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so happy together

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The very first thing Jason’s aware of is the smell.

There’s the heady green reek he’s come to associate with Rook itself, all damp leaves, overripe fruit, and gently rotting vegetation, but there’s also something far more human: skin and sweat, the pungent funk of marijuana. Underlying it all is an iron tang that immediately sets his teeth on edge; he’s spilled enough blood to know the scent of it intimately, and he’s suddenly a lot less eager to open his eyes than he was a moment ago.

His head throbs, a hot pulse behind his eyeballs that sharpens into outright agony at the base of his skull. Whatever happened to him, it happened hard.

“Wakey wakey, Snow White.”


“C’mon, hermano, I know you’re fucking awake. Let’s see those pretty green eyes.”


A big hand roughly pats his cheek. It’s too gentle to be called a slap, but still hard enough to sting. Jason jerks away from the touch, and bites back a groan as a fresh wave of pain rolls up his neck and through his skull. There are new hurts making themselves known: his shoulders and arms, uncomfortably wrenched behind him; his wrists, numb and tingling from ropes tied too tight; his back, already aching from being slumped in a hard wooden chair. His entire body feels like one giant bruise. The sting of the next blow -- definitely a slap this time, bright and hard and sharp -- is almost a relief.

“You want me to cut off your eyelids? Huh? You want me slice off your fucking eyelids, Jason? Is that what you want? Is that what you fucking want?

Jason finally relents when his head is suddenly wrenched back by his hair and he feels the unmistakable bite of a knife pressed into his throat. It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the sudden onslaught of light and even longer to blink away the grit, but soon the blurry shape looming over him resolves itself.

“Fucking took you long enough,” says Vaas Montenegro. He draws back, roughly mussing Jason’s hair with spiteful affection. His grin is terrifying in its genuine cheer. “Welcome home, sunshine! I missed you.”

“You’re dead,” Jason rasps. “I killed you.”

“Funny thing about that,” Vaas says. He grabs a nearby chair and swings it around so he’s straddling it, sits with his forearms draped over the back like they’re two old friends having a chat instead two men for whom attempting to kill each other is as natural as breathing.

“You really gotta stop trying to off people when you’re high, Jason.” He pats Jason’s cheek again, the asshole, laughs when Jason growls and tries to bite him. “You got shit aim when you’re rolling. Sliced me up pretty good, but you know what they say.” He smirks. “Time heals all motherfucking wounds.”

Jason glances around the room, hunting for escape routes, potential weapons, anything. It’s hard to tell if they’re on Vaas’ old base of operations or not, because everything is depressingly and uncharacteristically spartan. Crumbling concrete floor splotched with dark, rust-colored stains, a warped metal door set into one of the crumbling concrete walls. An old Japanese bunker, maybe? The lights are the sort you rig up at construction sites, harsh and hot. Their chairs are the only real furniture in the room.

One thing he knows for sure: he never should’ve come back to these fucking islands.

He returns his attention to Vaas, draped over his chair like a lazy, demented aristocrat, casually twirling his knife like he’s got all the time in the world. He quirks an eyebrow when he notices Jason watching him. Given how intent he was on getting Jason to wake up a moment ago, his relative stillness now is deeply irritating.

Probably doing it on purpose, the shithead.

Jason finally breaks the silence. “So why the fuck aren’t you dead?”

At least his voice sounds strong enough, he thinks. Commanding and angry, every inch the warrior his tatau proclaim him to be. Just because he’s tied to a chair doesn’t mean he can’t angle for the upper hand. He’ll rip Vaas’ throat out with his teeth if he has to.

He just needs Vaas to get close enough.

“You know what?” Vaas says. “I don’t like that question. But I got a different question for you, Snow, and I want you to think real long and real hard about the answer. Comprendes?

Vaas leans forward, his gaze intense and unblinking. He reminds Jason of the feral dogs roaming the islands, all teeth and rage and dangerous, coiled energy. Expectant.

Vaas says, “You got that?”

Fuck it. Jason sets his jaw and very pointedly doesn’t say a word. Doesn’t move, doesn’t blink, doesn’t even breathe, not even when Vaas’ expression predictably darkens. When Vaas finally lashes out against the silence and cuffs him hard upside the head, Jason’s only concession is a sharply indrawn breath.

