IT'S NEVER TOO LATE

Chapter 1: Regrets

Author's Note: A sweet, very short piece (only a few chapters long) that just popped into my head today. Won't have too much sex but it's a story about regret, redemption and love.

He didn't even have time to do more than scream as he fell then was immersed in something so cold and gooey that it stole the very breath from his lungs.

His mind screamed, "Nooo I can't die now..." as the cold dragged him into unconsciousness then death.

It seemed a long time before sight and sound returned with a rush and a spat of violent coughing and choking.

"That's it...cough up all that gunk, Commander...easy, here's some oxygen...take deep breaths...you're safe now," a familiar voice encouraged him. His brain didn't seem to want to function as he struggled to get air into his lungs.

"Crud! Feral that was the closest I think you've come to actually dying for real, though I gotta say with your track record, you should have died numerous times by now. I don't see how you have very many lives left," another familiar voice said gruffly somewhere above his seated form.

He blinked his eyes and tried to figure out where he was while still clutching the oxygen mask over his face. The huge room then the catwalk he sat on finally swam into view as his vision cleared. Squatting on his haunches and watching him closely was Razor, his face showing concern. That meant the tabby was the one standing over him. Just past the small tom were three of his enforcers, also watching him with worried looks.

Feral still couldn't talk, breathing took precedence but he was able to think again. He quickly shied away from his near death experience...he didn't want to think about that yet...and tried to remember what had happened in the first place to put him in this situation.

A call from the Megakat Biochemical Labs warning of Viper's reappearance there, had sent him by chopper to try and catch the omega before he escaped. Unfortunately, Viper had plenty of help while he stole some new form of katalyst he wanted and, for a time, everyone was held at bay including the SWAT Kats from even getting into the building itself, but eventually, the vigilantes managed to lay waste to the plant warriors, allowing them all to rush into the building hoping Viper was still around. The lab he raided was a mess and they were told Viper had run to the lower factory level to escape. Racing down there where they learned that Viper had managed to leave by way of a sewer drain but he'd left some nasty presents behind to insure no one could follow him...two very ugly, huge, mushroom-like monsters greeted the enforcers and SWAT Kats.

The two things had taken separate positions. One was on the catwalk above the floor and the other guarded the drain Viper had vanished in.

"We'll take the one up there!" Feral shouted and lead his troop up the ladder leading to the catwalk.

The SWAT Kats didn't argue as they made for the other monster near the drain. The twin battles were noisy and long. Neither defenders were having much luck taking the mushroom things down quickly. Viper had really outdone himself in their construction.

"Look out T-Bone," Razor could be heard shouting, as he fired a slicer missile.

T-Bone had been trying to find a way to get behind the thing but it had somehow sensed what he was doing and had charged for him. The pilot just managed to fire a tarpedo into its face before dropping to the floor and rolling out of the way of those swiping long tentacles it had. Despite being blind, the monster continued its forward motion and ended up slamming into a metal ladder, rebounding off it, to fall backwards.

Meanwhile, above the pair, Feral and his enforcers were struggling to make their monster fall off the catwalk as none of their weapons could do more than keep it back. Feral had a brief wish that he had one of those special weapons of the SWAT Kats to knock this thing out or down.

The monster on the floor lumbered to its feet and using one of its strange tentacles, managed to scrap the tar off its face then charging at them again. The SWAT Kats fired at it from two different directions, Razor firing a mini-bolo around its legs while T-Bone shot a slicer missile to its chest hoping to cut it in half. Both were marginally successful at slowing the thing down, the bolo made it stumble while the slicer only caused minor damage as the monster slammed to the floor face down this time.

Screaming in rage, the monster got up again, lashing out with its tentacles to try and snatch them but Razor finally decided enough was enough. Choosing a deadlier missile that he hadn't wanted to use in such a confined area and with vats filled with chemicals, but he felt the risk was justified as he fired a scrambler into the thing's chest and finally succeeded. The mushroom thing was a disgusting mess in seconds.

Glancing overhead, the SWAT Kats could see the enforcers were fast losing ground against their opponent so they rushed up the ladder nearest them, which brought them behind the thing. Shooting at the plant creature with a scrambler was going to be impossible from this angle because the enforcers were in the line of fire. Looking around, Razor decided there was only one other way to do this.

"T-Bone keep it busy. I'm going to swing out and fire from the side."

His partner gave him an unhappy look but did as asked sending a net missile to temporarily tangle up the thing long enough for Razor to do what he planned.

Razor shot a grappler line to the building struts overhead, swung out on it, then fired as he came into position for a split second, taking out the monster like the last one. However, he was a split second too late preventing Feral from being struck by one of the creatures tentacles which swept out to free itself from the netting and succeeded in knocking the Commander off the catwalk and into a vat of some kind of goo below.

"Shit! Feral!" Razor yelled, still suspended above the catwalk. He instantly fired another line into the vat where Feral had disappeared, praying the Kat hadn't moved too far before his hook grabbed on.

He gave a relieved cry moments later when he felt something heavy tug on his line. He caused the grappler to retract quickly and soon Feral was zooming up, dripping goo and deathly still.

Razor shouted, "get him," as he swung the body toward the group on the catwalk.

