Winter. Bitter frosts clinging to the trees, freezing over the branches like a protective cover, and the soft but crunchy snow coating the ground of the forest. It was impossible to move anywhere quietly, as footsteps were always accompanied by the loud sound of the icy powder breaking. Ocelot noticed this for the third (or fourth, he'd lost count) time as he made his way through the Groznyy underbrush, uttering Russian curses as the sharp sticks protruding from the bushes and such caught on his Majors uniform and made it difficult to get anywhere. He'd been walking for at least an hour- perhaps more; it was hard to tell when he was frozen solid from the waist up -and all for what?

Peace and quiet.

Scowling, he pulled his ushanka down more in an attempt to block the cold from his face. The earflaps were undone once again, resulting in a pink tinge from his lips to his temples. Nothing blocked out the wind blowing past him, nothing but the feeble, ice-covered trees.

The area of Groznyy he was in was uninhabited for the most part. A farmhouse or two here or there, plus the tiny base he and the rest of the GRU were stationed at, were all the buildings for miles. It made him long for the hustle and bustle of St. Petersburg again, the training camps of Moscow, or even the backbreaking job he'd had in Nizhniy Novgorod. Anything but this pure boredom, this stifled feeling.

Ocelot sighed, hoisted his veschmeshok backpack higher on his shoulder. Even if his rank as Major had been partially bought by an unknown source, even if they only respected him for his gunplay abilities, even if he was hating every minute he was in that god-forsaken place...he still felt at home there.

The place he was searching for appeared over the top of the tiny hill he was on- a small alcove, barely large enough to qualify as a cave. It was in the valley, near the tiny stream that ran through the area, a hidden place amongst the rocks and trees. Here, here was where he went for time alone, here was his place of solace, where he could sit and think for a few hours, taking in the air and the scents of the forest.

Here was the only place that Colonel Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin couldn't find him.

Of course, it would be easier to hide at the base if Volgin's man Raikov wasn't always snooping around, ready to answer his beck and call. Ocelot often suspected there was something more than brown-nosing going on between them, but the mere though of it gave him shivers and a feeling of disgust.

Stepping into the alcove, he slipped his ushanka off and shook it, the snow falling from it in clumps. His harsh, military-style crew cut was untouched by the cold; a dizzy spell took over him as the warmth in his head was lost so abruptly, bad enough that he had to sit down to regain his equilibrium.

"You."

Ocelot dropped his ushanka and shot to his feet, gun held out towards the voice's point of origin, ready to pull the trigger if given only one tiny reason to-

and there he was, laying against the wall of the alcove, looking as if hell had chewed him up and spat him back out. The Snake everyone had been talking about, searching for.

His body was covered in blue and black bruises that contrasted harshly with his cold, pale skin. One of his arms seemed useless, held close to his body and twisted at a strange angle. A cut extended from the corner of his left eye to his chin, dried blood trailing all the way down. His other eye was swelled shut, it looked like-

No. Gone. But how?

"Kid...Major..."

His breathing was ragged. Every word came out as a gasp, as if speaking were agony. Perhaps his ribs have cracked as well... Ocelot spun his revolver around his finger a few times and slid it back into its holster, kneeled down, and gripped the other man's head in his gloved hand. He feebly struggled, but Ocelot kicked his shin to halt any movements he was attempting.

Holding Snake by the chin, he tilted his head back and forth, checking for injuries. Nothing beyond what he couldn't already see. "Someone gave you the beating of a lifetime."

"Boss..."

Ocelot gritted his teeth. Ah, yes, The Boss. The one person Volgin actually trusted- well, respected at least -in the entire base. Not even the Colonel's bitch Raikov knew half the things he told The Boss. The woman had always come off as arrogant to him, with a tinge of stubbornness and an ego to go with it. It reminded him of someone, but he couldn't for the life of him remember whom.

"So she beat you again. Serves you right, thinking you can just sneak into here unnoticed." He released Snake's head, letting it flop back against the mossy walls. Even this seemed to cause pain to the American, who took in a sharp breath and shut his eye. "Did she cut out your eye too?"

He nodded. Ocelot watched him with interest, perusing his body and all the scratches and scars marring it. His shirt was missing, presumably taken off to treat his broken arm and ribs. His face had felt ice cold, even through the leather of his gloves.

