Quarter 1: The Training Fields

"Ughhhh this is such a waste of talent," the tan chupa groaned as he covered his head with both arms and then rolled onto his back.

At his side, the scrawny grey recruit made a face but continued to gaze through the binoculars. "Reconnaissance is an important part of any kind of special operations, Petri..." he replied quietly.

His partner snorted and then laced his hands behind his head so he could peer over at him. "I take it back. It's a waste of my talent. But you're just right for the job, little buddy," he sneered.

The smaller chupa sighed and lowered the scope for a moment to glance back at his companion. "Yeah, I guess." He shrugged and then put his attention back to the building across the street.

"Aww, come on, Dave, don't be such a stick in the mud -- I'm just teasing you," the muscular recruit retorted, picking up a small pebble and then tossing it at his partner.

It bounced off his messy mane, making him flinch but not tear his eyes away from the binoculars. "I...I told you I don't like that. My name is David. And on top of that, we're supposed to use our last names, Petri. So. You know. Nowak, not 'Dave'. Not 'David'."

"Uh huh. You keep on doing that. I ain't down, it's too formal. And anyway, my name is Gabriel, but how many girls do you think actually say the whole thing? Heh, nah, it's just 'Oh, Gabe! Harder, Gabe! Do me just like you did my twin, Gabe!!' Nicknames are just a part of life. A cool part of life, which you could totally handle a little bit more of," Gabriel returned with a smirk. "Maybe you'd get a date every once in a while if you tried. Girls go crazy for military guys, especially super-secret special-ops guys like us."

"We're technically still just recruits," David mumbled, ignoring the second pebble that glanced off his shoulder. "We won't actually be in special ops until...until..." He faltered and fell silent for a few seconds before he sighed and lowered the binoculars again. "Anyway. I need to relieve myself. Can you please take over for a little bit?"

Gabriel snorted and rolled his eyes. "Are you still scared about Recruitment Day? Please, your scores are gonna be great thanks to being partnered up with me, buddy. You'll do fine, I'm sure someone will want you."

David frowned and then looked to the side with an uncomfortable shift of his weight. He fidgeted with the binoculars for a minute before the smallest snarl escaped his muzzle as he quickly stood up and thrust the scope to his 'battle buddy'. "Please take over for just a few minutes. I'll be right back."

Gabriel gave him an odd look that David ignored as he turned around and then stalked to the access door of the roof. Sure, maybe he didn't show his teeth very much but that asshole was...an asshole. And it didn't matter if he'd never told him about his past, David was pretty sure no one wanted to be told that maybe someone wanted them. That was just common sense. He stole a quick look over his shoulder, somewhat unsurprised to see his stupid partner using the scope while still on his back to stare up at some distant point of the ring.

Whatever. Gabriel didn't need to care about the job, he was going to have someone from every goddamn organization wanting to bring him on-board. They weren't going to be looking at his recon scores, all they'd see were his top marks in all the physical classes and no doubt be swept off their goddamn feet by his fucking natural charm. It was extremely frustrating.

David muttered to himself as he loped down the narrow stairway to the floor with their crappy motel room, letting himself in and making his way to the bathroom. And what did he have to offer? Nothing. He was skinny, only a mediocre fighter, his social skills were absolute shit...great, he had good marksmanship but so did everyone, this was the fucking special forces recruitment of Sirca's military. He could admit he was decent with tactics and planning things out, but he also knew he was so goddamn high strung that all he normally managed to do was blurt three things at once, none of which made sense alongside the others. Didn't help he either froze up or rambled whenever someone in a position of authority addressed him or asked him questions.

But whatever. He was resigned to it at this point. Gabriel would have his pick of the litter. He was sure Connie would, as well -- even with that insane 'buddy' of hers, David was all too aware she was holding her own and working her ass off to keep her name in the top percentiles on several boards. They'd both be scooped up early, and he'd be left looking pitiful and alone and probably having to undergo another fucking six month trip through Specials to try and hone something enough to stand out. Life had a cruel way of repeating itself.

When he came back to the roof, he found Gabriel...actually crouched on the edge while staring through the binoculars. He assumed the big jock had found some female changing across the street, and he sighed while approaching to ask for them back. "If you're done looking at...whoever you're creeping on, can I have the--"

"Shh-sh-sh!" Gabriel hissed while waving a hand blindly at him. David blinked and scowled, but fell silent while dropping down to his knees a few feet away.

"Look, next time, how about we just ask for a second--"

"Dude, quit being an asshole -- our targets just opened a briefcase of something that looks a lot like plastic explosives..."

David blinked again and then rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Oh. S-sorry, I--"

"Shut up, Dave, don't be such a pussy," Gabriel interrupted yet again with a snort. "I was totally checking out this chick in the shower like two minutes ago. You're the resident dork, not me." He lowered the binoculars before glancing over with a confident smile. "Doesn't mean I don't still take this shit seriously. Or at least enough to get a good report out of it..." He chuckled before tossing the scope over.

