Cabin Fever, a working title
Author's note: Here I go again with my writer's block. I have created an entire slice of the world that has FelinaxChance and CalliexJake conquering life together.
Original characters belong to me, Swat Kats belong to their amazing writers. I want to credit many of the fanficcie writers here since this idea won't let me go.
Summary: Felina finds herself taking time off, but not for all the reasons she wants.
Cabin Fever, The First One
"You want me to take a what?" Captain Felina Feral stood in her uncle's office, hoping her hearing wasn't betraying her.
Commander Ulysses Feral sat at his desk devoid of his coat full of insignia in his shirt whites, his paws folded. "A vacation. You know, when you leave the building and don't return on purpose in an effort to relax."
"We've had three major catnip rings broken up, a Pumadyne hack, the Past Master show up and you want me to take a vacation?"
"You've been the point on all these missions. That and you broke the news to Stray's family about saving Talon." He leaned forward. "Everyone needs down time including you."
"Commander, please-" Felina rolled her eyes. Now, she felt like he was just lecturing her.
"That's an order, Captain Feral."
Giving him a hasty salute, Felina made her way out his office, checking her words.
A voice sliced into her thoughts. "Everything okay, captain?"
Felina rubbed her temples. In the driver's seat of the car was her second in command, Deanna Persiano. Tall and imposing with her white fur, Persiano followed her orders with little issue.
"Yes, continue the route to the Kat's Memorial Gardens. I can at least finish my day out."
Persiano nodded and kept driving.
Felina leaned back into the seat and idly watched the world go by. She came to lay the wreath on a newly made marker. One of the pilots in her newly formed outfit had already made the ultimate sacrifice against Dark Kat by saving Sargent Talon.
She didn't want her uncle going despite knowing he would have dropped the rest of his day just to do so. As captain, she had to do this herself. She was Stray's superior and direct report.
The quiet whitewashed marble stones and too bright green grass of the cemetery greeted them.
Persiano pulled the Enforcer cruiser to a stop. Both she-kats got out and made their way to the new marker of the fallen:
Diana Stray, Pilot and Mother.
Saluting silently, both captain and second in command held a moment of silence.
"Should we go back to Headquarters, ma'am?" Her second in command asked.
"Actually, I need to take a walk and visit someone else-more like two someones."
Persiano fell in step behind her.
Felina walked the familiar path to the Feral plots. Coming from an old MegaKat family like the Ferals meant the histories of others followed you for better or worse.
She arrived at a dual headstone, a little younger than most of the other headstones, but both already kissed by creeping vines.
Sgt. Grant G. Feral, "Fly Boy"
Sgt. Melinda Softpaw Feral, "Minxy"
Felina stood still.
She heard Persiano cough lightly seconds later. "I'll check on the car, ma'am. "
Felina nodded. At least Deanna had some sense to give her space. Once alone, Felina let her shoulders sag as the tension drained out of her. Carefully kneeing, she pressed a paw to each marker.
"I'm sorry it's been a year." Her voice turned thick like oatmeal with emotion. "Things took off after the promotion, I formed a unit and it's been wild. Sometimes, we even train with the Swat Katz." Finding some steadiness, she spoke. "Uncle wants me to take time off. I think I know where it is going to be too." She smiled. Maybe I'll bring company. You two were the social ones."
She stood up to her height, saluted each of them individually then released the tight breath in her chest.
Maybe another year wouldn't go by due to her anxiety.
She didn't even have time to react when something-or someone, plowed into her. Felina groaned, feeling where the hard earth met her head and her elbows.
Head spinning, Felina tried to raise her arms. The resistance was instant as she felt heat. Body heat.
"Captain, stay down." It wasn't so much an order as it was a plea. "They're going for the head." It was a tom. But, how? There were only two kats here.
A quick glance at her mother's headstone revealed a single shot inches from the engraving. "What the-?"
The light of a laser ran across her dad's name.
One body roll from the tom and she heard a bullet hit a vase near Grandma Leonora's marker seconds later.
Blinking, Felina found herself on her back and staring up at the zipper of a distinctive G-suit then his masked face. "Spending your afternoons tackling Enforcers?"
"Sorry about the dirt. I owe you a dry cleaning bill." T-Bone's total attention wasn't on her, however, his ears and his eyes turned toward the westside of the cemetery. "On three, go for the tree."
A quick three count followed once he rolled away from her. They crawled toward the aged oak tree in this section of the Feral plots. Backs pressed against the wood, she finally had a chance to get her weapon.
"Better dirt than blood. They charge extra." She took the safety off her weapon. "Number of perps?"
