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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 17: Welcome to the Family

"Quit that fucking grinning, you tiny goddamn asshole!"

Samael tried to keep his own small smile reined in as Andee's toothy expression hardly wavered despite Nelson's infuriated glare. She snarled and leaned toward the bat, which was enough to finally make him wince away with a scowl. A snort of steam demonstrated her mild approval at the minuscule show of restraint and she gripped into the wheels of her chair to maneuver back in front of them as her emerald glower drenched the pair in her typical annoyance.

But there was something more in her stony visage today. Samael wasn't ready to call it pride, yet...

"You realize if I wanted all of fucking Stigma lit up with reports about a missing chunk of the fucking cliffside, I woulda just sent a few grunts with dynamite, right!?" she barked. "I said I didn't care how loud, not that I didn't care how much the fucking landscape got rearranged!"

Samael rubbed at his neck sheepishly and thought about placing a hand on Andee's shoulder to try tempering the bat's response, though he was half a second too slow. Andee thrust his chest out proudly even as he clung to one of the chupa's trunk-like thighs, jabbing his other wing toward the rebel leader.

"And you fuckin' realize if you wanted this shit done all quiet and half-assed, you woulda asked anyone but us!" Andee retorted before thumbing his nose and making the silver ring bounce against his muzzle. "We got the shit done an' I had this fiffy back home before fuckin' zero-hundred!"

"Yeah, I can see things went flawlessly," Nelson deadpanned as her eyes focused on Samael's arm.

He continued to smile back at her before glancing down and trading a tender look with Andee as the bat dropped his haughty grin long enough to warm the redneck's heart. A pink cast had been placed snugly over his injured forearm, already sprinkled with a handful of signatures and inappropriate comments from some of Sidewinder's finest. A purple sling held the stiff cast close to his broad chest and -- to Nelson's dismay -- maintained Samael's flamboyant aura effortlessly.

"You two fairies abso-fucking-lutely sure you didn't fuck anything up?" Nelson inquired darkly, her eyes lifting to bore into Samael's. "I know you, Wurlitz. How many rats did you let out of the basket before your little boyfriend tossed in the poison?"

A pang ran through him that he could only mostly obscure with a confident grin. Nelson's eyes narrowed at the glimpse of his internal strife, though it seemed to make her shoulders relax more than his calm response. "Give us a li'l bit'a credit, Mama...ain't no one got left behind that's gonna cause no trouble."

She wrinkled her muzzle and then shifted her eyes pointedly to Andee, who smirked and shrugged easily. "Ya li'l fuckin' faggot might be a pansy, but he ain't lyin', woman. You ain't gonna hear a fuckin' peep outta no one from them shitty-ass caves." He tilted his head back smugly. "They mighta gotten some fuckin' Freelancer ganked, but they ain't had shit on us!" Samael's heart twinged in a different way and he bit his lip. But he was surprised when Andee looked up at him again, then added with a grumble: "Yeah, yeah -- I ain't sayin' we fought off no fuckin' assassins or werewolves...but that's 'cause we didn't fuckin' need to, we got that shit done quick and clean before they could fuck up and get anyone else called out!"

It wasn't exactly an apology, though Samael wanted to believe it came from a good place. He let himself smile faintly once more as Nelson rolled her eyes, then met his gaze squarely again. She wasn't one to mourn anyone's death, especially a Freelancer's, but even she couldn't mask the dribble of respect North had drawn from her tightly-sealed well.

"We did good, Mama," he murmured. "Me 'n Andee both." He closed his fingers gently around his companion's shoulder and earned no more than a brief scowl. "You should trust 'im more."

"Get his fucking dick outta your mouth while you're speaking to me," Nelson replied mildly. "Asking you two to cause havoc is hardly reason to celebrate a job well done, it's like asking water to be wet." She rolled closer as her voice grew softer, echoing with less clarity along the walls that often carried conversations beyond their intended audience. The way her eyes locked onto Samael's made him shift his weight in anticipation. "You balance the scales, Wurlitz?"

Andee frowned up at him, pushing his cap back enough to peer inquisitively past the brim. Samael only flicked a hesitant smile toward him before chewing on his cheek and straightening his spine. "Ain't sure if I did him proud, but I did what Sampi taught me to do." He tasted the raw guilt but maintained the steel in his jaw as long as he could. "An' you know what we done ain't balanced shit, no number'a lives replaces a man like that."

He saw flashes of their faces again -- not only North's, but Jesse's and Tic's...Forrest's...Danny's tear-streaked features begging for help, for mercy. Assholes, sure, despicable people he'd only known for an hour or so...but living, breathing souls all the same. His shoulders fell and Nelson's muzzle quivered toward another snarl before she instead sucked softly on her teeth and nodded once. "You've always found ways around my orders. I could toss the grenade, put the pin in your palm...and you'd fucking dive into the pit to try and put it back in."

"An' I always will," he murmured. Her eyes narrowed and he felt Andee's claws dig painfully into his thigh. It wasn't a conversation he really wanted to have, not after all the other things he and the bat had argued about. But Nelson didn't reflect the same disappointment or disgust at his stubborn refusal to accept one of the very cornerstones of existence on Sirca. "You ain't gave us much a choice this time, though. Not with North's shadow hangin' over the damn thing."

A sliver of a satisfied smile before she grunted and crossed her arms over her massive chest. He wondered if some part of her was relieved despite how often she tore into him for his childish notions of preserving every possible life. "Then I suppose I did pick the right two assholes for this job, after all."

The painful grip around Samael's leg loosened as Andee grinned and shoved a finger toward Nelson. "Ya damn fuckin' right!" he boasted. "You bitch all ya want 'bout the noise we made, but bet ya numb ass that any and every motherfucker that even thinks 'bout startin' some shitty side-branch of the rebellion gonna remember what happened at Highguard!" Nelson glared icily at him but the bat only swept a wing out while offering a mocking bow. "So you's fuckin' welcome! Best keep this shit in mind next time ya consider talkin' shit about my fuckin' dedication!"

"The only thing I'm going to keep in mind is the fact you keep using my fucking cave demon as a meat shield," Nelson fired back flatly before fixing Samael with another annoyed look. "What'd Patch say about recovery time?"

"Sammy's gonna need at least a week!" Andee provided with a cool grin while wrapping a wing around the chupa's back. Samael smiled happily even as he shrunk a bit at the unamused frown from Nelson.

"Uh...he said 'bout three days or so 'fore we bust off the cast," Samael supplied, scratching at the end of his muzzle sheepishly and doing his best not to flinch when Andee's claws drove into his side, accompanied by a low snarl. He could apologize to Andee later -- the bat hadn't quite yet managed to be more terrifying than Nelson.

The giant woman squinted up at him for a few seconds before she relaxed back into her wheelchair. She appeared to wrestle with her words for a moment, then released a grudging sigh. "For your honesty, I'll put you on light duty for three days. There's still plenty you can do around here even with your fucked-up arm."

Samael beamed while Andee huffed loudly and pointed an accusing finger at Nelson, even as he continued to half-hide behind Samael. "Ay! Listen, ya big-wheelin' bitch, Fiffy might be an idiot, but he earned some--"

"And if you can silence your squawking dick-sleeve long enough," Nelson continued brusquely, narrowing her eyes at Andee as the bat gnashed his teeth back at her., "I'll grant you a brief leave to Xulod."

Andee's interruption faded into that blissful surprise that was so rare to witness on his features. Samael took a moment to enjoy it before he squeezed a hand tenderly into his companion's shoulder and gave a grateful smile to Nelson. "Fuck yeah!" He cranked it up to a grin and glanced at Andee, lifting his hand hopefully.

The bat couldn't hide his own gleeful expression, struggling with his own sourness and losing the battle when he reached up to slap his hand against Samael's palm. "About fuckin' time ya momma quit bein' such a stiff-necked bitch!" he proclaimed.

"Brief," Nelson repeated in a dangerous growl, wheeling closer to the duo with enough menace that they both flinched backward. "You've got until fifty-four hundred DM. Tonight."

Andee huffed despite the way Samael danced excitedly on the tips of his toes. "Bitch, that's barely a hundred hours, at least--"

"Starting now."

Samael laughed, far too delighted by Nelson's uncharacteristic generosity to share Andee's indignation. "C'mon, hon!" he whooped, easily scooping the bat up in his good arm and earning a shout of frustration. "We'll grab my stuff on the way...we c'n take the speedboat since Mama probably don't want us fuckin' in the same boat York 'n Wash already fucked in!"

