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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 19: A Matter of Trust

Not yet, Kaccko Fif!!

Samael closed his eyes, a grin teasing his muzzle as his claws scraped slowly through the glittering ice.

Don't you fuckin' dare, puppy! You fuckin' wait for us!

A hot pant whispered across his tongue and then passed through shuddering jaws before the misty tendrils of his jagged breath slid back along his features. He bowed his head with a quiet whimper and closed his hand tighter around the rope, nearly able to feel the twin rhythm of Xulod's proudest sons working into his mewling form with relentless purpose.

So close...oh, is so close, how does Fiffy make so tight?!

Because he's my big fuckin' beautiful whore and the whole city better recognize how jealous they oughta be!!

Samael could hear every squeak of the ladder, every desperate claw scrabbling for purchase, every heated curse and hungry growl; his tail twitched happily and the piercing jangled with his ecstasy as every nerve in his body sparked with excitement, eager for the glorious --

"Ay, Fiffy."

-- and the way Mutt had him shoved halfway through the bars, god, how had he even maneuvered so smoothly? If only Paneko had been there, but they could at least tell him later all about the fact that Andee and Mutt had been able to --


-- not to mention the sheer volume of the bats' --

"Fiffy, get ya fuckin' head outta ya fuckin' ass!!"

Samael blinked and lifted his head to stare up at scowling features hovering only inches from his maw. ", uh. You say summin', hon?"

Andee flattened his expression and shoved his nose against the end of his companion's muzzle. "Yeah, I was tryna find out if you planned on fuckin' movin' ya ass any time this fuckin' year?!"

Samael scoffed and rolled his shoulders, which immediately caused him to slide several inches down the rope as whatever brazen retort he tried to give instead turned into a squeal of terror. The harness secured about his stocky frame jostled him violently when the safety mechanism locked into place, his heavy body swinging into the frozen rock face with a dull slap that was paired with a muffled "ouch...", followed shortly by Andee's groan.

"Christ, Sammy, I'mma 'bout to leave ya ass hangin' and just go find this shit myself!" Andee barked as he kicked off the wall with a spray of ice that dusted Samael's frazzled features. The chupa winced and then pouted as his suspended body twisted slowly to one side while the bat turned an annoyed circle around him. "The fuck you got bouncin' around that tiny brain'a yours now?!"

Samael huffed, but couldn't hide the lame smile as his fingers quivered against the smooth rope. "Nothin'. 'Cept...maybe the li'l date we had with Mutt th'other period..."

Andee squinted at him...and then smirked easily as he flew close enough to let his course fur brush across Samael's muzzle while replying coolly: "Ain't nothin' little happened that night, Fiffy. I still ain't got all the stains outta my rug..."

A wonderful shiver rolled over Samael's spine and his grip relaxed somewhat. "Mmmf...y'all treated this dumb redneck real good..." he commented with a half-grin, his eyes tracing the wide arc of his partner.

Andee regarded him silently, visibly wrestling with his overabundant pride for a few seconds before he snorted and adjusted the brim of his cap around a quick flap of his wings. "That's 'cause ya fuckin' deserved it...but now ain't the fuckin' time for no fuckin' stroll down memory lane, asshole!!"

"Well, you told me to think'a somethin' to distract me from the fact we're like nine fuckin' klicks up in the air right now!" Samael wailed, losing his composure entirely as his body spun back toward the glimmering cave wall and bounced off the frigid surface, causing him to shrink his shoulders and clutch fiercely to the rope again while his pitiful cry echoed through the dark cavern: "This ain't no gat-damn place fer no gat-damn country boy!"

"Ugh, I don't fuckin' know why yo momma sent us down here...there ain't enough fuckin' buried treasure in all'a these frozen-ass caves that's worth dealin' with your wussy ass!" Andee declared, cutting his loop closer so a wingtip could brush against the climbing rope. The tiny vibration was enough to send another panicked spasm through Samael's body, and he yelped and clung to the rope with both hands while flailing his legs in an attempt to find purchase against the slippery wall.

"Gawddammit, Andee!" he squawked with his eyes squeezed shut in fear.

He received only an entertained snicker, but the nearby flutter of wings told him Andee was remaining close in spite of his mocking tone. "Fuckin' hell, we gotta work on this baby-ass fear'a yours, Fiffy, makes me look real fuckin' bad when my man can't figure out if he wants to piss or jizz himself whenever our people's wings is involved! Maybe pay that pilot bitch ten bucks to let me give you a blowjob on her fuckin' dropship, that might be a good start..."

Samael pouted, though kept his frustrated remark withheld as a gentle glow warmed his trembling core.

Our people.

He managed a weak smile as he lowered a shaky hand to grip into the safety mechanism at his waist. " neither one'a us is into watersports, huh?"

The bat snorted disdainfully again. But Samael caught the glimpse of an approving nod when the chupa proceeded with a wary, controlled descent into the gaping darkness below them. "Small fuckin' favors," Andee replied before he laughed and swooped near Samael's head again. "But I guess at least you's finally thinkin' of a good flashback in these tryin' times!"

Samael's paws found the frigid cave wall once more, stabilizing his bulky form as he kept a loose grip on the brake to maintain the steady downward movement. "Heh, not sure how you could expect me to be thinkin' of nothin' else, hon -- you 'n Mutt is kings of makin' golden remembories!"

Samael could practically feel the boastful puff of Andee's chest and he exhaled with a sheepish smile into his damp shoulder. Wasn't a lie, not by a long shot...but there was no point rocking the boat by admitting it was only one of several distractions he was calling up to reminisce. These seas were terrifying enough just dealing with the fact he was suspended over a subterranean gorge that was god-only-knew how many meters deep with only a nylon rope, a few rickety pulleys and Andee's colorful commentary providing any sort of buffer from a horrible, gravity-induced death.

Sure, the session with Andee and Mutt around the ladder was a fine recollection. So was Andee and Samael's christening of the surprisingly-durable stepladder. Samael was positive Andee's neighbors had started to sell tickets to their windows whenever he came calling to Andee's apartment -- and to be fair, he had no doubt it was a show worth watching.

But he found it difficult not to also think of how much closer he and York had grown with each careful step toward their reluctant, emotionally-handicapped boyfriends. As things became more intimate between York and Wash, between Samael and Andee, so had the hermetically-sealed bond between the two big, dumb puppies.

Samael valued York's friendship more than ever these days...and lord, had they found themselves sharing more physically as much as they had emotionally. For every tear-filled declaration of the love they felt for their respective partner, there was a heated tryst on a sailboat, or a detailed lesson on blowjobs in the middle of the Vossler. Or a period-long bout full of equal parts sex and drugs as York had sacrificed his dignity -- and natural dominance -- to help quell Samael's unnatural ruff.

His smile remained even as the gloom thickened around his descending body, barely noticing the way the tip of his tail was now completely swallowed by the murky navy void below them. It wasn't just the moments of physical intimacy he paged through, either. The poker night all four of them had miraculously enjoyed, somehow without shedding a single drop of blood, brought as much of a bright expression as did the impromptu threesome in the Sidewinder hot springs.

It was all enough to help push back the unpleasant reminders of the loss of North, or the mission Andee had joined Samael for at the edge of Highguard...not to mention the looming obligation of their increasing involvement with the Hula Club. But Samael knew that every step forward with Andee kept those uncomfortably dim corners at bay, stopping their insistent creep toward the center of the room; no amount of darkness could hope to compete with the radiant luminescence of their relationship.

York's reassurance rang true, after all. Andee didn't have to say the words to feel them. Samael clutched that close, basking in the warm beacon of hope that provided him guidance when every other light faltered.

A loud screech shattered his thoughts, making him squawk in surprise and release the brake to once again cling to the rope while he stared wildly around the pitch-black. "Geezus!" he wheezed.

Andee grunted and flit close enough for Samael to just make out his slender form and scowling features. "Don't be a fuckin' bitch! Just usin' my echosmokestation to see if I can spot the bottom!"

Samael blinked stupidly. "Yer...yer wut?"

Andee grinned toothily and clamped into the sheer rock face with his sharp talons while gesturing airily with a wing. "Heh, just one more thing us bat-folk got over you stupid dirt-stompers! How do you think we see so good in the dark, eh?!"

Samael stared at him. "I...I thought y'all just...saw good in the dark," he replied slowly. "What's...echo...mocha...mocha-smack-nation?"

Andee scoffed and cuffed the end of his muzzle. "Get it right, ya inbred popsicle stand! It's echolactation!"

The chupa blinked again. "W-wut? That...that ain't what you said the fir--"

Andee cut him off with a huff while smacking a wing into him once more. "The point is that we got ways of lookin' around the dark without no shitty chupa-fuck technology. I gots that all-natural radar...and I still can't see the fuckin' ground!"

The creeping dread made it hard to keep wondering whether or not Andee was full of shit about the bats'...gecko-vacation or whatever it was. Samael swallowed thickly and peered down past his paws...and the fact he could barely make out his own toes drew a pitiful whimper. "Oh lawd...m-mebbe...mebbe we should drop a flare?" he stammered before the flick of a lighter had his head whipping up at breakneck speed.

Andee's angular smile was more demonic than usual with the way the intense flame lit his sharp features, his eyes and nose-ring glinting cheerfully as he touched the lighter to the fuse of a long cylinder. "No shit! Already on it!"

