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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 9: I Get Around

"H-holy…sh-sh-shit, how're y'even…still…fuuuuh--"

Samael grinned cheerfully as he swayed slightly on the spot, but otherwise looked mostly coherent compared to the two privates. Ronson had his muzzle on the table across from him, staring in disbelief at the specialist, while Jacobs had already passed out with his head in Samael's lap. Samael leaned forward slightly while idly rubbing a hand along the unconscious soldier's muscular arm. "I toldja! We don't fuck around when it comes to drinkin' in Sampi!"

He didn't bother to explain that he'd probably only downed about a quarter of the booze they'd guzzled...not that Ronson would care at this point, plastered as he was. Regardless of how well Samael could hold his liquor, the poor Red Army soldiers were doomed from the start. The rebel had 'won' plenty of drinking games in the past, and against far more experienced opponents. Distraction, physical contact and sleight of hand all went together when it came to this kinda shit…and Samael was well-versed in each.

"Y-yeah, well, yer…dumb," Ronson mumbled lamely before failing to stifle a massive yawn. "'N yer over there all…rubbin' on Jacobs…y'like guys, dontcha?"

"Yessir, I do," Samael replied with a half-smile. Ronson merely nodded a few times in his stupor, as if he'd always known this about 'Holmes'. "Why, you gonna turn me in, buddy? Or you jus' lookin' for a kiss?"

Ronson snorted disdainfully while shaking his head back and forth across the table, sending empty glasses clattering away. "Nuh uh! Ain't no snitch! Bu' maybe a li'l kiss sounds real nice," he slurred before giggling and then draping a huge arm over his eyes as Samael gave a slow, amused shake of his head.

Damn. Got these boys too drunk. Now I ain't gonna get me no overeager dick tonight… He snickered quietly but shrugged easily to himself. Their next shift was probably going to come faster than either of them wanted…and as much as he would have loved to find out just how curious these two friends really were…he didn’t really want them to suffer their sergeant's wrath if they were dragging ass due to recovering from not just a hangover, but also an hour or two spent experiencing way too many new bedroom adventures with their visiting bunkmate.

He glanced down at Jacobs, who had begun to snore in his lap, and then peered across the table to confirm that…yes. Ronson was unconscious as well. Guess that means I win. Samael half-smiled and then carefully wiggled free from the soldier's heavy head. He reached over a shoulder to snag a pillow off the nearest cot to smoothly tuck it beneath Jacobs's cheek -- he was a manipulative bastard, but he wasn't a monster. Plus he had a soft spot for these two, even if his natural predilection for getting close to the grunts enlisted in the bases that he was sent to sabotage always earned him a glower from the Movement leadership.

Samael arched his back slowly and then glanced at his chest-plate, leaning against the bunk he'd been given. He hated wearing the damn thing, but…he'd already pushed the envelope enough considering the two uptight commanders of this particular base. He slid his toned arms through and pulled it over his head before securing it with a huff. His muzzle was screwed up into a grimace as he slipped out of the bunkroom and turned to almost collide with another soldier.

The rebel hopped back automatically, immediately gliding back into character as a cheerful smile snaked across his maw. But the blood-red chupadore that glowered down at him did not share his effervescent expression, and Samael then noticed the stripes on the larger male's shoulder plate. "Oh, Sergeant Marsden, I presume?" he quickly offered, gathering himself and drawing his hand up for a brief salute.

The ranking soldier barely changed his face as he stared at the newcomer mutely for a few seconds. His eyes seemed focused on the not-quite-perfect salute before they slowly shifted down to Samael's pink-tipped tail. The sergeant's muzzle twisted into a disapproving frown and he then at last spoke. "Where is the rest of your armor, soldier?!?"

Samael blinked and then cleared his throat. "My apologies, sir. I'm Specialist Holmes from the Red Command transfer; the last base I was stationed didn't have the same professional requirements as your fine locale and I was shipped out without my arm pieces."

Marsden snorted. "Well that isn't a surprise. So many lazy base commanders out there now, it's a disgrace! I don't recall requesting a specialist -- in fact, I'm positive I sent out for a private to replace Trellen. His mistake put our roster one below regulation size." He made a face. "That goddamned corporal must have been slacking when he sent my requisition. I'll speak to him after my patrol."

The sergeant straightened his back and then focused his glare on Samael's tail again. "I don't even want to know what…unconventional situation led to...that. I expect you will have it back to natural hue by next sunrise, Specialist." Samael barely withheld his eye-roll, offering instead another, sharper salute before glancing past the sergeant as a soldier approached from behind the NCO.