"I don't want you fucking in any of the boats!" Nelson yelled after them as Samael scampered down the hall with Andee clutched to his side.

"Too late, Vinny 'n Trevor already helped me break 'em all in!" he called over his shoulder as Andee groaned under his arm.

"Goddammit, Wurlitz!"

To the surprise of bat and chupa both, the trip out to Xulod wasn't sprinkled with messy intimacy, no matter how tempting the rhythmic swells of the Vossler, or how enticing Jenay's sinuous curves. Samael wasn't complaining, either way -- all the pain he'd shelved to push through the mission with Andee was catching back up to him, leaving a deep-set ache throughout his stocky frame. He'd meant it when he told Andee he didn't think of himself as invincible...but it still kinda sucked to be reminded he was mortal. That shit just plain hurt sometimes...

Besides, he was more than happy to sit behind the wheel with his broken arm slung to his chest while the other wrapped loosely around Andee, who'd grumpily situated himself in the chupa's lap. There'd been the requisite protest that he wasn't no kid, that he wasn't no fruitcake, but Samael looked forward to those complaints now. They were just a part of Andee's charm.

That and there was no hiding the way Andee pressed back against him so often, offering just enough of a tease that Samael was reminded he hadn't lost a drop of desire for the bat, regardless of how busted up his body was.

"Ay, I feel that, Fiffy! As if them booty-shorts ain't already 'bout to burst off ya fat ass, quit fillin' 'em with that big blue dick, too!"

Samael giggled and squeezed Andee's torso while nuzzling between his ears. "Well then quit grindin' that fine bat rump all over the family jewels, hon! Like my horny redneck ass knows how to say no to a specimen like 'at!" He didn't have to see the smirk to know it was there and he grinned himself while tapping a claw gently against Andee's stomach. "You wanna take the main vein past Alpha Station? Or the li'l pass on through them marshlands?"

"Fuck that, I save at least three fuckin' hours flyin' over the marsh," Andee retorted with a confident tilt of his head, causing an ear to smack against Samael's muzzle. "I wanna get to fuckin' partyin', so we's takin' the fuckin' shortcut!"

Samael chuckled while letting his jaw rest atop Andee's cap, replying in a singsong voice: "A'riiiight...but don't forget that route's got narrows, 'n a shitload'a mangroves!" He drew his claws up over Andee's chest to tease the bottom of his half-poncho, delighting in the helpless squirm. "I ain't never gonna letcha hear the end of it you run us aground!"

Andee only snorted and puffed his chest out while wrapping his hands tightly around the wheel. "Fuck you, shortstack! I got this. You shut ya whore mouth 'n keep rubbin' that chode on me -- when I need the next fuckin' boat-lesson, I'll ask for it!"

Samael grinned another toothy grin and lifted his hand in surrender before embracing Andee again and relaxing in the chair. "Yessir, yessir, chode-rubbin' shall go on with yer bad self, Cap'n Andee..."

Most of the boat trip passed in comfortable silence, the first the duo had experienced in their short history of long journeys in the same vehicle. Without the implications of a series of shitty mistakes, a daunting mission or important deal hovering over their heads, they were able to actually relax together.

Samael's guilt hadn't faded but it was at least soothed into a quiet hum; he blamed Andee's buoyancy over their performance...although he was also sure the mixture of pain pills and snatchgrass wasn't hurting. Wasn't just the shortcut that made the path through the marshes ideal -- few things as satisfying as fresh sprigs of the pungent plant to chew on, freshly plucked from the stalks that brushed against their hull as they passed.

And whether it was Samael's vehicular lessons or Andee's natural aptitude to pick up whatever the hell he set his mind to, the most they suffered on the tricky navigation through Timae's marshlands was a bit of scraped paint and one instance where they'd had to stop the engine so they could untangle a mass of marine vegetation from the propeller blades. Otherwise, they arrived at Krainen no worse for the wear despite the lingering haze from the snatch, trading grins and giggles alike while tying the boat up to one of the outcroppings of mossy boulders nearest the hidden entrance to Xulod.

The guards posted inside the dark cave gave Samael's cast a wary look when the pair approached. To be fair, the last time Samael had entered Xulod with an injury had led to an incredibly uncomfortable public confrontation -- he didn't blame them for their cautious expressions. "Hey, guys! Long time no see! We's all good, promise!"

The three bats all looked at the chupa flatly before turning their eyes in one movement toward Andee. Andee smirked and flicked a wing out to smack against -- thankfully -- Samael's good arm. "Heh, Fiffy ain't lyin' today. He got that broke arm bein' a fuckin' badass yesterday instead of doin' no stupid suicidal shit!"

Two of them looked less than convinced but the third gave a bemused smile while poking the blunt end of his pike toward Samael. "Two drinks says he still got it defending Andee's scrawny ass..."

Samael grinned playfully and opened his muzzle to respond, but Andee elbowed him in the stomach first and drew out only a wheeze. "Yo, we both kicked ass, ya fuckin' mooks! Don't be givin' this fuckin' puppy all the credit, I saved his ass this time!"

Three skeptical arched eyebrows were leveled at them and Samael notched his grin down to a warm smile. "Li'l guy ain't fibbin', neither! We took on some real assholes an' I would have more than broke arm if not for my fruit-bat!" he declared, finishing proudly in the bats' tongue.

Andee scowled horribly when Samael leaned down to wrap his arm around his shoulders, shoving at his muzzle uselessly with a wing. "Goddammit, what'd I tell ya about that gay bullshit!?" he complained as the guards chortled and moved aside. "Fuckin' hell, c'mon, ya cock-munch, let's go find Mutt 'n Pan before you start gettin' hard off all the frontin' ya midget ass is doin'..."

"I AM often like rock when Andee is near!" Samael added cheekily with a flourish of his tail, sending the guards into a burst of snorted laughter while the pair passed. It was worth the second jab of Andee's elbow against his stomach, a cheery expression painting his features as they descended into the sprawling city.

"An' then...BOOM!" Andee threw his arms wide, Paneko and Mutt instinctively ducking to avoid the splash of stray liquor that was tossed over their heads. "I think I blew half that fuckin' cliff off!"

" much dynamite didja have on you?" Paneko inquired, swaying on his bar stool as Samael snagged the third or fourth bottle of the sweet-tasting rum to top off the white-furred bat. "H-hey, Fiffy, I'm good!"

"Naw ya ain't!" Samael sang out with a wink. "We's celebratin'! Lookin' to get nice 'n toasted!"

"Fiffy is looking for roasting, not toasting, I think," Mutt teased even as he held out his own glass for the chupa to refill. Samael had only a delighted grin as a response and the four laughed as they pounded back another simultaneous gulp of booze.

Samael had so far managed to avoid the details of the job that left him hollow, and Andee seemed happy to just talk about his role in the gig...which was fine by the chupa. Made it easier to ignore the jabs of remorse.

"Dynamite? Fuck that! I had a fuckin' basket full of preemo goods!" Andee exclaimed while gesturing impatiently at Samael for more liquor. "Nelson let me raid the fuckin' stores!"

Mutt sighed dreamily, even the burly bat starting to wobble from the onslaught of alcohol. "Wish Nelson would let me raid her stores," he mumbled as Paneko groaned while Andee and Samael devolved into mad giggles.

"Yer a fuckin' mess, Mutt, there ain't no fixin' you!" Samael crowed. "You gotta set yer sights on more festival...feasant...fuckin'...fuckable targets--"

"Feasible, ya illiterate slow jam!" Andee supplied. He threw an arm around Samael's shoulders from his standing perch on the bar stool and the chupa swooned -- no amount of insults could ever dampen the fire for this nasty little bat. "Fiffy's gotta point, though. Ya got somethin' way easier, right fuckin' here!" he proclaimed, waggling his eyebrows while gesturing to Samael with his other wing. "This smelly bastard ain't gotta read good to know his way around a bat-dick!"

Samael grinned, flushing not from the booze but the far more intoxicating proposition. "Plus, Nelson's like by bonin' me, it's sorta like bonin' Mama, too!"

"Goddammit, your people are more into incest than ours," Paneko muttered while clutching into his glass with both hands to avoid spilling it as he took another slurp.

