Chapter 10: Ain't That a Bitch

Why am I so sore. And...why is it so warm. Something was not quite right. Something felt...different.

Corporal William Barnes wrinkled his muzzle a bit before grimacing at the odd weight on his chest. The haze that clouded his mind made it hard to remember exactly what...oh.

His eyes widened slightly when he felt the pressure atop his torso shift and he swallowed silently, afraid for a moment to glance down. But the temptation was too much and he slowly, slowly lowered his eyes to the sight of another muzzle resting across his bare chest, the gentle breath of the other soldier washing delicately across his collarbone. A tremor of raw fear raced down his spine as the events of the last...oh no. How long had it been? He was due back in two hours, his briefing with Sergeant Marsden only twenty minutes after his return to duty, if he was late...if the sergeant came looking for him and used his override to open the door to--

"Y'got thirty minutes, Will."

Will's panicked thoughts threatened to race off in all directions like a loosed bouquet of balloons...until Samael's gentle reassurance became the skilled hand that grasped the strings and held them tight. The corporal trembled again all the same, but allowed himself to breathe as he hesitantly gazed back down into the piercing blue eyes that lifted to meet his own. "S-Samael? I-I'm sorry, I m-must have..."

"Y'did," Samael murmured with a small smile, his stockier frame shifting beneath the tousled sheet -- not to move away, but instead curl up closer to the corporal. "But only for a little bit. Figured you could use the rest."

Will's concern hadn't quite yet died away entirely -- the thought of being found, of being discovered like this was a burning trepidation in the back of his mind. But Samael's soothing tone brought him comfort...and, well. It had been so long since he'd felt another body pressed against his own. "I...I appreciate it," Will replied after a few seconds, reaching down with one hand to nervously stroke his lover's cheek. "I th-thought you might..."

"Run out on ya before we could get caught?" Samael concluded, winking to show he understood the anxiety. "Wouldn't be the first time. And it woulda been safer, but..." He shook his head silently. "I wanted to stay." The small smile returned to his features as he added softly: "Thought you might appreciate it, too."

Will still wanted to shove himself into a fervent damage-recovery mode...but the ache in his heart was honest. "I do," he found himself replying, blushing as he did so. "I never thought here, of all places..."

"Y'never know what you're gonna find in this life," Samael murmured as he let his faintly-pink-hued claws draw gentle patterns in Will's chest fur. "So I learned to celebrate whatever I can 'n try not to ask so many questions. Life's a lot less shitty that way."

Will was silent at first, taking his time to study the curious creature resting atop him. They'd spent a good bit of time with their intimacy. Samael's opening act gave way to a second and then a third, and Will had surprised even himself with the brief but ecstatic encore he'd called up. It hadn't exactly left much time for him to actually examine his partner closely. Will wasn't all that superficial...but after all they'd shared, he wanted to know more about the strange chupadore he hadn't remotely seen coming anywhere near this part of his life.

His eyes locked onto Samael's claws almost instantly, and the corporal smiled a bit as he thought back to their first, awkward meeting in the locker room. The specialist had mentioned it was a joke played on him by his last base, but...

"Your claws. And tuft. Those...those weren't a prank, were they?" Will inquired, not rudely but instead with genuine curiosity. "Were they really so lax at your last post?"

"Nah," Samael replied easily, giving a mild shrug even as his eyes danced amusedly while watching Will's face. "I just didn't give a fuck. Sometimes y'get laid out for steppin' outta line, sometimes y'only get a slap on the wrist. I ain't so scared that I'm gonna hide who I am. Not entirely, at least."

The phrasing made the corporal tilt his head a bit; in response, Samael rolled his muzzle to one side with a half-smile. It was then that Will spotted two small holes in the bottom of his lover's jaw. And a moment later, Samael's tail snaked out from beneath the sheets to lazily twist toward their faces, hovering there just long enough for Will to notice a thicker, more distinct piercing-mark near the end of his appendage. "You have piercings, too. I mean, well..." His flush deepened. "O-other than the can't normally see. But. That I saw. When we. Umm."

Samael grinned toothily as he winked up at his companion. "Yeah, ain't gotta pull those out when I'm tryin' to blend in, most inspections ain't checkin' on the downstairs situation."

Will smiled despite himself, allowing himself to stroke his other hand slowly along Samael's muscular arm...before he paused as his fingers closed around a loose strip of black fabric. Right. He'd noticed it wrapped around the specialist's arm during their tryst. He assumed it had been covering an old wound, same as the band around Samael's right wrist. He felt confident enough in himself to not pull away, instead running his claws over the soldier's bare arm, his finger pads tracing the strong musculature before he paused as he felt...was that a pattern?

He blinked and glanced into Samael's features searchingly as he slowly plucked the strip of ebony fabric up between his fingers. The faint smile that met his eyes was almost sad. Like the specialist had just allowed something he hadn't quite planned. And Will's expression grew only more confused when the other chupadore sighed quietly and shifted a bit so that he could bring his arm around and drape it across Will's chest.

The corporal frowned before glancing down at the bulging bicep...and then leaning back a bit when he realized he it was a tattoo. One of the 'traditional' variety that was burned into the specialist's hide. And it spelled out six letters, plain as day once no longer covered by the strip of fabric.


Will opened his jaws slightly as a different kind of horror crept across his spine. But before he could voice his fear, Samael quietly lifted his arm and pulled down the snug band that covered his wrist, wordlessly displaying another, smaller tattoo. The color instantly drained from the corporal's features as he stared numbly at the symbol of Omega, but with a single, bold line striking defiantly through it.

"Y...y-you're..." Will quivered violently as his eyes widened and the ribbon slipped slowly through his fingers. "You're with the Movement..." He put a hand against his muzzle as his breath caught in his throat, his entire body stiffening up. "Oh...oh god, no, you're..."

Samael glanced down at his own wrist before he slowly covered the anti-Omegite symbol with the cloth once more. "I am," he replied, gently but honestly.

Will's inner voice screamed at him in protest, and every ounce of him wanted to shove at the chupadore, push him away and seek to defend himself, or at the very least show he wasn't harboring the rebel! But Samael hadn't moved, hadn't gone for a weapon or even made any attempt to lash out at him. And so the corporal was only able to stare mutely, shaking his head in dumbfounded denial.

