>>CHAPTER FIVE: FORGOTTEN::
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
Wolf leaned his head against the mirror for a second, then sighed and dug the box out of his pocket, pushing his eyepatch up. He had known people who had called putting in contacts "putting in their eyeballs," well, now he was doing it literally. He sucked air through his teeth at the sudden cold, blinked a few times, and stared at his reflection. Well, props for the doctors and their talent for realism. Instead of an ugly empty socket, now two cool blue eyes looked back at him instead of just one. Sure, he could only see through one, he thought as he pocketed the eyepatch and combed his fingers through his fur, taking out the crease that came from longtime wear of the patch, but he doubted that anyone would recognize him now. The eyepatch was famous, therefore, that was all people recognized.
Fox, who was leaning next to the door with his arms crossed, looked up when the door opened, smiling at Wolf. "All set?"
"This feels strange." Wolf looked at him face-on, blinking rapidly as he got used to it. "But I guess this is for the best."
"Mm." Fox replied, rubbing his chin and considering Wolf. The only real difference of course was the lack of the patch, and yet, there seemed like a major change had happened. "I don't think I ever remember seeing you with two eyes."
"I lost this eye a long time ago." He sighed, wandering to the ship's galley, bare feet padding silently down the metal corridor.
"How did you loose it anyhow?" Fox followed a few steps behind him, noticing the black straps of the eyepatch trailing out of Wolf's back pocket.
He was silent for a while, digging into the fridge and after a few minutes taking one of the sodas, popping it open absently. How had he lost the eye? Did he even remember? He sighed, rolling over the many fights of his child hood in his mind, looking for details. Many of his memories were fuzzy, and he was forced to remember the many different concussions he had incurred during his teenage years. "The loss of use for this eye was rather gradual. I got in a few fights, and it was about half-blinded. Because of that, well, I lost some peripheral vision and took a switchblade through my eye in the fight afterward."
Fox choked. "Oh, my god."
"His almighty self decided that the wound would not be fatal." He shrugged. "That was my last street fight for quite some time."
Something clicked in his mind, and he lifted both his eyebrows, leveling a finger at Wolf. "All those stories about you cage fighting and whatnot are true?"
"I've only been in three cage fights. I won all three. Made some good money on them, too." He tossed a hand as if to brush it off. "Most of my fights were in alleyways and such, just grudgematches, but people still bet on them."
That startled him, and he gaped at Fox for a good five seconds. "Why what?" He sputtered, slugging back the rest of the soda.
"Why did you put yourself through all that?"
They looked at each other for several long moments, and Wolf felt a shiver pass up his back, fur standing on end, wanting to squirm under his former enemy's gaze.
"I guess that I had no better option." Wolf finally said, and turned away, not wanting Fox to see how weak he was.
Fox twisted his ears around in thought, and glanced over his shoulder at Peppy, who was hesitating in the doorway, apparently coming in for a drink but stopping at the conversation. Peppy made a gesture of general support, and Fox in a sudden move grabbed Wolf's shoulder and spun him around, keeping the hand there, fingers tightening just slightly. "Listen to me. You have a better option now. Don't you EVER put yourself through anything like that again. Do you understand me?"
Wolf gaped again, for a second instinctively ducking and twisting away, then freezing, hackles lifting, not angry, just bewildered. "I, uh… um… yeah. Yeah, uh… I guess so. Is that, uh, and invitation? For me to stay here?"
"Whether or not you're on this team is not decided and probably won't be for a while, if that's what your asking. But you certainly have me covering your back if that's what's needed."
"As will I." Peppy said, folding his arms over his chest. "And I'm sure Slippy will as well, once he's not as afraid of you."
Wolf made a small helpless noise, ducking his head to hide his confusion, finally lifting a hand to cover Fox's. "Ok. Ok. Thank you."
Leon lifted his head, watching as Falco walked into the campsite carrying firewood, the hatchet from his survival kit tucked in his belt so the shaft lightly thumped his leg. "No more weird predators?"
"Not thus far." Falco replied. "Looks like our victory spread the word, since it's been over a week." He sighed, dumping the firewood a few feet from the fire and sitting hard, head ducked, combing his fingers through his feathers wearily. "I'm starting to wonder if they're ever going to find us…"
"I'm starting to wonder if they're even looking." Leon sat up with effort, fighting the urge to rub his still-bandaged shoulder, shuffling his cards slowly. "Though I imagine someone will come for you eventually. Your teammates care a lot for you."
"I note you don't include yourself in the rescue." Falco tossed a log on the fire.
"I'm not sure I want to be. Nothing waits for me on Corneria except one big fat death penalty for treason." He sighed. "Besides, I like it here. It's rough and wild, but it is rather pretty."
"Pretty?" Falco gave him a strange look, then shrugged. "I guess it is, but I'd prefer a city."
There was a moment of silence, and Leon reached out to turn their makeshift rotisserie. If anything was an advantage on this planet of supersized critters, it was the fact that one fish or rabbit equivalent fed them both very well. "We need pepper."
Falco laughed softly. "We need an entire spice rack."