David fumbled it and nearly dropped it, barely snagging it by the strap as he immediately flushed. Gabriel snorted amusedly but otherwise stayed silent as he jerked his head across the street. "Third window over of their apartment. Check it out, you can still see the briefcase." The burly chupa dropped onto his side and propped his head up with an elbow while rubbing his claws against his chest. They were both wearing civilian clothes, not that the sleeveless shirt that ended about five inches too low was doing much to cover up what Gabriel regularly dubbed his 'coveted assets'. "Can't wait to get outta Specials," he muttered. "I think I'm gonna gun for Freelancer...I heard you can wear pretty much whatever you want, none of that wussy armor or any kind of uniforms."

David shrugged as another wave of self-loathing washed over him. He didn't bother responding as he looked through the binoculars -- he hated to admit it, but Gabriel was right. And of course he'd been the one to actually see something noteworthy, despite David having spent the last six hours behind these fucking things. What a shock.

Gabriel was apparently content continuing to talk by himself. "Not that I'd immediately say no to HADES, or hell...even Hexagon. That HADES armor is crazy, heard it even air-conditions your junk, which is awesome. And Hexagon is where all the latest tech shit comes from, so you know it's probably worth those stupid-ass uniforms they have to wear. Bet those hats have like...lasers in them or some shit." David heard him chuckling; the asshole was clearly very pleased with his own line of thought.

He ignored it, though, and did his best to make out what else was in the case. Several bundles of explosive, but he didn't spot any detonators or trigger mechanisms. Either they had them stashed somewhere in the apartment that hadn't been made visible, or they were going to have another delivery. It was something to --

"Yo, Dave? Asked you a question, dude, you zoning out on me already?"

David tried his best to be patient. Being annoyed would just get him taunted...or worse. Gabriel and his pal Carter had showed him plenty what guys that much bigger than everyone else could do. Being shoved into lockers was child's play when someone was strong enough to bend a metal training pole around you as a 'joke' and leave you for a few hours under the assumption you'd be able to wiggle free and wouldn't, in fact, need three other recruits to work together to free you while all snickering under their breaths. Yeah. Wasn't worth showing annoyance with bastards like this.

"Sorry," he mumbled, still refusing to tear away from the eyepieces of the binoculars. "Just checking for other bomb-related equipment."

"Oooof course you are," Gabriel chortled as David heard the sound of toe-claws tapping an idle tune out against the low wall of the roof. "Anyway, I asked you which branch you wanna go to."

He had? That didn't sound like him. Must have gotten tired of his own voice. David gave a silent, noncommittal shrug. "I dunno." Somewhere guys like you won't be. "Guess the SSF doesn't sound so bad," he murmured. Gabriel hadn't mentioned that one yet, right? "Seems like they have a pretty wide variety of things they do. So lots of options, I guess."

"Hmmm, yeah, I didn't think of that...variety is the spice of life, after all! Maybe I'll give them a look, too, heh..."

David repressed his sigh. He just wanted to be done with this whole uncomfortable stage of being the butt of everyone's jokes, being the weakest link, the one everyone either mocked, hazed or was annoyed with. Usually it seemed like Gabriel was all three, which...yeah, that was just great for someone who was supposed to be his 'battle buddy'. The more they were forced to work together, the more he found the entire idea of a partner grating. He'd once thought maybe he and Connie could work together if they ended up with the same division -- she at least understood him, and usually didn't go out of her way to get under his skin. But it was all too clear now that she was on her own level, and it was one far higher up than his. He didn't see that happening any time soon.

He shook his head slightly to nudge the thoughts away and put his attention back to the apartment. It looked like their targets were planning to go out soon. There were at least another twenty hours of daylight, though, and they'd been given express orders not to enact any sort of incursion into the apartment until after nightfall. Which meant another twenty hours of...this.

"What're those clowns up to now? Any of 'em a hot chick yet?" Gabriel asked, the bored tone seeping back into his voice.

"It looks like they're going to be leaving the apartment soon."

"Heh. We should go bust in, then, just see for ourselves," Gabriel suggested. David heard him sitting up and could practically feel the casual grin. "Didja know I had a talent for breaking and entering?"

David couldn't hold the next sigh in. "I didn't, but I guess I'm not surprised."

"Whoa, hey -- don't be a dick, dick. You don't hear me judging you on your skills." A beat just long enough for David to close his eyes. "Oh right, 'cause you ain't got any." David sighed again. "Aww, don't cry! I'm just teasin' you again!" He heard Gabriel grunt and presumably climb to his feet. "Anyway, tell ya what. I know you wanna follow orders and all that shit, and I don't want any negative marks for this mission -- if they're leaving, it'd be a good time to go crash." David grimaced beneath the binoculars. "Since I know you love this job, I'll even go pick up the food." Gabriel paused and then added cheerfully: "And a shitload of beer, because hoo boy, you need to take the edge off, buddy."

"I'm fine," David muttered. He appreciated Gabriel's offer, but the last thing he wanted to do was be stuck in a shitty motel room with him for twelve hours. "Look, if...you want, I'd be happy to stay up here and you can go rest. I'll eat whenever."


