said very quietly.

"*Do you want kits?*"

She nodded quietly. "*I do, but I don't want to ground Avon.*" She said softly.

"*Does he?*" Jake asked very softly.

"*Yeah, even though neither of us is exactly sure what FoxKats will look like. We talked about it when we realized that being intimate risked kittens every time.*"

"*Even if you're infertile, you've probably got much better odds of having kits than Terry and I do.*" He said, adding what he understood of the cutting edge of reproductive technology.

She sighed. "*Depends on why, and that's what I'm afraid to ask. Doctors scare me, always have.*"

"*I know the feeling.*" He shuddered in soul-deep fear he only half understood the source of. "*But it is possible. If two toms can have kits, so can you.*"

She hugged him comfortingly. "*Where there's a will, there's a way, huh?*" She smiled gently.

"*Something like that.*" Jake hugged her back. "*If we can find such accepting, wonderful, perfect mates for us, anything can be done.*"

"*Probably.*" She said quietly, though in the back of her mind she seemed to be debating saying something, and from the brief image Jake could catch, it seemed to involve Terry.

"*I won't tell him, if you don't want me to.*" He offered softly.

"*I'd never suggest you keep things from him.*" She said, a bit startled that he'd offered that. "*It's just I've had a 'crush' on him for about a decade, give or take.*" She said, blushing under her dark red fur.

"*Not a hard thing to believe.*" Jake murred, his own memories drifting by of the time between when he realized he wanted Terry, and when he actually managed that first kiss to offer it. "*You'd rather like to be with him, then?*"

"*If its what he wants, yes.*" She purred. "*He's not very comfortable with shekats, romantically though.*"

"*Is that from asking, or just watching?*" Jake prompted, more than a little curious.

"*Asked once, I doubt he remembers.*" She said quietly. "*Observation mostly. He takes flirting from toms much more in stride.*"

"*Not something I ever noticed.*" He stopped, then chuckled. "*But it's not my strong suit either. I missed his interest in me for years.*"

She kissed him gently. "*You never actually had to work to get him. He was always yours.*" She said with strange certainty. "*Kind of like me and Avon.*"

"*Yes,*" Jake smiled slightly. "*How can you do the think-talk across space?*"

"*I don't know.*" She said quietly. "*I've always been able to, once they 'taught' me that I could.*" She thought, though the concept of 'taught' contained images more appropriate to training an animal.

"*I think we may have had a 'teacher' or two in common.*" He couldn't help the growl, though his memories were more medical, and mixed with his time in Teveris.

"*Yes, I believe her name is Pain.*" She said quietly, though quite serious, as she nuzzled Jake affectionately.

"*Do you know where you're from?*" He asked very gently as something nudged at the back of his mind.

"*Not really.*" She said quietly. "*More than about eleven years ago, my memories get real foggy. North and east though, I think.*"

"*I guess it doesn't matter much.*" He shrugged and nuzzled her. "*There are other ways to find out.*"

"*I've never considered it that important. The folks who took me in have been the greatest.*" She said warmly.

"*It can be, when they're still hunting you.*" He shivered at two distinct set of threats rumbled in the back of his mind. One he hated, and one he feared above all else.

"*That's why I stay with Halycon.*" She said quietly. "*I've always felt safe here. I know what they'll do to protect those they care about, and Terry cares about the team.*"

"*Very true.*" Jake smiled gently. "*But that's no longer an option. Knowing who the enemy is is a good thing.*"

"*I guess, but I don't really know and I'm not even sure they're still alive.*" She thought quietly. "*We're still part of Halycon family, we're just on a new assignment.*"

"*A new assignment that will take you far from their protection at times.*" He shuddered as too many memories of just how far away he'd been flashed by.

"*One day they'll get the matter transmitter working, and we'll never be so far away.*" She said with a smile. "*We'll still have the team.*" She said, as she stubbornly tried to hold on to the feeling of safety.

"*Yes, and much more.*" He purred soothingly as he filed it away for future reference. "*Groom, or snuggle?*"

"*Snuggle.*" She said putting her head on his shoulder. "*It feels almost as good as snuggling with Avon.*" She said softly.

"*Replace Avon with Terry, and it's mutual.*" Jake nuzzled her and gently shifted so they were lying down and pulled a comforter over them with one hand. "*It feels good to hold you.*"

"*We just need to not fall asleep, as tempting as that is.*" She said, giving him a playful lick on the nose. "*We both have dinner dates.*" She smiled.

"*Which are a few hours off yet.*" He murred mentally. "*I'll wake up, internal clock's set just in case.*"

"*Okay.*" She accepted, relaxing. "*I just don't want to disappoint either of them, not after they've been so nice about sharing.*"

"*We won't.*" He murred, relaxing as much as he ever did, then a little more as her presence soothed him a bit more. "*Promise.*"

"*I believe you.*" She said, and it was clear that wasn't something she did with everyone, as she relaxed snuggled up against him.

"*Val?*" Jake initiated a light mental contact some time later as his hands gently played over her body.

*Yes, Jake?*" She replied as she began to purr softly.

"*Will you ... do something very difficult ... for me?*" He asked hesitantly.

"*Depends if I can, and what it is.*" She thought honestly, clearly wanting to help, but not willing to commit blindly.

He took a beep breath before he relaxed again. "*I'd like you to mount me.*" He said a little awkwardly, adding an image of them face to face, with Val on top and him inside her, to clarify. "*I want to know ... I know I can take it, I want that back. You ... you're good enough to stop me before I hurt you, without hurting me, if I panic.*"

"*I'm willing.*" She whispered nuzzling him gently. She agreed that could stop him, but there was a small nagging doubt as to whether she would. "*She had no right to take that from you.*" Val thought supportively. "*Now?*" She asked wondering if he felt up to it so soon, but quite willing.

"*Would you be willing to have Terry here too?*" He asked hesitantly. "*He does amazing things to my ability to calm down, and get past the old pain. Not a true threesome, not yet, unless you both want.*" He sort of rambled, knowing what he'd really like, but knowing that was pushing things very hard.

"*I'm certainly willing.*" She said, letting a few images from her favorite fantasies flow past quickly, drawing a sharp, excited breath from the cinnamon tom next to her.

Jake nodded and leaned forward to kiss her on the neck before squirming out of bed to pick up the office phone and dialed the main switchboard.

"Main switchboard, how may I direct your call?" A very professional female voice answered.

"Yes, I'm trying to get a hold of Terry. This is Jake." He said levelly.

"Connecting you through to his portable comm unit." She said.

"Hi, Jake. What's up?" Terry asked cheerfully, after a brief pause.

"When you have some spare time, would you come by my office in the hanger?" He murred softly. "If you don't mind helping me with handle something with Val."

"I'll be over shortly, I'm not actually in the middle of anything right now. And you know I never mind helping you." Terry said affectionately.

"Good, just no need to rush it." Jake chuckled softly. "I'll see you in a bit."

"No rush. See you then." He said as he hung up the line.

Jake took another breath before hanging up and turned to Val. "Well, we have a little while to snuggle." He offered with a smile.

"Thank you for being willing to share him with me, even just this once." She said with a grateful smile, and she laid her head on his shoulder.

"Ah, Val." Jake murred and pulled her into an embrace. "I will share him with you any time you both want to." He nuzzled her gently. "You've already given me an incredible gift, one I hope I can return."

Val purred quietly, as she snuggled in close to him. "Couldn't let a few bad females spoil your appreciation of the rest of us." She said both serious and gently humorous.

"And I appreciate that," he purred a little lustfully and pulled her close to slide one hand down her firm, round ass to tease between her legs with his fingertips.

"I can tell." She purred back, walking her fingers teasingly up the inside of his thigh.

"And no blood this time." He sighed in pleasure, his body already responding to her.

"That's always a plus." She smiled, and purred lustily as he nuzzled her.

"69 till he gets here?" Jake offered with a rumble of pleasure.

"Sounds like fun." She rumbled excitedly, as she squirmed around, to gently lick the Kat's balls as he groaned in response.

There was a gentle knock at the office door, drawing the lean tom's head out from between Val's spread legs.

"Mmm, I better go let him in." He chuckled.

"Yeah, otherwise we'll just have to carry on like this." She grinned, as she took her mouth off Jake's hard cock to speak.

He just chuckled and stood up to welcome his mate in, though he took some care not to make himself too visible to the outside.

"Hi handsome." Jake purred. "Nice timing."

Terry smiled, as he stepped in and hugged Jake as the door swung shut. "So what did you need my help with? You seem to have things in hand, metaphorically speaking." He smirked just before Jake claimed a heated, hungry kiss.

"I want to reclaim what she took from me," he answered softly. "It'd help if you're there. I wouldn't mind a true threesome, either." He added so softly only Terry could hear.

"Did you ask Val about this threesome?" Terry asked gently.

"It's her fantasy," he murmured. "She's had a crush on you for a long time, and I would like to see you two together." He breathed hotly, unable to even try to hide just how appealing the idea was.

"You'd really like this threesome wouldn't you?" Terry asked softly, in a slightly teasing voice.

"This threesome, yes." He nodded and pressed close to his mate. "If it's not something you want, you can still help, just keeping me a little distracted."

"I'm not objecting, I just want to be sure." Terry said quietly. "It's just been a long time since I've been with a shekat."

"I don't think it's possible to disappoint." Jake assured him. "She's still happy playing with me, after all."

"Okay, you can have your threesome." Terry smiled, nuzzling the tom affectionately. "It's not like you don't have good taste in shekats."

"She is something special." He murred with another passionate kiss. "But you are wearing far too many clothes."

"I think I've heard that complaint before." Terry snickered, as he slowly undressed with Jake's helping, and not so helpful, hands. "You know, I think she asked me out once, but her timing was lousy."

"She did." Jake ran his hands down the gray furred, tightly muscled chest and abs from behind, only to use his hands and tail to cover his mate's most private parts.

"Is this a toms only party or can I play too?" Val whispered softly from just behind Jake.

The lean tom startled slightly, then grinned at her. "Please do."

Val slipped around in front of Terry, and nuzzled Jake's hands out of the way so she could lick at Terry's balls and hardening cock, causing the tom to shudder a little.

Jake grinned wickedly and dropped to his knees, entwining his fingers with Val's on Terry's hips before nosing the gray tom's tail out of the way to trace the edge of his tongue around the furless pucker there.

Terry moaned a little and then shuddered again, as Val reached a hand up to play with one exposed nipple. She teased his cock to full hardness with her tongue, as Jake grew increasingly bolder in his attention to his mate's ass, eventually pressing his folded tongue inside.

Terry shuddered in pleasure at the penetration, while Val put her arms around the gray Kat's neck to pull herself up enough to slip his hard cock inside her as Jake stood.

"Oh, gods." The cinnamon tom rumbled hotly as his eyes and hands took in the pair. Though Val and Terry were oblivious as they locked in a passionate kiss, while Terry lifted and lowered the shekat on his cock fucking her standing with increasing speed as both their breathing became heavy.

With a deep rumble Jake stepped back to lean against his desk and slowly stroked himself, more turned on than he'd imagined by the sight before him.

Terry shuddered, trembled, and then roared as he came, spurting bursts of seed inside the passionate shekat as she rode him. As the last his orgasm passed, he leaned against the desk next to Jake for support. "Val, that was incredible." He said breathlessly as she slipped off of him.

"Better than any fantasy." She purred lustily, rubbing one finger between her legs before lifting it to her lips to taste the combined fluids. She then looked at Jake lustily, as she walked up to him and put her hand on his hard cock. "I think you wanted something." She purred, with a lustful look on her face.

"Nothing so energetic," he chuckled in a mixture of lust and unease before leaning forward to kiss her for all he was worth and guide them to the makeshift bed.

"Something like this?" She purred as she gently pushed Jake on to his back, with her above him, on hand gently stroking him to keep him hard.

