AND MUSIC WILL SET YOU FREE!

Author's Note: This little short story came to me while I was listening to my favorite music. I just couldn't stuff it away so I put it down. It's got no action and only an allusion to sex but it was sweet and though most might find it ho-hum, I needed to write it down, if only just for me alone.It's done completely in first person. I wrote this in less than four hours.

It had been years since I'd last been to the place of my birth. It's a nice enough city except for the danger that haunts it on a regular basis. That was one of the reasons I had left. The other was, I craved new sights, new sounds, and the chance to expand my musical skills.

Now, I'm a well known opera singer and I've returned to my home to perform at a fund-raising concert to benefit the orphans of Megakat City. I'll also be recording my next album here, so I'll be staying a few months.

As I settled in my, wonderfully comfortable, hotel room, I went to the bay of windows and stared at the skyline I hadn't seen in a very long time. I could see a few things had changed, most likely due to the constant damage it suffers from the marauding super criminals. A very tall, super structure, gleamed bright and new in the distance.

I wondered what that building was then shrugged away the mystery as I turned my eyes in another direction and saw the familiar city hall clock tower and the not so familiar, Enforcer Headquarters. Quite the impressive place. I remember when the enforcers had to make do with a building half that size and it jets were operated out of the Megakat Airport. A really inefficient setup. Nice to see they finally are totally contained in one building at last. I could just make out its flight line from my perch.

I could easily make out the bay from my window and could see Anakata Island in the distance. I will make certain I get out to it for some sun and relaxation.

I've learned the hard way to take some time for myself to unwind. When I first began to tour the world, I was always on the go never stopping long enough to enjoy the things around me and pushing my body to its limit. It was an extremely stress-full lifestyle. Five years ago, my body turned on me with a life-threatening heart attack. Since that time, I've made sure to exercise and, everywhere I go, I make time for relaxation and meditation. It has saved my life and I am much happier.

In all that time, I've had short term love affairs and one long relationship that ended some years ago. That was the one thing I haven't found, a permanent relationship, but I'm content to float and bide my time. If I'm destined to meet the love of my life it will happen when it happens. I will not pursue it.

So now that I'm here, it's time I got busy unpacking. I have important people to see so I best get busy.

Some two weeks later I and my entourage have settled in and begun practices in the grand old Megakat Opera House. The orchestra, to my pleased delight, is stupendous. I'm relieved we are so fortunate to have such a wonderful conductor who is flexible and affable as well. It makes this much more fun and invigorating. My voice carries beautifully telling me the acoustics are superb.

Preparing for the show by the end of the week, hasn't allowed me much freedom to see my old home but that's okay. After the concert will be soon enough.

On the night of the performance, I and my troop sang our hearts out. The crowd was very responsive and demanded many encores which we were happy to give them. It was a sell out week and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were extremely pleased by the funds collected.

I was, of course, pleased by that as well but I got an even better and warmer thanks from someone I hadn't seen since music school.

He came backstage on the night of our last show. We had brought the house down and everyone was laughing and giddy as we headed for the party being held for us in the back rooms. Mayor Manx and Ms. Briggs had been complimenting and thanking me for the success of the show when a familiar figure from my past came up behind them.

I stopped in mid word and stared in shock. He was huge, broad chested and looked every bit the powerful tom he was and in a tux that made him look spectacular. Ms. Briggs was puzzled by my expression and looked behind her.

"Oh, Commander Feral. I wasn't aware you liked opera." She said in surprise.

"I do like the finer things in life, Ms. Briggs. I simply don't always have time to enjoy them." Answered the deep baritone voice I hadn't heard in so very long. "Hello, Angus." He said to me.

I shook myself and pushed past the Mayor to give my old friend a hard hug. "Ulysses! It's been a long time my old friend." I said, feeling the strongly muscled chest against my own.

"It has indeed!" He rumbled softly, giving me a warm smile.

"You know Angus O'Brady, Feral?" Mayor Manx asked in stunned surprise.

"We were teen aged friends." Feral said, not elaborating further.

I was surprised he didn't mention the music school. Eyeing him, I could see he didn't want these people to know his private life. I gave him a knowing look and didn't mention it either.

"Yes, we were really good friends until I left to pursue my musical career. We sort of lost contact with each other." I told them then said to my friend. "Uly, we need to share a drink and talk old times." I said easily, but my look told him it wasn't a suggestion.