David blinked and then finally broke away from the scope to look up over his shoulder in confusion. "Nah?"

"Nah. Look, little buddy, I dig that you're into this and that you want to keep staring at briefcases and shit, but this whole 'battle buddy' thing doesn't really work if you stay up here and get yourself fucked up alone. Then I look like shit, too. So. I changed my mind. You're coming to the room now, and then I'll go get supplies." David scoffed and Gabriel raised an eyebrow. "I'm not kidding. You being obsessive ain't gonna mess up my scores."

"Yeah, well...whatever, I'm not gonna 'mess up your scores'," David mumbled as he moved to look back through the binoculars. "I'll be down...at some point, so just go get your -- hey!!"

He flailed wildly as he was suddenly hefted up by his belt, staring over his shoulder at Gabriel. "What the fuck?! Put me down!"

"No, you're being a jackass," Gabriel commented mildly while throwing David over a shoulder and ignoring the blows and knees that bounced uselessly off his thick torso. "Christ, I've made you look through those things by yourself for the last however many hours and you'd still rather stay up here to keep doing it. You got issues."

"Put me down!" David insisted, but Gabriel wasn't hearing it as he carried his companion down from the roof and all the way back to their room. David could feel every nerve in his body firing in panic, hating the contact and knowing he could do nothing, even as he slammed his fists against Gabriel's back and jabbed him multiple times with a knee. The giant bastard just snorted and proceeded to shove open the door and then fling him unceremoniously onto the bed. "You...asshole!" David shouted furiously, ripping the binoculars off his neck and scrambling back down from the mattress to stomp toward Gabriel. "Don't you ever fucking--hey!"

Gabriel simply placed a hand on his chest and shoved him back onto the bed again before crossing his arms. "Listen, Dave. You gotta learn to calm the fuck down. I get it, you're all wound up about recruitment, and you have plenty reason to be, even with the boost I'm giving you. But sitting up on a roof all day staring through binoculars isn't gonna do anything for your chances. So sit down, chill out and try to goddamn relax."

David narrowed his eyes with a defiant snort and Gabriel smirked down at him. "You go back up there if you want to, but then I'm gonna tie your ass up when I get back and force-feed you beer until you pass out. So your call, dude." He shrugged amicably and then turned around while tossing a wave over his shoulder. "See you in like thirty minutes, either way. Hope you like sandwiches, since that's what I'm craving."

The door slammed behind him a moment later and David gave a horrible look at the wall. "I don't," he replied to the empty room pettishly before sighing and dropping his head into his hands. This was his life now, apparently. Fantastic.

"You took like three bites."

"Yeah, well...you didn't get...what I like on it, so. Whatever. You've been staring at it for the last ten minutes, you might as well eat it."

Gabriel grinned, looking like he was certainly contemplating it. "Eh. Maybe later. It'll help soak up the booze." He then eyed David, who was sitting on the couch, pretending to watch the fuzzy soap opera that was on one of the four semi-functional channels. "Speaking of which, I can see you haven't even opened your beer yet."

David made a face and looked at the bottle he was still clutching in his hands. He shrugged and kept his eyes on the television. "Don't feel like it."

"You don't wanna eat, you don't wanna drink. What's that even leave?" Gabriel squinted at him before downing the rest of his third bottle and then tossing it with his usual perfect accuracy into the bin by the tiny kitchenette. David shot him a glower, but it only made the burly recruit grin. "Talking it is, Mr. Blabbermouth."

That brought a full-fledged frown. David's glare bored holes into the TV as his claws scraped silently along the glass bottle. 'Talking' with his partner usually meant 'listening to endless tales of sexual conquest, athletic accomplishments and feats of physical prowess'. It wasn't really all that fun for David.

He cast a long look at the beer again. He'd never been much of a fan of it. In fact, thanks to how he grew up, he...rarely indulged in much of anything. He heard Gabriel cracking open his fourth, which...good for him, he supposed. "If you want to talk, then...yeah, sure. That's fine," David mumbled, sinking back into the uncomfortable couch and pulling a leg up to his chest.

"I feel like I always talk," Gabriel replied after a few seconds. David blinked but didn't tear his eyes away. It's not like it wasn't true. Just...odd of him to mention it, since he rarely seemed to care. "You were real chatty our first couple of weeks together, you wouldn't shut up."

David slowly turned his head to stare at Gabriel with a confused scowl, and Gabriel immediately snorted laughter. "Okay, that's not a smile, but it's some kind of emotion. You barely talked back then, and that's hardly changed since then. What the fuck gives, dude? Not to toot my own horn, but I'm kinda like...friends with everyone? So...y'know, should be easy to talk to me?"

"Yeah. You are friends with everyone," David replied icily, before he could silence himself. "Everyone else."

