Pairing: Solid Snake/Otacon
Rating: R (eventually gets to NC 17 in later parts)
Concrit Level: Ocelot. I'm hoping for some feedback on pacing, general plot elements, and characterization.
Summary: Snake feels like joining Philanthropy was the change in his life that he was looking for, but there's still something missing, and it takes the events of the Big Shell for him to realize what he's been wanting all along.
Notes: As not to flood this community too much, I've just posted part one of this for now. There are three parts written total; all three can be read at AO3 here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1453864?view_full_work=true
After Shadow Moses, Snake had made the promise that he was going to live more for others instead of himself, and Philanthropy filled the promise easily, like a check mark off a list. He thought that was enough of a change, that it would satisfy that gnawing feeling between ribs that had been bothering him since Shadow Moses. Hell, if he was honest, it had been going on for years. The solitary life in Alaska brought forth plenty for him to dwell on alone, freezing, and oftentimes in the dark. The altruistic missions he and Otacon took on eased the feeling some, but it still felt like something was missing and Snake couldn’t figure if it was guilt or residual anger or something else completely.
“Do you ever think about what your life would have been like if you hadn’t been forced into Shadow Moses?”
“I think I’d be dead by now.”
Otacon paused, forehead wrinkling. He sipped at his coffee, waiting for Snake to fill in the rest.
“I would have drank myself to death, no doubt. I had nothing to live for.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Oh, really? Since when did you pick up a drinking habit, Otacon?”
“No, not that. I mean the nothing to live for part. After I realized what REX really was, I mean, I can see where I would have given up. I put my whole heart into that project and it all came tumbling down in a matter of seconds.”
“Mmm. What was it that saved you again?”
“Come on. Don’t be so transparent.”
After a while Snake really thought he was beginning to change. He felt useful again, only this time in a way that didn’t wake him up in a cold sweat at night. Having a purpose that rested in the hopeful sector was a change to be sure. Spending his days with Otacon was far different than living with the battle-hungry souls he was used to. Otacon was adamant that they make non-lethal force first priority, that planning should always win out over run-and-gun, and that even the bad guys deserved a certain level of respect in regards to their lives. He also wouldn’t let Snake buy mousetraps for their various headquarters, no matter how many boxes of cereal they chewed through.
The adjustment felt strange to Snake, but for some reason it was easy to compromise with Otacon. The engineer was a man who rarely acted out of self-interest unless it came to the choice of what movie to watch, but even then he pretended like he’d be okay watching Casino Royale for a third time if that’s what Snake wanted. Snake never considered himself the kind of person that would alter his will to make another happy, but he found himself suggesting take-out food that was Otacon’s favorite and dealing with the temperature of their apartment rising over 75 from all the computer equipment running non-stop.
“I saw this at the grocery store. You like this stuff, right?”
“Oh, wow, Snake, you know what Ramune is?”
“Not really. I saw the Japanese lettering on the bottle and figured you’d probably be interested.”
“Absolutely! Here, look, this is how it works.”
“Is that a marble?”
“Yeah, see, you take this plastic part and pop the marble down into the neck of the bottle. It rattles around and makes the soda all fizzy.”
“Huh.” Snake leaned in closer to watch what Otacon was doing. “Ah!” He jumped back, startled, at the loud pop and clatter the marble made as it shot out of the bottle’s opening.
Otacon tried not to laugh, holding the bubble gum-flavored soda out to Snake. “You can have first drink,” he giggled.
The changes happened in degrees—a shrug of his shoulders where before he would have gotten angry, agreeing to take funding from a book he didn’t particularly agree with being published, calling Otacon “Hal” and answering occasionally to “Dave” when they weren’t actively on a mission . . .trying chicken Ramen instead of his usual beef. And then Snake nearly died and everything really began to change.
It wasn’t the fact that Hal saved his life. That wasn’t a new circumstance, though he was incredibly impressed at the engineer’s quick thinking that night. Two minutes later and he wouldn’t have coughed back to life, wouldn’t have gotten the chance to grumble his way through two weeks of Hal-mandated bed rest.
“You have pneumonia, Snake! You can’t just walk it off this time.”
“Would you just let me fix my own oatmeal? I’m not an invalid.”