"Yessir, Sergeant, sir," 'Holmes' drawled with a practiced, obedient nod.

Marsden grunted his approval before looking over his shoulder at the nervous-looking private, who paused the moment his commander's eyes locked onto him. "Sir!"

The sergeant was silent for a moment, slowly drawing his sharp gaze over the private before wrinkling his muzzle almost delicately. "Soldier! Where is your sidearm!"

Behind him, Samael's eyebrow slowly raised. This guy was something else...

The soldier twitched backward before hurriedly plastering a salute to his brow while choking out a too-loud: "Sir!! I'm on the way to retrieve it from the quartermaster, it was in for the weekly tune-up!"

Holy fuck, no wonder these fellas are all on edge... Samael was genuinely shocked -- he'd come across a few base commanders that certainly took it upon themselves to run their troops as if Omega himself were watching...but this. Who had their troops tune up pistols every week?

He had to strain to keep the calm demeanor in place while Marsden laid into the poor kid, flinging a mix of 'how dare you' and 'what if the Blues showed up and your rifle jammed' with such ferocity that the soldier was all but cowering against the base wall by the time the rant ended. His eyes shot briefly past the imposing figure of his sergeant to the nearly-compassionate frown on Samael's features, and the impostor grimaced. This wasn't the moment.

"S-s-sorry, sir!" the private finally stammered. He didn't seem to know what to say...then again, what could he say? He'd have his backup pistol next time?? " won't happen again!" he managed.

"See it does not," Marsden growled before flashing a dismissive salute and once again turning his attention to 'Holmes' while the terrified soldier sprinted past them. "And you, Specialist -- don't put any of your goddamned strange ideas into my men's heads. This is a well-oiled machine I run here...I don't need any misshapen cogs screwing it up!"

Samael had little choice but to prepare another salute, knowing that any vocal response he gave would inevitably be tinged with a sharpness he'd be hard-pressed to conceal. The sergeant seemed satisfied enough as he returned it and then waited expectantly for Samael to step aside so he could continue his glowering patrol of the base.

The rebel kept his hand to his brow as his eyes tracked Marsden lumbering past him. He was an unexpected challenge. Not his first and likely not his last, he was sure...but either way, a light step was in order if he hoped to avoid having his masquerade thrown off sooner than planned.

Samael was careful to avoid Sergeant Marsden as he ambled through the corridors and eventually made his way outside. Night had fallen over the base, though the patrols and sentries remained ever-vigilant. Marsden had apparently secured a bit of additional budgetary permissions, considering the non-standard security lights that had been fixed to the outside of the concrete structure. His gleaming eyes shifted to the reinforced silo containing the cache of ammunition -- the same additional lighting was installed around it, and Samael spotted one more soldier than he'd seen earlier atop the structure.

He supposed it wasn't a great surprise -- even a sergeant who wasn't as overbearing as Marsden would suspect a greater chance of attack by Blue forces at night. But still.

Samael snorted to himself as he made his way over to the ammunition storage. The private guarding the door was not quite as physically imposing as Ronson and Jacobs, but the expression on his features was familiar. The red-and-black soldier frowned briefly as Samael approached, before quickly saluting when one of the spotlights glanced off the insignia on Samael's armor.

Samael sighed internally, but returned the gesture before motioning for the private to relax...not that it did much. "At ease, soldier, just takin' a look around, see how things work at night. I'm --"

"Specialist Holmes, sir!" the private barked, visibly struggling to maintain the professional salute even as his eyes drew over the not-quite-regulation look of the amused newcomer. "We were told at the briefing you were sent to replace Private Trellan."

"Ahyep, guess I shouldn't be surprised," 'Holmes' replied with a tiny smile...even if he was yet again just a bit taken aback at how truly bureaucratic this base was. "But you're right. Bunkin' up with Jacobs 'n Ronson...those two are, uh...catchin' a snooze, but I figured I'd take a stroll, see how night goes at this location." He nodded once, and after a few seconds of standing in a relaxed pose, the private finally let his salute hesitantly lower, although his arms and legs remained stiff. "There ya go! I ain't no one important 'nuff for all that nonsense. So what's your name, friend?"

"Private Cory Baskins, sir!"

Samael chuckled quietly, tilting his head slightly in amusement...although the soldier across from him didn't respond to the cue to loosen his attentive pose any more. "Got it," he replied softly while nodding toward the keypad. "So any chance I c'n take a look in there tonight? Guessin' they sent me along 'cause they wanted a little extra protection for the depot...must be some recent Blue movement or summin', eh?"

No mention of his security clearance -- faked or otherwise -- and no name-dropping. Samael was curious.

