Shattered Hopes and Dreams
Fox McCloud twitched and trembled,caught up in a nightmare that had gripped him for so many long nights.Horrid dreams-actually,only one dream,that kept repeating itself over and over and over....never changing,always coming back to him through his mind at night.
He flying in his arwing,alone,toward the planet of Venom.He looked down at the planet's green acidic tinge,and then everything faded to where he was suddenly standing in a large chamber,in Andross' palace.
He turned and saw his father,shackled to the wall.He was battered, bruised,bleeding.He looked up at him and begged for him to help him.But Fox couldn't move,even as strange figures melted from the shadows and began to torture him,slashing James with a whip and beating him.
Then Andross appeared,laughing crazily,his eyes red like that of a madman.He pulled a sword from his belt,and with the tip of it,raised James' head.He smiled,and with a powerful motion raised the blade and slashed down on his father.
Fox screamed and jolted awake.
At first he was disoriented,then he remembered,looking down at his desk-
-he had been working on some paperwork to return to General Pepper and his staff,for tomorrow-actually now today-.He had been exhausted from aerial manuevers and had had an arguement with Falco,and he was so worn out he had dozed off.
"I must have fell asleep,"He muttered,rubbing his brow that was cold with sweat,and looked at his watch.
"Damn,"He rubbed his neck,which had a kink in it from how he had slept,"Falling asleep at my desk.I'm getting to be as bad as Bill and General Pepper."
He put his head in his paws,resting his elbows on his knees,"But why is it that when I wake up every morning,I only feel more tired than before?"
He stretched and got to his feet.Casting a mild glance at the papers on his desk,he straightened them and slipped them into their folder.He'd take them to General Pepper or his secretary a little later.It was too early right now.
He walked to the window,looking out into space from the StarFox mother ship GreatFox.Since the war had been going on for a couple months,the ship had been circling Corneria,waiting battle royal,scramble,orders.
So far though,most battle plans were covering home,the main aerial base in Corneria's capital,Corneria City.Nothing had been drastic enough,yet,to send the ship and her radical squadron out into the Lylat system to battle Andross' gathering forces.
That had been General Pepper's decision,not Fox's or his team.
Fox sighed,looking at the brilliant blue planet that was his home.His heart was saddened,thinking suddenly of all those who had fought and died to keep Lylat free from Andross' clutches,and all had been in vain.
He hated war,all it meant was pain and wounds and loss of loved ones.But yet,he fought valiantly in it,as if it was his only purpose in life.
But his purpose was to fly,to boldly take to the skies and go behond the limits.
Then he thought of his father,the warm memories of James McCloud came from deep in his mind,then pulled him back with them to remember.
His father was strong,bold,a true fighter in the sky and in hand to hand combat.He could roll an enemy from the air so neatly or easily kick any smartmouth's butt who messed with him.
But Fox remembered him as his dad,his buddy and his best friend,no matter how bad it got.Two partners in crime,as Peppy used to put it when they would come up with little schemes to harass him or someone else.He remembered James teaching him mechanics of the arwings,aerial manuevers,how to deal with a bully with some slick moves.
The most fondest memory though,was walking with him one evening,watching the Corneria fighter squadrons come in against a red sky.He was only twelve at the time,and his father towered over him.James strong paw would rest on his shoulder,the warmth of it soaking through his T-shirt as his father pointed out a hawk flying gracefully through the air.His dad's voice was be low and filled with pride,he could remember him say-
"I think that hawk up there might just be jealous of you son."
"Huh?"He had said,"Why dad?"
"Cause you can outfly him,"James smiled,"You can be craftier than he is at diving and spanning the sky."
But he can fly on his own,I can't do that."
His father had smiled so warmly,and had knelt down beside him,"Maybe you can't fly like he can,maybe you have to be inside a cockpit of a fighter,but you do fly like him in another way."
"What other way dad?"
His father had poked him in the chest,making him smile,"You can fly like him because you have a heart like him Fox.You fly with a great heart,with strength,and with real courage.You love the freedom that comes with flying in the clouds,where no one else can touch you."
The hawk screamed softly,pulling his father's gaze from him to the sky again,"You'll be a top ace one day son.A greater pilot than even I am."
Fox had shook his head and smiled.No way he had thought,his dad was the best.No one,not even he,would ever outmatch him.
He looked out over the base,then back at his father,who's face was expressionless as he watched the hawk circle above them.He was puzzled,"That puts me up in the sky right up there with him?I don't understand."
James stood back up,saying with a knowing smile,"One day,when you face your greatest challenge,you will understand,son.You'll understand what it means to be a true leader and an ace."
Fox came back to the present,with a deep sigh,feeling a swell of painful emotions.
"I still don't understand father,what did you mean?,"Fox looked out at the exspanse of stars.
