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fic - challenge entry (two dimensions/the path unchosen)

fic - challenge entry (two dimensions/the path unchosen)

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I started writing this before I saw that oudeteron had posted a challenge entry. Mmm, this pairing! PW made me ship it pre-MG1, hence this fic.

Title: Truce
Pairing: Zero/Big Boss
Word Count:1500
Warnings:Sadly none.
Summary:They both had an enemy they couldn't outrun. Afternoon tea and hints of post-slash.

August 12th, 1990

Zero checked his watch. Twenty-three minutes past four. He felt like he'd been sat there staring at the door for hours, or years. At least the room was comfortable - as plush as an opera-box and with the same faux-period fanciness that he was a little too old to believe in, well-lit through frosted windows, not a bad place to wait out the agonising minutes. Zero wasn't anxious; the tremors of excitement at receiving the coded message had been thoroughly nullified by the dreary negotiations that had followed, but grim certainty had replaced fluttering hope. Arranging the meeting had been costly; they'd had to agree to remove occupying troops from four countries on three different continents just to get their adversary to name a time and place, and ensuring his presence had involved the repeal of an international treaty that regulated the use of grenades. He wouldn't back out now.

His silence of years had made them forget that, as the quaint sporting expression went, the ball was not in the Patriots' court. He didn't have to make offers, merely threats. He had nothing they wanted to take except for everything he was, so there was nothing they could counter-demand that he would give. Except that he had. He was. He would. In minutes or less. Himself. He'd offered this meeting with Zero, in the private room of a hotel restaurant in Berlin at the unfashionable hour of 4.30pm, both alone, and it wasn't in his nature to renage on his promises, or to lay traps. Zero knew it. He'd studied that nature in exacting detail, and he knew all its constituent parts.

Four more minutes passed before the door opened.

They looked at each other, saying nothing. No empty wishes of a good afternoon, no false compliments about ageing well. They had aged through slow shutters, via surveillance photos and dispatches from spies. Their physical distance had never stopped the flow of information. They'd watched each other change. What Zero felt as he looked at the man was not what Zero had expected to feel.

He took a seat, and the first thing he said was, "Happy birthday."

"I'm surprised you remembered..." Zero had barely remembered himself. He didn't know how to address this kindness from a friend, an enemy, a stranger beside him in a city from long ago. Jack.

His lingering query was answered. "Call me Big Boss."

"If you wish." He watched Big Boss scrutinise the terrain - a square tabletop with a china teaset, a coffee press, and a still-folded copy of Die Ziet set upon it. Zero had arrived ten minutes early, and seen fit to order their afternoon refreshments, but had touched nothing. His tea must be growing bitter. Zero took a cupful with steady hands. "Drink up," he said, tilting his cup at the coffee. "It's Costa Rican."

Big Boss pushed down the plunger, and sniffed sceptically at the froth. "Smells okay. Poisoned?"

"Great god, no. Poison at afternoon tea is for old murder mysteries, Snake. You should know me better than that." And who'd poison a Snake? "Here now, I'd hoped you asked me here for a better reason than to wish me a happy birthday and then disparage this fine establishment's coffee."

"I did." He took a cautious sip, and grunted approvingly. "But I didn't choose your birthday by coincidence. We've been sat at opposite ends of the world, growing old. We're running out of time."

"Finally found an enemy you can't outrun?"

"There's a joke someone told me long ago. About monsters." The corners of his lips creased. "I wouldn't need to outrun time. I'd only need to outrun the person time was closest to."

Zero frowned, assembling the jagged fragments of conversation in his mind, finding the places where the edge of one had broken away from the next. Need to - but not want to. He wasn't surprised by the sentiment - he recognised it. He wasn't afraid of dying, but he was afraid of Big Boss dying. He'd do anything to prevent it. He'd done so much already.

"Well, I don't intend to die. Yet." The word was a polite afterthought.

"Good," Big Boss replied. He raised his china teacup to the level of his eyes. "To long life."

"To long life," Zero repeated. The toast met in the air between them with a quiet tink; such a gentle exchange of fire, compared to what they knew they were capable of doing to each other. They drank, and he allowed their eyes to meet. He had spent too many decades among spies to believe there was anything sacred or revealing about a man's eyes. He had seen spectral images of the collection of genes that made Jack's lone iris blue. It would be fanciful to think that he saw, between blinks, shadows of feelings that could have been present if they had never become adversaries. Such fancies had been blown away as completely as that other eye. By the same forces.

By the times.

"Zero," Big Boss said. "I want to come back."

The cup in his hand rattled against the saucer. "Come back?" From where?

"We're growing old, and I don't want to die in exile." Zero stared into the surface of his tea. Big Boss's reflection stared back, rippling and sepia and secondhand. "I'm tired of living in exile. Aren't we through with this yet?"

"Through?" He blinked his way past the American expression; we're finished? With what? "I never wanted this adversarial relationship in the first place." We set spies on you. We tried to reconstruct you from source code on up. We unravelled your genes and your ideals; we reproduced you. Anything to keep you. Anything to stop you from leaving us. Leaving me.

