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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 7: Something

Audio Version:

"I know you ain't promised that it'd make it in one piece, but fuuuuuck, York, this's still gotta be one'a the shittiest things ya ever stole," Samael remarked as the sedan sputtered around another bend in the overgrown trail leading to the back of the Lactan base. "We mighta been better off walkin' our asses back from Lamtha."

"Aw, shut that big ol' whore-mouth of yours," York retorted even as his gigantic frame leaned awkwardly over the wheel so he could try and spot any roots or large divots that would be enough of an obstruction to impede the tired vehicle's limp forward. "You're the one who got shot, we probably could have walked if you weren't gonna bleed half the trip."

Samael snorted amusedly and then glanced down at the stained bandage on his stomach. He managed to plaster on a grin and shrugged. "Heh, yeah, well, it happened movin' yer big ass outta the way!"

York chuckled and looked over at him. Samael kept on grinning, but his pal only gave a faint smile in return. There was that issue with having a friend who wasn't just sensitive to his emotions, but understood exactly the value of faking alternative ones. "Sorry, Sammy. Stupid to bring it up."

Samael laughed a bit, then allowed himself to shift and gaze through the windshield with a melancholic sigh. "It's a'right, brother. Done is done. Hopefully, Andee..." He hesitated, rubbing over his chest for a moment. "Uh. Look, just...if you don't mind, lemme know if he reaches out to y'all for a job or anythin'. I jus' wanna know he got back safe 'n stuff."

York's expression softened even further. "Aww, Sammy -- hey, I'm...I'm sure he's gonna get over it. That' he is."

"I dunno, York," Samael murmured as he let his hand drop into his lap. "I ain't so sure."

They both glanced up when the weathered tires slapped across concrete. The moss-covered tunnel appeared through the foliage and nearly served to distract them from the conversation, but York reached over to grip into Samael's shoulder. Samael looked down at his companion's hand, torn between feeling grateful for York's stubborn insistence, and wishing he'd just drop it.

...But he'd be lying to himself to say he wouldn't be doing the same thing were he in York's place. He only hoped his friend never had to deal with this kinda thing...because it sucked.

When York finally moved his fingers from Samael's shoulder so he could steer the car carefully through the narrow tunnel, Samael spoke up. "York, I ain't sure what's gonna happen, but. C'n I ask ya to keep this 'tween us? The bat-folk seem pretty good 'bout keepin' shit in-house, but I'm sure Andee don't want no one else out here askin' him about it."

York couldn't steal a look at him again as his attention was required to maneuver the sedan into position on the rusty freight elevator. Whatever he wanted to say was important enough, however, that he waited until he'd gotten into place before he gazed at his companion. "You're asking me not to say anything to Andee, either, right?"

Samael smiled faintly. Birds of a fuckin' feather. "Yeah. You read 'tween my lines like no one else, hon."

York returned a small smile before he and Samael both opened their doors to step out onto the platform. The lever to lower it back to the garage was on Samael's side, but before he could grab it, York called out softly: "Sammy..." Samael gazed over his shoulder, his hand resting on the switch. "Not too late. If you want, I can, uh. I can tell Wash Beat me up?" Samael arched an eyebrow, his weak smile gaining a bit of bemused gusto. "And uh. And you got away??"

Samael sighed. He did feel better, though, even if the hole in his heart expanded slowly as he was reminded of everything that lay in front of him. The smile he shoved into place was considerably less forced, at least. "Yer a real pal, York, an' I could kiss ya for bein' so thoughtful, but I don't think that'll fly none too good. Naw..." He looked back at his hand before easing the lever into place to jar the lift into its creaking descent. "Let's jus' get this over with. Rather Mister Wash be mad with only one of us..."

York hesitated when they reached Wash's office, but Samael only grunted softly and rapped his knuckles on the partially-ajar door. "Wash? 'S me 'n York."

"Ugh, get the fuck in here." York winced and Samael ran a hand through his headfur before sighing and pushing the door open to get it over with.

Wash was sitting behind his desk and he immediately glowered when the pair walked in. "Where's Andee?"

"He...he left," Samael mumbled, only to grimace when Wash barked out a little laugh and rolled his eyes.

"Of course he did."

York quickly stepped up next to Samael with a hopeful smile. "Hey, Wash -- things ended up okay, and we actually brought you--"

"Not now, York," Wash growled, his eyes flicking briefly to the other ex-Freelancer before they narrowed on Samael again as he leaned forward across his desk and jammed a finger into the surface. "Do you have any idea how many fucking heads you two turned pulling that shit? Seriously, busting into a fucking high-ranking Omegite's house? In the middle of the fucking city? And then using an underground route to get out? Because that's just what we need, a bunch of pissed-off militia scouring one of our few secure methods of moving around out there, finding our hidden caches and making it even harder for us to operate in that region!"

Samael sighed as his instincts reared up and demanded fairness, justice and maybe a bit of sass. He tried to listen to them, if only for familiarity. "Hey, look...we covered our tracks, ain't left nothin' fer no one to find...they was mad, but a coupla thieves runnin' off with some cash 'n shit ain't gonna call out the hounds or nothin'."

"Oh, that ain't gonna call out the hounds?" Wash repeated in a sneering imitation of Samael's accent before he curled his muzzle into a snarl. "How about sending a fucking dropship into the Omegite's house? You think that might 'call out the hounds'? Because you assholes were on every fucking channel long after you blew the entrance to the station, and I'm sure by now they've got people crawling through those tunnels."

Every reminder of what had happened was a reminder of Andee. Samael wilted and rubbed slowly over his bare chest, which drew a worried look from York. Wash caught it, however, and glared between them. "Don't even start, these two dumbasses fucked up and don't even have the goddamn balls to own up to it together." Samael closed his eyes and wished he could be angry, spit some furious retort to try and ward off the sinking sensation. But Wash wasn't his enemy, as often as it sometimes seemed.

York stepped forward again, holding his hands out as a sign of peace. "Yo, Wash, c'mon -- it''s been a long night for them, and--"

"Them? York, only one of them even fucking bothered to come with you, which...shock, I guess, Andee the fucking coward as usual. He's trouble enough on his own, but throw this bastard into the mix..." Wash gestured angrily at Samael, looking only mildly surprised when the stocky chupa glanced away and shifted his weight. Wash snorted as he dropped back into his chair. "First time you've ever looked guilty for the stupid shit you pulled, Samael." His eyes drifted to the bandage on Samael's torso. "Geezus, and you got hurt, too? Yeah, so much for leaving no fucking trace."

York attempted a disarming laugh. "Uh...well, actually, that wasn't from their...thing!" Wash's eyes slowly shifted to York, oozing with displeasure. "Uh." York cleared his throat before smiling awkwardly. "We made a small stop on the way back so we could get something else, and--"

"Wait...wait, those two talked you into something, too?" Wash interrupted incredulously.

York blinked. "Oh, no no, this was totally my idea, Sammy was just--"

"God, would you stop covering for him, York? I get you two are...buddies, but christ, just stop, let him take responsibility for one of his messes just once."

Samael barely heard Wash's words, his eyes glazed over as he stared through the frustrated chupa. He was just tired at this point. Tired and miserable and wanting to move on. "Yeah. Yer right, Wash."

"I know I am," Wash fumed before he thrust a finger at Samael. "Everything you touch turns to shit, Samael! You guys think you're just doing things 'your way', but my god, all you leave is a fucking trail of burnt bridges and bullshit the rest of us have to deal with."