He rubbed the ache in his temples,"What did you mean,facing my greatest challenge?"
Fox had gone up against alot of challenges,but he had overcome them.From his father's tone and words,he knew he hadn't faced it though,his greatest challenge.It was unnerving,but he imagined when the moment came,he would feel it deep inside.
"Another life dad,"He turned and headed for the kitchen,"Another lifetime,a happier one.You taught me so much..."
He turned and turned off the lights,"......Except.....how to cope with losing you."
In the kitchen he was surprised to find Falco sitting at the table,instead of Peppy as usual.The veteran hare was always the early riser,and it was wierd to see Falco up so early.
The falcon looked up at him abruptly,"Fox?"
McCloud tried to smile,"Falco.Up early?"
Last night,they both had got into a heated arguement.Falco had come in drunk,a usual thing for a Friday night for the rough lieutenant.But Fox had told him before,no drinking while working under General Pepper.If they had to scramble,there would be no way Falco could even attempt to go with the rest of the team.
Good reasoning,but Falco got ticked off about it.He sorta told Fox off and was so drunk at the time,and went too far with a few comments about him.Fox didn't really take it to heart at first,till Falco made an insult against James.The insult boiled Fox's temper over and he punched the falcon across the face.Falco had returned the punch and it took Peppy with Katt and Fara's help to break them up.
Fox took a deep sigh and sat down beside him.He smiled this time,"Got a hangover?"
Falco kinda struggled with the words,"Well-er-yeah,I guess."
Fox pushed his hair back from his eyes,"Hey man,I'm sorry I climbed your case last night."
"No way bud,I was outta line,"Falco shook his head,"I went out and got drunk when I knew I shouldn't,we've got a war to fight.You were right in chewing my butt."
He put a wing on Fox's shoulder,"And what I said-about you and your dad--I'm--I'm sorry Fox."
"Skin it Falco,"Fox smiled,"Don't worry about it."
"Well,I'm sorry anyway."
It got quite for a moment,before Fox chuckled,"That was the best apology I've ever got from you Falco.A mushy one too."
Falco gave a quirky smile and answered cockily,"Probably because I'm getting soft."
Fox shook his head,and yawned deeply.
"Looking tired man,"Falco studied him,"And shabby too on the edges."
Fox rubbed his eyes and smiled,"I'm alright,just was up late trying to finish some paperwork."
Falco was interrupted by Fara and Katt coming into the kitchen with Peppy.
"I though I heard you guys get up,"Fara wrapped her arms about Fox and got a kiss from him.
"And usually I'm the one up before all you children,"Peppy chuckled,and started a pot of coffee,"But I'm glad to see you two aren't at each other's throats."
Falco shrugged,and smiled as Katt hugged him.He pushed her hair from her face and kissed her gently.
"Pretty quiet this morning,"The feline stretched,"With half the gang gone and all."
Fox nodded.Alot of his team was missing.Bill Grey and Jenna Darrenger were still in the service with the Cornerian AirForce for a few more weeks,after which they would join StarFox.Slippy Toad with Kimmy Henson and her daughter Lily were also on the planet's surface,doing technical work on the base and the capital's main power center,trying to fix damages that had been sustained from a few Andronian fighters sneaking through defenses.So that left him with only Falco,Peppy,Fara,Katt,and himself.He felt edgy about it,rather having a complete team than a broken one.
Fara felt his tightness,and looked up at him,"Baby,are you alright?"
He managed a tired smile,"Sure hon.Just thinking."
He caressed her face,the beautiful fennec he loved so deeply.Her green eyes looked deep into his eyes,and he always got a shiver from it.He swore Fara could look into his very soul with only her gaze.Although they had been seperated and been apart for long amounts of time,they finally seemed to be on the right track and were going to stay together.Fox prayed it would be forever.
She didn't seem satisfied,and ran a paw through his hair,her touch gentle and made his eyes close halfway because it felt so wonderful,"You're tired Fox.You look like you can barely keep your eyes open."
He moaned softly as she rubbed his neck,easing the ache in it to a considerable extent,"I feel like I'm falling apart.But,I'll survive."
"Just don't let you get ahead of yourself lad,"Peppy sat down at the table,"It can get you in trouble."
The hare smiled,"How about breakfast?"
Fox grinned,"Can't go without it."
Later,Fox went down to the docking bay.He felt he had a little more energy with some food in his stomach,and with a graceful jump leapt up onto the wing of his arwing,and climbed into the cockpit.
He leaned back in the seat,resting his own arm on the cockpit rim.He looked over the controls,radar,lazer,thrust,comlink,so forth.Then his gaze fell on a picture,a picture of him and his father and mother.
He took the pic from it's spot over his comscreen,looking at it.He was very small in the picture,probably only three.His mother held him in her arm's,and he had his dad's favorite hat on that was several times too big for him.His dad stood behind them,his strong arms wrapped around them.