Private Baskins shifted uncomfortably, his eyes flicking once more to the specialist logo before he focused them hesitantly on Samael's amused features. "Sorry, sir! I am unable to allow you access without the proper authorization, or the sergeant's vocal permission. This facility is under security lock-down for the integrity of the war!"

Samael continued to smile serenely even as he noted the specific mention of Marsden's permission -- for as on-point as the private's behavior was, the picture being painted in the rebel's mind was that the overall painfully strict atmosphere of this base was fully a result of the sergeant's...particular beliefs. The brief run-in with Marsden was illuminating, and the reactions of the various soldiers he'd chatted with all pointed to a kowtowing to the CO's whims. Sure, military life was just that, after all...conforming to the straight-laced standards of the army was a part of the experience. But the way so many of the privates had seemed nervous to even think outside of Marsden's directives...the vicious bureaucracy of this base was oppressive.

And of course...the word 'bureaucracy' brought up the thought of the base's corporal. Barnes...the weary lackey for the roaring sergeant. Regardless of whatever personal beliefs Barnes might have had, he must have been working tirelessly to push Marsden's agenda so effectively. Marsden himself was a tornado of fiery military righteousness, but he was just that: a fierce but singular point of damage. It took a skilled hand to implement the rigorous framework that existed in Marsden's head, even just at an individual Red Army base.

Samael shook his head briefly, both clearing his thoughts as well as excusing Private Baskins, who'd begun to pale slightly at the delay in the ranking soldier's reaction. "No worries, Baskins! I said it before to Ronson, I'll say it to you, too -- y'all are doin' an outstanding job, ain't no reason to apologize for doin' what you're ordered." He smiled once again, letting the implication of his words hang in the air before he tossed the nervous private a salute and then turned to stroll back toward the base with his hands behind his back.

Getting access to the depot wouldn't be easy. He'd either need to plan a distraction, rely on his false clearance -- and hope it held up the inevitable verification -- or risk the punishment of a new friend. He wasn't fond of the last idea, but he could already hear Nelson's voice in his head: That's the reason you foster these relationships, Wurlitz! You want to get close to everyone, so use it to your advantage! The mission comes first!

He scowled a bit with a self-conscious shrug of his shoulders, wandering back into the main building and then letting his legs carry him toward the garage area. He hated how often his own desires clashed with the Movement's goals, even if they were aligned in spirit. He hated how his superior was also his friend, and yet was someone he still bashed heads with over ideological differences. And he especially dreaded moments like these, when he thought back to Tracer, and wondered what the old bastard would have said to him now. Tracer was passionate, too. But he was also ruthless. And he believed in the Movement more than most. And yet...their brief time together was punctuated by regular reminders to the young, fiery Sampi rookie that Samael's personality, his odd way of connecting to people and making deep bonds within such short periods of time...that those were invaluable assets.

Samael sighed and found himself in the vehicle bay a few moments later, glancing at the mechanic elbow-deep in machine grease next to one of the two jeeps. He didn't know to this day if Tracer said all that shit because he wanted Samael to apply himself to the resistance in his own, weird fashion...or because he simply saw the scrawny recruit as a perfect asset to perpetuate the fight against the war. And he wasn't gonna get an answer any time soon.

The mechanic didn't notice the specialist for a moment or two, giving Samael the opportunity to examine the base's vehicles, which he assumed were both permanent fixtures. The two armored jeeps looked standard enough -- one had the regulation minigun mounted on the back, and the other appeared to have a four-barreled rocket launcher. A little heavier-duty than what he'd expect for a base in this location...but again...the ammunition depot.

He rubbed a claw at his muzzle thoughtfully before blinking and smiling disarmingly when he felt the mechanic's eyes on him. For once, he wasn't immediately thrown a salute...until the violet-shaded soldier squinted and noticed Samael's shoulder. And then, there it was.

"Sir. My 'pologies, haven't seen ya 'round here," the solder grunted in a pleasant, almost-drawling baritone. To his credit, he did lower his salute as soon as Samael dropped his own. "Must be the new Specialist. Private First Class Bradford, Engineering Division. Somethin' I can help ya with, sir?"

Samael grinned slightly and strolled forward, tapping a claw gently along the workbench. "That's right! Specialist Holmes, Heartbreakin' Division." When the mechanic fixed him with an odd, less-than-amused expression, the impostor chuckled dismissively. "Sorry, bad joke amongst us long-ranger shooters," he explained with a wink. "So you're workin' late, hon. Special orders from the corporal?"

