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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 16: Calm Like a Bomb

"Fuckin' hell..."

Samael glanced up from where he had a knee lowered to the smoothed stone, a quivering hand pressed against the rusty brown stains that drowned the corner of the spacious room and enveloped it in a cold gloom. Andee could still smell the blood, a metallic stench that reminded him they weren't barricaded within the safety of Xulod's caves, nor tucked behind the fortified walls of L-Base or Sidewinder. They were out in the open, where Sirca's true nature was painted as starkly as this impromptu mass grave, nearly every surface coated with dark amber splatters. The dried splotches dwarfed Samael, more than most things did. They were a coppery admonition of the world Samael was a part of, a world he fearlessly threw himself into again and again.

The puddle looked large enough to swallow him.

Samael tried to smile and the jagged expression that carved across his features only pulled a grimace onto Andee's.

"You say somethin', hon?"

Right. Stupid chupas and their stupid flat ears. Couldn't hear shit, even if it was yelling at them from all sides. Even when it was screaming right in front of them.

Andee shrugged and pulled the corner of his poncho over his shoulder while letting his eyes drift away from Samael to scan the rest of the space. Easier to avoid the emotions if he wasn't staring at his idiotic puppy. "Just that I ain't sure what we're still fuckin' doin' here. Ain't you already said ya prayers for North's chewed-up ass?"

He almost regretted the words, seeing from the corner of his eye how they made Samael cringe. But he kept his face muted as he tried to focus on something in the smoothed-out living space that wasn't a bloodstain. Several open cupboards caught his attention and he wandered toward them as his partner sighed softly and then stood with a grunt.

"Don't hurt to give 'im a few more," Samael murmured before shaking his head. "The folks Nelson sent out to retrieve his body -- they was in a hurry, didn't wanna get caught by the House's clean-up crew, but they said looked like there was two Freelancers got sent out." Andee glanced over a shoulder to see the chupa studying the various spatters throughout the room. "All the other bodies was from the resistance," he muttered.

Andee grumbled something akin to a response as he poked his head into the cabinets. Mostly dried food, a few tins of meat and vegetables. Nothing worth swiping. "Ain't that a bitch. Probably just what the fuckers at the capitol want, yanno..." He tossed a can of peas over a shoulder and moved to the next cabinet. "You stupid surface-fucks already been fightin' each other for the last couple hundred they got ya dumb asses goin' to war within ya own shitty rebellion."

Samael's sigh was longer this time. "Don't gotta remind me, hon. Nelson 'n Wash been at each others' throats long enough." Andee failed to resist looking back at him again, watching as his companion's shoulders slumped while he moved toward the dried blood near the front of the room. "Now we gotta have words with the people we's supposed to be allied with."

Andee snorted and replied under his breath: "Ain't just words we's gonna have, but you keep on pretendin', Fiffy..."

Samael had done his best to be upbeat as they'd roared across the Stigman wastelands, offering up several plans that would -- presumably -- succeed in terrifying most of their quarry out of maintaining this broken faction of the Movement. He seemed pretty positive that if enough of them were driven out by a fear of certain death or something even worse, it would put an end to the whole thing. No more attempts at figuring out the other base locations, no more having Nelson twitch every time an unencrypted transmission went out. No more losing double-agents in an endeavor to defend the shittiest rebels Sirca had ever seen.

But the bat wasn't sold...and he didn't think Samael truly was, either. When they'd been helping themselves to Sidewinder's supplies, there'd barely been a half-hearted bid to stop Andee from packing enough explosives to level a cricket stadium. Andee hadn't even been forced to resort to sexual favors to convince Samael; apparently North's demise was still enough of a fucking cloud over the midget's head that he'd been willing to entertain the ordnance..."just in case", of course.

"Other'n..." Samael choked on his words and Andee scowled. He remained silent, though, as Samael forced himself onward. "Other'n North an' the two six, maybe seven more casualties. Judgin' by the last reports we had, means 'bout fifteen or so got out."

Andee made a face but finally tore himself away from searching the storage area to meander back toward Samael. "You usin' some fuckin' redneck-super-sense to tell that, shortstack?"

Samael offered a lame shrug, not exactly denying it as he gestured toward the different stains dotting the floor. "Basic trackin'. Ain't allowed to leave the caves 'til we know it."

"You fuckin' inbred bastards, don't gotta be able to read to be a man, but if you c'n follow footsteps long enough to sodomize a motherfucker, ya considered all grown up," Andee intoned sardonically. He was rewarded a watery smile, though it wasn't all that satisfying. His eyes were inevitably drawn back to the enormous off-brown blotch in the back corner.

"Shoulda been a height requirement to leave them caves, you never shoulda been let the fuck loose..."

Impossible not to stare at the massive pool that had been drained from someone who had to have been one of the Movement's best and strongest assets. Someone leagues above Samael, despite the stubborn chupa's talents, resourcefulness and sheer luck.

"But naw, they let your underdeveloped ass out into the real' now you's out here huntin' a whole group of motherfuckers by yaself, like ya thinkin' ya fuckin' invincible," he concluded gruffly as he balled his hands into fists, his wings curving back painfully to drive into his own back.

A hand dropped onto his shoulder and he twitched before glowering up at the faint smile that met him. "I don't think I'm invincible, hon. I just got somethin' worth fightin' for," he murmured, squeezing Andee's shoulder and then brushing past him to study North's final resting place one more time. He paused and looked back to lock his tender gaze with the bat's. "An' I ain't doin' this alone."

Andee chewed on his cheek, keeping his muzzle shut as he watched Samael's eyes move steadily along the edge of the bloodstains, and then finally toward the still-ajar door that led to the rocky shores of Lake Highguard. Part of him still wasn't sure why he hadn't just thrown a rude gesture and flown back to Xulod, left Samael to do this mission alone. Samael would have covered for him, would have lied to Nelson about his participation to ensure she didn't follow through with her threats of making Andee's life that much more miserable.

...But part of him knew he needed to be here. Not because of any bullshit from Nelson, no. And not for some emotional bullshit, either, not because Samael "wasn't doing this alone". Andee needed to be real goddamn sure that he was ready for the life he'd signed up for when he'd let this stupid fucking redneck get so close. He needed to see it with his own two eyes, recognize whether it was worth sticking around...or if it was time to cut the last remaining heartstrings still tied snugly around his fingers, and free himself to once more do things his way.

"I guess you ain't, puppy," Andee finally answered with a noise of displeasure, making a point to hop over the nearest dried puddle so he could stride into the open doorway and take a deep breath. Even the muggy brine of Highguard was a suitable replacement for the overwhelming stench of death and inexorability that hung within the walls of the abandoned hideout. "So what's the big fuckin' plan, then?"

"They ain't gonna be too far," Samael replied as his eyes squinted somewhat to gaze through the open door. "Sounds like ya found some food in them cupboards, but guessin' not much." Andee's grunt apparently served as a decent enough acknowledgment, since Samael nodded and then glanced back at the floor. "They been back a coupla times. Probably to see what the House ain't took, try'n recover what they could." He sighed and then rubbed the back of his head, and Andee could see the way he lost the fight to avoid looking at the same goddamn corner one more time. "Maybe jus'...morbidly curious, too..."

Andee scoffed. "Ya mean morbidly stupid, right? What kinda fuckin' dumbasses comes back to the scene of a fuckin' sextuple-murder when they was all on the fuckin' hit-list?!"

Samael smiled faintly again and pulled a radio from his supply pouch. "Heh. do keep callin' 'em stupid. Maybe you ain't so wrong." Andee rolled his eyes, keeping his retort to himself as Samael twisted the knob of the radio to some frequency or another. He frowned when Samael produced a small metal sleeve with a thin slit running down one side, fitting it over the antenna. The chupa smiled a bit at the confused expression before he keyed the radio. "This is the Purple Convoy, on the lookout for cheap fuel and warm sheets. Got a shipment full of tires and need a good place to tuck 'em in for a rest."

