HEALING AN ACHING HEART

Chapter 1: Loss of An Old Friend

This Friday would go down as the worst he'd experienced in his life. He'd managed to hold off the pain he'd felt from the phone call he'd received just after lunch. The rest of his day went by in a haze of barely withheld grief.

Driving home, the road kept blurring as he struggled to hold back his tears. He managed to reach his apartment with no one seeing him. He locked the door behind him and, as tears washed down his face, he savagely pulled his clothes off and tossed them to the floor on his way to his bedroom.

Wearing only his under things, he threw himself down on his bed and let the pent up pain and sorrow roar through him. The sound of heavy sobbing filled the air of his quiet apartment.

With this death, he was truly alone, no family, no friends, no lover........his beloved mentor had passed away in the early hours before Feral had even awakened for the day. The loss of the only person who cared about him, listened to his complaints, and offered him comfort, was greater than all the losses he'd endured since he'd become Chief Enforcer.

Evening fell then midnight came and went and still he cried before exhaustion pushed him into slumber only to awaken near dawn and cry some more. It wasn't until late Sunday that he even left his room at all. He'd not gotten up to eat or drink the whole weekend.

When he'd finally bestirred himself, it was only to shower, pull the tear sodden bedding off and replace it and drink some tea before going back to bed to huddle and stare at the growing shadows of the waning day. He was terribly depressed but the funeral was Monday and he had to be there.

Monday rose on a cloudy day that threatened rain. It suited his present emotion as he slowly got dressed in his dress uniform. When he was ready, he called into work and said he would not be in today. His face set in flat, unemotional lines, he left his apartment.

At the funeral, he sat alone, his head down, looking at no one. Others that had known the elderly Kat, stared at him in puzzlement. None had known of Feral's close relationship with the deceased. It was his choice, so that none of his enemies would strike out at the only Kat he cared about in his life. After the funeral and the burial site service, he turned and left without a word.

At home again, he stripped and sat in his recliner and stared at he ceiling for many hours. His mind remembered the visit to Nicholas Enzo, he'd made a month earlier.

"Aw Ulysses, so good to see you." Nicholas whispered. His body so frail he could only lay in bed now, too weak to sit in a chair any longer.

"I said I would be by." He'd chided the oldster gently.

"Yes, you did. Even as busy as you are, you do make time for me." Nicholas murmured smiling warmly.

As usual, Nicholas listened as Feral told him what he'd been up to. They traded pleasantries and Nicholas would bring up old memories for them to share. After more than an hour, Feral would rise and make his farewells. This time however, Nicholas asked him to sit a moment longer. He had something important to say.

Frowning in concern, Feral took his seat again. Nicholas reached out for the powerful tom's paw and Ulysses gave it to him to hold.

"Ulysses, my time is short. I've lived a good live. If there's only one thing I regret, it's leaving you alone. I've tried so hard to help you go out on your own and spread your wings and I'm proud to say you've done that but finding someone who will love you.....that I haven't been able to accomplish." His paw shook with age and tension.

"Nicholas....no.....you've done so much for me. You were there when I needed guidance, love, and the occasional kick in the tail......." Feral protested before he was interrupted.

"But I won't be around much longer, Uly. No....listen to me....I have but one request to make of you and that is....find someone! You can't live alone Ulysses. You need someone to lean on when the pressures of your job weigh you down. Overwhelmed, you tend to shut down your emotions. This will isolate you and lead to severe loneliness and depression. You are so full of life and compassion but are unwilling to show it. Please, my son, find someone to love and fill your life with joy. Will you do this for me?" Nicolas pleaded.

His eyes were glittering with unshed tears as he promised to do as his mentor asked. On Feral's subsequent visits, Nicholas never mentioned his request again. Now he was gone. During that time, Feral never managed to make the time to hunt for a companion and now he was alone.

Feral's mind drifted to those days when he'd been a punk ass kitten, lost and lonely when his parents had been killed in an auto accident at the age of ten. He'd been bounced around the foster care system for years. By the time he'd reached fourteen, he was a tough teen who got into trouble a lot and ran with gangs.

One day he was tagged by an old beat cop who'd taken him under his wing and helped straighten him out. He eventually adopted the young teen and remained his mentor for most of his life. Nicholas even helped him through the most difficult period of his life....realizing he liked toms rather than fems. The old cop made him realize there was nothing wrong with his choice of partner and he should never feel ashamed about it. That had meant a lot to Ulysses as he explored his sexuality.

Nicholas helped him through the bitterness of breakups and betrayals by lovers as well as the joy of a relationship even when they didn't last long. But now years later, Feral had grown more distant due to the demands of his office and had not had a relationship for more than five years. This worried Nicholas a great deal, knowing his life was near its end and his adopted son would be alone.