York looked genuinely uncomfortable, his eyes flicking to Samael before he took a step closer to Wash with an uneasy look. "Wash, that's not fair, they were just helping me...Sammy's--"

"'Sammy' is really fucking good at 'helping', yeah, I'm all too aware," Wash interjected as he threw a hand toward York. "He's nearly gotten you killed, more than once. You remember when he 'helped you out' with those flashbangs? Your leg was in a fucking cast for almost a week!"

"Aw, little buddy, c'mon, that's not fair, either, we were ambushed and--"

"Goddammit, York, I don't care if you two want to get drunk whatever behind closed doors, but Samael is a liability in the field, and every time you work with him, shit goes down and we have to clean it up. Every. Fucking. Time. I don't give a fuck what Nelson says about him, he has zero fucking background in what we do, he has zero fucking formal training, he's just a goddamn wild card that Nelson somehow considers a valuable fucking asset just because he can charm his way into people's pants and make a giant fucking scene wherever he goes."

Samael hadn't moved throughout the entire rant, his eyes eventually just locking onto his paws as he stood with his arms at his sides. He didn't see a point in denying anything, even less of a point arguing. He didn't see much a point in anything right now, if he was being honest. Might as well let the guy have his vent session.

"Nothing? Not even a fucking half-assed apology?" Wash growled before he glared at York when the larger chupa reached across the desk to grip into his shoulder. "York, I'm serious, he--"

"I think he gets it," York murmured, quietly but insistently.

Wash sighed as he shook his head before throwing a hand up. "Whatever. I know none of this shit is getting past his thick skull."

Samael shuffled his paws and finally glanced up for a moment. "You mind if I use yer radio to call Nelson? See if I c'n arrange a ride back?"

"Be my fucking guest, the faster you're out of here, the better," Wash replied curtly as he picked up his pen again and eyed York warningly. "Make sure he doesn't get into any trouble until he's gone. I'm trusting you, despite my better judgment, if only because I know he'll make life miserable for anyone else here."

York smiled lamely even as he looked uncomfortably between his long-time partner and his odd friend. Samael hated it for him -- here he was again, putting his companion into a shitty situation. "Yeah, of course." He nodded and then moved to put his arm around Samael, but the smaller chupa turned toward the door ahead of him and kept out of reach, leading the way back out.

The two left Wash in the office as Samael moved toward their communication room -- he at least remembered where that was. He heard York trotting to catch up to his side and resisted the urge to glance up into a friendly face. Last thing he wanted was to feel guilty all over again for putting York in the middle of all of Wash's vitriol. At least Samael was getting to leave...York was stuck here with the guy.

"Sammy, I'm...I'm really, really sorry, I didn't think he was gonna be that mad, know I wasn't trying to put the thing in Lamtha on you guys, Wash just..."

"Yer a'right, York, seriously...'sokay," Samael replied quietly before he slipped a hand into his supply pack. "Here." He reached for York's hand with both of his, pressing the stamp into his palm and smiling faintly up at him.

York chuckled softly, his eyes sympathetic as they looked down at the slumped rebel, then glanced at their prize from raiding the Cleric's house. " dork," he chided gently "Shoulda given it to Wash, mighta made him a little less upset..."

"He'll appreciate it more from you, hon." Samael nodded up to him and then slid his hands into his pockets as they proceeded in silence once more.

"What the fuck were you doing in Episemon, Wurlitz?"

Samael tried not to sigh as he rubbed at his forehead. York hovered awkwardly behind him, but thankfully was the only other person in the radio room. "Nelson, I already toldja...Xulod asked me to help 'em out with an errand out that way. We jus' ran into a li'l trouble, but ain't nothin' big."

"Ain't nothin' big? Not according to the fuckin' ten minute screeching fest I had to sit through from Agent-fucking-Washington," she snarled, the radio practically trembling from the raw venom that seeped through. "I sent you out there with a very clear goal -- sure-as-fuck didn't expect to have you call me from L-Base."

Samael dropped his muzzle into an open palm, murmuring his reply. "We jus' decided to part ways to help throw off any potential pursuers, made more sense to split up."

Nelson muttered a few things that were difficult to hear, but Samael didn't really need to, anyway. "And that's that? You're ready to come back? My last conversation with Juwo, he mentioned you were making several in-roads with his people. Sounded like you were getting real cozy. I assumed I'd have to tear you away to get back to work."

Samael grimaced but kept his tone even. "Then shouldn't you be glad I'm ready to come back?"

A beat or two before she continued gruffly. "...Fair enough, Wurlitz. We'll debrief here. I'll have a boat in the lake by sundown." Samael exhaled in relief before wincing as she added briskly: "And don't forget that fucking radio."

He couldn't help the sigh this time, but forced a cheerful laugh over the microphone. "Yup, yup, ain't a problem, Nelson. 'Preciate the li'l vacay, but I'm ready to get back on the job."

Her silence was telling, but she eventually grunted. "Good. Then I'll talk to you tonight. Don't give any of those bastards a reason to bother me with any of your bullshit."

"Of course," he mumbled before setting the microphone back and rubbing slowly over his face with both hands. He felt a gentle pressure on his shoulder and he glanced back and up at York. He'd almost forgotten he was there.

"...She talks to Juwo? I mean, I know you said she sent you out there to learn about them, but...just seems weird."

Samael laughed faintly as his eyes locked onto the bank of outdated radio receivers. "Juwo told me they was introduced thanks to, uhhh. Someone else. Her, uh. Mentor, I guess." Another story he wasn't really ready to talk about.

"Heh. Tracer -- man, that guy was somethin' else," York remarked as Samael pushed himself away from the desk. "He was somehow good at pissing off both Wash and Nelson. It was pretty impressive." Samael avoided his eyes but York didn't seem to notice as he nudged the smaller rebel with an elbow. "He was before you joined us dirty resistance fighters, right?"

"Yeah. He was already gone when I met Nelson," Samael replied with a nod. Wasn't quite a lie, which made it easier to slide past York. He found a weak smile and elbowed York back gently. "You got anythin' you gotta take care of?"

"Just my sad little redneck pal," York replied, offering a careful smile. Samael looked at him warily and he shrugged. "Hey, Wash all but ordered me to keep an eye on you 'til you go, so." He took a moment to study Samael's features. "To the bar?"

"To the bar," Samael murmured, giving two thumbs up as York dropped an arm around his shoulders.

"Fuuuuuuck, dude...that sounds like it was. Both painful but also like...really fuckin' awesome!" York exclaimed as he leaned precariously backward on his bar stool to peer again at Samael's sprawling tattoo. "So ya really should be drunk when ya get a tat, eh?"

"Hell fuckin' yeah, man, ya don' wanna do that shit sober, shit hurts, dude, a fuckin' knife." Samael paused before giving a stupid smile. "'Cause I mean I guess it is a hot knife."

"Well I'll be damned...toasted in the middle of the afternoon and York's cussin' -- do I even wanna know what happened?"

Samael blinked as he and York both turned around, tugged gently from their growing inebriation by the familiar voice gliding smoothly through the haze. Samael brightened at the shock of purple and green that strode toward them, a bemused expression painting the giant chupa's features. "Heeeey, North! Aww, man, 's good to see ya!" Samael chirped while raising his half-finished glass of liquor.