Memories of their first day together crashed into him as Samael's eyes bulged, his legs curling to his chest in horror. "Th-that's not...Andee!" he squealed before watching in horror as the bat casually tossed the ignited object into the gaping pit.

Andee snickered and thumped the end of Samael's muzzle, drawing the terrified chupa's attention long enough to catch a bemused smirk. "Puh-leeze, don't be a dumbass! I ain't tryna destroy our fuckin' loot!" He then squinted down between them and let out a low whistle. "Fuck me, this shit's deeper than ya fuckin' throat, puppy..."

Samael sluggishly dragged his eyes downward again to watch the flare bounce off the wall before finally smacking against the frozen basin with a barely-audible thump. His eyes spread again at the fact it was a mere pinprick of light, the bright yellow rays illuminating the reflective cavern and revealing at least four hundred meters between their current position and the distant bottom.

"Oh mah gawd!" he cried, his vision swimming as he rolled his head back in despair and wrapped both arms and legs around the rope while Andee cackled and slapped at his broad shoulder.

"Don't pass out on me now, ya bastard! At least now we know where to find ya ass if you slip 'n make a nice batch'a Sammy-jam!" Andee crowed before disappearing into the velvet obscurity that surrounded them.

Samael's whimper built into a full-throated wail, only for it to taper off as the bat suddenly swept in close again with an unexpectedly tender expression. He grabbed the taut rope and planted his talons firmly against Samael's chest while pushing his nose into the chupa's snout, his yellow eyes focused on Samael's own widened stare. "Ya made it this far, Sammy," he rumbled while running his other hand through his companion's headfur. "Ya wanna be a big man, you wanna help ya giant bitchy Momma and all them stupid Freefuckers kill God?"

Samael knew where it was going but nodded raptly all the same, the nervous flick of his tongue across his muzzle leaving his trepidation bared for Andee to savor. And savor he did, his vibrant gaze glowing even brighter as his claws clenched firmly into the chupa's skull. "Then show me you ain't a fuckin' pussy, Fiffy," Andee urged. "Show me you got what it takes, that you ain't still that little fuckin' boy you think you is, just pretendin' to play rebel, pretendin' to be all fuckin' grown."

Andee wasn't just relishing the rare, treasured opportunity to illuminate Samael's fears. There was more than mockery in his voice, in the low, compassionate strains that twisted quietly around the taunting words. It was one of those precious moments that proved York right, that justified Samael's absolute faith in his partner; Andee wanted to push Samael past the terror, to make him stronger and more capable. And a guy didn't do that without caring at least a little goddamn bit.

His paws still trembled over the open blackness beneath him, but the blood surged eagerly through his veins as Andee's thumb traced a slow path across his cheek, his throaty voice drenched with approval. "Theeeeeere's that big fuckin' pup. Same one I brought back to my joint after the Himroc, same one that fuckin' earned his place in Xulod, in me, that night." Samael could taste the sickeningly sweet urges oozing from their shared gaze, unashamed of how effectively Andee's words coaxed out his confidence.

"I'm gonna leave my fuckin' mark on this goddamn ring, Sammy." His fingers wrapped around Samael's muzzle as his breath washed across the chupa's features and made his thighs quiver. "And I want you to fuckin' be there with me. But you ain't gonna do shit here in the middle'a the fuckin' rope." He didn't release Samael's maw, instead using his grip to tilt the chupa's head back. "So either you fuckin' climb back up and crawl back under yo momma's tits..." He lowered Samael's head so they could both stare into the enveloping darkness below. "Or you ride with me all the way to the bottom so you can stand on ya own two fuckin' feet like a real man." He pushed away from Samael with a grunt, their eyes remaining locked as he flapped his wings firmly before swooping back down into the darkness. "Your fuckin' choice."

* * *

"Yanno, unlike ya smooth-brained, underaged man-whore, I ain't no fuckin' rube!" Andee declared from the relative safety of Samael's shoulders, brandishing his wings nearly as boldly as his words. "You think I'm 'apposed to believe there's any fuckin' treasure down there at the bottom of ya frozen-ass rebel hideout?! That shit's gotta be emptier than your dusty cooch!"

His bravado held strong even as Samael took a cautious step backward with his hands raised in a gesture of peace. It had little effect on Nelson, however, who bore down upon the duo with nostrils steaming harder than a locomotive five minutes behind schedule.

"You watch your fucking mouth, you leatherbound shit-rat!" Nelson seethed, her wheelchair screeching to a halt mere inches from the stocky rebel and the defiant bat clutched into his broad shoulders. "I don't need the whole fucking base to know about this shit, they got enough fucking things on their plates already!"

Andee had little hope of dodging the sliver of trepidation when he examined the unfiltered fury burning behind Nelson's sharp green eyes. She still managed to strike more fear into him than Miss Sov. Yet he couldn't help his smug expression as he dropped an arm atop Samael's head to lean toward her and add coolly: "Which 'shit' would that be? Ya fuckin' make-believe loot down at the bottom'a these shitty ice-caves, or the fact ya number one ass-bassador only just turned legal after how many years of fuckin' half the--"

"That's enough!" Nelson raged. Andee flinched at the flash of metal a moment before he registered that the barrel of a gun had been leveled against his throat...or rather, it would have been if Samael's fist hadn't materialized just as swiftly to wrap around the end of Nelson's enormous revolver.

Once again, this stupid fucking bastard hadn't even hesitated to put his body on the line for him. Andee's eyes narrowed as Samael spoke, gingerly overriding Nelson's infuriated bark.

"Put that away, Mama. He ain't mean nothin' by it," he murmured.

"Real fucking rich coming from the broken child I still sometimes hear crying himself to sleep," Nelson countered, even though Andee didn't miss the way her glower softened by scant inches. Her gun remained pressed into Samael's palm as he steadfastly refused to release his grip on the steel barrel. "You keep letting him talk to you like that and you're gonna be fucking useless to me, Wurlitz," she growled. "Worse than you were the day we hauled your ragged ass off the side of the road..."

Andee could feel Samael bracing himself under his talons. It was hard to maintain the annoyed scowl as he looked down to watch his partner's muzzle tremble. "I made you a promise that it ain't gonna affect my job," Samael replied. His voice cracked only slightly. "Can't tell me we ain't done good last time you sent us out."

Nelson's maw curled into another snarl, but the wrinkles eventually smoothed until she finally scoffed and lowered the hammer of the revolver, tucking it away after a few seconds. Her glare at Andee, though, maintained its cold presence. "That's the only fucking reason I'm talking to you two right now." She grit her teeth but made a visible effort to keep her rage tamped down as she spoke through the clenched expression. "If your dick-sleeve is finished announcing every goddamn secret to the whole fucking cliffs..."

Andee leaned forward with a sneer, but caught Samael's pleading look upward and hesitated. He knew the danger of wandering into Samael's eyes, yet there he was, struggling to avoid the embrace of the azure waters lapping at his feet. He ground his molars together, then acquiesced with a low mutter, slumping down and resting his chest on Samael's skull so he could meet Nelson's unyielding stare evenly. "Yeah, yeah, go on with ya fuckin' pitch, already..."

Her piercing gaze did not offer a hint of appreciation, nor did the grunt she gave as she settled back into the wheelchair to gesture broadly with her gigantic arms. "You both know me well enough to understand that I don't subscribe to wild noose chases," she muttered, her eyes eventually landing on Samael again. "There's no easy button that's going to win this war, no miracle potion that's going to bring back those we've lost, and no mystical spell that's going to fix every other fucking problem we're facing outside of our own extermination."

Samael shifted his weight under Andee's grip. The bat had a feeling he knew why, though he kept his jaws shut.

"But Tracer always thought there was something down there," she added. No one was surprised at Samael's twitch, but he certainly wasn't alone in the wide-eyed gawk he gave in response. Andee's incredulous guffaw helped punctuate the unexpected utterance.

"You gotta be fuckin' shittin' me," the bat spat out. "What's your fuckin' game, woman? Use his name to get Sammy excited? The old man chased a lotta crazy shit, but he still had both fuckin' feet planted firmly on the goddamn ring!"

Samael quivered again, though his voice was appreciably strong as he tacked on: "Andee's right. He didn't believe in no fairy tales, Mama."

Nelson's eyes narrowed somewhat. "All the time with your squawking fuck-toy's turning you into a goddamn skeptic, Wurlitz," she uttered. "That's my fucking job." She glanced up at Andee, then shook her head. "But you're right. Tracer was an idealist to the end, but no one valued facts and information and real results like that man. He had more spies and informants than Washington and I could ever hope to match." She rolled her shoulders before frowning between the duo. "It's why I always put off what he said about this place. He had a whole list of reasons for picking this location as a Movement base and -- granted -- most of them have proven themselves to hold water."

Nelson gripped one of the wheels of her chair and turned slowly to the side to wave her other arm irritably at the chilly stone floor. "But he'd always make these passing comments. Never insisting anything, just that he had a feeling about it. Claimed he'd heard there'd been an excavation, swore he'd been shown signs of digging." She wrinkled her muzzle. "Suggested the Director himself might have been involved."

A slow shrug slid from her bulky shoulders as she turned back to the partners. "I never wanted to expend the effort. Always too much to do, too many real things to take care of to bother chasing down some potential trove of data down in the devil's gut."

