Intro: This is a very very old story I wrote senior year in highschool. Once upon a time -actually scratch that, I still am- I used to a huge SF fanatic, and while sorting some paperwork in my apartment I found the paper copies of this story. During my seach I also found the orignal files (floppys) that were so old that the info on them was non transferable. This used to have four charpters the original host site (midnight fox's SF forum) was destroyed years ago. As it was, I'd only been able to sucsessfully retreave the prologue and part of chapter one... A shame, as this was one of my favorite "starter" pieces. It's an AU fanfiction detailing James and the original Sar Fox Team, though it focused more on the social tensions on Corneria than on the star fighting. I never was able to finish it as the story's home site was destroyed and back then -I was rather young and internet oblivious- I wasn't aware that existed... Anyways, here's one of my first pieces, don't know if I plan to finish it but I do want to preservie it

Writen under my first penname "Falco22" aka "Falconis"

Pre SF 64 Fanfic/ James' Final Mission:

A dark Prelude...

James stood their a long moment holding his love's hand though no pulse lay underneath. The pup cried aloud in a thin voice and James did not move. He stood there, holding Amilia's paw, his thumb absently caressing her wrist. As if by will alone he could coax her heart to beat once more. Peppy wiped at his eyes, then with shaking legs went to the table James' son lay. Amilia had managed to clean Fox off before passing out from bloodloss, it shook Peppy to his core to think that Amilia, knowing she was going to die, had tended to Fox rather then herself.

"I..I called the hospital James..."

For a moment James looked at him with such blind hope.. Peppy felt his heart break. "Fox, he's bleeding..look" Peppy pointed at the loosely bound leg that was covered with a red bandage of sorts. Small drops fell from the edges of the cloth, an ominous sign that hinted at something Peppy wasn't ready to cope with right now. The edges around James' nostrils went bone white, his vulpine eyes went wild at the sight of his son's wound. James stood there, looking blankly at his son's wound, his grief racked mind not able to put it all together. A chill touched Peppy's heart, a glimpse of the madness that James would fall into if he figured out what his son's injury meant. Sirens howled in the distance, soon the paramedics would be here. Not soon enough for Peppy's reckoning, he spared a glance out to the city streets. The buildings were painted a surreal blue and red by the ambulance's light that bleed into a kind of purple black, they'd be here soon..

James reached out to hold Fox, to hold his son. It was only then it seemed that he noticed the blood on his paws. Amilia's blood covered his paws like morbid sticky gloves. Amilia's blood pooled on the bed, dripped on the linoleum floor, reached out and was absorbed at last by the carpet. It was a crimson sea. Peppy felt a wave of nausea coming on. He was never meant to get involved with death. Never, it went against centuries of clan tradition, yet here was death. It lorded over Amilia, mixed in with every drop on the floor, on James' hands. Here was death and despite all his training, all his loyalty to tradition, and he could do nothing to stop it. Even in death it seemed as if Amilia couldn't stop bleeding, and a quick look at Fox showed Peppy that he was suffering from the same illness. James moaned like a damned thing, he shivered as if from the chills, alternately reaching out to hold his son and stopping himself short, fearful to make Fox's wound worse. Out of all the chaos, the pain, one thing became clear to Peppy, get James out of here before he went mental.

"James.." Peppy's voice shook, tears blurred his vision. "James!!"

James twitched all over, then turned to Peppy with dead eyes. Peppy kept himself from shivering and repressed the urge to tug on his whiskers out of nerves. Never would he forget those empty hollow eyes. They were the thing of nightmares, of the mythical un-dead.

"James, go. Lead the medics here. I'll do what I can for Fox." James did not move, he just looked at Peppy with those soulless eyes. Grimly Peppy wondered if Amilia would be more responsive to his pleas. Grabbing the ace by his arm Peppy dragged James to the door, threw him out the exit. James picked himself off up from the halls floor, at least he was responding again. "Get the doctors up here now!" Peppy managed to find it in himself to yell. Again James shivered all over, but at least it was a response. "If they can't find there way up here soon you won't only be without Amilia you'll lose your son! MOVE IT JAMES, NOW!!!" With another one of those particular shivers James started down the hall, week cries of medic fell from his quivering lips. Cries that picked up in desperation and volume with each step.