Gabriel glowered for a moment, his bottle halfway to his muzzle. David looked back defiantly but could already feel his will crumbling as he shifted uncomfortably. But then he swore he saw a glimpse of a different expression. One that looked almost...contrite. But then Gabriel shook his head and snorted. "It's not like you've tried to get along with me at all, dude. Six months and I think we've had, what, maybe six hours total of real conversation? Yeah, sure, we're learning how to work together, that's fuckin' tops. But I still don't know shit about you, and you've never asked shit about me, so...you know, that's real great."

Another frown creased David's muzzle as he clenched into his bottle and tried to look away...but finally felt his patience running thin. A tremble ran through him before he grit his teeth and then snapped back: "Gee, you think that's maybe because you assholes spent half of that time making my life a living hell? Or did you think I liked being shoved into lockers, or thrown through the fucking window of the women's changing room, or tied to the top of the fucking flagpole?" Gabriel blinked and looked genuinely surprised, leaning back against the headboard. David grimaced but decided to push forward, his pent-up thoughts too freely-flowing now. "Yeah, yeah, I know, 'it was just a joke, dude', 'those were pranks, we're just teasing you, dude', 'just trying to toughen you up, little buddy', I get it."

He looked away bitterly before yanking the cap off his bottle and taking a long drink. The beer was disgusting but it made him feel a little better as the bitter liquid rolled over his tongue and helped soften some of the spiny feelings. "We're 'buddies' but only because we were assigned that way. And maybe I...maybe I wanted a friend, but geezus, why would I even try with someone who stole from me on our literal first day together, and has done nothing but torment me since then?"

He continued to stare at the wall and forced himself to finish the beer. At this point he expected something to be thrown at him. Or maybe just a straight punch to the face, really complete the long, shitty day. But Gabriel was silent.

Gabriel was never silent.

It made David uncomfortable after a few seconds and he finally glanced back toward the bed to see his partner studying him with a small frown. He didn't even look mad, oddly enough. And after a moment, he lifted his bottle and knocked the rest of it back as well before sliding off the side of the bed to land with a grunt. He lumbered over to the couch and David held his breath, steeling himself for the blow...but all that came was a hand thrust out toward his empty bottle. "Alright, then. Finally got you to talk. Lemme get you another beer, David."

He almost didn't catch it, and he blinked in surprise before shifting his weight again with a sigh. He argued with himself for a moment, which made Gabriel wiggle his fingers insistently, and he grumbled before relenting and slapping the empty bottle into his companion's palm. The large chupa ambled back to the box of beer, plucking out two more and glancing back to the couch before lobbing one lightly toward David, who managed to catch it in both hands with a quiet grunt. Gabriel smiled slightly and nodded before hopping back onto the bed and leaning against the pillows again while twisting his cap off to add it to the small pile on the nightstand. "So...alright, I guess you kind of got a point," he admitted slowly.

David wasn't expecting that, blinking again and then glancing away as he opened his own bottle and began to nurse it slowly. Gabriel followed suit and continued after a sip or two. "I really didn't mean...well. Okay, fine, fine, fair is fair, and...we were kind of dicks to you."

"'Kind of'??" David retorted incredulously, to which Gabriel grumbled and rolled his eyes...

...only to grudgingly raise his free hand. "Alright. We were dicks. It's...it's just how things go, man, it wasn't personal and...I mean, we weren't trying to upset you, I...okay, that's. Fuck." He frowned to himself as he rubbed a hand slowly through his mane. David glanced at him, more curious than he wanted to admit. "Look, it's kind of weird to actually talk about this."

"Yeah, it's fine, I'll...just go finish this beer on the roof or something, it's fine," David muttered as he started to stand up from the couch.

"I'm sorry," Gabriel blurted.

David froze, halfway up from the cushions. He blinked and frowned at Gabriel, who was grumbling away as he stared down at his bottle while poking a claw stubbornly into it. "Look, we're supposed to be partners, right? And yeah, okay, I want to get good marks." David snorted and Gabriel huffed quietly. "But. That...doesn't mean I don't want you to get recruited, too. I really wasn't trying to make you hate this or anything."

"Yeah, well...you did," David mumbled even as he let himself drop back onto the couch with a long sigh. "I just joined up with Connie because...I was tired of being the scrawny little guy everyone picked on. I thought this was my chance to change that, to get stronger and be someone better. But you and the other guys, you. Never really made me feel anything but regret for even bothering to try. Just reminded me I was still that small guy everyone else picked on."

"Well...I guess that was pretty shitty of us, then," Gabriel replied, sounding somehow both annoyed but also remorseful. "You know, I'm. I'm glad we got paired up."

David scoffed, not believing a word of it. He fixed a flat look on Gabriel, but the giant prick looked unexpectedly honest as he continued to study his beer between quiet gulps of it. "Really?" he replied dryly.

