Hello, all, to the latest Tribute fic, where I pay tribute to an entire Nintendo section. Past installments include "Journey of a Century" for Mario, "Adventures" for Ice Climbers, "The Legend of Zelda Shall Never Die" for I think you can figure it out, and "Memento Vita" for the bounty hunters, Samus and Capt. Falcon (and Wolf, on a lower note.)

Just about all of the Tribute fics I write are for gifts, and this is no exception. I was randomly selected Tune4toons in a Secret Santa gig at the Reviews' Lounge, Too. Approximately 0% of us were surprised, I'm sure. Tune and I are like ficcing twins sort of only she's a foot shorter and two years younger and... not my race, lol. In spirit, shall we say, we are inseparable.

Unlike my other tribute fics, this loving sendup to Star Fox doesn't star the main character. It stars his loyal sidekick Falco Lombardi and his faithful lifelong friend, Katt Monroe. I took some liberty with the story, so I hope no one minds. I know not much about this section unlike the other sections (other than the giant fuck-you to continuity I accidentally mustered up with Legend Of Zelda Shall Never Die) so I had to do my best to stay in the lines while not knowing much.

To do this, I asked Tune4toons with help. And still got away with it without her knowing this was for her.

Livin' on the edge.

Also an invaluable asset to my story was MadameGiry25, a fellow RLt staffer who, despite being a Sherlock Holmes (books, no less!) native, helped me beta read this fic wonderfully. I owe her a lot, since I wrote this story from my phone, or at least 7.5k of it, so my grammar needed big help. For her help I am grateful.

I thank you for reading this and hope the fruits of my labor are as enjoyable to you as they were to Tune, who, by the time I finish this author's note, has enjoyed this story.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing, and let them forget nothing!

Let's go!

I'm not gonna lie- the sky still looks damn gorgeous from down here.

Downright beautiful, honestly, as usual. I always have been thinking that she was a radiant thing, the sky, what with the constantly changing hue of her blue skin, the different tapestries of white clouds she used to keep herself modest (although I never minded those days where she went in the nude), the way she could hold all sorts of mystery and intrigue like that, and the way you can't look directly into her eyes (the sun, of course) until night, if you're intrepid and patient and all that and don't mind waiting for a clear night, where she ain't afraid to show you the wonders within every inch of her, the stars in her eyes, her skin, and all that beauty that comes with it.

Now as you may have guessed, and probably second-guessed as soon as you started reading this thing, I am not a highly poetic person, and don't worry, I don't sit around getting off on the idea of the sky as a sexy mistress. 'Cause it ain't like that. Me and the sky, we're different. Or we were, at least. We trusted each other. I was always up there with her. I understand it, cause I'm a bird and all, albeit highly different and better in every way except, well, I can't fly and all.

Least I couldn't til I got behind the wheel of an Arwing. Let me tell you, the day I first flew, I was like, "this is it. This is really goddamn it. I mean... This is where I was supposed to be. All this time I was made for the sky." I mean, being a bird, it should have been obvious, but I don't think any of us birds could fly right since the twenty-first century, or at least that's what ancient history says. We still kept that legacy, we did. And up there, in the Arwing for the first time, I knew exactly why it mattered.

Needless to say it was love at first sight.

But like I said, it was different. If the sky were a person and not just my attempt at a personification, she wouldn't be a hot raven chick I'd take home, have a few glasses of wine and, ahem, enjoy her company (primarily in the bedroom, if you ain't getting my drift, knucklehead) and then hop off to the next town, next bar, next bipedal birdy girl, next bedroom like I always do. Nah, I wouldn't tangle the sky up in all that. She would be my best friend, well, my best friend that ain't Foxy. Or Katt for that matter, although she's different, in a puzzling sort of way.

But where was I? Oh yeah.

The sky, nah, she'd be the sole outpouring of the sentimental sweetheart that is buried deep inside of me and covered up by my whole inner city wise guy adventurous soul, which is totally true of me, but isn't all there is. The sky would be the one I would go to a lonely coffee shop and just small talk with, and the girl I would talk about the whole universe and everything in it with. Like the type of girl who always knows what to say and yet I always know what to say back (other than a nice serving of a classic Falco one liner on the house) because she'd be the type of girl who just inspires creativity. 'Cause she's all full of creativity, brightness and intensity, wisdom and possibility, and she has an emotion for every color of the rainbow, which, of course, is just like the actual sky that ISN'T a personification of a beautiful woman.

'Cause that'd be what the sky would be like. And the sky would be the most incredible woman in the world.

Of course this is the musing of a man who hasn't had a single stable romantic relationship since the day I first shed my feathers.

