A gay jaunt into the memories of how Sirca's favorite couple came to be, as transcribed by CrossroadsPony
Verse 9: Again and Again
"Oh...oh geez, you're...you're bleeding, Mr....uh..."
Samael blinked and then glanced over at the younger chupa with a slight smile. "C'mon, son, toldja to jus' call me 'Sammy'!"
"Oh, um...right. Sammy." He reached up to grasp the drawstrings of his thin sweatshirt, pulling the hood tighter around his head. The soft purple fabric was a rather delightful counterpart to his dark blue hide. "Does...does it hurt?"
Samael grunted as his eyes flicked to the gash on his arm. Just below the RESIST tattoo...kinda funny to think he was more upset about the fact the marking almost got fucked up more than the fact he was shot. Probably because Andee wasn't here to bitch at him for it.
...That only made him slump behind the wheel with a sigh. He was really hoping that the mission would have made it at least somewhat less painful to think of the little bastard. But Andee had dogged his thoughts from the moment he'd left Sidewinder, and the loud-mouthed bat apparently had plans to continue lurking around. The whole point of taking this goddamn job had been to accept Nelson's attempt at giving him a distraction and--
Right. New guy. Cute, at least, even if he was almost frustratingly shy...although that was admittedly kinda cute, too. "Sorry, hon. Mind's somewhere else." He frowned through the windshield of the boat as they continued their brisk travel across the Vossler. He barely felt the gunshot wound over the lingering ache further down. "Yeah. It hurts. But I'll be alright."
He wasn't sure if that was true or not.
The actual evacuation had gone almost flawlessly. Samael had pulled up to the safe house earlier than expected thanks to the pickup truck he'd found parked near where he'd tied up the boat -- he reminded himself to thank York later for the improved hotwiring skills -- and moving the civilians with Roth had been almost laughably easy. The truck only made it go faster, since Roth was still stuck with the beat-up sedan he'd been using for his covert ventures into the busier parts of the city where roadblocks and random checkpoints were more frequent.
They'd gotten everyone packed up in one trip, with Samael and Vincent returning to the safe house in the truck to grab the last of their supplies. It wasn't until after they'd dropped everything off with Roth and the refugees in their new location and were long gone that the trouble came knocking.
Samael had opted to try and drive around a checkpoint on the way back to the shores of the Vossler, which had earned them pursuit by a pair of militia members who'd demanded they pull over. Vincent had mumbled that there was a chance they could use the names of his parents to avoid trouble...which Samael had been all too happy to entertain, since he was looking for a distraction but not one that risked the safety of the young recruit. Kind of defeated the point of the whole job.
But unfortunately, Vincent's surname didn't quite have the desired affect -- of course, the minutemen who'd stopped them were on the payroll of a rival hoop. Although to be fair, the fact they were suddenly eager to pull extraneous behaviors made it a bit easier for Samael to respond in kind; there wasn't the same fear of having backup called, or at least not proper backup. And so Samael had slammed the truck door into one of them, then covered Vincent with his own body as he sped away, taking a stray bullet to the forearm for his efforts. Certainly not his cleanest getaway, but miles from the worst.
Samael took a moment to adjust their heading, then tried his best to gently nudge Andee's accusatory glower out of his thoughts while reaching over to squeeze Vincent's shoulder. The contact made him jump slightly and Samael smiled despite himself. "So, Vincent..." Samael paused and frowned before grinning over at the other chupa again. "Ya mind if I call ya Vinny?"
Vincent blinked but then shook his head after a moment. "No...that's okay. I kinda like it, myself. Sounds less...intense."
"Heh, yeah, ain't a bad thing to be unassumin' in our line'a work," Samael replied agreeably as he let his hand slide down to grip into Vincent's arm. "So tell me why ya wanna join us dirty rebels, huh? Hoop life ain't up yer alley?"
He moved his hand back to the wheel and noted the way Vincent reached up to hesitantly rub over the spot he'd just vacated. "Um. Well. I love my family, I really do. My mom and I are actually really close, but...I don't think that, uh. Her way of doing things, I don't think it helps Sirca very much. Which I know is dumb, I mean, I'm not so stupid to think that any one person can have an effect..."
Samael gave a sad smile. He could still feel Andee at his side, practically see his eyes rolling as Juwo spoke to them. He wasn't sure it would have the same effect coming from him, but..."Heh. Wise fella once told me, even a li'l pebble c'n make waves that folks gonna see on all shores." He paused and then scratched at his muzzle awkwardly. "A'right, I mighta screwed that up a little..."
But Vincent smiled back hesitantly while gazing over at him. "I like that. You have an...interesting accent, Mr...uh, I mean. Sammy."
"Heh, yeah, ya gotta quit that, kid, I'm only a few years older'n ya!" Samael joked as he gently punched Vincent's shoulder. "But yeah, I hear that a lot. Ain't sure why, I sound perfectly normal-like to myself, guess it's all you folk who ain't from Sampi that're the ones talkin' funny'n shit," he drawled before smiling curiously at Vincent. "So what's yer game, eh? Ya wanna be that li'l rock? Jump on in the waters 'n make a splash?"
"Yeah..." Vincent nodded slowly but with determination. "I want to make a difference. I want my life to mean something more than it would have as, um. As a hoopster."
"Even if Miz Sov runs one'a the most baddest-ass joints in town!" Samael chimed in, making Vincent blink and gawk at him. Samael was all grins as he winked and gestured broadly with one hand. "Hate to break it to ya, Vinny, but yer ma's kinda famous in our circles! We been gunnin' to make more deals with 'er lately."
