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How Sammy Met Andee

A gay jaunt into the memories of how Sirca's favorite couple came to be, as transcribed by CrossroadsPony

Verse 1 | Verse 2 | Verse 3 | Verse 4 | Verse 5 | Verse 6 | Verse 7 | Verse 8 | Verse 9 | Verse 10 | Verse 11

Verse 12 | Verse 13 | Verse 14 | Verse 15 | Verse 16 | Verse 17 | Verse 18 | Verse 19 | Verse 20

Verse 15: As If I Could Reach Rainbows

Life wasn't fair.

Words that echoed through the halls of Samael's memories as far back as he could remember. When he'd asked his pack parents why he was so much smaller than his siblings, why everyone else got to call him Runt and Shroom and Shrimp. Why he was doomed to a life of never being the biggest or brightest or best at anything.

Life wasn't fair.

When he'd asked Tracer why so much of the ring hated them for trying to enlighten them, for seeing the world differently. For loving people differently. Why they had to train to fight the same people they were also trying to save.

Life wasn't fair.

When Nelson had rolled into his quarters and found him sobbing into his pillows, barking at him to straighten his spine and act like a man, even if he was still a boy...and his only response was to ask why, why Sirca had taken Tracer and not him. Why Tracer had given his dying breath for such a worthless whelp, leaving him alone and brokenhearted and unprepared for the life of a rebel.

Life wasn't fair.

And now he sat at the end of the bench, palms sore and leaking blood from gripping too tightly into the iron bar as he'd tried to force the darkness back with exertion; those same words whispered to him again. Why North, why one of the ring's purest souls? Didn't matter he had the same flaws as any other mortal, didn't matter the harsh words he'd once said to York and felt toward Samael. He'd accepted those flaws and worked hard to address them, be better than them...and he'd succeeded. He'd devoted himself to his compatriots as much as he did the cause, putting himself willingly in harm's way to offer every additional ounce of support without ever being asked. He was a good man, goddammit, and he had been an even better friend, and the hole he left behind was a cruel reminder that...

...Life wasn't fair.

Samael closed his eyes, no longer feeling the physical pain as the soft patter of blood and sweat alike filled the silent room. He was alone with his thoughts, though not by circumstance. An intentional choice at this point.

News of North's demise had traveled quickly. Samael had been at Sidewinder when the call came in, in the midst of helping Trevor situate and power up some of their less-utilized technology now that they had someone capable of making it useful. He could still hear Nelson cursing him, demanding to know why the fuck she kept a muscle-bound midget like him around if he couldn't avoid dropping expensive computer equipment. But then he remembered her features, how they'd cracked for just a moment to reveal that twinge after he'd repeated the news about North's fate. Nelson still harbored nothing but cold expressions and colder slights for the Freelancers, but even she couldn't hide everything. Not from Samael.

The fact she'd immediately disappeared to radio Ashley and organize a retrieval of his body before Freelancer Division or the House showed up told Samael more than anything presumed by the momentary glimpse of honest emotion. Nelson hated asking Ashley for favors, no matter their intimate relationship. She hated even more putting any of her rebels into danger for anything she deemed 'sentimental'. He didn't know if it was a favor for him, for L-Base, or just because it was the first loss of a major operative that either branch had suffered since the attack on her original base.

And as swiftly as his remains were brought to Qoppa, Lactan's representatives had sped across Sirca to meet them. Wash, steely-faced but unable to completely mask his muted horror. Samael was sure he blamed himself; Wash always blamed himself, regardless of the nuances of fate and chaos. A trait he shared with Nelson.

Next to him stood CT, one arm around Wash's shoulders, the other cradling York's waist. She was doing her best to be strong for them all, her expression neither stiff nor somber as she precariously balanced between mournful and upbeat. Someone had to try, because York...

Samael's eyes slid open as he looked down at the small puddles of crimson-stained sweat gathering between his paws. He knew the unspoken tragedy of York's past would never meet its match...or rather, a thousand prayers to every spirit around the ring that such a thing never came to pass. That silent, soulful experience, the one he'd never had to explain to Samael because their hearts knew it was a pain they both shared...that loss had certainly played a part to make York who he was, but it wasn't an agony that ever deserved to see the light of day again.

Losing North couldn't compare. Yet that didn't diminish the sight of York's slumped form, his faint, broken smile failing to do anything beyond making him that much more pitiable as he'd entered the room where North's body had been lain. Samael remembered wanting to look away, not wishing to witness the depths of his best friend's ache. But he'd kept his eyes on York all the same, because it hurt a tiny bit less for them to ache together.

South was close behind the trio, however, and any attempt at an impromptu ceremony to recollect and pay respects was tossed to the wind. Samael had never seen such a confused mixture of emotions -- her absolute sorrow was overwhelmed by her raw fury, all of it wrapped tightly in a shawl of disbelief. She'd raged at them in her demand to know the details, then roared that he needed to be cremated immediately so she could take his remains to be scattered before anyone else could defile them. It hadn't made sense, but then again, grief was a helluva thing.

Samael knew that all too well.

They'd left South alone with her brother, and Wash and CT had been kind enough to nudge York toward Samael so he could avoid the discussion they'd proceeded to engage in with Nelson. Samael was grateful to them both, as well as for the silent permission from Nelson to also avoid the formality and instead take a few hours with his friend.

Q-Base wasn't exactly as well-stocked as the other locations, but Samael had still produced enough stashed food and booze that he and his pal could enjoy a memorial -- no. No, a celebration of life. One of Sampi's better traditions, and one York had been quick to appreciate. After all, why fixate on the sensation of loss when you could acknowledge all the blessings and boons granted to you by the grace of a companion's presence upon the river of your existence?

They'd gone out to the smooth rocks above the hidden base, sprawling out on a blanket with a small collection of drinks and snacks. They'd cried, they'd embraced...they'd imbibed and they'd reminisced. They were both painfully aware that the loss of their friend wasn't the first, nor would it be the last. This was the life they lived, the greatest of all the risks they silently agreed to the moment they took up the mantle of resistance. Whether you lived and fought for all of Sirca or just your friends and comrades...everyone knew somewhere deep inside that you had to be just as ready to perish for those things, too. And no matter South's enraged cries about how North had suffered a hollow, pointless demise, for strangers who hardly deserved the comfort of his shadow on a too-sunny day, Samael knew their friend wouldn't have gone down fighting for nothing. North was a bull-headed jock, but he'd never been an idiot. And if he chose to engage a fight he couldn't win...he would have had a reason.

It was on them to respect that, whatever it was.

They'd traded every story they could think of, York regaling Samael with tales from Specials and Freelancer while Samael recalled the way he'd watched from the outside as North made the transformation from uncomfortably biased to one of the kindest and most open-hearted people they knew. Someone who would go willingly out of his way to defend a friend, no matter how different they were, no matter how little they had in common with him.

They'd spoken about Evelyn, the one woman who'd carved out such a solid place in North's heart that he was ready to bring her into this life and put aside all his playboy ways. They'd never met her, but North spoke about her often, and fondly, and they'd always been excited for the prospect of meeting the woman who had earned the big man's adoration.

But now that excitement felt more like a solemn duty. York was pretty sure he knew at least the town she lived in, and didn't think it'd be terribly hard to track down the lonely saloon. They'd both agreed she deserved more than a falsified House letter from Wash's desk, even if York, Samael and Andee had stolen the fated stamp those weeks ago for that exact purpose.

York had promised to make that trip personally, and Samael had murmured that he'd join him in a heartbeat if circumstances allowed. Not knowing was so much worse, and if North trusted her with the truth -- the whole truth -- then the least they could do was honor the intense respect and adulation he had for her.