All of this is exactly why I couldn't go any further than that. See, with the sky, as close as we would be, I couldn't take her home and drunkenly sleep with her. I couldn't do any of my usual stumbling in a usual romantic relationship where I fuck things up almost immediately, in a manner that you could set your watch by it.

(That's part of the reason I hadn't tried anything with Katt yet, other reason of course being that while I'm sure the world is highly curious about what a cat/falcon cross would look like, I ain't sure any of us are ready to know.)

A guy like me, all rough around the edges and sort of an uncooked mess on the inside like, I dunno, uncooked razor pie, we don't go around expecting things like normal life, you know? We ain't normal people. Truth is, I'm a pretty broke composition, all things considered. Well, not that broke. I'm the best pilot in every single side of the galaxy you can name and several you can't, I've got a wicked sense of humor, and you'll never find someone as loyal or good looking as me, to be perfectly frank and unbiased. In short, I'm the perfect recipe for a great sidekick, or sidekick pie, or whatever.

I guess that's what Fox McCloud sees in me and all. Of course, I ain't a bad friend or nothing, and we get along well and

we'd die for each other, so I guess there's that. But Fox knows he leads the show and he needs one guy he knows ain't gonna laser-whip him in the ass when push comes to shove. And that's me.

I mean, yeah, sometimes I'd leave, but it was never for good. That was just me trying to actually live. I knew I'd have to at least try, and that usually meant quitting everything else cold turkey. No more fighting, no more Star Fox, no more sky.

It never worked out, really. I told Fox it was cause I couldn't leave him hanging, but truth be told I needed them as much as they needed me.

And I pride myself on being the sidekick. I mean, some people think that's selling myself short, but I say stick to what you're good at. For me that's first class Arwing piloting, galaxy's best sidekick, professional one night stand maverick, and closet dreamer who can never pull his head out of the clouds.

But yeah. I'd treat the sky with the respect, and by that I mean keeping my limits. 'Course, with my life and even in my leisure, I know that we'd see each other every day. I was always that way with the sky. Even when I wasn't playing dogfight with a bunch of good old fashioned (or is it bad old fashioned) evildoers storming through the galaxies as if they own it (as if they own the sky, as if they can mess with her, those sons of bitches), or just getting in my Arwing and flying for the day. Just being there, all quiet and thoughtful, ya know? 'Cause the sky always has a way of getting me to think poetically and creatively and thoughtfully, poignantly if ya will. About her, about life, about me. And it was nice that even when I couldn't fly up, that I always had the option and the ability to go up and just peacefully shoot the breeze with the one that brought the breeze to me, and everything else, too.

'Course, I can't do that anymore.

~MoD~

I might as well have died, you know? I may as well have landed on my head and bled out, the ground getting a good splattering of birdbrain. Would have been better off for it, really.

They say it's a miracle I survived. Well, ain't that just so fuckin' grand.

Shit, they even gave me a medal of honor. Imagine that! A medal honoring my service to Lylat, given to me after I've fallen a few hundred feet from the skies. Well, thanks for remembering you owed me more than a little honor. Did I jar your memory? I served for twenty four years as a pilot for the grand poobah General Pepper and his twelve different flaky fairweather successors that annoyed the shit out of me. Flyin' into certain death and leaving death completely uncertain as to what it did wrong, saving the right lives and taking the other ones, giving my all every time I left the hangar. I may have looked like I was beleaguered and all, with my snappy wit and the fact that I wasn't dancing all over the place, but nope, I was involved, and I was goddamn proud. I loved every moment I was in the sky, because that was where I was s'posed to be, remember?

That was me. For twenty four years, every time I got the call. That was my life. Fighting our adversaries in the sky and dealing with my complicated soul on the ground. Now that ain't much, but it's all I had.

That was all. I. Had.

Sure, it was stupid as shit of me to pin all I had on something that could crash any moment now, but I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't jubilant, and I wasn't always happy, but I was okay. I got by, 'cause I could touch the sky any time.

And I kept doing that, too. Kept touching the sky. I kept touching the sky when Krystal became a regular. Kept touching it when Fox kicked her out. Kept touching it when they reconciled and kept touching it when they got married and started having kids. I kept touching it when Krystal retired for her kids' sake and their daddy kept at the fight with me and the crew, and touched the sky the whole day after when he retired.

Kept touching the sky when Slippy Toad accepted a job at the Corneria Science University or whatever-the-hell that he had always wanted. I didn't bare my claws into the clouds or nothing, but when he and Amanda moved there, I'll admit, I missed the annoying bugger.