Vincent nodded again and rubbed the back of his neck through the hoodie. "Yeah, she mentioned it...it's just. Not what I expected, I guess."
Samael chuckled while focusing on navigating toward the cliffs once more. "Ya might actually find that our li'l rebel paradise ain't too different from what yer folks be runnin' -- our boss is one helluva scary lady, fer starters...and while we ain't gonna fuckin' kneecap nobody fer screwin' somethin' up, it is pretty important for us to try'n keep the ship all sealed tight. All it takes is one li'l leak 'n the next thing ya know, HADES knockin' on the door with a damn rocket launcher."
Vincent grimaced but didn't lose his steely expression as he nodded firmly. "I'm. I'm not scared. We were raided by the minutemen a few times in the past, and. By some other hoops, too. Mom taught me to never let them see you bleed -- she said as soon as they see weakness, they'll use it against you." He paused and frowned for a moment. "I'm not sure if I...believe that completely, but. I do know that even if I'm nervous, I'm ready to do something more with my life. I wanna do whatever I can to make Sirca a better place."
Samael smiled, though he couldn't help hearing the faint whisper in the back of his thoughts.
Why are you so hellbent on throwin' yourself into the fuckin' fire?
It wasn't the same, though. Vinny wasn't as young as he'd been when Tracer recruited him. He'd seen a lot more, he wasn't just some dumb kid looking for an answer for what to do with his life. He wasn't Samael, and Tracer wasn't here to preach his gospel, either.
Things would be different this time.
Samael barely heard the gunshots. Each one was just a stifled thud to him, his body no longer reacting to the barking of the pistol. No matter what he put at the forefront of his thoughts, the same thing trickled back every time. And here he'd thought Tracer would have been grumpy with how he handled things with York those years ago. Suddenly, the way he'd put his own heart on the line to help guide his friend to the truth of his own desires seemed like a petty crime compared to this. Nothing else had ever lingered in his mind for so long, so completely disrupted his honed ability to focus.
He didn't register the several seconds of silence until there was a nervous poke against his arm, paired with a timid voice that broke through the listless haze. "Sammy?"
Samael blinked and then glanced up at Vincent peering awkwardly down at him. "Uh...oh. Shit, sorry, Vinny, got uh...eh." He forced a smile and tilted his head at the empty pistol Vincent held, the barrel pointed safely to the ground. "You got good discipline already -- weren't kiddin' about your dad showin' you the ropes, huh?"
Vincent shook his head. "I just wasn't a huge fan of it, but yeah, he made sure I knew how to shoot." He turned his eyes back to the shooting range, where Samael had set up several stuffed dummies at various distances. "I was...just wondering. Why don't your targets have more holes in the...well. Head?"
Samael smiled faintly before gazing down the range. "Heh. So...that's. Sort of a thing of mine." He nodded once. "I figure if I don't gotta kill someone, why should I? A lot of the guys we come up against are just doin' their jobs, or are blinded with their faith an' loyalty. An' it's way easier to recruit someone if they're still breathin', eh?" He chuckled and then pointed to the nearest dummy. "I ain't sayin' you gotta do the same, Vinny. But part of the reason I joined the Movement is 'cause I wanted to help Sirca. If I just go 'round addin' to the body count...dunno. It just don't feel quite right. So I'mma teach you to aim fer limbs, shoulders, joints -- non-vital spots that'll disable yer target, but usually just incapacitate. Y'also got the option'a tranqs, though there's a different risk there, since it c'n take a minute for it to take affect if ya ain't nailin' 'em near the heart or head."
Vincent nodded slowly as he reached for another clip and then reloaded the pistol. "But...but isn't that also more dangerous for you? If someone's trying to kill you, or someone you care about..."
Samael was quiet for a moment. "That can be a tough call. But...like I said. You gotta decide how you wanna do it." He suddenly reached out to pull the handgun out of Vincent's grip. The younger chupa flinched but watched curiously as Samael lifted the pistol and aimed it down range before murmuring: "An' there ain't no reason you still can't be ready fer whatever you gotta do." He pulled the trigger and Vincent winced as the head of the furthest dummy snapped back, a thin smoking hole perforated neatly through the center of its forehead.
The grey rebel grunted before flipping the handgun and offering it back to the newcomer. "What matters more is ya figure out how yer gonna run things, Vinny. 'Cause it'll have an impact on everythin' you do out here." He gestured with a hand at the surrounding cave walls. "You ain't gotta be told how dangerous this life is. But yer here, an' you got yer reasons. So now you gotta decide how you wanna do shit. An' no matter what you decide, be true to it." He glanced down at his chest, rubbing his thumb slowly across his breast before meeting Vincent's gaze again. "Yer word's important to who you are. Only break that shit for the ones who deserve it."
Vincent nodded again, studying the pistol before he squared his stance again while Samael idly nudged one of his paws to be slightly further out. "I like that idea, Sammy. It can sometimes be hard to forget what I was taught, that you should never give your enemies a chance to come for you a second time." He focused briefly, then squeezed the trigger three times to place a neat grouping into a target at medium range, his shots forming a triangle just below the dummy's shoulder. "I'd like to learn how to put those things together."
Samael smiled a bit again and patted the small of his back. "Then you got yer work cut out for ya, son. C'mon, finish that mag an' then we'll head upstairs 'n talk a li'l bit more 'bout the basic duties 'n jobs we all gotta do 'round here. Last thing we want is Nelson comin' down on our asses fer not takin' our turn at the laundry rack."