He fell back to another memory...of his mother.His beautiful mother.Vixa.
He could see her face so clearly.Her blue eyes soft and gentle,and her long brown hair used to tickle his nose when it hung over her shoulders.She was a deep fiery red,with black ears and a black tipped tail and she always smelled of the wind,cool and sweet.
She would often watch him and James tussle outside,before calling him,her voice with a soft accent that leaned toward southern.
"You little scamp!A little rogue like your father!"
He would leave his dad and leap into her arms,and she would catch him,smoothing his fur and spin around with him.
"Which lady loves ya the most?"
"You do!"He would wrap his arms around her neck,breathing her in and remembered how safe he felt in her arms.
"And who is my little Fox?"
"I am!"He'd hug her tighter.
She'd always ask what he and his dad had done that day,before tickling him and putting him down,ushering him inside the house.
He loved to see her and dad together.The beach was a favorite place,only a short hour from the base,and the three of them would go down there on the weekends.Even though he was always out ahead,throwing seastars into the sea from their stranding on the beach or harassing some of the crabs in their burrows,he would stop long enough to watch them.
They would walk side by side,arms around each other and he'd watch James kiss her forehead,his mom wrapping her arms closer about him.
Then,she was torn from them in an instant.Someone planted a bomb in their car,meant for James,and Vixa had been the one to trip it.He remembered his father's face,as he tried to tell him what happened.Never had he seen his father cry,and he had wrapped his arms about his neck and had cried with him.Some said James had died with her,and Fox felt they were right.His father had never been the same,like something had been torn or broken deep inside of him,and had never mended properly.
"Mom,"He swallowed,his vision blurring as he looked at the picture,"Dad.If only things had been different.If only you were still......."
He lowered his head,"...if only you were still alive.If only you were here.I ..."
He stopped,and shook his head,"What's the use.If only's won't change anything."
He put the picture back in it's place,"All I have are shattered hopes and dreams.Just bruised and broken,nothing can bring you back.Greatest challenge you told me father.I know what it is,it's living without you and mom!"
He wrenched himself out of the cockpit,only to be greeted by the wail of the red alert,filling the docking bay with a red light.
Peppy's voice came over the com,"Enemy fighter squadrons coming into Cornerian airspace Fox!"
"Damn,not now,"Fox climbed back into his fighter,"Better get down here old friend!Look's like we have a fight on our paws!"
He fixed his comlink,and closed the cockpit over him.He switched on the arwing's systems,and felt the fighter hummm softly to life under him.
Falco was the first to enter the docking bay,followed by Katt and then Fara and Peppy.
Fox watched them climb into their fighters,waited for them to signal they were ready.
And together,leaving Rob64 in charge of GreatFox,they roared out into open starry space,a swarm of Andronian fighters ready to engage.
"Lock and load!Fox pulled his shades on,his darkest pair of sunglasses,"Take it to em!"
They five Starfox mercenaries broke off in a star pattern and into the melee.Outnumbered at leat twelve to one,they veered and dodged,overwhelm.
"Watch your six guys,"Fox felt his instincts kick in and he began to take out fighters one after another,looping and barrel rolling.
Peppy shot vertical and looped over one of the wings of GreatFox,dropping in behind the half dozen fighters chasing him and burning them away.Almost casually he plugged another who shot by him recklessly.
Katt was toying with one enemy,teasing him and leading him around.After a second she dipped low and he collided with a dozen other fighters,and they exploded one by one like dominos.She looped and instantly was pursued again.
"There's too many of them!"She spat over the com,shooting another down.
"Peppy,is there any sign of support coming?!"Fox looped and shot another enemy.
"The green wings will be here in minutes,we've gotta hold out till then!"Peppy used the phrase referring to Cornerian fighter jets.
Falco smoked two fighters,and took one off of Fox's tail,"Owe me on that one Fox!"
"I owe you dozens,but I'm not counting!"Fox laughed and scored a triple hit.
Fara pulled a beautiful barrel roll,deflecting enemy fire and shot down a number of her own.She laughed,and did a crazy sideways fishtail,shaking her chasers and soon reduced them to ashes,"If we can keep going like we are,we can make it!!"
"Don't be too confident hon!"Fox shot a fighter and flew through the fireball left behind,"This isn't over yet!"
Fox dodged a spew of fire,as a small group of enemies shot past him.He dropped in after them.they kept waeving in a circle with each other.He took one out and got ready to shoot the rest.
Suddenly something flashed in his head,like lightning through total darkness,his instincts warning him.He looked over his shoulder,to see an enemy fighter bare down on him.Fox had been careless,he hadn't been paying attention to everything else going on around him.A dear mistake that could end with fatal consequences.
Peppy screamed into his com,"Evasive manuevers!!Fox,watch out!!!"