I kept touching the sky when Peppy Hare started getting older and crankier, and then got sick like old folks do and started getting nicer cause he knew he didn't have much time left. Kept touching it even through the day he finally gave up his rabbit ghost in the hangar, cause the stubborn bastard refused to retire. I looked like a dick when I didn't show up at his memorial, but Fox knew, even if he wasn't happy about it, that I was up there in the sky, trying to make meaning of it all with tears welling up in my eyes, telling me I should probably land this sucker and go get shitfaced. But I stayed up there all night, until I wasn't sure if I was in a proper reality or had just become another cloud.

I kept touching the sky as I saw Katt Monroe, then Katt Ethans, then Katt Monroe again, go through her own sort of life, right there yet practically in a different dimension. As she fell in love, out of love, fell harder, said yes, got married, had kids, got divorced, got the kids on the weekends and all that other romantic bullshit that left her so hurt that even if- even though- I want her I don't lay a hand on her cause I know if he left her so devastated on a regular basis, I could only do worse.

I kept touching the sky through young Marcus McCloud, Penny Hare and Liz Toad telling me they wanted to keep the Star Fox team going with me and Katt, and kept touching it when only Marcus and Katt remained after just over a year. I kept up there through Richard, Deke, Jilli, Touke, Phineas, Kira, and all the other ones who came and went, even after Wolf ended up getting shot out of the skies by friendly fire, which probably didn't strike him as so friendly on his way to the abyss.

There were moments in between my platonic love affair with the sky, of course. Team dinners back when it was just me, Fox, Peppy, Slippy and a packet of noodles, and the giant potlucks Krystal still holds as reunion once a year and all the ones I could attend in between.

All the moments I had with my man Fox, from the small nitpick to me giving him the finger when I left the crew to him hugging me when I came back like he lost a brother. The moments I always remember with a sort of pride or honor that I got to live them. Every time Star Fox was honored or toasted, and Fox would go up and make a great speech being such a great public speaker and all. Being Fox's best man and everything at his wedding, dressed up in a nice tux that I thought made me look even better than before.

Any and every time I could get Katt to laugh, especially when Chance was giving her shit over custody. From the small snorts of amusement to her bent over, clutching her stomach, whiskers flying as she guffawed in a way I always found to be damn near precious, all of them were little treasures to this lonely soul.

When I wasn't in a moment like this, though, my memory doesn't go the hot literal chicks I occupied myself with, the beer I drank, my failure at normalcy, and all the other forgetful and therefore forgotten things that my life was made of. Nope, my mind goes to the sky, where it's always been anyways.

I was touching the sky right up until the day I started to fade out at the wheel. Routine flight, plenty enough sleep beforehand, not enough rest. Before I knew it I hit a low-hanging meteor, fell from the sky and careened towards the ground, both Marcus and Katt both shouting in my headset trying to magically make me not fuck up. Then, nothingness, until I wake up in the hospital, half the man I was before.

The other half? Buried under the rubble of my Arwing in a field on some unidentified planet somewhere, you'll probably find the bones that remain from that other half.

Everything else, torso up, remains in the hospital, and that's all that's left of me.

~MoD~

It's where I am now, in a wheelchair on the patio, stewing in so much justifiable negativity that I'm surprised I'm not seething, although if I didn't feel so damn weak I probably would have flipped out. Right now I just want to sit here, quiet outside and loud as a thunderstorm in my head, staring at the clear blue sky that I know I'll never fly through again.

All that's been ripped from me, and it's no one's fault but my own. One award-winning fall was all it took.

I remember when they told me even with the best prosthetics I'd be lucky to pilot a bicycle, so an Arwing's certainly out of the question. Turns out I fractured my hip bones during the slow descent, and that's in and of itself problematic. Once my prosthetics are ready, I'll still be relegated to a cane for the rest of my days, until I fall over dead like Peppy Hare.

I took a few moments of contemplative silence, realizing for the first time that this is real, and anything I had to hold my life up had just as much a chance of standing right as I did.

Then I said, bitterly, quietly, "isn't that grand."

And just like that, my career as the longest standing member of Star Fox ended with a thud. Katt and Marcus are already looking for a replacement, not that I could begrudge them or anything. The universe is still full of some mean bastards and those loyal two could use all the help they can get now that I'm gone. Besides, Marcus is still only sixteen, and it's always been an unspoken rule between Katt and me that no matter what, we take the bullet for him if it's fired at him. I always promised that Katt wasn't going to be the first one to do that. So, yeah, I see why they need a new guy.

Still doesn't make it sting less.