Samael licked his muzzle, his inquiry slipping out cautiously. "What...what changed yer mind?"

Her eyes locked with his, and the headiness that rolled across the trio nearly made Andee choke. "We need to make progress. A step, a single fucking handhold, anything that actually moves us closer to tearing the House a new fucking asshole. And with you manic fairies busting up ass all over Sirca lately, well..." She grimaced but the look she gave Andee was genuine, enough so that the bat blinked and suffered a rare case of lacking a pithy rejoinder. "I've got a pair of crazy adrenaline junkies who might actually make it worth my fucking time to have a look."

Luckily, Andee recovered swiftly from the affliction as he huffed and dropped his hands onto his hips. "Ya mean ya got two fuckin' expendable suckers to go get lost in Sidewinder's frozen ass-crack, right?"

She flattened her expression. "At the risk of stroking his ego and taking your place as his jizz-sponge, you know damn well Wurlitz is one of my best assets," she intoned. And she wasn't wrong -- Andee's slender frame was lifted by the proud swell of Samael's shoulders under his talons. "But the two of you have proven to work well within...unique constraints." The sallow smile she gave wasn't as swift to conjure a second round of self-inflation. "This is me showing you both a modicum of trust because this isn't just some hit job to silence a bunch of idiots. This isn't about my paranoia, or the safety of this Movement. This is about its future."

Nelson didn't get enough credit for her shrewdness; the woman could twist her words almost as effectively as she could someone's arm...right until the damn thing got ripped off. The implication hung around their heads thicker than the fog that surrounded the cliffside, and Andee already knew Samael would accept. He'd try and burrow through to the other side of Sirca if his stupid momma asked it, regardless of her snarky little comment about his newfound skepticism. The bat crossed his arms again, and Nelson recognized instantly where the hurdle was as she shifted her glower to him.

"The future? Fuck that, ya already basically said this is a fuckin' treasure hunt, like an armless motherfucker tryna grasp at straws!" He grinned triumphantly. "Or maybe like some legless bitch tryna chase rainbows."

"You can make all the jokes you want, you little shit, but you know how many small jobs I got lined up in the can?" She leaned up, and both Samael and Andee tipped their heads back at the dangerous aura oozing from her irritated moue. "I don't give a fuck about 'comfort' or 'breathing room', and I sure as shit don't have one single fuck to give about personal time, either." The threat glowed in her eyes. "I can have Wurlitz so fucking tied up with bullshit that you're gonna need next year's calendar just to pencil in another blowjob!" she snarled.

It ached more than Andee liked to admit when Samael didn't protest, leaving her intimidation as tangible as the frozen walls that surrounded them. But it also gave Andee the opportunity he'd been searching for ever since Samael had begun to creep into the forbidden core of his soul. Andee could deal with devotion, but he desperately needed a barrier against the encroaching tenderness that came with it...and Nelson was handing him the goddamn cornerstone. "You think I give a fuck about that?" he fired back. "Sammy knows what this thing is between us!"

Her smile edged toward cruel. "Does he?"

Andee opened his muzzle, then slowly closed it when Samael's shoulders slumped beneath his grip. Andee shifted his weight, then reminded himself he couldn't build the wall that fast. The stupid redneck was way too perceptive. "Feh. I don't fuckin' need date nights planned out, ya fuckin' bitch, so quit bluffin' with that shit -- you don't wanna put Fiffy on shit jobs any more than--"

He was startled into silence when Samael reached up and grasped into one of his shins while speaking up gently: "I c'n speak fer myself, hon." He glanced up and Andee glared back, but there wasn't any defiance in Samael's eyes. At least not the kind Andee hated; the idiotic midget was showing that steel that made the bat's knees weak.


Samael looked back toward Nelson while rubbing his thumb along Andee's dewclaw. "What're we lookin' for down'ere?"

Nelson was a lot faster than Andee at accepting Samael's relocated spine. "Data," she answered briskly, treating the word like a vile yet necessary measure of medicine. "Tracer never offered any insight on what he thought they excavated, but if the Director was involved, then I guaran-fucking-tee it was some sort of lost Sircan or Predecessor information." Nelson rubbed at her chest moodily. "The way those fucking Freelancers got dragged around all those years backs up what Tracer always said -- the Director is obsessed with knowing every goddamn thing about this ring, especially from the time before the historical purges." Another quick shrug. "And if he gave a fuck, we give a fuck." Her eyes lifted to Andee again, who hadn't realized how much he'd relaxed under the soft ministrations of Samael's thumb. "No, I'm not gonna promise a pirate chest full of gold or gems. I want the data, but anything else you find is yours. That simple."

"That simple," Andee sneered back, flicking an ear but remaining settled around Samael's skull as he jabbed a wing toward the stoic rebel leader. "If, and that's a big fuckin' if, there's even any computer-drive-data-bullshit down there or whatever...the fuck you think it's gonna do for you?"

"I don't know," Nelson replied bluntly. "Give us codes to the Citadel's backdoor. Show us a cache of super-weapons. Tell us Omega's fucking favorite flavor of ice cream, I don't fucking know, but it's better than the whole bunch of nothing we've had lately." She looked between the duo again and then made a face while pushing her wheelchair back. "Climbing gear's in the stockroom by the wet dock. I'm sure you two can figure out the most efficient way into the lower caverns, considering your proclivity for having so many people inside yours."

"I ain't no town-whore like this faggot!" Andee protested before flinging his wings up in frustration. "And I ain't said I'm down for this fuckin' snipe hunt!!"

Nelson offered him only a moody look before rolling back out to the passageway. "Bring whatever you find directly to me, Wurlitz. I trust you to figure out what's important and what your yappy parakeet can jam up his ass to fence to the highest bidder."

"You trust Fiffy to figure out what's important?!" Andee yelled after her. "The motherfucker can barely write his own fuckin' name!"

But Nelson had already disappeared around the corner and Andee was left with nothing but Samael's hopeful smile as the genetically-impoverished midget tilted his head back to gaze up at him. At least he had the decency to look half-apologetic while squeezing into Andee's leg again. "Whaddya say, hon? A li'l explorin' in the dark ain't never hurt no one, right? An' who knows what kinda shiny shit we might find!"

Andee responded with a flat expression. "I know you's a fuckin' moron, puppy, but what part of climbin' don't you fuckin' get? There ain't no fuckin' elevator to the bottom, we's gonna be starin' down a big motherfuckin' shaft that even your fat ass wouldn't be able to handle! How long 'til you fuckin' pass out, twenty, thirty seconds, tops?!"

He hated how Samael's goofy grin -- no matter how forced -- brought a genuine calm. "'ll be dark, so. Mebbe I won't be so scared?" The chupa's fingers tightened around his shin and Andee lost the battle against closing his eyes in a bittersweet moment of weakness. "Plus you'll be there with me. An' yer all I ever need to get through."

The bat opened his eyes again and fixed Samael with a long look and an even longer sigh. "Great. 'Boutta go cave-divin' with a gay-ass garden gnome who's more scared'a heights than he is pussy. So excited I could fuckin' puke..."

"I thought I was all ya ever needed to get fuckin' through?!" Andee jeered, twisting a neat loop around Samael's swaying body as the chupa whimpered and fumbled in one of his packs for another piton. "Nelson must be gettin' fuckin' senile in her old age if she thought you'd actually make it to the goddamn bottom -- maybe she just wanted to invite Ashley over, fuck that crazy bitch for a few hours while we's down here gettin' our asses froze off in the dark!"

"Hey, I thought you believed in me! Wanted me to be there when you leave yer mark!" Samael complained before lurching himself forward so he could slam another anchor into the rock-and-ice wall. "I'm doin' my best, I still ain't passed out or nothin'!"

"Like I said before...small fuckin' favors," Andee muttered under his breath as he glanced over his shoulder to watch the chupa tug on the rope warily, then proceed to lower himself further. "And I ain't said shit about believing in you!" he added with a snort. "I just said I want you there with me when I make Sirca my bitch! I don't give a fuck either way, but if you're gonna keep up with me, you gotta sack up and stop bein' such a fuckin' baby!" Andee shook his head while grumbling: "Can't have no fuckin' fear of heights if ya wanna be on top of the world, Fiffy..."

He heard a grunt of effort when Samael secured another rope about the piton. Andee tasted a grudging note of pride when his partner's voice carried only a minor tremor. "This...this is the last rope...b-but we gotta be close...right?"

It was a monumental struggle for Andee to avoid rolling his eyes. "That's the fifth time ya asked!"

"Yeah an' it's the fifteenth time I've wondered!" he whined, taking a moment to drop his head against the wall of the chasm while his tail flicked behind him. Andee made a slow circle back toward him while preparing a sharp retort, but Samael's voice echoed out first, bolstered by a new note of determination. "We got this, though. There ain't nothin' we can't do together, hon..."

"We ain't figured out how we's gonna sixty-nine yet," Andee shot back before peering down into the darkness. The flare was nearly at the end of its life, but there was still enough light glancing off the ice and snow for him to estimate no more than eighty meters or so. "But guess you gotta point, shortstack. Since day-fuckin'-one, we been makin' shit happen!" He snorted and tipped his wings downward to spiral lower into the cavern, searching the distant bottom for any signs of their quarry. "It's a shame we's wastin' our time on this pointless shit, though...too bad you didn't have some other Freelancer boyfriend get ganked, yo momma coulda sent us on another badass bombin' run!"