"Aw yeah!" York called out with a warm smile as he slapped at a bar stool on his other side. "C'mon over 'n join us, pal!"

North glanced between them before smiling and tilting his head a bit. "Lord, ain't this like old times." He eyed Samael for a moment longer as his eyes traced the gauze plastered across the smaller rebel's stomach. "Although it looks like you remembered my advice about York's sewing skills."

Samael chuckled and shrugged easily while pushing the less-than-pleasant thoughts from his mind. "Oh please, yer one t' talk, big fella! Las' job three'a us ran, yer ass got caught all a-flame'n shit!"

York giggled, teetering on the stool as North stepped forward and automatically caught his shoulder with the same half-smile. "Oh shit, that's right -- you 'member how pissed he was, Sammy?"

"Suuuure do," Samael drawled while leaning forward with a grunt to wrap his hand around the bottle of whiskey he and York had been working on. "The big ol' baby, wouldn't shaddup 'bout how his fur was all gross 'n shit, 'n how the ladies wasn't even gonna give him th' time'a day no more!"

"Hey! I was literally on fire!" North protested even as his smile grew a bit while he ensured York was sitting up fully again before crossing his enormous arms across his chest. "Had nothing to do with my looks."

"Pssshhh, it had a little to do with yer looks," York retorted while grinning and then propping his head up as Samael offered the bottle to their giant friend. "I saw how much shampoo ya went through tryin' to get all that soot out before yer next ruff," he teased while jabbing a finger into North's bicep. "Not that it did nothin' to hurt, we all still heard 'bout the nice li'l Lamtha cowgirl you spent th' night with!"

North didn't argue, only flashing a crooked grin of his own and then finally accepting the bottle from Samael. "Haw. She said she liked the smell...added to my rugged presence." He shook the bottle -- there was barely a quarter of the amber liquid left, and the two other empty bottles perched near the swaying duo didn't make for a complicated mystery. "Hell, boys, what's the occasion?"

Samael stiffened up a bit, his inebriation not quite yet solid enough to barricade shut the doors to reality. York glanced at him before offering a wan smile to North as he scooped up a mostly-clean tumbler to offer as well. "Aww, me'n Sammy were just talkin' 'bout his latest burn -- check that bad boy out, 's all over his back!"

Samael savored a thrum of gratefulness for his best friend's smooth detour, and he only hoped North wasn't feeling introspective enough to drive past it. He quickly plastered on his own cheerful expression while spinning around on the stool and planting his hands on the edge of the bar to show his back off to the gigantic chupa. "Aw hell yeaaah, take'a lookit this fucker, ain't it sweet?" he called over his shoulder with a wink up to North.

North met his eyes briefly and Samael swallowed the guilt. North wasn't as perceptive as York, but goddamn if the huge bastard didn't still pick up on his friends' cues easily enough. But the Freelancer seemed content to simply study the sprawling tattoo for the time being and Samael exhaled in relief. He let his eyes settle on the back shelves of the bar, listening to the soft clink of North taking the glass from York before pouring a measure of the whiskey into it.

North was always a welcome face, no matter Samael's mood. It had been an uncomfortable slope with the guy at first -- York had shyly admitted to Samael that his old Freelancer pal hadn't initially believed him after he'd blurted out the, ah...discovery he'd made about himself. The mocking jabs and taunts were carted out swiftly, an automatic reaction thanks to the years they'd spent as two of the most formidable ladies' men in Special Ops.

The teasing had only intensified when North found out it was the tiny redneck who'd had his way with York.

But as it became clear it wasn't just some drunken traipse, as North realized his friend wasn't sheepishly attempting to make excuses for being suckered into being a gullible prize for a sneaky homosexual, he'd forced himself to apologize and then even attempted to awkwardly talk openly to York about it. He'd seemed determined to not let something outside his comfort zone end a close friendship, and Samael was sure York appreciated it more than he could ever explain.

Samael smiled faintly to himself, glancing at the smudged metal plating that lined the back wall and catching North's appraising scan of his tattoo. He had no doubt that first conversation between the two had been...weird, it put it gently. Yet North had put his best foot forward, no doubt due to a mixture of respect and genuine compassion for York. And bless him -- he'd soon come around to accepting it as easily as he did anything else. He stopped fixing Samael with those wary looks from across the room and started to treat him as a comrade, as a friend. As a brother.

From there, the three had found an easy companionship, trading stories and booze with aplomb; North's acceptance of him brought him closer to the others, too, as more than just a friendly outsider. Samael was still the "short gay greenhorn", but he was given a place among the Freelancers, not below them. York helped hone his skills of manipulation and social camouflage, CT taught him to add nuance to his brawling combat style, and North showed him how providing support could be just as important as leading the offensive. In time, the trio had even undertaken a few jobs together -- Samael could still recall Wash's horrified protests, while CT had barely repressed her smile...since she'd been the one to encourage them in the first place, citing the importance of making even the most unconventional teamwork successful. It was a tenant of the Movement, after all.

The teasing continued, of course -- York and Samael spent enough intimate time together that it was inevitable, but it wasn't cruel or slung with any intention of causing insult. It was good-natured ribbing, the kind from a friend who respected who you were...but still wanted you to know you weren't gonna go have a quickie in the supply closet without getting a little bit of shit for it. And for all of North's continued protest, for every ounce of insistence he poured out about having zero interest in guys...

"Good lord, know that's not how you become a werewolf, right?"

Samael's drunken wandering was reined in by North's deep baritone, his chuckle pulling the smaller male's head back to gaze up over a shoulder with a quiet smile. Any distraction. "Eyyy, whatcha talkin' about, York told me the bigger burn I get, the badder-ass warwoof I'll become!"

"I sure did!" York added with a playful grin, his eyes taking in Samael for a few seconds. Samael was content for now, though. If the goal was to forget, who better to help than the two most happy-go-lucky pals he knew? York apparently picked up on Samael's comfort and he poked North's arm lightly. "I told 'em he was s'posed to get it on his hip, though, dumb li'l redneck doesn't listen too good!"

"Oh, he listens fine, he'd just hate to have your big gay hand covering it up every time you two went to go...what was the last bullshit excuse?" North set the bottle of whiskey back onto the bar so he could tap his chin in mock thought. "You had to 'check the ventilation exhaust'? Yeah, we totally bought that." He smirked between them before downing half his shot and then giving a more thoughtful look to Samael.

Samael kept up his sloshed smile, even as he searched North's gaze. North might not have been able to read minds like they could...but god, if he didn't have a way of drawing the truth out all the same. Samael's only advantage was knowing it. "Hey, hey...hey...we did find somethin' blockin' the pipes!"

York cackled and lifted a tumbler. "Yeah, we sure did! It was a loud li'l Sampi fella!! But nothin' a good plungin' couldn't fix!" he crowed before knocking back the liquor with a grunt as North smirked and then finished his own glass.

"God, you two are so gay," he remarked before dropping a hand onto Samael's shoulder. Samael's eyes flicked to the gigantic hand, even larger than York's, and his soul wilted further still. More kindness he didn't deserve. An additional sensation of gratitude ebbed out from his broken emotions when North plopped down onto the stool next to him instead of his usual spot by York, and Samael stared down into his empty tumbler.

York reached over to fill it with whiskey before his tears could. For a moment, Samael wished York had been ready for something deeper when they'd first met that year or two ago. Things would have been different.

He didn't think York would ever be so careless with his heart.

