Chapter Seventeen

"Talking"

'Thoughts'

Two days had passed since Demon and Dark Kat had died in that warehouse. To Dena, that night replayed itself over and over in her mind. The guilt, pain and loss of her brother by her mate caused her to shut down the link between them. She couldn't bear his pain and hers. She felt numb and lost without T-Bone to comfort her but it was her choice.

But no matter how she felt, she was still the Chief Enforcer of this city and was required to report the deaths. It didn't help her piece of mind that she had to lie about how the rogue and an omega died. To keep her mate safe, she wrote a fabrication that Demon and Dark Kat had managed to kill each other. She didn't put in the report that Demon had kidnapped Iriomkats either. It would have just caused more problems.

She stood by while her CSI and the coroner dealt with the bodies. Dark Kat's identity was verified but she didn't help them identify Demon. The coroner's office had to list it as a John Doe.

Dena pulled strings and managed to get Demon's body sent to a special holding area within Iriomkat lands meant for that purpose. She didn't want Kats doing an autopsy on one of their kind. She knew the Iriomkat council would have forbidden it and doing it this way prevented another future headache with both councils by simply taking action herself on the issue. She had a right as Demon's sister, anyway. A funeral would be held in secret within a few days.

The rather ambiguous report sat hard in her stomach but she really had no choice. The good that came out of this, if one could call it that, was a serious omega was finally dead. The city council would be thrilled about that and the fact a dangerous new enemy, an Iriomkat rogue was also dead.

She wished this all could be put on hold until she had time to deal with her emotions but as soon as her report reached the Mayor she was called to the council chambers.

Nearly dragging her feet in reluctance, Dena went to city hall in her male disguise. The meeting was being held rather earlier than was usual for the council. It was obvious they were still concerned about what they called the 'Iriomkat Situation'. She grimaced at that mentally as she took her usual seat.

Ms. Briggs gave her a small smile of encouragement as she sat down next to Mayor Manx and the meeting began. She didn't return the smile but did nod at Callie. She could feel the council's eyes on her but ignored it.

Mayor Manx cleared his throat before speaking, "Commander Feral, your report on the rogue please."

Dena eyes flickered with pain for just a moment before she spoke in her usual brisk and commanding style. "The rogue Iriomkat and the omega known as Dark Kat killed each other in a battle for supremacy. Each had desired to bring a war to Megakat City. Dark Kat had apparently tried to instigate a falling out between Iriomkats and Kats for the purpose of taking over when the city was helpless. The rogue was just interested in getting rid of Kat kind or ruling over them. In a warehouse, two days ago, the rogue apparently used the warehouse that belonged to Dark Kat, without realizing it, to gather like-minded Iriomkats to his cause. Dark Kat had gone there to collect some weapons he had stored within. The two clashed, violently, and despite mine and the SWAT Kats interference, managed to kill each other. Dark Kat's identity has been verified and his body is in the morgue. The Iriomkats have retrieved the body of the deceased rogue for burial under Iriomkat laws."

The council went still and digested this information in silence. There were many a shocked look as they learned of the magnitude of the plan to destroy or enslave Megakat City. As soon as their shock passed, Feral was peppered with questions for more than an hour as they tried to squeeze out every detail.

Dena was quite used to this from her many press conferences and fielded the questions easily, even if many of them caused her pain. The only part of the questioning that began to pall on her was the constant refrain from some of the council about a possible chance of another rogue appearing. She finally got tired of it and put the council in their place on the subject.

"Of course such a thing could happen again just as our omegas continually reappear after we've vanquished them. That's the nature of evil. Neither Iriomkat nor Kats are immune from that type of behavior. But just as my enforcers fight off the omegas so will the Iriomkat hunters keep a sharp eye for rogues." Dena said bluntly and forcefully.

"Commander Feral is correct. All we can do is be alert to danger as we've always done. So far our enemies have failed to defeat us and we still flourish. Don't forget the Iriomkats have been among us helping us fight that battle as well." Calico Briggs jumped in with her support.

"Also remember, there are other more formidable enemies out there. The Pastmaster and Dr. Viper are much more deadlier than we are." Dena added.

The council, especially Mrs. Roday, went quiet as they absorbed that reminder of the city's precarious situation against the omegas that plagued them regularly.

After a long pregnant pause, Mrs. Roday spoke. "You're right, Commander. We had forgotten that we're under constant attack by those mutant horrors. I guess we just allowed ourselves to be frightened by ancient stories about Iriomkats but as you said Ms. Briggs, they really aren't a threat to Kat kind anymore than we are to them in these modern times. It's time to set aside that bigotry and welcome them openly to our society that they already live within."