When Andee screwed up his muzzle in consternation, Samael chuckled briefly as he elevated the radio while holding onto the metal sleeve. "Nelson 'n Wash purdy sure some'a these guys are from Kiden's camp. One of their codes to indicate a friendly Movement party."

"And you think these dumbasses gonna fall for that?" Andee replied mildly.

Samael smiled a bit again, but before he could give whatever dumb note of hope he had prepared, a response burst through the radio's static. "This is the Guardians' Nest!" Samael's focus sharpened immediately and he began to twiddle the sleeve over the antenna. "We're currently on lockdown but we are ready to receive new product." Andee continued to make a face but couldn't help the tilt of his head as he watched Samael close his eyes and diligently tweak the metal cap a bit more while the voice on the other end crackled and then increased in clarity. "Wait until nightfall and then re-transmit. We'll verify you."

The chupa released the sleeve and opened his eyes to glance at it. "They was right 'bout some'a these folks leavin' Kiden's group," Samael muttered before tipping his muzzle toward the door. "They's to the north-east. No more'n an hour by truck, judgin' by the fuzz."

Andee snorted with automatic disdain, putting his hands on his hips as he scrutinized Samael. "You fuckin' kiddin' me, Fiffy? That ain't no fuckin' redneck-huntin' bullshit, you gonna pull out some fuckin' dousin' rods next, find a fuckin' magical spring full'a fairy-juice somewheres under our feet?"

Samael's weak smile gained a bit of momentum as he tucked the radio away and then reached out to gently tug the ring in Andee's ear. "C'mon, now -- you really think the only thing ol' Tracer taught me was how to give a good blowjob?"

Andee blinked, stunned into momentary silence by the fact the dead bastard's name had been spoken without any accompanying tears. North's death really must have fucked Samael up. The bat recovered his senses and rolled his eyes as Samael nudged him toward the charred, bent husk of the front door so they could head back to the truck. "I dunno," he replied brusquely, a half-smile sliding over his muzzle. "You give a pretty fuckin' good blowjob."

He glanced up and was relieved to see the returned smile. "Guess I can't rightly argue that," Samael chortled before taking a deep breath. "A'right. Think I got a good 'nuff plan." Andee appreciated the wince as Samael looked back down at him awkwardly. "If...if you wanna hear it."

He smirked and threw open the passenger door of the truck. "Good puppy, learnin' how to do things all proper 'n shit. Tell me on the way and I'll tell you how fuckin' stupid it is, an' then fix it so it actually works."

That same smile grew another inch or so as Samael hopped behind the wheel and turned the key. "You 'n Nelson got right near the same idea 'bout how teamwork's s'posed to go, hope you know that." Andee was content to merely snort in amusement as they accelerated along the base of the rocky cliffs toward the source of the transmission. "But alright, so what I'm thinkin' is you take all them big-booms you brought along, plant a couple on the boats I'm sure they's gonna have tied up on the lake, put a few 'round the outside'a whatever they's usin' as a hideout..."

"I'm likin' this plan so far!" Andee crowed delightedly, rubbing his hands together with a toothy grin.

"Figured you would," Samael sang back before raising a finger from the steering wheel. "Meanwhile, I'mma work my magic, convince 'em to take a li'l field trip outta wherever they're holed up...'n then kaboom!" He slapped a hand against the roof of the cab as Andee gave him a sidelong look. "Send all their shit sky-high, scare 'em all so good they ain't gonna wanna think the word 'Movement' no more. They'll think the House is onto 'em, an' after what they saw happen back there..." He trailed off briefly with a glance in the rearview mirror. "Yeah. I think that'll work."

Andee rolled his tongue around the inside of his muzzle for a few seconds. It wasn't a terrible plan. And based on how many of these fuckers had apparently tucked tail and run when their own started biting the dust, it did seem that cowardice was a natural state of being for most of them.

...But that wasn't going to be enough, was it? Maybe Nelson hadn't been explicit with her direction, but Samael wasn't a fuckin' moron. Not when it came to understanding things below the surface. He might have been nigh illiterate, but the doe-eyed bastard never failed to read between the lines.

Still one of his most frustrating traits.

"I appreciate ya fuckin' gusto, puppy, but...I don't think that's gonna fuckin' cut it," Andee responded after a moment or two. He dared a look over at his partner and wasn't all that surprised at the tense expression that greeted him. "And I really don't wanna fuckin' make this goddamn trip twice."

Samael grimaced as he tightened his grip on the wheel. "Just..." He swallowed and then looked back through the windshield. Wasn't hard to tell there was a goddamn full-fledged war going on between his thoughts. "Let's try 'fore we jump to conclusions. I ain't tryin' to disrespect North's memory by doin' nothin' brash."

Andee let his tongue dance along the ring in his nose before he replied quietly: "I get I wasn't as close to the big purple fucker as you was, shortstack...but I'm pretty fuckin' sure these assholes already did that."

Samael bit his lip as Andee watched him for several seconds. And for once, the stumpy rebel didn't have any words for him. Andee slit his eyes somewhat and then pulled the brim of his cap down while relaxing into the seat. "I'mma trust you to try it your way, Sammy..." He could feel the chupa's strained look in the side of his vision. "But then I'mma trust you to do whatever the fuck needs to get done. 'Cause I ain't gonna keep dealin' with all this motherfuckin' rebel shit if all it does is make you fuckin' stupid." He forced himself to look back over at Samael, struggling not to lose his resolve when the soft blue waves crashed over him. "We might be partners, Fiffy...but that shit ain't unconditional."

He hated the way his heart cried out at the pained expression marring Samael's features. But he drove his claws firmly into his palms and clutched into the physical discomfort, still a stronger guide than anything else. Samael had been given enough chances -- it was time to prove whether or not they could truly make this thing work.

"Shucks, fellas, y'all should be proud!"

Andee's arm quivered as he glared down from the shadow of the rock wall where he was nestled between two boulders to nearly become part of the facade. He didn't want to trust Samael, because trusting people rarely fucking worked out...but so far, the drawling jackass hadn't been shot despite the way three of these motherfuckers had rushed out with guns drawn.

Didn't make the bat any less anxious to whip out a grenade and bean one of the assholes in the back of the head before they could fuck up and gift Samael a new bullet hole. That stupid redneck had enough scars as it was.

Samael's hands were raised, his own handgun dangling from one finger as he smiled at the trio of twitchy rebels. The light-purple one in front looked to be the leader, or at least was doing a shit-poor job pretending. Fat one on his right had his gun pointed halfway to the ground, since it was probably more exercise than he normally did in any given ten-minute span. And then the skinny red fucker on the other side was squirming more than Paneko after his first blowjob. Real fuckin' bunch of winners, alright.

"Why did you use a code for Kiden's people, then?!" the purple one demanded as he stepped closer while jabbing his rifle toward Samael's bare chest. Andee's claws dug harshly into his palm and he nearly bit his own loose collar to muffle the growl.

"Shit, why'd ya answer it?" Samael retorted before giving an easy wink and continuing before his aggressor could sputter a response. "Naw, we jus' heard y'all had a few folks relocate from his camp, figgered it'd be the best way to find out if y'all were still in the area!"

"Why didn't you just say you were from one of the other bases?" the chubby one blurted.

"Aw, c'mon now, y'all gotta give me a little credit!" Samael complained as he gestured with his free hand. "Y'all just got attacked by the House, you think I was gonna roll up soundin' like some double-agent comin' to start round two?!? Hell no, I ain't tryna get shot!"

The 'leader' made a face but lowered the tip of his rifle slightly. "'re not with the House?"

