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>>enemy mine — chapter three: by myself::

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Leon sighed in relief when the fire ignited, sitting back to he leaned on the heels of his hands, tilting his chin back so the sudden warmth bathed his entire front. Bliss. He had been cold since he had made his rough landing, and it had started to slow him down, and he knew to slow down in this hostile environment was to die.

Luckily for him, the rain had slacked off now. The sun was just starting to disappear over the horizon, and he had found a small, sandy clearing to set up camp in. He had already pitched a tent, having bodily hauled his supply bay to this spot so he'd have easy access to it. Nothing in there would last more then a week, and he knew it, but he'd figure out how to adapt to this wild place, because he doubted anyone was going to pick him up.

He crossed his legs, taking out his cards, which he had luckily zipped into a pocket of his waterproof coat, and shuffled slowly, the motion soothing him as he let himself slip into another state of mind, become in-tune. It was a strange hobby, and he knew it. Fortune-telling wasn't something you'd expect a professional torturer to do for fun, but he had been practicing for years, and he knew this deck of cards, and the cards knew him. He had had them since he had started. They were comfortable with each other.

He sighed, and once he was in a clear state of mind slowly drew two cards, laying one on each knee. On the left was the Moon, on the right was the Knight of Wands. He frowned, rubbing his chin, tapping the Knight card thoughtfully. Who was this card referring to? Another card revealed itself to the two of Cups, and he groaned.

If he understood this right, the cards were telling him something was happening and he was going to end up in a new relationship soon. Any other time he'd be fine with this, but he was in the middle of nowhere. He scowled at the Cups card, shuffled some more, and pulled one more. Six of Cups, reversed. So now he was in for a new relationship and ignorant of the past?

He gathered the cards and zipped them back into his pocket, staring at the fire, letting himself be warm and trying to wipe the reading from his mind. He was tired, though he knew part of that had to be from being cold. Still, sleep would probably do him good… tossing some more wood on the fire he crawled into the tent and curled up, tucking his old revolver under his pillow and yawning. He'd try again tomorrow morning, when hopefully he'd figure out what to do about his situation.

Falco hefted the pack and kept walking, looking at the transponder signal. Leon wasn't far away. Falco himself had spent the night somewhat poorly, and was now in a somewhat bad mood, having been unable to start a fire and slept soaking wet, curled up under a rocky ledge for shelter.

He wasn't sure of the wisdom of tracking down his enemy. Hell, considering his situation, it might have been best to avoid him. But they hadn't gotten to finish their fight, they never did. Something always intervened. Maybe now they'd finally be able to get it over with.

He sighed, staring up at the sky. He had found the wreck of his fighter, completely trashed. Not even the radio worked, which meant he was quite possibly stuck here for a while. And for what he saw, this was a wild planet in almost all ways. So far on the ground he had seen elephant-sized six-legged stags and strange predators large enough to easily hunt them. He felt small on this planet, that was for certain. Small and a little defenseless. He only had four clips for his gun total. God only knew how well it would chase off such large animals.

Getting to the top of a hill, he saw a plume of smoke and smiled, knowing it had to be Leon. In a strange way, he looked forward to seeing his enemy. At least it would be someone and something normal.

Leon woke up at dawn, crawling out of his tent and stretching, popping bones absently, and sleepily tried to figure out an agenda for the day. He didn't want to have to dip into his supplies yet, so he'd have to find an alternate source of food. That meant looking around and finding some.

Once he had started a fire, he tucked his magnum into his belt and strapped his survival knife to his leg, then marked his campsite in his memory and started walking, making his way toward a creek he had seen the day before. If he remembered right, there were fruit trees of some sort there. As he walked, he looked at the trees, eventually stopping and breaking off a branch, then snapping it again so he had a six foot length about two inches thick. Eventually he'd sharpen it, for now, he simply walked with it.

