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A Soldier Is Always Fine (What Happened During)

Chapter Text

Sam had adjusted to this new lifestyle without Mason. The two of them never spoke his name. He had all but fully accepted Isaac's philosophy, falling back into the role of a soldier. On jobs, they never referred to each other by name anymore, and this may have been part of what caused the distinct rift between how he acted at home and at work. Weirdly enough, there were times that their codenames slipped out during casual conversation instead of the other way around, but neither of them paid it any mind.

He had already accepted that this is probably what they would be doing for the rest of their lives, and while he didn't have any strong feelings about it, Isaac seemed to enjoy the work, and that was enough for Sam. The money was good, and that was important. Isaac had a very expensive lifestyle and aside from merchandise and royalties, he wasn't getting any income from the band anymore. He didn't really know what to say to Curtis and Mark, their concerned faces when he arrived and was informed that he'd texted them all that he was leaving. They didn't know about the side work, and now was probably not the best time for them to find out. All he said was that they'd gotten into a fight over something very fundamental and Mason didn't want to see him ever again. When they announced it, they gave no reason at all. Mason had long since disappeared and made no comment.

Locus and Felix gained something of a reputation. Their names carried weight. Their helmets were icons, emblems. Everyone who was anyone to them either wanted to have them for work or wanted to be the first to see them dead. So far, no one had been successful. Anyone who was hired to kill them or hired somebody else to do so was eliminated without a second thought. At first, the rumor that trying meant certain death was heavily refuted, but those who challenged it only proved it right.

Isaac had made good and damn sure that no one laid a finger on Sam since the mission where he'd gotten his scar. The guilt of that still bore down on him after all this time. He knew it wasn't reasonable to blame himself, but he couldn't help it. Even though he knew that Sam was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, he had to make sure nothing like that ever happened again.

So it came as a complete surprise when somebody finally got the jump on them.

Isaac woke up in the middle of the night to get a drink and realized suddenly that Sam wasn't next to him. Sam couldn't remember anything between falling asleep in bed and waking up tied to a chair. There was a woman and a man who kept asking him where his partner was. He told them he didn't have a partner. He swore up and down that he worked alone. They cut and burned and electrocuted him. He cried and screamed, promised he had no idea who Felix was, that he wasn't this Locus guy they thought he was. When it was over, they hauled him out of the chair, weak and weeping, and dragged him to a padded room with a camera on the wall.

Sam wasn't sure how long he was there. He was pretty sure Isaac knew, but he never asked and was never told. He paced the room and examined the personnel. The woman who brought him food always said kindly that she believed him. Then get your friends to believe it, he snapped. I don't want your fucking sympathy.

They always said he was crazy. When the door burst open and Isaac and Mason entered, panting and trailing gunsmoke, he could hardly believe it. They shouted that there was no time for his tears, that they all had to leave right now. But they way they talked was off. Mason a little too gruff, Isaac too stiff. He knew even as he trailed down the hallway after them what was really happening. He reappeared from the haze lying down some time later, hope splintering.

They didn't want to kill him without Isaac, he thought, and he wasn't sure how long they would keep him as long as they didn't know where Isaac was. He almost hoped that Isaac wouldn't come. If one of them had to make it out alive, that was what should happen, and if they apparently managed to break into their home and take Sam, sleeping next to Isaac, without either of them noticing, he was horrified to think what they would do should he actually show up. So when his door slammed open and Isaac stood there, out of breath, bleeding profusely from the side, Sam didn't move, just waited. Isaac stared at him for a few seconds before running over and kissing him fiercely and Sam knew that this was real.

They would go to any lengths for each other. They would lie and cheat and steal and kill, beg and borrow and bribe. Without hesitation, they were willing to lay down their life for one another. That was what made them different from most mercenaries in the market. Partnerships were usually bonded by money, and bad things often happened as soon as the money ran out, but what the masses didn't know about Locus and Felix is that they were bonded by need. They were two massive hurricanes that collided and couldn't seem to leave, though neither one of them would ever look at it that way. They saw love where there was what can only be defined as a very basic, desperate need. They would never betray each other, if nothing else, because they believed that they would die without each other.

And so they were Locus and Felix, the mysterious and bold, and when an entire team of mercenaries disappeared from the roster, the rumors about their secrets only spread further. But, as long as Isaac lived to see, nothing like that ever happened again.

Chapter Text

Sam, panting and shaking, stared glassy-eyed at the camera being dragged in front of him. “Wh-what..”

“Shut up,” came the immediate reply. It made a small beep as it was turned on. “I’m not going to ask you again. Where is your partner?”

Sam made sure his voice took on that desperate, broken quality and sobbed, “I told you, I don’t have a part--” He screamed as the shock came; expected, but worse than he’d imagined. The realization that they were sending this to Isaac crawled up his throat and he slumped over as it ended, his hair matted with sweat, tears rolling down his face.

“Please, you have the wrong man,” he choked out. “I don’t know who this Felix guy is--”

“I told you to be quiet.”

Sam shut his mouth. His shoulders shook with the effort.

One of his tormentors came around to the other side of the camera, arms crossed, a gun in one hand tucked into the crook of his elbow. “Alright, look. We know this is your number. We gave you the location. You can either come to us peacefully and we’ll turn you both in or fork over the credits or we’ll kill him. If you don’t make a choice within twenty-four hours--”

“Are you-- is this live??” Sam wrenched around to look at him, voice cracking. “Is someone seeing this right now?!”

The man held the gun to his head. He whimpered as pathetically as he could imagine how. His head throbbed with pain, his nose bleeding and face swollen. "Go on," the man hissed lowly. "Beg for your life."

Sam looked up into the camera, mouth quivering. "I don't know who you are," he said quietly, his voice hoarse and rattling. "I don't even know if anyone is actually seeing this. But if you think you can do something, please..." Tears began anew as he spoke and he paused to turn his head down and cry. "Help." He couldn't look up from his lap. He couldn't do this to Isaac. He just couldn't. "Please."