He was plenty aware that Samael still ached over North's loss and the dark cave was hushed enough that Andee could make out the gentle squeak of Samael's harness when his dejected sigh stretched it around his slumped, suspended form. The bat flicked his ear and forced himself to keep scanning the dim void below. Didn't do the emotional redneck any good to keep supporting his goddamn pity parties.

" ain't pointless..."

Andee's wings twitched and he had to twist his body to avoid clipping the opposite wall, glaring back at the chupa to see Samael taking a deep breath while starting to descend again.

"If there's somethin' down there from Freelancer, might have data we need. To. To help the werewolves..."

Andee's eyes were slits as he pretended to ignore the jealous bolt. "Ya mean to help ya fuckin' boyfriend York. Geezus, Fiffy, they got enough motherfuckers workin' on that shit already!" He beat his wings hard as Samael gave him an awkward look, wincing away when the bat flit swiftly across the gorge to clamp into the nearby rock shelf. "I get it, I get it, he's ya big-puppy-brother...but what's he even done for you lately, huh? You don't owe 'im nothin', you got enough goddamn responsibility as it is between ya bitchy momma and all the shit you and me got goin' on, too!"

"Aw...York's mah b-...he's mah friend," Samael murmured before clearing his throat loudly. "An' I owe 'im plenty. He helped me out with some...stuff just a little while ago!"

Something twinged in Andee's memories and he frowned before leaning down from the natural shelf to study Samael's expression in the dusky cavern. "Did he? When was that, huh? You ain't exactly been full'a no free time last I checked."

It was dark but not dark enough. Andee caught the telltale shift of Samael's eyes an instant before he plastered on a goofy smile that would have fooled every other motherfucker on Sirca. "Haw, it, uh. It was just a li'l get-together li'l while ago." He released the brake at his waist to scratch at his muzzle. "I needed a hand with some stuff and--"

"A li'l while, how 'bout two days ago, around sixty-hundred BM?" Andee pressed as he stared into Samael's eyes, daring him to deny it. "You come by Lactan and not give me a fuckin' call?"

Not even Sampi's smoothest son was slick enough to avoid flinching backward. Andee bared his teeth and jabbed a wing into his companion, making him swing into the open chasm and give a frightened yelp. "I fuckin' knew somethin' was' up!" he barked. "Angel told me you called, asked for Mutt!"

"I...I jus' wanted to thank 'im fer the paintin' he did of you, I d-din' get a chance 'tween visitin' you an' when the three of us had our shindig," Samael stammered, still doing his best to keep the silly expression in place as his body arced back toward the wall.

But Andee wasn't a fuckin' chump.

"Bullshit, like you couldn'ta told him 'thanks' while you was stuffin' ya fuckin' face full'a his dick!" Andee countered, leaping from the ice-dusted crag to collide with Samael's chest, causing both the chupa and the support ropes to squeal in protest as he dug his talons cruelly into his companion's torso. "The fuck you really call him for, huh? Wanted to tell him to make sure I didn't come lookin' for ya while you was busy gettin' fucked by ya best friend?!" Rage and envy were a single, twisted whip snapping against his back as he clutched into Samael's harness and shoved his nose against his snout. "Look, I toldja I don't give a fuck if you wanna go fuck him, I meant all that shit I said about us...but it's real fuckin' hard when you go and do this shit with York like it's some fuckin' secret, like you gotta sneak around behind my goddamn back instead of just tellin' me you's comin' by."

Samael's eyes were wide but -- to his credit -- still dry, though he looked only moments from breaking into tears. The chupa shook his head a few times before whimpering when the taut rope twanged and dropped them several inches. " ain't like that, hon, I--"

"Don't you fuckin' hon me, ya bastard!" Andee rounded on him while shoving a claw into his chest. "I thought we was doin' this whole 'open' thing, where we ain't keepin' no fuckin' secrets from each other!" Andee shook off the guilty twirl of hypocrisy. "You ever think maybe I just wanna see ya stumpy redneck ass? Yeah, sure, I'll give you some fuckin' shit for goin' by to screw the goddamn were-mutt, but it don't mean I'm so fuckin' shitty that I ain't gonna let you inside or nothin'!"

He knew that was far from the truth, but what scared him more was the fact it wasn't a complete lie. This stupid fucking asshole was truly digging in deep. Andee swallowed the nausea and glared into his partner's soul again as Samael cowered down into the harness. "I told you I ain't no fuckin' monster, Sammy, but you sure actin' like I am, and--"

"I went to York to help with my ruff!" Samael blurted, his thick fingers clutching into Andee's slender arms while he bit his lip and pushed his shoulders together. "'s...I was gonna tell you, but I ain't wanted you to get hurt, is all." Andee's heart plummeted into his gut, his ears drooping and his eyes widening a bit. Samael lowered his head but kept his gaze on the bat as he added, " cycle, it's kinda scary, and I...I knew you'd be upset, but I didn't wanna hurt you, I was just tryna protect --"

Andee shoved wordlessly away from Samael, kicking off his chest and flapping his wings hard as his cold, hollow stare silenced the rebel. "You was tryna protect me?" Andee repeated in a low voice as he felt every raindrop from that day in the jungle. "Say what ya really fuckin' mean: you didn't fuckin' trust me." Samael's eyes grew to the size of plates as he shook his head rapidly while Andee rolled his tongue along his teeth. "That's real fuckin' nice, Fiffy. Makes me feel fuckin' gilded."

Samael quivered and clutched into the rope with both hands again. "Aw, Andee...Andee, please, don't be cross. Honest, I was afraid I might hurt you, my ruff ain't like most folks' is, it's --"

"Oh, fuck you and ya fuckin' endless bullshit excuses about how all that incest fucked you up!" Andee snapped. "If it ain't the fact you spent two weeks gettin' fucked by the Movement's greatest pedophile-hero, it's the fact your people can't keep their dicks outta their own fuckin' gene pool. You always got some fuckin' reason to explain some shitty thing about you when the simple truth is that you're just a fuckin' dumbass whore, and the faster you accept that, the faster we'll avoid shitty conversations like this!"

He thrust himself away from the chupa, refusing to look back at him, refusing to let that piece of shit have the satisfaction of seeing how goddamn hurt he was. "Now shut the fuck up and keep goin' down, I wanna be done with this bullshit job so I can go the fuck back home and ask Mutt why the fuck he kept this fuckin' shit from me, too..." He chomped into his tongue hard enough to draw blood while muttering through the soothing pain: "Everyone thinks they fuckin' know what's best, like I can't fuckin' handle some shitty chupa biological bullshit..."

"Andee...Andee, wait!"

"Fuck off, Sammy, I ain't goin' nowhere, ya stupid bitch!" he called over his shoulder through grit teeth. "Christ, it's fine! I don't give a fuck! Now let's go!"

His ears flattened at the sound of Samael's ragged whimper and the meek apology that spilled into the unforgiving abyss. He told himself it didn't matter; he'd already said he didn't give a fuck and showing anything else would prove he was a weak-kneed bitch just like the stupid slut of a chupa. So what if he ran to his best-fucking-friend for whatever the fuck a 'ruff' was -- Mutt never did explain it, but it probably saved Andee the trouble of dealing with even more emotion than usual from the tear-filled rebel. Samael did him a favor as far as he was concerned.

This was why he needed that wall. He'd tried meeting Samael in the middle, he'd gone out out of his way, stepped way past his fucking comfort zone to show that he could be more than the selfish, heartless motherfucker everyone saw him as...and for what? To have the inbred asshole sneak around behind his back because he couldn't trust Andee to handle a little extra hardcore fucking? Like Andee hadn't taken that motherfucker's whole goddamn dick their first night together, like Andee wasn't capable of dealing with Samael's urges.

He didn't doubt Samael loved him, but that dumb bitch loved the old bastard who'd fucked him as a kid, too. The redneck didn't exactly have a crystalline track record. And yeah, having Samael in his pocket was a smart move, it gave him an instrument of devotion and power he could use the way he saw fit. But if the idiotic midget couldn't even turn to him for his most intimate problems, then what the fuck was that love worth? Not a goddamn th--


Andee closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. He was already pissed at the asshole, and if he had to listen to one more fucking sob about his goddamn fear of heights, he was going to cut the fucking rope himself. "Sammy, if you don't shut the fuck up!" he roared while glancing over his shoulder. "I'm gonna--" He trailed off and his eyes went wide at the sight of the climbing rope rapidly unraveling several meters above Samael's position. "Oh shit!"

"Andee,'s fallin' apart, I—fuck!" Samael yelped as the rope snapped. The chupa scrambled wildly at the air and managed to cling to the piton he'd just buried into the rock face while the severed rope whisked past him. "Oh god, Andee, help!"

The bat had never felt such intense panic, every nerve in his body fizzling with terror. He spun around and beat his arms violently to throw himself quickly back up toward his partner. "Fuck! Hang on!"

"I-I-I can't, it's comin' loose'!!" Samael screamed, his voice cracking into an unnatural register as he clung desperately to the thin spike. He stared at the bat as Andee rushed toward him and Andee nearly froze at the expression of sheer dread. "H-help me, please!"

