Title: Safe Return
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: September 17, 2001
Final Checking: September 30, 2001
Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, its characters and concepts are copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc and are used without permission.
Author's Note: Having read (and greatly enjoyed) fanfics by a superb Stargate: SG-1 author named "denise" (whose work can be found here on FFN among other places), I noticed something she did that intrigued me. "Missing scene" fanfics. Stories written to fill in scenes the show glossed over, wrapped up too quickly, and otherwise neglected. And, I decided to write one of my own. For "When Strikes Mutilor." The episode gave us the barest glimpse of Feral's softer side when he's told, in essence, that Felina is dead (though she wasn't, for those of you that might not have seen the episode). But, it never followed up on it! It never gave us his reaction to seeing her alive. So, I decided to do it myself. Not only his reaction to Felina's safe return, but how he deals with the thought that she isn't coming back.
Thanks goes to Sage for encouraging me in this one. And, to AkaneKitty and Meistrich indirectly as it was mail exchanges with them that sparked and added to this idea.
"I regret to inform you..."
No. He couldn't get around properly addressing it. That was the least he could do.
"Dear Mr. and Mrs..."
"I regret to inform you..."
"...in the line of duty..."
He couldn't do it.
Not this time.
Enforcer Commander Ulysses Feral slammed both hands down onto his desk, narrowly missing the keyboard, and stood. There was a horrible scowl on his face.
He couldn't do it.
He began to pace around the room, his tail lashing. The scowl deepened as he walked. As his hands throbbed.
He couldn't do it.
Couldn't type those empty, heartless words he'd typed so many times before. Those words that were so precious little comfort even to the families that accepted and understood their loved ones' choice of such a dangerous job.
That were so little comfort to him.
Feral collapsed against the far wall of his office, leaning into the smooth paneling for support. With a growl he raised a fist and pounded the wall furiously.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
The sound echoed in the cavernous room he'd inherited some ten years ago. But, it was quickly swallowed by the paneled walls. A hollow, pathetic sound. It wasn't the angry defiance he'd wanted it to be. The wave of noise that would drown the thoughts he didn't want to hear.
It was as empty as the words he'd just tried to type.
Defeated, he slowly let his huge frame slide to the floor, catching himself on the palms of his large hands.
How could he do it? How could he tell his brother that his only child, his daughter, was dead?
Feral tried to compose himself. He'd always known that this day could come. Known since the day Felina entered the Enforcer academy. His greatest fear had been realized, and now...
The words came out in a hiss.
Feral balled one hand into a fist, slowly and deliberately. But, he couldn't hold it back. The pressure was building inside too fast.
He dropped his head to his knees and cried, curling into himself and pounding his fist on the floor.
Felina was dead.
The closest to a child of his own that he had. That he might ever have.
And, he couldn't be the detached commander about this. Not this time.
He'd lost hundreds of Enforcers since the so-called supervillains had arrived. It had hurt. Even with the ones he'd never directly commanded. The ones whose faces had been only blurs at the graduating ceremony. The ones he would never know. The ones he had had no chance to know.
And, the old career Enforcers that had been his direct subordinates since he'd become commander. The ones these new horrors had sent to their graves one by one.
But, he'd managed to ride out the tides of grief and despair, the dreams that were shattered on the rocks. He'd accepted early in his career that some of his kats would die. He had had no choice but to accept it.
It was to remind himself of that reality and to take his due responsibility for it that he'd taken it as his duty to write the letters.
There just weren't supposed to have been so many.
This many of them weren't supposed to have died.
He'd thought he was a better leader than that. He'd thought he could make a difference in this city. He'd thought he could at least keep his kats alive.
But, he couldn't even keep his own niece alive.
And, that hurt the most.
The voice was gruff, almost a whisper.
Feral looked up to find Sergeant Katmuller's concerned face bending over him.
Pulling himself together as best he could, the commander cursed inwardly. He'd been certain he'd locked the door. How would he explain...?