He was absolutely certain that Isaac was watching this, that he had already jumped up from the couch and swore a bunch, and was now pacing the room wondering if surrendering his pride and most of their money was a better alternative than going there and saving his life himself. Neither way was certain. Sam knew that he could last as long as Isaac needed to figure out what to do, but that he really, really didn't want to have to. The man holding the gun made a little "tch" noise and bumped Sam with it, leaving him to cry. He heard the sound of the camera being turned off and footsteps leaving the room.

~~~~~

Isaac had been stressed and confused since Sam was gone. This was the first time something like this had happened without another guiding force present. He told himself that if Sam had to come to his rescue, he would be patient and work out the best solution instead of just rushing in, which is what he was tempted to do. But he couldn’t sleep, could barely eat. He felt trapped. So when the video call came in, he was terrified. Sam tied to a chair, bleeding, shaking with sobs and with pain. Sam was not the kind of person who easily cried or screamed and to see him in that state was petrifying.

He felt completely lost, but forced himself to go slow as he found data on how much firepower he would need and the ideal times to strike. He tracked people, he gathered arms, he made himself take showers and cook and at least lay down when all the other lights went out. He had no one to turn to. No Mason, no Megan, no... Sam. That was a concept he didn't want to fathom.

The day for action came and he still remained controlled enough to stay at a reasonable pace. He tried not to think about Sam bleeding and crying as he rushed through the building, memorized blueprint nearly falling apart under the weight of his stress. He broke into the room and seeing Sam after all this time pained him. The look in his eyes like he couldn't tell whether this was real or not, and if it was real, if it would turn out okay. The glance they shared was full of pleading and a desperate want for understanding. The gentle crease in Isaac's eyebrows told Sam everything he needed to know: that they were both making out of here alive and the bastards who did this were going to pay.

Isaac realized then that he never wanted to be apart from Sam again, no matter what that meant.

He realized he couldn't survive without him.

Chapter Text

Sam rolled over for the thirtieth time that night, facing Isaac once again and gazing lovingly at his sleeping form. His hands rested near his head, slightly obscuring his face, the fingers laying limp in front of closed eyes and a mouth open just a bit. He snored gently, his hair flopped over onto the pillow, his shoulders pale and highlighted by the moonlight. They had both spent as much time together as possible since Sam was taken, both afraid to get up in the night for fear of scaring the other. But Sam couldn't sleep and he had been tossing restlessly. There was only so much inaction he could take. He whispered a quick apology and stood up quietly, careful not to jostle Isaac.

He was wearing a t-shirt and flannel pants, and it didn't feel like enough. Not enough? What does that even mean?? He shook the thoughts of discomfort away and went into the bathroom. He made sure to only turn the lights on after he was sure the door was shut, splashing water onto his face. He looked at it, the lighter, slightly raised skin of his scar seeming all too jarring in the moment.

"I don't know why you won't go public with it, mate," Mark said, foot propped up on an amp, his bass drooped down lazily from where it hung around his shoulder. "It's absolutely wicked. The people would eat that up."

"It.. would explain our logo a little better," Curtis chimed in, shrugging slightly as though he was afraid to suggest it.

Sam frowned, folding his arms and looking at the floor. "Not that any of us are trying to pressure you into doing it!" Mark yelped suddenly, holding his hands up. "We just think it's cool and it wouldn't be a problem."

Sam looked at Mason, who shrugged, a concerned look in his eyes. "I don't know," he said. "It's a pretty terrible reminder and, uh.. I just think it would identify me too easily. I would get asked all kinds of questions I don't want to answer and I'd have to contend with some pretty nasty tabloid nonsense." Mason was the only one of them who knew the scar's origin, and the other two also didn't know about their little freelance operation. He couldn't explain even if he wanted to. "No." He shook his head. "Not yet."

Curtis leaned forward. "Well, for what it's worth, the three of us think it looks dope as hell." Mark and Mason nodded.

Sam smiled, that sort of half-smile of indignation peppered with genuine gratitude. "Thanks," he said, meeting each of their eyes.

The memory switched and Sam held on to the counter with both hands, knuckles white, as though it was the only thing keeping him up.

Mason scrunched up his face at the posterboard Sam had handed him. His heart sank. "You don't like it?"

"No!" Mason said, surprised. "That's not it at all. It's just..." Mark and Curtis looked over his shoulders, studying the picture. "It's a little on the nose."

Sam smiled. "That's kind of the joke." He had drawn a triangle with wings coming off of either side, in a deep gold. In the center was a closed eye that was drawn over with an X in silver. "You said we need a logo, and none of you were tossing ideas around, so I made something and I want to know what you all think."

"I think it's great," Curtis said, and Mark nodded. The mythos - as it were - surrounding their band was very carefully planned by Sam, even though it felt a little silly. A lot of their music and merchandise bore biblical symbolism, while subverting the Bible into something of their own. Sam was not a martyr, but rather a traitor, a miscreant; someone who had willingly turned away from it and was teaching this new religion. He was indulgent and languid and, yes, commanding. He commanded the crowds, he brought them their gods, and when he demanded that they cheer, they did so with grins on their faces. They jumped and screamed and sang along to the music he'd written, the words he sang, the voice and the character and the story that he made for himself. It was practically mass worship.

Okay, maybe he was letting the attention go to his head.

The point is, he wanted to turn the Bible on its head. Y'know. Twisted Scripture.

"Well," Mason sighed. "I do like it. But the thing about your scar--"

"I never plan to make that public knowledge," Sam said, taking the poster back. "It'll be our little secret."

He sighed, remembering the lights and the sound and the sweat rolling down his face as he belted to a room of people who were all there for him. He wasn't used to operating in the shadows anymore, at least not for a hundred percent of his job. He itched to keep performing, to find something to ease this craving.