North's hand was still on his shoulder and Samael shifted to gaze over at him, throwing together a boozy smile that would have granted him access to the fields of Valhalla itself. North frowned for a few seconds before allowing himself a cautious smile in return. "You two wanna tell me why you're in here draining all of CT's best stock? Because I might be an idiot, but I'm not dumb enough to think it's just to admire that tattoo, crazy as it is."

Samael felt York's concerned look without turning his head but he smiled bravely and fumbled for the bottle of whiskey so he could push it over to North. "Heh, awright, it was was a mission. Went kin'a sideways. York's jus' helpin' me feel like less of a fuckin' failure 'bout it."

It was close enough to the truth that his self-deprecation might actually be convincing enough to cover up the building despondence. North smiled slightly again and contemplated the second shot of liquor before grunting and pouring out another measure. "Even though you wouldn't have passed any of the height requirements, you really woulda fit right in at Freelancer,'re 'bout as hard on yourself as any of us were, and there ain't even a leaderboard out here with the Movement."

Samael's smile was somewhat more honest even as his shoulders pushed together while he turned his gaze back to the amber liquid before him. "Haw, c'mon now -- li'l ol' Wash got let in, y'all coulda slid me past the gate, too!"

York chuckled and extended a leg to brush it soothingly against Samael's. "He is pretty good at beating himself up. Especially when he don't need to." Samael's eyes flicked over to him briefly and York smiled faintly before plastering on his own exaggerated grin. "Anyway, little Wash has at least five inches on ya, ya crazy li'l midget."

"'Cept Sammy's gotta have a hundred pounds on our fearless leader," North added with a low chortle. "You'd think Wash'd put on weight now that he ain't stuck with that garbage food from the FHQ cafeteria -- you guys might have left, but the Monday Meatloaf Special ain't gone nowhere."

The three all shared a soft laugh and took simultaneous sips from their tumblers as a few seconds of thoughtful silence settled comfortably over them. North eventually tapped a thumb against his glass, though, and looked pointedly at Samael. It was too difficult to avoid his compassionate gaze. Didn't matter how much of jock he was, how much of a bully he came across as -- the big man was about as soft inside as York.

"So the mission that went to hell -- would that be the crazy mess I heard about in Episemon?" Samael's smile wavered. "Or would ya be referring to the reports of a Cleric bravely fending off some home intruders in Lamtha? They said they tagged one of the guys on that one." His gaze very purposefully shifted to the gauze on Samael's stomach. "Considering the fact we all know how to translate the bureaucratic bull, I'd say neither of those jobs could have actually gone that badly. And seeing as you both ain't just walking and talking and breathing, but down here getting drunk off your butts..." He raised an eyebrow and Samael finally forced himself to look down at the booze, wishing it could have answered for him.

He downed it when it couldn't and grimaced while rubbing the back of his head as York reached over to squeeze his bicep lightly. "Sammy got both barrels from Wash an' Nelson -- you know how bad it is jus' having one of 'em pissed at ya..." North glanced over the top of their friend's head and Samael could imagine the small frown he was giving York. The one the big dumb blessing of a guy always gave when he was parsing something out on his own time.

"Uh huh. I do know how that goes," North began before he shook his head slowly. "But you two ain't pullin' no wool over my eyes -- Sammy, I've never seen you look this down before."

Samael's smile clung to him by a thread as his fingers clenched into the glass. Andee's snarl was waiting there just past the thin veil of the distraction he was so desperately trying to keep wrapped around himself. "Aw hell, hon, that ain't true -- bet I looked jus' 'bout as down in the dumps when you rejected m' sweet, sweet nasty-time offer..."

North snorted quietly and then finished his glass before sliding off the stool and wrapping an arm around Samael's shoulders as he leaned down to speak softly next to his muzzle. "Don't lie, buddy -- that was determination on your face that night." Samael's eyes lifted long enough to catch the gentle smile that flooded him with the affection he craved and knew he didn't have any right to expect. "Paid off, too. Even if it was a lost bet, that next night was one I ain't ever gonna forget." He straightened but kept his hand squeezed around the slumped rebel's shoulder for a moment longer. "Everyone needs a pity party now and then, Sammy. I ain't gonna pry, I'll leave you two to it. Just don't stay down there too long -- even if you didn't turn me all bi like York, you're one helluva guy. An' I'm proud to call you a friend. Whatever -- or whoever -- stepped on your tail, it ain't worth losing the Movement's favorite smile."

Samael swallowed thickly and closed his eyes, reaching up to let his fingers close briefly around one of North's. The gigantic chupa didn't pull away until Samael let his arm drop again and it meant more than words could convey. He heard North grunt an acknowledgment toward York before finally releasing Samael's shoulder and stepping away. "You fellas take it easy. And when this blows over, let's have a talk about getting Sammy some adult supervision next time he's around any more tattoo-knives, because Nelson is going to flip her lid when she sees that."

Samael blinked but choked out an honest laugh as he hurriedly brushed at his eyes and then threw a toothy grin over his shoulder to North. "Awww, fuck off, y'cain't tell me it ain't a little awesome!"

North smiled back, showing enough real gratitude at the small lift in Samael's spirits that Samael regretted ever letting himself feel dejected around him. "You keep tellin' yourself that, little dude. I'll catch you fellas later, though -- good luck with the swimmin' lessons." He tossed a little wave before meandering out as Samael exhaled slowly but let himself cling to the bit of relief.

North always made a good distraction, and he'd avoided having to talk about Andee. He'd consider that a damn victory. He glanced over at York with a faint smile and the two both lifted their tumblers to clink together. "Big ol' dumb ol' North, actin' like he knows a li'l summin' 'bout no dang body art," he mumbled.

"Well, no matter what anyone says...I think it looks badass, 'n I think you 'n Andee did a real good job with the design," York declared with a shake of his fist before he widened his eyes a bit. "Oh shit, sorry, sorry, Sammy, dammit..."

Samael felt a slice of anguish but he only groaned loudly and dropped his muzzle onto the bar, throwing his arms over his head and sending a few empty glasses scattering from around him. "Nawwww, yer a'right, hon, fuckin'...'sokay." He lifted his head enough to look at himself in the dingy mirror behind the bar, flashing a toothy smile to himself. "Mebbe it'll help if I jus' think 'bout the good stuff, not all the dumb stuff. Like him leavin'. Which...which, y'know!" He huffed and spun around on the stool to peer up at York, swaying forward as his friend immediately did the same, the two catching each other automatically by the shoulder. "Tha's...tha's his mistake, 'cause." He pouted and jutted his chin out. "'Cause I'm a pretty awesome guy."

York nodded solemnly, placing his other hand on Samael's head. "You totally are. Even for a short redneck, yer. Yer awesome, Sammy."

"I am awesome," Samael declared with a firm nod. It was safe to say most of his thoughts didn't quite agree...but he was willing to let the booze talk for him while it was loud enough. He puffed his chest out and then lifted a finger on his free hand. "We...we never even boned, y'know? Like. Pffff, what...what kinda guy am I, worryin' 'bout a relationship that ain't even had no fuckin' in it, yet, that ain't like me." He looked thoughtful for a moment before he widened his eyes a bit and pushed the same finger against the end of York's muzzle. "Heeeey. Yer the reason I din' get no bat-dick!"

York's eyes bulged as well in drunken realization. "Ohh...shit, yer right, Sammy. Aw fuck, wait, did I do good, or. Did I do bad?"