The fighter fired.
Fox lurched forward in his seat,something hot like that of an ember hitting him in the back.It robbed him of being able to speak or breath.At the same time his arwing shook violently.His controls exploded in a shower of sparks,and shrapnel hit him above his eye,cutting him deeply and he flinched,cursing loudly and struggled to control his jet.
"Fox!"Falco yelled,seeing the lazer fire burn into his friend's jet and a wing buckle,damaged.The arwing listed toward the damaged wing.
Fox clenched his teeth at the pain in his back,which was growing in intensity like wildfire.He looked up as the fighter flew over him.
Fox leaned back in his seat,and threw on the boost.Ice vapor trailed off of his fighter's wings as he chased after the fighter.
The enemy dodged and weaved,and Fox fought to lock onto him.Finally he was awarded with the bleep of target lock and engaged.He fired.
The fighter buckled in half and was engulfed by flames,before simply fading into the blackness of space.
Fox watched the explosion,when a wave of weakness hit him in the pit of the stomach like a heavy punch or kick.He felt out of breath.He knew he'd been hit,but not how badly.He gulped down a painful breath,and instantly he twisted in agony.Blood seeped from the jagged cut on his forehead,down into his eye and he tasted the bitter sweetness of it in his mouth.
Then he felt something warm soaking his chest,and he put a hand to his T-shirt,finding it torn and ragged.He looked at his hand-
-and it was moist with his blood,a rich red color against his orange fur.
He felt himself panic,and he fought to hold onto his wits.Getting frantic could get you killed,especially in space.
He fumbled with his controls.Nearly all his systems were gone,and the G-diffuser was failing.The alert becon flashing and he felt his arwing shake and more circuitry exploded,throwing sparks into his face.
That's when he looked back at his teammates,overwhelmed by enemy fighters and twisting frantically in the sky.He knew they needed him,but he felt himself becoming light-headed,everything fading out on him.His arwing was almost out of power,taking such heavy extensive damage.
He heard Peppy curse as his fighter took damage.The veteran pulled a crazy loop that probably saved his life and several more bogies dropped in behind him.
Fara gasped over the com,and her saw her one wing begin to smoke from a glancing shot that damaged the G-diffuser.She switched to back-up power and brought her arwing back to balance,barely in enough time to avoid being strafed by another group of enemies.
Falco struggled with the large amount of fighters on his tail,"Shit!I've got my hands full!There's too many of them!"
Katt's fighter was rocked by a blanket of fire,and she cursed loudly,and rolled out of the way,only to be pursued.CatsPaw was scarred from lazer hits as she shot under the belly of GreatFox.A fighter smashed into the hull of the mothership,and GreatFox shook from the impact.
"Fox,we need help!"Falco's voice was strained and even frightened.
Fox felt himself losing consciousness,everything beginning to spin and he placed a paw above him against the cockpit.He felt everything tilt crazily,then double as he was hit with a wave of nausea.
I have to help them,my team needs me,His thoughts screamed,But I can't focus.I can't do it.
That's when his father's words whispered in his head,ringing suddenly so clearly.
One day,when you've faced your greatest challenge,you will understand son.You'll understand what it means to be a true leader and an ace.
Fox closed his eyes.Now he knew what his father had meant.His greatest challenge,was his greatest fear.
He was afraid of being a failure.He was afraid to fail his teammates,to let them down.Ever since his father had been lost on Venom,he felt he was responsible,for some unknown reason.He felt he had let his own father down,and that's why he had died.And since he had not truly defeated Andross on Venom the first time in the first Cornerian/Andronian War,he felt he had let down General Pepper,all of his superiors,his friends,all that had died to defeat the mad scientist.They had all died in vain.
But he wouldn't die in vain.He would not lay down and die and let Andross continue his tyranny.
It was going to end,here,and now.If he had to fight from the grave against Andross,he would.
Fox shook his head violently,and threw on the boost.
He wouldn't leave his team.He...would die first.
He barreled back into the battle,pouring on the fire as he fought with his teammates.His face contorted into a snarl as he strafed into enemy fighters.
His teammates threw in all that they had as well,their hope renewed by their leader coming back into the battle,and their fear vanished.Space became filled with explosions as Andronians were engulfed in flame against the radical StarFox squadron.
Suddenly a fighter smoked by Fox,and a fighter flew through the flames.Marked with green and silver with the Husky Squadron emblem on the side,Fox smiled weakly as Bill Grey's voice came onto the comlink,"Look's like you could use some help Fox."
More Cornerian fighters swarmed in,and more Andronian fighters began to disappear from their radar screens.
"We were wondering where you were!"Falco laughed as Jenna Darrenger smoked a bogey on his tail.
"Got here as fast as we could!"The brown and white husky laughed as she pulled a U-turn and took down another fighter.
