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days on which we were depending

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In the end, it's not that hard to do it.

Takes a little luck, maybe. Some cult dug up a magic box or something. Nobody bothers making sure Croc's clear on the details. If they'd tried he might have ignored them anyway. He knows what he needs to know. It's dangerous enough that it's ARGUS's business, and too dangerous to send anybody Waller actually gives a shit about.

Squad time—or what's left of them, at least.

Croc ignored the tactical briefing, too. Doesn't matter. Deadshot needs someplace to aim from, Katana needs an entry point aboveground, Captain Asshole needs stuff to blow up; whatever.

Croc gets sick of waiting, picks a spot, and punches a hole in the compound wall.

There's four guys in front of him, all dressed in the same weird armor. He hits one, throws another into the other two, and leaves while they're all still groaning on the floor. There's another guy in the corridor, but Croc smashes his head sideways into a wall and hears his skull crack, smells the blood. He's dead before he's done falling down.

This place is like a maze, but that doesn't matter either. The magic box or whatever, it's—Croc can feel it somewhere ahead of him. Like a sound too faint to hear. Something in the air. Makes his scales itch.

He keeps on going toward it. There's a few more guys on the way, and some of them have guns now. But the bullets are never big enough to do more than bruise, and there's never so many that he has any trouble throwing them at the ceiling or ripping their throats out. Easy enough.

And then he gets to this one big room, and it's right there. Tipped open already, light spilling out of it so bright Croc can hardly see the shape of the box itself behind it, sharp corners and strange angles.

And another half-dozen dudes in front of it. Who knew there'd be so many of them?

They start shrieking at Croc about abomination, that he's screwing up the box just by looking at it, and some stuff about power, reshaping the universe, on and on and on. It gets so Croc's snapping their necks just to make them stop fucking shouting at him.

The last one's sort of pale and panicky as Croc strides toward him, but he doesn't move out of the way. Really hardcore about this magic box. To the point where it's stupid, but still.

"Do you even understand what this is capable of?" he says, shrill. "Do you even comprehend the sacred power you behold?"

"Yeah, I got the picture," Croc tells him, and then grabs him by the throat and throws him at a wall. Not too hard, even. He might be okay later. At least if Deadshot finds him first and not Katana.

Except maybe it won't even matter. Croc steps up to the altar with the box on it, closing one set of eyelids and squinting the other against all that endless hard white light.

He didn't lie to the cult dude. He knows what he needs to know. Whatever this cult thinks doesn't matter, and the layout of this compound doesn't matter, and the strategy Flag and everybody worked out doesn't matter.

What matters is that somebody back in one of those briefings, talking about the magic box, said what it was for. Half the people running this mission probably think Killer Croc doesn't know what "time travel" is. And the other half probably just think he doesn't give a shit.

All of them are wrong.

 

 

 

It's been months since Midway.

Things mostly don't touch Croc, and he likes it that way. Everything that ever pissed him off or hurt him or messed him up—once it's over, it's done. He leaves it back there behind him, doesn't think about it again. Why would he want to, when he could lie on a couch drinking beer and watching TV instead? Fuck it.

But Midway won't let go of him. Midway won't let go of him, and he can't figure out how to make it.

He knew who it was in the tunnels with him at the end—the way Flag's SEALs had been sweating, he could smell who was who a block away. He could practically taste the guy, even in water as rank as that.

But he hadn't learned a name until after. Flag had looked at him funny for asking, but had told him anyway. Edwards. And Croc remembered, then. GQ, that's what Flag had called him.

GQ.

He didn't get why it mattered. Lying there in his cell, he kept catching himself looking at the ceiling instead of at the TV, even when he turned the volume up. Looking at the ceiling and remembering, over and over again. GQ geared up and staring at him, wary. GQ in the water. GQ—

GQ blowing himself up.

That was the whole reason he'd gone in the water. Just to do that. Just to die. He had to have known it would kill him. He wasn't like Croc, not super-tough or super-strong or super-anything. Human.

He could have made Croc do it. Couldn't he? There wasn't any reason he shouldn't have. Croc might have lived through it. And even if he hadn't, nobody gave a shit. That was the whole point of the goddamn Suicide Squad: Croc was useful, yeah, but if something managed to fuck him up too bad to fix, that was okay. Nobody cared. He already had a bomb in his neck. Him getting torn to shreds someday if things went wrong was kind of the idea.

