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Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

by CrossroadsPony

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21

Chapter 16: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times

Lone lifted his head, his features etched with a grimace made all the more unsettled by the flickering light of the campfire.

Sarge glanced up and then nodded toward the bowl in Lone's hands with a grunt. "I know that face! You were the lucky sonovagun that got the beak in yer stew, ain'tcha??"

The wolf blinked and looked confused for a moment. "Uh...the--"

"Oh god," Simmons interrupted with a horrified face, leaning away from his bowl and grimacing. "No...I got it, sir..."

"Good job, Private Simmons!"

"Private First Class, sir," the soldier mumbled.

"Yer provin' it at last! Only the toughest, grimiest, most promisin' Reds are gifted the bounty of the snout!" Sarge explained with an enthusiastic pump of his fist, which sent bits of broth and vegetable across Grif.

Grif scowled and shook his arm out before wiping at his face. "Gross. I've never been so glad to not be a kiss-ass. Then again, I've never not been glad I'm not a kiss-ass."

Sarge glowered at Grif, then turned his attention back to Lone. "So what're you makin' them faces for, then, son? You ain't about to complain 'bout the Sarge Family Skoval Stew, are ya?"

"Huh? No, no no," Lone muttered, stirring his spoon and then making a face as Simmons plucked the beak out of his bowl and tossed it into the fire. "It's, uh. It's great, Sarge. No, I just got a feeling."

"You should talk to Simmons, then! He's got loads of those!" Sarge replied with a nod in the chupadore's direction. "Nearly as much as Donut, and that boy's chock-full of 'em!"

"Not all he's chock-full of," Grif added under his breath.

Lone rubbed the back of his head and then glanced at Simmons. "Is it always so hard to get your words out around here?"

"Always," Simmons mumbled. Now that the business with the beak was done, however, the soldier at last looked less tense. He studied Lone for a moment. "What kind of feeling?"

"The kind that don't feel great," the wolf replied, earning a raised eyebrow from Sarge. "Bad feeling. Something that tells me Mahihko is about to get into a shitload of trouble."

"That boy better not be tramplin' my schedule. Again." Sarge growled with a threatening jab of his spoon toward the wolf. "I told y'all not to screw up the way we do things on this here ring!"

Lone raised his own spoon defensively. "Swear we're not aiming to, Sarge. We weren't trying to bring all this shit here..."

"But ya did, an' now the mess is here," Sarge muttered, gesturing with his utensil again. "Goldarn aliens!"

"Hey...I'm here helping you guys, aren't I?" Lone's voice was almost hurt. "I'm not just in this for selfish reasons."

"Yeah, did say you were coming along to find a way back home, didn't you?" Grif observed while he helped himself to another bowl, grinning when Lone scowled at him. "Just sayin'."

"I...yeah," the wolf admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "But I'm here to help you, too."

"Don't let that temporary promotion and subsequent demotion go to yer head, furball!" Sarge grunted. "You ain't exactly done much to prove yerself beyond words."

Lone sulked and shoved his spoon into his jaws while muttering around it: "We haven't exactly had many opportunities for me to do more than sitting in the back of the truck and helping set up camp..."

Sarge squinted his disapproval. "Guess I'll just have to wait fer the next Blue we see to be sure 'bout you! First ya bring yer damn alien friends into my happy war, 'n then you go gettin' my privates off..." Lone's eyes widened slightly. "Off their damn regimens, that is! At this rate, Donut's gonna be checkin' the emergency snack-cake supply when he's s'posed to be countin' the regulation threads on the regulation bedsheets!"

"Probably not the only thing gonna be done with the bedsheets," Lone grumbled under his breath. "Promise if a...Blue bullet comes flying in, I'll be the first in front of it."

"I s'pose that'll be a good start!" Sarge barked as he turned back to his stew with a grunt.

He seemed finished enough with berating the wolf, who rubbed one of his ears awkwardly. The grizzled soldier was a conundrum -- after all, it had almost felt like they were finding at least some common ground up to that point. Lone sighed before glancing over as Simmons cleared his throat quietly.

"Don't, uh. Don't mind Sarge," Simmons offered in an aside to the wolf. Lone tilted his head a bit as the soldier continued: "He's just a little on edge."