Bill chuckled,and he took another enemy down,"Let's get this trash out of here BullDog,Husky Squadron!"
There was a few cheers and howls over the com from his and Jenna's squadron.
Katt shot another fighter,"Go back to your crazy leader and tell him we're ready for whatever he has to throw at us!!
Fox tried to smile,but the pain was unbearable.Still he fought on,clipping an enemy here and taking another off of a Cornerian fighter's tail.
The Andronians suddenly realized they were loosing the battle,and began to turn tail and run.Some weren't fast enough and were picked off by the good forces,till there was nothing but friendly fighters in the starry exspanse.The remaining surviving enemies had disappeared into the black shadows of space,limping home to report their deafeat to Andross.
"What a breeze!"Bill laughed,"That was easy!"
"Yeah,when you've got an even amount of forces in the sky!"Falco griped,"Next time,get you lazy asses up here quicker!We were losing there for a moment!"
"Surprised you'd admit to that Falco,"Bill shook his head,and looked over at Fox through his cockpit,"You okay over there bud?!Your fighter looks a little battered.
"I'm fine,"Fox managed to mutter.He looked to his team,"Let's return to GreatFox everyone.Our mission is accomplished."
There was a cheer,and StarFox broke off from the Cornerian force,except for Bill and Jenna,who put their seconds in command to join Fox and the others.
Fox leaned back in his seat,almost passing out again.He managed a smile,knowing his team was safe.
In the docking bay Falco whooped and jumped form his fighter.He grabbed Katt down from CatsPaw and spun her around,"We smoked em!Talk about the egde!"
"They never knew what hit em!!"She wrapped her arms about his neck,laughing.
Peppy smiled and climbed down from his own arwing,"We're lucky Jenna and Bill showed up with their squadrons.We may never have won the battle without them."
"You guys looked to be fairing pretty well,"Bill pulled his helmet and comlink off.Jenna jumped down and joined him.
"You guys would have pulled it off,"Jenna smiled,"We just sorta tipped the scale a little more.Sorry for not getting there quick enough.
"We enjoyed the action,"Fara looked up at Fox,who was still sitting in the open cockpit of his arwing.She walked up to the fighter and asked softly,"Hon,are you okay?"
Fox looked down at her and smiled.He pulled off his sunglasses and coughed.
A mistake,Fara's face became filled with with concern,"Fox,what's wrong?"
"I'm alright,"Fox muttered weakly as Bill jumped up onto the wing of his fighter.His friend was at his side in an instant.
"Fox?"Bill grabbed his shoulders.He suddenly felt something warm and sticky on his fingers and looked to see what it was.
Blood.Dark red blood.
He looked down at Fox's chest,and saw his blood stained shirt.Shocked,he leaned Fox forward slightly,and gasped.
A great bloody hole glistened wetly in the center of his back,his jacket and t-shirt beneath ripped and torn and burned around it.He saw the hole in the seat,and realized.
A lazer round must have gotten through the weaker armor behind the cockpit.At the angle it entered,it had gone through the alloy,through the seat,and through Fox,before striking the controls,which had destroyed the the radar screen and compass with part of the G-diffuser.
Bill looked back at Fox,who tried to smile,"Guess....they got...me,this ...time Bi-"
He slumped forward into the husky's arms.
"Oh God!Fox!!"Bill pulled him from the cockpit.
His teammates rushed forward to help him as Fox slipped deep into unconsciousness.
He didn't hear Bill call his name,or Jenna cutting his jacket and t-shirt from his body and begin to try and stop the bleeding,yelling for Katt to get ahold of Reba over the com.He never heard Fara call his name,or feel her grab his hands tightly. Peppy tried to calm her down.
All there was,was blackness.
He looked up and about in disorientation,lying on runway turf.That voice,where was it coming from?Why did it sound,so,familiar?
The dreamlike haze that mysteriously surrounded him suddenly focused into an airfield,brightened by a red sky of dusk.
Fox looked about,the field was empty except for himself.He recognized it immediatly to be the main base of the capital.Where was everyone,what was going on?
He turned,and saw a pilot walking toward him.He seemed like a mirage coming to life,forming from the haze as he came closer.
But he was not any pilot.
He wore a StarFox uniform,the grey jacket,red bandana tied about his neck,the sunglasses.
The pilot stopped where Fox lay prone on the ground.He pulled off the sunglasses,and revealed the face of someone Fox knew he would never see again.
His father,James McCloud.
Fox was too shocked to anything first,before finally muttering,"This is all a dream,you're not real."
James nodded and reached out a paw.Fox took and allowed himself to be helped up,"Yes,it may be a dream,and may be the only way I can reach you right now-
Fox looked at him.He looked the same,just like he had before he had left for Venom.Before he had been lost to him forever.