But GQ hadn't done it. GQ hadn't even asked—hadn't wanted him in the water at all. Had stood there and told him to fuck off, or as good as, without even flinching. Like Croc couldn't have killed him for it—like he wasn't afraid. Like he thought he could scare Croc off, the same way he'd try to scare off anybody who acted like they could do his job better than he could.

And then Croc had gotten in the water anyhow, and GQ'd still gone off ahead by himself to blow up. Since what they were doing had been important enough to him to be dead for.

Which was the thing that really stuck, right there. Because then he'd turned around. He'd turned around, away from the thing he'd have let himself be dead for, because he thought Croc might need him.

Stupid. It wasn't like they'd known each other. They'd hardly even talked to each other, that whole day. What the fuck had he been thinking? What the fuck had he been thinking, doing a thing like that for Croc out of nowhere?

What a dumbass GQ must have been.

But that's what he can't shake. With the rest of it done, that's what's still got its claws in him: GQ turning in the water, light in his hand, pale flash of his face behind the dive mask, looking at Croc. Like he'd turn his back on everything he'd been ready to die for, just like that, if Croc was in trouble back there.

Lots of people probably died that day. Lots of people die every day, Croc is pretty sure.

But it turns out when you give a shit about one of them, even just a little bit, that starts to bother you. That starts to feel like a problem that should get fixed.

 

 

 

So it's easy as anything, in the end, to reach out through that brilliant light and grip the box by its sides.

Croc doesn't really know what to do with it. Lucky for him that he doesn't actually have to do much at all. He's got it between his hands, carved stone rasping against his fingertip scales, light so close and bright he can hardly see past it. And he thinks about Midway, about that day. About GQ. About the moment Croc first saw him. Not even knowing it mattered, eyes skipping over him like they had over half a dozen more of Flag's guys—

It comes apart, then. Everything comes apart. The light's the only thing there is, and Croc's eyes ache with it. He closes them, baring his teeth, annoyed, and everything—everything moves, fast, hard, like the chopper all over again—

 

 

 

He blinks, and the light in his face is just sunlight.

He's gagged, strapped to something. He'd be pissed, except he remembers this. He remembers this, and he sucks in a breath through his nose, and yeah. Yeah, this is exactly how it was.

He smells GQ first, and then sees him. Standing there next to Flag, because GQ was almost always next to Flag, unless Flag had ordered him not to be—and he's looking right back at Croc, kind of bug-eyed.

"What the hell, Flag," Croc hears him say. Like he's right there, because he is. Right there, and not blown up at all.

Croc closes his eyes, opens them again, but the light doesn't come back. Everything stays where it is.

Even this stupid rack he's stuck on. But he rolls his shoulders, flexes his wrists, makes himself settle down. The first time around, he fucking hated it. But they're about to let him get off it. He knows that now, and so it's kind of okay.

Besides, he didn't come back here to be tied to this thing. He came back here for GQ.

Who's still looking sort of freaked out by him, gaze darting away and then back to Croc, over and over. The way Croc's been staring at him probably isn't helping. It's just weird. Weird, but in a good way, to see him like this. Alive.

Croc didn't like this day much the first time through. But now, here, right this second, the whole thing stretching out ahead of him again feels kind of like a gift.

 

 

 

He doesn't listen to Flag's speech. He's already heard it. He knows how Flag works about as well as anybody—what to do, what not to do. Even when he didn't, the first time through, he hadn't fucked it up too bad. It'll be fine.

He watches GQ instead. Hadn't looked at him more than anybody else, last time around. Remembered his face, but only sort of—bits and pieces, around and through that dive mask, and they'd started to blur a little.

But now Croc looks at him and finds himself thinking: yeah, that's right. The point of his nose, the length of it. The slant of his mouth. That's just how he looked, exactly right. Croc might actually be able to pick GQ out of a crowd of Flag's SEALs now. All those sharp-angled little faces, all those t-shirts and muscles and stupid brownish heads of hair—but he knows GQ from the rest of them this time. Might even without being able to smell him.