So now, here he was alone.....just as his mentor feared. Heaving a great sigh, he knew he had to honor Nicholas' last request but it wasn't going to be easy.

Going back to work was hard but his job was never slow so it he was able to push his grief to the back of his mind.

After duty, though, he would dress casually and begin cruising the gay bars and clubs. Here, it was harder to hide his grief. It didn't help that he was such a recognizable individual which garnered him a variety of looks. Some were hostile, other interested but put off by who he was and still others were just surprised to see him in their haunts in the first place.

He would spend only about an hour or two then go home. It was at times degrading and at others just soul-wearying but he swore he would try so he didn't give up.

Elsewhere in the city, a Scotsman named Aiden McClenden was out with a group of casual friends at the gay club known as the Rainbow Horse. Aiden was considered a jovial and fun to be with companion.

But if one was to ask Aiden how he felt about how others perceive him, he would have shocked them. His so called circle of friends thought he hadn't a care in the world but the truth was far from that image.

Aiden had been cruelly treated by a past lover some years earlier. Not able to trust others so easily now, he put on a cheerful and fun-loving face but he was actually lonely and depressed. If he didn't go out and be with this group, he would be drinking himself into a drunken stupor on a regular basis. He knew that was a road that would lead to his being fired from his job and possibly death so he put on a happy face and went out most every night. He drank just enough to allow him to sleep at night.

This night was just like any other, the club was jumping. A new band was hyping up the attendees to a near frenzy and the back rooms were seeing a brisk business. Most were in a celebratory mood since the criminal Dark Kat was reported to have been recently killed.

Aiden was skeptical about that bit of news since that particular omega always managed to find a way to survive and return in an even more destructive mood than before.

"I swear, Aiden......his body was found this time and DNA says its him." His friend Brian said, a broad grin on his face.

"Means nothing, haven't ye heard of cloning?" Aiden said scornfully.

"Aw, our Scotsman is always a skeptic." Jason said, slapping Aiden on his back goodnaturedly.

"Well, I personally don't want to think of such things as being possible, thank you very much." Nathan said cheekily, downing his beer in one go then swished his tail playfully. "Time to hunt for a partner.....chow!" He made off for the dance floor.

Aiden just snorted and said no more about. If they wanted to celebrate then let them. It would be a long while before the powerful criminal could get back anyway. He sighed and turned to watch the dancers gyrate.

"Hey Aiden, see any prime choices out there?" Brian smirked, looking over the hot males.

"A few more than usual, thankfully. Ya know how I don't like those skinny things you enjoy."

"Oh yes! You like yours with lots of muscle." He friend snorted in amusement.

"Nothin' wrong with a little muscle and meat on a body. No bones in tha' way." Aiden chided his friend.

His friends just laughed. Soon they began to drift away from him as they caught sight of a prospective trick for the night. Aiden continued to glance around without serious interest. He didn't allow his eyes to rest on anyone otherwise it would encourage them. Looking was all he did these days. He liked this club above all the others he'd gone to because they served an excellent Valhalla Ale from Scotland.

As he finished his drink, his eyes caught sight of a huge silhouette sitting by itself in a dark corner. From his vantage point, he could just make out that the tom was big and powerful with dark fur but nothing else since the male had his face down.

Something about that huddled form caused him to frown. He didn't know what it was about the solitary tom but it drew him strongly. Signaling for another drink, he waited until it was served then carried it off to the dark corner.

"Hello. Is company welcome?" He asked loudly to be heard over the music.

The big tom raised his head in startled surprise. Aiden blinked. "Whist, if it isn't the Chief Enforcer himself. Not a place I would have thought to see ye at!" He said without thinking how that would sound, too surprised himself.

Feral growled in annoyance and coldly ignored the male. There was a moment of silence while Aiden blushed in shock at his comment.

"Ach, sorry I am for my lack of manners. Of course, ye have the right to be here. It twas a surprise is all. Please, could I join ye? Seems troubles set heavily on your shoulders and I've a good ear." Aiden apologized quickly. He didn't know why he was making such an effort to make the taciturn tom accept his company. Something was wrong and it tugged hard at him in a way no one else had for a long time.

Feral frowned and looked at the male more closely. The accent was rather nice to his ear, he was forced to admit.

The tom was nearly as broad as himself but not as tall, perhaps only five feet ten. His fur was a cream color with stunning red color on his ears, tail tip and paws. His face had a red mask that covered eyelids, nose, and cheeks. He had a mop of reddish copper hair that was a bit unruly and long. What held his attention, though, were the tom's brilliant emerald eyes.

He wore a green silk shirt over a pair of brown leather pants that clung to him tightly and a pair of simple brown slip on shoes. What a handsome picture he made, Feral thought a little breathless.