"One shooter. Two rounds so far. No silencer."
Another round went off. The ping zooming over her head snapped her into attention.
Now she realized why he tackled her. He must have seen the shooter aiming for her.
He must have shielded her from getting hit.
How did she miss it?
The outline of a kat in black clothing with a weapon caught her attention. The faint red line of a laser at her leg forced her to push him out the way and aim for the figure on the roof of the mausoleum. Three shots from her weapon and then nothing.
The figure was gone? She was so sure she heard her shot connect with a target.
"Crud." She backed toward T-Bone. "You hurt?"
"Just my knees from age and that tackle." He, too, stood on the ready, his gloved weapon aimed at whatever the next threat was.
An audible groan cut through the silence.
She saw a she-kat on the ground. Double crud. "Persiano."
Both of them hurried to her second in command. "What happened?"
Persiano groaned more and held her forehead. "Something wrecked me."
T-Bone grimaced. "I see blood. Right arm."
"Don't move, Deanna." Felina ripped her jacket off and immediately wrapped around the other kat's arm. "There's a First Aid kit in the car."
He went for the trunk and came back with the white box. They took the time to properly dress the wound and help Persiano lean against the cruiser until they could get proper medical assistance.
"I'll call-" Felina began but felt a large paw on her shoulder.
"That's not the only place I see blood." His tone betrayed whatever tough guy exterior he had put on for their sakes.
She gave him a look then followed his stare. A small, but definitive puddle of blood was near the path to the mausoleum. Was she hit? She looked at her leg. Did she even feel a hit?
Questions started jumbling her brain.
"Wait." She finally lifted her pants leg to see if she received the worse end of the deal.
No blood there. No wounds. So, where...?
"Maybe I did get one shot in." Felina shook herself. She needed to get backup, a rescue for Persiano and a lead on whoever took aim at her. "T-Bone, you might pay me back another time." She reached for her cellphone.
"I kinda saw that coming." He gave her one last look over "Got it from here?"
This cemetery was going to be crawling with Enforcers and sure enough, her uncle.
"I'm sure. If not, I'll rub some dirt in it."
With a nod, he disappeared just as sirens started singing in the distance.
Felina closed the door to her office and dropped into her chair. She placed her head in her paws, tired.
The hours mashed into some bad mix of her asking questions, someone asking her questions and a hundred "you okay" inquiries. Persiano went to MegaKat Medical, she went back to HQ and her fly boy dropped a few sparse hints about the phantom shooter via hacked text messages.
A thick file sat on her desk. Finally, someone was doing something to help her figure out what was going on.
She picked through the file and noticed names. The names of two dozen former Enforcers, pictures of crime scenes, a file on Dark Kat... Hold on. She went back to the photos.
Was that her apartment?
Sure enough, the pictures were of the spartanly decorated place she had rented for the last few years, from the threadbare couch to the secondhand bed, sheets folded with military precision. They even had a picture of the goldenrods flowers Chance Furlong sent here near a picture of her and Uncle Ulysses at her graduation.
She stared at the photos harder. The flowers overturned, vase broken, couch in disarray.
Her last few missions. She hadn't been home, opting to stay bunked at Enforcer headquarters.
The realization gutted her: Someone broke into her apartment and trashed it.
Handwriting on the folder made it worse: Attn: Comm, Lt. Comm
Felina shoved everything into that folder and stormed down the hall.
Maybe the look of pure murder on her face made other kats stop cold in their tracks or just jump out the way.
At her uncle's office, she didn't even care for the reprimand sure to follow. She threw the door open to find Steele and the Commander in deep conversation.
Both of them froze.
Steele was the first to recover and smoothed his tie down and tried to speak. "Captain Feral-"
She slammed the file on his desk. "You both knew this entire time someone was after me and you weren't going to tell me about it?"
Steele turned white.
Her uncle exhaled and leaned back in his chair. "Now, hold on-"
"Don't." She gave both of them a laser pointed stare and turned on her heel. She swore she heard a picture fall over from the force of how hard she slammed the door.
Callico "Callie" Briggs allowed Captain Feral the space to rage in her home office later that evening.
For Felina, going to her own apartment in her not so great emotional state would mean beating up random tenants who crossed their eyes at her the wrong way.
Felina spent most of her time letting Callie's heavy bag know what she thought of it if it crossed her the wrong way.
The mayoral candidate stepped back into her den of the quaint condo, slipping what smelled like cocoa in her PJs. "Are you going home later? That seems like a big risk."
"Not tonight." Each word became a punch. "You don't mind me crashing here, do you?"