When they load themselves onto the chopper, he doesn't sit where he sat last time. He sits next to GQ instead.

A couple of Flag's guys eye him, but nobody makes a fuss. GQ doesn't either. Looks at him, raises both eyebrows, and settles one hand kind of pointedly on his gun. Croc ignores it and doesn't move, and GQ doesn't push it before they lift off.

Croc really hates flying.

He swallows hard. Twice. It doesn't help much.

GQ's peering at him, brow drawing down. "Dude, are you okay?" Hard to miss the way the corner of his mouth jerks up when he adds, "It's just you're looking kind of green around the gills, if you follow me—"

"Shut up," Croc growls, and elbows him.

A little too hard: he's knocked back against the side of the chopper with a thud, making a quiet pained sound. Oops.

"So you don't really believe in pulling your punches, huh?" GQ says, wincing and huffing out a laugh at the same time.

"Nope," Croc agrees.

"Guess I should've figured," GQ murmurs.

He's still looking at Croc kind of sidelong. His hands are still on his gun. But his eyes are different and his shoulders have come down a little, and his knuckles aren't white anymore.

"Look," he adds after a second, "I'll be honest with you, I was—I was not prepared for a talking crocodile today. But if you promise you aren't going to eat me or anybody whose name I know, then—"

"Not hungry," Croc grits out.

He says it because it's true. Way his stomach's rolling, he might never eat again. That's all.

But GQ blinks at him for a second and then laughs, one quick startled breath. "Right," he says, "sure, sorry. Shouldn't be talking about food when you're—uh. Seriously, do you need to—"

"No," Croc says, and tries to make it true by closing his mouth tight and swallowing again.

"Look out," GQ proposes.

Croc glances at him.

"No, really," GQ says. He gestures toward one of the windows, bulletproof panes set into the chopper's sides. "Don't close your eyes, don't look at me. Look out the side. The horizon is your friend, okay? You feel like shit because your body can't tell what the fuck is going on. It wants to know where it is and how fast it's moving. Look out."

He puts a hand on Croc's shoulder and pushes. And Croc doesn't have to move. But it probably won't make him any worse.

He doesn't stop feeling like shit.

But he doesn't throw up either, this time.

 

 

 

Croc hadn't thought about it much. When he had, he'd just figured it would all happen pretty much the same. Ride the day all the way through to the end, the part that mattered. And then change it.

But then they're in Midway City. It's just like last time, empty windows and abandoned cars. And those things, those things that whatever's inside Moone made out of everybody too slow to get out of her way.

Croc remembers them fine. They're not too hard to kill. Not compared to him, anyway.

But they're kind of tough compared to GQ.

He's not doing so bad. He survived without any help from Croc last time.

Except things are already different. Croc didn't sit next to him on the chopper last time. Other shit might change, too. And Croc's standing there with one's head in his hands, about to crush it to gunk, and watching three of them creep up on the car where GQ's already trying to wrestle his gun away from a fourth, when he realizes.

He traveled back to fix this. To make it turn out better. But that doesn't mean it will. If GQ dies before they get anywhere near the tunnels—

It took months, after Midway, for ARGUS to learn about that fucking box. No way in hell is Croc living through all that again to get back here for a second do-over. He's doing this shit right the first time.

So he does crush the thing's head. And then he throws it at the car and leaps after it with a snarl, lands on its body and dents the roof of the car in with a crunch. Two of them come straight at him. He puts a fist through one and uses it to knock the other clear across the street and into the side of a building. And by then GQ's got his gun again, and he's blown the other two into splatters of black gunk.

GQ looks up at Croc after, over the top of the half-crushed car. "Jesus," he says. And then, kind of grudging, "Thanks for the back-up, man. You saved my ass right there."

"Whatever," Croc tells him, looking away.

But he can feel GQ's eyes on him after.

He sticks close to GQ after that. Everybody else can go fuck themselves. He didn't come back here for them. But if GQ doesn't make it, he doesn't know what the hell he's going to do. He tears the things apart before they can get anywhere near GQ—smashes them to paste just for trying.

Finally there aren't any more. They came in waves, Croc remembers that from last time. Should have a little breathing room before the next swarm.

