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Tucked Up in Your Throat

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You love him a lot.

A whole lot.

He’s got this way of holding himself where you’re not sure if he’s going to punch Sarge or if he’s just going to burst into tears and there’s something really great about that, something commanding, like I’ll punch the Red leader, I don’t give a fuck, except you know he’s far too nice to ever do that. If you could apply ‘nice’ to him, because with the way he grates out your name you’re sure there’s steel around his heart and in a minute he’d drop you like a used tissue, because you’re just a dumb subordinate who doesn’t want to do his idiotic regimen.

You love him a lot.

And see, you’re never sure if the way he looks at you before you go drift off to sleep on the couch is because he’s seeing his past in you, that maybe he knew somebody who was bad about finding a semblance of care to move a few steps to the bedroom, or he’s seeing his future in you, that there’s something new and endearing in it, or it’s your imagination and it’s just the present playing tricks.

The present does that a lot.

(As it goes, the present always was pretty shit—at least, as Donut’s theatrical début went).

Now, see, because you a) love him a whole lot and b) it’s Agent Washington, esteemed motherfucking cockcroach that scurries out with maybe a few wounds and a fucked up head from anything, well, you’re a little bit fucked, Private Tucker.

Just a bit.

And you know loving him is a really bad thing, because you want to love him all over and kiss his neck and maybe his cheek in the morning, you want to write all little messages down his back and tell him all the secrets you never wanna tell anyone.

But, you know, the way he shouts that command, the way he’s ready to go fucking fuck it all, the way he doesn’t even bother to run after you?

You love him a lot. And he won’t love you, because he’s Agent Washington of Project Freelancer.

Also a really shitty leader that gets you to do stuff way too much, so.

-

You don’t love him.

He’s this mercenary with an undercut that makes you wanna shave off the rest. He teases you about how, hey, Tucker, how the fuck do you fit that bulbous head of dreadlocks inside your helmet? You know, alongside your massive shitty ego.

You don’t love him but there’s something about him that makes you wanna kiss him a whole lot.

“Go fuck yourself, Felix,” is what you’ll bite out and he won’t even be quiet about it over dinner, he’s no puzzle, he’s not hiding behind what I’ve seen and I know what I’m doing, he’ll just shout—

“Yeah, well, I can’t do that if you’re gonna knock on my door and ask to fuck me.”

Except that’s not terribly witty with the way he pokes his tongue out, so, “If you can’t fuck yourself before I come, it proves how much stamina you have.”

And you grin, rather devilishly, and Kimball shakes her head and just asks that please, Tucker, you keep personal matters away from the mess hall and that you have a planned training program for your squad tomorrow.

He’s a whole lot of everything you need because Agent Washington, he got a team, he got a friend, and you loved him a whole lot, but Felix? Felix is all bites and kisses and takes everything you say and wraps it up in a box and sets it on your lap, pretends he’s gone out and bought the present himself but no, nope, that’s just Felix.

He’s the best pretender you know, because sometimes when he talks about Locus you swear to god left and right he’s got the same look as you did about Wash, except from the way he talks about Locus they had something and then fell, fell, fell, down below.

And when you look at Felix you don’t see a white picket fence and Junior playing in a tree house in the backyard, you don’t see yourself trying to use a gas oven or something stupidly domestic, you see neon lights and white powder and gunpowder and all kinds of things you shoulda never touched, but he’s Felix and a mercenary that sharpens his knives while talking about his mother back home. And you know he’s not the kind you’d take home to your mama, either.

That’s exactly why you wanna tackle him and try and strangle him but have it happen to you, instead, and you find out a lot of things about training that Wash never showed you.

-

He’s so blasé, yet he’ll give you lingering touches around your waist and hips in broad daylight of the New Republic base, and with a visor on he’ll even be able to convey what intensity you’re gonna get later, and you know he’s so wrong, but you don’t, you think he’s perfect in every way. But the untouchable kind of perfect, the perfect that’s built and moulded and made to be something that’s just an idea but he’s the embodiment of it.