"Yeah, you fuckers thought I was exaggerating!" Andee complained before shoving his nose against Samael's cheek to the rebel's delight. "An' you leave the whorin' out of yaself to me! You're too fuckin' eager to jump on every dick that comes ya way, cuttin' right to the chase like the puppy you are! Ya gotta build interest, get 'em intrigued!" Samael couldn't help the second, enamored grin, soaking up the hungry leer Mutt fixed him with as Andee smirked and squinted back toward his friend. "Ain't gonna be no good payout pimpin' you if ya don't get 'em wantin' to drop top bucks for a piece of this fine ass!" he explained with a gratuitous squeeze of Samael's rump. "Plus you ain't in no shape for dealin' with Mutt, he ain't no gentle fuck! You gotta get that arm healed up first."

"There is still much to do without arm," Mutt replied coolly, tipping a wink to Samael and then cackling as he nudged Paneko with an elbow. "Pan should have turn -- Fiffy would lose shit at the Black Beast!"

Paneko's white fur might as well have been pink considering his blush. "Hey, who's whoring out who here??" he protested sheepishly as another gale of laughter overtook the group.

"That's what friends do!" Andee retorted through a grin before scowling as they received a glare from a much quieter group of bats across the bar. "Ay, we's partyin' here! Don't give us them dirty looks!"

Mutt glanced over with a bemused expression, then snickered and snatched up the bottle of rum. He only earned a mild look from the bartender, who seemed otherwise loath to protest, and jerked his head toward the other three. "Come, let us go Andee's place -- we bother his neighbors instead."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Andee replied dismissively, stumbling down from the bar stool and half-clinging to Samael's leg. It brought a happy smile to the chupa's features. "I'll tell you fuckers all about the Great Boat Escape on the way." He cackled and thrust a finger into the air while they wandered out of the bar together. "Did I mention I drove a fuckin' boat and fixed this dumb redneck's arm? Practically at the same time?!"

The journey to Andee's apartment was nearly as raucous, the four friends rewarded with a bevy of glares from windows and passersby alike. But Samael wouldn't have changed it for the ring -- he felt like he truly belonged here, like he was a part of this wonderful culture instead of the foreigner. It still ached to recall the day Mutt had told him to leave, that Andee's injury was Xulod business. That Samael was the outsider.

But things were different now. And no matter how many nasty faces Nelson made because he was spending too much time with these people, because he was confusing them for his was worth it. He had another family, now, and another place he could call home. As far as he concerned, there was no such thing as having too many homes.

"An'' this li'l pup was cryin'! Like he ain't never had a splint done right! The big soft bitch!" Andee exclaimed while he and Paneko held each other up through the threshold of Andee's apartment. Mutt followed them with a tipsy grin, glancing over his shoulder at Samael as the chupa kicked the door shut behind him.

"Is nothing wrong with soft Fiffy," Mutt reasoned while lifting the bottle of rum. "Make for fluffy fuck!" He took a swig from the bottle, then tossed it to Samael so the chupa could follow suit.

Andee sniggered as he and Paneko clambered into two of the comfortable raised chairs positioned against Andee's long countertop. "I toldja, you gotta wait, ya jus' as impatient as the midget!" Andee slung an arm around Paneko and the two dropped their heads together with matching titters that were doubtlessly fortified by the nonstop flow of booze. Samael tried not to grin too broadly as Andee's muffled voice echoed out around his own wing. "Get over here wit' that rum, Fiffy!"

Samael traded a smile with Mutt and the two took up position on either side of the slender bats as another round of drinks was poured out for them all. "Yessir, Cap'n Andee! Yer gonna be Sirca's top driver 'fore long, I'mma hafta look fer a new job!"

"Naaah, ya still got...blowjobs...handjobs..."Andee began, waving his other arm and spilling a bit of rum on his wrist. He leaned down to lick it up but Samael was quicker, winking as he lowered his head and drew his tongue teasingly up along the bat's arm. Andee gave him a woozy grin he had no hope of hiding, his own tongue tracing along the end of his teeth as he drank in the purposeful motion. "Heh. An'' that ain't all," he panted as his claws clutched tighter into Paneko's shoulder while his eyes bored hungrily into Samael's.

Samael would have felt a far more excited twinge if it wasn't for that particular glint in his partner's gaze. He tried a careful smile and stroked his thumb along Andee's wrist, doing his damnedest to encourage a different variety of eagerness. He saw a momentarily flicker of raw sexual desire that brought a rapturous twitch to his tail...before Andee's eyes half-lidded with the same dangerous sheen Samael had witnessed illuminated in the glow of the Highguard explosion.

"Ya got a whole different kind job you's good at, Fiffy," Andee breathed out as his claws kneaded slowly into his friend's shoulder. Paneko didn't seem to mind, looking just as enraptured as he leaned in. "It was one thing what ya dumb ass did to them swamp-dwellin' motherfuckers out in the was all hysterical over me, couldn't blame ya for goin' off..."

"You already give Fiffy both barrels," Mutt noted as he propped himself up on an elbow at the far end of the counter. "We both give him barrels." Samael glanced over at the muscular bat and was grateful for the apologetic nod that he wasn't sure he deserved. Even if Andee had started the shouting match in the plaza, Samael had been given several opportunities to avoid it if he'd just done what Andee had demanded and left him at the cave entrance.

Andee only chuckled low in his throat, however, his eyes dancing back toward Samael as he reversed the grip on his wrist to clasp tightly into Samael's thick forearm. "I ain't yellin' at the pup. I'm tellin' you he's gotta fuckin' knack for that shit. When he gets down 'n dirty...when he stops actin' like he's gotta save every fuckin' life..." Andee's gaze was a pale pool of yearning, but the amber waters masked the deadly poison dancing just below the surface. It made Samael's blood run cold, yet the intensity of his companion's stare sent a simultaneous bolt of electric need through his nerves. It was impossible to look away as the bat pushed his muzzle closer to the chupa. "When he remembers that primal redneck shit, when his eyes is full'a the nastiest, meanest fire you ever seen."

Samael shifted his weight and attempted a weak smile, but it was met with a rumble from Andee as the bat secured the grasp around his wrist. "That's what I fuckin' saw in them caves. That's what I saw when he was beatin' the shit outta those assholes." The faces came rushing back to Samael, carried on the river of his regret. Not even Andee's lustful gaze was enough to overcome the culpability, not even the addition of Paneko's curious, drunken expression that looked torn between wary and wanton. "There's a job I could watch Fiffy do all fuckin' day long..."

Samael licked the end of his muzzle and gently extricated his arm from the bat's clutch. He wasn't nearly as inebriated as his companion, cursed by his own constitution, but the last thing he wanted to do was ruin the mood because of his shame. Not when it made Andee so goddamn content.

He lifted his eyes when Mutt graciously leaned in to grab the bottle of rum and pour them another round. Samael was starting to appreciate Mutt's perception. "You broke in head, Andee -- is much nicer to watch job involving different kind of beat." Mutt pounded back his shot before hopping off the stool and stumbling into the center of the room, stomping once against the heavy rug that covered the floor while gesturing coyly to Samael. "Is dance time! Fiffy come help masturbate!"

Samael nearly spit out his rum as a burst of gratitude raced through him. "D-do you mean demonstrate, hon?" he replied with a half-grin while slinking toward the muscular bat. Andee and Paneko were still giggling as they helped each other turn around at the counter to watch as Samael stretched his good arm out to accept Mutt's offered hand.

Mutt returned a sly smirk as Samael ducked low so he could twirl under the bat's wing before the two pressed chest-to-chest while moving in drunken time together. "Maybe Mutt mean. Maybe Mutt doesn't mean," he replied with a wink while dipping Samael with impressive ease despite the several inches of height the chupa had over him.

Samael laughed and the contrition sloughed off his broad shoulders with each step he took. He glanced over but didn't see jealousy in Andee's eyes -- maybe he was too drunk, or maybe he didn't mind if it was his best friends making moves on Samael. Samael wasn't about to question it as he turned his smile back to Mutt and happily followed the handsome bat's rhythmic twirl across the rug. "Come join, friends! We party until we drop!"

Additional coaxing was unnecessary as both Paneko and Andee half-fell out of their stools and dragged themselves over with another series of intoxicated laughter. They were soon twisting and spinning alongside the other two, the four friends trading partners as easily as they did wobbly grins, dancing across Andee's apartment until exhaustion began to combat the alcohol.

Paneko was the first to flop onto the bed, after which Andee unceremoniously shoved Samael with a cackle to force the chupa to thump into the mattress next to the albino bat. Samael took it smoothly into stride, offering a toothy grin and propping his head up as Paneko panted with what was mostly exertion from their energetic dancing. Samael drew a claw tenderly along Paneko's slender muzzle and elicited a furious blush while Mutt and Andee both crawled onto the mattress on either side of them with matching grins.