Hal grabbed the packet of oats out of Snake’s hands. “Sit. Down. And. Rest. Or I’ll explain the ending of Evangelion to you again.”
And it wasn’t really their proximity, or their shared goals, or even the bond of fighting side by side. All of these feelings Snake had felt before; he’d felt comradery and affection, the tug in his chest that said he’d throw himself in front of a bullet to protect his friend. He had days in fox holes next to other soldiers, all fighting for the same purpose, all having one another’s backs to the end. But none of those familiar feelings struck to the back of his throat the way Hal’s name clung to him every time he spoke it.
It was the way Hal looked at him and rolled his eyes and stormed away in frustration three to four times a day, his arms going nearly boneless with movement every single time. It was the way that Hal always asked permission for things that were rightfully his—money for a new hard drive, space on the wall for a poster, time to put on a disguise and go visit a shop. It was how Snake felt needed, but for the first time in his life it was his choice to be there. He’d been needed his entire adult life by the military, but he never had much choice—Philanthropy, and Hal as his partner, was his choice completely.
It was how Snake suddenly had words that carried away the knots in his chest, gave them to Hal, who gladly untangled the strands and carefully folded and returned them. Hal didn’t force him to talk, but he was always there, never too busy to listen to a suddenly remembered story about Zanzibar Land or a nagging feeling of guilt about Frank Jaeger, or Master Miller, or even Meryl. Hal didn’t complain about having to live in constant hiding, but he understood Snake’s frustration with no longer being free to roam the world without careful preparation. He knew how to talk Snake down when he wanted to pull out his guns and make somebody pay for what had happened in the Hudson River.
“We have to do something. I’m sick of shadow-dwelling and tip toeing around. We can find where Ocelot is. I know you can find it out.”
“And what good will you do for mankind when you’re locked up in a federal prison awaiting your trial for treason? It’s too hot out there right now, Snake. You’ve got to be patient.”
“I am so fucking sick of being patient.”
“Maybe you should have thought of that when you let that cipher take your glam shot.”
“I didn’t let…”
“You know I’m kidding! Come on, Snake. It’s not like we’re just sitting around waiting. We’re working every day to figure out what’s really going on at the Big Shell. Just today we found all that intel on that Dead Cell group.”
“We didn’t find anything. You’re doing all the work. I’m just sitting around doing push-ups and reading Tom Clancy.”
“Would it make you feel better if I taught you how to hack into Pentagon records? I really think if you wanted to learn . . .”
“Otacon . . .”
Snake would of course be kidding himself if he said he caught onto all of these feelings quickly. He’d walked around for almost two years unsure of the flicker he’d feel in his stomach in the morning sitting next to Hal for breakfast. He didn’t believe he was capable of love, not anymore, not in the specific sense—the way other people talked about it.
But after the Big Shell, that was when it started to dawn on him. After they’d learned about the Patriots and GW, after they found Emma and just as quickly lost her, it was obvious Hal carried around that burden as if it rested with him alone. Seeing Hal in pain wasn’t necessarily new, but Snake could hardly stand still when he thought about the hurt in him. He wanted to kick and shoot and scream at the whole world because there was nothing he could to do un-tense the muscles of Hal’s face, or ease the sick churning of his grief, but Snake tried anyway. Not being able to help made him crazy; he’d never cared about intervening in someone else’s emotional baggage before, but now it was all he could think about. He suddenly became the overeager teenage friend that always wants to hang out, let’s do something, come on, dude. And Hal would try. He would try to smile, but no amount of playing tower defense games or watching his favorite animes or Snake fixing his favorite foods removed the weight constantly perched on his slim shoulders.
The ridiculousness of his situation wasn’t lost on Snake. How long had he been walking around loving Hal without having any clue? He felt incredulous at the fact that it took Hal being nearly wrecked with grief for it to become clear that he cared for him in that way. What did that say about Snake’s own abilities at introspection? What did it say about his ability to help Hal out of the depths of depression?