At least the crew has been here for me, however they can. Ever since it happened, Fox has visited at least three times every week. He'd practically live here if I didn't remind him that he had a wife and kids he needed to attend to. Speaking of which, Krystal visits every now and again, bringing some always-lovely food item with her. Being the den mother she is, she's always sweet and comforting in a way that doesn't drive me nuts with an overdose of saccharine crap. The kids drew me get-well-soon cards, and even though I don't know how one 'gets well' from losing both legs I still appreciated them. Slippy and Amanda sent me a store bought card with a bit of money in them so I could stock up on hospital snacks, and as a result the recycling can must be loaded with around twenty soda bottles. Lucy and Penny Hare came to visit once, and we had a nice chat about everything except the elephant in the room, which was fine by me. Most of the rotating recruits between Marcus and now didn't visit, but I still got a few emails from some of them.

And truth be told I'm very much comforted by all the love I've been getting from Star Fox, past and present incarnations. I guess we're sort of a family, after all, and the closest I'd ever have to one. So, yeah, there's my silver lining.

But the story ain't done yet. Mine, I mean. Even if there ain't much to tell, there's a long road ahead of me that's sure to be a rough one. I try to stay focused on the present, because it scares less shit out of me.

To my surprise, though, there's someone I haven't seen much of, which is strange cause I expected her to be around more. She was there when the officials all but paraded through my room with my great-job-on-that-fall medal of honor, looking all melancholic, and she sent me a phone call asking how I was doing. I'm a bit disappointed she hasn't been around as much. I mean, I know she's a busy lady who is now the defacto leader of a two man crew who's trying to fill in the cracks and tie up the frayed ends.

Still, seeing her would make me feel a lot more at ease.

At the moment I think this, I feel a slight tug on my wheelchair. I'm shaken out of my roaring thoughts and made aware of the fact of reality by a jarring amount of silence. I'm still not sure if it actually happened, being so deep in my thoughts and all, so I don't react. Eventually though, I feel my wheelchair slowly twirl around by the handle. I don't fight it, not that I could, so I just remain passive until I'm turned around, face to face with her.

Think of the devil.

~MoD~

"Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes, gorgeous," I mumble wistfully, looking straight into her cerulean eyes. Being a blue-feathered avian myself, I know my shades of blue, and cerulean was among my favorites, even if mostly due to the feline who's eyes bear that marvelous color.

Katt gives me a smile that's almost a smirk, only softer. It's a smile that's always been found on her face, even as her fur slowly loses its color the more she ages, and the more she smokes. Age can't mess up those small, beautiful traits that you can't really separate from who the person is.

Especially when that person in and of themselves is quite beautiful.

She doesn't speak at first as she looks around for a chair to sit on. However, for a hospital, this place could really work on its hospitality. Finding none to speak of, she sighs and sits on the ledge, which has only a small fence dividing it from a hundred foot cliff fall.

Now, as you could imagine, I am not very comfortable with anyone taking a seat there, especially a close friend. Awkwardly, I sort of motion her away, or whatever ya call giving a brief, petrified glance and mime a frantic rope to pull away.

She nods knowingly, dusting her cargo pants off and standing up, walking towards me. I gingerly pull my torso back, leaving that damning empty space for her to sit in. I'm glad that she doesn't try to argue my offer and instead takes her place on the edge of my wheelchair, her tail curling behind mine and knocking a few feathers loose.

I'm not a huge fan of overbearing silence, so I try and start conversation with, "What's the matter? Got your own tongue?"

She snickers, wincing from the painful joke I evoked. "You would say that, wouldn't you?"

As a matter of fact, I would. In fact, I'm stunned that within thirty years of knowing Katt Monroe I have not once tried that line. Somehow, I both beam and smirk at the same time.

Katt lets quiet spread through the area for merely a couple of seconds before speaking. "Sorry I haven't really visited yet. Life's been madness right now."

"I am aware of this." My reply is harsher than I intend it to be.

Katt nods slowly, a frown growing with every centimeter of the action. "Not that I'm one to talk, of course," she corrects herself, unconsciously looking at my nonexistent legs.

"No, don't," I protest any effort she tries to make her problems seem inferior with. Katt and I have both had hard luck, even if my accident was more than enough to catch up to hers.

She just nods again, still melancholic. I reach out and grab her wrist, running my fingers softly through her fur. That relaxes her, and I even hear a soft purr that lets me know that my attempts to bring her to relax are a success.

Unable to help it, I smile, just a bit.

"How are the kids?" I ask, genuinely curious. It's at once a subject she could spend days on, in that way only a parent who's incredibly proud of bringing little souls into fruition can be, a way I've never been privy to. Yet, it's also slightly touchy because in the back of her mind, there's always custody hearings, bitter fights with the one she swore on her honeymoon she was going to make it with, and her own feelings of inadequacy as a mother. Katt has always felt a struggle between being a mother and being a space warrior to the universe. She'd love to be the former, seven days a week, but she feels as though she has to be the latter, sort of like my own struggles. Hence, it's an issue I try to be sensitive in.