Bradford frowned, though he didn't sling the unimpressed retort he might have had in mind -- whatever his opinion of Samael, that slightly-higher-rank still carried enough weight at this base that even a brash mechanic wasn't willing to cross the line. ", sir," he replied plainly. "It's just my shift for the next ten hours, is all." His tone became a bit more terse. "Did you need somethin' in particular?"

'Holmes' continued to smile, even as he shifted his stature a bit and put his hands on his hips. "Sorry, Bradford -- the guy workin' on the hogs at my last station was a real pain...only way I ever got him to fix somethin' worth a damn was playin' up to his vanity. That's my bad for automatically pullin' the same shit with you." He smiled and gestured at the vehicle Bradford was tinkering with. "Looks like you still gotta candle to burn on this job -- I'm honestly just lookin' to get a better idea of how things run 'round here, and my tour guides are catchin' a snooze." He gave a warmer, congenial smile and held out a hand. "Ain't tryna get in your way, but...what would ya say to a bit'a conversation over a coupla beers?"

Even with his ingrained behavior under this base's style of command...the mechanic couldn't help widening his eyes and giving a grin. "Hell yeah!" He immediately cleared his throat, rubbing at his jaw sheepishly with a grease-covered hand and smudging his purple fur. "Uh...I mean, sir. If you're sure that's alright."

"Far as I'm concerned, you're just helpin' acclimate the fresh arrival to be able to better serve his new base," Samael drawled, grinning back slightly as he fired a finger-gun at the now-upbeat soldier. "Back inna jiff." He tossed a lazy wave, then strolled quickly out of the garage to head back to his quarters. He was pretty sure the likely-still-unconscious privates he'd fake-drank under the table wouldn't mind him borrowing some of their untouched ale...

Samael returned within ten minutes, having dumped the contents of his smaller pack onto his bed to replace them with a few bottles of the cheap beer. He strode into the vehicle bay with a cheerful grin, tilting his head slightly as the mechanic glanced up and seemed honestly surprised that the specialist had returned, and so swiftly. "You're,'re back, sir."

"Holmes, Holmes, you c'n just call me Holmes as long as the brass ain't around!" Samael insisted while shoving a hand into the satchel. He tossed a bottle toward Bradford, who widened his eyes momentarily even as a hand shot up to snag it safely from the air. "I only got my stripe 'cause'a all the additional security clearance that comes with the gig...ain't lookin' to have no one kissin' my feet, got it?"

The mechanic looked wary, but nodded slowly as he pried the cap from his bottle with a practiced flick of a claw. "Well...if you're sure." He lifted the glass container in a brief salute, then guzzled down nearly a third of the contents before setting it on the floorboard of the jeep and continuing to tighten the bolts on the plating he was affixing to the frame. "So...what brought ya out here, Holmes? They said you were just replacin' Trellen...but he wasn't no specialist."

Samael chortled as he plucked out another beer and worked it open with a smooth pop against the edge of the workbench. He caught the cap in midair -- which earned an more impressed glance -- before returning the small gesture by raising his bottle. "Well, I get shipped 'round by Command wherever they tell me." He recalled what Barnes had said about the Red foothold, smiling slightly. "Know that we got the area locked down pretty tight, but must be some reports'a Blue activities, maybe...and with the ammo depot y'all got here, guessin' they wanted to throw someone down here who's dealt with uh...resistance." He placed the rim of the bottle against his lips and tilted it back, but only allowed a trickle of the bitter swill to run down his throat.

Bradford grunted, examining the newcomer for a moment as he moved down the body of the jeep and ran a hand along the armor, searching for any imperfections, perhaps. "I see. So you get around, then, eh? They tellin' us the truth that Red flags gonna cover most of Sirca by year's end?"

A small smile twitched at the impostor's muzzle. The mechanic was certainly a bit sharper than many of the younger recruits. And Samael wasn't entirely sure if the guy was sussing him out, or just genuinely independent enough to poke at the veil thrown over them by the nebulous Red Command. No matter the case, Samael found Bradford an interesting change of pace. The question was how he'd play this game.

"Eh..." 'Holmes' feigned hesitation, masked as a thoughtful pause. He immediately noticed the way Bradford focused on him, once more seeming to size him up. He tried not to let his smile grow. "Well...'tween you'n me, Bradford...nah, it ain't all that rosy. It's a bit more evenly-matched out there than they wanna let loose." The specialist then blinked and looked at his bottle of beer with a practiced expression of self-admonishment. "Shit, ain't s'posed to go off spoutin' things like that, sorry, friend."

