It wasn't that Kevin hadn't understood. He had. Your partner was family, and Ike's life and honor had both been on the line. Kevin knew that if their roles had been reversed he would have gone through hell and back to do the same. That was true for any of the men he'd served with in the past, of course, but it was true of Javier especially.
Still, something about it had bothered him more than he could hope to articulate. Something he still couldn't begin to explain.
Watching Javier drive away had left a cold, tight ache in his gut. It was more than just fear. More than just tension. And, as he was left alone, for a long, bizarre moment the grey pillars of the garage had seemed to press in on him. The station's garage had suddenly felt impossibly strange and forbiddingly alien, and for a moment the place had seemed...wrong. As if their scene should have played out somewhere else.
Or as if, somewhere else, this had all happened before...
It should have been difficult to shrug it off, but his mind was occupied with other conflicts. He had to be there for his partner. He had to. He had made a promise when— Things were fuzzy. He couldn't quite remember.
'Til the wheels fall off, he had said, only moments before. That was it. And he'd meant it. He had meant that and so much more, but Javier was right.
If things went wrong, his partner was going to need backup...
Once it all was over, it had been no surprise when the confusion and fear had followed him into his dreams. Though how the images his mind chose to conjure related to reality would have been impossible for him to explain.
It was one of those weird dreams where he was himself but he wasn't, and while the man at his side wasn't Javier, at the same time he was his partner in every way that mattered.
Their friendship had begun with a gift given without a thought to its worth, and an oath given with hate on his lips.
Truth be told, they never should have been able to trust each other. Still, despite their differences and the evils each represented to the other, they had come to trust all the same. For all that the Roman had become his master and he a slave there was...an ease when they were in each others' company. It was something beyond either his words or his reason to express. Something which had rooted, even in those early days, enough that Marcus had faith that Esca's word would stay his hand from violence even toward a hated enemy, that his bond would not be broken.
So much had happened since they had left Calleva. They had come through snow and ice and blood and fire, through pain and doubt and apparent betrayal. Somehow that thing, whatever it was, had grown into something strong. Things were different. They were different.
Somehow, it had led them here.
The sheer, dark walls of the ravine pressed in on him, channeling the rain into something heavy and oppressive, threatening to drag him down into despair. Marcus' wound had never fully healed, and his imprisonment had done him few favors. He would never outrun their pursuers, and they both knew it. Still, it had been unthinkable what Marcus had suggested.
"I came this far with you. I won't leave you now," had been Esca's answer, only moments before.
Now, "I swore an oath of honor never to abandon you."
There were things he never would have imagined could cause him pain, yet pain was what he felt as he asked Marcus for the return of his freedom. He feared his friend would not understand why it must be done, but he could not afford to transgress against his geis, not when their lives were both at risk. His honor required him to serve, but what had been ordered of him would not save his friend. If he could not do what he must without breaking his vow then it was needful that he be released from it.
A tortured ache twisted his gut as he turned, leaving Marcus behind in the mud and the rain, but he knew what was coming for them was more than two men could face alone. He would return, to fight and possibly die by his friend's side. He would return, and perhaps one day, if they both survived, he might belong to Marcus again. Body and soul, but on his own terms. By his own choice. A gift truly equal to the one he had been given.
And it would be for all time.
When Kevin woke the next morning it was with his arm stretched across the empty side of his bed and an inexplicable, empty feeling in his chest. Yet, instead of desolation, that feeling carried with it a strange, almost soothing sense of anticipation. As though something he hadn't even known he was waiting for would soon, finally, come to pass.
Caught between confusion, longing, and loneliness, Kevin rolled over and tried to forget.
After all, it was only a dream.