It was left to Samael to quietly reach up and cup the mortified soldier's cheek. "I'm sorry, Will. I didn't mean for you to find out. Not...not like this, at least." He glanced to the side, his eyes showing some internal struggle of his own. "But I don't wanna lie to you, neither. Yeah, when I first came by, I was lookin' to see if I could squeeze permission out of you to do some recon, advance my mission." The rebel clenched a hand slowly into a fist before he relaxed it again and used it to instead grip quietly into Will's shoulder. "I passed you off as nothin' more than a bureaucrat, someone who didn't have any cares or considerations left. Someone who was just another cog in the machine."

Samael looked genuinely ashamed of himself. "But I was wrong about you. An' nothin' that happened after that was anythin' to do with the job." He glanced into Will's panicked eyes. "That was...that was personal. That was me, reachin' out to you, 'cause...'cause I was hopin' we both just wanted to have a little bit of goddamn comfort."

Will didn't want to believe the inpostor's words. He was a spy! He was here to sabotage the base, here to wreak havoc and destruction and kill anyone who got in his way. And here Will was, naked, under the covers with the Movement operative, unable to defend himself, knowing already in a physical struggle, he would lose...what was he supposed to do? Call for help? That would be somehow even worse...he'd just be labeled as a traitor. No, worse: a homosexual traitor...

"I'm not gonna hurt you," Samael whispered, and Will couldn't help but stare into his pained blue eyes again. "I don't wanna hurt anyone here, Will. I ain't...I ain't here to see anyone get hurt."

The corporal practically whined in fear, afraid to move, afraid to tear his eyes away, even as Samael's fingers cradled his face so tenderly. "Th-then...then...why...why are you here? An' why...did you...s-sleep with me?"

"Because I wanted to," Samael responded simply, his eyes reflecting the plain truth in his words. "Because I saw how hurt an' lonely you were, an' I wanted to hold you and be held an' just have somethin' out here that was real."

Will was silent. The specialist -- was he even a specialist? That was manufactured, wasn't it; was Samael fake, too? Was everything...

"What's your real name?" he blurted, not even noticing the tear that rolled down his cheek as he began to tremble again.

The rebel didn't twitch, didn't look away...didn't even hesitate as his claw tenderly brushed away the teardrop. "Samael Wurlitz. 'Holmes' was my cover. I...I didn't want to wear the mask with you, Will. I wanted you to be with me."

The corporal could hold it in no longer as he gave a choked sob and immediately clapped his hand against his muzzle again. Tears began to stream from his eyes as he closed them tightly, his body wracked with violent tremors. He felt the rebel shift above him again, and he feared the worst...was ready for the worst...

...only to be shocked as a pair of strong arms wrapped silently around his shoulders and pulled him into a tight embrace. He shoved a hand instinctively against the masculine chest before him, a low, incoherent moan of protest slipping out of his muzzle. His hand closed into a fist, pounding into the other male's breast two, three times, but Samael's arms remained encircled around him. Samael was quiet, and his grip wasn't forceful. It was protective, offering shelter, a shield in the form of a forbidden lover, a refuge in the arms of an enemy of the Red, an enemy of the people.

Will slammed his fist against Samael's collarbone one final time, teeth clenched, claws digging into his palm, wanting nothing more but to pull away. But he couldn't. He couldn't, because he needed to know it hadn't all been a ruse, that he hadn't been part of this rebel's plan, his mission.

A moment passed.

Will's fearful, unhinged sobs slowed, then eventually stopped. And he finally forced himself to lift his head, to gaze up into those goddamn blue eyes one more time, and finding them full of their own unshed tears. Will's muzzle shook as he stared desperately at Samael.

The rebel spoke softly, but his words carried the weight of a dangerously vulnerable heart: "I've got you, Will."

For the second time that night, Will broke into tears as he failed to swallow the heaving sobs. But these were free of fear, free of the panic and anxiety and guttural agony of thinking he was just a checkbox on a list. Will felt the levee across his soul shatter as he clutched tightly into the smaller male and allowed Samael to pull his head close to his chest. His body shuddered with the emotional release, but his lover was there, against all odds, against everything the Red Army corporal had been told -- hell, what he himself had believed -- would ever be capable from a member of the rebellion.

Words had no meaning, and so neither tried to use them as they held onto each other fiercely. Samael's head rested atop Will's and the corporal curled up against the rebel tightly, no longer caring about conventions or the fear of how he'd be perceived as he cried out the years of repressed emotions and cinched-down desires. They both knew their time was limited, just as they both knew a painful discussion was inevitable. But for five more minutes, all they needed was this.

Samael's heart ached. He knew the moment he'd offered himself to Will that he was risking this. Not just his secret, not even the mission. It was the fact he would have to either see the betrayal in Will's eyes...or somehow worse, if he hadn't seen it. Many of Samael's past passionate encounters with the so-called enemy had ended without his companions learning the truth about him. At least, not directly. And the thought of someone like Will discovering Samael's true nature after he had left the base, whether or not he had even been successful...that thought burned into the rebel's soul.

Will was an innocent participant in this whole game. In fact, as far as Samael was concerned, the vast majority of the soldiers at this base -- at any base -- were innocent. Perhaps sometimes a bit gung-ho in their hoisting of the Red and Blue Army banners, perhaps occasionally too easily buying into the tenets of this goddamned Holy War, but innocents, nonetheless. And Will was no exception. Samael saw that he took pride in his job, and that he took it seriously. But the corporal was exhausted. He didn't enjoy his position, neither below the overbearing sergeant, nor above the obedient soldiers. He performed his tasks with the utmost professionalism, but that didn't make him a bad person. Not from Samael's perspective.

None of that made this any easier. Samael wasn't holding the corporal's emotionally-wracked body close to his own out of any obligation or guilt. He held his fellow chupadore the way he'd want to be held, were he in the same place. Will's romantic preference had been revealed -- a dangerous, if not deadly, secret for many Sircans -- and he'd been physically intimate after gods knew how long with someone he'd met that same day...only to find out his partner was with the Movement. And Will had experienced all this in the span of less than two hours. Samael could only imagine the strain on the corporal's emotions.