Now it was Leon's turn to laugh. "So who on the Great Fox cooks?"
"On the rare occasion it's needed? Peppy. He's the only one who can." He frowned a bit, seeing Leon grab his shoulder. "How is that?"
"Not so good." He forced himself to admit. "It stings really badly."
"Let me take a look…" Falco stood and circled the fire, sitting down next to Leon and unwrapping the bandages once Leon had pulled off his shirt, looking at the intricate tattooing for the fifth or sixth time. Whoever Leon had hired had been an expert. Thorny, blood-red roses done in tribal style twisted into a design across the small of his back, then up his spine to become a pair of wings across the shoulders, wrapped his sides to trail around his belly button, then continued down his arms into more patterns. Only black, red, and white were shown in the tattoo, colors that didn't change when Leon's skin did.
Leon sucked his breath in when air hit his wound, and Falco did the same when he saw it. The gash was just, well, nasty. It wasn't deep, but Leon had lost some flesh when he had gotten it, and their meager medical supplies made it hard to tend to such a wound. "How bad?"
"Not good. NOT pretty."
"Har de freakin' har. Is it infected?"
"I… don't think so." Falco frowned at the bandages. "But I get the idea I should burn these…"
"Then do so." He made a long arm and managed to reach the medical kit they were currently using, handing it over his good shoulder to Falco. "So if it's not infected…"
"It's become inflamed. About a quarter of your back is swollen as all hell." He chewed his lower beak, thoughtful and a bit worried. The wound was the size of his hand, and while the shots he had used out of the kits had probably helped, it was going to be a while before it healed completely. "You need an emergency room, not someone with one lousy class in field medic. Hell, you're the anatomy expert here."
"All from reading I assure you. Swollen? … ok, look, I can give you a play-by-play, but you'll probably not like it."
"You're going to have to lance it. Heat your knife up in the fire so it's clean. Once it's clean and bandaged after that, it should heal faster."
"You're right. I don't like it. But you're the one who'd know." He stood, going to the safe box where his knife was, and hesitated. "You'll have to get part of your tattoo redone, by the way."
Leon laughed grimly. "That's all right. That just means I have an excuse to add on."
Falco sharpened a spear absently, watching Leon, now his only companion, jump easily from stone to stone, watching huge fish dart beneath the water. They had just started the third week of their abandonment on this feral planet, and they had settled into what seemed to be a routine. Leon was better at hunting, for whatever reason, so he was often the one who caught their main courses, leaving Falco the peaceful if neverending task of picking fruit and vegetables. Strangely, Falco's diet was better on this planet then it had been for over a year in civilization.
"You know, I've been thinking…" Leon remarked, standing with his weight on two different stones, the spear up and ready, eyes darting as he watched the fish. His color was altering even as he stood there, changing gradually to a mottled green and brown, visible skin blending with the tree branches that hung over the river. "We might want to start figuring out what to do about storing food."
"Storing food? We don't exactly have a fridge." Falco frowned. "You foreseeing a shortage of fish?"
"I'm foreseeing winter." Leon grunted, striking down and hitting meat, bracing against the force of a fifteen pound, pissed-off fish. Falco waded into the knee-deep water and helped as he could. "This planet seems to have a somewhat Cornerian season cycle, and we're now in late summer."
"That gives us how long? Three months?"
"I'm guessing less. The days here are a bit shorter, like twenty-two hours instead of twenty-four." He sighed, following Falco to the shore, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. "In the event we're stuck here that long, we can't depend on any of this food being available, so we 'll have to stock up."
"Well, we don't have a freezer, so what's the plan? Dry a lot of it?" Falco cleaned the fish, tossing the parts they didn't use to the fish still in the river.
"Or smoke it, yes. That said, we're going to need better shelter too. A tent won't be much shelter from snow."
They walked back in silence, easily pacing each other. Leon stole a glance at his new friend, noticing that for once, Falco had stopped slouching, and literally towered over him by about a head and a half. He wasn't holding the spear right, holding it more like it was a tire iron or other street weapon.
"You know what I miss the most?"
He blinked, color moving to a brighter, curious green. "What?"
"Music." Falco smiled sheepishly, twirling the spear back and forth in front of himself. "I mean, we're both inner city kids. Music practically bleeds off the streets in the city. Cars, apartment windows, boom boxes, just people singing, there's always music everywhere."
Leon smiled, mind wandering back into the past for a few seconds. "I guess you're right. Missing your stereo and CDs, eh?"
"And my bike. And my apartment…" Falco sighed as they entered their campsite, luckily unharmed by predators. Of course, the horns of the beast they had fought hanging on a stick by the fire might have just been a good enough warning.
"Inner city ethnic food. God, it's been so long since I've had anything like that…" Leon sighed, taking the fish and filleting it absently.
"Street parties. Pizza." Falco countered with a smile, shaking his head. "God. I never thought in my life that I would be homesick for what was once poverty."
"Oh, bah. Your family was never that far down the money ladder…" He trailed off, seeing he had struck a nerve when Falco looked away. "Uh. Sorry."
