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The first words Joshua Faraday ever spoke to Vasquez — just Vasquez, he said with a grin a hair's breadth away from a snarl, and that was that — were “Oh good, we got ourselves a Mexican.”

 

That was all he managed to get out, before Vasquez’s fist collided with his jaw, knocking blood and spit free.

 

“I like him, Sam,” a man called down from the galley in the deathly silence that followed, saluting Vasquez with his lit cigarette, metal band clamped around his wrist like a shackle, “Can we keep him?”

 

 

A commotion sounded at the entrance — the slamming of booted feet on bare metal floors rather than the roar of klaxons — and Vasquez paused, wrench in hand, jaw set so tight it ached. Turning his head just enough, he caught sight of Faraday out of the corner of his eye — walk unmistakeable with that rolling swagger, infuriating and irresistible in the same heartbeat — and snapped his gaze back to the rivet. 

 

“Let me know when you snap,” Billy called, tone light — Vasquez didn’t need to see the other man to picture the grin on his face, all sharp edges barely masked by civility.

 

“It’s not going to break,” Vasquez replied, words shorter than he intended, deliberately misunderstanding Billy’s words — a trick that would work with others on the base, but never with him. Billy was too wise to the tricks Vasquez would pull, relaying his attempts to Goodnight during whatever time they had off that coincided — phone pressed to his ear as he paced round and round his room, steps muffled through the wall but Vasquez could hear his laughter late at night; heart twisting with fondness and a sharp stab of envy.

 

Billy would have responded, words queuing up in his throat, but they died with the sounding of the cuff on his wrist: a high pitched squall that drove into his ears. Vasquez’s heart shattered a little bit more in his chest every time he heard it, reaching back and letting the harness take his weight as he extended both arms down to Billy, letting the other man climb up him to a higher support. Billy’s grip was sure and strong — in another life he could have been an acrobat, barely batting an eye at swinging out over a drop that made Vasquez’s stomach twist and roll.

 

Vasquez caught Faraday’s gaze as he hung upside-down, the other man’s jaw set and brow furrowed as he watched Billy climb, then saw his eyes shift, locking onto Vasquez’s exposed stomach, shirt fallen around his ribcage. 

 

Vasquez knew enough about himself that he enjoyed people looking at him, rejoicing in the slow sweep of eyes across his arms, or his chest or his ass; but that was where his vanity stopped. He confessed his sins when he could, and he enjoyed himself. Faraday’s gaze on his bare skin — covered in oil and grime, saved from the neon blue of kaju blood by Billy supervising that section of jaeger repairs — was different. Heat flooded Vasquez’s stomach — rage or satisfaction, he couldn’t say — and he slowly sat up, feeling the ache as the muscles in his stomach flexed, showing off in one slow movement.

 

“Shut up,” Vasquez told Billy, and the man chuckled, silently locking his lips, before his attention was diverted. The crowd swelled and parted, a living sea, and Goodnight stepped up beside Faraday, face raised and eyes locked on Billy. 

 

Vasquez averted his eyes, unable to watch the silent looks of longing that passed between them, catching sight of Faraday doing the same, fiddling with the ever present deck of cards in his pocket.

 

Faraday pouted, shrugging his shoulders as if to say what could he do, before muttering something to Goodnight in a low voice. The other man sighed, readjusting his grip on the clipboard in his arms — bursting with papers covered in Goodnight’s ornate handwriting, diagrams and schematics that made Vasqeuz’s head ache; but on the back was Billy’s writing in the form of hearts etched into the wood — and began to move down the base towards his lab.

 

At the base of the structure surrounding the Jaeger, Goodnight paused, the closest he was able to get to Billy. He raised his free hand to his lips — middle and ring finger curled towards his palm, thumb extended to the side — and extended it towards Billy, who mimicked the gesture, leaning down far enough that Vasquez pressed himself further into the metal supports, face turning pale. 

 

“You scare too easily,” Billy laughed, tapping gently on the top of Vasquez’s head with his boot. Vasquez realised he had closed his eyes at some point of Billy and Goodnight’s exchange, the dizzying drop beneath them somehow less terrifying than the raw emotion on Goodnight’s face. 

 

“I’m fine with heights,” Vasquez argued, relaxing back into his harness. The imprint of the wrench was scored into his skin, grip white knuckled and trembling. “It’s depths I’m not good with.”