"Hey, don't be an asshole," Gabriel muttered even as he rubbed a hand along the back of his neck. "Look, I know I'm good at a lot. And I talk a big game because...yeah, alright, I can follow through with most of it. But that doesn't mean I think I'm perfect, okay? And having someone like you who doesn't just...tell me I'm perfect, who has his own, uh. Special set of skills." David rolled his eyes but Gabriel grunted when he saw it. "Hey, look, I mean that. You might not have the same obvious talents the other guys do, but. You're smart, and you have a lot of good ideas once you actually say them. And you really know how to focus, better than anyone else I've ever known. And all that shit keeps me sharper, okay? So. Shut up and. Get over the fact that we're partners, and we're both gonna do fine at Recruitment Day because of that. Got it?" He finished his beer with a firm nod, already hopping off the bed to grab two more.

David wasn't sure how to respond. Other than hurriedly choking down his own beer so he didn't look like he cared about this sudden outburst. Except...he did. Because even if Gabriel was drunk, his not-quite-a-rant consisted of some of the nicest things he'd ever said to him. He was kind of still a self-centered asshole, but he was at least acknowledging the fact that they did do a pretty decent job when they worked together. They weren't the greatest 'buddy' pair out of the whole class at Specials, but David knew they still consistently ranked fairly high.

He sighed, and wanted to be positive. But... "Look, Petri, I--"

"Hey, that's another thing, man. Look, I know you're all about the rules, but we're on our own out here, and..." Gabriel scowled but David was sure he saw an uncomfortable glance away. "Even if you don't care about being combat buddies, it does still matter to me. I like being part of a team, but...I don't like all the formality of having to use our last names like we're just part of a roster." David gave him a strange look but stayed silent as the muscular recruit looked oddly small for a moment before approaching with another bottle for him. "I'll call you David if you hate 'Dave' that much, but...can you call me Gabriel, at least?"

The beer really must have been getting to the guy -- he wasn't exactly someone David considered 'emotional' from what he'd seen so far. But the look on his face bordered on pleading and he couldn't help a quiet sigh even as he accepted the beer with a mumble of thanks. "I...yeah. Alright...G-Gabriel." He fidgeted and then removed the cap while keeping his eyes down. "Just not back around the instructors or C.O.s or anything..."

"Yeah, yeah, don't worry, I won't make you break the rules where someone might see," Gabriel replied with a quiet chuckle, returning to his usual attitude. David was surprised how relieved he was to hear it...but then again, it was kind of weird and awkward to have seen him acting so...vulnerable. Didn't seem normal, like it was just some trick leading into some other awful prank.

He ran his thumb over the rim of the bottle. "I know you could probably just coast from this point to Recruitment Day and be fine," David murmured. He wasn't mad about it...well. Okay, he was a little mad about it, but he knew it was pointless at the same time. Gabriel was just a fine specimen, he'd do well in whatever came his way. "It's not like that for me. 'Boost' from you or not, I'm. Me, and you're you. Everyone's going to look right past me and up at you. So to me the little things matter. You could probably get away with calling me 'David' even in front of the officers. But for me, every slash on my record is fatal. I've barely got anything to stand on as it is. That's why I care about the rules and doing things the right way and all that. I need whatever I can get."

"Alright, alright, I get that." Gabriel motioned with his bottle, pointedly meeting David's eyes even when the smaller chupa tried to glance away. "You're talking now, man. So...talk. What's the worst thing that'll happen at Recruitment? So you aren't the first pick...someone is still gonna pick you up. You haven't failed out, and we've got good scores on all our group assessments."

"You don't know that. It's not like we're all guaranteed to go somewhere. Plenty of guys have to stay in Specials or...give up on their own, fall back to regular service." David stared down into his bottle. "Right back to just being a nobody."

"I think you're just stressed, man. I never see you relaxing." David grumbled and sunk lower into the couch while taking a long guzzle to avoid the inevitable 'no shit, you think?' he felt on the tip of his tongue. "Even now, we're supposed to be unwinding, having some downtime before the next shift, and look at you. Three beers in but you're still like this...tensed up little spring still." Gabriel grunted while polishing off yet another bottle before sitting up and pointing a finger at him. "Most people loosen up when they drink. I think that stiff neck is preventing the booze from getting to your...liver. Or wherever it goes."

David sighed and eyed his companion for a moment. "Sorry, just...I don't normally drink."

"You don't say."

"How am I supposed to relax? The biggest day of our lives is just a week away and...I'm still just the little weakling in your shadow," David muttered, not meaning to let his thoughts out so easily but realizing maybe he shouldn't have been drinking so quickly if he was hoping to stay silent.

Gabriel snorted before his tone softened unexpectedly. "David. If you think Recruitment Day is the biggest day of your life, then...geez, you really are stressed."

"Yeah, well, it is for me," David snapped, even if he immediately shrunk into himself again. "This is my chance to be someone different, someone better, and right now the forecast fucking sucks." He sulked and tipped back the rest of the bottle as Gabriel peered at him for a few seconds. David tried not to notice, but it was hard not to, the way those green eyes bored into him from across the room. He sighed and set the bottle down next to the couch before crossing his arms. The inebriation was starting to sink in and he didn't know if he savored the numbness or hated it like everything else about this whole situation. "What?"

"David. Serious question. When's the last time you got laid?"

