“Haul ass, Visconti!”
“I’m hauling, I’m hauling!” Ace shouted back, finding his footing as Bill shoved one arm under his, effectively yanking him off the ground. Ace kept his charming grin on his face, despite the stinging pain in his side from the Huntress’s flying hatchet. She was getting closer, stalking him specifically for some reason.
He was able to limp-run at a pace alongside Bill, who kept glancing back with furrowed brows. He mumbled something under his breath, then spotted a pallet on the path to a locker. He formed a quick, but selfless plan.
“Idiot,” Ace looked at Bill, eyes wide and pained, but sparkling with adoration for the older man, “I’ll pallet drop her and keep her attention, you just gotta get to that locker, understand?”
“What?” He was a bit out of breath, having a large gash in his side and all , and was struggling to keep up, “That’s the dumbest move I’ve ever heard!”
“Watch from the slits and then run the opposite direction that I’m headin’. Understand ?”
“Move it, soldier!” And Ace would be lying if he said he didn’t immediately follow Bill’s orders then. The addition of soldier broke Ace’s usually unbreakable determination, and he sprinting towards the locker with Bill, who followed directly behind him so he could crouch behind a garbage can next to the pallet. Ace went and ducked down low, hiding in some brush. The Huntress was humming her damn song she always did, swinging her hatchet almost like a giddy little girl. Bill locked eyes with Ace, almost as if telling him, “ Get ready ”. Bill’s heartbeat nearly pounded out of his chest just then, his personal signal to jump up and slam the pallet down. This stunned the Huntress for a hot minute, making time for Ace to get out from the bush and sneak into the locker quietly. When the Huntress gathered her bearings again, her eyes focused solely on Bill, who was now goading the killer into chasing him. Huntress gave chase and Ace’s eyes followed the two from the slits in the locker until he could no longer see them when they disappeared into the cornfield. Ace took his chance and did exactly what Bill told him, making his way to a nearby generator so he could at least help in that little way. He spotted Tapp, who was making his way over to the same generator.
“Let me patch you up.”
“Finally! How long does it take a guy to get some love around here?” He joked lightly, a toothy grin on his face despite the blood caking his hands and right side. Tapp sighed exasperatedly, used to the gambler’s lack of seriousness. In truth, Tapp silently appreciated the light that Ace brought to their tiring life in the Entity’s shadow realm. It was... mentally exhausting to keep going through trials, being play-things for killers and the Entity. It was like an endless cycle of torture; it was hell. Tapp wasn’t surprised if there was no escaping the realm because this was hell and they had all died long ago. Nonetheless, he didn’t understand Ace’s thinking cycle. Despite wounds healing quicker than what was normal, and having infinite lives it seemed (because Tapp’s gut sunk at the idea of them having finite ones, thinking to all those who play hero in trials to save others), they still felt pain. Just as real as ever.
So, he made quick work of Ace’s injury, noting the grunting coming from the man, but the smile that never dropped.
“Were you with Bill?” Tapp asked, turning back to the generator at hand.
“Yeah, the grumpy old man wanted to be my savior. I knew he loved me!” Ace chuckled weakly, getting a little light-headed from the blood loss. Tapp bit down the need to point out that Ace was an old man too and that he expected Bill to love him; they were together right now, after all. He rolled his eyes in response to the childish Argentine. Ace started working, just as they heard another generator on the opposite side of the land start up.
“Alright! Two down so far, and once this one is running, we just gotta get two more! We’re making good progress, huh, Detective?” He wiggled his eyebrows at Tapp, making him sigh again.
“You are right, Feng is hitting every one of them without fail.” That’s when they heard a scream, gruff and low, but audible.
‘Goddamnit, Bill. Now I gotta try and save you, huh?’ Ace was off the generator in a split second, ignoring Tapp’s orders to stay on it. He heard another yell and turned his head towards it. He ducked down behind the generator once more when he saw Bill get hooked in the middle of the map, both him and the Huntress clearly see-able. Bill struggled on the hook, just like always.
‘Because he’s badass, obviously.’