Her name sent a visible shiver through Vincent. "I thought you were just exaggerating about her -- now I understand why my mom took the meeting with you guys so seriously! She's terrifying!"
Samael laughed, grateful for the distraction from his own thoughts. "Awww, c'mon! The ol' lady ain't so bad!" He paused thoughtfully. "But I mean don't tell 'er I said that. An', uh. It's good to be scared'a her, 'cause she ain't just talk." Samael's teeth flashed playfully again as Vincent gave him a wary look. "She's good people, though! Takes care of us like we're all her own...y'know, as long as yer familiar with, uh. Tough love."
"Something tells me you're probably the only one who sees her that way," Vincent mumbled as he aimed down the sights of the pistol again. "You're crazier than everyone else I've met so far here."
Samael only smiled and let himself fall silent while Vincent wrapped up his target practice. It wasn't a designation he could easily argue with, that was for damn sure...
"An' if yer lucky, you'll get put on gardenin' duty instead'a pipe-checkin'," Samael explained while he pointed to the blueprints he'd laid out across the table. "We got all sortsa plumbin' up'n runnin' now -- yer joinin' us just as we get this place all nice 'n fancy, heh! But we still gotta run manual sweeps on most'a the pipe-work, some'a the shit ain't exactly up to standard buildin' code compliance, if ya feel me."
Vincent studied the layouts of the sprawling cave fortress for a few seconds before tilting his head curiously. "Why is gardening duty better?"
"Well, as long as ya don't mind gettin' yer fingers all dirty, it's actually purdy relaxin'!" Samael reasoned before he raised a finger. "Plus! You get to hang with one'a our most laid-back folks -- ex-Agent Nebraska!"
Vincent blinked and looked up from the blueprints. "Ex...Agent?"
Samael grinned, nodding a few times. "Hell yeah, she used to be a Freelancer! But she joined up with us, one'a the good guys now. Garden's her li'l baby, but don't be fooled -- she's got plenty'a combat experience, too. Sure she could teach ya all sortsa stuff once yer tired'a my ramblin' ass," Samael chortled.
Whether or not Vincent was just being nice, the smile he gave Samael was at least a small boost to his spirits. "You've been very helpful so far, Sammy. I'm, um." He fidgeted and then ran a hand over the Sidewinder layouts again. "I'm really excited to get started. You guys do a lot of good things here. I always sort of figured the stuff the House says about the Movement was just propaganda, but--"
Vincent's head whipped around in shock, and the look on his face was admittedly priceless. Nelson would be glad to see her presence had already instilled such fear in the new guy. But it was only her voice that made the room tremble as Samael chuckled and jerked a thumb toward the small intercom wired to the rock wall. "Don't worry, she's been makin' the most'a this shit ever since the first few terminals got installed. Ol' lady c'n yell at us wherever she is now -- ain't it awesome?" He laughed and then approached the panel, pushing in a white button with a claw. "Yo, Mama, whassup?"
"Goddammit, Wurlitz, you keep that redneck shit to yourself," her voice growled. "You with the Sov kid still, right?"
Samael winked at Vincent while mouthing something along the lines of 'what a cranky bitch, amirite?'. He cleared his voice, leaning against the wall and poking the button again. "Yeah, we were jus' talkin' 'bout what a fuckin' magnanimous leader you are, an' what a fine job ya do keepin' this crazy place runnin' so smoo--"
"Christ, tell the kid to pull his pants back up," she interrupted moodily.
Samael found himself laughing, more genuinely than he thought he could. He glanced back to Vincent, who now looked very embarrassed as he shrunk backward and pulled the hood more snugly around his features, almost hiding his eyes entirely. "Lawd, woman," Samael drawled back as he grinned teasingly at Vincent. "It ain't even been a whole day, gimme some credit!"
"I was," she replied mildly. "Not sure if I should be disappointed." The hoodie strings were drawn even tighter as Samael snickered. "Anyway, send him down to the garage. He can work with O'Neill for a bit -- you're needed up here for a moment."
Something about that wording made him frown and he leaned toward the intercom slightly. "You...need to talk to me?"
"Quit fuckin' wasting my time, Wurlitz, and get your ass up here!" The speaker fizzled as her voice abruptly cut off and Samael scratched the back of his head before shrugging and turning back toward Vincent.
"Huh. Well, a'right." Vincent hesitantly peered out from inside the hooded sweatshirt as Samael gave him a small smile. "Heh, guess you get a li'l break from me. You uh...you 'member where the garage is, yeah?"
Vincent nodded slowly and then loosened the strings further so he could gave the stocky rebel a worried look. "Yeah, but...she sounded upset. Are...you in trouble?"
Samael quirked a half-smile. "Shit, when ain't I? But not sure, hon. Guess I'll letcha know in a li'l bit!" He gestured toward the entrance to the room. "You go on, now, get down there 'fore O'Neill has a hissy fit. I'm sure Nelson already let 'im know yer on the way."
"Um...okay, Sammy." Vincent took a few wary steps out of the room before glancing back over his shoulder. "Uh...good luck? And I'll see you soon, I hope."
Samael waved him off with a slight smile. He was sure whatever Nelson wanted wasn't that bad. Her tone hadn't actually been angry...he knew what her anger sounded like. This was more frustrated. Something she often saved for when she was hit with something unexpected. Certainly worth feeling a bit curious about.