Andee's hand remained near the hem of his poncho. He didn't have stock in any of these twitchy fuckers.

Samael's grin was amusing, at least. Kind of impressive how easily he could demean someone while simultaneously making them feel like Sirca's hottest shit. "Hell naw!!" He jerked his head toward the letters burned into his bicep before lifting the wrist still supporting the dangling handgun to display the dashed-out omega. "Y'all think these is fuckin' drawn on with marker? Shit's crispy, I ain't fakin' shit!"

The crimson chupa twitched and stumbled forward with his finger in the trigger-guard of his own pistol. "What if you're just deep cover?!"

"Christ, Tic, look at him," the fat one grumbled as he scratched idly beneath his gut. "He's a midget. Don't think the House would let someone like him on special forces, anyway."

Samael tilted his muzzle briefly toward the blue-furred chupa before looking back at their impromptu leader. "'S right! They ain't got no need for a li'l guy like me." He took a step forward as he spoke, drawing a twinge from the spazzy red one but leaving the other two relaxed as he offered a genuine smile. "We heard 'bout y'all survivin' a goddamn Freelancer raid -- my boss decided it's time bring y'all into the fold!" The lilac chupa puffed his chest out a little and Andee watched the way Samael immediately latched onto it as the rebel's grin slid effortlessly into a sly wink. "I c'n see why y'all left Kiden...yer ready for the real rebel shit, aintcha??"

Their leader finally lowered the rifle completely with a smirk. "Yeah, that's what we've been trying to say. How come your boss didn't come out here himself? What's his name, anyway, they never tell us anything on the radio!!"

Samael didn't bother to correct the asshole, although Andee couldn't help his muffled snort of entertainment. Nelson would have this guy eating through a fuckin' plastic tube before he could even apologize for assuming the wrong gender. Not that she would have cared. Crazy bitch might have been a crazy bitch, but even Andee could respect the fact she was a motherfucker that could hold her goddamn own. The thought of her backhanding him into tomorrow almost made her threatening demands at the onset of this mission worth it.

Samael's grin never wavered as he carefully holstered his pistol, deftly ignoring the way the spastic one gave a little yelp at the motion. "Well, we do things a li'l careful on this end'a the Movement," Samael explained as he stepped closer and then patted the purple chupa's arm. Andee's eyes narrowed as he studied his partner...and it was hard not to be a little impressed to see the way the other chupa relaxed almost instantly at his touch. This beefy faggot was somethin' else.

"We've had our own li'l run-ins with the House 'afore," Samael continued, letting his arm wrap naturally around the leader's waist while smiling briefly at the other two, guiding all three of them to turn back toward the cave entrance they'd emerged from. "Them two leaders from the other bases is a li'l paranoid...fer good reason! But y'all done blowed our minds after ya escaped the raid, so we's gonna get you all on the same page as the rest of us!"

The light-purple one squinted at Samael for a second or two and then lifted his muzzle haughtily as he wrapped an arm around Samael as well, very purposefully gripping into Samael's ample buttocks. "Well, at least they sent someone who knows what it means to be a rebel and isn't such a stiff-neck!" he declared. Andee pursed his lips -- watching someone use his property wasn't quite as enjoyable when that someone was such a douchebag. That and the glimpse of a strained smile that Samael fired briefly up to his hidden perch told plenty about the thoughts running through the redneck's mind.

Maybe he'd get to see that rabid beast from the jungle again, after all.

He remained still as the four disappeared into the entrance of the cave together, exhaling and shaking his wings out only after he heard their footsteps moving down one of the tunnels. He was supposed to head over the top of the cliffs and rig some explosives to the boats before placing a few around the perimeter of the caves, but now he kind of wanted to hear the conversation Samael was about to have with these assholes. Plus it'd be a helluva lot more impactful if the explosions came from within; there were few things as terrifying as having someone slip past your defenses and wreaking havoc from the inside.

He flit down from the rocks and swooped into the cave, his wings hardly leaving a whisper in the air despite the way he glanced off one of the walls with a wince. He could already hear Mutt's taunting about his shitty flying but that shit didn't matter a goddamn bit when there was no one else here to compare with -- shitty flying or not, he was the only bastard in these caves with wings, anyway. And he was certain these assholes would be the same as chupa assholes everywhere else...too fucking stupid to ever look up.

He could hear Samael's drawl echoing back down the dimly lit passage, going on with a bullshit story about how his base was located in Sampi. Andee was a master of making any deal seem worthwhile and spinning any bullshit promises and claims as legit, while Samael's talents laid more with making a person feel worthwhile, able to feed them any ridiculous tale right out of his palm like it was coming from their own mother.

No wonder they made such a good team.

He let himself smile pompously, his ears cocked to monitor Samael's confident rambling as he produced the first explosive and twisted his wings to send him high into the ceiling of the winding cave to plant the device. Their targets had gone from suspicious to neutral to downright eager...and even if Andee doubted any single one of them would actually give Fiffy a real thrill, it was kinda enthralling to know his puppy probably had all three of 'em already posting half-masts.

Yeah, he could see why Nelson was so defensive of this talented whore; Andee represented a potential distraction from him being able to utilize his full potency on the rest of Sirca. He grinned to himself and kicked off the wall to proceed with the stealthy infiltration of the caves. Good thing he had no plans to stop Samael from being Samael, no matter how many passionate emotions they'd traded thus far -- he merely wanted a slice of that delicious prostitution pie for himself.

Having a loyal partner who knew his way around a good fuck was just a bonus.

* * *

Samael's molars were starting to ache when he grinned for the umpteenth time as Forrest broke into another embellished tale of the old man they'd kicked out when they'd taken over their original location; the chubby rebel must have had some kind of dislike for anyone of an elder age. They'd filtered into a central chamber after a brief tour of the caves and Jesse was now flopped over Samael's smaller frame, one of the purple-furred chupa's arms not-so-subtly tracing Samael's belt buckle as they took turns regaling the newcomer with stories of their exploits so far.

He wasn't ashamed about the fact he was partially aroused. He'd long since accepted his lustful side, regardless of how disgusted his own urges sometimes made him feel. He knew he would have taken half of the cave's occupants into a side-room without hesitation, stripped them down and left them panting, overwhelmed and drenched. Probably would have gotten off himself more than a couple times, too...some of these guys were downright cute.

It was a fire within him that Tracer had always nurtured and encouraged, working with rough but gentle hands to coax from a curious flicker into an outright inferno. He'd always told the young chupa he was destined to bring countless dangerous and powerful men to their knees, often by simply remaining on his own. And what he'd crafted from the raw clay he'd scooped from that remote Sampian tribe was now a goddamn passion-soaked force of nature.

Samael burned brightest when raw intimacy was on the table, or even if the suggestion of a quick romp breathed past him. Nelson bitched about it but Samael wasn't an idiot. He could see how she'd taken Tracer's personal training and oh-so-dedicated grooming and shaped it into something she could keep developing from a safe distance...not that they were each others' type, anyway. It was clear enough, though, that the missions she sent him on, the targets she guided him toward: her goal was to make him an effective tool, utilizing not just his tough physical form and adaptability, but that charm and sexual attraction he all but oozed.

He'd realized some time ago she wasn't irritated by his relationship with Andee, but rather the fact he'd let his emotions become as entangled as their limbs. Same thing Tracer had always warned him against despite the tender words he'd whispered against Samael's cheek whenever he lovingly worked himself into the mewling recruit.

Samael supposed neither Nelson nor Tracer would disapprove of what he felt now, at least. Even if he would have agreed heartily to wrap his jaws around every dick in the room, there wasn't a hint of an emotional connection. A few of these guys had the passion of the rebellion, sure, but most of them were just playing it up. Their superficial dedication was an ugly veneer, an off-color coat of cheap paint that Samael could see chipping away with every casual question he asked, revealing the dilapidated structures that lacked any real foundation for the cause he and his companions sought to bring to the whole world, the cause they lived for and were willing to die for.