"No. No, you're right. We were never that high-up either, and my dad always took it out on my mom and me." He sat down, stoking the fire up, staring into it. "The classic tale of the rebellious teenager, taking his angst out everywhere, nearly flunking school, and somehow getting off lucky."
"I take it that's the Star Fox team." Leon said this to himself, touching the card deck in his pocket. Sometimes, it sucked to be right.
"Just Fox, actually…" He trailed off, hugging his knees to his chest, and seemed to tune out the world.
Leon looked at Falco, and felt a pang off sympathy pain deep in his chest, knowing what it was like, knowing how much it hurt to have to run like a bat out of hell from your past just so you could survive. Falco didn't deserve it either, and Leon knew it. There was a battered innocence that Falco hid, deep inside, a small scared child that would never grow up. For all the cards hinted at, Leon was stunned Falco's personality hadn't sundered and become their own entities, leaving the owner only a few steps from declarable insanity.
"What are you staring at?"
Leon jolted back to reality, and saw Falco looking back at him with a touch of hostility. Sighing, he turned back to their late lunch, and after a while started whistling, a high, strange tune. It was only then that Falco smiled and started humming, and a few minutes later both were sputtering and butchering German lyrics, laughing heartily.
Fara sprinted up the ramp of the Great Fox's docking bay and pounced on Fox, the pair hugging for several moments, laughing a little. Eventually Fox put Fara down, and she grinned, crossing her arms. "About time the government gave you visiting rights. How went the mission?"
"Not good." Fox's face fell. "Falco got left behind. He's marooned on the planet, and the government won't give us a search team unless we help them figure out their problem."
She blanched. "Holy crap. Is he all right?"
"His health transponder is still reading clean, so he's alive and decently healthy at least. There's like a six-hour delay on the transmissions now though." Fox sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.
She thought about it, then smacked him. "That had to be what, nearly a month ago?! Why didn't you tell me, you…"
Slippy, who was under one of the arwings working on it, burst into giggles, glancing at Wolf, who was sitting nearby, passing him tools. "God, I love watching him get whipped." He admitted quietly, grinning insanely before turning back to his work.
"That's his girlfriend I take it?" Wolf asked, giving the new arrival an once-over. "She looks tough."
"Oh, god yes. Tough as nails. But he needed someone like that, in my opinion, being that he's so loud. They've been together almost a year now."
He felt a spur of obscure jealousy at that, tearing his eyes away from the pair with effort. He was slowly going used to Fox's company, and was now able to carry on conversation without getting jittery, but he also felt a bit attached. Fox was trying to make sure he didn't get jailed for treason, and for that, Wolf was grateful. "So how long are you guys stuck on this mission?"
"Peppy's getting names right now, he's good at that sort of thing. After that, it's just weaseling the guilty parties out. That's where you come in, if you're still going through with it."
"Hey! Wolf! Come here a minute!" Fox hollered across the bay, and Wolf winced and stood, walking over to where Fox and Fara stood, thumbs hooked into the corners of his pockets. "I'm sure you remember Wolf O’Donnell, Fara." Fox continued. "He's a friend of ours now, believe it or not."
Fara lifted her eyebrows, gaze lifting up and down briefly. Jeans and a t-shirt, no eye patch. The only things that spoke of military training were combat boots and a straight posture. "No kidding. I'm Fara Phoenix, pleased to meet you." She held out her hand, and Wolf shook it easily. "How did you manage getting on this team's good side?"
"Let's just say that Fox and I came to an agreement." Wolf replied, hands automatically going to parade rest. "Phoenix? That name is familiar…"
"My dad runs a number of tour and pleasure space yachts." She replied frankly. "Not for me, I assure you. I work for the combat testing division of Arspace."
He grinned. "Kick ass."
That made her chuckle. "If you don't mind me asking, um…" She gestured a bit at his eye.
"Fake. I lost it years ago."
"We decided we didn't like him running around with an empty socket. Slippy almost threw up a few times, even if he was wearing the patch." Fox inserted, half-smiling.
"This is strange. You two were the poster-children of the war, as far as bitter rivalries go." Fara set her hands on her hips, looking back and forth between them. Both were casually dressed, both had returned to parade rest because of habit, and they were nearly the same height — she was stunned to see that Wolf was actually shorter then Fox was. Both were blue-eyed, and had fairly similar builds. "How much do you two weigh?"
"Uh, why?" Wolf frowned.
"160." Fox replied. "Yeah, heavy for my height, but it's muscle." He looked at Wolf, who frowned again. "Oh, it's not like you're a girl."
"Sod off McCloud." He grumbled, and sighed, rolling his eyes. "Like, 152 at last weigh in, why?"
"Amazing." She shook her head. "If we dyed one of your fur colors to the other, you could be fricking twins. Seriously. You should go as each other for Halloween, freak the entire town out."
"Take that back!" Wolf sputtered, but Fox laughed hard, shaking his head.
"Is that a bad thing really?" Fox asked. "So we have a lot alike. It's not all that surprising, considering."
Wolf didn't answer, returning to help Slippy, deep in thought.