Lone quirked an eyebrow.

"From the Blue hunt!"

The wolf seemed less than assuaged, grimacing a bit and standing. "Yeah. Hey, dinner was great, Sarge -- how 'bout I, uh. Do the cleaning. Least I can do."

"Damn, it's like Donut never left -- we still got our flaming housekeeper!" Grif remarked, before scowling horribly when Lone reached for his bowl as he clutched it defensively to his chest. "I'm not done," he intoned, grabbing the pot and upending it to pour the remainder out for himself.

"Of course you aren't," Lone replied coolly, collecting Simmons's instead and then glancing down at Sarge. "You finished, sir?"

Sarge peered up at him for a good few seconds and then handed his bowl over. "Don't go losin' any of those dang bowls, ya alien bastard! They're Red Army issue, part of our sacred inventory!"

Lone did his best to not roll his eyes, nodding respectfully and then taking the bowls and now-empty pot to the stream. A little quiet might be nice. Whatever he felt earlier gnawed at the back of his mind with concern, and now he suddenly felt like he had to prove he wasn't a traitor. It left him less than sociable.

"Uhh, I'll go with the alien, sir!" Simmons added as he hopped to his paws as well. "Make sure he doesn't screw anything up!"

Sarge grunted and picked up his shotgun to begin what Lone guessed was likely a very meticulous cleaning process. "Good idea, Simmons! Keep a close eye on 'im -- make sure he ain't got no Blue on him nowhere!!"

"Yeah, Simmons, better check him top to bottom," Grif supplied, smirking and settling back against his log. "Bet you're just dying to give these aliens a full physical inspection!"

Lone sighed and dropped his head as he moved out of hearing range and knelt down next to the stream with a grumble. He wasn't thrilled with Simmons offering to 'watch' him, either...and so it was with a bit of surprise that he glanced up when the soldier flopped down an arm's length or so away and mumbled an apology.

"Sorry. Um. I don't actually think you're a traitor or anything."

Lone eyed him for a moment, then started rinsing the bowls. "Uh huh. No offense, but it's fine if you're just doing what Sarge says. All three of you seem kinda wrapped up in your own little world, which. You know. Can't exactly fault you for." He paused, then looked mildly amused. "I can't tell if Grif was calling you gay, or calling you a nerd."

"Probably both," Simmons admitted, producing a bar of soap and a few rags. "Here, I can rinse them after you scrub them." Lone studied him briefly, but nodded. "Grif's an asshole. Don't take anything he says personally."

"Don't worry, learned not to do that years ago after doing so much business with assholes," Lone replied dismissively. He took the soap and began to scrub the pot before clearing his throat when he noticed Simmons's awkward expression. "I. I mean that metaphorically."

"Oh, yeah, of course! Obviously. I definitely assumed that," Simmons rambled with a stupid laugh. "That would be dumb to think otherwise."

They washed in quiet for a few minutes before Simmons hesitantly inquired in a hushed tone: "Everything you've said about your planet is true? There's no...Holy War, there's no House, you what you want to be?"

Lone arched an eyebrow, though realized it wasn't really all that crazy to see how fascinated the chupadore was with the concept, considering their world. "Yeah, for the most part. I's not some perfect utopia. Mahihko and I still get looks from some people when he's, ah. Being less than discreet. Or when he's prancing around in miniskirts and crop tops. Or when he's stealing from a museum in broad daylight because 'it would look so fantastic next to my dick statue collection'." Lone quirked a smile at the last memory while Simmons shook his head slowly.

"It's just really crazy to think about. I mean, it's not like you can't do something other than be a soldier here on Sirca, but it's really rare. You're either a rebel -- which means you get hunted down and killed by the House -- or have some horrific injury -- a horrific injury -- or you're some spoiled kid with really important parents. Otherwise, though...unless you're lucky and somehow avoid the draft, you end up fighting in this war." He grimaced and set aside the rinsed bowls. "I don't spend a lot of time thinking about how much it sucks, but hearing about where you come from...yeah, I realize how much it sucks."

Lone sat back on his haunches after running his hands under the cool stream. "...Yeah. That does sound like it blows." He glanced past the corner of the jeep to ensure neither of the other two had moved any closer. "Have you ever...y'know. Considered leaving the war? Joining the rebels?"