"Look at Pan, is like his first time all again!"

Andee giggled, sidling along Samael's back until he could rest his muzzle on the chupa's shoulder while wrapping a wing around his broad body, peering playfully down at their embarrassed friend. "Heh, I ain't sure who's gonna be more surprised -- Fiffy ain't gonna be ready for what Pan's packin'...but Pan might be a li'l shocked to see Fiffy ain't got no metal down there, himself!"

Paneko's whole body was alight with his sheepishness and Samael giggled bemusedly as Mutt pressed comfortably against Paneko's back and curled around him, the quartet shifting closer together. "I am a little disappoint in both you -- Mutt the only one with dick-metal! Is shameful!"

Samael closed his eyes blissfully, squeezing Andee's arm before reaching out to gently pull Paneko's head to his damp chest. Any thoughts of an erotic encounter were quickly melting with the fatigue rolling over them, but the chupa was fine with it. He lived for this kind of intimacy...and having the grime of his sins washed away was an unspoken bonus.

Andee pressed more securely to his broad back and nuzzled into his neck while murmuring through his heavy hide. " me a fuckin' idea. But since --" He halted long enough for a gaping yawn. "--you baby motherfucks is so tired...tell ya 'bout it later."

"You always have idea," Mutt muttered, resting his muzzle atop Paneko's head while nudging their waists forward to bring them all into a snug amalgamation of bats and chupa. "We see how shit idea is after wake-up coffee."

The four stirred with nigh identical headaches several hours later, untangling themselves from their drunken pile to stagger back into Andee's kitchen. It was mostly left to Paneko to put the coffee together -- somehow the tall, slender bat had the least painful hangover of them all. Perhaps a benefit of being at the center of their impromptu group-cuddle.

The ever-present lights of Xulod drifted over them as they savored a much-needed mug of coffee together before Andee grumbled about needing to make a trip down to the metalworkers' shops. He'd shooed Samael off with Paneko and Mutt, since the two were working together to arrange a series of shipments scheduled to be flown out to one of Kiden's camps outside Omegrad.

Any protests that the rebel was supposed to be on leave fell on deaf ears, not that Samael minded. Mutt and Paneko were still watchful to ensure he didn't attempt anything overly strenuous, and the trio worked with a welcome harmony that once felt impossible to Samael, considering those tenuous moments with Xulod after their confrontation in the plaza and how fiercely loyal Andee's friends were to him.

As they broke down crates of 'liberated' supplies and divvied them out to smaller parcels and messenger bags, Samael thought about everything he and Andee had been through recently. He wasn't so blind to think he hadn't pulled his own weight -- and even then some -- between their missions and the events surrounding the Himroc...but he still didn't take for granted Andee's acceptance of their budding relationship and the emotions that came with it. He knew without having to pry that Andee had never been so personally invested in anyone else, and he wanted to try and arrange a gift for the bat that would perhaps give them both something to appreciate. Felt like Andee might like that more, in spite of his selfish nature.

"Hey, Mutt...could I trade ya summin' fer...fer a paintin'?"

Mutt glanced up from the stack of crates he'd just moved across the staging area, tilting his head inquisitively while wiping at his brow. "You want more cave-art? Is not enough what Andee already get you?"

"I, uh..." Samael cleared his throat and couldn't help the slight flush when both Mutt and Paneko squinted at him. "I was...actually wonderin' if you did, uh. Portraits."

Mutt grinned in amusement and thrust a finger toward the rebel. "Mutt does portrait. Mutt does good portrait. Is of your dick or Andee's?"

Samael spluttered as Paneko snorted laughter into his wing. "I...h-hey, who said anythin' about dicks?!"

Mutt smirked while propping himself up against a crate, picking idly at his chest fur. "With you is always dick."

Paneko grinned and elbowed Samael lightly, seeming more confident now that he wasn't the target of the teasing. "Mutt's not wrong, Fiffy."

"Y-yeah, but...I was jus' thinkin' of a portrait of Andee!" Samael protested. "Maybe...a sexy one, but...not jus' his dick!!"

Mutt chortled loudly and waved his hand a few times. "Yes, yes, I am sure. Hmmm..." He smiled thoughtfully at the chupa while stroking at his chin. "Andee has only done one or two studies for me. He is not fan of sit still."

"Yeah, no shit," Paneko grumbled, continuing to fill the next bag, then pausing to shake a can of beans at Samael. "You better wait 'til he's drunk to ask him, Sammy! Otherwise he'll probably make ya cry."

"More than he already does," Mutt added with a chuckle. Samael rubbed the back of his head and Mutt grunted before tossing a bottle of water to him so the sweaty chupa could take a swig. "I will ask for you when we getting together later. I'm sure we drinking again." He grinned toothily and rolled his eyes innocently toward Paneko. "Maybe this time we get Pan wet without dance!"

"Fuck you too, Mutt," Paneko mumbled awkwardly in their native tongue, Samael and Mutt both laughing as they returned to their work.

~ * ~ * NSFW * ~ * ~

* * *

Andee scowled as he struggled not to rub at his crotch, clutching into the edge of the table with both hands to try and distract himself.

It had nothing to do with the fact they were in public -- he'd done far worse things in the open air of Xulod even before meeting Samael. No, it was the fact they still needed to wait at least another day before they did anything with their dicks. And normally he'd be one to chide Samael for always trying to get laid, but fuck, ever since Samael's little display in Mutt's shop...Andee had been wanting him bad.

God damn his enticing whore of a puppy.

"You doin' a'right, hon?"

Andee imagined that in any other reality, that fucking drawl would be like nails on tempered glass to his ears. He hated the way it instead sent a warm twist through his soul, doing everything in his power to mask it with a moody glower. "Naw, I ain't doin' alright!" he snapped, though the smirk that slipped through his dark moue couldn't be hidden. "I'm fuckin' stuck here tryin' not to get a boner when the only thing I fuckin' want is to pound ya ass so hard, ya cousin's gonna feel it!"

Samael's silly grin was both a salve and a tease for Andee's hunger, especially since it was a preferable look to the awkward, hurt expression the stupid midget had sported at the initial response. "Haw...careful now, li'l fruit-bat -- I gotta few cousins who'd put even my good thrustin' to shame!"

Andee snorted but couldn't help grinning back while punching Samael's thick arm a few times. "Yanno, at this rate, the only reason I wanna visit ya shitty caves is so I can find out for myself if all this goddamn cousin-fuckin' is legit or not!"

"Look how short and special Fiffy is," Mutt replied with a half-smile. "Is obvious much cousin-fucking."

"Yeah, yeah, I'mma investigate that shit with my own fuckin' eyes," Andee grumbled, taking a sip from the decidedly-less intense cocktail sitting before him; the four were attempting to avoid their third consecutive hangover during Samael's leave. "At least we's gonna bring 'em some real fuckin' stories of all the shit ya been up to ever since leavin' them frozen-ass caves!"

The smile Samael gave him was more rewarding than Andee liked to admit. "You ain't wrong 'bout that," the chupa chuckled while sipping from a bottle, leaning back against the bar with a smile around the room. "I'm purdy sure my tribe figgered I'd be crawlin' back no more'n a week or two after my li'l 'experiment' with the whole rebel thing..."

He was doing a little bit better at hiding his physical discomfort, but Andee didn't miss the hand that kept reaching down to adjust his inseam. At least Andee wasn't alone in suffering the aftermath of their new body art. Made him feel confident as fuck -- sometimes he let himself forget this big dumb tough redneck wasn't as big or tough as everyone thought he was. Just the dumb part that was consistent.

"Did...did your caves hear about...what happened in Kaprime?" Paneko asked with a hesitant tilt of his head. Samael smiled faintly over at the pale bat; it wasn't hard for Andee to see how grateful the rebel was for Paneko's attempt at tact. "You said you ran all the way to Qoppa afterward..."

Andee looked down at his drink with a small frown. Felt weird keeping something from his best friends. Wasn't like he'd never lied to Mutt or Paneko before, but this wasn't some personal matter or some job he needed to keep under wraps...this was just a stupid top-sider and his stupid childhood trauma. Andee still wasn't sure why he hadn't just blurted the whole truth to augment the drunken rambling Samael had done about Tracer sacrificing himself. It was a part of who Samael was, and he knew Mutt and Paneko well -- they wouldn't judge Samael, either. But he'd told the chupa it'd be better if people didn't know all the details. Just being saved by the guy was enough. Would be kinda shitty to go against his own word, he supposed.