Many of the diehards still argued a little longer but their objections had lost a lot of steam and were overruled by the majority of the council. After all the objections had been dealt with, the subject of drawing up an agreement between Iriomkats and Katkind was discussed. Several exhausting hours went by until a draft agreement was finally drawn up. A future meeting with the city council and the Iriomkat Elders was tentatively set up. Dena was charged with getting a more firm date set. Finally the council meeting was adjourned.

Relieved the meeting was over, Dena sighed and prepared to leave but then remembered she had to do this all over again with her elders. Rubbing her eyes tirededly, she momentarily allowed her shields to fall slightly.

Suddenly a wash of agonizing pain, guilt, sorrow, anguish, and worry poured into her from her mate nearly making her cry out loud. She shut the link quickly and hurriedly left the council chambers to hide the unshed tears in her eyes. She encountered no one as she jumped aboard an empty elevator and punched the button for the lobby.

By the time she reached the first floor, she had gotten her emotions under control and made for her car. Starting her engine, she maneuvered into traffic and headed for Club Imrie. She knew a meeting had been planned with the Elders to begin whenever the city council meeting was over. She had pulled out her cell phone while she drove and called to say she was on the way.

She reached the club some twenty minutes later and parked her car in the lot next to several others. Walking toward the club, she allowed her disguise to fall. It was well past noon, the city council meeting having taken half the day, as she stepped into the club that was now run by Rick alone. The memory of Zachary's betrayal made her heart tighten with pain. He was still in a cell awaiting the council's judgment.

Rick was cleaning the bar and spotted her. He waved as Dena walked toward him. When she reached the bar she stopped and looked closely at him.

"How are you doing, Rick?" She asked him, softly

"As well as can be expected, all things considered. But the more important question is, how are you doing?" Rick asked gently, tilting his head to peer at her.

Dena blushed and turned her head away, not willing to let Rick see her pain. "I'm okay!" Her voice small and uncertain.

Rick sighed and came around the bar. He put a gentle arm around her shoulders. "No you're not. I can tell. We have been friends a very long time, remember?"

"Yes." She sighed, looking up at him with a sad smile. "Sorry, I really don't want to talk about it, please."

He looked sad but didn't argue. "Dena, you can't keep this inside. You need to talk to someone if I'm not the one who can help. I'm sure there's someone you trust enough to be open with besides your mate. Please promise me you'll speak with someone. This kind of pain can eat at you and its not healthy." Rick said urgently.

"No, I can't talk about it! It....its not...." She tried to explain then clamped her mouth shut as once more strong feelings of anger, regret, grief, and pain surged through her.

"Easy, Dena. It's okay.....just calm down.....that's it....take slow deep breathes." Rick tried to soothe her, hugging her carefully.

It took several minutes, but finally, Dena got control of her galloping emotions. Taking a deep breath, she said calmly, "I need to speak with the Elders, they are waiting for me."

"Okay, just promise me you'll speak to someone soon." Rick said quietly as he released her.

"I won't make any promises." Dena muttered then walked quickly away and headed for the storeroom. She went through the secret door and down the stairs to the meeting room. She gave a small nod to the guards outside the door and she went in.

The Elders were already sitting at their council table as she walked across the room to face them.

"Welcome, Dena. When you are ready, please give us your report." Elder Jade said quietly. She could see the pain in Dena's eyes. Jade realized that whatever the young Iriomkat had to say, the event had caused her sorrow.

Dena nodded and repeated the same report she gave the city council except she gave the true facts of what happened rather than the edited version except for one thing.

"My brother, Demon, felt unrelenting hatred toward Katkind for the deaths of his mate and our parents. He captured Bruce Anwar to force him to break my bond with T-Bone. Demon was unaware the warehouse he was using was already being utilized by Dark Kat. The omega had been planning to cause a war between Iriomkats and Katkind so that he could take over in the aftermath. He had suggested to Demon that they join forces. That infuriated my brother and he attacked Dark Kat. They fought and both were killed." Dena said tightly. Even now, she could not tell them her mate had actually been the one to kill her brother. She didn't feel the Elders needed to know this.

There was a long silence after she'd finished. Except for Oliver, the council felt Dena's pain at the loss of her only family.

"Then you are the last, Dena…" Jade said finally.

"Yes, but I know my mate will take my name to continue the family line. So it won't end with me." Dena said quietly.

"That's good to know. We would hate to have to take your family book of spells." Jade said with a sigh of relief.

Dena just nodded.

"So, tell us how the city council handled the news and what their response was in regards to us." Jade asked, solemnly.

