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Love Salient (Handle With Care Remix)

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Physicality is like foreplay with Snake. He uses sparring off the battlefield like Kaz uses sex: to solve problems, clear the air, or raise the stakes. Sometimes Kaz gets lucky and it morphs into foreplay, switching from Snake’s game into his. More often, it doesn’t.

They fight on a helipad while the sun sets around Mother Base. Snake never has any mercy in battle, but Kaz gets in his fair share of parries and blocks - a couple of jabs and close shaves. When Snake sees an opening, he takes it. He cuts Kaz open over his head and his heart.

Kaz has never felt so alive.

He finds himself laid out on the tarmac, the breath punched out of him and the orange sunset glow turned purple behind Snake. Before Kaz has fully caught his breath -- before he can remember when he ended up on the ground -- Snake pulls him to his feet.

Snake has blood all over him, and no wounds to show for it. He glances at Kaz’s erection bulging from his pants and lights a cigar. “To get patched up,” he orders. “Scars don’t suit you.”

The adrenaline crash hits on the walk to the med bay, along with a softening erection and a limp from a blow to the knee. Night descends and Mother Base has already calmed to a sleepy murmur of activity. Men are on patrol, but anyone else who isn’t away on a mission has turned in for the night. Kaz gives curious onlookers a friendly wave as he passes on his walk of shame, leaving a thin smattering blood trail behind him.

It’s after-hours when he arrives at med bay, but he knocks anyway, his free hand on his chest wound to slow the blood loss.

“It’s locked for a reason,” is the reply from inside. “Unless somebody’s dying, sick parade starts at 0730 tomorrow.”

Kaz recognizes the voice of Snake’s favorite medic, █████, who blushes like a virgin girl whenever Kaz catches his eyes from behind his sunglasses. Hippocratic oath or otherwise, Kaz knows the medic wouldn’t turn him away.

So he flips on his flirtatious charm like a switch and he laughs. “Sleep on the wrong side of the bed?” He sing-songs at █████ through the door. “Aren’t doctors supposed to be caring? You’re not going to let me bleed out on your doorstep, are you?”

“You’re bleeding?” █████ inquires, and Kaz can hear his footsteps approaching. Still got it . “How badly?” When he opens the door, █████’s face is already flushed. He looks over Kaz’s wounds while Kaz smiles back. █████ bites his lip -- from concern, or arousal, Kaz can’t be sure. “What happened?”

Kaz had his script practiced on his way over, and he speaks confidently as he walks past █████ into the room. “I asked Snake to show me some CQC moves. Turns out the boxes were more breakable and full of nice than we expected.”

█████ peers back through the door into the hall. “Where is he?”

“Where I left him, probably. Told him it was nothing -- head wounds always bleed like this, but he made me come down here.” Kaz helps himself to an eyeful of the med bay and all of █████’s things. He sits, perching on █████’s desk and peers at what he’s been working on. Save for some pens, a stethoscope, and some papers, his desk is perfectly clean. Who keeps their workplace this tidy? “Sorry to interrupt your… reports,” Kaz says, and picks up the page as he finds it. “Is this what you do after hours?”

█████ appears in front of Kaz and swats the report out of his hand. “He was right to send you, you need stitches.”

“You’re the expert,” Kaz chirps, and leans back to make himself comfortable on █████’s desk. █████ lets out a pointed cough and tilts his head to the examination table on the other side of the room. It’s sterile and covered in plastic sheets. Less sexy than the desk, but Kaz climbs to his feet and follows █████’s directions. When he lays back there, the medic coughs again.

“I need you to take off your shirt,” he says, his face red as the sunrise on the morning of a storm. “And sunglasses.”

“You need me to?” Kaz tries to hold █████’s gaze as he pulls his sunglasses down his nose, but the medic won’t look at him as he strips. █████ wanders off to fetch his first aid supplies while Kaz looks for somewhere to put his sunglasses. When he pulls his shirt over his head, █████ is coming back, and Kaz catches him in the act of feasting his pretty brown eyes on Kaz’s abs. Yes!

Kaz smiles at █████ and watches his adam’s apple jump as he swallows. Kaz watches as he carefully exhales before approaching, like Kaz is a wild animal and █████ needs to build his nerve. █████ keeps his eyes strictly on the gash on Kaz’s chest. He doesn’t dare look anywhere else, while Kaz doesn’t look away from █████’s eyes.

█████ sits on a tall stool next to Kaz and goes to work. Kaz watches three wrinkles appear, tracing the concerned arc of █████’s eyebrows as he goes to work cleaning the wound on Kaz’s chest. Kaz focuses on his breathing - and █████’s eyes - to keep himself still. He can’t suppress a hitched breath when the needle pierces his skin for the first stitch.