"Oh god no," Simmons answered hurriedly, waving both his hands. "No, no, fuck that -- at least I know I'll be relatively safe, since our shitty canyon is occupied by literally the two shittiest squads on the entire ring. And besides, I'm Sarge's second-in-command!" The soldier puffed out his chest a bit. "I've worked my way up to Private First Class!"

...And when Lone looked at him mildly, Simmons deflated somewhat and added in a mutter: "Which is literally two steps up from a basic recruit, I know." He slammed a fist into his palm. "But if I'm stuck in this army, then I'm gonna at least work my way up and get the hell out of this shit assignment. I was the top of my class!" He paused and wilted slightly. "Well, I was...fifth in my class. Okay, I was eleventh if you count all the stupid final tests, but everyone knows standardized exams are totally rigged and written to appear to the lowest common denominator, and I'm anything but that!"

"You're not wrong," Lone replied with a quiet chuckle, his tension finally starting to melt a bit upon seeing something other than the expected facade from one of the three soldiers. "You're a very unique guy from what I've seen. And you seem way too smart to be stuck as some grunt in a pointless war."

"I'm not gay," Simmons grumbled, crossing his arms and earning an eye roll from the wolf.

"No one's saying you are. Fuckin' hell, Hiko's lucky he got stuck with the one member of your team who clearly is gay," Lone retorted. Simmons looked at him warily and he sighed, rubbing at his forehead. "Not...not for that reason, goddammit. Because Donut's probably the only one who isn't gonna flinch away every time I accidentally look at one of you for more than half a second."

Simmons kept his arms locked together and scowled into the stream...but eventually loosened the embrace around himself and shifted uncomfortably. "Sorry. You miss your friends, don't you?"

"Technically only one of them is my friend, and Mahihko really likes to push the limits of what 'friend' entails," Lone muttered, even as he nodded. "Yeah. Uh. N-not that I mind traveling with you guys, just...normally all these crazy adventures I end up on, I've got the slippery little asshole running for his life right next to me." He glanced up at the distant curve of the ring-world on the dark horizon. "Also it's usually on our planet..."

Simmons stacked the bowls neatly and placed them inside the pot before scooting a hair closer to the wolf. "So uh. So where's the craziest place you guys ever went on...your planet?"

Lone half-smiled. "You sure you don't wanna rejoin the others? You don't have to keep me company if you don't want."

"Ugh, no, it's fine. Sarge is gonna be cleaning his shotgun for at least thirty minutes, and Grif's gonna take the smallest bites possible of his stew so he can avoid work as long as he can..." Simmons made a face and then shrugged, trying not to look at the wolf too expectantly. "You don't have to talk about it, either, I don't really care. Uh. Whatever."

Lone's smile became whole. "Heh. 'Course ya don't." He leaned back on his hands and gazed up at the stars with a grin. "Okay, so. Do you guys have, uh. Well, are pirates a thing here?"

"Yeah, we know what pirates are," Simmons replied suspiciously. "Unless that's a euphemism for something."

"I mean. It can be, but. In this case, regular ol' pirates." Lone laughed quietly as he closed his eyes. "Still remember the name of the boat we 'borrowed' was called the 'Long Wave Goodnight'. Anyway, we were headed to a small cluster of islands about four hours off the coast of a rather unfriendly tropical country. And before we could even get to the damn things, this group of three goddamn speed boats came up to us, guns blazing..."

The two chatted for nearly half an hour before Grif wandered around the corner of the jeep with his nearly-clean bowl in hand. "Oh, you nerds are still back here. Why the fuck did you leave me alone with Sarge for so long?" He eyed Lone suspiciously before peering at Simmons. "You weren't trying to fratulate with the alien, were you, Simmons? I know you're desperate, but it's a guy and not from this world."

Simmons rolled his eyes. "It's 'fraternize', jackass." He glanced at Lone with a shrug. "What'd I tell you?"

"To be fair, it wasn't the first thing he said," Lone replied easily, snickering and then gesturing at Grif for his bowl. "Give it here."