A minor triumph, maybe, but it’s winning just the same.

“Hey!” Vaas’ earlier cheeriness is long gone, vanished as if it was never there at all. “You got that, motherfucking Snow White? Huh? You listening to me? Are you paying. fucking. attention?

“Sure,” Jason drawls. Sweat trickles down his neck and into the hollow of his throat. He’s blinking it out of his eyes, feels it pooling uncomfortably in his navel. Fear-sweat, adrenaline-sweat, hard to tell the difference these days. His t-shirt’s sticking to his skin, and he doesn’t think the humid press of Rook air is entirely responsible. “I’m listening. You don’t seem to be saying much, though.”

He’s already tensing in anticipation, but the blow doesn’t come. Instead, Vaas settles back in his chair, snickering like Jason’s done something genuinely amusing. “See, Jason, this is why I like you. I got your back against the fucking wall, against the fucking wall, and you’re just poking the hornet’s nest trying to piss me off. Brave, hermano. Stupid, but brave. Brave little toaster.”

“Heartwarming,” Jason says flatly. “What’s the goddamn question?”

Vaas shoots him a sharp look. Watch it, white boy. “Forget why I’m not dead. We know why I’m not dead. We don’t need to talk about why I’m not dead. It’s nothing. Nada. You fucked it up, end of story. The important question here, Jason, the really important question is...why the fuck aren’t you dead? Huh? I killed you. I killed you three fucking times, and yet here you are, mouthing off to me like a little bitch. Why?”

“Gee, I don’t know,” Jason says. He bares his teeth in a sharp, sunny grin of his own. “Maybe because you suck at trying to kill me?”

Vaas is out of his chair and onto Jason explosively fast, his momentum carrying them both crashing to the floor. Jason’s upper back and shoulders take the brunt of the impact, and the pain is so intense for one white-hot moment that he can’t even breathe, much less cry out. The pain of his head cracking against the concrete beneath them is almost an afterthought in comparison.

Vaas’ hand is clamped around his throat, his face mere inches from Jason’s own. The look in his eyes is terrifying.

“Here’s the thing, Snow White,” Vaas hisses. “I don’t suck at killing anyone, much less skinny white boys who land their asses on my fucking island at the wrong fucking time. I certainly killed your brother easy enough. Shot him dead while you stood there like a fucking pussy and cried.”

Jason surges up against Vaas’ grip, but fighting is impossible: he’s still tied to the fucking chair, and with Vaas sitting astride his chest he’s pinned as neatly as a frog about to be dissected.

“Shut up!” Jason snarls. “Shut the fuck up, don’t talk about Grant, don’t you ever--”

The rest of his sentence is cut off in a strangled gasp as Vaas tightens his fingers.

“Mouthy little fucker, aren’t you?” Vaas bends closer, their noses almost touching. His pupils are bright black pinpricks in a sea of mad green.

“You want to know what I think?” he says. His voice is dangerously soft. “The universe has plans for me and you, Jason. Either we both go, or neither of us do. It’s fucking fate.”

Vaas releases his throat and Jason sucks in a huge lungful of air before he promptly starts coughing. “You’re crazy,” he croaks, when he can finally breathe without feeling like he’s going to pass out. “You’re fucking crazy, there’s no--”

There’s no such thing as fate, he wants to say, but the words feel false before they’re even out of his mouth. And why shouldn’t they? After everything he’s seen here, everything he’s done, is fate really a more ridiculous prospect than the power of his tatau?

You are me, a ghost whispers inside his head. And I am you.

No, Jason thinks. NO.

“Shhhh,” Vaas says, conciliatory and mocking. He pats Jason’s cheek. “It’s okay. You’re still thinking like a tourist, you’re not--” He sits back and waves his hand, and with a cold thrill of horror Jason sees he’s extracted a heavy, battered-looking pistol from somewhere about his person. “--you’re not looking at the bigger picture, I get it. But I’m gonna prove it to you.”

He grins down at Jason and cocks the hammer, and Jason only has time for a panicked, oh god please no not like this no no NO before Vaas puts the pistol to his temple and fires.