And maybe some part of him cared too much that the old bastard's memory remained untarnished around Xulod, no matter how many indignant little rocks Andee threw.


Andee straightened his back with a self-assured smile. Not like Samael didn't have other aspects he could brag about, anyway. He lifted his eyes back to the conversation as Samael's soothing drawl filtered once more into his comprehension.

"So yeah, since we was relocated jus' outside'a Sampi, weren't too hard for me to send word to the pack, let 'em know I ain't ready for no funeral pyre yet." Samael nodded a bit as Mutt grunted and reached out to grasp into his shoulder.

"Is good thing. Would have almost been as bad as get killed for this motherfuck," Mutt proclaimed with a smirk in Andee's direction.

"Even if we kind of sent Fiffy after him ourselves," Paneko added sheepishly before squawking as Samael laughed and reached out to pull him to his side in a half-embrace.

"I ain't holdin' nothin' against you fellers!" Samael replied while smiling around the trio of bats warmly. "You was worried 'bout Andee, needed to do whatever ya had to do to help 'im." His eyes settled on Andee, and Andee shifted his weight self-consciously. "I dunno what I woulda done if anythin' had happened to him, was worth every drop'a blood."

The strength of the adoration behind Samael's gaze made Andee grimace. "Ay, how many fuckin' times I gotta say I ain't lookin' for no fuckin' sacrifices!" Andee spat out, even if most of the venom had been replaced with annoyance. "Especially from you, shortstack," he added with a glower at Samael.

The chupa shrank back a bit, releasing Paneko's shoulders so he could wrap both hands lamely around his beer bottle. Andee basked in his conciliation for a few seconds before letting a cocky smile slither across his muzzle while leading the group of four to a nearby table so they could drop into the chairs surrounding it. "But I ain't as worried no more. We's gonna have more than just stories 'bout ya midget ass bein' a suicidal sap for the whole fuckin' ring!" Samael's eyes reflected a mote of hesitation that Andee pushed past. The idiotic beefcake could learn to show a little more vanity for his work. "Yeah, we's gonna make ya redneck tribe fuckin' proud...they gonna find out they raised ya right after all, even if your stunted ass got let out too fuckin' early!"

"Heh, I ain't sure they gonna be all that proud'a me. I ain't doin' nothin' to further the strength of the pack...and my people ain't exactly fond of the war, either. Rebellin' against it is still kinda takin' part of it..."

Andee snorted dismissively while leaning forward across his drink. "Fuck that humble shit, Fiffy. Xulod ain't want no part of ya stupid war, neither, but look how much this fuckin' place loved Tracer. Loves you."

He waited for Samael's smile to inch back into place. God, it drove him wild. Didn't even have to do with wanting to fuck him this time, either. He liked to give the bastard a fuckin' smile, plain and simple.

He wasn't sure that was a good thing.

"Aw, hon...that means a lot," Samael murmured, drawing Andee's eyes back from the brief tour of his consternation. "Don't care what no one thinks, I'm proud to be part'a this world much as the one I come from."

Andee's smile crept toward a grin, half-lidding his eyes as he leaned toward Samael. "Ain't bein' part'a no Movement that makes ya belong here," he purred, reaching out and cupping the back of Samael's head before glancing at his companions. "Same way I'm sure ya fuckin' redneck people don't give a shit about you bein' no rebel..."

Samael shifted a bit and Andee's eyes focused sharply on him. He continued before Samael could interrupt. "What you did in them caves, that was the shit that gets you respect."

Samael's eyes darted to Mutt, but there was no attempt to change the subject this time. Mutt offered a small smile and threw a wing around Samael's shoulders as he pressed close as well. "Andee has point. Sometimes mercy is not best."

The chupa inevitably stared across at Paneko...who took a step toward the table and gripped into Andee's shoulder, his soft crimson gaze lined with slivers of ice. "Yeah, Sammy...this is Sirca, the ring doesn't give second chances. So why should we?"

The gang of three looked intently at the rebel as he swallowed. "I...but. But that ain't..."

"It ain't nothin' to be ashamed of," Andee interjected smoothly as he pulled Samael's head closer, his friends both leaning further in. "It's us versus them, Sammy. It always fuckin' has been. And you showed me you understood that yesterday. We did real fuckin' good."

"But...them folks..."

"'Them folks' was a buncha useless motherfuckers who got your own people killed!" Andee retorted as he drove his claw into the back of Samael's neck. "I'm proud of you, goddammit, don't ya fuckin' get it??"

"Y-yeah, I do...I do," Samael murmured, doing his best to smile as Andee clenched his teeth. "Sorry, hon...I'll try not to talk 'bout that, 'cause...yer. Yer right, we did what we had to do."

Andee grunted quietly in satisfaction before looking over at Paneko with a haughty grin. "Listen to this fuckin' pup, tuckin' his tail like he's embarrassed. I mighta saved your ass, Fiffy, but it ain't just me I wanna tell everyone about, not this time..."

Samael shrunk somewhat but Andee only smiled again as Paneko and Mutt gave him an inquisitive look. They weren't used to him talking about something other than himself. Andee furrowed his brow slightly but puffed out his chest while looping a wing around Paneko as he gestured grandly with the cocktail in his other hand. "You guys shoulda seen this midget! He ain't just Nelson's obedient little whore, he was on fire!"

The least he could do was give Samael the credit he deserved.

Mutt flashed a grin back to him. "I think Fiffy has been try to say this since first day. Is you who never wants to believe when you meet someone!" He winked over at the chupa as a weak smile trickled across Samael's features. "Then everyone think Pan and Mutt are asshole because we take your side like idiot, every time."

"Aww, ain't gotta say that, I know how it is acceptin' outsiders," Samael mumbled while clutching into his bottle and then gazing over at Andee.

Andee snorted but fixed Samael with a thoughtful look for a moment. Mutt wasn't wrong. That was Andee. His trust was hard-earned. Couldn't be bought, couldn't be fucked, couldn't be sweet-talked. But Samael had proven himself, again and again. "Ay, don't put me in no fuckin' box!" he protested with a squint at Mutt before he grunted and let his eyes rove over the apprehensive chupa again. "I'm tryna say some important shit here. You mighta fucked up that first job I took ya on...and you mighta fucked up after our first time on snatch...and you definitely fucked up durin' that job in Episemon, especially with that stupid were-bastard afterward..."

Andee paused long enough to savor the twist of acid through his own veins, knowing all too well Samael was feeling it tenfold. He wasn't sure if he delighted in that fact or not. But it was worth it as he traced his thumb along the rim of his glass while gazing at the rebel. "But we made fuckin' bank from those cards," he continued softly. "And I wouldn'ta been able to pull it off without you. Same with Delacroix. Same with the Himroc. You put ya fuckin' money where that big ol' mouth is."

As Samael smiled and rubbed at his neck, Andee smirked and took a gulp of the drink, then squeezed Paneko against his side. "But there was a whole new Fiffy to appreciate out by Highguard." Samael's smile faltered but Andee stretched a leg out beneath the table to clutch reassuringly into Samael's knee. "Nah, don't be fuckin' shy, Sammy," he rumbled before tilting his head to the side with a half-grin, brushing his muzzle against Paneko's but eyeing the chupa as he proceeded. "First he pulls off this crazy redneck trackin' shit, reads the fuckin' ground like it's got fuckin' neon signs. I ain't even seen our best hunters do nothin' like that." He doused Samael with his warmest gaze, watching the redneck's features melt back into a lame smile. Christ, he just wanted the bastard to flex a little, it was like pulling teeth.

Paneko only squirmed a little under his arm, and Andee could feel the way he pressed closer with intrigue. Across from them, Mutt's expression reflected the same curiosity. Andee's grin spread wider. Maybe a second, more detailed account of their little mission would make up for the shit he wasn't telling his friends about the darker side of Samael's past with Tracer.

He broke into a grandiose recollection of the job, far less disjointed and incoherent now that they weren't quite as wasted. He bragged about his stealth and how smooth he was planting the charges -- deftly ignoring Mutt's cheeky inquiry of how many walls he bumped into -- and boasted about Samael's ease with getting the shitty wannabe rebels to accept him, to crave him. Mutt's muzzle rested alongside Samael's, sporting a continuous grin that made it hard for Samael to not produce a coy smile himself. There was that goddamn Sampi swagger that Andee hated to admit how much he loved seeing.