Samael blinked, his finger still resting on the end of his friend's snout. "Uhhh. 'S a good question, man." He pursed his lips while rocking gently on his stool, somewhere between thoughtfulness and inebriation. A grin slowly curled across his features and he leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially: "But I'll tell ya what. How 'bout you jus' do me to make up for it either way?"

...To say that it looked like York struggled with his response was the understatement of the year. Samael pushed away the wail of protest that rose in his heart and instead fixed York with a gaze he was all too aware would melt frozen butter from across the room. And it only took a second or two before York's internal struggle appeared to resolve itself as his own eyes locked with Samael's, a sharkish grin sliding along his own muzzle. "Heh. Y'sure you ain't just all...sad-drunk?" York inquired, even while his eyes dragged lazily across Samael's chest, doing quite a miserable job of masking his measuring appraisal.

Samael dug deep and found a real laugh, using it to force the darkness aside. "Fuckin'...nah, dude. Yer...yer m'friend, right?" A considerably more honest expression crossed his face as the two gripped each other's shoulders.

York's own boozy grin sobered just long enough for him to nod firmly. "Y'know I am, Sammy."

A tidal wave of relief washed over Samael and nudged the concern out even further as he let the sly grin sneak back into place. "Good. 'Cuz that means yer gonna be my rebound."

York blinked and then grinned back dumbly. "'Kay. But like. Only if yer sure, I don't wanna like...take advantage of ya or no--oooohhshit!" he squeaked as Samael dropped a hand directly down the front of his pants while staring up at him eagerly. "Y-yeah, you seem pretty sure," York added quickly, shuddering as Samael half-lidded his eyes and flicked his tail around to brush along his side with an oh-so-inviting jingle of the piercing near the tip.

"Oh, I'm real sure," Samael purred while jerking his head toward the door. His heart began to thud faster and he hopped off his stool to slide closer to York, all but begging his physical desire to overcome all the emotional complications. "C'mon, big man...I'mma rock yer world..."

York could only continue grinning sheepishly, Samael sensing the massive chupa give all the control to him as he gripped into York's wrist and half-dragged him out of the bar and along the familiar route to York's quarters.

Samael had to fight, knuckle down and struggle to push Andee's face out of his mind as he nudged York's door shut with his hip. He'd thought the next time he'd be in a situation like this, it would have been with that little fucker. That goddamn adorable, spiteful, perfect little bastard. And the effort was enough to make him tremble, those bright yellow eyes boring into his soul despite his best efforts to shove him away. Maybe if he'd seen Andee's smile, it would feel slightly different...but all he felt were his glares, his rage, the cold and cruel and yet deserved outburst.

He exhaled hard as he dropped his head against the door for a moment and balled a hand into a fist. This was all so wrong. But he could fix it. He just needed a reset -- York was good at that. They both were, in fact. They were the perfect match-up for each other because of that effortless sweep they could both deploy, easily making someone forget everything except what was right in front of them.

"Hey...Sammy? Y'doin'...y'doin' okay?"

...Or perhaps who was right in front of them.

Samael closed his eyes and then turned around to see York swaying a bit at the end of his bed, a concerned expression on his features. Samael coaxed up a grin and pushed himself away from the door, his eyes locking with York's. "I'm all good, hon," he purred, giving a rather convincing flick of his tail. He saw the way his pal twitched at the sound of the piercing, a twist of amusement running through him. He could tell York was still hesitant...and it was touching, it really was. Samael appreciated the shit out of his friend -- and York wasn't just his friend. He was his best friend, one of the few people he'd met across Sirca who didn't just enjoy Samael's erotic talents but who had come to know him and understand him. And yeah...part of that was Samael's fault. He didn't let most people get close enough, since he was content with being the Movement's most notorious whore.

York had been different from the moment they'd met. They felt a kinship immediately, and the friendship was inevitable within an hour or two. Even if most of their other companions hadn't been as fond of it, which. Fair. Two energetic dumbasses with the combined mental age of a teenager, both with a penchant for chaos and wasn't a surprise Wash and Nelson dreaded any time the two got together. But neither of them had ever let it stop their weird bond, taking full advantage of any moment that gave them a chance to hang out. They were good at running jobs together, unconventional as it could sometimes be. They were good at talking, picking up on each other's emotions with ease while knowing where not to tread, as well. And they were really good at screwing, as two raw forces of sexual prowess that knew exactly how their insane puzzle pieces fit into one another.

That was all Samael wanted now, to have someone fit with him.

York's gentle eyes were on him with each sauntering step Samael took. His green irises were laced with a mixture of worry and helpless desire, the conflicting emotions visible even through the inebriated daze. Samael licked his lips and filled his mind with thoughts only of what was ahead, of York and all the comforts of his pal. Anything to push the little bat out. "Lemme jus'...get to it," he murmured as his body moved silkily up to York, his hands reaching down to grip into his waist before sliding slowly together to meet at his belt buckle.

~ * ~ * NSFW * ~ * ~

York turned him around and embraced him tightly as he dropped onto the bed and pulled Samael close. Samael still refused to look, only burying his head against his friend and giving into the sobs while the carefully-crafted dome of escapism shattered around him, leaving him naked and in the cold winter of his mind once more. "Sammy...I'm sorry, I, fuck, man, I'm...I'm sorry..." York murmured while pulling him close and rubbing slowly down his spine.

Samael had no words for once, only his tears. All the strain of losing everything he had worked so hard for over the last two weeks rushed over him, a tidal wave overcoming the soothing pool of bliss he'd tried to drown himself in. He clutched into York's chest and let his emotions overtake him while his companion held him securely and gave him whatever shelter he could offer.

They laid together for some time before Samael's hitching breaths finally calmed into a quiet, ragged sigh. He wanted to be mad at how quickly York picked up on it, at how swiftly those giant arms wrapped around him and squeezed him comfortingly. He just wanted to be mad at something, something other than himself. But he couldn't spare even an ounce of vitriol for his friend, instead pushing his head into his collarbone and gazing up at the ceiling. "Sorry fer...draggin' you into this," he murmured, tracing his claws through York's cream-colored fur. "Made it weird, ain't fair to you..."

York glanced down at him with a faint smile. "C'mon, pal. Everything about being friends with you is weird." He ran a finger down along Samael's backbone, encouraging a gentle arch into his huge frame. "I'm, I'm sorry for, uh. For getting into it, you--"

"I wanted it," Samael interrupted quietly with a brief shake of his head. "Ain't gotta apologize. I jus'...wanted to feel somethin' other'n all this...shit. Wanted to forget 'bout everythin' else. Shouldn'ta put it on you, though, hon. Yer a good guy, ain't worthy of dealin' with this kinda bullshit, not from someone like me."

"Someone like you? Come on, Sammy, don't be a dumbass," York chided while bumping his muzzle against his friend's forehead. "Whatever dumb shit you're trying to convince yourself about who you are is exactly that -- dumb shit."

"I...dunno," Samael murmured, staring silently up as he pushed his head against York. "Wash...what he said."

"Aw, Sammy, don't--"

"Naw, I'm...I'm serious. Everythin' I touch does turn to shit. How many times you nearly died workin' with me? It ain't just Andee, everythin' I do ends up fucked up or worse'n it was when it started, I mean, fuckin' hell, I...I got Carson killed because of a stupid mistake, I-I-I d-don't even wanna 'magine the same happenin' t' you..." he choked out, trembling as he felt tears pricking his eyes again. He tried not to think of Tracer, the fact that the rebel leader died for him, someone else whose life he didn't just ruin, but ended...yet the memories were inevitable as he saw the faces of everyone in Sampi who was mowed down, and his body shuddered violently.