"I didn't come here to assign blame. We can't change the past, but -" the words were as predictable as an audio recording "- there's no such thing as an absolute, timeless enemy. We were never meant to live at odds to the end of our days."

"Our days aren't ending yet. Long life, Jack -"

The name was an admission. He had thrown in his hand. "So let's live them out together. Major..."

Names from old times. Snake, I'm not your major any more. He felt nostalgia grip him and shake him. Perhaps it was all a trap? Big Boss had never been one to bluff. He felt his face creasing and his hands trembling. "What do you want? Details now."

Big Boss spoke to him levelly. Zero supposed he was used to passing himself off as stoical while other men close to wept. "I want to lead FOXHOUND again. I founded the unit - I want to come home to them again. Some MSF operatives might choose to come with me - the rest can take care of themselves."

"And if that remainder of MSF continue to make trouble?"

"I'll deal with it if it happens."

They'd both started enough conflicts to know how to spot them coming. When.

They wrangled over petty things until the tea and the daylight were both gone. Big Boss agreed to another date before leaving; Zero watched him go, and toyed with the idea of him never leaving again.

He assessed himself, beneath the numbers and stratagems and systems, and realised he still held that unwanted, uncomfortable feeling. His want for Big Boss was so clinging and ugly. It went against the way he saw his place in the world. He wanted a calm celebration of the reunion of the Patriots as they once were, her living legacy.

This had been no grand reunion. No apologies asked, no forgiveness offered. Big Boss hadn't said he'd missed them, or him. Why would he? Had they ever allowed themselves to part?

He tried to feel joy at the idea of regaining Big Boss. He tried to make himself think; welcome back. He contemplated returning to base and switching off satellites, recalling spies, not having to keep tabs on Big Boss from the other side of the world any more. Perhaps he'd have the clones sedated and put in frozen storage - perhaps not.

All the things he'd done to keep Big Boss within his control, all for nothing if he were to return with open arms.

Could he accept the return of a friend when he'd never accepted his departure? Did he have a choice?

He was Zero, never more or less than that, and he felt the whole world extending from him in two different directions; the positive, Patriot hegemony and a perfectly controlled world, and the negative, Big Boss and his stateless army. They both came from zero. To Zero, they could return.

And never leave.

    Anyway, loving your Zero big time. I think this is exactly his tragedy - being far too attached to Big Boss and never actually deigning to tell him what he's going to do for that attachment next. In any case, this felt very true to canon. And unlike me, you at least let them meet properly. XD

    Also, your wording is awesome and kills me here.

    *raises own teacup* To this underloved challenge!
    • I LOVE THIS PAIRING BECAUSE I'M NOT EVEN SURE WHO IS WHO'S STALKER WITH A CRUSH. They're both so hooked on each other. I guess PW left a really strong BB/Zero impression on both of us (& everyone else I hope).

      Thanks for this comment <3 I obsess over wording so bad :( And I have Costa Rican coffee now, how hopelessly fangirly is that
      • SAME HERE. I've also developed this ridiculous soft spot for Zero because BB's leaving seems to have really done him in. Cue Peace Walker. It seems like the Patriots should've been called The Official Big Boss Fanclub right from the start.

        Mmm, wordporn. XD Every self-respecting MGS fan should make it their ultimate quest to find Costa Rican coffee. I know I'm still trying.

        PS: Awesome icon.
        • There's a line in MGS4 - "for Zero... He was an irreplaceable friend" - that makes me go ;___; I felt that in Peace Walker BB spoke of him very fondly sometimes, like in the tea/coffee conversation. Makes me wonder if he knew, when he left, how deeply Zero depended on him. :(

          oh yes they are all so into BB, though I ttly ship every Patriot with every other Patriot.

          Icon is from last year's Trick-Or-Treat Meme.
          • Yeah, that line is heartbreaking. Really makes it obvious how fixated Zero must've been on him. (You know you're obsessed with someone when you find yourself cloning them more than once...) And I agree about the tea/coffee part, that spoke volumes. (Of course the ironic thing is that Paz knows who BB's talking about, isn't it.)

            That's probably the only thing they fully agree on. XD Although Patriot pairings are good too.

            Thanks for the link!!

    This is exactly how I think it happened -- how BB was able to return to FOXHOUND. And Zero fell for it. EXACTLY LIKE THIS. Thanks, this is now going in my headcanon. THIS WAS WONDERFUL THENE ♥
    • PW put this scenario in my head, what can I say <3 Sometimes wonder if - what with the flawed clones, crazy AI version etc - the Patriots knew BB as well as they thought they did. I THINK NOT.
  • S3 Fic: When All Is Said and Done

    User oudeteron referenced to your post from S3 Fic: When All Is Said and Done saying: [...] to your prompt, but given that an awesome fic of BB and Zero having tea together already exists [...]
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