She smiles, so that's a good sign. "Kids are doing lovely. Or, at the very least, I've been blessed with the most manageable teenage daughter in the world."

Even I have to smile at Tabitha's succinct description. The young girl's both quiet and thoughtful, sort of ingenious really on many subjects. She's also well behaved, which is more than you can say for me at forty-six years of age.

"Awesome to hear. And the boys?"

She gives a short, good-hundred laugh. "Enough trouble to make up for ten teenage daughters, I'll tell you that much."

I laugh, cause, hell, I could tell that much from the way that I couldn't go one visit without little Jase and Loki trying to hitch a ride on my tail feathers or snitch my blaster and shoot some trees. (Their mother nearly killed me when they pulled off that last one, lemme tell you that.) "And they're not even ten yet. If you dodged a bullet with Abi, you're in for a cannon with those two."

She growls good-humoredly. "Don't remind me."

I just nod, continuing to cautiously stroke her fur. She tenses up suddenly, so I stop.

"No, no, no," she explains. "Keep going. It's not you."

I make an odd noise that I hope conveys understanding.

This time, we both let the silence slide because I know she's thinking about things and she's, well, thinking about things. I just keep reassuring her with every stroke of my hand, rhythmically, helping her work through it. Oddly enough, it brings my mind to a quiet, having something so simple to dedicate myself to.

Finally, she snaps. "I don't know how the hell I'm going to deal with it all."

I nod sympathetically. I'm pretty sure I know the answer when I ask, "deal with what?" but I know she could use a forum to rant.

She takes the cue. "You know... raising kids, when I could end up dead any day, and fighting with Chance over them all the time. And being a single mother dealing with two boys going into puberty is going to be utterly insane."

She laughs at the idea. So do I, only perhaps a bit too hard. She turns back and gives me a sharp glance that effortlessly communicates "Not helping, Asshole," in a way only Katt knows how. I give an apologetic grin, shrugging with my left shoulder.

To my surprise and satisfaction, she gives me a sincerely sweet smile, the type that says, "I'm glad that if I'm going to be bitching, at least I'm here bitching with you."

That's true of me, too. If I'm gonna suffer, at least for right now, I have the girl who I've always held things down with, even thirty years later. As much as I love Fox and swear loyalty to him, there's something a lot deeper to it with me and Katt. Time, experience, the way we know each other, what we've been through, and a million other factors.

She sighs again. "Not only that. Trying to figure out what to do with Star Fox as it is. And then there's the whole 'getting old' bullshit." She grimaces. "Fuckin' menopause, for starters."

I nod, but then I get caught up on Star Fox, and then I remember why Katt is sitting where my legs should be.

"Shit," I muse. "Star Fox. What in the hell are we gonna do about that?"

Katt just shakes her head. "I don't know."

My hand stops going through her fur as I'm once again reminded.

"It looks like I'm retired," I mumble, aware my obvious statement has done zilch to help the conversation.

She notices I've stopped, but doesn't react any further than smoothing the fur on her arm back down. "I gathered," she quips.

"Shiiiiit," I groan, feeling negativity run through me again. Katt notices, of course, and cranes her head around to look at me.

I don't look back. My eyes may as well be duct taped shut.

"Honey," she whispers sadly, reaching for my hand.

I grab it, squeezing a bit too hard, but the idea of letting go scares the shit out of me.

"How did this all happen, Katt?" I'm aware I'm whining, but sue me, I'm justified. "I mean, of all the luck in the world, after I gave everything I had, this happened. I go out like a total pussy."

She flicks my beak with her claw, hissing, but even with my eyes shut I know she's grinning.

"Sorry," I chuckle humorlessly.

She hmms thoughtfully but says nothing more.

"It's just that..." I don't know what it just is, but I stumble on. "It's just that I feel totally gypped. Like, I've done this forever. Fly for Star Fox, with the crew, for years. It's crazy how it's not just losing my legs that's bugging me. It's that..."

Oh, fuck me, I'm choking up.

"It's that, everything I was doing, pretty much my entire normal, that's gone, and as for what to do with myself, I haven't left myself a single option."

I sigh and force a laugh so I don't end up crying.

Katt responds immediately. "Falco, there are always options. Many different paths to take, things to do, places to go. You're a good guy. A great one, at that, and you're talented, too. Just cause you lost your legs doesn't mean you're screwed."