York hugged him tightly and nuzzled the top of his head. "Hey, hey...Sammy, c'mon. Stop that shit. Carson wasn't your fault, and you know it wasn't. You know Wash was just pissed, he didn't mean--"

"York, he wasn't even wrong..."

"Sammy, I said quit," York interjected, gently but firmly. Samael flinched and his hand gripped into York's side. "Wash, he' can't let that get to you. Are you a little reckless? Yeah, sure, but so am I. So are all of us, we're part of a goddamn rebellion trying to stop a Holy War." His fingers danced slowly back up across Samael's spine. "Wash knows we did that same kinda shit at Freelancer. Every mission had a good chance of us biting it, he's...he's just got a thing against you. I mean...probably not just you, it's Nelson and...everything else, I'm sure. He doesn't hate you but you know he's always gonna be tough on you. But he just doesn't know you like I do, and I'm tellin' you that you're a good guy. Beating yourself up isn't gonna help anyone, not even you."

Samael smiled weakly despite himself. His fingers found the key around York's neck and they plucked it up gingerly. "You make it real hard to beat myself up, buddy," he whispered hoarsely. And it was true. The duo had too much in common -- they were great at comforting each other, and just as frustratingly good at cutting away the facades of false cheer and inevitable self-loathing they both kept cocked and loaded in their arsenals for dealing with the real world. He took a moment to stroke his thumb across the bronze charm. "One day, you really gotta tell me about this one..."

York took a long breath above him, then squeezed him gently again. "One day, Sammy. But not today. You've distracted yourself enough..." He rolled onto his back, pulling Samael easily onto his broad chest, and the smaller chupa kept his cheek on his breast while one of his legs locked around York's.

Samael sighed again as he gazed across York's room, eventually smiling a bit again. "Y' got space. We should get you a still stood up in here, hon. That way I c'n stop sharin' all my best hooch with ya 'n you c'n start makin' yer own..."

York snorted softly. "What'd I just say about distractions, ya dumb redneck?" he murmured as he squeezed an arm around his friend's waist. "Anyway, maybe I like having an excuse to call my little gay friend out this way whenever my stash runs dry."

"Like I ain't gonna roll out here anyway to test yer product 'n fix the fucker up when ya get all the parts mixed up," Samael replied with a chuckle, releasing York's key and letting his hand drift over his masculine chest again. It hurt to set aside the distractions. He wasn't ready for reality, but he knew he couldn't hide from it forever. "I'm...I ain't gonna be able to avoid 'im, York. I know Nelson wants me t'be a contact for the bat-folk, 's why she sent me out there."

York nodded below him. "Yeah...probably. But. I dunno, Sammy, maybe if you, uh. Explained what happened, maybe she'll--"

Samael tilted his head up to his friend with a bemused look and York cleared his throat before smiling slightly. "Yeah, alright. Fair. But say what you will about Nelson -- remember, I knew her even before you did, and I can tell she's got a soft spot for you." Samael snorted and York laughed quietly, himself. "Even if her 'soft spot' is still a straight jab to the gut...but at least she's pulling it a little."

"Yeah, yeah. I just know she ain't gonna let this change her plans." Samael stared mutely at the opposite wall. "I'm gonna hafta see him again."

York shifted beneath him, one hand massaging between Samael's shoulderblades. "Hey...Sammy, maybe. I never know. Andee's...yeah, I barely know him despite all the trades he's a part of, but I still know he's quick to get fired up, and...usually pretty quick to calm down, too. If you're still crazy about him, should try talking to him."

"I...I dunno, York. I hurt 'im," Samael whispered, his fingers closing silently into York's fur. "The way he blew up, he...he wasn't just angry. He was betrayed. I told 'im I wasn't gonna be no self-sacrificin' bastard no more an' then...what do I go'n do."

York shook Samael gently. "You took a hit for me, Sammy. Whether or not it was gonna kill me, that doesn't matter. You did what you did because...that's who you are. As long as I've known you, that's how you've always been. And look -- we both throw ourselves into stupid shit but...we're not trying to find a way to die." He paused for a moment and Samael lifted his eyes to meet York's. They were uncomfortably vulnerable for a moment. "...Right?"

Samael was silent for a few seconds before he reached up and stroked his friend's cheek. Even now, even having lost Andee, Samael knew the answer. He made a promise, and it didn't matter if it was to someone who had turned away from him. It was still his word. "Yeah. Yer right," he murmured before smiling faintly. "Goes fer you too, big man. You ain't 'bout to pull nothin' over me, I know how you do, 'specially with yer li'l angry battle buddy. Yer the best friend he's got, but don't you fuckin' go killin' yerself over nothin' for him, he'll be jus' as mad at you as I will."

York smiled back, some of the tension seeping back out of his expression. "Heh. Couple of helpless bastards we are, Sammy."

"No shit, hon." Samael sighed and then covered his eyes with a hand while curling up a bit atop his companion. "Shit is what it is, though. I jus'...gotta get back t'work. Get busy, quit thinkin' 'bout it."

"It's okay to think about it a little," York replied with a nudge from his muzzle again. "Don't give up yet, Sammy. Give it some time. And no matter how things go still got friends, okay?"

Samael drew in a deep breath, but nodded all the same as he squeezed briefly into York's arm and closed his eyes. "Thanks, buddy. 'Preciate you dealin' with all my gay shit."

York nodded and squeezed his friend tenderly. "Anytime, Sammy. Just promise me that if I ever have some gay shit, you'll deal with mine, too."

Samael smiled despite himself, one arm curling around York's neck as he let himself sink into the welcome comfort. "You know it, hon. 'S only fair."

The two eventually got up and hit the showers together, though with none of the usual teasing, touching or even talking. Samael was silent, lost in his thoughts while he scrubbed himself with a blank expression. York remained close the whole time, occasionally dropping a supportive arm around his shoulders, or taking a bit of extra care to work the soap into Samael's back. Samael knew York was plenty aware of how much he loved the contact, and he was grateful his friend was so willing to accommodate him.

Part of him felt worse for putting York through this, forcing him to spend all his free time with him and pour all these kindnesses and comforts across his misery. But part of him was stubborn enough to remind him York wasn't forcing shit. This was what friends did for one another. Samael would be on the other side of this without hesitation if it ever came up. Friends were happy to sacrifice their time, their emotions, for the sake of their companions. Friends didn't turn away and run when things were uncomfortable.

...His attempts at demonizing Andee failed, however. He nearly broke down into another fit of tears as they toweled off, saved only by a reassuring hand at the small of his back. Sirca needed more Yorks, even if she didn't deserve him.

Once they were dressed and subsequently sober, the two wandered down to the mess -- Samael figured some food wouldn't be bad after everything else they'd done over the last few hours. He didn't really want to eat, but his survival instincts were even stronger than his melancholy.

Samael did his best to smile as York slid him a few extra pieces of bacon. "Put it on your burger, Sammy -- it'll make it almost taste like a burger."

Samael snorted, feeling a tickle along his muzzle. "Yer a sweet muffin, York, don't let no one tell ya different," he replied quietly before they both glanced up when CT sat down across from them.