The gears in Andee's brain churned wildly, sending sparks through his thoughts as he whipped his head around, then glanced up at the upper half of the tattered rope. Fuck, this was a stupid idea. "Hold on, Fiffy!" he barked as he slung himself past Samael and toward the next highest piton. The bat twisted into a tight arc, making a beeline for the cliffside with a grimace before slamming his feet into the climbing spike to drive it further into the rock and ice. A shock of agony ran up his legs, but he ignored it to clutch the loose rope in his talons before craning his head around when Samael cried out in denial.

Andee's eyes bulged as Samael's piton tore from the rock wall, leaving the chupa without purchase as he shouted and scrabbled desperately at the ice and boulders, claws digging trenches in a maddened attempt to obtain some kind of grip. "Shit!" Andee cursed, yanking the lead free from the nearby climbing pulley to instead sling it around the lodged piton.

He looked down and saw Samael clinging to a thin shelf with one hand, his eyes full of tears as he stared up at the bat in abject horror. "I can't hold on...I'm...o-oh fuck, I'm slipping!"

This was a really fucking stupid idea. Andee flattened his ears before taking a deep breath and then rolling swiftly in the air to loop the excess rope around himself. His wings were now pinned to his body by the line and he clutched his talons harder into the piton as he gauged the distance down to the chupa. "Let go, Sammy!"

Samael's eyes widened even further. "Wh-what?!"

"Just trust me and fucking let go!" Andee snarled before kicking away from the piton to send his bound body into a dive directly toward the panicked rebel. He tucked his shoulders and lowered his muzzle, streamlining himself as much as possible without the use of his wings. The wind whistled past his features and tears streamed from his eyes against the blinding velocity. His hat tore away from his head and he clenched his teeth as Samael gawked up at the sight, then let out a terrified moan as he released his faltering grip to drop into free-fall, his limbs flailing wildly in the helpless tumble toward the distant bottom of the gorge.

But Andee was faster, rocketing into his chest with a grunt an instant before a pair of massive arms wrapped around him without hesitation. He felt Samael clutch the rope with one hand as the other arm hugged him tightly to his torso, and the two hissed simultaneously at the violent halt of momentum. Samael managed to twist to the side so his back smashed cruelly against the rock wall as Andee was embraced protectively, the duo cursing together as bits of rock and ice sprinkled down across them.

Andee's eyes were shut tightly, his teeth grit and his face mashed against Samael's sweat-drenched hide as the rough rope dug into his trapped wings. For several seconds they were paralyzed together, swinging slowly back and forth along the chasm wall as the frozen cavern was filled only with the whine of the taut line and the pitiful jingle of Samael's piercing echoing off the ice-encrusted surfaces.

But when Andee's hasty, makeshift securing of the rope failed to come undone, they dared to slowly lift their heads as one to stare mutely at the distant pinprick of light at the top of the gorge. Andee blinked a few times and then grimaced at the uncomfortable pressure of the line wrapped around his body. "There's no fuckin' way that shoulda worked…"

Samael only lowered his head to look down at the bat, tears rolling down his cheeks as he trembled and then stammered in a cracked voice: " saved me, Andee…" The raw gratitude in his tone was already enough to make Andee shift and glance away; he couldn't bear to see the same stuff painting his features, too. "You saved me..."

"Feh...ya fuckin' right I did," Andee muttered, losing the will to avoid looking back up after a second. His heart melted at the sight of Samael's unfiltered adoration and appreciation, and he made a face before frowning at the hand Samael had wrapped around the rope, spotting several rivulets of crimson streaming down between his fingers. "Goddammit, Fiffy…"

"I'll be a'right," he whispered hoarsely, his eyes still brimming with tears Andee remembered he didn't deserve. "C'mon...let's get you free...I can't believe you did that…"

Andee looked down, barely stifling the tremor that ran through him. The terror still pulsed through his veins, an emotion even more unsettling than having the redneck's undeserved adulation. "Yeah, fuckin' trusted me. Same way I trusted you." He sensed Samael's emotions droop and he closed his eyes before remaining still as the chupa gently unwrapped the rope from the bat's body. "Hurry up before ya fat ass breaks the rope again…"

The ugly sob was laced with a laugh and Andee pretended not to notice the way Samael's muscular arm was quivering with the effort of holding them both up with one hand alone. Christ, this unkillable beefcake bastard...

As soon as his arms were free, Andee flexed his wings once, but stopped himself from flitting away from the chupa. He glanced up at his companion, then leaned down to snatch the end of the rope from Samael's shivering fingers to thread it smoothly through the brake in the harness. Andee checked the mechanism before grunting and pushing himself gently into the air, leaving Samael to swing with a nervous expression and a bloody hand still clinging to the rope. "You should be fine, Fiffy. You ain't gonna fall…"

Samael met his eyes and the trust that poured from his azure gaze ached somewhere deep in Andee's soul. But he released the rope with only a sliver of hesitation, holding his breath as the harness stretched around him...but remained snugly attached to the line. They both exhaled loudly as Samael let his body go limp. "Spirits above ‘n below, let that be the last challenge...I'm all challenged out…" he mumbled.

Andee licked the end of his muzzle while hovering a meter or two away, waiting for the adrenaline to slow its rampant stampede through his veins. He despised this fear, loathed the vulnerability it dragged across his body like a wet, scratchy blanket. His eyes remained locked with Samael's while he ran his tongue slowly over the realization that, no matter his desire to build up that barrier, he couldn't bear the thought of something happening to this asshole. Not while they were still so intrinsically attached.

He sighed and then forced a moody expression while lifting his eyes upward. "Look...this is fuckin' pointless. There probably ain't a goddamn thing down there. I'mma go down to try'n find my hat, take a quick look around to see if I spot shit, and then we can go up, alright? Ya proved yaself, Fiffy. You ain't no fuckin' pussy and I'm proud of ya." He shook his head and brought his gaze back to his companion, his steely facade dropped to offer Samael a glimpse at his soul. "C'mon, let's get you outta here."

Samael looked back at him for a few daunting seconds before shifting a bit and reaching into one of his supply pouches. Andee frowned slightly, tilting his head when the chupa produced a small vial of ointment and a roll of gauze. "I...I wanna keep goin'. We's almost there."

Andee bared his teeth in spite of his attempts to be kind, flitting closer once more. "Don't be a fuckin' moron! You ain't got nothin' to prove, and Nelson can live without whatever fuckin' fairy-tail bullshit she thinks is down there!"

The chupa flinched but was otherwise silent for another moment or two while he wrapped his hand tightly with the gauze. Andee ground his molars together but watched his partner's expression carefully. And he was stunned by the genuine determination that met his gaze, even if it was laced with tangible nervousness. "We said we was gonna do a job, hon. But it's more'n that, more'n Mama tellin' me to come down here, more'n doin' this fer the rebellion." He leaned down to tear the cotton strip with his teeth, then winced as he tucked it gingerly into itself before flexing his fingers. "It's jus' like you said. I'mma be there with you, standin' on my own two feet." He wrinkled his muzzle in discomfort while grasping once more into the rope with his injured hand, then lowering his other to the brake on the harness. "I'mma do whatever it takes."

The guilty stab was met with the thrilling onslaught of pride and potential as Andee struggled to clutch into the right option. He searched Samael's eyes and knew every word was true. This wasn't a front, nor some blind charge into suicide for the cause. This dumbass was all in. Andee chewed his still-sore tongue for a moment, then grunted and drifted close enough to cuff Samael's muzzle with a foot. "Okay, tough guy..." The smile Samael gave was almost shy and Andee hated himself for the affection he let slide into his words. "Then let's fuckin' do this. We'll talk about ya shitty chupa biology and the super-horny-powers it gives you later..."

He checked for Samael's inevitable shriveling away, but the chupa only showed a hint of sheepishness before he nodded. "Deal."

"A'right, then," Andee replied softly. "Time to see how good the old man's intuition really was..."

The rest of the descent unfolded slowly but without incident. Andee knew he was inviting a whole truckload of future fawning from the chupa since he wasn't able to mask the way he stayed close to Samael during the final forty or fifty meters to the bottom of the sparkling cavern. He supposed he was at least used to the doe-like gazes by now.

As they descended, they planned their return trip back up along the near-perpendicular chasm wall. Even with the length of rope that had torn apart, there would be enough to string together as long as Samael didn't rush or panic. The two could work together at each piton and pulley to shift the remaining line to the next mounting point...and it was a rare but uncomfortably-welcome sensation to feel positive about the impending teamwork. Samael had truly gone above and beyond the last several weeks to prove through blood, sweat and tears that he was a good partner for Andee.

It'd be silly to not make the most of it while it lasted.

Samael still wore the harness tightly around his broad frame as they wandered across the frigid basin of the steep gorge, and Andee couldn't bring himself to mock the guy for it. Maybe it helped keep Samael's fear tamped it was kinda hot on the dumb, beefy redneck. The bat found himself gawking when Samael hooked his thumbs into the snug straps while staring up at the glinting ice and rock stretching into the infinite darkness above their heads. "Ain't no one gonna believe I actually did that..."

"Just show 'em the inside of ya fuckin' booty-shorts," Andee grumbled, tearing his hungry eyes from his companion so he could focus on lighting another flare and tossing it a few meters away to add an additional flickering globe of light to the chilly obscurity that surrounded them. "Anyway, I'll shank any motherfucker that doubts what my big stupid pup can might be an idiot, but ya my brave-ass, strong-ass idiot."