"Huh. Well, it does mean I won't be getting screwed anymore, that's for sure," I deadpan.

"Hey," she tuts. "Some chicks go for guys with battle scars."

"No, it's my hip," I explain, wondering why it's this we're debating. "I can't get too crazy with it or else I'm definitely stuck in a wheelchair for life, new legs or no."

"Ohhh," she replies. "Well if that doesn't suck..."

"Eh, I probably should have given up the whole hit and run gig anyways," I admit. "About ten years ago."

She scoots back a little more, still holding onto my hand. I drape my other arm around her shoulder and place my head next to her neck, rather enjoying how close we are.

Guess being legless does have its advantages.

"Well, why don't you settle down?" She inquires, her throat vibrating against my ear as she speaks. "Meet a nice lady, make it work, and have someone to, well, have, until..."

"Until we die," I don't fear finishing that sentence. I've gone too long in my business to fear death.

"Yeah," she whispers.

"I'm a horrible romantic," I groan.

"I don't think you would be," she argues. "Sweet, sensitive, good sense of humor, actually listen to what a girl has to say, and caring."

I blush. "Yeah, but... that's just for you."

I'm not sure whether or not I'm surprised when her only response is a soft purr.

"I'm still an awful romantic," I declare. "And that kind of drama is the last thing I need, at least for now. I mean, I'm getting old too, you know? I tried denying it for the past few years what with my frequent drink-and-bang-ems and what have you, but it still doesn't change facts. I mean, if I can't even bother with sex, then that's just another reason to stick to the friends I have."

"Like me."

"Always you."

She purrs again. As I feel it through my hand, I realize I've never quite opened my eyes. I do, staring straight into the sky through faded pink locks of hair.

I'm glad I convinced her to grow it out.

Seeing the sky through it, though, brings my thoughts together again.

"That's not why I kept flying, though."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. I'd have kept flying til I just couldn't go anymore. Like Peppy."

She swallows hard every time he's mentioned, never mind the fact that it's been eleven years. I don't remember it as well, but I remember when we held each other, both of us bawling our eyes out, and I remember, while being half-sober, six year old Tabitha placing a flower she picked on the gravestone a week after the funeral, saying bye to Uncle Peppy, which in turn induced more tears.

I don't think Katt has ever forgotten that image either.

"But it wasn't just cause I liked working for Star Fox," I continue. "I've never felt quite as much at home as I have in the skies. You know, for birds of any feather, that's kind of a big deal. The sky has been our home since the beginning of time, or so the legends say. And I loved it up there. Hell, I loved the sky. It was the only thing in the world I knew would be the same no matter what. And that meant something to me."

I sigh. "I want to fly again. And that ain't gonna happen. That's just the way it is, but damn, if it isn't frustrating."

She nods, the fur of her cheek rubbing up against my beak. "Honey, I don't know if you've noticed, but the sky's right up there. It hasn't gone anywhere."

If she was hoping that this would be the moment I learned my big life lesson, she would be let down. "Give me some credit, Katt," I scoff. "I know that. But it isn't the same. It's like there's a glass wall between us, me being imprisoned on the ground and her being up there as she always is."

"She?"

I sigh. "I've been a lonely shell of a man this last month."

"Awwww..." She seems generally saddened by a line I intended to be mostly humor... Partially humor... Somewhat humorous... With humorous undertones... Pretty sad, in retrospect.

She reaches around behind herself and hugs me, bending awkwardly to do so. I return it but let go soon, cause we're going to turn into a living pretzel at this rate.

"But yeah, darling," I continue. "Not the same. It's like, the sky and I are going to live completely different lives or whatever. See each other every now and again, but never spend hours together, just in our presence. Cause I literally could be there for hours. Now, we're gonna be apart for good. And that's rough."

Katt doesn't reply. This surprises me, because we haven't really hit a block like this. Not a single noise escapes her lips. She doesn't even purr.

"Hey, Katt," I try.

"Falco," her reply is excruciatingly slow. "I... I'm sorry I haven't been around as much."

"You've been busy," I wave it off, although her absence hasn't been lost on me.

"I mean overall. Through... you know, the longest time. We've been living two completely different lives."

"Katt, I expected that," I respond, wrapping my arm around her stomach. "You aren't committed to me like that. You got kids, you had a husband, and you've built a life for yourself, which is more than I've ever done."

She sighs. "Remember when we used to be young? Right around when we first met? We had all the time in the world, right? So what do we do?"

"Join a gang?" I point out.

She laughs at the bittersweet mention of the Hot Rodders, a chapter of our lives we're usually all to eager to leave out.