 

Billy clicked his tongue, relaxing back along the beam and pulling out his tablet, stylus dancing over the surface as he planned out the upgrades for the Jaeger, part artistry and part gut feeling in the lines superimposed over a greyed out form.

 

“Billy?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“What’s being a Jaeger pilot like?”



Billy peered down at him, chewing on the end of his stylus, an unreadable expression on his face. 

 

“This is about that poster, isn’t it?”

 

Vasquez flushed, the colour hidden behind the oil on his cheeks but his ears burned bright and unmistakable. 

 

Billy caught sight of it shortly after Vasquez stole it — walking up to the cork board and carefully slipping the pins in the corners free, head bowed against the oppressive gaze of the cameras. He didn’t even know why he took it  — that was a lie he kept telling himself, hoping that eventually it would be true — but it held pride of place on the wall across from his bed. 

 

It wouldn’t have been any different to any of the other recruitment posters — standard ‘Become a Jaeger Pilot’ and ‘Save the World’ — except for the picture. It was a snapshot of a younger Faraday, glancing back over his shoulder at the camera in full pilot uniform, curve of the infuriating grin just visible on his face. 

 

“There was nothing quite like it,” Billy said finally, staring off into the distance, tablet hanging from loose fingers, “And I don’t regret a single second I spent in that cockpit with Goody.”

 

 

“I see you’ve decided to join up, ey chicano?”

 

Vasquez ground his teeth together, held in place by Sam’s steel stare; the fact that Billy definitely had money riding on his reactions, Goodnight’s gaze never leaving him, also helped. Vasquez slept in the room next to him, and would be working with him still even if this hare-brained scheme of his didn’t work out; he would never hear the end of it.

 

“Good to see you again Vasquez,” Emma called, heels clicking as she moved into the training room, Matthew on her heels like a second shadow. 

 

“Hola, jefe, Matthew,” Vasquez replied, nodding. 

 

Matthew nodded, sitting cross legged at the edge of the mat, tapping away on his tablet. His t-shirt was a faded grey, a vintage picture of his Jaeger — Wicked Watcher — on the front, a sharp contrast to Emma’s neat shirt but Vasquez could see the small figurine carefully fastened onto a necklace around her neck. 

 

Vasquez wanted that, wanted to know that silent communication they had — it went beyond simple understanding, courtesy of the Drift, an intimate knowledge of the other person, terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time — and he wanted it enough to fight for it. 

 

“Everyone here?” Emma asked Matthew who nodded without looking up from his tablet, “Good.”

 

She began to move, a slow walk, heels clicking against the floor — a predator that reminded Vasquez of her Jaeger’s graceful movements, watched through grainy, trembling footage and utterly beautiful in it’s destructive power.

 

“We are here to find pilots for our newest Jaeger, Grace Rebel.”

 

Vasquez felt his spine snap into place, a low fire coiling in his gut. He had been a teenager when the first kaiju attack struck. The Jaegers and their pilots were not the larger-than-life heroes his younger sisters saw them as — their shrieks of joy still ringing in his ears when they raced down the narrow winding streets, wrecking havoc anywhere but their small house — but Vasquez knew that was where he needed to be. And he had crashed and burned in pursuit of that dream. Sam had given him a second chance and Vasquez would not waste it.

 

He tucked his hands behind his back, nails digging half moons into his palms, and, finally, looked around his fellow hopefuls. Their faces blurred in front of his eyes, as if in a dream, insubstantial; and yet Faraday’s face — wearing his infuriating smirk, the desire to punch him or kiss him coiling into an indistinguishable ball in Vasquez’s chest — stood out in sharp relief. Faraday blew Vasquez a kiss, the curl of his lips almost obscene, and Vasquez scowled, snapping his eyes back to Emma. 

 

“So,” Emma clapped her hands together, Matthew shifting back on her signal, leaning against Goodnight’s legs, “Let the matches begin.”

 

 

Vasquez had been in a lot of fights — all for valid reasons if he was asked, a lie but a palatable one. It was easy to fall back into the rhythmic dance, mind clearing into a comfortable buzz of nothingness.

 

“Why are you even here Faraday? No one wants you.”

 

Vasquez watched the security tapes later, slipping out of his room — praying that Billy wouldn’t notice, knowing that other man would but would leave him alone, at least for while — and crept across the base, freezing metal burning through his socks and every step sending fresh waves of pain through his bandaged leg.

 

“You’re going to catch your death, mon ami,” Goodnight said, pushing the door to the lab open as Vasquez approached, light spilling out into the corridor like a sunrise, burning his eyes.