He remembered the tour where he'd smeared his makeup down his face with both hands, streaking black and brown all down his cheeks as he took a hold of the microphone again and belted - nay, screamed - the note that always made the audience erupt into cheers. He remembered planning every bit of choreography, even the one where Isaac was involved in the show. He remembered every song, and everything he'd scrapped. Every interview, every moment on the road, every meal, every jam session, every "hello, [insert place name here]" and every "thank you and goodnight." All of that had been so temporary. It was the happiest part of his life, and all of them were forced to let it go.

The guys didn't deserve that.

"Sam?" He heard gently from the other room, then, louder and more frantically, "Sam?!"

"I-I'm in here!" He whipped around and opened the door, memories of cheering crowds still rushing in his ears. He saw Isaac sat up in bed, his hands hovering in panic. He relaxed only slightly when he saw Sam. "I was just getting a drink. I didn't mean to scare you."

Isaac crawled across the bed soundlessly, never breaking eye contact, and stood up. He crossed to Sam and wrapped his arms around his neck and buried his head in his chest. Sam grabbed Isaac and held him. Neither one of them spoke.

After several long moments had passed, Sam kissed the top of Isaac's head and gave him a squeeze. "I didn't mean to scare you," he said again. "...I need to make a phone call."

Isaac pulled his head away and frowned. "Right now? It's.." He looked at the bedside table and squinted at the clock. "...real early."

"Yes, right now." Sam let go of Isaac and gently pushed him towards their bed. "You go back to sleep, okay? I promise I'll be right behind you."

Isaac looked afraid, more afraid than Sam had seen him in a long while. It was a fundamental dread that Sam knew he could never alleviate. He felt the same way. "I don't.. I don't want to go without you."

Sam bit his lip. "Then.. just wait. I won't be long." He grabbed his phone from the beside table and gave Isaac what he hoped was a reassuring smile, slipping out into the hallway and shutting the door. He punched in the number, praying that he'd pick up. He was not the type to ever leave his ringer off.

"Sam...? Is this an emergency?"

"No, but--"

"Then what was so bloody urgent that you had to call me at two in the tossing morning?"

"I wanted to say that I'm sorry. And that you deserve an explanation."

There was a pause. "What does that mean?"

Sam sighed, thinking of the best way to phrase this. "It means.. we're going to want to get Curtis involved."

"And what does that mean?"

Sam laughed quietly. "Always the cryptic one, you were," Mark mumbled, his irritation undeniable, but amusement seeping through.

"Well, since you asked so nicely, that...means I'm going to tell you everything that happened between Mason and I. The whole truth. Every bit of it."

Another pause. "Oh."

"Hey guys, what's going on? You caught me at a good time, I was working late. But make it quick." They both couldn't speak. "Uh, guys?"

"Curtis, yeah, hi--"

"Oh. Sam? Holy shit. 'S been a while. How's, uh.. Isaac?"

Sam straightened up. "That's...the thing."

Chapter Text

The years went by, monotonous. There was little to say about anything much that he did. Snipe somebody here, snap a neck there, get paid ridiculous amounts of money. Allow most of that money to be funneled into Isaac's ridiculous lifestyle. Silk shirts and expensive champagne and ever so many parties. He didn't mind most of it (sans the parties), as he found nothing wrong with a good taste in wine and dinner, but that too became boring eventually. He didn't crave anything more, he just longed for the days before being successful felt hollow. He knew exactly why it felt that way. He'd never admit it to himself.

The thoughtless comments became more commonplace. The 'you're crazy's and the 'oh, don't be paranoid's got tossed around carelessly in conversation, but at some point, they became serious. "God, you maniac," Isaac would say when Sam did something particularly unexpected, and other such remarks popped up on the daily. After a while, Sam got tired of telling him that having paranoid schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder does not make him 'crazy' and just endured the harm. He knew that Isaac didn't really mean that, he knew Isaac would never do that just to be cruel, but he started to wonder.

They moved around the galaxy, going to different planets in different ships to kill different people for different reasons, and it never felt anything but the same. They always shared living quarters unless the bunks were just too small and had the same kinds of romance, the same candlelit dinners, the same sex. Nothing ever changed.

For a while, Sam was reading every book he could find, but even that became a bit tedious. He took up writing, mostly poetry, never able to hold onto one idea long enough to write a book. He crocheted for a while, even painted some, just to find anything to break up the day-to-day. It didn't help.

It wasn't until he bought a guitar at a pawn shop on a whim that he actually thought of creating as something important again. He'd never let Isaac see it, but there were a few nights when he pored over sheet music, jamming out chords and spilling his whole heart onto the page. It was all in a folder and he usually didn't even look at songs after finishing them. The process of making was all that really mattered. It helped, but not much.

After that night with the band, they were reasonably surprised. None of them had spoken since then. He didn't know what he would have to say to them. He hadn't had a physical conversation with his parents since he left for the military. Around the time that Mason left, he stopped picking up their calls, and eventually, they stopped calling. The only other human being he regularly had contact with was Isaac. He wasn't sure how that was affecting his mental health, or if it mattered to him.

Every negotiation was the same, edgy white guys who always acted like this was their first experience with murder even after being on the market for years, talking as though the two of them cared that murder was wrong. The ones who had really never done this before were always timid, alarmed by the bluntness with which questions were asked. Some poor rich sap who wanted someone doing something awful killed and was literally shaking in his boots as he walked in had the money to hire the best on the market and wasn't ready for them not to ease him into it. They saw it on a weekly basis. It was hard to scrounge up any pity.

So when they got approached by a name they definitely recognized with a long-term job that would provide, at the very least, some intrigue, it got Locus's attention.

Sam. It got Sam's attention.

Chapter Text

Locus was operating on a lot of faith here. He had to have faith that no one in their army had knowledge of the marketplace, no knowledge of his identity, of his intentions. He had to believe that Donald Doyle was desperate enough to trust him.

He look apprehensive even while wearing a helmet as they shook hands. "Yes, hello, erm..."

"Just Locus is fine."

Doyle laughed in a clear effort to lighten the mood. "What, haven't got a name?"

Locus pulled his hand away. "No."

There were a few seconds of awkward silence. Doyle cleared his throat, straightened up, and said, "Well, alright then."

He knew that his bluntness made other people uncomfortable. It didn't really matter. Anything to keep a distance.