"That would be nice, if there's time in your busy schedule." He said politely, acknowledging my silent message with a slight nod of his head..

He stayed close as people came and went to speak to me until he was called away for a police emergency. Before he took off, I slipped a note, with my hotel and room number and a request he come as soon as he was able, in his palm. I saw him slip it into his pocket as he was speaking into his radio.

It took him more than three days to finally come to my hotel. It was evening, just past seven p.m. when I heard a knock on my door. When I opened it, there he stood, dressed casually in black jeans and yellow polo shirt. Smiling happily, I gestured him into the sitting area of my room.

"Glad you could finally make it." I said archly, as I made for the small bar in the corner of the room. He sighed at the veiled rebuke. "Would you like something to drink?" I asked.

"I'll have a small scotch and water." He said as he came over to the bar and stood near me.

I poured him his drink then got another for myself. We drank a silent toast to each other in memory of past times.

"So, my friend. How have you been?" I ask. As I wait for his answer, I look him over. He finally grew into that skinny body I knew when we were young. Now he was built like a brick house and I couldn't help but shake my head mentally. Even I hadn't guessed he'd get this big and powerful looking. But looking closer I couldn't miss the lines of stress on his face, despite his still dark fur, and the exhausted look in his eyes. Though he obviously keeps himself fit, the signs are all there that he is over-stressed.

"I've been better, I guess. Life's been really hectic of late." Ulysses murmured as he took a sip of his drink.

I gesture to the couch and we both sit down and get comfortable. For the next few hours we talk about the past, then about my career, the places I've been, the concerts I've given. There's a moment of silence before I ask him how his life has been since we last saw each other.

To my sorrow it's been far too hectic and very dangerous. Of course, he had to be completely relaxed and mildly intoxicated to relate that much to me. He keeps to himself far too much, letting no one in but I'm a very persistent person and pried some of the unhappy truths about his life from him. He smiled a little at my tactics. I was unhappy to learn how he'd only had a few relationships and those were a long time ago. He just didn't have time or energy to be with anyone.

He attempted to minimize the danger his job placed him in by saying it was no more than the job required but I knew better. I'd been in the city three weeks now and I'd seen the news footage of his two close calls and I didn't want to think just how many of those he'd managed to survive over the years as Chief Enforcer.

I stared over my drink at him. I had already told him about my heart attack and he was concerned. I reassured him that I'd changed my ways and was in better health mentally and physically now.

"You, however, seem to be heading down the same path I took. I'm sure your doctors are monitoring you closely but I can plainly see the toll this life is taking on you. Your soul is tired, Ulysses." I said in concern.

Uly sighs and stares off into the distance. "I know but until these super criminals are permanently done away with, I don't see me taking a vacation much less time off to recharge." He said bluntly.

"Nor do I, mores the pity. However, you don't need to 'get away' as it were. to get some stress relief. Uly, do you still sing?" I asked.

He blinked in surprise. "Uh, no. I gave that up long ago." He said eyeing me in confusion.

I shook my head at him in annoyance. "Ulysses for God's sake. You have a natural talent that's being wasted..." I start to say.

"You're not going to tell me to sing professionally again, are you?" He gave a snort of irritation. "You know full well I gave it up to be an enforcer."

"No, that is not what I was going to say. Now hush and let me speak." I snap at him.

Mollified, he nods and sits back to listen.

"Now, what I was going to say was music soothes the spirit. You should sing just to free your spirit and let it soar once more. Don't you remember how wonderful it felt to hear the sound of your own voice rising to the heavens in song? Don't you remember how freeing that was?" I asked him, praying he hadn't lost that joy.

"I...well...I have missed it a little but I'm always tired and feel a bit self conscious doing it now." He admitted with a shrug of resignation.

"Oh Ulysses!" I sighed unhappily. I got up suddenly, almost falling over. I hadn't drunk that much but the little I had, made me a little tipsy since I'm not much of a drinker anyway. "Whoops!"

Ulysses was up quickly giving me a steadying arm around my waist. I had to admit that felt really nice but I didn't let it distract me. I pushed him away when I was certain I could stand alright.

He eyed me carefully, but did let go and stood a couple steps away.

"Okay, here's what I'm going to do. You are going to come to see me as often as you can and I want your solemn promise you'll make an effort to do this. I will help you find your voice once more and get you to feel the joy you once felt singing your heart out. It will help you relieve the dangerous stress load you're carrying and refresh your spirit. No argument!" I said firmly when I saw him begin to object. "Now as a first lesson let's do a scale together. Come on!" I said, stabbing him in the chest with my finger. I would not brook him backing out. He needed this whether he realized it yet or not.