He turns around and looks at GQ over his shoulder. Doesn't need to; he can hear GQ moving, breathing. There's no smell of blood. He knows GQ's okay. But—

But he wants to. He wants to see GQ, alive.

And GQ's looking back at him, wide-eyed. Something weird about being looked at that way. Like—like flying in a chopper, for a second.

But it doesn't matter. They got shit to do.

 

 

 

He doesn't bother following the rest of the Squad into the bar. He knows what they have to say. He already heard it. And they're all safe in there, anyway. Nothing tried to bust in and kill them last time. But GQ—he doesn't know where GQ and the other SEALs went or what they ran into, securing a perimeter or whatever.

If GQ gets his head ripped off while Croc's sitting inside doing fuck-all, then this whole damn trip's been a waste.

So he sticks with the SEALs instead. Most of them start giving him weird hunted looks over their shoulders. After a minute GQ says, "Jesus," under his breath, and then, louder, "Okay, come on, you know what to do. Lock down this whole block until they're done in there. Crocodile's with me. Let's move."

They spread out along the street. Croc and GQ end up at the corner of the block. The sky is still all fucked up, and the empty intersection's not much better. Makes Croc want to bare his teeth, just so all those roiling shadows out there know he's onto them. There should be humans crawling all over this place. And if there had been, Croc would hate it—wouldn't want anything more than to get gone. But he still doesn't like it.

Fucking magic.

"Something out there, or you just don't like me?"

Croc turns to stare at GQ, and only then gets that he's been growling, down in his chest.

He makes himself stop. "Don't like most of this," he tells GQ.

"Amen, brother," GQ mutters, looking away up one street, the other, and holding out a fist.

Croc looks at it.

"Oh, come on," GQ says—because now he's looking at Croc again, eyebrow raised. "Nobody ever fistbumped you before? Give me a break."

Croc stares at him and doesn't move. After a minute GQ rolls his eyes and huffs, leans over far enough to bump his stupid fist against Croc's elbow instead.

"You can't ruin this for me, man. I refuse to allow it," he says. And then he hefts his gun in his hands, looks up and down the cross-street again, and sniffs. "So, uh. Like I said, I got to be honest, you freak me out. But don't think I haven't noticed you looking out for me." He flicks a glance at Croc, quick, and then away. "Thanks," he tells the cross-street.

"Hm," Croc says.

"You really eat people?" GQ says.

"Just the ones who won't shut up," Croc tells him, flat.

But all that does is make GQ stare at him. Stare at him, and then grin, sudden bright flash of teeth.

"Yeah? I feel that, dude," GQ says. "Some guys, you know, you're on duty with them and you just want to get the job done, and they're standing there yammering on about whatever the fuck's on their minds, not catching a clue no matter how hard you pitch one at them—"

And Croc's about to smack him halfway across the street when he sees GQ's mouth twitch. He narrows his eyes. He thought GQ was just stupid, but no. Motherfucker's doing it on purpose. "Fuck you," he grits out.

Except he's not really mad. And somehow maybe GQ knows it, because all he does is tip his head back and laugh.

"See, the thing is, you put in all that effort," he says. "I saw you. So I'm pretty sure you aren't going to eat me, even if I do talk too much."

Croc stares at him, and then looks him up and down and shrugs one shoulder. "You ain't nothing but a midnight snack anyhow," he mutters.

And GQ's still fucking smiling at him. Something in his eyes, and whatever it is it's not "freaked out". And then he leans over and bumps his shoulder against Croc's arm. "Man, can you believe it," he says, tilting his head, "but I can't think of one goddamn thing to say to that that doesn't sound seriously fucking dirty."

"Dumbass," Croc says, and bumps back.

 

 

 

It takes longer than he thought it would, somehow.

It's just he knows what's coming, what's waiting. He gets impatient. Aren't they there yet? How much more of this shit is there to go before he can just fucking save GQ and be done with it?

Makes his shoulders tight, head low, like the minutes lined up in front of him are a wall he's got to break down. GQ notices, because he's not actually stupid. But he doesn't ask, doesn't give Croc any shit. He looks over his shoulder at Croc now and then, checking in; not his fault that seeing him do it, the flash of that pasty goddamn face of his turned toward Croc through the dark, just makes it worse.