When Cunningham and Rogers die he doesn’t even care.

You don’t love him even a little bit but you wanna know why he can’t even care for them.

He says it, evenly, when he’s holding your wrists above your head, That’s war, Tucker.

And you realise he must’ve been an open book all along—so simple and so idyllic and you wanna punch that smug smile over breakfast right off his face, wanna punch him hard enough the gold filling in his tooth falls out and he mourns the loss of the wealth he even had moulded as to the part that scrapes your wrists, sometimes.

-

He smokes his cigarettes like this:

When Kimball’s not looking and there’s no other younger kids around, like Palomo who you swear isn’t even 18, he’ll bust out a packet he keeps, you think, alongside his knives, and it looks like the cheap brand Grif used to get dropped off by the UNSC, and you don’t know how he got UNSC shipments all the way out in thrown-to-the-wolves Chorus.

He explains, “I’m the guy who picks up the pieces for a reason.”

You think that’s dramatic Felix-talk for ‘I raided the entirety of this planet to find these packets and you’re getting none’.

You’re right, when you ask.

He brings it to his lips and holds the end around red lips, so red he must steal lip gloss from somebody or, more poetically, smothers them in the blood of his enemies. But you think Sarge might be more likely to do that.

He’ll ask why you’re staring and you’ll just say you’re bored. He knows why and voices it and there you go, that’s how you get a cigarette too, afterwards.

He tastes just as bad as the tobacco you’re inhaling and you don’t care, don’t care—

But you wanna save Wash and show him all the bad tricks you know.

-

Here’s all the bad tricks he teaches you:

He shows you how to use a knife, shows you how to dig it in deep deep deep except you’ve got no idea, you just pretend, but the doll he practises on looks so battered and torn and used you realise you might just be a doll to him and you don’t care, because he stands behind you and tells you how you throw and kisses your neck.

He shows you how to fuck someone against a wall properly. That was a no-brainer but he teaches you the best way to do it, and you wanna be the best at this, when you should already be the best.

He shows you how to be direct and shows you how to get what you want, shows you how to not care for just a li’l bit, long enough to not think about all the responsibilities piled on your back, not to think about grey and yellow but drink up all the right shade of orange that’s properly the orange you want.

And see, the thing is, Felix will do all this for you and he’ll still be happy to watch you fall when he bests you in the training room, and you like it.

You start to not worry so much about love and seep yourself again in all the things you like.

You like Felix.

-

The thing is, you’re so soaked in like, the way sometimes Felix is so joking and, at times, hilarious in what he does, or he tells you the truth when he’s not making you stand against the wall and telling you all the dark depths of nothing, the way he slaps you over the fucking face with what’s happening, what Kimballs needs, what the Rebels need, sometimes love boils all the way to the surface and you wanna cry because you know that love’s never gonna get realised and you’re not settling, god no, Felix isn’t a picket fence you want.

And maybe it just fits in with who you always were, Lavernius Tucker.

-

You don’t trust him but he’s always been better with action and making things better, and that’s why you give him the grenade without a thought when he asks you for it. Felix is the deus ex machina to everything you did.

He’s just not your deus ex machina anymore, and suddenly the way Felix said Locus’ name makes a lot more fucking sense.

(It’s not that you feel betrayed, like Wash.

It’s that you know the way Felix treated you was always truthful, when you reconsider it all, and you still want it).

-

The thing is, Wash doesn’t have time to fuck you against a wall and he’s never loved you, has he?

You still love him a lot.

You just know the gap between love and like.

-

Here’s the crux of it—

When they’ve got your position, and all the people you care for, what do you do?

Get right on the fucking radio and try and ask and beg for something, anything.

“Felix, I swear to god, you could be better than this stupid motherfucking act,” is what you’ll say, trying to hide somewhere where Red, Blue and space pirate alike won’t look at you too hard, you have to stay close. You’re caught between it all.

You’re pretending to shoot at one of the space assholes and you’re waiting for a crackle to come on.

“Better? What’s better supposed to mean, Tucker?” You know from the way his breath is even he’s sitting back doing nothing.