A few weeks in, Snake finally stopped trying to be upbeat. He stopped the attempts to make himself feel better by making Hal smile. Side-stepping the issue wouldn’t help Hal heal. Snake already noticed the way Hal would duck into the bedroom, or rub his eyes or feign tiredness when Snake caught him in the midst of his grief. He’d shrug it off in front of Snake, not wanting to become a burden. Snake knew him well enough to know how he internalized to the point of self-destruction. That tendency in him to think of others ahead of himself wasn’t doing him any good anymore. He needed to know Snake was there for him, that acknowledging what happened and dealing with it was the only way he’d ever get past it.
Hal was clicking away at his keyboard around midnight, his posture tense but trying to give the appearance that he was just concentrating. Snake walked up behind him, put a warm hand on his shoulder, his touch gentle. He lightly pulled Hal’s arms away from the desk.
“Come on,” Snake said softly. Hal turned around and looked at him, not annoyed, but not entirely willing. “Just come sit with me, okay? You’ve worked enough for today. It’s late.”
Hal pursed his lips, a protest on his tongue, but Snake gave him another squeeze on the shoulder and whispered this time. “Come on.”
He led Hal to the couch and it felt instantly serious to Snake, so he leaned back against the cushions in an attempt to feel more relaxed. Hal followed, looking down at his hands instantly, their knees bumping. There was a feeling in the air that crackled and Snake knew it was all on his part. He took a deep breath to ground himself back to his original purpose.
“Hal, you know you don’t have to hide anything around me, right?” Snake asked after a few moments of silence. “I’m never going to judge you. It’s . . .” he paused, shifting a little on the couch to face Hal more directly. “It’s okay for you to be sad.”
Snake left out, “And it’s okay for me to let you feel sad,” even though he had to constantly repeat it to himself.
Hal looked up at him briefly, then down at his hands. The corners of his mouth turned downwards, tears starting to cover the grey of his eyes. He licked his lips and bit back a sob, turning away again.
Snake didn’t even pause to think. He reached out, touched two calloused fingertips to Hal’s jaw, lightly turning his face and eyes back to him. He didn’t have any words, not yet, so he just nodded—it's okay. Hal blinked and let the tears slide down one cheek, then the other.
“I feel so terrible,” Hal said, voice wavering. Snake brought his thumb up to rest on the other side of Hal’s face. “I’m the reason she’s dead. I’m the reason she ever got involved in it in the first place. If I hadn’t been so . . . weak,” he practically spat the word “Then everything would have been different.”
“You can’t blame yourself for the choices your father made, or the ones Emma made out of anger. It isn’t your fault that they let their pain win.”
“Why not? I’m the common denominator, Snake! Everyone around me ends up hurt.”
That stung, Snake knowing exactly how Hal was feeling. “You can’t make a person’s choices for them. That’s on them. The mistakes your family made aren’t your fault, even if it feels that way. That’s what you have to keep telling yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”
The anger in Hal’s eyes started to soften a little. “Does it ever stop feeling that way?”
“It gets easier,” Snake said. “I’m still working on it, too. I don’t know if it ever goes away completely, but,” Snake paused to tilt Hal’s face back to where he could see his eyes. “Every day that you accept you aren’t to blame, it’s that much easier to be in your own skin.”
A fresh pair of tears slid down Hal’s cheeks at that. He nodded his head a little, looking away and sniffing. Snake adjusted his touch, cupping Hal’s chin like a glass, gentle, his thumb traveling up to wipe away a tear. Hal’s lips parted, his brow knitting together, but no sound came. Snake felt a jolt of fear at the thought that Hal would soon push his hand away from his hot cheek. Instead, Hal rose a shaky hand and wrapped it lightly, awkwardly around Snake’s wrist.
“I felt so helpless. Still feel helpless. I couldn’t save her,” Hal half spoke, half whispered. He squeezed Snake’s wrist, but still didn’t look up at him.
“You don’t get used to that,” Snake said, wanting to grab Hal up into his arms and shield him from all these emotions he had no foolproof defense for. “But you find ways to take back control. You can never completely protect someone, but it’s helped me to know that I’m doing everything I can to keep the people I care for safe.” He paused, then added, “I would do anything for you, Hal. Sometimes it isn’t enough,” Snake lowered his voice, “but the best you can do is not stop trying.”
It was more than Snake had talked about his feelings in a long time. It left him feeling even more exposed, but if this was what it took to bring Hal back it would be more than worth it.