A rush of fearful tension flashed threw his body, but was quickly suppressed with a nod and look at Terry, who nodded with a pleased grin.

Val slowly lowered herself on to Jake's hard cock, engulfing him in her wet warmth. She leaned forward to claim a passionate kiss from him, even as his body and mind froze. Except for his hips, which thrust up in a steady rhythm as he whimpered.

As Val moved her hips in a steady, passionate rhythm, she broke the kiss to gently lick him on the nose, hoping a little playfulness would make things easier for him.

Terry came over and sat just at the edge of the bed out of the way, and put a gentle hand on Jake's shoulder. Concentrating hard through the contact he sent gentle reassurance. "*It's okay, Jake. Let yourself enjoy this.*"

"*Yes.*" He responded, though the turmoil in his mind belied any real acceptance as he clamped one hand around Terry's arm and focused most of his attention to the tom nearby than the female riding him.

Terry gently nuzzled Jake comfortingly, while Val kissed the tom lightly as she continued riding him. Her breathing became heavy with effort and arousal as Jake whimpered with a mixture of rising pleasure and uncertainty.

With a deep shudder hr growled and grabbed her shoulder. "Over." The word came even as he started to roll her to her back.

Val rolled over obediently and lay on her back looking up at him lustfully as he pinned both wrists next to her head before he began to thrust hard, near his peak.

Val thrust her hips up in rhythmic response, simply responding as conscious thought shut down into the pleasure drenched rutting.

With a low growl Jake's lost his battle with his body and dropped his muzzle down to close his jaws around Val's throat as he came.

The reddish shekat's body trembled and arched as she came, and then lay quietly under him as they both sought to regain their breath and he released her as he realized what he was doing.

With a last shudder and deep breath he shifted off her, towards his LifeMate, and collapsed.

Terry quietly slipped in between the two of them. He pulled Jake close, while checking Val's condition. He relaxed when it seemed she was simply unconscious. After gently pulling a blanket over her, he shifted to nuzzle Jake gently, as he snuggled close.

"*Did I hurt her again?*" He asked very quietly.

"*I don't think so. But it seems like she's got some ingrained responses to certain behaviors in sex situations. Basically, she passed out mentally but her body stuck around for the orgasm.*"

Jake mentally muttered a few incomprehensible things. "*We have way too much in common.*" He shook his head as pressed closer. "*What have you found on her before you got her?*"

"*Not much, really. She wandered out of the forest into one of our remote testing facilities. She has no real accessible memory of her life before that day, though the experiences have, as you noticed, left serious marks.*" He thought quietly. "*Almost everything about her suggests that she was raised, probably from birth to be some sort of super-soldier. And that it was a very brutal training process, and a very competitive environment. We're still looking, but we really don't have much to go on.*"

Jake closed his eyes. "*When you do, I expect you'll find my records too.*"

"*You think so?*" Terry asked surprised.

The cinnamon tom could only nod weakly. "*She's got a lot of the same marks I do. And ... it's just a feeling. She's kin.*"

"*Feelings count for a lot.*" Terry nodded. "*If you don't mind, I could probably speed up finding things out by running the investigation on your background as well. You're a lot better documented than she is.*"

There was a momentary hesitation before Jake nodded. "*Be careful. Feds can be nasty about black projects.*"

Terry chuckled. "*Don't worry, I've got people who specialize in that sort of target. Besides, they're MKC Feds at worst and we're not in MKC. Grandfather's people can handle them.*"

"*Not MKC,*" Jake mumbled. "*We moved there later.*"

"*Where then?*" Terry asked quietly.

"*North of there, How far I'm not sure.*" He murmured. "*Gave me a drug to block the memories. It only partly worked.*"

"*I'll pass it along to Intel specialists. Given the level of corruption and criminal behavior in Saydan Bay I'd be inclined to suspect them. But I've got nothing to prove that, yet.*" He thought, beginning to plan quietly as Jake pressed against him in a mixture of fear and hatred of he was remembering.

"*Nothing to fear, love.*" Terry said quietly. "*They can't hurt you any longer.*" He said with certainty.

"*They've done enough already.*" He shuddered as he finished stamping the memories down. "*They still exist; they're still a danger. Just a lesser one.*"

"*We'll deal with them, once we know who they are.*" Terry said quietly.

"*Yes,*" was more an accepting thought than true word as Jake relaxed a bit as his hands moved over Terry's body. "*That was incredibly hot, you know. Watching you fuck her like that.*"

"*It was pretty incredible.*" Terry said gently caressing Jake's body. "*Lot better than I remember being with a shekat being.*"

"*Maybe she's just good.*" He teased the gray tom. "*She worked for me too.*"

"*That's a very good thing.*" Terry said, smiling. "*She certainly seems to enjoy it.*"

"*So did I.*" He rumbled deep in his chest as he pulled his mate into an intense kiss and thrust his hips against him. "*But she's out and we aren't ...*"

Terry answered by claiming the passionate kiss, and pulling Jake close so their bodies, and hardening cocks, were rubbing against each other as Jake moaned.

Val wasn't comfortable with doctors, and never had been. But this time she couldn't just ignore it and hope it would go away. She stood quietly waiting for Doctor Kylla Sorenson, the Black Lioness Xanith medical officer assigned to SWAT, to notice her. An event that didn't take nearly as long as she wished.

"Hello, Val." The tall, regal black shekat smiled. "What brings you by?"

"I think there's something wrong with me." The reddish shekat admitted with great difficulty. "I'm hungry all the time, and I've had to have my dress uniform resized twice in the last month. If this keeps up I won't be regulation in another month." She said, very worried.

"Well, come in and sit down," the Lioness smiled gently. "We'll see about narrowing this down."

Val found a chair nearest the door and sat down, clearly torn between worry and a being uncomfortable with medical.

"We can discuss this elsewhere, if you'd feel more comfortable." Kylla offered.

"No, we'll have to come back here anyway." Val said quietly.

"All right." She nodded and settled at the small table in the room. "When was your last heat over?"

"Never had one." She muttered.

Kylla raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "Have you ever conceived that you know of?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"Have there been any other symptoms that you've noticed?" The Lioness asked gently.

"Just the out-of-control appetite. I assume the weight gain is because of it." She said. "Well, I guess I'm a little short tempered but that's just stress."

Kylla nodded. "Any change other than the amount you want to eat?"

"Well, occasionally I find myself wanting weird stuff, I mean stuff I never eat normally."

"Have you taken a pregnancy test in the last month or two?" She asked very gently.

"Why would I do that?" Val asked confused. "Conception can only occur during heat, and I don't go into heat." She said quietly. "Probably can't conceive either." The reddish shekat muttered, though it was clear that it bothered her a great deal.

"You don't have visible heat, apparently, but I'm fairly certain you can conceive." Kylla spoke with a serine understanding and certainty. "A simple blood test can prove it either way."

"How long will it take for results?" She asked curiously.

"Just a few minutes." She regarded the much smaller female. "If you wish, it can be done here, now."

"I should find out." She said quietly. "The high-G's wouldn't be good for developing kits, would they?" She said quietly.

"No, you'll have to be taken off combat duty until they're born, and for at least a month afterwards." The doctor nodded as she took out a blood draw kit. "Do you know who the father, or fathers, likely are?"

"Umm, well I had sex with Avon, Jake and Terry. They're the only ones in the last few years. That includes test-piloting too, right?"

"Yes, it does." Kylla nodded as she prepped Val's arm and drew a small vial of the dark red liquid. "And probably most of your favorites hobbies, like storm gliding. Though you should stay as active and in shape as possible."

"Is swimming okay? How about gymnastics?" She asked, trying to figure out what of the things she liked to do, she'd be able to do.

"Swimming is excellent, gymnastics as long as you keep maneuvers under a G and a half or so. You can still fly, under the same restriction. Mainly you should avoid activities that put significant strain on your body, or change it's chemical makeup." The Lioness nodded as she inserted the blood sample into a testing box. "Avoid alcohol and make sure any medication you take is cleared through me, or another doctor that is aware you have a very high risk pregnancy."

"Very high risk pregnancy?" She asked quietly. "Why's that?"

"Given you apparently became pregnant outside of a heat, it would be foolish to assume it will be otherwise normal."

"Oh." Val said in a subdued voice.

"It'll only be for a few months." Kylla smiled reassuringly. "About five from the look of your hormone levels. I'd say you're about two months along."

"Anyway to tell how many?" She asked quietly. "Or which of them is the father?" Val said, changing gears rapidly.

"How many can easily be checked by ultrasound in a month or so. But I would hazard a guess that there are at least three, quite possibly up to six, given your weight gain." She nodded. "If it isn't obvious by appearance, a simple paternal genetic test on each after the birth will tell who the father is, assuming they aren't clones of you, or something equally unusual. If you had sex with all three of them within the fertility period, it is entirely possible that two or even all three of them could be the sire of individual kits."

"On one occasion I had sex with all three of them in about twelve hours." She smiled weakly. "No putting this off, I guess. After all, you've got to tell the Commander I'm off combat duty right?"

"Yes, I do." She nodded gently. "Though if you would rather brake the news to him, I can wait."

"Rather, no not really." She said quietly. "But I have to. Dinner should be soon enough, that way I can tell them all at once. Don't want anybody to think I'm playing favorites."

"All right." Kylla nodded and stood. "I'll have the paperwork ready, but won't file it until morning. I'm sure you'll have all sorts of advice and watchers by then."

"With one of the potential fathers being Augustus' grandson? Yeah I'll probably have more advice than I know what to do with." She said standing up. "Thanks, Doc. Oh, is there some list of things I'm supposed to do while pregnant?"

"Yes, and I'm sure you won't like most of it." She grinned slightly. "But if you can keep to what I told you just now, I can have a more organized presentation for all four of you tomorrow. I seem to recall this is the first time for all of you."

"I think so. I mean Jake and Terry have a son, but I think he's adopted. So, I'll bring the three of them over in the morning so you can explain this just once." Val said, as she opened the door.

"Good luck, kitten." Kylla shook her head as the door shut. "As much as you don't like being grounded, I expect Terry will like Razor going back up even less."

Terry and Jake arrived at Garibaldi's to find Val and Avon waiting for them. As they sat down it was fairly obvious that something was up with Val as her mood was a strange combination of subdued and anxious. Terry raised an eyebrow at Avon, who shook his head looking equally confused.

Jake almost instantly focused in on her, though he quickly shrugged and relaxed back for whatever this was about to come out.

Val smiled, and sipped at her water until the waiter had come over and everyone had ordered. She stuck to water, instead of her usual glass of wine. Eventually, she took a deep breath set down her glass and looked at each of them in turn, looking very fondly at each.

"Guys, there's something I have to tell you." She said very quietly. "Sweet Bastet, this shouldn't be so hard to say." She sighed, losing her nerve momentarily as Avon slipped an arm around her and hugged her supportively.

"It can't be that bad." Jake focused forward, utterly intense. "We're your family."

Terry nodded. "You know we're here for you." He said quietly.

Val laughed nervously for a moment. "Guys, I'm pregnant." She said softly, but very clearly.

Avon nodded and hugged her warmly, as Jake visibly went into shock.

Terry smiled. "How far along?" He asked gently, as he reached out to put a reassuring hand on Jake's arm.

"About two months." She said, feeling fairly certain it happened the first time she'd been with Jake and Terry together.

"How?" Jake finally managed to choke out.

"The usual way, sex." She said, completely serious.

And equally serious, Jake promptly shut down. He relaxed into the bench and simply refused to think about it any more.

Terry took Jake's hand in his. "*Jake, what's wrong?*" He asked gently.

Val promptly stared down at her water glass. After Jake had said he wanted kits with her, she figured he'd be the one who'd be okay with it.

"*Two months ... our kits. She'll be grounded for months.*" He managed in a single jumbled thought.