 

“I think I may already be dead, viejo,” Vasquez joked weakly as he slipped into the lab, Goodnight only shaking his head in response.

 

“Come on then. I’ll pull the tape up.”

 

Goodnight began to move away, but Vasquez caught him by the wrist, pulling the man into a tight hug. A muffled gasp escaped Goodnight, body tensing in Vasquez’s arms; but he slowly curled into the embrace — tentative, as if he thought Vasquez would vanish at his touch — wrapping his arms around Vasquez’s waist, ducking his head into the crook of his neck.

 

“Thank you,” Vasquez murmured into Goodnight’s hair, feeling the man press himself impossibly closer, a shudder rattling down his spine. They stayed like that — pressed together so close it felt as if Goodnight was trying to press himself back together — until a shiver flooded through Vasquez, cold air biting at his skin, goosebumps erupting in its wake.

 

“Tapes,” Goodnight sighed, breath warm against Vasquez’s neck, drawing away from him reluctantly, moving in increments towards the computer terminal. 

 

Vasquez’s fingers caught on Goodnight’s metal cuff — warmed by his body heat, but his stomach twisted at the sensation of the rough metal — drawing in a deep breath to balance the rush of sorrow exploding in his chest. They were a soul crushing necessity — Billy was free with the information in his usual deadpan way — but Vasquez saw how the others on the base reacted. They drew back when either was near, a slow, subtle shift that made Vasquez’s blood boil, clenching his mouth shut to contain the words crowding behind his teeth.

 

“Billy asked me to give you something,” Vasquez said, voice light as he limped after Goodnight, the other man slowing his pace. 

 

“Oh?” 

 

Goodnight’s face was open and hopeful, filled with so much love for Billy it hurt. Taking another look at the man, he saw Goodnight was dressed in one of Billy’s jumpers — wool stopping halfway down his forearms — and a neat set of striped monogrammed pyjamas beneath a hastily pulled on lab coat. Over his shoulder, the remains of a kaju floated in embalming fluid as Vasquez finally placed that strange scent that clung to Goodnight like a second skin, the same scent that drove Billy to pace round and round the storage rooms. Above it all, Goodnight looked exhausted — the same exhaustion he saw on Sam’s face — another battle to be fought exhaustion, when will it be over exhaustion.

 

Vasquez looped an arm around Goodnight’s waist — ignoring the reflexive shudder — and kissed his cheek. 

 

“Tapes, yes?” Vasquez asked, drawing away, shifting his weight from his bad leg as he waited for Goodnight to respond, unable to look at him as heat filled his cheeks and burned into his ears.

 

“You’re a good man, Vasquez,” Goodnight said firmly, voice tight.

 

“Don’t say that,” Vasquez chuckled, lightly bumping Goodnight with his hip and biting back the wince, fresh spikes of pain lancing up his leg bringing reflexive pricks of tears to his eyes, “You’ll ruin my carefully maintained bad boy reputation.”

 

“You cried for three hours when Red brought back an injured cat he found.”

 

Vasquez drew himself up to his full height, utilising the inch he had on Goodnight and turned his nose into the air — an almost perfect imitation of Billy imitating Goodnight at the last fancy party Sam had managed to coax the pair into attending. Billy had hummed the same four notes of a waltz for a week, fingers drumming against the Jaeger he had been fixing.

 

“Here.”

 

Goodnight lowered himself carefully onto the chair, gesturing absentmindedly for Vasquez to take the other seat as his other hand tapped at the keys, the noise fast and agitated. Vasquez leant forward, his mind failing to make sense of what his eyes were seeing.

 

He could remember it in snatches, mere fragments of memory and yet—

 

On the screen, Vasquez saw himself — sweat soaked and breathing heavily — pivot between Faraday and his combatant. He couldn’t remember the exact words he had used — rage coiling through his throat, a fire burning in his veins he let rage through him at the sight of Faraday’s face twisted tight with pain — but Goodnight had nearly laughed himself until he was sick, Sam supporting himself on his shoulder, teeth clamped on his bottom lip to stifle his own laughter. Faraday’s combatant — a huge burly man named Jamie Moses, hated by Red (and by Jack on principle) as he had laughed at the younger man when first being introduced to him — loomed over Vasquez, one huge meaty fist swinging at his head—

 

If fighting was a dance, what he and Faraday did was a duet. Faraday dipped Vasquez, the man going willingly, Jamie’s fist passing through empty air as he stumbled, only for Faraday to swing at him, Vasquez twisting on his other side in perfect synchronisation...