"Wow, now you're having secret meetings with the alien to talk about your own teammates -- that's cold, Simmons, that's just plain cold." Grif sighed dramatically and threw the bowl at the wolf. He then scratched at his muzzle a few times. "Shame I don't give enough of a fuck to tell Sarge. And speaking of which...he said to take your new best friend on a perimeter check while he takes his regulation dump."

"And let me guess, you get to stay here and guard camp," Simmons muttered, pushing himself up to his paws while Lone quickly rinsed out the bowl. "You're the lazy fuck who could use a little exercise."

"That's the problem with being Sarge's number-one nut-gargler, dude. He trusts you with the important shit, while my useless, lumpy orange hide can barely be trusted to watch the fire without letting any wild animals or squirrelies steal our food."

"Yeah, because your fat ass wouldn't be able to eat it, then," Simmons grumbled in response, snatching away the bowl when Lone offered it to him and quickly fanning it dry before tossing it into the supplies with the other cookware. "Ugh, whatever, fine. Which way did Sarge go, so we can at least avoid running into him while he's...busy."

Grif shrugged, already having turned around to slouch back to the fire and flop down next to it. "I dunno, somewhere...that way." He gestured vaguely into the darkness and then pulled his now-worn magazine out of some hidden inner pocket to bury his face into the pages.

Simmons sighed and pulled his rifle off his back, idly checking that it was loaded before glancing up at Lone. "Well. Come on, I guess. Do you know how to do a perimeter check?"

Lone tried not to smile. "I'm pretty sure I--"

"Oh, no wait," Simmons interrupted under his breath, tapping a claw against the body of his weapon. "You wouldn't know the regulations."

"Yeah,'s a perimeter check, so I'm--"

"Ugh, dammit -- I left my backup copy of the Handbook back at base, and I can't give you my pocket version, I need it...although I guess I could let you borrow it..." He looked thoughtfully at the wolf, who did his best to not look exasperated in return. "But then again, in case Sarge calls a random inspection, I'll be docked points if I don't have it,'ll just have to follow my lead."

Lone rubbed the back of his neck slowly. "Uh. Yeah, alright, Simmons." He drew his own compact pistol to examine it briefly, then gave a half-smile. "Would it be easier for you to call me 'Christie'? If um. That's regulation, I mean."

Simmons huffed, though seemed perhaps the slightest bit pleased at the attempt. ", I guess it's fine. That's um. You know. Kind of, uh."

"A girl's name?" Lone supplied with a chuckle. "Yeah, don't worry. I've heard them all."

"Just know, Grif, he's already...yeah. One less reason for him to make bad jokes," Simmons mumbled before leading the way around the front of the jeep and -- he hoped -- away from wherever Sarge had gone. "Okay, so. To start, a standard perimeter check should have three passes, beginning with one at around thirty meters from the center of camp," Simmons explained.

...It took a lot of self-control for Lone to not ask if it was truly necessary. He instead forced a polite nod, holstering his pistol despite the way Simmons kept his battle rifle readied. "Got it. Uh...out of curiosity, are there guidelines for what we're doing?"

"The perimeter check?" Simmons glanced over his shoulder in confusion. "Well, yeah, that's what I've been explaining, weren't you--"

"No no no, sorry," Lone interjected, looking quietly entertained. "I mean, uh. I mean this. Blue hunt."

"Oh." Simmons fell silent as they proceeded into the loose cluster of trees encircling the camp. His muzzle scrunched up as he considered the inquiry, avoiding Lone's curious gaze and clearing his throat. "Well. N-no, there aren't...guidelines specifically for this scenario." He frowned quietly, using his rifle to carefully push aside a branch and then holding it out of the way so Lone could step past. "We aren't really supposed to abandon our base...and if our commanding officer hadn't given the order, we'd probably be considered AWOL. But we did also leave one of our teammates back to guard the base."

Simmons's features grew more confident and he jogged past the wolf to once again take the lead. "Yeah, since the Blues did abandon their base...and since Sarge is leading the mission...yeah, I'm, uh. I'm pretty sure we're completely in line with regulation." He nodded a few times.

Lone tilted his head a bit before asking around a small smile: "Didn't you guys say the goal of this whole war was to claim the other side's base, though?"