They weren't sure how long they'd been granted in the warm Qoppan sun, but life wasn't going to slow down to give them the time they wanted. Before they could try and shift to discussion of better things, the way North would have liked, the shouts from below trickled up as an unpleasant reminder that even Sirca's smoothest talkers couldn't convince reality to grant them a few more hours. Perhaps it was for the best, though. A little more time to allow the wounds of loss to heal before they recalled all their fondest moments from Xulod. North wouldn't mind waiting -- he was worthy of smiles no longer tinged with sadness.

And at least York had Wash, right? Emotionally-stunted as that guy was, he and York had been best friends for a long time, far longer than Samael had known the big fella. Samael didn't expect Wash to suddenly be a miracle-worker when it came to an outpouring of feelings, but he couldn't be blind to York's anguish. Besides, North had insinuated that Wash was the reason York pulled out of the slump that threatened to consume him back in Freelancer.

Samael had never needed the details to comprehend an ache like that...and to know how precious an outstretched hand could be when you were sitting alone in the darkness. York had Wash, he had CT, too, and the others who had shared in those same experiences when they'd been a part of Sirca's meat grinder.

Samael had...well. He had York. But this was one time he knew he couldn't run to his pal to seek comfort; or rather, he couldn't without stabbing a knife of guilt deep into his own chest. They could commiserate, but it wasn't fair to ask York to be Samael's rock, not for this.

Nelson had been the closest thing to a support system when Samael was recovering from his experience in Kaprime. He didn't call her 'Mama' out of any irony or teasing. She was tough and she was cold and she could detach her emotions as easily as someone might shrug off a jacket, but she wasn't devoid of a soul. She'd whipped Samael back into shape with little visible regard for his emotional stability those weeks following their joint tragedies, though the bond they'd formed through the process was undeniable. She cared, in her own fashion, and had ensured he'd come through the other side intact, one way or another.

Didn't mean he had any false expectation of familial kindness from her, not even for a moment like this. It simply wasn't her way, and he'd never want her to force something she wasn't. She would keep running him on jobs, putting his life on the line for the cause, because that was how she kept him strong. No matter what cruel words she spat, Samael never once imagined she sent him on a job without a fleeting care for his safe return. She gave him purpose and he gave her everything he had. Maybe wasn't the healthiest relationship, but it was solid. An existence without meaning was more of a death sentence than any mission he undertook. She understood that better than most.

But now he had Andee, too, didn't he?

He unclenched his hands with a grimace as he looked at his swollen pads, rubbing a thumb slowly along a palm. Himroc had been a glorious burst of light at the end of a long, dark, oppressive tunnel. And in the periods that followed, things between the redneck and the bat had been...hell, they'd been good, hadn't they? Waking up with Andee in his arms on that battered armchair had been, without a doubt, one of the happiest mornings of Samael's life. Even including every single sunrise and sunset in Tracer's embrace, nothing before had ever felt so right.

Samael had expected a bit of awkwardness. He wondered if Andee had, too. Samael knew himself; he was a whore, plain and simple. And he was pretty sure even if Andee's experience wasn't quite as prolific as he suggested, the little bat still got around. But what they'd shared, through the relationship they'd so passionately forged in such a small time...oh lord, it felt the furthest thing possible from a one-night stand.

And so instead the next period had been...wonderful. They'd shared a few shy smiles, sure. Bumping into one another while mumbling apologies as they worked together to put on a carafe of coffee and whip together a small breakfast; it was a little sheepish but it wasn't uncomfortable. That was the feeling Samael clung to more than anything else -- the comfort. Andee was a warm blanket he never wanted to feel slip from from his shoulders.

...Yet that was the problem. Andee didn't seem built for that kind of emotional caretaking. After they'd fallen back into their usual routine once the glow faded, huddling together to plan their next moves with the Hula Club as Samael rattled off the potential missions Nelson would be lining up, the intimacy shifted back to something else. Not something bad, no. It was still familiar. Still friendly, even. But Samael couldn't help recalling what Andee had told him, had continued to emphasize time and time again. He was here for his business first and foremost; that specious separation of their lives mattered direly to the bat.

Samael still found a faint smile drifting across his muzzle. He couldn't help it -- that little tickle blossomed every time he thought of him. It was something he felt deep inside, down in the dangerously vulnerable core of his very being. No wonder Tracer had warned him about it. It was harder to devote himself to the cause if so much of his soul was curled tightly around someone else. But Andee deserved a chance to prove himself. Samael had spent enough time with him to understand that icy facade was just that: a shield for something warm and sensitive beneath.

He let himself savor another small smile as he grunted and pushed himself up to his paws. It's what North would have done. That big, dumb jock might have let himself come across as the resident bully, but he never failed to encourage his teammates and his friends to push the extra mile, have that extra ounce of faith. Trust in the people you cared about to live up to all you treasured in them.

As he rubbed at one of his aching arms, the sounds of Q-Base filtered steadily back into his senses. Somber as the base was, things hadn't been lifeless after York and the others left, and Samael had gone out of his way to find somewhere quiet. No one else had really felt like exercising with the bustle and confusion around North's demise, at least, so the weight room made the perfect place for uninterrupted contemplation and a bit of overzealous physical strain.

He cast a long look over the equipment, resting a sore hand on one of the poles with a sigh. Plenty of memories of North here. But memories were meant to be cherished, not suffered, nor weaponized. And so he smiled a third time and framed his friend's giant grin on the hearth of his consciousness before turning to walk out of the room. Perhaps a shower before he found a ride back to Sidewinder. Nelson had already left with Ashley, and Samael was given the vague directive of 'check on everything here before returning back as soon as possible'. And who could say what 'checking everything' truly entailed, eh?

His eyes widened slightly when he stepped into the hall and heard a familiar string of curses, slowly turning his head to the side. Was fortune truly going to smile upon him so kindly today?

"Listen up, ya slack-jawed pea-brain, I'll ask it one more fuckin' time. Where. Is. Fiffy?!"

Samael couldn't help the entertained smile as the confused rebel's protest echoed through the dimly-lit halls. "I don't know what the hell a 'fiffy' is!! Ow, sonuvabitch, quit kicking my shins!"

"Well then quit fuckin' bein' so uni-cultural, ya fuckin' uni-tard!"

Samael chuckled and broke into a jog as a bright expression spilled over his features upon turning the corner and seeing Andee glaring up at one of the base's occupants. The tall chupa was backed against the wall with both hands raised despite the two or three feet of difference in height. "Andee!" The bat's head whipped toward him and Samael clutched tightly into the warm grin he caught sight of before it morphed into the expected scowl. "Quit scarin' the good folks out here! Mama's gonna tear yer dang wings off, she hears 'bout that again!"

Andee snorted and took a step away from the hapless rebel, and the fatigues-wearing chupa began to relax...only to stiffen up with widened eyes as Andee spun on his heel and jabbed a wing toward him while sweeping his other arm in Samael's direction. "Ay, you ain't off the hook! You best recognize that this is Fiffy, and ya best be bustin' yo' ass to make sure nothin' happens to this jackass, since he's the only big-footed fuck 'round here actually worth a damn! Plus he's my fiffy, and I need him in-fuckin'-tact to make sure our bidness ain't gettin' screwed over!"

The rebel slowly turned his eyes toward Samael with a wheeze. "S-Sammy?"

Samael chortled and strode up to Andee to drop a hand on his companion's shoulder. "It's all good, Richie. He don't mean it, we're all valuable members'a the cause 'n ain't no one's hide is any less--"

"Fuck all'a that, this hide needs to be priority number one!" Andee declared as he swatted Samael's rump with enough force that the redneck hopped forward slightly with a squeak, his eyes bulging and a sheepish but delighted grin running across his maw. "I ain't gonna be able to crown myself Sirca's King Pimp if my finest ass-ets are all fucked up! So remember, if you's 'bout to take a bullet, make sure the midget-queen of blowjobs is safely behind ya expendable butt first!!"