Hal didn’t respond, but he tilted his head to the side, seeming to be working on making peace with that idea. They sat in silence for several moments, Hal squeezing Snake’s wrist on and off, intermittently drawing small circles against the backs of Snake’s fingers. He returned the gentle touches, lightly rubbing his fingertips against Hal’s stubbled cheek as Hal continued to look down at his lap, the tears still slipping down his sharp face. His skin was a light shade of pink, his breathing quick and shallow, but from this close, Snake thought he’d never looked so incredible.
After another few moments, Snake gently tipped Hal’s chin upwards again, brushing away the last of the tears. Hal finally opened his eyes and Snake had to bite his lip to keep from sighing. Hal was completely open—No more shields, no more walls, no more hiding. Here Hal was; Snake just had to take him.
Cupping Hal’s shoulder with his free hand, Snake waited, his heart pounding hot and loud in his ears. Hal bit the corner of his lip and exhaled deeply, reaching up to grab Snake’s hand and place it open-palmed across his chest—pledge-of-allegiance style over his heart. He stared unflinchingly into Snake’s eyes, the sadness starting to lift from his features to be replaced with a warmer curiosity.
Snake sighed aloud as Hal closed his eyes again, his forehead knotting together lightly in concentration. Snake wanted everything now—all of Hal, all of love and fear and vulnerability and everything he swore he’d never need, swore would just end up getting him killed in the end. God, if he could just know for sure that Hal wanted the same, all of it, but Hal kept looking away and it was making Snake wild. His stomach was up between his ears and he could barely sit still.
Finally, mercifully, Hal turned his face inwards into Snake’s palm. His lips grazed the inside of Snake’s thumb, brow knotting further as he traced the tips of Snake’s fingers with his bottom lip, so light, just feeling, exploring. Snake’s other hand began fisting at Hal’s shirt; he could hardly stand it. Please, just let me have this.
Hal stopped, opened his eyes at last, and looked at Snake for several long moments, his fingertips twitching, waiting on the top of Snake’s left thigh. His lips parted, soundlessly whispering. Then he licked them and said deeply, “Dave . . .”
Snake nodded, not noticing that he’d stopped breathing.
“Can I . . .” Hal paused and Snake’s stomach dropped hard down into his toes. “Can I kiss you?”
Snake wanted to laugh, to scream, to flip over a table, but he just nodded quickly, whispering, “Yes.”
And then in slow motion Hal was there, his lips pressing gently, so innocent that Snake nearly groaned with the urgent tugging in his chest for more. Oh. He had been waiting so long, and now here they were kissing quietly in the warm, lamp-lit edge of their couch.
Snake held Hal to him with his fingers at the base of Hal’s neck. He parted his lips, catching Hal’s lower lip and having to restrain himself from shoving, pulling, devouring him all. Hal’s hands were nervous, tentative but warm on Snake’s biceps. Snake had a brief thought of how endearing Hal’s shyness was, but then it was right back to the silver sparks popping in his chest, behind his eyes, in his hungry fingertips, his hungry lips. How long had he been starving?
Picking up quickly, Hal poured himself into Snake, pressing every limb, every inch he possibly could up against him. He murmured, “Dave,” into Snake’s ear, and just like that Snake began to melt away, leaving only those previously guarded pieces behind, leaving only Dave for Hal to dive into.
Inside Hal, Dave could feel sparks, too, golden and warm instead of cool silver. Hal reached up and semi-held Dave by the ears, palms muffling the room into only his heart, his breath, and Hal’s. Moaning against Hal’s jaw, Dave pulled away for just a moment, then let his face find home in Hal’s neck, Hal’s ear, Hal’s collar bones, finding it ever difficult to savor rather than swallow whole. Hal smelled sharp, sharp like every line of his body, crisp like the fall, clean with just a hit of salt from the earlier tears.
Hal was deliciously kissing the spot below Dave’s ear where jaw met neck, and Dave thought he could probably drop off the edge from those kisses alone. He pulled Hal away, putting two hands on his shoulders, mumbling, “So good . . . but too good for right now.”