The caves these impostors had taken up as their new hideout were nothing impressive compared to the living space they'd previously occupied. But they'd still been busy since their hasty retreat, it appeared. Lights had been strung up in most of the hallways, and a few of the chambers had been sloppily decorated with what furniture and appliances the group had either recovered from their first spot, or in recent trades with the few contacts they had in the area. He'd counted thirteen or fourteen people so far, the core group of five seeming to be those currently situated in what Jesse kept referring to as the 'war room'.

...Wasn't exactly much of a war room. The radio was here, along with a few maps of the area and several posters that had likely been taken from Kiden's stores when those who'd been in his ranks ran off to start their own little faction. The neurotic red one who kept giving eager leers toward Samael's crotch was seated at the radio -- Tic, as the others called him.

A quiet rebel with a prosthetic leg hovered nearby; he looked ready to jump in at the first misuse of the comms equipment, which probably wasn't a bad instinct considering everything else Samael had seen from these people. He'd introduced himself as Sparrow and his eyes spoke of pain both distant and very recent. Samael had the feeling he'd lost people he'd cared about in the raid and Samael really wanted to talk to the guy...but hadn't been afforded more than a few polite exchanges before Jesse had loudly declared that the 'leadership team' needed to bring Samael to the war room to discuss their new relationship and all the things they could expect from his people.

Forrest was still rambling on about the uselessness of the elderly chupa they'd forcefully evicted and Samael tried not to grimace as the chubby ex-soldier cackled at his own shitty joke. He knew he had only himself to blame for the fact that thirty minutes had passed and they'd still not yet gotten to the subject of the attack. Maybe part of him hated to even think these people, these men and women who dared to call themselves rebels, would have a modicum of responsibility for what had befallen his friend. They were morons, sure...maybe even cowards. Didn't mean the fate thrust upon North was any fault of their own.

Samael felt Jesse's fingers dance toward his lap and he shifted just enough to make it seem accidental, throwing the faction leader's weight slightly to one side. "Oh shit, whoops!" he exclaimed, leaping to his paws in a blur and catching the lilac chupa in his muscular arms with a toothy grin.

No one knew it was fake, though. He'd become that desirable object.

"You alright, hon??"

Jesse looked flustered but seemed too enamored with the thick arms around him to care. "Oh! My savior!!" He didn't seem to mind his 'savior' was nearly a foot shorter than him. "You're so much nicer than that last guy!"

A grimace tugged at Samael's smile but he forced the comfortable expression into place while helping Jesse back into a seated position on the chair, now that he was no longer sprawled over the redneck's shoulders. "Aw, ol' North was a sweetheart, spirits light his way," he murmured. "He was one of our best 'n he got took too soon." He nodded and then twitched as a scoff came from the rebel unironically named 'Blade'.

"If that guy was one of your best, I don't know if we need you and your boss's help!"

Samael moved his hand away from Jesse's shoulder before his fingers could clutch into it and give away his distress. He saw a flash of North's features glide past and he reminded himself he was better than this. It was just ignorance, and that was something he'd been taught to deal with, taught to change, even. He turned to glance at the black-furred chupa sporting a leather vest.

When he'd been paraded through the caves, he'd heard enough from this guy to realize he was one of the survivors of the Hammersmith Co-Op. The ex-hoopster hadn't been present at the meeting in the warehouse, though, since otherwise Samael was positive the guy would have remembered a short, beefy chupa covered in piercings and tattoos.

He figured it might be a little late to apologize, but at least he could make up for it somewhat when he convinced this guy to leave both the hoop and rebel lifestyles behind. It'd be sorta like saving his life.

Samael took a breath to settle his stomach and then offered a small smile to Blade. "C'mon, now, North took on two Freelancers so y'all could get outta there. No need to say nothin' like that."

Forrest snorted and flapped an arm dismissively. "Those Freelancers weren't that scary! One of them was a woman!" Samael bit the inside of his cheek as his tail curled closer to his spine. "And that guy said he was a Freelancer, too -- shouldn't he have known they were coming? So much for insider intelligence..."

Samael considered his next words as carefully as he could, but was surprised into silence when Sparrow spoke up first, his soft voice edged with a tremor of enmity. "That 'woman' killed some of our own, too...she...she killed Charlene..."

Forrest only shrugged. "So? She was another stupid woman."

"Plus she was always yelling at me for using the radio!" Tic added with a huff before he hopped to his feet with a smug grin. "Anyway, that big purple guy was an asshole!" Samael's tail piercing rang out once as he felt his claws digging into pads that were still sore. "He made us leave instead of letting us fight those fuckers...we woulda kicked their asses!"

Sparrow shook his head a few times as he sputtered: "She...she yelled at you guys because you were always sending stupid transmissions!" Samael focused on him again for a moment, his bubbling anger momentarily soothed by the outburst. "That was probably the reason they found us! The reason our friends are dead, why we got Agent North killed when he was trying to help us!!"

The others all stared at Sparrow for a few seconds and Samael felt his tail begin to relax as his fists uncurled. But before he could add to the lone dissenter's voice, Jesse spoke up.

"Guys, guys -- chill out." Samael's eyes flicked back to the lilac chupa. Maybe he'd been overly harsh in his initial assessment of their leader. "We lost some of our people and that sucks." Samael's shoulders lowered a bit. "But the other rebels realized they fucked up and sent the wrong guy the first time!"

Or maybe he'd been right on the fucking money.

Every bit of tension shot back into Samael's body as his hackles sprung to attention. Jesse didn't seem to notice when he stood up and grinned around the room while gesturing to Samael. "Sure, he's short...but he's a lot more fun, right?! And he's not gonna get us killed by being a double-agent like that other guy!"

Samael's eyes were furious pinpricks as he stared wordlessly at Jesse. He could feel his own pulse against his palms as his breath quickened into sharp huffs. He saw North again, felt the flames licking at their legs as his friend threw himself fearlessly into danger to rescue them both despite Samael being unworthy of the potential sacrifice, despite how the scales would have tipped so much further with North's loss over his own. The way things still felt horribly unbalanced, skewed unfairly from the decision North had made to defend these...these assholes.

He and York had promised each other to respect North's choice, iniquitous as it felt. But Samael knew then and there that respect was going to be conditional.

Blade's voice cut through the haze of his fury. "All we're saying is that the so-called Freelancer you guys sent fucking died, and we all lived, so..."

"That's right!" Jesse declared with a toothy grin while pumping his fist. "Because we're fucking awesome! We're still standing while three Freelancers all got killed!!"

Forrest grunted loudly. "Yeah, those guys weren't shit! And I think the purple guy was homophobic!"

Tic whooped and stood on his chair with both fists in the air. "We should celebrate by banging the new guy!"

"Are you guys serious?!" Sparrow choked out, his eyes wide with disbelief. "This isn't a--" He blinked as Samael pointed to him, trailing off when he noticed the stony expression on the newcomer's features.

"You should leave, Sparrow." The room stumbled into an awkward silence while Samael's eyes locked with Sparrow's. "Now."

Forrest squinted in confusion. "Why should he leave?"

Samael waited for Sparrow to shift his weight, reading the comprehension that drifted into place behind his eyes. Sparrow slowly stood up and swallowed thickly before looking around at his companions and finally nodding once to Samael. He turned and strode out of the chamber without another word as Forrest grunted and struggled up to his feet. "Why is he leaving?!" he repeated insistently.

Samael rolled his shoulders once and settled his gaze on Forrest. "'Cause I'm about to fuck the rest'a you up."