Richie's muzzle moved wordlessly for a few seconds as Samael cleared his throat and then offered another stupid smile while pulling Andee away. "Uh. He. He's totally jokin', hon, I swear, ya ain't gotta get shot none fer me."

"N-Noted," Richie stammered, sighing in relief when Andee finally moved out of shin-kicking reach. "And they told me Q-Base was the safe one..."

Samael laughed and nudged Andee's shoulder with a hip as his tail curled loosely around his companion's torso. "C'mon, now, you gotta stop terrorizin' these folks, hon, Nelson 'n Wash already ridin' yer ass summin' fierce every time you come 'round -- we're tryna build bridges, not burn 'em!"

"Hmph, well, until any of these other dirt-stompers ride my ass as fierce as you did, I ain't gonna give 'em the fuckin' time'a day!" Andee boasted with a toothy grin, puffing his chest out as they moved down the hallway together.

Samael flushed even as he grinned dumbly in return, his tail piercing jingling softly with his delight against Andee's side. "Heh. I ain't ever gonna stop lovin' what a funky li'l light-switch you are, sweetie..."

"Ain't nothin' light 'bout what I'm packin'," Andee retorted with a smirk before he sniffed and then made a face while leaning slightly away from Samael. "Goddamn, puppy, you's a fuckin' sweaty bitch, though!" He sampled the air again as Samael's smile grew faint. "...Am I smellin' fuckin' blood, too?"

Samael grunted softly and held out a palm, which Andee promptly snatched up with both hands while glowering up to him. "Jus' worked out a li'l too hard, that's all..." He took a moment to quietly straighten North's portrait in his mind. No point making assumptions about how Andee would react. He wasn't the emotionally-barren wasteland everyone else thought he was. "It's uh. 'S been a hard day..."

Andee was still grumbling at the chupa's hand, prodding a claw lightly into the torn pads to elicit a few flinches. "Feh, yeah, I got word one'a you dumbass rebels got his ass chewed up or some shit. Heard from Pan's grapevine the assholes from L-Base were headin' out this way." He waved a wing dismissively. "I was out in Blarganthia checkin' on some 'lost' armor that fell outta Hexagon truck, ya know what I mean. Wasn't too far."

Samael tried a hopeful smile. "Hell, I appreciate ya comin' by, sweetie. Purdy sure ain't a soul 'round here who ain't missin' ol' North right 'bout now..."

Andee finally pitched Samael's hand away and then rolled his eyes. "I'll fuckin' say it again -- feh! All them Freelancer fucks already gunnin' for an early grave doin' that fuckin' gig, ya just doublin' ya odds you decide to be a stupid-ass rebel on top of it!"

Samael licked his lips and closed his claws silently into his palms. He could feel the blood dribbling out over his fingers again. "Aww, Andee..." The bat glared up at him and Samael winced before gazing down at him pleadingly. "He weren't just no Freelancer, he was a f--"

"Don't start on that shit, Fiffy!" Andee interrupted with an exasperated groan. "Accordin' to you, any fuckin' chode who just makes eye-contact from 'cross the room is ya best friend, too. You gotta stop fuckin' tryin' to hug the whole goddamn ring! North was a big, strong motherfucker -- if he got himself ganked while hangin' out with a buncha shitty wannabe rebels, then tough-fuckin'-titties!"

Samael's heart clung to the ledge tenuously. "Andee..."

Andee threw both his arms up as he stepped in front of the rebel while walking backward. "People fuckin' die, Sammy! That's just part'a the fuckin' game, and if I gotta fuckin' deal with that thought every time you go on a fuckin' job, then guess what?" He shoved a finger into Samael's stomach as the redneck shrank slightly. "You can deal with facin' that joyous li'l fact, too!"

Samael's heart wasn't that strong. As it tumbled into the pits of his stomach, he swallowed thickly and told himself it would just take more time. Andee was still figuring out this whole...relationship thing. It wasn't fair to saddle him with the responsibility of trying to ameliorate Samael's emotions about someone else, even a close friend. And so Samael carefully prodded the thoughts back into the bottle, then secured the lid as he closed his eyes and took a breath.

He could deal with them later. He wasn't in the mood to fend off Andee's crass reactions while wrestling his own strife.

When his eyes cracked open again, Andee was looking up at him expectantly, one eyebrow raised. "You done havin' ya little mini-stroke, there? I got some fuckin' good news 'bout the Sovs...and you need a fuckin' shower, so how 'bout we go choke out two birds with one bush?"

Samael dug up a more honest smile. It didn't make him love the little bastard any less, and he wasn't going to complain about having the negative thoughts covered neatly with a distraction. "God, I ain't ever gonna get tired'a the way yer talkin's 'bout as fucked up as mine...c'mon, hon, let's hit the locker room..."

Samael closed his eyes with a small but genuine smile of adulation as the low whistle floated across his nude form.

"Fuck me, puppy, but that ass ain't never not gonna be a treat to fuckin' adore!!"

His tail flicked and the smile grew wider while he reached out blindly to twist the shower knob as his two-part piercing chimed eagerly. He'd never minded being objectified, not as much as he probably should have. Even less of a concern when it came from someone he held close...and the little bat was kept so tightly pulled against Samael's heart, it was sometimes still hard to breathe around him.

Becoming an object of desire was merely one of his talents, after all. Few things more useful in his line of work than transforming from a potential spy -- from a flawed person -- into a polished treasure. Not someone, but something around which to wrap greedy fingers and tarnish with the jagged scrawl of possession. Everyone liked to think they owned something beautiful, something unique, something that brought unbridled joy and exhilaration. Whether that came through the complex mental gymnastics of believing you actually mattered more to the ring because of that which you called yours...or the far simpler pleasure of having your deepest physical urges sated beyond your wildest imagination.

Samael knew his way around both ends of the spectrum and had long since forgone the notions of shame regarding how easily he became that thing. It was just who he was, and he was goddamn good at it. But in his hour of distress, when he longed for something to pull him out of his own muddy emotions...lord, was the objectification welcome. And even better was what came after the whistles, after the leers and teasing comments, after the rumbled promises of how he was going to have his body rode hard and put away wet.

He let his tongue trace slowly over his muzzle as he stood beneath the downpour of warm water for a few seconds, one hand sliding down across his stomach toward his waist to casually frame his barely-restrained excitement. The components were all in place, the fuse was primed -- all he needed now was a touch from the fiery swagger of his perfect little bastard of a partner. He turned around with an expectant grin...

...then blinked in confusion when he saw Andee leaning against the entrance to the shower stall, his hat and half-poncho still resolutely in place. Samael opened his muzzle stupidly as the bat arched an eyebrow, unable to stop himself from blurting out: "Why're you still dressed, hon?"

"Goddamn, Fiffy, one minute you's fuckin' cryin' up a swimmin' hole 'bout ya dead fuckin' Freelancer, next one you wavin' a half-stiff blue-dick-special!" Andee exclaimed with a snort. "We ain't got time to fuck around, we gots work to do first! I just brought your ass in here to get all that stank gone so ya don't choke my sensitive nose out any more than ya already do!"

Samael's heart chuckled bitterly and abandoned the determined climb out from its damp abyss, sinking back into the black pitch of reality. The rebel swallowed and then forced a sheepish smile as he struggled not to slump against the tile, nodding a few times. "Y-yeah, hon, heh. 'Course -- don't mind me. I just figgered we could, uh...y'know..."

Andee only fixed him with a dour look before smirking. "I knew ya wouldn't be able to resist this fuckin' action, shortstack. But it ain't a fuckin' free buffet over here. You gotta be worthy of this c'mon, get scrubbin' while I lay down the latest news I got from that bitch of a Sov!"

Samael let out a laugh that sounded real enough even as his tail drooped. "Yep, you got it, sweetie..."