~~~~~

Locus entered the room. To describe the way he came into rooms as anything else would be to falsify the statement. "Sir, I intercepted a report I think you should see."

"Oh," exclaimed Doyle, turning to face him. "Yes, wonderful!"

"However," Locus said, sitting down in one of the many chairs in his office, "it would seem that my armor is malfunctioning and I haven't the time to read what may be vital information. Could you read it out loud for me?"

"Oh," Doyle said again, opening the link that Locus had sent him. "Of course." He obnoxiously cleared his throat and began to speak. "General - we've found something out here I believe you will find intriguing." Locus mostly tuned what he was saying out. He had 'intercepted' the report from Felix and the whole thing was fabricated by the both of them. It didn't really serve any purpose for him to listen, so he allowed himself to zone out as he scanned the UI on the inside of his helmet, searching for the error.

"...and no word on that blasted mercenary yet--"

Locus burst out laughing, shocking even himself, as he doubled over in the chair. Doyle stared in bewilderment. He hadn't expected to ever hear his mercenary laugh, much less express.. any kind of positive emotion. Locus recovered himself and sat up, wheezing out, "I'm sorry, just-- the way you said that was so funny to me." He busted into chuckles again and when he could make words once more, he said, "Is--is that really what it says?"

Doyle looked back at the screen on the wall, looking embarrassed. "No, I-I suppose it says 'bastard'. I must've..."

He shook his head. "You are...very British." He sighed, trying to dismiss the laughter. "Please. Keep going." Doyle looked down at him in surprise before allowing himself a satisfied smile and reading the rest of the message in the best thick and incredibly offended accent he could muster. Locus was laughing throughout the whole thing. Weirdly, Doyle felt a little more proud of that than quite a few military accomplishments. I may just be able to wring a human being from him yet.

~~~~~

"The breeze feels nice," Doyle said, crossing his ankles.

Locus scrunched up his face, and thought, Oh, what the hell. Makeup exists for a very good reason. He said, "I bet you're right. That sounds good." And he reached up and took his helmet off without a moment's hesitation, shaking out his hair and running a hand through it before he could see Doyle's reaction. He sighed and leaned back a little further on his elbows, somewhat uncomfortable against the tin roof, but a good stretch for his aching spine.

When he opened his eyes again, Doyle's gaze was fixed on him, a bit starry-eyed. Locus lifted one eyebrow and Doyle scrambled into sitting up, looking anywhere but at his face. "S-sorry, I don't mean to stare, it's just, well..." He swallowed. "You are.. very handsome."

Locus didn't move other than to widen his eyes and that act alone made Doyle jump. "I--I mean, that is to say--!" He scrambled for words, his face continually turning more red, messy brown hair falling into his face. "Not that I didn't think you, ah, couldn't have been handsome, per se, I just.. was not expecting that." His eyes tracked over the (dignified, if premature) touch of gray at his temples, his square jaw, his perfectly manicured eyebrows, his gray eyes that caught the moonlight in a way that made them seem to glow--

"Doyle," Locus's voice, almost teasing, brought him back to reality. He stiffened and turned away.

"Sorry if I'm overstepping my boundaries," he mumbled, jumping a little when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

He turned his head to look, and was surprised by a small smile on his face. "You're not." Locus stood up and grabbed his helmet, tossed to the side in what was probably the most careless thing Doyle had ever seen him do. "Come on, it's going to get colder. We should turn in."

~~~~~

"Do you believe in ghosts?"

Locus laughed in surprise, and Doyle noticed how small his hands made the cup he was holding look. The glow from the candles made him look even warmer somehow. "Ghosts? Come on, don't be silly. I deal in realities."

Doyle rubbed his chin in thought. "Alright," he said, uncrossing his legs. "I take it you're not a man of superstition." Locus shook his head and Doyle made a small musing sound. "Riddle me this: do you believe in soulmates?"

Locus took a pensive sip.

"I don't believe I do."

Doyle looked a bit like a child who'd just been told that Santa isn't real and Locus's heart sank. "Well, perhaps," he continued, "but maybe only for certain types of people."

"What does that mean?"

"Good people. Honest people. The kind who deserve to have a soulmate. First responders, firefighters, the like." He chuckled, making eye contact. "Generals, even. You know. Heroes."

"What about mercenaries?" Doyle asked, tilting his head and smirking.

Locus smiled. "No. Not mercenaries."

His radio hissed and he set down his cup, pulling his helmet over his head. "I better get this." Then, to the radio, he said, "Repeat."

"God, your soldier complex is so fucking weird," Felix's voice came crackling through. "We've got a situation, edgelord. Be here in three." The radio shut off.

Locus stood up and said without a beat, "There's a bit of trouble on the edge of the city. I need to deal with it immediately." It wasn't... a lie.

Doyle looked concerned. "Oh, is it serious? Do I need to--"

"Never you mind," Locus interrupted, voice tender, holding out one hand as if to hold him back. "This is my job. I'm here to make your life easier." Doyle pursed his lips in frustration, his mustache quirking in a way that Locus would have almost described as cute. "Pay it no heed. I'll return shortly," he said, nodding curtly and stepping out before Doyle could get a word in edgewise.

Some guilt gnawed at him at the thought that he was making nice with someone he would inevitably have to watch die. He was letting himself go soft. He let a breath in and out. Their relationship was strictly professional. This had to stop.

Chapter Text

“Felix?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I ask you something...a bit personal?”

“Shoot.”

Kimball shifted, crossing her legs. “You’ve never told me much about what happened between you and Locus.” Her haze was unfocused, generally pointed at the green glow of the lake. 

Felix scoffed. He was laying down to her left, hands behind his head. “There’s not much to say,” he conceded.

“So you were never friends?”

“Well, yeah,” Felix said, carefully searching for words. “It’s not that anything happened between us, we just never got along. He always took everything so seriously, something about him just really got under my skin.”

Kimball smirked. “I’m guessing he felt the same way about you?”

“Go to hell.”

She laughed, and then he laughed, and it was weird how close they were becoming. He wasn’t into her or anything, but they became pretty easy friends and he was getting better at ignoring any guilt he may have felt about that. “So,” she said at last. “Is there.. anything you can tell me about him? Like, anything we need to know?”

Felix sucked in a breath through his teeth. “Well,” he began, slowly, desperately trying to determine how much he could say without compromising him. “He’s just.. really unpredictable. Dude’s crazy. You have no idea what can set him off at any moment. Which is weird for someone who talked about being regimented and disciplined all the damn time. I mean, during the war—“

“That’s, um, something I meant to bring up to you,” Kimball interrupted, and she could feel the scathing look on his face without even turning her head.

“The war is very personal, Vanessa.”

She bit her lip. “I know, I just— your relationship with Locus is really weird and I was hoping to find out more about it.”

“What’s weird about it?” Felix asked, frowning. “We just don’t like each other.” 

She hummed to herself. “Right.” A few minutes passed in silence. “I have another question, if it’s not too much to ask.” 

Felix pursed his lips. “We’ll see.”

Kimball inhaled and exhaled sharply. “What is your last name?” she said at last.