Simmons exhaled loudly and fidgeted with the rifle. "I mean. It is, but first and foremost is defeating the enemy...yeah, yeah, that's it." He looked relieved, as if this somehow settled all the unspoken concerns. "We can't just let the Blues run away -- they might be calling for reinforcements or looking for some powerful weapon or something to use against us, so. We gotta catch them and stop them."

Lone smiled again, gazing around the quiet forest. Simmons's nervous chattering was quickly swallowed by the sounds of the local fauna calling into the night, and the wolf nearly let him leave things there. Nearly.

"Y'know...we didn't spend much time with them before crossing the canyon to your side, but. They weren't after reinforcements or some secret weapon. They all but admitted they were going AWOL. And like I said, we didn't spend much time with them, but their personalities weren't exactly too hard to guess at. I bet you know all three of them better than we do..." Lone looked pointedly at Simmons, making the soldier stumble and almost trip over a fallen log. "Can't imagine you really think they're out trying to find anything even remotely related to this goddamn war of yours..."

For a moment, the chupadore's face was riddled with guilt. He knew exactly what Lone meant. But in an instant -- and with a firm shake of his head -- Simmons replaced the look with a hardened expression, setting his jaw firmly and shoving past another branch that, this time, was left to swing viciously back toward the wolf. "Hey, don't try and...fuckin' put words in my mouth, huh? You're the alien here, you don't know anything about our world and how things work here. Now come on, we need to finish the first sweep so we can move on and get this taken care of."

Lone caught the wayward branch with one hand, not all that surprised by the reaction. "Yeah, alright. I'll follow your lead."

"Good," Simmons grunted, pushing forward and jerking his head for the wolf to follow.

They moved through the woods in silence for the next half hour or so, the lull in conversation punctuated only by a brief explanation here and there from Simmons on why, precisely, the second pass was done at fifty-five meters and not fifty...and the importance of following the chain of command in a war, regardless of your personal misgivings. The chupadore's words were pointed, to say the least, though Lone listened earnestly. He'd said what he wanted to say, and it was clear where Simmons's priorities laid.

When they returned to camp after faithfully completing all three circuits, the tension between them had somewhat faded, at least. Simmons eventually ended up asking about Lone's experience in combat, which spilled into another story from the wolf about his time behind enemy lines, albeit not as an official combatant. For all of Simmons's time in an actual army, Lone seemed to have even more tales of gunfights and heated battles. It certainly explained why the wolf was comfortable around firearms while lacking the appropriate respect for the chain of command.

"I guess it sounds like you were doing the right thing, but...just remember that here on Sirca, the rebels are criminals. And not just the put-you-in-jail type...they're more of the hang-you-until-you-stop-twitching type. You don't want to get mixed up with them."

Lone rubbed one of his ears slowly. "Uh. Yeah, of course." It sounded like plenty of the rebel groups he'd seen on his world, but it didn't feel like an argument worth having after the careful mending of his standing with the straight-laced chuapdore.

They marched back into the camp just in time to hear Sarge's voice bellowing: "Those were for the road, Private Grif!"

"Sir, you told me to keep the supplies safe," Grif drawled, waving a hand dismissively from his spot near the fire. "Those damn squirrelies won't be able to get the jerky bites if they're in my stomach."

"They will if I gut yer useless hide 'n fertilize the soil with the near-endless insides of yer gullet," Sarge grumbled.

"Gee, Sarge, that's almost a compliment, I'm touched," Grif replied mildly.

"Gonna be touched by a fistful'a buckshot in a minute," Sarge threatened, raising his shotgun before glancing over his shoulder when Simmons and Lone approached the fire. "Simmons! Alien space-dog! The competency of this camp just doubled!"

"Sir, zero times two is still zero," Simmons provided, ignoring the middle finger Grif tossed his way.

Sarge grinned. "Grade-A burn, soldier! Private Grif, you have permission to nurse that wound in yer bunk!"

Grif rolled his eyes. "We don't have bunks. We have fuckin' uncomfortable bedrolls because you wouldn't let me bring my bed."

"Hrrnnn, you keep mouthin' off, I'll give yer roll to the alien!!"

"Wait.." Lone blinked and lifted a hand awkwardly. "There isn't an extra, uh. Set of. Gear for me?"