Peppy shuddered, then turned to the all too still Fox. A quick glance told Peppy that the bandages needed to be changed. He whirled around in a circle, his frantic thoughts taking note of the items in the room. A bed, three chairs, a fridge, stove, table, night stand. two lamps. linoleum floors, two windows. All of these items were in a few steps of each other and there was nothing, nothing he could.. He turned to the window, struck with inspiration. Drapes, the window had creamy yellow drapes! With on vicious tug he brought the drapes down and dragged them across the room. Ignoring the slucking sound of the blood being absorbed, the muffled splash of pole being dragged through the pool.. He was there with the drapes in hand looking down on Fox. With trembling paws he tugged and ripped at the material, satisfied he had a long enough clean strip Peppy stuck it between his teeth and gently began to unwind Fox's bandaged left leg. The red fabric that had been tied to Fox's left leg held a hint of frill to it, beads dangled along its edge. A dread moisture and heaviness told Peppy that perhaps the fabric had not once been such a brilliant red before. Blood began to splurt out of the silent Fox's leg, and Peppy canned his poetic and melodramatic musings, firmly got to the business of re-binding the young McCloud's leg. Through it all Peppy moved so fast that his hands seemed to blur, done at last he looked at his charge, still no response. With a trembling digit Peppy reached under Fox's collar, checked for a pulse.

That's when he got his first positive response. Fox rolled in the direction of Peppy's hand, his weak little paws butted the Hare's long fingers in a pathetic attempt to get a hold. Remembering Amilia's story about how Fox would tug on her earrings so hard that she had to stop wearing them Peppy felt a chill settle in his heart. He scooped up the pup and held him to his chest, trying to warm up the little one's body.

"Don't you dare die on me McCloud! Don't you dare!!" Peppy's voice was little more then a strangled whisper. Was it his imagination or did he hear boots slamming up the stairs? Was that James' commanding voice or a phantom of Peppys mind? "Mama's gone, oh God, Mama's gone!" Tears slid down Peppy's eyes unchecked, he didn't care who saw him break. Mercifully he turned Fox away from the sight of his maimed mother. "I know you miss her but we need you here! Daddy needs you here, I.. If I lose you I lose your father, I lose everyone, you can't die Fox!" One of his tears fell onto Fox's face, and Peppy ceased his mad rocking to wipe it away. Peppy left a faint smear of blood behind, there was so much blood everywhere..

Weakly Fox opened his eyes. Those bright green eyes looked at the world so dully. From the mists of his own memory Peppy recalled an old game his mother would play with him. The Hare dipped one of his long ears down and wiggled it, Fox's attention was so rapt on the wiggling ear that he failed to notice the other one's decent till it tapped him on the shoulder. Fox let out a breathless giggle that was heart breaking to hear.

The door slammed open and Peppy whipped around, one hand holding Fox the other going for his gun. Fox tried to cry, it turned into a wheeze gasp. If he had been standing in front of a dam and it had burst the frothy white waves could not have compared to the speed and efficiency of those white coated medics. Two brushed past him, went to Amilia, trying there best to resurrect her from beyond, the others, twin Hares and distant cousins Peppy would later recall, snatched Fox from his limp hands. And through it all Peppy's gun was still at the pointed at the door, his mind was so numb that he didn't even realize that the doctors had left, taking Fox with them. When a Hound walked through the door it was only the blue officer's uniform that kept Peppy from shooting. It was then Peppy's mind unfroze enough so that he realized that putting the gun away might be smart. With trembling paws he did so, then he took three steps to the door. Something made him look back, maybe it was some tug of nostalgia that made him want to look at the room once more, to remember its final desicration, maybe it was sick curiosity..