Reaching behind him without glancing back, Ocelot retrieved his backpack and pulled it open to reveal the few supplies he'd brought with him. He shuffled through the unimportant things and brought out his blanket, and, casting it outwards with a tiny flick to unfold it, he laid it over Snake and himself. Even if the tiny blanket did no good, his body warmth was sure to have some sort of effect.

They sat in silence for what seemed to Ocelot like hours, the only sounds their breathing and the American's teeth chattering. Every so often he would check to see his companion was still alive before looking back out to the snowfall in the forest around them. It looked to be a violent storm oncoming. Icy flakes were blowing against his cheeks, melting as they touched the skin, dripping down his face much like tears would. He wiped the water away with the blanket and looked to Snake once more.

He was laying his head against Ocelot's shoulder, breathing softly, seemingly asleep. Ocelot nudged him lightly, not wanting to wake him but knowing it was dangerous to go to sleep in his condition. "Hey, wake up." Snake's eyes fluttered open, he groaned softly and tried to sit up. "Hell, you should have just stayed in America, you idiot." He slipped his arm behind Snake and sat him up straighter in an attempt to keep him upright.

"Why are you helping me?" Snake mumbled, slumping forward slightly. Ocelot's scowl deepened.

"It's cowardly to just leave a man to die. And I'd rather shoot you than let you freeze to death."

"Think you can...beat me?" There was the hint of a smile on Snake's face, from what the Russian could see. He gave a small 'humph' and looked back out to the forest.

It took a few more minutes, but Snake's body eventually warmed to the point where he was breathing normally again and his teeth had stopped chattering. Letting go of him, Ocelot reached for his backpack again and drew out his tiny first aid kit. Inside he had some medical tape that he could use to tie a splint to Snake's arm, and a roll of bandages for a sling. "Come here."

Snake protested again, but another kick from Ocelot convinced him to be still. He took his arm and, using a stick laying nearby, tied the splint to it, finishing up with the sling that he slung under the arm and held the ends of, looking to Snake expectantly. Snake raised an eyebrow, caught the hint to lean his head forward, and Ocelot was able to tie the sling around his neck.

"There. Now you'll be okay, more or less."

"...thanks."

"Don't thank me," he snarled, settling back against the wall. "I'm not your comrade."

Snake smirked, leaned against Ocelot's shoulder hesitantly. At no protest from the younger man he let himself rest fully against him.

"It's strange," Snake mused, "how our two countries are locked in combat."

"It'll change in a few years," Ocelot mumbled. "It always does."

Snake nodded, looking to his companion curiously. "Yeah." An uncomfortable silence fell again, until Snake broke it with a violent coughing fit. Instinctively Ocelot put a hand to his shoulder, to see if he was okay, but realized this meant he was actually concerned about his enemy and recoiled immediately. Eventually Snake was able to breathe, laid back against the Major, trying to catch his breath.

Looking to him with disdain, Ocelot asked, "What's your name anyway?"

"Snake," he muttered, his voice hoarse. "You?"

"...Ocelot. Major Ocelot."

"Your uniform says different, Major Adamska."

He looked down at his chest, where a tiny identifying patch lay, his name stitched across the front. Forgot about that.

"Call me Ocelot anyway."

"Fine."

"And what rank do you hold, Snake?"

"No rank. I'm a special agent."

"Should have figured."

Snake grinned, winced, curled up into a tighter ball and gathered the blanket closer around himself. The injuries were healing, more or less, but his eye was still steadily bleeding. He touched it tenderly, hissing as pain erupted. Ocelot groaned and pushed him up against the wall, again grabbed his backpack, and produced a roll of gauze. "This might hurt a bit, Snake."

Snake cried out in pain as Ocelot pried open the eyelid with his fingers. The dried blood broke apart, tearing out a row of his eyelashes as it did. The inside of the socket was a bloody mess of useless leftover material and pieces of the eye itself. Grimacing, Ocelot put his finger inside and scooped out what he could (and what wasn't attached still). Snake's hand, the healthy one that had been gripping the Russian's leg, tightened its grip, squeezing Ocelot so hard it seemed his limb would fall off completely. He wiped his hand off on his pants and, cutting off the long end of the sling that was hanging down Snake's back, fashioned a crude eye patch-like covering. He slipped off his dirty gloves and tied the eye patch gently around the injured man's head, traced it around to his face to make sure it fit properly. Snake watched the pale fingers crossing over his line of sight, eye fluttering as he adjusted the eye patch to go over his forehead.