When Samael opened the door after Nelson barked out permission to enter, he was expecting her annoyed expression. He was not expecting the bat standing on her desk with a worried look on his face. Although it certainly explained why her door was shut. He stared blankly at Paneko for a few seconds before blinking at Nelson, who was glaring between them. He knew he shouldn't have expected the worst, but his already felt his stomach clenching as his breath shortened and his throat tightened. He tried to swallow but nearly choked on it as he saw Andee's face whisk past his eyes...for once not yelling, but instead staring at him with the same expression he'd had in the Omegite's house before they'd leaped from the window together. A moment of raw panic.
"P-Paneko...wh-what is it?" he barely managed to whisper as Nelson's eyes bored darkly into him. He didn't care, though, all he wanted to know was if--
"This is a private message for Samael," Paneko answered briskly in his native tongue as his eyes flicked to Nelson. There was no doubt of the nervousness behind his calm tone, however, considering the way he leaned slightly back and kept his wings half-unfurled as if he'd need to flit away from her at a moment's notice.
"There is not a goddamn thing you need to say to the little fucker that I cannot hear," Nelson snarled, her gravelly voice spitting out the bat dialect with such aplomb that Samael blinked again, even if he knew she was well-versed in their language. He'd just so rarely heard her speak it.
Paneko shifted his weight awkwardly, edging away from her and toward the other end of her desk. "It...it is a personal message. Just for Samael."
Her eyes narrowed and she glared between the bat and the rebel for a few seconds. "Wurlitz, you told me your place was here. That you were glad to be back."
"I...I...I am," he mumbled, his eyes moving to her for the smallest of instants before rushing back to Paneko as his internal strife began to seep into his expression. His tail curled silently around his leg, something Nelson noticed immediately as her muzzle wrinkled in distaste. "B-but..."
"God-fucking-dammit, Wurlitz, you pull this shit everywhere you go," she growled even as she gripped the wheels of her chair and maneuvered herself from behind her desk. "Would it be asking too fucking much for you to not leave a trail of whoreish devastation the next place I send you?"
When he didn't even give her another look and only continued to stare fearfully at the mail bat, she sighed and her cruel intonation eased into something flatter. "This is what I get for encouraging your methods, I guess," she muttered while pushing herself past him. She glanced up at him for a second or two, and Samael shifted his eyes long enough to catch a moment of something other than annoyance. "You fuckers have five minutes, and then the next fuckin' thing I hear better be fuckin' wings flapping back through that fuckin' window or I'll rip the fuckin' things off and mount them on the wall," she snarled at Paneko, who clearly understood every single word in common. She snorted and then pushed Samael to one side before rolling past him. She shoved the door open and echoed over a shoulder: "Five minutes!" before slamming the door shut behind her to grumble away down the rocky passage.
Samael gasped for air and stumbled forward, his eyes wide with trepidation. "I-Is Andee..."
Paneko frowned at him for a moment before grimacing and rubbing along his arm for a moment. "Andee's in trouble."
Samael blinked and then bit his lip. He was alive. That was good. But... "Trouble? What...what trouble?" He thought back to the last time he'd seen Andee, the words that still rang in his ears. How furious he'd been, how...he hated Samael for making him care. "I doubt he is wanting my help," he stammered in his imperfect bat-speak.
Paneko scowled and fidgeted before throwing his arms wide and barking in common: "He didn't ask for you, dipshit! But...but he needs you, none of the others will help!"
Samael's heart thudded hard enough to make his ribs ache and he approached Paneko fearfully. "What happened? Where is he?"
The bat frowned and glanced at the door before looking back at Samael. "He's in Lactan. I can show you, but you need to leave now." The look his eyes was one of genuine helplessness. "Xulod won't help, not if we can't get him back to the caves. Please, Fiffy..."
The nickname sent a pang through Samael's heart. Something warned him not to agree, to turn away. Andee didn't want his help. Responding would only make things worse. Except...
Except Samael already knew he was going to be there. It didn't matter if Andee would never forgive him. He couldn't bear the thought of not at least knowing Andee was out there, alive and well. That was worth sacrificing everything.
He swallowed thickly before his features steeled as he met Paneko's nervous eyes. "What will I need?"
"Sorry, O'Neill, orders are orders!" Samael called over his shoulder as he guided Vincent quickly out of the garage.
"He was barely here for fifteen minutes!" O'Neill shouted after them before grumbling and returning to whatever he was doing with the mechanic team.
Samael exhaled and then smiled briefly up to Vincent as the younger chupa gave him a confused stare. "Sammy?"
"Alright, hon, listen...I'mma be honest with you, I..." Samael paused to smile kindly while they passed another rebel. Sorta honest, at least. He waited until they were out of listening range before he continued in a hush. "I need ya to uh...cover for me."
Vincent blinked at him, horribly baffled. "You...you want me...how?!"
"I ain't gotta lotta time to explain, sweetie, an' I'm really sorry fer puttin' this on ya, but...I need like ten minutes. I gotta make a trip an'...I really can't have no one stoppin' me." He stepped in front of Vincent, smiling awkwardly and placing both hands on the slender chupa's shoulders. "It ain't fair, but I need yer help. Someone I...really care 'bout's in trouble."
"Okay, um...okay." Vincent took a few quick breaths before nodding hesitantly. "What do I do?"
Samael smiled faintly as a twist of guilt ran through him. God, this was shitty of him to put the new guy on the spot his first day...but hopefully he'd forgive him. "Gotta get everyone's eyes somewhere other'n the wet dock long 'nuff for me to slide on outta here. You remember the pipe room next to the armory? Got the mains goin' up to the higher level showers?"
Vincent rubbed his arm slowly. "Um...y-yeaaah?"