Bradford glanced past the nervous-looking chupadore to the open door, then grunted and swept up his beer to chug from it again while shaking his head briefly. "No worries, Holmes. Ain't in the habit of doin' much snitching." He held the bottle against his maw for a moment before adding: "Appreciate the honesty, though. I figured those reports were a bit too damn sunny." The last of his alcohol was downed, and faster than he could even set it down, a second bottle was arced smoothly toward him.

The grease monkey grinned and caught it without hesitation, inclining his head in what Samael assumed was a greater sign of respect than any salute the gruff soldier would ever offer up. Samael let his falsely-worried features slip back into a comfortable smile as he gave himself a mental fist bump. "Yeah, you know how it is," the specialist drawled with a chuckle. "But hey, that's war, ain't it?"

Bradford grunted his agreement. He'd already started on his next beer while using his free hand to wheel a floor jack beneath the axle, idly pumping the long lever to elevate the front of the armored vehicle. "Yeah," he grunted. "So..." This time the hesitation was on Bradford's end. "You aren't just here to..."

Samael sniffed out the unspoken message with a slight grin. "Provide clandestine reports on y'all's little slice of heaven? Sorry, friend, no such luck. But if you wanna talk candid about anythin', I can always pass along anonymous thoughts. They ain't mean shit, most likely, but if ya wanna say it, you can say it 'round me."

The mechanic snorted amusedly and gave an idle shrug. "Shit, I don't gotta say much. Can't imagine you've been able to avoid the pleasure of seein' how things get run around here. And ain't my place to talk shit, like I said."

"Fair enough," Samael replied airily, pretending to guzzle down more of his beer before setting the bottle down on the work bench and removing the fourth glass container from his pack to set it rather purposefully on the toolbox near the mechanic. "I can't do much 'bout that, they don't exactly mind hearin' reports that shit's bein' run too strict, ya get my drift. But still...I feel ya." He approached the back of the armored vehicle and slapped the tailgate lightly. "So on that note...which of your two big dogs I gotta talk to if I wanted an okay to run a quick recon in one of these?"

Bradford was already halfway through removing one of the oversized front tires when he leaned to the side to give 'Holmes' a querulous look. "Ya serious? A non-scheduled hog run? Shit, good luck with that. It'd be below the good sergeant's plate,'d hafta have a word with the walkin' clipboard."

Samael couldn't help laughing -- it was an apt description of the haggard corporal. "Mr. Bureaucrat, eh? He's a bucket'a personality, ain't he? Well, I already made a shit impression with 'im when he yelled at me 'fore he learned we shared the same number'a stripes, that was an awkward interaction. That is, for him, at least...I got a kick outta it, myself."

Bradford seemed to enjoy the imagery as he grinned despite himself. "I bet that was a sight. two are the same pay grade, but you ain't technically an officer, right?"

"Nah, and I'm sure he knows it," Samael responded, shrugging just as easily. "But a rank is a rank to a rulebook junkie, ain't it?" He stretched his arms above his head with a nod before rapping his knuckles against the jeep's spare tire. "I appreciate the chat, Bradford. That last beer's all yours, I'm gonna go see what the corporal has to say about lettin' me take one of your fine machines out for a jaunt."

"Heh, good luck with that," the mechanic guffawed before tapping his brow in an informal salute. "And I appreciate it, sir. Sorry for the rough introduction, it's a pleasant surprise to get someone down here from Command that's got more'n a jar of Red Army fruit punch between his shoulders."

Samael smiled at the implication, offering his own lazy salute as he slung the empty bag over his shoulder and sauntered back out of the garage. "Take it easy, Bradford. I'm sure I'll see ya again soon one way or another."

The rebel nodded to another pair of privates he passed -- they saluted him briskly almost as one, but by now Samael was getting used to the blinding rigidity of the base's occupants. He made his way toward the officers' rooms, figuring that all roads led to Barnes at this point. Perhaps the sheer stress of the poor guy's job would give the rebel an opportunity to smooth-talk him into giving permissions purely out of a need to get the annoying new specialist out of his carefully curated schedules and checklists.

He paused at the door, glancing over at the sergeant's quarters thoughtfully. If he had to guess, Marsden was likely still prowling the base. Something told him that as much as the sergeant probably relied on his corporal to maintain the restrictive environment he so craved...the guy still had a need to check everything himself.

It wouldn't be the worst opportunity to see if he could maybe coax open the notoriously glitchy electronic lock. For all the additional security measures Marsden had managed to squeeze out of the meager budgets from Command...he hadn't done anything to improve the internal mechanisms protecting the private quarters. It would only take him a few minutes to...