"Nope, as long as you don't mind me catching up on Days of Our Nine Lives. " Callie paused, sipped then spoke. "Have you talked to Feral-"
"He's treating me like a kit and I hate it." The last punch produced a sizable hole, the sand inside spilling on the hardwood flooring.
Callie shook her head. "Should I mention the shape of my pitiful little pink heavy bag?"
"Nooo." Felina blanched. She did literally beat the stuffing out of the poor bag. "Sorry. I'll get it cleaned up." She headed to the kitchen to find a broom and dustpan.
"I won't take it too much to heart. Plus, I do not think you give love taps." Callie casually shrugged once Felina stepped back in the den.
"I only save those for the baddies." The captain smirked and started sweeping. "I'll get the sand up first then scrub. I reek."
"Speaking of which, use the blue soap bottle and not the red one. Jake made that mistake last time and ended up smelling like a cotton candy-"
Felina nearly made the same mess twice. "Jake smelled like cotton candy-"
"Well, yeah, he grabbed the wrong soap."
"He used your soap?" The smile that was on her face. Felina made her way to the trash can quickly. No way was Briggs getting out of this.
"Well, I-I did let him stay over. His overalls got dirty."
"And he used your shower?"
The bottle in the bathroom wasn't the only thing red all of a sudden. Callie's face flushed. "I'm going to find some duck tape for that hole."
"Duck tape? Ooh, Briggs, sounds like your off time with Clawson is really interesting."
"I'm not answering that!" Callie shouted from the kitchen.
Felina covered her mouth less she lost it giggling. At least she had this small bit of amusement to keep the unknown terror at bay.
"Sure you don't need another night?" Callie walked to her car, her faithful 'Baby' in a power suit and heels. Callie morphed from her casual self into "storm the day" politician and lawyer Briggs. "Going back to your apartment might be too much."
"Naw. I need to see the damages for myself."
"Well, be safe, captain."
"Thanks. I'm sure I left Jake enough soap-"
Callie gave her a murderous parting glance before getting in the car and driving off.
Felina slipped back into her Jeep and headed home.
No matter how many times you think you are ready…
Felina made herself count to ten and squeeze her eyes.
The living room was a mess-the couch sliced in two, the coffee table broken, water damage. The frame holding her picture cracked.
Seeing her goldenrod flowers hurt the most.
She leaned down and picked each petal up like they were her kittens. Chance had sent them to her after a particular cruddy week and she bought them home in hopes of not killing them. They had just started blooming for her after a few tips from Callie.
Got it from here? T-Bone's voice echoed in her head.
"No, no, I don't got it." She dropped to her knees. Maybe she did need a vacation. If nothing else, she needed to regroup and learn who had it out for her.
A clear knock got her attention. Back in Enforcer mode, she quietly made her way to the door, armed. One glance out the peephole revealed a different figure.
"Who is it?" She had to verify it wasn't a hallucination.
"I would say pizza man, but that'll be too obvious." The familiar voice of Chance Furlong carried to her ears as he stood outside the door in clean overalls, his paws shoved in his pockets.
She opened the door.
"So, I wasn't a hundred percent sure if you were home. I didn't want to call your-" He paused then took in the state of her apartment. "What happened?"
Felina allowed him to step inside and shut the door behind him. Now with him here, it all felt like too much.
"Do I need to stay here tonight? What's going on?" He paused, then placed both paws on her shoulders and exhaled. "Okay. I'll stop asking twenty questions. I can come back-"
Wordless, she threw her arms around his back and buried her head in his chest, allowing weeks of stress to spill out in tears in his shirt.
Chance felt dumb as he stood there in shock.
Felina was crying?
Not the bad with a capital A Captain Feral with more years of military, tactical and martial art experience held in her one paw than he had in his whole life.
The cemetery… Chance wasn't "there," but he as T-Bone remembered the whole scene.
Carefully, he wrapped her in a hug.
He decided to keep his mouth shut for once and let her be, his chin resting on her head.
When he felt the trembling stop, she looked up into his face. "Sorry."
"I'm not." He brushed a tear from her eye.
Suddenly, he felt her stiffen up and push him away. "I need to get this place clean and..."
"'Lina," He grabbed her wrist gently before she could escape. "Wait." He circled his arms around her waist and tugged her closer to him. "I-I got you. Please know that."
Felina gave him a long funny look before answering. "Can you help me get things settled? I'm taking some time off and want the place to at least be decent when I'm gone."
"Whatever you want." He buried his face in her hair, murmuring softly.
"Stop trying to make me feel better-" She gave a self-deprecating laugh, but allowed him to run his paws up and down her back.
"That's what I'm here for."