Samael gave him a lame smile as he leaned over and reached into a toolbox before pressing a large wrench against Vincent's chest. "I uh. I needja to go fuck up a coupla pipes."
"Yeaaaaah. They ain't fer nothin' vital, but they'll get attention. You jus' tell 'em I toldja to go down there 'n that you were jus' doin' what I said."
Vincent's eyes widened. "But...what if Nelson..."
"Oh, she's definitely gonna show up, just uh. Just do whatever ya can to delay the truth." Samael offered him an awkward half-smile.
Vincent took another deep breath. "Well...I guess I've lied before, it won't be so--"
"Oh, she'll get the truth outta ya, don't worry," Samael interrupted with a quiet chuckle. "Just, uh. Just do the best ya can. And I promise I'll owe ya big if, I uh. If I make it back."
Vincent blinked and clutched the wrench to his chest with both hands. "If?"
There wasn't much Samael could give him besides an apologetic shrug. "You...you think you c'n manage, Vinny?"
The brand-new rebel's cheeks puffed out before he gave what was a surprisingly firm nod even while he all but hugged the pipe wrench. "I'll do what I can, Sammy. Please try to come back, though. I...I think Nelson might kill me if you don't."
"She might," Samael admitted, making Vincent's eyes bulge. Samael gave him a crooked grin before reaching up to wrap an arm around the taller chupa's neck, pulling him down and pecking him tenderly on the cheek. He could feel him flushing and he shook his head with gentle amusement. This kid was gonna break hearts one day. "Yer a champ, sweetie. You got this!" He then pulled back as his own fearful thoughts began to whimper loudly again. There was no more time. Samael gave two thumbs up and then nodded encouragingly as he spun around and moved quickly toward the tunnel leading down to the dock.
Samael glanced back at the towering cliffs as they began to sink past the horizon, the same faint expression on his muzzle. A bag rested next to him on the floor of the motorboat, packed with the few supplies he could snatch on his harried race to the fastest watercraft they'd had on hand. Based on the shouts he'd heard as he pulled away from the wet dock, Vincent had more than managed to pull off a sufficient distraction. He really was cut out for the rebellion.
Samae was honestly surprised that nearly an hour had passed and still no --
A smile twitched at the corner of his maw, temporarily pulling him out of the muted panic that continued to brew just under the tactical layer of his brain. He was all too aware he could have simply turned off the radio, but. No. Something had compelled him to not do so. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps it was for poor Vinny's sake. He breathed in slowly and then reached for the microphone. "Hey, Nelson."
He thoughtfully turned down the volume before her snarling response could blow a transistor. "You fuckin' jackass, where the fuck do you think you're going? Turn your ass around right fuckin' now and get back to base! That's an order, Wurlitz!"
"Can't do that, Mama," he murmured, already feeling her bristle through the airwaves. "Gotta do this."
"Gotta do what, you fucking imbecile? Steal Sidewinder property for some stupid fucking suicide mission? Fuck up two days' worth of plumbing work? Frame the fucking new recruit you were tasked to train, not use as a fucking scapegoat?!"
Samael's smile faded somewhat and he gazed over his shoulder again before replying softly: "Hey...don't take it out on Vinny, huh? It weren't his idea none, I forced 'im to help, he's got no part'a this."
"Save the martyr act, you fuckwit," Nelson fired back sharply. "I've already got him mopping up the mess, then he's going straight to fuckin' latrines."
"Aw, that's pretty fucked up, even fer you," he deflected, earning a blistering growl that practically made the cockpit vibrate. "C'mon, yer gonna drive Vinny away 'fore he even gets started!"
"Don't start that shit with me!" she thundered. "I'm not one of your goddamn targets that you can fuckin' lead around with mind games! Sov's gonna take his fuckin' licks for being stupid enough to listen to you and not come straight to me or O'Neill with the details of whatever bullshit you're pulling. His punishment's on you, Wurlitz."
Samael sighed but let himself soak in the culpability for a few seconds. It was the least he deserved. His eyes flicked to the throttle again, but the boat was slicing through the Vossler at top speed already. His voice quieted as he dropped into the seat and then rubbed slowly at his muzzle. "Don't be too hard on 'im, either way, Nelson. Y'all're gonna need him, he's gonna be real fuckin' good."
He was surprised how brief the silence was before her voice cut through, icy and yet painfully honest. "We need you, Wurlitz, alive and not fucking dead in the middle of nowhere while you're off on whatever fucking stupid bullshit that fast-talking asshole has you caught up in. That is fucking selfish and sure as fuck isn't what I taught you!"
His eyes hardened for a moment. "There's some shit both you 'n Tracer didn't teach me, Nelson. An' no offense, but the fact I had to learn that shit on my own means I consider it that much more important..."
She snorted through the receiver. "I get you're fuckin' upset. But you can't go off on personal shit like this, that is how we end up tempting fate."
Samael frowned and bit his lip. "You mean like how you went after Ashe by yourself in Qoppa?"
The stunned silence would have been worth it, if not for the explosion of fury that rushed through the speaker afterward. "You fuckin' impudent shitstain, who the fuck have you been talking to? That shit has...that..." She trailed off and Samael stared in disbelief, holding his microphone speechlessly. She wasn't one to leave a rant unfinished. It took a moment, but her voice filtered back in eventually, most of the bite having faded. "Listen, asshole. You need to understand...some things...some things simply aren't meant to be. You need to let this go. For your own good, before it...before it puts you somewhere I can't haul you back from."