It had been a while since he had been on this pretty of a planet. It was wild and untamed, and he respected that. He liked that Lylat was leaving it alone. Some places just shouldn't be cultured, he decided.

He arrived by the creek about ten minutes later, smiling when he saw some of the smaller herbivores look up at him in confusion, not knowing what he was. Even the small ones were the size of ponies here, arrayed with a crest of horns for defense, six legs shifting as they looked at him. Leaving the ponies to their drinking water, he climbed into one of the trees, and dropped down a few minutes later, shirt laden with fruit, a half-eaten blue thing hanging out of his mouth. He wasn't too worried about poison, it was good. Bitterness usually signified poison.

He was halfway back to camp when he felt eyes on him, and paused, slowly looking to his right. He was a little surprised to see Falco leaning against a tree, arms crossed and watching him warily. He blinked, took what was left of his second fruit out of his mouth, and wove with a pair of fingers. Falco repeated the motion back to him, and Leon kept walking, mind in a tangle. So, Falco had survived the crash, and was stuck here as well. That made life more interesting… he slowed to a stop, and looked back. Falco hadn't moved. He sighed and wove a hand: come on over. Might as well get it over with…

Falco saw the gesture and walked the forty or so feet to Leon, stopping six or seven feet away, hands settling to his hips. "Morning, Powalski." This came out strange and begrudging, hiding most of the anger that would have made his voice harsh and biting. But then again, how else do you greet a longtime rival? 'Hi, how are ya, burn in hell'?

"Lombardi. You're here too eh?" Leon took his last bite and pitched the core over his shoulder, still slowly processing this situation. He didn't bother masking the annoyance in his voice. How dare Lombardi screw up what he considered a vacation.

"Looks like it."

Leon stuck one of the fruit on the end of his stick and held it out to Lombardi, who took it and bit into it, lifting an eyebrow. "Yeah I know, they are pretty good. So. You tracked me down via radar or something?"

"You're wearing a transponder of some sort." He held up the device in one hand, the other holding the blue fruit.

"Ah." Leon spat out a seed absently. "Guess this to mean we're continuing our little war?" He looked at his enemy, who seemed tired and worn, but had the same sparkle in his eyes, the never dimming hate that had always rubbed between them. He had to smile at that. He and Falco's rivalry was one of the few constant things in his life.

"Do we ever stop?"

"Point." He let his smile turn into a grin, shrugging out of his jacket and setting the fruit on it, tying the corners and sleeves to make a bag of sorts. "We'd both be idiots to continue our little war in this situation though."

"True." Falco dropped his backpack to one side and popped his neck, stepping back into a more ready stance as he reached behind himself, pulling a survival knife from where the sheath was nestled in the small of is back. Trapped between his back and the bag, it had been invisible. He spun it through his fingers absently. It was heavier then the butterfly knives and switchblades that were so popular on the streets, which Leon and he had fought with for hours at a time, never able to strike a fatal blow, turning it into a deadly dance of steel. Both were famous in their gangs for their use of hand to hand combat and knives. "Guns?"

"No." Leon said seriously, dropped his magnum on top of his food, watching as Falco did the same with his, dropping the entire belt on his pack. "There isn't any fun in that."

The two settled into circling, knives tucked to wrists. It seemed surreal, they had done this a hundred, maybe a thousand times, in alleys and darkened streets, where flickering harsh florescence detailed the blade and their hard angry eyes, outlined their fighting forms as a few other members of either gang crouched in the shadows, watching silently, afraid to speak as it would break the spell. Now the alley was gone, as were those flickering lights, and somehow it was stranger for it.

Falco attacked first, he almost always did. He had a lot less patience then Leon. Leon bent backwards, watching the blade pass over him, hissing through the air, and straightened once it was gone, countering, only to be blocked. The dance was started.