Felix tensed up and said, “Kimball, you know I can’t just give information like that out.”

“I’m sorry,” she blurted out immediately, facing him. “I was just curious.” 

He refused to look at her. After a long second, he said, “If I tell you, can I trust you not to spread that information around?”

“Of course.”

“It’s ‘Iscariot’.” 

~~~~~

“Locus?”

“Sir.”

“Do you have a moment to speak, erm, off the record?”

Locus paused. “Of course, General. Is something the matter?”

The concern in Locus’s voice threw Doyle totally off guard. The abrupt realization that he may have been into Locus had caused him to pull away immediately - at least, that’s how it seemed - and they hadn’t had a quiet, personal moment since. But the genuine worry was too intimate for his cold exterior and Doyle felt a little more of his professionalism come crumbling down. 

He cleared his throat, waving the notion away. “I wanted to talk about Felix.” Locus’s eyebrow raised, which may have been a signal to stop, but he pressed on. “I just know that you knew each other from the war and, well.. you may know something about the way that he fights. If he has any weaknesses or something in that ballpark.”

Locus seemed to relax and he looked at the floor in contemplation. “He’s a good soldier, but he’s cocksure,” he said at last.  “He’s so confident in his abilities that he believes himself incapable of defeat. It irritated me to no end during our time in the UNSC. I think, sometimes, that he is honestly convinced that he’s something of a god.”

Doyle looked terrified and Locus laughed. “There’s no need to worry. He is no such thing.” He clicked his tongue. “As far as a more tactical appraisal, he’s much faster than he is strong. He relies on misdirection and quick movement to overpower enemies. I’m sure you already knew this, but he is most adept with knives. Unfortunately, I would be hard-pressed to determine if any of this has changed since I knew him last—“

“Actually,” Doyle interrupted loudly, “I sort of wanted to talk about that. You knew each other.. in the Great War?”

The look on Locus’s face coupled with his complete silence made Doyle immediately regret changing the subject. “What about it,” he said, monotone. Doyle swallowed.

“Well, ah.. you don’t have to discuss it if you don’t wish to, I know that much of this is painful for you.”

“If you are insinuating that Felix had anything to do with the trauma I endured,” Locus said flatly, and Doyle cringed at the blatant discussion of the very thing he was trying to avoid, “you can put that notion aside. He does not bring back anything especially painful. He will not hinder our progress in any way and I will kill him before this is over. Now, is there anything else you needed?” 

Doyle swallowed. “No, Locus.” 

Chapter Text

Locus looked at the clock in the bottom of his feed. Eighteen hundred, on the dot. "Report." There was silence. "Repeat, report." Still nothing. He figured that Felix must be busy. It wasn't worth the risk of saying his name until he was sure that he was the only person on the other end of the line, so he shut his mouth and went back to work. He would check back in soon to make sure that he was only preoccupied and not in danger.

But fifteen minutes went by. An hour. Two hours. Three. Locus was starting to tamp down on the possibility that he'd been captured, maybe even killed, but after he said, "Report." for about the forty-fifth time, just as montone and militaristic as all the others, and Felix's voice finally came in, somewhat raspier than usual.

"Hey, sorry," he said, not at all concerned.

Relief and anger flooded Locus at the same time, all too quickly. "Where have you been? You know we do these--"

"--at the top of every hour, yes, I do, in fact, know that," he retorted. "I was busy."

Locus bristled somewhat. "Busy doing what?"

Felix chuckled. "Finding a new toy."

"What--" Locus said under a breath. He gripped his gun so hard he was sure the barrel would snap off in his hands.

"Let's just say one Lavernius Tucker won't be walking so well."

Locus set the gun down and balled up his fists, already shaking. "Do you mean to tell me you were-- you were fooling around with a simulation trooper? Despite the inherent dangers of doing such a thing?"

Felix, on the other side of the planet, was casually tossing a knife. "Christ, will you get off my dick?" he said, nonchalant as ever. "I can take care of myself."

"You went AWOL. For three hours. You can't just act like this." Locus was struggling to maintain his composure.

Felix laughed and said, "What, I have to tell you every time I do anything? You're not the boss of me." There was the unmistakable sound of a knife clattering to the ground. "Shit, that actually is my boss. Felix out."

"No, Felix, we need to discuss--" The radio went quiet. Locus stood still for a long time, just shaking in his rage. The two of them had been drifting apart for years, but they had never officially broken up and Locus had apparently made the mistake of assuming that that meant he was still faithful. To think that he would have a one-night stand - Locus hoped to God this was just a one-time thing - with not only one of the men they were trying to kill, but also one who was a stupid brat half his age was agonizing. He was beyond pissed and all he could think to do was stand alone in his outpost, soaking in his fury.

"Hey, Locus!" somebody called out and he snapped out of his mind. He looked up to see a few pirates, in varying states of unarmor, waving him over. "You wanna come grab a drink with us?"

Locus blinked. He flexed his fingers. "Yeah."

~~~~~

"I just can't fucking believe him," Locus said, roughly gripping a glass of whiskey as a few of his employees watched with rapt attention. This was arguably the most information they had ever heard about either Locus or Felix. "He just does these things and it's like he doesn't even care anymore. He's putting all of our lives on the line so he can-- what, get some dick??"

"That's shitty, man," one of them said, leaning forward to put his elbows on the table. "I mean, I could've told you Felix sucks, but--"

Another one of them slapped him on the arm and he did an exaggerated shrug defensively. "I'm just saying!"

Locus chuckled and took another long swig, ignoring the burn of it. "Yeah, well, you guys just help us and make us look pretty to Hargrove. None of you have to be his goddamn babysitter." He shook his head. "I swear to God, he'd get himself killed if I wasn't around."

The same guy looked him up and down incredulously. "So why do it?"

"Yeah, let the bastard die if he's gonna," a third chimed in, laughing a little.

"I dunno," Locus said, carefully wiping sweat from his face. "I loved him once."

There was a gentle ripple of stifled laughter. "And again, I ask how," somebody said, and Locus felt just a little guilty that he didn't know any of their names. But he was really fucking drunk.

"Beats the hell out of me."