Jason’s breath goes sobbing out of him. “Fuck you,” he gasps. “Fuck you, fuck you fuck--”

Vaas tilts his head. He’s not grinning anymore, and his quiet, secretive little smile is somehow much, much worse. This time, he digs the barrel into the soft flesh just below Jason’s chin while Jason thrashes beneath him.

Pulls the trigger.


Jason hates himself for flinching, hates himself even more for the tears at the corners of his eyes and the fear coiling nauseous and slithery-hot in his belly. Of course Vaas would do this. Can’t give him the dignity of a quick death, oh no. He’s got to be a dick about it.

“Not gonna beg,” Jason says. His voice sounds far too wobbly to his own ears and he hates himself for that too. Hates that despite all his efforts, this is what Vaas reduces him to: someone small, someone weak, someone afraid.

He won’t give Vaas the satisfaction of begging for his life. He won’t. “You wanna kill me? Fine. Quit fucking around already and do it.”

“You think I’m fucking around?” In one swift motion, Vaas levels the pistol at the wall to his right and fires. In the enclosed concrete of the bunker, the gunshot is horrifically loud. Little splinters of concrete shrapnel explode outward from the point of impact.

Jason yelps. “Jesus!”

Vaas swings the gun back to Jason. “You think I’m fucking around? Huh? I’ll show you what fucking around means. Open up.” Muzzle of the gun at his lips, the metal still hot enough that Jason hisses and tries to jerk his head away. He struggles harder when Vaas grabs his jaw and forces his head still, tastes blood when Vaas forces the gun against his mouth hard enough to split his lower lip. “Open the fuck up, Snow, or I’ll break your fucking teeth.”

His voice is feral snarl that brooks absolutely no argument. Seething, Jason parts his lips, and he doesn’t even get his mouth all the way open before Vaas is shoving the gun in. Hot metal and the taste of oil, gunpowder gritty on his tongue. Jason gags and tries to squirm away, only to freeze again when Vaas’ other hand slides back down to his throat and tightens in clear warning.

“There you go,” Vaas says cheerfully. “Just give it a minute. Gotta let yourself adjust, hermano, don’t just go gagging for it right off the bat.”

He pushes the gun farther into Jason’s mouth ever so slightly, eases off only when Jason makes a choked sound of protest and bucks underneath him. “California boy with a mouth like yours, you probably sucked plenty of cock, yeah? Just think of this as a big, metal dick that blows one hell of a dangerous load. That should make it easy for you.”

I am going to murder you with my bare hands, Jason thinks savagely. I’m going to rip you open from guts to sternum and strangle you with your own fucking intestines, I’m going to tear you apart with my fingers and my teeth until there’s nothing fucking left and I’m going to enjoy every goddamn MINUTE of it, you sick twisted FUCK.

“Shit, just look at you,” Vaas breathes. He strokes Jason’s carotid with a thumb, pressing down hard against the pulse point until Jason whines. He pulls the gun back, slides it in again, the oiled metal dragging against Jason’s tongue. His gaze is hot with something Jason really doesn’t want to identify. “You hate me so fucking much. You’re like an atomic bomb of hate, a fucking supernova. No one’s ever hated me the way you do, Jason, it’s fucking beautiful.”

He pulls the trigger. Click. Again. Click. Again. Click.

When Vaas yanks the gun out of his mouth and fires at the wall, Jason doesn’t even jump at the gunshot this time. Barrel between his eyes next, the metal still slick with his own spit.


Jason closes his eyes and shudders. The relief crashing over him is so intense it’s almost sexual.

“You see?” There’s something deceptively gentle in Vaas’ voice, as if he hadn’t just forced Jason to deep-throat a goddamn gun. “Are you getting the fucking picture here? This is fate. Me and you, we’re two sides of the same fucking coin.”

“” It hurts to talk. The inside of his mouth tastes strange and gritty; his throat feels thick when he tries to swallow. His shoulders are screaming and he can barely feel his hands anymore, but it’s not discomfort he’s focusing on. It’s rage.

Vaas strokes the gun down the side of Jason’s face, skimming over his cheek, his lower lip, his neck. “Cry like a bitch about it all you like,” he says. “Won’t change a damn thing.”