The silence in the room is killing him. “You don’t talk much, do you, █████?” The conversation draws █████’s eyes to Kaz’s, and averts them just as quickly.

“What do you want me to say?” █████ flushes again under Kaz’s watch. He’s timid like a teenage girl out late and alone with her boyfriend in the summer. The medic is plain-looking, but not ugly. His features are soft and round. He looks more suited to a carpentry job, to a wife and children in the american suburbs.

“Well, you’ve been with the MSF since the start, but I barely know you,” Kaz says. “You could say anything. Why did you join up?”

█████ presses his hands against Kaz’s chest, against his wound. He’s all business. “My brother was a soldier,” is all he says on the matter.

“And…?” Kaz probes. “You wanted to be a soldier, just like him?”

█████’s brow lifts with curiosity, showing a new couple of wrinkles. Kaz thinks he must be the same age as the Boss, but Kaz can’t remember the details of his file. “I didn’t go to medical school to become a soldier. I joined the MSF because of Big Boss.”

“Who… reminds you of your brother?”

“He’s nothing like my brother,” he says, dabbing gauze against Kaz’s skin between stitches, gentle and sweet.

Kaz laughs, “throw me a bone here. Your brother was a soldier, but you didn’t want to be a soldier, and you admire Big Boss? I asked you why you joined MSF, not if you wanted to play two truths and a lie.” Kaz reaches over and gives █████’s elbow a reassuring squeeze, and the medic’s eyes dart to where Kaz is touching him.

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to become a soldier,” he said, sounding agitated. “It’s all I ever wanted to be. My brother, too, but… his unit was hit by artillery when I was a kid. He was lucky enough to survive, but he came out of it blind and paralyzed.”

Kaz didn’t want █████ feeling bullied out of his deep depressing secrets. His comfortable flirtation was becoming a thing of the past. “Look, if this is too personal, forget it.”

“No, it isn’t,” █████ snipped, and Kaz caught his eyes for a moment before the medic returned to his work. “As you’d imagine, he was medically discharged. His treatment was paid for, and he got a hero’s welcome back home.”

“But you wanted to heal him,” Kaz said, predicting the narrative.

“But he wasn’t in long enough to get a pension, my parents were poor, and he couldn’t work. He felt like a burden, even though we loved him. My mother stayed home to look after him and it cost us her wages, and if I did it, it cost me days at school. We got help from neighbours for a while, but when popular sentiment turned against the war, that dried up, too.”

“So you became a doctor for the money? To support him?” That was something Kaz could understand.

“No,” █████ said plainly. “He swallowed a bullet when I was twelve.”

Shit. “Oh, hell. Look, I’m sorry. I--”

“That’s why I joined MSF,” █████ goes on, and Kaz lets him. “Big Boss wants to carve out a place where soldiers are celebrated, rather than used and cast aside when the tide shifts. He wants a place where they make their own fates, instead of relying on the whims of politicians and patriotism. I’ll follow him to the ends of the earth for that. To my grave, if I have to.”

No wonder Snake likes this guy so much. He has his own reasons to rally behind the Boss’s ideology and support his cause. He was exactly the kind of soldier that was good for MSF, one that he served while it could serve him.

Kaz was quiet with his thoughts as the medic cut the thread over the wound on his chest. █████’s eyes moved to the cut on Kaz’s scalp, taking Kaz’s jaw in his fingers to tilt his head just so. █████’s touch was so light it gave Kaz goosebumps.

“You know, I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say.”

█████ pushed Kaz’s blood-matted hair back and away from the wound. He was so gentle, like Kaz was made of something precious and fragile. “You never talked to me before.”

He didn’t have much need to. “You’re right,” Kaz tried to nod, but █████’s hand kept him still. His strength in spite of his care was surprising. “But it takes two to tango. You never talked to me, either.”

“You outrank me,” he said. Bullshit . “It would be unprofessional.”

Kaz tried not to laugh. “If you say so, █████. It wouldn’t be unprofessional to give me medical advice though, and you’ve never even done that.”

“You want me to give you advice?” He echoed, moving to clean the wound with antiseptic. If Kaz wasn’t so close, he might not have heard him.

“Sure,” Kaz said, using his tone to pull the mood back into something more light-hearted. “Why not!”

“Stop picking fights with men like him,” █████ said. His words cut right into Kaz. “You won’t win.”

“Men like… him. Like Big Boss?” Kaz scrambled for a cool, light-hearted tone. “I’m not sure there are any, █████. Besides, we’re not playing for keeps, if you know what I mean.”

“That’s not what I mean,” █████ said. He paused, and took a breath to steel himself. “There are more men like him than I think you realize.”