He kept his eyes down to avoid the delighted smile that washed over him, an uninvited wave of warm adoration stroking through his exposed headfur. Andee scowled and scratched at an ear while kicking into a small drift of snow. "I might shank your ass, too, makin' me lose my favorite fuckin' hat..."

Samael chuckled a moment later, bounding into the haze before leaning down and scooping something up. "I got you covered, hon!" he announced before spinning around with a bright expression as he proudly displayed the black cap in both hands. "Good as new!" he chirped while quickly brushing a bit of dirt and ice from the brim.

He dropped to a knee, the way he always did for Andee, and the bat tried to muster up the strength to yell at him. Any other motherfucker who pulled this shit just got under his collar, but something about the way the goddamn redneck did it...

Andee huffed and snatched up the offered cap, settling it between his ears and allowing a tiny smile to crack his muted features. "Quit tryna earn yaself a blowjob and start lookin' for some frozen-ass computers or some shit. Gotta get outta here before I freeze my nuts off -- and no, that ain't an invitation for you to fondle 'em!"

"Y'know I'd be down, though!" Samael sang out as he laughed and drew a flashlight from another supply pouch. "We's gonna hafta hook you up with some Sampi-wear, all the time you spendin' out this way..."

"Ain't no one said I wanted to spend any fuckin' time out here, goddammit...ain't my fault my dumbass puppy popped outta some snatch even colder than Nelson's..."

They wandered forward together, Andee occasionally tossing out another flare as the chupa's bright beam carved curious circuits into the narrow crevices that permeated the glistening sheets of ice towering around them.

"I wonder why...why Tracer ain't never come down here?" Samael murmured as he studied a series of deep gouges in one of the nearby ice walls. "There was definitely someone else here..."

"Probably because he was too busy comin' into you," Andee retorted, though he extended a wing to caress down Samael's back and stave off the slumped shoulders. "Eh, who knows. Maybe he never had the time. Maybe that's why he kept droppin' hints to Nelson, have that angry bitch arrange a li'l two-man expedition when the chumps was aligned." And as much as he wanted to argue with Samael that some random tundra critter might have made those scratches, his sharp eyes spotted the metallic sheen of something that wasn't ice or crystals further ahead. "Ah, fuck me. O'er there, c'mon..."

Samael shifted his light down the passage and illuminated a small cache of abandoned equipment, the chupa letting out a soft whistle. "I'll be goddamned..."

A few mining lights were mounted on tripods, attached to a small, rusted generator. Andee's eyes focused on the bank of machines wired up on the same cables and he gestured with a wing. "Fuck me twice, I ain't no hacker-nerd but that looks like a buncha motherfuckin' computers, don't it?"

"Sure do. Holy shit..." Samael murmured. "Let's see if we c'n get the uh...the hard...disk or whatever from inside. It probably don't turn on none no more..."

"I dunno, Fiffy, I ain't yet met a hard-dick you can't get turned on!" Andee teased, smacking his partner's rump firmly and grinning as Samael hopped forward in surprise. The levity felt good. It felt earned. "But quit ya fuckin' yappin', then, and get that thing opened up!"

"What do you think they was doin' in here?" Samael wondered while shining the light around. The beam cut across more portable excavation equipment, illuminating shovels, pickaxes and rusted saws, before drifting across a pair of crumpled, half-buried figures. Samael took a step back while Andee instinctively clutched into his companion's trunk-like thigh and stared around him. " those...dead people...?"

Andee squinted before the light glanced off a strip of metal, his hackles lowering as he sighed and then firmly punched Samael's hip. "Quit bein' a pussy, it's some kinda...suit. Like a set'a HADES armor or some shit..."

"They's purdy' the helmets don't look right," Samael muttered while edging forward. "Ain't look like they fit no chupa or bat..."

"So maybe it's a fuckin' alien, who knows what kinda shit the Director is into, he probably does like watersports," Andee retorted before pushing away from Samael so he could wander up to the half-embedded armor sets. His eyes caught something and he tipped his head to the side. "Ay -- check it out." He pointed a finger and Samael's light followed the gesture to illuminate two distinct craters in the ice. "They musta already dug up a coupla these bastards..."

"Maybe they's some kinda experimental armor that got lost, they wanted to get it back?" Samael ventured, a nervous jangle letting lose from his tail as he poked a toe-claw at the nearest partially-buried figure. "Or maybe it's real old, like some Predecessor shit like Nelson said. This shit don't look natural..."

"Maybe there's some Predecessor still inside," Andee suggested as a half-grin parted his maw. "Heh. It ain't no treasure chest, but I'mma pop it open, anyway..." He dug in his poncho for a moment and then produced a crowbar with a cackle. "Get started on that computer-thingy, Fiffy!"

Samael made a soft noise of disgust as he gently batted Andee with his tail. "Disturbin' the dead ain't no way to go pleasin' the spirits, hon..."

"Well 'the spirits' ain't gonna pay my fuckin' bills, so I'll settle for the wallet of this frozen motherfucker -- he sure as fuck don't need it!" Andee declared before waving the crowbar irritably at Samael. "A li'l grave-robbin' never hurt no one. Now go get that disk-thing so we can get the fuck outta here!"

"Alright, alright!" Samael acquiesced, stepping backward with his hands raised. "Just don't go puttin' no curse on us...I'd say we 'bout used up all the luck we got today!"

* * *


Samael and O'Neill were the only ones who didn't flinch when the table cracked from the power behind Nelson's fist slamming furiously into it. They were used to the unreasonable displays of anger from the rebel leader.

"Are you fucking positive, Temblon?!" she barked, slinging her wheelchair across the room to approach the chubby technician. "Maybe you ain't as good as you think you are, maybe Wurlitz liked sucking your dick so much that he fucking lied to bring you on board!"

"Fiffy likes sucking everyone's dick," Andee supplied from his perch on Samael's shoulders, his arms folded and a dour expression crinkling his features. "That ain't a great metric, woman. And I told you the shit was useless!"

"Can it, fruit-bat!" Nelson snarled as she thrust a finger toward them while Trevor shrunk further behind the small bank of monitors he'd arranged around the data cache. "Obviously there's something worth hiding if our 'master hacker' can't break the encryption!"

"I...I am good at this," Trevor stammered before huffing and crossing his arms over his pudgy stomach. Samael couldn't help the proud smile as the nervous chupa did his best to stand his ground against Nelson's admittedly-terrifying presence. "I've gotten past the first four layers, but...the last one." He rubbed at his arm nervously and then pressed a pad lightly into one of his screens. "It's a destructive cipher, using a date-based rotational code. It'll destroy everything on the drive unless someone--"

"Unless someone with up-to-date Freelancer credentials puts their two-timing fingers on the keyboard, so even our personal turncoat Nebraska can't get in, I fucking get it!" Nelson concluded brusquely before throwing her arms up in frustration. "O'Neill, work with Temblon to see what else we can use to get inside this fucker." The hardened veteran nodded without a word, turning to Trevor while producing a notepad and expectant look. "Wurlitz, reach out to L-Base. Tell Agent Washington we need one of those mercenary bastards at Sidewinder, ay-sap. Don't give them any fucking specifics, just tell them we've got our hands on data. I'll decide if we share it after they crack the fucking thing open. And get it through your thick skull that it needs to be someone who's still on active duty -- your werewolf fuck-friend ain't gonna cut it!"

Samael grunted quietly, too familiar with Nelson's bluster to take offense. Part of him ached because North would have been a perfect resource to reach out to. Well, almost perfect -- York had mentioned North was ready to quit Freelancer for good. Would have been worth the inconvenience.

"You got it, Mama," Samael replied crisply as he offered a kind smile to Trevor and then turned to stride out of the room with Andee atop his shoulders.

Andee snorted and relaxed into the back of his partner's head. "Nelson ain't wrong 'bout ya thick skull, but it is kinda nice to know that fuckin' perfect bastard York can't help solve ya stupid mud-stomper problem for once..."

Samael's smile grew faint. He didn't blame Andee for still being sore about the awkward confession in the chasm, but it would never fail to sting whenever the bat found some new reason to cast scathing words onto Samael's best friend. He also had a feeling that Andee's less-than-prodigious haul from the bottom of the gorge wasn't helping his mood.

He could try a little positivity, at least.

"I know we ain't find no buried treasure...but I bet Wulok's gonna be real excited when he sees that--"

"That what?" Andee interrupted with a low grumble. "The fuckin' bone-dust I scooped outta that ice-boxed shit? Or the goddamn magic-no-bullet Predecessor gun that we ain't got a single clue 'bout how to make it work?" Andee flung his arms moodily upward. "I'm sure he's been fuckin' dyin' to add a brand new paperweight to his useless-shit collection!"

Yeah, their well of luck had definitely run dry for the day.

"I'm sorry there weren't nothin' more fer you down there," Samael murmured, reaching up to squeeze one of his companion's legs. "You ain't gotta hang around none, you c'n head on back if yer ready."