Hal looked confused for a moment, then got a crooked little smile as he caught on to Dave’s panting. Hal rubbed his palm up the inside of Dave’s left thigh, not quite bold enough yet to rub across his cock, but Dave could feel that it might not be too far away. He paused for a moment, wanting to clear his head—they should wait. Really. Wait for a time when emotional vulnerability couldn’t be mistaken as the reason for their intimacy.
“Hal,” Dave murmured, feeling long fingers tracing along his scalp. “I want it, but . . .”
Hal caught his eye and quickly seemed to realize what Dave meant. He nodded. “Yeah, me, too, but . . . maybe you’re right. Maybe we should take a minute.”
Dave nodded back. “Just a little while. Sleep on it, at least.” He pushed back the hair from Hal’s forehead, not being able to give up all physical contact just yet. “Come on, let’s lie down. It’s . . . late.”
He held Hal’s hand as they padded down the short hallway of their three-room apartment. They turned into the bedroom, clicking on the dim overhead light and stopping at the first mattress pressed into the corner. Dave sat on the edge of the bed and Hal followed, eyes bright, cheeks flushed.
“I don’t think this is where we should go to cool it down,” Hal said, already starting to paw at the bottom of Dave’s shirt. Dave knew he was right—they needed to sleep on this thing, separately, but he was so hot and hungry and then Hal was there, straddling his lap. Quickly they were kissing again, kissing, hips grinding, fingers grabbing, and Dave tried to slow the kisses down, the sparks absolutely wild behind his eyes, in his hands, his mouth.
“On top of the clothes?” Hal muttered into Dave’s ear. A compromise.
But Dave wasn’t sure he could trust himself with that, and Hal was already breaking his own compromise, reaching up under Dave’s shirt, fingers cold and making goosebumps pop up and down both of his arms. “Ungh . . . you’ve . . .you’ve gotta stop your hips, Hal,” Dave said, voice throaty against Hal’s neck. He felt Hal shudder slightly, but ignore his words, rocking his hips harder. “I fucking love it, but . . .” Dave moved around to kiss him deeply, sucking his upper lip, loud. “But I can’t.”
Hal pulled back from the kiss, a little breathless, but nodding. He exhaled loudly, put his hands on his own hot face, nodding again. “Yeah, no, me neither. I . . .” He pushed his hair back from his forehead, taking another few deep breaths. “I don’t know what came over me.” He looked away nervously, cheeks flushing.
Dave bit back the urge to throw the engineer onto the bed and make him flush like that all over. Instead he put his hands on the small of Hal’s back, tried to be the voice of reason. “I guess we should try to get some rest.”
Hal laughed at that. The first real laugh in weeks. “Try,” he said.
“You know I don’t want to either.”
“No, but I need a cold shower or something,” Hal fanned his face with his hands.
“That doesn’t work.”
“Not when you’re this . . .” Dave paused, considering the best word to use. “Heavy.”
“This hard, you mean?” Hal rolled his hips and Dave could feel him hard, full and pressing hot against his pajama bottoms. Dave wished he had a bullet to bite on at that moment.
“Okay, I clearly can’t sleep next to you.” Dave pushed Hal backwards on his lap, holding him away slightly. At that Hal frowned, so Dave amended, “You can’t seem to behave yourself. Aren’t you supposed to be the gentleman here?”
“Not me,” Hal replied with a smirk.
Dave reached up and touched Hal’s cheek with the backs of his fingers. He worked over Hal’s face with his gaze, still in shock to a certain degree. “Then I guess it’s going to have to be a first for me.”
“Look at you trying new things.”
Dave had to laugh at that, short and loud. “I’m not sure you can even fathom.” Hal leaned them both backwards against the bed, palms pressing into the mattress on either side of Dave’s shoulders. He kissed the right corner of Dave’s mouth, then the left.
“I might have an idea,” he mumbled. Then he pulled back with a sigh, trying to climb off Dave’s lap as gracefully as possible, which wasn’t very.
They first tried to lie side by side on the cramped bed, but that quickly grew uncomfortable. Dave knew spooning would push him right back into a heat alert, so they settled for on their sides facing one another. Dave rested a hand on Hal’s hip and they both fell into a light sleep after about a half an hour of quiet talking—not yet touching on what was quickly forming between them, or Hal’s grief, or even Dave’s ever-growing desire to try new things.