His face blushing a bit with embarrassment he attempted a scale with me. His voice was strong but uncertain after so long unused for this purpose. I knew he used it a lot for shouting now I wanted him to refine it to sing again.

We did several scales until he sounded smoother and more confident. He didn't know it but I could see his spirit was lighter. We stopped for the night and I extracted a promise from him to come to me in the evenings as often as his job would allow.

For the next couple of weeks, my days were busy in the recording studio, the weekends were spent visiting old stomping grounds of my youth. A couple of times it was with Ulysses for company.

It was strange, but I felt comfortable in his company and very safe. His public persona was gruff, cold, and efficient but his private one was quiet and, maybe, a little remote from not having any intimate contact. We had been best of buds but never lovers. I only realized my leanings when I began to travel. Ulysses...well...I was uncertain what his preferences were...it simply never came up. But as we spent time together and he came to me in the evenings to sing, I began to have much stronger feelings for him.

I was careful not to allow pity to enter the picture and rather ruthlessly raked over my own feelings about this sadly solitary tom. I wanted to be sure I wasn't falling for him because I felt sorry for his lonely life. If I truly cared about him, it should be because I was attracted and liked him for himself.

Well, I was! Who wouldn't be! Such a body, such power and he carried it with ease. It sent goosebumps over my skin making my fur ruffle in excitement. But, darn it, I just couldn't tell if he felt the same at all. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they called him the 'great stone face'. He hid his emotions that well. I did enjoy our time together, though. He was a surprisingly great conversationalist and we covered many subjects on the evenings we sang.

Ohh...but the one thing I loved the most about him was his voice. That wonderful, beautiful voice that would have made many an agent beg for him to sing professionally, it was that good. Singing a duet with him was so uplifting. Many of the things he'd learned in school came back to him and it showed as we sang many of the songs my troop had performed at the concert.

I was soo tempted to get him to record but I had promised him this was private and for his benefit only. But I did record him for myself alone. I just couldn't get enough of his rich singing voice.

As this renewal of friendship went on in the background, I was having a great time laying tracks in the studio. I don't know if it was because of being with Ulysses or not but my producer was thrilled with my work. He said he wouldn't be the least surprised if my album went gold. I admit my ego loved that bit of stroking.

The down side of this however, was I was getting done with the album faster than planned which meant my time in Megakat City was ending sooner too and I found I didn't want to go yet. Normally I was eager to move on to my next project and it was always a good thing to be a little ahead so that the next project wouldn't have to be rushed. I was expected to give a concert in my adopted home within three months and this earlier completion of the album meant more time to prepare.

I guess my reaction to the news that we might be leaving sooner gave me away. My co-singer, the lovely and wonderful soprano, Elena Contarea had noticed and caught me after our producer Terrence had announced we were finished recording that day.

"My friend, what troubles you? Your singing has been magnifico and Terrence is very pleased with all of us. The album will be mucho fantastico. But you are becoming morose so what is it that is making you unhappy?" She demanded in her usual forthright manner.

"Ahh...Elena it's not the album. I'm very pleased with how that is going. It's nothing to do with any of that." I sighed. "I told you I've met an old friend and I'm loathe to leave him for reasons I can't seem to fathom as yet."

"Ohhh...sooo...is it perhaps the glimmer of amor?" She asks with a small smirk.

I blush and stutter. Now that someone has actually said it, my emotions run away in confusion. I like Ulysses but love him...? I was shocked to realize I didn't know for certain.

"I'm not certain. We've been friends a long time but never lovers or even an inkling that such would ever be the case but I do like his company and I find myself reluctant to leave so soon." I admit finally.

Elena gets a tender, knowing look on her face. "Angus, I understand. He is someone you would like to see more of and so you should. Perhaps it could become more but you'll not know if you leave now and always you will have regrets that you didn't try. Tell Terrence you wish to remain when the troop leaves. No one will think badly of you if you wish to do this and you deserve it."

"But doing what? What is this I'm involved in?" I objected. "If someone wants me then fine, if they don't I never force myself. But this situation is different. I like him but does he think of me the same way? Or are we just friends as we were before? Does he feel something more for me that I'm beginning to feel for him? I just don't know. He's so very good at hiding his emotions that even with me he doesn't let down his guard too far. I don't know what to do and that's just not me!" I said plaintively, shocked that I was this distressed by that fact.