“I mean not being a genocidal dick. You could be a tricky asshole and not have to kill so many people, you know.”

“It this what it’s about? Oh, did you think I loved you?”

You don’t growl but it’s an angry groan. “I’m not that fucking thick.”

“I know that.”

“You just had to get that in, didn’t you,” you say, between dodging bullets just the way he showed you, and you think for a moment all of that he’s taught you musta been so he could rub it all in when he stabs you and shoots you one day, probably.

You still like him.

“See, Tucker, this is where we’re different, you and me,” he says and he’s probably filing his fingernails. “You think people can change. I agree. I just don’t think I need to change.”

“Wash changed. Wash did better.”

“And you love him to bits,” Felix almost sighs as he says it.

You’d try and say something but you’re out, out, out in the future cube.

-

Here’s the next issue.

You didn’t know all the others heard that conversation over the radio.

You’re just lucky they’re more worried about the tracker in Freckles than any other matters, but see, before Agent Carolina parades off with Agent Washington, she pulls you aside like a kid who’s done wrong.

You kinda have.

“You’re going to explain what the hell that radio chatter was,” she says, voice so low and composed but it’s threatening, knowing, Carolina’s seen it all, all the idiots, but you, Tucker, you’re the worst.

You’re not sure what to say.

“And you’re going to tell me why you thought speaking to Felix would do us any good.”

“Yeah, hey bud? Real smooth,” Church adds, perched near her shoulder. “Like, really. We needed you to talk to Felix and try and turn him to the light side.”

You might try and tell the truth but you say something like he musta been good once.

“So you think you’ll be able to convince him,” Carolina continues. “Convince a mercenary, who has machinated this entire plot, to just stop?”

“I dunno,” you say and shrug. “Worth a try, right?”

“No, it wasn’t,” and you think she might even be sad a bit, like she’s tried convincing someone in the past of something or—she was on the wrong side and knows it never works. “It was dangerous, that’s what it was. You jeopardised our situation. This will not happen again, am I correct?”

Then you get lectured by Caboose after a great argument with Church that the rest hear and wow, Tucker, you really fucked things up, from the way Wash won’t even look at you.

Way to go.

-

You love him a whole lot, even still, and you left behind the person you liked and told you dark things all for him, and you wanted him a whole lot, whole lot, you’d keep his name safe up in the back of your throat and your heart just the way he doesn’t care about any of your warts or anything and still won’t look you right in the eye but there’s still secret glances that you—

Love, a whole lot.

He tries to tell you Felix and Locus are the enemies, here, the antagonists, the ones you gotta stop and you still want Felix whole right in your mouth, forgetting hiding anything or locking it up key thrown to sea, you want him clean and pure and dirty on your side.

It’s bad.

-

He’s bad.

-

Felix and Locus come in on the channel and give you a proposition and you hope it’s the proposition like they used to be.

You’re not dumb enough to ask that, but you do say, “Yeah, you could try listening to me, maybe, Felix.”

You wait for Locus to call you boy again or Felix to insult you but you hear him falter, then, “Like I’d ever bother.”

They’re the sharpest words you’d ever heard and you want them down your back and you want him to teach you all the ways you can say you don’t care.

-

Here’s the problem.

He opens up a direct channel with you.

You thank to whatever they had set-up no one can hear what’s coming through your radio, that you already came up with a plan that’ll make Felix feel like the fool for once.

You’ve only got three minutes.

“The ship’s your best choice, Tucker,” his voice, so menacing and rude and terrible that you wanna gulp it down, “You’ll be safe. You know I only want you safe.”

You snort, meanly. “Right, sure you do. Like the time you and your crew were gonna kill us.”

“It was for your own good. Be glad Locus set up that plan, not me.”

“Oh yeah, and what woulda you done?”

“Strapped you down somewhere else and stabbed you until you told me to stop,” he purrs.

“You’re so fucked up, man.”

“I know. And you liked it.”

You fucking hate him and like him, a lot.

“You want me to be on the Good Side,” he says, and you can hear the capital letters, “but you don’t want me good.”

