A LOVE TOO LATE

Author's Note: A quick and sad story to meet the challenge given on furryfanworks.

I stand before your grave and want to scream to the heavens but I must show only the stoicism that's been my calling card for my whole adult life. 'Stone face' they call me. What a joke! If they could see inside me now they would find utter devastation and bitter loss. The despair is so well hidden that even now I can hear the whispers about how cold I am.

The funeral is a full heros one just as it should be for the ones who had given their lives to finally free the city of its worst three omegas. Now I will not have any real difficulties keeping the peace even with my sadly underfunded enforcers.

My niece, Ms. Briggs and Dr. Sinian are sobbing uncontrollably. Callie had managed to keep it together for the invocation given by Professor Hackle but finally gave in to her anguished sorrow when the twenty-one gun salute went off.

The ceremony was being held at the grave site due to the large crowds who had demanded to be there. Their coffins had been followed from the funeral parlor all the way to the cemetery by thousands of Katizens. They ringed around us now as we who are the leaders of the city stand stolidly waiting for this to end.

With the sound of the guns still ringing in our ears, taps is played as their coffins are lowered into the ground. Finally in small groups and large the crowd melts away. Ms. Briggs has been taken away by a surprisingly comforting Mayor Manx. Dr. Sinian and Professor Hackle have left together to console each other and Felina left without me, not wanting my company. I leave alone and head not for work as many would have expected but to a destination they would never have believed.

I pull into the silent yard that had been their life for more than six years and park in front of the garage the two worked in to make the money to pay the debt they owed for the repair of my flight line. I climb out and walk slowly to the door.

It's unlocked. There are no secrets here now. My enforcers have combed the whole place and taken all the gadgets Jake had worked on and his shining achievement, the Turbokat. I walked to the ladder we had discovered and went down to the hangar.

So surprising to my officers to find this old Megawar II bunker under the salvage yard. They had been stunned at how lucky the two ex-enforcers were to have been assigned here and were able to build an incredible arsenal and jet from just used salvage.

They would have been even more shocked if they learned I had known all along about this and that I had known what a smart inventor like Jake would do with it. I had been right. Their very presence as 'back up' to the enforcers had insured Megakat City survived all its encounters with the omegas.

Over eight years ago, I had deliberately set up the chain of events that insured the pair would eventually be put out of the enforcers. Dark Kat's attack had been fortuitous, giving me the perfect opportunity to set my plans in motion. Of all the trainees I had seen pass through the enforcer academy, never I had seen such a close knit team. They were smart, incorruptible, ingenuitive and extremely brave. The right talents for a special forces team that could save us from the enemies I could already see would destroy the city in the near future.

To make it all work though, I had to be the hard ass and do the dirty work of kicking them out then treating them like outcasts. It was the only way, their psych profiles said, to get them to do just what I hoped they would do. There had been a small margin of possibility they might have gone bad but they didn't to my relief.

They went on to become the city's shining heroes while I was vilified. But I didn't care. The city was safe and how I felt about it and them couldn't be a part of that decision.

However, I had to rip my heart out to do it. Every time I saw him in battle, I ached for him. I loved him so much and he never noticed me except during that very brief time when he respected me in his time at the academy. That handsome, smiling face burned its way into my soul and we just clicked, he and I but it wasn't to be. He was a cadet and I was the Commander. I dare not let him know how much I cared for him.

When I had to be hard on him as an enforcer pilot our closeness was torn asunder. His respect for me and friendliness became anger and hatred. It tore my heart to pieces.

That was his attitude toward me for many years for the period of his enforcer career then when he became a SWAT Kat. It only changed after more than six years fighting against our enemies and my more lenient stance against them. By now I could get away with that since the city wanted them so much. As long as I didn't show outright approval of them, I could cross the line a little and be a comrade in arms with them.

In the year before they were killed, we had a more easy relationship and just a few months ago, he actually smiled at me warmly and clapped me on the back after a very tense situation that had ended with us still alive though it was a very close thing.