 

“I can’t remember any of this,” Vasquez mumbled, more to himself than to Goodnight whose fingers were still tapping idly over the keys.

 

“What do you remember?”

 

Vasquez opened his mouth to respond, shutting it with an audible click. The clearest memory was the sensation of Faraday’s hands against his skin — even now he could still feel their imprint on his shoulders, his arms, and locked around one wrist like a vise — and the bright green of his eyes, filled with an emotion that Vasquez didn’t dare name, so close he could almost kiss him.

 

“Just… calm,” Vasquez offered with a shrug of his shoulders, praying that Goodnight wouldn’t push any further.

 

Goodnight nodded, chewing on one cheek as he watched the footage, mulling something over, but keeping it to himself.

 

“Here.”

 

Two small flash drives were pushed into his hand as Goodnight stood, supporting himself on the back of the chair.

 

“One for you, and one for Billy.”

 

“Thank you Goodnight.”

 

“And goodnight to you as well.”

 

Vasquez left the lab with the sound of Goodnight’s laughter ringing in his ears, and the press of Faraday’s hand around his wrist. Sleep didn’t come easily after that, flashes of green eyes invading his thoughts every time that eerie calm sunk into his bones.

 

 

“I’m not doing it, bastardo, and you can’t make me.”

 

Vasquez dug his heels into the floor with more force, though that mattered little to Billy as the other man simply sighed — a noise of fondness rather than genuine exasperation — and picked Vasquez up. Vasquez yelped, hands scrabbling at Billy’s shoulders for a moment, mind whirling before settling; Billy’s tread never changed, only continuing onto the Jaeger bay.

 

“I’m glad you got her,” Billy said, voice soft enough that Vasquez had to strain to hear him.

 

“She’s the first Jaeger I worked on,” Vasquez reminded him, redundant but he felt better for saying it, the fog that had invaded his mind receding slightly. 

 

Billy laughed, but his next words were lost in a klaxon of alarms, the lights around them tinting red. Vasquez’s feet hit the floor with a thunk, impact jarring up his legs, but there was no time to think about it — barely enough to breathe, feeling like the air had been punched out of his lungs — before Vasqeuz took off running after Billy. 

 

The crowd — panicked faces but they moved with purpose, mentally building crushed hopes back up after the faintest feeling of maybe that had been the last time an attack would occur — parted easily before him, Vasquez ducking into his slipstream. Normally, Vasquez’s mind would turn to his repairs — plan out what material he could move from other projects to patch up the Jaeger’s, design tweaks he could pitch to Billy just to watch the other man’s eyes light up — but he couldn’t. Like debris caught in a whirlpool, his thoughts kept returning to one thing, one man.

 

Vasquez hadn’t seen Faraday since that fateful day. He had no idea how the other man would react to having a Mexican as his co-pilot — Vasquez had seen pictures of his previous co-pilot, tall and black haired and beautiful; hugging Faraday close to his side and they both seemed so happy — but he couldn’t help but indulge in the twist of worry in his stomach, panic sending him scrambling up his Jaeger to check and recheck it.

 

Grace Rebel was his Jaeger, and Faraday would just have to get used to it.

 

“Sam!” Billy yelled, catching Vasquez by the elbow, carefully balancing on the edge of his cuffs alarm radius. 

 

“Vasquez, get ready to drop!” Sam called back. 

 

“Yes sir!” Vasquez called back, heart lodged in his throat, hands trembling at his side. Billy nudged him forward — harder than he meant to, but Vasquez couldn’t blame him; Billy never looked at anything when he could watch Goodnight instead — and Vasquez moved towards his Jaeger, mounting dread threatening to consume him with every step he took.

 

 

“Not bad, hom-bray .”

 

Vasquez’s jaw clenched, drawing in a deep breath before turning to look at Faraday. There was a grey tinge to his skin; his grin — the tangled urge to punch him or kiss him flashing through Vasquez like a lightning strike — felt fake, in a way that rang a discordant note in Vasquez’s soul; and, as Vasquez watched, Faraday turned away, shoulder raised as if expecting a blow, chewing on the edge of a nail.

 

“I always look good, guero,” Vasquez answered, moving onto the raised circle on the left, noticing the flex of Faraday’s hands out of the corner of his eye.

 

“I’m sorry about what I said,” Faraday said, spitting the words out as if he couldn’t speak them fast enough.