“Mm-hmm. Fate’s fate for a reason, white boy. Thought maybe my sister would’ve taught you that, but then maybe you were too busy following your dick around to actually listen.”

Jason doesn’t want to think about Citra right now. He definitely doesn’t want to think about her while her brother is straddling his chest with a gun in his hand, talking about how they’re basically fucked-up soulmates.

“Untie me, then,” he says. “Let’s put this little theory of yours to the test. Both of us or neither, yeah? Let’s see if you’re right.”

Vaas utters a small, startled bark of laughter. There’s nothing cruel or mocking about it, nothing that smacks remotely of insinuation. It’s honest and open and real, utterly horrifying in its normalcy.

“You stupid little shit,” Vaas says. He sounds almost fond, and Jason shivers with revulsion. “Why the fuck would I want to kill you, huh? That ship has motherfucking sailed. Me, I don’t want to die. And I don’t think you want to die either, not if this--”

He swipes wetness from the corner of Jason’s eye, sucks the moisture off his thumb. “--is any indication. You fucking crybaby. Me and you, Jason, me and you are going to burn down the fucking world.”

“You’ll have to untie me sooner or later,” Jason says. “You also have to sleep.”

“Those are both pretty big assumptions to make, hermano,” Vaas says, but to Jason’s immense surprise he stands and hauls both Jason and the chair upright.

Jason’s head swims at the sudden change in position, big black flowers blooming at the edges of his vision as he desperately tries not to vomit. It takes him a moment to notice Vaas hacking through his restraints, but the second he does he wastes absolutely no time in throwing himself forward, launching himself at Vaas with a ragged howl of rage.

Vaas rolls his eyes, neatly socks Jason in the stomach, and then kicks his legs out from under him.


Jason lies curled on his side, coughing. His arms feel like slabs of dead meat, and where they don’t feel dead they’re awash in little prickles of agony as they slowly wake up again. His balance, he’d quickly discovered, is horribly off. Whether it’s from the initial blow when he was captured or when he later hit his head on the floor, he doesn’t know. What he does know is that fighting in this condition won’t be easy; worse, Vaas knows it too.

Vaas crouches next to him. “You look so fucking pathetic right now, Snow. It hurts my heart, it really does. Big, bad, white boy warrior with his big, bad, mystical ink. Can’t even take a proper swing at me without falling the fuck over. I almost want to kill you on principle, that’s how sad this makes me.”

Jason glares. “Shut the fuck up and do it then.”

He manages to knock Vaas’ arm away when the other man tries to smack him upside the head, doesn’t manage quite so well when Vaas simply stands and kicks him in the ribs. Jason grunts, curling in tighter on himself. Pain is an old, old friend to him now, unwelcome but not exactly unfamiliar. Humiliation, on the other hand, is something he’s never been able to stand.

Vaas kicks him again, but this time Jason’s ready. He grabs Vaas’ leg, wrenches as hard as he can until the other man’s thrown just off balance enough that he can drive his feet into his other ankle. Which he does, hard.

“Motherfucker!” Vaas goes down, probably more out of surprise than anything else -- he easily outweighs Jason by at least fifty pounds and pretty much all of that is muscle -- but surprise or not, Jason’ll take it. With Vaas on his back, it doesn’t matter that Jason’s got a likely concussion and more bruises than his body knows how to deal with: he doesn’t need to think clearly to choke the fucking life from the sonofabitch.

Vaas actually laughs when Jason gets his hands around his throat. It’s another one of those horrifyingly real and honest laughs, big and cheerful. It makes Jason want to carve open his ribs and wrench his still-beating heart from his chest.

“Shut up,” he snarls.

“That’s it,” Vaas says. “That’s it, Jason, let it out. Let it all fucking out.”

He’s still laughing, the fucking bastard. It doesn’t even matter that his voice is rough and strangled beneath the pressure of Jason’s hands, because he’s still fucking laughing, his eyes crinkled with genuine mirth, like Jason’s a novelty toy he picked up somewhere, something to wind up and run in circles instead of someone in a position to crush his goddamn hyoid.