His eyes flicked to the side as he noted a soldier in his periphery. Ah. He who hesitates is lost. Maybe next time. He straightened his back and instead rapped his knuckles against the corporal's door. It didn't help that the two had adjoining rooms...made prowling a bit more difficult.

A moment passed before the door slid open, revealing Barnes's weary features as he held a bowl of salad in one hand. "Specialist Holmes. Can this wait? I was about to eat, and I don't have the time to go to the mess."

Samael realized that Barnes was essentially telling him he wasn't interested in And he imagined the corporal probably was not the most popular guy on base to hang out with, either. But Samael was already here, so...

He smiled disarmingly and patted his armor-covered torso. "No worries, I already had a bite to eat," he lied, offering a small nod. "Was actually just hopin' to have a quick chat about today and ask a couple questions - don't bother me none if you wanna eat while we talk!!"

Barnes looked visibly agitated, shifting a bit on the spot as he glanced down at his salad. He was not used to anyone presenting the sort of intentional disruption that the newcomer executed so effortlessly. Finally, he sighed and relented, apparently unwilling to expend the energy necessary to argue. "Very well, Specialist. Please, come on in."

He stepped aside, gesturing idly to a metal chair on the other side of the small room. It was a similar layout to every other semi-private bunkroom Samael had seen - like most NCOs, Barnes had opted to shove a desk against the wall, sacrificing some of the scant living space to give him a somewhat quiet place to work as needed.

'Holmes' offered another grateful smile as he strode in and flicked his tail away from the door sliding shut behind him. He wasn't expecting much in the way of personal seemed neither to fit the standards of Marsden's operations, nor did he imagine Barnes to be much beyond spartan in his tastes. But all the same...goddamn...

Barnes's bed was made neatly in the corner and it was buttressed with a nightstand that had only an alarm clock on it. The concrete walls were bare -- not even a Red Army flag to distract from the oppressive grey tones. Barnes's dresser was devoid of any decorations, although a single book rested on the corner. Samael peered at it for a moment, wondering why the hardback was covered with plain brown paper -- then again, if Barnes was anything but obsessive-compulsive, Samael wouldn't know what else to call it.

Before he could be accused of intruding, Samael quickly flopped down in the chair and beamed over at the wary corporal, who slowly sat down at his desk a moment later. There was an awkward silence before Barnes sighed and then turned around to face his fellow soldier with his salad held against his chest. "Specialist Holmes. What can I help you with?" he asked tiredly, his sullen eyes flicking momentarily to his bowl before they settled back on the unnaturally chipper Samael across from him

"Seriously, you c'n go ahead and eat," Samael insisted, gesturing to the greens and relaxing a bit in the uncomfortable metal chair. "And...I know, I get it, y'all got...very strict rules n' shit here, but honestly, behind closed doors...I ain't gonna tell no one if you wanna call me just 'Holmes'. Or hell, even 'Thomas' or...Omega help us, 'Tom'!" He gave a winning smile, but Barnes only stared at him hollowly.

Samael almost shifted awkwardly from the intensity of the corporal's unsettling dourness. But as he began to prepare a lame follow-up, Barnes slowly reached for his fork and stabbed it into the mixed lettuce and spinach, sighing and repeating this a few times until he could shove a decent amount into his jaws. Samael blinked but smiled a bit all the same. He kept his own muzzle shut as Barnes chewed for a few seconds, tilting his head very slightly to watch the way Barnes finally appeared to allow himself to untense, even if by a sliver.

The specialist chuckled quietly. "Barnes…" The corporal raised an eyebrow, though didn't seem intent enough to interrupt mid-chew to correct his compatriot. "Hey...I'm sayin' this from a place of honest concern, believe it or not. But...y'look like shit, my friend."

Barnes sighed again, setting his fork inside the bowl and leaning back in his chair while rubbing slowly at the bridge of his muzzle. "Specialist Holmes...your observation is noted. But it isn't your job to worry about me, or anyone else at this base. You have your orders. I expect you to follow them and to mind your behavior at this base. We have a very satisfactory record and the men here are all expected to adhere to the strictest of regulations." Barnes moved his fingers away from his eyes so he could focus his exhausted gaze on the newcomer again. "I know your type, Specialist. We've had them before. Mavericks, guys like you who just...revel in breaking the rules and making a fool out of us. Out of me, because you see me as nothing more than a weak-kneed paper-pusher with no independent thoughts of my own."