"*Yes, they could be our kits.*" Terry said quietly. "*Could be Avon's too. But no matter whose kits they are, it's not a disaster.*"

Jake slowly nodded, though it did little to sooth the turmoil in him. "Do you know who's?" He asked softly.

"Doc said there's no way to tell till they're born. Could be all three of you." She said quietly.

Terry looked a bit surprised. "Any indication how many kits?" He asked gently.

"It'll be a couple months before they're clear enough for ultrasound. But Doc thinks at least three, maybe as many as six."

"I don't suppose we had a contingency set up for something like this?" Jake looked at his mate.

Terry looked a bit sheepish. "I think I overlooked this one." He said quietly. "Not that it would've helped, it took years to find the six team members we've got. We just don't have a spare gunner lying around whose qualified on the equipment."

Val felt about six inches high, as she felt totally forgotten. If it wasn't against her nature to run, she would've gotten up and run out.

"We do," Jake whispered, not really looking at anyone. "SWAT's godda fly."

"We still have two teams, Jake." Terry said quietly.

The cinnamon tom nodded, not able to fight past the initial offer. "Val ... Are you going to be okay grounded that long?"

She looked up. "Not much choice in the matter, Jake." She said quietly. "I'll survive, I always do."

He sighed, took a breath and tried again. "Just surviving isn't good enough for this. Four months is a long time."

"I think he's trying to ask 'how can we make this easier?' love." Avon nuzzled her.

"What he said." Jake mumbled.

Terry nodded, as he worked on explaining this to Cory and to his grandfather.

Val sighed. "I don't know, I'm still not sure entirely what I can and can't do. I know I'm grounded till at least a month after the kits are born, and storm riding's out too. At any rate, Doc wants to see all four of us in her office tomorrow."

Jake could only nod mutely, most of his brain desperately trying to avoid actually thinking about this and more about what it brought up, the rest focused solidly on the effect on the unit.

"Well, a surprise or not, this is something to celebrate." Avon nuzzled her with a yipping croon. "I know it'll be hard on you, but I'm looking forward to our kits and pups."

Val nodded quietly, finding for the first time in months that she wasn't really hungry. She got up slowly, and turned to Avon. "I'm not really hungry, love and it's been a long day. I think I'm just going to go home and lie down." She said before she turned and walked out of the restaurant.

Terry was busy worrying about Jake's reaction; Jake had always been interested in kits, but now that it happened, he was shutting down like someone had pulled out 8x10's of his time in Teveris.

"Sorry to disappear too." Avon didn't even finish his sentence before bolting after his mate.

"Val, wait a sec." Avon only called out to her when they were in the parking lot.

She turned slowly. "I'll be okay, love. You didn't have to leave too."

"No, but I'd rather see you home." He said as he gently pulled her into an embrace. "Love, it doesn't matter to me who sired them, all your children are mine too."

Val leaned into the embrace gratefully. "Thank you, love. I guess I'm just wishing the tom who asked me about having kits with him, showed some emotion other than shock." She said quietly.

"Oh, Val." He pulled her tightly against him. "I've had years to get used to the idea of not knowing when this might happen. Give him a little time, he's still from the reality that this simply can't happen without him knowing beforehand it would.

"All the time in the world won't matter if he won't think about it." She said tiredly. "I'm not much of telepath, but even I can hear mental doors slamming at short range. I know those doors too well myself, you put things behind them that you want to never have to deal with."

"Then none of your kits are his." Avon said simply, then looked at her very seriously. "I know that look too, I've seen it on your face. Something in this triggered a very nasty flashback for him. Give his mate a little time to coax him out of it, and if it doesn't work, it's his loss more than ours."

Val leaned her head against Avon's chest. "It's just I worried about this all day, how to tell the three of you. I'd finally convinced myself that it wouldn't be a problem, and this happens. He probably doesn't even realize I've left the table, assuming he even remembers I was there."

"Shu, love." He stroked her shoulder length hair comfortingly. "You did everything right. It is not your failure that it shocked him numb."

"I did?" She asked looking up at him hopefully. "I thought maybe there was a better way to tell him, something I missed." She said quietly, and then turned angry. "It's her again, I know it is. She's screwed up how he sees everything female. I should've known she'd have screwed this up too." She growled low and angry. "Oh, I'd just like a few minutes alone with her." The anger in her voice had a deadly edge.

"That's a long line, love." He chuckled and tipped her chin up for a soft kiss. "A very long line."

Val sighed, and then held the kiss for a while. "Being angry sucks, when there's nothing you can do with it." She muttered quietly after they broke.

"But there is, at least a little something." Avon slipped one hand between them to caress his still mostly flat belly. "Give these kittens the upbringing neither of you had the luxury of. And finish the work you've begun with Jake."

"Well, I expect I'll have lots of advice on their upbringing." She chuckled. "Which is a good thing, I really have no idea what a family is like. My adopted mom and I get along great, but I was an adult when she 'adopted' me."

"Well, I have a lot of memories and family to fall back on, and I expect Terry will want to be part of their upbringing too." Avon chuckled and kissed her nose. "Probably the rest of the squad, too."

"Yeah, Terry I kind of figured on. And you're probably right about the rest of the squad." She smiled, deliberately focusing on the air teams only. "Avon, would you mind driving me over to my mom's? I want to tell her the good news." She asked, omitting the fact that she just wanted some distance from the base.

"Sure thing." He kissed her gently. "A stop by my parents wouldn't be out of line either."

"No, it wouldn't." She smiled. "At least now we have answer for when we plan to start." She grinned slightly

"And mom'll be thrilled." He chuckled and guided her gently to their car. "You'll have such beautiful kits."

"Kantin usually refer to the little ones as pups, and Kats call them kits. What's the proper term for one that's half-Kat and half-Kantin?" She asked half-serious, half joking as she got in the passenger side.

"Well, since Foxes sometimes call their pups kits, it's definitely kits." He considered. "Though I expect we should all learn to respond to both."

"True. And we will have a fair number to respond to." She chuckled. "The Doc said there could be six of them." She shook her head. "That just sounds like a lot."

"It is, especially with how small you are." A touch of concern crept into his voice. "Even just three or four will really strain your system. Only Xanith-sized can handle six kits without a lot of difficulty. At least in my understanding."

"The doc did say it was a high risk pregnancy." She muttered, and then nuzzled his cheek. "I'm as tough as any Xanith, love. I'll be fine."

"Yes, you are." He smiled at her and pulled into traffic. "And we will be fine."

"We will." She smiled, leaning as close to him as she could, without interfering with his driving.

Terry looked at Jake, a little concerned. "Are you going to be okay?" He asked quietly as Avon hurried out.

"Yeah," he nodded, though it wasn't one to give confidence to the statement. "I can fly with Avon for a few months. That's a lot of strain to put on the other teams."

"That wasn't what I was talking about." Terry said quietly. "Is there a reason you're treating Val's pregnancy like Dark Kat moving into the neighborhood?"

Jake stared miserably down at the table for a long time before answering. He slowly reached a hand out for his mate's. "*She has done nothing to deserve it, but all ... I keep seeing her there, not Val.*" The utter misery and guilt in the tom's mind was undeniable, and almost overwhelming.

Terry scooted along the bench so he could put his arm around Jake. "*Because the pregnancy is unexpected?*" He asked gently, sympathetic to his mate's pain.

"*Unplanned ... I couldn't choose before.*" He shuddered, his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he pressed against Terry. "*Didn't choose this.*"

"*Neither did Val, love.*" Terry said gently. "*You did discuss having kittens with her, didn't you?*" He asked quietly.

"*Sort of. She didn't mention she didn't have a heat cycle until after we'd mated. Ten years with Avon and no pregnancy ... she was pretty sure she couldn't.*" Jake tried very hard not to let how upset he really was at the sequence of events. "*She didn't give me a choice until it was too late.*"

"*People don't usually think about things they've given up on.*" Terry said gently. "*Ten years of sex and no pregnancy is a pretty good case for it being impossible. And probably something she didn't like to think about. It's not uncommon for people to block out things that hurt them.*" Terry said softly. "*In her mind there probably wasn't a choice.*"

"*I know.*" Jake sighed sadly. "*Just cause I understand and don't really blame her, doesn't stop the hurt.*" A dozen layers of history and meaning flickered around the statement. "*It won't go away.*"

"*It will if you want it to.*" Terry said supportively. "*You've beaten other painful things, you can beat this one too.*" Terry said, nuzzling Jake reassuringly.

"Just so damn tired." He mumbled, breaking the silent contact. "Challenged too many limits."

"They're limits that should be challenged, love." Terry said softly. "They've no right to be there." He added, giving the Kat a quick kiss.

"You're not the one trying to take your mind apart and rebuild it while still remaining in top shape." Jake half grumbled, half sighed. "Only so much at a time, Ter. I can only take so much at once."

"I've gotten enough glimpses to know it's difficult, love." Terry said quietly. "It's not something you have to deal with tonight, you've got a few months before the kits are born."

Jake nodded weakly and rested against his mate, mind and body worn out on a level he hadn't been since leaving MegaKat City. "I just hope she can understand, that it's not her, or the kits or news."

"Hopefully, Avon can keep her from getting too upset. It's not uncommon for pregnant shekat's to become more touchy and emotionally unstable." Terry said remembering his older sister's first pregnancy. "Her running from a situation is rather uncharacteristic."

Jake chuckled softly. "He's as good with her as you are with me." He nuzzled Terry affectionately, though he was still in turmoil just below the surface. "How can you be so calm about this? Oh, by the way, you're the father of my kits, even if I never went into heat?"

"How can I be so calm?" Terry chuckled lightly. "That's easy, I don't actually have time to do more than acknowledge it. There are more important things demanding my attention. Besides, what good would panicking do?" Terry shrugged. "It won't change anything, and it just upsets Val."

Jake quietly looked away, wanting to do nothing more than to curl up and disappear in the face of what he'd done.

"Jake, I have the luxury of making decisions like that." He said, gently nuzzling his mate. "You didn't, and it's not your fault." He said softly. "I'm sure Val will understand, she's been through the same sort of rough life."

"I hope so." He shivered, not really feeling any better for having his mate's forgiveness. "I can't even hate them for this anymore." He closed his eyes a little. "If I ever did."

Terry raised an eyebrow in confusion, but let it slide. He simply put his arms around Jake, and pulled him close. "Everything will balance in time." He said quietly.

Jake knocked softly at the small, well kept, suburban home, nervous and determined to see this through.

"Hello, Can I help you?" The tall, matronly, gold and gray tabby shekat who answered the door asked politely.

"I'd like to see Val." He said steadily. "I'm Jake BrightClaw."

One eyebrow went up, and she looked him over intently for a moment. "This way, she's in the garden." She said, motioning him to follow. The house was comfortable inside, nothing ostentatious, and all very down-to-earth. Behind the house was a moderate sized yard, which was largely flower garden, with a variety of flowering plants and shrubs. Val was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, with her hair tied back, as she bent attentively over a small bush with cinnamon colored flowers.

"Tracey." The mature shekat said gently. "Jake's here to see you."

"Uh huh." She said not looking up.

"I'll leave you two alone." The older kat said as she went back in the house.

"Val ..." Jake hesitated a moment before kneeling next to her. "I'm sorry my past ruined your announcement." He reached out to touch her shoulder gently. "This is a wonderful thing, and when I'm lucid, I'm looking forward to being a real father."

"You figure out the difference between us?" She asked quietly, clearly upset, and it was pretty clear she wasn't talking about her and him.

Jake could only look at her in confusion, his mouth open slightly in a reply he couldn't find.

"Wasn't my choice." She said quietly.

"I know, Val." He moved a little closer, not sure if he was actually welcome. "Can you understand that I can be hurt, angry and terrified at this, and it has nothing to do with you or our kits?"

"You're not the only one who hurts." She said softly. "Do you have any idea how it feels to be completely ignored by someone you care about? To have them act as if you're not even there?" She said quietly. "I've been nothing too often in my life. I can't take it anymore."