But then,he did look older.There was some grey traces through his hair,and along his muzzle.But his eyes were bright and alive.Fox thought that was strange.
"You've grown up on me,"James whispered,"Not exactly a small fry anymore."
Tear welled up in Fox's eyes and he looked away,"What's going on,why-"
James put a paw on his shoulder.Fox took a deep breath and wrapped his father in an embrace.James felt real,he was real.Fox sobbed openly,he didn't care.He knew his father didn't.
James held him for a moment,and then held him at arm's length.The older McCloud smiled,"I miss you son."
"I miss you too dad,"Fox looked down at the ground,and asked,"Am I dead?"
James' voice was even,"You're close son.You're on the brink,right where you are standing now."
Fox looked up at him,"The brink?"
"Between living and dying,"James held his gaze.
It became quiet for a moment.
James suddenly looked up,and motioning,pointed skyward.
A hawk screamed and flew over them through the red sky.
"Remember what I told you,when you were a little scamp,"The veteran smiled,"About you and that hawk?"
"How could I forget?"Fox returned the smile,"How him and I were alike."
"And what I said about you becoming a great ace one day,with a true heart,and true courage?"
"Yes,"Fox thought a moment,Although I didn't understand-"
"Till now,"James watched the hawk circle,"Till today."
Fox saw the pride on his father's face,and a trace of moisture fell down his face.
"I said that when you face your greatest challenge,you'll understand what it means to be a true leader,and an ace."
Fox kept quiet,although he knew what his father would say.
"You gave all you had for your teammates,even though you were grieviously wounded,you gave all your strength to help them battle.You wouldn't give up because of them,"James studied his son's face,"And you've almost died for it."
James paused,then continued,"You've faced your greatest challenge son-"
"My greatest fear,"Fox nodded,"Afraid to die,to die in vain and to leave my teammates alone.That they would have to fight without me,and that they'd die because I had failed them."
James nodded,"Now you know Fox.You really and truly know with your heart."
"What it means to have a true heart,true strength,and true courage.To be leader,"Fox smiled back,"Like that hawk,to have those characters of being free and be a leader.I understand now what you meant dad."
James rested his paws on his shoulders.The veteran smiled,"Yes.And son,I'm so proud of you."
Fox shook his head and smiled,"You don't know how long I've wished to hear you tell me that dad."
James chuckled warmly,"You don't know how long I've wished to tell you."
They stood together for a few moments,before Fox whispered,"What now?"
James turned to him,"You have to go back son.It's not your time yet,not for a long time."
"But I don't want to,"Fox rubbed his neck,"Not without you."
James smiled,"You're never alone son.No matter what,I'll always be there for you.You're never alone."
James ruffled his hair like he used to when Fox had been little,"You've never failed me,never.You've grown up into a fine young man,I could never want anything more."
Fox looked up at him.He didn't say anything,he didn't have to.He only nodded.
James turned him toward the horizon,and a voice began to call him.
"I love you son,"James tightened his grip on his shoulders.
Fox embraced him one final time,"I love you too....dad."
James smiled,"It's time to wake up son,you're team needs you."
Fox felt himself pull away,and his father faded into the haze.
He didn't hear his father words,so soft as they whispered from his mouth,"Soon,son.Soon you,your mother,and I,will be back together."
He turned and began to walk into the haze,"For good."
Fox heard the voice call him again,back to consciousness-
Fox felt a soft hand smooth his hair back from his forehead,and he weakly opened his eyes.
Fara's green eyes shimmered with relief,"Oh Fox.I though you would never wake up."
Fox reached up and tenderly touched her cheek.Fara caught his paw,closed her eyes and kissed his palm.A tear sparkled and fell down her face.
"Don't cry baby,"Fox whispered,"I'm okay,I'm not dead."
He went to move,and a bolt of pain shot through his chest to his head like lightning.He gasped,and relaxed.The pain faded instantly.
Fara sat down on the bed gently beside him,"I wouldn't move around honey.You've been hurt seriously and lost alot of blood."
Fox looked around the room,realizing he was in Corneria City's Community Hospital.He cast a glance at the IV in his arm and the heart moniter beeping by his bed,before groaning and putting a hand to his forehead.
He felt the bandages,and remembered the shrapnel cutting him.With his other heand he felt the other wrapping around his chest.He swallowed,"What all happened Fara?"
The fennec rubbed his one arm gently,smoothing his fur,"After we got you out of your fighter we knew we had to get you medical attention immediatly,since we're not equipped to deal with such serious injuries.We landed GreatFox back on base and medi-vaced you directly to the ER.Reba was waiting for us when we got here,she was the one who operated on you."
"Oh really,"Fox tried to smile,"I didn't have anything removed did I?"
Fara couldn't help but return the smile,"I don't think so hon,you'll have to ask Reba.I never got to talk to her very much since another emergency showed up in the ER,a gunshot victim.She said she'll check in on you a little later."
