The next day Raven went in to the hospital for the final prep for the procedure. Chance sighed and helped her into the hospital bed. He knew that soon she would be able to do things like this on her own. At this point she needed his help and he was more than happy to provide the assistance for her.

Jake too was willing to help, but Raven didn't really get exactly why Jake insisted on being so much of a help. She cared about him, loved him, but she thought it was unrequited; he didn't love her… did he?

Chance knew the truth about how Jake felt but wasn't sure how to deal with that truth. Jake loved Raven. In the end Chance couldn't deny that was fact but he wasn't sure if he should encourage Jake to pursue Raven's heart now with this surgery looming heavy on their minds. Would it be better for Raven to know what Jake's intentions were and perhaps find out if she reciprocated Jake's feelings and save him the wondering should the worst happen or would the truth in that scenario make it even worse on Jake?

Chance and Jake left the room to let the nurses help Raven with the things that they felt might be better a couple of toms not participate in and Chance pulled Jake aside to talk.

"Look Jake, I really don't know what we should be doing but right now Raven is probably wondering about you and why you seem so eager to help"

"Chance I know I should come clean to Raven about how I feel but… I don't deserve her, not after the accident… I could have done something, should have done something"

Chance groaned in frustration and resisted the urge to hit his best friend. This shame Jake carried was going to drive one of them to drinking!

"Jake that wasn't your fault; we've gone through this already… there was nothing you could have done. You didn't know how bad that was going to go, she doesn't blame you; I don't blame you so why are you denying yourself so much because of it?"

"Because I…"

"Jake…"

Jake walked away trying to digest what he was hearing, not even Chance blamed him for what had happened that day, it made no sense. He should have called the test flight off at the first sign of trouble but he didn't and things went wrong, Raven almost died and it was because he didn't make that call.

Jake turned to step out of the hospital and nearly ran into Ulysses Feral

"Commander Feral, what brings you here?"

"Checking in on a retired enforcer, what brings you here?"

"Same thing, I guess… look Feral, I've got a lot on my mind right now" Jake sighed and started to leave

"Not even the best gunner could have caught on to what was going to happen to Raven that day, Jake… I don't even think I could have seen that crash coming" Feral said quietly "No one can blame you for anything that day if anything your quick, accurate reporting might have saved her life"

"But…"

"The other guy I was going to put in that gunner seat wouldn't have been nearly as cool headed in that crisis situation as you… she would have died. I have to tip my hat to Chance; it was almost as if he knew with you she would be safe"

"Cool headed… I was panicking"

"You were afraid, but you didn't let that keep you from trying to save Raven" Feral pointed out "While I have a problem with you hotshots, that day, not even I could have done better given the circumstances"

Jake walked away surprised by what Feral had to say, maybe the Commander wasn't as blind as they thought he was.

The surgery was looming heavily on his mind and he feared for Raven and it dawned on him what was at stake and he could bear to let her die without knowing his truth. Jake started back to Raven's hospital room quietly cursing the forces that kept him from seeing what needed to be done sooner. He arrived and found that Raven was in the room alone; apparently Chance was getting some things straightened out with the nursing staff.

"Raven, I… I need to talk to you" Jake said as he entered the room his nerves on edge

"Jake, what is it?" she asked

"Raven there are some things you… you need to know before you go into this surgery" he sighed "I've been hiding things from you"

"What?" she demanded

"Nothing bad, really Raven, I… I just didn't know how to say it… I… some time ago I fell in love with you, don't know when but now… now that needs to be laid out before you go into this and… and I potentially lose my chance to say anything to you" he sighed "if you don't feel the same I understand but… I had to say it"

Raven's thoughts were swimming, he loved her… really loved her, what could she say, she felt the same way

Jake started out

"Jake… wait… I've been keeping a secret too" she said looking away

He turned to her in shock

"What is it?"

"I… I kind of had a crush on you too… I always envied how you managed to stay cool no matter the crisis and then… then I realized I had fallen in love, that it wasn't just a crush, but I thought you never saw me as anything but Chance's little sister. I thought that was all I'd ever be to you and it hurt but I hid the pain of that thought because I didn't think I could change anything about it. Now… to hear you say that makes me wonder if I should have said something earlier"

"I don't know Raven, what's done is done, but… if… if you could accept me now even after what happened"

"What do you mean; this… me being paralyzed, that wasn't your fault Jake; that was no one's fault I though we established that fact now, I don't blame you. I never blamed you" she said tearfully as Jake came closer to her and sat on the edge of the bed beside her before taking her in to his arms "I wish you would quit blaming yourself Jake that was quite a while ago and I've moved on… why can't you?"

"I… I don't know" he said quietly "but I can try to" he moved so he was looking at her and then claimed her lips in a surprise kiss. It took her a few seconds to catch on but she was soon returning the kiss


Chance was coming back from the nurses' station and was stunned to see his best friend and his sister in a lip lock together

"Kat's alive!" Chance whispered in shock but his words were lost on the new couple.

A few moments after Chance walked in they split for air and that was the moment he had to hold himself back from grabbing Jake by the collar. He had to remember he wanted Raven with Jake he trusted Jake not to hurt Raven the way other toms had in the past. He had nearly beaten the hell out of one of those toms back during her basic training days after he had the nerve to punch her in the face. Chance knew he didn't have to worry about Jake doing that to her, he genuinely loved her.

To Be Continued…