They'd left Amilia on her bed which dripped of blood. The cops had swarmed her, they were pulling out that yellow tape they were so fond of and running it across the room like banners for some kiddies party. It was all so clean, so organized, white on white. It brought back faint memories of James' mother's home, how clean and perfect the rooms always had to be. Her son and her daughter in law had learned those lessons so well. It brought Peppy no pain to look at the kitchen, to look at the entry way, that was until his eyes strayed to Amilia's final resting place, then the illusion came crashing down and the tears pressed against his eyes and throat.. With a shaking paw Peppy gripped the door handle, cursing himself for his sick mind. His paw was suddenly very wet..

He jerked his paw away, took a step back, then just stood there and stared. Someone, a very mentally sick someone, had smeared the door handle with blood, that same someone had smeared the blood into a "A" . Nausea welled within him, he took another step back, his blunted nails kept him from slipping in the gore that he'd inadvertably smeared around while tending Fox. His tongue flopped around in his mouth for a long moment, he had to swallow twice before he could speak.

"Officer?" His voice was shaking, a mere whisper.

One of the hounds looked up from it's gory work, and seeing Peppy's shell-shocked face started to steer him out of the room. Peppy refused to come along, he was so stiff that the hound all but brain dead to what held Peppy in thrall tried to drag him out of the room for a good three minuets. Peppy lifted a blood soaked paw, a small dribble of blood fell off his finger as he pointed. The hound, with a sigh, followed Peppy's digit with his eyes. Peppy heard the Hound curse, his grip go spasmodic. He was even more firmly dragged out of the room. James was there, staring at the room with his empty eyes. James moaned softly like a dying thing as he saw Amilia's body being put in a bag. That brought Peppy as back to sanity as he was going to get. Peppy grabbed his High School friend by the scruff and pulled him away from the door despite his stubborn struggles to stay there. Peppy managed to drag James from the hall and into the elevator with only one black eye for his trouble. Locked in the steel cage that was headed to the lobby James actually snapped enough to start scratching at the metal walls and start howling. Peppy tried to use words, tried to reach out for James' shoulder to hold him steady. James back handed him with a paw, claws fully extended.. Grimly wiping blood from his fore head so it wouldn't run into his eyes Peppy decided it was time to stop being so gentle. He slugged at James, and James lost in his primal state lashed back with his claws and teeth. They were both blood covered, battered when the doors slide open, but at least James was a little more tractable. Granted James was comatose from receiving several strikes to the head but at least James wasn't trying to disembowel Peppy anymore.

Pepper was there at the entrance of the apartments, speaking to the Owl manager in a tone that would have made smarter Cornerian's look for hiding places. He glanced up, and caught the sight of Peppy and James. Or rather he saw Peppy carrying James like a sack of potatoes. Inspired by the evidence of the fight Pepper nodded his head agreeably to the Avian's last sentence then offered the Owl a free nap. The Owl wasn't a large creature and Pepper wasn't in a good mood, that might of explained how it went flying into the closest wall. Despite his situation Peppy felt a little sorry for the creature as it soundlessly slid down the wall and fell in a pool of feathers and limbs. Pepper spared the little Avian a moment to make sure he wasn't dead, then between them they carried James to Pepper's car.

The drive was long and bleak, though the sun still shined with what Peppy dubbed to be its excessive cheer. Peppy sat with James in the back seat while Pepper drove, holding his friends still hand the whole way. When they stopped two hours and several miles later they were at Pepper's manor house. Despite his pain Peppy managed a tired grin. So it was true, the old hound dog did have quite a bit of money. The smile slide off his face though when James' eyes fluttered open. James went berserk again, so caught up in his grief he was bound and determined to take them down with him, by his wild eyes he didn't even know who they were. They managed to drag him into Pepper's large home and while Peppy sat on James, Pepper tied the struggling McCloud up. They lay on the tiled floor in a room now bare of any whole furnishings, James' claw marks were everywhere. Peppy simply laid there while Pepper having a little more energy collapsed on the now maimed couch. Pepper was nice enough to toss a pillow Peppy's way. The tired Hare lifted his head up and managed to bring one of his paws around to nudge it under his chin, he then slumped back on the floor. Both had the dubious pleasure of watching James growl like a rabid hound and chew on one of the pillows Pepper hadn't been able to save.