But as he eagerly shifted to what followed, meticulously recalling every furious punch and rage-filled curse from the angry midget who'd taken on a whole goddamn group of opponents without hesitation -- and held his own doing so -- he could see Samael's heart drooping in time with his shoulders. No matter how much praise Andee laid on him, no matter how genuine he was in the glorification of Samael's actions, the fucking asshole just looked like he wanted to cry.

His molars began to grind, and as he started to lean forward with a low snarl, Mutt suddenly slapped his other wing on the table with a jovial grin. "You two making truly good team!" Andee shot him a glower but his oldest friend only smirked back at him before he coated Samael with a warm smile and shook his glum body a few times. "Do not look so sad, Fiffy! Andee not often give such good word for any but himself!"

Samael blinked, shaking his head once and then giving a lopsided smile as he looked awkwardly between Mutt and Andee. "I...I, uh--"

"Goddammit, Fiffy, you--"

Mutt interrupted Andee's outburst with the same cool expression. "Fiffy must go back to base tonight, yes?" Andee narrowed his eyes, admittedly as grumpy as he was being cut off as he was being reminded his stupid redneck had to run back to his stupid momma already. "Then he should go with Pan to see old man Juwo, and see if any trade ready to make." Andee grit his teeth but Mutt was silky smooth as always, squeezing Samael's shoulder while letting his eyes bore into Andee's. "Then Andee free to have appointment with Mutt."

Samael cleared his throat and gave a smile that Andee knew was an attempt to shake off the lingering discomfort. "Yer...yer not 'bout to get you another piercin' without me, right?"

Andee chewed the inside of his cheek but chose peace this time, tearing his eyes away from Mutt long enough to huff softly in Samael's direction. "Nah, nah...I know what this beefy motherfucker wants." He scowled and adjusted his half-poncho before leaning over to lightly chomp on the end of Paneko's smooth muzzle, causing his friend to yelp and flinch away. "Don't let Sammy fuck half the town on ya watch, Pan! And if he gives you a blowjob, ya better get it on fuckin' video!!"

Paneko stared at Andee, then at Samael...who was now grinning far more comfortably as his eyes danced playfully. Andee held in his grumble; the fucking asshole was ten times more attractive when he wasn't being a mopey bastard, might as well not ruin the last fucking period of their little reprieve. "D-dammit, Andee, I'm...I'm not gonna --"

"Yes, you must wait until we can all watch Fiffy choke on giant cock," Mutt supplied with a wink, making Paneko splutter and flush once more beneath his pale hide. The burly bat chortled and gave Samael's broad shoulder a gentle squeeze before hopping off the chair and gesturing impatiently to Andee. "Come, come. We all work one more time, then you and Fiffy can have no-touch night of passion before he revolve."

"Return," Andee muttered even as he jumped down as well. He paused next to Samael, though, taking a moment to squint up at him. "Don't be no fuckin' idiot, Sammy. And learn to take a fuckin' compliment on somethin' other than ya fuckin' fine-ass whorin' skills!" he complained, jabbing a claw into the chupa's thigh. He had a second or two to enjoy the contrite expression on his partner's face before Mutt grabbed his arm and half-dragged him away. "I'm comin', I'm comin'..."

"...Are you fuckin' kiddin' me, Mutt??"

Andee crossed his arms stubbornly as his friend snickered and finished setting up his easel. "Please. Like you don't think Fiffy will be absolutely fucking delighted with this," he replied, using their native tongue now that they didn't have a dumb puppy around...not that Samael had trouble understanding the language of Xulod these days.

Stupid dedicated puppy.

"That ain't the fuckin' point!" Andee muttered, tugging at his collar and pursing his lips disdainfully. "This is the most fuckin' redneck shit, you's just enablin' him now..."

"Shut up that ugly mug and take off your poncho," Mutt instructed, smiling around the canvas. Andee shot him a dark look but his friend knew him far too well as he only winked and began to mix splotches of paint on a wide palette. "You can keep on your collar; Fiffy likes it, I can tell."

"Fiffy's just confused because he needs one of his own," Andee grumbled back, gnashing his teeth but figuring it was better to get this done with as he shed the half-poncho and folded it to rest neatly on a side table. "You want me to stick my fuckin' dick in the tailpipe while we're at it?"

"Don't be so crass," Mutt chided, pointing the end of his paintbrush teasingly in Andee's direction. "This'll be tasteful so he can hang it in his room. He'll appreciate that."

"Oh yeah, like the horny bastard wouldn't hang up some hardcore porn, anyway," Andee retorted as he let out a long, annoyed sigh...but eventually loosed the smile he couldn't contain as he reached out and ran a finger along the glistening chrome. "For the only one of us who's also into're a real fuckin' sentimental faggot, pal..."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Mutt shot back with a smirk. "Now get up there." He grinned playfully. "You can use your hat to cover the boner I know you're gonna spring sooner or later."

Andee snorted but smirked knowingly. No shame in enjoying an audience, after all. "Yeah, yeah..."

At some point during the last period or so, Mutt had enlisted the help of god knew how many bats to track down and retrieve the souped-up ATV Andee and Samael had taken on their mission to Episemon. Frustrating how many nice memories Andee had that involved Samael and a four-wheeler. Their very first job together...and then the one that had put Andee in a truly domineering spot among Sirca's underground movers and shakers, thanks to those fancy-ass cards.

And now the damn thing had been rolled into Mutt's studio, illuminated far too perfectly with a soft crimson spotlight that made the customized goose gleam with a life of its own. Andee shook his head but clambered onto it, complaining away under his breath even as he very purposefully arranged himself as lewdly as possible. He propped his head up with one hand and grabbed his crotch with the other, ignoring the bolt of agony from the tender piercings while sneering over at Mutt. "Aight, paint me lahk one'a them slutty Sa-yum-pi cuzzins," he demanded in a poor approximation of Samael's drawl.

Mutt smiled in entertainment and swirled the brush in one of the paint blotches. "You're such a bastard," he chuckled while starting to rough out Andee's shape. "It's only going to take longer if you wanna be an asshole."

Andee huffed loudly but eventually plucked the cap off his head to drape it over his hips, letting his slender arm rest along his side. "Startin' to think this was all your idea, Fiffy's too fuckin' stupid to ask for some shit like this..."

Mutt laughed softly again. "The subject is my idea. But the painting was all the puppy's idea." A few moments of silence punctuated only by the gentle scratch of wet bristles against the canvas, until: "When are you gonna stop tryin' to drive the guy away?"

Andee blinked, both embarrassment and indignation racing through him. "Ay!" he bristled, his muzzle wrinkling as he glared at Mutt. Mutt was as calm as ever, though, continuing to paint while eyeing Andee intently. "I ain't tryna drive him away," Andee eventually muttered as his body relaxed somewhat. "But if he can't fuckin' handle me as I am, then --"

"Don't spout that bullshit to me," Mutt interrupted with an arched eyebrow. Andee glowered back but the larger bat's gaze was piercing, pinning down any snarling responses Andee might have let fly. Another several seconds passed as Mutt kept moving the brush in broad, sweeping strokes between the occasional dab of paint. The way he studied Andee wasn't even close to the intensity of Samael's adoring looks...but something about it still made Andee shift and look away uncomfortably. There was a reason he hated posing for this particular brand of Mutt's craft.

Mutt was all too aware, though, and his low but gentle voice drifted back before Andee could completely disassociate. "I know you, Andee. I know this scares you." Andee furrowed his brow but kept his muzzle shut and his eyes locked onto an invisible spot in a dark corner of the studio. "You've never let anyone this close. And no, Samael isn't perfect. But of course he isn't -- no fuckin' perfect or sane person would wanna be with you."

Andee barked out a bitter laugh but made no real attempt to deny it as he half-shrugged and flicked an ear. "I am who I am. I never asked the fuckin' redneck to be into a piece'a shit like me."

"Hey, hey -- there's a thin line between honesty and self-deprecation," Mutt scolded as he tapped the brush handle against the side of the easel. "Don't shit all over yourself to avoid the subject."