As he rubbed slowly between Will's shoulder blades, he felt the soldier's trembling at last taper off. For all of his bravado and strength, for all the times he'd shared precisely this, Samael was still hesitant to look down at his companion. He believed in the Movement, he believed in what he did. He couldn't change the way his heart beat, however. He would never be on the same page as most of his fellow rebels. Even his friend and mentor (and technically his boss), who understood his needs for making personal bonds, for creating deep connections with the various soldiers he interacted with during his incursions...even she rode him to try and rein in his urges, to try and not leave such a noticeable trail of aching or furious hearts in his wake.

But goddammit, he couldn't change who he was.

And so he took a measured breath and glanced down just as Will lifted his head. The rebel's throat clenched as the soldier's gaze locked with his own. The question that followed, though, wasn't entirely what he expected.

"Samael, have there been others?"

The corporal's eyes were wide, so full of a vulnerable innocence that Samael couldn't help but smile faintly. "I...well, yeah, Will. I mean...I ain't exactly a one-trick pony, if I'm gonna be frank."

Will snorted and pretended he didn't blush, trying -- and failing -- to hide the helpless moment of sheepish disappointment. "I...I know," he mumbled, shifting a bit but not pulling away from Samael. "I didn't think we were gonna suddenly. You know." Will huffed quietly but looked up at Samael again, his expression awkward yet insistent. "I meant more that...I know that you said I wasn't part of your...mission, but have you...have you, with..."

"Yeah, I've slept with other Red and Blue soldiers while on the job, and sometimes to get the job done," the rebel supplied with another smile, although it was tender. And then even Samael couldn't avoid his own slight blush as he glanced away for a moment. "But I gotta say, Will: you were honestly one of the, uh...least-expected. 'Cause yeah, not every guy I sleep with is 'part of a plan', no. But you, you took me by surprise." He met Will's defenseless eyes once again and stroked his cheek gently. "Didn't see it comin' anymore'n you did."

"Yeah, well...that's your loss," the corporal replied churlishly. His tiny smile carried a hint of playfulness, even as he placed a hand slowly on Samael's chest, as if he were trying to prepare himself for something. "I...I noticed you right away in the locker room. But you were so confident, and had this strong aura around you. And I've never expressed myself, of course, not on duty or off, I'm not...I'm not trying to get arrested. Or worse."

Samael nodded and gently pulled the soldier's head up toward his own so they could share a short but satiating kiss that Will only briefly hesitated returning. "I know," Samael murmured, their muzzles still brushing together. "You ain't the first to have that fear. Y'ain't gonna be the last. An' now, you ain't just in bed with another fella, but he's..."

"A rebel," Will finished quietly. His expression was a mix of apprehension and...disappointment? Not in Samael, or who he was, no. A disappointment for the reality of the situation. "Samael, I don't know what to do. I'm..." He swallowed and looked down at the white patch on Samael's throat, tracing it slowly with one claw. "I can't even imagine turning you in. But if you get caught. Or even if you don't, and you go ahead with your mission, whatever it is. you know what they'd do to me? To anyone suspected of helping you?"

"I do," Samael replied, honest, gentle...grave. "I've seen what happens. An' that's why I haven't said nothin' to Ronson, to Jacobs. Why I still didn't even know fifteen minutes ago what I'd say to you." The rebel looked away again as Will stared up at him silently. It was strangely discomforting to see Samael not radiate his usual cockiness. "I ain't tryin' to use no one, Will. Sometimes I got to, to get the job done, but it ain't ever a goal of mine."

Will glanced down as well, though he kept his fingers clenched lightly into his lover's chest fur. "Samael. I'm...I'm not strong like you. I don't. I don't know know if I could avoid telling them..."

Samael cursed himself mentally but couldn't stop his hand from gently turning his partner's muzzle back to meet his eyes as he leaned forward to whisper: "Will...come with me."

"Wh-what? Oh god, Samael, are....are you joking? Th-that's not funny, I'm no rebel..."

Samael only smiled faintly and pulled his companion closer to his stocky frame, pressing their foreheads lightly together. "I ain't jokin'. An' I ain't talkin' about 'cause of some silly notion of love-at-first-sight or some shit like that -- you don't wanna boyfriend like me, anyway, trust me -- I mean...I mean for you, Will. You lay there 'n tell me that you truly believe in this war, an' I'll drop it. But if you even got the slightest bit'a hesitation, then stop puttin' your life on the line for this bullshit 'n come where someone like you c'n make an actual difference and help but a stop to this goddamn pointless holy war."

Will stared up at the rebel wordlessly, searching his eyes for some sign that he was blustering, merely trying to make the Red Army corporal feel like there was some alternative life he could actually lead. But Samael's face remained tender and sincere. Will realized his lover was being serious. He blinked and then lowered his gaze with a tremble. What was he supposed to say? He could hardly see himself shedding his Red armor, his duties, his loyalty to the army he'd...he'd...

The corporal paused as his eyes widened slightly. He hadn't chosen to fight for the Red Army. He'd been drafted, forced to the front lines after over half of his town had been whisked away from their daily lives to join the Holy War. He'd been quick to learn the basics, to stick to the rules and obey the standards, and with time, apply his own aptitude for bureaucratic process. It eventually led him to his position at this base. Under a terrible commander, yes, but safer than the average soldier, and with an actual responsibility and something he could take pride in.

...But he did not choose this life for himself. And here was this member of the Movement, holding him close with so many terrible implications were they to be caught; here Samael was, extending him a genuine hand to join him. A real decision, one that Will was free to make on his own. He just had no idea if he could make that leap.

Samael watched his companion's eyes silently. Every ounce of him wanted to encourage Will. Part of him even wanted to beg the corporal to leave with him when all was said and done. He wasn't lying -- it wasn't a false sense of romantic desire that drove him to seek Will's acceptance. Every additional body willing to do his or her part for the Movement was welcome, but there were those who were made for the rebellion. Not because of any particular skill or value over another, no. Because they had something inside them that sang for a change, that cried out for an end to the ceaseless conflict that defined Sirca more than any other aspect of the ring-world. And Samael saw that in William Barnes. The moment the corporal had spoken to Samael without the careful, curated tone he'd used every other time they'd interacted...that was when the rebel recognized that spark.