It was okay. Hell, maybe this was a sign -- sex with York hadn't fixed his emotions after Lamtha, and now it didn't look like his melancholy over losing North was gonna be solved by physical passion, either. He could pretend it was a wake-up call, anyway. He kept the false smile in place as he reached for a bar of soap while Andee launched excitedly into his summary.

"Alright, so that funny-talkin' whore thinks we did a good fuckin' job with the chumps from the hoopie...apparently they took care of 'em, no problem!" Samael accepted the burst of guilt even as he gave a wan smile while massaging the soap into his chest. Andee squinted at him, pausing his storytelling long enough to no doubt check for any signs of weakness. "You still ain't feelin' bad, right? It ain't like ya had to pull the fuckin' trigger yaself, Fiffy!"

"I ain't said shit," Samael murmured while closing his eyes so he could wash all the negativity out, using the lather from the soap as the ring's most straightforward metaphor. "We done what we done an' you said. They was probably just gonna get themselves killed sooner rather'n later, anyway..."

The way his already-battered heart drooped wasn't even a surprise at this point. But it was hard to deny the opposing swell of his mood when he heard just how pleased Andee was. Making the ambitious bat happy would never get old, he supposed. "That's right! Anyway, don't get ya lack-of-panties in a twist, ain't like every gig we do for 'em is gonna be like that! We's gonna be associates soon, they's payin' real good coin for the cards...and I bet both our fine asses they's gonna be lookin' for more business opportunities once they see how good we are at this shit!"

Samael let a small but more genuine smile grace his features as he leaned back against the shower wall and worked his claws through his layered fur. It was nice to have Andee refer to 'them' more and more often. Kinda like they were actually starting to form a cohesive partnership, even in the eyes of the fiercely independent bat. "Well I don't wanna get 'head of ourselves none, but..."

"Aww, fuck that, we rocked that fat bastard in Episemon, we rocked the Himroc, we've been on fuckin' fire!" Andee exclaimed. Samael cracked open one eye with the same minute smile, delighted despite himself at the sight of the bat strutting back and forth with his chest puffed out while he gestured grandly with both wings. "I had my fuckin' doubts 'bout you, blow-mobile, but you's makin' me proud! So be fuckin' proud with me!"

Samael chuckled quietly and nodded once. "I am, hon. I am. I jus' don't want us bitin' off more'n we can chew." He could feel the scowl without having to peek. "Y'know well as I do these hoop-folks ain't the kind to be underestimated."

"Hmph." Samael stole another look to see Andee dropping his hands on his hips and squinting up through the steam at him. "Neither are we, Sammy." His voice softened enough that Samael kept his eyes open curiously to watch the way Andee took a step closer, not seeming to mind the splash of the hot water across his talons or the droplets that formed on his poncho. "That's how I got to where I am now. The ring's always underestimated the little guys. It's our fuckin' time to make use of that."

Samael's smile grew wider. "You callin' me a li'l guy, too?"

"Shit, like you even gotta ask," Andee scoffed. "Might be big among our people, but you's still the lawn gnome supreme up top. You can't tell me you ain't been dealin' with this shit ya whole fuckin' life, too." He jabbed a finger against Samael's thigh, oblivious to the water that ran over his arm and soaked into the purple and orange garment, his eyes still locked with the chupa's. "I want you with me on this, Fiffy. You get it like no one fuckin' else does."

Samael wasn't sure if it was fair to his heart to let it hope, but god...he couldn't prevent it. He bit his lip as he dropped into a kneel so he could reach out and grasp into Andee's shoulder. Andee still didn't seem to mind the water flowing across him. "I am, hon. 'N there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

He could already hear Nelson's furious snarling about his issues with devotion, but he set them aside. He'd been balancing things so far, hadn't he? And besides...that would only be easier if he and Andee were past all the jagged misunderstandings and cavernous pitfalls they'd struggled through after that goddamn stamp. Hell, maybe Nelson would even find some use in his relationship with Andee -- if their standing with Xulod could be improved even further, that was just increasing the benefit of that partnership...and having the favor of the Hula Club was already on Nelson's radar as far as Samael knew, too. Couldn't be a bad thing to expand those opportunities, either.

"Good," Andee replied before grunting and taking a step back with a huff, shaking his slender arm out. "Goddammit, now ya got me all wet, jackass, an' I ain't even mean the good kind!"

Samael figured it was pointless, but gave a coy grin all the same. "You change yer mind 'n get under this here shower with me, I c'n get ya wet all kindsa good ways..."

Andee smirked and let his eyes dance over Samael's nude form, glistening as it was beneath the pounding water that rolled across his bulging musculature. "Heh. Guess I see now why you had your best friend York plow ya ass silly last time you was all emotional 'n shit -- this is just how ya fuckin' cope, ain't it?" Some of the playfulness beaded off of Samael's form to swirl down the drain, though he did his best to not let himself slump too visibly. "But sorry, puppy, no time for a good ol' suck-'n-fuck to drown out that big, dumb, dead Freelancer."

At least he hadn't let himself hope too hard. He had a fleeting glimpse of North's handsome features, and he let that confident, infectious smile warm him. Maybe this just wasn't Andee's forte.

That was okay. His perfection was in his flaws.

Samael let out a slow breath while pushing himself back up to stand so he could start rinsing the soap out of his shaggy hide. "'S all good, sweetie -- like you said, le's take care'a business, an' then we'll make some proper time to celebrate."

He glanced down to see Andee's grin returning in full force. "That's the spirit!! Alright, so here's the deal -- Sov wants to meet to discuss next steps 'n arrange payment for the cards. She don't need us both there, so I'mma head that way now."

Samael cocked his head. "Well...shit, hon, I gotta get to Sidewinder, myself -- how 'bout you hitch a ride with me? We c'n talk on the way there, 'n --"

"Nah, nah, I ain't spendin' fifteen-fuckin'-hours cooped up with you 'n Random Rebel McFuckface," Andee groused while waving a wing. "You get ya ass cleaned up, then do what yo' momma says so she ain't tryin' to get your ass chained up or some shit." He paused with another smirk. "You've fucked the Sov kid a few times by now, right?"

Samael cleared his throat, torn between a sheepish grin and an awkward sigh. "I...I mean...yeah, me 'n Vinny spent some--"

"He fuckin' likes you, Fiffy, that don't bother me none," Andee interrupted with a snort. Samael searched his eyes, though, and saw past the bluster. Well. At least the solace of knowing Andee was perhaps a little jealous would make up for the way he was already starting to unceremoniously pimp him out.

Anyway, wasn't any worse than what Nelson sent him to do, right?

"Use that shit, find out what his momma thinks 'bout us!" Andee continued brashly. "Just make sure you swallow the way ya always do, don't let none of them secrets slip out his dick 'n get lost in your fuckin' whorenado."

"Geezus, hon," Samael mumbled before blinking as Andee suddenly reached up into the water to grab his wrist and yank him forward and out of the showerhead's spray.

The bat grinned up at him, the hints of jealousy molting into something a lot more appreciative. Samael couldn't help his dumb grin and flushed cheeks. "You's a fuckin' prize, Sammy. Don't fuckin' forget it." Andee reached up to dig his claws into the thick, soaked fur of Samael's chest, pulling him down low enough to press his nose into the chupa's snout. The metal ring was blissfully cool against his muzzle. "But you're my prize. An' together, we're gonna do some great fuckin' things."

Samael's pulse was thudding as he stared into Andee's eyes, soaking up every welcome emotion with the desperation of a dehydrated traveler stumbling upon an oasis minutes before the inevitable collapse. The bat reached his other hand up to trace along the chupa's lower jaw, his claw moving sinuously along the crimson studs. "You go on doin' what you do best. Don't bother me if ya fuck the whole ring, 'cause you know where you're gonna be at the end of the day...right?"

For a fleeting instant, Samael saw the same vulnerable, expectant gaze from Andee's apartment, in those precious moments after their passionate lovemaking. It was all he needed. He gave a slow nod and whispered against the end of his partner's muzzle: "I'm gonna be right here. Every goddamn time."