He sputtered and then threw his arms up to try and deflect the awkwardness. "What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"

"I dunno, man, nothin' else seems to work to get you to relax, so maybe you just need to go find a chick and get your bone on," Gabriel retorted. "At the very least that will get some of that goddamn stress out."

"Oh yeah, sure, something else for me to be judged on, something else for me to feel self-conscious about and worry about the entire time and wonder just how I rank against all the other guys out there, yeah. That sounds real relaxing," he raved while waving his arms around a bit, not caring if he was acting as tipsy as he felt. His arms eventually fell back to his sides before he rolled his head against the back of the couch with a grumble. "Just. Give me another beer."

He heard the sound of Gabriel rolling off the bed again. "Yeah, sure. I get it, you're a virgin."

"Fuck you, Pe--I-I mean, Gabriel."

"It's fine if you are, I ain't judgin'," Gabriel snickered. David heard him approaching and he made a face, opening one eye and finding a fresh bottle being offered as his partner worked on yet another, himself.

"Yeah, well, I'm not," David replied defensively, snatching the bottle away. He struggled to open it while Gabriel watched bemusedly. "I just don't...it's stressful enough just thinking about talking to people, let alone asking 'hey you wanna go have sex', there's nothing relaxing about that to me," he mumbled.

Gabriel let himself drop onto the end of the bed, continuing to watch his companion with a slight smile. "Okay, fine. Then. Just jerk off. No stress there, right? No cute girl judging you, just you and your dick having a nice time."

David sighed and gave Gabriel a tired look, waiting for the punchline. But it never came -- the big bastard just kept sipping his beer and looking at him expectantly. "Just jerk off? What...what kind of advice is that. Who does that?"

"Uh. Like. Everyone. Literally everyone, man, everyone jerks off."

"Girls don't."

"Girls absolutely do, probably more than guys do."

"...They don't...how..."

Gabriel grinned slightly. "Okay, so they probably have a different word, but the point's the same! Sirca gave you two hands, and Sirca gave you a dick...and if you don't got someone else to get on it, then guess what. You've got everything you need to do it yourself. That's just science."

"That's technically math," David replied sarcastically even as he fidgeted and grumbled toward the wall. "Why are you so stuck on this now. Are you in the ruff or something?"

"I dunno, you tell me -- does it look like I cover it up?" Gabriel retorted. When David only groaned and refused to look, he laughed easily. "Anyway, no, I'm not. But ya don't gotta be to take some time with yourself and work some of that stress out."

"...So what is your point?" David wasn't sure he wanted to know, but the alcohol was making him care less about propriety. Might as well not bother with being embarrassed. "Do you want me to jerk off? Will that make you happy?"

"I think it's s'posed to make you happy," Gabriel drawled with a smirk. "But y'know what?" He downed nearly half his bottle before stumbling off the bed and back toward the nightstand where the remote for the television was. "Y'know what. I'm tired'a seeing you so...mopey. So yeah, I want you to jerk off."

David flushed and scrunched his shoulders even further as he tried to drown himself in the rest of his beer. But it only served to make him cough and nearly drop the empty bottle. "G-goddammit," he gasped before attempting to set down the bottle and knocking over the other empty one at his feet. "I'm not...gonna jerk off, 'cause you want me to. In fact, I'm not gonna jerk off at all."

Gabriel didn't answer at first, squinting down at the remote before pointing it at the TV and jabbing the buttons a few times. The channels flicked from one to the next before a triumphant grin crossed Gabriel's face when a garbled moan sounded from the tinny speakers. "Haw, lookie there. Good ol' fashioned porn." He tossed the remote over his shoulder and then snatched up his bottle again, peering across the room at his very-uncomfortable partner. "There. Got you somethin' to watch. And you're like. Half-drunk, so. Who gives a shit. Get your jerk on. You can even have the bed if ya want."

David covered his face with a hand...though he could still hear the sounds of the distorted sex scene. "No. No, I don't wan--wait, even if I would, what...you're just gonna stand there? Because that doesn't sound weird or anythin'..." He glowered back at Gabriel past his fingers to find the asshole grinning with the tiniest sway in his stance.

"See, normally I'd jus' offer to leave the room for like...ten minutes or whatever, but...I'm startin' to think that you don't even know how to jerk off. Also that you'd just fuckin'...lie 'n tell me you did 'cause you'd be too embarrassed to actually do it."

"This is stupid."

"You're stupid," Gabriel retorted, though he then giggled afterward, making David sigh. "Hey. Hey. How 'bout this. How 'bout we both jerk off. Would that make ya feel better?"

"No??" He heard the sound of a belt being undone and he couldn't help staring up in horror as Gabriel fumbled with his pants for a few seconds. "Wh-what are you doing??"

"Fuck it, I'm jerkin' off, 'cause you bein' all weird about it is makin' me feel weird," he muttered, nearly tripping as he shoved his pants down and ending up flopping against the wall with a grunt as the motel room shook briefly. "Ow."

"Okay, now I'm definitely goin' back on the roof," David mumbled, shakily pushing himself off the couch to take an unsteady step toward the door.