“Why won’t you just fucking die already?” All but wails it, bearing down harder and harder until Vaas catches both of his wrists with one hand and squeezes so tightly he feels his bones grinding together, bears down even though the pressure of Vaas’ grip is making his fingers go numb. Mindlessly chanting a mantra of increased desperation: “Please die, please die, please die, please, please--”

Vaas’ face is red and he isn’t laughing anymore, but his eyes hold the same hot, terrifying intensity they did when he made Jason fellate the gun earlier. His other hand, the one not currently trying to break Jason’s wrists, slides up Jason’s chest and settles around his throat.

No. No. No no no no no, it’s not fair, it’s--

“You want to play a game?” Vaas croaks when Jason’s grip eases just enough for him to speak. “It’s called ‘Let’s See Who Can Go Without Air The Longest.’ Guess who’s going to win. Come on. Guess.”

His hand suddenly tightens, and it’s instantly apparent he was just toying with Jason earlier. Before, he’d allowed Jason at least some air; now there’s none. Nothing, nada, zilch, nothing but steadily mounting pressure against his larynx and red black grey sparkles swarming in his vision.

It’s a power play. He knows it is. And for maybe half a second, he thinks about relenting. About letting Vaas go, one life spared in exchange for the other. Because that’s how this works, isn’t it? It’s both of them or neither, nothing done by halves. If he wants to live, Vaas gets to live too.

You are me, and I am you.

In the back of his mind, Jason hears the click click click of the gun Vaas held in his mouth, misfire after improbable misfire. He hears the roar of a fire and Liza’s terrified screams, hears himself sobbing over his dying big brother while Vaas’ laughter echoed in his ears and he knows, in that instant, that he cares far more about killing Vaas than saving his own skin.

Vaas’ eyes widen the moment he realizes Jason isn’t letting go. He shoves up, trying to buck Jason off, bares his teeth when Jason simply moves with him before getting right back to what he was doing. His game has turned deadly serious; the only question now is whether he can kill or incapacitate Jason before his own air runs out.

Vaas bucks beneath him again. It doesn’t work, not entirely, but Jason’s hands do slip for one agonizing moment. It’s just long enough for Vaas to suck in a quick lungful before Jason lunges for his throat again, which puts Jason at a distinct disadvantage as it regards their respective air.

It’s also long enough for Jason to realize they’re both hard.

He shouldn’t be surprised. He’s gotten hard during fights before, particularly when the stakes are high, but the fact that it’s Vaas makes it profoundly worse. Everything concerning the man is a horrible, fucked up tangle in his head. Had their situations been reversed, had Vaas been the one tied to a chair and Jason the one with a gun in his hand, can he really say he wouldn’t have shoved the gun into Vaas’ mouth until he gagged, wouldn’t have sneered at him to fucking choke on it?

Can he tell himself, with complete and utter honesty, that he would’ve stopped at just the gun?

He wants the answer to be an unequivocal “yes,” he doesn’t want to be that kind of person, but--

He doesn’t know. God help him, he doesn’t know.

He desperately needs to breathe. He also needs Vaas to fucking die already, but it’s beginning to look increasingly unlikely that he’ll get either of these things if he wants them both. Vaas’ fingernails are biting into his skin hard enough to draw blood, and if Jason survives this he’s going to have the most fucked up bruises around his throat for the next month. He’s acutely aware of the concrete floor under his knees and the wild thrum of Vaas’ pulse beneath his hands, the frantic rasp of his own futile attempts to breathe. His very skin on fire as his cells finally begin to notice the lack of oxygen and, accordingly, panic.

Vaas narrows his eyes and, without warning, rocks his hips up against Jason’s. Jason tries to gasp and can’t. All that comes out is a strangled whine.

It feels good. It feels so horrifyingly good, and Jason hates his stupid, fucked-up libido that can’t tell death and sex apart anymore. Hates the sudden triumph blazing through Vaas’ expression.

Hates the way he meets Vaas halfway next time, grinding down at the same time Vaas grinds up.