"Good," Andee murmured, keeping their maws pushed together for another glorious second or two. When he stepped back, Samael did his best not to let the cold take his place. "See you soon, Fiffy. Keep that ass safe for me, got it?"

Samael smiled. He'd happily take it as affectionate concern. "Always. See you soon, hon."

* * *

He hadn't even been able to finish puffing his chest out before she'd tilted her head and asked him flatly: "So tell me straight, bat -- how pliable's that beefy midget of yours? Was lookin' like you two might not be seein' eye-to-eye last time, despite him bein' one of the only few of our kind small enough to get that low."

It was both an insult and a test. Andee was smart, though. He wasn't gonna get played that easy. He looked back at the hoopster evenly, leaning forward slightly and ignoring the way her beast of a husband growled behind her. "Yeah, Sammy's got his morals...but he'll do anything I ask," he retorted, snatching up the coffee she'd been 'kind' enough to offer. It wasn't no Xulod brew but he could tell the shit had still come out of a machine that probably cost as much as one or two of the cards they were negotiating over. "What's the use of havin' just some dumb, mindless attack dog?" he added with a purposeful glance at Michael Sov. "My puppy ain't gonna make a big fuckin' mess of nothin' if he knows he ain't gotta -- that's good for business!"

She arched forward as well, her silver eyes boring coldly into his. "Oh, I've heard what he can do. But he still seems a little bit emotional for this kinda partnership. This job ain't a good fit for the kind-hearted. You should know that yourself."

Andee narrowed his eyes, his lowered hand clutching silently into his thigh. How dare this bitch doubt him, doubt the work he'd put into Samael. Doubt Samael. He'd told Andee he loved him -- twice, now. He would run across the whole goddamn ring for Andee, and he would do it with a smile. The bat bared his teeth but kept his voice level as he shot back: "If you got ya fuckin' doubts, say 'em. But I'm tellin' you now, Miss Sov, Sammy will step up if he needs to step up. That's a fuckin' guarantee."

Miss Sov leaned back, her gaze remaining locked onto the bat's. "I guess we'll see, won't we?"

And then there was that goddamn smirk.

Andee's muzzle twitched as he ground his molars slowly, then refocused his eyes on the approaching peaks of the Honkal cliffs. No point letting that woman get under his hide.

"Get a handle on my man...feh! That greasy hoopster whore thinks I ain't keepin' a tight-ass leash on that puppy. Bitch better recognize I ain't foolin'..."

Andee continued to scowl to himself as he beat his wings and twisted a bit higher. The thick clouds that had given him cover on the way to meet Miss Sov were starting to dissipate, leaving the skies somewhat more clear. Always made him nervous, even if he knew the average chupa didn't look up without the drone of turbines to draw their attention skyward. That was one of the many downsides of those dumbass big-footed fucks -- they were so self-assured about their dominance of the ring they never bothered to look up...or down.

The scowl eventually shifted to a more confident smile as the conversation with the hoop leader replayed through his memories. He'd never had a goddamn doubt about how talented he was interacting with his business associates, no matter how much sway they had over their respective territories. Other people might have figured he was all talk; hell, he figured even Samael probably had his reservations when they'd first met, whether or not the happy-go-lucky redneck would never admit it. But Andee was aware how goddamn hard he'd worked for what he had, for where he was, for the connections he'd made. Even someone like Miss Fuckin' Sov couldn't make him sweat.

She'd told him plainly she'd become more comfortable working with him, and Andee knew enough about her to know she wasn't one to flatter anyone pointlessly. Someone like her either praised you because they meant it, or because they wanted you to be off-balance. A half-smile quirked across his muzzle as he paused mid-flap to pull his hat a bit tighter over his skull. He was pretty certain that bitch had been squarely straddling that line.

But he wasn't no goddamn sap, wasn't a bone in his body that could be pushed over. The addition of an emotional puppy to his life wasn't gonna weaken his hard nose, either -- no fuckin' way, he'd invested too much time and energy into that midget. The fact he'd come crawling back after pulling the shit he did in Lamtha, after Andee had given him a full cannonade in that very-public square, that was all the proof Andee needed. Took a real fuckin' special kind of brain to put yourself through that shit willingly.

...Hard not to think back to the Himroc too, though. That whirling dance they'd shared beneath the pulsing lights, their rhythmic two-step carrying them from the dance floor to the stage, right between a discussion about which fuckin' faction was gonna draw more of Samael's blood, all the way back to Andee's apartment.

He closed his eyes and hated that he could feel Samael's arms around him, loathed the way that embrace cradled him whether he was working fervently into the chupa's maw or laying beneath him, gifting Samael the rare prize of his trust and vulnerability. Andee wasn't mad the night had gone so well...but it was a little frustrating to have it continue rearing its head whenever he was trying to get back to goddamn business. And the horny fucker wondered why Andee didn't wanna plow him in the shower.

It was time for another adjustment, to ensure everyone in this gay little party knew what the real priorities were. Andee sure as hell wasn't gonna drive Fiffy away, wasn't a need for anything like that yet. But a bit of healthy distance went a long way to prevent any more stupid mistakes.

Andee veered toward the west face of the cliffs, grimacing as he realized how close Samael's quarters were to the shotgun-laden openings into Nelson's office. Fuck him, but he'd need to make sure he didn't come making any drunken booty calls to his whore of a redneck and flap crookedly into the wrong window; no amount of lusty inebriation was worth a fistful of rock salt.

But all the negativity was soon inevitably replaced with a helpless smile as he launched himself up high, then folded his wings around his slender form to drop neatly down into the natural chimney above Samael's stupid bednest. Wasn't ever gonna admit it, but rewarding his puppy with a surprise treat now and then wasn't so --

He blinked when his talons thumped into the mass of pillows and blankets without the welcome squeal of excitement. Andee huffed while looking around -- no Samael. Well, the stacked asshole was more than just Nelson's prostitute. Andee wasn't dull enough to think Samael's only job was laying around in his fuck-palace to give half of Sidewinder a little dick-oriented vacation. Even if Andee knew he could make some serious coin if he got that business plan rolling.

The bat kicked at a few of the pillows with a grumble and then eyed the paintings hung on the wall across from the impromptu bed. There it was again, that annoying smile he couldn't hide. Samael hadn't lied about putting up Mutt's landscape pieces, and they admittedly added a welcome spark of nature to the cavern. Fitting for the dumb gay wood sprite that inhabited it.

Andee allowed himself a soft chuckle before hopping off the bed and sniffing at the air. His mood was only slightly soured when he picked up the strains of someone other than Samael -- Fiffy had a rich, earthy smell that Andee swore he wasn't coming to appreciate, a scent that stood out among most of the other surface-dweller assholes. No, he was picking up something sweeter, something that was almost palpable innocence. Tinged with darkness, though. A scowl found itself back on his features; Vinny must have been here recently.

Never mind that Andee had told Samael to extract information and whatever else from the Sov kid.

Andee grumbled and straightened his cap before storming toward the entrance to Samael's quarters and shoving aside the pink blanket to glower down the hallway. Enough of Sidewinder had either been to Xulod or at the very least run into Andee by now that he didn't have many fucks left to give about being spotted. Fuckin' Fiffy's idea to get their people all caught up about the existence of the bats by now, anyway.

He passed a few random rebels as he stomped down the hall, most of them giving him a wide, awkward berth...although one was stupid enough to wave cheerfully. He squinted up at her and she peered back before clearing her throat and then starting to sheepishly bend one knee, only for him to groan and flail an arm at her. "Don't fuckin' go droppin' a knee for me, I ain't no little fuckin' kid needin' to be talked down to! Only reason you gotta get down here like that is to gargle these low-hangin' fruits...and you ain't my type!"