The overweight rebel blinked and then guffawed loudly while leaning down toward the shorter chupa. "Are you gonna go get a stepstool, you tiny redneck? Because--"

Samael barely felt the impact thanks to the mixture of rage and adrenaline, his fist driving into Forrest's muzzle with enough force to audibly crack his lower jaw. Forrest's eyes rolled back into his skull and he collapsed into a drooling lump while Jesse cursed in surprise as Tic squawked and then lunged from where he stood upon his chair to try and tackle Samael.

But Samael's eyes burned with a fierceness that had every instinct primed for action. He spun toward the crimson-furred aggressor and grabbed one of his wrists before twisting around and shoving the other hand against Tic's ribs to send him crashing forcefully into Jesse. They cried out in shock together, sprawling out in a tangle of limbs, and Samael turned his head toward the ex-hoopster snarling and racing in with a switchblade already drawn. "You two-faced piece of shit!!"

Samael's paws danced on clouds, his bulky form feeling as light as air when he weaved smoothly to one side to avoid the ugly thrust of the knife. Just like North had shown him -- being muscular didn't mean he couldn't still be nimble. The proud, strong features of his friend filled his thoughts and he narrowed his eyes before shouldering firmly into Blade's arm to jar the knife from his grip. He heard the weapon skitter away and he quickly looped a thick arm around the other chupa's waist to fling him bodily toward the stone floor.

Blade grunted in pain from the impact, his eyes widening at the sight of Samael lunging toward him with a low growl. He didn't have enough time to lift his hands defensively, suffering a swift kick against the side of his head as the sharp impact left him another motionless heap next to Forrest.

So much for convincing him to leave this life behind.

Samael heard the frantic patter of claws behind him and he grabbed a chair out of instinct, then revolved toward his attacker while loosing a roar of exertion. Tic had half a second to realize his mistake before the wooden chair smashed against his upper chest in a hail of splinters, the strength of the blow knocking his tall, slender frame backward as a strangled cry slipped from his maw. "You motherfuckers don't got a fuckin' clue how goddamn lucky y'all were!" Samael yelled, frustration straining his voice as his limbs trembled. "Y'all didn't deserve his dyin' breaths!!"

The ire had built into a full tempest, the winds of wrath screaming past his ears and drowning out any pleas for self-control. A flicker of purple caught his attention and he turned toward the threat as Jesse shouted inarticulately and fought against his own stupor to level his rifle at the furious rebel. Samael's eyes flashed and he rushed to close the distance, shoving a broken chair leg into the gun to force it aside as Jesse pulled the trigger and fired a spray of bullets into the rock wall. He released another incensed holler but Samael's focus never wavered, using the chair piece still gripped in his opposite hand to batter ruthlessly into the bigger chupa's forearm.

Jesse's fingers spasmed and Samael sprung toward the gun to wrench it out of the other fighter's grip. Jesse's eyes bulged when Samael swung the barrel of the rifle toward him...only to grit his teeth and throw the gun aside. He still wasn't an executioner. He snarled through his furor and moved in for a punch, only to catch a surprise blow against his jaw.

Jesse cursed and immediately rubbed at his knuckles as Samael stumbled back a step. But the momentary look of victory in the lilac chupa's eyes shifted quickly to horror when Samael spat disdainfully to one side and wiped the blood from his maw, then strode fearlessly toward him as if the twelve or thirteen inch height difference didn't mean shit. "E-everyone get in here!" Jesse demanded hoarsely before wheezing as a lightning-quick jab caught him directly in the throat.

Samael moved without hesitation, slinging another punch into the exposed gap of Jesse's armor to force the air from his lungs, his torso bending forward in response. The redneck's other fist was there to smash into his cheek and knock him clean off his feet, his larger frame hanging in the air for a moment before crashing into an ungainly sprawl.

Samael glimpsed a few more figures rushing into the chamber, their perturbed shouts filling the room, but all he could hear were the insults, the cruel slights against a friend who had given everything to save the lives of these miserable bastards. He ignored the cacophony around him and listened only to the emotions that howled for retribution, straddling Jesse's chest and closing a hand around the collar of his armor. The eyes that stared up at him were no longer haughty or even surprised -- in fact, they were simply terrified.

As they should have been.

A more composed man might have rasped some kind of meaningful message or dedication. All Samael had was his passion, and he settled for a feral growl as he began to pummel Jesse's face. Each vicious strike made his arm ache and his heart ache even more because he knew it wouldn't bring North back. No matter how much blood he spilled, how many teeth he knocked loose, his friend was gone. Maybe his spirit lingered still...hell, maybe he was here now, watching as Samael beat the ever-loving shit out of this guy in his name. He wasn't sure it was a dedication North would have ever wanted. But Samael learned long ago how to deal with anyone who disrespected your kin, and the lessons taught out in Sampi were rarely big on forgiveness.

He lifted his crimson-stained knuckles next to a cheek marred with a single wet streak, his frozen blue glare locked onto Jesse's bruised, mangled features despite the clatter of weapons being readied, despite the sounds of other rebels racing toward them. But a single voice made him whip his head up, effortlessly tearing through his acrimonious frenzy.

"Ay, we go--what the fuck?!"

He blinked away the haze of his wrath, his fingers releasing Jesse's collar as the lilac chupa's body thudded back into the stone with a weak groan. Andee flew in a tight circle above him, his expression a strange mix of frustrated and fascinated. Samael stood up and then winced as he realized three or four more rebels had stormed onto the scene of the altercation. He started to square himself against them...before they seemed to comprehend where the voice had come from, the group shrinking back as one as a multitude of fingers were thrust upward.

"Oh holy shit, is that a fuckin' bat-person?!"

"Oh god, they're real! They're real!!"

Andee's usual snide responses were absent as his eyes locked only with Samael's. "Fiffy! The fuck you doin'?! Charges are set, we need to go!"

Samael blinked. Had he really spent that much time with these people? It didn't seem like it'd been nearly long enough for Andee to--

"Did he say charges!?" one of the bewildered rebels shouted. "They...they must be with the House!"

Andee snorted and then landed messily on one of the overhead lights, the fixture swinging wildly when his weight settled upon it. "We ain't with the fuckin' House, dumbasses!" he retorted while reaching into his poncho with a dangerous grin. Samael wasn't sure he liked that grin. "You's all just a buncha fuck-ups!" he concluded, cackling away as he produced a device Samael was becoming all too familiar with.

The chupa turned his head instinctively when Andee lobbed the object at the feet of the gathered rebels. A moment later, a dull thump shook the room before a cloud of smoke burst free, accompanied by steady hissing as more of the thick, blueish stuff came billowing out from the container. Several more disorganized shouts rang out through the chamber, soon followed by a multitude of wild gunfire from behind the growing fog.

Samael ducked low with a whispered curse as multiple bullets tore thin rivulets through the dense smoke around him. Andee's call filtered down to him again with an edge of panic. "Christ, Sammy, let's go!"

He felt the flutter of wings just above him as Andee raced by and the chupa grimaced as he waved an arm to clear some of the smoke to try and find the way out. A few more stray rounds shot past him and he stumbled blindly away from the turmoil when he realized he had no idea which way Andee had glided.

He was on his own.

But it was okay. He was used to that. It was fine that Andee was going ahead. Probably better, in fact -- little guy wasn't made for direct confrontation, he'd be safer leaving Samael behind. It was fine. Samael only needed to focus on getting himself out.

He grunted as he bumped into a wall before flinching to the side as another random bullet pinged off the stone surface inches from his arm. "Shit!" He felt along the rough-hewn surface while sidling toward a current of air. Samael decided to trust his instincts and broke into a jog...only to hiss in frustration as he bumped into another wall. "Fuck!" An angry shout sounded somewhere to his left and he grimaced as another two bullets were fired in his direction.