Will laid there in Samael's arms for what felt like an eternity. He knew, however, that time was merciless. He wanted to simply press closer and pretend that the real world didn't exist. He didn't want to face the questions that had to be answered, nor face the mocking soldiers under his watch. And he especially didn't want to face the sergeant. Gods knew how many times he'd had nightmares about Marsden somehow deducing his particular...preferences.

He wondered how long Samael would allow him to remain in his embrace, his face buried almost childishly in the other chupadore's chest. He was a rebel -- Samael didn't care about maintaining a schedule, did he? But Will felt he was being honest about not wanting to see anyone hurt, and not wanting to get anyone punished on his account. He doubted Samael would have let him burrow away until the worst unfolded.

Above all else, though -- it was the fact he realized Samael was making this his decision, and his alone. It resonated with something deep inside Will, and it gave him the last push he needed to finally lift his head from Samael's chest and glance up to meet his companion's gaze. "Samael, I don't know what I have to offer," he began, tracing a claw slowly along his lover's collarbone. "I'm not bold like you. I'm not fearless like you."

"I ain't askin' you to be fearless," Samael murmured as he stroked Will's cheek softly. "I ain't even askin' you to help me carry out what I'm supposed to do here." The Red Army soldier swallowed quietly, but continued to listen as their eyes remained locked. "All I'm askin' you is to consider whether this is really what you wanna do with your life, with your talents, with that passion you got for doin' a job well. An' if it ain' gotta place with us."

Will tore his eyes away after a few seconds but nodded silently. He still wanted to hide from the world, to stay here where he felt safe, comfortable with who he was. But he knew better. And Samael did, too, because when Will sighed softly and glanced over at the clock on his nightstand, the rebel at last loosened his embrace. Will hated the way he immediately felt alone again, even with his lover still pressed close to him in the too-small bed. Part of him wanted to regret the entire experience -- but would he really be more content if Samael hadn't been so forward with him? Of course not.

He forced himself past the frustrated emotions and reluctantly slipped out of the bed, running a hand slowly through his mane. He could feel Samael's eyes on him from behind and the slightest blush tinged his cheeks. "Hey, you said this wasn't about some silly romantic thing," Will mumbled, even as he stood up to search for his clothes.

"I did, and I wasn't lyin'," Samael replied with a slight smile as he propped his head up on an elbow, shamelessly admiring his companion's backside. "Can't help it if you gotta nice ass, Will."

"You''re awful," the corporal retorted, blushing further but unable to stop the tiniest smile from coming back to his face. He found his undergarments after a moment and began to slip back into them, glancing over his shoulder as he did so. "You, um. Aw hell, is someone gonna notice you've been. You know. Gone for the last two hours?"

"Nah, I haven't been put on any official shifts yet. Don't worry, ain't my first rodeo," the impostor chuckled as he slid off the mattress as well. He stood up behind Will and then wrapped his arms around him from behind, quietly nuzzling between his shoulder blades. He could feel the taller solder stiffen up instinctively, but then slowly relax with a quiet sigh. Samael smiled a bit to himself and savored the brief extension of their intimacy -- moments like these were rare when he was in the field, and he always tried to make the most of them. And luckily for him, his current partner didn't seem to mind too much.

He released the corporal after a few seconds, allowing the still-flushed soldier to return to getting dressed and making himself presentable. Samael wasn't joking about it not being his first time -- he was fully dressed and had only one piece of armor to replace by the time Will turned around. The corporal blinked in surprise, his chest piece still in his hands. "Omega above, you weren't kidding," he mumbled awkwardly as Samael half-grinned and pulled the second shoulder cover across his arm.

Without a word, the rebel swept forward to help his companion secure the chest armor in place, ignoring Will's feeble protests as he cinched the straps in the back, then lightly patted the soldier's rump. "There. You still got five minutes to get yourself together, make sure ya feel ready," he suggested softly.

"Yeah. I appreciate it...Specialist." There was a small smile curled around the corpora's muzzle, though, and Samael gave him a warm expression in return. Will shifted from one paw to the other as his lover moved quietly to the door to let himself out. He realized that even in these last moments, Samael hadn't pushed him to make a decision. He hadn't even talked about his mission, which didn't make Will feel uncomfortable, oddly enough. It felt like Samael was trying to protect him with as much plausible deniability as possible. As the 'specialist' reached out to tap the button to open the door, Will stepped toward him.

"W-wait. Samael..."

The rebel paused and glanced over his shoulder with a small, curious smile. "Yeah?"

Will stared into Samael's eyes for a moment, then blurted: "I have an inventory count scheduled at ten hours after sundown. If you're could..."

"I'll be there, Will," Samael interrupted gently, smiling warmly again and then winking. "Now, get back to bein' the bureaucrat." His tone carried just enough of a teasing lilt that Will couldn't help but smile faintly in return, before he quickly straightened his features as Samael tapped the button for the door. "Thanks for the information, Corporal Barnes!" he announced loudly, stepping through the threshold after the door slid open. "I'll be sure to keep it in mind."

Will gave his companion one last longing glance before he forced a stony expression, saluting briefly. "Of course, Specialist Holmes," he replied mildly. "Don't be late to the meeting."

Samael avoided casting any affectionate looks back at Barnes -- for good reason, too, as he nearly bumped into a rather bedraggled Private Jacobs in the hallway. The massive soldier leaned down to peer into Barnes's room, only to quickly salute when the corporal offered him a dry glare. "S-Sir!"

"On your way, Private," Barnes grumbled, keeping his composure surprisingly intact before slamming the button to close his door once again.

Samael smiled to himself -- at least Barnes had a few more minutes to get himself back into shape for the briefing with the sergeant. "Big man Jacobs! I'm surprised you're on your feet!" he announced, slapping the soldier's chest plate with a grin.

Jacobs looked between 'Holmes' and the corporal's door a few times, his features scrunched into what seemed like a mixture of concern and confusion. "Holmes..." His voice was a hushed whisper, and his widened eyes gave a hint to his state of mind. "Did...did we get in you in trouble? Did that...uh, I mean, did Corporal Barnes find out about the liquor? Me and Ronson didn't get you reprimanded, did we??"