Fox laughed softly,"I'm betting some stitches too right?"
"That or staples,"She bit her lip,a little grin on her face
"Oh joyful.Why not glue me back together,quicker and easier."
"Fox,"Fara laughed,"You can be hurt this badly and still be funny."
"Maybe,"Fox smiled as she leaned over and kissed him,"How long have I been out?"
"You've been unconsciousness for a day and a half.Reba wasn't sure about when you'd wake up.She'll be relieved."
There was a knock on the door that made them both look to see Bill and Jenna.
"Are we interrupting anything?"The huskies stayed in the doorway,"We can come back at a better time if you-"
Fox shook his head,"You're not barging in Bill."
Bill slowly walked into the room and knelt down by the bed.Fox raised a hand and the husky clasped it.
Jenna hugged him gently,"We just managed to get in here and see you.It's hard to sneak by Reba at times."
Fox laughed,"Good old Reb."
Bill swallowed,"How are you feeling?"
"Louzy I guess,but not too bad,"Fox studied his face,and noticed the stains on his jacket and shirt.
Bill followed his gaze,"Oh-I came straight over with you from the base.I didn't stop to throw on a fresh uniform.
"My blood,isn't it?"
Bill nodded.The husky looked relieved,but somewhat scared.He swallowed hard,like there was something caught in his throat,"I thought you were dead when I pulled you from that arwing."
It became quiet in the room,only the beeping of the heart moniter could be heard.Bill spoke again,his voice very hoarse,"You scared all of us Fox.Even me."
Fox clenched his hand tighter,"Takes alot to scare you Bill Grey."
Bill gave a small smile,"Do me a favor then okay?"
"Don't do this on a regular basis,or ever again for that matter."
The tension in the room broke,and Fox laughed,a little more strength in his voice,"I'll try to remember that Bill."
"You'd better,"Katt Monroe suddenly was at the door.Falco was behind her.
"I see the fearless leader is awake,"Falco smiled cockily.
Fox shrugged as Katt bent over to hug him and Falco rested a hand on the edge of the bed.
The falcon looked him over,"You don't look too bad."
"I don't feel too bad either,"Fox went to sit up again.
"Baby,I wouldn't-"Fara looked over at Bill,who just offered an arm to help him.
Fox felt the pain again,needle pricks in his chest and head.But it wasn't as bad as the first time he had tried to move.He finally sat up,and Fara moved some of the pillows so he could lean back.
"If Reba comes in here she's gonna be hat,"Katt wagged a finger at him.
"What's she gonna do to me,break my neck?"
"Lucky you didn't break that anyway,"Falco smirked.
Fox glared at him.Falco returned the glare,but by the traces of a smile on his face,Fox knew he was glad he was alright.
Everyone looked at that small question,and saw Lily and Kimmy with Slippy.
"Well hi Lily,"Fox smiled warmly as the little treefrog jumped from her mother's arms and ran to the bed.
"Lily don't jump on the-"Kim stopped as her small daughter slid to a halt at the last second.She pushed her black hair from her face and carefully climbed up onto the bed.She made sure she didn't jar Fox and hugged him,not at all roughly.
Fox hugged her back,and looked at her freckled face,"How you been tadpole?"
"I'm not a tadpole,"She giggled,"I had to argue with mommy till she finally let me come to see you."
"Oh she argued alright,"Slippy laughed,"She said she'd jump out the window if she didn't get to see you.And at Kim's parents' place,that's a long way down."
Fox eyes widened,and he looked back at Lily,"I would say that's either I go or else than an arguement."
"Jenna dropped us a call over at the main power-op and told us what happened,"Kimmy smiled,"We got over here as soon as we could."
Slip pulled off his hat and put a hand on his shoulder,"The arwing looks really nice Fox."
It didn't register at first,then Fox remembered,"Oh,it does?"
"Yeah,considering it looks like someone took a giant can opener to it,"Slippy made everyone laugh,"Can I build an arwing or what?"
He didn't let anyone answer,and added,"But now I'll make sure to increase the armor strength behind the cockpit,so this won't happen again."
Fox shook his head at the toad,"Don't go blaming yourself for anything Slip,I mean it."
Slippy didn't get to answer when there was a loud ahem and everyone looked to see General Pepper standing with Peppy.
The superior removed his hat and looked down at Fox,"Feeling alright McCloud?"
"Yes sir,"Fox nodded.
Pepper sat down on the bed by Fara,"I kept getting mixed reports that you were dead and then you were alive and back and forth.The news is having a field day with this."
"I'd imagine,"Fox smiled at Peppy,who clasped his paw momentarily then pulled up a chair.
"We had so many reporters trying to get Bill and I to answer questions,I was about ready to strangle some of them,"Jenna pushed some hair from her face.