Ace snuck away from the generator, circling around so that he was facing the hook from the back, deep in the trees. He watched and waited for the Huntress to hum her ass another direction so he could get a safe hook on Bill, but she was persistently watching from a distance. She was playing the waiting game, knowing someone would come to save Bill.
‘That’s fine, hun. I could wait here all trial.’
His smug attitude faded over the span of five minutes. She wasn’t going to leave? They all knew the Huntress loved a good hunt; she was too impatient to do this in literally any other trial ; why now?
He heard the generator that Tapp was working fire up. Three down, two more to go. Ace bit his bottom lip as he continued to watch Bill struggle. His mind was screaming for him to work on another generator and pass the time productively, then wait until he had an opening to save Bill. But his heart? It wanted to rush in there and unhook him, then take the Huntress’s attention and give Bill a chance to escape, even if he couldn’t. After all, Ace was the only one on his last hook, and was the only idiot who continued to chest search even when his heartbeat was steadily getting louder. Twice he tempted fate this trial.
This trial, Lady Luck wasn’t on his side near as much as usual. Bill had basically attached himself to Ace’s side, saving him every chance he could get. And this was how Ace was going to repay him? Sitting in the trees, waiting, and then watching the Entity take him when he could’ve very well done something about it?
He forgoed all reason and rushed out when the Entity had finally came to try and take Bill, only for him to keep struggling. He didn’t have much time left.
He shoved his hands under Bill’s armpits, ignoring all the pain in his side, and yanked Bill off the bloody hook. Both their heartbeats were racing and they could hear her humming only getting louder.
“Go, babe!” Ace shoved Bill forwards, taking the old soldier by surprise, and flashed him a heartwarming smile before running right towards the Huntress, who happily turned around as he ran past her to follow.
“That idiot!” Bill growled under his breath, but ran anyways. He couldn’t help the Argentine later if he was dead. He thought Ace was on his second hook , he hadn’t been there for his first. Tapp had gotten him off that one.
That’s why it had been his surprise when not less than five minutes later, he heard Ace’s yell. He went to the area he had heard the scream, only to hear another one. Hooked . The sound of the Entity, thunder and darkness clashing and booming overhead, was all Bill could register as he froze.
‘What? No! No! He didn’t say...he was on his last hook. That fuckin’ idiot!’ Bill’s frozen figure broke free when the confusion turned into realization, and then anger and guilt. He heard another generator power up in the distance, but he didn’t care.
When he got his ass back to that campfire…
“Visconti!” Bill wasted no time shouting at him, grabbing him by either collar of his brown over jacket. Ace smiled tightly, his lips in a firm, tense upturn. He plucked his (somehow always there) sunglasses off his face so he could look Bill in the eye, showing him respect.
“Bill, there wasn’t any time--”
“Time for what?!” Bill snarled a bit, shoving the Argentine back and huffing to himself. He turned around, rotating his bandaged shoulder a bit. He had time to take care of his own wounds while he watched another group go into the fog and awaited the gambler to come out of it.
“For both of us to get away.” He didn’t yell or match Bill’s tone of voice, just smiled sweetly like always. He met Bill’s eyes, the eyes he loved gazing into so much, and pulled the older man in for a kiss. Bill grumbled into it, but returned it either way. Ace wrapped his arms around Bill’s neck for a moment, pulling back from the kiss and smiling. Bill shook his head in anger, still mad at his lover for doing this to him. He shrugged Ace off, regretting it when he saw Ace’s smile falter a little.
“Remember our rule, Visconti? We don’t leave each other behind.”
“I know, and I’m sorry . But if that was me, I know you would’ve done it too.” Bill knew he had a point there, and so he just sighed and pulled the gambler close to him. “Besides, it’s what I get for looting chests while my heart’s speeding like NASCAR.” Bill rolled his eyes at Visconti’s horrible joke, but gave a small smile at it regardless. They moved to a comfortable spot in front of the campfire, Ace pushing himself against Bill, who wrapped an arm around him.
“You need to smile more! You always try to keep it so serious and dark, but I know you wanna laugh.” Ace looked up at Bill, grinning like always.
“I know I wanna get yer clingy arse off’a me.” He retorted, his slight grin saying otherwise.
“ Whatever , meanie.”