His fingers clutched painfully into the wheel and he took a jagged breath in. "All due respect, Mama...fuck that. I get that you'n her, y'all got yer own...crazy, deep shit but that don't...that don't make this mean no less to me..." He saw Andee's face again and his eyes closed tightly. "Ain't no one else gonna help him."
The radio was silent for several seconds. "They aren't your people, Wurlitz. This ain't supposed to be your fuckin' concern," she finally muttered. He raised the microphone to retort, but her voice continued slowly. "Juwo told me they call you Cakkco Fif. Guessing that means you fucked up the whole 'don't make this personal' part when I sent you out there." It was enough to push his emotions past the point of no return as he looked down and let the tears roll free without shame.
He wiped at his eyes and sniffled loudly, trying to focus again on the approaching delta of the river that would take him toward Lactan. He needed to stay on task. "I'm...I'm sorry. But I gotta do this."
"Yeah. I know." He swallowed painfully and she grumbled incoherently for a few seconds. "Don't fuck this up. We need you here. More than that little shit does."
He gave a broken laugh before whispering: "Not right now, y'all don't." He hesitated, then plowed forward, "Tell me, Nelson. Would...you give up Ashley for the cause?"
The silence was sharper than any blade. "...Yes. And she understands that."
Samael closed his eyes. "Then yer lucky."
"I am." Her sigh was more ragged this time. "I know I can't stop you, because you're a fucking idiot who never learned to leave his heart out of the shit he does. All I'm asking is that you don't make me a fucking survivor again. I'm really fucking sick of that shit."
He laughed faintly to himself and studied the microphone for a second or two before answering softly: "I'll do my best, Mama. Wurlitz, out." Samael reached down and twisted the power knob off before replacing the microphone and settling both hands on the wheel. There was only one thing on his mind, now.
Nothing else mattered.
Andee saw only darkness, but felt so much more.
...And cold fear.
It was the latter that upset him most, a sensation he so rarely felt, not even during his riskiest exchanges. He fought hard to always keep things tilted in his favor, to keep the odds stacked on his side of the table. He could deal with a broken arm, he could live with a sprained leg. Those were just obstacles, things he could overcome with his slick words and his ability to out-think his opponents.
But blindfolded, tied to a chair, rendered helpless to do more than spit acidic insults without even a clue of where he was or what situation he found himself in...that was something he dreaded more than any injury or one-sided exchange.
"What the fuck are you motherfuckers gonna do now, huh?" he raved, rocking the metal chair violently despite the sharp bolts of pain it sent through his injured leg. As he struggled, he could feel the broken bone in his arm jostling, radiating waves of agony along his limb and into his chest. He was fine with that, though. Pain gave him an edge, made him that much more capable. "Who the fuck do ya think you're fuckin' with!?"
A low chuckle made him whip his head to one side as he bared his teeth blindly at the source of the sound. "Ay, man -- you can keep on shouting all ya like. Ain't nobody comin' to help you, not'ing out here but you, we and the trees. You t'ought you was gonna fuck me over, man? You don't even know who's fuckin' who!"
Andee snarled furiously and twisted his body again, his arms straining against the ropes before the fractured bones jammed into his muscles and wracked his small form with a tormented burst of hurt that he met with a sharp gasp. Sweat ran down over his chest, forcing him to realize that the drenched half-poncho hanging off his shoulder was empty, cleared of all his improvised tools and explosives. He felt the creeping vulnerability moving over him, threatening him with a tremor he desperately tried to replace with anger. "I'll tell ya who's gonna be fuckin' who, ya fuckin' piece'a shit dirtbags! Soon as I bust out, I'mma fuckin' track down yo' momma, fuck 'er right in front'a ya, you c'n watch her fat ass fuckin' beggin' for--" He was cut off by a wicked fist slamming into his jaw as his head whipped to the side.
He saw stars even through the blindfold, tasting blood and a chipped tooth as the helpless tears of pain trickled down his cheeks. "Heh, fuckin' pussies...fuckin'...fuckin' pussy-ass motherfuckers," he rasped before another punch slung into him with enough force that an even darker black rushed over him to leave him floating in a senseless void.
He'd arrived at the Bone Dragon at least an hour early. Andee didn't get played for a chump, he was always ready to fuck someone over before they could return the favor. He knew Paneko was going to be close by, waiting for his signal, and it gave him the boost of confidence he needed to begin setting up a few small explosives...just in case things got a little messy.
He hadn't expected the sudden pinch in his hindquarters, nor the small dart he'd pulled out after cursing and reaching back to see what the hell stung him. His eyes had widened at the realization and he'd quickly taken to the air. Whatever they'd hit him with, it wasn't fast enough. He'd snarled and stared around while beating his wings hard...and noticed too late the chupa lunging at him with a wooden bat.
An unintelligible curse at the dull crack of the bat against his leg -- it was a glancing blow, but it threw him off balance as the pulse of pain made his whole body twitch. He almost didn't register the second hit that crumpled his wing and brought him plummeting back to the ground, smashing into his back and sending up a pile of dead leaves. And as he'd gasped and fought to regain his senses, he saw Delacroix's face, already distorted and out of focus, the scarred asshole grinning cruelly over him as his glimmering teeth flashed before reality twisted into dark nothingness.
Andee wasn't sure how long he'd been under either time. He knew the sun had gone down, at least -- he could feel the cool shadows of the jungle mixing with the oppressive humidity, the ebony pitch washing over his sweat-soaked frame as his chest heaved with his labored breaths. When was the last time he'd been in the jungle after dark? It was by Lake Krainen, wasn't it? With...him. "The fuck...you fuckin' want, Delacroix? You wanna fuckin' make a deal? Fuckin' untie me...the whole fuckin' stash is yours..."