With a shallow nod Jake shivered. "I've been lucky with Terry, and a few others, but I remember that." He sighed and dropped his head. "I came to ask your forgiveness, Val. If I've hurt you too much ...." his voice trailed off for a bit. "Val, you mean a lot to me. I did and do want kits with you. If ... my reaction hurt you too much to have me in your life ...."

Val shook her head. "If it was that simple it wouldn't have hurt." She said quietly. "A few days ago, maybe. But between Mama, and this rose I figured out I was angry at the wrong person. Can't do anything about the person whose fault it is, not yet anyway." She said quietly. "But as Avon helped me see, the reason it hurt so bad is 'cause I love you, and because I thought that maybe the only reason you'd been with me, was because I was safe, no danger of kittens."

Jake froze in utter shock as his brain analyzed a line of logic that had never occurred to it before.

"My LifeMate pointed out just how foolish I was being. Jake, you're part of my life in too many ways to untangle, so I guess it's a good thing that I still want you in my life. I guess we just have to accept that your pain may set off mine." She said quietly.

"Val. I ... the desire is there because I feel safe with you." He tried to explain. "Sex is hard for me, I have to trust with more than my life to make it work." He whispered and leaned over to hug her gingerly. "I was with you because I feel that way with you. Even if I'd known the risk first, I still would have spent those nights with you."

"I understand, now, it just wasn't easy to see." She leaned into the hug. "I understand the trust problem. I have that problem with love." She said quietly as he shifted to embrace her more fully.

"The four of us will make things work." He promised with an affectionate nuzzle. "We've got two strong mates that know how to get us to face and see through our pain."

"Seems pretty one-sided at times, doesn't it?" She said affectionately.

"Too often." Jake nuzzled her as he pulled her against him. "But Terry just gets distressed when I bring it up."

"Avon gets confused." She nodded, and turned to kiss him. "Guess we should just accept our good fortune."

Jake closed his eyes at the intimate contact as it triggered an intense arousal. "Yes, including kittens." He murmured as a hand slipped between them to trail up her belly and cup a swollen breast. "And each other."

She nodded quietly as she brushed a hand gently along his cheek before claiming a passionate kiss as he pulled her T-shirt out of her jeans to caress the fur of her back and tease a sensitive nipple through her silky bra.

"Jake." She whispered. "The neighbors will see." She nodded upward toward balconies of nearby homes.

"That the only objection?" He whispered back as his hands retreated to more acceptable locations.

"Well, I wouldn't want to accidentally roll on to many of these bushes." She smiled. "There are places you just don't want thorns."

"Ouch, too true." He flinched before twisting to his feet, pulling her up and into his arms to carry her inside.

"*Jake, you're forgiven.*" She thought warmly as she kissed him.

"*Thank you.*" He smiled down at her. "*Where's your bedroom?*"

"*Second floor. Has the Greater Port Haven Martial Arts Championship Plaque on the door.*" She couldn't stop the giggle that found it's way into her throat as he carried her up the stairs with nuzzles and teasing touches as he could manage.

Her bedroom was an interesting mixture of the feminine with the martial. The large four poster bed with frilly trimmings, seemed a little at odds with antique replica swords on the wall. There was a shelf of martial arts trophies, and in the middle was a Diploma from Port Haven Royal University, PhD. in Computer Science.

"Just like you, complex and varied." He murred appreciatively as he closed the door with one foot and continued to gently set her on the bed.

"I need to know when I succeed." She smiled up at him. "And Halycon pays enough that I can do pretty much what I want on my days off."

"Well, you succeeded in the impossible in me." He knelt on the bed to leaned over her for a soft kiss as his fingers played over one breast. "*You can ride me, and I'm not afraid.*"

"*I succeeded because you wanted me to.*" She said gently, as she kissed him. "*I am glad you wanted me though.*" She said warmly.

"You still succeeded. There are others I wanted to, and couldn't." Jake purred as his free hand trailed down her chest to slip under her shirt again, lingering over her abs, and the kittens she carried. "You've indulged me all our times together. I'd like to indulge you this time."

"Face to face then." She smiled. "Don't hurry, just love me." She said quietly.

"My pleasure," Jake murred as he gently kissed her again.

"Welcome to the heart of Halycon Intelligence." Terry said as he led Jake across the large hi-tech mission control room. Numerous Kats and Kantins at various consoles were monitoring data, and coordinating intelligence operations.

"And this is my office." He said as he opened the door to the office on the tier above the main work area. The outer office could have belonged to any vice-president in one of the big companies, but the back office was a small version of the main mission control, including a large configurable map table in the center.

There was a knock at the front door. "Yes." Terry shouted, not really wanting to be disturbed.

"My apologies Director BrightClaw, but Agents Taltos and Vendri with project Hidden Genesis are here to see you." The young charcoal gray tom said politely.

"Excellent." Terry said as he sat at the conference table. "This is the information you were interested in, Jake."

Jake nodded and took a place next to his LifeMate as a huge Saber-toothed Lion Xanith and a gray on gray swirl tabby shekat about Jake's height came in.

Terry nodded welcome to the two. "I'm hoping this isn't a report to tell me there isn't anything to report." He said with a smile.

"No, sir." The shekat answered with a mixture of humor and formality. "We have a great deal to report."

"I knew you two were on Alpha Squad for a reason." He smiled.

"What facet would you like to begin with?" She asked as Taltos handed each sitting tom a thick summary folder.

Terry turned to his mate. "Jake, what did you want to know most?" He asked quietly.

"What was it for?" He asked quietly, not looking at the agents by pretending to skim the paper report.

"Project New Sundown was an attempt by a joint Saydan Bay/ Cuvolin black project to create a variety of super soldiers and super powered individuals." Agent Rachel Vendri began as she brought up several charts and outlines in the central holoprojector in the table. "It was a miserable failure for its purpose, though many critical advances in genetic engineering and forced growth techniques were accomplished, and information directly responsible for our current state of the art in the field was gathered."

"The others?" Jake asked uneasily.

The gray tabby smiled at him gently. "Of five batches of fifteen apiece, there are three known to survive until the end of the project. Both of the others are employees of Halycon at this time."

Terry blinked in surprise. "At which facility?" He asked somewhat amazed that all three survivors would end up part of the same company.

"Haven." She chuckled slightly. "They are Tracy 'Valkyrie' Nordecki and Patrik 'BlackFire' Celest."

Terry nodded. "All things considered, that's not too surprising. They both have very hidden pasts, even to themselves."

"Unfortunately, much of that past is still hidden. The project records on Mr. Celest end at age eight, when he was declared a loss and given to a Judge Lynder in Saydan Bay. All traces of him vanishes from a year later when the judge died to when you brought him into Halycon. Miss. Nordecki's end roughly a year later when she was apparently kidnapped at age ten by an unknown entity. Again, all records between that time and when she stumbled into the testing facility are effectively none existent."

"Lynder?" Terry shivered reflexively. "I've heard about him. No wonder Rik's got issues with male authority."

"Let me guess," Jake growled. "A taste for extremely young toms and none too gentle about it."

"Yes, and powerful enough in Saydan Bay that no one could touch him." Terry growled. "He's one of the reasons that Halycon refused to do business with Saydan Bay for a long time."

"We are still following some leads on where Tracy and Patrik were in the missing timeframe, but it has produced little yet." Agent Gren Taltos added in a deep, steady voice.

Terry briefly scanned the summary report. "Concentrate on Tracy, I think her missing time period is of greater significance. I suspect Patrik was simply one of many young street kits during the missing timeframe."

"Yes, sir." Both agents responded in near unison.

"Very good. Let me know when anything interesting comes in. Good work, and dismissed."

The agents nodded professionally and left as Jake continued to mull over the report.

Terry looked over the report briefly, and then shook his head in mild amusement.

But Jake was far more absorbed, tracing his fingers lightly over various words and names as he swung rapidly from anger to fear, to outrage, to near tears as Terry moved and put his hand lightly on the Kat's shoulder supportively.

"This is worse than Teveris." Jake finally muttered. "At least they're honest about their practices."

"Yes, but here they have to be dishonest." Terry said quietly. "This sort of thing has brought down governments in the past, when it was discovered. It isn't accepted by the majority of people, only a small, dangerous minority who rightfully hide from the light of public exposure."

"They're more dangerous than she is." He muttered in irritation. "Less moral too."

Terry was unable to suppress a reflexive choke and cough. "Less moral? Not possible." He said quietly. "Not that there's much point to comparing Dark Kat and Dr. Viper." He added by way of comparison.

"It is possible love. Marissa ... as horrible as what she does it, her culture supports it and believes it normal and legal. What she does it no less wrong than owning a slave was in the dark ages." Jake shuddered. "These people are doing what their culture and government claim as wrong. They are far worse. Far more evil for choosing a path they know is wrong."

"They're not worth arguing about." Terry said quietly. "Both need eliminated. Evil is evil, regardless. And an entire culture that calls evil normal, is far more dangerous than a few individuals who break the law."

Jake simply nodded acceptance and relaxed back a bit, though he was clearly not convinced.

Terry shrugged, and pulled up some notes on a small digital pad. He couldn't understand how Jake could defend that monster, but he wasn't going to get into it.

"All four are healthy and nursing well." The Labrador Kantin nurse informed the anxious fathers. "One female Gray Fox mix, one dark gray female with black tips and very muted reddish swirl stripes, and two dark red-caramel toms."

Terry smiled. "Well, sounds like we all contributed to this." He said pleased, since it hadn't been known till know which tom's genetic material had been involved.

"When can we see her, and them?" Avon asked anxiously.

"As soon as they're finished with their first meal." The Lab smiled at him. "Probably in a few minutes. Newborns don't often nurse long, just often."

Terry stepped back to his arm around Jake. "Breathe." He teased gently. "Passing out just wouldn't look good."

"Umm, yeah." Jake drew a sharp, shallow breath. "What a litter it'll be."

"Couldn't ask for better parents." Terry smiled. "But I think'll they'll keep us on our toes."

"All of us." Avon chuckled as he gave Jake a friendly hug. "And the entire estate."

Terry chuckled. "Grandfather's had them kit-proofing the mansion for months now."

"They'll still get into trouble," Jake managed a grin, though he was still fairly light headed. "Hell, Cory still gets into trouble. I can't imagine the kits of any of us accomplishing less."

Terry chuckled. "Cory's just getting to the age where we really figured out what trouble was." He smiled at Jake. "But at least we reduce the major problems."

"Just wait till this foursome hits adolescence." Jake snickered. "They may be remodeling the planet." He shifted to wrap his arms around Terry and kissed him passionately. There was a fierce, determined fire deep in his amber eyes as they parted. "We will have access to another world by then."

"Been reading the Project Starlight Prospectus have you?" Terry smiled gently.

"I've been finding more satisfaction in creating, that doesn't destroy." He said softly. "I ... I don't want to be remembered just as Razor anymore."

"Then you'll have the chance." Terry said warmly. "You need support to work on something, you've got it."

"The future is in the stars, love." Jake murred as he pressed close. "I want to see the day we are a respected part of that community. I want our kits to know the universe as their home."

"You never did dream small, love." Terry said nuzzling Jake affectionately. "But the big dreams are the ones worth having."

"Now ... didn't we have four kittens to meet, and a mother to kiss?" He grinned at the two other fathers, then the nurse, who nodded.

"This way." The Kantin smiled at them and lead them back into the rooms.

Terry smiled, and followed with his mate and Avon close by as the nurse knocked politely on the door before poking her long black muzzle in as the very soft sound of mewing and a single whining voice drifted out.

"Ready to see your mates, Val?" She asked politely.

Val nodded. "Yes, thank you." She said quietly, more than a little tired as she lay on her back, the gray and one reddish kit lumps of fur in the crook of her arms, while the other two nuzzled up close to her head.