"It took awhile to convince them but they wish to put an end to the fear and bigotry. To that end they have drawn up a draft agreement to lay down rules of how Iriomkat and Kat kind will exist from now on. I'm to get a firm date for a meeting for you and the city council to go over this agreement and ratify it." Dena said.

"Well, that's good news." David said leaning back in his seat.

"Indeed it is. But things will need to been taken slowly and we need to go over what rules we'll accept." Roy said thoughtfully

"You are right, Roy. Now, there is just one more subject that needs to be covered before we end this meeting." Serena said unhappily. "The matter of Zachary Bishop."

"Yes that's right. Dena, we would like your take on why Zachary did this terrible thing." Jade said.

Dena swallowed painfully. This was a very difficult thing to talk about. "I.....Zachary was very much in love with me, I discovered. We've always been friends but I wasn't aware of how strong his feelings had become. He was very upset to learn I was mated to T-Bone. When Demon apparently found out about how he felt, he suggested Zachary help him find a way to break the bonding. Zachary planned to help me through the breaking of the bond and then offer himself as my new mate. It was Zachary who captured Bruce and his family and took my mate captive." Dena said tightly.

The Elders were shocked and angry. They argued among themselves as Dena stood before them trying not to listen. Finally, Serena called them to order.

"We will have to discuss this and speak with Zachary as well before we decide punishment. What he did was nearly unforgivable, but strong emotions do tend to make people do the wrong thing." Serena sighed.

"Please, he was always a good tom. He just let his emotions and desires overrule his common sense. He's very sorry for what he did. As the wronged party, I beg leniency for him. He should be punished but please use mercy." Dena pleaded softly.

Looking at her fellow Elders, Serena could see they were divided on this. Sighing, she turned her attention back to Dena. "We will consider it, Dena."

"Thank you." Dena said humbly.

The Elders talked among themselves about this development before Serena called a halt to it and said it would be addressed at a later date. Meanwhile, they needed to decide on what they wanted to see in the agreement with the city and set a date to meet. This went on for a couple of hours while Dena took a seat and waited, closing her eyes and resting. Finally, they got her attention and gave her a date for the joint meeting.

Jade looked kindly at Dena and said for the council, "Thank you, Dena. We are truly sorry for your loss and the terrible things you've gone through."

"Thank you." Dena said softly.

"This concludes the emergency meeting of the Elders." Serena said. There were smiles and looks of relief on the Elders faces as they rose to leave. Peace with Katkind looked to be within their grasp at last.

Before Dena could escape, Serena stopped her with a gentle call. Dena looked over to where the Elder was and saw her gesture her to come with her. Dena sighed heavily but walked over to Serena and they went into the room where the Elders held their private discussions and did their voting. Serena closed and locked the door behind her and gestured for Dena to have a seat in one of the many padded chairs.

Dena reluctantly did so as Serena did the same just across from her.

"Dena, I have this feeling that you were withholding pertinent information in your report. Something happened you weren't willing to tell the rest of the Elders." She said with certainty.

Dena blinked and glanced at the closed door.

"Don't worry. This room is heavily warded. No one will hear us nor interrupt." Serena assured her.

Dena relaxed and looked down at the floor, saying nothing for a long while. Serena waited patiently. When the troubled young female was ready, Serena would be there to listen.

After taking a deep breath, Dena started speaking in a soft voice but by the time she reached the part where her brother had tried to break her bond then tried to kill her mate, she broke down completely. She sob wildly, screamed in anguish and cursed as she recalled that terrible day.

When most of her anger burned out, Serena moved closer and gathered the sobbing female into her arms and rubbed her back soothingly.

She sighed mentally. Serena well understood why Dena was in such turmoil. She wasn't sure what to feel about the loss of her brother at the paws of her mate. Dena knew her brother was wrong but that didn't stop her loving him even when he threatened her. But she also couldn't blame her mate for saving his own life. His loss would have wounded her terribly. But still she couldn't reconcile the death and didn't know if she should blame Demon or T-Bone for what had happened.

"Have you spoken with your mate about how he feels about that night?" Serena asked quietly, making Dena look at her.

Tear-filled eyes stared at her. "No....I....I haven't been able to stand having him near me or ....." She couldn't continue.

"Dena, he's your mate! He is most likely in just as much pain as you are. Blocking him only makes the pain of your loss and his guilt more intense." Serena chided her gently. "Why are you doing it?"

"Because I don't want to feel or hear him!" Dena said almost heatedly.

"Do you blame him for what happened?"

"No!"

"Do you blame Demon?"

"No."

"Do you blame yourself?" Serena continued to press.