 

“You’re gonna be in my head soon,” he continued as Vasquez turned to look at him, brow furrowed, “It’s not a pretty place in there.”

 

“I may be as pretty as one cabron, but I’m no angel myself,” Vasquez pointed out, mechanically moving through the checks that would allow him to enter the drift. He couldn’t pinpoint his feelings, shifting from one to the other so fast it sent his head spinning.

 

Faraday laughed, the noise sounding like it had been punched out of him, eyes widening with surprise at the action.

 

“Come on then, Vasquez , let’s get going.”

 

Vasquez ignored the shiver that rattled through him as Faraday spoke his name — ignored the urge to kiss him, to bite at the exposed skin above his high collar and see what other sounds he could pull from the other man — and turned his attention to the lights flashing overhead: signalling the countdown to the Drift.

 

“Wicked Watcher and Paladin Scourge are already out there.” Sam’s voice crackled through the speakers, the rumble of Goodnight barking out commands in the background. “But something’s gone wrong. We can’t raise either of them on comms, and vitals show only one person still active in the Drift in Paladin Scourge.”

 

Vasquez was dimly aware of Faraday groaning next to him — a soft noise of pure horror — but everything was washed away in a tidal wave of sickening grief. The image of Billy and Goodnight’s cuff rose behind his eyes — smooth metal hiding the ugly truth — and from the tenseness of Sam’s voice — the only reason he didn’t also wear a cuff separating him from his partner had been her death, his youngest sister, and he had been unable to save her — he knew it as well. Faraday had lost his co-pilot as well, Vasquez remembered, starting to turn towards the other man, seeing his jaw clench, grip turned bone white on the controls.

 

“See you on the other side,” Faraday said with forced brightness, fake grin morphing into true laughter as Vasquez flipped him off.

 

And then there was nothing but the Drift.

 

 

Memories crowded into Vasquez’s head — not his; the colours were wrong, too pale to be his family, too pale to be his own skin and yet they felt so real — threatening to drown him in their intensity.

 

Pain flashed up his arms, grounding him for a moment, eyes opening — not onto the unnatural blue of the Drift surrounded by people he didn’t know and yet felt so familiar — to stare at the slate grey of the cockpit. 

 

“Stop fighting it Vasquez,” Goodnight said, voice echoing round his mind, pushing him underneath the crushing tide once more.

 

A woman, his mother, smoothed one hand over his head, murmuring promises into the crop of curls. The bruise around her eye is fading to a mottled yellow, and he stretched up to trace it’s outline. The bed rattled when Jack, tall enough to blot out the sun, kicked the door of their tiny room shut behind him.

 

The cards felt too big for his hands, soft from years of use, with bright blue backs that had faded from age. He straightened up to peer at Jack’s grin over his cards, carefully tugging one free to place it on the table. Jack’s grin was blinding and, in that moment, he couldn’t be happier.

 

Blood in his mouth, the burn of whiskey in his stomach. Stars spun above his head and rain shone on the street like oil spills. He stumbled around the gutted remains of a building, electric blue Kaju blood clinging to the jagged edges where a wall once stood. There was a fire in his chest, and a strange uncertain future laid out ahead of him.

 

Everything is alarms splitting his skull open, but it didn’t matter, nothing mattered now. Electricity crackled through the air in leaping columns between broken wires, beautiful in their danger. He could just reach up and end everything, stop the alarms, stop the screaming that threatened to rip his throat in two, stop the endless empty space where Jack had once stood, and now was only a drop to the ocean below. 

 

Vasquez staggered backwards, feeling the harness catch his weight, feeling — knowing — that Faraday was doing the same, a strange ghost of sensation in his fingers.

 

God, I want to kiss him

 

Vasquez looked at Faraday, heat flooding his cheeks. The thought hadn’t been his, and yet it reverberated within his chest, a slow burn he had been kindling and ignoring for months.

 

“Sorry,” Faraday croaked out, voice tight, and Vasquez could feel that strange reverberation once again. It was almost a comfort, the certainty that he wasn’t alone in this Jaeger with his vision tinted blue and the weight of another man’s memories in his head.

 

“Ready to run, guero?” Vasquez asked, previous worry washed away in the face of confirmation that this was what he was meant to do, feeling the Jaeger shift beneath him, feeling Faraday move with him. 

 

Faraday laughed, joy crackling through Vasquez like lightning, cracking his neck with sharp efficient motions.

 

“Born ready.”