Pepper shook his head,"I'm glad to see you're up and awake."
"I'm glad I'm up and awake sir,"Fox rubbed his head,"Although I don't like the headache that came with it."
Pepper studied the young pilot.Just like his father.He knew he would be alright.
"I hope to see you working for me soon."
"Well sir I'm staying her just long enough to get well and I'll be right back in the sky working for ya."
Everyone laughed at his attitiude.There was no tension in the room,only relief.
"What is this,a counsel meeting?!!!"Reba Hare stormed into the room,her stethoscope swinging wildly about her neck and a clipboard tucked under one arm.
She then smiled,and shook her head,"I guess I can't keep you away from him all the time."
Her eyes widened as she looked at Fox,"What are you doing sitting up?!"
He gave a nervous laugh,"Um....talking."
She frowned and took his pulse,and then looked at his eyes.She held a finger,"Follow it please."
Fox sighed deeply,keeping his gaze locked on her finger as she moved it up then down,to the left and then the right,"Feel dizzy,any pain?Lightheaded?"
"Just a slight headache,"He gave a gasp of protest as she put the stethoscope to his chest under his shirt,"That's cold Reb!"
"Sorry Hon,"She listened for a few moments.There was a bewildered look on her face when she finished,"Either you've just got a good immune stystem or your superman,Fox,you doing very well."
Fox cocked an eyebrow,"I'll be doing well when I get out of this place."
"Not for a few weeks your not,"Reba made him lay back down,"And I want you to rest.Everyone else out,come'on,let's go.You can talk to him tomorrow.He needs to rest."
Fara kissed Fox gently and was the last to leave the room.
Fox watched them go,and Reba turned off the lights.He then looked up at the ceiling,listening to their footsteps fade down the hall.
Outside the room Reba stopped Peppy,"Dad,I just don't know how-it's impossible."
"What Reb?"Peppy looked at his stunned daughter.
"Fox should be dead.If not in his arwing then on the operating table.He took a direct hit through his back that should have exploded his heart and killed him instantly."
Peppy was shocked at her words,he looked back at the door to Fox's room,"But then,how can he be alive?"
"It's strange,"Reba put a arm over her shoulders,walking with him down the hall,"It's almost as if his immune system has doubled it's strength and has naturally begun to repair his injuries.Even in the operating room when I opened him up to assess his wounds,I didn't find anything internal that was even touched by burns or abrasions.There was no hole in him,just a giant tear on his back,and that needed only stitches.The wound on his head isn't bad either."
"But that's not true,he had a hole clear through him,all the blood he lost,I saw it."
"I know,Bill,Jen,Falco,Katt,and Fara told me the same thing,"She shook her head,"I don't know what happened between there and here,but he's fine.He'll be out of here and on his feet in less than two weeks.He'll be able to fly again in a week added to that."
Peppy couldn't believe it.
"I don't know what to say,"Reba sighed,"Except there must have been someone watching out for him."
She then whispered,"And whoever it was,brought him back from the brink of death."
In the hospital room Fox looked over out the window,the sky outside darkening toward evening.It was bright red,cloudless,and the sun was almost beneath the horizon.
The throbbing in his head had subsided to a dull thrum.He rubbed the bandages that wrapped his chest.
He knew he should be dead,he got the sense of that from Reba's attitude.Why hadn't he?
Then he saw the hawk-
-brown gold exactly like the one his father and him had watched together when he had been little.It circled,then dove for the window,and at the last moment flared it's wings out.
He watched the bird,and it screamed softly,landing on the sill of his window.
It's bright gold eyes studied him and it screamed again,stretching it's wings.Then it began to preen it's feathers on it's chest.
Fox smiled,and closed his eyes.He fell asleep almost instantly.
But after a short time,the nightmare began to creep into his mind.He started to toss and turn,breaking into a sweat as he went through flying toward Venom,then into the chamber to where his father was going to be tortured.
Andross was laughing insanely,his red eyes burning into him.Fox screamed in his mind.Why now?Why wouldn't it stop?
Suddenly,a voice cut over Andross' laughter.A strong and deep voice,and the mad scientist fell silent,before shrinking back in fear to the shadows,and the chamber faded away.
All that was left behind was a grayness.But it was soft,warm,comforting.
The deep voice spoke again,to him,and Fox recognized it almost immediatly.
"Rest now son.You've earned it.You're safe."
And for the first time in a long while,he did.Never had he been able to sleep so deeply.
The nightmare never haunted him again.
And only three weeks later,he climbed back into the cockpit of his arwing,fully recovered......and stronger.
((Kimmy Henson,Lily Henson,Reba Hare,Jenna Darrenger are original characters by me.All other characters are by nintendo)))
((I'd love to have your comments,or suggestions on any of my stories.Drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)) ~-^