My heart leaped with hope. Now that we were on easier terms, I kept hoping I might cross the line in the personal arena and let him know how I really felt. Though I'd seen him make eyes with the she-kats, he was primarily a lover of males and the heat between us was tentatively rekindling.

All that vanished in one horrifying moment. Dark Kat had again combined with Dr. Viper and the Metallikats to try to take over the city. This time they came damn close to succeeding.

I was injured, many of my troops were dead or dying, but I had managed to take out Dr. Viper. Razor took out the Metallikats with something new he'd invented but Dark Kat had one of his secret weapons up his sleeve and used it with devastating results.

What he hadn't counted on was T-Bone managing to bollix up his perfect plan and sending the foul creature to his death at last.

In those final moments, Razor was killed by a lethal trap of Dark Kats and sent T-Bone into a grief stricken rampage. He killed creeplings right and left despite being badly injured himself. I tried to stay by his side but had received a serious wound to my leg and couldn't stand.

The damn brave, tabby made me stay put then plunged on to confront Dark Kat alone and though the omega managed to turn on his new weapon and point it toward the city, T-Bone sabotaged it causing it to implode taking him and Dark Kat out.

I crawled in terror and anguish to his body. It took me so damn long to get to his side. He was barely alive when I gathered him in my arms. I had to see his eyes one last time so I tugged his mask off and looked down at his handsome face.

He opened his eyes for a moment and stared up at me then smiled. He touched my face for a moment then his paw dropped and his eyes went blind. I screamed and screamed, emotional pain and grief ripping me apart.

They found me unconscious with him wrapped tightly in my arms. The time I spent in the hospital, I was numb and lost. To have come so close and losing him completely was more than I could bear.

When I was released, it took everything I had in me to put on a stoic face and attend to my duties involving the reports dealing with the deaths of my enforcers and the three omegas. The salvage yard was searched and cataloged according to regulations and law but something in me felt it was sacrilege in taking apart their lives.

I secretly took a few personal things of his to keep and insured the rest went to his family and their equipment went to our armory. Now here I am back where he lived his life and all I feel is emptiness and desolation.

I didn't know how long I stood there but when I finally came to myself it was dark outside. I climbed back up the ladder and got back into my sedan. I drove to the cemetery. It was empty and silent. The moon was coming up and bathed the stark landscape with its harsh light.

I looked around before parking then climbing out and walking toward Honor Hill. I passed the graves of many enforcer before coming to the fresh grave with the marble tombstone. I didn't bother to read the inscription on it.

I dropped to my knees and finally let the sobs escape me. I wept a very long time until my eyes were sore and throat was raw. I reached out and touched his grave.

"I loved you so much and now your gone before I could tell you. It's so unfair!" I moaned, aloud.

Suddenly, I felt the fur on my neck rise and a chill raced up my spine. I froze and looked cautiously around. Tears still streaked down my face as I tried to see what had alerted me.

There to one side of their gravestone a flickering began. It was faint at first then gradually it got stronger and there he stood. He wore his SWAT Kat outfit but no mask.

"Chance?" I breathed shakily.

"Ulysses. It's alright. Don't grieve so hard. When the time is right we will see each other again." His voice, sounding hollow and distant, said warmly.

"Oh God, Chance, there was so much I wanted to say to you.....I just....." I began, my voice choking.

"I know Ulysses. I guess I've always known even when I was furious with you. I'm sorry I couldn't cross that barrier between us to let you know. I cared for you and might have even begun to love you but it wasn't meant to be, not in this world but in the next....anything's possible!" He said softly.

"There's a chance, Chance?" I asked then blinked stupidly when I realized what I'd said.

He gave a ghostly chuckle. "Yes, here time has no meaning. I'll be waiting but you have important things to do first. The city needs you more now that we're gone. Be strong, Uly and I will see you when its time." His form began to fade.

"No, Chance not yet." I begged but soon he was completely gone. I sat there on the cold ground for a very long time before I finally got up stiffly and made my way to my car.

I would do as he said. Protect the city we both loved and when it was my time I would seek him out and be together as we couldn't be when we lived. That would have to sustain me over the many lonely years to come.