 

 

Blood and fire and nothing but the emptiness beneath him.

 

Vasquez woke with a start — and he woke up swinging, lashing out at the Kaju in front of him; horns twisting from it’s head like a disease tree, fire burning deep in it’s throat as it reared back to strike—

 

“Easy.”

 

Billy’s grin couldn’t have been wider if the other man had tried; a Cheshire Cat sized grin of delight that Vasquez had tried to punch him. 

 

“How much do you remember?”

 

Vasquez blinked up at him, thoughts slow as if they were pushing through syrup.

 

 

“We’ve got a visual on them Sam.”

 

Faraday’s voice was crisp and clear, so different from the slow, easy drawl Vasquez was used, sending sparks rattling down his spine. He shook off the burn beneath his skin — pushing it down and ignoring it, more difficult with Faraday so close, with the press of his skin against Vasquez — and stared out over the expanse of ocean, waves hitting against Jaeger’s legs as they pushed forward.

 

“¡Ay, dios mio!” Vasquez breathed. 

 

Paladin Scourge looked like it had been gutted, it’s insides ripped open and laid bare to the lashing waves. It stood, slumped but still standing, like a broken marionette, sword hanging from it’s unmoving hand.

 

Wicked Watcher paced, head snapping to and fro in a manner that reminded Vasquez of Matthew — always watching, always waiting. The sea around them was calm, littered with debris and the shimmer of oil gleaming on its surface, but no kaiju.

 

“Hey— kaiju— Red— okay?”

 

The comms sputtered into life, a whining mess of static and distorted words, Emma’s voice relieved and worried all at once.

 

Vasqeuz didn’t need to look at Faraday, feeling his intent like the ghost of fingertips along his own skin, activating the guns Grace Rebel was equipped with. The weight of them felt good in his hands, neural feedback drawing him deeper into the Jaeger, ocean floor crunching beneath his feet as they moved forward.

 

The kaiju leapt from the sea, a wailing mass of horns and teeth, but they were ready. Moving as one — heartbeat loud in their ears, almost drowning out their gunfire — they fired on the kaiju, blood and bone shattering beneath their onslaught. But it kept coming, advancing, reaching out for them—

 

Wicked Watcher’s blade, chain-sword some part of Vasquez’s mind whispered — his sisters hitting each other with scraps of ribbon as they leapt from couch to table, wood creaking beneath their weight — wrapped around its neck like a noose, wrenching it backwards. It was two steps, two steps to move a behemoth, but it was enough. 

 

Electricity burned in Vasquez’s hands — guns overheating, he knew, alarms sounding to confirm his theory — but there was no time, couldn’t stop now, not with the taste of metal in his mouth and the kaiju beginning to spasm beneath their shots, blood mixing with the oil on the water.

 

When it fell, it fell slowly, a mountain crashing down into the ocean, death-shriek imprinting itself onto his very soul. Vasquez shook, legs going limp in his harness and looked over at Faraday.

 

God, I want to kiss him .

 

 

“How’s Red?” Vasquez asked, craning his neck to stare wildly around the medical bay, white walls pressing in on him.

 

“Fine, he’s already climbing the walls to get away from bed rest,” Billy laughed, “He’s learnt from mine and Goodnight’s mistakes, so he doesn’t need to wear a cuff.”

 

Vasquez sighed, relaxing backwards minutely, exhaustion passing over him like waves — ocean waves hitting his legs, the call of seagulls high overhead.

 

“You’ve got a visitor.”

Why did Billy sound so smug? Vasquez kept his eyes closed, feeling the bed dip as Billy stood, hearing the clunk of his boots on the floor as he moved away… and the familiar swaying walk heading towards him.

 

“Hola, guero,” Vasqeuz said, Faraday carefully sitting on the bed next to him. He cracked his eyes open and saw the grin — infuriating and beautiful all at the same time.

 

“Hey,” Faraday greeted, voice soft. “Can I kiss you?”

 

Vasquez pushed himself up as Faraday leant down, sharp mint flooding his nose as their lips met, chapped, and beard scratching at Vasquez’s skin. It was slow and easy, the knot in his chest loosening more with every press of Faraday’s mouth against his, warm and safe in a way Vasqeuz hadn’t felt in a while.

 

“I’m going to have to fix those guns,” Vasqeuz murmured when they finally parted, resting his head against Faraday's, kissing him once more, just because he could.

 

Faraday’s shoulders shook with barely suppressed laughter.

 

“We are going to be so good together, partner.”