The haze only continued filling the chamber and Samael bit his tongue to avoid a curse toward his partner -- sure, he loved Andee, but the little bastard hadn't exactly demonstrated the best timing with the smoke grenade, especially since Samael's brief tour hadn't given him the opportunity to memorize the layout of these caves. He kept his tail as still as he could, unsure if the panicked cowards would prioritize going after him over trying to make their own escape from the hideout, and he desperately tried to search for something, anything through the fog that indicated a passage out of the chamber.

Samael gnashed his teeth and reached down to draw his pistol. Part of him had known the moment he and Andee had split up outside the caves that they weren't just going to be able to scare these people out of their delusions of rebellion. It was a nice thought, one that he could nurse comfortably considering how many successful missions he'd pulled off without neutralizing a single target. He liked to think he was doing the right thing...yet his hands weren't clean, not since the day he'd tasted Tracer's blood on his tongue. Every soul he'd saved since then didn't compare to the one that had been sacrificed for his own, and every life he'd snuffed out was just a reminder that his naive mantra was nothing more than an immature illusion, something he clung to try and make himself feel like he was better than the heartless bastards they were fighting.

He wasn't just a killer, no -- killers were a garden variety species on this godforsaken ring. He was a survivor. Maybe once, the path before him could have been quiet, winding safely through the muffled snowdrifts of Sampi, far from the ugly, bloody strife that permeated so much of Sirca. But he'd taken Tracer's hand and been guided onto a different road, one that was destined to cut through bliss and carnage alike...and one he should have recognized a long time ago could never be wide enough for two.

Samael closed his eyes for a moment and tightened his grip around the handgun. One thing was for sure: crouching here wasn't going to get him a goddamn thing. He'd gotten through worse situations on his own...not to mention North would never let him hear the end of it if he let these worthless fuckers bring him down, too.

He smiled faintly and cracked open his eyes, taking a deep breath and--

His eyes bulged as purple and orange fabric suddenly filled his vision, Andee whisking through the smoke to collide forcefully with the chupa's upper body. "Fiffy! The fuck you still doin' here?!"

Samael would have started to cry had another uncontrolled strafe of bullets not cut through the chamber, causing them both to duck their heads. "A-Andee! I thought--"

"You were the one who said ya wasn't doin' this alone!" Andee snapped back, though his eyes held more shame than anger. He twisted around without landing, then glanced over a shoulder. "You with me?"

Samael's heart soared. "I'm with you."

The words hadn't left Samael's maw before Andee bolted away again, but this time with Samael on his flank. He flit effortlessly through the smoke, leaving thin wisps and enough glimmers of brown and purple that the chupa could follow with ease. Samael tried not to smile at the way the bat looked back multiple times, slowing his breakneck pace whenever Samael fell too far behind.

It wasn't quite like running through the jungles in pursuit of some emotion, some closeness they were afraid to speak of aloud, but it felt right all the same. They pounded through the dark caves, the occasional bright lamp throwing their sharp silhouettes on the opposite wall as they rushed past. When Andee at last gave a half-smile back to him as they finally broke out of the haze, the chupa let his pace slow, only for the bat to scowl and spin around in midair. "Ay, keep movin', puppy!!"

"Heh, I think we's okay, hon, purdy sure we left most'a those guys--"

Andee grit his teeth and threw his wings wide, losing a foot or two of altitude in his frustration. "No, Sammy, you don't get it! I set timers!"

Samael blinked and stumbled to a full halt. " what?"

Andee grimaced and then jerked his head toward the surrounding rock walls. "These fuckin' caves is too dense for the remote trigger, just like ya goddamn thick skull! So shut the fuck up and--oh shit, Fiffy, behind you!"

Samael followed Andee's shocked glare over his shoulder and then spun toward the wall with a yelp as a booming shot rang out. The bullet whizzed past his arm as a tall chupa with a long coat burst out of a nearby chamber. The gunman was nearly the size of York, his mane plastered flat from the copious amount of sweat running over his features. Samael recalled him from the tour; the guy went by Danny. Samael remembered because his mane had been coiffed so perfectly that he could smell the overabundant product...and because the guy had talked a big fuckin' game about how tough he was.

Kinda looked like a scurrying rat now, though.

Samael grimaced and started to lift his pistol, only to widen his eyes as Danny reloaded the rifle and fired again. He followed the shout in his head and threw himself to the side as the second round whisked through the fur on his shoulder, inches from driving in his hide. He heard the click of a dry chamber and quickly shifted his tack, leaping back to his feet to point the handgun toward the massive chupa.

But the panicked rebel was running on pure adrenaline, a feral bellow slipping from his maw as he swung in with the butt of his rifle. Samael gasped and he threw his forearm into a sloppy block, crying out from the violent impact that shattered the bone and sent his pistol clattering away into the darkness. He stumbled backward and started to raise the other hand, but was too slow to stop the blow that smashed into his chest and knocked him into a discombobulated mess on his back.


Andee's voice rang out, tinged with enough concern that Samael tore his attention away to glance up at his companion. All he could remember was that day in the forest, Andee's infuriated snarls washing over him from the center console of that shitty car. His breath caught in his throat as ice ran through his veins, every guilty, terrified emotion returning in a flash.

A cracked shout of effort broke through the vision and he stared up too late to react to the rifle stock arching toward his prone body. He winced to prepare for the impact, but a streak of brown fur shot down to plow into Danny's face. The bewildered chupa squawked and flailed at the winged creature, managing to land a lucky strike of the barrel against Andee's leg.

Andee cursed but remained aerial, spitting out a string of insults as Samael shook his head to clear the fog. Rage and determination ran through him...along with the reminder of the goddamn countdown over their heads. "Keep yer hands off my man!" Samael hollered, using his good arm to scramble back to his feet and holding his broken limb against his chest.

Danny's attention was still on Andee as he struggled to reload the rifle, and Samael didn't hesitate to charge forward with his shoulder lowered, barreling fearlessly into the towering chupa's gut to elicit a shocked grunt. His sheer mass was enough to make the larger rebel crash back against a wall, though Danny regained his senses swiftly enough that Samael suffered a strike from the butt of the firearm against the base of his neck.

Samael hissed in pain and dropped to a knee, reaching to grab Danny's leg as he forgot about the fractured bone...then remembering promptly when an agonizing shock ran up his arm and caused him to throw his head back with a raw howl. Danny shouted hoarsely and jumped into the opening it created, booting Samael in the chest to throw him onto his back. He lunged forward with his other leg cocked for a follow-up as Samael instinctively curled to defend himself, but was halted when Andee swooped down again. "Ay, leave the fuckin' puppy alone!" he yelled in his native tongue as he clawed wildly with his talons.

The bat caught a chunk of their aggressor's muzzle in his claws, tearing a jagged wound across his maw as the chupa wailed and took a step backward. Samael panted hard, keeping his broken arm tucked to his breast again and looking up to see Danny bash Andee with a blind swing of his arm. The blow was strong enough to crash Andee against the opposite side of the passage with a pained grunt, his small body dropping to the ground while his eyes burned with defiance. "Motherfucker!"

"I'll kill you both!" Danny cried out maniacally, losing any semblance to the calm, cool exterior he'd projected earlier when boasting to Samael about his endless talents. Samael clenched his teeth and threw the throbbing agony onto a shelf as he struggled to get to his knees, then planted a paw beneath himself. But Danny was already shoving a clip into the lever-action rifle, his trembling fingers positioned to load the first round. Samael's eyes widened as he rapidly went through his options; if he could take the first shot somewhere in his chest or side, he'd probably have enough time to rush the asshole and try to disarm him before he could get another round off or target the bat. Andee wouldn't like it, but --

"Fiffy! Catch!"

