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>>enemy mine — chapter six: my december::

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Leon shivered, shouldering the hiking pack and watching as Falco easily did the same, looking around to make sure nothing was left behind then picking up the bound poles that had turned the now-heavy metal case into a sled of sorts. After a slow month and a half of trying to build up their food stock, it was becoming apparent that this planet had a fast orbit around its sun. Already leaves swirled to the ground, and the temperature had dropped significantly, to a point where unless he was curled up by a fire, he was never warm. He could feel his heart rate moving slower then normal, just slightly, and it scared him. He hated winter. Falco, on the other hand, seemed better off, a heavier coat of feathers already in, face turned toward the wind in something like bliss as they walked away from their long-time campsite, not bothering to look back.

"Well, at least we'll know that winter will be half as long." Falco said in a light voice, glancing at him, boots crunching in the leaves. He had proven that he could sew, and their lighter jackets were layered over with rough leather. It had taken them three weeks straight to figure out how to tan, and they had ruined quite a few skins in the process. It wasn't perfect, by far, but the skin lasted, and they turned the fur to the inside for insulation. It didn't make Leon feel much warmer though.

"It's still not going to be much fun." Leon mumbled, pacing Falco. "Where are we going? Toward the coast?"

"That's my first thought. I know I saw rock formations there, far enough away from the water to be a possibility."

After that, silence reigned for quite some time. As a side product of Leon's injury, they had gotten used to being close to each other. They knew each other, having ended up with a deep friendship bond between them almost by default. Though the pain of the past couldn't be forgotten, it had finally been left behind, letting them be friends without guilt or anger. Falco had taken a few days to get used to Leon's alignment once he had finally made the connection, but now he seemed used to it.

Leon, however, had pulled in a bit. His cards read the same time and time again: a new relationship, and an eventual rescue. He had told the last bit to Falco, who had just scratched his head and nodded, not understanding tarot, but respecting it. Somehow, just that fact contented Leon — he was accepted, all of him, all of his strange hobbies and quirks. He was loosing a lot of sleep over that too, curling up and staring at Falco's sleeping form, wondering just badly he'd get smacked if he moved over and cuddled in.

"So, how much longer do you think we'll be stuck on this god-forsaken rock?" Falco asked brightly turning so he was practically walking sideways, smiling.

Leon laughed.

Wolf sighed, jaw propped on one hand as he looked at printout after printout, trying to ignore the frustration curling in his gut. It had now been nearly three months since he had first set foot on this cruiser, and the situation hadn't gotten better. The real Venomian Loyalists were not only good at hiding, they were borderline fanatics, and had somehow wormed onto nearly every major cruiser Corneria still had. The problem? None of the cruisers could lift. Two had tried, and had suffered engine explosions, one crashing back to the planet, the other drifting in space as it was evacuated. People had died in both incidents, and that only made the weight on Wolf's shoulders heavier.

He snarled and shoved the printouts off the table, fighting the urge to cup his face and cry. All of the members they had found had been perimeter, knowing nothing about the real movements of the Loyalists, or if they did, they weren't saying. Every name they turned up was false. Even tracking transfer of ship duty records didn't work. These people were, as near as Wolf could tell, ghosts.

He bit his lip, whimpering very softly. The situation here didn't help. Nowadays, the only respite he got from the tension he had around Fox was when he helped Slippy do maintenance. Hell, even ROB trusted him now. But that didn't stop the spear of awkward pain he felt when he saw Fox and Fara talking. It was really starting to confuse him, too. He felt helpless, watching life spiral around him, wondering what was wrong with him.

Wolf slipped off the chair and knelt, tail wrapping around his waist as he tried to gather the papers back up, but his shaking hands betrayed him. He was about to give up when other hands steadied his, and he startled, looking up and finding himself very nearly nose-to-nose with Fox.

"Long day?" Fox let go and helped him sort through the papers, setting them back on the table, then took over completely when he saw Wolf's hands were still shaking.

"Y-yeah." Wolf drug himself up so he was sitting in the chair again, rubbing the back of his neck, feeling his hackles rise up a bit. He never knew how to act around Fox. He didn't know how he felt, how he was supposed to feel.

"I know how it feels. None of us are having any luck." Fox put the last of the papers in a stack on the floor. "You wouldn't think this many people would have the ability to perform this level of stealth…" Seeing Wolf wringing his hands again, he reached out and stopped them. "What are you so afraid of? Is it me? You smell like fear whenever you're around me."

God damn it… Wolf choked and turned his face away, cursing himself, having forgotten that Fox's nose was just as good as his. He couldn't bring himself to even attempt to answer that either. What was he supposed to say? That he was finding himself attracted to another guy and it was scaring him? That he felt every death because of the Loyalists like a fifty-pound weight on his back? He gasped in surprise when Fox was suddenly looming over him, freezing him in his gaze, demanding to know what was wrong, his face only inches from Wolf's.