Avon greeted her first with a gentle kiss, then a warm, welcoming smile for the litter. "Quite a group."

"Yes," Jake smiled at her and them. "And already opinionated, I think."

Terry kissed Val gently. "You did well." He said affectionately, knowing she liked hearing that.

Val smiled at all three of them. "Thanks, guys." She said warmly. "I don't know about opinionated, but they certainly have their preferences." She chuckled tiredly.

"As if there was going to be a doubt of that, with who their parents are." Avon chuckled as he knelt to nuzzle her, then carefully nuzzle each of the sleepy, mewy balls of fluff, learning their scents.

"Opinionated will come with talking." Terry chuckled, carefully nuzzling each of the kittens, though he spent a little longer with gray and black one.

"Jake, you're allowed too." Val said with an encouraging smile.

He made a sharp shake of his head, clearly startled by her words.

"They should know my scent too, shouldn't they?" He said a little sheepishly as he carefully approached, hesitant despite the encouragement as he very gently stroked the reddish one by her head before nuzzling it with a little more confidence.

Much slower than the others, he worked around to the other three newborns, though he never lost the nervous, extreme care he used in touching them.

Val looked at Avon and smiled. "And to think I worried once what a FoxKat would look like." She chuckled quietly. "Bears a striking similarity to her handsome Fox sire." She grinned affectionately.

"And they all bear the mark of their beautiful mother." He woofed softly. "When are they letting you out of here?"

"Twenty-four hours, since the medical care at the main house is almost as good as the hospital." She said quietly. "None too soon."

Terry gently brushed her hair back. "You've done remarkably well dealing with all the doctors required." He said sympathetically.

"Always having one of you three with me, made it a lot easier." She said with a warm smile for all of them.

"And we will see to it none of our kits will ever have to face what we did." Jake growled softly, though there was more force behind that statement that anyone had known from him before.

"Yes, we will." Terry said putting a supportive hand on Jake's shoulder. "The four of us can handle anything."

"Thank you for such short notice." Dr. Terrin Bursaun inclined his head to Augustus and Terry in the older tom's private office. "There are most unusual results."

Terry nodded. "Not entirely surprising, since two of the parents are genetic constructs. How significant is unusual?" He asked quietly.

"For an overview. One of Jake's kits is a clone of his father, the other by him is fairly normal in the genetic mix. The other major oddity is that there are quirks that must have come from Jake in all four kits."

Terry blinked. "That means that two of the kits, effectively have three parents, right? While one of them effectively has one."

"That's a good summery of it." The older Jaguar nodded.

"Are there any problems because of it, or is it just interesting?" He asked quietly.

"No problems, at least not inherent in their genetics." Dr. Bursaun shook his head. "Longer range issues abound however."

"Okay, if you don't mind we'll need to postpone the rest of your briefing until I get the rest of the parents together. And gently explain to the mother that she's a genetic construct, she doesn't know that yet." Terry said standing. "I'll buzz you when I have them together."

"No problem." The Jaguar inclined his head and turned to leave.

Terry waited for Avon and Jake, to join him in his den in the wing they all shared, while Val was busy with the kits.

"Something unpleasant come up?" Jake asked softly as Avon closed the door.

"Just unexpected so far. But explaining it to Val means covering some territory she doesn't like to talk about." He paused. "Namely her past. It's pretty clear from things she's said, she doesn't know that she's a genetic construct. It may be a bit of a shock for her."

Avon sighed. "That would be putting it mildly. Is it really necessary to tell her?"

Terry sighed. "Unfortunately, it's not really avoidable. Genetically speaking, the kittens are complicated. Genetically speaking we have one kitten with one parent, one with two parents, and two with three parents."

"And this has to be brought up to Val for what reason?" The Fox pressed.

"Doc says it has some important future implications, and he wouldn't just say that." Terry said quietly. "It's not like I want to tell her."

"Then lets find out what they are, and then figure out if we have to tell her."

"Then I think the three of us, need to talk to Doc." He said quietly paging the Doctor.

"Agreed." Avon nodded.

"Okay, Doctor. Could you explain what the implications of the kits unusual heritage are? It may be a bit traumatic telling Val about her heritage in the process of explaining theirs, so we need a good reason." Terry said as they sat in the Doctor's office.

"Would it be any less traumatic to indicate this is because of Jake's linage exclusively?" The Jaguar asked.

"Would it be true to indicate that?" Terry asked quietly. "Val's got an uncanny knack for knowing when she's being lied to." He added. "I've seen her catch people before on things she had no reason to know."

"Given how little we know about the particularities of what happened, it might not even be stretching the truth." The doctor shook his head. "If anything even vaguely resembling a natural selection advantage is involved, it's actually quite likely to only be Jake. What happened would give him an incredible advantage."

"Except that from what I've read on genetics, duplication isn't an advantage." Terry said quietly. "There's a reason your higher organisms go to sexual reproduction, as opposed to copying themselves."

"True, but only one of four is a clone, one is by sexual reproduction, and the 2 kits not his are still carrying some of his genes." Terrin shook his head. "That is extremely advantageous on the whole."

"So what's the concern? I seem to recall you mentioning some long term implications or something." Terry said curiously.

"Jay, the clone, is likely facing the same issues as Jake, and is distinctly more primitive in form than Shella and Riella, and slightly more primitive than Tomas." The Leopard started. "They'll likely grow out of it, but it is something you all need to be aware of. The two toms are effectively big cat kittens."

"Val's not going to take that well." Terry said quietly. "She told me before that she was worried about the pregnancy. If they're anything but normal she's going to blame herself." Terry shook his head. "Mostly because she thinks there's something wrong with her, courtesy of that non-existent heat cycle."

"This one is clearly courtesy of me." Jake shook his head. "And that's easy enough to prove."

"It is?" Terry said curiously.

"The two primitive kittens are mine. The two normal ones are by her and someone else." The cinnamon tom shrugged. "I'm the common factor, not her."

"Might fly." Terry said quietly. "I don't know if she'll let herself of for the one that isn't a clone though." He said softly, worried about the often emotionally fragile shekat.

"Ter, I think I can handle this one." Jake said with a gentle touch for his LifeMate, then shifted his attention to the doctor. "Not to break your list, but have you figured out any likely method of birth control for us? I don't think she's going to be happy with abstinence much longer."

"Fairly simple actually." The doctor said. "Based on her fairly unique genetics. She's infertile until the kittens finish nursing, and after that a simple monthly injection will prevent ovulation. It appears to be part of her design."

Jake relaxed significantly. "I'm very glad to hear that. I love the kits, but that could be bad if she was always fertile."

The Doctor smiled. "Even without the injections she's not always fertile. I was comparing some old records of hers, and it looks like she has a fertile period about once every four months. She couldn't conceive without a trigger though."

"What was the trigger?" Jake asked, already having a good guess of his own.

"Looking at all the genetic samples available." He started. "It looks like she was designed to have kittens by you, Jake. I expect that if she hadn't gotten separated from her project, you probably would've been introduced to her much sooner."

"With very little doubt as to the outcome." He shuddered. "At least that didn't happen."

"Interestingly, it appears her design didn't work fully. The cloning effect shouldn't have occurred, and likely won't in later litters. She's designed to neutralize the effect." He said. "But you're right, it would have been tragic."

"Yes, later litters. In a few years, and planned." Jake relaxed against him LifeMate.

"Doctor, does this mean she's incapable of conceiving without Jake's involvement?" Avon asked quietly.

"That's less clear at the moment." The doctor said quietly. "It's possible that Jake was only needed for the first litter, but we'll have to wait until she's done nursing to do more tests to be sure.

"The kittens will need monthly checkups at a minimum." He said firmly. "We can't be sure what all the various backgrounds will do when they interact. The more primitive two will bear especially close watching."

"They should stand up in a few months." Jake nodded slightly. "I did."

"Yes, though don't be surprised if you have one or more shifters. It's a rare ability in Xanith families, and there's definite Xanith genetics in Val's code. There's also a Xanith or two in Terry's genetics as well." The doctor said cautioning.

"With our luck, they all will be." Jake chuckled weakly. "Understood."

Terry smiled and nuzzled Jake gently. "Kits who'll top our prank record?" He chuckled quietly.

"We don't have a prayer of keeping that record." Jake smirked back. "Not with four of them."

"True, there was only the two of us." He grinned. "Though we had the whole Academy to play the straight Kat."

"And Feral." Jake licked his whiskers. "Now that was fun."

"Sweet Bastet was it ever." Terry chuckled. "He was born to play the straight Kat role. I wonder how many ulcers we gave him."

"No so many he retired." Jake smirked with a purr. "You know, I don't think we ever gave him a goodbye present."

"Yes, you did." Terry said quietly. "He just never acknowledged it." He added, still miffed at Feral for his unrelenting opposition to SWAT. He'd even been cranky and recalcitrant about the official one.

"I guess." Jake's good mood broke almost instantly. "Anything else we should watch out for in the kits in the next few months?"

"Just the usual with kits." He smiled. "Anything out of the ordinary feel free to call me."

"We will." Avon promised. "I'm sure you'll be dropping by even without a call." The Gray Fox smirked a bit.

"Probably." He grinned. "Expect to get a lot of company, Terry's got a good sized family on both sides. Actually, I seem to recall you do as well, Avon."

"Yes, I think we'll have to set up some sort of daily visit limit, or they'll never get any rest." The Fox chuckled softly.

"Them or us." Terry chuckled.

Avon nodded. "We will have to explain her origins to her, though." He sighed. "If because of the birth control, if nothing else."

Terry nodded. "Unfortunately, I guess we can't protect her from it. Best intentions aside."

"She'll be okay." Jake murmured softly.

"Something is bothering you, Cory." Nana approached the young teenaged brown tabby mediumfur in the gardens.

Cory jumped, having thought he was alone. "Morning, Nana." He said politely. "Just a dream that doesn't make any sense."

"Perhaps I can shed some light on it." She smiled and settled next to him. "If you would share it with me."

"I keep dreaming of a shekat, I know it's the same one every time, but I can't see her face." He said quietly. "I feel like I know her, but I know I don't. And I know she's in a very bad place, and I think she's in danger."

"Are there any other elements that remain the same?" She asked gently.

"There's this feeling that I have to protect her, I even want to. At least I think I do. I caught a couple flashes of what the 'bad place' is." He shivered. "Places like that can't really exist. They're just myths."

"Very rarely, I'm afraid." The old gray shekat said softly. "You're dreaming of your Sauri, your soul-mate. Much like Terry is to Jake, you are to this young girl."

"You mean, she's real?" Cory asked more than a little surprised.

"Very real." The old shekat nodded.

"She's not nearby though, I don't think. But how do I find her?" He asked quietly.

"That, dear, will become apparent in time." She gently ruffled his hair.

"Do you think she knows about me, the way I know about her?" He asked curiously.

"Most likely." Nana nodded. "These things tend to go both ways."

"Why would I start dreaming of her all of sudden? I mean I'm sure I haven't met her." He asked curiously.

"Well, it usually means you will soon." She smiled down at him. "It also has something to do with your age, I expect."

"My age?" He asked curiously.

"You are growing into a young tom," she chuckled sweetly. "More than just your body and desires grow in adolescence."

"Oh, that." He blushed a little.

"It's nothing to be embarrassed about, dear." She chuckled and ruffled his hair again. "Not only natural, but very fun."

"That's what both Dads say." He grinned weakly. "Playing around is fun though."

"It's fun for life." She chuckled. "Especially with a loving partner."

"Probably, but I'm not looking for anything permanent yet. Though Dad says sometimes it just sneaks up and finds you."

"Very true." She smiled. "You rarely go looking for a LifeMate, particularly when you find one."

"Yeah, dad said he found his when he was six, but it took a few years to figure that out." He chuckled.

"For everyone but the two of them." Nana laughed lightly. "We all knew as soon as we saw them together, or separated."