Felina buried her face in his chest again. "Guess you'll just have to stay longer."
"What punishment." He teased then leaned down, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek.
Felina slipped her arms around his neck and returned the kiss with depth, the silent permission he requested from her given.
Callie ignored her home phone for a few more minutes. Jake Clawson had his head in her lap and she wasn't losing their cozy moment. By lunchtime, it was evident no work was getting done. One fake emergency later and Jake had come by on his own.
"Callie, Should you get that? Is it work?"
"The answer machine will tell me who it is."
You have reached the residence of Callico Briggs. Please leave me a detailed message. Thank you and have a great day. *BEEEEEP*...Callie, it's Manx…
"Of course," She sighed.
"If you need me to-"
"I need you to stay right here." She teased him. "Besides, I have an assistant and she'll get to handle it."
"How's being interim mayor working out?"
"The same as being deputy mayor." She rolled her eyes. Gone was her suit jacket and pumps as she only wore her blouse and skirt. She sat on her couch and allowed Jake to snuggle with her because well, it was nice. "Manx's stroke really put him down."
After Felina left that morning, her own sense of longing kicked her in the tail so she called him to stop by for a few hours. Hours that she so did not want to forfeit for anything.
He glanced up at her, "I think you will crush it as mayor."
"You always think that." She laughed then rubbed behind his ears, loving how soft his purring was. "But, I always appreciate it."
Another phone started ringing. Great, now his cellphone was going. He reached in his pocket to see the name. Then, he groaned. "Chance, what do you want?"
"Oh." She said flatly. "Well, it might be an old lady on the side of the road." Sad to disengage, she forced herself to get up. "Going to the kitchen to order."
Jake gave her a thumbs up then answered his phone. "MegaKat Junkyard and Salvage, Jake speaking."
Even as she moved around the kitchen, she could make out the panic in his voice. "Whoa, whoa! Slow down, buddy...what is…?...Is she okay? Kat's alive...need my help...sure?...okay...tell, tell her we are both sorry….I can fix it tomorrow morning after...honestly, buddy, you should stay there or let her go with you...I know, I know! I am being serious for once...no, don't do anything stupid...just, both of you get some rest...yeah, keep me posted.."
Jake hangs up then smiles at her. "Sorry about that."
"Leaving?" She didn't mean to sound so sad, but they just settled on a movie and Chinese.
"No," He shook his head. "At least not now. Crud, we are closed early today." His smile returned. "Mind if I sleep on the couch? Chance is freaking out about Felina freaking out about her apartment."
"No problem and I understand." Callie sat next to him. "You did leave something last time so I washed it."
"Thanks." He brightened up.
Callie touched his shoulder, noting how familiar they were getting with each other, awkwardness melting away with each meeting. Felina would be fine with Chance. She would be more than fine with Jake here and maybe her weekend wouldn't take a backseat to running a government or speech writing.
Sunlight touched her face.
Felina groaned as she woke up. Kats alive, it was usually dark still when she woke up.
She opened her eyes and searched for a clock. An unfamiliar clock greeted her.
Felina sat up. Where was she?
Looking over, she realized there was a pair of pants tossed over a chair in the room. Jeans for a tom kat.
When did she fall asleep in Chance's room?
Last night was a blur: they cleaned up her apartment then drove to the junkyard. He convinced her to finally eat something then...sleep? 1000 on the dot. More like hibernation.
She tossed the covers off and noticed she still had on her fatigues and black tank top, wrinkled from sleep.
Good night, girl, where is your proper clothing?
Deciding to find Chance, Felina made her trek to the kitchen. The house surrounded by the junkyard had a chaotic charm to it, two stories and two distinct sides. While she noted the care Clawson took with his side, Chance had a slight bit more recklessness.
Except with food. Was that the scent of...cherries? Sure enough in front of the stove, Chance was humming and cooking.
The plate had a neat setting of bacon, fresh fruit and fresh bread.
The guy whose laundry basket looked like a bomb hit it could set a proper table?
"Want coffee?" She took in his cleaner overalls and his hat tilted to the side.
"Please." Her mouth was thick from sleep.
"Sorry if I look worse."
"You were running on fumes. No one looks
good after that."
"Do you normally make breakfast for random she kats who wake up in your bed?"
She saw the smile on his face grow. "I know my rights." Turning around, he placed the promised liquid on the table and an empty plate so she could serve herself. "I tend to cook when stressed."
"I clean when stressed. Perfect balance."
He took a seat across from and they lapsed into a comfortable silence, only the scrapping of silverware heard.
She broke the silence. "I need to head to Katgusta."