"Too far ahead, doofus. I'm talking about how we'd always take off and explore, like we were little kids, only with cars and smuggled beer."

I remember that very vividly, even if it's not prominent. Seventeen and nineteen years old, cruising along bygone highways, starting our career as rascals and learning that we aspired to do something incredible in the skies. We learned that by watching the skies, we did. Drunk or sober, quiet or chatty, this was how Katt and I learned of each other. Through conversation, through observation, we became fast friends and even if we've loosened our grip over the years, even when we've almost completely slipped out of each other's reach, we've never let go.

And come to think of it, that first night with Katt, I had sort of the same feeling I had the first time I flew. I knew I found something that was gonna last me forever, really. Someone I could always rely on, someone who meant something to me. And as future history would prove, things that meant something to me were few and far between.

Any measure of time between a second and a few weeks later, hell if I know, I confirm that I remember.

"I know this is like the flakiest, most cliche thing to say in a time like this," she responds, trying and failing to keep her voice from shaking. "But when you started falling that day, right after that meteor, I remembered those nights in a flash, and it hit me just how much time has pulled us apart, but we never let go. And I saw you close to crashing and dying, and then I saw you wake up, in pieces yet alive, and that whole time I realized how close I was to losing you, and..." She buries her face in her hands and gives a jittery laugh. "Good god, I sound like a whole book of cliché right now. Total sap and everything."

I laugh too, if only for reassurance to both of us.

"Yeah, I know," she voice is undeniably wistful, stuck in the magic of the times of old. "But it's just... I don't know. Truth is," she smirks again, adding dryly, "and I know this is a big shocker, so hold onto your tail feathers for this one."

I grin slyly. "How about I just hold on to you?"

She snorts. "Whatever works."

And so I keep doing that, of course.

"Okay, so," she continues, talking faster. "Throughout most of our teen hood, and up through most of Star Fox, I kind of had a crush on you."

She thought the comment would 'floor' me, but I'm legitimately floored. I always found Katt to be on a scale of her own. Untouchable, but only because I probably shouldn't have been touching anyone like her. Keep my distance and make sure I don't get too tangled up in her life. Send the Monroe-Ethans kids gifts on their birthdays, on holidays, and if I felt like spoiling the little buggers. Visit every now and again. Give a strong smile in the debriefing room if she seemed nervous. Give her hand a squeeze on the way to the hangar. Make her laugh every now and again. Leave a bouquet of daisies on her desk every year for her birthday. Always be there to hear her out whenever she's struggling. In essence, become such a master of the little things that, combined, will make you an unforgettable, reliable, pretty freaking awesome thing without leaping too far in.

Course, that doesn't explain us now, and how I'm so dangerously close to her, holding her by her waist, my beak on her paw, and just fine with every second of it.

But holy fuck, I had the opportunity of my life and I just let it slip by... and I don't even know if I deserved it.

"Wow," I reply, in what I planned to be a nonchalant tone but in execution betrayed just how godsmacked I was. I crane my head over her shoulder and sort of meet her in the eye, and would you look at that, she's just as surprised as I am, and I'm guessing that it's cause of my surprise.

"No need to act all stunned on my behalf," she tells me, her voice showing as much uncomfortable surprise as the way her eyes are all bugging out.

"I honestly..." Honestly what? Well, if I were to pick a few out of the mixed bowl of leftover soup that made up my thoughts right now, I'm pretty sure we'd find a dose of honor (because, me? Really?), a pinch of regret (maybe I should have gotten my shit together and at least tried something), a heaping of confusion (because, me? Really?) and a decent amount of understanding (well, I guess because I was there for her so much), all tied together with the spice of life itself- opportunity.

It's that spice that has my blood running sweet and warm. I know that I left her hanging for awhile, and I wonder if she has just a spark left for me, if I hadn't let the fire completely run out, seeing as she fell for Chance, really fell for him. Despite that he's the biggest adversary in her life, at one time they were infatuated with each other. I could tell, and I was happy, even if on the inside I couldn't hide my jealousy, because she was happy, and she was gonna go somewhere in life. But now that it crashed and burned like that, I wonder if me being there like that reminded her of something from before, that even if I've always been elusive, that I've always been there for her. But truth be told, I don't think any of it remains.

And I realize, god, I hope something does. I really hope something does.

"I, uhm..." Stuttering like a fool, that's what I am. "I..." There are a million different replies I could give this, and I don't know the right one.

So, no pun intended, I just wing it.

"I'm sorry, first off," I begin.

"Why are you sorry?" Katt asks, incredulous. Behind the chair I can hear her tail tapping anxiously against the back of the seat. "There's not really any 'sorry' involved in any of this. Things just happen, you know? I know that... anything I could feel like that, you know, it's totally out of my control."