"It was that obvious?" He asked curiously, wondering how Terry could've ended up with his biological father if it was.

"Well, to those who cared about them it was." She smiled sadly. "Quite a few things got in the way, that kept them best friends for many years. It can be a very confusing line, between best friend and mate."

Cory nodded. "Yeah, I guess it could be. I guess that confusion was why Dad Terry was with my biological father for a while." He said quietly.

"He was with Ryan because he loved him." She countered gently. "Just as Jake loved Chance. They are not exclusive, Cory."

"So you can be in love with more than one at a time, that way?" He asked curiously.

"Most can, and many do." She nodded. "Your fathers are incredibly devoted to each other, but both have loved others, even since they became mates. As long as all know and agree, there is nothing wrong with it."

"Guess that's why Dad said I shouldn't worry about the fact that I like toms. He said it took a lot longer for him to notice fems that way." Cory said quietly. "Guess if you like both, you just have make sure you have a mate that understands that."

"And a good mate will, even if it is difficult for them to share." She murmured. "But this is all far too serious talk for Kats our age." Nana smiled. "Perhaps we can play the piano? I've noticed your interest in it."

Cory smiled. "Okay. This is getting kind of serious isn't it." He chuckled.

"Which means it's time for something fun." She smiled and took his hand as they walked to the main house.

Halycon Special Agent Rachel Vendri was doing her best not to pace in Augustus' office when the old tom walked in wearing a jogging outfit.

"Okay, Akisha said you've located Chance Furlong? Where?" He asked. "The boys will be along as soon as Akisha wakes them." He said, shifting into planning mode.

"The Royal Palace of Teveris, sir." She handed him a folder with a dozen odd photographs of the tabby being abused.

A low growl came from the old tom's throat. "I see. Well, that's quite the last straw." He said closing the folder. "Teveris has carried on like this for far too long. It's time to put an end to that den of evil."

"Yes, sir." She nodded. "The contact that provided the pictures said he was most likely a coronation gift to the new Queen, Marissa. That would put him there over seventeen months, sir."

"Coronation gift from who?" Augustus asked dangerously. "Never mind, first order of business is getting him out. Though after seventeen months there may not be much left to rescue." He said quietly as there was a knock on the door.

"Come on in, Terry, Jake." He said watching as the two entered. "Sorry about the early morning call, but this is important. Please, have a seat." He said waiting for the two to be seated.

"Chance's been found?" Jake asked, holding his breath as obediently took a seat.

Augustus nodded. "Yes, One of our intelligence contacts found him." He said quietly. "It's not going to be easy to get him back though."

"Difficulty has never mattered." Jake growled hotly. "Where is he?"

Augustus hesitated a moment. "The Royal Palace of Teveris. It appears that someone gave him to Queen Marissa, as a coronation gift."

Terry looked shocked, stunned for a moment as Jake lost all color and strength.

"Oh, dear gods."

Terry put his arm around Jake. "We'll get him back, Jake." He said reassuringly looking at Augustus for confirmation.

Augustus nodded. "Yes, we're going to get him back." He said quietly. "But we're also going to make sure it never happens again."

Jake could only nod mutely as gut-wrenching fear and guilt tried to shut him down, and nearly managed it.

"If ... what's left of him is going to need a lot of help." Jake murmured shakily. "He's not as used to rolling with abuse like I am."

"We'll have the best specialists available brought in for him." Terry said firmly, not waiting for his grandfather to answer. "We'll do everything we can for him."

"That include a bullet, if it's all there is to offer?" Jake asked very softly.

"Let's not jump the gun." Augustus said quietly. "I've seen some amazing repair done to shattered minds. Let's not borrow trouble though, the first priority is to get him back here so we can assess the damage."

"There's one addition to a team going there." The pale tom managed. "Sandy Ressur. She's in MKC's Sniper Squad. And Chance's girlfriend, some of the time."

Terry nodded. "Okay, as long you think she can be trusted not to mention this mission to the rest of Sniper Squad." He said quietly.

"She can, as long as she understands why."

"Why is because the less people know what's brewing the less likely Teveris is to know. I know the people here can be trusted, and I'll trust Sandy because you recommend her. But Sniper Squad is another matter." Terry said quietly.

Jake nodded. "I can explain it to her so she stays quiet. At least until it's over. She lives in a black world, she understands the timing of information release."

Terry nodded. "That's fine then, once its over it won't matter who knows. Should make anyone who's been cozy with Teveris nervous though."

"Like that's a bad thing." Jake growled, then snapped his attention to the swirl gray tabby standing quietly to one side. "Any doubt this is Chance?"

"Extremely little, sir." She answered promptly. "We found twenty three major points of reference, including the tattoo on his right sole. I also did a personal comparison with Agent Gryphon, who specializes in missing person IDs, and we both agree it is almost certainly him."

"If it isn't Chance, then it's a very good copy done by someone with access to Chance. In which case, this is still worth acting on." Augustus said firmly. "Thunder, Lightning and the Claws have been notified, and will be combat ready in six hours."

"Then I better get out to MKC." Jake said quietly as he stood, still very pale.

"I'll go with you." Terry said both protectively and supportively. "The somebody who made a gift of Chance, may not be done with their shopping."

"Sirs, is it truly necessary to pick her up yourselves?" Rachel asked with a glance at Augustus. "There seems to be enough time for her to take the corporate VTOL jet."

"Jake needs to talk to her, and I'm not letting him go alone." Terry said firmly. "And we don't have a secure comm line set-up to her."

"No, but there's a way to get her here without saying anything." Jake murmured as his brain started to kick back into gear. "I have been working on some things for her. Anyone who could access the line should realize by now we both keep strange hours, and three in the morning isn't that usual for me to call, or to talk shop."

Terry nodded. "We have VTOL jets standing by at the airport on a regular basis to shuttle people to and from. I'll let them know to expect her."

Captain Sandy Ressu prepared her gear with the rest of the strike teams going into Teveris, but even within this elite group, she stood apart.

An Enforcer, of Sniper Squad. Whispered to be a serial killer and a sadist of the worst kind. The mate of the one they were to free.

But beyond all that, it was the ritual nature of her preparations that made her companions uneasy. Efficiency in movement and precision in checking gear was one thing, but what she did in handling every bullet, every blade, everything she would take with her and whispering a name to it as it was set in place were unnatural. The product of an unstable mind.

And not a word of it was denied. By her or her command.

Or the Kat that insisted she join them, and gave her neuro-toxins to use, and weapons none of them had seen before, and weren't very convinced they wanted to see used. Ever.

But they were well-trained enough, that the discomfort didn't last, especially not with their Commander's instructions: Get in, do the job, get everyone out. No restrictions on tactics or weapons, whatever got the job done was approved and no questions would be asked later. It was made very clear that what they were going up against made the whispers about Sandy pale in comparison.

Go in. Kill the monsters. Get everyone out. Simple instructions for a complex mission.

Cory BrightClaw waited for the strike team to leave before quietly slipping out of the crawlspace he'd hidden in. The stealth sub wasn't big on spare space, so it had been a tight fit. He just knew he had to find her, before she accidentally got killed during the raid.

He didn't figure either of his dads would notice he was missing; they were too busy with planning this, and when it wasn't this it was the kittens. Everything was about the kittens now. Nana said they hadn't forgotten him, but it still hurt.

He checked the stealth suit, and then carefully snuck into the palace following what he could feel of the bond, and sticking carefully to shadows. He'd taken a knife and blaster just in case.

All around he could see, and hear, the bloody and broken results of the strike teams. Dead and dieing Caracals, mostly females in rich dress, were scattered throughout the marble and sandstone hall and rooms as he worked along the bond.

Cory had to stop for a moment and catch his breath. Though he knew how evil these people were, the corpses didn't look evil and Cory had had no real exposure to death and gore, outside of movies. After a few moments getting his balance, he continued along careful not to be seen or to get in the way of any strike teams.

As he followed the invisible trail, it soon led him into a room the strike teams had already cleared. Several dead lay scattered about, but there was a definite pulse of life in the bond. He did his best to ignore the stench of death and concentrate on the bond, trying to find where it was coming from.

That trail led him up, to the intricate ceiling. He saw the lean cinnamon shekat drop just in time to roll with the impact, though she landed on top with a low growl.

"Why?" She hissed, her dark orange-amber eyes full of pain.

"You're gonna have to be a little more specific." He said, keeping eye out for claws but not otherwise fighting her.

"Why kill us?" She growled nervously, a sharp, decorative blade at his throat. "Who are you?"

"Oh, I don't know somebody in charge here kidnapped, raped and tortured my dad's LifeMate, and then turned around and is doing the same thing to the LifeMate's best friend. 'Cause they'll probably do it to dad Jake again someday if somebody didn't do something, and they sure as hell weren't gonna stop doing it." He said angrily. "They picked a fight by kidnapping people from other countries, only a fool picks a fight without being ready to fight it." He said his green eyes staring resolutely back at her.

Her eyes narrowed dangerously at Jake's name. "Jake who?"

"BrightClaw now, but his last name used to be Clawson."

The blade vanished almost instantly. "My father then." She looked at him carefully. "And you're not part of the strike teams." She hesitated. "You came looking for me." Ot was half question, half statement.

"No, I'm not part of the strike team." He said quietly. "And didn't know exactly who I was looking for, just that she was close to my age. But since there's no one else in the room, and the trace stops here, I guess it must be you."

"My Purna." She said softly as she looked down at him. "I'm your Occuri."

Cory nodded. "Nana said you'd know if it really was true. Though she was pretty sure it was." He said keeping a close eye on his internal clock. "I had to come, I knew you'd be in harm's way."

"You have a home far away from this evil place?" She asked hopefully.

Cory nodded. "Yes, and a way to get there if we hurry." He said quietly.

Kyris nodded and leaned forward to brush their lips together before twisting to her feet. "Lead the way."

Cory nodded and stood. "This way." He said, checking the inertial guidance in his watch-com before moving out quickly, but sticking to shadows just in case.

There was a rumble, and distant explosions. "Double time." He said breaking into a run that she easily matched, despite the unwieldy seeming clothes. As they reached the strike craft landing zone along the subterranean river beneath the palace, he slowed looking for his cousin Peter who was one of the Commandos. Cory quickly shook his hair out to his more normal appearance and walked up.

"Hi, Pete." He said as though they were downtown.

"Cory?! What in the nine hells are you doing here? And who's she?" He asked looking at the teenaged shekat behind him.

"Umm ... rescuing a friend." He said, stretching things a bit. "She's Jake's daughter."

"I do see a resemblance, well never mind that. You two get on board, they just called for departure coverage so the primary team must be on their way back with the target." He said waving them on board. "Your fathers are going to have a fit." he said quietly.

"Come on." Cory waved to Kyris, as he climbed down into the stealth submarine, her only half a step behind him.

The reserve medic was waiting as they sat down in the passenger compartment. "Either of you kits injured?" The copper and black tabby tom asked.

"No, sir." Kyris nodded slightly, then turned to Cory. "Where are we going back to?"

"Depends on the condition of the Kat we're rescuing, I think." Cory said quietly. "If he needs immediate medical attention we'll probably go to the fortified hospital, otherwise we'll go home. First to Nemesis Base, and then to Haven."

The kits had been waiting for only a few minutes when one of the commando teams came down into the passenger area. The grim faced commandos waved pleasantly to the kits as they sat down set their weapons aside as they attempted to wipe off some of the grime of combat.

One of them came over to Cory. "Heya, kit. Does your father know you're here?" He smirked, mussing the kits hair affectionately.

Cory recognized the tall, lean light gray and black swirl tabby tom. "Of course they do Reggie. You know how they go for educational outings." He grinned back. "Where's team one?"

"They're still up top trying to talk that tabby into getting into the sub. Sweet Bastet, I've never seen anybody that badly fucked in the head, and I saw somebody Dark Kat did reprogramming job on." He said. "Who's your friend? She kind of looks like Jake, sort of."