"Small town. My parents have-had a cabin that I found the keys to. I want to go there a few days to lay low."
He nodded. "Sound plan." He raised an eyebrow. "Going alone?"
"For now. I feel like there's something worth looking into."
Debating for a moment, Felina gave herself a small bit of leeway to open up. "My parents were both sergeants in the military, she was special ops and he was an air patrol pilot. They ended up getting an old cabin on a decommissioned base, land and all. After the MegaKat War, some developer tried to make it a suburb, but the townspeople were so against it, they ran him off. So, my parents got everything for pennies and kept the cabin. They made it a touch more modern, but not too crazy. We spent most summers out there except right before my mother's last mission. It was a big one and then the whole Buff thing happened, so we ended up there for half the year."
He grabbed another piece of bacon, leaning in. "Go on."
"My mother had her orders for her last mission. They were going for a major kill, some huge target. But, she...never came and after two years, my dad had her legally declare-"
He reached over to squeeze her paw.
She smiled her thanks and continued. "By that time, my dad had been renting a condo by campus and I went to North Point to train. He stumbled on papers from a JAG lawyer. Apparently, her unit had been under investigation. Some kat had been a mole for Dark Kat and Mom discovered the mole before the mission kicked off."
"You think you know the mole? He grabbed a few cherries and popped them in his mouth.
She poured another cup of coffee and finished her forgotten toast, her brain working furiously to tie her theory together. "I think some kat is really after my mom's knowledge, not me. She kept detailed accounts of missions in a black sketchbook so it wasn't obvious to a kat searching for it."
"Some kat is still after you." The hard edge returned to his demeanor.
"Maybe...maybe they hope I can lead them to it. I think Dad cleaned the cabin. He got sick and Uncle handled so much stuff for me." She sent him a reassuring smile. "I want to go and make sure it's all okay, check the property. That buys the Enforcers time to find the shooter."
He snorted. "I'll like to believe that."
"I'll keep my cellphone so you can call, but I may need a backup radio or something similar. Some parts of the base deliberately shut down technology."
She stood up from her side and walked toward him. Hand on his shoulder, she perched herself on his lap. "Besides, if it's like anything I remember, the land is gorgeous. Clear lake, open skies, quiet."
He let a lazy paw rest on her hip. "Okay. You obviously don't need my permission, just-just make sure someone can get a hold of you. Jake and I closed for the day, but we don't wanna get too behind on work."
"Yes, work will take your mind off worrying about me."
"Nothing takes my mind off you." He whispered, his dark brown eyes searching her.
She settled into him for a few stolen moments of bliss before making herself find a shower.
Feline never realized the noise of the city took away so much time for self-reflection.
Standing in front of the family cabin, she inhaled the fresh air before encountering what she was sure to be a years' worth of dust.
With just a backpack, she unlocked the door. The staleness of being unoccupied hit her nose hard. "Guess I get to air the place out and clean. Good workout."
With one last wrinkle of her nose, she set to the task of situationing the place.
Two hours into spiders, dust balls and an occasional bird, the house started resembling something kats could live in, Felina made her way to the downstairs bedroom her parents shared. The large poster bed, dressers and fireplace had that rustic charm that she liked.
She bumped into the cedar chest at the end of the bed.
Had the chest always been here?
She tried to avoid this room the older she got and the more she realized how in love her parents were. Felina bent down and opened the lid. Inside the chest were more keepsake items: family quits, picture album, Mom's sketchbooks, dad's aviator jacket and shades.
She sat on the rug on the floor and started flipping through the albums, then the sketchbooks. In the first one were drawings of flora and fauna, the landscape, the lake. The second sketchbook started off the same: different locations she guessed were missions for Sergeant Feral, the middle of the book...plans? The more she looked through this book, she saw notes and diagrams followed by thoughts of her mother on what she guessed were missions.
Felina grabbed these two sketchbooks and dad's shades and decided they belonged with her own items to take back to MegaKat City. They were those small pieces of Melinda and Grant Feral she missed.
Given she estimated a week as a worthy amount of time, she had the space to thoroughly examine everything and either keep or toss.
Would the phone just stop singing?
Callie rolled her eyes. Manx spent his entire term hands off letting her run the show. Now, sidelined after having a stroke, he called every day for updates. Add in the office working on closing another deal with the Young family and associates, keeping the Ragdollfellas in check, navigating the budget and Commander Feral breathing down her neck, Callie wanted no noise for her entire lunch hour.
The phone rung yet again. With all the sweetness she could muster, Callie picked: "Mayor's office. Briggs speaking."
"Working hard or hardly working?"
Callie curved her formal tone. "How are you? How's the woods?"