My friend stared at me, troubled. "This truly has you very twisted up inside and you are right, this is not how you normally behave. I believe you have deeper feelings for him than you realize but you will not know if he feels the same until you ask him. You've told me he is brutally honest so you must be with him. It is the only way you will know for certain." She said gently.

"But it could blow up in my face!" I wailed. "I couldn't bear to lose him as my friend."

Elena came closer and wrapped her arms around me in a comforting hold. "Oh Angus, don't do this to yourself. You must trust your instincts when dealing with this tom. Let them guide you on how to approach him with this important matter. If you back away because you are afraid of losing him then you will always worry you didn't give him a chance and will always have regrets. Those will destroy the peace in your soul you worked hard to find." She said soothingly.

I shivered in her arms as I listened to her wise counsel. She had always been a rock I could lean against when I needed another's view on life. I sighed and relaxed. She was right! I must tell Ulysses what I'm feeling for him and see if he feels the same or is put off by it. This unknown is too distressing.

I press her away gently and she releases me, concern in her eyes. "You're right, Elena. I'll speak to him and pray that when we've done talking that were either lovers or still friends." I said with conviction.

"Good for you, Angus, and I will add my prayers to yours for extra measure. Good luck my friend." She said with a smile.

We left together to have dinner then parted company as I decided to return to our hotel and she went with friends to see the night life of the city.

That night Ulysses came over to my hotel room. After talking about the day's events, I turned on my music machine that produced the background for our singing practices. We sang a couple of songs together as usual but then I made a demand of him.

"We've sung together now several times. I want you to sing alone now. Pick a piece you like and I'll dial it up for you." I told him. A brief look of panic spread across his face then was quickly gone as if it had never been. He calmly mentioned a piece. I called it up and started it.

This piece had a kinda jungle feel to it and it was just the right song for him. I listened in rapt attention as he sang, totally captivated. He sang with so much emotion that it was clearly reflected on his face and I jolted inside. His face...it came to me in a flash...every time he sang his face was open and revealing. He displayed all the emotions the songs pulled from him but only when he sang...no other time and I had never taken note of that as I was always so enthralled by his voice.

As he sang in Italian this beautiful love song, I felt my heart soar as I watched the passion flow from him with every note. His face reflecting his joy in the song's message. Oh, Ulysses!

One cannot show such passion if one doesn't feel it. The song would be uninspired and just a song. But with full emotions behind it, a song becomes a masterpiece that keeps you hanging on every note. That was how Ulysses sang.

As the last beautiful note left his mouth, I found myself suddenly standing close to him and when he came back from where he went when he sang he was startled to see me looking at him with a strange expression on my face. I reached up slowly and slipped my paws around his neck. We were nearly the same height so it was not too far to pull his head to mine and kiss him gently on the lips.

For one breathless moment, he didn't react, just stood there frozen then to my everlasting relief and joy, he returned the kiss and added the passion I had witnessed only moments ago when his heart was full of song.

Time passed without our noticing it, the kiss blossoming into something deeper and more intense. I'm not sure who was more surprised when our passion exploded and the morning found us wrapped together on my bed. It had been a stunning finale to a perfect concert and I've never been happier.

Epilogue...Two years later...

I'm relieved to be home. It had been a long flight and I'm tired. Dusk is falling but I don't expect to be picked up so take a taxi to my home near the bay in a new condo atop a fairly modest apartment tower. I unlocked the front door and dropped my bag on the couch. Stretching to get the kinks out after the long flight, I make for my bedroom.

I stop and smile broadly at what I see draped artfully across the bed. He lays there nude with a huge red bow across his lap and a big smile of welcome on his face for me.

"Welcome home!" He growls lustfully.

I waste no breath answering as I jump on him and kiss his beloved face thoroughly. He makes my homecoming very memorable as he always does when I'm gone on tour.

My handsome and loving mate is the greatest joy in my life. That night two years ago when we came together was the start of something life changing for us both. Over a year we kept in contact, I was coming to Megakat City more and more frequently until I came to stay permanently. He and I have been happily mated for a year now. Ulysses' life is still very dangerous but he now has more reason to live so he does his best to take more caution than he used to.

And we still make beautiful music together...with our bodies and with our voices singing together in joyous harmony, our own private chorus.