"His daughter." Cory said simply.

"Well, surprises never cease." He said, shaking his head as he went back to sit with his teammates.

"I can probably get him in here." Kyris offered quietly. "He's used to obeying me."

"He is?" Cory asked in surprise. "Let me make sure Sandy isn't around. No telling how'd she'd react to that fact." He said heading topside, signaling to Kyris when he didn't see the Sniper around.

She popped her head up to take in the situation, and let an entirely different personal fall into place; one that was every inch the Crown Princess of Teveris.

"Ki shan!" She snapped, starting directly at the tabby and motioning down with a sharp movement.

The sandy furred tabby on the floor turned his head towards her, taking his eyes off the frustrated commandos around him. When he recognized her he got up onto all fours and moved over towards the hatch.

As he came next to her she scratched behind his ears gently and ushered him into the sub.

Only Cory could feel the intense disgust she felt doing this.

He made a deep rumbling noise as she scratched him, pushing his head back against her hand. It took him some time to figure out how he was supposed to negotiate the ladder, and in the end he half climbed, half fell into the sub.

As they got down into the passenger compartment, the medic was carefully looking Chance over while Kyris continued to scratch him affectionately. The team commander came over to the two kits and looked appraisingly at Kyris. "Thank you, you saved us having to tranq him." He said politely before heading forward.

"That really bothers you, doesn't it?" Cory asked Kyris quietly.

"I hate treating people like property." She muttered softly, though her attention to Chance never wavered.

The tabby didn't seem to mind, settling down next to her as they took their seats and set his head in her lap.

Cory nodded. "Look at it this way, you've probably given him his only chance at recovering himself. Hard to believe he used to be one of the SWAT Kats." The kit said sadly looking at the big tabby, who seemed more like a house pet than anything else.

"I know." She nodded. "How is my father?"

"Very upset about Chance, I think he still loves him." Cory said quietly. "And rather busy with his new kits, well I guess at six months they're aren't exactly new." He said with a trace of anger.

"At six months, they're old enough to be real terrors." She put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "They haven't been paying much attention to you, have they?"

"How else could I slip onto a commando mission with neither of them noticing I left?" He said tiredly.

"Because you needed to come." She said simply.

"Well, I did need to come." He agreed. "I still wonder if they've noticed, guess I'll find out when we get home."

"I expect they did." She shook her head before looking at Chance again to find a particularly favorite spot of his to scratch, resulting in a satisfied huffing sound from the tabby.

"He does seem to like it." Cory commented. "At least it keeps him calm, he'd be awfully hard to handle if he got excited or panicky." He said, trying to put a good light on it.

"Yes, and maybe I can help undo some of the damage I caused." She murmured softly.

"Sound like you've some damage of your own to heal." Cory said sympathetically. "If you caused any damage, I'm sure you didn't want to." He said, trying to be as strong as his father was for Jake.

"No, I didn't." She shook her head. "I tried to be as nice as I could be, without getting into trouble. But he was my mother's favorite, and that's a very bad thing. He screamed and fought very well, in her opinion. I always thought it was sick."

"It is sick." He agreed. "But you weren't in a position to change it. Sometimes you do what you have to, to survive." He said supportively. "Don't blame yourself, you did the best you could."

"And now I'll do my best to be a better person than she was." The girl growled.

"You already are." Cory assured her, earning a smile before she leaned against him and relaxed, though she never stopped her attentions to the tabby's head in her lap.

Chance frowned at her tone of voice and butted his head gently against her stomach.

"Cumitha," she smiled down at him with an extra scratch.

"Dad is going to be so weirded out." Cory said quietly.

"After what he survived, maybe not as much as you think." She said softly, leaning against him. "*Do you have a mate?*"

Cory jumped a little, then remembered what Nana had told him. "*At my age, not hardly.*" He said in surprise.

"*You're as old as I am.*" She looked at him curiously.

"*Yeah, most kits my age have only started dating.*" He shrugged. "*Never really gave it much thought.*"

"*Oh,*" she blinked in surprise. "*I only got out of having a kit my last heat cause mom couldn't fine a suitable mate for me.*"

"*Don't think you'll have to worry about that for a while now.*" Cory said easily as the last of the strike members boarded. "*Normal around home is to wait until you finish college at least, before having kits.*"

"*Another five-ten years?*" She cocked her head as they powered up and sank under the water, though she took a moment to make sure Chance was still calm and appreciating her attentions.

Chance drew in closer to her, apparently unsettled by the sensation of movement and all these other Kats in close quarters.

"*Unless you're in a hurry to have kits for some reason.*" Cory said curiously as she did her best to comfort the tabby. "*Doesn't mean you can't have a mate before then, though.*"

"*No,*" smile smiled at him hesitantly. "*Just so used to having it expected of me by now.*" She shifted slightly to nuzzle him. "*Like you?*"

"*Maybe, it kind of feels right.*" He said leaning closer. "*Though you're the first shekat I ever thought about that way.*" He said a little amazed.

"*You ... usually prefer toms?*" She suggested hesitantly.

"*Never been with anybody actually.*" He admitted, something he usually tried to avoid admitting normally. "*But that's what I usually think about. Dad said not to be too sure at my age, sometimes it takes a while to figure out.*"

"*Maybe you'll like it with a female too.*" She suggested with something of a mental shrug.

"*Both dads do, so why not?*" He said with a smile.

The sandy furred tabby had been growing more and more agitated as the trip dragged on, distressed by the noise and the enclosed space and the scent of so many unfamiliar Kats. He twitched in alarm at the loud thumping noises that heralded the sub's return to it's dock, pulling his head out of Kyris' lap as he flattened his ears back and growled.

"Shu, Cumitha." Kyris caught the far side of his neck gently and urged his head back down with gentle scratches.

This time he wouldn't be calmed, tossing his head and snapping his teeth together angrily.

"Hey, what's his problem?" Cory asked Kyris softly, as he noticed the commandos beginning to watch them more closely.

"How long till we dock?" She asked sharply.

Cory listened. "That's what we're doing. Those noises are the boarding ramps and lines being attached. They should open the hatch in a few. And our Dad's are probably right there."

The tabby snapped his teeth again, uncomfortably close to her hand, though Kyris was fairly sure he wouldn't hurt her. His tail was lashing around behind him, heedless of the way it bashed against walls and chairs and the various fittings protruding into the cabin.

"Kyris, is he getting aggressive, or is that just scared behavior?" Cory whispered worriedly. "'Cause the Medic has to decide whether to tranq him or not." He said nodding toward the athletic Panther Xanith, who was holding a tranquilizer gun.

"Scarred, I'm pretty sure." She continued to try to sooth him without resorting to sharp orders.

"Just keep an eye out. These commandos are really protective of both dads. He makes like he's attacking, he's gonna get tranq'd." Cory said a little sadly, figuring the big tom had been through enough without that.

Then the hatch opened.

Chance's head snapped around, visibly startled by the sound and the flood of light into the cabin. He bunched down onto the floor, his tail still moving restlessly.

One of the Commandos, a short but muscular tan tom motioned to the Kyris and Cory as the hatched opened. "Okay, you two go up first."

Corry nodded. "Okay. C'mon, Kyris time to meet the dads." He smiled as she nodded and urged Chance to come with her.

The tabby followed close at her heels, settling down again when they reached the ladder and glaring up into the light.

The sub was docked inside what appeared to a massive undersea cave. There were numerous similar crafted docked nearby, as well as what appeared to be an airfield. Waiting on the dock were a score more Commandos, several Medics and two very anxious non-Commandos. The gray Kat in a black pullover shirt and jeans, rushed forward to hug Cory.

"Are you alright?" Terry asked anxiously, looking over the kit for injuries.

"I'm fine, dad." He said quietly.

"I was worried sick. What possessed you to go into a warzone?" He said still more concerned than anything else.

"I had to make sure Kyris got out safe." He said with a familiar simpleness.

"That would be your female friend."

"My Occuri." He said simply.

"Oh, well that explains it." Terry said simply.

"Oh, sweet Bastet." Jake whispered, his eyes wide and focused on Kyris, and the naked, decorated tabby at her heals.

Chance had his body wrapped around Kyris' feet, pressing himself against her in the face of the entirely unexpected environment. His tail spiraled up around one of her legs as he glared at the knot of people nearby, despite her best attempts to sooth him.

"Oh, dear." Was all Terry could manage to say, completely taken back by totally bizarre behavior of Jake's former partner. A part of him wasn't sure there was anything left for the counselors to work with, but hoped for Jake's sake there was.

"Dads, I'd like you meet Kyris, my Occuri." Cory said politely trying to break the silence. "Kyris, these are my dads Terry and Jake BrightClaw." He said easily.

"Welcome to Haven, Kyris." Terry said with a warm smile, thinking there was an uncanny resemblance between her and Jake.

"Thank you." Kyris nodded. "Can we get to someplace much quieter, soon?" She looked at her new fathers, and Purna, with a nod towards Chance. "All this activity has him agitated."

The tabby's behavior made her words seem something of an understatement, his eyes trying to track everyone in the room at once. Whenever someone passed too near to them his lips would curl back to reveal the points of his teeth, accompanied by a low rumbling growl.

"Executive Quarters." He said simply, gently guiding Jake in the direction of a stone building separate from the rest. "Not only brutal, but tacky." Terry muttered noting the excessive jewelry on the otherwise unclothed Chance.

Cory walked alongside Kyris as they headed off, while she focused on coaxing Chance along with a minimum of bribery, and without resorting to orders.

Inside the building was much quieter, especially when they reached a large central living room with lots of plush furniture and a large entertainment center.

"A light meal, finger food, would be very nice." Kris said as she found a plush couch and sank into it, encouraging Chance to settle with her. It didn't take too much convincing. The tabby curled up beside her and set his head back in her lap, hiding has face against her shirt as she scratched his ears gently.

Terry used an intercom to order food, and opened a wall cooler. "What's everybody want to drink? There's milk, water, juice and cola."

"Juice, please." Cory said quietly, catching the bottle his father tossed to him easily.

"Milk for both of us, and a drinking bowl." Kyris said quietly.

Cory got up and brought the milks over to Kyris, as Terry rustled in the small kitchen.

"Drinking bowl? Guess we'll have to improvise, we don't have any such thing." He said, refraining from checking the quartermaster list under 'pet supplies'.

"What's it look like?" Cory asked quietly, recognizing Terry's frustration. "I'm sure there's something that will serve a similar function."

"It's a long, thin bowl, and fairly deep." Jake said as he stood and came up to Terry as he shook his shock off a bit. "It's shaped to make drinking easier. Originated before the mug, and kept in circulation by ceremony and healers."

Chance grumbled wordlessly and shifted his weight on the couch, eventually working his tail out from where it had been trapped under his body. It hung down the front of the couch, twitching in response to even the slightest sound.

"I don't think most house wares departments stock them." He said, not spotting anything that fit the description.

"Probably not." Jake grumbled as he snagged a small, deep bowl. "This should work."

"Thanks." Kyris accepted it and poured half a can of milk into the bowl before holding it to Chance's mouth, offing him a drink.

Chance mrowled softly and stuck his muzzle into the bowl, drinking eagerly and noisily to her soft praise. When he was done he set his head back down in the lap, looking somewhat comical with his nose covered in milk.

Terry leaned back against a wall in the kitchen, out of sight of the living room, sipping at his milk and wondering if there was any deprogrammer up to this job. Of all the brainwashing he'd heard of, none of it was this demeaning or this total. Every other case left one still behaving sentient.

He could hear the soft noises Chance was making from in the other room, and was relieved to hear that they seemed to be less aggressive than they had been. The last thing they needed was for the tabby to have his back up all the time, it seemed that his recovery was going to be difficult enough as it was.