But they get to the tunnels in the end. Bunch of shit's changed already—but the tunnels are the same. The water, the stairs down, the tiled wall. GQ standing against it, gearing up.

It's all the same. Too much, almost.

Except this time when GQ sees Croc coming toward him there, he smiles. And doesn't tell Croc to fuck off.

"Should've known they brought you along for a reason," he says. "What do you bet there's some nasty shit waiting down there—"

"You should let me do it," Croc says.

GQ blinks at him, chin coming up. "What?"

"I'll do it this time."

GQ's eyes go all narrow, and Croc doesn't even know what he said to make it happen until GQ repeats quietly, "This time? The fuck's that supposed to mean?"

Croc looks at him. Almost wants to tell him, but—

But how can he? It's too big to say. Too big, too weird, to fit inside stupid tiny little words—this thing Croc's been feeling about what GQ did, the way it won't let go of him. That he came back here like this over it, over nothing but that single split second, because he couldn't get it the fuck out of his head any other way. Because GQ died and he didn't have to, and Croc couldn't leave it alone.

He shakes his head instead. "Let me do it," he says again. "GQ—let me."

GQ looks at him for what feels like a long time. "You want to come, I won't stop you," he says. "Probably couldn't, could I? But—look, you know the mission. You must know the mission. That's not your job, man. And like hell am I sending you down there to do it for me. I'm not the brass, all right? I'm not some pencil-pusher behind a desk thinking I've got the right to make you do shit I'm not willing to do myself. That's not how I roll."

Should've known, maybe.

Croc leans in. GQ looks like he's thinking about backing up a step, and then like he tried and remembered he's up against a wall. "Croc—"

"Too fuckin' bad," Croc growls at him, and then twists away from him and dives.

 

 

 

He doesn't need GQ. He knows where the bomb is, and he knows how to make it blow.

Way he's swimming, nothing's catching up to him. Not those soldier-things Moone made, not a SEAL, not anything.

Except then he remembers: GQ didn't blow this thing for fun. It was for Flag—for the Squad. To help them take down the thing inside Moone.

So when Croc gets his hands on the bomb, heaves it up where it's supposed to go and settles it with a clunk against the underside of the floor, he doesn't set it off right then.

He waits.

After a minute GQ comes up with a splash. He comes at Croc like he plans to grab the bomb right out of Croc's hands. Croc bares his teeth and growls.

GQ jerks back. Look on his face says he didn't mean to—reflex, instinct, facing teeth like Croc's.

"Tell Flag," Croc bites out.

"Give me the goddamn bomb," GQ counters, "and get the fuck out of here."

Croc glares at him.

"Jesus Christ, you stupid—"

animal, Croc thinks.

"—asshole!" GQ shouts.

Croc blinks. GQ swears a couple more times and then stops and bites his mouth, twists in the water and slams his fist into the wall.

"Tell Flag," Croc says again, to his back. "Get far enough that it won't kill you. Slap the water or something. Then I'll blow it."

GQ turns to stare at him. "Man, I don't know what the fuck you think you're doing trying to give me orders—"

"I'm not ordering, bro," Croc says. "I'm just telling. Got it?"

GQ doesn't say anything.

"I'm not like you."

"Oh, yeah?" GQ says. Now he just sounds tired. "And what am I like?"

"Squishy," Croc tells him.

And GQ laughs a little out his nose, shakes his head.

"This thing can't kill me."

"Maybe not," GQ agrees. "But the one in your head can. Right? That's the whole goddamn point. The blast is going to throw you fuck knows how far. What if the impact sets it off? Or the heat? What if it—"

"We'll find out," Croc says.

GQ looks at him a little longer. And then he grabs for his radio right there. Clicks it and says, "Flag? In position," and doesn't take his eyes off Croc.

"I told you to get back—"

"Yeah? Too fuckin' bad," GQ says, shadow of a smile at the edge of his mouth.

Croc stares at him.

All this work he did, getting back here—making sure it all went different. Never occurred to him GQ might not let him.

GQ watches him for a second, and the smile goes away. "I'll go under," he adds, quieter. "All right? It probably won't kill me. But I'm not—I'm not going to just swim off and leave you here to do my job—"

A crackle, sudden. "Okay, GQ," Flag says, tight and urgent. "Almost there—be ready."