"Well, no cabin fever yet, so count it as a plus." Felina sounded less upset. "It smells a thousand times better after airing the place out for a day."
"He misses you." She teased in a sing song tone. "I've never seen him so mopey."
"Kats alive, it's only been a week." Felina cleared her throat, sounding far away. "I hate to cut this short, but can you reach a mutual party of interest for me?"
Callie drummed her nails on the desk. Who was a mutual…wait... "Via communicator?"
"Yes. I know it's not a true emergency, but I need to see T-Bone particularly. He'll know what it's about."
They say curiosity killed the kat. Callie itched to understand that connection, but decided it was best to help without asking. Besides, the younger Feral was always a supporter of the boys.
"Any particular message I need to give?"
The line went quiet. "Tell him he can pay up the dry cleaning bill. Here's the number."
This is crazy.
Chance touched down on the soft Earth, trying to keep his tough T-Bone persona intact.
Truth was, he was afraid for Felina.
A fear that gnawed at him because he couldn't see the enemy clearly.
Get it together.
Chance refocused his efforts as he followed the coordinates. The cabin was on a former military base and Razor sent the schematics to him.
The sound of running water caught his attention. The lake meant the cabin was close by. Through the trees, a two story cabin stood on the edge of a pristine lake. His heart slowed its rapid fire pace for a moment. With her back to him, he saw Felina standing still holding herself as if in deep thoughts. The black tank top and Enforcer fatigues unmistakably.
Girl never believes in a day off, he smirked.
As he got closer, he saw her visibly stiffen and reach for her weapon.
"I come in peace, Captain." He raised his arms to show he wasn't holding a weapon, trying to remain in character.
Turning around, Felina gave him a small smile. Seeing her relax allowed him to relax. "You got my message." She looked over his shoulder "Alone?"
"Razor's connected, but I figured this is just a you and me conversation."
"Darn nature." She motioned for him to follow. "We can talk inside." Felina paused with a serious look on her face. "Oh and wipe your feet off. I just cleaned the carpet."
T-Bone held his smile in check. "Yes ma'am."
"So, secret meeting in the woods?" He sat on the aged couch, listening to her bump around the dated kitchen. Was that coffee he smelled?
"I'm laying low until-" She made a face. "You know."
"Hope you had good renter's insurance." He paused. "Sorry, that wasn't meant to..."
"I figured you two have your ways of finding out things." She waved her paw in a dismissive motion. "I might get a decent condo out of this. That other place sucked."
"Not to cut our cozy meeting short, but what can I-I mean, what can we do for you?" He leaned forward, paws templed.
Felina appeared before him with two mugs in her paws.
He gave her a look.
"At least humor me and take a sip. I save the poison for special occasions."
Reluctantly, he took one of the mugs and resisted the urge to sniff it. I mean, it did smell better than the tar Jake normally brewed.
She took a sip before answering his questions. "I need a favor. I do hate to ask."
"And you call a Swat Kat? I mean, I hate to further step on Enforcer toes."
"My uncle-Commander Feral had an entire task force on this. But, I think he's missing something."
"What's that?" He met her brown eyes.
"He pulled files on former Enforcers. You know, those fired, dismissed, those caught in criminal activity-"
Crud. "Following the usual suspects." T-Bone swallowed hard. Yep, he might drink that coffee. He looked up and saw old liquor bottles over the fireplace mantle. Spiked.
"Two names came up that I think don't belong there."
"Oh?" His fur stood up.
"There are two former pilots running an Enforcer plane boneyard outside of the city. I don't see them as the type to make an attempt on my life."
"What makes you so sure?" Now, he chose to take a long sip of that coffee. Just like he deliberately chose to ask that question. It was there and waiting.
She sipped her coffee. Would she mention him as Chance, the tom she was seeing? Write him off as some disgraced pilot? Reveal her connection to their everyday life?
"Whoever made the attempt isn't a tom."
That got his attention. "And you know this how?"
"The shooter wore perfume."
"You smelled perfume that far away?"
"No. I suddenly remember smelling it in my apartment. A particular brand older she kats like to wear called Blue Sapphire. Factor in the build and weight I got from my brief glance in the graveyard, I bank on a female. I would like to intercept some files on a desk without involving my uncle."
Well, he did have to admire good old fashion detective work. That and the subtle waif of a floral scent clung to her fur. Score one for the birthday gift he got her. "You could just go back to your office-"
"I planned on at least one week, maybe two out here. That and I can't hack my way out of a litterbin."
"I'll tell my partner." Chance placed his half finished mug down. "I should-"
"I know." She stood up. "It was just-just nice to have company out here."