"How long has it been this bad?" Pepper managed to wheeze, James had given him a sharp kick in the chest and he had still to catch his breath.

"Not..not long.." Peppy croaked, sounding for all the world like a Aquarisan, one of the odd frog people of Corneria. "Since they took.. Fox away.."

"What happened Peppy?" Pepper managed, a note of horror creeping in his normally mellow voice. "Couldn't Amilia.."

James went into a wild fit of howling at that point. Peppy cringed at Pepper unintentional 'faux pas' It took a lot out of Peppy but he managed to tell Pepper about Amilia's death, about the sheer brutality, about the odd symbol. Pepper shook his head in pity at first then bared his sharp teeth as the story went on.

"You're certain about that symbol?" Pepper asked. It had taken Peppy some time to tell the story, mainly because just mentioning it broke him and he had to stop so many times.. They'd both had recovered to a degree.

"Yeah," Peppy looked at the plain tile feeling the nausea once more.

"Poor James.. You do know that if we get help, professional help, they'll never let him near Fox again." Pepper said after a long period of silence. "I'm not totally convinced this madness is permanent, nor is this crazed state going to last much longer."

"Oh really." Peppy rubbed his throat, James' teeth had made more puncture wounds on his throat then he wanted to think about right now. "Madness tends to permanent, just ask that exiled scientist on Venom about that. They thought they cured him when he was twelve, remember? After he butchered his little sister he was in "rehab" for years, the system let him out when he was twenty. Five years later they had that bio-weapon scandal to deal with.."

"Andross.." Pepper growled the word out, his claws lightly scrapped the arm of the couch. "That's not important." Pepper barked, "Speaking of Biology, didn't you ever take the "varied species" course?"

Peppy racked his brains for a moment then shook his head. "Hmmph, well when exposed to a lot of blood certain species will go into something called a blood rage, they got crazy, or rather primitive. Right now all James can register is the fact that there's a big hunk of prey less then five feet away and that a competitive predator is in his territory. Toss in some emotional trauma and I'd say James is staying in that primitive state to keep from breaking down." Pepper scratched at his floppy jaws for a moment while he tried to explain it better. Peppy never had bought that whole "primitive brain" theory, having found it rather insulting, despite his absentminded pose Pepper remembered that. "He's keeping himself crazy so he doesn't have to grieve. You know how James is. He's always been the support for other people and there are some people who'd literally rather die then break. Trust me, my father was one of them, and he went like this after mother passed."

"How'd you bring him back?"

"We didn't, he was shot by my older brother. Fang was always a little brutal.."

"All right what do we do?"

"Gun's still in the living room as I recall.."

"Pepper!"

"Sorry." Pepper managed a tired grin. "Dark humor runs in the family.. Why don't you bring Fox here, that'll calm him."

"Look at him Pepper." Peppy argued, clutching his aching head. James was growling softly, testing the strength of his bonds. Seeing he couldn't break out he went back to knawing on the pillow. "He's in no state to.."

"I could get the gun out if you don't want to try."

Peppy called Pepper something rather nasty. The old blood hound managed a tired grin.

"Well get cracking Hare, I'll keep an eye on him."

"Are you sure about this?" Peppy stopped rubbing is throat, blood smeared his hand for the second time today, his blood. "Maybe we should try to send on of those three-D camera projectors first. Show him Fox without bringing him in so we can tell if I would be safe.."