For Fox, it was the shock of his existence when Wolf was very suddenly in his arms, face buried in his neck, shoulders wracking helplessly with bottled emotion. Unable to do anything, he turned his head, trying to form a confused sentence, not understanding, and got an explanation when Wolf kissed him, very softly, whole body shivering. Before Fox could even react, he had pulled back and ripped away, choking out a whisper of "I'm sorry" before tearing out of the room, the door banging shut behind him.

Fox watched the swinging door shiver, then smacked himself and gave chase, following Wolf's banging footsteps through the ship. He skidded into the bay just in time to see Falco's bike speed down the ramp, Wolf riding it.

"Thank god Falco isn't here, he'd hunt down Wolf with intent to maim." Slippy said, frowning, wiping oil off his hands. "What the hell was that, Fox? He looked like he was crying."

"He was." Fox paced, rubbing a hand down his face. "ROB, is there a transponder on that bike?"

"No. There isn't one on Wolf, either."

"Damn it." Fox shook his head. "He's got IDs, and money. He's not going to come back, which means that I have to find him. If people find out who he is, god knows what will happen…" Fox checked his pockets and went to his jeep, taking his keys out.

"Fox, what the hell is going on? Why'd he take off?" Slippy demanded, hands on his hips, scowling.

He sighed, trying to decide what to say. He had felt the emotion in that one brief kiss, and knew he had to talk to Wolf. "Let's just say that's between him and me." Leaving it at that, he started the jeep and left the ship, leaving Slippy to stare after him.

Wolf turned the throttle, watching the bike's speed clock up to highway pace, letting the wind wipe his tears away for him, shoulders still jerking as he choked on repressed sobs. He didn't understand what had come over him in that one moment, why he had felt so safe for just a second, but the confusion in Fox's eyes had sent a stab of panic through him. Fox understood less then he did, and he hadn't wanted to explain.

He lifted a hand to rub at his face, holding the bike as steady as he could one-handed. It wasn't his, and he knew Falco would be pissed if he came back and was without his Harley. Choking on a smile, he lowered the hand, and focused on getting as far away from the Great Fox as he could.

And I… just wish that I didn't feel like there was something I missed… And I… take back all the things I said to you… And I give it all away just to have somewhere to go to… Give it all away to have someone to come home to…

Falco teetered on the edge of the cliff, pack discarded behind him, arms spread and feathers fanned, letting the sea spray blow around him, basking in it. It brought his feathers on edge with a memory of flight, flight done with wings of flesh, not steel, and he loved it. He loved the feel of wind of his face.

"Um… can you come away from the edge now, please?" Leon asked, twenty feet behind Falco, hugging himself and jittering. It had to be fifty degrees here on the coast, the air filled with a clammy dampness, little tendrils of fog curling around his boots.

"Why?" Falco looked over his shoulders, arms still outspread, and felt himself smile. "Leon. You're afraid of heights, aren't you?"

"Uh, well, yes." Leon admitted. "Fine and dandy in a fighter jet, but I'm not coming any closer to the edge of that cliff."

"I love heights. I love dancing the edge…" Falco turned and leaned back, letting the wind buffeting up the cliff wall hold him up, eyes half-closed. "It's one of the few times I feel alive."

"Good for you…" Leon felt his eyes get big, worrying. "Now please come away from the edge of that cliff."

Falco chuckled and humored him, straightening and gathering his pack, rejoining Leon. "Let's see about finding some decent shelter, hmm?"

They left, walking away from the beach area and climbing back into the rocky hills, looking for anything that could be a cave formation. Had it been hotter and sunnier, Leon would have felt at home and would have sprawled on one of the smooth rocks. Now, though, in this cold misty weather, he stayed close to Falco.

"These look like sea formations. Like the land moved, or the water did." Leon remarked, rubbing a hand over the smooth cliffs, with more recent, rougher breaks.

"I'd guess the land… Whoa." He paused, looking at a cliff wall covered in vines, water running out from under them. He grabbed and ripped, showing a cave entrance. "Paydirt."

The entry was small, by this planet's standards, only about six feet around, a rough oval shape that was more wide then tall, with a small creek trickling through. Once they were in a few feet, the chamber widened to form a huge egg-shaped chamber, a few smallish holes toward the top worn through, rain water led down by stalactites.

"Underground reservoir, a long time ago." Leon said, looking around. "God, we get off lucky sometimes. This is perfect."

Falco dropped his pack as well as the sled for the case, sitting on the floor with a smile. "That we do." Seeing Leon hugging himself, he frowned. "What's wrong?"

Leon sighed. "I'm cold." Seeing Falco stand again, he sighed and stilled himself, making himself not react when Falco set a hand on his neck.

"Your skin is cold." Falco frowned, then sighed. "It's going to be a long winter. Start a fire, I'll get some more wood. All right?"

