Pre SF 64 Fanfic/ James' Final Mission:

Cahpter one: Frictions

a/n: There was more to this chapter but it was lost a long time ago. I'm going to go through my files at home in hopes of finding the paper version of this... Sorry about the shortness in advance. Kasan Soulblade

James stared at the little bundle of fur, wires, needles, and paws, all nicely packaged in a glass little cage. Peppy was with him, he could feel the Hare's arm on his shoulder. One of the medical staff, a different Hare whose coat was a thing of smoke and black swirls, she looked at the bundle of papers in her paws and read the many guages that were hooked up to complicated machines with an expert eye.

"Well Mr. McCloud, it seems like the chemical's in you son's body were flushed out. None of our last three tests came back positive with any of the poisens that were in your wifes body." James shuddered and Peppy kept a tight grip on his best friends shoulder. The medic, oblivious to the whole world beyond those papers continued. "He's lost a lot of blood, a hell of a lot of blood Mr. McCloud. Release instructions are as follows; Keep him away from other children, from any enviroment that may cause him to loose blood, and make sure you scrub your hands everytime you touch him. He's likely to catch anything that's going around right now, and with his blood so depleated giving him any medicines very risky."

"R-release?" James managed after a long moment. The medic lowered her massive glasses and stared at James. The florecent light's caught in the lenses and made her look like an insect. "If he's so sick why not just keep him here a few days, it's not like I mind, so long as I'm alowed to stay here overnight."

"Well," The medic reached up and with a gloved hand stroked at her whiskers. "Frankly sir you can't stay here over night, it's against policy. Secondly we don't keep patients here any longer then absolutly nessicary."

"You mean," Peppy snapped, anger making him take a step forward. "When they can't pay you throw them out, no matter how sick they are!"

"Peppy.." James protested, placing a paw on his old freind shoulder, for once keeping him in place. "That was uncalled for. Apologize.."

The medic just shrugged and waved James words aside with a slender hand.

"Obviously your ahh.. friend knows the System beter then you do. That military insurance covers you, not your kid." James almost roared out a few choice words, Peppy tightened his grip all the more and shoved his friend back while he stepped forward.

"We don't care about how much it'll cost, what's the max that Fox can stay here?"

"You can't have that much-"

"How long how much?"

"Two thouasand a day, if you want to keep running tests then add three hundred per test. Frankly Mr. McCloud looking at your finances you can't afford having a docter to keep a steady watch on your son. You'll just have to do without, and you'd probably do that better at home..."

James wasn't even listening, he was staring at Fox. James' fore paws were covered with two pairs of gloves, though he hated the feeling of his fur rubbing against his skin, of the sweat under the pads of his paws pooling, he didn't let it bother him now. Lovingly he reached out and stoked the edge of the glass cage. He stared at his son for a long moment, stared at the wires and needles that were keeping his son awake. There was a tube going down the pup's throat, his sharp little teeth, were scraping at the edges of the tube. The female was pratiling at him and Peppy but James was totally focused on looking at the pads on his son's little paws. They were a shocking black around that curly orange fluf that covered the whole of his body, that orange, the color of fire on his back and arms, it lightened to an almost ice cream like orange around his neck and snout. He'd be white on his belly and under his snout, and unless James was sorely mistaken he'd have the McCloud white tip on his tail. He looked at his son and only his son while the nurse's voice rasped against his patience like claws across steel. All he wanted to do now was to hold his son, to reach through the glass and touch Fox.

"Mr. McCloud?" Came the hare's voice, she might as well have been speaking in Venom's native language, or in the avian tounge for all he heard her. "Do you have some place to go?"

"He's with me." Peppy managed, James had yet to respond to the last twenty or so questions about Amilia's medical history. It's like he was gone, Peppy thought with a mix of grief, envy and regret, like he was so wrapped up in that little bundle of fur that the whole world could go up in flames around him and he wouldn't notice. The female Hare lips curled in a sneer, Peppy just shook his head. "Just because he isn't a Hare or a Rodent doesn't mean he's stupid. He's been through a lot of Hell recently, just give him a break."

"Huh.. All right then Mr. Hare. I hope you're filling out the papers?"

She leaned against the nearest wall, tapped a pen against the bundle in her paws significantly. With a last glance at James, who seemed lost in his own little world Peppy nodded, then took the papers and began filling them out. The nurse yapped of course, she talked about other patience and illness she had seen on The Shift, her shift, as she gave biblical importance to her job to his not so sypathetic ears. Just because he was a Hare, one of members of the most numerous and conservative rodent clans, didn't mean that he followed all there traditions. She pratled, he wrote, she wined, he nudged James to give him some answers, she gloated over the wonderfull pay she was getting for doing nothing, he was finally done and handed her the bundle back. As if by magic some random docter, another Hare he noted with some disgust, came in and began disentangleing Fox from all the wires and tubes. For one moment James seemed ready to step in, Peppy put a restraining paw on his freinds shoulder and gave him a smile.