"Sir," the graying kat began quietly, "The SWAT Kats just contacted us over our band." Feral didn't even have the energy to growl at the incursion as the sergeant continued. "They report that the aliens will start restoring the oceans in a few hours. And, they'll be returning once the ship drops into a lower altitude to begin--"
"Sergeant...," Feral snarled, "At this moment in time, I don't care when the SWAT Kats--"
"Sir." The sergeant's voice was firm. Steady. Ordering him to come back to reality as long as he was on duty. Reminding him that, as long as he stayed here at Headquarters at his post, he was the Commander. And, he had to act like it.
Feral sucked in a deep breath and steadied himself before speaking again.
"They'll be returning in roughly an hour,... and they're bringing Lieutenant Feral with them."
An hour later found the Commander waiting on the flight deck as the SWAT Kats' jet descended onto the empty helipad. The wind from its VTOL engines beat against him, tugging at his simple button-up shirt. He'd long since discarded his usual overcoat and tie.
He watched in tight-lipped silence as the jet's wheels gently touched down and the canopy slid away. Then, the dark-haired figure was climbing onto the wing from some place behind the weapons officer's seat. Leaping down. Coming to him.
Feral waited until Felina had come to a stop in front of him. Until her dark eyes looked up to find his own... and narrowed. Until her body grew rigid and she snapped a smart salute.
Then, and only then. He cut her off by swooping her into a tremendous bearhug that crushed her to him and lifted her feet from the tarmac.
Her name came out as a cry, a full octave higher than his usual voice. The tears he had left streamed through his facial fur as he hugged the girl, large-boned for a she-kat but so small in comparison.
For long minutes, he held her as though he would never let go, assuring himself that she was back. That she was real. Then, the jet's engines began to rise in pitch again, building for take-off. He quickly disentangled himself from his niece in time to watch the jet glide over the edge of the building. It hovered like a cloud for an instant as it moved away slowly, still keeping level with the building.
It was delicate piloting, but the Commander knew it wasn't done to show off. It was a respectful gesture. The SWAT Kats were leaving as quietly as they were able to let he and his niece be.
And, he raised an arm to return the gesture. To thank them. It didn't matter if the SWAT Kats had had anything to do with Felina's survival or not. They had brought her back to him. It was enough.
Then, the jet was gone, springing upward into the sky and vanishing.
Feral turned to his niece.
"Uncle?" Her hair was in her face, obscuring it. But, he could hear the bewilderment in her tone.
"You had me scared there," he returned hoarsely.
"My radio was destroyed, or I--"
He hugged her again.
"It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're alive."
The dark-haired she-kat returned the hug uncertainly. "I thought we agreed," Felina began quietly, trying to remind her uncle of their deal made barely six months ago.
No favors. No special privileges. She was just another Enforcer when on duty. That was the deal.
He pushed her away a bit to look down at her, finding the top of her head where she was avoiding his eyes. "All deals are off when you come back from the dead, 'Lina."
She looked up at him at last, smiling a crooked smile at the mention of her old nickname. Her face was wet too.
"No crazy search parties on my account?"
"I sent the Sergeant to look for everyone."
"Alright, then. So, you want to hear what happened or do you want a report?"
"I want both, Lieutenant!" Feral's voice became a familiar bark. "You're an Enforcer and you're my niece, aren't you?!"
Felina pulled away and saluted again.
Feral smiled, then wrapped an arm around her and lead her away from the helipad. She was safe... for now. And, that was all he could ask. He had to let her live this life she'd chosen. Her and all the others.
But, that didn't make it any easier.
"Uncle?" Felina had paused, catching his distant look.
Quickly, Feral shook his head and asked her to go on. No sense worrying over possibilities. She was safe and that was all that mattered.
And, one more letter didn't need to be written.
John Williams' suite from "Born on the Fourth of July"
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ("Ode to Joy")
--I don't think I have to explain which half of the story each goes with, eh?