Andee emitted a moody sound, but was quiet for a few seconds before he slapped his wing lightly against Samael's muzzle from above. "Quit tryna get rid'a me so you can go stuff yaself full of every Sidewinder dick." Samael smiled quietly to himself. "I'm fuckin' tired after savin' ya ass, then proceedin' to haul it around them fuckin' caves. Plus I ain't leavin' 'til I find out what was inside that computer memory-thing, we busted our asses too hard on that shit." He waved a petulant arm around. "Let's go, asshole, do yo momma's bidding and then you're gonna fuckin' pamper me since I risked my neck for your midget ass..."

The smile returned with gusto. "Hell yeah, I'm all 'bout pamperin' my li'l fearless umbrella-hero!" He laughed as Andee groaned and cuffed the side of his maw, breaking into a cheerful jog down Sidewinder's halls.

Shit, maybe they still had some luck left, after all.

"You can't let that little squirrel-ass bitch talk to you like that, Fiffy!"

Samael chuckled but left it as his only response while massaging slowly along Andee's slender arms. The bat's poncho was folded neatly on Samael's small nightstand, his signature cap resting atop the worn but still-handsome vestment. Samael appreciated Andee's willingness to show such vulnerability here in his quarters, where -- unlike Andee's apartment -- privacy was almost never guaranteed. Something about having the bat resting in his lap, wearing only his collar and a scowl, was a delight beyond words, especially since anyone could come barging in through the pink curtain at any given moment.

"I mean it!" Andee continued with a huff, flicking a wing upward and smacking Samael's arm. "He treats you like shit! And you wasn't even bein' ya usual redneck-whore self, you had information for him. Shit that might help his stupid were-bitch boyfriend, and he still talks to you like you're a fuckin' stain on his foot!"

"Aww, Miz Wash ain't all that bad," Samael reasoned while nuzzling into the top of Andee's head, his fingers working in delicate motions back up toward Andee's shoulders. "Besides, ain't like yer so hot on York, yerself."

"Yeah but York's sucked my dick, and he did a pretty good job!" Andee shot back. "I wouldn't trust that fuckin' pine cone within ten feet'a your blueberry delight, he'd bite that shit right off!"

Samael giggled and buried his muzzle into Andee's headfur. "That yer foolproof method of figgerin' out who's okay and who ain't?"

"Bet your big beautiful ass!" Andee declared as he flicked an ear against Samael's muzzle. "Look, I came to terms 'bout you and York. The angry squirrel-bitch still acts like you're tryna move in on his man! He's a jealous motherfucker, which -- heh, I guess I get it." Samael could feel Andee's cocky smirk as the bat reached up to brush his finger along the chupa's muzzle. "Guarantee his dumb were-mutt don't know the first thing 'bout treatin' him this good..."

Samael smiled, closing his eyes and wrapping his arms around his companion to pull him back securely to his broad chest. He knew without a doubt Andee hadn't even remotely 'come to terms' with York and Samael's friendship. The jealousy -- and projection -- was still raw, and all Samael could do was attempt to soothe it whenever it reared its furious head. Though he supposed he also couldn't deny that Andee treated York marginally better than expected whenever they were in the same room. He wasn't sure how much that would change after the whole ruff thing...but that was a concern for another day.

"I'm sure York treats Wash plenty fine...'cause jus' like you, Wash deserves it," Samael murmured into Andee's skull as he crossed a thick forearm over his partner's chest to squeeze into a shoulder.

"Only thing Wash deserves is a long foot up his short ass," Andee grumbled, even as his body shivered and pressed comfortably back into Samael. "I ever catch him talkin' to you like that in person, I'mma give it to him, too."

Samael chuckled quietly and worked his fingers steadily into the tense muscles along the bat's upper torso. "You keep that foot where it belongs, hon -- kickin' my ass. Ol' Wash is jus' doin' his job. Y'know he takes it as seriously as you do."

"You even start to compare us and I'mma snap that blue glowstick right in half," Andee threatened, though it carried little bite considering the soft whimper of delight he gave when Samael's claws drifted across his collarbone.

"Mhmm, I know you will," Samael replied with a half-smile, keeping the ministrations steady along his companion's upper body.

Andee scoffed. "I'm just glad he ain't comin' out this way...little fucker's the fastest way to ruin a good time. You remember how he tried to fuck up that poker game??"

"I 'member you tryna rile him up to see if you could make him fuck up that poker game," Samael gently teased as Andee glared over a shoulder at him and then set his jaw stubbornly.

"Well he shoulda been grateful, I know you and York probably suffered a whole thirty-seven seconds of not chokin' on each other's dicks to plan that shit out..."

Samael giggled and rubbed a thumb along the inside of Andee's collar, sending another blissful shiver through his small frame. "Hey, it were at least two minutes..." Andee huffed but the small smile couldn't escape Samael's notice. The chupa smiled as well. "But then I wonder who ol' Wash is gonna send, then?"

"I dunno, hopefully some bitch we ain't never heard of, if we're lucky..."

"Shit, I know I'm the luckiest fella on Sirca right 'bout now..." Samael rumbled as he nuzzled along the side of Andee's neck and drew a throaty purr from the bat. "So maybe we will be..."

"God, you're such a fruitcake, Fiffy..." Samael grinned when he heard the concerted effort to mask the pleased groan. "Now shaddup 'n start workin' on my wings...them fuckers is still hurtin'..."

Samael beamed happily. "Say no more, the pamperin' shall continue..."

"Move your fat ass out of the way so I can see."

...Yeah, alright, that well of luck had definitely dried up.

"Don't talk to my people like that, woman, this isn't your base and I sure as fuck ain't no pushover like your little boy-toy Washington!" Nelson threatened while maneuvering toward the end of the table where Trevor's equipment had been arranged.

"No, you're not a pushover...definitely more of a 'rollaway'," Tex taunted before she groaned and shoved Trevor forcefully aside. "Christ, just give me the goddamn keyboard!"

Trevor stumbled a few steps before tripping over his tail to land in a pitiful heap next to the table. Samael winced and bustled over to him while Andee cackled from his perch atop the lighting that had been strung across the top of the impromptu conference room. "I don't normally agree with the big-balled bitch, but she's gotta point! What's the plan if HADES invades ya base, you gonna just push the nerd down the mountain at 'em, hope gravity takes care of the rest?!"

Samael gave his partner a scowl but then turned his attention back to helping Trevor regain his footing. "Don't mind 'em none, hon. Yer jus' fine the way you are," he reassured with a friendly pat against the technician's stomach. He glanced toward Tex as the Freelancer frowned at the screens and then poked irritably at her pockcom. "We's tryna work together, lady, Trevor's just tryna help."

Tex fired a sour expression at the rebel. "He could help by cleaning off his keyboard more often -- you could feed a whole orphanage with the crumbs in this thing."

"This is our find," Nelson snarled as she wheeled up to Tex, neither female flinching despite the venomous glares they exchanged. "And these are my people. You're here because I decided outta the kindness of my fucking heart to give you all the heads-up that we'd found a data cache, and--"

"I'm here because your half-ton hacker would have destroyed every last scrap of information on this if you hadn't called for our help," Tex interrupted before offering a simpering smile. "And now I'm here. Helping. So back the hell off and let me crack it open before I change my mind and leave you all to go back to what you do best: jamming your thumbs up your own asses."

Nelson glowered at her for several seconds before her eyes flicked to Samael. He nodded his understanding and leaned close to Trevor while brushing off the flustered rebel's rump. "C'n you record what she's doin'?" he asked in a soft voice.

Trevor blinked owlishly down at Samael before turning a nervous eye to Tex. "Um..." His paws shuffled but he eventually nodded and gestured to his own pockcom. "I think so..."

Samael winked and clapped him on the shoulder before strolling toward the table with his arms wide, his voice bright and booming once more. "Don't let Mama get you all outta sorts, Miz Tex! Bygones is bygones; we's all workin' fer the same goal, after all!"

Tex eyed him mildly. "As noble as 'sucking every dick on Sirca' might sound to you and York, I wouldn't say it's everyone else's goal, too." She reached over to Trevor's keyboard again to input several quick strings before flashing a needling smile toward Nelson. "You're not still upset about the free training lessons I gave to your people, are you?"

"We had two fighters request permanent light duty after the injuries they suffered," Nelson spat out. "You're fuckin' lucky I don't put two in your fucking knees right now as compensation."

Tex took her fingers away from the keyboard again as her eyes narrowed, her attention shifting back toward the rebel leader. But Samael was quicker to chirp: "Ay, look at it this way! They learned from Miz Tex that this ain't no game, the Movement life is tough!"

Tex snorted but returned to her sharp typing. "And it sounds like you had two more failures who weren't cut out for it. Far as I'm concerned, I did you a favor."

Samael looked over at Trevor to see him frowning in confusion at his pockcom. The redneck was quick to sling a toothy grin at Tex before she could take note. "Shit, we must be growin' on ya! Agent Tex ain't much known fer doin' no favors!"

She only gave him a flat look in response. "Yeah, like mold. Remind me again what your name is, and why the hell Nelson still keeps you around? Is your only job whoring yourself out to the bats so she can keep up her little trade deals with that old bastard Juwo?"

"Fuck you, ya redheaded bitch!" Andee retorted, flitting down from the ceiling to land on Samael's shoulders and thrust a wing toward her. "You might have the biggest dick in Freelancer, but Fiffy here got more respect from Xulod than ya whole band of shitty Freefuckers!"