"That actually might work, but we have one problem. I don't own one." Pepper turned his gaze from James and looked at Peppy. Peppy just shook his head. No, neither of them owned one. "I might grow to regret this but here.." Pepper tossed Peppy his credit card. "Keep a cap on your enthusiasm, just get the camera and some film. Oh and pick up some food for the three of us, maybe if we feed James he'll stop trying to eat you." Peppy nodded and made a point of giving James plenty of room, Peppy was glad he had for his old friend wriggled and squirmed after him, teeth snapping at Peppy's heels. Pepper final scrapped the energy up to grab James heels and drag him away from the front door so Peppy could actually close the door without breaking the older pilots snout.

Peppy was back about four hours latter, it was getting dark as he pulled up in Pepper's black car. He killed the lights and checked the food for the second time. Two carnivore burgers, three soft drinks, one order of baked carrot slivers and another order of baked potato cakes, and a spicy salad dripping with Caesar salad dressing. Peppy remembered McCloud's odd affinity for potatoes, he was one of the few canines he knew that actually like something besides meat and bread.. Maybe after James would calm down he'd want to eat them. He pulled the receipt from his pocket and shoved it in the bag, tied the edges up in a knot, then placed it on the roof of the car. He then checked the straps that held the camera and its footage on his back. Peppy checked and tightened and adjusted it for the eight-tenth time since he'd bought it. If James was still in berserk mode and he brought Peppy down... Peppy could just lay to his side to protect the camera. Right now that footage was more precious then Peppy's hide right now, he'd take a lot of hits before he let James recklessly break that camera. It had cost quite a bit too, that receipt stayed in Peppy's pocket, and there it would stay until after everything was said and done. Maybe, just maybe, Pepper could return it after this was all over.

Food in one hand, camera on his back, secret weapon in his other pocket, and a gun at his belt. Peppy wondered if service in the war had ever been this dangerous. At least back then he didn't have to worry that he might have to shoot James. Now Pigma, Pigma was a different story. That swine would shoot anything that moved, James and Peppy had to cow that hot head in more then once. Suddenly Peppy was fervently glad that he had resisted the urge to call Pigma, to tell him what was going on. Not that Pigma was a bad person, he was just a little rash, and he was not suited to deal with this kind of situation. As his hand turned the handle Peppy was dwelling about how odd it was how all there names sounded the same, Peppy, Pigma, Pepper. He'd hate the idea of telling his future kid a story with all three of them in it, he'd probably bite his tongue a few times with that tongue twister. He managed a weak chuckle and turned the handle, pleased to note that James wasn't howling or growling at the other end of the door. What he came into left him speechless.

Pepper looked up from tossing a bone from paw to paw. James stopped following the bone with his head and turned to look at Peppy. Evidence of there earlier spot lay in the scratch marks on the tile, the overturned table, and for a long moment Peppy's numb mind didn't register anything. When James growled at Peppy though Pepper snapped out of his surprise.

"James! James!" Pepper whistled between his sharp teeth, suddenly James turned his full attention to him. Pepper was holding the bone in the oddest manner, wiggling it slightly from time to time. Like some massive orange caterpillar James squirmed at Pepper's feet, eyes totally rapt on the bone. From time to time he actually managed to stay on his knees for a moment, but then he'd fall over again. It was horrible, in Peppys mind, to see act James so animalisticly. "go fetch!!" Pepper threw the bone off a few feet and James was off. Humping and crawling, squirming and squigling across the tile floor in his mad pursuit for the toy. Seeing Peppy's look of scorn Pepper coughed in embarrassment. "Had to do something, he was starting to chew on the tiles. I didn't want him to hurt himself, that's all." Both Cornerian's flinched when there came the sound of another piece of furniture falling over.

"If you are doing anything wrong Pepper something tells me God will just consider the damages bill enough of a punishment.." There was another crash, this time it sounded like plates falling over. "You deal with it Pepper while I get set up, pick up the glass, he might cut himself." With a growl Pepper dragged himself from the chair. He limped slightly, it looked like James had bit him good not too long ago. There was the sound of a scuffle and Pepper cried out in pain. "Don't knock him out Pepper! I need him awake!" Pepper called back that he'd try, or at least that's what Peppy figured he had meant to say. Pepper broke off to howl in pain as James bit him on the leg, and James began to howl with him.