Jason’s fragmenting. One part of him utterly focused on crushing Vaas’ throat, desperate to see the bright, mad spark of him finally snuffed out for good, another part dwelling solely on the mindless, animal pleasure of getting off. Warmth spiraling up from his groin, coils of it twisting around the base of his spine, unfurling in his belly, his chest. Vision going gray and hazy, oxygen deprivation and arousal buzzing in his skull. He can’t think, he can’t fucking think, he--

Vaas is moving beneath him with intent now. Boots scrabbling for purchase on the musty concrete, his heels finally catching in a divot. Canting his hips and rocking up, hard and graceless, up and up and up. Face red and edging into purple, his teeth bared in a feral snarl. The palm gripping Jason’s throat is slick with sweat.

Die, Jason thinks with savage despair. Despite all his best efforts, he can feel the orgasm building, digging its claws into his vertebrae with a slow, hungry inevitability. It’s with nothing but sheer desperation that he throws his weight forward, heedless of the pain in his throat and the hot spike of pleasure in his groin. Just die, just fucking die, just DIE--

He gasps when Vaas suddenly releases him. The air is unbearably sweet to his burning lungs and he gulps it down like a man drowning, shuddering all over with the delirious white rush of it. “Fuck,” he whimpers. “Fuck, oh fuck, oh--”

Vaas grabs the crest of Jason’s hip with one hand and shoves the other down the front of Jason’s pants. Gripping his dick with rough, callused fingers, stroking him hard and fast and merciless until Jason arches, trembling, his hips snapping into Vaas’ unforgiving grip.

His orgasm crashes over him with dreadful, brutal finality. The sound that rips from his throat is agonized and guttural, barely recognizable as human, and he’s vaguely aware of his hands slipping free of Vaas’ neck, of Vaas’ broad chest heaving as he’s finally able to breathe again.

He...he just…oh god.

Even as dazed as he is, he still mindlessly lashes out when Vaas abruptly flips him over. Elbows, knees, teeth, everything he has, falls back to the concrete with a grunt only when a vicious, open-handed blow leaves his head ringing.

“ little fucker.” Vaas is panting, his voice shredded raw. “The fuck did you think were trying to pull, huh?”

He’s straddling Jason’s chest again. Powerful legs pinning Jason’s arms to his sides, his heavier build keeping him seated despite Jason’s increasingly desperate thrashing. Then his hands drop to his fly, and Jason goes cold.

He’s not an idiot. He knows how the rest of this story goes.

Still, he can’t quite control the hitch in his breathing as Vaas undoes his pants in quick, angry movements. Looks away just as Vaas starts to draw himself out, focuses on the man’s face instead. For all the violence in Vaas’ body there’s little of it in his expression, but what’s there in its place isn’t remotely reassuring. Jason struggles with renewed effort, more to make himself feel better than because he thinks he has any real chance of escaping.

They both know he’s not escaping at this point.

“If you put that fucking thing anywhere near my mouth,” he says hoarsely, “I’m biting it off.”

Vaas’ laugh is a soft, ragged thing, dark with genuine amusement. “That’s good,” he says. “That’s real good, Jason.” He drags his fingernails over Jason’s scalp before clenching his fist in Jason’s hair, holding him fast. Jason closes his eyes and tries to turn away -- he doesn’t want to look, doesn’t want to watch -- but there’s no hiding the obscene wet slap of flesh on flesh as Vaas strokes himself.

“You know,” Vaas says, “I used to want to break you. Did you know that? Wanted to tear you into itty-bitty pieces, Snow, crush you like a fucking bug. But I know better now. You? You’re just like me. You’d rather-- uhhn.” He grunts, and when he speaks again his voice is marginally more unsteady. “You’d rather die than break, isn’t that right?”

The hand in Jason’s hair tightens. Vaas is speeding up, his voice splintering. The jerky, aborted movement of his hips is beginning to falter. Jason keeps his eyes clenched shut, swallows hard against the bile burning in the back of his throat.

“But I don’t want you broken, Jason,” Vaas whispers. “I want my name carved into your very bones. Gonna burn myself into your fucking soul, white boy, I’m going to swallow you up until you don’t know where I end and you begin--”

His words trail off into a deep, wrenching groan, and Jason flinches as warm liquid spatters his face. Savagely bites the insides of his cheeks until he tastes blood, determined not to make a sound. Burning with mingled fury and humiliation.