Samael smiled up at Andee, not minding the way his companion's interjection had annoyed Tex away from her task again. "Who gives a shit about having the respect of a bunch of flying rats?" Tex replied dryly. "In fact, who gives a shit about having anyone's respect?"

"Clearly not you," Nelson muttered.

"Bitch, like you do, either," Tex fired back without shifting her eyes away from the screens as her muzzle creased in concentration. Samael studied her features -- Tex wasn't an open book like most of Samael's targets, but the expression of surprise wasn't one she could easily mask. Not from him.

Tex's voice rang out, though her eyes stayed on the monitors. "Hey, Andee." Every gaze in the room went to the bat on Samael's shoulders as he squinted expectantly at Tex. "So is his dick just that small or are you looser than a stack of off-road tires?"

Almost every gaze. Samael's eyes remained on Tex as she prodded quickly at her pockcom while Andee's talons dug angrily into his shoulders.

"Ay, bitch! Don't think I won't have 'im bust out his Sampi Slammer right here 'n now!" Andee retorted with his hands on his hips. "My puppy ain't packin' no carry-on!" Samael's grin was honest, and he figured it matched Andee's boastful tone. No need to let the proud little bat know Samael's 'surprise' wasn't actually all that huge, all things considered -- this ego trip wasn't the worst thing to share.

"Neither of you fucking think about it," Nelson grumbled as she moved around toward Tex's side. "Did you get into the fucking thing yet or was calling you out another fucking waste of my--"

"We've got a fire in the fifth-level armory!" a voice blared through the intercom, effectively silencing Nelson as she, Trevor and Andee all twisted their heads around curiously. Samael, however, only tilted his muzzle while maintaining his purposeful observation of Tex. " response...teams? Respond?"

"What's the fucking point of all the fucking drills if no one fucking pays attention?!" Nelson growled, wheeling over to the intercom and shoving a claw into the button. "Parker, is that you?" She was only met with several seconds of static and she groaned loudly before flicking her eyes back to Tex, then jamming her whole fist against the intercom. "O'Neill, what's your location?"

His voice came through a moment or two later. "Garage. I'm heading that way."

"I'm closer," she replied grouchily, once more glowering at the Freelancer. "You almost done, woman?"

"Go deal with your bullshit before it sets off something and lights up your precious secret stronghold like an Omeswallen candle," Tex intoned without looking away from the screens. "I'll work on this." She looked away long enough for a flat smile. "It's not my base, remember?"

Nelson narrowed her eyes but sucked on her teeth and then pointed moodily at Samael. "Watch her. I want to know what's in there." Samael nodded and she grunted before briskly exiting the room. "I'll be right back."

Trevor shifted awkwardly from his position near Tex, lowering his pockcom with a worried expression toward the doorway. "The backup server room is close to that armory..."

"Then you should probably get waddling, wouldn't want the grease from your deep-fried fingers going up next," Tex suggested with a saccharine expression.

"I'm sure they got it under control," Samael reassured as he wandered closer to Tex and tapped his claws along the surface of the table. "Guessin' it's small. Probably ain't in no vital spots."

Tex lifted her dour gaze to him before Andee interrupted and shoved a wing toward one of the monitors. "Ay, that looks like the shit we found down at the bottom'a those caves, Fiffy!"

Samael had only a moment to glance inquisitively at whatever it was Andee could see from his higher vantage point, spotting the grainy image of what appeared to be the same oddly-shaped helmet. "Aw sweet -- you managed to break in, there?" He cocked his head only for the screens to go blank as Tex yanked the device out of the cradle and disconnected her pockcom.

"Nothing of value to you assholes -- just old Freelancer records," she supplied.

"H-Hey! shouldn't just jerk it out like that...and...we weren't done with it!" Trevor stammered with a step in her direction, only to quail backward when she leaned toward him.

"That's what I thought," Tex muttered before spinning on her heel and heading for the door, then halting as Samael moved smoothly into her path. "Out of the way, Barney."

"That was yer li'l firecracker that went off, weren't it?" he probed with an inquisitive tap against his chin. "The fuck you find inside that thing?"

"I said move or I'll move you myself," she growled. Her eyes flicked to Andee, who was his usual unflappable self -- Samael didn't feel a single tremor along his legs. Impressive, since she was far more likely to kick the shit out of him than Nelson...but Samael supposed that spoke to what truly scared Andee and what didn't. "You two really don't want to do this."

Andee floated a dangerous grin and reached into his poncho, producing a thin switchblade that he flicked open. "I dunno, bitch. Maybe we do." The knife glinted as brightly as his piercings and Samael gave his own half-smile while shifting his stance slightly. He knew they had absolutely no chance against Tex, but it felt pretty fuckin' great to earn a genuine snarl from her.

"I'll shove that pig-sticker right up your ass, Andee, and the redneck's head will be next if you don't move the hell out of my way," she warned. Her voice was low and calm, and Samael interpreted the message fluently. Tex wasn't so hard to read when she got riled up.

His tail flicked with a resolute jingle, one hand sliding up to grasp his partner's talons while he moved a paw back to turn to the side. "Wouldn't kill you to at least tell us what they was diggin' for down there." She shoved past him without slowing, though her eyes flicked momentarily toward the duo. "We're all workin' fer the same thing."

"No, but it might kill you to keep pissing me off," she spat over a shoulder. "And if there's one thing you should pick up from your tiny dick-jockey, it's that the Movement's just a half-assed attempt to fix the brakes on a car that's already gone off the cliff. Some of us prefer to deal with reality."

Samael frowned and watched her storm out of the room, the choice of words leaving him unable to fling one of his usual cheerful insults as farewell.

Fortunately for him, Andee was ready and capable. "Don't let the door hit ya ugly chupa ass on the way out, ya nasty bitch!"

"I'll worry about that the day this shitty place gets its first door," she called back before her swift steps faded down the hallway and toward whatever demonic form of transportation she'd be taking back to her special circle of hell.

"Feh, still don't know what the fuck Wash sees in 'er...that squirrel's got even shittier taste than I thought," Andee remarked while tucking the blade back under his poncho. He paused and then jabbed a claw into the side of Samael's muzzle as the chupa glanced up at him with a small smile. "The fuck was you on about with that cunt? You doin' that redneck psychic bullshit?"

"I ain't 'boutta accuse no one of nothin' I can't prove," Samael murmured while he moved back toward Trevor, who was fretting with his equipment while pouting like his pet had just been kicked. "But I got me a feelin' that it weren't just no 'ol' Freelancer records' on that disk..." Andee's claws sunk deeper into Samael's shoulders as the bat leaned forward intently. Samael had suspected his partner might perk up at the prospect of gleaning new information. "You agree, Trev?"

Trevor looked up at them, taking a moment longer to stare awkwardly at Andee. Samael smiled again, however, and reached out to grasp the technician's shoulder. "C'mon now, Andee's a'right."

"'A'right' is ya run-a-the-mill fuck-buddy, I ain't a'right, I'm fuckin' pristine!" Andee retorted before grinning toothily down at Trevor. "What'd the bitch find?"

Trevor shuffled his paws before swiping across his pockcom and attaching it to his laptop, then reaching over to tilt one of the screens toward the partners. "Sammy's right, it. It definitely isn't just old records. I think she knew what we were trying to do, I didn't get more than just a recording, none of the actual files, but..."

Samael and Andee both leaned forward to examine the flickering video. It wasn't more than thirty or forty seconds long, and Samael had no doubt that it would have been even shorter if he hadn't tried to distract her. It was enough, though, to show Tex rapidly flipping through a series of data logs before several photographs flashed past. Andee shoved a wing forward, his finger tapping impatiently against the monitor as Trevor's eyes widened and he hurriedly moved the screen out of the bat's range.

"There! Right fuckin' there, toldja I saw that helmet!" Andee exclaimed. "Who...what the fuck do you think it's for?"

Trevor rubbed at his shoulder and turned his eyes to Samael. The stocky rebel shook his head slowly and crossed his arms as he studied the static-riddled image for a few more seconds. "I dunno, hon. But Tex walked on outta the place on a gat-damn mission. It's gotta be somethin' worth lookin' into."

Samael glanced up as Andee rubbed his hands together, his expression hungry. "This is juicy shit...maybe that bullshit hike into them caves wasn't so fuckin' worthless after all..."

Samael smiled a bit, unashamed of how easily he could soak up Andee's excitement for whatever the conniving bastard had in mind. "Nelson's gonna be pissed Tex got outta here with the thing...but Mama ain't gonna be empty-handed, neither." He gazed at Trevor again and received a sheepish smile in return. "Do whatever ya can with the footage ya got, sweetie. I'mma go let Nelson know the news 'fore she hears it from someone else." He paused and lifted his eyes inquisitively to Andee. "You stickin' around a li'l while?"

Andee smirked and rested his body comfortably atop Samael's head while thumbing his nose in Trevor's direction. "I ain't 'bout to leave just so this tubby fucker c'n go down on that blueberry popsicle to thank you for savin' his ass from the big-dicked whore! Plus, it's been awhile since I seen ya momma blow up at someone other than us...I ain't goin' nowhere!"

"Good," Samael chuckled while squeezing Trevor's arm and then tossing him a wave as he turned to strut out with his companion still on his shoulders. "We're gonna go see if we c'n get Nelson to start a real fire -- wish us luck!"

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

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