Samael leaned back in genuine surprise, blinking a few times. But Barnes steamrollered on before he could speak. "The same thing always happens. You act so great and roguish up there on your high horse, proving you don't have to fit in...and then either you are punished so many times you learn to fall in line, or you get transferred somewhere else." The corporal's weary eyes showed a moment of life as they burned briefly with a kind of simmering anger "And guess who deals with it from both sides? Guess who is tasked with administering punishments, or giving out the worst jobs? Guess who is blamed and given responsibility every time someone tries to prove they don't have to follow the rules?"

Barnes showed a hint of frustration, what might have been actual fury bubbling to the surface for a precious moment. Samael couldn't help but lean forward slightly in fascination. "Look," Barnes muttered, closing his eyes briefly and then opening them to stare down at his salad. "I can't technically do anything to you myself, you're a specialist. So go ahead, get all your bullshit out now, say what you wanna say so I can return to my job. And understand that I will not hesitate to talk to Sergeant Marsden if I feel your behavior is going to have a negative effect on the soldiers here."

The rebel glanced downward for a few seconds before gazing at the worn-down corporal. He hadn't expected to face such a bluntly honest reaction from Barnes...the bureaucrat, as he kept thinking of him. Yet he'd just shown Samael that there was a personality behind the flat-faced front he presented. His desire to fish for permission to borrow a jeep was quickly fading as he realized there was a far more intriguing situation right here in front of him. What truly fascinated him was learning Barnes wasn't the blind, obedient administrator that he took him to be. And it was rare for Samael to misread someone this way...especially someone he planned to use to advance his own agenda.

Samael exhaled softly and then leaned back again, crossing one leg over the other as he eyed Barnes. The corporal was watching him expectantly, another forkful of greens patiently waiting on the edge of his bowl. And the impostor finally half-smiled and tapped a claw thoughtfully against his chest armor. "You...surprise me, Barnes. And you really do look tired. I meant it when I said ya looked like shit...but I also admit I had some asshole intentions at first, I was gonna annoy ya into lettin' me take one of the hogs on an unplanned patrol, take a look at your perimeter 'n get an idea of the land 'round here."

Barnes scowled at him. He slowly lifted the next bite of salad to his muzzle, and was not quite able to hide the fact he was surprised at the specialist's candor. Samael continued gently: "I get it. An' I ain't tryin' to get under your skin for you doin' your job. I gotta do what Marsden says, it's your job to keep the base runnin' smooth." The corporal shifted a bit, almost uncomfortably. "But I am not lookin' to get you in trouble. You wanna relax a li'l bit behind closed doors, you go ahead. You wanna talk to me 'bout anythin' away."

Barnes waited until he'd swallowed the next mouthful before he shifted his eyes down. "Specialist...perhaps due to the nature of your position and...whatever unit you're based out of, you may not be aware that the rules are not always optional. And the chain of command is always absolute. If I stop using your title, then I am complacent. And if I'm complacent, the soldiers here - who already have zero respect for me - will become complacent. And again...who do you think will face that shitstorm, Specialist Holmes?"

"You would," Samael provided softly, leaning forward once more and meeting the corporal's tired eyes. "I'm not askin' you to go out there and start callin' the guys 'buddy' and 'pal'. I ain't even askin' you go start callin' me 'Holmes' like I'm lettin' the men call me." He gave an almost sad smile. "I'm...askin' you when the hell was the last time someone called ya 'William'?"

Barnes stared mutely for a few seconds, fork halfway to his muzzle. Samael's question seemed to shake him somewhat, and the rebel fell silent as he watched the corporal's eyes bore into his chest wordlessly. And then Barnes turned his head to the side and bit his lip before murmuring in a barely-audible voice: "I prefer 'Will'."

Samael's smile was genuine as it lit up his features. He propped one arm on his thigh and gazed at Barnes -- no, at Will. "I prefer that too," he replied softly before bowing his head a bit. "And you can call me 'Samael'. Or 'Sammy', if ya like." When the corporal gave him a quizzical look, the impostor chuckled. "Middle name! Old family tradition..."

Will shifted again and then slowly worked his way through another bite of salad. He looked past the other male for a few moments before finally moving his eyes back to the specialist. "'Samael' is okay. You're lucky. That's a beautiful name." Will stared back down at his bowl, his features growing flustered. "I'm sorry, Specialist. You should leave. I have work to take care of for the sergeant. And I've already stepped out of line." The corporal gripped into his fork as a tiny tremble ran through his arm. "I understand if you refuse my request, but I'm asking for you to please not speak about my behavior to anyone else."

He continued to stare down as a numbing silence blanketed the room. A flush was rising to his cheeks and he refused to look back up at Samael...that was, until he heard the definitive click of an armor strap.