He opened his mouth to say more, but then his headset began to crackle to life. Guess Jake found a signal.
He nodded. "Captain."
She turned toward the fireplace then back to the Swat Kat in the living room. "Oh and can you-?"
Emptiness met her.
Searching the picture windows, she tried to see him.
Like smoke in the fireplace, he vanished into the evening. The golden sunlight fading into a pretty orange hue signaling the end of the day.
She sighed and finished her drink. "-tell Furlong-" Fiddling with her mug, she went to double check her perimeter and lock up.
The cellphone sung in the still forest. Of all the times Jake could call me.
Touching his Glovitrix, he managed to get a signal as he headed for the main road. "Hello?"
The voice was feminine. "Chance?"
He was himself again and finding now he could fully enjoy the softness of it, instead of being behind his other hardened persona. "'Lina?"
"Long time, no see."
The itch to tell her he had just saw her danced on his lips. Lips. He missed her lips for sure. "How are you?"
Great line there, Furlong.
"I miss you."
He gripped the handles on his bike harder. Control slipping, he gave into those softer feelings. Over a week without her as Chance was killing him, even if Swat Kat T-Bone got to see her. This wasn't the hard nose Captain Feral speaking, this was his 'Lina who liked foot rubs with bad B-rated movies and cold pizza.
"You'll be home soon. We'll be together. Don't worry. If anyone will sniff out threats, I know your uncle will."
A throaty reply clung to his fur, like her birthday perfume and pulled him in. "I just wish you were here."
I wish I could have stayed. "You know I'm there in your heart. It'll kill me to compromise your position in any way." Even as T-Bone.
"Awww. A regular Tommeo, aren't you?"
"I try sometimes, Fairest Felina." He checked his compass again and found himself meeting signs of civilization. "Got yourself locked up good wherever you are?"
"Me, the .45 and a good book will be fine."
He decided to review the surveillance later before bed. Thank God Jake made cameras tiny enough for him to slip around the cabin when she wasn't looking. "Gonna sketch?"
"No. Maybe tomorrow. I'm beat. This place was a mess and it finally feels homey again."
"I mean it, 'Lina. Call me. Send a pigeon even. I will come to you."
"You're being sweet because you know I'm losing my mind out here."
"You? Losing your mind? Aren't you trained for situations like this, captain?"
"I am. Doesn't mean it isn't true."
"I can see you getting away from Sourpuss, but not sweet little of me?" He kept his teasing light even as he heard her voice shake and witnessed her visible tension. I want to take that away, Felina.
"Hey now. He's my Sourpuss. Be nice."
"And I'm your Snugglebear, nice lady."
"I told you that in confidence." The lightness in her tone bloomed.
"And I am confident I would make a better pillow for you."
Her laughter spilled over the phone. "Go shower, Furlong. Good night."
He was about to answer that shower comment very colorfully when Jake's baritone broke in. "Yeah, buddy, go shower."
"What the-?" Chance pulled over on the side of the single lane road and hit the steering bar. "Crud, you were eavesdropping?"
"One, it's not eavesdropping when you open the encrypted channels. And two, did I have to hear all the sticky sweetness of that conversation? I mean, maybe I need a shower."
He growled. "What do you want?"
"I was helping the captain. You know, like you said the Swat Katz would?"
Chance grumbled under his breath, turning his bike toward MegaKat City. "So?"
"Her theories check out. I hacked the Enforcer lab's results. Perfume matches the brand she mentioned. So did gun powder to the round pulled from the grave marker."
"Not quite. I'm working on it, but it's taking me longer with all the enhanced security."
"Oh and fair warning: Sourpuss is digging through old Enforcer files."
"Great." Jake sounded as thrilled as he did.
"'Lina is looking to intercept a few files. Talking about some toms at a junkyard or something-"
"Really?" The amusement returned.
"She wants the files. Says her hacking skills suck."
Jake snickered. "Done."
"Only for you, Sungglebear."
Just wait until I'm back in the junkyard. Revving up, Chance raced toward the outskirts.
Week three of isolation and Felina swore all military training left her body.
Was she losing it?
Dreams about Buff Ragdollfella drowning her in the lake consumed her.
This last dream left her soaked in sweat.
Felina hit the light, shadows jumping back to reveal the sparse guest room.
She got out the bed and stripped it and herself. Tossing everything in a pile, she made it a point to make tomorrow wash day.
Her cellphone rested on the nightstand. She threw on a clean shirt and underclothing then started dialing.
A sleepy voice answered. "Yeah?"
"I'm sending a pigeon."
Silence followed briefly. "I'll see you then."