Andee flattened his ears, then sighed and rubbed at his muzzle. "We grew up chewin' fuckin' leather. Even Pan ain't a goddamn pussy despite how he was when we met 'im. We got hard young, and we see Sirca for what she fuckin' is. But now Sammy's over here, lookin' sadder than if he was a real puppy who just got kicked, just 'cause we offed a few motherfuckers...and that's the thing!" He threw his arm into the air as he grit his teeth. "They wasn't just assholes, they got one'a his own killed! And he fuckin' kicked their asses just for insultin' the how the fuck's he so soft? That ain't the way this fuckin' world works, Mutt, you know that as much as I do!"

Mutt only gazed at him pointedly until Andee grumbled and lowered his arm so the painting could resume. "Of course I do. And I'm sure Sammy knows that, too."

"Yeah, that's why he's gonna keep throwin' his ass into the fuckin' flight path of every goddamn bullet that comes his way, 'til he ends up just like the old fucker he's always tryna turn into," Andee growled.

"You think Nomad was weak for what he did?" Mutt fired back, cocking an ear with a mild expression. "What's wrong with wanting the ring to be different? To be better?" Andee's maw parted to retort, but Mutt wasn't finished. "What's wrong with trying to make it better, even if you know it's impossible?"

Andee made a face that he was sure Mutt wouldn't want to depict in the painting. "Because that's a fuckin' pipe dream! I yelled at Fiffy for the same fuckin' thing! He knows first-hand how shitty Sirca is!"

"But he still tries to make a difference," Mutt replied softly. Andee glared over at him as the brush maintained its steady path over the canvas for several seconds. "I know you're gonna get pissy about this, but it's obvious you care about him. And somewhere in that fucked-up wreck that's your heart, you got feelings for him." Andee's tongue made a consternated circuit across his teeth as his claws dug into his hip. "I wonder how many of them you'd still have if he changed who he was."

Andee didn't like the answer. He frowned and then looked aside. It was hard enough coming to terms with the fact that Samael's chosen passion was rooted in a world that traded in blood and violence -- this fucking rebellion wasn't going to succeed through a series of negotiations and friendly chats, no matter how good the blowjobs were. And just because Samael was willing to put himself in the line of fire for his friends -- hell, for fucking strangers -- it sure as fuck didn't mean anyone else was gonna do it for him.

But it was what made Samael who he was. And whenever Andee thought about Samael...

The little bat exhaled raggedly and shook his head. "I dunno, Mutt. Maybe I ain't cut out for this, maybe I really do just wanna solid business partner who treats me good in bed."

"Or maybe you're afraid of finally having someone close enough to truly hurt you."

The words made Andee's blood thick with ice. He felt every frozen spear knitting through his veins but he couldn't muster the furious shout. It would make the truth too obvious. He closed his eyes, then heard the conversation with Miss Sov echoing through his memories.

Her smug smile was hardly a welcome distraction, but it certainly served as a reminder. He'd sworn on Samael's, more than that. His obedience. The promise that Andee could tell him to do anything, and that he'd follow through.

And that wasn't the kind of promise easily broken.

Andee closed his eyes for a moment. "It ain't always just about me..."

He was somewhat surprised at the lack of a disbelieving scoff and he opened his eyes to look over at his friend. He'd seen that look on Mutt's face before; Mutt was no stranger to Andee's ventures. A moment of silent understanding passed between them, and then Mutt nodded once and smiled faintly. "You're right. This gay-ass painting is for you both. I want Fiffy to get wet every time he looks at tell me all about how things went after Himroc again. That should help me capture the right expression."

Andee snorted but slung a grateful smile back toward Mutt as he narrowed his eyes seductively. "So much for makin' this thing tasteful, you's as bad as the fuckin' pup. But alright, lemme start by tellin' you how my favorite chair got all those new scratches..."

"Aw, you still bein' a crybaby bitch 'bout those motherfuckers? I swear to god, Fiffy, you got into the wrong fuckin' business with that big, stupid, bleedin' heart of yours!"

The chupa hadn't said a word, but it was obvious, scrawled over his face so boldly that any attempt at enticement was entirely masked. He'd come into Andee's apartment after working with Paneko...and despite all of Mutt's warnings, he'd ended up kneeling at the foot of Andee's bed as the bat had prepared to grin and bear through the potential discomfort in exchange for the wealth of promises that Samael's talented tongue offered.

But the moment Andee leaned down and whispered hungrily that he'd been wanting this since the moment they'd burst out of the Highguard cliffside together, Samael's tail had fallen limp as his muscular frame had all but wilted into a grey-furred lump at Andee's feet.

The chupa ducked his head, guilt and discomfort simultaneously washing over his features. Andee snorted but was otherwise quiet, observing the chupa with a pointed scowl and hating that he couldn't just start bitching at the guy.

He'd had more than one opportunity by now to see why Samael did what he did for the Movement. He was passionate about the cause, about freeing the ring and making Sirca a place where people could finally be themselves. And he was made for it, too. He was frustratingly talented at embedding himself into any social circle, capable of coaxing secrets and sexual favors alike from even the least predictable of targets. His skills were enviable -- which Andee certainly planned to continue using for his own means -- and even when things went to shit and a bit of punching or shooting or raw chaos became necessary, Samael could hold his own. He was no over-trained operative like those Freelancer motherfuckers, and he wasn't a natural-born murder-machine like Nelson...but he wasn't gonna lose a fight against most of the assholes he went up against.

Yet taking lives was a part of this whole goddamn thing. Half the fuckin' ring was fighting with the other fuckin' half; anyone not wearing red or blue was either an oblivious civvie or a puppet of the head shitbag himself, blindly following orders to hunt down, torture and kill the brain-dead bastards like Samael who willingly put their own idiotic asses on the line to try and end this stupid war. And who the fuck went strolling into a suicide mission like that and didn't gank any and every motherfucker that got in their way? Andee learned a long time ago that if you so much as suspected someone was out to get you, you got them first.

He and his friends grew up with that mantra, and then when Tracer came to Xulod and got to know them, he had all but praised them for it. He told them it made them strong, made them vital to the cause, to the resistance, to the Movement, because the Movement didn't just need blood. It needed surging, boiling blood, a pulse that pounded with the fury of a whole generation's worth of frustration and anger, blood that was ready to spill and be spilled in the name of saying fuck you to everything that stood between you and what you wanted from a world that didn't give a shit about you.

...And then there was Samael. Samael, the redneck from the middle of Sampi who'd been fucked over by that old, charismatic pedophile, fucked over by fate when that same old bastard he loved so much gave his life for him and saddled him with a guilt he'd never truly overcome. Fucked over by his own shitty, inbred genetics to be a goddamn midget in a world of monsters. Samael, who fucked over himself by hesitating to kill those same monsters when they towered over him and threatened to swallow him in the shadow of their cruelty, hesitating to whisk away their lives before they did the same to him. Not unless he had some good reason...not unless someone...

Andee finally looked away and his stupid asshole of a partner paged through his emotions like he was the latest nudie mag fresh from the Honkal Strip. The bat still wasn't sure if he loved or hated how easily Samael read him. He didn't like for people to read him, but he'd also spent far too long tucked away on a lonely shelf, his cover dusty and cracked from disuse. Kinda nice to feel the warmth of fingers caressing the stiff leather he so desperately protected himself with.

"I'm sorry, hon...I-I know I said I wouldn't talk 'bout it, I din' mean to --"

Andee grit his teeth but avoided the biting retort as he turned his eyes to Samael's soulful blue gaze. It was one thing to bullshit his clients. Something entirely different to do it to this emotional jerk. "You didn't talk about it," he spat out before grumbling as Samael reached hesitantly up to grasp into his leg. Andee tried to push off his hand, but didn't try hard enough as Samael's fingers squeezed into him and filled him with the security he hated to crave. "But you's been lookin' like a fuckin' whipped pup ever since I started tellin' everyone about our job..."

Samael looked down as shame drenched his face again. God, Andee loathed the guilt that nibbled at his conscience. "I'm...I'm sorr--"

"Aw, quit fuckin' apologizing," Andee interrupted with a sigh, reaching out to slap the chupa's muzzle gently with a wing. "It gets fuckin' old, especially when it just makes me feel like the fuckin' asshole..." Those big, beautiful eyes lifted to meet his again and the wave of adoration was an unwelcome intruder that nonetheless crashed over Andee's shores despite whatever feeble seawalls he'd tried to drop into place. "I just...fuck, Sammy, I'm just fuckin'...proud, okay? We ain't never done no shit like that before, not even with that fucker in Episemon. I know I's the one who said I never wanted to fuckin' mix our personal and business jobs, that I wasn't out to do no stupid fuckin' rebel shit with you, but I stepped up and we knocked that shit outta the park. Not me, not you, both of us. Together." He threw both arms wide as Samael smiled faintly up at him from where he sat on the floor. "Why can't ya just fuckin' be proud with me?"