"N-no, wait, dude! I'm serious, c'mon, it'll help!" Gabriel insisted as he finally managed to step out of his pants, wearing only his too-tight shirt while swaying slowly next to the bed. "C'mon, buddy, I'm tryin' to help here!"

* ~ * ~ *

Gabriel was the first to speak again, his voice at last finding some of its confidence once more. "I know you...have a thing about being clean, so. If you want to go shower first, you, uh. You can."

David blinked but then nodded gratefully, careful to avoid making contact as he slid off the other side of the bed. "I, uh. Yeah. Yeah, thanks, G...Gabe."

Gabriel glanced at him in surprise before flashing a goofy smile. "Heh. Hey, that...that did feel pretty good, though, right? You...don't look as stressed."

David huffed softly but eventually nodded even as he moved quickly into the bathroom. "I...yeah. It...it did. I'm...gonna have a quick shower, and. Okay." He hurriedly shut the door before he could ramble any further and nearly collapsed against the other side.

He wasn't sure he could even pretend to form the words to describe what had just happened. But it had happened, and. Now all he had to do was take a shower and never talk about it again. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror, nodding firmly in solidarity with his thoughts...before reaching up to touch his own cheek for a moment. It was still warm. He continued to look at himself for a second or two, then quickly shook his head and proceeded to start the tap.

It was just a drunken experimentation thing. Nothing to worry about, nothing to think upon. Stress relief with his combat buddy. Now he could go back to focusing on the mission, and getting ready for Recruitment Day. Yeah. Definitely time to never think about this again.

David's eyes opened blearily as the not-so-gentle pounding at the door of his consciousness made him regret whatever it was he couldn't immediately remember. He whimpered into the pillow, attempting to reach up to grab his temple...only to freeze as a strange weight pinned his arm against his side.

His eyes widened and he slowly looked down to see a thick tan limb flopped over his body. For a few terrifying seconds he wondered if he wanted to remember what happened earlier that day. He tried to organize the jumbled, drunken memories the best he could, fearful with each puzzle piece he managed to nudge into place. He remembered nibbling a sandwich. Drinking...some beer. Holding onto Gabriel's dick--oh fuck, he had done that. He barely managed to stifle his concerned whine as he automatically reached for his waist...and found a towel still wrapped around himself.

His breath began to come back to him as cautiously as his recollection. Right. After he and Gabriel had...de-stressed, he'd gone to have a shower. And when he came back he...had meant to go rest on the couch to sleep. But he'd apparently crawled back onto the bed, instead. He must have drifted off before his 'buddy' was finished with his own shower.

It took a nudge of bravery but he finally let his head twist carefully to gaze over his shoulder. It looked like most of the sheets were over his own slender form, rather securely tucked underneath him...while behind him, Gabriel was splayed out, naked to the world while he snored quietly with nothing but a misplaced towel to cover his shame...or lack thereof. Well. At least it looked like there hadn't been any other mysteries that unfolded after their first...uh. Moment. That was something, at least.

He didn't remember covering himself with the sheets, however. He must have done it in his sleep. And clearly Gabriel didn't care about having any blankets on himself. Or anything else on himself, for that matter. It was too late to not notice the peeking bit of flesh in Gabriel's lap and David grimaced as he turned back to face the wall with a sigh. What the hell had he been thinking? Now this was going to come up regularly, wasn't it? Goddammit. He supposed he could take some relief that, within a week or so, he and Gabriel would be on opposite ends of the ring. And at this point, David didn't care if he was still in Specials after Recruitment. As long as it wasn't where Gabriel and his inevitable mockery were going to be.

He managed to wiggle out from underneath the muscular arm, one of his hands keeping the towel primly in place as he hunted for his pants, along with the spare shirt he'd thoughtfully brought along. He remembered enough to know his last shirt wasn't going to be wearable...ever again. He wished one of them had thought to bring a portable burn-box. He'd have to settle for destroying the evidence once they were back at base.

As he moved the towel aside so he could bend over to step into his pants, he heard a shift behind him before a low, cheerful whistle made his tail stand on end. "Damn! I'm not gay but that is a nice butt!"

David closed his eyes for a moment before taking a deep breath and quickly yanking his pants up, waiting to fasten them securely before he turned around. "Petri."

"...Aww, dude, c'mon. It's only been a few hours, don't do me like that."

David made a face but felt the tiniest bit guilty -- his companion's face did look genuinely moody at the reverted name. "Well...then. Stop trying to embarrass me, that's the last thing I want after...after..."

Gabriel's expression tilted to a smirk. "Heh. What, after you jerked a guy off?"

David's face soured, but Gabriel was quick to grin and hold up both his hands. "Hey, hey, just kidding! I'm not gonna try to embarrass you, buddy." David was very pointedly avoiding looking at him, which he apparently understood after he grumbled and shifted his towel down to cover up his crotch. "There, better? You'd think you wouldn't mind after you had your hand all over it!"