Like it had been in the air, the fight was close, less then a foot and a half between them at almost all times, barely dodging each other's blades, drawing small nicks and cuts as they went. Blue feathers flew in the air as Leon's blade scuffed up Falco's left arm and took off a dozen or so primers, and Falco swallowed a gasp, trying to concentrate on the fight.

Every time he fought with Leon, he felt like he was one breath away from dying. In the air, he could posture all he wanted, but like this — knife against knife, kicking up dust and grass — a real grain of icy fear worked its way through his veins, and he always ended up biting it back, trying to prevent it from spreading. He had seen what Leon could do, up close. Sure, Leon acted like some sort of gentleman, an act that always had several girls drooling over him, but in the end, he was a cold, efficient bastard, able to hurt people with a gut-wretching precision. People under his blade always talked, and about half the time, they died as well. Talking didn't save you from Powalski's perversion.

Leon blinked when Falco broke the fight, scrambling back a few steps and gasping for breath, knife up against his wrist in a defensive pose, chest heaving. Leon relaxed, knife held only loosely in his hand, and tilted his head to one side. This had to be one of their shortest fights ever. Why had Lombardi stopped?

While the hatred between them had always been personal for Falco, for Leon it was more professional. They had never been on the same side, and during the gang wars both had participated in, Leon had tortured a few of Falco's friends. He knew it earned him fear and hatred, but it was what he did. It was a job he liked, and it got him some form of respect, which is more then a lot of people had. But it was that which had earned him the hate in Falco's gorgeous eyes.

He shook off and flicked his tongue out, the soft hiss making Falco flinch ever-so-slightly. Sure, he could smell with his nose, but everything snapped into razor focus when he used his tongue in addition. "Lombardi. You're scared of me." He smiled when he said that, repeating the motion, savoring the scent and taste.

"Any sane man would be." Falco snapped, taking another step back.

"Ah, so, you chickened out in the fight? Is that it?" Leon took a few steps forward, toward Falco, letting himself sway through the step, almost dancing. One of his friends from years ago had called it a 'cobra walk.' Looking at it was hypnotic and terrifying.

Falco stepped back for every one of Leon's steps forward. "No."

"I don't believe you." He sheathed the knife, attempting to circle Falco, who just turned to face him, keeping his distance.

"I'm ending this for now. I don't have a camp set." Falco finally said, refusing to look at Leon as he gathered his pack and started walking away, pausing after a few steps. "Guns are in." With that he was gone, walking back the way he had come.

Leon stood there for a moment, and sighed. Guns weren't fun. They were simply too direct. There was no art to them. Point, bang, instant death. But the death wasn't the point, goodness no. It was the getting there. Why didn't anyone understand that?

It did confirm something, though. Falco wanted him dead. It wasn't the fight he wanted, it was the end of the fight. And for some reason, that made him a little sad as he gathered the rest of his breakfast and returned to his camp, deep in thought.

Falco snarled, striding through the field, grinding his beak in frustration. He couldn't believe that he had done that, actually come so close to snapping from his fear. He rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. He had been so sure he had been over it, then, in the middle of a knife fight, it had come rushing back, sending icy fingers through his veins. The memories of finding his friends dead/dying in the warehouse, Powalski's signature written in blood on the cold cement floor. Those horrifying moments were etched into his memory forever.

Eventually he found a grove of trees and set up camp there, managing to start a fire and taking out some of his rations, sitting on the ground. He could never forgive Leon for what he had done, but for some reason, he could never shake the fear. And it didn't help that he always felt like Leon was looking at him like he was prey, like he was something to devour. He suppressed a shudder, and forced his thoughts to move on to strategy.

Leon sighed, sprawling on his stomach on his sleeping bag, cards out in front of him. Nothing of interest had come up yet, though the cards had noted his feelings about the fight. He was used to things like that, though he scowled when the two of cups came back up. He took that as a cue and put the cards away, then rolled onto his back, letting his mind wander.