She stared for a second before pursing her muzzle and crossing her arms. She must have been one of the few who wasn't intimidated by the bat -- reminded him of that tall chick Nebraska. Great, just what this place needed, more sassy, independent women. "You're looking for Sammy?"

He sucked on his teeth before reminding himself that making trouble -- while hilarious and entertaining -- wasn't gonna get him what he needed right now. "Yeah -- you fuckin' seen his midget ass around? Or is he off polishin' some Movement knobs to raise morale or whatever the fuck excuse he's got lined up?"

She smiled, the look of wary annoyance shifting to mild amusement. "Everyone's right -- he is too good for you." He bared his teeth but she gave an easy shrug and jerked her head in the same direction she'd come from. "He was helping O'Neill in the garage. Shouldn't be too hard to track him down." She chuckled and continued on her way while adding over a shoulder: "Pair of you would be able to find each other blindfolded in a collapsed mine shaft considering you got the two loudest goddamn mouths on Sirca..."

He squinted after her but only gave a rude gesture before huffing and moving back down the hallway. He wasn't sure he appreciated how easily all these jerks were starting to handle his presence.

But before he could start pondering all the bullshit he could pull to reestablish himself as a force to be reckoned with, feared and avoided, a cheerful whoop down the hallway yanked him back to reality. "Mah li'l fruit-bat!!"

Andee immediately scowled and hated the way his muzzle threatened to burst into a smile at the sight of Samael breaking shamelessly into a run toward him. "Goddammit, Fiffy, tone that fuckin' gay shi--hey!!"

He squawked as he was scooped into a tight hug, his eyes bulging as he slapped uselessly at his companion's thick arms. There was no stopping the embrace, nor the warm feelings that twisted through him despite all his finest attempts to shove them away. He could feel Samael's heart already quickening between them and he puffed moodily into his neck before wordlessly squeezing one arm around his shoulder, then finally shoving at his collarbone. "Put me down, ya fuckin' queer slice'a beefcake!"

Samael laughed but loosened his arms, holding Andee up easily by his hips so he could grin at him and bump their muzzles together. "A'right, a'right -- can ya blame me fer bein' happy to see ya, though!?"

"I sure as fuck can blame the fuckin' mush you call a brain, at least," Andee muttered, trying not to smile while he flailed at Samael's wrists until the redneck set him carefully back down. "God, we ain't had no fuckin' fight last time, and it ain't even been more'n a couple periods since we split up to go take care'a our shit -- you really gonna slobber on me like a fuckin' puppy every time we meet up or what? Because I wanna know if I gotta start tuckin' some goddamn paper towels in my fuckin' poncho whenever we get together..."

Samael was a bouquet of cheerful grins as he wandered with Andee to the edge of the corridor. "Heh, well, things do tend to get a li'l wet whenever I'm around!" the rebel announced with a generous wink. His hand had shifted to grip into Andee's shoulder and the bat hated how he couldn't bring himself to shrug it off. Feh, it felt kinda nice after all that flying.

Andee smirked and pushed a finger into Samael's firm stomach. "No shit, Fiffy, you's a fuckin' leaky fountain whether it's tears in ya eyes or rollin' out ya dick -- you got issues, man." Samael scoffed but seemed more interested in the sexual mockery than the emotional one. Andee picked up on it instantly and half-grinned while tracing his thumb slowly along the outside of his companion's chiseled abdominal muscles. "So while we's on that subject...what kinda leakin' you been patchin' up with that hoop kid?"

Samael shifted his weight once but again visibly showed an eagerness to press into the intimate memories rather than whatever stupid regrets he had. Good, as far as Andee was concerned. The less blubbering and feeling sorry for himself, the better. They all agreed he was a goddamn whore, so it was time for Andee to put it to use and stop letting Nelson have a monopoly on Samael's sharpened dick-handling skills. "Weeeell..." Samael grinned again as he scratched a finger against his snout. "Me 'n Vinny gettin' along jus' fine -- he din' mind talkin' 'bout his mama fer free, y'know? He says he wants us to have a good relationship with her, makes everyone happier." Andee rolled his eyes but forced patience into the inquisitive smile that followed, using a slow pass of his claw along his partner's waist to encourage a delighted shiver from the rebel.

Samael wasn't the only one who knew how to use a little physical manipulation.

"He was tellin' me that she was lookin' to expand on her recent trades, they's plannin' on growin' their operations on the other end'a Honkal," Samael explained with a bright nod. "I, uh...still ain't told him we got our own deal with her, and I guess she ain't told him neither, purdy sure he still jus' thinks Nelson's partnership with her's the only one, but..."

"Ay, that's good, though!" Andee reassured with a half-smile as he sidled closer to the redneck, his yellow eyes glowing. He knew Samael was already reading him in that way he did so naturally, but the bat was getting better at shoving a few protective barriers into place. He rolled his head once on his shoulders while adding: "Vinny don't need to go gettin' worried about us, sounds like he worries enough 'bout Nelson and his bitch of a mom." Samael smiled hesitantly and Andee knew the chupa didn't completely believe the notes of concern, but hey. He'd settle for a hopeful reach of faith. "Anyway, the fuck you tryna say? You got all this outta the kid without takin' his pants off?"

"Hey! I'm purdy damn good at talkin' to folks outside'a the bedroom, too, ya know!" Samael protested...before grinning slyly a few seconds later as he rolled his eyes innocently. "Buuuut I did tell Vinny how good he looked firin' at the range earlier today...'n you know how that hoodie of his drives me thing ya know, it's the only thing he's got on an' I got myself a mouthful of--"

Andee huffed loudly and curled his fingers into Samael's waistband while narrowing his eyes up to him. "Ay, ay, ay!" He paused and then slowly grinned in return. Maybe his puppy deserved a little reward for performing so well. "Yanno what? How 'bout we got find that gay-ass hoodie he got for your stumpy ass..." He pulled Samael down toward him and the chupa's eyes widened excitedly. "Gonna put you in that shit...then I'm gonna fuck you 'til you can't sit right, Fiffy." The half-squeak, half-giggle of anticipation was delicious. "Show that skinny fucker how to muss up a sweatshirt properly..."

The rush of breath from Samael's maw might as well have been an aphrodisiac washing across Andee's features. He didn't even regret the way the jealousy toward Vincent morphed rapidly into desire -- it wasn't an inconvenient moment to go bone the hell out of his redneck now, after all. Andee chortled and rolled his head back toward Samael's quarters while tugging at the chupa's belt. "Then c'mon, Sammy..."

So much for that healthy distance.

But before they could take more than a few steps, the sound of tires gliding along the smooth stone floors made them both freeze in place. Andee did his best not to flinch but the way Samael stiffened up at the sharp voice was infectious in the worst possible way. "Wurlitz!!"

Andee scowled and turned around to see Nelson rolling up to them with a stony expression locked into place. She skidded to a stop only an inch or two away and Andee couldn't help but notice that Samael was now standing halfway behind him as the stocky chupa cleared his throat awkwardly. "Uhhh, hey, Mama--"

"Cut the bullshit," Nelson spat out as her eyes bored into Andee. Andee recognized the usual annoyance but there was something else this time, too. He didn't have a chance to consider what it meant, though, as the gigantic woman leaned forward and growled darkly: "The fuck is the loud-mouthed cock-jockey doing here? I look like that yappy pilot bitch, running some kinda fucking waystation for orphans?! You fucking want to spend time here, then you fucking work."

Andee made a face even as he took a nervous step backward out of some survival instinct more than anything else. "Listen, woman, I go wherever the fuck I please, and if I wanna--"

"Shut the fuck up, bat," Nelson interrupted briskly as she lowered her voice and moved closer. Her eyes flicked between the two again before settling this time on Samael. "Got a solution that'll make you useful and gimme a reason to let you keep wasting my fucking redneck's time while I stay my goddamn hand from sending a few rounds of buckshot through those fuckin' wings." Andee arched an eyebrow as Samael stepped back out from behind him with a tilt of his head. Nelson didn't wait for either of them to press for her to continue. "I need a job done. Off the books. And I want the two of you to do it."