The same first guy extended his hand across the table as if to hold Locus's, or even just to ground him with reassurance. "Well, either way, I'm glad that we could be here to help you get it out." He paused and smiled hugely, in a comedic exaggeration of reassurance, and patted the table once while saying, "You're a way cooler and much less scary guy than we all thought."

Locus surprised himself by bursting into laughter, and everyone else was laughing too, and after a while it didn't matter why they were laughing. The guy sitting to his left was really genuine and funny and he kept doing this really cute laugh. Why had Locus never bothered to talk to any of them?

"Hey... can we go talk for a second?"

The guy to his left looked up, surprised, in the middle of listening to something else, but his eyes shined (perhaps from the drink, perhaps not) and he blinked once. "Yeah. Yeah, okay."

Locus had him bent over the nearest thing he could find in minutes. They were both panting in the pitch black room, and when he dared to make a noise, Locus hissed in his ear, "Shut up. You want Felix to hear?"

Chapter Text

The door closed behind them and Locus sighed, finally allowing himself to be tired. They'd been briefing the pirates on new protocols, getting their asses chewed by Hargrove, setting up eyes all over both armies to ensure that they were still ignorant, and planning for how they would cover this up for hours and hours. It was close to midnight, if not later, and Locus just wanted to get some rest. Their shared room only had the one bed, but there was room enough for both of them; Hargrove was probably the only one who actually knew about their relationship, and he treated it with dismissal for the most part. He said it didn't matter a damn to him as long as it didn't get in the way of getting work done. (The only time it ever did was when he found out the two of them had had phone sex using their private radio channel.)

It seemed odd to Locus that they were going to sleep in a bed together again. They hadn't been physically close in a very long time, and they had had this room set up for if they needed to return to the ship almost four years ago. It had been a long time since they had been in this close of a proximity, and the bed seemed unnecessary upon second thought. They usually didn't cuddle, and beds that were up to the ship's standards that could fit two people was much more trouble than it was worth. Every now and then, Felix would pull himself close to Locus's chest in his sleep, but Locus always woke up first and moved carefully so as not to wake him up, so he wasn't even sure if Felix realized he was doing it.

They hadn't had any further discussions about the incident. It had been about a month and after storming off, Locus never brought it up again. He remembered drinking and not much else about the night, which worried him to no end, but he refused to confide any of this in Felix. The anger had simply all waned away. He knew their relationship was withering away, but this seemed like the final nail in the coffin. He was sort of dreading having to sleep next to him again, watch his chest rise and fall, see his lips slightly open and held just so in his sleep...

But it was so nice to see a room again.

Away from the Federal Army, on a warm ship where no one would bother them, free to be out of armor and just live for a moment.

Locus began shedding his armor and Felix did the same. He stretched a little, relieved, when he was finally just down to clothes. "Are you feeling alright?" he asked Felix, who was still worming out of his body suit.

"Yeah," he said. "Are you?"

"Of course," Locus replied immediately. A soldier is always fine, he didn't say, but they both knew he was thinking. For all of Felix's teasing about how his solder complex had given him 'edgy bastard syndrome,' he wasn't exactly uninvolved.

He undid his hair and shook it out, running both hands through it and facing the wall just so he could look at anything but Felix's body. He tensed up as suddenly it was pressed into his, holding him against the wall. "Well, there is one good thing about this whole mess," Felix purred lowly in Locus's ear, making him shiver. He found Locus's wrists and pushed them against the wall, pressing a kiss into the crook of his neck. "God, what's it been, four years now? And I haven't even seen you in all that time. I've been waiting so long to have you all to myself."

Locus shifted uncomfortably but turned his head to offer more of his neck to Felix. The latter smirked. "You're adorable." Then he said something that Locus was sure was very dirty and sexy, but he completely tuned it out. He was weighing whether it was worth it to stay awake for another hour to do this, or if he was really not angry enough at Felix for this. Eventually, he decided it was not, and that he wasn't, but he opened his mouth and nothing came out.

Locus. This isn't hard. The words are very simple. Just say it.

"Locus. Go sit on the bed and take your clothes off."

He swallowed. "Yes, Felix."

Chapter Text

Sam and Mason darted through the door and slammed it behind them, panting hard, hair astray, duffel bags slung across their necks haphazardly, but the adrenaline and excitement tangible and palpable in the air. Megan turned her head to look from the kitchen, not putting down the steaming tray she was holding. "Shit, are the cops on you?" she said, shouting to be heard.

"No," Mason said breathlessly, running a hand over his scalp, and grinning stupidly.

"Oh, good," Megan replied, putting down her tray on the counter island and taking off her oven mitts. "I wouldn't want this to get cold." She trotted into the front room and examined the two. She smirked and said, "I'm guessing it went well?"

Sam groaned and gulped another lungful of air down. "If by 'well,' you mean Mason almost getting shot."

Megan glared at him. "But I didn't!" Mason said defensively, shrugging off his wife, who couldn't fight a second smile and rolled her eyes. "And besides, that's the whole fun of it."

Megan raised her eyebrow.

"...it's kinda the fun of it," Sam conceded.

She sighed and muttered to herself, holding out her hands, nails pristine, sleeves neatly rolled up to the elbow. Sam and Mason both began shucking off their bags. "Money," said Mason, putting it in her arms.

"And contraband," Sam finished, handing her the strap to the other one. "Guns are in there too."

"Any of them need cleaning?"

Sam smiled proudly. "Nope."

Mason took off his jacket and hung it on the rack by the door. "We'll probably be turning the stuff in tomorrow night. It's too risky to make another trip out."

Megan waited for Sam to get down to house clothes and he took one of the bags. They carried them to the back room, carefully stepping so as not to wake the children, and set them down in the back of a closet, side by side. "Are you sure you don't mind holding onto these?" Sam asked quietly for probably the billionth time. "I could keep the equipment holed up at my place, you d--"

"Sam," she said, laughing, putting one hand on his shoulder. "It's fine. You keep enough of this stuff at your apartment. If I minded, I would tell you." Sam nodded and they headed back up together.

"I don't understand the point of bringing all those guns if you never use them," Megan said louder once they were in the front room and Mason could hear.

He frowned at her. "They're for emergencies. I've told you this." He stood up and followed them into the kitchen. "We don't plan on ever having to actually do it, but..."

"..but you never know," Sam finished for him. "Ooh, cookies."

Megan slapped his hand away and he drew it back, pretending to look hurt. "Those are for after dinner," she scolded. "I made you some real food."