The impostor laughed loudly even as he purposefully nudged into the private while walking forward to encourage the worried soldier to move with him. "Hey, that's an awful lotta lack of faith in me 'n my smooth talkin'!" 'Holmes' chided playfully as he led Jacobs down the hall. "Nah, it actually had nothin' to do with any of that, I went by to see if I could get permission to borrow one of the jeeps for a perimeter sweep."

"Oooh...that explains why the corporal looked so grumpy," Jacobs replied with a slow, knowing nod.

Samael kept his smile mostly hidden, grunting his agreement. "Yup, you can imagine what kinda answer I got. Anyway, I'm the one who should be apologizing -- I didn't realize you two had to get back to patrol so quickly, I wouldn't have made y'all play that drinkin' game if I knew!"

"Oh, it's okay, Ronson has three more hours, and I'm really good at holding my booze!" Jacobs bragged, puffing his thickly-muscled chest out and making his armor bulge with the audible sound of the support straps threatening to snap. "I barely have a headache at all!"

"Damn, son, you're cocky, ain'tcha?" Samael shot back with a teasing grin. "This comin' from the lightweight who passed out with his head in my lap!"

Jacobs huffed loudly, his cheeks flushed slightly as he clutched his rifle tighter to his chest. "Well...that's only because you didn't tell me how strong that darn moonshine was! I just wasn't ready, that's all!"

"Mhmm, 'course," Samael replied amusedly. "For what it was worth, you weren't droolin' on me, at least."

Jacobs scowled before rolling his head on his thick neck. "Yeah, well. You're the weirdo who let me, so. That means you must have been even more drunk than me!"

"That's gotta be it," the specialist chuckled. "You guys got me so wasted that I forgot it's against the rules to cuddle with your handsome bunkmates."

Jacobs didn't seem to know how to respond this time, an awkward silence coming across him as the other male at his side smiled a bit, then glanced down at himself -- right, his pistol and rifle were still back next to his bed. He figured Marsden would give no quarter to him the next time he saw the newcomer, and he had even more reason to want to avoid any kind of irreversible clash with the sergeant. Not yet, anyway. "But I'd better go grab my gear and check out the perimeter, maybe see if Sergeant Marsden wants me to do anything specific yet. Where you headed, big guy?"

The distraction appeared to be welcome as Jacobs shook his head out quickly and then nodded down the hall. "I'm a part of a response team drill tonight, we'll be going around the base to check on possible points of attack and stuff."


Samael honestly didn't know how else to respond. Every time he thought Marsden couldn't be worse...well. Here it was. "Well, uh. That must mean you boys are even more combat-ready than I thought." He had to actually put in a bit of effort to sound genuine in the attempt to mask his disgust.

"Yeah, we sure are!" Jacobs replied, the last of his awkwardness fading as his expression grew chipper. "Drills aren't so bad! Not nearly as boring as being on guard duty. We actually get to move around and see different things instead of the same boring area. Even at night!"

"Ah, I see, that makes sense," Samael agreed, mostly meaning it. After all, he couldn't blame even the most ardent soldiers for enjoying a change of pace from the normal, mindless bullshit. "I may just run into y'all out there, then -- it'd be a treat to see y'all in action," he added with a wink.

"Yeah! Maybe you can tell Command about it, and we'll get some more support from them down here!" Jacobs exclaimed hopefully.

The rebel smiled, though it wasn't quite as genuine. Jacobs had his moments of doubt and reservation, but the soldier still moved in lockstep with the expectations of the Red Army. It didn't mean he was hopeless -- no one was a lost cause to Samael. He wasn't upset with Jacobs; if anything, just a bit sad for the way the Holy War built such a complete, walled-in life for anyone who was drawn into this world.

"You know I will, my friend," Samael replied with a smile, patting the private lightly on the arm. "Go on, now, don't let me make ya late to your shift. I'mma go get my gear before I head out."

"Don't forget to go by the watch desk!" Jacobs called out over his shoulder, making 'Holmes' scowl to himself, even as he gave a falsely-cheerful thumbs up in reply.

"Fuckin' watch desk...can't believe this place," Samael muttered as he stalked back to his bunk...but not before giving a brief glance toward the corporal's door as he passed.

The light in the dark rarely showed up where anyone expected it.

Samael entered the bunk room quietly, noticing immediately that Ronson was no longer sprawled across the low table, but instead was drooling away in a dead slumber on his bed. The rebel smiled slightly, wondering for a moment if he'd woken up long enough to drag himself to his mattress...or if his fellow giant of a bunkmate had done the moving for him. The two soldiers were sweet, in their own awkward, naive way. And whether or not they actually had any curiosity toward intimacy with other didn't change the fact they were so genuine, despite the Red Army brainwashing that -- sadly -- worked so effectively on chupadores like them.

He was silent as he moved to his cot and picked up the customized handgun to holster it at his side. He grabbed only a single magazine for the oversized rifle before slinging it over a shoulder with a soft grunt. At least now he'd look the part a bit more.

He knew he would have been expected at this point to leverage his position with Will to advance the mission. It was something he always fought about with his team; he was so good at gaining people's trust, yet the moment he forged a bond with someone he didn't see as merely a pawn, it became nigh impossible for him to simply use them so coldly. Fortunately for Will -- and unfortunately for the Movement -- the corporal was on that list. That meant Samael had to toe the line even more so than usual, since he refused to coerce Barnes into assisting him. It meant he needed to fit in even more definitively.

Once equipped, Samael slipped out of the room and then glanced in either direction. A watch desk was, shockingly, not a normal fixture in your run-of-the-mill base. He tried to recall if he had been shown the location during his brief tour with Jacobs. Alas, one of the downsides of having such an eye for tall, muscular farm boys in too-small armor.

If he had to guess, Samael figured it would be near the rec room. In fact, he was starting to wonder if -- other than the precious Movie Night when the Red Army propaganda was apparently shown -- the recreational room wasn't completely overtaken with Marsden's obsessive need to run the base like a level eight High Command location.