"There," Ocelot murmured, sitting back to examine his handiwork. "All cleaned up, beside the cuts and bruises, but those are easily healed."

Unsure how to react to his enemy helping him, Snake nodded to him and touched his fingers to the eye patch. It felt foreign on his face, like wearing a skintight helmet. And it was uncomfortable as well, especially on his burning eye.

"Try to ignore it."

Ocelot adjusted it again, the pain fading as he did. His fingers moved deftly, possessing hidden skill with medical treatments. "What was your life like before the war?" Snake asked. Letting his hands drop, Ocelot sat back on the blanket, still facing Snake.

"Lets see...I can't remember my childhood, really. Just playing games with some really strange people- friends of my parents, I think...stories that my father read, hikes with my mother where she'd piggyback me...the memories are fuzzy."

"What do you remember clearly?"

"Work." Ocelot reached for his ushanka and slipped it on his head once more, feeling cold again. "I was a coal miner for my first few years on my own, then moved on to working with a tiny hospital. We didn't see a lot of men...it was mostly animals."

"You must be good with animals, then."

"No...just cats." Ocelot smirked and meowed, the sound echoing through the valley. Snake was surprised; he sounded like a real cat.

"You live up to your codename."

Ocelot shrugged idly and glanced up at the blue-eyed American. He looked tired, weak, and pale. What he really needed was a good night's rest in a warm place. For a moment Ocelot contemplated taking him back to the base and letting him sleep in his room, but dismissed the notion as impossible; they'd have Snake dead the instant they saw him, and Ocelot along with him for assisting the enemy. And besides, Snake was a trained spy, he wouldn't die spending a night in the cold.

He reached out and, placing a finger under his chin, lifted Snake's face up. Snake looked at him sickly through half-lidded eyes. Ocelot beat down the feeling of pity he was struck with, contented himself to just staring down at the other man.

"Do you think you'll live out here?" he asked, his voice strangely quiet. Snake smirked.

"Yeah. I usually pull through."

"…good." Ocelot nodded, let his hand lower. He and Snake watched each other, neither speaking, and then Ocelot put a hand to Snake's face, let it dwell for a few seconds, shook his head and pulled back. Snake raised an eyebrow curiously.

"What was that all about?" he asked, grinning. Ocelot glared at him.

"Nothing. Forget it."

Far off in the distance they could hear dogs barking, no doubt the Dobermans that the base deployed every day to patrol the perimeter. This served as a sort of wake-up call for Ocelot, who suddenly realized how long he'd been out there.

"I have to go." He snatched up his pack and started shoving things back in. Snake put a hand on his to stop him. The Major glanced up, scowling, gently tugged his hand away from Snake's grip.

The American leaned forward, his hand on Ocelot's cheek, and gently kissed the corner of Ocelot's lips. The gesture took the younger man by surprise, his scowl faded, he stared at Snake blankly.

"Can I have the blanket?" Snake asked quietly, grinning again. Ocelot nodded, shaking his head again, muttering to himself about nothing in particular as he pulled out some food as well.

Things finally packed, Ocelot stood up, slipped on his ushanka, and smiled to Snake. "Don't die on me."

"Don't plan on it."

Final words said, he nodded to Snake and started back out into the snow, sighing as the sun hit his face and lit up the frosty branches.

Ocelot walked for nearly an hour, lost but not admitting it to himself. He stopped beside one of the trees, shook the snow off himself yet again. Sighing in frustration, he looked up at the treetops, squinting through the light of the sun. He reached up and touched a branch on impulse, squeezed the frost between his fingers.

A sudden realization hit him- he had just spent nearly an hour telling a complete stranger- and enemy, even –personal things about his life, and he hadn't heard a single thing from the man he didn't already know.

That wasn't a conversation. That was an interrogation.

He about-faced and ran back in the direction of the cave, pulling his revolver from it's holster and checking to be sure it was loaded. "That bastard," he snarled, quickening his pace. The cave appeared over the hill, shadowed in the lessening hours. Ocelot slowed as he neared, coming to a complete stop outside the entrance. His gun fell from his grip loosely and hit the snow without making a sound. He blanched, took a hesitant step closer, stopped.

There, slumped over in the blanket, skin pale and lips a dark shade of blue, Snake's corpse lay still.