Cory noted Terry's disappearance, and Jake following him, and simply watched Kyris and Chance quietly. He wasn't really sure what they were going to do with a Kat turned house pet, it was really weird.

"Ter," Jake whispered as he came very close to his mate. "I should explain."

"I see why you asked grandfather what you did." Terry said sadly.

"He's better than I expected." Jake murmured uneasily. "I meant Kyris."

"Better?" Terry asked, giving up trying to conceive of better than what. "If I read our son's eyes right, she's your daughter, right?" Terry said entirely accepting.

Jake nodded. "By Marissa." He said with name with only a little difficulty. "She's like me."

"Occuri, yes that's what Cory said." Terry said easily. "And he's like me. It's why he ran into a warzone looking for her." The gray kat said fondly. "Jake, she's your daughter. Who her mother was isn't important." Terry said calmly. "I'm more than willing to accept her the way you did Cory. Not mine or yours, ours."

Jake smiled softly and leaned against his mate. "Thank you, love. I think it might be good to leave Chance in her care to a great extent. She does well with him."

"Perhaps. It may be awhile before we find a psychiatrist willing to tackle this case." He said quietly. "Figure out if we brought back a Kat or a house pet." He said frustrated, and not entirely comfortable with Cory observing the unnatural relationship.

"If we brought back a house pet, then so be it." Jake closed his eyes with a soft sigh. "If he can live, and be happy in whatever is left of his mind, it's enough. If there's something of Chance still in there, we have a lifetime to find and heal it."

"The house pet option worries me." Terry said quietly. "In terms of Kyris and Cory's relationship. Cory's not comfortable with it already. I don't want their relationship damaged because she's stuck cleaning up after her mother." He said, clearly concerned.

"He's my partner, he's my responsibility." Jake sighed. "But as long as he trusts her and not me, I won't take away the one thing that seems to make him feel at least a little at ease here."

Terry nodded and nuzzled Jake supportively. "Okay, love. You have whatever support from me you need." He said gently, leaving problems to be dealt with if they happened. "If there's anyway I can help, please ask."

In the other room, Cory had his own ideas. He softly walked around and sat on the floor facing Chance, but out of the tabby's reach. "Kyris." He said softly. "Is there anyway to get him to be more comfortable with me?" He asked quietly. He pulled a small pad of paper and a pen from his jacket pocket slowly so as to not startle Chance and started sketching.

"Be around, he loves to eat." She smiled affectionately at both of them and as scratched under the chin. "Don't yell or make threatening moves. He understands language just fine, this one and several others, even if he doesn't speak around anyone." She paused to nuzzle the big tabby. "I'm going to see if he's game for wearing clothes and walking on two legs when he has a fully belly, since he's calm now."

Cory nodded. "I just figure, he seems to like to be around you, and given what we are it just makes sense, for me to try to get at least on neutral terms with him." Cory looked at the tabby curiously for a moment. "Not as bad off as dad thinks. He remembers who he really is, just having trouble remembering that he remembers."

"How can you tell?" Kyris asked curiously as Jake appeared around the corner to listen intently.

"It's hard to explain." He said quietly, still sketching slowly. "I can just tell things about people, sometimes. See who they've been, who they remember being. Chance remembers who he really is, it's just a matter of remembering that he remembers."

He met the tabby's gaze, though in a non-threatening manner. "I like you, Chance. I just hope you remember soon." He said quietly.

The words didn't seem to have much effect on the tabby, who made a lazy rumbling sound and rolled onto his back.

"That's okay." Cory smiled, and flipped the pad over to the next page.

"Kyris, do you think he's calm enough to get those things out of him, and maybe dressed?" Jake asked very softly. "A good meal should be ready soon."

She nodded easily and reached down to slide one nipple ring from it's home of a year and a half with one hand, while continuing to scratch him affectionately with the other. Cory watched quietly, though his mind was more on the sketchpad.

The tabby's eyes followed her hand curiously. When she began to undo the ring he grumbled softly, and butted his head against Kyris' belly.

"It's okay, Chance." She smiled down at him. "You don't need these anymore."

He repeated the motion a couple of times, just to make his point, and then rolled over onto his front.

"All right, Chance." She scratched his hear. "You can keep them if you want."

If it hadn't been the circumstances, Cory would've found an adult behaving this way amusing. As it was, he simply sat nearby in case Kyris needed him for anything.

"Maybe dinner will put him in a better mood." Jake murmured, his voice caught in his throat. "At least he still stubborn."

Chance looked up as Jake spoke, staring directly at his former partner. The tabby held that gaze for a few seconds, sniffed the air curiously, and then settled back down again as Cory smiled quietly and Terry carefully stepped around the living room, to see if the delivery had arrived yet.

Moving with slow grace Jake moved up to kneel near the tabby's head. After watching him silently for a long moment, he reached out to set his hand on Chance's shoulder.

"Do you remember me?"

The tabby shied away slightly as Jake reached out towards him, but slowly relaxed. He stretched his head forward towards Jake, sniffing at the other tom. He went on sniffing too, lifting himself up out of Kyris' lap his nose probed around Jake's neck, over his ears, under his arms, and across every available part of his body as the cinnamon tom held perfectly still and fairly relaxed for the inspection.

Cory sat fascinated watching the tabby, as did Terry who had stopped just outside the living room. Chance went on sniffing at Jake, oblivious to his audience. Eventually he was satisfied, settling down on the floor and watched Jake intently.

"I've missed you, buddy." Jake said softly and reached out to touch the tabby's shoulder again.

Chance tipped his head to one side and rumbled softly. He nudged Jake's hand with his nose and then, very tentatively, began to lick at his fingers as the lean tom shivered in a strange mixture of relief, regret and pleasure.

"Gods it's good to have you safe and home." He murmured as Cory smiled encouragingly but stayed motionless and silent.

Chance made a happy little purring noise and stretched his head up to press his nose against Jake's cheek, who smiled softly and gave his former mate an awkward hug and purred back softly.

The tabby was content to sit, staying close to Jake for almost a minute before he shifted back towards Kyris. He set his head back into her lap and looked up at her with clear brown eyes as she reached forward to scratch his ears.

"If you like being around Jake, that's a good thing." She murmured softly with a smile. "He cares a great deal for you."

Everyone in the room could hear the rumbling purr as the tabby pressed his head back up against Kyris' hand, clearly enjoying the attention as Jake hesitated, than shifted to scratch his other ear.

The tabby ducked his head away as Jake touched him, turning so that he could sniff at the cinnamon-furred fingers. It only lasted for a moment this time and the tabby settled back down, nudging Kyris' hand with his nose encouragingly and was scratched for it.

A few minutes passed, and then Terry stepped out.

Cory moved over next to Jake though he was careful not to move too suddenly. "Dad, do you think you could introduce me to Chance? I want to be friendly, and maybe if he knows I'm your son, he'll be okay with me." He whispered, but was very sincere.

Jake chuckled softly. "I think you being Kyris' friend carry's more weight than being my son."

"Chance," she scritched his chin for his attention, "say hello to Cory. He's a friend too."

Terry came back into the living room several minutes later pushing a large cart with several covered trays. Even with the covers on the aromas were very tantalizing.

Chance's attention immediately shifted from the people around him as he disentangled himself from them and followed his nose across the room toward the dinner cart. He didn't seem to know what to do with it when he got there though, since it didn't respond to his gentle head-butts.

Terry looked down at Chance head-butting the dinner cart, and raised a curious eyebrow. He had no clue just how he should interact with Chance, but figured he should try. He considered several items and then decided to see if any of the original Kat's interests remained.

He selected several of the finger foods, including some pizza rolls on a separate plate and put them down where Chance was trying to get the dinner cart's attention. "Hungry, Chance?" He said in a friendly voice.

Chance sniffed at the food, then grabbed the side of the plate in his mouth and dragged it a couple of steps away before he settled down to eat.

"You want to feed him?" Kyris looked at her father as Chance finished the first plate.

Jake nodded and stepped over to the cart and picked out a plate full of food before catching Chance's attention with it. He casually sat down near the tabby and offered a chicken leg to the tabby.

Chance sank his teeth into the meat and tugged on it sharply.

"Eat with your hands, Chance." Jake asked quietly, without letting go.

The tabby tilted his head to one side and tugged again, his teeth scraping against the bone.

A sudden twist-push-pull took the chicken out of the tabby's mouth.

"Eat with your hands, please." He repeated softly, offering the chicken again, ready to pull it away if the Kat tried to bit it again.

He did, his teeth snapping together around air as Jake jerked the food back out of his reach. The tabby gave his former partner an unreadable look then moved away to curl up around Kyris' feet again.

"Let me try?" She looked at her disturbed father, who nodded and brought the plate over.

"Na'ku." She looked at the tabby and held her hand out.

Chance rumbled softly, but otherwise made no move. After a few moments he flicked his tail around and began chewing on it quietly.

"Probably time for a break." She said softly and scritched him behind the ears. "And I think we could all use a nap."

"There are bedrooms along the hallway surrounding this room." Terry said quietly. "How do we want to do sleeping arrangements?" He asked simply.

"Chance should stay with me, though he'll probably sleep on the floor." She started. "He's used to pillows, padding and light blankets all over the floor to sleep on." She shot a glance at Cory. "I'd like it if you stay with me."

Cory nodded. "I know where we can get some pillows and blankets for Chance." He offered.

"Great," she smiled at him. " Ki shan." She directed at Chance before shifted to look at her parents. "Where's our quarters?"

"Cory knows the way to the temporary quarters. We'll go on to Haven when everyone is rested." Terry smiled. "Sleep well, kits."

"This way, Kyris." Cory said as he headed for the door. "They're nearby, it's what's nice about the circular arrangement of this temporary home."

She nodded and smiled at him, deciding that it wasn't a good idea to force Chance to do anything anymore, even if it would make life easier.

The tabby looked up as Kyris began to move away, watching her cross the room. He stayed where he was for a few moments longer before slowly getting up onto all fours and following after her.

Cory stopped at a hall closet and opened it. "Our room is over there." He nodded at a nearby door. "Plenty of blankets and pillows in here, we should be able to cover the floor nicely." He said easily.

"Good," she smiled and grabbed an armful herself. "Just and area for a good sized bed will be plenty. Assuming he doesn't try to sleep on the bed." She chuckled.

"I'm okay with that too." Cory said easily as he took an armful as well, and led the way into the large bedroom, with an equally large bed and dresser, and a bathroom off of it.

"That'd put a bit of a crimp in playing." She smiled at him. "Even if you like him, he'd not in any shape to consent."

"I know, and you never do anything with someone who can't or doesn't consent willingly." He said easily. "But I'm not gonna get upset if he suddenly gets up on the bed either."

"That's good." Kyris murred as they set up a nest for the tabby. "Sleep with or without clothes?" She looked at Cory.

The tabby interrupted by bulling his way between them once he'd figured out what they were doing, headbutting them and lashing at their legs with his tail until they stepped back and left his to sort out the pile of blankets for himself.

"Well, at least he's gone some spirit left." Kyris shook her head, though there was some pleasure in her voice.

Broken Souls

NC-17 for M/M and M/F
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

152 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written March 26, 2003 by Rauhnee Ranshanka, Todd McCall, Vorex

Setting: Haven, SWAT Kats, Traveris

Primary Races: Fox, Kantin, Kat, Xanith

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). DarkFic

Pairings: Jake BrightClaw/Terry BrightClaw/Tracy 'Valkyrie' Nordecki, Tracy Nordecki/Avon

Notes: The first 9 sections (what had been the prologs) cover roughly 18 months, and only hit the major events to catch you up to when the real story beings. A *lot* still happens off screen. And befitting the title, this is *not* one of our happy ones. Though it's not as bad as 'Affairs of the Heart and State'. I think.

Blurb: Chance is missing and the fallout will shatter the world as they know it. But all that takes a while. And Chance ... well, he gets the short end of things. Again.

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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