Peppy wasn't a religious Hare, he never really had believed all that much in God as a youngling and the faith had been farther washed out of him as an adult. Now for the first time in years he prayed. He prayed for James to get well, for Fox to be OK, for Pepper and him to pull through this in one piece. As another piece of cookery fell over Peppy tossed out a prayer for Peppers bill to be low too. It never hurt to cover all bases..

***

Three days had passed, three days since the madness had taken him. James sat numbly in Pepper's living room, watched in a detached indifference as they cleaned up the mess he'd inadvertabley caused. They watched him, they'd taken shifts, stayed up together when he back slide into his mindless violence. Peppy was there sweeping up some plates that had fallen, a bandanna held his ears down, an apron tied across his belly. Peppy was the perfect picture of the modern house wife as he bent down to pick up the largest of the glass shards... Mama hen Peppy, the old joke made James curl his lip in a slight smile. Pepper looked at him worriedly, then following James' gaze managed a smile of his own. Pepper had refused to sacrifice a drop of his masculine dignity and was ruining one of his older uniforms as he scrubbed at another of James' messes, Peppy had said he'd rather lose some dignity then have to pay for another uniform. James just watched them work, part of him aching to help but the rest of him aching too much to help. Though they'd tried to be gentle James had been vicious, they'd had to plummel him into unconscious more then once during the last three days.

In his hands he toyed with a small scrap of fabric Peppy had stolen from the nursery, it was his link to sanity, it kept the red mist back. Seeing them engrossed with there tasks James brought the fabric to his nostrils. Pup scent, newly born pup scent, his pup.. His son, Fox.. That's all he had now, that was it. Tears burned behind his eyes, Pepper and Peppy blurred to pillars of moving color in his vision, the rest of the house was a tan/white smear. He slowly eased himself onto the couch, slipped the fabric in his vest pocket. The couch's back afforded him some privacy as he quietly cried. Amilia was gone, dead, murdered. The police had come to Pepper's to deliver there report on the second day, James had started to crawl back from the pit his soul now resided, that news plus some of the pictures they'd shown him.. He'd kept calm until they'd left, somehow he had fought the mist as he watched the car pull out of his vision. Peppy and Pepper dragged him back into the house where he'd snapped.

They didn't dare go for help, if they did he'd be blacklisted. It was Cornerian law that those insane were to be put on a list, they were then stripped of all rights until the state dubbed them "competent" . At least that had been the old laws, now there was no way to come back. You were on that list for life, all thanks to some recent nutcase named Andross. James rolled away from the couch's back, and stare at the maimed living room. They'd take Fox away, he'd lose his son, then they'd drag him to the nearest nuthouse and drug him to his teeth. He'd lose everything, maybe Peppy and Pepper would stay with him for a while, but in the end he'd lose them to. A horse sob crawled out from his lips, it shook him like a ragdoll, made his body ache. He was cold, so cold.. Peppys hand on his sholder banished the cold for a bit, but in his frantic mind he saw a pit dark and empty yawning in fround of him. He could step into it, let the cold and numb take him away from the searing hot pain of Amilia's loss, of his weakness, of his shame. He'd never feel anything again all he had to do was reach out, let the madness take him..

James reached up, grabbed Peppy's hand like a life line. If Peppy was in pain he didn't make a sound while James kept that iron grip. Slowly the image faded, the darkpit was consumed by its own hollowness. James forced himself to keep breathing steadily, then using both Peppy's arm and the couch's back he pulled himself to a sitting position.