"Uhhh..." Simmons trailed off, and Grif immediately hopped up his paws.

"Nope, nope, not me, not sharing, nope," he muttered, turning around to dig his pillow and bedroll out of the supply crates before stalking around the jeep to find a spot for himself.

Simmons sighed, while Sarge just shrugged and focused on the private. "Soldier, report on your patrol! Did ya run into anythin' worth shootin'?" Sarge paused long enough to squint in Lone's direction. "Any...suspicious Blue-like behavior?"

Simmons rubbed the back of his head and then grumbled: "I suppose not, sir, no." He hesitated before adding: "Everything was normal and, the. Alien was helpful, sir."

"Good," Sarge grunted while studying the wolf once again. "Go and get yer regulation shut-eye, Simmons. Yer up bright'n early to get Grif into the river for his regulation wake-up call!"

Simmons sighed again, but nodded dutifully. "Yes, sir. Of course, sir." The chupadore looked at Lone for a moment. "Ugh. I guess I can give the alien my pillow or something..."

Lone huffed quietly. "I have a goddamn name," he mumbled, before Sarge gripped firmly into his shoulder and made the wolf stare down at him in confusion.

"Naw, Simmons, you go on and git. Me'n the space dog gonna have some words before bedtime." Sarge looked up at Lone, meeting him squarely in his eyes. "Ain't that right?"

Lone leaned back slightly, his eyes widening. "Uhh. I...I guess?"

"Darn tootin'," Sarge replied briskly. He glanced at Simmons past Lone and grunted again, which apparently translated into something the soldier understood, since Simmons saluted hurriedly and then turned to grab his bundle from the jeep and meander off to wherever Grif had set up his bedroll.

It left Sarge alone with the wolf, his hand still clenched into Lone's arm. "Now, then. Have you a seat by the fire, son. We're on guard duty, an' we got some ground to cover."

As soon as Sarge removed his hand, the explorer rubbed awkwardly at his shoulder before slowly lowering himself onto a log and looking sheepishly at the sergeant. "Um. Okay. Did I, uh. Did I do something...wrong? Sir?"

Sarge observed Lone silently for what felt like a minute or two, his eyes glimmering in the flickering flames between them. He didn't even have his shotgun in hand -- it rested against the stump he'd pulled over to sit on, not that it didn't have its own threatening gleam in the light of the fire. Lone shifted quietly and eventually looked away. Sarge didn't scare him, but any authority he couldn't smooth-talk his way out of made him wary. Eventually, however, Sarge spoke.

"Ya ain't done nothin' wrong, son. And we had some laughs the last eight hours but I ain't about to call you one'a my own." Sarge leaned forward a bit, his eyes boring into Lone's. "I done told you already where our priorities sit. We're huntin' down these Blues, 'n we ain't here for no sightseein' or side-trips...which is why I'm still a hair squinty 'bout why you chose to come along on this ride."

Lone looked briefly confused. "Well...I mean, Mahihko and I are trying to find our way back home eventually, but we're here, now. So I guess I take back what I said earlier -- there are some selfish reasons for coming along, but we're also gonna help you guys out. It's." He shrugged lamely. "It's kind of what we do. It's rarely what we plan to do, but we do it when we can, all the same."

"You ain't gettin' paid like the Freelancers are. An' you might say yer helpin' us, but I can tell a Blue-hatin' Red from a Blue-neutral Rosé!" When Lone stared blankly, Sarge narrowed his eyes and growled: "A Red that ain't quite Red!"

"No, I get it, odd metaphor to use," Lone replied delicately. He met Sarge's glower as squarely as he could. "You're right. I don't just...hate the Blues on principle. I don't have a reason to. And maybe I don't understand how the hell a war is literally sanctioned and fought with these circumstances. It doesn't mean I can't still try and be helpful, and make the most of my time here."

Sarge grumbled quietly for a second. "Hrnnn. 'Least yer honest. More'n I can say fer most." He was silent as he grabbed a nearby branch from the ground and slowly stirred the fire. "Still counts fer somethin' with me, at least."

Lone leaned forward and pulled his pistol from its holster. He felt rather than saw the slight way Sarge stiffened up, but he didn't react to it as he quietly removed the clip and tucked the magazine under a thigh while studying the polished handgun in the firelight. "'re in this war of your own choice, I'm guessing?"