"Dad?"

The three of them all whipped around and saw one of the hallway doors open, a young girl standing against it, one hand on the doorknob. Mason rushed forward and ushered her back into her room. "Melissa, go back to sleep, sweetie, everything's okay. Sam just had something he needed my help with."

"Uncle Sam is here??"

Another figure darted between Mason's legs and he was too busy trying to wrestle Melissa that his dad reflexes couldn't kick in fast enough and she scampered up to Sam, bouncing excitedly. "Uncle Sam!! You're really here!"

"Hey, Vanessa!" he said, bending down to her. "It's really late, kiddo, you should listen to your dad. We can talk some other time." She frowned and shuffled her feet, mumbling about how it was no fun that he could tell them apart. Mason herded the two of them back into their room and emerged a few minutes later, seeming satisfied.

He rubbed the back of his neck apologetically. "Twelve-year-olds."

Sam chuckled. "I wouldn't know."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sam stared miserably at the ceiling. Hours had passed and his eyes burned, but he couldn't bring himself to close them. His hair was splashed out across the pillow beneath him and his hands were neatly laid across his chest, fingers intertwined, moving up and down slowly. The only noise in the room was from the fan and the clock ticking. It had been hours - or it, at least, had felt like hours, and neither of them could bring themselves to do anything other than sit in it.

"Sam?"

Sam started a bit, but he'd been jumping at every little thing that night. "Yeah," he said, and Mason relaxed somewhat.

"Are you.. are you okay?"

Sam bit his lip and refused to close his eyes. The sight of it was all too real regardless. The soft gurgle of blood, the fear and panic in his eyes, his hands grabbing for his chest, his eventual silent fall to the ground. He hadn't screamed, and somehow that was worse. Sam bit his lip and held back tears. His throat burned and he begged himself not to do this again tonight.

"..Sam?"

Sam came back to reality, blinking a few times to chase away his exhaustion. "I just--" He didn't want to talk about it. He knew that he had to. "It's not like I haven't, haven't killed things before. This was just totally different." He drew a shaky breath, clenching his hands together so hard he was sure it would hurt soon, but it kept him grounded. "I-- felt like I didn't have a choice, an-and to see the life, life, physically draining from his eyes--"

"Sam, hey," Mason interrupted, putting his hand on his shoulder, and Sam wanted to cry. The physical contact was so welcome. They had been ignoring each other for hours, both pretending to sleep, both perfectly aware that they were both still awake. "There was nothing you could have done."

I'm a killer. I have killed a man. I stabbed a man right in the chest. I killed somebody. "But we, we always said--"

"We did," Mason cut him off again, sitting up and forcing himself into Sam's line of sight. "But things changed. You know it's not who we are. We were pressed for time and we knew he was bad and..." And you killed him. It hung in the air between them. "We're not going to make it a habit, and you made the world a better place by doing it. It's okay."

Mason reached out and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close to him, and leaving no room for him to escape.

Sam definitely could have pushed him away if he had felt like it, but he knew that the forced intimacy was for his own good and besides, Mason was so warm and soft and.. safe. Sam threw his arm over Mason's side and permitted himself to close his eyes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sam, Isaac, and Mason all entered at the same time. Megan looked up from the couch and her eyes caught. "Oh?"

"Isaac, this is Megan," Mason said, gesturing towards her as he looked around the house. "Megan, Isaac."

She stood up and shook his hand, staring up into his eyes through the entire-foot difference between them. "Well, at least you're shorter than Sam."

That earned an abrupt laugh from Isaac, who seemed to loosen up. "Mason's told me a lot about you," she said. "Does this mean you're working with the two of them now?"

Isaac grinned. "Yep, they figured I should meet you and see the base and all that."

"Do we qualify as a small business now?" Mason asked, sitting down.

Sam joined him. "Maybe we could get tax returns for all the illegal firearms we own."

The three men laughed while Megan rolled her eyes. "Let me show you where we keep all the stuff."

As soon as they were gone, Mason pulled his leg up on the couch and angled his body towards Sam, batting his eyelashes. "Soooooo..."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "So?"

"Isaac is totally into you, right?"

Sam blushed and huffed out a breath. "He had a crush on me in high school," he said, monotone. "Nothing is going to happen between us."

Mason narrowed his eyes. "I don't believe you." Sam glared at him and he held up his hands in defense, saying, "Alright, alright, but just so you know, you have my permission to do anything with him at any time. Just tell me or shoot me a text or something."

"Mason."

"I don't even have to read it first."

"Mason."

"Okay. Okay. Sorry."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Locus, we've got a transmission from control. You busy?"

Could this really be the same man who had wooed him so long ago? The very same who had danced at a strip club, who had starred in one of Twisted Scripture's music videos, who had actually fought crime with him? Surely not.

Chapter Text

"LOCUS!!"

Locus started at the sound of his name and the feeling of padded hand against his cheek, hard. Who.. my helmet...? He groggily opened his eyes and suddenly actualized the pain rippling through his whole body. He closed his eyes again, groaning. "Felix.."

"Christ, it's about god damn time. I've been digging you out with my bare fucking hands for almost an hour. You couldn't have woken up before now?"

He worked his jaw, unable to form coherent thoughts. "..Felix..."

"Mother of god," Felix groaned and hit him again. Locus's hand flew to his cheek, less stunned and more disoriented by the addition of a new pain source. "Will you fucking get it together? We have to go." Felix stood up and picked dirt out of the cracks in his armor, heading towards where he'd left his helmet and picking it up.

Locus sat up and focused only on staying up. "Go.. where?"

Felix paused and turned over his shoulder. "What, are you fucking dense?" he said, laughing bitterly, throwing his arms out to either side. "We have to go kill them!"

The phrase kill the simulation troopers broke through Locus's mind with nothing to connect to, like the first thing on a bulleted list of only one item, and he desperately came to words. "Washington and Carolina.. are back in the fray. The comm tower--"

"--will be just the sim troopers, yeah, I figured that out while you were taking a nap," Felix interrupted bitterly, putting his helmet back on and locking it in place. "Sorry you won't get to see your new favorite person before the pirates kill him."

Surely not, he thought, but didn't say. "I'm in no condition to keep fighting," he did say.