Samael shook his head to himself as he jogged down the stairs. The one thing he couldn't deny, at least, was the fact that despite the oppressive air of this base, the vast majority of soldiers he'd come across were either uncomfortably cheery in their duties...or just a bit cynical, even if still obedient. Something was keeping their morale up.

The first door on his left opened into what was normally the rec room in most Red and Blue bases...and unfortunately Samael's hunch seemed to be on the money. Most of the furniture had been removed, and a desk had been installed in the center. A light-red soldier glanced up at Samael before frowning ever so slightly when he didn't recognize the specialist. But upon seeing his insignia, 'Holmes' indulged him in the usual ritualistic greeting before glancing at the various stacks of paper and schedules littering the surface of the desk.

"Specialist haven't been put on any rosters yet," the soldier muttered as he paged through a few loose sheets of paper. "You should have come by the desk sooner..."

Like a Barnes, Jr. Except a little less cute and a lot less organized... Samael tried not to smile. "My apologies, Private First Class. Wow, that is a mouthful -- what's your name, friend?"

"Private First Class Jenkins," the chupadore replied bluntly, clearly not impressed by the newcomer. "Well, sir, I'll have to speak to the Corporal about your assignments, but if you aren't in the middle of anything...special, there is a patrol currently sweeping the perimeter."

"Is that the same as the team doing response drills?" the impostor ventured with a slight smile, figuring he'd at least be able to astonish the guy into silence with his insider knowledge.

"No. The team doing response drills is scheduled to do response drills," Jenkins replied with a frightening lack of irony. So much for impressing anyone. "You would want to look for Private First Class Dremen, he and his crew will be in one of the vehicles moving in a westward loop around the base territory."

"Well, then. You've been a great help, Private First Class Jenkins," Samael deadpanned before tipping the glowering soldier a dismissive salute and ambling back out of the room. Someone was jealous of the new guy, he wagered. And he wouldn't be any more surprised to learn that either of the two slightly-elevated Private First Class soldiers were also gunning for Barnes's role and rank. He had the feeling Marsden wouldn't be lifting anyone up unless they fell neatly into his vision of the ideal underling, which certainly explained this soldier's attitude.

Samael trotted back through the base and out the side entrance, almost forgetting about the additional outside lighting as he threw a hand up to shield his eyes. It wasn't going to make an kind of sneaking around very logical, that was for sure. Although he was quickly realizing that the high-level 'regulation' Marsden prided himself on maintaining would work in his favor. As long as everyone here realized he was a 'specialist', well...the automatic snap to deference gave him a leg up for most interactions. Even for the soldiers who weren't such a fan of his arrival.

It didn't take him long to spot the bright headlights carving a path through the darkness. Samael shrugged to himself and began to jog in a loose arc toward the vehicle -- either the on-board radar would indicate his approach, or one of the Reds sitting within would spot him. He couldn't help but grimace as he wondered for a brief moment if that would imply he might get shot by an excited, over-stimulated, under-satisfied grunt...but hopefully the adrenaline would make the first shot go wide.


His fears were marginally diluted when, about thirty or forty meters away, the jeep suddenly ground to a halt and a rack-mounted spotlight swung toward him. "Halt! Identify yourself!" a voice boomed from the vehicle. Samael lifted a forearm to save what was left of his night-vision, squinting and then gesturing idly to his armor.

"Specialist Holmes. And would I be speakin' to the one and only Private First Class Dremen?" he called back easily, a smile tugging at his muzzle.

There was a pause, even though the blinding lamp stayed focused on his upper body. "Specialist Homes. Yes. Of course...sir. Private First Class Dremen." The light continued to pin the chupadore to the dark meadow -- Samael imagined this soldier had similar visions of grandeur, and was no doubt enjoying this moment of absolute dominance over the newcomer. "You should be more cautious, sir! You might get your head blown off sneaking up on a unit like ours at night."

"Veritably," Samael replied gamely as he masked his cool smile with a more mild expression. "You fellas come across anything tonight?"

"Nothing that interesting," the lead soldier shot back. But when Samael didn't budge, and the calm facade never left his face, the impromptu leader finally grumbled and adjusted the spotlight downward. "Sir, our patrol is already at four. There's no room in the vehicle -- you weren't on the duty board for this shift."

"Of course, I'm well aware," the specialist drawled before jerking his head toward the faintly visible treeline behind them. "Wanted to take the time and get to know the routines of this fine base. Don't you worry none, I can handle my own well enough. Now then -- you boys actually got anythin' on the scope out here tonight?"

As his eyes adjusted once more to the darkness, he could indeed make out four bodies in the jeep. The soldier seated next to the driver was likely the ranked private -- or at least the scowl Samael could just make out in the low light suggested as much. He was the largest of the four, though it wasn't saying much. Much like with Jacobs and Ronson, most of this quartet might have been mistaken for weightlifters or perhaps lumberjacks in other parts of the ring. Maybe Marsden requests 'huge soldiers'. Or maybe that sneaky Barnes has been pluckin' out rookies that ain't so hard on the eyes...

He tried not to smirk. From the passenger seat, the one he now assumed was Dremen spoke up again. "As luck would have it, we are keeping a look out for a possible Blue scout," the chupadore admitted stiffly, seeming uncomfortable with the fact that his rigorous adherence to protocol made it so he needed to show respect toward the newcomer. "One of the men reported seeing signs of a potential intruder on the ridge line. We're sweeping with the long-range radar to see if we can track anything." He snorted derisively. "Those Blue bastards are like rats. They love scuttling around in the dark."

Samael's teeth ground silently together. "No doubt," he affirmed, squeezing out every ounce of willpower to not lash out at the soldier. It wasn't like he didn't hear shit like this all the time -- from both sides, no less. But it still enraged him, no matter how many times it came up. "Well then why don't I offer you another pair of eyes?" he suggested with a half-smile. "We can track anyone out there a lot faster with some more help, right?"

"That sounds really promising, sir, but I'm afraid the hog's full-up," Dremen simpered, replying with a false smile. "If you wanted, you could always run alongside. Although I'm sure with that rifle, that might be a bit of a haul."

You cocky little...giant...shit.