Will snapped his head up in time to see Samael set his chest-plate aside and take a step toward him. He opened his muzzle in shocked protest, but the specialist reached out...not to close his jaws, but instead to gently take the fork and bowl from his hands. Samael's muzzle quirked into a tiny but honest smile. "Now you hush a sec, Will," he ordered softly before nodding past the flabbergasted corporal. "Already seen on your duty board you got the next two hours off."

Will's eyes widened as Samael reached past him to place the bowl and utensil on his desk, staring up wordlessly at the bottom of the other chupadore's muzzle before he lowered his eyes to gaze numbly at the patch of white on the specialist's throat. Samael's voice drawled tenderly from above him: "An' with your permission, Corporal...I'd like to ensure you adhere to your schedule..."

Will was shivering, no doubt from a strong sense of fear at the thought of having his predilections reported...but also likely just a hair overtaken by the audacity of the fearless soldier slipping into his lap. As Samael rested his weight gently over his thighs, he was once more able to meet the specialist's eyes, his own dancing with visible apprehension. He felt one of Samael's hands gripping lightly into his shoulder and Will's breath hitched in his throat as they locked gazes for a second or two longer. And at last...the corporal swallowed and whispered: "Okay."

Samael smiled warmly as he leaned up while gently pulling the Barnes's head toward him, and their muzzles worked together...slowly, almost carefully at first. Samael could tell his companion wasn't exactly an expert...less of a shock considering Marsden's oppressive nature probably made him even more afraid than most to show his true colors. But as Will felt Samael's jaws relent and allow him to push forward a bit, as the fingers digging into the back of his neck clung to his fur lovingly...the corporal steadily responded in kind.

His slender but toned arms pulled the stocky male closer to him as the chair squeaked in soft protest. Will's inexperienced fingers fumbled with the strap for one of Samael's shoulder plates even as he felt the other chupadore slipping his free hand beneath his tight black undershirt to massage slowly across his chest. He managed to undo the strap through the intensifying kiss, but then found himself whimpering softly when Samael pulled back with a slight smile.

With a light brush of his thumb along Will's muzzle, Samael carefully slid off the panting corporal to stand before him. Will's eyes were drawn helplessly to Samael's own as the specialist reached up to tug gently at the loosened shoulder armor, letting it drop over his arm, his expression a mix of affectionate and playful. And as he undid the other, Will couldn't stop himself from tracing the movement with his widened eyes...watching the second shoulder pad clank to the floor...and then trembling with unavoidable anticipation as he stared at the sight of Samael slipping his ebony under-armor off to reveal his muscular torso. "Oh...oh, Omega, help me," he mumbled with a deep blush.

"He ain't gonna do a damn thing to help you," Samael replied with a coy smile before he wiggled his hips a bit and loosened his lower armor, letting it move easily down his legs to leave him only in the snug undergarments around his waist. "But I am."

Samael reached down and took the corporal's wrist...and there was only a moment of hesitation before he let himself be drawn up and to his paws to look down at his smiling companion. There were those damn fingers under his tight shirt once more...except this time they pulled it upward, peeling it off of his chest almost effortlessly as he raised his arms automatically to let Samael tug it completely free. And the instant it dropped behind him, they embraced again and pressed their muzzles together eagerly.

The sensation of their bare chests grinding together made Will gasp softly into his lover's jaws, but Samael took it easily into stride as he gave the corporal a moment to adjust while drawing his blunt claws tenderly down the taller male's spine. He was rewarded with Will's back arching and his tail curving around in delight...and an instant later, the soft-spoken soldier was pulling him tighter and pressing his jaws down into his own to deepen the passionate kiss.

At some point, Samael felt the bed bump against the back of his legs and he slipped his arms down to wrap around Will's waist while shifting backward. The corporal seemed to understand, breaking the kiss long enough to gasp quietly again as he stared down nervously and excitedly all at once. "S-Samael...?"

Samael smiled kindly up at the trembling soldier, his claws smoothly undoing the snug strap of his companion's waist armor before he pulled them carefully down, letting one hand rest on the top of the visibly-tight black undergarment. "I got ya, Will. Just you 'n me the next two hours, okay?"

As his painful arousal was exposed, leaving him with nothing to hide from the warm eyes of Samael, the corporal swallowed quietly. But their gazes met a moment later, and he gave a shaky nod, his muzzle parting to exhale slowly before he murmured softly: "Okay." And as Samael leaned forward and Will let out a whimper...the pair accepted the trust they placed in one another. It might have been for vastly different reasons, but it really didn't matter in that instant. Not a goddamn thing outside of that room mattered as the two needy souls twined tightly together, taking what relief they could in the brief escape from their shitty reality.

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

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