"Thanks Pep," James managed to smile, he frimly wrenched his eyes away from the spot where the pit had been. "I fell over I guess. God I hurt." Pepper was looking at him with those dark brown eyes of his, and James managed a quick bark of a laugh. "Next time try to change the spots you pound on me so I'm not so so sensitive on my side." Pepper's scrutiny did not waver so James ignored him and concentrated on Peppy. Peppy's ears drooped in shame, he was obviously embaresed over what had happened. "Don't worry 'bout it Hare, no worse then what my bro's would give me from time to time." He managed to lightly swat Peppy on the sholder, though once upon a time he would of caught the Hare by the neck and given him a noogie for being such a worryer. James twitchy limbs just weren't up to that yet. He'd be up to that soon, but first he wanted to see his son. Want however had no place in front of need, at least in Pepper's book.

"Peppy," He barked in his comander's voice. Though Pepper was only five years there seinor and all three of them were on leave Peppy snapped a short salute. "Go pick up some food would you." A dull grey credit card sailed across the air over James head and into Peppys hand. "Hmmm." Pepper scratched his floppy jaws. "Pickup the food from first nights joint, but make mine a Melt."

"If its not too much trouble," James added. "Could you pick up some more of those cakes, I uhh didn't exactly eat the last ones as I recall.."

"While you're out retern the camera." Pepper slid the box in Peppy's direction. He walked up to James who handed him the camera. James protectivly clung onto the film though. Sighing at the folly of parents Pepper growled. "Cover the film's cost with the card. Do you really need that James?" He gestured at the film in the older McCloud's hand.

"No," James reconized the test when he saw it. "No, I want to keep it anyway. It has the first few pictures of Fox in it.."

"You could get more pictures later on.." Pepper hedged.

"No!" James growled, holding the film casset with a protectivness that made the others start. "It wouldn't be the same, trust me alright.. I'll pay you back later."

Both of Pepper's bushy eyebrows went up at that point. After a moment of looking at each other Peppy and Pepper shrugged. Not knowing if it was a syntom of returning crazyness or just father sentimentalism taking root.

"Look, I know that last few days have been rough but I am catching my feet. I'm not all the way better, I probably never will be.." James licked at his lips, fought back the pain of Amilia's absence with a grimace. He opened his eyes then blinked a few times. Sure that he was in control James continued. "I'll be able to function at least, and I will not got into that blood frenzy again. Never. You understand? I wont go that psyco again, I wont let myself because I don't want to lose Fox, to lose any of you.."

The three males shifted a bit uncomfortably, each one chewed it over, checked its validity.

"Well Hare, aren't you supposed to be going somewhere?" Pepper growled.

"Wha-" Peppy jerked in confusion, his long ears pricked up in genuine startlment. "Oh umm yeah, I'm going I'm going.."

"I wager he's forgot what we wanted.." Pepper sighed, as if thier food was the most important thing in the world. James knew better, Pepper was feeling him out. "Did he get the car keys?"

"They're by the door. I left them there after you threw them on the table after you went out for a bit." James watched Peppy pluck them off the nail he'd hooked them on to. Anything to avoid Pepper's eyes. "I wanted to move around a bit, hoped it would get some of the soreness out."

"Ahh," Pepper didn't press the point. "Good. We need you back soon McCloud, thing are heating up again."

"Is that all you think about, protecting Corneria! Doesn't anything else mater to you?" Now James whirled to look at Pepper, his eyes smoldered. "Is that all I am to you, a tool, a pawn ion this sick game of war!"

"If you were why did I go to all this trouble to help you. If I were that much of a manipulative bastard I'd have left you in a hospital and you know it." Pepper's eyes also showed a hint of fire. "I lost my family out there McCloud, I lost my sisters and two of my brothers. Fang's in one of those mental hospitals right now because he went numb then snapped. I know what they are like! I'd never put you in one even if I had to slit your throat myself. So no you're not just a tool, your good that's what you are. You, Pigma, and Peppy, are the best we have, and we are losing out there McCloud. We're dying out there, we're throwing our children at this nameless enemy and they are all dieing!" Pepper shook in rage then took a deep breath. "Later McCloud when your well we will get back to buisness. Right now we get you fed, steady, and to your son. That's all that matters right now. Understand?"

"Understood sir." James snapped a salute.