So, the only other person on the planet wanted him dead. That was a lonely thought indeed. After a moment he took off his dog tags and stared at them, watching them spin. That was where the transponder was, and he knew it. He wasn't sure, but he got the idea Falco wasn't wearing one. People would be looking for Falco, not him. They'd leave him here to die, or pick him up if only to serve him is sentence. He winced, thinking about what it would it would be like, for him to be in jail. He didn't like the idea.

He stared at the fire, which his tent faced, and in a single motion tossed the dog tags into it. To hell with Lylat. They could look for Lombardi all they wanted to, but they weren't getting him. He wouldn't mind dying on this planet. Dying surrounded by beauty was never a punishment.

Wolf rubbed his upper arms absently, wandering down the corridor. This ship, this cruiser that belonged to his rival, was strange to him. He had gotten used to his cruiser, the marks of grease and welding from constant repairs during the war, the voices of his teammates. He could do without the voices of Pigma and Andrew, but he actually kind of missed Leon. Leon, in spite of his gruesome other job, had a beautiful voice, and a sense of humor that could cut you like a knife. Just the smaller man's presence was something, as he sat on the floor in a quiet corner, ignoring the world, his cards spread out in curious formations in front of him. Wolf had never doubted that Leon had had the gift, he had been right about so many things he could have known nothing about that it was stunning to listen to.

He paused, looking at a set of doors, and was about to reach for the button when ROB's voice came out of the nearest speaker. "That's engine access, Mr. O'Donnell. I only allow Slippy in there."

"… Oh." He dropped his hand and, having come to a dead end, turned and started pacing back, rubbing the back of his neck. "Did my… former wing mates finally shut up?" He asked, looking at another speaker.

"Not yet, they're discussing matters with each other. Peppy just finished rattling off the Miranda to them."

Miranda? Oh. Their rights. Wolf grinned to himself, knowing that Peppy had to be the most patient person in the world to ignore the jeers and calmly run through it.


He jumped and looked at where Fox was standing, having come around the corner, leaning his shoulder into the wall. As it always had, it dismayed Wolf that he was about an inch shorter then his rival, and was obscurely glad Falco wasn't present. That avian always made him feel like a dwarf. "Uncomfortable. I feel out of place here."

Fox nodded once. "I can understand that."

"So… uh, what's the plan?" He felt his ears press back, and fought the urge to fidget; wishing Fox would look somewhere, anywhere but at him.

"We've called in. One of Corneria's flagships is going to meet us here in a few hours to pick up Pigma and Andrew. They're bringing a search team with so we can start looking for Falco and Leon."

"… and me?"

"You're under truce for now, so you're safe. They'll leave you alone as long as you're with us. It helps that you gave us those records you had in your fighter. Why'd you have them there anyway?"

Wolf rolled his eyes. "About two weeks ago I decided Pigma was getting a little too edgy, so I deleted everything out of the cruiser's database and stored the only copy in my fighter. Figured that'd make it a little harder for him."

"Well, that makes good sense." There was a long pause, during which Fox just looked at him, and Wolf looked everywhere else but not returning the gaze. "Why are you so nervous? You're not in any danger here."

He only managed a shrug, not really trusting his voice. He was starting to wonder if he was really better of here than on the planet. At least on the planet he wasn't forced to socialize with someone who made him question everything about himself. The only person who ever had made him do so, in fact. What the hell was it about McCloud? There were people better looking, more charismatic, more intelligent out there. Hell he had met a few of them. And yet, if sunlight caught Fox right, when he turned to look at you, there was something… those eyes, that grin… he lit up. As if god had saved a shaft of sunlight just for one of his most beautiful creations. Music trailed through his head, and he hummed for a second, trying to rip himself from that train of thought. Do I trust some and get fooled by phoniness, or do I trust none and live in loneliness?

Fox had about to say something else when Peppy came onto the intercom. "Fox, get up here right now. Our rendezvous was canceled. We've got to go back."