All the noise must have grabbed Jake's attention.
His friend stepped into the room, yawning as he scratched his pajamas. "Camping?"
"She left me a message. I need to see her, if only for a few days." Chance continued to toss items on his bed-clothing for the bugs, flares, a compass, keys to an old pick up truck they had been working on. "Where are we today?" He had to remember they were running a business with a side of vigilantism.
"With crime fighting or with repairs?" Jake asked, his eyebrows raised.
"Either really." He unzipped a camo colored backpack.
"Well, no crazies are anticipated this weekend and we only have the old lady's Buick. Other than that, yeah you can take a few days off."
He traded a look with Jake. "Thanks buddy."
"I know you want to go to her." Jake didn't sound upset, but he didn't sound thrilled. "Just give me a fair warning that doesn't occur at 0500."
"If I knew where I was going...wait…" He pulled the paper out his pocket and read through his messy notes again. "Coordinates. She sent me coordinates in a code. She's off the grid and doesn't want too many kats to get a hold of her. I could fly there, but I need this to be more covert."
"I figured that was her plan."
"Jake, I-" Guilt hit him. He was ditching his partner and friend this weekend. Anything was liable to happen. Like it happened to his mentor, one of the first training pilots at Academy. If he hadn't gone to the grave site….
Grave waits for no one, Furlong. Retired Enforcer pilot Dale Pawson kept telling Chance over the years. Graves did not wait for Pawson.
Jake shook his head. "If you are needed, I'll give you a holler. And yes, if it was Callie, I would do the same."
Chance bumped paws with Jake. "I owe you."
"Check the surveillance out on the new cameras you planted. That'll help too."
"Our interim mayor probably could use your help this weekend, buddy. You know, being all alone-" He teased making kissy faces.
Chance narrowly missed the rag aimed for his head.
Chance followed the coordinates to Katgusta, a small town two hours outside of Megakat City, not unlike Katlanta as Jake would describe to him in their conversation.
He hoped his plain clothes allowed him to blend in within small town life. The small collection of stores in a row took him back to a quaint place in time. Now if they just have a decent pie shop...Mario's Pizzeria and Pitstop.
Guess that'll do.
The green pickup truck putted its way through the back roads once he had a hot late breakfast. No slick bikes, no Turbokat. He promised to keep a low profile for both of their sakes. Riding the Turbocycle was risky enough the week before. Another thirty minutes and he killed the engine near a dock behind the cabin.
Chance got out and found her leaning against an old tree, sketching. No fatigues, only a plain shirt and shorts.
He cleared his throat. "So, got a call for pizza?"
Felina looked up and dropped her sketchbook. She ran to Chance and jumped into his arms. Weeks of isolation must have taken their toll on her.
"Umm, 'Lina? I'm going to drop this-" He tried to balance the box and her weight.
She quickly snatched the pizza box from his paws, placed it to the ground and covered his lips with her own. He surrendered to this passionate kiss, allowing her paws to trail from his ears to his back.
Kats alive, the purr he must have elicited...
Moments later, Chance gently pulled away, his face and fur covered in a deep red flush. "Okay, tell me how you really feel then."
Her laughter was a healing balm for his ears. "Guess we should take this inside?"
Prying himself from her, Chance grabbed his food and her sketchbook book then followed her inside.
Back in the cabin, Felina tried to tamper down her excitement, but couldn't help it.
She hated being "touchy feely" and yet, she hated the thought of him not touching her.
Chance had an arm around her waist as they reclined on the couch, luxuriating in her affections. "Guess I should let another month go by to get this type of reception."
"Negative." She kissed his nose again then his forehead. "I don't even plan another hour without you."
He ran his paw through her hair and stared deep into her eyes. "I was going crazy too. No one would tell me anything, Callie barely had any updates. Your office is locked down tighter than Fort MegaKnox."
"Everybody's worried about me. And, I hate it."
"That's not a bad thing you know. Having so many other kats watch your back."
"When you're a grown she-kat, it can be." Felina sighed. "They keep treating me like I'm a little kit and…I can't explain it. You get it. I don't have to say a bunch of stuff, because you just know me."
"This is risky." He sobered up. "What if I-?"
"I'll play 'what if' later. Right now, what if we just enjoy this?" She touched a paw to his cheek. "Please-just please don't let me go."
He shifted on the couch so he could hold her closer to him, the only light in the whole building came from the fireplace. "That's all I need to hear."
Rubbing circles in her back, he held Felina until she let a loud purr escape from her side.
If this is the way to die, I'll take it.
She closed her eyes, for once feeling like she could sleep peacefully.