Vaas utters a low, breathless chuckle and drags his fingers through the mess, nails catching on Jason’s stubble. “Fuck the tatau. Crazy magic bullshit. I like my warpaint better.” He smears a wet thumb over Jason’s lower lip and suddenly pushes in, yanks his hand back with another gravelly laugh before Jason can bite him. “Wish I had a fucking camera, Snow. You look good like this.” doesn’t taste bad. That’s somehow the most offensive thing of all, that Vaas’ semen tastes just like anyone else’s. Mildly bitter, briny. Like oyster shooters, Jason thinks, half-hysterically, and it would be just his fucking luck that this is the thing that finally makes him crack.

In the end, he just spits. It doesn’t take away the taste, but it makes him feel a little better.

Vaas wipes his hand on the front of Jason’s shirt and stands. Tucks himself back into his pants, nudges Jason with a heavy boot. “Get up.”

Jason slings an arm over his eyes and curls away. Mess in his pants, mess on his face. His whole body hurts. “Fuck you.”

He expects Vaas to outright kick him this time, but instead the other man just snorts. “Suit yourself. Lie on the floor like a little bitch and let the fucking tigers eat you.”

Jason pulls his arm away, opens his mouth to retort with -- something stupid, probably, he’s definitely not firing on all cylinders at this point -- and that’s when he sees it. The pistol. Just...lying there, totally innocuous. Vaas must’ve dropped it when Jason brought him down and then never picked it back up.

He’ll never get a chance like this again.

He lunges for the gun and has it cocked and leveled between Vaas’ eyes before the other man can even take a few steps in his direction. Vaas is smiling at him again, a wretched, secretive little smile totally at odds with the ring of dark bruises blooming on his neck. His palms are open and out, his posture relaxed.

“You gonna shoot me, Jason? Huh? You gonna fucking shoot me?” He spreads his arms, baring his chest. “Then come on and fucking shoot me! I don’t have all fucking day.”


Vaas’ smile widens and he takes a step forward. “Quit jerking around and fucking shoot me already. I’m a busy man, you know. My time is fucking valuable.”

Jason pulls the trigger again. Another misfire. Vaas continues stalking towards him and he tries to fire again. Misfire. Another. Another.

Vaas stops in front of him. Gun barely an inch from his forehead, his eyes locked on Jason. The only sound in the bunker is the increasingly panicked rasp of Jason’s breathing.

“What did I tell you?” Vaas says, very softly. Jason doesn’t move as he reaches up and covers Jason’s hand with his own, depresses the trigger. Click. “Me and you, Jason. Me and you. It’s fate.”

Vaas releases his hand and Jason sinks to his knees, shaking. He has no doubt whatsoever that if he fired at the wall, it would happen exactly as it had before: a hot slug of metal, shattered concrete. His skin is crawling with goosebumps. The ink on his arm burns.

“I’ll see you soon, California boy,” Vaas says. He ruffles Jason’s hair and then lightly shoves his head away, the gesture rough but playful, eerily reminiscent of brotherly rough-housing. Jason closes his eyes against the sudden tightness in his throat, and feels relieved when Vaas finally moves away. Boots scuffing over the concrete, the rusty metal door screeching in faint protest as Vaas muscles it open.

“Don’t make me wait too long,” Vaas calls. “I’m a busy man. I’ve got plans. You make me come and find you, you make me drag your ass back out of here, I’m not going to be happy.”

There’s a long, pregnant pause, as if he’s going to say something else, but when Jason looks up Vaas is gone. The door to the bunker stands wide open.

The meaning is clear enough. Jason could stay here, in this wreck of old, crumbling concrete with a gun that won’t fire if he put it to his temple, or--

Heady and green, the smell of wet leaves and overripe fruit and gently rotting vegetation. A pack of dingoes yipping in the distance, the low, warning cough of a tiger that doesn’t want to be disturbed. Dangerous, and familiar.

Eventually, Jason stands. He tucks the gun into his waistband and limps to the doorway, his movements slow and painful. At the threshold, he pauses.

Welcome home, sunshine.

He steps outside.