He whipped his head to the side to spot Andee snatching his pistol up from where it'd skittered. The bat met his eyes and then flung the handgun as Samael reached out. His fingers closed around the grip and he brought his arm around with a grimace, feeling every second tick as the weight of inevitability dragged each one to a grinding march. Danny's rifle swung toward him but Samael pulled the trigger twice without another thought, and a pair of bullets slammed home into the larger chupa's legs.

Danny screamed and collapsed forward in an ungainly flop, his weapon sliding out of his grip to be swallowed by the darkness around them. Samael climbed to his feet and ran his tongue over his muzzle as he stared at the horrified face looking back up in denial. He took an unsteady step closer, his conflicting thoughts raging and warring a thousand battles behind his eyes. This was what they deserved...but was it what North would have wanted? He trembled before a tight squeeze around his tail made him stiffen and glance back to find Andee glaring up at him.

His face didn't contain the fury he expected, however, instead reflecting an urgency and what might have been concern for them both. "Fuck him, Sammy! You'n me, right?!"

Samael shifted his eyes briefly to the frantic expression of the shrieking rebel. Tears were streaming across his cheeks as he made a concerted effort to crawl toward them and Samael swallowed thickly. But he thought of North again, and what these people had done...or hadn't done...on that fateful day. He met Andee's eyes again and nodded once. "You 'n me, hon," he whispered back.

Andee grunted and then took to the air again. "Move ya ass, then!!" he shouted, taking off with Samael no more than a step behind. The chupa kept his arm tucked to his chest while letting his paws move on their own in the frenetic chase after the bat, refusing to let himself look back.

They sprinted all the way to the back of the caves -- Samael figured Andee must have scouted them more thoroughly while he was placing the devices, as they hadn't run into a single dead end. They could hear befuddled, angry shouts far behind them through the cavernous passages, but there was no longer any time to spare for concerns.

Samael's faith in the bat's navigation was rewarded as they burst into the crimson haze of the setting sun a moment later, the chupa yelping as he almost skidded off a sheer drop into the waters dozens of feet below. His vision swam for a second or two, but Andee didn't grant him the time to suffer from his fear of heights as he clutched into Samael's shoulder with a talon while beating his wings hard to steer the rebel toward a path leading along the steep rock face to a small outcropping where a few boats were moored. "Move it, Fiffy, move it!!"

He didn't need a reminder. The chupa swept his terror under the rug and focused only on maneuvering deftly down the narrow trail carved into the boulders of the natural cauldron. His paws slipped now and then but Andee was there to keep his momentum steady -- Samael barely felt the way his sharp talons dug into his shoulder to loose a trail of blood that trickled down across his chest, his attention locked on reaching the rippling aquamarine surface of Highguard.

He leaped the last several feet with a soft gasp as Andee's wings spread instinctively above him, the duo hanging in the air like they were once again trying to jump to a goddamn dropship before gravity caught up and sent them both plummeting toward the gravelly strip of land that jutted into the lake. Samael clenched his teeth and tried to ignore the pain that shot up his wounded arm, landing with one knee bent while Andee kicked off of him to flap toward the three remaining watercraft with a flustered growl.

"Fiffy, boats ain't my thing! Which one should we take?!?"

Samael looked up and then thrust an arm toward the smallest motorboat. "Get the moorin' lines!" he shouted before leaping into the back. The craft was cheap enough it didn't have a key ignition, and he rushed to the stern. Manual-starting motor. Even better. He shoved a paw against the transom for support, then yanked hard on the pull-cable.

"Get the fuckin' what?!" Andee yelled back before adding in a strained voice: "We ain't fuckin' far away enough! Shit, what the fuck am I doin', I can fuckin' fly!"

Samael grimaced when the engine turned over once before whimpering to a halt. His eyes flicked back up toward the entrance to the caves before he stared over at Andee, fully expecting to see his partner taking off on wing. But contrary to the threat, the bat was still flitting angrily along the makeshift dock while glowering at the redneck. Samael leaned in to give the starter another try while jerking his head to the side. "The...the ropes, hon, the fuckin' ropes, untie 'em!"

"Untie, my ass," Andee muttered darkly. Samael glimpsed a flash of metal being drawn from beneath the half-poncho and he squinted before blanching as Andee produced a stout hunting dagger. He unsheathed it with unexpected ease as the chupa sputtered.

"The...the hell you get that from?"

"Yo momma's dusty snatch!! Now shut the fuck up and get the fuckin' engine started!" Andee snarled in response as he carved hurriedly through the first rope. Samael didn't need to be told twice, wrapping a length of the pull-rope around his wrist and then grunting with the effort of a titanic haul backward.

His muscles bulged with the force and the chupa squawked in surprise when the rope was torn completely free of the engine, the loss of tension sending him down to an ugly sprawl into the center console. But they were rewarded by the motor roaring eagerly to life with a loud pop as a plume of black smoke rushed from the manifold. "Thanks, buddy," Samael mumbled to the grinning image of his lost friend. Maybe North's spirit was offering him the forgiveness he'd never accept from himself.

He awkwardly climbed up with one arm to slide behind the wheel as he heard the snap of the last rope being cut. The scrabble of Andee's talons on the gunwales were all the confirmation he needed to slam the throttle down and knock both himself and the bat flat on their backs with matching curses when the boat lurched eagerly forward.

Samael groaned through clamped jaws, trying to mask his discomfort the best he could while struggling to sit up again. But Andee grumbled and clambered past him first, shoving one wing against his torso while stretching the other out to grip the steering wheel and hold it steady. "Stay the fuck down, Fiffy, last thing I need is you gettin' more fucked up!" he ordered over the whine of the engine and the wind whipping past.

Samael could hardly argue, letting his head drop back against the hull while he stared upside-down back at the cliffs. "You know how to drive a boat, hon?!?"

Andee's flat mutter reached him just over the choppy tumult of their harried escape. "I ain't so much a faggot I can't handle goin' straight for thirty fuckin' seconds..." The bat glanced down and met his eyes with a slight smile. "You can have ya li'l fantasy 'bout teaching me to drive somethin' bigger'n a goose when ya ain't gotta fuckin' broke-ass arm."

The chupa smiled hesitantly and allowed a ribbon of entertainment to twirl through the onslaught of guilt. "Heh, yeah, alright, that's a dea--"

A thunderous eruption cut him off as a "Shit!" wheezed out instead, Samael gaping from his inverted position at the expulsion of shattered boulders and debris behind them. He heard Andee cursing as well, urging every bit of speed from the overworked engine as the deluge of charred rocks and bits of smoldering rubble screamed down into the water from the fiery burst that engulfed the entire cliffside. "Holy fuckin' hell!" he spat out, wincing when a flaming timber slammed against the side of the boat while the normally-calm tide swelled from the concussive force.

He tore his eyes away from the conflagration to stare wordlessly at Andee, who was glaring back at the destruction with a mixture of pride and baleful defiance. The bat's eyes glinted in the goldenrod gleam of the explosion behind them as the pale glow of his handiwork illuminated his scrawny figure. His small frame was somehow both majestic and terrible, fur lashing to and fro and his wings flapping stiffly in the breeze as one continued to maintain their swift departure from the scene while the other pressed into Samael's stomach.

Those expressive yellow eyes shifted back down to the chupa after a few seconds. Samael would never stop being amazed by how many silent emotions they possessed. He'd seen annoyance and fury, amusement and frustration...even adoration and vulnerability. This was something new. Something vicious, something cold and insistent. It was somehow both familiar and yet unsettling, leaving the rebel unsure whether it was fortune or fate that he and Andee had ended up partners. But once their gazes met, that unwavering emotion cracked and gave way to a softer tide of concern that was mostly clouded by a smirk of satisfaction.


"If you're 'bout to ask me if I used enough bombs," Andee began haughtily, pressing a claw into Samael's gut. "The answer is abso-fuckin'-lutely."