Samael offered a toothy grin in response. "Ha! You run a snug operation, Dremen." He wouldn't lie -- the slight twitch suffered by the soldier when Samael didn't use his full title was satisfying as fuck. "But hey, that's not a problem for me!" He shifted the massive sniper rifle on his back and then shrugged easily. "Grew up in the fields of Sampi, my friends. Usin' nothin' but your own legs to get anywhere was jus' a part of life! Ain't gotten too spoiled since then."

The private (first class) didn't appear to be too thrilled with the interloper's dogged determination, but he had little choice other than shrugging a bit and gesturing toward the steep hills to the east. "If you insist, Specialist. We're heading that way -- movement was reported somewhere atop those ridges."

'Holmes' tapped his brow with a claw before wordlessly picking up a jog in the indicated direction. He heard a murmur from one of the grunts in the vehicle behind him, but it was quickly drowned out by Dremen muttering darkly and hissing at his driver to move ahead. The rebel smiled to himself in the darkness -- no reason he couldn't ruffle a few feathers while keeping his cover intact. If this guy was determined to make him the bad guy, hey. Just made his job in the end a little easier.

Samael trotted up behind the jeep a minute or two after it had come to a halt at the base of the foothills. The group of four Red Army soldiers were still inside the vehicle, their leader smirking expectantly at the specialist as he approached. "Oh, sorry, sir -- we just caught some blips on the radar, didn't want to lose the signal..."

Samael barely resisted rolling his eyes, instead tossing a small smile through the darkness. "Gosh, real kind of y'all," he replied in a saccharine tone before glancing up toward the top of the ridge. "So where do we have our little dot poppin' up, mm?"

The barely-ranking soldier narrowed his eyes a bit, then drew his gaze back toward the portable radar display before blinking. "Ah!" He lifted his head and stared up toward a cluster of boulders, visible only as faded shapes in the dark crest of the hill above them. "Looks like the hunt is on, boys!"

Two of the three soldiers in the vehicle immediately whooped and started to scramble out of the jeep...only for Dremen to hold out an arm. "Wait, wait...I just remembered. Our new specialist is a long-range expert...isn't that correct, sir?" He gave an ingratiating smile to Samael, whose muzzle twitched ever so slightly. He'd faced far worse taunts than this. But something about this guy just got right under his skin.

As he slowly dug his claws into his palms and began to formulate the appropriate response, the driver of the jeep piped up: "Private First Class Dremen!" They're really seriously about this bullshit title, holy fuck. "I've got definite movement!" His voice dropped to a loud whisper as he pointed into the darkness.

Samael's sharp eyes traced the gesture and he quickly frowned -- it wasn't imaginary this time. He spotted the telltale flick of a tuft as whoever was behind the distant rock formation attempted to hide. Unfortunately, it was too late, as a cruel smile spread across Dremen's muzzle. "I see it, Evans. Stupid Blue bastard, can't even keep his fat head out of sight." The de facto leader leveled his gaze at the 'specialist', holding out a hand in mock invitation. "Go on, sir. We would love to see the skills that Red Command thought were too valuable not to send to us."

The impostor swore mentally even as he gave a disdainful snort and yanked the enormous rifle over a shoulder. He twisted it sideways for a moment, glancing at the side of the massive clip before smoothly lifting the padded stock to rest against his shoulder, gently settling his cheek behind the scope. A quick flick of a claw activated the night vision on the scope and he tried not to grimace as he made out the top of the distant figure's skull, slowly rising above the top of a boulder in what was likely an attempt to see if running was in order yet.

Fuck...I'm sorry, kid. Better me than them.

'Holmes' inhaled briefly, his body shifting somewhat as he straightened his left arm to stabilize the front of the heavy rifle. His right paw slid back and turned outward as a finger slipped into the ring and settled across the trigger. And as he released his breath, he made one final adjustment to the tip of the barrel before gently squeezing the trigger..

His stocky form caught the recoil expertly as the deafening crack echoed off the slope before them and back across the quiet meadow. He closed his eyes for a moment as he lowered the rifle, tracing a thin line of smoke with the fluted barrel as he placed the oversized weapon on his back once more, just as the driver of the jeep gave a surprised grunt from behind the scope through which he'd been peering. "Damn! Sir, he, uh...he got him, right between the eyes..."

Dremen snorted, shrugging a bit and refusing to acknowledge 'Holmes' as he instead turned to one of the gaping soldiers in the back seat. "Hey, wake up! You ladies act like you've never seen a decent shot before. Get up there and recover that --"

"Actually, allow me," Samael interjected mildly, already jogging toward the hill. "Always followed the rule of you keep what you kill. Be right back, Private First Class." He rolled his eyes to himself as his paws carried him quickly up the rolling terrain as the tall grass of the meadow gave way to gravel and loose rock.

He could hear Dremen muttering something behind him, though apparently the onus of following protocol was too great for the obedient soldier to break as he otherwise offered no attempt to argue with the 'specialist'. Their blind allegiance to the sergeant and his way of running things was quickly becoming their greatest exploitation.

Samael slowed his pace as he approached the loose arrangement of boulders with a deep frown, his eyes catching sight of the splatter of dark crimson fluid across the tops of a few rocks. He sighed and leaned over to look at the other side, where the body of a soldier who was indeed wearing Blue armor lay sprawled out atop the loose stones. The rebel shook his head a bit and hopped over the cluster of boulders to land in a crouch next to the body, which he quickly rolled over.

He reached down toward the male soldier's forehead and, with a grunt of effort, plucked the compact dart out of the unconscious chupadore's skull. "Sorry, kid. That's gonna hurt like a fuckin' bitch...but better'n bein' dead," he muttered, even as he shook his head slowly at the fact his 'victim' looked to barely be out of his teenage years, if he was at all. He wondered if the young chupadore was drafted, or if he'd joined of his own volition. Did he have a family back home? A girlfriend? A pet? Was someone missing him, and dreading the day the House letterhead arrived at their door?

...They'd have to wait at least one more day, now.

Samael was careful to not get any of the fake blood on his fingers as he wrapped the specialized round in a small cloth and tucked it into a side pack. He always kept a clip of live ammunition and a clip of tranquilizer rounds on him; luckily, he'd had the non-lethal ones already loaded in the sniper rifle. It made for a convincing show in a pinch, and more importantly, it meant one less useless death in the name of this goddamned war.