"Well if it isn't my two favorite dumbasses!" she announced, even as her eyes locked onto Samael curiously. "So what the hell did you and that tiny fucker get up to out in Episemon? Wash has been on a goddamn tear."

Samael's heart returned to its self-imposed cell even as he quickly propped up a sheepish grin. "Haw, you know me, I'm always out makin' trouble where there's trouble to be made..."

York shifted next to him and then threw an arm around Samael's shoulders while laughing jovially. "Yeah, Sammy was just doing a little smash 'n grab, no big deal."

CT continued peering at Samael's slumped form. "Uh huh. Larceny usually makes the two of you thrilled, what's going on? Did Andee do what Andee does and take off with all the best shit and leave you with the APB?" She chuckled while Samael cast his eyes down. "I mean, I'm glad that you know about the bats now -- maybe you can take over liaison work because we're tired as fuck of it."

Samael could feel the way she was studying him and he offered his best smile and carefree shrug. "Heh, yeah. Maybe!" He picked up his burger and took a bite from it, nodding toward her before his eyes slid slowly away to gaze blankly across the cafeteria.

"Okaaaaay, seriously." She glanced between them suspiciously. "The two of you are acting weird as shit. You're normally like a pair of kids who just got let loose at the fair with a shitload of cotton candy and horny-pills -- what gives?"

York's arm tightened around his shoulders as Samael glanced down, his tail drooping to the floor. "Sammy had a long night, you know how it goes!" York nodded rapidly, stealing a quick look at his friend before gasping dramatically and waving his other arm wildly. "Hey, CT -- you'll never guess what we got Wash in Lamtha!"

She squinted at them before frowning. Samael knew she wasn't an idiot. "Whatever it was must not have done shit to stop him from pissing in Sammy's oatmeal -- dude, is that what it is? I know that can't be the first time he's yelled at you, you two jackasses have gotten so many 'talks' that I'm surprised he hasn't started trying to ground you or some shit."

York gave an uneasy laugh while Samael mumbled into his food. York was kind enough to attempt another mild deflection. "We've all been there, eh? The ol' Getting Yelled At By Wash Club -- it's an honor, really! It means he, uh. Cares. Wash is just so high-strung lately, you know how it goes." Samael quietly set down the burger and looked to the side.

"Mhmm." CT did not look even the slightest bit convinced. Samael glanced over at her, and hated that her curiosity was becoming concern. He was tired of all the concern. "Alright, do we need to take a trip down to the bar? Because it looks like you guys have some shit on your minds, and --"

"No, no...nah, ain't no need for none'a that," Samael muttered. The remnants of his facade were beginning to crumble and it made everything so much more uncomfortable. "Hey, I think I'm gonna head out for Krainen, so..."

York was on his feet in an instant. "I'll give you a ride, Sammy!"

Samael closed his eyes. He wasn't mad at York. Wash was York's friend, and what he'd said about Wash wasn't wrong, either. It just wasn't what he wanted to hear right now. "Yer sweet, hon, but naw, no thanks. A nice long run'd be good fer me. I jus' gotta get my shit from the car."

"I can walk ya down," York began, but Samael conjured up a small smile as he stood and placed a hand on York's arm.

"I'm good. Wouldn't mind some quiet, anyway." He glanced at CT, who tilted her head slightly. "Sorry fer bringin' down the mood, y'all. We'll party extra hard next time, eh?" He nodded to them both and stepped away from the table, though he couldn't stop York from quickly wrapping him up in a tight hug. He wasn't sure he would have wanted to stop it, either, returning it securely after a moment. "Thanks fer bein' there, York. We'll talk soon, yeah?"

"Don't hesitate," York replied before stepping back and punching Samael's shoulder affectionately. "Take care, Sammy. It'll be alright."

Samael managed a small smile, at least trying his best for his friends. "Be in touch, y'all."

He wished he could have stayed and talked longer. CT was a good listener; York swore by her counseling, anyway. But he felt hollow, not sad, not moody, not in need of advice. He'd thought maybe drinking and screwing his best friend would help fill the pit, but it'd only staved off the chasm from widening further. He wasn't sure chatting about it would help, either. That would just bring back those glowing yellow eyes and remind him of every shitty decision he'd made the last couple weeks.

Hell, maybe the last couple years. Wash might have been onto something. His life felt like nothing more than a chain of bad choices, all culminating in him jogging through Lactan alone, wishing his floundering vision quest had never been interrupted by some grizzled rebel. He might as well have been back in Sampi with his tribe, sprinting through the tundra with a pack full of syrup and moonshine instead of...what was that bouncing around in the satchel?

There was a faint twirl of amusement he felt when he realized Andee had left the cash in the backpack. But Samael supposed the cards were worth a lot more. That and Andee had been in a hurry to leave. Only enough time to rip Samael's heart from his chest, stomp on it a few times and then kick it for good measure.

Every word he'd snarled to Samael was seared into his memory, a long string of smoldering brands haphazardly charred across his thoughts. It had been such a one-sided argument. Why hadn't Samael tried harder to fight back? It would have only been fair, after all. The bat wasn't the only one with valid points. He wasn't the only one whose opinion deserved to be heard.

Samael grit his teeth as he started to run faster, his paws pounding through the damp jungle soil. The Lactan base was an hour or so behind him. Another five or six to Krainen. Lots of time to think. Even more time to clear his head.

He knew the route to the lake...but that knowledge was another reminder, wasn't it? How many times had he and Andee dashed along this trail during their little jobs together? He might have been right about the exercise, though. The melancholy was hesitantly moving aside for something else.

What right did Andee have to be so upset? Hadn't they both earned the privilege to have their needs and desires out in the open, accepted by each other? Samael had gone above and beyond for Andee. He didn't even want a cut of the goddamn reward from the Omegite's house, either -- he'd gone along just to be with the bat. Purely to help him, to be his partner for a dangerous job. To stay by his side and show he was worth the time. Worth the emotional investment.

And what had he gotten for it? He'd had to fight goddamn tooth-and-claw to get Andee to agree to give York a hand for one fucking stamp.

So what if York was a werewolf?? Did that mean he deserved to take a fucking bullet any more than the rest of them? Just because he was 'tougher'? Fucking hell, Samael wasn't being suicidal. He knew what he was doing, he knew it would just be a graze because he wasn't a fucking idiot, he could see where the gun was pointed.

Samael's hands closed into fists as he breathed furiously through his teeth, shouldering vines and branches out of his way as he sprinted on autopilot. He still didn't know why he hadn't yelled back. It probably wouldn't have helped, but at least he would have gotten his fucking thoughts out. He got it, Andee was an unapologetic, selfish asshole, that was fine. He accepted that. But after everything they'd done, everything they'd gone through during his time at Xulod, did he not mean something more to Andee than just a fucking meal ticket?

He trembled as the underbrush blurred past. Or was that all Andee thought of him as? A means to an end. Someone he could use to get what he wanted, with minimal cost. A smile here, a teasing flirt there. A few minutes of intimacy for a willing thrall, happy to throw himself into danger for the little -- no.

No, that wasn't fair. Not with what Samael had seen in Andee's eyes after the Cleric's house. He didn't snap back at the bat because he knew, in the deepest part of his soul, that Andee's feelings and emotions were real. It had nothing to do with what was fair. It had to do with whether or not their beliefs were compatible.