“Legendary soldiers?” Kaz was sure his confusion read all over his face. “I don’t think so. Besides, I like to think if that I trained enough, I could--”

█████ pressed a finger against Kaz’s lips, meeting his eyes. Kaz could taste the metallic tang of his own blood on the medic’s fingers. “You asked for my advice. Listen to it.”

Kaz smiled. “I’ve done it now, I’ve pissed off the medic! Sorry, █████. Go on.”

█████ returned his focus to caring for Kaz’s wound. Kaz tried to stay still while the medic reached over him. Kaz stared at the stretch of █████’s sternocleidomastoid muscle in his neck. Kaz considered running his hands over █████’s thighs. “Back in the First and Second World Wars--”

Kaz interrupted with a bark of laughter. “I have never had a Doctor’s lecture that started with a history lesson before. I’m really in for it, aren’t I?”

█████ looked down at Kaz, meeting his eyes again. He’s a bit more brave when he’s working, Kaz silently observes. “Are you done?” He said, and returned to his work. “During both wars, battlefield observers on either side noticed that only a quarter of the men would actually fire their weapons in the direction of the enemy. There’d been speculation about this since the 19th century, but modern science made it possible to prove. As a result, artillery and bombardment were responsible for the vast majority of casualties.”

“I think I heard something about this,” Kaz said, held still and unable to nod along.

“Of those men who would fire, only two in a hundred would shoot to kill. It shows that many people aren’t willing to kill, even if their own lives are in immediate danger. When another person might be hundreds of feet away and no physical threat to you, most people won’t. To shoot someone dead before they see you, like a sniper… only a handful of men in every unit were able to pull the trigger.”

Kaz tried to predict where █████ was going, but got stuck considering his tone. How could someone sign up for the MSF, and not appreciate that people had to kill to survive in battle? “You make them sound like cold-blooded monsters.”

“Monsters, or heroes, depending on how you look at it. Every side had people like that. They relied on them. Everyone else would support these men who could kill -- support them, cover them, supply them, point them in the right direction. Modern desensitization techniques have changed these statistics so that by using realistic firing targets, killing is a reflex. But these techniques aren’t very old. They didn’t exist back when--”

“When Big Boss was trained and selected,” Kaz finished, looking to meet the medic’s eyes, although █████ didn’t meet his gaze. “So what you’re saying is that he’s one of two percent of people who can kill someone who isn’t an immediate threat to him. That’s not exactly a ground-breaking observation, █████. Taking positions unaware is what he does .”

“Stop interrupting me, please,” Kaz wondered if the tug on his hair was an accident, or on purpose. “Psychologists have studied that two percent, and they all share certain characteristics that other people don’t.”

“Such as?”

█████ speaks slowly, choosing his words with care. “They have difficulty understanding the pain of others. It’s not his fault - he was either born this way, or it’s the result of circumstances during his early childhood. I don’t hold it against him. I admire him more than any man I’ve ever known, but...” █████ pauses for a second. “He can hurt you and not feel it. That is something you will never be able to do.”

Kaz looks up at the underside of █████’s chin, where his five o’clock shadow dots his skin. Is he jealous? Is that what this is about?

“And you?” Kaz asks.

█████ pulls through a stitch. “And me,” he says. “I’m a medic. I’m not like Big Boss.”

Jealousy , Kaz decides. It’s adorable.

“I think you’ve over thought this, █████. He sent me down here, didn’t he?” █████ purses his lips as he ties off the final stitch and cuts it. Kaz smiles up at him. “Besides, you and me. We’ll keep him pointed in the right direction, won’t we?”

█████ sweeps Kaz’s hair back into place. “We will,” he says. His words are right, but his tone is wrong. The medic isn’t convinced.

“And in order to do that , we’ll have to collaborate. Which means you’ll have to talk to me once in awhile.”

“I-” █████ sputters, a blush creeping back over his face, his eyes on anything but Kaz. His line of thinking is derailed by Kaz’s flirtation now that he doesn’t have a job to focus on. “Sure,” he says. “Yes. I will.”

Kaz pulls his shirt on over his head, still damp with his blood. He pulls it down over his waist and watches █████ pull the gloves off of his hands. Before he can stand to throw them into the trash, Kaz catches his hand and pulls █████ toward him, right arm snaking around his waist.

“By the way,” Kaz says, feeling █████ go stiff with nerves as Kaz leans forward and plants a kiss on the medic’s cheek, by his ear. “You’ve been blushing this entire time.”

Before █████ can fully recover, Kaz leaves, trailing a laugh along with him out into the hallway. The medic is sweet, and maybe a little soft. Kaz will have to show him that he can handle Big Boss.