Aiden stood quietly and studied the dark brown tom, in turn. He'd only seen Feral on TV....never closeup and he had to admit, the male was much more impressive in person. His hair was ebony and buzz cut short, his face was rugged with a firm square chin. What caught Aiden were the beautiful golden eyes lined by black lines and his commanding presence.

Feral wore a black polo shirt that stretched tight across his impressive chest and tight black jeans that revealed a sizable package.

The silence seemed to go on for a while as they frankly examined each other. Then Feral seemed to relent and gestured at the chair opposite him that had miraculously not been taken despite the crowded club.

"Thank you kindly." Aiden said with a smile then sat down and cocked his head at the big tom. "My name is Aiden. I don't believe I've ever heard your first name."

"It's Ulysses." Feral grunted, wondering what possessed him to allow this tom to sit with him.

"Och! That's a fine name. Suits you well." Aiden commented, then took a swig of his drink.

"What's that you're drinking?" Feral asked curiously, he'd not seen that label before.

"Ah, this be the finest ale ye can find in this city. Vahalla Ale straight from Scotland." Aiden said with a grin.

Feral's brows rose up. "I didn't know that had made it to the city."

"It has but only in very few places. Was very amazed to find it here, it's one of the few reasons I come here."

"Ah, I see......not particularly interested in the view, then?" Feral questioned lightly.

"Naw! I only come with the lads to enjoy the company and drink enough to sleep at night." Aiden admitted. Then blinked in surprise at revealing something he hadn't even told his friends.

Feral eyed him quietly but didn't inquire further about why the tom needed to use drink to get to sleep. He could see the haunted look in the green eyes for himself. A past unhappiness, he guessed.

They were silent again. Aiden felt stiff and uneasy. This wasn't like him. He could be counted on to ease any situation, that's why his friends liked him so well but with Feral......it was like his protective facade had been stripped away and he was left naked before this tom's golden eyes.

But, at the same time, he could feel the waves of despair and unhappiness from the big tom.....not the confidence he'd witnessed on the TV news. Oh, there was still that strong command presence but it was presently being overwhelmed by the pain hidden in those eyes. Something traumatic had happened to the Chief Enforcer recently and he was having trouble dealing with it.

"Och, laddy. There is so much pain on thy face. I'm sure you have to deal with all manner of bad things in your job and it takes a piece of your soul often enough but I fear this is something that has rent it asunder." Aiden said softly, leaning closer so that he could be heard but not allow others to listen in.

Feral sucked his breath in and blushed. 'How could this tom see that so clearly? It's as if he could see into my heart and read it.' He thought uncomfortably.

Taking a healthy swallow of his drink, he said thickly, "I lost someone very close to me."

'Ah, it's as I thought. This I can understand.' Aiden sighed mentally. He'd recently lost a beloved cousin some months ago to a stupid accident. It had taken him some time to get over the injustice of it.

"Aye, I can understand what you're feeling. I too lost someone close over a senseless accident. Took me too many months to accept it." Aiden commiserated, the pain of it still able to hurt even after so much time.

To his surprise, the awful ache in his chest eased just a little at that quiet statement. It wasn't some meaningless platitude outsiders give someone whose grieving but the honest empathy of one who has suffered and was still doing so. It struck a chord within him. He found himself, reluctantly warming up to this tom.

Aiden felt a small smile tugged at his mouth as he sensed the dark tom relax a little. The golden eyes showed the beginning of warmth and acceptance of his overtures. Now what was he going to do about it? This kind of pain he understood. Perhaps, just a listening ear and sharing memories would help Feral and, just maybe, a friendship could be found here somewhere.

He paused in startled amazement. What was he doing? He swore he wouldn't become involved again but here he was getting in deep with another male. However, unlike that worthless asshole who had hurt him so badly, this wasn't something a tom with such high moral standards, as exhibited by Feral when in defense of the city, would treat another. Perhaps it was time to trust again. This tom was hurting and truly needed someone who wasn't interested in just his body.

"Would ya be caring to go somewhere quieter? Perhaps a small bistro I know around the corner would be a nicer locale for a bit of conversation and the simple warmth of companionship?" Aiden offered.

Feral eyed him a moment then looked around. He had to admit, he was drawn to this tom's way of speaking. It had warmth and sincerity to it, spoken in that soft Scottish burr. He found he wanted to hear more of it. He turned back to the patiently waiting Scotsman.

"I think I'd like that." He said simply, moving to get up.

Aiden smiled, pleased the tom was willing, and getting up as well. He glanced around for his friends but didn't see any of them. Shrugging it off, he led the way out of the club.

"I have my car parked in the rear." He told Feral.

The big tom nodded and said, "Mine is over there." He pointed to a black hummer parked in the next block.

"Want to meet at Elises' Bistro then?"

"That's fine with me. Meet you there in a few minutes." Feral said agreeably.

Aiden grinned and waved as he headed to the back of the club.