Gabriel flinched and then huffed quietly as he ran a hand through his messy mane. "Okay, okay, I get it, stop...calling me that." He sat up as their eyes met briefly. "So...so do you wanna, uh. You wanna talk about...it?"

David frowned. Some part of him... "No," he blurted before glancing to the side and gripping into his arm to massage his bicep uncomfortably. "Not really. It's...it's gonna be dark soon, we should get ready to go get inside the apartment. I'm going to check my equipment."

Gabriel grunted and studied him for a moment. "Yeah. Yeah, that. Sounds good, you do that, I'm gonna go get my mane fixed and then we can grab a bite to eat."

"I'm not hungry. You can have the rest of my sandwich if you want, though," David offered over a shoulder before he put his attention back to his supply pack to pull out his pistol and spare ammunition. "I'm ready to move whenever you are."

The briskness seemed to take Gabriel by surprise, but he only shrugged silently as he went to fetch his own pants. "Yeah, alright. Then. Give me just a few and we can roll out."

Good. This was better. Just moving onward until this was a hazy, drunken memory of a distant past.

"I can't believe you didn't bring another shirt!" David seethed as he pressed against the wall, wincing as several wild shots whizzed past.

"What?! This was literally supposed to be a two-day job, why would I bring more than one change of clothes?" Gabriel retorted, shoved into a doorway on the other side of the hall. "Besides, it's a travesty to cover all this up!" he added with a grin while gesturing to his bare chest, then wincing backward as a bullet grazed the frame of his cover. "Shit! We gotta hurry, either their friends or the cops are gonna be here soon!"

David felt his heart pounding but his nerves felt surprisingly calm even as he scowled across the hall. "Yeah, well, we might have gotten in quietly if you didn't insist on walking up to the door and saying 'knock, knock'!" he hissed. But he heard the telltale sound of a gun clicking empty down the hall, even as the other kept firing. He took a deep breath and nodded to himself before spinning out of his cover and dropping to one knee, raising his pistol and then narrowing his eyes as he pulled the trigger rapidly.

A barrage of bullets screamed into the apartment, most of them sinking home into the chests of both gunmen to knock them back into lifeless heaps. He felt his body surge with adrenaline and he tried to remember the training as he gulped a lungful of air while slowly standing and taking a few shaky steps forward. He felt the slide locked on his pistol and he glanced down with a quiet curse. Not enough control. That was okay, though. The targets were down and --

He heard the patter of claws and blinked, lifting his head to see a third enemy rushing him with a hunting knife. He gasped and struggled to dig out another clip of ammunition as the guy raced down the hall with a snarl. His fingers trembled and the magazine fell to the ground with a clatter as an unwelcome snap of fear made him freeze with a terrified expression.

But then a flash of tan.

As he winced away, expecting the worst, Gabriel leaped in front of him with a grunt as the attacker's knife sunk into his forearm. He cursed loudly but reached out with the other hand to grab the shocked chupa by the shoulder, then yanking him close to slam a violent headbutt into his skull that dropped the guy instantly. "Hands off my battle buddy," he muttered before grimacing at the knife in his arm. "Holy...shit, ow."

David finally managed to take another breath as he wheezed and fumbled for the clip to rapidly shove into his pistol, then throwing it back into its holster as he placed a hand on Gabriel's back. "Gabriel, are...are you okay?"

"Not really there's a damn knife in my arm!" he replied in a strained voice before he took a slow breath. "It's fine. It's fine, the chicks are gonna love this, I just gotta..." He exhaled a few times rapidly before gripping into the handle and yanking it out with a loud yelp. "Aw FUCK, okay, all good, I'm all good, Gabe is good." He breathed in and out a few times as David hovered nearby awkwardly. He eventually looked down at the smaller chupa and then snorted softly. "Hey, quit worrying about me and go check the room, dude, make sure there's no one else I gotta save your ass from."

David sighed as some of the concern drifted away, but he still cast a long glance at the bloody gash in Gabriel's arm. That should have been him. It would have been if his partner hadn't defended him. Yeah, it was their job, the whole point of being 'combat buddies' yet. After everything he'd done to him, why would he so willingly put himself in harm's way? He shifted from paw to paw for a moment and then mumbled: "Th...thank you. For having my back."

Gabriel blinked, then scoffed even as his own tail flicked sheepishly. "Hey, that's...what buddies...what friends are for. Right?"

David allowed himself a faint, hesitant smile. "Y-yeah. Yeah. That's what...friends are for."

His partner nodded firmly before gesturing to the room. "Now, c'mon, we're already gonna lose points for this stupid hole in my arm, let's get this shit done and mosey on back home so I can find a cute little thing to kiss this all better."

David sighed quietly, but felt a tickle of relief. Maybe things could go back to normal, after all. He just had to survive a few more days, hope for the best...then he could finally put all this behind him.

But as he approached the apartment with his pistol ready, he found himself glancing back over his shoulder at his companion, watching him yank some gauze from one of his supply pouches to wrap up the wound. Something about Gabriel felt different now. And David was sure it was probably just the combat high, but...well.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they ended up in the same place, after all.