"Yes…no…I don't know! I keep thinking if only I had been more aware of Demon's feelings I might have been able to ease my brother's pain and find a way to have someone help him get over his hatred. That night, I hardly recognized him. That he would hurt me was a shock. That he would try to break my bond was more than I could handle and I didn't see it coming soon enough to prevent him from trying to kill my mate. So many things I could have done to prevent this final disaster. All the things I should have done would have kept T-Bone from being nearly killed and forcing him to kill.....something he's never done before and now will carry for the rest of his life...and then there's the mess with Zachary.....I....." Dena spilled out all her recriminations and guilt before being halted by Serena.

"Stop it, Dena. Hindsight is a useless activity. Do you remember what I said to you that night?" Serena asked her firmly.

"I.....yes." Dena said meekly.

"I warned you that whatever happened it wouldn't be your fault. You should not blame yourself, your mate, your best friend, or your brother. Fate can be cruel and in this instance it took your brother's life but destiny can be kind, and your mate is what you've been given to ease your loss." Serena said wisely.

Dena stared at Serena then down at the floor. Serena released her and gave her one last word of advice.

"Talk to your mate! He's hurting, Dena. Knowing what kind of kat he is, you know he wouldn't do the same to you. Open the bond and heal."

"Thank you, Serena." All her guilt seem to melt away and ease finally. She felt much lighter now. "I will speak with T-Bone." Dena promised.

Serena got up but placed a paw on Dena's shoulder, "If there's ever a time you feel the need to talk to someone, you know you can go to T-Bone, Rick or I."

Dena stood up and hugged the older Iriomkat, " Thank you, Serena. You've always been like a second mother to me."

Serena smiled at Dena wordlessly, hugging her back. They broke off and headed out the door and into the main room again. There, Dena bid Serena goodbye then headed out. She waved good night to Rick but didn't stop to talk to him as she headed outside the club.

It was evening now, as she walked to her car and drove out of the parking lot. Feeling drained emotionally, she quickly made her way home. Parking her car in the garage below her apartment, she locked her vehicle and made for the elevator.

As she walked down the hall to her apartment, she tried to think of a way to contact her mate without opening the bond to do it. She needed to be physically with him before she could do that.

She ran through her mind how she would find him. Contacting him by enforcer radio was out since she didn't want anyone to be suspicious of why she wanted to talk to him. At her door, she unlocked it and walked in, closing and locking it behind her. Her mind still working on the problem, she stripped her coat off and her weapon, putting them away. She shoved her boots off and placed them in the closet.

Distracted, she moved down the short hallway to her bedroom. She was nearly all the way in when she realized her mate was already there.

She halted in shock and stared at T-Bone who sat on the end of her bed looking down at the floor. His ears were completely flat to his head in misery. He look tired, troubled, nervous, and confused as he just sat there not noticing that Dena was even there.

With a soft cry of sorrow, she opened the bond wide and reached out for T-Bone. She was immediately hit with the same emotions she was feeling. She flung herself to his side and wrapped her arms around him.

T-Bone head jerked reflexively when the bond opened and he was struck by his mate's pained emotions that echoed his own. When she threw herself against him, he automatically opened his arms to hold her tight.

As their minds poured their pain and sorrow back and forth, T-Bone was saying aloud, "Dena....oh Dena.....my love..... I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Please, please forgive me! I never meant to kill him!" He choked.

"I know, I know." Dena sobbed back, hugging him tighter, "I can feel how much this hurts you. You've never had to kill before and I'm sorry you had to. I forgive you! I love you!"

They cried tears of need and sorrow for what was lost. T-Bone buried his face in his mate's neck as did Dena to him. It was some time before they were cried out.

Dena finally pulled away to kiss T-Bone deeply. She wanted him to stop focusing on what was and to turn his attention on just the two of them. Tears still ran down their cheeks as they took comfort in each other.

"My love, let's go take a shower, eat something and go to bed. We're both so very tired." Dena said in his mind.

"Good idea, love. I'm exhausted." T-Bone muttered back the same way.

Helping each other to undress, T-Bone became Chance as he pulled his mask off, then they stumbled off to the shower and washed away their grief and tears. Going to the kitchen, Dena prepared simple sandwiches and warm milk. They took them to the living room and sat close as they ate. They didn't speak, just leaned against each other quietly.

Chance collected their dishes and took them to the sink. He returned to her and pulled her to her feet, wrapping an arm around her waist as they walked back to the bedroom, flicking the living room light off as they passed and made for the bed.

They climbed in and he rolled to his side, pulling her close. They cuddled tightly until exhausted sleep finally took them down into the peaceful dark.