"Were taking Fox home James, or rather to my den." The docter and the nurse both rose an eyebrow and gave him a rather scornfull look, saying without words that he was mental for taking a Vulpine in. The look of gratitude James shot him though made the icy glares nothing. The intensity in James' eyes though, he felt ackward. "I mean.. if you want to stay with me I understand if you wouldn't want to.. It's not like I've got Canine food, meat, I mean. God knows I can't cook or anything, but-"

"No problem Pep, I can cook. We'll work out the details later, I mean if you'll have us." Both of the other Hares were waiting for Peppy to say no, to take back his increadably scandulous offer, to show some pride in his spiece. Well if they were Peppy sure as Hell wasn't going to catter to them. Peppy nodded his OK and again James' eyes warmed, a heavy burden was lifted off the tired father's soulders. "Thanks my man." With a stiff nod the docter indicated James could pick up his son. James did just that, and Fox's eyes opened at his father's touch. Perhaps feeling some of his old strength the days old pup reached up and gave his father's wiskers a tug. Peppy winced in sympathy as one of those wiskers came free, James yipped and rubbed his face with a free paw.

"Tough little tike." Peppy said, trying not to laugh. "Just like his father."

"Yeah, I noticed.." James wisly pulled his snout, or rather his wiskers out of reach from Fox's chubby paws. "Mom never wined about me snatching her bald when I was little."

"Maybe she was smarter then to dangle her wiskers right over your paws."

"Maybe- Ouch- All right pup, you don't want Daddy to go compleatly -Ouch- Some help here Peppy!" James looked positivly desperate, Peppy really wanted to help he honestly did, but God it was hillarious seeing Corneria's greatest ace struggling with that pup. Peppy sank into the nearest chair and laughed, wiped tears from his eyes, and nearly rolled out of the chair when Fox found James' ear and proceeded to tug.

***

They managed to nag a blanket out of a nurse, so Fox was wound up in the blue sterilized fabric and carried by James to Peppys beat up car. The clammered in and James had enough of a grip on reality to note that the car had no AC, that the car's back window had fallen out of place, and that the Hare had one heck of a time getting it started. Just as the elder McCloud started to suggest a taxi Peppy got the engine to catch. With the old, twenty years out of date car twitching and spasming like an old Hare forced to run, they drove out of the hospital. One guard at the check point made a half heated wave, but even as they drove by the Hare and Fox could see the guard canine's obvious disgist. As they went down the highway and began to go over the country road to Peppy's fathers house, James held Fox. The young pup had fallen asleep and now his father looked down on that orange face with it's small snout in wonder. James looked up from time to time out the window as some of the nicer houses, he shook his head then shifting his son's limp form around he turned to Peppy.

"I wonder how long it's been going on?"

"What?" Peppy looked thorugh the mirror to see James' somber eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"The disgust, scorn, you saw that guard, heard those docters.."

"A long time I imagine, longer then we've been around that's for sure."

"It's sad." Was all James said, his eyes closeing and for a moment he slumped forward and Peppy though him asleep. "Did they ever bother you Pep?"

"Did who?" Peppy was more focused on the road, this bend was always a little tricky..

"Them, people, because we are friends.."

"No," Peppy lied, deciding that James had been through enough and he didn't need to hear any of his sob stories. "never was an issue."

"But there was an issue?" James' eyes were getting their familier inquisitive spark back. His grip on the here and now was strengthening. Despite the delicate subject Peppy smiled, and decided to spare James any more self destructive guilt trips.

"Nope. Father was just a bit strange in his old age, that's all."

"Why'd he kick you out senior year?"

"Just a misunderstanding, nothing really, just one of his parinoia flashes."

"Huh," something in James' eyes told Peppy that the older piolet had read through him. There was a lie somewhere and James couldn't quite place it yet. Peppy moved to turn on the radio, one of the few redeaming features of the torn down automobile, when a menicing growl made him freeze. "No radio Pep, we're still talking." Peppy gave up at that point and just drove for a while. "If you got this nice countryside Den then why you driving some POS veicle?"

"POS?" Peppy feined ingorance, then seeing the den he called out. "Well here we are!" It was loud, diliberatly so, and when Fox started wailing James' eyes could have killed. "Well, shall we go in?" James didn't move, just glared at his co-piolet. "I got some milk in the fridge that I know will do Fox some good, might settle him in, while your warming it up I'll do the laundry and scour the basement. I think father left one of our old cribs around here somewhere.." With a gaze that promised revenge James nodded, then with some effort wormed his ay out of the car and soothed Fox. Peppy was already at the door, opening it wide and flipping light switches. While he was rummaging through the kitchen James came up to him his son in his arms.

"You said something about milk?" Peppy pointed in the fridge and James worked it open, he came out with a small cartian that had at best an inch on of milk in the bottem and a quick sniff told him what little milk in there was bad. He threw it away and glared at Peppy. "Your out."

"Well of course I am, you just threw it away." Peppy fished the container out of the trash, green ooze was coming out of the opening and Peppy let the soured milk fall back in the trash bin. "Sorry, it's been a while since I've been back..." At James shamed look Peppy waved a hand through the air like it ment nothing. "Been away from here plenty of times, just need to restock the food, that's all." Mentally the Hare was calculating the foodstamps and remains of his last pay check to see if he could cover it all. The numbers weren't all that comforting. He'd make it, but by the skin of his teeth, but then wasn't that what being broke was all about? The government covered your tail to a point, but you had to beg, to grovel, for them to help... and God help you if you went beyond your means, if you aspired or planed, or stored one cent past the poverty line. Do that and you were done...

He'd have to make a few calls, check a few things.

But everyting would work out, he'd make sure it would.