The throaty chortle didn't inspire much hope. "Like I said, little man. You 'aven't got a clue who's gettin' fucked tonight." He smelled the stench of fish as the hoopster's breath washed over his features. "You just the invitation to the bedroom."
Andee frowned and bared his teeth, struggling uselessly against his bindings once more. "Fuck you! The fuck you talkin' about, ya swamp-suckin' fucker??"
He could hear the smirk. "You t'ink I give a flyin' fuck about these cards? I'll take your 'sample' as a bonus, but we ain't interested in this shit, man. No, my friend, you are the commodity tonight." Andee's eyes widened beneath the cloth. "And I'll tell ya who's rushin' in to lay claim on your ass -- fuckin' Baskeens." The chill down Andee's spine made the chair quiver, which drew an entertained laugh from his captor. "Where's all that big talk now, little man? You wanna know how much the commando is payin' for your wort'less hide?"
Andee trembled as rage and uneasiness coursed through his veins, his fur standing on end. Fuck these assholes, he wasn't gonna give them a thing. "I don't give a fuckin' shit. You're passin' up a big fuckin' opportunity, Delacroix -- you don't think Baskins is just gonna blow you motherfuckers outta the fuckin' water the minute he shows up? He don't make fuckin' deals with small fry like you!" He fought against the ropes, a harsh pant of agony rushing out as the injuries reignited his nerves. It helped drive away the tear-streaked visage he saw, the memory burned into his thoughts as a reminder of the last time he'd seen that fucking redneck. It was a pretty shitty memory to take to his grave. "C'mon! Don't be fuckin' stupid! I gotta line on a whole fuckin' shipment of AP rounds! HADES-level shit! You wanna take him on, that'll put ya in the right fuckin' place!" He kicked angrily at the chair despite the shearing pain from his leg. "Don't be a fuckin' moron!!"
"I'm takin' a great amount of pleasure, seein' you struggle about like a fish who come up on the bank," Delacroix purred, his voice swirling around Andee before the back of a hand smacked against the side of the bat's head to knock his cap flying. "You keep on tryin' to make your little deals, bat-boy...but you haven't 'eard the best part yet. Baskeens ain't payin' a buck for you..." Andee froze as he felt the hoopster's muzzle against one of his ears. "He t'inks you been staked out here for fuckin' with the wrong people, left to the fuckin' jungle to reclaim -- we just gonna wait patiently for him to show up, ready to take his revenge on you and then WHAM!" He clapped his hands together and Andee jumped despite himself, his teeth clenching together hard enough to make his eyes water. "We take 'im out and move in on his turf. Maybe if you lucky, he gonna make it quick for ya! But man...I doubt it! He been lookin' for ya somet'ing fierce!"
Andee quivered and then spoke as coolly as possible, trying to ignore the quaking in his voice: "He ain't a fuckin' idiot...he's gonna smell your rotten fuckin' teeth from a fuckin' mile away!" It was a desperate play but what else did he have? He was supposed to have a plan for everything...he was supposed to be able to handle anything...
"Heh. We'll see about that, little man...you best save your breat', 'cause I t'ink you gonna need it when he gets to work on you..."
"You fuckin' assholes, you motherfuckin' bastards!" Andee shouted hoarsely. He was fucked. He was fucked and...all he could see was his face. Goddamn him.
He didn't want to die, not like this.
"Heh, look, boss -- the little fucker's cryin'."
"O' course he is, tiny bastahd knows he run outta luck this time..."
Andee's breathing grew shallow as he struggled to push every ounce of bitterness forward, determined to not go down like a bitch. He was at least going to make these motherfuckers work for it.
He froze in place as his ears twitched, the sound of an approaching engine making his blood run cold. He wasn't ready for this, he didn't want this to be how things ended, goddammit!
"Delacroix! Someone's comin' in hot!"
"Shit -- he must'a sent a scout. Take 'im out, boys!"
Andee grit his teeth as his ears swiveled toward the sound of a motorcycle roaring into the vicinity before hearing it come to a sudden stop...against somebody, he imagined, based on the horrible cry of agony he heard. Pistols and automatic rifles began to bark from multiple hoopsters near him as a chorus of cursing filled the spaces between the gunshots.
He heard confusion all around him as bullets pounded into tree trunks and into flesh alike -- the distinctive thump of bodies dropping to the jungle floor was unmistakable. The whoosh of something rushing through the underbrush, a barely-audible tinkle of metal, before a muffled cry sounded from the perimeter as the gunfire shifted to a different direction.
Someone shouted a protest before suddenly going mute as Andee's ears pricked at the sound of steel carving through flesh as another corpse slumped into the leaves.
"Where did he go?"
"I don't fuckin' kn--" A sharp pop cut the hoopster off before a roar of effort made the first voice shout in protest as several more shots fired, accompanied by a wet-sounding gargle and a sharp hiss of pain.
"What the fuck?" Delacroix snarled from somewhere behind Andee. He could make out the sounds of an empty clip dropping to the damp soil as another was fumbled into place. "Motherfucker!" A burst of gunfire followed by a dull gasp on Andee's other side before he heard paws pounding furiously toward Delacroix. "Who the FUCK--gllkk..."