Samael blinked and leaned back in surprise as Andee scoffed and narrowed his eyes. "The fuck?! I'm not on ya fuckin' payroll, ya rollin' bulldyke, don't lump me in with all you suicidal fucks! You don't get to put me on a gig like --"

"Either you fucking agree or you say goodbye to all the fucking free time I willingly grant my cave demon with your selfish ass!" she snarled while thrusting a finger toward Andee. "This ain't one of your fuckin' negotiations, Andee!"

He twitched backward despite himself. "Everything's a fuckin' negotiation if you ain't a brick wall made outta bitch," he muttered before gritting his teeth when Samael settled a hand gently on his shoulder.

"Whaddya mean 'off the books'?" Samael inquired. Andee glanced up to see the rebel studying Nelson as his tongue traced his muzzle warily. "An' why're you askin' us? Thought you hated all the time I was spendin' with Andee..."

"I do," she replied mildly before shifting her gaze once more to Andee. "But as much as I can't fucking stand this soap-opera-drama bullshit between you two, I also can't deny how well you two have worked together from what I've seen and heard lately." Her focus was laser-like and Andee knew immediately she wasn't blind to the things he and Samael had been working on in the shadows. "So far your nonsense hasn't put too much a dent in Wurlitz's capacity to be useful here, which he better know comes first and foremost. But I know that's a thin fucking thread holding that shitshow together."

She shifted her weight slightly before rolling a few inches closer to the duo. "These assholes out in Stigma are a problem. They were a nuisance before, but now that they've been involved in the death of a Movement operative, they're an issue." Andee felt Samael squirm at his side and he looked up again with a frown. He didn't get why Samael had to be so emotional about every goddamn casualty -- North had just been another stupid Freelancer. But he supposed that was his fiffy. Emotional about everyone. "I want them taken care of. I want it done now and I want it handled by you two, and you two alone. Not a word to anyone else here, not a fucking word to anyone in Lactan." Her gaze moved back to Samael. "That means your lap dog fuck-buddy too, Wurlitz."

Samael swallowed and shuffled his paws as Andee snorted and shoved a claw into her shin. Even if she couldn't feel it, she still growled and immediately leaned toward him. "Why the fuck you givin' this to us, woman? Shouldn't Wash and his assholes handle it? It's their dead Freelancer!"

Nelson's jaws ground slowly together before she stole another look at Samael. Andee glared between them, trying to decipher whatever fucking inaudible, invisible communication the chupas were sharing. He knew that look in Samael's eyes -- it was the expression he got every time he was thinking with that bleeding heart of his. "Washington's people had their chance," she muttered after a moment. "They fucked it up. And now this 'new branch' is making more fucking waves and attracting a lot of attention the rest of us don't need. I'm done taking chances."

"And remind me what the fuck's in it for me?!" Andee sneered, ignoring the burst of fear that ran through him when her nostrils flared.

"Your compensation will be me not putting a standing-fucking-order out to my people to mace you on sight whenever they come across your tiny ass anywhere inside these cliffs," she answered icily. "You think they're scared of you? Ask them what happened the last time they defied one of my fucking orders."

He snorted again but rubbed at one of his arms with a grumble. "Christ, woman, fine. Me and Sammy can handle this shit, 'bout time you assholes recognized I ain't just fuckin' all talk..."

She rolled her eyes, then looked expectantly at Samael as he exhaled shakily. "I know why yer givin' this to us, Mama, but--"

"If they aren't taken care of, then the entire fucking resistance is in danger of exposure," she interjected coldly. She took a moment, however, to lock gazes with him as her tone dropped into something that was dangerously close to sounding maternal. "Do what you do best, Wurlitz. Make it personal. I need you focused again."

"All you stupid fuckin' surface-dwellers make every fuckin' dead asshole a big fuckin' deal, no wonder you keep killin' yourselves every few fuckin' hundred years," Andee observed dryly. But the way Samael only closed his eyes and squeezed his fingers into the bat's shoulder made him grimace. Apparently shaming Samael's oversized heart wasn't the way to go for the time being. Nelson didn't seem any more amused as she looked down at him flatly. "Any other rules you gotta spell out to us, woman?"

She gripped into the wheels of her chair. "Made my conditions clear enough. Don't care how. Don't care how loud. Don't want any fucking excuses about needing to get supplies, either, so you have access to the warehouse...for this job alone." She held up two fingers, pointing one at each of them. "I'm denying every fucking detail from this point forward. Not looking anymore. Just get it done before zero-hundred tomorrow." She grunted and briskly maneuvered into a three-point turn to move away from them as Samael called after her awkwardly.

" I a'least give a holler first to--"

"Not fucking looking!" she yelled over a shoulder while disappearing around a corner with a squeal of rubber.

Samael sighed and slumped a bit before grimacing and rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. Andee studied him for a few seconds, then grumbled under his breath. Even if part of him wanted to call the short asshole out for whatever childish, sappy quandary he was suffering, he didn't think it'd be worth it. Besides, he had enough to think about trying to figure out why the hell the wheelchair-bound bitch had come to the two of them for this gig. Seemed to go against every goddamn word she'd said to them the last few times they'd all been in the same room.

He looked up to see Samael gazing at him. His features tread the line between contemplative and concerned, and Andee wasn't sure how he felt about that, either. Nelson's implication seemed pretty straightforward...but she had to know better than most the redneck's idiotic compulsion against taking lives. So why Samael? Sure, it was no secret Andee didn't give a fuck about popping up a few new tombstones, but that wasn't Samael's bag. Not unless Andee was missing something.

He didn't like missing shit.

"Guess I gotta schedule the Himroc follow-up some other time," Andee muttered as he pretended he didn't still feel a physical need for his unbearably enticing puppy. "Nelson really lettin' us stock up for this gig? Last time I asked the bitch for a single grenade, she about bit my fuckin' head off..."

"I s'pose we shouldn't question it," Samael replied softly, his eyes still showing some of that forlorn emotion that made the back of Andee's neck twitch.

"Fuckin' North, what'd that monster-truck-sized bastard do to make all you fucks so soggy?" Andee grumbled while shaking his head and waving a wing down the hallway. "Lead the way, then, Fiffy."

Samael sighed again, but whatever pointless emotions he was feeling were swept away as he lifted his head and then looked back down at the bat. "Hey, Andee..." Andee pursed his muzzle, already well aware that saying no to whatever request was on the redneck's tongue would only serve to bring back that stupid pout. They started to walk down the passage together, though Samael's eyes never left his. "You think, think we could drive together out to Stigma??"

Andee flattened his ears as he gave the chupa an annoyed look. He eventually sighed loudly, however, and rolled a shrug off his shoulders. "Fuckin' christ, Sammy, what is your fuckin' obsession with...y'know, yeah, fine...sure." He shook his head but smiled slightly as he pulled his cap down across his brow. "If it'll stop ya lookin' like an abuse victim." He smirked and flicked a wing into his partner's thigh. "But I ain't gonna give ya no fuckin' handjob on the way, so get that thought outta ya head!"

Andee was silently grateful for the smile that eased into place on Samael's features. That was better. Got old seeing his puppy so down in the dumps. "Heh, you got it, hon. Although you didn't say nothin' about me givin' you one, instead," he trilled as Andee snorted laughter.

"Yeah, yeah, I ain't sure I trust ya drivin' that much yet...but we'll fuckin' see."

Andee gazed through the glass as the truck's tires rumbled through the last of the snow and into the rockier expanse of Qoppa. He stared at the passing landscape without really seeing it, his senses dulled if only to avoid focusing too hard on the blurring trees. He shifted, and the way his nose ring clinked softly against the window brought back memories of the last time he'd been in a truck with Samael.