Samael managed a faint chuckle. "I ain't askin' shit," he replied before whimpering when the boat sawed roughly across a swell and bounced his heavy frame against the unforgiving hull. "Motherfucker!" he panted as Andee scowled but revealed another sliver of that worry. "Think we're safe now, yeah?" he asked over the wind. Andee nodded with a grunt and Samael returned the gesture, then motioned to the throttle. "Ease that thing there right up to the middle --" Andee did so warily and the engine immediately rumbled to an idle as the boat's momentum propelled them for several meters before they came to a gentle halt in the calmer waters further upon the lake's surface.

Samael exhaled and then started to sit up, only for Andee to huff and make a big show of stomping around to his shoulders so he could reach down and help ease his companion into a seated position. "It ain't gonna fuckin' kill ya to ask for help, jackass," Andee complained as Samael gave a crooked smile.

"Rich comin' from you," he replied softly. He paused at the sight of something in the distance and Andee quickly twisted his head around with a grimace.

It was another boat, though it was moving away from them. Samael squinted and was fairly certain he only saw one occupant, which brought a small smile to his muzzle as he let his torso sink against the side of the hull. Sparrow, hopefully.

"Do we gotta go chase a motherfucker down?" Andee growled as he reached back for the throttle. But Samael stretched a hand out and squeezed the bat's arm.

"We're good. Purdy sure it's the one guy who ain't deserved to be under all them rocks back there," Samael murmured, unable to avoid glancing toward the smoke drifting up from the collapsed section of the cliff behind them.

Andee snorted even as his eyes studied the chupa thoughtfully. "So ya did get at least one'a those fuckers' dicks in ya mouth, eh?" he sneered, though the bite was missing from his tone. Samael only gave him a half-smile and the bat rolled his eyes before starting to search the different cubbyholes and lockers within the confines of the small motorboat. "Feh, don't bother with ya explanation -- I know you good enough by now to know 'bout ya fuckin' shitty magical mind-readin' powers ya got after all that inbreedin' an' pedophilia," he added dryly. "You smelled out a good heart or whatever fuckin' gay-ass poetry you's got for it..."

Samael smiled weakly again. "Yeah. Summin' like that." He poked at the swollen spot on his forearm with a wince, then looked at Andee as the bat disappeared into the tiny hold at the front. "The hell you lookin' for, sweetie?"

"Some fuckin' shit to splint that fuckin' arm so ya don't lose ya fuckin' handjobbin' skills!" Andee's voice answered briskly. "Don't wanna give no handicapped discounts when I start pimpin' ya ass out 'cause ya can't double-fist!"

A more genuine smile cracked Samael's features as he shook his head a bit. "Yer a fuckin' ugly li'l treasure," he murmured, glancing over when Andee's head popped back out of the hold, a bemused grin on his narrow muzzle.

"Don't you fuckin' forget it, neither," Andee replied before he tossed out a few planks of wood and a reel of twine. "Time to see whose cave-raised ass paid more attention to the healers all those times they got busted up..."

Samael rubbed the back of his head but kept smiling all the same. "Sirca help us both..."

But Andee was surprisingly gentle as he worked diligently with Samael to bind two of the sturdier boards around his injured forearm, slapping away the chupa's hand whenever he tried to assist. "Back off, Fiffy, I fuckin' got this!"

"A'right, a'right," Samael replied while lifting his arm in surrender. They were both silent for a moment as Andee wrapped the twine around the planks to secure them. The pain had started to ebb...not that Samael was under any kind of spell that the injury was less severe than he thought. He'd just broken enough bones at this point to no longer mind the discomfort. He let a quiet sigh slip past his jaws while looking over his shoulder again. "We...we killed them folks. Weren't no indirect thing this time, neither..."

Only a beat or two before Andee's voice bit back. "Those motherfuckers killed ya fuckin' Freelancer boyfriend!" Samael winced and closed his eyes while curling his tail around his legs. He felt Andee leaning closer even as he kept looping the twine around his arm, the bat's breath washing over his features. "An' they was puttin' the whole Movement in danger, too."

Samael wasn't expecting that and he turned his head back with a tiny frown to find Andee's glaring countenance a few inches away. "That includes you, Fiffy!" Andee growled while shoving a foot against Samael's stomach for leverage as he used both hands to cinch the twine violently. Samael's eyes bulged and he squealed at the bolt of agony from the broken bone being shoved forcefully into an admittedly-better position, even if it sure as fuck didn't feel like it. Tears ran down over Samael's cheeks and Andee snorted at the sight. "Ya big pussy..."

He repeated the process with the second loop of twine, eliciting another yelp and another rush of tears. Andee gazed at him squarely after tying off the string, letting the quiet spin out for a moment before he grumbled and lifted a wing to brush at the dampness on his partner's cheeks. "I ain't about to stand by an' let no motherfucker put my puppy's ass in danger when it don't do me no fuckin' good," he concluded in a low tone.

Samael didn't miss the darker edges of his companion's words, but he choose instead to clutch into the tender implications. "I...I appreciate it, Andee," he murmured, sniffing away the agonized sob.

"Good. Ya better," Andee answered. He wrinkled his muzzle and then shoved at Samael's good arm to force it to one side so he could drop into the chupa's lap. Samael smiled to himself and embraced his partner while nuzzling between his ears, finding no resistance at all from the grumbling bat. The flood of affection helped numb the pain both physical and emotional, and he had no hesitation wrapping himself tightly in the sensation.

The boat rocked gently on the calm waters as the setting sun provided an additional measure of serenity, the strains of reassurance beginning to wash over them both. Samael rubbed his hand along Andee's back and moved his eyes to the horizon, choosing to turn his eyes forward. He was sure he'd be doing plenty of looking back in the days to come. "How you feelin' 'bout this motherfuckin' rebel shit, hon?"

The soft mutter against his chest was pleasantly familiar and Samael closed his eyes with another smile when he felt the claws gripping into his collarbone. "All I learned today is that you's fuckin' lucky to be alive doin' all those missions before without me here to watch your ass and be the fuckin' hero!" the bat declared. Samael chuckled and Andee tilted his head back with a scowl to meet his eyes again. "But we did do pretty fuckin' good." A cool smile eased into place on Andee's features as he reached up and stroked Samael's jaw. "Yeah. We did pretty fuckin' good," he repeated before grasping his partner's muzzle to pull it down so he could push his nose against Samael's snout, their eyes never breaking contact. "Guess we might be able to make this fuckin' thing work out after all."

Samael smiled brightly and moved to nuzzle down into Andee's neck, but the bat smirked and pushed his head back gently. "Nah, I'm not about to get you and ya horny puppy ass all fuckin' riled up with that shitty patch-job -- last thing I want's a motherfuckin' splinter on my dick while you's tryna get me off!" He gave a crooked grin and Samael was relieved that the expected burst of disappointment was only a minute sliver that was soon overtaken by a surge of hope when Andee climbed out of his lap after patting his cheek. "Much as I'd like to stay here and fuckin' jerk off to that bee-yootiful mushroom cloud back there...we gotta get the fuck outta here before some shitty farmer calls HADES or some shit."

He grunted and moved back to the steering wheel as Samael sat up a bit and smiled. "Yeah, you ain't wrong there," he replied quietly.

"I never fuckin' am," Andee shot back with a half-grin before glancing down at the cockpit. "Alright, without gettin' a fuckin' redneck boner, tell me how the fuck this shit works so we can get back to yo' momma, tell her we did this shit in record time." Samael's smile grew further as the bat glanced over at him and offered that glimpse of tenderness that would never fail to override every nervous, hesitant warning that cropped up behind the nigh impenetrable wall of Samael's emotions. "You 'n me, right?"

"You 'n me, Andee. You 'n me."

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

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