what_we_dream: (MGS Snake)
[personal profile] what_we_dream
Title: The Waiting Game
Series: MGS
Pairing: Gray Fox/Snake
Rating G

Summary: For some reason, whenever he gets back from a mission, Snake's in the cafeteria.


For some reason, whenever he gets back from a mission, Snake’s in the cafeteria.

It’s not a small room, but it’s rarely more than a quarter full, which means fewer than twenty seats taken. Gray Fox doesn’t know all the rookies, doesn’t bother to know them, because until they’ve made it to mammal odds are they won’t be sticking around. Snake’s an exception. Fox knows the kid’ll make it. For one thing, he can see it in the greenhorn’s eyes. For another, Big Boss told him so. Consequently, he’s the only rookie for whom Fox can put a name to a face.

And, for some damn reason, the kid’s always in the canteen when he gets back from trips. Fox eats nothing but rations on missions – he knows the others bring their own crap with them, but he’s never had any use for luxury and he’d rather use the space to carry spare ammo than cup ramen or the other packaged sodium landfills Big Boss turns a blind eye to. Not surprisingly therefore, after delivering his immediate report and taking a shower, the cafeteria is always the next stop on his list.

Fox always takes a seat alone, and unless an old acquaintance comes in while he’s in the middle of his meal, he eats alone. But he’s too old a soldier to ignore the other people in the room, even if they are just rookies.

He’s also too old a soldier to believe in coincidence. Not only does he notice Snake’s constant presence, he is immediately suspicious of it. Securing a copy of the kid’s schedule from Records is no trouble at all, and going over his five appearances in the canteen in the past month Fox discovers that two were made in the middle of a booked session. He sits at his fold-up desk (hardly used) and taps the form with the end of his pencil. The kid never talks to him, hardly ever looks at him. Never approaches him, and doesn’t always stay to the end of his meal. He always has something on his platter, but often just a snack or a coffee. Stake-out food. Clearly a kid to keep an eye on.

But still, nothing happens. Fox takes out a terrorist cell, comes back, finds Snake in the cafeteria. Fox wires a spy’s car to explode, comes back, finds Snake in the cafeteria. Fox flies out to a tiny jungle nation and takes out a rebel faction, comes back, finds Snake in the cafeteria. After a while, the kid just becomes a fixture. A kind of reassurance, almost. Nothing on the base stays fixed for long, and as Fox has no real possessions there is nothing familiar in his often-changing quarters to come home to. Big Boss is away half the time, as are most of the other high-ranking operatives. But Snake is always there, drinking putrid coffee, eating tough bread or sticking his fork straight up in the floury pasta. And eventually, Fox begins to take his presence for granted. Knows that, wherever the cafeteria may be set up, wherever his quarters may be, whoever the duty officer is, Snake will be sitting in the canteen when he gets back.

Until one day, he isn’t.

Fox steps in the room after a four-day scouting session in Serbia and scans it instinctively as he heads for the queue, mind still sorting through the complex politics sure to come up in the debriefing.

His feet stop him half-way to the tray pile, aware that something’s wrong without his consciously recognizing it. Stomach clenching for reasons he’s not sure of yet, Fox tenses and reaches for his weapon while deepening his breathing and widening his eyes to heighten his reactions. And then realises what’s amiss.

Snake isn’t in the room.

It shouldn’t matter. He should just take his tray, get his food and eat. Maybe later drop a line to Records and get the kid’s schedule, or ask his instructor how he’s shaping up. Fox takes another step towards the trays, and feels his gut clench further. Grits his teeth against his goddamn nerves – they never give him trouble, except with Naomi and Big Boss – and marches out of the room.

Fox visits Records and gets the kid’s schedule, then walks over to the field where he should be training. Not there. He walks back to the canteen – maybe the kid’s just late. Not there. Jogs over to the rookies’ quarters – not there either.

There’s only one other place any soldier’s likely to be. Moving quickly now, Fox crosses the compound to the infirmary. He enters with forced calmly, passes the duty nurse who gives him a shocked look, and slips into the main ward. There are ten beds here, but only two are filled. One is a cook, hospitalized with a bad grease burn the day before Fox left – the story was out even then. The other, lying flat on his back with his eyes closed, is Snake.

Fox pauses for a long moment, listening to a squad pound by outside, to the electric hum of the lights, to the over-loud clicking of the clock above the door. Finally, he moves forward on silent feet, stealthy as a shadow. The cook, reading with his back to the door, doesn’t notice. Fox ghosts onwards, reaches the end of the rookie’s bed and slips his chart off the hook with a steady hand. Compression injury, due to being blasted backwards by an exploding jeep. Fox wants to know how the hell the kid came to be beside an exploding jeep – more still how he survived it without shrapnel – but he’s sure that story will be circulating widely by now as well. However he managed it, Snake’s only got a few broken ribs and some minor internal bleeding – as well as a system chalk-full of drugs. Fox returns the clipboard, and glances down. Snake’s eyes are open, and staring at him. Fox blinks once, turns, and leaves.

He hears the full story later – it’s almost ridiculous as some of Big Boss’s – as well as the news that Snake has been released from the infirmary. Sure enough, by the time he returns from his next mission, the kid’s back sipping bad coffee in the canteen. He’s sitting alone in a corner today, not even bothering with a tray.

Fox loads his own up and breaks off from the line. Walks over to the kid in a straight line, and stands towering over him. “This seat taken?”

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December 2011

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