Croc looks at GQ. GQ kicks a little closer, pauses, and holds up a fist. Bare; he dived in after Croc before he was done suiting up, before he'd put on his gloves. "You're such an asshole," he says. "Don't die."

"You either," Croc says, and gives in: knocks GQ's pale little knuckles with his own.

And then Flag shouts, "Now." Croc opens his hand, grabs GQ by the arm and wrenches so GQ's pushed down and away, into the water. Once his head's under—best chance they have.

Croc sets his hand to the bomb, thumbs the button, and blows it.

 

 

 

He's in the water.

Somebody's pulling on him. He tries to kick them off. Doesn't work; everything aches, sharp, when he moves. His aim's off.

He tries again, harder. Didn't want anybody touching him to start with—and he wants it even less if he's hurt.

But whoever it is, they don't let go. They make a noise through the water and their grip gets tighter. He opens his mouth to bite them instead, and the water on his tongue tastes like—

Oh.

He doesn't know where GQ's taking him. Can't be any worse than the pile of rubble they've left behind them, though.

And in a minute they come up anyway. Same tunnel, just down along it a few hundred feet. Whole building's shaking over them—Flag and the Squad must be having one hell of a time.

"Got to get up there," Croc says.

"The fuck you do!" GQ says, shoving at him. He bobs a little. Then GQ punches him in the chest, and that makes him bob, too. "I try to be considerate of guys holding explosives, I really do, but you don't have any anymore, so a) what the hell, and b) what the hell."

Croc blinks at him.

GQ thumps him again, both hands this time. He looks mad. Dripping, dive mask shoved up so he can glare without it getting in the way, cheeks flushed hot.

"I'd court-fucking-martial you if you weren't already in prison! Jesus Christ, you can't just do that—"

"You were going to," Croc says.

"I'm allowed!" GQ snaps. "It was my goddamn decision—"

"Was not," Croc says.

He just means—well. It wasn't. He'd wanted to stop GQ, and had. That made it his decision, not GQ's.

And he can't be sorry for it, either. Turned out a lot better this time.

"Tried it your way," he says. "My way's better."

GQ stares at him. "Man, you keep saying shit like that," he says, after a minute. "This time, tried that. What the hell is up with you?"

Talking, talking, talking. Why do humans always want to fucking talk?

"What's it matter?" Croc grits out.

"Because you," GQ shouts in his face, "are super fucking weird! You hear me? You—you watch me all the time, you follow me around, you kill everything that so much as fucking looks at me funny. You save my stupid goddamn life, and I don't know why because you won't fucking tell me—"

"Shut up," Croc says. And then he presses GQ backward against the tunnel wall and grabs his face and kisses him.

He doesn't mean to. It's stupid. Stupid, but he likes it anyway. GQ's mouth is small, soft—warm. Croc almost does want to eat him, or—doesn't know what else to call it: wants to get closer, wants to hold on. Wants to tuck GQ away under his scales somewhere, deep inside, so nothing can fucking touch him without going through Croc first.

He catches GQ's lip with a couple teeth. Not on purpose. Just because he doesn't know what the fuck he's doing.

But GQ doesn't punch him again. GQ doesn't move at all—just gasps against his mouth and goes still.

Only till Croc lets go of him, though. Then he grabs Croc's shoulders. Digs in tight with his fingertips, like—

Like he doesn't want to let go either.

"Don't think this means you're getting away with not explaining what the hell your deal is, you stupid motherfucker," GQ says, and then drags him in again. Kisses him first this time—kisses back.

Croc likes that even better.

 

 

 

He doesn't know how much he might have changed. Maybe there was other stuff, too. Stuff he didn't notice. Stuff that mattered to somebody else. Maybe other people liked the first way around better. Or maybe it's not fair, that GQ had somebody who wanted to change things for him and nobody else did. Maybe it's not fair that they all have to stay dead, but not GQ.

But Croc doesn't really give a shit.

The world was already a fucking mess before he came along. Life's not fair. Croc had a shot and he took it. Got GQ back, just like he wanted. If other people want stuff, too, they can go find their own goddamn magic boxes.