They weren't pleasant memories.

But he wasn't sure Samael's own thoughts were anywhere sunnier. He'd rambled happily about planning some future trip out to the remote corners of Sampi when they'd driven through the heart of the frigid territory; he must have been serious about bringing Andee out to meet his inbred hick family. Pack. Tribe. Whatever the fuck they were.

But as soon as they'd tickled the borders of Kaprime, Samael's mood dipped lower than the freezing gusts that flung angry bits of snow and ice against their windshield. Andee wondered how close they'd come to Tracer's final resting place. He wondered further if his body was still there or if the House had removed it for whatever reason. Based on Samael's story, he couldn't imagine much had been left. Certainly nothing worthy of parading through the streets of Omegrad to whip up the frenzy of the devout faithful.

He respected the man enough to not bring it up...and maybe there was enough affection for Samael despite all the frustration that he didn't want to shove the chupa over the edge to which he was clinging so tightly. He'd let the silence wash over them as the howling winds and crunching tires provided a cocoon from the rest of the world for a few hours. Wasn't like their last drive together. The quiet wasn't comfortable, but it didn't ache, either. At least not in a way that left Andee feeling so exposed.

He wrestled with himself as they left the snowy landscape behind. He wasn't used to thinking about how other people felt. But Samael wasn't like other people. He wasn't even like other stupid redneck midget puppies. He was Andee's stupid redneck midget puppy. The asshole was worth the nick in Andee's armor.

"Ey, Fiffy." He lifted his head from the window and glanced over as Samael's soft gaze took him in and embraced him the way it always goddamn did. "I know we ain't exactly been full of free time lately, but. Next time we got some..." He grumbled and hesitated before reaching out and grasping briefly into his companion's bicep. "We can go visit your stupid caves. See how long it takes for your backwoods-ass people to string me up for bein' a fuckin' mutant or some shit..."

He cursed in surprise as Samael leaned over to hug him tightly. "G-goddammit, Sammy!" he choked out even as he closed his eyes. He hated the way he couldn't stop from wrapping an arm around the chupa's neck, hated the rush of comfort that flowed effortlessly through him.

"Thanks, Andee...that means a lot to me. They're gonna love you..."

...He also hated the way the truck lurched to one side when the tires collided with a rock, his eyes snapping open with a different, equally-upset curse. "Put ya goddamn hands back on the fuckin' wheel!!"

The rebel chuckled easily and moved one hand to the steering wheel as the other remained squeezed into the bat's shoulder. "You gotta accept I'm a helluva multitasker, hon..." He winked and stuck out his tongue. "That handjob's still on the table, y'know."

Andee grumbled, though a small smile teased his rumpled expression. "Like I said before -- you gotta earn the right to pull them death-defyin' sex acts with me. You think just 'cause we've rubbed chodes a couple times now that you got full access to all this bat goodness," he concluded in his native tongue.

Samael cooed and wiggled his shoulders while settling his eyes onto the Qoppan landscape once more. "Gawd, gets me all fired up 'n excited whenever you pull out that bat-speak on my redneck ass...mmmm, sometimes I ain't sure if I like it better now that I c'n understand it! Somethin' magical 'bout you whisperin' words I ain't ever even heard while we all snug 'n cozy."

Andee snorted but didn't feel a need to sling accusations of fetishizing the exoticism of bats. Mostly because he knew the dumb midget meant it. "Don't worry, puppy. I still got some words you ain't heard, 'n acts that ain't got no word. Got plenty more magic for you..." He grinned when Samael peered over at him with an excited thump of his tail against the center console, the piercing filling the cab with a loud jangle. "After ya earned it!" he added with a cackle, making Samael huff and droop somewhat.

Andee chortled and relaxed in the seat before scratching at his muzzle and then rolling his head back toward the rebel. "So you ready to tell me 'bout what you told Nelson? That you know why she's givin' this gig to us?"

He wasn't overly surprised to see Samael shrink slightly into the seat. "Shit, ain't a huge secret, I promise. I know you see me 'n...'n see how I get close to jus' 'bout everyone --"

"Yeah, close," Andee muttered before he could stop himself. "So close ya can count their heartbeats through their dick."

...He felt a little guilty when Samael slumped further and slid his hand off the bat's shoulder. Andee sighed after a few seconds and shifted back and forth before looking back at the rebel. "Oh, don't take it like a fuckin' insult, puppy. Look, I ain't spent as much time with North as the other Freefuckers, but he didn't send off no fuckin' signs the way York did. Got trouble imagining you gettin' pounded in no goddamn supply closets by that big purple motherfucker."

Samael sighed but smiled a moment afterward. "Y'know I don't go bangin' all my pals, right? After all, I'd consider CT a good friend, too!"

Andee huffed, though a reflective smile danced over his muzzle as well. "Bah. Don't put nothin' past your whore-dom, Fiffy. But yeah, What? Nelson wants you on this to avenge some fuckin' dead friend? Revenge ain't never seemed like your thing."

Samael licked his lips as he gazed across the barren landscape before them. "You ain't too wrong, hon. It ain't my jam, naw, but. Doin' somethin' in someone else's memory keeps a guy sharp. I ain't got no misconceptions 'bout Nelson's reasons -- Mama don't want nothin' fuckin' up the secrets 'bout the rebellion. She 'n Wash go above 'n beyond keepin' shit locked down after...after what happened to her at the first Qoppa base." He nodded once. "An' I don't doubt much that she ain't trustin' Lactan to handle it, neither, even if I'm sure they'd be fine." His fingers tightened around the wheel and Andee studied the determined expression that overtook his companion's features. "She wants us on this, though, 'cause. 'Cause she's givin' me somethin' to do with all these feelin's yer always tearin' up my ass 'bout havin'."

Andee snorted even as he nodded a few times himself. "Handicapped bitch smarter than she looks. You are an emotional bastard..." His eyes flicked back to Samael again. "But that shit comes in handy." He bit his lip and then sighed slowly. "Chewed ya ass out for it, but. But I ain't an idiot. Know I'd be dead in that jungle if it wasn't for all those stupid...feelings of yours." He closed his eyes when Samael's hand ventured back toward him to hesitantly close around his thigh. "Don't change the fact I ain't a goddamn fan of you runnin' into no fuckin' fires 'cause of those damn emotions. I need you alive to be useful." He waited just long enough for Samael's smile to falter before he added: "And I guess you's not gonna be as good in the sack if ya fuckin' dead."

He grinned when his partner's beaming expression returned. Yeah. That was much better. "But fuckin' fine," Andee continued as he lightly slapped at Samael's thick arm with a wing. "Yo' broke-back momma wants to send us on a job 'cause you all emotional about it, so fuckin' be it." He glanced over at the chupa and wondered if he'd witness the same look that must have been on Samael's face as he'd come roaring in to fuck up Delacroix's people. "Just remember the goal ain't to get shot five times, asshole. Kinda hard to brag 'bout how much ass you and I's kickin' if it's your ass gettin' tore up!"

Samael chuckled and relaxed while bringing both hands back to the steering wheel. "Awww, don't fret none! I know you been doin' yer thing for awhile...but I'm purdy good at my thing, too!" He smiled confidently through the windshield. "We's gonna take care of this business, maybe ain't even gotta shed no blood."

Andee snorted -- he doubted either of them truly believed that, not after the intonation in Nelson's directives -- but kept his maw shut. In all honesty, Samael had proven himself capable of more than just pretending to play rebel. He was good at what he did, and Andee knew he left behind a lower body count than most bastards in this line of work. This really did seem to be the life he was meant for.

It was getting harder and harder to keep up that separation of their personal lives from their fuck it. Samael had kicked ass doing jobs for Andee -- who the fuck said Andee couldn't do the same for Samael?

Someone needed to keep an eye on this jackass of a puppy.

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

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