He had no idea if the Blue soldier was scouting, spying or simply trying to make his way through hostile territory to more friendly ground. The standard-issue pistol at his hip was empty, and Samael left it for him to keep. It was nothing worth bringing back. The young male had no communication devices that the rebel could find, and as he ran his fingertips along his pockets and packs, the only other notable thing he came across was a small scrap of paper with coordinates scribbled on them. Perhaps the nearest Blue base? Or maybe even just a rumored sanctuary. For all Samael knew, this soldier was a deserter seeking an escape from the useless bloodshed.

Ironic that this unknown soldier had the same odds of being felled by a Red bullet as he did being put to death by the House. Even the enemy he no longer wished to fight wouldn't think twice to bring him down, without hesitation or mercy. Samael sighed quietly again before shaking his head quickly and taking a moment to memorize the coordinates. If nothing else, he could have Nelson look them up the next time he spoke to her.

There wasn't anything else of interest on the chupadore's body. Samael frowned a bit -- he could probably spin a convincing enough yarn about coming back empty-handed...but he was also trying to limit his stack of falsehoods. The more lies he told, the faster his whole mission could become unraveled.

Samael tapped a claw against his muzzle for a moment before grumbling quietly and then quickly undoing the plates that covered the light-blue chupa's shoulders. The guy was only a private...but it was better than nothing. The rebel paused with the armor in his hands before he quickly smeared one of them into the fake blood that had splattered across the unconscious male's forehead and muzzle. Those assholes in the hog probably got off to this sort of thing.

With that, he finally stood up from his crouch and glowered down at the distant lights of the armored vehicle. At least Dremen hadn't sent anyone to come 'help out'. He mumbled a few choice words even as he forced a triumphant grin and shoved the shoulder armor into the air above his head victoriously. He heard a faint whoop from below, but ignored it in favor of glancing down at the sprawled-out soldier. "Dunno if you're runnin' or just followin' orders, kid...but good luck, and try not to get your ass shot up," Samael murmured before hopping back across the rock formation to start picking his way down the steep incline and back toward the more gentle slope of the fields.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Dremen pointed the blinding spotlight at Samael as he half-slid, half-jogged along the loose pebbles. Probably to 'help me see' if I was gonna say shit about it... Samael ignored it as he kept his gaze cast down to avoid the glare until his paws met the tall grass, at which point he lifted an arm to shield his eyes.

"Well, Specialist Holmes? That much of a worthless sack that ya only brought back a few pieces of armor?" Dremen almost-taunted, lowering the light with a smirk.

Samael inhaled long enough to count to five before he gave an easy smile. "'Fraid so, fellas. Just a lonely Blue scout, no friends with 'im that I saw. Took the shot right in his face, wasn't much left to deal with."

"No radio, no gun?" Dremen inquired quizzically, even as he eyed the 'bloody' shoulder plates. "Orders are to recover any and all equipment to ensure those cowards don't got a leg to stand on."

"No radio, and the pistol was so caked full'a mud that ain't no one gonna use it no time soon," the rebel casually lied before tucking the trophies into a side pack. "Guessin' he was from whatever scattered Blue troops are in these parts...maybe just doin' some reconnoiterin' of our locale."

One of the grunts in the back of the jeep laughed loudly. "Ha! Serves 'em right, they should know better! We're no pushovers here!" He paused and then gave 'Holmes' a nearly-reverential look. "That was, uh...that was a great shot, sir!" The private winced automatically when Dremen shot him a nasty expression, though Samael had already turned away with a slight shrug.

"Nothin' to it. They sent me out here to pop Blue skulls, so I'm gonna do just that whenever I'm presented with one."

The reply seemed to placate Dremen somewhat, even if he still glared silently into the back of the newcomer's head. "Yes, sir," the bulky soldier muttered, jerking his head to the driver. "We only have one more point to cross for the patrol -- will you be joining us?"

Samael kept his thin smile contained as he glanced back over a shoulder and gave another, mild shrug. "Nah, 'ppreciate the hospitality, but just wanted to get my eyes on a night patrol so I ain't no stranger to the procedure. Good luck huntin', y'all. I'll see y'all back at base at some point."

He took the time for a semi-proper salute, then turned it into an idle wave before adjusting his rifle and directing himself back toward the base. He could hear the soldiers mumbling between themselves as he strode away, but the rebel didn't really care just how impressed they were with his ability to kill. Or at least the ability to make it look like he'd killed.

Samael's eyes adjusted quickly to the night once he moved away from Dremen's weak attempts to use the spotlight as some sort of show of dominance. He was all for dick-measuring contests but christ did the atmosphere of this base make behavior like that unbearable. He didn't know if the plan bestowed upon him was actually going to do much about the main problem here: Marsden. But at the same time, he wasn't sure what he could do about the sergeant, anyway...short of killing him. It would be just another dead soldier in this pointless war, and not like it'd be Samael's first. Yet it didn't feel like a solution. It felt like a deflection, and no more than a mere postponing of an inevitable replacement.

He shook his head with a sigh as he jogged back, keeping his return path wide so he could observe the base from a distance as he made a lazy loop toward the back, where the ammunition depot stood in its extra-lighted glory. Other than the additional illumination and the excessive number of posted soldiers, though, nothing else stood out to Samael. Small favors, he supposed, and he'd take whatever he could at that point.

The rebel found a large boulder a hundred yards or so from the main structure, propping himself up against it and pulling the rifle from his back to lean it next to him. In the darkness, he was just another shadow to anyone who happened to glance this way. He had a clear view of the entrances, however, and could watch whoever came and went. Samael thought back to the original plan that Nelson had laid out with him.

Gain access to the depot, hop on the computer, reroute some deliveries, disappear. It was so simple. And ineffective. And boring.

But now with Barnes in the mix...even if he didn't know what the corporal's true thoughts were, it meant things could change. Perhaps even in a direction he could take some goddamn pride in.

He settled back against the stone and let his body relax, keeping his eyes trained on the main entryways. It was a good thing he was never a fan of simple.