You’d say something except you don’t wanna.

“It’s a bit selfish, Tucker, when poor Wash loves you just the way you love him.”

“Fuck off.”

“You can’t have both, Lavernius.”

He says it the wrong way. It’s wrong. There’s no gentle command or metal-anger or gnashing teeth, it’s saccharine sweet and condescending and he curls around your first name in just the way you hate.

It’s perfect.

(Just the way he is—untouchable. You should’ve realised this sooner).

-

You’re fine standing in front of him on a battlefield and you know how to trick him into a monologue, because he did that all the time when wrapping you in a sheet and his arms.

You just really hate Church hears this:

“Come on, remember the training room fun? We could have a little now.”

“You’re such a fucking asshole,” you say, strong and sure and full.

“I am. That’s the catch, no annulments allowed.”

You sigh, angrily. “You think I wanna marry you? Jesus shit. Our vows would be so fucked up.”

“As it goes, Tucker,” he says, pretend-curtseying, “’til death do us part. How about we test it?”

-

You were right.

When the knife goes in you’re not even surprised, you don’t even shout. He even holds your waist just the same; lovingly, terribly, grasps at you like you’re trading dance partners and this is the end of our song.

When he looks you up and down he’s totally checking you out and, well, making sure the knife is in too. It’s hot in a really, really, really disgusting way because you can bet the goddamn colour of your armour he’s getting off on this.

-

Wash looks at you like this, when you’re back in the Rebel base and he’s watching you do squats:

“So you thought trusting him was a good idea even after what occurred?”

You didn’t trust him.

“I didn’t trust him,” you say. “I just knew what he’d do.”

“You knew he wouldn’t listen when you risked yourself trying to talk to him via radio?”

“Well,” you begin, between breaths, and you stop yourself when crouched low and just decide to slump to the floor. “It was worth a try.”

“No, it wasn’t, I don’t think.” Wash crosses his arms and you love him a whole lot and you don’t think he’ll ever love you. “Did you expect him to come to you with open arms? Join us? He’d have used it against us, Tucker.”

“Still.”

“Not still.” He lets out an angry breath. “How many times do you think he could’ve had the jump on you?”

“What are you tryin’ to get at, Wash?”

“I mean, oh,” he says, beginning sarcastically like you should already know this, “From what I could understand you two were rather intimate.”

“Yeah? Got a problem? Guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.”

“Felix. Of all people.”

You groan and wanna walk right outta there.

You don’t because your thighs are fucking hurting from the squats.

“You thought you could trust him?”

“I didn’t trust him.”

Wash does that thing with his tongue where it pokes out his cheek—always does that when he’s angry—and he, he actually starts to walk off.

“Wash, come the fuck on,” you say. “It’s not a big deal.”

“It is,” he says, stopping. “Because how do I know you might just think Felix is worth it? Go and shack up with Charon Industries where you won’t have to do squats and listen to Caboose? Or something else you’ve complained about?”

“I thought it was pretty clear I care for you guys when I took the knife to the gut.”

“You said my sacrifice—as you put it—was ‘dumb’.”

“It was dumb because it separated you from me, and also, it pretty much seemed like you were gonna die, stuck with Locus.” You stop and remember to say, “And I kinda left Felix behind to get your ass back from the Feds.”

Wash sighs and looks at you and nobody’s made you happier. “Do more squats.”

He says it exactly the way you want it and it’s not exactly the hurt you like, but Wash owns the rest of it, the parts Felix could never touch.

You love Wash a whole lot and you liked Felix.

“Go fuck yourself!” you say just for fun because you don’t wanna do more squats.

“Not working yet, Tucker.”

You dive into cool water and Wash is the water right around your body, not the hot tap Felix was that you burnt yourself on once and wanted to do it again and again.

You think that’s the end of it until Wash asks quietly, because he’s not good with emotions, “Did you love him?”

“No fuckin’ way.”

“Good.”

Wash isn’t untouchable. He’s so fragile and breakable and invincible and he’s all yours, Tucker.