"But I must have done something," I argue. "I must have done something to mean something to you for so long. And I could have acted upon that at any time. It would have made sense. But I didn't."

She stares into her lap, and her cheeks turn pink, enough to nearly match her fur. "And it's not your fault if you weren't into me, Falco. I can't help that. And it's... okay now, I guess. I can't make you do anything."

I sigh. "But that's just it. The reason I didn't do anything isn't because I didn't like you or anything. In fact, I think you're awesome and just... I didn't want to end up messing things up by getting involved like that, you know? I'm awful at relationships, you know?"

She scoffs. "Because I caught such a perfect catch myself, right?"

"Well, you made some great kids together," I offer. "You wouldn't trade them for the world, and truth be told neither would I."

She squeezes her eyes shut, and nods before speaking on. "Still, I'm not talking about that." She growls, and then her voice is sharp as uncooked razor pie.

"You stupid son of a bitch," she hisses. "I can't believe that after all this time, it was because of your whole self-loathing problems. All this time, I was waiting for something, and if you had just stopped for a second and gotten your balls together, I could have had it. And hell, I'd be a lot better off."

My blood boils like a devil's broth. "It's not self-loathing," I defend myself, as I always have. "First off, never, ever, ever, ever state anything that implies that you would ever trade your kids for me. Ever."

She doesn't reply, just shudders as she realizes the implications of her statement.

I'm softer in my second reply."Second, it's knowing my limitations and what I suck at. Can you imagine us trying to make it work, even getting as far as you and Chance did, and then crashing and burning like that? And it probably would have happened too. I don't want that to happen. I ain't about to lose you and I don't want you to lose me either."

"You're speaking in present tense," she notes. She's still whispering, but it's surprise, not disgust.

"I'm what?"

"Like you still see this as an option," she points out.

I realize I've got no excuse for that little slip-up there.

"Falco..." she sighs. "All this time, right? Both you and me were looking after each other, the whole time. And I realize most of this time I was smitten with you, but I had to realize you weren't feeling what I was. So I let go. I mean I already felt like an idiot spending nearly a decade waiting for you to come around. Then it turns out you and I... we were both looking at each other the same way the whole time. And I never realized that the way you looked at me was exactly the way I looked at you, cause I never saw myself, just you. And even after that special feeling went away and I stopped looking at you like that, I never saw the expression, that little something different, ever fade away from you. I figured it was because you never felt anything for me. I never considered that maybe..."

"I never stopped?" I finish.

She nods, shuddering, or at least I think she is. Maybe it's me. Her head turns towards the skies, our sort of distant third-party we never really acknowledged. She's thinking really hard, but it's not so much her intent that gets my attention. It's that moment where I realize that the sky is an unmeasurable, unreachable distance away from me.

But Katt's right here.

And I guess that's my silver lining.

~MoD~

"Katt..." I think my words over carefully. "I know we kind of bungled the past..."

She nods, still looking at the sky.

"And the truth of the matter is, I don't know where my life is going. I mean, I ain't gonna fly anymore. My youth is now officially over, and that's sort of slapping me in the face. I've gotta learn to walk with new legs, live not being able to run like I used to, having to be careful with what's left with the spring in my step, dance a little slower, I guess, if I dance, which I hope I can do still because I know you know I love to dance. And some things I ain't ready to let go of just yet."

At the mention of the dance, she sighs, a little sweeter, a little sadder. When Katt danced at her wedding for the first time with her new man, let's just say it wasn't just natural talent. Which is fine, because natural talent is only for the lucky few.

Like me.

She knows what I'm thinking, so her response isn't all that much of a surprise, and yet it is.

"But we still have the present."

I close my eyes and sigh, feeling sort of a finality in the situation.

"Promise?"

"Yep. Plus whatever the future holds."

"Like we haven't survived enough freaky shit to prepare me for whatever's next?"

She laughs. And I love it.

"Of course," she replies. '

We become silent, because that's all that needed to be said.

~MoD~

And we never did let go.

Merry Christmas, Tune!

So, yes, that's two gift fics for Tune in a row. Even if this one wasn't planned, I'm happy to write for her and happy with the way it turned out! And, of course, happy she liked it!

I hope my stream-of-conscious narrative wasn't too alienating, seeing as it was sort of planned. I wanted this to be the raging sea of thoughts Falco has while coping with it all on the porch of the hospital, and then as he re-evaluates his life with Katt. Risky, but I'm 62 fics in. I better start taking some risks, goddamn it. x)

Thanks for reading my first effort in this section!

MoD