And as he passed near the hidden entrance to Xulod, stumbling, tripping, finding the damp soil and dead leaves rushing up to smash into his chest and muzzle, as he whimpered and simply laid there where he fell, the weight of every decision pushing down into his shoulders...he knew that compatibility may well have just been a pipe dream. It was childish to pretend Andee didn't care about him. It was cruel to blame his selfish nature on the outburst over Samael's choice to protect York. That diminished Andee's own emotions, made him less of a person. And goddammit, the hole in Samael's heart refused to let him do that, because he still cared about Andee, more than he even knew how to deny.

He slowly moved his arms down and planted his hands into the moist detritus below, eyes closing tightly but failing to contain the tears as his fingers dug through the sweet-smelling earth. He clutched into it for a moment, then gave a ragged breath as he forced himself back up to his knees. Tracer would have been so disappointed in him. He'd poured all his emotions into one person yet again, this time someone who didn't even share his ideals. A fatal mistake in the old rebel's book, but one Samael would have to live with...because no amount of alcohol, drugs or mindless fucking was going to get Andee out of his head.

He found his footing, leaning against a tree for a moment as he adjusted the straps of his pack and then glanced once more at the inconspicuous rock formation. The temptation to go over, even if just to be accosted by the hidden guards based on whatever Andee told them, was a loud drum in his mind. But he wasn't strong enough. He'd have to find out if Andee made it back some other time. Maybe it would hurt less then.

"And Juwo didn't mention anything about the new delivery routes?"

Just another name...


On your last fuckin' will and testament...

"Wurlitz!" Nelson growled, leaning forward and snapping her fingers next to his muzzle.

Samael blinked and then glanced away as Andee's snarling features dissipated from his thoughts. "Yeah...yeah, it went fine."

She frowned up at him, her eyes immediately narrowing. "Get your head in the fucking game, Wurlitz, that's not even remotely what I asked."

"Sorry, Nelson," he replied morosely while straightening his back and crossing his arms. "I ain't slept much, been a long night 'n day..."

She snorted but continued to study him for a moment as she gripped into the wheels of her chair to move in a slow circle around him. "You look like shit. The fuck happened in Episemon?"

The pang was worse than before but Samael burrowed his eyes into the wall as he clenched his teeth, then took a slow breath. "C'mon, Mama. Ol' Wash already laid into me somethin' fierce, you really gonna gimme shit, too?"

She snarled and thrust a finger into his chest. "Don't even start with me, you goddamn cave-grown bastard, I'm not in the mood for your country-fried bullshit!"

He twitched and glared down at her, encouraging a full muzzle of furious teeth as she leaned aggressively upward. Samael didn't flinch, however, only shifting his weight and then looking to one side as the glower melted back into a withered sigh. "We busted into an Omegite's place. Stole some ID cards or some shit. Cash, too -- already dropped that off with O'Neill."

"Yeah, he mentioned that. Said you didn't try to steal a single goddamn buck." Her eyes kept piercing into him, drawing his gaze despite his best efforts. "What the fuck is going on with you, Wurlitz?"

"Nothing, ma'am," he replied briskly before hissing in surprise when a fist jabbed into his stomach and forced him to bend forward. "Fuckin' hell, woman!"

"Don't you fucking ma'am me, Samael," she growled, his eyes widening in surprise at the name. "I'm tired of this dancing around bullshit, quit tiptoeing like a goddamn fairy and tell me what the fuck is wrong."

He rubbed slowly at his stomach as Andee's face drifted back through his mind. "I said I'm fine," he murmured, ignoring the way she snorted darkly. "Got lots done out there. Made plenty'a connections. Folks treated me good after a coupla days."

Nelson watched him silently, pushing her chair backward again to return to her desk as she leafed through a few reports. Her eyes moved down to examine one of them, giving him enough time to shuffle his paws uncomfortably before she added calmly: "So it appears you and Andee got along, judging by Agent Washington's hissy fit over your 'mission' together." He stiffened up and her eyes immediately flicked back to him. "He's one of my main contacts for Juwo's people when the chieftain himself is preoccupied. I fully expected you two to collaborate. Figured the loud little shit would be someone you'd gravitate to, same way you do Agent Washington's oversized lap dog."

Samael swallowed thickly, a tremble running down his spine and causing his tail piercing to emit a pitiful clink. "Y-yeah. Worked with 'im over the two weeks. He taught me their language. I returned the favor with the job in Episemon. Ain't much more to it." He felt the brush of his wing against his thigh, his nose buried into his neck, the mocking yet tender whispers against his cheek. He clutched a desperate hand around his soul to silence it.

"And that's it? Just like that, you're ready to come back? Juwo had nothing but good things to say about you. And he ain't one to compliment jihvuso-tnoccohj lightly."

A single word of Andee's language was enough to make Samael's heart flip before it sank to the lowest pits of his stomach. "I ain't sure what ya want me to say," he muttered after a moment, finding a small smile and forcing it crudely into place. "They was nice folk, but they ain't the Movement. My place is here. I'm back an' I'm...I need somethin' to do, Nelson. I needa stay busy."

She took another few seconds to watch him before grunting and shrugging her broad shoulders. "As you wish, Wurlitz. Here." She slid one of the papers across the desk, tapping it once with a claw. "Got a safe house in Honkal that needs evacuating. Raids have been increasing in the area. Roth says they have about ten civilians that need relocation, and someone who asked to join us. Apparently he's the Sovs' kid, which I don't need to explain the benefit of having him on our roster. Assist Roth with the evac, and get Sov back." Samael nodded silently, swallowing again to push down the lingering thoughts as he picked up the paper and stared at it emotionlessly.

Nelson's script -- because of course she didn't trust a computer -- was different from Tracer's. Meticulous and sharp, lacking all the flourish and style to instead replace it with clean efficiency. His gaze moved across the words, stumbling once or twice even though he knew she'd simplified the mission brief for his sake.

"Nearly a quarter..." Samael flinched as every memory of Andee rushed past. "Almost three weeks with that old fucking bastard..." The tremble became something different when he realized who she was talking about, his shoulders slumping as he quivered hard enough to send a soft jingle through his tail piercing. "And he never once pulled out long enough to teach you to fucking read."

Samael refused to lower the page, refused to let his tears show. But he felt her eyes on him through the document anyway. "Do you need me to read it to you?" she asked drolly, even if Samael detected a sliver of pity that nauseated him.

"I got it under control," he whispered, brushing quickly at his eyes while ensuring there were no important details he couldn't decipher from her notes.

"I'm sure you do," she replied brusquely. "I want the kid up to speed quick, so I'm having you train him personally." He lowered the brief so he could finally meet her cold gaze again, a moment of that odd, familial silence passing between them. "When you've got your shit back in order, I'll get you in the field again."

He didn't argue, only nodding once as he folded the paper into a pocket. "On it. Grateful fer the work, Nelson." He hesitated just enough for her to frown again. "'S good to be back."

"Good to have you back, Wurlitz. But it'll be better when the rest of your fucking spine joins us, because right now even I've got more goddamn functional backbone than you." His shoulders slumped and she shook her head slowly. "Now get your ass moving," she ordered with a dismissive gesture, turning her attention back to her desk as he closed his eyes and excused himself from her office.

This was clearly a distraction mission, not normally something she'd assign to him. Her idea of pity. But it was something for him to do, something to keep his thoughts at bay. And something was better than nothing.

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

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