He nodded, and watched Falco duck back out of the entrance, neck still tingling from the warmth of his friend's hand, reaching out belatedly, and letting his hand fall with a sigh.

Within a few days, they had made the cave livable, rigging an entrance flap out of hides and the tent tarp, stockpiling wood, making a fire pit, and generally settling in. More hides covered the ground where they slept, layered over dry ferns for padding, and for the first time in a while they slept fairly comfortably, though Leon suspected Falco could sleep anywhere. He still found himself awake at night, watching Falco sleep, knowing he was starting to fall for his friend and helpless to stop it.

Only a week after their discovery of the cave, the first snowstorm blew in, pounding outside of their cave, plunging the temperatures below freezing. Falco enjoyed it in his own twisted way, going outside in the middle of it and coming back with some birds who had gotten blinded by the storm and crashed, joking about a free lunch. Leon smiled, huddled close to the fire, and tried his best to deal with the cold.

Wolf sighed, sitting back, watching what he could see of the bar from his corner table, a half-full bottle in front of him. He was crazy, he knew, to pursue such a dangerous mission without any support, but the weight of guilt on his back could not be ignored. He could not allow any people to needlessly die. Which was why he was here, waiting to meet god-knows-only-who to discuss the Loyalists. Fox hadn't wanted him meeting with them, but he knew it might be one of the only ways to shut the bastards down.

Trying to ignore the stab of pain in his chest when he thought about Fox, he took a drink, eyes wandering, and blinking when he saw a pair of young men walking over to his table, taking their time. He let them, setting his bottle back down on the table and crossing his arms, looking them over. Definitely military, he decided, but they couldn't be high ranking in any respects. Probably privates-first-class.

"You play cards?" One asked, hand resting on the back of one of the empty chairs.

"That depends on the stakes." He replied, knowing he was supposed to say it. Passwords, classic cloak and dagger, but so casual of words that no one could possibly notice the significance. "Sit."

They did, frowning at him. "You're the Emperor's Blade?"

It had been a while since he had heard that nickname. "Once upon a time, that title was mine. Now there is no Emperor to hold the hilt of that blade." He took one last drink, emptying the bottle. "Ah. The eye patch. Given up for cover, I assure you. The eye is fake."

That seemed to reassure them. "What do you want with us?"

"I'm out of the loop." He froze them in his gaze. "I don't like it. I want to know what's going on."

"Can we trust you?" The other asked.

Feeling the stab of pain again, he smiled bitterly. "Why would I turn back to Lylat? Of course you can trust me."

"Where have you been all this time?"

"Securing an identity." He shrugged. "So. Am I in?"

The pair looked at each other, and nodded. "We'll trust you."

Fox sighed, looking at the report in his hand. Wolf had picked up another identity, other cards. They had given him one, but none of the numbers had turned up, and it had been three days, he had to be staying somewhere. Fox growled, crumbling the paper in frustration, head bowing. "Dammit, Wolf. Where are you?"

Falco woke up with a start, lifting his head wearily. Leon was sitting next to the fire, knees hugged to his chest, looking exhausted. "Aren't you going to sleep?"

"I have to keep the fire going." Leon replied in a tired, drawling voice, fear seeping into him when he heard how slow his voice had become. Cold, too cold…

"It should be all right. Why the concern?" He yawned, trying his damnedest to stay awake for the conversation.

"If I can't stay warm I might not wake up." Leon's eyes turned to him very slowly, watching his vision waver. "When lizards get cold, too cold, they slip into a hibernation sleep, kind of like a coma. I've never done it, and frankly, I fear it. I may not come out of it if I go into it, so I have to stay warm or risk dying."

Falco sat up, frowning. "You're serious?"

Leon nodded, looking back to the fire.

He was quiet for a few moments, brain racing down the list of alternatives, and sighed. Leon needed bodyheat, and was unable to produce his own. He couldn't lose Leon, not now, he didn't know what he'd do if he woke up and found Leon to be a scaly ball of ice. They were friends, and he couldn't loose the only thing that was keeping him sane on this brutal planet.

"Grab your blanket and come here."

Leon jumped. "What?" Slowed or now, he still gaped, jaw momentarily ready to catch nonexistent flies.

"You heard me." Falco said patiently. "Look, you need to be warm, and I'm well insulated for this. Stack your blanket on top of mine and get under here. Just don't expect me to hug you."

He blinked owlishly at Falco, brain trying to catch up with this. His best friend, who he loved dearly, was going to actually let him cuddle? Well, to keep him alive, but whatever, he wasn't missing this opportunity. He staggered to his feet and did as he was told, spreading the blanket, kicking off his boots, then sliding in beside Falco, almost wincing at how warm Falco was.

"Jesus, you're freezing." Falco heard himself blurt, instinctively pulling Leon close and fluffing his feathers, trying to insulate them both. "Don't die on me, ok?"

"I'll try not to."