He knew it wasn't fair, because he could tell Samael was full of the same fiery vigor, even with how things had gone on that job, even in spite of his faltering smiles. And maybe Andee wasn't so oblivious to not realize that it bothered Samael every time it was brought up. That, even if Mutt and Paneko were happy to hear the details of their ass-kicking, the lives they'd taken wasn't something that gave Samael the same twisted joy it did Andee or his friends. And that even if Samael was a part of Xulod, there were some aspects of their society he wouldn't...couldn't embrace. Andee was sure it was the same for his own culture back in the caves of Sampi, because otherwise Samael never would have left, never would have dared to strike out and join the rebellion against a war his own people wanted no part of. Samael might have held some sacred traditions close to his heart...but others, he made up as he went.

A lot like Andee.

"Y'know I am proud, hon," Samael murmured, his drawl so timid Andee almost missed it. The bat shifted on the end of the bed and then sighed again while looking down at the chupa. "That job turned into a helluva shitshow but you were amazin', kept yer cool...even came back for my stupid ass when the smoke started spreadin' 'n the bullets started flyin'..." He squeezed tenderly into the bat's thigh. "All I wanna do are more jobs with you, we make a helluva team."

"Even better than you and that big dumb bastard York?" Andee inquired with a scowl. He felt a twinge as the words left his muzzle, knowing he was an idiot to let jealousy speak out like that.

Samael only gave another small smile, eternally patient in that way that drove Andee insane. "Yeah, sweetie, 'course." It was a nice lie, but Andee decided he was fine pretending it was the truth. "It's just. I don't...I don't want every job we do to end up that way. I don't like losin' my cool like that, it don't feel right, even if it do in the moment." He looked down and then nodded once. "North was a friend. A better friend than most; York, him 'n me, we...we was close."

"Yeah, whadda shock, the cock-driven fiffy gotta sweet-spot for another big lumberjack of a Freelancer," Andee muttered even as he reached out to smooth some of Samael's headfur, drawing his companion's eyes back up to him. "I sorta figured that out on my own, seein' how Nelson got you all fired up just by droppin' that giant fucker's name. Then how you went fuckin' feral on those bastards when I showed up..."

Samael's smile remained gentle even as he lowered his eyes for a moment and stroked his thumb along his companion's leg. "Still hurts to know we lost such a good soul," he replied softly. "Men like him ain't replaced easy. An'...then what we done to those folks afterward..." Andee nearly cut him off, but instead remained silent as he watched the chupa pick carefully through his words. "I didn't feel nothin' but rage in those moments. I ain't felt good, I ain't felt bad, I just...just wanted to make 'em pay for what they done to North. 'Swhat I was taught back home, but it ain't somethin' I'm proud of, 'cause I feel like it don't make me no better than the bastards we're fightin'..."

"Cut that shit out," Andee ordered quietly before squeezing firmly into Samael's shoulder. "You ain't nothin' like those fuckers, Sammy. Sirca could use a little redneck justice sometimes." Samael gazed into his eyes searchingly and Andee brushed a finger along the chupa's cheek. "I get it. You don't fuckin' wanna just be some fuckin' weapon, the same way ya stupid werewolf boyfriend York don't wanna, either. Even though I bet if someone let the two'a you lose in a room full'a HADES, I guarantee you's the only two walkin' back out afterward."

Samael seemed torn between pride and discomfort as he shifted on his knees and then looked down at the hand gripped into Andee's thigh. "...But sometimes I'm gonna hafta," Samael concluded in a whisper.

Andee licked his muzzle as he studied his partner's supplication. Part of him tasted guilt. Part of him tasted relief. And he wasn't sure which one he swallowed when he leaned forward and lifted the chupa's muzzle so their eyes could again meet. "Yeah, Fiffy. That's the plain truth. But you know what? If it means you live to see another day...if it means we gain another fuckin' inch against this shitty world...then it's worth it." He gestured with his head and Samael gave a watery smile but slowly climbed to his feet and then awkwardly pulled himself onto the bed with his functional arm. "I'm gettin' too used to havin' ya dumb midget ass around. I'll be real fuckin' pissed if I lose you because you let some other asshole kill you it?"

Samael bit his lip but nodded, his eyes flooding Andee with the affection he wasn't supposed to covet. "I got it. I...I don't never wanna lose you, Andee..."

"Good," Andee murmured, stroking the chupa's muzzle and then pushing him forcefully down into the mattress with a smirk. "That's what I wanna hear. Now I can give you a prize, ya fuckin' puppy..."

Samael's smile flushed with boyish excitement even as he gripped into his cast awkwardly. "Uh...ain't...ain't Mutt said we still need a li'l time, 'fore..."

"Always such a fuckin' whore, assumin' I can't give you no present besides my fuckin' grade-A dick," Andee retorted, flashing a smug grin as he straddled the chupa, and then leaned over to reach blindly past the side of the mattress with a grunt of exertion. "Like you already forgot that fuckin' guitar, ya asshole..."

"Aww, hon..." Samael grasped into his side with his good hand, his tail thumping happily against the bed to release a warm jingle that filled the apartment with a welcome atmosphere, pushing the last of the discomfort out the windows. "You didn't hafta get me no second guitar..."

"Please, like I don't got somethin' even better,"Andee declared while dragging a heavy object onto the mattress. "Christ, the fuck he frame this with, fuckin' ironwood..."

But his complaints were all too worth it when he saw Samael's eyes widen at the sight of the portrait. Andee grinned illustriously, holding it up at his side with both hands as Samael gawked, unable to stop his jaw from dropping. "Ho...holy shit..."

Andee chuckled and gave the painting a glance as well. As much as he hated posing for Mutt, he never did get tired of looking at his work. And even if the subject was himself this time...fuck, Mutt had gone above and beyond.

His depiction of Andee sprawled across the polished ATV was better than any photograph could ever hope to be. The expression Mutt had captured was the perfect mixture of cocky and inviting, while Andee's collar caught the soft red light with impossible splendor, as bright and lifelike as the four-wheeler beneath him. Even the cap resting across Andee's groin looked natural, like it just happened to be there to cover up any sort of excitement regardless of how aroused Andee may or may not have been while retelling the events that had transpired in his armchair after the Himroc. The whole thing was centered neatly within a crimson matte, and the wooden frame had been hand-carved with the same dedication as the painting itself.

"Looks pretty good, eh?" Andee boasted, turning his eyes back to Samael...and only the slightest bit surprised to see tears brimming over across his cheeks. "Aw, goddammit, ya fuckin' squishy bastard..."

Samael quickly scrubbed at his eyes and produced an embarrassed smile. "Sorry, Andee, it's jus''s beautiful. Mutt did an amazin' job, an' yer so sweet to let 'im do it, I hope I din' put either of you --"

Andee sighed but carefully set the painting aside so he could lean forward and clamp Samael's jaws shut with both hands. "Shut up, Sammy." Samael's immediate obedience still made the bat's heart thud excitedly and he struggled to calm the eager rush of blood. "I ain't gonna risk neither of our dicks doin' all the hot gay shit we wanna do to each other right now," he instructed before smiling and letting one hand glide up along the chupa's muzzle while lowering himself to rest upon his companion's masculine chest. "But that don't mean I want you ruinin' these last few hours with some dumb rambling, either. You just better have this hung up by the time I swing by next, got it?"

He closed his eyes as Samael wrapped his arm around his slender shoulders and hugged him tightly to his broad frame. "Promise. Thank you, Andee." He knew what words to expect next, but they still made him stiffen up apprehensively. "I love you so much."

The bat forced himself to exhale, then pushed his nose into the warmth of his partner's throat as he relaxed against him. "Damn right you do," he murmured before he squeezed his arm around his companion's neck. "You remember that shit every time you gotta make a call out in the field." A pause for them to press closer together. "Because I know you wanna make me proud, right?"

Samael nuzzled between his ears and the rumble of his adoring baritone wrapped around Andee with more comfort than his most expensive silken sheets. "I do, hon. I always do."

Andee nodded and pushed the accusatory whispers out of reach. "That's a good Fiffy." The quiver of delight from the chupa might as well have been a hit from Andee's favorite stash, and the bat clung to that feeling shamelessly as the two drifted off together.

For now, it was better than clinging to nothing at all.

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

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