A spray of hot fluids splattered across Andee's muzzle and he cried out in shock, immediately straining wildly against his bonds. "C'mon, then, fuckers!! Fuck you! Fuckin' come get me, then, come fuckin' get me, ya fuckin' pieces'a shit!" he yelled as tears streamed down his cheeks, a whirlwind of rage and fear twisting through him as he heard someone approaching the chair. "I fuckin' dare ya! Take off this fuckin' thing, show me your fuckin' faces, ya--"
His breath caught in his throat when he felt shivering claws against the blindfold, rant cut off prematurely as the cloth was pulled away. Andee blinked rapidly as he caught a flash of crimson and grey in the darkness, followed by the muted thud of something dropping heavily next to him. He stared at the three bodies collapsed before him, spotting two more in the distance. He was still alive. And he already knew why even as he mentally screamed in protest, slowly turning his head with a tremble. "No...no, you fuckin' asshole..."
His eyes caught Delacroix first, a jagged tear nearly severing the hoopster's head from his neck, his eyes staring lifelessly up to the night sky as blood continued to pool across his chest. A knife was buried in what was left of his throat, bloody fingerprints visible on the wooden handle. And sitting next to the dead hoop leader...
Andee trembled violently, an undeserved fury overwhelming his relief as he shook his head numbly in protest. "Goddamn you, Samael. No...no, how fuckin' dare you..."
Samael only smiled faintly up at him as he clutched at his chest. Even in the darkness, Andee could see the multiple gunshot wounds in the chupa's stocky torso. Blood trickled from his muzzle and a long gash ran nearly the length of his bicep. He was covered in dark-red stains and Andee knew only some of it was his. "Hey, hon. Sorry I'm late..."
Andee choked down a sob, his eyes radiating the confused rush of emotions crashing through him. "Goddammit, you stupid bastard...get the fuck outta here. Get the fuck outta here, you ain't gotta goddamn right to do this shit to me. I told you...I told you I don't want no one puttin' their shit in front of me..."
Samael shrugged, reaching up to rub some of the blood from his muzzle before he leaned over and undid the tight ropes that secured the bat to the chair. "Yeah. Ya did tell me. An' I told you I had yer back, hon, no matter what. An' I'm sorry, but...I always will." He let his hands drop when the ropes fell loose and puddled down around the legs of the chair to leave Andee's wings free.
Andee hated the things he felt. He winced when he brought his arms around to the front, only momentarily distracted by the sight of his swollen limb as he hesitantly poked a claw into the broken bone beneath with a quiet hiss. He closed his eyes tightly and then shook his head numbly. "Just go, Samael. Fuckin' go, Baskins is gonna fuckin' be here soon, and I don't fuckin' want your fuckin' corpse on me, goddammit!"
The rebel only leaned back on his hands with a long sigh. "If you ain't goin'...then I ain't goin', neither. You ain't flyin' or walkin' out, so. We go together, or we stay here together."
"This ain't a fuckin' game, Sammy!" Andee's eyes opened again and he stared down at the chupa, but only found the same tender blue eyes looking up at him. "I never asked for your fuckin' guilty conscience..."
"I ain't here 'cause'a that, ain't no goddamn guilt brought me runnin'," Samael mumbled through his exhausted breathing. "I'm here 'cause I love you, Andee." The bat's eyes widened as his heart froze in his chest. "Tired'a fuckin' dancin' around that shit. Shoulda said it a long-ass time ago. I love you an' I get if you fuckin' hate me, but either you let me get you outta here an' back to Xulod, or we fuckin' die together out here like some tragic storybook bullshit."
A different kind of terror gripped Andee's heart as numbness began to spread through his small frame. He stared silently at Samael for several seconds and was met only with the same gentle expression. He hated that there was no anger, no frustration or even annoyance in Samael's gaze. He wanted the chupa to be furious with him, to show him some negative emotion to make his own fears less crushing.
Andee dropped his head with a ragged sigh, slumping in the cold metal chair. "Fuck you, Samael," he murmured, even as tears ran down his muzzle. He wasn't going to let this stupid bastard die for him. "My fuckin' hat...it's--" He glanced up at the shift of movement, finding Samael kneeling before him with the black cap in one hand. Andee's eyes inevitably moved to the jagged line of bullet holes in Samael's chest as another tremor overtook him. His teeth clattered together and he couldn't help the quiet whimper of concern. "God...dammit, puppy..."
"I'm sorry, hon," Samael replied, gently placing the hat between his ears and then reaching down to scoop up the bat before he could protest. Andee grimaced and stared away, doing his best not to show the pain from his own injuries. "Nothin' vital. All through-and-through. Ain't even bleedin' too bad."
Andee closed his eyes and hated the way he couldn't avoid pushing his head against Samael's chest. "That's not the fuckin' point, Sammy," he hissed even as he buried his muzzle into the thick fur and sank into the enveloping warmth of his companion's strong embrace. "Just...just get us the fuck outta here..."
Unconsciousness was already teasing him again as the pain from the shattered bones ebbed steadily back into his reality. He didn't want to think about what Samael had done for him, about what he now owed him. It wasn't fair. Those words he'd spoken...Andee hadn't been ready for that. He wasn't ready for those emotions.
He kept his eyes tightly shut as Samael limped over to one of Delacroix's trucks and gingerly placed him in the passenger seat. Andee would never admit the brief panic he felt when Samael disappeared from his sight for a few seconds as he retrieved his supplies from the abandoned motorcycle; a neutral expression replaced his fearful countenance when Samael opened the other door to toss the bag into the back seat and then climb behind the wheel. Andee refused to look at him, refused to even open his eyes as the engine rumbled to life before carrying them out of the clearing, the site of the massacre Samael had unleashed. The vows Samael had broken for him. He didn't want to face those feelings because he knew once he did, there'd be no turning back.
He needed to have a plan, first.
Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.
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