Felix stared down his nose at him, who was sitting on the ground and breathing heavily, and laughed in a way that somehow sounded like a threat. "Locus." Sam, a distant and imperceptible part of Locus's head screamed. "Come on. You're a soldier."

I'm not  a soldie r

"Once we end this, we can leave. We'll have everything we want."

This is no t what I wa nt

"We're going to die here," Locus said just above his breath. A hand grabbed him by the front of his chestpiece and hauled him up, face to face with Felix.

"You need. To get a grip," he said through clenched teeth, rage all too abnormal for the circumstance. Felix was always one whose anger bubbled close to the surface, but this was the cold fury that was buried deep beneath his surface. It made him emotional. It made him careless. This barely registered with Locus as he winced and looked down at the man he was so sure he used to love. "I'm going with or without you. Are we doing this together or not?"

Togeth er

Ki l l the sim ulatio n tr oopers

"Yes, Felix."

Felix shoved Locus's helmet into his hands roughly, storming off. "I'm grabbing a pelican. Be ready to go."

Every muscle in Locus's body shrieked. The memory of being crushed, Felix's light shield pathetic and frail in the face of the collapsing structure, washed back to him like the returning tide and he felt more exhausted than he'd ever felt in his life. His ribs were cracked and bruised, his suit and mouth were full of blood, and his legs felt too stretched from running, his arms too strained from fighting. Kill the si mulation troopers.

...

Save Washington for last.

Chapter Text

Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it. - Mark Twain

 

Felix was always one for flair. The way he could walk like a snake circling its prey, the too-easy smile that turned so quickly into a snarl, the half-lidded gaze that kept them pinned.. it was a gift straight from God, and he never missed an opportunity to use it.

The thing about Felix's laugh was that it always meant something. His little "ohoho" that always meant "you think you're so fucking smart." His barely audible "cheh" that meant something like "I'm going to do that, beat you, be better, etc. because you said I couldn't." His "ha ha" when he won out on whatever that was, that meant anything from "nice try" to "eat shit" depending on how much he liked them. His "mmeheha" sort of thing that usually meant "I'm about to do something really stupid." His actual laugh, an abrupt sort of coughing sound that dissolved into little "heh heh heh"s and slowly faded as he ran out of breath. Whether he knew it consciously or not, all of them were just as meaningful as the words he spoke so carelessly.

But the villain laugh (for lack of a better term) was very purposeful. He saved it for planned moments when he knew he was going to pull the rug out from under some poor, unsuspecting fool. It was the last moment before his adversaries' hope would shrivel, the realization that they had been very, very wrong about him slowly rising. He did that on purpose because he loved it. He relished in the way that fear, anger, and denial all mixed together when one realized they had been betrayed. He didn't mind backstabbing because it always meant he got to be dramatic. Locus had never heard the laugh aimed in his direction, and while he found the whole shtick to be somewhat tiring, he hoped that he would never have to experience the sinking feeling that came with it.

He knew that Felix wasn't going to take this lying down. He probably had a plan for this, knowing him. He'd proceed to tell Locus what a fool he was for thinking he could get the slip on him. And then.. he didn't want to think about that. But he wasn't ready to know the dread of the laugh he'd heard so many times before.

And sure enough, he laughed as he realized that Locus was approaching, but it wasn't meant for him. Not yet. He tossed the SAW Felix had handed him to the ground, silencing him immediately, and turned off his camouflage. There was no going back now. He took a deep breath and kept his spine straight, begging himself to seem composed.

"Locus," the word came out stunned, the voice of a man being circled by wolves, "what are you doing? You were supposed to kill them!" His anger at his disobedience and desperate hope that this was part of a plan were all too evident.

Locus could barely keep himself from shaking - out of fear or anger, he didn't know which - and turned his head down. "No."

"What?"

"What??"

"What?!"

It was Felix's response that stung the most, that brittle exclamation of anger and fear. He was feeling the effects of betrayal that he had inflicted on so many others and his ceaseless rage was barely contained.

Locus turned his head back up from the ground and forced himself to meet his gaze. "No more killing." He hadn't directly defied Felix since.. since before they were even dating, maybe, since before they were even working together.

"What are you talking about? You're a soldier, remember?!"

The words bit and he knew that Felix knew they did. But he couldn't let himself be controlled anymore. "I'm not a soldier," he said, the admission somehow rolling off his tongue so easily after years of denial. "I'm a monster." He narrowed his eyes, letting the truth sink in. "Like you."

Felix stood up and Locus's confidence began to waver. Felix was obviously terrified. "Locus.. we're partners. Survivors. We need each other." His voice was breaking and it seemed as though he wasn't sure of that anymore either. "Wh-what about our orders? Our reward? Becoming the ultimate weapon?"

Felix's voice continued to get darker as he spoke, controlling, and any ounce of sympathy Locus had dried up.

"I'm not doing this for the reward. I'm not doing this because someone told me to. I'm doing this for me."

Felix took two steps backwards, looking around him in both directions, and then he sighed. He didn't laugh. He just sighed. And somehow, that felt a thousand times worse. That meant he didn't have a plan. This wasn't a battle that had been long-anticipated. It was a fight between two people who were angry and scared.

"Then you can die with the rest of them."

Felix launched his sword in Locus's direction and he hit the deck immediately, his protocol brain taking over while his emotional brain wept. He could barely process what was happening at this point and how he should be contributing. There was the sound of gunfire, but no cries of pain, so it was likely that the Reds and Blues were holding their own.

He actually thinks there might be a few fighters among you. Told you he's crazy.

The feeling of danger stopped as suddenly as it started and everything went quiet. Locus felt a sudden moment of clarity as three beeps pierced the air. He would recognize the sound anywhere. "..huh?"

"Hey, Felix." The sound of a pin being removed from a grenade. "Catch." The sound of it gently banging against the ground and rolling a bit.

The beeps increased in volume. The subjective part of Locus's brain went silent.

"W-wait!!"

He reached for the hilt of Felix's sword, laying just a few feet away from him, as though it was a lifeline, and pulled himself to his feet carefully, eyes fixated on it. He did his best to tune out the scream as he swallowed back tears, taking deep breaths and watching the hilt intently. There would be time for processing emotions later.

"Holy shit." A pause. "That was way better than incineration!"

"Did we do it?"

The Key came to life in his hand.