The chupadore narrowed his eyes slightly, the fire's glow dancing dangerously off his hardened features. "Best consider them next words carefully, son. The Sarge family don't suffer insults none too lightly."

Lone found himself smiling despite himself as he drew back the slide of his weapon to check down the barrel. "Y'know...I wouldn't be surprised if that really was your name." He glanced up at the soldier. "Nah, wouldn't dream of it. Was just wondering, since I'm also imagining the rest of your team didn't volunteer."

Sarge grunted. "Damn right I'm here by my own hands -- a Sarge considers it a gatdamn honor to enlist! I was at the recruitin' station soon as this glorious Holy War kicked off in my homelands. Had my armor on before I even got assigned to basic trainin'!" He thumped a fist firmly against his breastplate. "Red Army's my life, son. But guess you got a point." He frowned at the jeep for a moment before turning his gaze back to Lone. "Them boys weren't racin' to serve. Grif's a useless dent in my gatdamn roster and Simmons knows how to take an order 'n make the most somethin' outta nothin'...but ain't hard to see he's not in it toes-to-teeth."

" this 'Blue hunt' really under regulation?" Lone inquired while easing the slide of his pistol back into place. "I'm not questioning you, just. I appreciate honesty, too."

The implication of Lone's statement coaxed a small growl from Sarge. But a few seconds passed, and the chupadore settled into a grumble as he pulled his impromptu poker from the embers. "Red Army's job is the murderate the Blues," he replied with a scowl. "The Blues in our canyon ran away like the goldurn cowards they it's our duty to track 'em down 'n make 'em hang!"

Lone was pretty sure Sarge knew he was dodging the question, and he was surprised when the soldier continued a moment later.

"I know what yer thinkin'. Why even bother bringin' these two along. Or why not just Simmons. Hrmph. Them two boys make a team, even if it ain't a good one. An' Grif might be the worst Red to ever set foot into this here war, but he's still a Red, an' he's still one'a mine." Sarge leaned back on the stump and crossed his arms. "A soldier ain't nothin' by himself. So we do this as a team." He eyed Lone again. "I'm steppin' outta line to consider you a member'a this team, so don't you do nothin' to endanger me or my men. Ain't gonna be no court-martial for you, son."

"Don't worry, I get it," Lone replied, raising his hands and shaking his head. "Just because I don't agree with the reason for this war doesn't mean I don't have your guys' backs."

"Hrrnn, we'll see..." Sarge squinted at the wolf's compact pistol and jabbed a claw toward it. "You ain't gonna do more'n scratch someone's back with a peashooter like that, though! That little thing looks like what we give a baby Sarge on their first birthday!"

Lone smiled slightly. "Hey, it gets the job done. If your bow can shoot the wings from a dragon, you don't need your cannon."

Sarge snorted. "Sure, but then you still gotta land-dragon chasin' you down! And now it's angry 'cause you shot off its wings! You gonna philosophize a leg or two off, too?!?"

The wolf blinked before laughing and shaking his head with amusement. "Can't deny that logic, Sarge."

"Hrrrrnn, all you brain-thinkin' folks're the same," Sarge replied dismissively. "Sometimes, ya just need a big ol' gun to take care'a yer problems, 'n that's the truth. Great-Uncle Sarge had that tattooed across his chest. ' had to wrap around to the back, but ain't no one poked no fun at it more'n once, that's for sure!"

Lone smiled again and started to take his pistol apart to inspect it. "Sounds like you've got quite a lively family, sir. I'd love to hear more about them."

Sarge raised an eyebrow, but when the wolf's expression remained genuine, the chupadore grunted in approval and propped one leg atop the other. "Alright, then -- to tell this tale right, we gotta go back...waaaay back to my Quintuple-Great-Granny Sarge...who, by the way, built the homestead still that we still use to this day! Legend has it that she pulled fourteen Blue spines right outta their backs with her bare hands...even more impressive, since we all know them Blues are spineless as a damn jamfish! Heh heh, lemme tell you 'bout the story of how she used to weave the teeth of her enemies into her needlepoint..."

Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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