The enforcers and his partner quickly grabbed at the swinging Commander and when they had hold of him securely only then did Razor release the line. The group quickly laid the limp body down and started CPR as it was immediately apparent Feral had stopped breathing and his sergeant could detect no heartbeat.

Being the strongest, T-Bone began CPR, thumping the massive chest then doing compressions while Sgt. Fallon gave breaths into his superior's mouth. They kept up their attempts for many scary minutes until a sudden gasp rewarded their efforts.

T-Bone quickly turned Feral onto his side and began pounding the tom's back carefully to help him dislodge all the gunk he'd inhaled. His partner hovered close, waiting to see if he could help while the poor tom coughed and vomited for several minutes until his lungs and stomach seemed clear but he was still having difficulty drawing a decent breath as he wheezed and gasped helplessly. Even raising him into a seated position didn't seem to help.

"Move T-Bone, he needs oxygen and I've got my tank with me," Razor said. His partner got up quickly and stepped back while Razor knelt with his oxygen mask and bottle in paw. Fitting the mask over the Commander's face, he turned the bottle to full blast to force air quickly into Feral's lungs.

The first thing Feral was able to sense was his chest felt cold as did his stomach but he was alive and he had the SWAT Kats to thank for that...again. But this time, Feral didn't curse their interference. He realized that only the SWAT Kats could have saved him as his enforcers did not posses grappling line on them which was the only way he could have been rescued so quickly. Some how he knew he'd been dead at least for some minutes and them being there was the only reason he was alive now.

That real fact, made him even colder than his body felt. To have died with so much undone in his life would have been terribly cruel especially when he had left harsh words spoken to his lover, of two years, between them. To know that would have been his lasting memory with the only person in his life he could truly say he loved with all his heart, made him sick with regret.

His thoughts were interrupted abruptly by the arrival of the medical team. For once, he didn't argue when they packaged him up and hauled him away by ambulance. He truly didn't feel so good right this moment.

It was many hours later, when all was quiet and he was left alone to try and get some rest...good luck with that as no hospital he'd ever been in allowed sleep, he was able to reflect on the nightmare of a day.

He'd been close to dying many times, as the tabby had said, but that was the nature of the job. However, what made this time worse than any other, was it had succeeded. He had been dead for a good five minutes or more.

He shuddered! Now that had been a truly close call. His lungs had been declared alright, much to his relief. The doctors had found out the stuff he'd been thrown into was a simple cooling gel used to protect things being shipped.

Though it was never meant to be ingested, they'd been assured it wasn't really that dangerous and since he coughed it up quickly and the medical staff was able to clean out the rest, he should recover alright. However, they kept him overnight simply because no one knew for sure if there would be any lingering problems and because, quite simply, he had 'died'. That at least required some recovery time, so here he lay with only his thoughts for company.

Still not wanting to remember the incident, his mind drifted to the last time he saw his lover. As usual Shere was only in town for a few hours which was why the argument started in the first place.

Four months earlier...

A newspaper smacked his chest and an angry face shoved itself closer to his own. "You took an unconscionable risk!" The huge tiger hissed, angrily as he stood close to his lover in the tom's office.

"You know the newspapers always sensationalize everything. It wasn't like that nor was it any more dangerous than any other encounter I've had with the omegas, " Feral said placatingly, really not wanting to get into an argument when his lover was here for so short a time.

"I'm fully aware of that, which is why I asked one of my people for a more truthful accounting and what I got was the incident was even more dangerous than even the newspapers were aware," Shere said coldly. "I grow tired of you being so callous with your safety. My concern for you has caused me to be far too distracted which, I've been informed, has been noted by my enemies and competitors and they've used that to try and infiltrate Khan Industries, undermine many of my business ventures, and generally create havoc. This must stop! Worrying about you is costing me much of what I've worked hard to build."

That had stung and Feral retaliated harshly, "You knew what I did for a living and you said you understood. That was why you were drawn to me. Now I'm a distraction? That's supposed to be a good thing but you make it sound as if I've become a nuisance you no longer want around!" He growled, hurt and angry.

Making a harsh swiping motion with his paw, Shere scowled, "that's not what I meant and you know it..."

"That's exactly how it sounded. Well, if you find me such a nuisance then perhaps you should stop coming here any longer except for business," Feral spat hotly.

Shere froze and stared at his lover piercingly for a long moment, a flash of some emotion shining in his eyes for a second before he gave a short, sharp nod of his head, turned on his heel and stormed away, saying over his shoulder, "fine, if that's the way you want it, I'll be happy to accommodate you!" Then he was gone through the door of Feral's office before the dark tom could blink.

Feral stood there in shocked dismay. Should he run after him? He made a move to race from his desk to the hall but was stopped by his assistant, Sgt Fallon who had dashed in to report he was needed for yet another emergency...he was torn with the need to apologize to his lover and the needs of the job. The job won out and with an anguished heart, he headed for the flight line.

That had been some months ago and he'd not heard from Shere since. The pain of that separation hadn't hit home until days became weeks then months with still no word from the tiger. Giving up, he focused on his career instead as he had before Shere had entered his life. But now, after nearly dying, he realized he needed to reevaluate his priorities.

He'd been alone for a very long time when that high powered and very wealthy business Kat visited their city and was robbed. Had it really been that long ago that Shere had swept him off his feet with lust which slowly became something far deeper and changed his life forever?